Articles By All

All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL
Path: /college-football/god-tells-kevin-ellison-set-bed-fire-joint

Former San Diego Chargers defender and current Spokane Shock arena football player Kevin Ellison was arrested Thursday after jumping out of his third-floor apartment in the Spokane, Wash., area. The dwelling was on fire, a blaze that Ellison said he started with a marijuana cigar because “God told him to set the bed on fire.”

Firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze before the fire spread, but two neighboring units sustained smoke damage, according to authorities.

The former USC player will have to face an arson charge in federal court, and he should have a hearing within the week to determine his next legal step.

According to Shock majority owner Brady Nelson, Ellison has been suspended by the league.

<p> God tells Kevin Ellison to set fire with a joint</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 23:06
All taxonomy terms: hockey, NHL, Stanley Cup, Monthly
Path: /monthly/storied-history-stanley-cup

It’s considered the toughest trophy to win in professional sports. It’s made of silver and nickel alloy, weighs 34.5 pounds and measures 35 ¼ inches. It’s the Stanley Cup. Unlike other trophies in North American pro sports, the Cup isn’t remade every year, which makes it more special and creates a kind of folklore surrounding it. Each year, after the playoffs, stories about the Cup come to fruition after team members spend their designated day with the Cup. Here are some of the more popular stories surrounding teams and their experiences with the trophy.

It was designed to be a neat and original Cup photo op. Blackhawks forward, and Buffalo native, Patrick Kane decided to take the Cup to Niagara Falls. But this proved a side-story to what happened after Kane left the falls. That afternoon, Kane took the Cup in a fire engine and was lifted in a ladder over Buffalo. Then the ladder wouldn’t go down and Kane was stranded with the Cup about 70 feet above ground for 20 minutes. “It was a little scary, but anything with this (the Cup) is unexpected,” a visibly shaken Kane told “I’m just happy to be out.”

Out of all the pictures taken of the Cup, few match the high wire act Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer performed in 2000. Nidermayer had a helicopter take him to the top of Fisher Peak in British Columbia, close to Niedermayer’s childhood home of Cranbrook, BC. When he won the Stanley Cup again in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks, Niedermayer, and his brother Rob went to the top of the 9,336-foot mountain for a re-do of the photo. “The heli had to hover about three feet up and we jumped out,” Scott Niedermayer told Skiing Magazine in 2009. “The photos tied the Stanley Cup to the mountains and my home.”

Curses have been born in the Cup most notably the New York Rangers’ Cup hex of 1940. That year, after New York won the Stanley Cup, its owners burned Madison Square Garden’s mortgage in the chalice. The $3 million pricetag had just been paid, and the pyrotechnics were considered more of a celebration. The hockey gods took note. The Rangers wouldn’t win another Cup until 1994.

Ray Bourque waited 22 years to win the Stanley Cup. When Colorado won it in 2001, captain Joe Sakic didn’t even hold it over his head before passing it to the grizzled veteran. "I couldn't breathe, and it wasn't because I was tired," Bourque said after the game. "It was just too much. I was trying to hold off the tears." How did Bourque celebrate that night? He didn’t go to Disneyland. Instead, he hosted a street hockey game in his suburban Denver neighborhood with the Cup close by.

Detroit Coach Mike Babcock is considered an avid water skier. So it made perfect sense for Babcock to strap the Cup to his boat at Emma Lake in Saskatchewan for his day with it in 2008 and then ride behind it.

With all its travels and history, it’s fascinating to think that the Cup never made it to Russia, until 1997. That year the Detroit Red Wings won their first Stanley Cup and three of their five Russian players took it to their homeland. The Cup went to Red Square, an exhibition soccer game, and met Russian President Boris Yeltsin. “If every one of them (the fans) smiles, then I know why we came here,” defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov was quoted in a 1997 article in The New York Times.

The 1994 New York Rangers Stanley Cup win brought all sorts of interesting stories and photo ops. Brian Leetch and Mark Messier took the Cup on David Letterman’s show. They also brought it to McSorley’s Old Ale House in Greenwich Village. But no photo was more interesting – or bizarre – then Ed Olczyk taking it to Belmont Park and allowing Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin to feed out of it.

