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Path: /nascar/nascar-numbers-game-6-amazing-stats-atlanta
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Sports, especially auto racing and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series genre, has a way of handing success to those who make news for other reasons. Or at least that is the perception.

Kurt Busch has been in the Cup Series spotlight since late November 2011. In that span, he has been fired, hired, suspended, hired again, contended for Chase contention and hired once more. He has not won a race, the traditional way of landing your name in a newspaper or a snarky stats-oriented column such as this; however, the headline-making recent hire of Stewart-Haas Racing might fuel the aforementioned perception this Sunday.

Though he has now entered lame-duck territory — in sports, something almost unique to auto racing — with his Furniture Row Racing team, he is still contending for a spot in this year’s Chase. This Labor Day weekend, he is visiting a track that just to happens to be, arguably, his best.


5.313  Busch’s 5.313 Production in Equal Equipment Rating (PEER) at Atlanta through the last eight races there is the best in the series.  Kurt Busch

Busch was the only two-time winner at Atlanta during the CoT era and after a 31st-place finish last week at Bristol, he is on the outside, looking in (currently 12th) to this year’s Chase. A high finish in general, statistically, is in the cards. A victory would be beneficial to both his chances of qualifying in via the top 10 in points and his wild card chances. The chance at the “W,” for him, begins with qualifying.


3.4  Busch and the No. 78 team have averaged a qualifying position of 3.4 in the last five oval-track races.

Some teams put more emphasis on qualifying setups than others. It’s clear that Furniture Row is one placing a premium on Busch’s time trial, getting high starting spots and getting to the front early. In three races — New Hampshire, Michigan and Bristol — in which he started on the front row, he led 102, 43 and 54 laps, respectively. Only one of those races resulted in a good finish (the third-place score at Michigan).

If Busch and team can make it to the end of the race, their 77.27 percent base retainment percentage in the final 10 percent of races indicates that they’re likely to hold, or gain on, the position they are running at the 90 percent mark.


7.2  In the last eight Atlanta races, Jeff Gordon’s 7.2-place average finish is the best among all Cup Series drivers.

Currently 13th in the standings, MotorsportsAnalytics.com projects Gordon to qualify into the Chase via a top-10 points position and his history at Atlanta is a big reason for that. His 7.2-place average is a consistent mark, per his 5.99 finish deviation, over the last eight races, so a good run isn’t just needed; it’s expected. Despite his high season-long PEER (2.146), he is at risk, like last year, of being the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to miss the Chase. A typical Gordon run at AMS on Sunday will go a long way to alleviating some stress next week at Richmond.


66.7%  Kevin Harvick drove from the 24th-place starting spot to a fifth-place finish in last year’s race at Atlanta, thanks to 66.7 percent pass efficiency on 66 encounters.  Kevin Harvick

The guy is a primo passer, presently the best overtake artist in the Cup Series with 54.56 percent efficiency through 24 races this season. Additionally, he’s a juggernaut at the Bruton Smith-owned quad-oval tracks. Atlanta is far from an outlier; though he scored his first career Cup win there, he didn’t win during the CoT era. He did score seven finishes of 13th place or better, with a DNF-omitted finishing average of 6.7.


304  A CoT era winner at Atlanta in 2008, Kyle Busch has led the second-most laps (304 or 11.6 percent of the total laps) there across the last eight races.

Surprise! Kyle Busch does Kyle Busch things at Atlanta. He’ll be a closely watched man again this weekend, if his performance earlier this season at Texas was any indication. On a quad-oval track similar to Atlanta, Busch was victorious in the Lone Star State after ranking first in speed early in a run, fastest laps run, fastest on restarts and laps led (66 or 73.3 percent).


6.03  With a finish deviation of 6.03, Joey Logano has been a consistent runner at Atlanta; unfortunately, he is consistently unspectacular with an average finish of 26th.

Though Logano and the No. 22 team have been one of the most consistent high-finishing teams in the series since the beginning of summer, the young driver attempting to clinch his first Chase berth in the next two weeks has his work cut out for him. A high finish at Atlanta will buck his history at the track; a lead-lap finish on Sunday night will be his first.


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

David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projections, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA.

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
David Smith crunches the numbers to reveal some revealing NASCAR stats for the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 18:42
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/kate-upton-has-really-good-golf-instructor
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Kate Upton tweeted out a photo of herself and golfing legend Arnold Palmer on Tuesday.

Teaser:
Kate Upton and Arnold Palmer meet up on the golf course.
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 17:53
Path: /can-arian-foster-be-trusted-fantasy-owners-2013
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A major question for fantasy football owners is what to expect from Houston Texans running back Arian Foster in 2013. Dogged by injuries to his back and calf this offseason, Foster was taken off the PUP last week, yet opinions differ on where he should be drafted.

Why you can trust him?

Foster has battled early season injuries before and gone on to have terrific seasons. Remember his hamstring injury in the beginning of the 2011 season? It seems like a distant memory after his 1,224 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. While Foster may not rush for as many yards this season, he remains a premier back at the goal line. His 41 touchdowns since 2010 are the most in the NFL. The Texans schedule also lines up nicely for Foster as 10 of the 16 defenses he faces finished in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards allowed per game in 2012. Foster will be running behind a strong offensive line and should get plenty of opportunities as Gary Kubiak remains committed to running the football utilizing the Texans' zone-blocking scheme.

Fantasy Ceiling: 2nd overall pick

Why you can’t trust him?

Foster has more carries on his legs (956) than any player in the NFL over the past three years. Several running backs have struggled after seasons with large amounts of carries. Could he be in store for a decline previously seen in players with significant mileage like Larry Johnson, Jamaal Anderson or Ricky Williams? A clue to pointing to a downward trend could be that Foster's yards per carry have declined each of the past three seasons, from 4.9 to 4.4 to 4.1.

Fantasy Floor: 6th overall pick (behind Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles)

Final Verdict: 2nd overall

Foster should be well rested after sitting out the entire 2013 preseason and will benefit from the strong offensive attack in Houston. Expect big numbers once again from the former undrafted free agent and the No. 2 player on Athlon Sports' final Preseason Fantasy Football Big Board, as he will continue to look more like LaDainian Tomlinson than Larry Johnson.

Teaser:
Can Arian Foster be trusted by fantasy owners in 2013?
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 17:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-big-board-top-250-preseason
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The 2013 NFL regular season is set to kick off in just over a week! With most teams expected to rest their starters in their final preseason game, this is a perfect time to unveil Athlon Sports' final Fantasy Football Big Board before the games count.

As was the case early on, injuries continue to dominate the majority of the preseason headlines. Football is a physical, violent sport, even in the preseason, as evidenced by the number of players who have been added to the injury report each week. Injuries have shuffled up many a depth chart, and also has made its presence known at the top of our Big Board.

Running backs dominate the top 10, taking the first nine spots, but that doens't mean none of these guys don't have question marks either. For example, Adrian Peterson is our clear-cut No. 1, but the reigning NFL MVP received some bad news this week with the announcement of All-Pro fullback Jerome Felton's four-game suspension. Peterson will still get his yards and touchdowns, but he also will feel the loss of his lead blocker during the first month of the season, to some degree.

Following Peterson is Arian Foster, whose recent return to practice is the only reason he remains at No. 2. Foster has been fairly durable during his career, but he's had a ton of carries in recent seasons and starting this season off first with a calf injury and then a back issue is not what anyone, but especially a Foster owner, wanted to see. In Foster's defense, several of the backs behind him, such as Doug Martin (shot to head during preseason game) and Jamaal Charles (foot sprain earlier in training camp), have had their own health-related issues as well.

This just reinforces that not only do injuries go hand-in-hand with action on the field, they also can have a significant impact during a fantasy season, especially if they become a factor before Week 1 is even played.

Fantasy Football 2013: Final Preseason Big Board (Top 250)
Last updated Aug. 27

RkPlayerTeamPOSByeComment
1Adrian PetersonMINRB5Felton suspension big loss for AP.
2Arian FosterHOURB8His hold on this spot is tenuous.
3Marshawn LynchSEARB12 
4Ray RiceBALRB8 
5Doug MartinTBRB5 
6Jamaal CharlesKCRB10Looks to be over early foot sprain.
7C.J. SpillerBUFRB12 
8Trent RichardsonCLERB10 
9LeSean McCoyPHIRB12 
10Aaron RodgersGBQB4 
11Calvin JohnsonDETWR9 
12Drew BreesNOQB7 
13Peyton ManningDENQB9 
14Dez BryantDALWR11 
15A.J. GreenCINWR12Appears to 100 percent for Week 1.
16Matt ForteCHIRB8Has looked good so far.
17Brandon MarshallCHIWR8 
18Julio JonesATLWR6 
19Demaryius ThomasDENWR9 
20Tom BradyNEQB10Needs young options to produce.
21Alfred MorrisWASRB5 
22Steven JacksonATLRB6 
23Vincent JacksonTBWR5 
24Andre JohnsonHOUWR8 
25Randall CobbGBWR4 
26Jimmy GrahamNOTE7 
27Cam NewtonCARQB4 
28Stevan RidleyNERB10Has had strong preseason.
29Chris JohnsonTENRB8Has broken off some big plays.
30Roddy WhiteATLWR6Ankle injury shouldn't be an issue.
31Larry FitzgeraldARIWR9 
32Wes WelkerDENWR9Ankle injury has limited game reps.
33Maurice Jones-DrewJACRB9Looks to be healthy once again.
34Matt RyanATLQB6 
35Victor CruzNYGWR9Will his heel issue linger?
36Marques ColstonNOWR7 
37Reggie WayneINDWR8 
38Frank GoreSFRB9 
39David WilsonNYGRB9Oozes big-play ability.
40Jason WittenDALTE11 
41Colin KaepernickSFQB9 
42Tony GonzalezATLTE6 
43Darren SprolesNORB7Top-10 RB in PPR leagues.
44Mike WallaceMIAWR6 
45Danny AmendolaNEWR10Can he stay on the field?
46Hakeem NicksNYGWR9 
47Dwayne BoweKCWR10Could be primed for huge season.
48DeMarco MurrayDALRB11 
49Eddie LacyGBRB4Playing with a chip in shoulder.
50Reggie BushDETRB9Value goes up in PPR leagues.
51Steve SmithCARWR4 
52Eric DeckerDENWR9 
53Antonio BrownPITWR5 
54Pierre GarconWASWR5 
55Matthew StaffordDETQB9 
56Tony RomoDALQB11Early signs are encouraging.
57Darren McFaddenOAKRB7OAK offense struggling already.
58Montee BallDENRB9Workload remains to be seen.
59Ryan MathewsSDRB8 
60Jordy NelsonGBWR4Back at practice following knee surgery.
61DeSean JacksonPHIWR12 
62Torrey SmithBALWR8 
63Andrew LuckINDQB8 
64Russell WilsonSEAQB12 
65Robert Griffin IIIWASQB5Seems to be on track for Week 1 start.
66Vernon DavisSFTE9 
67Rob GronkowskiNETE10PUP list definite possibility.
68Chris IvoryNYJRB10 
69Lamar MillerMIARB6He feels he should be the starter.
70Anquan BoldinSFWR9 
71James JonesGBWR4 
72Cecil ShortsJACWR9 
73Ahmad BradshawINDRB8 
74DeAngelo WilliamsCARRB4Opportunity is there, can he seize it?
75Eli ManningNYGQB9 
76Ben RoethlisbergerPITQB5 
77Greg JenningsMINWR5 
78Tavon AustinSTLWR11 
79Mark IngramNORB7All depends on Saints' game plan.
80Giovani BernardCINRB12Rookie already making noise.
81BenJarvus Green-EllisCINRB12 
82Stevie JohnsonBUFWR12Bills' QB issues complicate matters.
83Sidney RiceSEAWR12 
84T.Y. HiltonINDWR8 
85Miles AustinDALWR11If healthy, capable of No. 1 WR stats.
86Mike WilliamsTBWR5 
87Lance MooreNOWR7 
88Rashard MendenhallARIRB9Health, O-line are main issues.
89Daryl RichardsonSTLRB11Can he carry the load?
90Owen DanielsHOUTE8 
91Kyle RudolphMINTE5 
92Greg OlsenCARTE4 
93Brandon MyersNYGTE9 
94Michael VickPHIQB12It's his job, now what?
95Sam BradfordSTLQB11Rams' offense could be sneaky.
96Jared CookSTLTE11Strong start, will it carry over?
97Jermichael FinleyGBTE4Seems to be in prove-it mode.
98Shane VereenNERB10Versatility is a huge plus.
99Andre BrownNYGRB9Could score double-digit TDs.
100Ronnie HillmanDENRB9He, not Ball, could be starter.
101Ben TateHOURB8Must-have handcuff for Foster owners.
102Joe FlaccoBALQB8 
103Andy DaltonCINQB12 
104Kenny BrittTENWR8 
105Emmanuel SandersPITWR5 
106Chris GivensSTLWR11Big-play threat to keep an eye on.
107Josh GordonCLEWR10If Weeden develops, he could rise.
108SeahawksSEADST12 
109Michael FloydARIWR9 
110Golden TateSEAWR12Harvin's injury offers opportunity.
111Vick BallardINDRB8 
112Le'Veon BellPITRB5Will miss at least a month.
113Isaac RedmanPITRB5Can he seize the job in PIT?
114Jay CutlerCHIQB8Bears' new-look offense worth watching.
115Carson PalmerARIQB9O-line issues already arising.
116Matt SchaubHOUQB8 
11749ersSFDST9 
118Bryce BrownPHIRB12 
119Bernard PierceBALRB8 
120Denarius MooreOAKWR7 
121Vincent BrownSDWR8Someone needs to step up in SD.
122Rueben RandleNYGWR9An injury away from starting.
123Ryan BroylesDETWR9Just needs to stay on the field.
124Antonio GatesSDTE8 
125Martellus BennettCHITE8 
126Isaiah PeadSTLRB11 
127Mikel LeshoureDETRB9 
128Jacquizz RodgersATLRB6 
129TexansHOUDST8 
130Josh FreemanTBQB5Squarely on hot seat in TB.
131Brandon PettigrewDETTE9 
132Fred DavisWASTE5Don't forget about him.
133Jordan CameronCLETE10Another TE who could emerge.
134Coby FleenerINDTE8Will he benefit from Stanford ties?
135Shonn GreeneTENRB8 
136Bilal PowellNYJRB10 
137Michael BushCHIRB8 
138Malcom FloydSDWR8Should be ready for Week 1.
139Kendall WrightTENWR8Knee sprain a step back.
140DeAndre HopkinsHOUWR8 
141Alshon JefferyCHIWR8He and Marshall could be deadly duo.
142BengalsCINDST12 
143Alex SmithKCQB10 
144Brian HartlineMIAWR6 
145BearsCHIDST8 
146PatriotsNEDST10 
147Kenbrell ThompkinsNEWR10Brady showing trust in rookie already.
148Andre RobertsARIWR9 
149Justin BlackmonJACWR9Can you wait four games?
150Greg LittleCLEWR10 
151Philip RiversSDQB8Has not been a good preseason.
152Ryan TannehillMIAQB6 
153Jake LockerTENQB8Has he turned the corner?
154Brandon WeedenCLEQB10Make or break season?
155BroncosDENDST9Von Miller suspension hurts.
156SteelersPITDST5 
157Jonathan DwyerPITRB5 
158Johnathan FranklinGBRB4 
159Roy HeluWASRB5More of a receiving threat than Morris.
160Danny WoodheadSDRB8 
161Pierre ThomasNORB7 
162Joseph RandleDALRB11Dunbar's injury should lead to more touches.
163Ed DicksonBALTE8Hamstring injury holding him back.
164Dwayne AllenINDTE8Is there room for 2 TEs in IND?
165Jermaine GreshamCINTE12 
166Rob HouslerARITE9Palmer loves his TEs.
167RamsSTLDST11 
168Christian PonderMINQB5 
169EJ ManuelBUFQB12Should start, if healthy.
170Geno SmithNYJQB10Knee issue only adds to Jets' QB drama.
171Stephen GostkowskiNEK10 
172Blair WalshMINK5 
173Matt BryantATLK6 
174PackersGBDST4 
175RavensBALDST8 
176CowboysDALDST11 
177Santana MossWASWR5 
178Jacoby JonesBALWR8 
179Darrius Heyward-BeyINDWR8 
180Santonio HolmesNYJWR10Finally back on practice field.
181Jeremy KerleyNYJWR10 
182Justin ForsettJACRB9 
183Ryan WilliamsARIRB9Back on field, but for how long?
184Zach SudfeldNETE10Appears to be Gronk's replacement.
185Tyler EifertCINTE12 
186Phil DawsonSFK9 
187Justin TuckerBALK8 
188Matt PraterDENK9 
189Randy BullockHOUK8 
190Fred JacksonBUFRB12 
191Jonathan StewartCARRB4Will start season on PUP list.
192Nate BurlesonDETWR9 
193Robert WoodsBUFWR12Rookie battling for No. 2 WR spot.
194T.J. GrahamBUFWR12Can he hold off Woods?
195Robert TurbinSEARB12 
196Christine MichaelSEARB12Rookie has looked good in preseason.
197Lance DunbarDALRB11Sprained foot could cause him to miss Week 1.
198Julius ThomasDENTE9Has he separated himself from pack?
199Zach MillerSEATE12 
200Brent CelekPHITE12 
201DolphinsMIADST6 
202Blaine GabbertJACQB9He's the starter, but does it matter?
203Matt FlynnOAKQB7Feeling the heat from Pryor.
204Chad HenneJACQB9 
205Mohamed SanuCINWR12 
206Julian EdelmanNEWR10If Amendola gets hurt, he's next up.
207Austin CollieSFWR949ers need more WRs.
208Scott ChandlerBUFTE12 
209Marcedes LewisJACTE9 
210Mike TolbertCARRB4 
211Rashad JenningsOAKRB7 
212Brandon LaFellCARWR4 
213GiantsNYGDST9 
214BuccaneersTBDST5 
215Andrew HawkinsCINWR12 
216Daniel ThomasMIARB6 
217Zac StacySTLRB11 
218Zach ErtzPHITE12 
219Heath MillerPITTE5Week 1 return still a possibility.
220Josh BrownNYGK9 
221Dan BaileyDALK11 
222CardinalsARIDST9 
223FalconsATLDST6 
224BrownsCLEDST10 
225Greg ZuerleinSTLK11 
226Sebastian JanikowskiOAKK7 
227Brian QuickSTLWR11 
228Cordarrelle PattersonMINWR5 
229Keenan AllenSDWR8 
230Justin HunterTENWR8 
231Aaron DobsonNEWR10Appears to have been passed by fellow rookie.
232Rod StreaterOAKWR7 
233Mark SanchezNYJQB10Coaching staff not helping Sanchez.
234Nick FolesPHIQB12Ready if needed.
235Dallas ClarkBALTE8Does he have anything left in the tank?
236David AkersDETK9 
237Garrett HartleyNOK7 
238Steven HauschkaSEAK12 
239Delanie WalkerTENTE8Late arrival to training camp.
240Brandon LloydFAWR Plenty of teams with WR issues.
241Jarius WrightMINWR5 
242Eddie RoyalSDWR8 
243Nate WashingtonTENWR8 
244Anthony FasanoKCTE10No. 1 TE in KC, for now.
245Travis KelceKCTE10Lot to learn, but lots of potential.
246Luke StockerTBTE5 
247Davone BessCLEWR10 
248Austin PettisSTLWR11 
249Riley CooperPHIWR12 
250Jason AvantPHIWR12 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams
Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Big Board (Top 250)
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 16:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-quarterback-rankings-preseason
Body:

