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Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-may-17
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Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

Kemp Unable to Dodge DL
Back on May 5, Los Angeles Dodgers’ outfielder Matt Kemp suffered a left hamstring strain during a game against the Cubs in Chicago. He missed the following game, pinch-hitting in the seventh, but was back in the starting line up a day later at home versus the Giants.

However, after going 3-for-3 against the Giants last Monday, which pushed his batting average to .406 at the time, Kemp went ice cold. He got one hit in his next 16 at-bats and then left Sunday’s game against Colorado in the fourth inning after apparently reinjuring his hamstring.

Kemp had an MRI on Monday and the Dodgers placed their slugger on the disabled list that night. Kemp, who finished second to Ryan Braun in the NL MVP voting last season, was off to another sensational start in 2012 as he was in the top five of the NL in batting average (.359), home runs (12) and RBIs (28) as of when he went on the DL.

Not surprisingly, Kemp’s absence in the Dodgers’ line up is already evident. In the first three games without Kemp, the offense has generated a total of six runs, losing two of those games in the process. The Dodgers are still in first place in the NL West, holding a six-game lead over the Diamondbacks entering Thursday, but if the team continues to struggle to score, that gap will probably continue to narrow.

As far as the Dodgers go, with Kemp and fellow outfielder Juan Rivera (torn hamstring) both on the DL, recently acquired Bobby Abreu will probably get a lot more playing time. Abreu, who joined the Dodgers on May 4 after being released by the Angels, is off to decent start back in the NL. The 38-year-old is batting .296 with four doubles and four RBIs in his first 10 games. Clearly though his best days are well past him as he has yet to hit a home run in 2012 and can’t be relied on to produce consistently.

Short-term options on the waiver wire could include Boston’s Cody Ross (.252-6-23, 21 R), San Francisco’s Angel Pagan (.293-4-10, 7 SB), the Yankees’ Raul Ibanez (.263-7-22), Tampa’s Luke Scott (.233-7-27), Detroit’s Andy Dirks (.370-3-12, 17 R) or Arizona’s Gerardo Parra (.257-2-3, 18 R, 8 SB) or Jason Kubel (.295-3-15). All of these guys are currently owned in less than half of the Yahoo! leagues.

Finally!
It’s the middle of May, but it appears that some guys who much more was expected from at this point are starting to turn things around. Let’s start with the big guy, “El Hombre,” also known as Albert Pujols.

Pujols didn’t hit his first home run of the 2012 season until May 6. He cranked his second one on Wednesday night, but it’s the overall body of work that has been encouraging. After managing a total of four RBIs in all of April (92 at-bats), Pujols has already driven in 13 in May (58 at-bats entering Thursday). He’s still nowhere close to being the hitting machine he’s been throughout his career, but he’s had at least one hit in his last five games and has five RBIs in the last two.

Better still, perhaps Pujols can call on some familiar foes to help get his bat going. Interleague play kicks off on Friday and the Angels will be headed south to San Diego to take on the Padres. Pujols holds a career .333 batting average, along with 20 home runs and 63 RBIs in 71 games against the Padres. What’s more, his numbers in pitcher-friendly Petco Park (.258-7-17 in 25 G) aren’t that bad, considering that they are better than his current season totals through 37 games.

Pujols isn’t the only slugger starting to get into the swing of things. Alfonso Soriano, who had 340 career home runs entering this season, finally hit his first on Tuesday against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Soriano then hit his second one the following night in Philadelphia.

The Cubs’ outfielder is well known for being a streaky hitter, so now may be an opportune time to take a flier on him if he’s available, possibly even as a fill-in for the aforementioned Kemp. Soriano is batting .292 with two home runs and six RBIs over the last seven days.

The Cubs and cross-town rival White Sox will get reacquainted with one another starting Friday. In his career, Soriano is a .258 hitter with 14 home runs and 33 RBIs in 63 career games against the Windy City team from the south side.

Others who finally connected for their first home run of the season this week included Kansas City’s Jeff Francoeur (20 HR in 2011) and Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins (16 in ’11). Then there’s Bryce Harper, Washington’s passionate 19-year-old outfielder who has already endeared himself to the Phillies’ Cole Hamels.

Harper hit his first career home run on Monday against San Diego and then victimized the Padres again the next night. Harper’s numbers may not stand out (.238-2-5) through his first 63 major-league at-bats, but remember he’s just 19 and to this point, he doesn’t appear to be overmatched either based on his acceptable 13:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

While Harper may be getting the bulk of the attention and headlines, it’s fellow uber-prospect Mike Trout who’s putting up the better numbers. Trout, the Angels’ 20-year-old outfielder is off to a .333-3-8 start since being called up in late April. Trout, who has out-homered teammate Pujols in 90 fewer at-bats (150 to 60), has at least one hit in eight of his last 10 games, with six multiple-hit efforts in that same span.

On the mound, Florida’s Josh Johnson picked up not only his first win of the season, but also his first victory in more than a year on Tuesday. The Marlins’ ace was limited to just nine starts last season (3-1, 1.64 ERA, 56 K in 60 1/3 IP) due to shoulder issues. Johnson looked good during spring training, but the results to this point (1-3, 5.36 ERA, 57 H, 15 BB, 38 K in 45 1/3 IP) have done nothing to quell any suspicions regarding his health.

The good news for those Johnson owners who have been patient with him is there have been some encouraging signs in his recent starts. After giving up 11 runs on 16 hits in a combined nine innings in his last start in April and first one in May, Johnson has produced consecutive seven-inning starts in which he has given up just two runs in each. His next scheduled start is on Sunday afternoon against the Indians in Cleveland. It will be his first time facing them.

DL Watch
*Tampa Bay right-hander Jeff Niemann (2-3, 3.38 ERA) suffered a broken right leg when he was struck by an Adam Lind line drive in the second inning of Monday’s game in Toronto. Niemann is expected to be out at least two months as the team has already transferred him to the 60-day DL. Alex Cobb is expected to take Niemann’s place in the starting rotation. The 24-year-old righty went 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in nine starts for the Rays last season.

*Philadelphia right-hander Vance Worley (3-2, 3.07 ERA) was scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday night against the Cubs and was put on the DL with elbow inflammation. The team has since said he will be shut down for a week, but an MRI and other tests have not revealed any structural or extensive damage to his pitching elbow. Kyle Kendrick will take Worley’s place in the starting rotation for the time being and he went six innings against the Cubs last night, giving up just three hits and one earned run in six innings.

*David Robertson, who was pegged as the Yankees’ closer after Mariano Rivera was lost for the season, was placed on the DL on Tuesday with a strained left oblique. Rafael Soriano will assume the closer’s role for now and he picked up the save on Monday against Baltimore when Roberston was unavailable.

*Yankees’ starter Ivan Novoa (4-1, 5.44 ERA), left Monday’s game against the Orioles in the sixth inning after apparently injuring his ankle. Novoa picked up the win in that game despite giving up five runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. He has said he will take the mound on Saturday, his next scheduled start, but Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi has yet to commit to that. Even if Novoa does pitch on Saturday, he may not be 100 percent.