Messier liked to bring the Cup to his favorite, um, establishments. These included two of the more noted gentlemen’s clubs in two countries. In 1987 after Edmonton’s 7-game victory over Philadelphia, Messier brought the Cup to the Forum Inn, a strip club near Northlands Coliseum. He duplicated this act in 1994 with the Rangers. Messier brought the Cup to Scores in Manhattan.

The most famous Stanley Cup story involves Mario Lemieux’s swimming pool – twice. When the Pittsburgh Penguins won their second Stanley Cup, Lemieux had a party at his house. In order to get the party jumping, defenseman Phil Bourque decided to throw the Cup into the pool to see if it floated. Bourque quickly came to a realization, however. “It doesn’t float,” Bourque said in an interview in 2008. “We put it in Mario’s pool and it sinks in a matter of 10 seconds. We didn’t want to hurt it because you got to respect the Cup, but you want to have some fun with it too.” Photos of the Cup in Lemieux’s pool following the Penguins’ 2009 championship surfaced that summer. In those photos, the Cup appeared to be floating.

Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 18:21
Path: /mlb/ra-dickey-no-hitter-or-bj-upton-hit

Was B.J. Upton’s chopper off R.A. Dickey down the third-base line a hit or an error? By my standards, it was an error. By most official scorer’s decisions on a nightly basis, it was a hit.

It doesn’t carry the same weight as a block/charge in basketball or pass interference/no call in football — those decisions affect the outcome of the game — but every night in every baseball game the official scorer decides hit or error at least once. And while it doesn’t affect the outcome, it does play havoc with batting averages, ERAs and, as we saw last night, even history.

Wednesday night in St. Pete, this is not just your garden variety hit/error decision where the Mets' Dickey might call the press box during the game to have the scorer make a change, only to have Upton make a subsequent call to have it changed back. No. There’s much more import here.

You see, this was the only play in which the scorer ruled a hit for the Rays.

Dickey faced just two batters over the minimum during his sterling effort. Third baseman David Wright made an error on a ground ball by Elliot Johnson leading off the ninth inning. Had the no-hitter still been in effect, this would have been a defining moment. Instead, it was just another error.

The deeper issue I have is that official scorers have become much too hitter-friendly over the years. A quick glance at error totals through the years supports this. I understand that fielders are better, gloves are better, fields are immaculate eliminating most weird bounces, but it seems that in order to be charged with an error these days, the ball must bounce out of a glove, a throw sail wide or a ground ball must squirt through a fielder’s legs.

Wright should have made that play on Upton, in my opinion. From a pitcher’s perspective, an out should have been recorded. It wasn’t, so charge an error. However, by most scoring standards, this was a hit.

Last night, as the Cardinals were nursing a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning, a ground ball up the middle just eludes shortstop Rafael Furcal, allowing a runner to reach. My call: Error, no question. Official Scorer: Hit. In this instance, other than Alejandro De Aza of the White Sox having another hit in his column this morning, there was no impact whatsoever. No ERA effect, no game-changer, no history re-writing.

Questionable scoring decisions occur every night in every game. Most have no lasting effect, and most even would be considered “correct” by experts. And there are review processes in place under certain circumstances. But let’s not start changing calls just because a no-hitter is in play.

Upton was the third batter Dickey faced in the first inning, so no one is thinking no-hitter at that time. And with a 1 in the column under H on the scoreboard, no one is thinking no-hitter for the remainder of the game. So the suspense, the tension, the superstitions, the excitement of watching history unfold — all of that is gone.

The Mets are appealing to MLB to have the scoring changed to an error, giving Dickey a no-hitter. I’m sure the Mets would love to celebrate two no-hitters in one season after playing 50 years without one, but the moment is gone.

- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

<p> Was B.J. Upton’s chopper off R.A. Dickey down the third-base line a hit or an error? By my standards, it was an error. By most official scorer’s decisions on a nightly basis, it was a hit.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 14:17
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-michigan

From the mountains of Pennsylvania to the rolling hills of Michigan, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400.

Racing on yet another repaved track, teams have two test sessions throughout the day on Thursday as they attempt to get acclimated with the new track surface, the higher speeds and how tires will react.

This is another great opportunity for NASCAR fantasy racers, as drivers will be in and out of the media center throughout the day providing insight that could go a long way when making your final lineup decisions.

While all teams will have the opportunity to hit the track for an extra day of testing, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya conducted a two-day tire test in April. Each of the drivers complimented the new surface's grip and indicated speeds were among the fastest they have experienced.