Entering the regular season, quarterback appears to be fairly deep, as evidenced by Athlon Sports' Fantasy Football 2013 Quarterback Rankings. For example, take Michael Vick, who currently checks in at No. 15. Vick beat out Nick Foles for the Eagles' starting job and it's not out of the question that the veteran could bounce back in a huge way running Chip Kelly's offense. While there are certainly safer options than Vick, he also could pay off in a huge way for the owner willing to take a chance.

Another potentially risky pick that could reap big rewards is Robert Griffin III. While the reigning NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year has yet to play in a preseason game, he appears to be right on schedule with his recovery from knee surgery with his sights set squarely on starting the Redskins' "Monday Night Football" opener against Vick's Eagles. RGIII's potential, in terms of both risk and reward, is why he sits just outside the top 10 at No. 12.

Order your Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Football Preview magazine today!

Fantasy Football 2013: Final Preseason Quarterback Rankings
Updated Aug. 27

 

RkPlayerTeamBye
1Aaron RodgersGB4
2Drew BreesNO7
3Peyton ManningDEN9
4Tom BradyNE10
5Cam NewtonCAR4
6Matt RyanATL6
7Colin KaepernickSF9
8Matthew StaffordDET9
9Tony RomoDAL11
10Andrew LuckIND8
11Russell WilsonSEA12
12Robert Griffin IIIWAS5
13Eli ManningNYG9
14Ben RoethlisbergerPIT5
15Michael VickPHI12
16Sam BradfordSTL11
17Joe FlaccoBAL8
18Andy DaltonCIN12
19Jay CutlerCHI8
20Carson PalmerARI9
21Matt SchaubHOU8
22Josh FreemanTB5
23Alex SmithKC10
24Philip RiversSD8
25Ryan TannehillMIA6
26Jake LockerTEN8
27Brandon WeedenCLE10
28Christian PonderMIN5
29EJ ManuelBUF12
30Geno SmithNYJ10
31Blaine GabbertJAC9
32Matt FlynnOAK7
33Chad HenneJAC9
34Mark SanchezNYJ10
35Nick FolesPHI12
36Terrelle PryorOAK7
37Kevin KolbBUF12
38Kirk CousinsWAS5
39Matt CasselMIN5
40Jason CampbellCLE10
41Bruce GradkowskiPIT5
42Ryan FitzpatrickTEN8
43Ryan MallettNE10
44Shaun HillDET9
45Vince YoungGB4
46Brock OsweilerDEN9
47Matt MooreMIA6
48Drew StantonARI9
49Kyle OrtonDAL11
50Luke McCownNO7
51T.J. YatesHOU8
52Mike GlennonTB5
53Matt HasselbeckIND8
54Tyrod TaylorBAL8
55Derek AndersonCAR4
56Josh JohnsonCIN12
57Kellen ClemensSTL11
58Chase DanielKC10
59Tyler WilsonOAK7
60Matt BarkleyPHI12

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:

2013 Big Board (Top 250)
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams
Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013: Quarterback Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 16:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-running-back-rankings-preseason
Body:

NFL training camps are in full swing, although injuries have prevented several running backs from taking part in practice. While the top spots on Athlon Sports' Fantasy Football 2013 Running Back Rankings remain largely unchanged, there is certainly one injury situation worth watching.

Houston's Arian Foster has yet to make his training camp debut, as he was first sidelined by a calf injury he sustained during OTAs in March and then a back issue. The team doens't think either issue is that serious or will be factor come Week 1, but considering Foster is behind only Adrian Peterson on our rankings, it goes without saying the sooner he shows up on the practice field the better.

LeSean McCoy, Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden are just a few of the others who are coming back from significant injuries. Each are capable of putting up huge numbers, but only if they are fully healthy. Getting through training camp unscathed would be a huge step and will only help each player's draft position.

Order your Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Football Preview magazine today!

Fantasy Football 2013: Final Preseason Running Back Rankings
Updated Aug. 27

 

RkPlayerTeamBye
1Adrian PetersonMIN5
2Arian FosterHOU8
3Marshawn LynchSEA12
4Ray RiceBAL8
5Doug MartinTB5
6Jamaal CharlesKC10
7C.J. SpillerBUF12
8Trent RichardsonCLE10
9LeSean McCoyPHI12
10Matt ForteCHI8
11Alfred MorrisWAS5
12Steven JacksonATL6
13Stevan RidleyNE10
14Chris JohnsonTEN8
15Maurice Jones-DrewJAC9
16Frank GoreSF9
17David WilsonNYG9
18Darren SprolesNO7
19DeMarco MurrayDAL11
20Eddie LacyGB4
21Reggie BushDET9
22Darren McFaddenOAK7
23Montee BallDEN9
24Ryan MathewsSD8
25Chris IvoryNYJ10
26Lamar MillerMIA6
27Ahmad BradshawIND8
28DeAngelo WilliamsCAR4
29Mark IngramNO7
30Giovani BernardCIN12
31BenJarvus Green-EllisCIN12
32Rashard MendenhallARI9
33Daryl RichardsonSTL11
34Shane VereenNE10
35Andre BrownNYG9
36Ronnie HillmanDEN9
37Ben TateHOU8
38Vick BallardIND8
39Le'Veon BellPIT5
40Isaac RedmanPIT5
41Bryce BrownPHI12
42Bernard PierceBAL8
43Isaiah PeadSTL11
44Mikel LeshoureDET9
45Jacquizz RodgersATL6
46Shonn GreeneTEN8
47Bilal PowellNYJ10
48Michael BushCHI8
49Jonathan DwyerPIT5
50Johnathan FranklinGB4
51Roy HeluWAS5
52Danny WoodheadSD8
53Pierre ThomasNO7
54Joseph RandleDAL11
55Justin ForsettJAC9
56Ryan WilliamsARI9
57Fred JacksonBUF12
58Jonathan StewartCAR4
59Robert TurbinSEA12
60Christine MichaelSEA12
61Lance DunbarDAL11
62Mike TolbertCAR4
63Rashad JenningsOAK7
64Daniel ThomasMIA6
65Zac StacySTL11
66Marcel ReeceOAK7
67DuJuan HarrisGB4
68Knowshon MorenoDEN9
69Michael TurnerFA 
70Mike GillisleeMIA6
71LaMichael JamesSF9
72Kendall HunterSF9
73LaRod Stephens-HowlingPIT5
74Toby GerhartMIN5
75Knile DavisKC10
76Joique BellDET9
77Felix JonesPIT5
78LeGarrette BlountNE10
79Stepfan TaylorARI9
80Ronnie BrownSD8
81Shaun DraughnKC10
82Donald BrownIND8
83Latavius MurrayOAK7
84Montario HardestyCLE10
85Andre EllingtonARI9
86Brian LeonardTB5
87Mike JamesTB5
88Kerwynn WilliamsIND8
89Willis McGaheeFA 
90Cedric BensonFA 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:

2013 Big Board (Top 250)
Quarterbacks
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams
Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013: Running Back Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 16:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-wide-receiver-rankings-preseason
Body:

There is no change atop Athlon Sports' Fantasy Football 2013 Wide Receiver Rankings as the preseason wraps up, but that doesn't mean some of the top options haven't had trouble-free training camps either. Roddy White sustained a sprained ankle that put an end to his preseason snaps, while Victor Cruz was sidelined by a heel injury. Both are expected to be ready to go and be in the starting lineup in Week 1.

New England's Danny Amendola is another wideout who has already gotten nicked up, which is nothing new for the former Ram. Amendola has a golden opportunity with the Patriots to produce legitimate No. 1 wide receiver numbers, but it all comes down to him staying healthy. The good news for Tom Brady is that undrafted rookie Kenbrel Thompkins has made the most of an unsettled receiving corps and appears to have emerged as a legitimate option in the Patriots' passing game. Thompkins checks in at No. 53 in our final preseason rankings, while Amendola is just outside of the top 15 at No. 17 overall.

Order your Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Football Preview magazine today!

Fantasy Football 2013: Final Preseason Wide Receiver Rankings
Updated Aug. 27

 

RkPlayerTeamBye
1Calvin JohnsonDET9
2Dez BryantDAL11
3A.J. GreenCIN12
4Brandon MarshallCHI8
5Julio JonesATL6
6Demaryius ThomasDEN9
7Vincent JacksonTB5
8Andre JohnsonHOU8
9Randall CobbGB4
10Roddy WhiteATL6
11Larry FitzgeraldARI9
12Wes WelkerDEN9
13Victor CruzNYG9
14Marques ColstonNO7
15Reggie WayneIND8
16Mike WallaceMIA6
17Danny AmendolaNE10
18Hakeem NicksNYG9
19Dwayne BoweKC10
20Steve SmithCAR4
21Eric DeckerDEN9
22Antonio BrownPIT5
23Pierre GarconWAS5
24Jordy NelsonGB4
25DeSean JacksonPHI12
26Torrey SmithBAL8
27Anquan BoldinSF9
28James JonesGB4
29Cecil ShortsJAC9
30Greg JenningsMIN5
31Tavon AustinSTL11
32Stevie JohnsonBUF12
33Sidney RiceSEA12
34T.Y. HiltonIND8
35Miles AustinDAL11
36Mike WilliamsTB5
37Lance MooreNO7
38Kenny BrittTEN8
39Emmanuel SandersPIT5
40Chris GivensSTL11
41Josh GordonCLE10
42Michael FloydARI9
43Golden TateSEA12
44Denarius MooreOAK7
45Vincent BrownSD8
46Rueben RandleNYG9
47Ryan BroylesDET9
48Malcom FloydSD8
49Kendall WrightTEN8
50DeAndre HopkinsHOU8
51Alshon JefferyCHI8
52Brian HartlineMIA6
53Kenbrel ThompkinsNE10
54Andre RobertsARI9
55Justin BlackmonJAC9
56Greg LittleCLE10
57Santana MossWAS5
58Jacoby JonesBAL8
59Darrius Heyward-BeyIND8
60Santonio HolmesNYJ10
61Jeremy KerleyNYJ10
62Nate BurlesonDET9
63Robert WoodsBUF12
64T.J. GrahamBUF12
65Mohamed SanuCIN12
66Julian EdelmanNE10
67Austin CollieSF9
68Brandon LaFellCAR4
69Andrew HawkinsCIN12
70Brian QuickSTL11
71Cordarrelle PattersonMIN5
72Keenan AllenSD8
73Justin HunterTEN8
74Aaron DobsonNE10
75Rod StreaterOAK7
76Brandon LloydFA 
77Jarius WrightMIN5
78Eddie RoyalSD8
79Nate WashingtonTEN8
80Davone BessCLE10
81Austin PettisSTL11
82Riley CooperPHI12
83Jason AvantPHI12
84Josh MorganWAS5
85Terrance WilliamsDAL11
86Donnie AveryKC10
87Jon BaldwinSF9
88Domenik HixonCAR4
89Percy HarvinSEA12
90Michael CrabtreeSF9

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:

2013 Big Board (Top 250)
Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams
Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013: Wide Receiver Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 16:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-tight-end-rankings-preseason
Body:

The most intriguing name in Athlon Sports' Fantasy Football 2013 Tight End Rankings entering the regular season remains Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots need to decide whether to keep Gronk on the active roster or place him on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which means he would be guaranteed to miss the first six games. For now, Gronk maintains his top-five status, but that doesn't mean he should be treated as such come draft time.

In fact, the emergence of undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld during the preseason, may make the decision to shelve Gronkowski for the first six weeks easier. Sudfeld has opened many an eye already, which is why he comes in at No. 22 on our rankings. If Gronk does end up on the PUP and Sudfeld makes an early impact on the Patriots' passing game, then it's entirely possible that Sudfeld takes over the Aaron Hernandez role in New England this season.

