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All taxonomy terms: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, MLB, Monthly
Path: /mlb/should-steroids-forever-keep-barry-bonds-and-roger-clemens-out-baseballs-hall-fame
Body:

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the greatest hitter and pitcher of the “Steroid Era,” headlined a group of 37 players eligible for the Class of 2013 in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But for the first time since 1996, zero players were immortalized by baseball writers in the museum at Cooperstown, N.Y.

 
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America made a collective statement. Needing 75 percent of the BBWAA vote for enshrinement, Clemens (37.6) and Bonds (36.2) — undeniably the faces of the PED generation — finished eighth and ninth, despite being two of the most dominant players in history.
 
Both men have gone to trial for obstruction of justice and perjury charges stemming from testimony regarding alleged steroid use. Using the established legal timelines, we attempt to break down the career numbers of Bonds and Clemens — from the clean years to the potentially juiced seasons.
 
Reportedly jealous of the attention received by both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa during the home run race that “saved baseball” in 1998, Bonds allegedly turned to PEDs. Evidence points to 1999 as his first tainted season; he posted the lowest AB-per-HR total of his career (10.4 in 1999, 16.1 from 1986-98) and played a career-low 102 games due to an elbow injury that is speculated to have been a result of steroid overuse.
 

From there, Bonds’ hat size and stat size grew to otherworldly levels — as he hit 73 HRs in 2001 and batted .370 in 2002. It’s hard to deny Bonds’ résumé prior to 1999. The son former All-Star Bobby Bonds and godson of Hall of Famer Willie Mays was already a one-man member of the 400-400 HR-SB club.
 
After posting a 4.00 ERA or higher in two of his last four seasons in Boston, “Rocket” found new fuel after going to Toronto in 1997 — with back-to-back Cy Young seasons. He then went on to post two more Cy Young years, as a 38-year-old 20-game winner with the Yankees in 2001 and a 41-year-old 18-game winner with the Astros in 2004.
­But prior to going north of the border, Clemens was one of only five three-time Cy Young winners — along with Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver. Of those, only Koufax could match Clemens with one MVP Award to go along with his three Cy Youngs.
 
Teaser:
<p> Should steroids Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens out of Baseball's Hall of Fame?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 14:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-power-rankings-michigan-takes-top-spot
Body:

Miami’s 90-63 drubbing of Duke last week shuffled the power rankings in more ways than one.

First, the Blue Devils’ loss means Athlon will have a new No. 1 this week. Our nod goes to Michigan, who is having its best season since Chris Webber and Jalen Rose were on campus. The Wolverines and John Beilein have a chance to either solidify their credentials for the No. 1 spot or open the door for another team when they visit Indiana on Saturday.

Elsewhere, Miami enjoyed the biggest boost in our rankings this week, moving from No. 21 to No. 10 after defeating Duke and Florida State by a combined 52 points last week. Keep in mind, the Hurricanes scored only 51 points in the second game of the season, a loss to Florida Gulf Coast. Miami’s staying power will be tested this week on the road against the nation’s leading scorer in Virginia Tech’s Erick Green and then against erratic NC State.

The biggest drop in this week’s power rankings came from Minnesota, which fell 10 spots to No. 19. The Gophers started 15-1, but they’ve lost four in a for in Big Ten play.

Related: Key stats from Jan. 21-27

COLLEGE BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS: JAN. 29

1. Michigan (19-1, 6-1 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 2
Last week’s results: Defeated Purdue 68-53, defeated Illinois 74-60
This week: at Indiana
Buzz: The Wolverines top the Associated Press top 25 for first time since Fab Five days.

2. Kansas (19-1, 7-0 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 3
Last week’s results: Defeated Kansas State 59-55, defeated Oklahoma 67-54, defeated West Virginia 61-56
This week: Oklahoma State
Buzz: Kansas is riding an 18-game win streak.

3. Indiana (18-2, 6-1 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 6
Last week’s results: Defeated Penn State 72-49, defeated Michigan State 75-70
This week: at Purdue, Michigan
Buzz: Home date with Michigan on Saturday is Hoosiers only game at Assembly Hall in four games.

4. Syracuse (18-2, 6-1 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 4
Last week’s results: Lost to Villanova 75-71 (OT)
This week: at Pittsburgh
Buzz: Point guard Michael Carter-Williams has 16 turnovers in his last three games.

5. Duke (17-2, 4-2 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Last week’s results: Lost to Miami 90-63, defeated Maryland 84-64
This week: at Wake Forest, at Florida State
Buzz: Freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon broke out of slump to score 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field against Maryland.

6. Florida (16-2, 6-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Last week’s results: Defeated Georgia 64-47, defeated Mississippi State 82-47
This week: South Carolina, Ole Miss
Buzz: The Gators are eyeing a perfect 18–0 record in the SEC.

7. Gonzaga (19-2, 6-0 West Coast Conference)
Last week’s rank: 9
Last week’s results: Defeated BYU 83-63, defeated San Francisco 66-52
This week: at Loyola Marymount, at San Diego
Buzz: Zags next four opponents are from the bottom half of the WCC before a Feb. 14 trip to Saint Mary’s.

8. Arizona (17-2, 5-2 Pac-12)
Last week’s rank: 7
Last week’s results: Lost to UCLA 84-73, defeated USC 74-50
This week: at Washington, at Washington State
Buzz: Arizona allowed a season-high 84 points in loss to UCLA last week.

9. Louisville (17-4, 5-3 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 5
Last week’s results: Lost to Villanova 73-64, lost to Georgetown 53-51, beat Pittsburgh 64-61
This week: Marquette
Buzz: Louisville broke out of its three-game losing streak with win over Pittsburgh, but Peyton Siva remains in a slump (7 of 31 from the field in the last four games, four free throw attempts in the last six).

10. Miami (15-3, 6-0 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 21
Last week’s results: Defeated Duke 90-63, defeated Florida State 71-47
This week: at Virginia Tech, at NC State
Buzz: Veteran Hurricanes are in control of the ACC race. In basketball.

11. Butler (17-3, 4-1 Atlantic 10)
Last week’s rank: 10
Last week’s results: Lost to La Salle 54-53, defeated Temple 83-71
This week: at Saint Louis, Rhode Island
Buzz: Rotnei Clarke’s return against Temple makes Butler team to beat in A-10.

12. Michigan State (17-4, 6-2 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 14
Last week’s results: Defeated Wisconsin 49-47, lost to Indiana 75-70
This week: Illinois
Buzz: Adreian Payne is emerging as intriguing veteran forward and NBA draft prospect.

13. Ohio State (15-4, 5-2 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 15
Last week’s results: Defeated Iowa 72-63, defeated Penn State 65-51
This week: Wisconsin, at Nebraska
Buzz: Deshaun Thomas is averaging 15.5 shots per game, most in the Big Ten and 16th-most nationally.

14. Oregon (18-2, 7-0 Pac-12)
Last week’s rank: 16
Last week’s results: Defeated Washington State 68-61, defeated Washington 81-76
This week: at Stanford, at Cal
Buzz: Freshman point Dominic Artis is out with a foot injury.

15. NC State (16-4, 5-2 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Last week’s results: Lost to Wake Forest 86-84, defeated North Carolina 91-83
This week: at Virginia, Miami
Buzz: Crazy week for the Wolfpack: Lose at Wake, crush North Carolina.

16. Wichita State (19-2, 8-1 Missouri Valley)
Last week’s rank: 19
Last week’s results: Defeated Missouri State 62-52, defeated Bradley 73-39
This week: Indiana State, at Northern Iowa
Buzz: The Shockers are all alone in first in the Valley.

17. Ole Miss (17-2, 6-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 22
Last week’s results: Defeated Tennessee 62-56, defeated Auburn 63-61
This week: Kentucky, at Florida
Buzz: Marshall Henderson (19.2 ppg) is the most hated man in SEC.

18. Kansas State (15-4, 4-2 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 11
Last week’s results: Lost to Kansas 59-55, lost to Iowa State 73-67
This week: Texas, at Oklahoma
Buzz: Wildcats dealing with first back-to-back losses under Bruce Weber.

19. Minnesota (15-5, 3-4 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 9
Last week’s results: Lost to Northwestern 55-48, lost to Wisconsin 45-44
This week: Nebraska, Iowa
Buzz: The Gophers have lost four in a row, all by eight points or fewer.

20. New Mexico (17-3, 4-1 Mountain West)
Last week’s rank: 18
Last week’s results: Defeated Colorado State 66-61, lost to San Diego State 55-34
This week: at Wyoming, Nevada
Buzz: The Lobos went 11 of 44 from the field and 3 of 15 from three-point range in loss at San Diego State.

21. Cincinnati (16-4, 4-3 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 23
Last week’s results: None
This week: Rutgers, at Seton Hall
Buzz: Bearcats back in action Wednesday after an eight-day break since loss to Syracuse.

22. Marquette (15-4, 6-1 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 24
Last week’s results: Defeated Providence 81-71, defeated USF 63-50
This week: at Louisville
Buzz: Marquette used a career-high 30 points from Vander Blue to defeat USF on Monday and move into a tie for first place in the Big East.

23. Wisconsin (14-6, 5-2 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 25
Last week’s results: Lost to Michigan State 49-47, defeated Minnesota 45-44
This week: at Ohio State, at Illinois
Buzz: Badgers averaged 46 points and split the week.

24. Missouri (15-4, 4-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated South Carolina 71-65, defeated Vanderbilt 81-59
This week: at LSU, Auburn
Buzz: Tigers should be back at full strength very soon with return of forward Laurence Bowers.

25. San Diego State (16-4, 4-2 Mountain West)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Nevada 78-57, defeated New Mexico 55-34
This week: at Air Force
Buzz: The Aztecs continue to get it done on defense.

Out: No. 17 VCU, No. 20 Creighton

Teaser:
<p> Michigan is Athlon Sports' new No. 1 team in the power rankings with a key game against Indiana on the horizon. Miami moves into top 10.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /nfl/20-amazing-all-time-nfl-super-bowl-stats
Body:

NFL football is the greatest reality TV program of all time. The Giants and Colts made sure of that back in 1958. Each NFL fall is a completely new and original experience for every player, fan and coach alike. New stories, new personalities, new winners and new losers. And new statistics.

Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics to keep in mind about the 46-year history of the Super Bowl:

162,900,000: People who watched Super Bowl XLV
The Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers put together the single-most viewed television program in American history in 2011. The previous record had been the Colts-Saints Super Bowl on Feb. 7, 2010 with 153.4 million viewers. Last year's Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots was the No. 2-most viewed program with 159.2 million.

0: Time the Vikings have led in the Super Bowl
The Jaguars, Browns, Texans and Lions have never played in a Super Bowl and therefore never led in the Big Game. However, the Vikings have played in four Super Bowls and never held a lead. That's 240 minutes of gametime either tied or trailing.

414: Record passing yards for Kurt Warner
The former grocery bagger threw for an Super Bowl-record 414 yards in the win over the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. This included his 73-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce with just over two minutes remaining. Warner also owns the No. 2 passing performance (377 yards for Arizona in a loss to Pittsburgh) and the No. 3 performance (365 yards in a St. Louis loss to New England).

204: Timmy Smith Super Bowl rushing record
The Denver Broncos began Super Bowl XXII by taking a 10-0 lead into the second quarter over the Washington Redskins. But then Doug Williams and Timmy Smith happened. The record 35-point second quarter put the game all but out of reach by halftime. The game was special for a variety of reasons. First, Williams was the first black quarterback to win the Super Bowl, and Smith became the only player to top 200 yards rushing in a Super Bowl. He finished with 204 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns as the Redskins set the Super Bowl record for total offense with 602 yards. Ironically, Smith ended his entire NFL career with exactly 602 yards (21 games).

10: Largest comeback in Super Bowl history
The aforementioned Redskins set this record as well after trailing 10-0 to Denver before finishing off the Broncos 42-10. The deficit was tied in the 2009 season when Drew Brees and the Saints fell behind 10-0 before coming back to defeat the Colts 31-17.

103,985: Largest crowd to attend a Super Bowl
The 1979 season featured the largest crowd to ever attend a Super Bowl when the Steelers defeated the Rams 31-19 in Pasadena, Calif. The Rose Bowl hosted the Los Angeles Rams that year in what remains the closest thing to a home-field advantage in a Super Bowl.
 
6-10: Worst record by a Super Bowl winner the following year
John Elway won back-to-back Super Bowls for the Denver Broncos (XXXII, XXXIII) and ended his playing career in style. However, his Broncos went on to accomplish something no other Super Bowl champion had done once he retired. By losing 10 games in 1999, the Broncos posted the worst record by a Super Bowl champion the following season. Denver finished last in the AFC West.

6: Most Super Bowl appearances by any one player
Mike Lodish played 11 seasons in the NFL, and six of them ended in the Super Bowl. The defensive lineman was drafted out of UCLA in 1990 and played five years for the Buffalo Bills (1990-94) before his six-year career with the Broncos. He played in all four of the Bills' Super Bowls and won twice with the Broncos, making him the only player in NFL history to have played in six Super Bowls. Sixteen players have played in five Super Bowls.

5: Most Super Bowl starts by any one quarterback
John Elway started five Super Bowls when he won his second Lombardi Trophy in 1998 when Denver handled Atlanta with relative ease. Last season, Tom Brady matched Elway with his fifth Super Bowl start. However, neither can claim the most Super Bowl victories as Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw and San Francisco’s Joe Montana won all four of their Super Bowl starts.

7: Fewest rushing yards gained in a Super Bowl
The Monsters of the Midway were one of the most dominate defensive units in NFL history, and it led to the Chicago Bears lone Super Bowl win back in 1985. In the Louisiana Superdome, William Perry and Mike Singletary posted the best defensive performance in Super Bowl history by holding New England to just seven yards rushing. The Patriots' 123 total yards of offense is the second-lowest total in Super Bowl history.

42,000: Average cost of a 30-second commercial in Super Bowl I
The cost of a television ad in Super Bowl I was $42,000 per 30-second spot. That number reached seven figures for the first time in 1995 ($1.15 million) and has more than tripled since. This year, CBS is anticipating more than $225 million in ad revenue alone at a 30-second per unit cost of $3.8 million.

338: Media credentials issued for Super Bowl I
By 2012, the number swelled to 5,156 accredited media members to cover Super Bowl XLVI, a record for the championship game.

22.6: Lowest QB rating for a Super Bowl winner
Ben Roethlisberger completed 9-of-21 passes for 123 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl XL win over Seattle. It is the worst performance by a Super Bowl winning quarterback. At 23 years and 340 days, Big Ben was also the youngest quarterback to ever win the big game.

3: Fewest points scored in a Super Bowl
The 1971 Miami Dolphins are the only team to ever play in a Super Bowl and not reach the endzone. Their 24-3 loss to Dallas in Super Bowl VI featured the lowest scoring offense in the history of the game. The 1974 Minnesota Vikings are the only other team not to reach at least seven points on Super Sunday, but at least they reached the endzone — albeit on defense when Terry Brown recovered a Steelers’ fumble in the endzone. They missed the extra point and set the Super Bowl record for fewest total yards of offense with 119.

9: Bills’ Super Bowl record for turnovers
The Dallas Cowboys crushed the Bills 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII. This lop-sided affair was headlined by a Super Bowl-record nine turnovers lost by Buffalo. Strangely enough, Dallas also claims the No. 2-most forced turnovers with eight against Denver in the Super Bowl XII win and seven forced against Baltimore in the Super Bowl V loss. How did they lose to the Colts after forcing seven turnovers? Speaking of...

34-3: Record of team with fewer turnovers than the opponent
Turnovers are simply the name of the game and there is no more telling stat than this one. In the Super Bowl, the team with fewer turnovers is 34-3 all-time. The formula is fairly straight forward: Protect the football and become a champion. 

11: Player to have won the MVP and the Super Bowl in the same year
Bart Starr (1966), Earl Morrall (1968), Terry Bradshaw (1978), Mark Moseley (1982), Lawrence Taylor (1986), Joe Montana (1989), Emmitt Smith (1993), Steve Young (1994), Brett Favre (1996), Terrell Davis (1998) and Kurt Warner (1999) are the 11 double-dippers.

22-24: Coin toss winners record in the Super Bowl
The winner of the opening coin toss has gone on to win 22 Super Bowls while the loser has won the game more frequently. However, the last decade has indicated that teams should be rooting against the coin toss. The winner of the last nine coin tosses has gone on to win the Super Bowl just three times. Strangely, only three times has a team deferred to the second half and all three have taken place in the last four seasons. The 2010 Packers are the only team to ever defer on the coin toss and then win the Super Bowl.

1: People to win the Super Bowl as a head coach and player
Tom Flores won two Super Bowls as the head coach of the Raiders and was technically on the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs roster. However, he did not see any time on the field in Kansas City's win Minnesota in Super Bowl IV. Mike Ditka, a Hall of Fame tight end for the Bears, Eagles and Cowboys, caught two passes for two passes for 28 yards and touchdown in Super Bowl VI. He then led the Bears to the championship in 1985 to become the only Super Bowl-winning coach to have won the big game as a player as well.

0: Super Bowls without at least one field goal attempt
Four times has a Super Bowl featured one combined field goal attempt, but never has a Super Bowl lacked for at least one field goal try. Super Bowl VII, XXIV, XXXIX and XLII each featured one field goal effort.

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> The most important, interesting, intriguing and amazing Super Bowl Stats.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/recruiting-ranking-secs-best-football-rosters
Body:

Preseason prognosticators like Athlon Sports — the most accurate college football preview magazine on newsstands — use many things to attempt to predict what the coming football season will look like. Returning starters, scheduling, historic trends, coaching, pending off-the-field issues and, of course, recruiting rankings all help Athlon editors predict the future of college football.

Recruiting rankings have their detractors. Yes, evaluating 16- and 17-year-old kids is an inexact science. No, star rankings aren’t the only thing that matters. Yes, leadership (e.g., Nick Saban) is more important than national recruiting rankings (See Auburn).

But using national team recruiting rankings to attempt to pinpoint how “talented” any given roster is can be an interesting and illuminating practice.

For the sake of this discussion, the 2013 conference alignment was used to calculate, rank and organize teams and leagues. Rivals.com national team rankings over a five-year span (2008-12) were used for the sake of consistency. And the 72 “BCS” conference teams as well as Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU were used to form the 75-team ranking.

Therefore, in the SEC rankings below, fans will find where Texas A&M and Missouri have been ranked in the team rankings.

So what do the team recruiting rankings teach us about the SEC:

He who has the best players, wins the game
In the Big 12, Kansas State overachieves while Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech do the same in the ACC. But in the SEC, the champions have the best players. Alabama tops the recruiting rankings (1.8) and has the most SEC wins (35-5). Florida is No. 2 in SEC recruiting (6.2) and is No. 2 in wins (29-11). LSU is third on the recruiting trail (8.6) and third in the SEC in wins (28-12). Finally, Georgia is fourth in recruiting rankings (9.0) and fourth in wins (27-13). In the nation’s toughest league, it couldn’t be clearer that he who has the best players wins the most games.

What happened to Auburn and Tennessee?
Since the 2008 football season, the Tigers and Vols have had a combined seven different coaches. They are two of the SEC’s biggest underachievers and one of the obvious reasons has been coaching, because both programs recruit at an elite level. Auburn has the 10th best roster in the nation just behind Ohio State and Oklahoma and just ahead of Michigan and Notre Dame. Tennessee is 14th nationally, just ahead of Oregon and Clemson and just behind Miami since 2008. Needless to say, the coaching has been the issue. Auburn is just 17-23 in league play over that span — including an 8-0 national championship season — and the Vols are even worse at 12-28. Fans have been moaning that both programs haven’t been recruiting at a level required to win in the SEC (especially in Knoxville). The facts indicate this couldn’t be further from the truth. Top 20 classes, most of which were ranked in the top half of the SEC, were not the problem, the coaching was. According to the rankings, both rosters roster are more talented than South Carolina, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Missouri.

Rich Get Richer-er
The SEC is the best conference. There is no arguing that. Commitment from boosters, fans and administrations is a big reason why. But having the best players helps, too. Of the best 25 rosters in the nation over the last five seasons, nine of them hail from the SEC. And that doesn’t include consistent bowl teams like Arkansas, Missouri and Mississippi State. Ole Miss, which has won four SEC games in the last three years, is ranked 23rd among power conference teams in terms of recruiting. This makes it all the more difficult for the lower-tier programs to develop into contenders.