“This place is fast. I mean fast, fast,” Montoya said following the test session. “Our minimum speed this morning was over 180 mph through the corner when you think about it. We are doing easily over 210 mph at the end of the straight.”

Teams have backed that up as of mid-morning on Thursday, as drivers were clicking off average lap times of 200-plus mph. For perspective, Martin Truex Jr. was recorded at 218 mph going into Turn 1.

Already in the backyard of team owner Jack Roush and Ford Motor Company, the additional test in April should pay huge dividends for the current points leader, Kenseth.

Kenseth calls Michigan one of his “favorite tracks throughout the season,” and has two wins, 11 top 5s and 16 top 10s in 25 starts there. Veteran crew chief Jimmy Fennig admits he has little use of the mountains of notes compiled prior to the April test session — instead, he will fall back on what they learned over that two-day period.

“There was a ton of grip, and I assume it would be a little faster as the track gets dusted off and rubbered in, so speeds should pick up a bit,” Kenseth said. “When we were in race trim, we were almost four seconds faster than we were racing last year, which is quite a difference.”

Taking the points lead for the first time since winning the season-opening Daytona 500, Kenseth enters this weekend with a 10-point advantage of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

For Earnhardt, the arduous task of ending his 143-winless streak returns to the site of his last victory. Coming off one of his strongest performances to date in Hendrick equipment at Pocono last week, Earnhardt and the No. 88 team head to Michigan with Victory Lane at their fingertips.

After leading 36 laps and finishing eighth last week, the frustration was clear on Earnhardt's face after he climbed from the car. Do not mistake this frustration as that of years past, though. Earnhardt and his Steve Letarte-led team are one of the most consistent teams in the series right now — with a circuit-best 11 top 10s this season — yet the one thing eluding them is a win.

Since his ’08 win, Earnhardt has only one top 5 and two top 10s on the two-mile D-shaped oval, with three consecutive finishes of 14th or worse. However, with the new racing surface, teams have thrown out their notes from previous years. While the No. 88 team did not take part in the April tire test, Hendrick’s No. 24 did, which may pay dividends.

That fact might have been evident in Thursday's test session, as Earnhardt was one of the fastest cars of the day, topping 200 mph (more than six mph faster than Ryan Newman's qualifying record set in 2005).

Other drivers to consider as favorites this weekend are Keselowski, the hometown hero, two-time Michigan winner Gordon, and Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards.

Five Favorites: Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards

The last time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was in Michigan, it was Kyle Busch that survived a green-white-checker finish to score the win. Busch has suffered from inconsistency over the years at MIS, but finished third and first in both races last year, leading a combined 81 laps.

Coming off consecutive engine failures at Dover and Pocono, Busch fell three spots to 12th in the series standings. While it is certainly not time to panic, Busch and the No. 18 team would be a lot more comfortable racing through the summer stretch inside the top 10 in points. Busch was also among the fastest cars in Thursday's test session.

Michigan has been known to be tough on engines, so be mindful of Joe Gibbs Racing's powerplant issues of late and chose carefully.

After slipping up in the final laps last week in Pocono, veteran Mark Martin heads to Michigan looking for another solid run. With 52 starts at MIS, Martin should be a threat again this weekend as he has five wins, 18 top 5s and 31 top 10s, giving him the seventh-best average finish among active drivers. And he — like many — was fast on Thursday, being the first to break the 201 mph barrier.

Much like Busch, however, Martin and his Toyota engines have suffered from issues throughout the year. In his 11 starts this season, Martin has had two engine failures, at Kansas and Charlotte.

It is hard to imagine five-time champion Jimmie Johnson could be an undervalued pick in any sense of the imagination. However, Michigan is one of only five tracks the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet has yet to win. Despite having the 10th-best average finish, Johnson has come up short in each of his 20 starts here — and on a couple of occasions, coming up short has meant running out of fuel on the final lap.

Last June, Johnson struggled here, starting 21st, failing to lead a lap and coming home 27th. When the series returned in August, though, Johnson drove from a 19th starting spot up to a second-place finish, leading 18 laps in the process. Over the course of his last seven Michigan starts, Johnson has only two top-10 finishes, but has led an impressive 323 laps.

Kevin Harvick also enters this weekend's race as an undervalued pick. The Richard Childress Racing driver has the ninth-best average finish at Michigan, but was fast in Thursday's morning test session, breaking the 200 mph barrier.