Weekend Series to Watch

Boston at Philadelphia
Two teams that have struggled out of the gate will get together in this interleague series as Boston travels to Philadelphia in hopes that its recent string of strong starting pitching continues. Daniel Bard (3-4, 4.30 ERA) will take the mound in Friday’s opener against Cole Hamels (5-1, 2.28 ERA). Bard had one of his best outings of the year on Sunday when he surrendered just one run in six innings in a win over the Indians. Bard’s control (20 BB, 23 K) has been an issue all season and could lead to bigger problems down the road if he doesn’t start limiting his hits allowed (38 H in 37 2/3 innings).

Jon Lester (2-3, 3.71 ERA) and Joe Blanton (4-3, 2.96 ERA) will take the mound on Saturday. Lester put forth his best performance of the season on Monday against Seattle, going the distance against the Mariners and giving up just one run while striking out six. Blanton was equally solid in his last start on Monday in defeating the Astros (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 7 K).

Carlos Ruiz (.343-7-24) has been a pleasant surprise for an otherwise plodding Phillies’ offense as the catcher leads the team in batting average and is second only to Hunter Pence in home runs and RBIs. Pence has hit two home runs over the last seven days, but he only has two other hits during this span (.174 average).

For the Red Sox, fill-in outfielder Daniel Nava (.474-1-7, 4 2B last seven days) and catchers Kelly Shoppach and Jarod Saltalamacchia (combined .393-2-6 last seven days) have been doing the bulk of the damage recently, while Adrian Gonzalez (.270-2-20 on the season) is still searching for his power stroke.

Baltimore at Washington
Raise your hand if you had predicted before the season started that this interleague match up would also be a battle between division leaders? The Orioles have been the surprise of the AL thanks to strong pitching and timely hitting. J.J. Hardy has been hitting the ball with authority recently, as he is hitting .381 with three home runs, eight RBIs and nine runs scored in his last 10 games. Teammate Adam Jones has four home runs and seven RBIs over the last seven days.

On the mound, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (4-0, 2.45 ERA) has been a pleasant surprise for the Orioles. He defeated the Yankees (7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER) on Tuesday and will be matched up against Washington ace Stephen Strasburg on Saturday. Strasburg had one of his rougher outings last time out against San Diego, giving up four runs in four innings in a loss to the Padres on Tuesday. On the season, however, he’s 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 56 strikeouts in just 48 innings.

Adam LaRoche (.339-7-29) has shown so far that his pitiful 2011 numbers (.172-3-15 in 43 G) were a direct result of him not being healthy. Health is an ongoing issue for Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who has yet to get it going at the plate, hitting just .222 with one home run and nine RBIs on the season.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports takes a quick look at the latest news, injury updates and more to get your fantasy baseball team ready for this weekend's slate of games</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 01:00
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-7
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Is NASCAR still on a high as Tony Stewart says? What should have been done to Kurt Busch and others for the incidents at Darlington? What about the All-Star Race? Are changes needed there?
Those were among the topics members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council debated this week. And some of their responses might surprise you. Check them out.


DO YOU AGREE WITH TONY STEWART’S COMMENTS ABOUT THE SEASON?
Asked if he was surprised that some people are questioning the racing in NASCAR after the high the sport experienced at the end of last season, Tony Stewart said at Darlington: "I still think it's on a high. The racing has been awesome this year. You look at the whole Richmond weekend, the whole Richmond weekend the races were great. I think it's proof that the sport is still on a high right now.''

Fan Council members were asked if they agreed with Stewart’s statement:

54.4 percent said Yes
45.6 percent said No

What Fan Council members said:
• NASCAR is on a possible competitive "high" but the competition is greater than it ever has been and it is very difficult to get a setup right to win. BUT, NASCAR fans want drama. The fuel-mileage strategies added drama. The Kurt Busch/Ryan Newman wreck with six laps ago was drama. The No. 39 gasman going after Busch added post-race drama. We as fans need more than great competition, we need some drama to stay interested.

• Stewart is NOT the one who are sitting at home watching the so-called "great racing" on TV. A lot of it has stunk worse than Pepe Le Pew.

• I'm not hard to please. If they are racing, I like it.

• I think the racing has been great. I'm a race fan though, not a crash fan. I don't go to the track or tune in on TV to see crashing. Personally I think the fans that do that should just go away.

• Most of what I've seen has been follow-the-leader racing where the only passing came on infrequent restarts or on pit road. That's not racing in my book — that's freeway driving.

• The racing is boring. Maybe you could ask Tony why, if the racing is so great, I changed the channel and watched the NBA playoffs half way through the Southern 500

• I agree with Smoke. The racing this year has been good despite many naysayers.

• It seems that, instead of enjoying our sport, everyone is analyzing it to death. On the broadcast at Darlington, during the long green flag, all that was talked about was the lack of cautions. During a 500-mile race the drivers are always laying back until the end. Are you new here? It got exciting at the end the way all the races do. Just watch the race and enjoy it and shut up!

• It's certainly not on the high it was at the end of last year, but it's still "up" from where it has been.

• I believe the drivers and even the media (to a degree) think the sport is "on a high". I went to the Bristol race and thought the racing was great … because I was there. I don't necessarily think the racing is bad, but FOX is doing a horrible job of capturing the race. Just look at Twitter during a race. FOX has a ton of commercials & the production of the race is poorly done. That gets fans into a negative mood and therefore they perceive the racing as bad.

• Was Stewart giving a sarcastic answer again? I'm not sure why, or what to change, but I don't seem to be as into NASCAR recently as I have been in the past. I still watch the races on a weekly basis, however, I'm not scouring the internet for news articles during the week as I would normally do.

• Yes we are blessed with the best racing in the world.

Teaser:
<p> The Backseat Drivers Fan Council weighs in on racing at Darlington, Kurt Busch's fine and raises interesting ideas about NASCAR's All-Star Race in Charlotte.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 19:55
All taxonomy terms: crossword, Monthly
Path: /monthly/may-2012-crossword-solution
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Teaser:
<p> <img alt="" src="http://ath-clients.s3.amazonaws.com/athlon/athloncrosswordMay2012solution.jpg" /></p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 11:25
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-nebraska-no-14-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
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Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at www.athlonsports.com. The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the Nebraska Cornhuskers being named No. 14, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Bo Pelini’s Nebraska Cornhuskers continue the countdown at No. 14 with two preseason All-Americans and 11 players selected as All-Big Ten performers. Athlon Sports predicts Nebraska will finish second in the Big Ten’s Legends Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Heisman candidate Rex Burkhead will lead the powerful Cornhuskers running attack once again,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “The defense must improve under a new staff, but Bo Pelini's program is a perennial contender and will be in the hunt for the Legends Division title.”

Two Nebraska standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with running back Rex Burkhead and kicker Brett Maher both being voted to the second team. In addition, the Cornhuskers’ running backs unit was ranked No. 6 nationally.

Eleven Cornhuskers earned preseason All-Big Ten honors, including Burkhead, offensive lineman Spencer Long and Maher at both kicker and punter on the first team. Wide receiver Kenny Bell, defensive lineman Baker Steinkuhler and kick returner Ameer Abdullah were named to the second team, while quarterback Taylor Martinez, tight end Kyler Reed, defensive lineman Cameron Meredith, linebacker Will Compton and safety Daimion Stafford garnered third-team honors.