Order your Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Football Preview magazine today!

Fantasy Football 2013: Final Preseason Tight End Rankings
Updated Aug. 27

 

RkPlayerTeamBye
1Jimmy GrahamNO7
2Jason WittenDAL11
3Tony GonzalezATL6
4Vernon DavisSF9
5Rob GronkowskiNE10
6Owen DanielsHOU8
7Kyle RudolphMIN5
8Greg OlsenCAR4
9Brandon MyersNYG9
10Jared CookSTL11
11Jermichael FinleyGB4
12Antonio GatesSD8
13Martellus BennettCHI8
14Brandon PettigrewDET9
15Fred DavisWAS5
16Jordan CameronCLE10
17Coby FleenerIND8
18Ed DicksonBAL8
19Dwayne AllenIND8
20Jermaine GreshamCIN12
21Rob HouslerARI9
22Zach SudfeldNE10
23Tyler EifertCIN12
24Julius ThomasDEN9
25Zach MillerSEA12
26Brent CelekPHI12
27Scott ChandlerBUF12
28Marcedes LewisJAC9
29Zach ErtzPHI12
30Heath MillerPIT5
31Dallas ClarkBAL8
32Delanie WalkerTEN8
33Anthony FasanoKC10
34Travis KelceKC10
35Luke StockerTB5
36Charles ClayMIA6
37Kellen WinslowNYJ10
38Tony SchefflerDET9
39David PaulsonPIT5
40Jacob TammeDEN9
41Gavin EscobarDAL11
42James CaseyPHI12
43Tom CrabtreeTB5
44Garrett GrahamHOU8
45Ladarius GreenSD8
46Taylor ThompsonTEN8
47Joel DreessenDEN9
48Tony MoeakiKC10
49David AusberryOAK7
50Ben WatsonNO7

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:

2013 Big Board (Top 250)
Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams
Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013: Tight End Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 16:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-defensespecial-teams-rankings-preseason
Body:

Von Miller's pending four-game suspension turned out to be of the six-game variety, which is why Denver's DST continues its tumble down Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Football Defense/Special Team rankings. Even though he's just one player, the Broncos will sorely miss Miller's presence to put pressure on the quarterback and propensity to make big plays. The Broncos' D will be just fine once Miller gets back, but his 2013 season debut won't happen until Oct. 13. His absence alone is enough reason to move the Broncos down a couple of more spots, as the Bengals, Bears and Patriots units seem safer at this point.

Order your Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Football Preview magazine today!

Fantasy Football 2013: Final Preseason Defense/Special Teams Rankings
Updated Aug. 27

RkTeamBye
1Seahawks12
249ers9
3Texans8
4Bengals12
5Bears8
6Patriots10
7Broncos9
8Steelers5
9Rams11
10Packers4
11Ravens8
12Cowboys11
13Dolphins6
14Giants9
15Buccaneers5
16Cardinals9
17Falcons6
18Browns10
19Vikings5
20Chargers8
21Panthers4
22Redskins5
23Chiefs10
24Jets10
25Lions9
26Bills12
27Titans8
28Eagles12
29Colts8
30Saints7
31Jaguars9
32Raiders7

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:

2013 Big Board (Top 250)
Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013: Defense/Special Teams Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 16:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-kicker-rankings-preseason
Body:

Kickers may be the least liked position in fantasy football, but unless your league doesn't use one, you need one to fill out your starting lineup. New England's Stephen Gostkowski tops Athlon Sports' final preseason kicker rankings, but there's always a kicker or two who comes out of nowhere each season, like Minnesota's Blair Walsh did in 2012.

Could that breakout kicker in 2013 be another rookie? Caleb Sturgis and Dustin Hopkins beat out established veterans to seize the kicking jobs in Miami and Buffalo, respectively, but there's a reason they start out near the bottom of our rankings. A better breakout candidate for this season could be Houston's Randy Bullock. He was expected to be the Texans' kicker after being a fifth-round pick in 2012, but he suffered a groin injury early in training camp, which caused him to miss the entire season. He's healthy now and should get plenty of opportunities to finish off scoring drives and kick field goals for a team that is expected to contend for the AFC title.

Order your Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Football Preview magazine today!

Fantasy Football 2013: Final Preseason Kicker Rankings
Updated Aug. 27

 

RkPlayerTeamBye
1Stephen GostkowskiNE10
2Blair WalshMIN5
3Matt BryantATL6
4Phil DawsonSF9
5Justin TuckerBAL8
6Matt PraterDEN9
7Randy BullockHOU8
8Josh BrownNYG9
9Dan BaileyDAL11
10Greg ZuerleinSTL11
11Sebastian JanikowskiOAK7
12David AkersDET9
13Garrett HartleyNO7
14Steven HauschkaSEA12
15Robbie GouldCHI8
16Mike NugentCIN12
17Mason CrosbyGB4
18Adam VinatieriIND8
19Alex HeneryPHI12
20Shaun SuishamPIT5
21Rob BironasTEN8
22Rian LindellTB5
23Ryan SuccopKC10
24Kai ForbathWAS5
25Shayne GrahamCLE10
26Graham GanoCAR4
27Nick NovakSD8
28Jay FeelyARI9
29Caleb SturgisMIA6
30Dustin HopkinsBUF12
31Josh ScobeeJAC9
32Nick FolkNYJ10

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:

2013 Big Board (Top 250)
Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013: Kicker Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 16:30
Path: /mlb/18-amazing-stats-week-august-19-25
Body:

The Cubs are wishing they had moved to the American League instead of the Astros, Koji has been unhittable, Texas and Detroit haven’t missed a beat since a couple of players were suspended, and will the Braves’ lack of postseason experience hurt their pitchers in the playoffs? It isn’t too early to ask that question and explore these and more meaningful stats from the week of August 19-25.

.167    Opponents batting average vs. Boston last week
The Boston pitchers were especially stingy last week, and it wasn’t like they were facing struggling offenses. Well, maybe half of the time they were. Boston squared off with the Dodgers and Giants on the West Coast last week and quieted the bats for both teams.

6.1    Runs per game the Rangers have averaged since losing Nelson Cruz
It was reasonable to assume that the Rangers’ production would suffer when their top run producer was suspended. But, perhaps, this incident has galvanized the clubhouse and inspired players to step up. In the 112 games prior to the right fielder’s suspension, the Rangers averaged 4.3 runs per game and batted .261. In the 18 games since the suspension, Texas is scoring 6.1 runs a game and batting .270.

.341    Tigers batting average over last eight games
Much like the Rangers with Nelson Cruz, the Detroit Tigers haven’t missed a beat offensively with the suspension of shortstop Jhonny Peralta. And with Jose Iglesias now patrolling shortstop, the Tigers are much better defensively. Over the past eight games, Detroit is batting .341 as a team with 11 home runs and 48 runs.

7    Runs scored by San Diego in Tyson Ross’s last six starts
The Padres’ young starter has been pitching well, but hasn’t received very much support. Since joining the rotation July 23, Ross has made seven starts going 3-3 with a 2.53 ERA. Opponents are batting just .189, yet to figure out his devastating slider. However, the Padres’ batters aren’t exactly doing much better. After scoring six runs in Ross’s start on July 23, the team has scored a total of seven runs in his last six outings.

0.32    Koji Uehara’s ERA since becoming Boston’s closer
The hard-throwing Uehara became the team’s full-time closer in late June, and since then, Uehara is 3-0 with 12 saves in 14 chances with an 0.32 ERA. He has 37 Ks and has allowed just 10 hits and two walks. With the health and stability questions surrounding Boston’s rotation, it’s critical that Uehara is sharp at the back end of the bullpen.

29    Runs allowed by the White Sox over their last nine games
Fortunately for the White Sox the Astros joined the American League this season, because that’s the only team keeping Chicago from being the worst club in the league. But over the past nine games, the pitching staff has been stellar, giving up a total of only 29 runs. Consequently, the team won eight of nine.

.529    Batting average for Houston catcher Jason Castro last week
The All-Star catcher swung a torrid bat last week, hitting .529 with a 1.913 OPS. He reached base safely in all six games, including a walk on Sunday in his only appearance. He was 3-for-3 on Saturday and had six extra-base hits for the week.

0.69    ERA for Miami’s Jose Fernandez last week
While the Marlins continue to scuffle through a rough season, Fernandez remains one of the few bright spots on the team. The young righthander won both of his starts last week. In 13 innings, he gave up eight hits, three walks and struck out 16 to finish the week with a 0.85 WHIP and 0.69 ERA.

1    Career postseason start combined for the Atlanta pitching staff
Kris Medlen started for Atlanta in last year’s wild card game with St. Louis. That is the lone postseason start that any of the current Braves’ starters can claim. Injured veteran Tim Hudson is no stranger to the playoffs, but he is out for the season with a broken ankle.

17-5    Rays record when Wil Myers drives in a run
In games the young outfielder starts, the Rays fare much better when the leading AL Rookie of the Year candidate has at least one RBI. When he drives in a run, the Rays are 17-5. When he starts and doesn’t drive home a run, the Rays are 17-16.

9    Walks for Joe Nathan in his last 11 innings
When the Rangers were at their best earlier this season, the bullpen was terrific. The Texas closer didn’t blow his first save until May 26 after he had successfully closed 16. He now has 37 saves in 39 chances. But he’s walked nine in his last 11 innings and is showing signs of wearing down. Texas doesn’t need a tired Nathan.

85    Total bases for Will Venable since the All-Star break
The San Diego outfielder is leading the majors with 85 total bases since the break. Last season, Venable’s teammate Chase Headley won the National League RBI crown with a torrid second half for the Padres.

13    Wins for the Cubs in interleague play
Chicago leads the NL with 13 wins against American Leaguers, and is done with interleague play with just seven losses. With a record of 12-5, the Pirates are second and have three interleague games remaining at Texas.

11    Extra-base hits for the Braves in their last seven games
After a hot August, the Braves’ bats are beginning to cool down a bit, especially in the power department. The lack of production is putting more pressure on the pitching staff, which has up until this point, pretty much delivered.

40    Stolen bases for Rajai Davis of Toronto
He doesn’t lead the majors, but with only 256 at-bats, Davis could become just the eighth player in history to finish a season with 40 or more stolen bases in fewer than 300 at-bats. Otis Nixon and Alex Cole were the last men to do it, both in 1990.
 
.186    Dan Uggla’s batting average this season
The Braves’ second baseman recently underwent Lasik surgery to improve his vision. Apparently, the Braves suggested the procedure back in spring training, but Uggla refused. Both the player and the team believe his batting average should improve along with his vision. He’s the only player with enough qualifying at-bats hitting below .210.

13    Consecutive games the Cardinals play the Pirates and Reds
This is certainly a critical stretch for the Redbirds. St. Louis entered the 13-game slate tied with Pittsburgh and 2.5 games ahead of the Reds. All three NL Central contenders have an opportunity to separate themselves from the pack over the next two weeks.

20    Magic number for the Atlanta Braves
The Braves’ magic number continues to creep down, and we’re guessing they’ll clinch the NL East on Sept. 14 at home against San Diego.

Teaser:
The Cubs are wishing they had moved to the American League instead of the Astros, Koji has been unhittable, Texas and Detroit haven’t missed a beat since a couple of players were suspended, and will the Braves’ lack of postseason experience hurt their pitchers in the playoffs? It isn’t too early to ask that question and explore these and more meaningful stats from the week of August 19-25.
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 13:05
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-27-2013
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Aug. 27.

 

• Let's face it: Women's tennis is replete with comely ladies. Here's a rundown of the 32 hottest contestants at the U.S. Open, including Flavia Pennetta (pictured).

 

• It's a big year for the Mack Brown regime in Austin. So can Texas actually win a national title? We'll say this: There's talent there.

 

So apparently Alabama fans are bored by all the winning. We feel so sorry for you.

 

A guy in Albuquerque made a million-dollar hole in one. So Albuquerque is not all desert, car washes and meth labs?

 

Rex Ryan's feud with the media has reached the New Jersey governor's office and the front page of the Daily News. Over to you, President Obama.

 

So that thing that crawls out of the TV in "The Ring" can really bring the heat.

 

Johnny Manziel spent six hours with NCAA investigators. Let's end this dance and either sit him or not.

 

50 burning questions as we enter another college football season. Spoiler alert: No. 50 is, will Alabama start murdering trees again?

 

GQ delves into the psyche of one Nick Saban and decides that it's a scary place to visit.

 

• Wanna see a screen grab of Michael Strahan in drag, presumably dressed as Oprah? Of course you do.

 

Watch as Dan Patrick continues to feed the "John Clayton has a ponytail" rumor, which unbeknownst to me, he actually started.

 

• I don't know much about tennis, but I know enough to know that this shot by Rafael Nadal is absolutely sick.

 

 

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 10:26
Path: /college-football/justin-worley-named-tennessees-starting-qb
Body:

The Butch Jones era at Tennessee will kickoff this Saturday against FCS opponent Austin Peay. And Jones ended the offseason speculation by picking junior Justin Worley as his starting quarterback against the Governors.

With the departure of quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter to the NFL, Tennessee’s offense is expected to lean heavily on its ground attack and offensive line to win games in 2013.

Worley started three games in 2011 and has thrown for 738 yards and one touchdown during his nine career appearances. The junior has good size at 6-foot-4 and 222 pounds, but Jones prefers to have some mobility from his quarterbacks, and Worley has -22 rushing yards in his career.

With a cast of new receivers stepping into playing time, it will take Tennessee’s offense some time to jell.

If Worley stumbles, redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman is expected to be the backup, while true freshmen Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson are No. 3 and No. 4 on the depth chart.

Teaser:
Tennessee Picks Justin Worley as its Starting QB
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/atlanta-falcons-2013-nfl-team-preview
Body:

Say this about the Atlanta Falcons: They don’t rest on their laurels. Coming up just 10 yards short of the Super Bowl and winning an NFC-best 13 games apparently wasn’t good enough for GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith. They overhauled the roster despitea recording the No. 1 overall playoff seed for only the second time in franchise history. Eight new starters will line up for the Falcons this season, including prize free-agent additions Osi Umenyiora and Steven Jackson.

The Falcons enter the season as one of the favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII in New York. After steadily fortifying the roster in recent years, they appear ready to take the next step in the hyper-competitive NFC. “I think this team really believes now this team truly can strap it up against any team in this league,” Dimitroff says. “There is not the intimidation factor that there once was. And I love that feeling.”

Athlon Sports NFC Power Ranking: 5th

Related: 2013 Atlanta Falcons Schedule Analysis

Offense
The Falcons feature a premier quarterback in Matt Ryan and boast an arsenal of playmakers as deep and talented as any in the NFL. Wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones are big, physical playmakers on the perimeter who can score from any down-and-distance scenario. Both are good enough to be No. 1 receivers on most NFL teams. White sprained his ankle during the Falcons' second preseason game, but it should not prevent him from being out on the field for the season opener in New Orleans. Mercurial Harry Douglas is established as the third receiver, but the team believes he has big-play potential that hasn’t been fully utilized in the past. The big-play opportunities should be there for him with defenses concentrating on White and Jones. He needs to capitalize on them.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez is Ryan’s favorite target, especially in the red zone and on third down. He was targeted 124 times and produced 93 receptions and eight TDs last season. He keeps himself in great shape, so another big year is possible for the perennial Pro Bowler.

Jackson has a lot of wear on his tires but remains remarkably productive. The classic workhorse back, he will try to notch his ninth consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season. That the NFL record is 11 by Emmitt Smith says a lot about Jackson’s dependability and durability. He’s the perfect complement to the Falcons’ high-powered passing attack and will be a significant upgrade over Michael Turner, who had clearly lost explosiveness last season. Scat back Jacquizz Rodgers is the check-down option. He needs more touches, and like Douglas, could have a breakout year with defenses focused outside the hash marks on White and Jones.