Five Undervalued Picks: Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman

<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 13:46
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-june-14

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

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise
We are less than a month away from the All-Star game, which will be held July 10 in Kansas City. While the majority of this year’s top fantasy producers will find themselves in KC for the mid-summer classic, we thought we would take a look at some of the current (entering Thursday’s games) category leaders. You may be surprised at more than one of these.

Batting Average: It may be a little surprising to find that Paul Konerko is leading the American League with a .376 average, but he is a five-time All-Star who’s hit over .300 in four other seasons and carried a .282 career batting average into this season. What is definitely surprising, however, is who is currently third in the AL, Mark Trumbo. Last season Trumbo finished second in the voting for AL Rookie of the Year after posting a .254-29-87 line for the Angels.

This season, Trumbo is off to an even better start, fueled largely by a .328 batting average, which is more than 70 points higher than his 2011 mark, and improved plate discipline. He’s already walked 18 times in 201 at-bats this season, compared to 25 in 539 in ‘11. Trumbo’s fantasy value is only enhanced by the fact he’s eligible at three different positions – 1B, 3B and OF — and he’s a top-15 player at all of them currently.

Runs: Carlos Gonzalez leads the majors and National League with 48 runs scored and Ian Kinsler leads the AL with 47. But can you guess who’s tied for fifth in all of baseball with 44 runs? That would be Alejandro De Aza. The young White Sox outfielder has settled in nicely in the leadoff spot and has been a valuable all-around fantasy contributor this season. Besides the runs, De Aza is batting .308 with four home runs, 27 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. Not bad for someone who’s currently owned in less than 80 percent of Yahoo! leagues, especially considering he’s a top-10 outfielder.

Home Runs: Josh Hamilton, who is this season’s fantasy MVP so far with a ridiculous .335-22-62 line, leads baseball with his 22 bombs. Currently in second place you ask? None other than Adam Dunn, who hit his 21st home run on Tuesday. Remember, Dunn is the same guy everyone thought was done after hitting just 11 home runs in 2011, along with driving in only 42 hitting a pitiful .159. Just 62 games into this season, he’s almost doubled his home run total from last season and already has more RBIs (47). The batting average (.226) is still a problem, as are the strikeouts (leads the majors with 98), but an OPS of .928, along with the power and run production certainly make Dunn more appealing, at least this season.

Stolen Bases: Emilio Bonifacio went on the disabled list on May 20 with a thumb injury. At the time, the Marlins’ speedy utility man was running away from the rest of the league with 20 stolen bases. Since he’s been on the shelf for more than three weeks, it’s not surprising we have a new clubhouse leader. The new front-runner, however, is not Michael Bourn (he has 17) or Jose Reyes (16) nor is it Dodgers’ burner Dee Gordon (20). No, the current top base-stealer is none other than Tony Campana. The Cubs’ outfielder has swiped 21 bases in just 123 at-bats. Campana, who is owned in just 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues, doesn’t offer any other fantasy value other than his speed, but if you have room for him on your roster and have patience, he could prove to be a difference-maker when it comes to stolen bases.

There’s also Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis who has 15 stolen bases to go along with his 10 home runs, 40 RBIs, 44 runs scored and a .283 batting average. Put it all together and you have the top second baseman in all of fantasy baseball right now. Another pleasant surprise at second has been Houston’s Jose Altuve, all 65 inches of him. Altuve, who stands a mere 5’5”, leads all second basemen with a .321 average, and his 11 stolen bases are second only to Kipnis. He’s also scored 40 runs, hit four home runs and driven in 22. Altuve is proof that good things, even when it comes to fantasy baseball, do indeed come in small packages.

Wins: The current major-league leaders in wins are the Mets’ R.A. Dickey and Cardinals’ Lance Lynn, two guys who have 10 wins each and probably went undrafted in virtually every league. Besides them, the Rangers’ Matt Harrison has just as many wins (8) as David Price and CC Sabathia have. Also, a Dodgers’ left-hander has eight wins, only it’s Chris Capuano and not Clayton Kershaw, last season’s NL Cy Young winner who has five victories so far in 2012.

ERA: Atlanta’s Brandon Beachy is the only qualified starter with an ERA of less than 2.00 (1.98) at this point in the season. As good as Beachy’s been, White Sox left-hander Chris Sale has been better. Sale leads the AL with a 2.05 ERA and is arguably one the top fantasy pitchers to this point as he has eight wins, 76 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings pitched, and a WHIP of 0.92.