Bobby Petrino is THAT good
From 2009 to 2011, Arkansas was 29-10 overall and 15-9 in the SEC under Bobby Petrino. His recruiting classes in Fayetteville ranked no higher than seventh (2009) in the SEC recruiting rankings and cracked the top 20 nationally just once. Otherwise, Arkansas finished ninth or tenth in the SEC rankings every cycle. It proves that not only can a team win big in the SEC (10-11 wins) with a recruiting class ranked outside of the top 20 but that Petrino (aka, elite leadership) was the great equalizer. As soon as he stepped away, the 10th-best roster in the league played like it, finishing 4-8 after back-to-back 10-win seasons. Beware Sun Belt, beware.

Dan Mullen is Petrino-lite
Mississippi State ranks 12th in the SEC and last in the West in terms of talent over the last five years. Yet, the Mullen-led Bulldogs have won 24 games in the last three seasons including three bowl appearances. Hail State has also had nine players selected in the last three NFL Drafts including a first-rounder in each of the last two seasons. Breaking through against LSU or Alabama (and now Texas A&M) is a tall order, but for a team ranked last in the SEC West in terms of talent to win eight games per season is incredibly impressive.

James Franklin isn’t done yet
Vanderbilt has the “worst” roster in the SEC according to the rankings as it has had one class inside of the top 60 over the last five seasons (29th in 2012). Yet, somehow Franklin and his band of merry men got the Commodores to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. His 2013 class could be the best in the history of the program, so the sky is the limit for this coaching staff once it gets its hands on elite prospects.

Missouri is in for a tough time
The Tigers were 19-14 in Big 12 play over the four years prior to joining the SEC. That is slightly better than average in a league that is perceived to be vastly inferior. Gary Pinkel might be the Tigers' best coach ever, but his current roster ranks 11th in the SEC and it showed with a 2-6 debut performance. This coaching staff will have to consistently overachieve on the field if it expects to compete, because it doesn’t appear Mizzou will be able to attract equivalent talent — despite the once-in-a-while prospects along the lines of a Blaine Gabbert, Sheldon Richardson or Dorial Green-Beckham.

Sleeping giant awakes
Unlike Mizzou, the Texas A&M Aggies are built for long-term, big-time success in the SEC. They have a better natural recruiting base, a richer tradition of winning and dramatically better fan support. This team has recruited at an SEC level (19th nationally over the last five years) and appears to be poised to continue to blossom into a recruiting powerhouse in the Lone Star State. Of course, it takes the right coach leading the way, and in Kevin Sumlin, Aggieland feels like they have found their guy. Winning double-digit games and a Heisman Trophy right out of the gate doesn't hurt either.

What makes Hugh Freeze any different?
Ole Miss has recruited at a surprisingly high level for a team that has been the laughing stock of the league. The Rebels' average class ranked 24.8 nationally, including three straight top 20 classes from 2009-11. Yet, the Rebs went 31-32 overall and just 13-27 in the league over that span. New coach Freeze got fans excited in Oxford with the most surprising 7-6 season in recent SEC memory. And his 2013 signing class is pushing for top 10 status. The pressure will be on the new staff to prove 2012 was no fluke and that they will have a different fate than Ed Orgeron or Houston Nutt — two guys who recruited extremely well but didn’t win many games. 

More: Ranking the ACC's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the Big 12's Best Rosters

SEC's National Team Recruiting Rankings Breakdown:

Rank Team Avg Nat'l Rank "BCS" Rank 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Record (Conf.)
1. Alabama 1.8 1st 1st 1st 5th 1st 1st 61-8 (35-5)
2. Florida 6.2 4th 3rd 11th 2nd 12th 3rd 52-15 (29-11)
3. LSU 8.6 6th 11th 2nd 6th 6th 18th 51-15 (28-12)
4. Georgia 9.0 7th 7th 6th 15th 5th 12th 46-21 (27-13)
5. Auburn 12.0 10th 20th 19th 4th 7th 10th 38-26 (17-23)
6. Tennessee 16.8 14th 35th 10th 9th 13th 17th 28-34 (12-28)
7. South Carolina 19.0 18th 22nd 12th 24th 18th 19th 45-21 (24-16)
8. Texas A&M 19.4 19th 16th 22nd 17th 27th 15th 37-27 (21-20)
9. Ole Miss 24.8 23rd 29th 18th 18th 19th 40th 31-32 (13-27)
10. Arkansas 31.8 27th 36th 16th 49th 24th 34th 38-25 (19-21)
11. Missouri 33.0 31st 25th 40th 21st 48th 31st 41-23 (21-20)
12. Mississippi St 36.2 34th 44th 25th 38th 44th 30th 31-28 (15-25)
13. Kentucky 54.2 56th 57th 41st 50th 61st 62nd 27-36 (9-31)
14. Vanderbilt 64.2 63rd 90th 71st 61st 70th 29th 26-37 (12-28)

Teaser:
<p> Recruiting: Ranking the SEC's Best Football Rosters</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 09:05
Path: /college-football/recruiting-ranking-big-12s-best-football-rosters
Body:

Preseason prognosticators like Athlon Sports — the most accurate college football preview magazine on newsstands — use many things to attempt to predict what the coming football season will look like. Returning starters, scheduling, historic trends, coaching, pending off-the-field issues and, of course, recruiting rankings all help Athlon editors predict the future of college football.

Recruiting rankings have their detractors. Yes, evaluating 16- and 17-year-old kids is an inexact science. No, star rankings aren’t the only thing that matters. Yes, leadership (e.g., Nick Saban) is more important than national recruiting rankings (See Auburn).

But using national team recruiting rankings to attempt to pinpoint how “talented” any given roster is an interesting and illuminating practice.

For the sake of this discussion, the 2013 conference alignment was used to calculate, rank and organize teams and leagues. Rivals.com national team rankings over a five-year span (2008-12) were used for the sake of consistency. And the 72 “BCS” conference teams as well as Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU were used to form the 75-team ranking.

Therefore, in the Big 12 rankings below fans will find where TCU and West Virginia have been ranked in the team rankings while Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri are not included.

So what do the team recruiting rankings teach us about the Big 12:

Mack Brown is doing something wrong
There are two rosters in the nation that are better than Mack Brown’s according to the team composite recruiting rankings. Alabama and USC are the only two teams to have recruited better than Texas since 2008. Yet, the Longhorns are 26-16 in the last five years in Big 12 play, and what’s worse, are just 11-15 in the last three years (Texas went 15-1 in 2008-09). Yes, he took Texas to two BCS title games in a four-year span, but after multiple changes on his staff, Brown’s teams have massively underachieved for three straight seasons. Once again, Brown will enter this season with new coaches on his sideline, and once again, the pressure will be on his team to achieve. Especially, considering what Art Briles, Bill Snyder and Mike Gundy have done with much lesser talent.

Bill Snyder is the greatest coach on the planet
Of the 75 teams ranked in this study, the Wildcats claim the 60th best roster in the nation. Iowa State is the only team with a “worse” roster in the Big 12. Kansas State ranks well behind a number of struggling programs like Maryland (33rd) and Colorado (49th) nationally and is looking up at in-state rival Kansas (44th) in terms of overall talent. Yet, the Jayhawks have won just two of their last 32 Big 12 games while Snyder’s squad is 22-12 over that span. The ageless wonder hasn’t had a losing season in his second stint in Manhattan and is proving in remarkable — and championship — fashion why his name is atop the stadium in the Little Apple. No coach has done more with less nationally than Bill Snyder.

Oklahoma State better keep Mike Gundy happy
After Gundy flirted with the SEC this offseason, the powers that be in Stillwater locked him up for the long term. And rightly so. His team is 49-16 overall and 30-12 in the Big 12 over the last five years and Gundy has done it without one Top 25 recruiting class. His best class was 26th in 2008 and the Cowboys sit at an average national ranking of 30.6 over the last five years. Yet, he continues to produce huge numbers — Okie State had three 1,000-yard passers in 2012 — and win games. Only the Sooners (32-10) and Bob Stoops have a better Big 12 record over the last five years than Oklahoma State. There is no reason for Gundy to leave his alma mater, so imagine what he could do if he has enough time to build his brand to a point where he is landing top 10 classes?

This isn’t the Mountain West… or Big East
West Virginia was 20-8 and never lost more than two games in conference play the four years prior to joining the Big 12. TCU was 30-1 in the Mountain West over that same span. But in year one of Big 12 play, these two combined for 10 league losses in 2012 and will be facing the Big 12 big boys from now on. There is good news, however, as Gary Patterson appears to be growing the Horned Frogs’ brand on the recruiting trail, going from 96th to 26th in the recruiting rankings from 2008 to 2011. West Virginia is currently ranked fifth in the Big 12 in terms of talent, meaning, they were recruiting at a comparable level to most of the Big 12 prior to entering the league. Good things will come, but clearly an adjustment period is to be expected.

Underachieve doesn’t even begin to describe Kansas
Want some perspective on how poorly Kansas has played the last five seasons? The Jayhawks rank ahead of Wisconsin, Louisville, Boise State, Oregon State, Georgia Tech, TCU and, most importantly, Kansas State in terms of talent. But they have won a total of six league games — four of which came in 2008 — over the last five years. The Jayhawks are 2-32 in their last four Big 12 seasons and have out-recruited the likes of Baylor, TCU and Kansas State. These rankings don’t even include landing two of the best QB prospects in the nation the last few seasons in transfers Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps. Where is Mark Mangino’s tough love now?

More: Ranking the ACC's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the SEC's Best Rosters 

Big 12's National Team Recruiting Rankings Breakdown:

  Team Avg Nat'l Rank "BCS" Rank 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Record (Conf.)
1. Texas 5.4 3rd 14th 5th 3rd 3rd 2nd 47-19 (26-16)
2. Oklahoma 10.2 9th 6th 13th 7th 14th 11th 52-15 (32-10)
3. Oklahoma St 30.6 26th 26th 36th 31st 28th 32nd 49-16 (30-12)
4. Texas Tech 33.0 29th 45th 33rd 41st 20th 26th 41-23 (21-21)
5. West Virginia 38.2 36th 42nd 27th 27th 47th 48th 44-21 (24-13)
6. Kansas 46.8 44th 40th 31st 55th 34th 74th 19-42 (6-36)
7. Baylor 47.2 46th 51st 55th 39th 46th 45th 33-30 (17-25)
8. TCU 50.2 51st 96th 46th 46th 26th 37th 54-11 (34-6)
9. Kansas St 61.6 60th 27th 92nd 63rd 68th 58th 39-24 (24-18)
10. Iowa St 66.6 65th 62nd 73rd 60th 51st 87th 26-37 (12-30)

Teaser:
<p> Recruiting: Ranking the Big 12's Best Football Rosters</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/nfls-all-time-super-bowl-team
Body:

In selecting an all-time Super Bowl team, it is important to establish clear criteria. While there is nothing more subjective than all-time teams, the criteria certainly includes individual performance, but performance that leads to team success carries more weight. Multiple game appearances help, so longevity counts too.

All-time Super Bowl Team:

Joe Montana, QB, San Francisco
This is one of a couple of positions where there is no argument. With four Super Bowl wins, Montana has a career passer rating of 127.8, the best ever. Joe Cool tossed 11 touchdown passes to six different receivers with no interceptions. During his Super Bowl career, he threw 28 passes on third down, completing 19 of them for 14 first downs and one touchdown. There has been no one better in the big game.

Notables: John Elway, Denver; Tom Brady, New England; Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh; Kurt Warner, St. Louis and Arizona

Franco Harris, RB, Pittsburgh
There is no shortage of candidates at running back. Harris rushed for 354 yards in Pittsburgh’s four Super wins in the 1970s and had another 114 yards receiving. In the four games, Harris had 18 touches on third down resulting in 10 first downs and three touchdowns. And Harris is the only runner with more than 100 carries in history.

Roger Craig, RB, San Francisco
In three Super Bowls for San Francisco, all wins, Craig amassed 413 yards from scrimmage with four touchdowns, including 101 yards receiving in Super Bowl XXIII.

Notables: Larry Csonka, Miami; Emmitt Smith, Dallas; Terrell Davis, Denver; John Riggins, Washington; Marcus Allen, LA Raiders

Jerry Rice, WR, San Francisco 
Rice is another no-brainer. Let’s see: most Super Bowl receptions in a career (33), most yards receiving in a career (589) and game (215), most yards from scrimmage in a career (604), the only player to score three TDs in a game twice. Oh, and he earned an MVP. And 77 of his receiving yards and a touchdown came at age 40 for Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Lynn Swann, WR, Pittsburgh
Fans who saw him in the Super Bowl probably remember flying, acrobatic catches. But Swann meant more to the Steelers than just a couple of circus catches. He is second all-time with 364 receiving yards, all coming in three Super Bowls. In his first Super Bowl appearance with the Steelers, Swann was limited to punt return duty.

Notables: Deion Branch, New England; John Stallworth, Pittsburgh; Andre Reed, Buffalo; Isaac Bruce, St. Louis; Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona

Jay Novacek, TE, Dallas
One of quarterback Troy Aikman’s favorite clutch targets, Novacek scored the first Dallas touchdown in Super Bowls XXVII and XXX. In three wins he totaled 148 yards and two scores on 17 catches.

Notables: Shannon Sharpe, Denver and Baltimore; Marv Fleming, Green Bay and Miami

Jon Kolb, LT, Pittsburgh
The only constant along the Pittsburgh offensive line during their run of four Super Bowls in the 1970s, Kolb led the way for Franco Harris’ running and protected Terry Bradshaw in the passing game.

Notables: Mark Tuinei, Dallas; Matt Light, New England

Nate Newton, LG, Dallas
Emmitt Smith became the all-time leading NFL rusher thanks in large — and we do mean large — part to Newton. In Newton’s three Super Bowls, the Cowboys scored 52, 30 and 27 points.

Notable: Bob Kuechenberg, Miami; Russ Grimm, Washington

Jim Langer, C, Miami
Langer anchored the line during Miami’s back-to-back titles in the 1970s. In Super Bowl VIII, Miami rushed 53 times for 196 yards, most of it straight up the middle with bruiser Larry Csonka.

Notables: Ray Mansfield, Pittsburgh; Mike Webster, Pittsburgh

Joe Andruzzi, RG, New England
In three New England wins, the Patriots rushed for 372 yards, and Andruzzi helped protect MVP Tom Brady allowing him to stay comfortable in the pocket.

Notables: Jerry Kramer, Green Bay; Gerry Mullins, Pittsburgh; Larry Little, Miami

Erik Williams, RT, Dallas
The heart and soul of the Cowboys’ offensive machine was the offensive line. Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin were the beneficiaries.

Notables: Forrest Gregg, Green Bay; Norm Evans, Miami

Charles Haley, DE,  Dallas/San Francisco
Haley was more of an outside linebacker in the 3-4 with San Francisco. He is the only player to win five Super Bowls.

L.C. Greenwood, DE, Pittsburgh
An integral part of the Steel Curtain, Greenwood made gold shoes famous, and made life miserable for quarterbacks Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton and Vince Ferragamo.

Notables: Richard Seymour, New England; Reggie White, Green Bay; Dwight White, Pittsburgh, Willie Davis, Green Bay

Joe Greene, DT, Pittsburgh
As the heart of the front of the Steel Curtain, Greene intimidated quarterbacks, running backs and offensive linemen. In four Super wins, opponents averaged less than 100 yards rushing against Pittsburgh.

Russell Maryland, DT, Dallas
The offense received much of the credit, but Dallas recorded eight interceptions and held teams to less than four yards a carry in their three Super Bowl wins in the 1990s. Maryland was a load up front in all three games.

Notables: Jethro Pugh, Dallas; Manny Fernandez, Miami, Alan Page, Minnesota

Jack Lambert, MLB, Pittsburgh
Lambert was in the middle of all things defensively for the Steelers. Pittsburgh would not have been 4-0 without him.

Notables: Ray Nitschke, Green Bay; Nick Buoniconti, Miami

Jack Ham, OLB, Pittsburgh
Equally adept at covering the pass as playing the run, Ham excelled as Lambert’s wing man.

Keena Turner, OLB, San Francisco
Turner joins the Steelers’ pair as the only linebacker to claim a 4-0 record. In those four games teams rushed for less than 67 yards a game against the Niners. That made life easier for Joe Montana and company.

Notables: Tedy Bruschi, New England; Mike Vrabel, New England; Rod Martin, Oakland; James Harrison, Pittsburgh

Herb Adderley, CB, Green Bay/Dallas
Adderley was a member of Green Bay’s first two title teams, returning an interception 60 yards for a score in Super Bowl II. He played in two more for Dallas, winning one and losing one.

Mel Blount, CB, Pittsburgh
Blount played for four winners, and contributed with interceptions in both IX and XIII.

Notables: Ty Law, New England; Larry Brown, Dallas; Deion Sanders, San Francisco/Dallas; Tracy Porter, New Orleans

Jake Scott, SS, Miami
Scott intercepted Billy Kilmer twice in the Miami’s hard-fought 14-7 win in Super Bowl VII, earning MVP honors.

Notables: Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh; Charlie Waters, Dallas; Willie Wood, Green Bay; Mike Wagner, Pittsburgh

Ronnie Lott, FS, San Francisco
Instrumental in the Niners’ four Super Bowl wins, Lott played corner in the first two wins before moving to safety. None of his nine postseason interceptions came in the Super Bowl, probably because quarterbacks avoided him.

Notables: Cliff Harris, Dallas; Dick Anderson, Miami

Desmond Howard, KR/PR, Green Bay
Earned MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXI with a kick return for a touchdown, but also had two punt returns of more than 30 yards.

Devin Hester, KR/PR, Chicago
His 92-yard kick return set the tone for the Bears, but the offense couldn’t deliver a win.

Adam Vinatieri, K, New England/Indianapolis
Never has there been a more clutch kicker in the Super Bowl.

Larry Seiple, P, Miami
Always a threat to take off and run (also played some tight end), Seiple kept the Redskins and Vikings bottled up in VII and VIII.

Chuck Noll, Head Coach, Pittsburgh
An easy choice, Noll is the only coach to win four. He won with defense, running and passing. His Pittsburgh teams were complete and dominant.

Notables: Vince Lombardi, Green Bay; Bill Belichick, New England; Bill Walsh, San Francisco, Tom Coughlin, NY Giants; Jimmy Johnson, Dallas

Teaser:
<p> Athlon picks the best that have ever stepped foot on the big stage.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/11-biggest-five-star-busts-last-five-years
Body:

The top 10 players in the 2008 Athlon Consensus 100 included Julio Jones (No. 2), Da’Quan Bowers (No. 4), A.J. Green (No. 6), Arthur Brown (No. 7), Patrick Peterson (No. 9) and Terrelle Pryor (No. 1). Others like Matt Kalil, Tyron Smith, EJ Manuel, Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph and Michael Brewster were also “five-star” talents.

“Five-Star” is defined many different ways. Scout.com use to automatically give the top 50 players in every class a fifth star until it changed that approach this cycle (there are 42 for the 2013 class). Rivals and 247 Sports give roughly 30 per year — give or take a few each year based on merit. For example, Rivals’ 2013 class includes 33 five-stars, the 2012 class had 32 and the 2011 class had just 26. ESPN has recently added stars to its ranking process and is far more prudent with its five-star rankings. The 2012 and 2013 classes feature just 11 five-stars each.

That doesn't mean, however, that these five-star prospects are guaranteed success on the college level. Players transfer, are kicked out of school, can't stay eligible or simply aren't as good as anticipated. A big-time recruit can earn the "bust" label for a number of reasons. For the sake of this discussion, Athlon Sports considers the Top 30 players in the AC100 as five-star talents and only players in the last five classes (2008-12) are considered.

So who are the biggest five-star busts of the last five years?