Ryan set career highs in passing yards (4,719), completion percentage (68.6) and TD passes (32) last season. He’s the consummate field general who can make every throw. He’s become a more vocal leader in recent years and has earned the trust and respect of his teammates.

The Falcons’ failure to score from the 1-yard line on three downs in their heartbreaking loss to the Saints was the impetus to overhaul the offensive line, which will feature three new starters. The goal is to get more physical and athletic up front. Tackle Lamar Holmes and guard Garrett Reynolds form the new right side. Both are bigger and more physical than their predecessors. Peter Konz replaces longtime veteran Todd McClure at center and is much stronger and more powerful at this stage of his career. Left tackle Sam Baker enjoyed a strong rebound season in 2012. He’s not spectacular at anything but does everything well.

Defense
Coordinator Mike Nolan plays multiple schemes but prefers to operate out of a 4-3 base. The Falcons are unfailingly consistent on defense. They annually rank among the league leaders in interceptions and near the bottom in sacks. Rushing the passer continues to be their most pressing concern. To that end, the Falcons replaced the aging John Abraham with Umenyiora, who is three years younger. Umenyiora’s production has declined precipitously the past two years. The Falcons are hoping a change of scenery and the Georgia Dome fast track will turn things around for him. Kroy Biermann makes plays with his hustle and non-stop motor, but he can be overpowered at the point of attack and is a liability against the run. The underrated Jonathan Babineaux is the Falcons’ best lineman. He’s undersized but is one of the league’s best interior penetrators.

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is the leader of this defense. He’s an elite athlete who makes plays all over the field from his weak-side spot. Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas are solid if unspectacular in the middle and strong side, respectively. Depth is a big concern.

The Falcons wanted to upgrade their play at cornerback despite allowing an NFL-low five touchdowns on passes outside the painted numbers last season. Asante Samuel is a boom-or-bust proposition at left corner. He intercepted five passes but also can be burned for big plays because of his penchant for gambling. Rookie Desmond Trufant plays with a similar swagger to Samuel. He has the athleticism and ball skills to start right away. The nickel back position has been a major problem spot for the Falcons. It’s basically a starting spot with so many high-profile passing attacks in the NFC. Rookie Robert Alford should be an immediate upgrade over the undersized Robert McClain. Safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore form one of the best tandems in the league. Both are aggressive hitters with range and improving ball skills.

Specialists
The Falcons’ special teams are solid. Matt Bryant is one of the best clutch kickers in the NFL, as evidenced by his game-winner against Seattle in the playoffs. He has a range of just over 50 yards and is very accurate and dependable from inside the 50. He has enough leg to consistently send his kickoffs into the end zone.

Punter Matt Bosher needs to improve his directional punting and get-off time. He had two punts blocked last season. Still, he boasts a solid combination of distance and hang time.

Rodgers and Dominique Franks are average return men. The coverage units are solid and should improve with the influx of fresh legs in the draft.

Final Analysis: 1st in NFC South
For all of their recent success, there’s been something missing from the Falcons. For whatever reason, they’ve lacked the aggressiveness and competence of their NFC rivals in Green Bay, New Orleans and San Francisco. They’ve been good, but not good enough.

The Falcons are and should be the favorites to repeat as NFC South champs. They are the most complete team in the division and have several young players emerging into stars. Their window of opportunity to win a Super Bowl in the Ryan era is still wide open. If Jackson and Umenyiora can produce at their former levels and the defense can improve just a little, Atlanta should cruise to its fourth consecutive playoff appearance and challenge San Francisco and Green Bay for superiority in the NFC.

Order your 2013 Atlanta Falcons Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston (8/29)Denver (9/3)
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New England (8/30)ClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburgh (8/28)TennesseeSan Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY Giants (8/30)DetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen Bay (8/29)New OrleansSan Francisco (9/3)
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle (8/28)

 

Teaser:
Atlanta Falcons 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/cincinnati-bengals-2013-nfl-team-preview
Body:

The Bengals think of themselves as Super Bowl contenders. Their roster says they should be in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy. So does their experience. All that’s left for them to do is to prove it on the field following Wild Card playoff losses at Houston the last two seasons.

The entire starting offensive unit returns, but after struggling down the stretch last season, there is much room for improvement. The offense produced just seven touchdowns in the final six games. There are plenty of weapons in the lineup in Andy Dalton’s third season, so if the Bengals are to take that next step it is on the shoulders of their red-headed quarterback.

The defense is top-10 quality with the ability to dictate and win games, headed by All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

They have no excuses.

Athlon Sports AFC Power Ranking: 5th

Related: 2013 Cincinnati Bengals Schedule Analysis

Offense
The numbers say Dalton improved in 2012, and surely by simple maturity he did, but it’s hard to get past those final five regular-season games and the postseason game in Houston and not have questions. Will Dalton be more than what he is now? Have defenses figured out his limitations? Does negating wide receiver A.J. Green render the rest of the offense manageable for the defense?

Dalton and the Bengals weren’t as effective passing deep in 2012 compared to 2011, with an accuracy percentage of just 26.0 percent and 633 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. By comparison, they gained 922 yards and were accurate on 43.1 percent of Dalton’s deep throws in his rookie season.

Green, who has 162 catches, more than 2,400 yards and 18 touchdowns in two seasons, will win his one-on-one battles and a good percentage of his double teams, but Dalton has to be able to go elsewhere with the ball with confidence. Tight end Jermaine Gresham has three straight 50-plus-reception seasons, but he disappears at times and leaves Bengals fans wanting more too often. He had 10 drops in 99 targets last season.

The selection of tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard in the first two rounds of the draft were aimed at giving Dalton more options. Expect more two-tight end formations, and the Bengals will even split both Gresham and Eifert out at the same time. Bernard is the speed complement to BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ power style.

Three of the five offensive line spots are secure with left tackle Andrew Whitworth, right tackle Andre Smith and right guard Kevin Zeitler. Kyle Cook should win back the center position now that he’s healthy after an ankle injury last season. That said, Trevor Robinson gained valuable experience playing in Cook’s absence. Left guard will come down to Clint Boling and veteran Travelle Wharton.

Defense
Everything starts up front for the Bengals, who have developed one of the more dominant defensive lines in the NFL. Atkins is stout and quick, forcing teams to game plan for him. Ends Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap are long and have learned to play hard every down. The rotation goes seven deep, and the pressure from the down linemen means defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer doesn’t have to blitz to get to the quarterback.

Signing outside linebacker James Harrison from Pittsburgh should help bring an edge in attitude. The Bengals are betting that Harrison, entering his 10th season, still has plenty left on the field even as he has to make the adjustment from the Steelers’ 3-4 zone blitz concepts to Zimmer’s 4-3 base. How well Harrison and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga can work in coverage will be key to the defense maintaining its top-10 level of play. The Bengals are leaving Maualuga in the middle and Vontaze Burfict outside. Burfict showed good ability to shed blocks last season, something that has hampered Maualuga in his career.

Cornerbacks Leon Hall, Terence Newman and Adam Jones are versatile enough to play inside or outside, and each of them can play the man-to-man style Zimmer wants out of his corners. The addition of Dre Kirkpatrick, last year’s No. 1 pick who had an injury-plagued rookie season, provides more depth. Kirkpatrick is taller (6'2") than the other corners but doesn’t yet have their savvy.

Finding a second safety to play alongside Reggie Nelson is paramount. The Bengals had to sign Chris Crocker after the season started last year to fill the void. Rookie third-round pick Shawn Williams is going to get every chance at winning the starting role over Taylor Mays. Nelson will roam the field and take chances sometimes, so whoever wins this spot is going to have to be disciplined.

Quality depth at linebacker and safety is a concern. The players the Bengals do have as backups don’t have much experience.

Specialists
Mike Nugent missed the final month of the season with a calf strain but was re-signed in the offseason. He’s made 83.8 percent (67-of-80) of his field goal attempts in three seasons with the Bengals, including a club record-tying 55-yarder last season. Nugent has been consistent with his kickoffs, both in their depth into the end zone and placement away from the middle of the field, enabling the Bengals to become one of the top coverage units in the NFL.

Punter Kevin Huber was signed to a five-year extension, signifying how much the franchise values him. His career average of 44.0 yards is the best in team history. Huber has become adept at pinning opponents not just inside the 20-yard line but deeper as well; his 11 punts downed inside the 5-yard line were the highest total in the league.

Jones is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball in the return game, especially on punts when the action is quicker to happen. He reads blocks well and still has that second gear, which helped make him a first-round pick of Tennessee back in 2005. The trouble is, he can’t be a full-time returner because of his importance on defense. Bernard has returned punts in college and is going to get a look on kickoffs as well. Brandon Tate and Bernard Scott have experience in these roles but will be in a fight to make the roster.

Final Analysis: 2nd in AFC North
The Bengals are good enough defensively and on special teams to win the AFC North and be a threat to reach the Super Bowl. But are they good enough on offense? Can Dalton take a step forward in his third year in the league? Can another playmaker emerge to complement Green, one of the truly elite wide receivers in the game? This offense has done enough to reach the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. But just enough won’t be enough this year. Dalton & Co. need to do more.

Order your 2013 Cincinnati Bengals Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston (8/29)Denver (9/3)
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New England (8/30)ClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburgh (8/28)TennesseeSan Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY Giants (8/30)DetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen Bay (8/29)New OrleansSan Francisco (9/3)
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle (8/28)

 

Teaser:
Cincinnati Bengals 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/usc-rb-silas-redd-wont-play-against-hawaii
Body:

USC opens its 2013 season with a road trip to Hawaii on Thursday night. But it appears the Trojans won’t have one of their key offensive players in action.

According to the tweet below, USC running back Silas Redd won’t play in Thursday night’s game. Redd suffered a knee injury in the spring and isn’t quite 100 percent.

Although Redd is USC’s best running back, he won’t be missed against Hawaii. With Redd sidelined, sophomore Tre Madden and freshmen Justin Davis and Ty Isaac will pickup the slack on the ground.

Teaser:
USC RB Silas Redd Won't Play Against Hawaii
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/oregon-state-picks-sean-mannion-its-starting-qb
Body:

Oregon State coach Mike Riley let Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz compete for the starting job this offseason, and both players didn’t make it easy on their head coach. However, Riley has picked Mannion as the Beavers’ starting quarterback, with Vaz expected to serve in the backup role.

Mannion was Oregon State’s quarterback through the first four games of last season but was sidelined due to injury. In the first four games, Mannion had seven touchdowns and four interceptions and threw for 433 yards in a 38-35 win at Arizona.

Vaz started while Mannion was out, leading the Beavers to a road win at BYU and against Utah, but he also missed time later in the year due to injury.

The coaching staff let Mannion and Vaz compete for the starting job in the bowl game, with Vaz eventually getting the starting job. However, Vaz struggled against Texas’ defense, completing 15 of 28 passes for 194 yards and two interceptions.

Mannion needs to cut down on his mistakes, but the junior is the right answer for Oregon State’s offense. Mannion has more talent than Vaz was off to a good start prior to his injury last year.

But if Mannion struggles, the Beavers know Vaz is a capable option.
 

Teaser:
Oregon State Picks Sean Mannion as its Starting QB
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/texas-am-qb-johnny-manziel-questioned-ncaa
Body:

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s busy offseason continued with a visit from the NCAA on Sunday. ESPN.com is reporting Manziel interviewed for six hours with the NCAA, and it’s not clear if it will have any effect on his playing status for Saturday’s game against Rice.

Needless to say, this story isn’t going away anytime soon. Here's some more info from ESPN.com writer Travis Haney on the latest surrounding Manziel.

 

Teaser:
Johnny Manziel Questioned by the NCAA
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 07:55
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/ranking-all-32-nfl-head-coaches-2013
Body:

Ranking a coach isn’t just about the number of wins. It’s about consistency, longevity, level of competition, support, championships and how that all compares to history. Yes, a Super Bowl ring puts a coach into an elite fraternity and is the benchmark with which every coach is judged. But it’s not the only way to evaluate a coach, after all, only seven active NFL coaches have led their team to capturing the Lombardi Trophy.

For example, winning with the Saints has proven to be much more difficult than winning with the Giants. Winning under Jerry Jones, Bud Adams or Dan Snyder is much different than working for Green Bay Packers, Inc. Winning with the support of the Rooney family and Steeler Nation is likely easier than, say, the support and fans of Jacksonville.

All things must be considered when trying to rank the 32 NFL coaches in 2013. The new faces haven’t proven anything and, almost by default, find themselves near the bottom of the rankings. That said, it doesn’t take long to prove oneself in the cut-throat world of professional football. Will Marc Trestman or Chip Kelly be able to bring innovative offenses from the CFL and college and make them successful in the NFL? Only time will tell.

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks all 32 NFL coaches entering the 2013 season:

1. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco
Record: 24-7-1 Playoffs: 3-2 Age: 49

Harbaugh went 22-2 in his last two seasons at San Diego University, winning back-to-back Pioneer League Championships in 2005-06. He built a perennial loser into a BCS bowl winner in just four seasons at Stanford. And the former NFL quarterback is 24-7-1 in his first two seasons with the 49ers, leading them to their first two playoff appearances since 2002. He was five yards away from winning the Super Bowl in February — the powerhouse franchise’s first such appearance in the game since 1994 — and is the leader of the team labeled by many as the front-runner to win the Lombardi Trophy this season.

2. Bill Belichick, New England
Record: 187-101 Playoffs: 18-8 Age: 61

Only Tom Landry (20) and Don Shula (19) have more career postseason wins than Belichick. He has three Super Bowl rings and two other appearances in the game to lead all active coaches in both categories. Yet, his last title came nine years ago and his franchise has become more of a punch line than Super Bowl champ. That said, the Pats have won at least 10 games in 10 straight seasons and there is no reason to think this team won’t run away with the AFC East for the 13th time in 14 seasons.

3. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay
Record: 74-38 Playoffs: 6-4 Age: 49

In seven years as a head coach, McCarthy has one losing season (2008, 6-10), three NFC North titles, one Super Bowl, helped his quarterback win a MVP trophy and he still hasn’t reached the age of 50. He’s made the playoffs four years in a row and five of the last six years, and only 24 coaches in NFL history have more than his six career postseason wins. A second Super Bowl is well within reach and his consistent performance in the NFL Draft makes him one of the best sideline generals in the league. His career winning percentage (66.1) trails only Mike Smith and the Harbaugh brothers among active NFL coaches.

4. Sean Payton, New Orleans
Record: 62-34 Playoffs: 5-3 Age: 49

The Saints' 7-9 record last season might be all the data we need to evaluate Payton. The Saints were 37-11 in the three seasons prior to Payton being suspended. The bottom line is New Orleans had one playoff win in five total postseason trips in four decades prior to his arrival in 2006. He has led this team to the playoffs four times in six seasons and last year’s 7-9 record was the team’s first losing record since 2007. He has a Super Bowl title, ranks sixth in the league among active coaches in winning percentage (64.6) and isn’t yet 50 years old.

5. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants
Record: 151-121 Playoffs: 12-7 Age: 66

The hard-nosed Coughlin has two Super Bowl championships and is seventh all-time with 12 career postseason wins. He is the oldest coach in the league, and after 17 seasons, won’t be around for too much longer. He has seven total division titles in his career but has won 10 or more games just once in the last four years. He may never be viewed as one of the league’s greatest but he is consistent and has overcome plenty of adversity.