Nebraska Team Preview

Nebraska's Top 10 Players of 2012

Nebraska’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Names Nebraska No. 14 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 10:16
Path: /college-football/nebraska-football-taylor-martinez-one-big-tens-top-quarterbacks
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Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 14 Nebraska. The Cornhuskers return 14 starters, including running back Rex Burkhead and quarterback Taylor Martinez. The defense returns most of its core, but must replace linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.

Is Nebraska's Taylor Martinez One of the Big Ten's Top Quarterbacks?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Let’s consider the field for a moment: Denard Robinson is a clear No. 1 in the Big Ten. After that, who should we consider? Iowa’s James Vandenberg is the next best passer. Ohio State’s Braxton Miller has the most potential. Northwestern’s Kain Colter was a supersub for Dan Persa. Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray is a fantastic runner but still struggling as a passer. Wisconsin’s Danny O’Brien was last seen losing his job at Maryland. Although Martinez struggled to remain in the conversation for the second tier of Big Ten quarterbacks last season, he is poised for a better season in 2012. His numbers regressed in some areas as a sophomore, but that’s not a shock. He was dynamic early in his freshman season in 2011 against weaker competition before returning to Earth in a second half hampered by injuries. In 2012, Martinez will have two years of starting experience under his belt, one year of experience against Big Ten opponents, one of the Big Ten’s best receiver groups, plus all the ability to be one of the nation’s best dual-threat quarterbacks. All the pieces are in place for Martinez to have a breakout year. Still, Nebraska doesn’t necessarily need Martinez to be an All-America quarterback, since running back Rex Burkhead is the likely centerpiece of this offense. Martinez simply needs to be very good, limiting mistakes and turnovers. That might not be enough to be a national superstar, but it will be enough to keep Nebraska in contention for a Big Ten title. By his junior year, Martinez should be up to the challenge.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Will he be the Big Ten's best quarterback in 2012? No. Can he lead his team to a Big Ten title by playing efficient and composed football within the framework of the offense thus making him one of the best? Absolutely. He had mental toughness and maturity issues in his first season under center back in 2010. And Martinez possibly took too much blame for the public dust-up with head coach Bo Pelini against Texas A&M considering he was a redshirt freshman — and that Pelini has a tendency to blow a gasket. Martinez also showed flashed of brilliant athletic ability and play-making skill. It appears he conquered those woes, as well as mastering the playbook, in year No. 2 as the starter in Lincoln while still exhibiting one of the quickest first five yards of any signal caller in the nation.

Now he faces his biggest challenge yet: Refining his accuracy in order to consistently and efficiently complete key passes in key situations. Easier said than done. T-Magic has never completed 60% of his passes and has dedicated his off-season work to honing his throwing motion and developing proper footwork. No one expects Martinez to be a pocket-passer with perfect drops, but should he simply improve his accuracy and protect the football, year No. 3 under center will easily be his best. It is the next step in his development process and it isn't an unreasonable expectation. Nebraska features one of the nation's elite tailbacks and arguably the Big Ten's top pass-catching corps, so, with his ability to make game-changing plays on the ground, there is no reason Martinez can't simple manage games through the air. If he can do this, Nebraska could be headed to Pasadena.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There’s not a lot of turnover among Big Ten quarterbacks, but some of the conference’s best (Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson and Dan Persa) are gone. Denard Robinson should be the Big Ten’s preseason first-team all-conference quarterback, but after that is where the debate gets interesting.

Ohio State’s Braxton Miller is going to emerge as a star in Urban Meyer’s spread offense and even though he didn’t turn in an overwhelming performance last year, he has to be considered for the No. 2 spot. Outside of Miller, Iowa’s James Vandenberg, Martinez and Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray could be the top options to rank No. 3 among the quarterbacks for the 2012 season. Vandenberg is coming off a solid season, but the offensive line is a question mark, while top target Marvin McNutt is gone. Gray showed progress last season, but needs to develop as a passer.

When you look at the field, it’s easy to see why Martinez should be one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten this year. Sure, he’s had his ups and downs, but Martinez is entering his third year as the starter and threw only one interception over the final five games of last season. His rushing ability makes him one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in college football, but how much he can improve as a passer will determine how high Nebraska can climb in the Big Ten standings.

Martinez is putting in extra work on his passing skills and drew positive reviews throughout spring. Nebraska also returns one of the Big Ten's top receiving corps for 2012. The lack of other options certainly help Martinez's case, but all of the pieces seem to be in place for the junior to have a career year. 

Mark Ross
In terms of where we stand and what we know right now I would say yes, but in Martinez's case, that distinction is due more to the lack of quality quarterbacks in the Big Ten more than anything else. Michigan's Denard Robinson, Ohio State's Taylor Braxton and Martinez are probably considered to the top three signal callers in the Big Ten this season. All three are similar in style in that they can beat you with their arm or their legs, although with varying degrees of success.

Robinson finished ahead of the other two last season and fourth in the Big Ten in passing efficiency with a completion rate of a little better than 55 percent and despite throwing 15 interceptions compared to 20 touchdowns. Miller completed fewer passes and had a much better touchdown-to-interception ratio (13:4), but he also attempted the fewest passes of the three by far. Martinez had the best completion percentage of the trio (56.3) and attempted the most passes (288 to Robinson's 258), but had 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Of the three, Miller is in a position to make the greatest leap in production this season as the sophomore will be running new Buckeyes' head coach Urban Meyer's spread system, the same system that helped Tim Tebow develop into a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback during Meyer's tenure at Florida.

That said, Martinez also could continue to improve in his own right, but in the end, the fact he is considered one of the Big Ten's best under center in 2012 is probably more an indication of who's no longer around, namely Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, and Northwestern's Dan Persa. That also doesn't mean that Martinez won't be outplayed at his position this season by Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase or Iowa's James Vandenberg or someone else, showing just how precarious the Nebraska junior's top-tier "status" in the Big Ten is, and it's only May.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think it’s fair to say that Martinez is one of the  best signal callers in the Big Ten, but he will have to become a more efficient passer to reach elite status in the conference and nationally. T-Magic is at his best running the ball, and his speed and athleticism have produced an outstanding 1,839 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground over the last two seasons. However, the NU quarterback had a meager completion percentage of 56.3 without enough big plays during the 2011 campaign. If coordinator Tim Beck puts less emphasis on quarterback runs due to schematic decisions or to protect Martinez’ 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame, the Nebraska offense could become extremely predictable.

As good as tailback Rex Burkhead is, the Huskers need their quarterback play to improve to contend for the league crown and/or the BCS. In double-digit losses to Wisconsin, Michigan and South Carolina last season, Martinez completed a combined 30 passes and ran for less than 150 yards total. The NU staff and others have worked with the California native on his passing and mechanics, and marked improvement could lead to big results for Bo Pelini’s team. Martinez will always be a threat on the ground, and I think he’ll become an effective enough passer to be among the Big Ten’s best QBs.

Related Nebraska Content

Teaser:
<p> Is Taylor Martinez One of the Big Ten's Top Quarterbacks?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 05:56
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Nebraska Cornhuskers check in at No. 14 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Rex Burkhead, RB (SR)
Taylor Martinez might be the most important player, but no one is better in Big Red country than No. 22. Burkhead is arguably the most complete player in the nation. He can move the pile, get to the edge, pick-up the blitz, catch passes as a receiver and, most importantly, lead by example. He is a tireless worker who never turns off the motor. If Nebraska is to compete for a Big Ten title, it will undoubtedly be on the back of the three-down workhorse from Plano, Texas.