Pittsburgh’s James McDonald (5-2, 2.39 ERA, 73 Ks in 75 1/3 IP) and Arizona’s Wade Miley (7-3, 2.39 ERA) also have been pleasant surprises and valuable SPs. There’s also Capuano, who’s putting up career-best numbers (8-2, 2.87 ERA) in a Dodgers’ uniform.

WHIP: He doesn’t “qualify” in terms of innings pitched, but the numbers that Cincinnati reliever Aroldis Chapman has put up so far deserve recognition. Chapman, the Reds’ seventh-inning guy turned setup man turned closer has allowed just 12 hits and four earned runs in 32 innings so far, while striking out 56. That’s right, he currently maintains a nearly 5:1 strikeout-to-hits allowed ratio and has a 0.69 WHIP and 1.13 ERA, in addition to the the four wins, six holds and seven saves he has registered so far. He had value before he became the Reds’ closer, and now you could make the argument that he’s the most valuable relief pitcher in all of fantasy baseball.

Ernesto Frieri has taken a similar path to Chapman as he’s gone from a bullpen arm in San Diego to the closer in Anaheim, while producing similar numbers in the process. Frieri is 1-0 with five holds and six saves on the season, with a 0.90 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP and 52 strikeouts in only 30 innings pitched.

Saves: It, along with wins, may be one of the more despised categories in fantasy baseball, but regardless, in the vast majority of leagues saves still count. To that end, Cleveland’s Chris Perez currently leads the way with 20, followed by Baltimore’s Jim Johnson’s 19.

Also among the leaders are Tampa Bay’s Fernando Rodney and San Francisco’s Santiago Casilla, two guys who weren’t the closer for their respective teams when the season started. Rodney took the job for the Rays when incumbent Kyle Farnsworth went down and he hasn’t looked back, collecting 18 saves along with two wins while posting a 0.94 ERA and 0.77 WHIP. Casilla got the Giants’ closing gig after they lost Brian Wilson to a season-ending elbow injury, and he’s since posted 17 saves with a 1.42 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.

Alfredo Aceves also has made the most of an unexpected situation, taking over for an injured Andrew Bailey as Boston’s closer. Aceves has racked up 15 saves while striking out more batters (35) than innings pitched (31 2/3), despite having a pretty high ERA (4.83), most of which is the result of a few rough appearances earlier in the season.

DL Watch and Other Injury News

*Oakland A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (.273-6-26) aggravated his left hamstring injury on Wednesday, leaving the game in Colorado in the second inning. He was returning to action after missing the previous four games because of the hamstring issue and after re-injuring it last night, a trip to the DL seems likely. He’s already spent time on the DL, having missed three weeks of action in May because of an injured wrist.

*Oakland A’s right-hander Brandon McCarthy was scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday due to shoulder soreness. McCarthy (5-3, 2.79 ERA) has already spent time on the DL this season for the same issue and it looks like he could be sidelined once again.

*Toronto right-hander Brandon Morrow (7-4, 3.01 ERA) was placed on the DL on Wednesday with a strained left oblique. Morrow, who was leading the AL in complete games with 3 at the time of his injury, left his start against Washington on Monday after throwing just nine pitches. It is not known how long he will be out at this point.

*Texas placed right-hander Alexi Ogando on the 15-day DL on Tuesday with a strained right groin. Ogando had been moved back to the rotation because of injuries to two of the Rangers’ other starters — Derek Holland (fatigued shoulder) and Neftali Feliz (strained elbow ligament). Ogando is expected to be out for at least a month and the Rangers will more than likely utilize multiple spot starters in his place until Roy Oswalt is ready to make his 2012 season debut.

*Jered Weaver threw bullpen sessions on Monday and Tuesday as the Los Angeles Angels’ ace starts his return from a lower back injury that resulted in him going on the DL on May 29. Weaver is scheduled to throw a simulated game before the end of the week and if there are no setbacks he could return to the mound for the Angels’ home series against San Francisco, which starts on Monday.

*Carlos Zambrano is expected to make his next scheduled start on Friday against Tampa Bay after leaving his last start with back stiffness. The Marlins’ pitcher lasted just 2 1/3 innings on Saturday against the Rays and gave up seven runs before departing. That was by far Big Z’s worst outing of the season, as the enigmatic right-hander has been solid for Miami in his first season, going 4-4 with a 3.55 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 12 starts so far, nine of them quality starts.