1. Dayne Crist, QB, Notre Dame (2008)
Canoga Park (Calif.) Notre Dame
AC100 No. 20, No. 2 QB

Injuries certainly played a large role in Crist being labeled a bust, but he has had his chances and failed to even come close to his lofty recruiting status. He played in 13 games for Notre Dame in three years (2,163 yards, 16 TD, 8 INT) before transferring to Kansas to reunite with Charlie Weis. At KU, he had yet another shot at being the star, but managed to throw just four touchdowns and nine interceptions this fall (1,313 yards). He trailed only Terrelle Pryor in the '08 quarterback rankings.

2. Bryce Brown, RB, Tennessee (2009)
Wichita (Kan.) East
AC100 No. 4, No. 1 RB

The recruiting process for the top running back of the 2009 class was a circus. He eventually signed with the Vols nearly two months following National Signing Day. He showed ability, rushing for 460 yards and three scores as a freshman. But in the offseason, he left Knoxville to return home to play at Kansas State. He played two games for the Wildcats, rushing for a total of 16 yards on three carries. Regardless of what Brown does in the NFL, his college career must be considered a bust for not one but two college programs.

3. Jermie Calhoun, RB, Oklahoma (2008)
Van (Texas) High
AC100 No. 10, No. 2 RB

The Van High School running back was the highest rated running back recruit to sign with Oklahoma since Adrian Peterson. He never lived up to his lofty top ten status. He played 16 career games, rushing for 242 yards and one career touchdown. He injured his knee and missed all of 2011 before transferring to Angelo State in December 2011.

4. Blake Ayles, TE, USC (2008)
Orange (Calif.) Lutheran
AC100 No. 15, No. 1 TE

Ayles played for two seasons at USC, catching just 14 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown. He then transferred to Miami and was set to contribute in 2011 before a preseason concussion ended his college career. He never played another down and went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft. It was an unfortunate end for what appeared to be a very promising career for what was considered the best player at his position in the nation.

5. Dorian Bell, LB, Ohio State (2008)
Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway
AC100 No. 11, No. 2 LB

A freakish athlete, Bell could never get his head screwed on straight off the field. Behavior and focus were concerns long before he signed with Ohio State and they continued after he showed up in Columbus. After redshirting in 2009 and playing on special teams in 2010, he was suspended for the 2011 season as one of the 12 involved in Tatoo-Gate. He transferred to Duquesne as a result. He has posted 129 tackles in 15 games for the Dukes.

6. Tyler Love, OL, Alabama (2008)
Mountain Brook (Ala.) High
AC100 No. 23, No. 3 OL

Nick Saban has rarely missed on five-star talent but Love will end his Tide career as an afterthought on some of the most talented teams in program history. He played a total of 12 games in his four-year career (one in 2011 and six in 2009) and will earn two national championship rings. He decided to step away from football after the 2011 season with one year of eligibility remaining.

7. Russell Shepard, WR, LSU (2009)
Houston (Texas) Cypress Ridge
AC100 No. 2, No. 2 QB

Shepard did play 48 games in his LSU career and he did technically play in a national championship game (1 solo tackle). But he finished his career without making any major impact at any one position despite being ranked behind only Matt Barkley in the '09 AC100. He posted 570 yards receiving and rushed for 716 yards over the course of his career, but he never threw a pass at QB and never became a focal point of the offense. His career high in offensive touches for a single-season was 65 in 2010. To be ranked the No. 2 player in the nation, Shepard must be considered a bust.

8. B.J. Scott, ATH, Alabama (2008)
Prichard (Ala.) Vigor
AC100 No. 22, No. 2 ATH

Scott projected as an “athlete” because he had potential at both defensive back and wide receiver. It turns out that he wasn’t good enough at either. He saw time as a freshman at wide receiver catching two passes before redshirting in 2009. He then played six games as a sophomore at defensive back making six total tackles. He transferred to South Alabama and eventually landed back in FBS football when USA joined the Sun Belt in 2012. He had 84 tackles in 2012.

9. Randall Carroll, WR, UCLA (2009)
Inglewood (Calif.) Cathedral
AC100 No. 29, No. 4 WR

The speed demon had loads of ability but couldn’t ever get his game together. He played 34 games in three years before being dismissed from the team in January 2012. Carroll was involved in Twitter wars with his coaching staff, a bench-clearing brawl with Arizona and academic ineptitude during his time in Westwood. You have to produce more than 21 catches, 297 yards and two touchdowns for a program to put up with that much poor behavior.

10. Chris Martin, DL, Cal (2010)
Aurora (Colo.) Grandview
AC100 No. 19, No. 4 DE

After playing high school football for more than one program, Martin is set to play for his fourth college in 2013. He committed to Notre Dame, signed with Cal, transferred to Florida before playing a down and ultimately left Gainesville for City College of San Francisco. He then signed with Kansas in December and it turns out he actually will play for Charlie Weis — but at Kansas instead of Notre Dame. Martin could still alter his legacy, but great players don’t normally play for four different teams in four years.

Others receiving votes:

There are plenty of other names who could eventually land on the above list as well. It is simply too early to evaluate all of the 2010, '11 and '12 classes. Kyle Prater and Darius White, for example, were complete busts for USC and Texas respectively but both have second chances coming in 2013 for Northwestern and Missouri. The same could be said for Jeff Luc at Florida State, Arthur Lynch at Notre Dame or Lache Seastrunk at Oregon. The stud athletes are certainly considered busts by the fans in Tallahassee, South Bend and Eugene no matter what they do at Cincinnati, Florida or Baylor.

 

Darius Winston, DB, Arkansas (2009)
West Helena (Ark.) Central
AC100 No. 22, No. 2 CB

Winston wasn’t kicked out of school and didn’t transfer, but he also did very little of consequence while in Fayetteville. He played in 37 games and made a total of 52 tackles in four years. He had one career interception and set a career high with 23 tackles in 2010. For a school like the Hogs who don't land five-star talent very often, it hurts that much more to "miss" on a five-star.

Darrell Scott, RB, Colorado (2008)
AC100 No. 3, No. 1 RB

Garrett Gilbert, QB, Texas (2008)
AC100 No. 9, No. 3 QB

T.J. Bryant, CB, USC (2008)
AC100 No. 28, No. 2 DB

Patrick Hall, ATH, USC (2009)
AC100 No. 30, No. 1 ATH

Kyle Prater, WR, USC (2010)
AC100 No. 6, No. 2 WR

Darius White, WR, Texas (2010)
AC100 No. 12, No. 3 WR

Malcolm Jones, RB, UCLA (2010)
AC100 No. 29, No. 6 RB

Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia (2011)
AC100 No. 9, No. 2 RB

Teaser:
<p> 10 Biggest Five-Star Busts of the Last Five Years</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 06:10
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-running-backs
Body:

National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?

It's no wonder Nick Saban and Alabama can claim the best class of running backs in the nation for 2013. Saban currently has three AC100 runners committed as the nation's No. 1 (Derrick Henry), No. 10 (Altee Tenpenny) and No. 13 (Tyren Jones) are all headed to Tuscaloosa. Henry and his massive 6-3, 240-pound frame could easily end up on defense or as an H-Back, but this group ensures that the Crimson Tide's recent run of elite running backs (Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon) will continue.

Notre Dame, Oregon, Michigan and USC all landed a pair of elite prospects at the position as well. Ty Isaac and Justin Davis have big frames and offer Lane Kiffin some versatility in the backfield while Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston are smaller, speedier options that Brian Kelly can count on.

Brady Hoke has two excellent options that give his offense exactly what he has been missing in Ann Arbor: A burly, workhorse, three-down power back. Derrick Green is a superstar in the making and can carry the ball 25 times a game while DeVeon Smith brings his own 210-pound frame to the offense. With these two names, Hoke has Michigan poised to return to its I-Form roots in 2013.

Mark Helfrich will already have a loaded backfield in 2013 as he takes over for Chip Kelly with De'Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall returning. But the record-setting Thomas Tyner and speedy Dontre Wilson gives the Ducks one of the deepest and most talented backfields in the nation.

Oklahoma, Florida State, Virginia, Ohio State, Clemson, Nebraska, South Carolina, Clemson and Wisconsin all are poised to add their future workhorse in this class. Florida also landed its workhorse to replace Mike Gillislee and Gators fans know all about Kelvin Taylor. The son of Fred Taylor is an immediate impact player and has been a prep star in The Sunshine State since his eighth grade season — when he played on the high school varsity squad.

Of the top 25 running backs, all but two are committed, but those names left on the board are elite. Alex Collins and Alvin Kamara are each capable of competing for carries early in 2013. Collins is 247Sports.com's No. 1 running back and Kamara will pick between Alabama and Georgia. 

An interesting thing to note: Five of the top nine running back prospects are from the state of Florida and 16 of the top 88 players in the nation project as running backs. This appears to be a very deep and talented class of ball carriers.

2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Derrick Henry No. 12 Yulee, FL 6-3 240 Alabama
2. Thomas Tyner No. 20 Beaverton, OR 6-0 205 Oregon
3. Kelvin Taylor No. 22 Belle Glade, FL 5-10 215 Florida
4. Keith Ford No. 24 Cypress, TX 5-11 203 Oklahoma
5. Derrick Green No. 26 Richmond, VA 6-0 225 Michigan
6. Alex Collins No. 41 Ft. Lauderdale, FL 5-11 205 --
7. Alvin Kamara No. 42 Norcross, GA 5-10 195 --
8. Greg Bryant No. 46 Delray Beach, FL 5-11 195 Notre Dame
9. Ryan Green No. 50 St. Petersburg, FL 5-10 195 Florida St
10. Altee Tenpenny No. 54 North Little Rock, AR 5-11 215 Alabama
11. Ty Isaac No. 55 Joliet, IL 6-1 215 USC
12. Taquan Mizell No. 60 Virginia Beach, VA 5-10 180 Virginia
13. Tyren Jones No. 66 Marietta, GA 5-8 200 Alabama
14. Ezekiel Elliot No. 69 St. Louis, MO 6-0 195 Ohio St
15. Dontre Wilson No. 71 DeSoto, TX 5-10 170 Oregon
16. Justin Davis No. 88 Stockton, CA 6-1 195 USC
17. Tarean Folston No. 112 Cocoa, FL 5-9 185 Notre Dame
18. Terrell Newby No. 123 West Hills, CA 5-10 185 Nebraska
19. DeVeon Smith No. 134 Warren, OH 5-11 210 Michigan
20. Kailo Moore No. 138 Rosedale, MS 5-10 190 Ole Miss
21. Corey Clement No. 139 Glassboro, NJ 5-11 205 Wisconsin
22. TJ Logan No. 157 Greensboro, NC 5-11 175 North Carolina
23. Tyshon Dye No. 201 Elberton, GA 6-0 210 Clemson
24. David Williams No. 205 Philadelphia, PA 6-0 195 South Carolina
25. Mark Dodson Jr. No. 217 Memphis, TN 5-10 185 Ole Miss
26. Kyle Hicks No. 226 Arlington, TX 5-10 195 TCU

View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Running Backs</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/greatest-non-bcs-offenses-bcs-era
Body:

The BCS recently wrapped up its 15th season of action and Athlon Sports is continuing its series of BCS rankings. We ranked the best performances of each BCS bowl game and we ranked the best teams of each BCS conference. Now, we break down the top offensive units of the BCS era (1998-present).

Statistics, awards, championships and NFL talent were all considered and evaluated in order to label the Top 12 offenses of the BCS era. Only teams from "non-BCS" conferences were considered. For BCS conference offenses, check out our rankings here

1. Houston Cougars, 2011 (13-1)
Rushing Offense: 149.0 ypg (68th)
Passing Offense: 450.1 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 599.1 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 49.3 ppg (1st)

In 2011, Case Keenum led the nation in total offense (404.7 ypg) and finished fourth nationally in passing efficiency. This team topped 50 points six times and topped 70 twice en route to a 12-0 regular season. This team was fourth nationally in turnover margin due in large part to only 15 turnovers by the offense (7th nationally). Receivers Patrick Edwards and Justin Johnson finished 1-2 in receiving yards per game in C-USA and three of the top five C-USA pass-catchers (by receptions) came from Houston. Edwards also led the league in all-purpose running (140.6 ypg). Only a conference title game loss to Southern Miss cost Houston a perfect season and potential BCS bowl berth. This squad posted non-conference wins over UCLA, Penn State and Louisiana Tech.

2. Houston Cougars, 2009 (10-4)
Rushing Offense: 129.6 ypg (83rd)
Passing Offense: 433.7 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 563.4 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 42.2 ppg (1st)

In 2009, Case Keenum led the nation in total offense (416.4 ypg) and finished sixth nationally in passing efficiency. Three receivers finished in the top six in receptions in C-USA, and three of the top eight yardage totals in C-USA came from James Cleveland, Tyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards. Sprinkle in talented and versatile backs Bryce Beall and Charles Sims — who combined for 373 touches, 2,438 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns — and you have the second-best non-BCS offense in college football. This unit was surpassed only by another Keenum-led offense, the one that would come two seasons after these Cougars.

3. Louisville Cardinals, 2004 (11-1)
Rushing Offense: 250.4 ypg (8th)
Passing Offense: 288.6 ypg (9th)
Total Offense: 539.0 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 49.8 ppg (1st)

Stefan Lefors led the nation in passing efficiency at 181.74 after completing an astonishing 73.5 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Eric Shelton (146 att., 938 yards, 20 TD), Michael Bush (132 att., 734 yards, 7 TD) and Lionel Gates (76 att., 373 yards, 7 TD) led one of the most powerful rushing attacks in C-USA history. This team crushed North Carolina in Chapel Hill (34-0), topped a top 10 Boise State in the Liberty Bowl 44-40 and its only loss came against No. 3 Miami 41-38 on the road.

4. BYU Cougars, 2001 (12-2)
Rushing Offense: 217.9 ypg (13th)
Passing Offense: 325.0 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 542.9 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 46.8 ppg (1st)

This was the first team to go unbeaten in Mountain West play, led by quarterback Brandon Doman (3,542 yards, 33 TD, 8 INT, 456 rush yards, 8 TD) and running back Luke Staley (1,582 yards, 28 TD). Staley finished third in the nation in rushing and led the country in scoring. The Cougars' only two losses came after Staley broke his leg against Mississippi State.

5. Nevada Wolfpack, 2010 (13-1)
Rushing Offense: 292.2 ypg (3rd)
Passing Offense: 226.9 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 519.1 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 41.0 ppg (1st)

One of the most powerful rushing attacks ever seen featured dynamic quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who rushed for 1,206 yards (6.9 ypc) and 20 touchdowns, and tailback Vai Taua, who rushed for 1,610 yards (5.7 ypc) and 19 touchdowns. This team tied the 1986 13-1 team as the winningest Wolfpack team in program history and scored more points (574) than any other Nevada team. It also topped the 2010 Boise State Broncos (ranked No. 6 on this list) by three points in overtime.

Related: College Football's Best BCS offenses of the BCS Era

6. Boise State Broncos, 2010 (12-1)
Rushing Offense: 200.2 ypg (21st)
Passing Offense: 321.1 ypg (6th)
Total Offense: 521.3 ypg (2nd)
Scoring Offense: 45.1 ppg (2nd)

The team with the most NFL talent on this list is undoubtedly the 2010 Broncos. Kellen Moore led the nation in passing efficiency (182.63) while using a plethora of future NFL players: Titus Young, Austin Pettis, Tyler Shoemaker, Doug Martin and Jeremy Avery. And if it wasn't for one missed field goal against Nevada, this team might have played for the national championship.

7. Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 2007 (10-4)
Rushing Offense: 172.9 ypg (41st)
Passing Offense: 371.0 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 543.9 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 41.1 ppg (1st)

Paul Smith put together one of the greatest statistical seasons in NCAA history — and fantasy owners will never forget it. He threw for 5,065 yards and 47 touchdowns in the air, while rushing for 13 more touchdowns and 119 yards on the ground. Tarrion Adams, Trae Johnson, Charles Clay, Jamad Williams and Jesse Meyer join Smith to make this one of the great offenses in history.

8. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, 2012 (9-3)
Rushing Offense: 227.2 (17th)
Passing Offense: 350.8 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 577.9 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 51.5 ppg (1st)

Quarterback Colby Cameron set the NCAA record for consecutive passes (444) without an interception while leading one of the best offenses in NCAA history. Wins over Illinois and Virginia weren't as impressive as the Big Ten and ACC conference affiliations attached to them but the Bulldogs took Texas A&M to the wire, losing 59-57. If not for two late losses — in which they scored 84 points — this team could be ranked higher. Wideout Quinton Patton led the league in receptions per game (8.7 pg) and yards (116 ypg) while Cameron led the league in total offense (360.3 ypg).

9. Hawaii Warriors, 2006 (11-3)
Rushing Offense: 117.9 ypg (82nd)
Passing Offense: 441.3 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 559.2 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 46.9 ppg (1st)

One of two fantastic Hawaii teams featured the most efficient season by a quarterback in NCAA history. Colt Brennan (186.00) led the nation in total offense (422.5 ypg), throwing for 5,549 yards and an NCAA-record 58 touchdown passes. He rushed for another five scores and 366 yards. Davone Bess, Nate Ilaoa, Jason Rivers, Ryan Grice-Mullen, Ian Sample and Ross Dickerson gave him plenty of weapons — all of whom caught at least 46 passes and produced at least 690 yards receiving.

10. Boise State Broncos, 2006 (13-0)
Rushing Offense: 214.2 ypg (6th)
Passing Offense: 206.5 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 420.6 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 39.7 ppg (1st)

You could make a case for both the 2002 and '04 teams for this list as well, but the undefeated '06 Broncos will easily be the most memorable. Quarterback Jared Zabransky finished sixth nationally in passing efficiency (162.57), while tailback Ian Johnson finished second nationally in rushing (142.8 ypg), and his 12.7 points per game led the nation. Of course, the 43-42 overtime win over Oklahoma — complete with Statue of Liberty and marriage proposal — make this offense one of the greats of all-time.

Related: College Football's Best Defenses of the BCS Era

11. Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, 2003 (13-1)
Rushing Offense: 160.3 ypg (51st)
Passing Offense: 340.9 ypg (4th)
Total Offense: 501.1 ypg (2nd)
Scoring Offense: 43.0 ppg (1st)

Ben Roethlisberger's final year in Oxford, Ohio, was a magical one for Redhawks fans. Big Ben threw for 4,486 yards and 37 touchdowns (111 rush yards, 3 TDs) en route to the winningest season in program history. The 602 points the '03 outfit scored shattered the previous mark of 412 (1997).

12. Utah Utes, 2004 (12-0)
Rushing Offense: 236.1 ypg (13th)
Passing Offense: 263.7 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 499.8 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 45.3 ppg (1st)

The 2010 Ute team was a better all-around football team that defeated better competition. But the Alex Smith-led 2004 bunch was the highest-scoring team in Utah history. Smith finished No. 2 nationally in passing efficiency (176.52) and No. 5 in total offense (298.6 ypg). He was taken first overall by San Francisco and led the 49ers to a 13-3 record and the NFC Championship game in 2011. This season, he was off to a 6-2-1 start before sustaining a concussion and giving way to Colin Kaepernick.

Teaser:
<p> What are the nation's greatest non-BCS offenses of the modern era?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Atlanta Braves, Chipper Jones, MLB, Monthly
Path: /mlb/baseball-great-chipper-jones-finds-sanctuary-hunting
Body:

Hunting is a way of life for future baseball Hall of Famer Chipper Jones. He’s as comfortable sitting with his bow 25 feet up an oak tree as he was standing in a batter’s box fighting off 95-mph fastballs with a piece of white ash wood.
 
Jones, the recently retired Atlanta Brave who gets his given name (Larry Wayne Jr.) from his dad, bagged his first buck on his own about the same time be began switch-hitting in youth baseball — when he was 12 years old. Catching his father in the midst of a Sunday afternoon nap following a morning hunt, young Chipper asked his dad if he could take the truck down to the hunting camp just a mile or so from their Pierson, Fla., home. Dad, in obvious deep sleep, gave his approval.
 
A short time later, Chipper returned with the first buck he ever harvested on his own. 
 
“It was kind of weird, a little scary, being out there for the first time (on my own), and I just remember pulling up to the house with that deer in the back of the truck, and knowing how proud — and shocked — that dad was going to be,” Chipper recalls with a smile some 28 years later.