Trap Game: at Northwestern (Oct. 20)
It may be tough for the Wildcats to sneak up on Nebraska in 2012 considering what Pat Fitzgerald’s team did in Lincoln last fall. But with the most important two-game stretch of the 2012 season looming — Michigan at home and at Michigan State — directly after the trip to Evanston, Huskers fans can’t help but look past Northwestern. The players, however, better not overlook the Wildcats or they will be on the losing end of Purple Power once again.

Upset Alert: at UCLA (Sept. 8)
The season finale against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium could also fall into this category, considering what could be on the line on November 23, but a Week 2 cross-country trip to face the talented but underachieving Bruins could be tricky. New head coach Jim Mora has built a talented coaching staff to lead his roster full of four and five-star prospects. UCLA played for their conference crown last year and won’t be scared of Nebraska coming to the Rose Bowl. A win over UCLA would be the first step in the effort to make a return trip to Pasadena in 2012.

Unsung Hero: Brett Maher, K/P (SO)
Maybe he isn’t as unsung as others considering he was named Big Ten Kicker and Punter of the Year last fall. But not many kickers or punters contribute as much to their team’s success as Maher does. He drilled 19 of his 23 field goal attempts and averaged nearly 45 yards per punt while knocking 42.4% of his boots inside the 20. His ability to handle both jobs with ease is invaluable in the modern scholarship era of college football.

Biggest Game: Michigan (Oct. 27)
The Huskers will be on primetime TV three times this Big Ten season and the third visit to Saturday Night Football on ABC will be the biggest when it welcomes conference favorite Michigan to town. The Blackshirts were beaten and battered to the tune of 238 yards rushing at the hands of Denard Robinson and company last fall in Ann Arbor. But if Nebraska has conference title aspirations in 2012, it will have to close the 28-point gap from 2011.

Revenge Game: Michigan (Oct. 27)
Nebraska wasn’t just beaten by the Maize and Blue last fall, they were embarrassed. Taylor Martinez completed just nine of his 23 passes, Rex Burkhead has his worst game of the season with only 36 yards rushing and Denard Robinson accounted for four touchdowns in the 45-17 destruction in Ann Arbor. The Wisconsin game features a similar story line, but the Badgers don’t play within the division like the Wolverines. Nebraska is undoubtedly focused on revenge against both teams this fall.

Freshman To Watch: David Santos, LB
The Spring, Texas, product added nearly 20 pounds during his redshirt season — which almost didn’t happen at all. Santos was prepared to play a big role as a true freshman last fall until an injury forced him into a redshirt situation. With the loss of superstar Lavonte David, Bo Pelini appears to be leaning toward a by-committee replacement approach. In which case, Santos will get more than a few opportunities to prove his mettle.

Comeback Player: Andrew Rodriguez, OL (JR)
The big hog molly played in eight games last season for the Huskers. Halfway through the season, the 6-foot-6, 325-pounder was slowed by an injury that eventually cost him the final four games of the season. He has been shifted to right tackle where, when healthy, he will be a major force in the powerful Huskers ground game. Again, if he can stay on the field.

Defensive MVP: John Papuchis, DC
Along with new defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski and secondary coach Terry Joseph, Papuchis is the most important member of the Huskers defensive unit. Will Compton or Baker Steinkuhler might be the on-the-field MVPs for this unit, but if Nebraska returns to its Blackshirt way of life, it will be because of the new defensive coordinator. This unit was dominant just two years ago (93.1 rushing yards allowed per game in 2009) but has been less than salty over the last two (over 150 rushing yards allowed per game since). With plenty of talent on all three levels, Nebraska should be much-improved on defense in 2012.

Newcomer To Watch: Mike Marrow, FB
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound thumper has a chance to make a name for himself this fall. Whether it’s lead-blocking, catching passes or picking up short yardage first downs, Marrow has a chance to be the unsung hero on this offense. The son of Nebraska graduate assistant Vince Marrow, the fullback signed with Alabama out of Holland, Ohio, before landing at Eastern Michigan. He transferred to the Huskers and sat out last fall, but is ready lay the lumber in 2012.

Season Defining Moment: Wisconsin (Sept. 29)
There may be bigger games later in the season against the state of Michigan, but from a psychological standpoint, how the Huskers perform against the Big Ten’s other Big Red at home to start conference play on national television will be huge. Should they handle the Badgers with relative ease, fans can get excited about a potential conference title run. Should Wisconsin, and its rebuilt two-deep, walk into Memorial Stadium and win, the fans in Lincoln would have to be excited about their fifth nine-win season in a row.

Related Nebraska Content

Teaser:
<p> Nebraska Cornhuskers 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 05:51
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-nebraska-rivals
Body:

 

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

• What do you call a Golden Gopher in a BCS bowl game?
A referee. 

• What's the difference between an Iowa football player and a dollar? 

You can get four quarters out of a dollar.
 
• What do you get when you cross Minnesota with a groundhog?
Six more weeks of bad football.
 
• Where was O.J. headed in the white Bronco?
Michigan State. He knew that the police would never look there for a Heisman Trophy winner.
 
• Did you hear that Minnesota's football team doesn't have a website?
The Gophers can't string three "Ws" together.
 
• What do Ohio State fans use for birth control?
Their personalities.
 
• Why don’t Minnesota fans eat barbecue beans?
Because they keep falling through the holes in the grill.
 
• You know you’re from Michigan if:
You’ve ever climbed a water tower with a bucket of paint to defend your sister’s honor.
 
• The Foo Fighters are playing at Ryan Field this fall.
They're 10-point favorites.
 
• Things you will never hear an Iowa fan say:
I just couldn’t find a thing at Walmart today.
 
Related Nebraska Content
 
Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 03:20
Path: /nascar/danicas-darlington-dance-and-kurt-busch-fined-nascar
Body:

NASCAR fined Kurt Busch $50,000 on Tuesday for his actions toward the end and after Saturday night’s Southern 500 at Darlington.

Busch was one of three people fined and one of four people placed on probation.

NASCAR put Busch on probation until July 25, citing Busch for “reckless driving on pit road during the race’’ and for being involved in an altercation with another competitor after the race.

Busch’s reckless driving on pit road was for shooting through Ryan Newman’s pits after a stop late in the race. Newman’s crew chief, Tony Gibson, said that his pit crew had “to jump out of the way ... and try not to get hit.”

After the race, Busch ran into Newman’s car on pit road. Newman told SI.com that Busch said it was an accident and it happened as he was taking off his helmet.

“I’m pretty sure there were 42 other guys that are taking their helmets off and doing whatever for the last 10 years and that’s the first time that’s happened to me. Circumstances, I think, are that he lied and was so frustrated that he doesn’t know how to deal with his anger.”

As for when Busch fired out of his pit stall late in the race, Newman told SI.com: “I’m not sure why [Busch] did it and tried to run over our guys and NASCAR officials. And nobody is. I think the chemical imbalance speaks for itself.”

Busch will be on probation for the All-Star Race, along with the Coca-Cola 600 and races at Dover, Pocono, Michigan, Sonoma, Kentucky, Daytona and New Hampshire. Provided he has no other issues, his probation would end before Indianapolis.