— By Mark Ross, published on June 14, 2012

<p> Fantasy Baseball Weekend Rundown: June 14</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 10:53
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/us-open-tv-schedule

U.S. Open Television Coverage

Thursday — ESPN Noon-3 p.m; 5-10 p.m.; NBC 3-5 p.m. 

Friday — ESPN Noon-3 p.m; 5-10 p.m.; NBC 3-5 p.m. 

Saturday — NBC 4-10 p.m. 

Sunday — NBC 4-10 p.m. 


Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 09:25
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC East, Washington Redskins, NFL
Path: /nfl/washington-redskins-2012-schedule-analysis

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

Washington Redskins 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at New Orleans
Week 2: at St. Louis
Week 3: Cincinnati
Week 4: at Tampa Bay
Week 5: Atlanta
Week 6: Minnesota
Week 7: at New York Giants
Week 8: at Pittsburgh
Week 9: Carolina
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Philadelphia
Week 12: at Dallas (Thur.)
Week 13: New York Giants (Mon.)
Week 14: Baltimore
Week 15: at Cleveland
Week 16: at Philadelphia
Week 17: Dallas

- Starting the season on the road against (what should be) Drew Brees and the Saints will be tough for the rebuilding, rookie-led Redskins. But a closer look at the defenses reveals the first six contests could be manageable for Robert Griffin III. No, I am not calling for wins, but only the Bengals should provide any sort of defensive resistance in the first six weeks.

- Hopefully those first six games will get RG3 enough experience, because Week 6 and 7 provide two of the nastiest road trips in football. Back-to-back visits to the defending champs and Pittsburgh will make for a rude awakening.

- Following the bye week (Week 10), the Skins will enter the toughest four-game stretch of the year. This is good news because of the timing of the off-week. However, facing the Eagles then Dallas four days later on the road before hosting the Giants and Ravens in consecutive weeks is about as brutal a run as there is in the league. Both the rival Cowboys and Giants will come on primetime slots on Thursday and Monday respectively.

- Playing in the East was going to be tough for Washington regardless of how the opponents are scheduled. But the NFL did them no favors as five of the final seven games will come within the NFC East. Aside from the trip north to face the defending Super Bow Champs in Week 7, most of the East will be determined in the final month and a half. Three straight divisional games (Week 11 to Week 13) will be tough enough with the regional rival Ravens looming in Week 14. Then the season wraps-up with back-to-back divisional games: at Phily and Dallas at home.

- Facing the AFC North this year will hurt the Skins' case for improvement as it could be the toughest division in the AFC this season. A road trip to the Steel City will be nasty and a late season trip to Cleveland is winnable but could be filled with weather concerns (in Week 15). Hosting Baltimore on the Parkway will be fun for fans — until they look at the scoreboard. Hosting Cincinnati in Week 3 will be a huge indicator of Mike Shanahan’s current level of development. Should they beat the Bengals, a playoff team from last year, fans will have a reason to be optimistic in 2012.

- Within the NFC, Washington will face the NFC South, all of which will take place before the bye week on Week 10. The season opens with a trip to NOLA before a Week 4 visit to the New Sombrero in Tampa. A tough match-up with Matt Ryan and Atlanta in Week 5 and an equally intriguing Cam Newton-Robert Griffin III showdown against Carolina (Week 9) gives the Redskins four NFC South games in their first nine contests.

- The two floating games for 2012 will be a blessing for Hog Heads everywhere. A road trip to St. Louis in Week 2 and a home game against Minnesota in Week 6 offer up two great chances for wins this fall. If the Skins want to improve in 2012, wins over the Vikes and Rams will be imperative.

Fantasy Focus: Despite the difficulty of predicting Shanahan’s workload tendencies, Redskins’ offensive players should face few speed bumps in the first six weeks of the season. The Bengals offer the toughest defense over that span, so sell your Skins high before they hit the Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, Ravens run of mid-to-late season. 