Baseball wasn’t the only bond between Chipper and his dad, Larry Wayne Sr. (pictured right). Hunting had such a grip on the father and son that they always dreamed of operating a hunting business together.
 
Chipper’s success in baseball, and the wealth that came along with it, allowed that dream to become reality more than a decade ago with the founding of Double Dime Ranch, a 10,000-plus acre property where trophy whitetail can be found along with bobcat, javelina, Rio Grande turkey and an array of birds native to Southwest Texas. The property is about 14 miles long and 11 miles wide.
 
“That’s probably my favorite place on the planet,” says Jones, who is spending more time there now after retiring from baseball. “It’s the most therapeutic place for me because nobody can get in, and we’re out in the middle of God’s nowhere.”
 
Athletes like Jones, an eight-time all-star third baseman and former National League MVP, find hunting offers a refuge from the public spotlight.
 
“It gets my mind off things. It relaxes me. It excites me,” says one of the best switch-hitters in baseball history. “I love nothing more than climbing a tree and getting most of my tough thinking done. A lot of decisions have been made 20, 25 feet up an oak tree.
 
“The actual harvesting of an animal is secondary. I’ve spent so much of my life in or around a spotlight that being up a tree is my one sanctuary.”
 
While hunting brings this self-described country boy back to his roots, he’s just as competitive in this sport as he was in his baseball career. Jones uses video taken at his ranch to determine which deer can be hunted and which deer to leave alone.
 
Visiting hunters will get a detailed scouting report from Jones or his father. The trophies he has mounted in his hunting lodge are proof of the big bucks at Double Dime.
 
“My first bow buck out here was a 182-inch deer,’’ says Jones, who is strictly a bow hunter now. “He was just a stud. I hunted him for the better part of two years before I got a chance to take him with a bow, and I finally did.”
 
Jones also hunts in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and other parts of the Midwest. Some of it is recorded for “Major League Bowhunter,” a TV show on the Sportsman Channel that features Matt Duff, a former pitcher who reached the big leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals, and Jeff Danker. While viewers see a 30-minute edited version of various hunts, Jones says folks don’t really know what goes on behind-the-scenes.
 
“My cameraman and I sat for 12 hours in a tree from daylight to dark (in Nebraska),” he says with a laugh. “It was 17 degrees when we got in the tree, and the wind blew 15 to 20 miles per hour all day. It was one of the coldest days I ever spent in the woods.”
 
That leads to the one piece of advice Jones offers for hunters.
 
“You have to put your time in and log those hours in the tree, because they’re not going to fall into your lap sitting on the couch,” he said.
 
—by Sean Kernan
Teaser:
<p> Baseball Great Chipper Jones Finds Sanctuary in Hunting</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 15:00
Path: /nfl/20-things-every-fan-should-know-about-super-bowl
Body:
They say knowledge is power. And we believe that. That's why we're going to make you the most powerful person at this year's Super Bowl XLVII party. Here is everything you need to know about the Big Game (and probably some stuff you don't) to wow your friends and random strangers as they destroy your living room. 
 

Super Bowl XLVII Facts

Where? Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
TV: CBS
 
The NFC is the designated home team and will have choice of jersey.
 
The winning team receives the Lombardi Trophy, produced by Tiffany is 20.75 inches tall and weighs 107.3 ounces (6.7 pounds)
 
The Teams of Super Bowl XLVII
• Baltimore Ravens
How they got to Super Bowl XLVII: Champions of AFC North (10-6), defeated Indianapolis 24-9 in AFC Wild Card round, defeated Denver 38-35 in double OT in AFC Divisional round, defeated New England 28-13 in AFC Championship Game
Founded: In November 1995, Art Modell, then-owner of the Cleveland Browns announced his intentions to relocate his franchise to Baltimore. The NFL approved the move in February 1996. The relocated Baltimore franchise was named the Ravens after a Baltimore Sun telephone poll received a record number of calls supporting the name. The name was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem from 1845, “The Raven.”
 
Super Bowl Championships (1)
Conference Championships (7)
Division Championships (4)
Playoff appearances (9)
 
Head-to-head vs. San Francisco 49ers: 3-1 (.750), last meeting taking place Nov. 24, 2011 Baltimore 16, San Francisco 6 at Baltimore.  
 
• San Francisco 49ers
How they got to Super Bowl XLVII: Champions of NFC West (11-4-1), defeated Green Bay 45-31 in NFC Divisional round, defeated Atlanta 28-24 in NFC Championship Game
Founded: Originated in 1946 as a charter member of the All-American Football Conference (AAFC). Joined the NFL in December 1949 when the AAFC and NFL merged. The name “49ers” comes from the name given to the gold prospectors who arrived in Northern California around 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It is the only name the team has ever had. The 49ers are the oldest major professional sports team in California.
 
Super Bowl Championships (5)
Conference Championships (5)
Division Championships (19)
Playoff appearances (25)
 
Head-to-Head vs. Baltimore Ravens: 1-3 (.250), last meeting taking place Nov. 24, 2011 Baltimore 16, San Francisco 6 at Baltimore. 
 
Halftime Hottie
Beyonce will take the stage at halftime for a reunion with Destiny's Child and possibly even a duet with her husband, Jay-Z. This isn't Beyonce's first Super Bowl, however; she sang the national anthem prior to kickoff of Super Bowl XXXVIII in her hometown of Houston. 
 
Super Bonuses
How much extra money does a player in the Super Bowl get?
Super Bowl I
Winner’s Share: $15,000
Loser’s Share: $7,500
Super Bowl XLVII
Winner’s Share: $88,000
Loser’s Share: $44,000
 
Galloping Tosser
Prior to Super Bowl XII, Red Grange was the first celebrity coin tosser. For the first 11 games, officials flipped the coin.
 
Must-See TV
• The last four Super Bowls have topped 150,000,000 viewers, according to Nielson Ratings.
• During Super Bowl XLIII, NBC used 52 hi-def cameras, 450 crew members and 50 miles of camera and microphone cables needing 45 vehicles for the big production.
• Based on the average audience, according to Nielsen, Super Bowls account for eight of the top 15 most-watched television programs ever.
• First “Million-Dollar Minute” was during Super Bowl XIX when 30-second spots topped $500,000.
• On the Sunday of Super Bowl XL, traffic to GoDaddy.com increased 1,564% over the average of the four previous Sundays.
 
Price for 30-second commercial
I $42,000
V $72,000
X $110,000
XV $275,000
XX $550,000
XXX $1,085,000
XL $2,400,000
XLVII $3,800,000
 
Playing the Market
While there’s no reason to believe that a professional football game should have any connection to the stock market, few indicators are better known on Wall Street than the Super Bowl Theory. The Super Bowl indicator holds that a victory by an NFC team or an original (pre-1970 merger) NFL team—the Browns, Colts, and Steelers — point to a bullish market the following year. An AFC victory signals a bearish drop in the market. The Super Bowl Theory has been an accurate indicator 38 times in 46 seasons.
 
QB Numbers
Twenty-six of the 92 starting quarterbacks have worn No. 12. Three times two No. 12s have met in the game. Roger Staubach faced Bob Griese once and Terry Bradshaw twice.
 
W-L Records for QB numbers:
No. 12 is 14-12
No. 7 is 5-8
No. 16 is 7-2
No. 8 is 5-2
 
• No. 19 is the only undefeated QB jersey number at 1-0.
 
• No QB has ever worn No. 1, 2 or 6. Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton could be the first.
 
Names and Numerals
Tickets for the matchup between the New York Jets of the AFL and the Baltimore Colts of the NFL in January 1969 referred to the event as the Third World Championship Game. But the Super Bowl name was beginning to stick and became official with Super Bowl III. Lamar Hunt, fascinated with the name and liveliness of a Super Ball that was a favorite toy of his children, was the original advocate of the name.
The Roman Numeral designation began with Super Bowl V. They were adopted to clarify confusion that could result because the game is actually played in the calendar year following the regular season. Numerals I through IV were added later.
 
Figures Don’t Lie 
• Super Bowl teams with fewer turnovers than their opponents are 34-3 (.919).
• Super Bowl teams with the time of possession advantage are 34-12 (.739).
• Super Bowl teams with the most time-consuming scoring drive during the game are 36-10 (.783).
 
By the Numbers
3,581,385: Fans have walked through the turnstiles to watch Super Bowl games. The largest crowd was 103,985 at Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
 
2: Networks (CBS and NBC) that televised Super Bowl I. The two networks alternated televising the game until ABC joined the fray for Super Bowl XIX. NBC and CBS have each televised 17, ABC seven and Fox six.
 
49.1: Highest rating from Nielsen for any Super Bowl (XVI).
 
15: Super Bowls in which Pat Summerall was behind the mic, both as an analyst and play-by-play voice. John Madden is second with 11, Al Michaels and Dick Enberg have eight, Curt Gowdy (7), Phil Simms and Frank Gifford (6).
 
14: Super Bowl winners that have failed to make the playoffs the following season. Eight have repeated as Super Bowl champs. The last was New England in Super Bowl XXXIX.
 
6: Super Bowl wins for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the most for any franchise. San Francisco and Dallas are tied with five.
 
6: Super Bowls in which Mike Lodish played, the most for any player. (Buffalo and Denver)
 
2: Players — Preston Pearson and Bill Romanowski — to have appeared in the Super Bowl with three different teams. 
 
5: Super Bowl wins for Charles Haley, the most by any player.
 
4: Super Bowls won by coach Chuck Noll of Pittsburgh, the most of any coach. 
 
54: Yards of the longest field goal in Super Bowl history. Steve Christie of Buffalo kicked a 54-yarder in XXVII.
 
414: Passing yards in Super Bowl XXXIV for Kurt Warner of the St. Louis Rams, the most in history. Warner also holds the second- and third-most yards in Super Bowl history with 377 in XLIII and 365 in XXXVI.
 
122: Passes attempted by Joe Montana in four Super Bowls without throwing an interception.
 
0: Punts returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl history.
 
8: Kickoffs returned for touchdowns in Super Bowl history.
 
0: Shutouts in Super Bowls history.
 
5: Safeties in Super Bowls history.
 
602: Yards gained by Washington in Super Bowl XXII vs. Denver, the most yards in history.
 
119: Yards gained by the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX vs. Pittsburgh, the fewest yards gained in any Super Bowl.
 
18: Passes attempted by Miami total in its back-to-back Super Bowl wins in VII and VIII over Washington and Minnesota.
 
2: Games played without any turnovers. (Buffalo-New York Giants, XXV and Tennessee-St. Louis, XXXIV)
 
2: Times a team has punted just once in a Super Bowl. Ironically, both teams accomplished it in the same game (Atlanta-Denver, XXXIII)
 
1: Game in which both teams returned a kickoff for a touchdown. (Baltimore-New York Giants, XXXV)
 
4: Teams that have managed to get through a game without being flagged. (Miami VI, Pittsburgh X, Denver XXIV, Atlanta XXXIII)
 
-10: Largest deficit ever overcome to win a Super Bowl.
 
3: Griffin brothers (Archie, Ray and Keith) to appear in a Super Bowl.
 
$12: Most expensive ticket for Super Bowl I between Green Bay and Kansas City in Los Angeles. 
 
$600: Least expensive ticket for Super Bowl XLVI.
 
338: Media credentials issued for Super Bowl I in Los Angeles.
 
5,156: Media credentials issued for Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
 
10: Super Bowls held in NOLA, tied with South Florida for the most of any metropolitan area.
 
5Coaches to take two different teams to the Super Bowl. (Don Shula, Dick Vermeil, Dan Reeves, Bill Parcells and Mike Holmgren)
 
22-24: Record of the team that sins the coin toss.
 
Youngest QBs to Win a Super Bowl
1. Ben Roethlisberger, 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers (23 years, 340 days)
2. Tom Brady, 2001 New England Patriots (24 years, 184 days)
3. Joe Namath, 1968 New York Jets (25 years, 226 days)
4. Joe Montana, 1981 San Francisco 49ers (25 years, 227 days)
 
Super Logistics
• There were 15 buses used for special groups at Super Bowl I; 150 buses at Super Bowl VII; and 1,100 buses and 500 limousines at Super Bowl XXI.
• The Miami International Airport added 100 extra commercial flights to the schedule for Super Bowl XXIX. 
• There were 400 helicopter landings at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium for XXII.
 
Super Demographics
According to the Associated Press, 80 percent of Super Bowl ticket holders are in executive, management, professional, or sales positions; 35 percent attend the game on corporate expense accounts; 27 percent own their own companies; 25 percent are corporate officers; and 22 percent are on boards of directors.
 
Party On
• There are 7.5 million parties on Super Bowl Sunday, with 43.9 million party-goers (National Retail Federation)
• 1.5 million TV sets will be sold the week leading up to Super Bowl (National Retail Federation)
• Super Bowl is the top at-home party event of year, ahead of New Year’s Eve (Hallmark Cards, Inc.) 
• Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest day of food consumption behind Thanksgiving (American Institute of Food Distribution) 
• Antacid sales increase 20 percent the day after Super Bowl (7-11 stores) 
• Super Bowl weekend is the slowest weekend for weddings (NFL)
 
Stop the World…I Want to Watch Football
• Long-distance telephone calls decrease 50 percent during a Super Bowl, but rise at halftime.
• San Francisco police reported arrests for minor crimes dropped from an average of 360 daily to 96 on the day of Super Bowl XVI between the 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals.
• Dallas water department officials reported water pressure dipped by five pounds during television commercials carried on the telecast of Super Bowl VI, in which the Cowboys defeated the Dolphins 24-3.
 
Roadies Take the Stage
• Time to set up the stage and sound and lighting for a rock concert at Qualcomm Stadium: 2-3 days
• Time to set up and break down the stage for the Super Bowl XXXVII halftime show, including the 12-minute show itself: 27 minutes
• Number of crew members needed to accomplish this: 2,500
 
No Vacancy?
For Super Bowl XXXIX, the city of Jacksonville docked five cruise ships along the St. John’s River, adding the equivalent of 3,667 hotel rooms, housing 6,400 people.—Florida Times-Union
 
New Year, New Party
Typically, on Super Bowl Sunday, Americans will eat 30 million pounds of snacks including:
• 11.2 million pounds of potato chips 
• 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips 
• 4.3 million pounds of pretzels 
• 3.8 million pounds of popcorn
• 2.5 million pounds of nuts 
Potato chip intake alone will account for 27 billion calories and 4 million pounds of fat—the weight of 13,000 NFL offensive linemen.
—Calorie Control Council and Snack Food Association
 
Replace the chips with veggie trays and fruit bowls. Instead of soda and beer, serve natural fruit juices, tea and water. Your waist line will love you for it.
 
Chick Magnet
A 35-year-old man with two tickets to Super Bowl XXXVII posted an ad on a Bay Area website seeking a “gorgeous young date” to go to the game with him. Within two hours, the man received five offers.
—San Francisco Chronicle
 
All-Lost-Madden Team
When John Madden was coaching the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XI at the Rose Bowl, he was so wound up on game day he forgot something: a half-dozen of his players.
“I’d changed the itinerary, the time we were supposed to leave, and I just told the buses to leave,” Madden said. “I got so excited, I just got on the bus and said, ‘Take off.’ We got to the stadium, and I couldn’t find the players. They were afraid because they thought they were late and missed the bus. But I knew I lost them. As a head coach, you can’t go around and say, ‘Hey, I lost six players!’ One of them was John Matuszak, and he was like 6-8, 310 pounds. How the hell do you lose him? You can’t admit it if you’re the head coach. But here I am playing hide-and-go-seek before the damn Super Bowl.”
—New Orleans Times-Picayune
 
Super Bowl MVP Imports
Hines Ward, born in South Korea, and Mark Rypien (Canada) are the only Super Bowl MVPs born outside of the United States.

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> See how much you know about the Big Game</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/senior-bowl-winners-and-losers
Body:

As always, there was money to be made at the Senior Bowl, where high-profile prospects and small school gems alike look to prove their worth to NFL executives, coaches and scouts. The South defeated the North, 21–16, with Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel earning MVP honors.

But the games within the game — along with the previous week’s practice — were more important than the scoreboard. Here are the Mobile money makers as well as the players who have ground to make up heading into the Scouting Combine (Feb. 20-26) and leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft (April 25-27).

Winners
 
Eric Fisher, LT, Central Michigan
Already a late first-round prospect, the 6-7, 305-pound Fisher vaulted himself into the top-10 pick conversation and “by simple math, made $4 million bucks,” according to NFL Network scouting guru Mike Mayock, who said Fisher was “(49ers Pro Bowl left tackle) Joe Staley with better feet.”

Ezekial Ansah, DE, BYU
“Ziggy” is hoping to ride the “next Jason Pierre-Paul” hype as far as he can up draft boards. Ansah’s Senior Bowl game was certainly JPP-like, with a sack, forced fumble, batted ball at the line on a screen pass and open field tackle for a loss against Michigan’s Denard Robinson. No one was more impressive on game day than Ansah.
 
EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
The MVP completed 7-of-10 passes for 76 yards, one TD and one INT on a tipped pass, while showing off his mobility with another TD on the ground. Manuel’s scoring strike was a perfectly thrown 20-yard touch pass over the top to Alabama tight end Michael Williams in the back of the end zone.
 
Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana
It was a good day for small school corners, as Alford and William & Mary’s B.W. Webb both shined in coverage and as return men. Alford opened the game with an 88-yard kickoff return and finished strong with an INT in the end zone on a 2-point conversion attempt.
 
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The best cornerback in practices showed off his straight line speed by hawking Alford from behind to make a TD-saving tackle (albeit with a facemask penalty tacked on to the end of the run) on the opening kickoff. Desmond is quickly following in the NFL footsteps of his brothers Marcus and Isaiah.
 
Lane Johnson, LT, Oklahoma
The 6’6”, 300-pound former quarterback solidified his status as a first-round talent with the feet and frame to play left tackle at the next level.

Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
The top D-tackle in Mobile, Short was disruptive all afternoon, teaming with UCLA’s Datone Jones to form a nearly unblockable tackle tag-team.

D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Danny Lee Jesus didn’t play in the game itself, but the massive 6’5”, 355-pounder stole the show at the weigh-in and could be one of the fastest risers in this year’s class by the time the Commissioner is giving bear hugs.

Mike Mayock, NFL Network
One of the best in the business, Mayock was on his game yet again — calling name-dropping colleague Charles Davis “first-team All-Elevator” while providing brutally honest assessments of everyone other than Oregon O-lineman Kyle Long, the son of Mayock’s 1980 Blue-Gray Game roommate Howie Long.
 
Losers
 
Mike Glennon, QB, NC State
Showed flashes of a big league arm, but threw too many ground balls in the dirt and showed little pocket presence. The 6’7” Glennon completed 8-of-16 passes for 82 yards. Still, in a league desperate for quarterbacks, there’s probably a team already trying to convince itself that Glennon is the next Joe Flacco.
 
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Showed no awareness, holding the ball too long, allowing the pocket to collapse around him and throwing an ill-conceived dump-off pass on 4th-and-8. Jones completed 3-of-9 passes for 16 yards, took two sacks and looked lost for much of the game.

Denard Robinson, WR, Michigan
“Shoelace” fought through an arm injury to participate in the Senior Bowl. So, in that regard, he is a winner. Unfortunately, his only real highlight was the lowlight of being caught by Ziggy Ansah for a 3-yard loss on an end-around. Denard X will need to run like lightning at the Combine to save his struggling draft stock.

John Jenkins, NT, Georgia
Never was it harder to find a man who stands 6’3” and 350-plus pounds than it was with Jenkins during the game in the Senior Bowl. But legit nose tackles are hard to find, so this boom-or-bust Dawg will hear his name called earlier than most on draft day.
 
T.J. McDonald, S, USC
Tim’s son was beaten badly by 270-pound Alabama tight end Michael Williams for a TD, failing to find the football in the air or make a play with his athleticism. McDonald reaffirmed the scouting report that he is an in-the-box safety with no ball skills whose last name is his best tool.
 
Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas
Made the brilliant move of attempting to field a punt at the one-yard-line, then nearly getting tackled in the end zone for a safety before showing off his track star speed.
 
Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
The Estonian “Eastern Block” has an NCAA record 10 blocked field goals, but was confused multiple times by the same misdirection toss and otherwise overmatched against the high-end O-tackles.

Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Lennay is going to be pissed. Te’o skipped the Senior Bowl altogether, despite on-field concerns following his BCS national title disappearing act and off-field issues in the wake of his catfish story too big for Twitter.
 

Teaser:
<p> Senior Bowl Winners and Losers, including Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher, BYU defensive end Ezekial "Ziggy" Ansah, Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford, Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant, Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, Michigan receiver Denard Robinson, Georgia nose tackle John Jenkins and USC safety T.J. McDonald.</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 11:27
Path: /nfl/10-worst-teams-ever-play-super-bowl
Body:

While the Super Bowl annually pits the champion of the AFC conference versus the winner of the NFC, that doesn’t necessarily mean the best two teams end up playing in the biggest game of the season. Here is Athlon Sports’ list of the worst teams to ever play in a Super Bowl in the game’s 46-year history. It probably goes without saying that each of these teams ended up on the short end of the scoreboard, right?

1. 1985 New England Patriots
Super Bowl result: Lost 46-10 to Chicago in Super Bowl XX

New England went 11-5 in the regular season to earn a Wild Card berth, getting hot at the right time. The Patriots won eight out of nine during one stretch and then rode its defense late in the season and in the playoffs. New England forced 16 turnovers in its three postseason victories, including six against Miami in the AFC Championship game. An opportunistic defense carried an inconsistent offense all season long, at least up until the Super Bowl.

Despite taking an early 3-0 lead, Chicago scored 44 straight points and thoroughly dominated New England in posting the biggest victory in Super Bowl history at the time. For the game, the Patriots managed 123 total yards on offense, including just seven yards rushing, turned the ball over six times and gave up seven sacks.

2. 1979 Los Angeles Rams
Super Bowl result: Lost 31-19 to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XIV

Credit Los Angeles for taking full advantage of its schedule and division, as the Rams (9-7) won the NFC West even though they beat only two teams that finished with a winning record. The offense was marginal, as their quarterbacks combined for a 19:29 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the regular season, and the team finished with a -8 turnover differential.

In the postseason, Los Angeles downed Dallas 21-19 in the Divisional round thanks to a tipped pass that resulted in a 50-yard touchdown with 2:06 remaining. In the NFC Championship game against Tampa Bay, the Rams' offense managed just three field goals, but that was more than enough thanks to a stifling defensive effort that held the Buccaneers to zero points, just five completed passes and seven first downs.

The first team to make the Super Bowl having won just nine games in the regular season, Los Angeles hung with defending world champion Pittsburgh for the first three quarters of Super Bowl XIV. The NFC champion Rams held a three-point lead at halftime and went ahead by two in the third quarter, only to watch the Steelers score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 31-19 win. If not for three interceptions by Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw, this game may not have ended up as close as it did.

3. 2003 Carolina Panthers
Super Bowl result: Lost 32-29 to New England in Super Bowl XXXVIII

This Carolina team mastered the art of winning the close one. Champions of the NFC South with an 11-5 record, the Panthers won just two games in the regular season by more than six points. Seven of the victories were by three points or fewer, as the team’s point differential was +21, or 1.3 per game. The Panthers out-rushed their opponents, but this was mainly due to the fact they had nearly 100 more rushing attempts. Still the ground game produced just nine rushing touchdowns (opponents had 10), while quarterback Jake Delhomme posted a 19:16 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

The Panthers seemed to get all of the breaks in the postseason, starting with a 29-23 double overtime victory in St. Louis in the NFC Divisional round. Carolina squandered an 11-point fourth quarter lead to the Rams that included St. Louis head coach Mike Martz opting to hold the ball for a game-tying field goal even though the Rams were inside the 20 with less than a minute remaining and still had one time out. Both teams missed field goals in the first overtime session, as John Kasay made his 40-yard attempt only to find out it didn’t count due to a delay of game penalty on the Panthers. He then missed the subsequent 45-yard attempt. Delhomme took matters into his own hand at the start of the second overtime period, hitting Steve Smith for the game-winning 69-yard touchdown only 10 seconds into it. Carolina’s defense came up big on the road in the NFC title game against Philadelphia, injuring Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and picking off four passes in the 14-3 win.

Carolina’s reward for earning the franchise’s first NFC crown was a Super Bowl XXXVIII matchup with New England. The game was scoreless until 3:05 left in the second quarter, when the teams combined for 24 points, including a 50-yard Kasay field goal that cut the Patriots’ lead to 14-10 at the half. All the other scoring took place in the fourth quarter, including Delhomme’s game-tying touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl with 1:08 left, but Kasay proceeded to kick the ball out of the bounds. Tom Brady got the ball on the 40-yard line and six plays later, Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning 41-yard field goal with just four ticks remaining. While the final score may have been close, New England dominated the box score, out-gaining Carolina by nearly 100 yards (481-387) and nearly doubling the Panthers in first downs (29 to 17).

4. 2008 Arizona Cardinals
Super Bowl result: Lost 27-23 to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII

The greatest season in Arizona Cardinals franchise history is largely the product of great timing and having all of the breaks go your way, at least up until the game that counts the most. Arizona won the NFC West with a 9-7 record that included a spotless divisional mark (6-0) thanks to one of the top scoring offenses in the league at 26.7 points per game.

The flip side of this, however, is the fact that the rest of the Cardinals’ division went a combined 13-35, as they beat just two teams in the regular season that finished with a winning record and stumbled into the postseason losing four of their final six games. A suspect defense (team finished with +1 point differential in regular season), caught a break in the Wild Card round when it got to face Atlanta rookie quarterback Matt Ryan making his first career playoff start on the road. The Cardinals then got plenty of help from Carolina’s Jake Delhomme, who tossed five interceptions at home in their  Divisional matchup. Arizona claimed its first conference championship with a 32-25 home victory over No. 6 seed Philadelphia, thanks to a late Kurt Warner touchdown pass and despite being out-gained by the Eagles (454 to 369).

In the Super Bowl, Arizona had its chance to completely cash in on all of its good fortune, fighting back from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit against Pittsburgh to take a 23-20 lead on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Warner to Larry Fitzgerald with less than three minutes remaining. Alas, it was not meant to be, as Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes in the end zone with 42 seconds left for one of the more memorable plays in Super Bowl history, much to the chagrin of the Cardinals and their fans.

5. 1994 San Diego Chargers
Super Bowl result: Lost 49-26 to San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIX

San Diego won the AFC West with an 11-5 record, and its losses were by seven or fewer points except for one. That one game, you ask? It was a 38-15 loss to San Francisco in Week 15. Foreshadowing perhaps? This was not a powerful team by any stretch, as the Chargers’ point differential was +75, an average of less than five points per game, and the ground game averaged less than four yards per carry.

San Diego's defense carried the team throughout the season, and especially in the playoffs. The Chargers came back from a 21-6 halftime deficit to Miami in the AFC Divisional round, winning the game 22-21 on a touchdown pass with 35 seconds left followed by a missed 48-yard field goal by the Dolphins with one second on the clock. In the AFC Championship game, San Diego trailed Pittsburgh 13-3 at one point only to take a 17-13 lead with 5:13 remaining. The Chargers needed one final goal-line stand with just over a minute left to finish the job, despite being out-gained by a wide margin (415 to 226) and having the ball less than 23 minutes.

San Diego entered Super Bowl XXIX against San Francisco as the biggest underdog ever (18.5 points) and lived up to that billing. Steve Young threw four of his Super Bowl-record six touchdown passes in the first half, as the closest the Chargers ever were to the 49ers in this one was 14-7 late in the first quarter. The 49ers led 42-10 with less than five minutes left in the third quarter before the Chargers scored two meaningless touchdowns. This game still holds the records for most combined points (75) and total touchdowns (10) in Super Bowl history, with the majority of the damage (49 and 7) done by game MVP Young and his 49ers.

6. 1987 Denver Broncos
Super Bowl result: Lost 42-10 to Washington in Super Bowl XXII

Denver took full advantage of a strike-shortened season, not to mention three games played with replacement players, to win the AFC West with a 10-4-1 record. Quarterback John Elway led one of the more productive passing offenses in the league, but the Broncos' rushing offense (3.9 ypc) lagged behind. The Broncos needed another miracle (see No. 8 below) to get past Cleveland in the AFC title game, this time at home. And just like what took place the previous season with "The Drive," the Browns delivered once again, as a late fumble sealed the Broncos’ 38-33 win and return trip to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, Denver's third Super Bowl trip was anything but a charm. The Broncos jumped out to a 10-0 lead on Washington in the first quarter, only to watch the Redskins storm back with 35 points in the second quarter. Washington finished with a Super Bowl-record 602 total yards, including a record 280 yards rushing, in the rout. Denver was out-gained by its opponent in all three of its playoff games, so perhaps the end result against Washington wasn’t all that surprising after all.

7. 1996 New England Patriots
Super Bowl result: Lost 35-21 to Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXI

Before the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady reign began in New England, the head coach-star quarterback pairing was Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe. However, this Patriots team relied more on defense than offense, as it won the AFC East with an 11-5 record. Bledsoe did throw for more than 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns in the regular season, but the defense allowed over 4,000 through the air as well. The defense was much more stout against the run, giving up less than 94 yards rushing per game, but their own ground attack fared even worse (92 ypg).

New England got a major break in the playoffs when Jacksonville upset top-seeded Denver (13-3) at home in the Divisional round. The Patriots then dispatched of the upstart Jaguars 20-6 at home to earn the franchise’s second AFC championship. Even though the offense sputtered against Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXI, the Patriots hung around until the Packers scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter. Bledsoe threw four interceptions and the Patriots finished with a grand total of 43 yards rushing, as the Packers sealed the deal with MVP Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the latter part of the third quarter.

8. 1986 Denver Broncos
Super Bowl result: Lost 39-20 to New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI

Denver got off to a 6-0 start to the season, but finished just 5-5. Still the Broncos’ 11-5 record was good enough to win the AFC West, thanks to a defense that led the conference in rushing yards allowed. The problem for the Broncos’ offense, however, was that it only generated 27 more yards on the ground than their defense gave up. After getting by New England 22-17 at home in the Divisional round, quarterback John Elway orchestrated “The Drive” late in the fourth quarter in Cleveland to get the Broncos to their second Super Bowl. Unfortunately, this one ended like the franchise’s first big game appearance (versus Dallas in Super Bowl XII in 1978), as the Broncos managed just 52 yards rushing and Elway got sacked four times (one went for a safety) in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

9. 1992 Buffalo Bills
Super Bowl result: Lost 52-17 to Dallas in Super Bowl XXVII

This Buffalo team maintained the Bills’ run in the AFC, capturing the East division title with a 11-5 record, powered by the NFL’s top rushing offense and third-ranked scoring offense (23.8 ppg). The defense was average in terms of where it ranked in points allowed, but generally got the job done. A third straight trip to the Super Bowl almost didn’t happen, however, as Buffalo trailed Houston 35-3 early in the third quarter of its Wild Card game. Backup quarterback Frank Reich, filling in for an injured Jim Kelly, orchestrated what became known as “The Comeback” with the Bills pulling out a 41-38 victory in overtime.

Buffalo then easily defeated Pittsburgh and Miami by a combined score of 53-13 to reach their third straight Super Bowl, this time against Dallas. The Bills held a 14-10 lead in the second quarter, only to watch the Cowboys score the next 17 points and pile on 21 more in the fourth quarter. As talented and good as this Dallas team was, Buffalo could ill afford to give them many breaks, which they certainly did. The Bills turned it over a Super Bowl-record nine times, including five fumbles, which led to 35 of the 52 points the Cowboys scored.

10. 2000 New York Giants
Super Bowl result: Lost 34-7 to Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV

After losing two games in a row in early November, New York’s record stood at 7-4. Undeterred, head coach Jim Fassel guaranteed that this team would not miss the playoffs. He made good on that promise as the Giants won their last five, albeit just one of those victories came against a team that finished with a winning record, to capture the NFC East title.

Similar to Baltimore, their eventual opponent in the Super Bowl, this Giants team was built around defense. The G-Men held opponents to 15.4 points per game and less than 1,200 yards rushing total (72.3 ypg) during the regular season. This was especially the case in the playoffs, as the Giants yielded a total of 10 points in wins over Philadelphia and Minnesota, including shutting out the Vikings in the NFC Championship game by holding them to 114 total yards and forcing five turnovers.

The problem for the Giants, however, was their offense and this was especially the case in Super Bowl XXXV against the Ravens. Baltimore’s defense, considered one of the best in the history of the game, kept the Giants’ offense scoreless, as their only points in the game came on a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Ron Dixon in the third quarter. For the game, the Giants’ offense mustered a total of 152 yards and quarterback Kerry Collins was responsible for four (all INTs) of the Giants’ five turnovers.

 

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon’s list of the worst teams to play for the Lombardi Trophy</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 07:30
Path: /college-basketball/amazing-college-basketball-stats-week-jan-21-27
Body:

With nearly 350 Division I teams, following college basketball can be overwhelming. Let Athlon Sports start your college hoops week each Monday with a look at some of the most intriguing, most important and most interesting stats from around the sport:

21, 7 and 6: Victor Oladipo’s stat line against Michigan State
The idea of Victor Oladipo being Indiana’s most important player would have been ludicrous at the start of the season. The same statement seemed bold in November and December. Now, it may be perfectly clear that Oladipo, not Cody Zeller, is the Hoosiers’ most logical pick for Big Ten Player of the Year. In the 75-70 win over Michigan State on Sunday, Oladipo was a true stat-sheet stuffer with 21 points, seven rebounds (four on offense), six steals and three blocks. Another worthy stat out of that game: Michigan State was 5 of 6 from the free throw line, the Spartans’ fewest attempts since a loss to Michigan on Jan. 17, 2012. Indiana, on the other hand, was 13 of 20 from the free throw line.

91: Points NC State scored on North Carolina, most since 2002
NC State picked up a key win for its psyche on a couple of fronts by defeating North Carolina 91-83 on Saturday. The victory over the Tar Heels eased the sting of two losses (Maryland and Wake Forest) in three games since the win over Duke on Jan. 12. Beyond that, the Wolfpack ended a streak of futility in the series with North Carolina. NC State’s 91 points against the Tar Heels was the most it had scored against North Carolina since a 98-76 win on Feb. 24, 2002. The Wolfpack, who led by as much as 28 in the second half, ended a 13-game losing streak to the Heels. Coupled with the victory over Duke, NC State defeated each of its Tobacco Road rivals in the same season for the first time since 2002-03. The Wolfpack still must face both on the road this season -- Duke on Feb. 7 and North Carolina on Feb. 23.

2: Top-five wins for Villanova
Villanova started the season with lopsided losses to Alabama, Columbia and Temple by early December, but the Wildcats could be in NCAA Tournament contention after defeating Louisville 73-64 on Tuesday and Syracuse 75-71 in overtime Saturday. Most remarkable about Villanova’s week was the Wildcats’ work against two of the best guards in the Big East. Louisville’s Russ Smith went 2-of-13 from the field against ‘Nova. Later, Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams had four assists against the Wildcats, his fewest since the opener against San Diego State. Carter-Williams also went 4-of-17 from the field.

61: Years since La Salle beat ranked teams in consecutive games
Between Villanova and La Salle going a combined 4-0 against ranked teams, this was not a bad week for Philadelphia teams. La Salle defeated No. 9 Butler 54-53 on Wednesday and No. 19 VCU 69-61 on Saturday. The back-to-back wins over ranked teams was the first for La Salle since the Explorers defeated three top-25 teams in a row in the 1952 NIT.

38.7: Louisville’s shooting percentage during its losing streak
Less than two weeks ago, Louisville was mentioned as one of the nation’s top teams capable of making another run to the Final Four. Now, the Cardinals are in a tailspin with three consecutive losses. Louisville’s offense has become increasingly erratic, as the Cardinals made 38.7 percent of their shots from the field (63 of 163) in the last three games. Before the losing streak, Louisville converted 45.7 percent of its shots from the field. More worrisome for Rick Pitino, his team is getting progressively worse: Louisville shot 40.7 percent against Syracuse, 39.7 percent against Villanova and 34.8 percent against Georgetown on Saturday.

4: Ranked teams that went 0-2 last week
Louisville wasn’t alone in its struggles last week, but the No. 5 Cardinals were the highest ranked team to lost both of its games. Four teams in the Associated Press top 25 went 0-2 this week: No. 11 Kansas State lost to Kansas and Iowa State, No. 12 Minnesota lost to Northwestern and Wisconsin as part of a four-game losing streak, and No. 19 VCU lost to Richmond and La Salle. K-State's 59-55 home loss to No. 3 Kansas on Monday was the only one of the eight previously noted losses to come to a ranked team.

4: Points scored in the first half by Northern Illinois
Pertinent question for DeKalb, Ill.: How is Jordan Lynch’s jump shot? Northern Illinois set new marks for futility by scoring four points in the first half against Eastern Michigan. Four. And that’s just the start. The Huskies’ four points broke their own Division I record for fewest points in half during the shot clock era set earlier this season with five points against Dayton on Dec. 1. Northern Illinois tied the mark for fewest field goals in a half by going 1 of 31, including 0 for 17 from three-point range. At least Northern Illinois’ sports information department found the silver lining.

34: Points scored by New Mexico against San Diego State
Northern Illinois wasn’t alone in its offensive ineffectiveness, at least. New Mexico lost 55-34 to San Diego State on Saturday, scoring its fewest points of the shot-clock era. The Lobos also shot 25 percent (11 of 44) from the field, their lowest rate since at least 1965.

8: Offensive rebounds for Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski
Arizona State dominated the paint in the Sun Devils' 78-60 win over UCLA, but the most important number may have been Jordan Bachynski’s performance on the offensive glass. His eight offensive rebounds matched UCLA’s team total and exceeded Bachynski’s defensive rebound total against the Bruins (seven). In addition to six blocks and 22 points, Bachynski was one of three Sun Devils to pick up 11 or more rebounds. Arizona State also outscored UCLA 46-26 in the paint.

24.3: Points per game in SEC road games for Marshall Henderson
Ole Miss fans may call their star guard passionate. Fans of other teams will Marshall Henderson a cocky, brash trash-talker -- if they’re being nice. Henderson, a junior college transfer, has turned the fortunes of Ole Miss, who are 6-0 in the SEC and on track to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Andy Kennedy. But Henderson is the most disliked player in opposing gyms, and we assume that’s the way he likes it. After scoring 15 points, including the game-winning free throws at Auburn, Henderson popped his jersey in front the Tigers student section after the 63-61 victory. Averaging 24.3 points in conference road games, Henderson has relished the boos in opposing SEC gyms, but the Rebels are 3-0 in such games. Left on Henderson’s road schedule: Florida on Saturday, Missouri, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU.

24, 9: Points and assists by Rotnei Clarke in his return against Temple
Butler split its two games without leading scorer Rotnei Clarke, defeating Gonzaga and losing to La Salle. In Clarke’s first game back since his frightening neck injury, the guard scored 24 points with nine assists. He did most of his damage from the free throw line (13 of 14) while going 4 of 14 from the field and 3 of 10 from three-point range in the 83-71 win over Temple.

Teaser:
<p> NC State hits a scoring milestone against North Carolina, Louisville's struggles highlight problems for top-25 teams, Northern Illinois and New Mexico set new marks for futility.</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/recruiting-ranking-accs-best-football-rosters
Body:

Preseason prognosticators like Athlon Sports — the most accurate college football preview magazine on the stand — use many things to attempt to predict what the coming football season will look like. Returning starters, scheduling, historic trends, coaching, pending off the field issues and, of course, recruiting rankings all help Athlon editors predict the future of college football.

Recruiting rankings have their detractors. Yes, evaluating 16- and 17-year-old kids is an inexact science. No, star rankings aren’t the only thing that matters. Yes, leadership (e.g., Nick Saban) is more important than national recruiting rankings (See Auburn).

But using national team recruiting rankings to attempt to pinpoint how “talented” any given roster is can be an interesting and illuminating practice.

For the sake of this discussion, the 2013 conference alignment was used to calculate, rank and organize teams and leagues. Rivals.com national team rankings over a five-year span (2008-12) were used for the sake of consistency. And the 72 “BCS” conference teams as well as Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU were used to form the 75-team ranking.