NASCAR also issued other penalties for an incident after the race between the teams.

• NASCAR fined Newman’s gas man, Andrew Rueger, $5,000 and placed him on probation until June 27 for failing to comply with a directive from a NASCAR official.

• NASCAR placed Gibson on probation until June 27 since the crew chief assumes responsibility for the actions of his team members.

• NASCAR fined Craig Strickler, Busch’s motorcoach driver, $5,000 and placed him on probation until Dec. 31 for interfering with a member of the broadcast media.
 

Teaser:
<p> Following Hendrick Motorsports' 200th Cup win at Darlington, Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 18:34
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-clemson-no-15-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

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

To celebrate the Clemson Tigers being named No. 15, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers continue the countdown at No. 15 with one preseason All-American and nine players selected as All-ACC performers. Athlon Sports predicts Clemson will finish second in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Heisman candidates Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins will lead a powerful Clemson attack once again,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “If the defense can develop early, the Tigers will have a great chance to repeat as ACC champions.”

One Clemson standout was named a preseason All-American, with wide receiver Sammy Watkins being voted to the first team. In addition, the Tigers quarterbacks unit was ranked No. 6 nationally and best in the ACC. The running backs group was rated No. 7 in the country and tops in the conference, while the wide receivers unit was tabbed No. 2 in the nation and best in the ACC.

Nine Tigers earned preseason All-ACC honors, including Watkins, quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and offensive lineman Dalton Freeman on the first team. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, defensive lineman Malliciah Goodman, defensive back Rashard Hall, kicker Chandler Catanzaro and kick returner Sammy Watkins were named to the second team, while tight end Brandon Ford garnered third-team honors.

Clemson Team Preview

Clemson's Top 10 Players of 2012

Clemson’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<h1 class="ha"> Athlon Sports Names Clemson No. 15 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</h1>
Post date: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 09:38
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Clemson Tigers check in at No. 15 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Tajh Boyd, QB
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is the more talented player and will more than likely receive more awards and recognition once the season is over, but Boyd is the engine that makes Clemson’s offense hum. In his first year as the Tigers’ starting quarterback, the junior set single-season school records for passing yards (3,828), total offense (4,046) and touchdown passes (33), while breaking the ACC mark for touchdown responsibility (38). The 10 victories Boyd led Clemson to in 2011 tied the school record for most wins by a first-year starting quarterback, and he became the first sophomore quarterback at the school to earn first-team All-ACC honors since Harvey White did in 1957. Boyd is anything but a one-man show as he’s surrounded by explosive playmakers, but Clemson would be nowhere near as dangerous on offense if someone other than Boyd was under center.

Trap Game: at Wake Forest (Oct. 25)
Yes, Clemson holds a commanding 59-17-1 advantage in its head-to-head meetings with Wake Forest and has won the past three by a combined 58 points. However, the Demon Deacons gave the Tigers all they could handle last season in Death Valley, building a 14-point third-quarter lead before Clemson scored the final 17 points and won the game on a 43-yard field goal as time expired. This season, Clemson has to travel to Winston-Salem, N.C., and the Thursday night game against their fellow ACC Atlantic opponent comes just five days after the Tigers host Virginia Tech in an ACC title game rematch.

Upset Alert: vs. Auburn (Sept. 1)
Even though Auburn went just 8-5 as a follow up to its 2010 national championship, these Tigers out of the SEC can’t be overlooked. The season-opening catfight will take place in the Georgia Dome, which is more familiar turf for Auburn compared to Clemson. Auburn played Virginia, another ACC team, there in last season’s Peach Bowl, a game they dominated winning 43-24. Auburn also will be looking to exact a little revenge, as Clemson came to Jordan-Hare Stadium last season and left with a 14-point victory in hand. Clemson could also be without the services of receiver Sammy Watkins, who was arrested in early May and is facing a suspension.

Biggest Game: at Florida State (Sept. 22)
Clemson won last season’s game 35-30 behind Tajh Boyd’s 344 yards passing and three touchdowns. Even though this was the ACC opener for both, last year marked the third straight season that found the winner of this game going on to play in the ACC Championship game. Clemson is currently enjoying a four-game home winning streak against Florida State, but has come up short the last two times the teams have played in Tallahassee. Clemson wants to show everyone that last year was no fluke as well as get a chance at some redemption in another BCS bowl game. To have any hopes of playing in a second straight BCS bowl, the Tigers will more than likely need to get back to the ACC title game, and Florida State appears to be one of the biggest obstacles in their way.

Freshman to Watch: Travis Blanks, DB
Blanks went to high school in Tallahassee, which is where Clemson’s ACC Coastal Division rival Florida State is located, and was regarded by several recruiting services as one of the top prospects at his position. In the end, he chose to sign with the Tigers and the true freshman may get the chance to torment his home town Seminoles as early as this fall. Blanks enrolled at Clemson in January and impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic during the spring. Don’t be surprised to see Blanks on the field early and often this fall when new defensive coordinator Brent Venables employs the Tigers’ nickel packages.

Revenge Game: vs. NC State (Nov. 17)
Outside of its 37-point loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, Clemson’s largest margin of defeat in 2011 was at the hands of NC State. The Wolf Pack took advantage of four Tiger turnovers and scored 27 points in the second quarter to coast to an easy 37-13 victory in Raleigh. Clemson was ranked No. 7 at the time, and although the loss didn’t cost the Tigers the ACC Atlantic Division crown and a spot in the ACC title game, there’s little doubt they want to put forth a better showing when the two meet in Death Valley in November. That’s especially true for quarterback Tajh Boyd, who was responsible for three (two INTs, one fumble) of the four turnovers in last season’s meeting. That NC State game also was the only game in 2011 in which he didn’t throw at least one touchdown pass.

Season-Defining Moment: vs. South Carolina (Nov. 24)
Clemson’s regular season will have already been defined by the time the two in-state rivals meet up at the end of November as the Tigers will already know if they will be headed to Charlotte for the ACC Championship game in Charlotte that next Saturday. If that is indeed the case, however, then it’s entirely possible that Clemson could still be in the national title hunt, meaning the last thing the Tigers could afford is a loss to South Carolina. And even if a shot at the national title isn’t in the picture, there’s this: the Tigers have lost three in a row to the Gamecocks, by an average of 20 points. South Carolina was truly the dominant team last season, as Clemson managed only 153 yards of offense while giving up 420 to the Gamecocks. In the end, regardless of what may or not be at stake, this is a season-defining game as far as the state of South Carolina is concerned.

Defensive MVP: Malliciah Goodman, DE
Goodman enters his senior season having played in 41 games, including 15 starts. His value cannot be measured in statistics alone as he played 767 snaps last year, not only the most among Clemson lineman in 2011, but the most by a Tigers’ defensive lineman in school history. However, besides bringing experience to and providing veteran leadership for Clemson’s defensive line, the Tigers also need Goodman to increase his production as he will attempt to fill the void left behind by Andre Branch, the ACC’s sack leader (10.5) in 2011. Goodman had 59 tackles last season, 43 of those solo stops, but only two sacks.