- by Braden Gall


Order your 2012 Washington Redskins Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

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

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

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

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

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

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

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

<p> Washington Redskins 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/big-12-football-2012-predictions

Landry Jones might have been a first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft. Instead, he’s still a Sooner, giving Oklahoma an elite quarterback and the inside track to the Big 12 title. Jones already owns 13 school passing records and must be considered a Heisman candidate. The Sooners will be looking for playmakers to go with him, which proved difficult a year ago once Ryan Broyles went down with an injury. And new/old defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has some shoring up to do on his side of the ball. Still, the pieces appear to be in place.

Texas possesses no such comfort or certainty at quarterback, a condition that has plagued it during a two-year slump that seemed impossible in Austin. Still, the Horns are otherwise well-stocked on offense and can count on the league’s top defense to put them back in the mix.

How will West Virginia’s act play in the Big 12? Don’t discount the former Big East beasts from the title chase — Big 12 and nationally. League defensive coordinators are more than familiar with Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen from his days at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. And they’re dreading facing him, with quarterback Geno Smith and a slew of offensive weapons ready to take off in Year 2 of Holgorsen’s madcap system.

After winning their first Big 12 championship and downing Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl, it looks like a rebuild at Oklahoma State, where Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and more must be replaced. Or, with stacked years of better recruiting classes, the Cowboys could just reload. A heavy burden falls on new quarterback Wes Lunt, yet skill players are present. This could be the year the Pokes lean on a stout defense — yes, defense.

TCU finally got the invitation to the big time it so sorely craved. Now the Horned Frogs will have to show they can play with the big boys week-in and week-out. Maybe it’s time to quit counting Kansas State — and Bill Snyder — out. The magic show continues in Manhattan, where Snyder does more with less, although quarterback Collin Klein is the real deal at quarterback. Robert Griffin III took his Heisman and face-of-the-program status to the NFL, leaving many to wonder if the clock has struck midnight on Baylor. The sense is that Art Briles has built a program, not a one-man gang.

Aside from a stunning upset of Oklahoma, Texas Tech’s 2011 season was a disaster, and there’s little reason to believe the Red Raiders are upwardly mobile. Not only is Iowa State in rebuilding mode, but the Cyclones are also looking for a quarterback to build behind. Charlie Weis is trying to pump life and hope into the program at Kansas. It will take time.

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Previews

Baylor Oklahoma State
Iowa State TCU
Kansas Texas
Kansas State Texas Tech
Oklahoma West Virginia

Take Me Home, West Virginia

For most West Virginia players and fans, their maiden season in the Big 12 will be a journey into the unknown. But they have their coaches to lead the way. At least partly by design, Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen has assembled a staff loaded with knowledge and insight into the Big 12.

Of course, it starts with Holgorsen himself, a former assistant at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. And it extends to five staff members, including co-defensive coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson. DeForest, a dynamic recruiter in the Houston area, joined Holgorsen from OSU one year after coaching alongside him with the Cowboys. Patterson is a former Tulsa aide who recruited the area and prepared game plans against several Big 12 squads. Cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts is a Texas alum, while running backs coach Robert Gillespie left OSU with Holgorsen. Quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital has been with Holgorsen at Houston, OSU and West Virginia.

“We probably know a lot more about the Big 12 than the Big 12 knows about us,” Holgorsen said. “We know a bunch about it. We’re not going to go into a hornet’s nest without knowing about it. Now, that in itself isn’t going to win you any games, but I do think it will be beneficial in the long run.”

QB Comings, Goings

The league lost marquee quarterbacks with Heisman winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor and Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State off to the NFL. Still, quarterback remains a position of strength league wide, thanks in part to the latest round of conference realignment. The Big 12 already had Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Kansas State’s Collin Klein coming back. The addition of West Virginia’s Geno Smith and TCU’s Casey Pachall provides four legitimate all-conference candidates.

Gundy On The Climb

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is on the rise. Entering this season, Gundy sits just four wins shy of becoming the school’s all-time winningest coach. With 59 wins through seven seasons, Gundy trails his former coach, Pat Jones, who is the leader with 62 career victories.

The 2011 season provided a major checkpoint for Gundy, who led the Cowboys to a school-record 12 wins, a first Big 12 championship and a first BCS bowl berth, won over Stanford. Gundy won both the Bear Bryant Award and Eddie Robinson Award as national Coach of the Year.

All that success earned Gundy a contract extension to the tune of eight years, $30.3 million. The deal is frontloaded, featuring a salary of $3.275 million this season, putting him third in the Big 12 behind only Mack Brown and Bob Stoops.