Therefore, in the ACC rankings below, fans will find where Pitt and Syracuse have been ranked in the team rankings.

So what do the team recruiting rankings teach us about the ACC:

Has Florida State underachieved?
There is little doubt which team in the ACC has the best rosters. The Florida State Seminoles have “won” the ACC recruiting crown four straight years and were No. 2 in 2008. Their national average of 6.8 is good for fifth nationally behind only Alabama, USC, Texas and Florida. Yet FSU has just one conference title in the last seven years to show for it. Yes, this team built up to a national title run in 2012 that never came to fruition and it ended up with an Orange Bowl victory. But if this is the fifth best roster in the nation, shouldn’t the Noles be better than 27-13 in the ACC?

Frank Beamer’s system works
The Hokies have finished no higher than fourth in the ACC in recruiting and no lower than fifth since 2008. Yet, until 2012, Virginia Tech had won at least 10 games in eight straight seasons and multiple ACC titles. Their highest national class was 18th (2008) and it was the only group to be ranked in the top 20. Stability on the sidelines and in the locker room clearly indicates that the ACC can be won with slightly inferior talent. Tech has the best overall (49-19) and ACC (30-10) record in the league over the last five years. However, it remains to be seen if finishing 23.8 in the national rankings can win a national title.

Miami and Clemson just needed coaches
Because athletes aren’t the issue. Both programs have always had great athletes and plenty of success on the recruiting trail. Over the last five years, Miami is second in the ACC with an average national ranking of 16.2, which is good for 13th among power conference teams. Yet, the Canes have lost 27 games over the last five years. Al Golden appears to have righted the ship and will no longer allow all that talent to go to waste. Dabo Swinney is in a similar situation. Clemson has always had elite players but somehow underachieves consistently. From 2008 to 2010, the Tigers lost 18 games but Swinney’s squad has lost only six times in the last two seasons. Both programs appear to be headed in the right direction.

Pitt will be competitive right away
According to the national rankings, the Panthers, amidst four coaching changes, still have a solid brand on the recruiting trail. Especially, as far as the ACC goes. Pitt has done a better job recruiting over the last five years than Georgia Tech, NC State, Duke, Boston College and Wake Forest. No, it hasn’t been elite—one top-30 class over that span—but it is tied with Virginia for seventh in the ACC and sits at 40th in the national rankings overall. It means that with just a little bit of coaching from Paul Chryst, the Panthers should be contending for bowl games or more right out of the gate in the ACC.

Jim Grobe is one helluva coach
His best class over the last five years was ranked 58th nationally (2008) and he has three straight classes ranked 69th in the nation. Over that span his roster is the 13th best collection of talent in the ACC and is 64th in the overall national rankings. Yet, Grobe has led the Demon Deacons to the postseason in four of the last seven years. A 16-27 ACC record may not seem like much, but with this level of athlete, he should be given a trophy for what he has accomplished in Winston-Salem.

Maryland will be back
Many people don’t understand why a founding member of the ACC would be leaving for the Big Ten or why the Big Ten would want the Terps. Maryland wants the money of the B1G and the Big Ten wants a program with upward mobility. The Terps offer an underrated recruiting base as a team that has finished 33rd among power teams over the last five years despite a 25-37 overall record during that same span. They rank sixth in the ACC in terms of talent and with some coaching stability, the Terps have much to be excited about moving forward.

North Carolina needs to stay out of trouble
Because if they do, there is no reason they can’t win big in the ACC. They are fifth in the conference in terms of roster talent and are a top 25 (25th) team nationally in terms of recruiting ability. If this team can stay out of trouble academically, on Twitter, with the NFL and the NCAA, Larry Fedora should be able to bring in enough athletes to compete for conference crowns.

The triple option doesn't need elite recruits
Only Virginia Tech (30-10), Clemson (27-13) and Florida State (27-13) have won more ACC games over the last five years than Tech's 26-14 record. Yet, the Yellow Jackets claim the ninth-best roster in the league and are barely cracking the top 50 nationally. Paul Johnson's system has had some ups and down, but the doubts about the triple options working at a higher level haven't impacted the recruiting rankings.

The Orange are in for a rough ride
In the Big East, the 76.6-ranked national recruiting ranking could create a contender — as Doug Marrone proved. But in the ACC, it means the Orange have the worst collection of players in the league. Now, with a new coach in a new league, the Orange could be facing an uphill battle to return to the postseason. The only “BCS” teams with worse rosters than Syracuse are SMU, Washington State, UConn and Temple.

ACC's National Team Recruiting Rankings Breakdown:

Rank Team Avg Nat'l Rank "BCS" Rank 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Record (Conf.)
1. Florida St 6.8 5th 9th 7th 10th 2nd 6th 49-20 (27-13)
2. Miami 16.2 13th 5th 15th 16th 36th 9th 36-27 (22-18)
3. Clemson 18.0 16th 12th 37th 19th 8th 14th 43-24 (27-13)
4. Virginia Tech 23.8 20th 18th 23rd 23rd 33rd 22nd 49-19 (30-10)
5. North Carolina 26.0 25th 32nd 9th 29th 16th 44th 39-25 (20-20)
6. Maryland 35.6 33rd 38th 26th 36th 43rd 35th 25-37 (13-27)
7t. Virginia 42.6 39th 61st 33rd 67th 25th 27th 24-37 (13-27)
7t. Pitt 42.6 39th 28th 47th 33rd 58th 47th 39-26 (22-13)
9. Georgia Tech 47.6 47th 49th 49th 43rd 41st 56th 41-26 (26-14)
10. Boston College 50.2 52nd 33rd 70th 47th 38th 63rd 30-34 (18-22)
11. NC State 51.2 53rd 31st 52nd 34th 86th 53rd 29-22 (19-21)
12. Duke 63.2 61st 65th 51st 72nd 76th 52nd 21-40 (9-31)
13. Wake Forest 65.8 64th 58th 64th 69th 69th 69th 27-35 (16-24)
14. Syracuse 76.6 71st 48th 117th 78th 75th 65th 27-34 (12-23)

Teaser:
<p> Recruiting: Ranking the ACC's Best Football Rosters</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/top-12-best-big-ten-teams-bcs-era
Body:

The BCS just put a bow on its 15th season of action and Athlon has dissected the numbers and reviewed the tapes of all six BCS conferences in order to rank the best each league has had to offer. Which Oklahoma team was the best of the decade? Which Florida team was the toughest to stop? How do you rank the Florida State teams of the late '90s? Which Miami team was the best? How about those loaded USC teams? Alabama vs. Auburn?

The debates will rage on for decades, but here is Athlon's two cents. Here are the Top 12 Big Ten teams of the BCS Era (1998-present):

Note: "First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks

1. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2002 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs, Fiesta Bowl, National Championship
Key Stats: Ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense (13.1 ppg) and No. 3 nationally in rushing defense (77.7 ypg), this was the first team in NCAA history to finish 14-0
Award Winners: Maurice Clarett (Big Ten Freshman of the Year), Mike Doss (Big Ten Co-Def. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Mike Doss (2nd, 2003), Will Smith (1st, 2004), Chris Gamble (1st, 2004), Michael Jenkins (1st, 2004), Mike Nugent (2nd, 2005)

The team that never gave up began the season ranked No. 13 in the nation and slowly grinded their way to the No. 1 spot in the final standings. The Buckeyes beat five ranked teams, including the Big East's No. 2 team of the BCS era, en route to the 2002 National Championship. Behind gritty play from quarterback Craig Krenzel and a freshman school rushing record from Maurice Clarett (1,237 yards), the Bucks found themselves as heavy underdogs to defending national champs Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. Yet, the staunch Buckeye defense and two key touchdowns (and one great forced fumble/recovery) from Clarett gave Ohio State its sixth consensus national championship. The much-debated passing interference penalty also will go down in history as one of the more controversial plays — even if it was the right call. This Ohio State team sent an NFL-record 14 players to the league in the 2004 draft (five were selected in 2003 and three in 2005). This is the only Big Ten team to have claimed a BCS National Championship making them the top Big Ten team of the BCS Era.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes, 1998 (11-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: John Cooper
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: The Buckeyes lost five total turnovers (four fumbles) and surrendered 19 unanswered points in home loss to Michigan State.
Award Winners: David Boston (Sugar Bowl MVP), Joe Germaine (Big Ten Co-Off. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: David Boston (1st, 1999), Antoine Winfield (1st, 1999), Andy Katzenmoyer (1st, 1999), Joe Montgomery (2nd, 1999), Ahmad Plummer (2nd, 2000), Nate Clements (1st, 2001), Ryan Pickett (1st, 2001),

The most talented team to play under John Cooper had the National Championship rings already sized in the preseason. Ohio State began the year atop the polls and rolled to an 8-0 start before giving away a late 15-point lead to Michigan State — and a chance at the national title. Despite crushing Iowa and Michigan to finish the year with one loss, Ohio State just missed a chance to face Tennessee in the BCS National Championship game. After handling Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl, the Buckeyes finished No. 2 in the polls.

3. Penn State Nittany Lions, 2005 (11-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Joe Paterno
Championships: Big Ten, Orange Bowl
Key Stats: Tamba Hali led the Big Ten in sacks (0.92 pg), PSU finished seventh nationally against the run (93.0 ypg) and never allowed a team to reach 30 points all season.
Award Winners: Michael Robinson (Big Ten Off. Player of the Year), Paul Posluszny (Bednarik Award, Butkus Award), Tamba Hali (Big Ten Def. Lineman of the Year), Joe Paterno (AP, Home Depot, Walter Camp, AFCA National Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Tamba Hali (1st, 2006), Levi Brown (1st, 2007), Paul Posluszny (2nd, 2007)

Led by star quarterback Michael Robinson and stellar defensive tandem Tamba Hali and Paul Posluszny, the Penn State Nittany Lions were one play from making quite a ruckus in the BCS standings with an undefeated season. After starting 6-0 with convincing wins over ranked Minnesota and Ohio State, the Nittany Lions allowed Chad Henne to connect with Mario Manningham on the final play of the game in Ann Arbor - costing PSU a chance to challenge USC and Texas for title game rights. Penn State rolled through the rest of its schedule, including an impressive 35-14 win over top-15 Wisconsin. The Orange Bowl win over Florida State was the school's first BCS bowl win.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2006 (12-1, 8-0)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Championships: Big Ten
Key Stats: The fourth highest scoring team in program history (450 pts), Troy Smith led the Big Ten in passer efficiency (161.91). Finished in top three in the league in 15 of 17 tracked NCAA team stats.
Award Winners: Troy Smith (Heisman Trophy, Davey O'Brien, Big Ten Off. Player of the Year), James Laurinaitis (Nagurski Trophy)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Ted Ginn Jr. (1st, 2007), Anthony Gonzalez (1st, 2007), Vernon Gholston (1st, 2008), Beanie Wells (1st, 2009), Malcolm Jenkins (1st, 2009), James Laurinaitis (2nd, 2009), Brian Robiskie (2nd, 2009)

The Ohio State Buckeyes began the 2006 season as the team to beat — and proved it by going wire-to-wire as the nation's No. 1 ranked team. Troy Smith became only the third quarterback in league history to throw for at least 30 touchdowns (Drew Brees, Kyle Orton) and claimed the Heisman Trophy as he led the Buckeyes to an undefeated regular season that was capped by a thrilling 42-39 win over No. 2 Michigan. In its third game against the No. 2-ranked team, the Buckeyes offense never knew what hit them as the Florida Gators pressured Smith all game long. Poor coaching, poor preparation and poor execution in one game cost the Buckeyes the national championship.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2012 (12-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: Big Ten Leaders
Key Stats: Led the Big Ten in scoring at 37.2 points per game, Braxton Miller was second in total offense and fifth in rushing in the Big Ten. Carlos Hyde led the league in scoring at 10.2 points per game.
Award Winners: Braxton Miller (Big Ten Off. Player of the Year), John Simon (Big Ten Def. Player of the Year)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: N/A

In Urban Meyer's first season, the Buckeyes were left to wonder "what if" after a perfect season. One year after going 6-7 and losing in the Gator Bowl to a mediocre Florida team, the Buckeyes, led by super star Heisman candidate Braxton Miller, won every game they played including road wins over Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State, and home victories over Michigan and Nebraska. Was this team an elite OSU roster that would have been able to compete against either Notre Dame or Alabama? Odds are no, however, the current BCS system is set up to put No. 1 and No. 2 into the BCS title game and if Ohio State had been eligible, there is little doubt it would have faced the Fighting Irish in Miami instead of the Crimson Tide

6. Wisconsin Badgers, 1998 (11-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Barry Alvarez
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs, Rose Bowl
Key Stats: Dayne rushed for a current BCS bowl record 246 yards and four touchdowns against UCLA.
Award Winners: Ron Dayne (Rose Bowl MVP), Barry Alvarez (Big Ten Coach of the Year), Tom Burke (Big Ten Def. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Ron Dayne (1st, 2000), Chris McIntosh (1st, 2000), Jamar Fletcher (1st, 2001), Michael Bennett (1st, 2001), Chris Chambers (2nd, 2001), Wendell Bryant (1st, 2002)

Craig James began bowl season by claiming this was "the worst team to ever play in the Rose Bowl." With five first-round picks, an extraordinary offensive line, the conference's top defensive player, an eventual Thorpe Award winner and the NCAA's all-time leading rusher/Heisman Trophy winner, it is safe to say he was sorely mistaken. Ron Dayne set BCS bowl records for yards (246) and touchdowns (4) and carries (27 - which he broke himself the next year) in the 38-31 Rose Bowl win over the favored UCLA Bruins. Wisconsin's only loss came in Ann Arbor to the 10-3 (7-1) Wolverines.

7. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2007 (11-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Championships: Big Ten
Key Stats: Led the nation in scoring defense at 12.8 ppg. Led the nation in pass defense at 150.2 ypg. Led the Big Ten in seven of 17 tracked NCAA team stats.
Award Winners: James Laurinaitis (Butkus, Big Ten Def. Player of the Year), Vernon Gholston (Big Ten Def. Lineman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Vernon Gholston (1st, 2008), Beanie Wells (1st, 2009), Malcolm Jenkins (1st, 2009), James Laurinaitis (2nd, 2009), Brian Robiskie (2nd, 2009)

With road wins over ranked opponents Michigan, Penn State and Purdue to go with a home win over ranked Wisconsin, Ohio State found itself in its second straight BCS national title game. A late home loss to eventual Rose Bowl rep Illinois and to LSU in the championship game were the only blemishes on a season that started 10-0.

8. Wisconsin Badgers, 2011 (11-3, 6-2)
Head Coach: Bret Bielema
Championships: Big Ten
Key Stats: Russell Wilson set NCAA record for single-season passing efficiency (191.78) and NCAA record for consecutive games with a TD pass. Led the Big Ten in rushing offense, scoring offense, total offense and turnover margin. Montee Ball tied Barry Sanders' all-time single-season TD record with 39.
Award Winners: Russell Wilson (Big Ten QB of the Year), Montee Ball (Big Ten Off. Player of the Year, RB of the Year), 
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Kevin Zeitler (1st, 2012), Peter Konz (2nd, 2012)

This team was literally inches away from a 12-0 regular season as the Michigan State Hail Mary barely crossed the goal line and Braxton Miller's last-minute heave was this colse to being an illegal forward pass. That said, this team still went on to win the Big Ten in dramatic fashion in the conference title game and played tooth and nail with the high-flying Oregon Ducks. Russell Wilson posted the greatest single season by a Badgers quarterback in history and was a third-round pick who led the Seahawks to the playoffs as a rookie. The records, the overall talent, the statistical production and the entertainment value makes this team one of the best Wisconsin squads of all time. 

9. Michigan Wolverines, 2006 (11-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Lloyd Carr
Championships: None
Key Stats: Led the nation in rushing defense at an astonishing 43.4 ypg, LaMarr Woodley (0.92 spg) and team (3.23 spg) led the Big Ten in sacks.
Award Winners: LaMarr Woodley (Ted Hendricks, Lombardi, Big Ten Def. Player of the Year/Lineman of the Year), Jake Long (Big Ten Off. Lineman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Leon Hall (1st, 2007), David Harris (2nd, 2007), LaMarr Woodley (2nd, 2007), Alan Branch (2nd, 2007), Jake Long (1st, 2008), Chad Henne (2nd, 2008)

This Maize and Blue team started 11-0, including a 41-17 thumping of No. 2 Notre Dame, before losing by three on the road against the nation's No. 1 team,  Ohio State, on the final weekend of play. With three consensus first-team All-Americans (Hall, Long, Woodley), this team went as high as No. 2 in the polls before losing out on a title chance to Florida. Thirteen players from this team were selected in the 2007 and 2008 NFL Drafts including the '08 No. 1 overall pick, Jake Long.

10. Iowa Hawkeyes, 2002 (11-2, 8-0)
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs
Key Stats: Marked first time in school history Iowa won 11 games. Highest scoring team in Iowa history (484 points). Brad Banks led the nation in passing efficiency (157.12).
Award Winners: Kirk Ferentz (Walter Camp Coach of the Year), Brad Banks (Davey O'Brien), Nate Kaeding (Lou Groza), Dallas Clark (John Mackey)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Dallas Clark (1st, 2003), Eric Steinbach (2nd, 2003), Bruce Nelson (2nd, 2003), Robert Gallery (1st, 2004), Bob Sanders (2nd, 2004)

Stacked with NFL talent, the Hawkeyes posted the best record in school history — including tying eventual national champ Ohio State at 8-0 for the Big Ten co-championship (they didn't play each other that year). An offense led by Heisman Trophy runner-up Brad Banks (and Fred Russell) scored more points than any team in Iowa history. Road wins at Penn State and Michigan highlighted a season that ended in defeat at the hands of Heisman winner Carson Palmer and USC in the program's first-ever BCS bowl (Orange).

11. Wisconsin Badgers, 1999 (10-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Barry Alvarez
Championships: Big Ten, Rose Bowl
Key Stats: Ron Dayne became the NCAA's all-time leading rusher at 6,397 yards (7,125 counting bowls), finished No. 3 in the nation in rushing as a team (279.5 ypg), led the league in scoring at 35.6 ppg.
Award Winners: Ron Dayne (Heisman Trophy, Doak Walker, Maxwell, Walter Camp, Rose Bowl MVP), Brooks Bollinger (Big Ten Freshman of the Year), Chris McIntosh (Big Ten Off. Lineman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Aaron Gibson (1st, 1999), Ron Dayne (1st, 2000), Chris McIntosh (1st, 2000), Jamar Fletcher (1st, 2001), Michael Bennett (1st, 2001), Chris Chambers (2nd, 2001), Wendell Bryant (1st, 2002)

Following its Rose Bowl championship the previous season, the Badgers started 2-2 thanks to a shocking loss to Cincinnati on the road and five-point home defeat to Michigan. Wisconsin never lost again, beating five ranked teams to finish as Rose Bowl champs, including a road destruction of No. 12 Ohio State and home beat down of No. 11 Michigan State. Ron Dayne became the NCAA's all-time leading rusher in late October against Iowa, and claimed the Badgers' second Heisman Trophy. Dayne set the current BCS bowl record for rushing attempts with 34 (for 200 yards) in the Rose Bowl win over Stanford.

12. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2010 (12-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: The highest scoring team in OSU history (504 pts), Led the Big Ten in rushing (96.7 ypg), passing (165.5), total (262.2) and scoring (14.3 ppg) defense while leading the conference in turnover margin (+1.15).
Award Winners: Terrelle Pryor (Sugar Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Cameron Heyward (1st, 2011), Mike Adams (2nd, 2012)

The only loss the Buckeyes experienced in 2010 was a 31-18 defeat in Camp Randall to the 11-1 co-Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers. This team was loaded with NFL talent all over the offense and topped a ranked Miami and Iowa teams along with crushing rival Michigan. Ohio State also defeated an SEC team for the first time in school history with a Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas. Obviously, this season carries with it a large asterisk, as the entire season was later vacated. (The 2009 Buckeyes just missed making this list).

Teaser:
<p> Top 10 Best Big Ten Teams of the BCS Era</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-offensive-lineman
Body:

National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?