Unsung Hero: Chandler Cantanzaro, K
Cantanzaro was named second-team All-ACC in 2011 as he set a new school record for kicking points in a season with 118. He was the ACC’s leading scorer and tied for the conference lead in made field goals with 22. The one-time walk-on was 9-of-12 on field goal attempts of 40 yards or more and is 15-of-21 from that distance over the last two years. His career 71.4 success rate from 40 yards and out is a school record. He has missed one extra point attempt (86-87) in 27 games and is already seventh in school history in extra points made. He also established Clemson records for both extra points made (52) and attempted (53) in 2011.

Newcomer to Watch: Stephone Anthony, LB
Anthony was a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school who saw action in 13 games, including three starts, as a true freshman. Heading into the fall the sophomore is the projected starter at middle linebacker, and head coach Dabo Swinney and new defensive coordinator Brent Venables are hoping he has a huge impact from Week 1. He showed flashes of his immense talent and potential at times last season, most notably in the ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech. In that game, Anthony tallied three tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and forced a fumble in the Tigers’ convincing 38-10 win over the Hokies.

Comeback Player: Tony Steward, LB
Steward is another of the prized recruits from Clemson’s 2011 class as is fellow linebacker Stephone Anthony, who was a USA Today first-team All-American out of high school. Steward, just like Anthony, also played right away getting on the field in five of the Tigers’ first seven games. Then on Oct. 18, Steward tore his ACL in practice, ending his freshman season prematurely. He missed spring practice as he is still recovering, but is expected to be ready to go when practice starts in August. After seniors Tig Willard and Corico Hawkins, Clemson’s linebacker depth is pretty young and inexperienced, so the coaching staff is hoping that Steward will be healthy enough to continue his growth and development on the field this fall.

Related Clemson Content

Clemson Tigers 2012 Team Preview
Clemson Tigers Top 10 Players for 2012

Will Clemson Repeat as ACC Champions in 2012?

The Greatest Moments in Clemson Football History

The 10 Greatest Players in Clemson History Since 1967

Clemson Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Clemson Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Clemson Tigers 2012 Team Predictions.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 05:35
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/clemson-football-will-tigers-repeat-acc-champions
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 15 Clemson. The Tigers return the top offense in the ACC, but the defense has some key holes to fill.

Will Clemson Repeat as ACC Champions in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Clemson has a great chance to repeat as ACC champions. I have hunch second-year starting quarterback Tajh Boyd will perform closer to the way he played early in the season instead of when he threw nine interceptions in his final six games. The Clemson defense also should perform better than the unit that allowed 70 points against West Virginia. Despite my optimism about Clemson, I tend to lean toward Florida State in the division. The Seminoles were a classic example of a bad luck team – injuries at the wrong time derailed the Seminoles against Oklahoma, the same spilled into the Clemson game the following week. In all likelihood, Clemson isn’t going to face FSU backup quarterback Clint Trickett, who still managed to pass for 336 yards and three touchdowns on the road against the Tigers. This time around, Clemson probably faces regular starter EJ Manuel in Tallahassee. The road trip to Florida State should be a major cause for concern for Clemson, no matter who is playing for the ‘Noles. In the midst of the Tigers’ collapse a year ago, Clemson struggled away from Death Valley. Clemson finished 1-4 in road games and neutral site games last season, including losses at Georgia Tech, N.C. State and South Carolina by a combined score of 102-43. Even in Clemson’s final true road win over the season, the Tigers needed second-half heroics from Sammy Watkins to beat 2-10 Maryland. In 2012, Clemson will be in 10-win territory again with a chance for revenge against Georgia Tech, N.C. State and South Carolina when all three return to Clemson, but the big game is in Tallahassee against a presumably healthy Florida State team. That prompts me to give the edge to the Seminoles.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This is the ACC we are talking about here, and since the Tigers are loaded on offense and are the defending champs, they have as good a chance as any to win the title in 2012. But if the bet is Clemson or The Field, I am taking the field. The Tigers should be excellent on offense once again, but have to iron out some offensive line issues —and hopefully endure a summer without any more legal slip-ups. But defensively is where my concerns lie. Yes, they are talented. Yes, they should be improved with another year of experience and a new coordinator. And yes, they allowed 172 points in four losses to close the season 2-4 after entering the national championship picture for a few weeks.

Defense wins championships. It's a cliche...for a reason. Virginia Tech and Florida State might have two of the best defensive units in the nation much less the ACC and both will control the line of scrimmage against the Tigers. Clemson has to visit Florida State, and despite two relatively easy wins over the Hokies in 2011, the visit from Frank Beamer's bunch is guaranteed to be more difficult. Toss in other well-coached contenders who handled Clemson with ease a year ago — Georgia Tech and NC State, both of whom visit Death Valley — and it seems a tall order for this Tigers' squad to repeat. Especially considering Clemson has one conference title since 1991 and hasn't repeated since 1987-1988. 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Clemson is a team that has struggled to match preseason expectations in recent years, but winning the ACC Championship last season could help this program finally get over the hump and contend for a conference title each year. There’s plenty of talent returning to Clemson in 2012, so there’s no excuse why this team should not be near the top of the ACC once again.

Quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins will be one of college football’s top pass-catch combinations once again, while the rushing attack is in good hands with Andre Ellington and Mike Bellamy. The biggest issue on offense will be sorting out a line that returns just two starters. If Clemson struggles to block, the offense won’t match last season’s totals.

The defense returns eight starters, but the line was decimated by graduation. The Tigers have recruited well, so there is talent in the reserves. However, outside of end Malliciah Goodman, there’s not much in the way of proven commodities up front. The back seven of the defense should be solid, especially with the emergence of linebacker Stephone Anthony. New coordinator Brent Venables was a great hire, but this unit will struggle without a consistent pass rush.

The biggest obstacle to repeating as ACC champions will be a schedule that features a road date at Florida State and another matchup with Virginia Tech. Although Clemson beat the Hokies twice last year, the Tigers’ personnel losses will have an impact on the matchup. Considering the question marks on the offensive and defensive lines, traveling to Tallahassee to play Florida State in Week 4 is not the best possible timing.

I think Clemson is a solid top-15 team for 2012, but I see the Tigers falling short of repeating as ACC champs. 

Mark Ross
Clemson appears to be in excellent position headed into the fall to repeat as champions of the ACC. To begin with, Dabo Swinney's Tigers return seven starters on offense. Chad Morris' unit should not only be the best in the ACC, but one of the best in the entire nation, with quarterback Tajh Boyd, wide receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins and running back Andre Ellington all at his disposal. If an inexperienced offensive line comes together, and all the key playmakers stay healthy, Clemson's O could be next to impossible to slow down, let alone stop.

The Tigers' repeat title hopes will probably come down to the defense. Statistically speaking, this was not a very good defense last year and that was before West Virginia torched it for 70 points and 589 yards in the Orange Bowl. The Tigers return eight starters on defense, including just about the entire back seven, and have a new defensive coordinator in Brent Venables. No one's expecting Venables, who had been Oklahoma's defensive coordinator the past eight seasons, to turn this year's Tigers into a top-10 unit, like the 2009 Sooners were (8th overall in total defense, 7th in scoring defense), however even improvement that mirrors how last year's Oklahoma defense performed would be a welcome sight.