“I am humbled and appreciative for the new extension,” Gundy says. “Oklahoma State means a lot to me and my family. My duty is to continue building on the success we have enjoyed the past few years and make sure our program complements the academic mission of OSU.”

Giving Back, Big

Adrian Peterson had been thinking about doing something for his alma mater, Oklahoma. And just like he did during his playing career at OU, Peterson produced a record, pledging a $1 million donation to the athletics department. The funds will support the construction of Headington Hall, the school’s new student housing facility, as well as establish the Adrian Peterson Football Scholarship Endowment. The gift is the largest single donation ever from a former Sooners player. “I always hoped to be in a position to be able to donate back to the University of Oklahoma and make it an even better place — do whatever I could to help the university that did so much for me,” Peterson says.

Longhorn Running Mates

Heisman Trophy winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams were decades apart at Texas, but they now stand together outside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Bronzed.

Before the Longhorns’ Spring Game, the school unveiled a statue of Williams near the one of Campbell that has greeted visitors to the stadium since 2006. The Texas stars have previously been linked by their rushing prowess and their Heismans. Now they’re linked permanently.

The Williams statue is an 8-foot, 1,000-pound piece commissioned in honor of his outstanding years as a Longhorn from 1995-98. At UT, Williams produced a then-NCAA record 6,279 rushing yards, highlighted by a 2,124 total his senior year. As for the likeness?“Close enough,” Williams said.

“Words can’t describe how honored I am. Having a statue at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium is something I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams when I came here from San Diego.”

<p> 2012 Big 12 Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, Kansas City Chiefs, NFL
Path: /nfl/kansas-city-chiefs-2012-schedule-analysis

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

Kansas City Chiefs 2012 Schedule:

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

Order your 2012 Kansas City Chiefs Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

— by Mark Ross, published on June 14, 2012

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

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

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

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

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Team Previews

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

Coaching Turnover

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transfer Pass

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

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

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

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

A Rosey Partnership

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

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

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

Welcome Returns

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

Related Big Ten Content

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

Michigan State's Top 10 Players for 2012

Nebraska's Top 10 Players for 2012

Wisconsin Badgers Top 10 Players for 2012

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

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

Scoring system rankings based upon -

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

Updated: August 12

Related College Fantasy Football Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athlon's 2012 MAC Team Previews

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

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

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

Scoring system rankings based upon -

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

Defense scoring -

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

Updated: August 12

Related College Fantasy Football Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Money is money.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

• Best Pocono race I have ever seen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WARNING: Explicit Language In Video

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athlon's 2012 SEC Previews

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

Expansion talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

The year of the quarterback

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

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

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

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

Progress on another front

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

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

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

Related SEC Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denver Broncos 2012 Schedule:

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

Order your 2012 Denver Broncos Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- by Braden Gall


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

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

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

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

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

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

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

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

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

Atlanta Falcons 2012 Schedule:

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

Order your 2012 Atlanta Falcons Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

— by Mark Ross, published on June 13, 2012

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

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

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

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

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full 2012 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 Ball State Cardinals Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 Eastern Michigan Eagles Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 North Texas Mean Green Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 UTEP Miners Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 UAB Blazers Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 Rice Owls Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 Hawaii Warriors Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 Troy Trojans Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 Central Michigan Chippewas Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 Buffalo Bulls Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 UNLV Rebels Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 Tulane Green Wave Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 MTSU Blue Raiders Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 Memphis Tigers Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 New Mexico State Aggies Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 New Mexico Lobos Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 Idaho Vandals Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 Akron Zips Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 FAU Owls Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 Texas State Bobcats Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 UMass Minutemen Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 South Alabama Jaguars Team Preview

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

Read the full 2012 UTSA Roadrunners Team Preview

Related College Football Content

Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 26-35
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 36-45
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 46-60
thlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 61-80
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 81-100

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

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

Scoring system rankings based upon -

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

Updated: August 12

Related College Fantasy Football Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Dustin Long
Follow Dustin on Twitter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Team Previews

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


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

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

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

Secondary Violations

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

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

Leach’s Law

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

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

Not His First Rodeo

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

Dan’s the Man

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

Trojan Genes

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

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

Related Pac-12 Content

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

Stanford's Top 10 Players for 2012

Washington's Top 10 Players for 2012

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

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

Green Bay Packers 2012 Schedule:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- by Braden Gall


Order your 2012 Green Bay Packers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

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

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

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

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

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

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

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

<p> Green Bay Packers 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 06:01