The offensive line is where championships are won. Just look at Alabama the last few seasons. The Texas Longhorns, which have always recruited extremely well along the line, need some of those five-star names to pan out. Mack Brown is poised to land two of the top three players in the nation along the line, including what many believe is the top center in the nation—Darius James. The No. 24 offensive lineman, Jake Raulerson, is a two-way star from Celina, Texas, who could end up on either side of the ball.

Notre Dame and Michigan each have five offensive linemen in the top 30 committed. Brady Hoke wants to build his program around the running game and landing the nation's No. 1 O-Line class will go a long way towards having success in the Big Ten. Brian Kelly, meanwhile, got a quick education about SEC defensive lines and is set to land the No. 2 O-Line class this cycle

Additionally, Pitt, Maryland and LSU all kept the top blockers from their home bases in the fold with key verbal pledges

The big prize, however, is still left on the board as the nation's top lineman and No. 4-rated overall prospect Laremy Tunsil is still uncommitted. The Lake City (Fla.) Columbia blocker has Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida State and Georgia listed as his finalists.

2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Laremy Tunsil No. 4 Lake City, FL 6-6 295 --
2. Darius James No. 34 Harker Heights, TX 6-5 320 Texas
3. Kent Perkins No. 38 Dallas, TX 6-6 285 Texas
4. Dorian Johnson No. 43 Belle Vernon, PA 6-6 270 Pitt
5. Ethan Pocic No. 57 Lemont, IL 6-7 280 LSU
6. Grant Hill No. 62 Hunstville, AL 6-6 300 Alabama
7. Patrick Kugler No. 68 Wexford, PA 6-4 270 Michigan
8. Evan Lisle No. 80 Centreville, OH 6-6 265 Ohio St
9. Kyle Bosch No. 92 Wheaton, IL 6-5 305 Michigan
10. Derwin Gray No. 95 Washington, DC 6-5 295 Maryland
11. Steve Elmer No. 97 Midland, MI 6-6 305 Notre Dame
12. John Montelus No. 101 Everett, MA 6-5 305 Notre Dame
13. Hunter Bivin No. 102 Owensboro, KY 6-7 290 Notre Dame
14. Khaliel Rodgers No. 105 Elkton, MD 6-3 300 USC
15. Austin Golson No. 107 Prattville, AL 6-6 285 Florida St
16. David Dawson No. 110 Detroit, MI 6-4 280 Michigan
17. Ira Denson No. 120 Madison, FL 6-4 320 Florida St
18. Brandon Mahon No. 132 Randolph, NJ 6-5 315 Penn St
19. Tyrone Crowder No. 135 Rockingham, NC 6-1 330 --
20. Mike McGlinchey No. 140 Philadelphia, PA 6-8 280 Notre Dame
21. Josh Boutte No. 144 New Iberia, LA 6-5 305 LSU
22. Chris Fox No. 147 Parker, CO 6-6 300 Michigan
23. Logan Tuley-Tillman No. 155 Peoria, IL 6-7 305 Michigan
24. Jake Raulerson No. 161 Celina, TX 6-5 260 Texas
25. Colin McGovern No. 181 New Lenox, IL 6-5 285 Notre Dame
26. Denver Kirkland No. 183 Miami, FL 6-5 330 --
27. Christian Morris No. 207 Memphis, TN 6-6 295 UCLA
28. Shamire DeVine No. 215 Atlanta, GA 6-6 350 Georgia Tech
29. Brandon Kublanow No. 229 Marietta, GA 6-3 290 Georgia

 

View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Offensive Lineman</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-linebackers
Body:

National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?

The linebacker position has become one of the most difficult to pinpoint in the recruiting process. A prospect could range from 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-4 and from 200 to 260 pounds, depending on what type of scheme he will be used in. The proliferation of the hybrid 3-4 outside linebacker/defensive end has created what could be considered an entirely new position. Nick Saban calls it the "Jack Back" and has won three national titles with elite players like Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and Xzavier Dickson (who is 6-3, 265) playing the position. Still other more traditional schemes feature smaller, speedy outside linebackers who can excel at 6-foot and 210 pounds. The definition of "linebacker" has been stretched mightily in the last decade.

And Saban has the next great one in end/backer hybrid Jonathan Allen (pictured). He is a massive prospect who could easily grow into a true end, but his frame and skill set seems perfectly suited for the Jack Back. The Tide also is still in on two top 10 players nationally in Reuben Foster and Matthew Thomas. Foster, who is a true middle linebacker, has been committed to both Auburn and Alabama and will have Washington and Georgia in the mix as well when all the dust settles. Thomas is a freak athlete who will pick between Miami, Florida State, Georgia, Alabama and USC.

Should Bama land both, they would easily claim the top class in the nation — to go with four returning starters at the linebacker position. Otherwise, the Florida Gators likely can claim the best collection of tacklers with the No. 5 (Alex Anzalone), No. 6 (Daniel McMillian) and No. 19 (Matt Rolin) overall linebackers in the nation heading to Gainesville. Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers deserve a tip of the cap as well, landing three of the top 23 (No. 13, No. 18, No. 23) LBs in the nation. 

The No. 1 linebacking prospect is headed to Notre Dame, though, as Jaylon Smith showcased in the U.S. Army Bowl how talented the four-time state champion will be on the next level. He is a freakish athlete who can rush the passer, drop into coverage and block kicks on special teams. Look for Brian Kelly to have fun finding ways of getting Smith involved early in his career.

As a side note, the state of Virginia is loaded at the position in 2013 as five of the top 30 linebackers in the nation hail from The Commonwealth. However, only one is slated to stay close to home — Holland Fisher at Virginia Tech.

2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Jaylon Smith No. 2 Fort Wayne, IN 6-3 220 Notre Dame
2. Reuben Foster No. 6 Auburn, AL 6-1 240 --
3. Matthew Thomas No. 8 Miami, FL 6-3 210 --
4. Jonathan Allen No. 17 Ashburn, VA 6-3 250 Alabama
5. Alex Anzalone No. 53 Reading, PA 6-3 230 Florida
6. Daniel McMillian No. 56 Jacksonville, FL 6-2 220 Florida
7. Mike Mitchell No. 58 Plano, TX 6-3 220 Ohio St
8. Holland Fisher No. 59 Midlothian, VA 6-1 210 Virginia Tech
9. Isaac Savaiinaea No. 93 Honolulu, HI 6-3 230 --
10. Larenz Bryant No. 96 Charlotte, NC 6-1 210 South Carolina
11. Michael Hutchings No. 100 Concord, CA 6-2 215 USC
12. Trey Johnson No. 111 Lawrenceville, GA 6-1 220 Ohio St
13. Dorian O'Daniel No. 121 Olney, MD 6-1 205 Clemson
14. Deoundrei Davis No. 130 Cypress, TX 6-3 215 Texas
15. Myles Jack No. 137 Bellevue, WA 6-2 215 UCLA
16. Peter Kalambayi No. 145 Matthews, NC 6-3 235 Stanford
17. Mike McCray No. 147 Trotwood, OH 6-4 230 Michigan
18. Ben Boulware No. 148 Anderson, SC 6-0 220 Clemson
19. Matt Rolin No. 152 Ashburn, VA 6-3 210 Florida
20. Yannick Ngakoue No. 159 Washington, DC 6-3 235 --
21. Tim Kimbrough No. 165 Indianapolis, IN 6-1 225 Georgia
22. Quinton Powell No. 172 Daytona Beach, FL 6-2 195 --
23. Jayron Kearse No. 174 Fort Myers, FL 6-3 200 Clemson
24. Deon Hollins Jr. No. 178 Missouri City, TX 6-2 225 UCLA
25. E.J. Levenberry Jr. No. 183 Woodbridge, VA 6-3 225 Florida St
26. Doug Randolph No. 203 Richmond, VA 6-3 235 Notre Dame
27. Jermaine Grace No. 220 Miramar, FL 6-1 200 --
28. Jon Reschke No. 223 Bloomfield, MI 6-2 225 Michigan St
29. Marcus Newby No. 228 New Potomac, MD 6-1 210 Nebraska
30. Chans Cox No. 236 Lakeside, AZ 6-3 230 Arizona St


View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Linebackers</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/senior-bowl-preview-5-things-watch
Body:

The 63rd Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., kicks off Saturday (Jan. 26, 2013) at 4 p.m. EST on NFL Network — or Ladd-Peebles Stadium, if you want to scout from a front row seat. Jim Schwartz and the Detroit Lions are coaching the South squad, with Dennis Allen and the Oakland Raiders leading the North team.

But here’s what to really watch for between the lines once the game gets going:


1. Elite Left Tackles
Texas A&M true junior Luke Joekel isn’t eligible to compete at the Senior Bowl; he’ll probably be kicking it with Johnny Football attempting ridiculous trick shots or gambling or something else crazy. Joekel is considered this year’s top left tackle prospect — and a legit candidate to go No. 1 overall in the draft to the Kansas City Chiefs.

But a pair of first-round candidates will be in Mobile. Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher (6’7”, 305) will man the blindside up North and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson (6’6”, 303) handles the big money spot down South. Both dancing bears have been cashing in during practice all week, with Fisher working his way into fringe-top-10-pick range.


2. QB Shuffle
Before arriving on the scene at Super Bowl XLVII, Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick were low profile Senior Bowl quarterbacks from Delaware and Nevada, respectively. But they aren’t the only recent success stories, four Senior Bowl quarterbacks have been taken in the first-round over the past three drafts.

This year crop of QBs includes NC State’s Mike Glennon, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib, Florida State’s EJ Manuel and Miami (Ohio)’s Zac Dysert. With so many teams still unsettled at quarterback, one of these signal-callers could make a late charge up draft boards like Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler (No. 11 in 2006) or TCU’s Andy Dalton (No. 35 in 2011).


3. Family Traditions
Several familiar surnames will be doing pops and/or big bro proud in Mobile.

Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant studded out during practice this week and might have earned a first-round grade — although he won’t go as high as Marcus Trufant (No. 11) did out of Washington State back in 2003.

USC safety T.J. McDonald weighed in at 6’2” and 205 pounds, with a similar frame to his old man Tim (6’2”, 215) — who went on to a six-time All-Pro and Super Bowl XXIX championship career after being the No. 34 pick in 1987.

Oregon O-lineman Kyle Long is the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and brother of former No. 2 pick Rams defensive end Chris Long. After measuring in at 6’7”, 312 with shorter than expected arms, Kyle may have to kick in from tackle to guard — but he’s still likely to carry on the Long tradition of his NFL family.



4. Denard X-Factor
The Senior Bowl has proven to be fertile proving ground for quarterbacks-turned-receivers/runners/return-specialists like Indiana’s Antwaan Randle El (MVP in 2002) and West Virginia’s Pat White (MVP in 2009) — both of whom went on to be second-round picks after MVP efforts in the Senior Bowl.

This year, Michigan’s Denard Robinson has had a choppy week of practice while trying to prove he can successfully transition from quarterback to triple-threat playmaker. “Shoelace” will have one last shot to perform in pads — after a career that saw Denard X. pass for 6,250 yards, rush for 4,459 yards and account for 91 total TDs.


5. Raw, Unreal Athletes
Although Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker won’t play in Saturday afternoon’s game, Danny Lee Jesus stole the show during weigh-ins earlier in the week — checking in at 6’5”, 355 pounds and carrying his weight with impressive ease. Fluker's fellow Crimson Tide national champion, linebacker Nico Johnson, will give local Bama fans a reason to yell "Roll Tide," however, so Nick Saban's club will be well represented.

On game day, all eyes will be on potential 3-4 elephant man Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, BYU’s 6’5”, 270-pound pass rushing specimen who has only been playing football for three years but has been called the “next Jason Pierre-Paul” by some. A few splash plays in the Senior Bowl would go a long way to securing Ziggy’s status as a first-rounder.

Arguably the biggest boom-or-bust prospect in the Senior Bowl — and maybe the entire 2013 draft pool — is 359-pound Georgia nose tackle John Jenkins. To no one’s surprise, Jenkins was the heaviest man on the scales in Mobile and will be one of the players with the most ground to gain or lose on Saturday.

Teaser:
<p> Senior Bowl Preview: 5 Things to Watch, including Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher, Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson, Michigan's Denard Robinson, Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, USC safety T.J. McDonald, BYU's Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah and Georgia nose tackle John Jenkins.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 18:57
Path: /nfl/5-under-radar-players-who-could-help-their-team-win-super-bowl-xlvii
Body:

Super Bowl XLVIIThe stars of Super Bowl XLVII are easy to pick out. Joe Flacco, the Ravens quarterback, has been playing out of his mind. Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback, has played like he’s been around for a decade. Ray Lewis is the emotional center of the Ravens, just like Patrick Willis is for the 49ers. Frank Gore and Ray Rice, the running backs are the engines that make their offenses go.

It’s a good bet that one of those six will be the star of the Super Bowl when the Baltimore Ravens play the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday night. And it’s a good bet that all of them will make a big play somewhere in the game. But the harder bet is to find the unsung hero. Who will be the guy, like Mario Manningham a year ago, to step out of the shadows and make the play of the game?

The beauty of it is it could be anybody. But here are six guys – three for each team — that may be flying under your radar, but that should have the opportunity to make a big difference at some point in the game:

Anquan BoldinRavens receiver Anquan Boldin
Torrey Smith is the No. 1 receiver on this team, but Boldin hasn’t exactly faded into aging, possession receiver territory. He may be 32, but he’s taken advantage of some open space and single coverage in the playoffs by catching 16 passes in three games for 276 yards and three touchdowns. By far the team’s leading receiver, he had two touchdowns in the AFC championship game and he’s not likely to get any extra attention as long as Smith is on the other side.

Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta

He doesn’t fit into the Ravens’ offense the way Todd Heap used to fit, and his numbers are decent, but not great in an era of explosive tight ends. But he’s a sneaky weapon, way down the list behind Smith, Boldin, Rice and probably one or two others. Witness his 7 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 15 game against Denver for proof of what he can do. He also has two touchdowns in the playoffs. Lose track of him, and he can make a defense pay.

49ers running back LaMichael James
The emergence of Colin Kaepernick and his ability to run has really diminished the need for a second running back and LaMichael James is an extreme situational player. But he had five runs for 34 yards in the NFC championship game and his 15-yard touchdown run was an incredible combination of burst and speed. When he gets going, he’s like a cannonball, which makes him always one broken tackle away from a game-changing play.

 

49ers receiver Randy Moss
There was a time not that long ago that Moss was still the most dangerous player on most fields he was on. Now, he’s a bit player in the 49ers offense. The bigger threats are Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Gore. But the Ravens will overlook Moss at their own peril. He has five catches for 71 yards in two playoff games, but he’s still got the size, skill and hands to make big plays. Maybe the consistent speed isn’t there, but all it takes is one big catch to change a game.

Ravens running back Bernard Pierce
This running game belongs to Rice, but the speed and shiftiness of the Ravens’ starter puts the defense on its heels and allows the 6-foot, 218-pound Pierce to come in and knock them over. A very effective 2 in the 1-2 punch, the rookie has only had 27 carries through three playoff games, but he’s rushed for 169 yards – or 6.3 yards per carry. He’s a threat to break a big run if the defense isn’t on its toes, and he can wear them down while Rice gets a breather on the sidelines.

49ers return man Ted Ginn Jr.
He has been solid but unspectacular in the playoffs, until a 20-yard return to the Atlanta 38 put the 49ers in position for the game-winning touchdown last week. He still has the skills and speed to break a big return and he needs to be contained by the Ravens. And if you doubt his importance, just remember what happened in the NFC championship game last season, when Ginn was injured and his replacement, Kyle Williams, literally fumbled away a trip to Super Bowl XLVI.

By RALPH VACCHIANO

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> Who will be the unsung heroes of the big game?</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 11:31
Path: /college-basketball/college-baskebtall-weekend-preview-michigan-state-indiana-top-game
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Perhaps the best sign of the Big Ten’s depth this season is the revolving door of teams as the flavor of the week.

Indiana started the season as the preseason No. 1. Then, Illinois won the Maui Invitational and started 12-0. After that, Minnesota teased us with a 15-1 start, culminating in a rout of Illinois on the road. And all the while Michigan has spent most of the season knocking on the door of the No. 1 spot in the polls.

Now, Michigan State has a turn. Tom Izzo's Spartans lead the Big Ten at 6-1, one win ahead of Indiana and two ahead of Michigan. Every other Big Ten team has at least two conference losses.

One of these teams can take a sense of control in the Big Ten on Sunday. Indiana is looking for a more complete showing than what the Hoosiers have displayed in recent weeks. After the loss to Wisconsin at Assembly Hall, Indiana had fits in the second half with Northwestern. On Thursday, the Hoosiers defeated Penn State soundly, but Cody Zeller had his worst game of the year.

Meanwhile, Michigan State has show a knack for winning the close games. The Spartans may have lucked out against Ohio State thanks to an ill-advised final shot from Buckeyes guard Shannon Scott, but Michigan State came back to grind through a 49-47 win at Wisconsin.

GAME OF THE WEEK
Michigan State at Indiana
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.
(cap. 17,472)
TV: CBS
Michigan State probable starters
G Keith Appling (6-1/190, Jr.)
G Gary Harris (6-4/205, Fr.)
G Branden Dawson (6-6/230, So.)
C Derrick Nix (6-9/270, Sr.)
C Adreian Payne (6-10/240, Jr.)
Indiana probable starters
G Yogi Ferrell (6-0/178, Fr.)
G Jordan Hulls (6-0/182, Sr.)
G Victor Oladipo (6-5/214, Jr.)
F Christian Watford (6-9/232, Sr.)
C Cody Zeller (7-0/240, So.)

Game-defining matchup: Adreian Payne vs Cody Zeller
Zeller is coming off his worst game of the season, in which he went 0 for 4 from the field in 21 minutes against Penn State. The Indiana center should bounce back, but he’ll run into a tough matchup against Payne. The Spartans big man has had a breakout season and watched his own four-game hot streak come to an end the last time out against Wisconsin. If he can run the floor with Zeller and cause problems around the basket, Michigan State will be in good shape.

Player we’re watching: Keith Appling
The Spartans’ point guard hit a handful of key shots on the way to 19 points in the ugly 49-47 win over Wisconsin on Tuesday. After struggling for a bit, he’s had a good two-game stretch in close games against the Badgers and Ohio State. He’s 12 of 30 from the field in the last two games.

Stat that matters: Indiana’s free throw opportunities
The Hoosiers’ 73-percent rate from the free throw line isn’t among the top 50 in the country, but Indiana gets its fair share of points from the line. Part of that is because the tempo Indiana likes to run, but also because of the pressure the Hoosiers put on the defense. Indiana is fouled on 30.2 percent of possessions, a rate that leads the Big Ten. Not surprisingly, nearly a quarter of the Hoosiers’ scoring (24.7 percent) comes from the line, a stat that also leads the league.

How Michigan State can win: Slow the game down
Wisconsin frustrated Indiana by slowing the pace in the Hoosiers’ 64-59 loss on Jan. 15. Michigan State is much more adept at playing the grinding, low-scoring game than Indiana -- the Spartans defeated Wisconsin 49-47 and Ohio State 59-56 in the last week. Limiting the nation’s top-scoring team in transition will be a key to victory.

How Indiana can win: Win the backcourt matchup
Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell is coming off his best game of the season (it was against Penn State, so don’t get too excited). Will Sheehey appears to have broken out of a slump. And Victor Oladipo has played well against Michigan State in the past. Those are good trends for Indiana against Michigan State, especially if Indiana can limit production from Appling and Branden Dawson, who combined for 37 of the Spartans’ 49 points against Wisconsin.

Prediction: Indiana 80, Michigan State 75

Related: NCAA Tournament projections and bubble watch

WEEKEND ON TAP
All times Eastern

Louisville at Georgetown (Saturday, noon, ESPN)
Georgetown was sharp offensively in a surprisingly easy win at Notre Dame on Monday night, but the Hoyas have had trouble scoring with consistency for much of the season. Louisville is one of the nation’s elite defensive teams — easy baskets will be tough to come by for Otto Porter and the rest of JT3’s club, even at home.

Maryland at Duke (Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS)
Poor shooting (39.4 percent) has doomed Maryland through the first three weeks of the ACC season, and Duke is coming off a 4-of-23 performance from the three-point line in the lopsided loss to Miami. The Blue Devils are 2-4 the last two seasons without Ryan Kelly in the lineup.