Last season Oklahoma's defense finished 55th in the nation in total defense, giving up more than 376 yards per game, and 31st in scoring defense, surrendering less than 23 points per contest. Compare that to Clemson's defense in 2011, which gave up nearly 395 yards (71st in the nation) and more than 29 points per game (81st). The good news is that the Tigers' defense doesn't have to worry about trying to stop its own offense in a real game, as Clemson's unit is far and away the ACC's most potent. If the Tigers can figure out a way to somewhat slow down the offenses it will face in its conference schedule, allowing its own to do its thing, then Clemson should find itself in Charlotte in December for a second straight year with an excellent chance at making it two ACC titles in arow. 

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Dabo Swinney’s crew has the offense to win another ACC title, but I would not pick the Tigers as the preseason favorite. With skill players like quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, we know the Clemson offense has vast potential. However, there were some key personnel losses in three starters on the offensive line and All-ACC tight end Dwayne Allen. There are also some concerns at the offense slowed down late in the season, scoring 17 points or less in losses to Georgia Tech. NC State and South Carolina.

The Tigers defense struggled for much of last year, except when playing against Virginia Tech. Eight starters return, but linemen Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson will be missed up front. If new coordinator Brent Venables can improve this unit, Clemson will have a great shot to repeat in the ACC. Right now, I think an improved Florida State and its loaded defense looks like the more complete roster in the Atlantic Division. With the head-to-head matchup in Tallahassee, I’ll take the Seminoles to advance to Charlotte.

Related Clemson Content

Clemson Tigers 2012 Team Preview
Clemson Tigers Top 10 Players for 2012

Clemson Tigers 2012 Team Predictions
The Greatest Moments in Clemson Football History

The 10 Greatest Players in Clemson History Since 1967

Clemson Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Clemson Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Clemson Football: Will the Tigers Repeat as ACC Champions?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 05:33
All taxonomy terms: Clemson Tigers, College Football, jokes
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-clemson-rivals
Body:

 

Here are some of our favorite jokes about Clemson's biggest rivals:

• What does a South Carolina fan do when the Gamecocks win the BCS championship?
He turns off the PlayStation.

• What do you call a Gamecock in a BCS bowl game?
A referee.

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

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

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

• Did you hear what happened to the South Carolina fan when he found out that 90% of all car accidents occur within 5 miles of home?
He moved.

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

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

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

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

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 02:46
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-may-14
Body:

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for May 14, 2012.

 

  1. Rangers—Firing on all cylinders once again.

 2. Dodgers—Team’s worst fear: Matt Kemp leaves game injured.

 3. Braves—Pitching was expected, but offense has been surprising.

 4. Rays—10 of next 13 games vs. Blue Jays and Red Sox.

5. Orioles—At some point we have to start taking the O’s seriously.

 6. Nationals—Tough loss at Cincinnati on Sunday allowing Reds to come back.

 7. Yankees—David Robertson, Rafael Soriano splitting the closer’s job.

 8. Cardinals—Go outside Central and get swept by Braves.

 9. Reds—Making a charge behind former MVP Joey Votto.

10. Tigers—Can’t slump with Justin Verlander on the hill.

11. Blue Jays—Would be leading the AL Central, 2nd in West, but 4th in East.

12. Marlins—Walkoff granny by Giancarlo Stanton caps great week.

13. Indians—Derek Lowe is 5-1, 2.47 ERA; rest of starters: 8-11, 4.92.

14. Mets—David Wright still mashing at .400 clip.

15. Phillies—Hitters are 5th in NL in average, pitchers are 9th in ERA.

16. Giants—Six of Buster Posey’s last 15 starts have been at first base.

17. Diamondbacks—7-12 at home this season; 51-30 in 2011.

18. A’s—Bullpen ERA a run better than rotation’s.

19. Brewers—Starters are 2-2 with 2.51 ERA in May.

20. Angels—Lost two of three in key series at Texas.

21. Mariners—No. 1 and 2 hitters have combined to hit .221.

22. Red Sox—Improved April ERA of 5.54 to 4.38 so far in May.

23. Pirates—Andrew McCutchen hitting .448 in May, rest of team .190.

24. White Sox—No. 2 hitters are slugging .199.

25. Astros—Opponents are batting .207 over last seven days.

26. Rockies—Pitchers have a 6.19 ERA in May.

27. Royals—Batting average down, ERA up, but better record in May.

28. Cubs—One home run from Cubs outfielders this season.

29. Padres—Batting average improved from.215 in April to .234 in May.

30. Twins—Batting .184, slugging .272 this month.

 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's weekly look at baseball's best and worst teams.</p>
Post date: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 11:44
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-virginia-tech-no-16-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

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

To celebrate the Virginia Tech Hokies being named No. 16, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Frank Beamer’s Virginia Tech Hokies continue the countdown at No. 16 with eight players selected as All-ACC performers. Athlon Sports predicts Virginia Tech will finish first in the ACC’s Coastal Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Once again, Frank Beamer's club looks like the team to beat in the Coastal Division,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “The Hokies have a big hole to fill at the tailback position, but they feature one of the nation's most underrated quarterbacks in Logan Thomas, and the defense, as usual, should be very strong.”

Eight Hokies earned preseason All-ACC honors, including defensive lineman James Gayle and defensive back Kyle Fuller on the first team. Quarterback Logan Thomas and defensive lineman J.R. Collins were named to the second team, while wide receiver Marcus Davis, offensive lineman Andrew Miller, defensive lineman Derrick Hopkins and kick returner Dyrell Roberts garnered third-team honors. In addition, the Virginia Tech quarterbacks unit was ranked No. 10 nationally, the defensive line was rated No. 4 in the country, and the defensive backs unit was tabbed No. 7 in the nation.

Virginia Tech Team Preview

Virginia Tech's Top 10 Players of 2012

Virginia Tech’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> <span>Athlon Sports Names Virginia Tech No. 16 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></p>
Post date: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 10:53
Path: /college-football/virginia-tech-football-can-hokies-win-acc-title-2012
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 16 Virginia Tech. Quarterback Logan Thomas is back, but the Hokies have to replace four offensive line starters and running back David Wilson.

Can Virginia Tech Win the ACC Championship in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
As long as Clemson is on the schedule only once, Virginia Tech has a chance. If we learned anything last year Clemson is better than Virginia Tech – or at least everyone learned that except for the voters in the Harris and coaches polls who voted the Hokies higher last year. There’s good reason to be skeptical about Virginia Tech this season. Quarterback Logan Thomas is one of only three returning starters on the offense. As opposed to years past, Virginia Tech has no clear heir apparent at running back as David Wilson was. Beyond that, I thought the Hokies receiving corps was overlooked at times. And the defense, as usual, will keep Virginia Tech near the top of the league. In the end, what the ACC comes down to is the conference championship game. The Hokies are the clear favorite in the Coastal Division. Despite Virginia’s eight-win season, the blowout losses to the Hokies and Auburn to end the season show the Cavaliers aren’t ready to win the conference quite yet. North Carolina is ineligible. Georgia Tech looks like it’s going to top out at around eight wins, and Miami could struggle. If Virginia Tech wins the Coastal, I might be tempted to pick the Hokies in the title game – as long as Clemson isn’t on the other side.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The top of the Atlantic Division may be stronger than the top of the Coastal in 2012, but that is why I am not betting against the Hokies of Virginia Tech. Miami has plenty of talent but is very young. Virginia is extremely well coached and will be strong on defense but lacks the overall talent to win the title (yet). Georgia Tech will be very difficult to stop on offense but plays a rough schedule. And North Carolina might be the most talented foe but has to deal with a coaching change and sanctions. It feels like the Hokies are the clearcut pick to win the division with what could be the nation's best defense. The winner of the "Tech-mo" Bowl has gone on to win this division every year of its existence, and while I like the Yellow Jackets to act as top challenger, I'll take Bud Foster with three months to prepare to stop the option on Labor Day Night.