6. John Harbaugh, Baltimore
Record: 54-26 Playoffs: 9-4 Age: 50

The Ravens coach supplemented himself as one of the league’s elite coaching talents with a Super Bowl championship in just his sixth season. He’s never missed the playoffs, never posted a losing record, won three AFC North titles and is one playoff win away from becoming just the 16th NFL coach in history with 10 postseason victories. He trails only Mike Smith and Jim Harbaugh in career winning percentage (67.5).

7. Mike Smith, Atlanta
Record: 56-24 Playoffs: 1-4 Age: 54

Other than Jim Harbaugh, who hasn’t coached enough games to technically qualify, no active coach wins at a higher rate than the Falcons leader. He is currently fifth all-time behind John Madden, Vince Lombardi, George Allen and Guy Chamberlin with a 70.0-percent winning clip. He finally got his first playoff win but still needs to prove himself amongst the league’s best by finishing a season by competing for the Lombardi Trophy. He’s never had a losing season and is 36-12 over the last three years.

8. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh
Record: 63-33 Playoffs: 5-3 Age: 41

One of the younger coaches in the league, Tomlin won a Super Bowl championship in just his second season as a 36-year old. He got back to the big game in his fourth season at the age of 38 but lost to the Packers. He has never had a losing season and has four AFC North titles in six years. He is coming off of his worst year as a coach last fall (8-8). So despite all his past success, Tomlin is facing pressure to return his team to the postseason this fall as the rest of the Steelers' divisional foes wins championships and improves.

9. Jeff Fisher, St. Louis
Record: 149-128-1 Playoffs: 5-6 Age: 55

His 149 wins rank 19th all-time and is fourth among active coaches. He has won four division titles and took the Oilers/Titans franchise to its one and only Super Bowl — which they fell one yard short of winning. He is a no-nonsense guy who was run out town by a meddling owner in Nashville before landing in St. Louis. He appears to be rebuilding a once dormant franchise by bringing his signature physicality to every aspect of the team. From 1996-2008, Fisher had just three losing seasons.

10. Mike Shanahan, Washington
Record: 167-125 Playoffs: 8-6 Age: 60

Shanny’s first two seasons in D.C. were rough as he went 11-21 before finally reaching the postseason last year due in large part to Robert Griffin III. He is the second winningest active coach with 167 wins, which is good for 12th all-time in NFL history, and is one of 13 coaches to claim two Super Bowl titles. Shanahan posted one losing season from 1996-2005 but has just one 10-win season since 2006 and has to prove last year was the rule rather than the exception.

11. Andy Reid, Kansas City
Record: 130-93-1 Playoffs: 10-9 Age: 55

From 1961 to 1998, when Reid was hired in Philadelphia, the Eagles made 10 postseason appearances. Under Reid, the Eagles went to the playoffs nine times in an 11-year span. The divorce between Reid and the Eagles, however, was an amicable one for both as the 55-year old coach quickly landed back in the league with the Chiefs. If he can turn a two-win team around in short order, it will only help validate his 130 regular season wins and 10 postseason victories.

12. Gary Kubiak, Houston
Record: 59-53 Playoffs: 2-2 Age: 52

How many franchises have just two head coaches in team history? After Dom Capers posted four straight losing seasons in the Texans' first four years, Kubiak was hired and in just his second year, set a franchise record for wins (8). He has continued to build this team and has a winning record in three of the last four years. He has led the Texans to back-to-back playoff appearances and back-to-back seasons with at least one playoff win. The next step is finishing in the postseason.

13. John Fox, Denver
Record: 94-82 Playoffs: 6-5 Age: 58

The proud and normally dominant AFC franchise had fallen on hard times, winning no more than nine games in any season from 2006-11. Enter Fox, who has returned the Broncos to the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. Originally, he took over the Panthers in 2002 and immediately built a winner by taking Carolina to its only Super Bowl in just his second year. He lacks the consistency of the game’s elite and has one glaring black-eye — his 2-14 2010 campaign. But he also has four seasons with at least 11 wins, five division titles and just four career losing seasons. He is a hard-nosed coach that we will learn more about once Peyton Manning retires.

14. Pete Carroll, Seattle
Record: 58-54 Playoffs: 3-4 Age: 61

As a college coach, he is a Hall of Famer who completely dominated the West Coast for the better part of a decade. As an NFL coach, his final legacy is still left to be decided. He had two winning seasons as the Patriots' head coach (1996-98) after one bad year in New York (Jets, 1994). It has taken three years but he has Seattle poised to be a Super Bowl contender this season. Will his laid-back, players-first attitude last in the grind-it-out NFL world?

15. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati
Record: 79-80-1 Playoffs: 0-4 Age: 54

Lewis is a bit of an enigma. He is one of the longest tenured coaches in the NFL as he enters his 11th season in Cincinnati. He has taken a franchise used to playing the role of whipping boy and turned them into a playoff contender. He has been in the postseason three of the last four years and has just three losing seasons as a head coach. His overall record is still under .500 and he has yet to win a playoff game. Should that all change in 2013, he could find himself as a top-10 NFL coach in short order.

16. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota
Record: 16-22 Playoffs: 0-1 Age: 54

After three seasons, Frazier is still a big unknown as an NFL coaching commodity. He has two full seasons under his belt with one utter 3-13 failure and one mild 10-6 playoff success. He did an excellent job last year and has done good work in the draft to rebuild his aging defense, but 2013 is a critical year for both Frazier and his starting quarterback Christian Ponder — who he hand-picked to run his team.

17. Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay
Record: 7-9 Playoffs: 0-0 Age: 47

Many look at the Bucs as a downtrodden NFC doormat, however, the Bucs have had three winning seasons in the last six years and made the playoffs seven times since 1997. The flip side of this is that Tampa Bay hasn’t been to the postseason since 2007, something Schiano aims to rectify this fall. He is largely responsible for building Rutgers from an also-ran to a league contender in college and took a 4-12 Bucs team and improved them by three games (7-9). Will his tough-nosed style work for a team that is starting to stockpile a deep and talented roster?

18. Jason Garrett, Dallas
Record: 21-19 Playoffs: 0-0 Age: 47

No coach will be under more scrutiny this fall than Garrett but that comes with the territory as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He has produced back-to-back 8-8 seasons after his predecessor, Wade Phillips, posted three winning seasons in four years. And each of the past two seasons have ended with losses in games in which a win would have sent Dallas to the postseason. This franchise has a meddling owner and has won one playoff game since 1996, so Garrett is on an extremely short leash.

19. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis
Record: 2-2 Playoffs: 0-1 Age: 52

Pagano isn’t the first former Ravens defensive coordinator to land a big-time NFL coaching job. He dealt with a cancer scare during his first season and only registered five total games on the sidelines in 2012. His two wins did come against playoff teams (Houston and Minnesota), but Pagano also lost his first postseason game. His coaching staff has been rebuilt but he is leading a great organization with a future Hall of Famer under center.

20. Joe Philbin, Miami
Record: 7-9 Playoffs: 0-0 Age: 52

The Fish have made the playoffs just one time since 2001 and fans in South Florida are hoping Philbin is the answer. He helped the Packers win a Super Bowl, go 15-1 and coached an Aaron Rodgers-powered offense from 2007-12. The Dolphins had some impressive wins over Cincinnati and Seattle last year en route to a respectable 7-9 season. With a team lacking in upside talent, Philbin deserves credit for a solid first year. That means expectation levels might be higher in Year 2.

21. Rex Ryan, New York Jets
Record: 34-30 Playoffs: 4-2 Age: 50

There aren’t too many NFL coaches with Rex Ryan’s resume.  He has a winning record after four seasons with two trips to the AFC Championship game. But his locker room has more crazies than "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest," he is in the NFL’s biggest media market and has a quarterback situation that is a punch line for the second straight season. Many believe he is a lame duck in 2013.

22. Mike Munchak, Tennessee
Record: 15-17 Playoffs: 0-0 Age: 53

Munchak is a lifer for the Oilers-Titans organization. He was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman and hasn’t coached for another organization since retiring in 1993. He took a slight step back in year two, going from nine wins in 2011 to six wins last year, and made changes on his coaching staff. Much of his potential will be tied to the health and productivity of Jake Locker. Is he simply a company man who was given the job almost by default or a legitimate long-term head coach? 

23. Bruce Arians, Arizona
Record: 9-3 Playoffs: 0-0 Age: 60

He won AP Coach of the Year last fall after filling in for Pagano during his battle with leukemia, going 9-3. He has won two Super Bowls as an assistant with Pittsburgh and has had his hands on some great quarterbacks (Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck). He is a solid offensive mind but is one of the older new coaches in the league.

24. Marc Trestman, Chicago
Record: 0-0 Playoffs: 0-0 Age: 57

Trestman comes to the NFL after winning two Grey Cup titles in the Canadian Football League. He hasn’t been in the NFL since 2004 and there is concern about his ability to unite a locker room. However, his offenses have been incredibly successful and early reports are that the players are enjoying his leadership thus far.

25. Chip Kelly, Philadelphia
Record: 0-0 Playoffs: 0-0 Age: 49

In just seven years Kelly has gone from offensive coordinator at New Hampshire to OC at Oregon to head coach at Oregon to head coach of the Eagles. His innovative and unapologetic style is why he went 46-7 in four seasons as the head coach in Eugene. But it remains to be seen if his offense can be successful at the NFL level.

26. Doug Marrone, Buffalo
Record: 0-0 Playoffs: 0-0 Age: 49

Opponents of Syracuse came away battered and bruised no matter the outcome. He built a physical brand of football at the Cuse and is bringing that — and an up-tempo offense — to Buffalo. He has a solid track record as an NFL assistant and is a native of New York. But there is a reason the Bills haven’t made the playoffs since 1999.

27. Mike McCoy, San Diego
Record: 0-0 Playoffs: 0-0 Age: 41

McCoy makes the intradivisional jump from OC of the Broncos to head man in San Diego. He has shown adaptability with both Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning running his offenses in the postseason the last two seasons. He is the second-youngest coach in the league and should be able to improve on the previous regime.

28. Jim Schwartz, Detroit
Record: 22-42 Playoffs: 0-1 Age: 47

The 2011 season featured big numbers on offense, 10 wins and a trip to the postseason. The other three seasons, Schwartz is 12-36 as a head coach. This team has weapons and should show improvement or Schwartz will find himself a defensive coordinator once again.

29. Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland
Record: 0-0 Playoffs: 0-0 Age: 45

The Browns have new ownership and plenty of new faces on the roster. That includes Coach Chud, a 45-year old making his head-coaching debut at any level. Pat Shurmur was fired after just two years (9-23) for an organization that has made the playoffs just once (2002) since returning to the NFL.

30. Dennis Allen, Oakland
Record: 4-12 Playoffs: 0-0 Age: 40

It is virtually impossible to accurately rate Allen’s job in an organization in such disarray. This team has no quarterback, finished 26th on offense and 28th on defense last year. He won’t last long in Oakland but it’s impossible to see his tenure with the Raiders as a fair measuring stick.

31. Ron Rivera, Carolina
Record: 13-19 Playoffs: 0-0 Age: 51

His long slow rise culminated when he got his first head coaching job for Carolina as a 49-year old two seasons ago. He drafted Cam Newton and has won six and seven games respectively. He needs to win in Year 3 to keep his job.

32. Gus Bradley, Jacksonville
Record: 0-0 Playoffs: 0-0 Age: 47

The Minnesota native made his NFL coaching debut in 2006 as the Bucs linebackers coach. He has quickly moved through the ranks, by way of defensive coordinator in Seattle, to his first head-coaching job. Best of luck in Jacksonville.

Teaser:
Ranking All 32 NFL Head Coaches in 2013
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-ranking-big-12s-coaches-2013-14
Body:

The Big 12 coach rankings start with Bill Self.

That’s the easy part.

After that, ranking the Big 12 coaches is a chore. Three of the league’s most accomplished career coaches — Bob Huggins, Rick Barnes and Tubby Smith have more than 1,700 wins among them — are coming off of lackluster seasons. Smith was let go from his last job, and Barnes will be under pressure to turn things around at Texas in a hurry.

A decade ago, Scott Drew took on one of the toughest rebuilding projects in the country at Baylor, succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations but still kept the Bears wanting more.

Lon Kruger and Fred Hoiberg are two Big 12 coaches who have impressed. Kruger did at Oklahoma what he’s done everywhere — stay competitive, get into the NCAA Tournament and, well, that’s about it. Hoiberg hasn’t led Iowa State beyond the Round of 32 in the last two seasons, but that still better than anyone else in Ames in the last decade.

Indeed, after the top tier of Big 12 coaches, any of the others in the league could plausibly sit in the second or third group.

*A few things to note as we are ranking coaches: We are attempting to look at the whole package of gameday acumen, recruiting, player development, and regular-season and postseason success. We are also keeping in mind a coach’s career trajectory.

And now, on to the debate. Feel free to chime in at @AthlonSports on Twitter or Athlon Sports on Facebook.

Other conference coach rankings: ACC | American

1. Bill Self, Kansas
Record: 507-164
Record at Kansas: 300-59 overall (.836), 137-27 Big 12 (.835)
NCAA Tournament: 35-14, two Final Fours, one national championship
The names and faces outside of Lawrence keep changing, but Kansas hasn’t fallen from its perch in the Big 12. Self has won at least 30 games in four consecutive seasons and reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in six of the last seven seasons. Even when the Jayhawks looked vulnerable for 2013-14 after losing all five starters, they signed the presumptive No. 1 draft pick, Andrew Wiggins, and landed transfer Tarik Black from Memphis. The new faces, including a signing class that ranked only second to Kentucky, will present a challenge for Self. He’s had the luxury of developing players like Cole Aldrich and Thomas Robinson from role players to All-America-type stars. Perry Ellis fits that mold for KU, but he's one of the few players with experience in the Big 12.

2. Bob Huggins, West Virginia
Record: 651-261
Record at West Virginia: 133-75 overall (.635), 60-48 Big East/Big 12 (.556)
NCAA Tournament: 27-20, two Final Fours
West Virginia’s first season in the Big 12 truly was an aberration for Huggin. The 13-19 season was only the second losing season of his career and second losing conference season (the first for both being his first season at Akron in 1984-85). Perhaps Huggins had a mix that simply didn’t jell last season with Deniz Klicli trying to mesh with a handful of transfers and freshmen. Still, Huggins has made things work with wayward souls throughout his career, and he’ll try to do the same in 2013-14. The Mountaineers have regressed each season since reaching the 2010 Final Four, so there’s an element of concern here.

3. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma
Record: 514-332
Record at Oklahoma: 35-28 overall (.556), 16-20 Big 12 (.444)
NCAA Tournament: 14-14, one Final Four
Oklahoma knew what it would get when it hired Kruger, and the well-traveled coach delivered. No coach is more reliable at taking over a tough situation and putting the program on the right track. Kruger went 11-7 in the Big 12 in his second season at OU and became the first coach to take five different teams to the NCAA Tournament (Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV were the others). Kruger has done his work with a minimal amount of flash — he’s never coached a consensus All-American, hasn’t won a regular-season conference title since 1998 and hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2008. But programs don’t hire Kruger expecting John Calipari.

4. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State
Record (all at Iowa State): 62-39 overall (.614), 26-26 in the Big 12 (.500)
NCAA Tournament: 2-2
Only Iowa State could have hired “The Mayor,” who spent more time in NBA front offices than on the coaches’ bench at any level. Hoiberg returned to Ames to make his alma mater competitive, going 23-13 in the Big 12 in the last two seasons. Iowa State needs to be creative to stay competitive, and that’s what it got in Hoiberg. He’s succeeded with Division I transfers in Royce White, Korie Lucious, Will Clyburn, Chris Babb and now DeAndre Kane. And Hoiberg has beeing among the best in applying advanced statistical analysis and scouting to his program. The Cyclones led the Big 12 in points per possession and effective field goal percentage last year.

5. Rick Barnes, Texas
Record: 560-289
Record at Texas: 358-155 overall (.698), 164-75 Big 12 (.686)
NCAA Tournament: 20-20, one Final Four
Before last season, Barnes had a remarkable streak of 17 consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament. Then the Longhorns bottomed out at 16-18 capped off with a loss to Houston in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational. Most coaches with Barnes’ raw numbers would be permitted one bad season, but Barnes has had too many recent seasons in which the results haven’t matched the potential. The Longhorns have failed to reach the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in five consecutive seasons despite having five first-round NBA Draft picks and a handful of other highly touted recruits during that span. With Texas’ in-state recruiting base (which Barnes is losing hold of) and ample resources, these are meager results in a conference with only one true powerhouse.

6. Bruce Weber, Kansas State
Record: 340-163
Record at Kansas State: 27-8 overall (.771), 14-4 Big 12 (.778)
NCAA Tournament: 11-9, one Final Four
One thing we can say about Weber: He can win quickly. In his first season at Kansas State, Weber took Frank Martin’s players and won the Wildcats’ first share of a conference title since 1977. In his second season at Illinois, Weber went 37-2 with a national championship game appearance with a team recruited by Bill Self. Weber’s results at Illinois, however, dwindled in his final five seasons, but he will get a second chance for longevity in Manhattan.

7. Scott Drew, Baylor
Record: 200-149
Record at Baylor: 180-138 overall (.566), 63-95 Big 12 (.399)
NCAA Tournament: 6-3
Drew not only brought Baylor back from the brink but also brought the Bears to their most successful era since the 1940s and early ‘50s with two Elite Eights in the last five seasons. At the same time, though, Baylor arguably should be even better. Look at the end of last season as an example: Baylor drilled Kansas by 23 points and then won the NIT, but the Bears had a roster that shouldn’t have been in the NIT in the first place. Baylor has had a top-25 signing class in each of the last five seasons, according to Rivals.com, but has reached the NCAA Tournament only twice during that span.

8. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State
Record: 227-179
Record at Oklahoma State: 104-64 overall (.619), 44-40  (.524)
NCAA Tournament: 1-4
Ford has at least brought Oklahoma State back to relevance in the Big 12. With Marcus Smart returning to Oklahoma State, all eyes will be on Ford to lead the Cowboys to the next steps: Contending for the Big 12 title and making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Ford has a potential top-10 team on his hands, and Oklahoma State is hungry for a winner. The Cowboys haven’t reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2005.

9. Tubby Smith, Texas Tech
Record: 511-226
Record at Texas Tech: First season
NCAA Tournament: 30-16, one Final Four, one national championship
Maybe we’d be more optimistic if Smith were at a job that played better to his strengths. A program with little recent success on an island out in Lubbock, Texas Tech, is in need of an infusion of energy. A fine coach Tubby Smith may be, but he’s not a personality that generates much enthusiasm. On the court, the results have dwindled since his early years at Kentucky. Smith never had a winning conference season in his last stint at Minnesota and hasn’t reached the Sweet 16 since 2005 with the Wildcats.

10. Trent Johnson, TCU
Record: 237-207
Record at TCU: 11-21 overall (.344), 2-16 Big 12 (.111)
NCAA Tournament: 5-5
Johnson has quite the rebuilding job at TCU, but there are glimmers of hope. The Horned Frogs’ only Big 12 wins came against NCAA Tournament teams Kansas and Oklahoma, and TCU signed a top-100 center in Karviar Shepherd. Johnson pulled Nevada out of the depths of the WAC, but rebuilding in that conference is different than rebuilding in the Big 12.

Teaser:
Bill Self an easy No. 1 in interesting cast of coaches
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 07:30
Path: /college-football/10-players-who-will-decide-college-footballs-2013-national-title
Body:

Every college football team has personnel issues that will be a question mark going into the 2013 season. But some have national title implications.

Alabama has the nation’s best roster, but the Crimson Tide is replacing a couple of key starters on the offensive line. Ohio State’s defensive line lost all four starters from last season and will be relying on two sophomores to start at defensive end. Stanford won the Pac-12 title last year, but the Cardinal is picked behind Oregon in most preseason polls. If Stanford wants to win the national championship, it has to get more production from its passing attack.

What players could play a huge role in college football’s national championship picture? Athlon examined 10 key players to watch, along with a few extras to keep on the radar this year.

10 Players Who Will Decide College Football's 2013 National Title

1. Noah Spence/Adolphus Washington, DE, Ohio State
The Buckeyes are considered by most to be the top threat to Alabama this season. There are few questions about an offense that returns nine starters, but the defense will be a work in progress to start the year. The line was hit hardest by offseason departures, as the top four players from last season – John Simon, Nathan Willliams, Johnathan Hankins and Garrett Goebel – are gone. While it will be difficult for Ohio State to match last year’s production from the line, there’s no shortage of talent. Sophomore ends Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington were two of the top defensive linemen in the 2012 signing class and played sparingly last year. Spence recorded 12 stops in 11 games, while Washington had three sacks and nine tackles in 10 contests. The Buckeyes also need a big season from tackles Joel Hale and Michael Bennett, but Spence and Washington will be the key pieces in Ohio State’s chances of ranking in the top 15 of rush defense and averaging 2.5 sacks a game once again.

2. Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford
It’s no secret the Cardinal has one of the best defenses and offensive lines in college football. But the passing game is a concern, especially after the departure of tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo to the NFL. Quarterback Kevin Hogan should be better in his second year as a starter, but Stanford needs to find a few playmakers on the outside. Is Montgomery that player? After catching 24 passes (13 receptions over the final two games) in 2011, Montgomery appeared poised for a breakout year in 2012. However, injuries prevented the Texas native from getting on track, finishing with 26 catches for 213 yards. If Montgomery can stay healthy, he can be the threat Hogan needs on the outside to stretch opposing defenses. The Cardinal could also play a few young players at receiver, including Francis Owusu and sophomores Kodi Whitfield and Devon Cajuste.

3. Tommy Rees, QB, Notre Dame
After the summer departure of Everett Golson, Rees is set to be Notre Dame’s No. 1 quarterback once again. The senior has experienced plenty of ups and downs throughout his career in South Bend, throwing for 1,106 yards and 12 touchdowns as a true freshman and then 2,871 yards and 20 scores in 2011. Rees lost the starting job to Golson last year but played relatively well in relief, throwing for 436 yards and two scores. With one of the nation’s best defenses at his disposal, Rees doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards each week. However, the senior needs to limit his mistakes (24 interceptions on 634 career passes). If Rees is solid and cuts down on the turnovers, the Fighting Irish will be back in the hunt for the national title once again.

4. Julien Obioha, DE, Texas A&M
Entering the second offseason under coordinator Mark Snyder, the Aggies should have a better grasp of the defensive scheme for 2013. But the front seven is undergoing a little bit of renovation, as end Damontre Moore and interior players Jonathan Mathis and Spencer Nealy are gone. Texas A&M has recruited well, so there’s plenty of talent ready to step into the lineup. However, Snyder may have to rely on some true freshmen – Justin Manning, Isaiah Golden and Daeshon Hall – to contribute significant snaps. But all eyes will be on Obioha to star the year, especially with a year of experience under his belt. Last season, Obioha started 12 games and recorded 25 tackles and one sack. Replacing Damontre Moore’s 12.5 sacks is no easy task, but the Aggies hope Obioha spends a lot of time in opposing backfields this fall. 

5. LG Arie Kouandjio and RT Austin Shepherd, Alabama
The Crimson Tide coach staff should feel pretty good about three spots on their offensive line. Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is a future NFL first-round draft pick, guard Anthony Steen has 25 starts in his career, and center Ryan Kelly impressed in limited action last year. But the other two spots were a concern this fall. Arie Kouandjio eventually settled at left guard and Austin Shepherd won the job at right tackle. Matching the dominance of last year’s offensive line will be difficult, and there’s a ton of pressure on the two new starters to perform at a high level right away. If Kouandjio and Shepherd are up to the task, Alabama’s offensive line will clear plenty of holes for the running backs, along with keeping quarterback AJ McCarron upright in the pocket. But if it struggles, Alabama becomes more vulnerable in key games against Texas A&M and LSU.

6. Mike Thornton, DT, Georgia
We could list a few defensive players here for Georgia, but the success of any 3-4 defense starts in the trenches at nose tackle. The Bulldogs have a huge void with the departure of John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers on the interior, and Thornton is slated to start at nose tackle in the season opener at Clemson. The junior checks in at 6-foot-1 and 290 pounds, which is a stark difference to the 6-foot-3 and 358-pound frame of Jenkins last year. However, Thornton is capable of holding down the middle of the line, and his quickness will allow him to create problems off the snap for opposing quarterbacks. If Thornton struggles, Georgia has plenty of linemen ready to rotate into the game. However, the coaching staff would like to see the junior anchor the line this year and lead a rush defense that needs to improve after allowing 182.1 yards per game on the ground last season.  

7. Tony Washington, DE/LB, Oregon
The Ducks return a loaded roster, so it’s hard to pinpoint a weakness for 2013. The defense does have a few holes to fill in the front seven, especially at linebacker/rush end where Dion Jordan is off to the NFL. Washington is slated to fill Jordan’s role, and the junior recorded 20 tackles in 13 contests last year. The junior isn’t as dynamic or athletic as Jordan is, but he is more than capable of keeping Oregon’s defense among the best in the Pac-12. 

8. Bashaud Breeland/Darius Robinson, CB, Clemson
The Tigers’ first depth chart of 2013 didn’t reveal much about the cornerback position. Garry Peters and Bashaud Breeland are listed as co-starters at one spot, while Darius Robinson and Martin Jenkins share the other side. Clemson’s pass defense is a concern heading into 2013, especially after finishing sixth in the conference last year. Sophomore safety Travis Blanks is a rising star, but the Tigers are still searching for the right mix at cornerback. True freshman Mackensie Alexander was slowed in fall camp due to an injury, so it may be a few weeks before he makes a significant impact. Whether it’s Breeland, Robinson, Jenkins or Peters, Clemson has to find two players it feels comfortable with to start at cornerback, especially with a huge test against Georgia in Week 1.

9. Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina
The Gamecocks finished 2012 ranked 13th in the SEC in rushing offense, and their leading rusher – running back Marcus Lattimore – left for the NFL after a season-ending injury against Tennessee. Quarterback Connor Shaw ranked second on the team with 435 rushing yards, while Davis finished last season with 275 yards and two touchdowns. Although Shaw has good mobility, South Carolina would like to keep him healthy for a full season, which means one of the running backs needs to step up. Davis was a big-time recruit for the Gamecocks in the 2012 signing class, ranking as a four-star prospect and the No. 63 overall player in the nation according to Rivals.com. Brandon Wilds will also see plenty of carries, but South Carolina needs Davis to be a go-to back that can handle 25 touches a game and take some of the pressure off of Shaw or Dylan Thompson at quarterback.

10. Big 12 Quarterbacks
Yes, we are cheating just a bit with this selection. However, most of the Big 12 is dealing with uncertainty at quarterback this year. Will Clint Chelf hold off J.W. Walsh for the starting job at Oklahoma State ? Is it Casey Pachall or Trevone Boykin at TCU? Is Trevor Knight ready for the spotlight at Oklahoma? What about David Ash at Texas? There are question marks abound at the quarterback position in this conference, which is a big reason why no Big 12 team was picked in the top 15 of Athlon’s projected 125 for the 2013 season. If Knight, Chelf or Pachall has a big season, the Big 12 could have a team in the national title hunt.

Others to Watch

Dan Hicks/Mario Edwards, DE, Florida State
Hicks and Edwards will be tasked with replacing Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner.

Zach Mettenberger, QB LSU
Will Mettenberger thrive under new coordinator Cam Cameron?

Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida
Can Florida find a go-to target for quarterback Jeff Driskel?

Jake Smith, C, Louisville
Smith has the tough task of replacing Mario Benavides at center this year.

Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan
Toussaint held off freshman Derrick Green for the starting job, but the senior is coming off a significant leg injury suffered late in the 2012 season.

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Teaser:
10 Players Who Will Decide College Football's 2013 National Title
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/7-threats-alabamas-dynasty
Body:

If it wasn’t already, the Sabanization of college football is officially here. The national conversation has changed from how to stop the SEC’s dynasty to how to end Alabama’s dynasty. Three BCS championships in four years by Nick Saban leave Alabama with a title run that not even Bear Bryant accomplished.

As if to rub salt in everyone else’s wounds, Saban then landed his fifth mythical recruiting national championship in six years. Eight of the past 11 No. 1 classes by Rivals.com won a national title within three years.

The recruits continue to sign. The players continue to develop. The crystal balls continue to be raised.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

So what can stop Alabama? There are some potential pitfalls.

7 Threats to Alabama's Dynasty

1. Nick Saban leaves

Every year Alabama fans read tea leaves and convince themselves that Miss Terry won’t let her husband leave Tuscaloosa for another college job, the NFL or a lake house in Georgia. And every year, Saban slams the door on the NFL more loudly than ever.

“I closed the door,” Saban said of the NFL on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning” in January. “The damn hinges are wore off, dog.”
The truth is, Saban has the best job in the world for him. He’s a control freak who wants to impact players and not be hamstrung by salary caps and salary egos.

Saban, who spent two years with the Miami Dolphins, could win in the NFL. But he could never win as much as he does at Alabama. Bill Belichick, Saban’s buddy, won three Super Bowls in four years and hasn’t won another in the eight years since.

NFL teams have multiple front office voices who draft one new player each round. At Alabama, Saban’s one voice makes the final call while signing as many talented recruits as he wants — or as the rules allow.

Never say never about coaches leaving. There’s too much money, ego and pressure ever to rule it out. But unlike with the Dolphins, Saban’s words and actions continue to line up at Alabama.
 

2. Complacency

It’s the most dangerous obstacle in sports to a team on top. Alabama experienced it in 2010 after its first national title under Saban, turning a talented team (albeit a young one on defense) into a three-loss Capital One Bowl team.

It’s always a fight at the top. Every opponent gets fired up for Alabama, leaving no room for feelings of entitlement.

Go ask Florida. The Gators won two BCS titles in three years under Urban Meyer. Then they collapsed to 8–5 in 2010 after Saban destroyed a 2009 Florida team that may have been Meyer’s most talented — and most entitled — team in Gainesville.

Go ask USC. Pete Carroll won two national titles and played for a third within three years. In Carroll’s final season, USC slipped to 9–4. Today, the program is depleted, partly due to Lane Kiffin and partly because of No. 3 on the dynasty-killer list.
 

3. NCAA penalties

This would be the quickest way for Alabama’s dynasty to end. The NCAA would have to hit a program like Alabama hard to have an impact. Imagine Ohio State’s postseason ban for lying about tattoos, rather than Alabama’s probation for impermissible sale of textbooks.

Forgotten in Alabama’s dynasty: The Crimson Tide won its first BCS title while on NCAA probation. In fact, in January 2012, Alabama and LSU staged the first BCS Championship Game in which both teams were on NCAA probation.

This isn’t to suggest that Alabama finds itself in danger of being hit by the NCAA. But rival coaches and fans are always on the lookout for players’ curious photos, vehicle purchases and living arrangements — especially if those players are on the No. 1 team.

4. SEC challengers

This just in: No SEC coach plans to kneel and kiss Saban’s feet. They’re paid too much money and are under too much pressure to play for second place.

Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin beat Saban last year. The Aggies are on the rise with their new SEC brand while Texas is declining, opening up even more talent in their football-rich state.