So after winning its fifth Coastal title in six years, and its sixth in eigth years, can Virginia Tech topple the Atlantic winner? Be it the offense of Clemson, the defense of Florida State or the sneaky good coaching and quarterback play of NC State that prevails, I'm still taking the Hokies to claim the ACC title this fall.

There are certainly questions about the Hokies offensive line and running game. But when has Frank Beamer not been able to find someone to run the ball? And with a quarterback who can move the pile at will, I am not as concerned about the offense as others seem to be. Logan Thomas will take the next step in his development and make himself a first-round pick by carrying the offense. Foster's defense will do the rest. Clemson proved it can beat the Hokies a year ago but Beamer won't let his team forget that and I just can't see Florida State or NC State consistently moving the ball on the lawfirm of Collins, Gayle, Edwards, Taylor, Fuller and Exum.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There’s not a ton of separation between the ACC’s top three teams for 2012: Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech. And what might make-or-break the conference race is the play on the offensive lines. The Tigers have to replace three starters, while the Hokies lost four from last year. Even though Florida State returns nearly everyone up front, the line is still a major question mark going into 2012.

Barring major injuries, the Hokies should cruise to the ACC Coastal title. Miami is rebuilding, and Georgia Tech, Virginia and North Carolina each have question marks. The Tar Heels might be Virginia Tech’s biggest challenger in the Coastal, but is unable to play for the division title due to NCAA sanctions.

Virginia Tech will get a shot at both Clemson and Florida State in the regular season, but struggled against the Tigers in two matchups last season. Florida State visits Blacksburg on Thursday night in early November, which should be one of the ACC's top matchups for 2012. If the offensive line comes together, and a replacement for running back David Wilson is found early in the year, I think the Hokies will certainly push Clemson and Florida State for the ACC title and a spot among the top 10 teams in college football. The defense is certainly one of the best in college football, but surprisingly for a Frank Beamer-coached team, the special teams (kicker and punter) could be an issue. Although the Hokies are a solid team, I give a slight edge to Clemson or Florida State to win a very competitive (at least at the top) ACC in 2012. 

Mark Ross
There is no reason why Frank Beamer can't lead his team to a third straight ACC title game in 2012. Besides, Virginia Tech has represented the ACC Coastal Division in the championship game five of the seven years it has been played, so why should we expect a different outcome this season?

More to the point, the Hokies are once again the favorite in the Coastal Division because of quarterback Logan Thomas and what could be one of Bud Foster's strongest defenses in his 18 years as coordinator. Georgia Tech and North Carolina will be heard from and may even pull off an upset or two, but Virginia Tech should find itself in familiar territory come December - playing in Charlotte, N.C., for the ACC title.

This is not a typical Beamer-coached Hokies team, however. There are question marks surrounding both the running game and offensive line, while the receiving corps is, for the most part, unproven. Again, the defense could be really, really good, but in order for the unit to get to that elite level it will need its key players, especially at linebacker and in the secondary, to avoid the injury bug.

If Beamer and the coaching staff are able to develop some sort of reliable running game and the offensive line comes together, then Virginia Tech could have a dangerous offense to go with its potentially dominant defense. If that happens, then they are as big a threat in the ACC, and perhaps even nationally, as any other team. If not then Hokie fans will probably have to be content with a second-straight season as the ACC runner-up.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
The Hokies can definitely win the ACC, but I do not see them as the overall favorite. Frank Beamer’s bunch looks primed to win another Coastal crown, while Florida State and Clemson battle for Atlantic supremacy. The Virginia Tech defense should keep the Hokies in every game, but the key to winning the conference will be how an inexperienced offense develops around talented quarterback Logan Thomas. Beamer and staff must replace first-round pick David Wilson at running back, top receivers Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin, as well as four starters on the offensive line.

A talented and deep line rotation will lead the defense, and Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum will be the latest elite secondary members to be produced by coordinator Bud Foster. This solid unit will have to carry the weight early, while new stars like Marcus Davis, D.J. Coles and Michael Holmes develop on offense. The schedule is not easy with a season-opener against Georgia Tech, trips to North Carolina and Clemson, plus games with Florida State and an improving Virginia squad. The Seminoles and Tigers return top rosters, but the Hokies should be improved enough by December to defeat either squad in Charlotte. Beamer’s program has won double-digit games nine times over the last decade, so the Hokies would not surprise anyone by winning another ACC crown.

Related Virginia Tech Content

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

Virginia Tech Hokies 2012 Team Predictions

Virginia Tech's Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Virginia Tech Football History

Virginia Tech Hokies Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Virginia Tech Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Can the Hokies Win the ACC Title in 2012?</p>
Post date: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 06:03
Path: /college-football/virginia-tech-hokies-2012-team-predictions
Body:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Virginia Tech Content

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

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

The Greatest Moments in Virginia Tech Football History

Virginia Tech Hokies Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Virginia Tech Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Virginia Tech Hokies 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-virginia-tech-rivals
Body:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Virginia Tech Content

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

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

The Greatest Moments in Virginia Tech Football History

Virginia Tech Hokies Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Virginia Tech Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team.</p>
Post date: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 01:33
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-may-14
Body:

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

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

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

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

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

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

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Middle Infield Help

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

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

DH or No DH

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

DL Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of the last two weeks:

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

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of the last month:

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

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Closing Carousel

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

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

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

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

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

-by Braden Gall

 @bradengall

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

Athlon Sports College Fantasy Football 2012 Mock Draft: Complete Rosters

12-team, 20-round serpentine draft

Click here for the complete round-by-round breakdown

Mock draft based upon a standard scoring system:

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

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

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

— Published on June 15, 2012

Related College Fantasy Football Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


by Vito Pugliese
Follow Vito on Twitter:
@VitoPugliese 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wisconsin Team Preview

Wisconsin's Top 10 Players of 2012

Wisconsin’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Wisconsin Content

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

Wisconsin Badgers 2012 Team Predictions

The 10 Greatest Players in Wisconsin Football History Since 1967

Wisconsin Badgers Cheerleader Gallery

The Greatest Moments in Wisconsin Football History

Jokes About Wisconsin Rivals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Teaser:
<p> Wisconsin Badgers 2012 Team Predictions.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 11, 2012 - 05:31
Path: /college-football/florida-state-football-should-seminoles-leave-acc-big-12
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Is college football about to undergo another round of realignment? The Big 12's decision to stay at 10 teams after landing TCU and West Virginia to replace Missouri and Texas A&M has left the door open for more expansion rumors. Florida State and Clemson have been mentioned as possible Big 12 expansion candidates, but only time will tell if there is anything to the rumors. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Teaser:
<p> Florida State Football: Should the Seminoles Leave the ACC for the Big 12?</p>
Post date: Friday, May 11, 2012 - 03:23

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