LSU’s Les Miles is 3–4 vs. Saban since 2007. The Tigers may take a step back this year, but Miles takes games personally against Saban, and LSU isn’t going anywhere.

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is a once-in-a-generation pass-rusher. What happens to Alabama’s dynasty should Clowney dominate the SEC Championship Game, which has essentially become a BCS semifinal?

Georgia’s Mark Richt (left) could have been a national champion and the Saban vanquisher right now if not for falling five yards short at last year’s SEC Championship Game. Georgia and Florida — where Saban protégé Will Muschamp resides — both acquire enough talent annually to challenge Alabama in Atlanta.

Sign of the times on how the SEC won’t cave to Saban: James Franklin of Vanderbilt — Vanderbilt! — vowed to outwork “Nicky Satan.”


5. No-huddle offenses

Tempo is the name of the game now in some SEC circles. Saban hates the no-huddle, because it impacts his substitutions over the course of lengthy drives. Alabama mixes and matches defensive personnel based on down and distance as if it were an NFL team.

Days after facing Ole Miss’ up-tempo offense last season, Saban questioned how fast college football should allow the game to go for player safety.

“It’s obviously created a tremendous advantage for the offense when teams are scoring 70 points and we’re averaging 49.5 points a game,” Saban said. “With people that do those kinds of things, more and more people are going to do it. I just think there’s got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking, is this what we want football to be?”

“Yes!” shout many coaches challenging Saban.

Texas A&M shredded Alabama with tempo last season. Gus Malzahn rejoins Auburn, after giving Saban fits in 2009 and 2010. Even Hugh Freeze’s no-huddle offense produced Ole Miss scoring drives of 13 and 16 plays against Alabama last year.


6. Mobile quarterbacks

Quick: Name the past six quarterbacks to beat Alabama.

Florida’s Tim Tebow. Utah’s Brian Johnson. LSU’s Jordan Jefferson (twice). South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia. Auburn’s Cam Newton. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel.

They have one trait in common: Mobility. Some were more elusive than others. Almost all of them could make plays with their feet, either to move the chains on designed runs or to escape pressure for a scramble or throw downfield.

Manziel befuddled Alabama last year with his arm and legs, amassing 92 yards rushing. Think Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart spent the offseason watching film for the Sept. 14 rematch in College Station?
 

7. Luck runs out

Alabama may have dominated its three BCS Championship Game victories, but it did lose one game in two of those three seasons.

In 2011, if Oklahoma State hadn’t lost to Iowa State, if Boise State hadn’t missed a field goal against TCU, if Oregon hadn’t scheduled (and lost to) LSU, or if Stanford hadn’t fallen to Oregon, Alabama wouldn’t have played for the BCS title. In 2012, if Stanford hadn’t upset Oregon or if Baylor hadn’t stunned Kansas State, Alabama would have stayed home.

The BCS is around only one more year before a four-team playoff arrives with the whims of a selection committee instead of computers and polls. The SEC is already wondering aloud what happens if an elite team loses in the SEC Championship Game, positioning itself for the chance to have two teams in the playoff.

Dynasties are constructed with that type of forward thinking. Eventually, though, they always end.

Sometimes you never see it coming.

Written by Jon Solomon for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 SEC Regional Preview Editions. 

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College Football's Top 25 Offensive Lines for 2013
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Teaser:
7 Threats to Alabama's Dynasty
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 07:14
Path: /college-football/redrafting-sec-rosters-2013
Body:

Fantasy drafts are a popular part of any offseason, but Athlon Sports (with a little bit of help from a few friends) took it to the next level when it came to the SEC.

College football’s premier conference is loaded with talent, so we thought it would be interesting to erase the rosters and conduct a redraft with 14 managers serving as the coaches of SEC programs.

The rules for the draft were simple: 22 overall picks, with 11 coming on offense and 11 on defense. Teams were allowed flexibility for schemes, as some managers chose to draft four receivers over a second running back or starting tight end.

What do the results of the draft tell us for 2013? It’s hard to glean much from a fantasy draft, but as expected, Alabama had the most players selected (40), while Kentucky had the fewest (12). Interestingly enough, Vanderbilt checked in tied at fourth with 25 players drafted. The Commodores ranked ahead of Texas A&M and South Carolina in the amount of players selected. Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel was the No. 1 overall pick, with South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney picked at No. 2. 

Note: Some players have been dismissed or left the team since the draft was conducted. Number after player indicates round in which he was selected. 

Redrafting the SEC's Rosters for 2013

Jon CooperJesse JohnsonMark Ross
SaturdayDownSouth.comVandySports.comAthlon Sports
QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (1)QB Brandon Allen, Arkansas (20)QB Aaron Murray, Georgia (1)
RB Matt Jones, Florida (11)RB Mike Davis, So. Carolina (8)RB Jeremy Hill, LSU (13)
WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M (2)WR Malcome Kennedy, Texas A&M (13)RB Jeff Scott, Ole Miss (20)
WR Michael Bennett, Georgia (13)WR Demarcus Robinson, Florida (19)WR Ricky Seals-Jones, Texas A&M (16)
WR Jaylon Denson, Auburn (21)TE Malcolm Johnson, Miss. State (15)WR Quan Bray, Auburn (21)
WR Jonathan Rumph, Georgia (22)TE Brian Vogler, Alabama (21)TE Arthur Lynch, Georgia (4)
OL Ryan Kelly, Alabama (5)OL Chris Burnette, Georgia (3)OL Travis Swanson, Arkansas (3)
OL Brey Cook, Arkansas (12)OL Kenarious Gates, Georgia (4)OL Tyler Moore, Florida (7)
OL Arie Kouandjio, Alabama (6)OL Austin Shepherd, Alabama (11)OL Darrian Miller, Kentucky (8)
OL Corey Robinson, So. Carolina (16)OL Alex Kozan, Auburn (18)OL Mitch Smothers, Arkansas (17)
OL Patrick Miller, Auburn (20)OL Isaac Luatua, Alabama (22)OL Pierce Burton, Ole Miss (18)
   
DL Ronald Powell, Florida (7)DL Jadeveon Clowney, So. Carolina (1)DL Walker May, Vanderbilt (5)
DL Mike Thornton, Georgia (9)DL Brandon Ivory, Alabama (6)DL Mister Cobble, Kentucky (11)
DL Kaleb Eulls, Mississippi State (14)DL Jared Morse, Vanderbilt (10)DL Dee Ford, Auburn (14)
DL Julien Obioha, Texas A&M (17)DL Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt (14)DL Nosa Eguae, Auburn (15)
LB Benardrick McKinney, Miss. State (4)LB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama (2)LB Amarlo Herrera, Georgia (9)
LB/S Justin Garrett, Auburn (10)LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama (12)LB Andrew Wilson, MIssouri (12)
LB Dontavis Sapp, Tennessee (18)LB Darreon Herring, Vanderbilt (16)LB Tommy Sanders, Texas A&M (22)
DB Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida (3)DB Deshazor Everett, Texas A&M (5)DB Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama (2)
DB Brian Randolph, Tennessee (8)DB Nickoe Whitley, Miss. State (7)DB E.J. Gaines, Missouri (6)
DB Marcus Maye, Florida (15)DB Jalen Collins, LSU (9)DB Sheldon Dawson, Georgia (10)
DB Jamerson Love, Miss. State (19)DB Howard Matthews, Texas A&M (17)DB Jermaine Whitehead, Auburn (19)
Steven GodfreyNathan RushZac Ellis
SBNation.comAthlon SportsSports Illustrated
QB Bo Wallace, Ole Miss (2)QB AJ McCarron, Alabama (1)QB Zach Mettenberger, LSU (2)
RB T.J. Yeldon, Alabama (1)RB Kelvin Taylor, Florida (7)RB Todd Gurley, Georgia (1)
RB Brian Kimbrow, Vanderbilt (13)RB Wesley Tate, Vanderbilt (21)WR Bruce Ellington, South Carolina (6)
WR D. Green-Beckham, Missouri (4)WR Vince Sanders, Ole Miss (12)WR Javontee Herndon, Arkansas (12)
WR Chris Conley, Georgia (10)WR L'Damian Washington, Missouri (20)WR Demarco Robinson, Kentucky (20)
WR Robert Johnson, Miss. State (18)TE Jay Rome, Georgia (16)TE Rory Anderson, South Carolina (9)
OL John Theus, Georgia (5)OL Reese Dismukes, Auburn (6)OL Zach Fulton, Tennessee (5)
OL Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss (8)OL Brandon Shell, South Carolina (8)OL Mike Matthews, Texas A&M (8)
OL Joe Townsend, Vanderbilt (16)OL Greg Robinson, Auburn (14)OL Andrew Bridges, Vanderbilt (14)
OL Evan Swindall, Ole Miss (17)OL Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M (15)OL Patrick Junen, Ole Miss (17)
OL Clayton Stadnik, S. Carolina (21)OL Alex Bullard, Tennessee (18)OL Charles Siddoway, Miss. State (19)
   
DL Carl Lawson, Auburn (6)DL C.J. Johnson, Ole Miss (4)DL Chris Smith, Arkansas (3)
DL Ed Stinson, Alabama (7)DL Ego Ferguson, LSU (5)DL Gabe Wright, Auburn (10)
DL Quentin Thomas, LSU (14)DL Leon Orr, Florida (13)DL Za'Darius Smith, Kentucky (16)
LB Denzel Nkemdiche, Ole Miss (3)DL Darren Lake, Alabama (22)DL DeMarcus Hodge, Arkansas (22)
LB Donnie Baggs, Texas A&M (11)DL Caleb Azubike, Vanderbilt (10)LB Lamin Barrow, LSU (3)
LB Kris Frost, Auburn (19)LB A.J. Johnson, Tennessee (2)LB Curt Maggitt, Tennessee (11)
LB D.T. Shackelford, Ole Miss (22)LB Daunte Carr, Arkansas (17)LB Jarrett Lake, Arkansas (18)
DB Brian Poole, Florida (9)DB Andre Hal, Vanderbilt (3)DB Jaylen Watkins, Florida (7)
DB Trae Elston, Ole Miss (12)DB Victor Hampton, South Carolina (9)DB Javon Marshall, Vanderbilt (13)
DB Chaz Elder, South Carolina (15)DB Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama (11)DB David Johnson, Missouri (15)
DB T.J. Gurley, South Carolina (20)DB Antonio Conner, Ole Miss (19)DB Chris Davis, Auburn (21)
Steven LassanJosh WardDavid Fox
Athlon SportsMrSEC.comAthlon Sports
QB Dylan Thompson, South Carolina (8)QB Tyler Russell, Miss. State (2)QB Jeff Driskel, Florida (2)
RB Brandon Williams, Texas A&M (20)RB Rajion Neal, Tennessee (12)RB Ben Malena, Texas A&M (11)
FB Jay Prosch, Auburn (19)WR Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt (8)RB Alfred Blue, LSU (21)
WR Chris Black, Alabama (13)WR Marcus Lucas, Missouri (13)WR Odell Beckham, LSU (5)
WR Trovon Reed, Auburn (21) WR Quinton Dunbar, Florida (18)WR Shaq Roland, South Carolina (17)
TE Trey Burton, Florida (15)WR Marquez North, Tennessee (22)WR Bud Sasser, Missouri (22)
OL Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama (1)OL Jake Matthews, Texas A&M (1)OL Ja'Wuan James, Tennessee (3)
OL Gabe Jackson, Miss. State (2)OL Aaron Morris, Ole Miss (6)OL Jon Halapio, Florida (7)
OL La'el Collins, LSU (5)OL Jonotthan Harrison, Florida (10)OL Emmanuel McCray, Ole Miss (13)
OL Dillon Day, Miss. State (16)OL David Hurd, Arkansas (16)OL Chad Slade, Auburn (16)
OL Ethan Pocic, LSU (17)OL Zach West, Kentucky (17)OL Cody Waldrop, So. Carolina (20)
   
DL Donte Rumph, Kentucky (4)DL Kelcy Quarles, So. Carolina (3)DL Bud Dupree, Kentucky (4)
DL Jonathan Bullard, Florida (6)DL Daniel McCullers, Tennessee (4)DL Denico Autry, Miss. State (6)
DL Jermauria Rasco, LSU (11)DL Kyle Woestmann, Vanderbilt (9)DL P.J. Jones, Miss. State (9)
DL Issac Gross, Ole Miss (14)DL Chaz Sutton, South Carolina (14)LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama (1)
LB Xzavier Dickson, Alabama (7)LB Avery Williamson, Kentucky (5)LB Karl Butler, Vanderbilt (12)
LB Kwon Alexander, LSU (12)LB Tahj Jones, LSU (15)LB Daniel McMillian, Florida (15)
LB Otha Peters, Arkansas (22)LB Deontae Skinner, Miss. State (20)LB Tim Kimbrough, Georgia (19)
DB Marcus Roberson, Florida (3)DB Jalen Mills, LSU (7)DB Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss (8)
DB Landon Collins, Alabama (9)DB Ronald Martin, LSU (11)DB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida (10)
DB De'Vante Harris, Texas A&M (10)DB Josh Holsey, Auburn (19)DB Jimmy Legree, South Carolina
DB Demetruce McNeal, Auburn (18)DB Justin Cox, Miss. State (21)DB Rohan Gaines, Arkansas (18)
SEC LogoMitch LightLouie Belina
SEC LogoAthlon SportsZone1150.com
QB Connor Shaw, So. Carolina (2)QB James Franklin, Missouri (8)QB Jalen Whitlow, Kentucky (22)
RB LaDarius Perkins, Miss. State (5)RB Henry Josey, Missouri (12)RB Tre Mason, Auburn (10)
WR Kenny Bell, Alabama (8)RB Raymond Sanders, Kentucky (19)WR Amari Cooper, Alabama (1)
WR Kevin Norwood, Alabama (10)WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt (1)WR Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss (2)
WR Mekale McKay, Arkansas (15)WR LeKendrick Williams, Texas A&M (21)WR Laquvionte Gonzalez, Texas A&M (19)
TE C.J. Uzomah, Auburn (13)TE OJ Howard, Alabama (11)WR Jaquay Williams, Texas A&M (20)
OL David Andrews, Georgia (4)OL Anthony Steen, Alabama (2)OL D.J. Humphries, Florida (5)
OL A.J. Cann, South Carolina (7)OL Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M (4)OL Vadal Alexander, LSU (6)
OL Justin Britt, Missouri (16)OL Max Garcia, Florida (9)OL Evan Boehm, Missouri (11)
OL Jordan Swindle, Kentucky (20)OL Blaine Clausell, Miss. State (14)OL Josh Williford, LSU (13)
OL Alphonse Taylor, Alabama (22)OL Jake Bernstein, Vanderbilt (17)OL Max Copeland, Missouri (18)
   
DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss (1)DL Dante Fowler, Florida (6)DL Trey Flowers, Arkansas (3)
DL Montravius Adams, Auburn (18)DL Damien Jacobs, Florida (10)DL Kony Ealy, Missouri (8)
DL Jacques Smith, Tennessee (21)DL Vince Taylor, Vanderbilt (13)DL Robert Thomas, Arkansas (9)
LB Trey DePriest, Alabama (6)DL Sterling Bailey, Georgia (18)DL Lavon Hooks, Ole Miss (14)
LB Steven Jenkins, Texas A&M (11)LB Kendell Beckwith, LSU (15)LB Chase Garnham, Vanderbilt (4)
LB Reuben Foster, Alabama (12)LB Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn (22)LB Mike Marry, Ole Miss (12)
LB Michael Taylor, Florida (17)LB Josh Harvey-Clemons, Georgia (7)LB Jake Holland, Auburn (15)
DB Craig Loston, LSU (3)DB Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt (3)DB Byron Moore, Tennessee (7)
DB Charles Sawyer, Ole Miss (9)DB Deion Belue, Alabama (5)DB Jonathon Mincy, Auburn (16)
DB Justin Coleman, Tennessee (14)DB Micah Eugene, LSU (16)DB Cyrus Jones, Alabama (17)
DB Nick Perry, Alabama (19)DB Steven Clarke, Vanderbilt (20)DB Toney Hurd, Texas A&M (21)
Braden GallChris Childers 
Athlon SportsSiriusXM.com 
QB Hutson Mason, Georgia (20)QB Austyn Carta-Samuels, Vanderbilt (9) 
RB Derrick Henry, Alabama (14)RB Keith Marshall, Georgia (5) 
RB Kenyan Drake, Alabama (22)RB Jerron Seymour, Vanderbilt (21) 
WR Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia (5)WR Jarvis Landry, LSU (6) 
WR Damiere Byrd, South Carolina (21)WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss (14) 
TE Cam Clear, Texas A&M (12)WR Christian Jones, Alabama (19) 
OL Antonio Richardson, Tennessee (2)OL Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt (2) 
OL James Stone, Tennessee (3)OL Chaz Green, Florida (10) 
OL Trai Turner, LSU (7)OL Dallas Lee, Georgia (11) 
OL Jarvis Harrison, Texas A&M (10)OL Elliott Porter, LSU (13) 
OL Andrew Jelks, Vanderbilt (17)OL Spencer Pulley, Vanderbilt (20) 
   
DL Anthony Johnson, LSU (1)DL Dominique Easley, Florida (1) 
DL Garrison Smith, Georgia (8)DL Byran Jones, Arkansas (3) 
DL Danielle Hunter, LSU (11)DL Jeoffrey Pagan, Alabama (7) 
LB Jordan Jenkins, Georgia (4)DL LaMichael Fanning, Alabama (17) 
LB Antonio Morrison, Florida (6)LB Darrin Kitchens, Florida (8) 
LB Denzel Devall, Alabama (16)LB Ryan Anderson, Alabama (12) 
LB Khalid Henderson, Kentucky (19)LB Ronnie Feist, LSU (18) 
DB Geno Smith, Alabama (9)DB Damian Swann, Georgia (4) 
DB Tray Matthews, Georgia (13)DB Jarrick Williams, Alabama (15) 
DB Eric Bennett, Arkansas (15)DB Tevin Mitchel, Arkansas (16) 
DB Bradley Sylve, Alabama (18)DB Tre'Davious White, LSU (22) 

How the first four rounds were selected:

Round 1Round 2
1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (Cooper)15. Wesley Johnson, OT, Vanderbilt (Childers)
2. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (Johnson)16. Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee (Gall)
3. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (Ross)17. Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss (Belina)
4. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama (Godfrey)18. Anthony Steen, OG, Alabama (Light)
5. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama (Rush)19. Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina (Logo)
6. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia (Ellis)20. Jeff Driskel, QB, Florida (Fox)
7. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama (Lassan)21. Tyler Russell, QB, Mississippi State (Ward)
8. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (Ward)22. Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State (Lassan)
9. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama (Fox)23. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU (Ellis)
10. Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Ole Miss (Logo)24. A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee (Rush)
11. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (Light)25. Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss (Godfrey)
12. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama (Belina)26. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama (Ross)
13. Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU (Gall)27. Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama (Johnson)
14. Dominique Easley, DT, Florida (Childers)28. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M (Cooper)
Round 3Round 4
29. Louchiez Purifoy, CB, Florida (Cooper)43. Damian Swann, DB, Georgia (Childers)
30. Chris Burnette, OG, Georgia (Johnson)44. Jordan Jenkins, LB/DE, Georgia (Gall)
31. Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas (Ross)45. Chase Garnham, LB, Vanderbilt (Belina)
32. Denzel Nkemdiche, LB, Ole Miss (Godfrey)46. Cedric Ogbuehi, T, Texas A&M (Light)
33. Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt (Rush)47. David Andrews, C, Georgia (Logo)
34. Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas (Ellis)48. Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky (Fox)
35. Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida (Lassan)49. Daniel McClullers, DT, Tennessee (Ward)
36. Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina (Ward)50. Donte Rumph, DT, Kentucky (Lassan)
37. Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee (Fox)51. Lamin Barrow, LB, LSU (Ellis)
38. Craig Loston, DB, LSU (Logo)52. C.J. Johnson, DE, Ole Miss (Rush)
39. Kenny Ladler, DB, Vanderbilt (Light)53. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri (Godfrey)
40. Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas (Belina)54. Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia (Ross)
41. James Stone, C, Tennessee (Gall)55. Kenarious Gates, T, Georgia (Johnson)
42. Byran Jones, DT, Arkansas (Childers)56. Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State (Cooper)


Which team had the most players selected?
 

RankTeamPlayers Drafted
1Alabama40
2Florida28
3LSU27
4TVanderbilt25
4TGeorgia 25
4TAuburn 25
Texas A&M23
8Ole Miss22
9South Carolina19
10Arkansas18
11Mississippi State16
12Tennessee15
13Missouri13
14 Kentucky 12


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Teaser:
Redrafting the SEC Rosters for 2013
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 07:10
Path: /nascar/kahne-takes-pass-kenseth-wins-nascar-night-race-bristol
Body:

Kasey Kahne, by his own admission, is NASCAR’s version of “Mr. Clean.” What else can you say after Bristol’s big fireworks show that never exploded? He had several prized opportunities Saturday to turn Matt Kenseth’s Dollar General Toyota and skate by for the win and a season sweep at the half-mile track. No one would have blamed him, either. All season, the No. 5 car has been swung into SAFER Barriers like clockwork by Kenseth and his teammates; they’ve made the old Allstate cougar accidents seem minor by comparison. It would have been only fair, in a locale nicknamed “Thunder Valley,” to cash in on the payback that was ripe and ready for the taking.

The fact Kahne passed on the aggression and settled for second is a compliment to his character — just not his career. Kahne turned down a “get even” opportunity on a move used commonly by short track racers around the country. Remember Bristol 1999, when Dale Earnhardt spun Terry Labonte on the last lap? The Intimidator was hardly intimidated by boos; neither were NASCAR officials. The No. 3 car sat in Victory Lane without penalty while Labonte’s crumpled heap of a Chevy was wheeled back to the garage behind a tow truck. Sometimes, that’s just the way you win races at short tracks. Let the best man who survives contact win.

How ironic that Kahne, driving the same car Labonte once made famous, has developed a similar, low-key and conflict-free personality. That might have worked in the ‘80s, even the ‘90s, but NASCAR is now a different place. Any athlete worth his weight in gold will smell out someone’s weakness. Now, all 42 competitors know, in a series where passing is difficult, that Kahne won’t hit them back if they play bumper cars. An element of fear, often an asset for a racer, is now gone. If Kahne won’t hit a competitor now with a win on the line and having been wronged all season, he’s not going to stand up for himself on the track. Ever.

I never truly believed in Leo Durocher’s quote, “Nice guys finish last,” but maybe Kasey Kahne has turned the other cheek one time too many.

Off the track? That makes him a winner. On it? That keeps a championship out of reach.

Speaking of titles prevented, “Through the Gears” find some people missing shifts after Bristol …



FIRST GEAR: Championship chances in big trouble  Brad KeselowskiBrad Keselowski hit Bristol with tons of momentum. He left it, well, getting hit. A late-race wreck, the icing on the cake of a myriad problems Saturday evening, left the No. 2 team outside looking in at the Chase. Only once has the previous year’s series champion missed the postseason (Tony Stewart, 2006). Only four points out, recovery is still possible, but it’s not a risk you want to take with another short track left on the slate.

“I’m not gonna be out of the worried zone unless I make it or it’s over,” Keselowski said. “That’s my job as a race car driver. I care about my team. We’ve got two races left. I think they’ll be good racetracks for us.”

Whether they will is yet to be determined. Keselowski’s teammate, Joey Logano, had a solid top-5 finish, is 10th in points and has the speedy setups he can pass over to the reigning champs. It’s just that, as we’ve seen so often with the No. 2 team this season, circumstances out of their control can jump up and bite. And other circumstances very much in their control — two points penalties equaling 31 points for failed inspections — find them out of the Chase by an agonizingly slim four points.


SECOND GEAR: Bristol had buzz  Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick
Who says Denny Hamlin can’t have an impact on the title this season? His contact on the backstretch with Brian Vickers set off a multi-car incident that altered the points race going forward. In an instant, a strong run for Chase contender Martin Truex Jr. was wiped out. So were the showings of about a half-dozen other cars. Tense moments ensued thereafter, when another victim, Kevin Harvick, parked in Hamlin’s pit stall to show maximum displeasure.

Hamlin explained the pit road incident away as no big deal.

“Me and Harvick are good friends, so luckily he was man enough to come over to talk to me right now and we were able to hash it out in about 10 seconds.”

It was just one of several examples of Bristol gone wild. 11 cautions. Quality racing. Flared tempers. All the elements the old track used to have, with more side-by-side competition thrown in. No question, the night race was one of the best this season, a showcase of what short tracks and NASCAR’s Gen-6 can do. Now, to transfer that to the other dozen or so ovals that don’t get it …


THIRD GEAR: Kenseth gets back on track
JGR’s newest pilot has spent the dog days of summer chasing his early-season brilliance. Entering Bristol, Matt Kenseth had led just one lap during the past four races and earned one top-5 finish during that span — easily his worst “slump” of 2013. Saturday night? He paced the field for a race-high 149 laps. Peaking at the right time, he positioned himself perfectly once Carl Edwards’ engine went south around Lap 375.

In one sense, this victory should come as no surprise: While not necessarily known as a short track ace, Kenseth has led 414 laps over the last five races at Bristol. Where the shock value comes in is that he now owns the top Chase seed by three bonus points over Jimmie Johnson with two weeks left in the regular season. All summer, the No. 48 team has made portions of races its own personal playground, only to fall flat in crunch time. Those three to four missed opportunities now loom large, giving the top Joe Gibbs Racing team some confidence entering the fall.

“Hopefully that gives you momentum,” Kenseth said. “The next 12 weeks are the most important 12 weeks of the season, so I approach every race the same. Go out with the idea of trying to qualify the best you can and prepare like you're going to go try to win the race.”

No question that Johnson has had more speed throughout the season. But there’s no arguing that Kenseth has now closed the deal at a greater clip than his Hendrick Motorsports foe and may just have something for him yet in that final 10-race run.


FOURTH GEAR: Edwards gets his mojo back … kind of
Roush Fenway Racing, with the exception of Greg Biffle’s Michigan win in June, has spent the year a forgotten superpower. Not in the Silly Season mix with its drivers signed to long-term deals, the organization seems to have faded into the background behind the typical rollercoaster dramas that flare up when drivers, crew chiefs and team look to make changes. While Chevy and Toyota have traded punches, RFR’s Fusions have been picking up the scraps of top-10 finishes to stay in Chase contention.

Enter Carl Edwards. Since the spring, he’s had the points deal on lockdown but has remained conspicuously absent from the front of the pack. Bristol was a surprise opportunity to change all that. If not for a blown engine with less than 120 laps to go, it’s very likely the storyline would have been the No. 99, front and center, in Victory Lane. With 119 laps led — his most since a Phoenix win in February — it was a key moment that shows the team can still flash speed.

“That’s the most fun I’ve had in a race car in a long time,” Edwards said. “Jimmy did a great job. The car was almost perfect and the engine ran awesome until it broke. We had great pit stops and I think we’ve got some good things to get forward to.  This is what we needed, a race like this — with the engine aside — I think we were the dominant car here tonight. We’ve got some good races coming up.”


OVERDRIVE
David Ragan, who has struggled since his upset win at Talladega, was a strong 12th for Front Row Motorsports. It was the best finish for him at an unrestricted track with the team in two seasons. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. played it safe to run 10th rather than risk it on gas to try and win the race down the stretch. That did put him 33 points ahead of the cutoff but it’s still far from a guarantee. Remember, one blown engine could cost him 40 points, if not more.


Follow Tom Bowles on Twitter: @NASCARBowles
Photos by Actions Sports, Inc.
 

Teaser:
Post-race reaction from Matt Kenseth's win in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Post date: Monday, August 26, 2013 - 20:42
Path: /mlb/2013-mlb-power-rankings-aug-26
Body:
Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (Atlanta Braves) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here are our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
 
Athlon Sports MLB Power Ranking
 1. Braves Projected date to clinch: Sept. 13 at home vs. San Diego.
 2. Tigers Batting .341 with 11 homers, 48 runs over last eight games.
 3. Dodgers Beginning to show signs of coming back down to earth.
 4. Red Sox Giants and Dodgers hit just .167 off Red Sox last week.
 5. Cardinals 13 straight games vs. Reds and Pirates. #makeorbreak
 6. Pirates Unsuccessful in last five stolen base attempts.
 7. Rangers Averaging 6.2 runs per game since Nelson Cruz suspension.
 8. Rays Begin key 10-game West Coast road trip this weekend.
 9. Reds Starting pitching continues to carry Reds.
10. A’s Next three opponents (Det./T.B./Tex.) may decide postseason fate.
11. Indians Last shot at Tigers this weekend.
12. Yankees Won 11 of 15, within 3.5 games of wild card.
13. Orioles Tough nine-game road trip to Boston, New York and Cleveland.
14. Diamondbacks 13 straight games vs. losing teams before next series with L.A.
15. Nationals Still time to make a charge, but running out of games fast.
16. Royals Continue to tease fans just enough.
17. Rockies 15 of last 30 games vs. teams currently in playoff position.
18. Mariners Best below .500 team in American League. #uselessinfo
19. Padres Tyson Ross has been a very pleasant surprise.
20. Angels Batting just .246 over last 20 games.
21. Giants Two teams had more triples last week than Giants had homers.
22. Phillies Won six of eight, with one of the losses in 18 innings.
23. Twins Could be key spoilers in all three AL divisional races.
24. Mets Matt Harvey injury news could be devastating.
25. Blue Jays 16-year string of better records than Royals likely to end.
26. White Sox Given up 29 runs over last nine games (8-1).
27. Brewers May have found future stars in Scooter Gennett and Khris Davis. 
28. Cubs Five NL teams have worse run differential.
29. Marlins Emergence of Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna is encouraging.
30. Astros Could be mathematically eliminated by week’s end.
 
AL Player of the Week
Jason Castro, Houston
The All-Star catcher swung a torrid bat last week, hitting .529 with a 1.913 OPS. He reached base safely in all six games, including a walk on Sunday in his only appearance. He was 3-for-3 on Saturday and had six extra-base hits for the week.
 
AL Pitcher of the Week
Jarrod Parker, Oakland
Parker was outstanding in his two starts last week, winning both, which represent Oakland’s last two victories. In 17.0 innings, Parker allowed 13 hits, three walks and whiffed 13 for a 0.94 WHIP and 1.06 ERA.
 
NL Player of the Week
Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia
The Phillies’ backstop batted .440 with a 1.302 OPS last week. He hit two home runs and drove home six. He amassed eight knocks in his last three games, including three in the Phillies’ 18-inning loss on Saturday in which he caught the entire contest.
 
NL Pitcher of the Week
Jose Fernandez, Miami
Last week, the young righthander was 2-0 with a 0.85 WHIP and 0.69 ERA. In 13 innings, he gave up eight hits, three walks and struck out 16 as he continues to be one of the few bright spots in Miami this summer.
Teaser:
Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (Atlanta Braves) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here are our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
Post date: Monday, August 26, 2013 - 18:50

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