Kansas State at Iowa State (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big 12 syndication)
Iowa State took Kansas to overtime on Jan. 9 and won three in a row thereafter. But then the Cyclones delivered a puzzling loss to Texas Tech on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Kansas State, despite a loss to Kansas, should remain in the Big 12 race all season because the Wildcats defend very well and get after it on the glass.

Minnesota at Wisconsin (Saturday, 2 p.m., Big Ten Network)
The Golden Gophers are on a three-game losing streak after getting beat up on the glass in a surprising loss to Northwestern. Now, the Gophers visit Madison, where Minnesota won only once in its last 15 games. With back-to-back losses to Iowa and Michigan State after the upset of Indiana, Wisconsin also needs a win to keep itself afloat in the Big Ten.

Oklahoma at Kansas (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
We’re not ready to call Oklahoma a legitimate contender in the Big 12, but the Sooners are 4–1 in the league after Monday’s win over Texas. Lon Kruger clearly has this program on the right path. Kansas features one of the nation’s top freshmen in guard Ben McLemore and an elite shot-blocker in center Jeff Withey. This is a very tough task for the Sooners.

New Mexico at San Diego State (Saturday, 4 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
San Diego State shot a combined 43-of-126 (34.1 percent) overall and 5-of-37 from three (13.5 percent) in recent losses to UNLV at home and at Wyoming. That, obviously, has to improve. New Mexico is the only team without a loss in Mountain West play while every other MWC team has two or more league losses.

Temple at Butler (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2)
Without Rotnei Clarke, Butler has had two thrilling finishes against Gonzaga (a win) and La Salle (a loss). Clarke is hopeful to return against the Owls after a frightening neck injury on Jan. 12. Temple guard Khaliff Wyatt is averaging 24.8 points in his last four games.

North Carolina at NC State (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN)
After an 0–2 start in the ACC, North Carolina won at Florida State, blew out Maryland at home and handle Georgia Tech on the road. UNC still struggles to shoot the ball from the 3-point line and doesn’t get to the foul line enough, but the Heels are good enough to be a threat in the ACC. Since defeating Duke, NC State has lost two of its last three, including a defense-optional loss to Wake Forest.

Florida State at Miami (Sunday, 6 p.m., ESPNU)
This is one of the biggest weeks in years for Miami basketball. The Hurricanes are the only unbeaten team (5–0) in the ACC after the rout of Duke. Rival Florida State is searching for answers on the offensive end of the floor after scoring only 36 points in a 20-point loss at Virginia last weekend.

Michigan at Illinois (Sunday, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Illinois won its first 12 games under new coach John Groce, but the Fighting Illini went 3–5 over their next seven games. Illinois is far too reliant on the 3-point shot to enjoy sustained success throughout the entire season. Michigan is more balanced on offense, but the Wolverines still don’t do a great job of getting to the foul line. Only 15.8 percent of their scoring comes from the line, which ranks 333rd in the nation.

Athlon Sports managing editor Mitch Light contributed to this report.

Teaser:
<p> College Baskebtall Weekend Preview: Michigan State-Indiana is top game</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /nfl/10-greatest-players-never-play-super-bowl
Body:

Being a future Hall of Famer does not guarantee a trip to the Super Bowl. In fact, many of the game’s greatest players never took the field with the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the line. This year, Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed will finally end his Super Sunday drought against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. But these all-time greats were not so lucky.


1. Barry Sanders, RB, Lions (1989-98)
Playoff record: 1–5
Playoff stats: 386 rush yards (4.2 ypc), TD; 111 receiving yards (5.3 ypc), TD
Best team: 1991 Lions (12–4 record, lost in NFC Championship Game)
Closest call: 1991 (NFC Championship Game, 41–10 loss at Redskins)


After winning his playoff debut 38–6 against the Cowboys, Sanders lost his next five postseason games. Shockingly, one of the most exciting players of all-time was limited to 13 or fewer carries in four of his six playoff contests. The only time No. 20 was given more than 20 carries, he ripped off 169 yards in a 28–24 loss to the Packers. Although Sanders ran wild every year on Thanksgiving Day, he never showed up to the party on Super Bowl Sunday.


2. Deacon Jones, DE, Rams (1961-71), Chargers (’72-73), Redskins (’74)
Playoff record: 0–2
Playoff stats: N/A
Best team: 1967 Rams (11–1–2 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 1969 (Divisional Round, 23–20 loss at Vikings)


The “Secretary of Defense” was known for head-slapping opposing offensive linemen, but the two-time Defensive Player of the Year must have been doing some head-scratching after retiring with zero playoff wins — and zero Super Bowl appearances — despite an unofficial total of 173.5 sacks during his Hall of Fame career.


3. Dick Butkus, LB, Bears (1965-73)
Playoff record: 0–0
Playoff stats: N/A
Best team: 1965 Bears (9–5 record, missed postseason)


Arguably the greatest middle linebacker in history, Butkus played for George Halas — the legendary coach whose name graces the trophy awarded to the winner of the NFC Championship Game — and on the same team as Hall of Fame triple-threat playmaker Gale Sayers. Despite looking great on paper at the time and even better in historical hindsight, Butkus’ Bears were unable to make the playoffs, which is the first step toward advancing to the Super Bowl.


4. Gale Sayers, RB, Bears (1965-71)
Playoff record: 0–0
Playoff stats: N/A
Best team: 1965 Bears (9–5 record, missed postseason)


Butkus and Sayers were drafted Nos. 3 and 4 overall, respectively, by the Bears in 1965. But the Hall of Fame duo were unable to translate their individual achievements into team success. Sayers notched a record six TDs in a single game — with nine carries for 113 yards and four TDs, two catches for 89 yards and one TD, and five punt returns for 134 yards and one TD as a rookie — but failed to score even a single Super Bowl trip.


5. Earl Campbell, RB, Oilers (1978-84), Saints (’84-85)
Playoff record: 3–3
Playoff stats: 420 rush yards (3.1 ypc), 4 TDs; 45 receiving yards (9.0 ypc)
Best team: 1979 Oilers (11–5 record, lost in AFC Championship Game), 1980 Oilers (11–5 record, lost in Wild Card Round)
Closest call: 1979 (AFC Championship Game, 27–13 loss at Steelers), 1978 (AFC Championship Game, 34–5 loss at Steelers)


The “Luv Ya Blue” bulldozer was unable to take down the powerful “Steel Curtain” during back-to-back AFC Championship Game losses. In two painful defeats at Pittsburgh, Campbell had a combined 39 carries for 77 yards (1.97 ypc), two catches for 15 yards, and zero TDs. Campbell’s two scoreless games against the Steelers were the only two playoff games in which he failed to find the end zone.


6. O.J. Simpson, RB, Bills (1969-77), 49ers (’78-79)
Playoff record: 0–1
Playoff stats: 49 rush yards (3.3 ypc); 37 receiving yards (12.3 ypc), TD
Best team: 1974 Bills (9–5 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 1974 (Divisional Round, 32–14 loss at Steelers)


Another victim of the mighty Steelers, the Juice had better luck than Campbell — with 18 touches for 86 total yards and one TD — but was unable to lead the Bills to victory in what would be his only postseason appearance. The actor and defendant never basked in the spotlight of the Super Bowl but he was seen by millions during his days as Lt. Nordberg in the "Naked Gun" franchise and his starring role in the Trial of the Century.


7. Eric Dickerson, RB, Rams (1983-87), Colts (’87-91), Raiders (’92), Falcons (’93)
Playoff record: 2–5
Playoff stats: 724 rush yards (4.9 ypc), 3 TDs; 91 receiving yards (4.8 ypc), TD
Best team: 1985 Rams (11–5 record, lost in NFC Championship Game)
Closest call: 1985 (NFC Championship Game, 24–0 loss at Bears)


Upon first glance, the single-season rushing yards record holder posted solid playoff numbers. But take off the goggles and you’ll see that Dickerson’s 248-yard, two-TD outburst during a 20–0 win over the Cowboys in 1985 accounted for one-third of his career postseason rushing yards and half of his total TDs.


8. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers (2001-09), Jets (’10-11)
Playoff record: 4–5
Playoff stats: 468 rush yards (3.6 ypc), 6 TDs; 176 receiving yards (7.0 ypc), TD
Best team: 2006 Chargers (14–2 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 2010 (AFC Championship Game, 24–19 loss at Steelers), 2007 (AFC Championship Game, 21–12 loss at Patriots)


Infamously sulking on the sideline, injured and wearing in a Darth Vader facemask and trench coat at New England — after just two carries for five yards — was clearly the low point of L.T.’s playoff career. Staying on the dark side, three of his five playoff losses were by margins of three points, one defeat came by four points and the most lopsided was a nine-pointer.


9. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Chiefs (1997-2008), Falcons (2009-12)
Playoff record: 1–6
Playoff stats: 30 catches for 286 yards (9.5 ypc) and 4 TDs
Best team: 2012 Falcons (13–3 record, lost in NFC Championship Game), 2010 Falcons (13–3 record, lost in Divisional Round), 2003 Chiefs (13–3 record, lost in Divisional Round), 1997 Chiefs (13–3 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 2012 (NFC Championship Game, 28–24 loss vs. 49ers)


It took Gonzo 16 seasons to finally earn a playoff win. Then, with the Falcons holding a 17–0 lead over the 49ers in the NFC title game, it looked like the future Hall of Fame tight end would be punching his ticket to the Super Bowl and possibly riding off into the sunset as a champion. Nope. Not this year. Gonzalez will have to come back for a 17th season if he hopes to break his Super Bowl-less slide.


10. Warren Moon, QB, Oilers (1984-93), Vikings (’94-96), Seahawks (’97-98), Chiefs (’99-00)
Playoff record: 3–7
Playoff stats: 2,870 yards, 17 TDs, 14 INTs, 84.9 passer rating
Best team: 1993 Oilers (12–4 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 1993 (Divisional Round, 28–20 loss vs. Chiefs), 1991 (Divisional Round, 26–24 loss at Broncos), 1988 (Divisional Round, 17–10 loss at Bills)


Moon won five consecutive Grey Cups and was twice named Grey Cup MVP in the Canadian Football League. But in these United States south of the border, the former CFL champion was unable to translate his prior success to the NFL Playoffs. Moon’s waning moment came in the worst collapse in postseason history, as his Oilers watched a 35–3 lead evaporate into a 41–38 overtime loss against the Frank Reich-led Bills.
 

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> Sanders, Jones, Butkus and LT never played in the Super Bowl.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/texas-ams-johnny-manziel-makes-ridiculous-trick-shot-video
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Trick shot videos have been a popular offseason craze in college football over the last few years. Connecticut’s Johnny McEntee seems to have started this recent trend, but several other players have attempted to create their own viral videos, including Pittsburgh kicker Kevin Harper.

While Harper and McEntee’s videos were impressive, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel might take the prize as the best one. The Heisman Trophy winner recently teamed with Dude Perfect to create a ridiculous trick shot video, which showcases the redshirt freshman's accuracy and arm strength. 

Manziel and one of Dude Perfect’s members attempt several different tricks, including throwing a football into a basketball (known as the laser shot), hitting a target in the air, nailing a balloon on the goal post, as well as a deep pass from the top of the stadium to a basketball goal on the field.

Needless to say, this is worth five minutes of your time.

Teaser:
<p> Texas A&amp;M's Johnny Manziel Makes Ridiculous Trick Shot Video</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 07:10
Path: /nfl/5-reasons-why-san-francisco-49ers-will-win-super-bowl-xlvii
Body:

Super Bowl XLVII is set for Sunday, Feb. 3, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. While the majority of the focus has been on the matchup up between the sons of Jack Harbaugh, this Har-Bowl (or Super Baugh, if you prefer) will be decided on the field by the teams that are led by John and Jim, the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.

Related: 5 Reasons Why the Baltimore Ravens Will Win Super Bowl XLVII

Here are five reasons why Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers will maintain the franchise’s perfect Super Bowl record by bringing home a sixth Lombardi Trophy:

1. Youth Will Be Served
It should not be much of a surprise to note that Baltimore and San Francisco are among the oldest teams in the NFL, as age and experience are typically two elements necessary for success. According to STATS, the Ravens and 49ers were three of the six oldest teams in the league based on the average age of their rosters at the end of the regular season, both coming in around 27 ½ years old.

However, it’s no stretch to say that the Ravens’ roster has a little more gray on it than the 49ers, especially when it comes to key positions. For starters, the Ravens have nine players who have played in 10 or more NFL seasons, headlined by 17-year veteran Ray Lewis. Lewis is joined in this distinction by fellow linebacker Terrell Suggs, safety Ed Reed, wide receiver Anquan Boldin and offensive linemen Matt Birk and Bryant McKinnie. All six are starters.

The 49ers, on the other hand, have seven players with more than a decade’s worth of experience, but only three — defensive lineman Justin Smith, wide receiver Randy Moss, offensive lineman Jonathan Goodwin — of theirs are starters, although you could include kicker David Akers in this group if you wanted to.

Even though Ravens starting quarterback Joe Flacco is by no means an “old” quarterback at 28, he’s still got three years on his counterpart, the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick. Since the 2001 season, younger starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl are 10-1 versus their older peers. The only victory by the older signal-caller during this span was courtesy of Peyton Manning (30 at the time) over Rex Grossman (26) in Super Bowl XLI.

Despite that loss to the Rodgers and the Packers, Roethlisberger is still the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl when he helped his Steelers beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL at the ripe old age of 23. In fact, if Kaepernick can do the same for his 49ers against the Ravens he will join a pretty impressive club of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks 25 and under. Besides Roethlisberger, this group includes Tom Brady (24 when he won his first), Joe Montana and Joe Namath (both 25).

For what it’s worth, youth also is on the side of the 49ers when it comes to head coaches, as Jim Harbaugh is a year younger than his older brother, John. Big brother does have a 1-0 edge on his younger sibling in head-to-head matchups, as the Ravens defeated the 49ers 16-6 on Thanksgiving Day in 2011. However, everyone knows that this time and this game, is and will be different.

2. Kaepernick’s Legs Just as Important as His Arm
In his first two career playoff games, Colin Kaepernick is averaging 248 yards passing and 101 yards rushing per contest. He set a new rushing standard for quarterbacks when he gained 181 on the ground against Green Bay in the NFC Divisional round. He followed that up with a mere 21 yards rushing in the NFC Championship game against Atlanta, but those numbers tell only part of the story.

As a team, the 49ers picked up 149 yards rushing on 29 carries against the Falcons. Kaepernick had only two of those carries, even though the 49ers used the read option 13 times. On the plays when Kaepernick handed off rather than keeping it himself, the running backs averaged 5.2 yards per attempt and scored three touchdowns.

During the regular season, teams with quarterbacks similar to Kaepernick, dual threats who can make plays with their arm and legs, put up fairly large numbers on the Ravens, while also defeating them in the process. Michael Vick had more than 400 yards of total offense and accounted for two touchdowns in Philadelphia’s 24-23 win in Week 2, while Robert Griffin III had 276 and a score in helping the Redskins pull out a 31-28 overtime victory in Week 14. The Ravens not only have to try and contain Kaepernick, they also can’t afford to focus all of their defensive efforts and game planning solely on stopping him.

It’s also worth pointing out that the last time the 49ers won a Super Bowl, they had a dual-threat quarterback running the offense. Eighteen years ago, Steve Young took home MVP honors in Super Bowl XXIX in when he threw a record six touchdown passes and led all rushers with 49 yards en route to an easy 49-26 victory over San Diego.

3. San Francisco’s "Old School" Approach
Even though this postseason has served as Colin Kaepernick’s coming out party, the 49ers are still winning games the way they always have under Jim Harbaugh – by running the ball and playing stifling defense. San Francisco finished fourth in the NFL in the regular season in rushing with 155.7 yards per game and averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

The ground game’s production has been even more impressive in the playoffs, as they have piled up 472 yards and scored seven rushing touchdowns in two games and are averaging 6.6 yards per carry. While the highlight so far may be Kaepernick’s quarterback-record 181 yards rushing versus Green Bay, he’s not the only who has gotten the job done on the ground.

Running back Frank Gore is third in the playoffs with 209 yards rushing and leads all players with three rushing touchdowns, while backups LaMichael James and Anthony Dixon have each chipped in a ground score of their own. Between Gore’s ability to run between the tackles, Kaepernick’s mobility, James’ game-breaking speed and explosiveness, and the strength of the offensive line, the 49ers’ ground game has all the elements needed to cause any defense headaches.

To make matters worse, the Ravens have had more than their share of struggles in stopping the run throughout the season. They finished the regular season 20th against the run, allowing 122.8 yards per game, but fared even worse against some of the league’s top rushing teams.

The Ravens yielded 179 yards rushing to the Redskins, who led the NFL in rushing, along with 214 to the Chiefs (fifth) and 181 to the Texans (eighth) during the regular season. They also gave up 227 yards on the ground to the Cowboys, who were second-to-last in rushing during the regular season, and have allowed an average of 128.3 yards rushing per game in the playoffs.

4. Defense Wins Championships
As well as Baltimore’s defense has played in getting to New Orleans, San Francisco’s defense certainly can’t be overlooked. Similar to the Ravens, who beat Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to win the AFC title, the 49ers had to defeat two Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan) to win their conference championship.

On top of that, the 49ers’ defense was one of the top units in the NFL during the regular season, finishing second in scoring defense, third in total defense and fourth in both rushing and passing defense. Six 49er defensive players were named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster; five of them as starters, and this unit is well represented on this year’s AP All-Pro team as well.

All four starting linebackers were named All-Pros with NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis earning first team honors and Ahmad Brooks getting named to the second team. They are joined by safety Dashon Goldson (first team) and defensive tackle Justin Smith (second) on the AP’s All-Pro teams. Contrast this amount of defensive “star” power, if you will, to the Ravens, who placed just two defensive players on the AFC Pro Bowl squad – defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and safety Ed Reed – with Ngata the only Raven earning All-Pro (second team) distinction.

Based on the number of Pro Bowlers and All-Pros, the argument can be made that the 49ers’ defense is deeper and more talented, and it certainly is younger when you consider the fact that the Ravens’ key playmakers on that side of the ball are long-time veterans like Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ngata and Reed.

And while he doesn’t line up on defense, San Francisco punter Andy Lee plays a vital role as it applies to helping the 49ers win the field position battle. Lee tied Thomas Morstead for the league lead in net punting (43.2 ypp), while placing more than half (36 of 67) of his kicks inside the 20. He had just four touchbacks and opponents averaged less than seven yards per return on his punts during the regular season.

Not surprisingly, Lee was named first-team All-Pro for the second season in a row and the third time overall in his career. He has kept up his fine work in the playoffs, including the NFC title game versus Atlanta. Against the Falcons, Lee averaged more than 50 yards per punt on his three kicks, including a long of 62. Besides producing a net average of 48.3 yards per punt, Falcons punt returner Harry Douglas managed a grand a total of six return yards on Lee’s three kicks.

5. Dome-Field Advantage?
Even though San Francisco plays its home games on grass at Candlestick Park, this will not be the 49ers’ first game indoors this season or even their first on the field where Super Bowl XLVII will be played. Besides beating Atlanta in the Georgia Dome in the NFC Championship game, San Francisco defeated New Orleans 31-21 in the Superdome back in Week 12.

San Francisco also faced St. Louis the following week in the Edward Jones Dome, a game the 49ers lost 16-13 in overtime, but perhaps the most important fact regarding this is that quarterback Colin Kaepernick started all three of these indoor games.

On the other side there is Baltimore, who has not played a true indoor game all season. The Ravens did play Houston at Reliant Stadium, which has a retractable roof, back in Week 7. But whether the roof was closed or not mattered little, as the Ravens suffered by far their worst loss of the season, a 43-13 beat down courtesy of the Texans.

Obviously much has changed since that Oct. 21 contest for the Ravens, not to mention the 49ers, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with having some familiarity with the field where you will play the biggest game of the season, no?

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> Harbaugh’s “old school” philosophy is one reason to like his team’s chances.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/big-easts-top-10-teams-bcs-era
Body:

The BCS has been in place for 15 seasons and Athlon has dissected the numbers and reviewed the tapes of all six BCS conferences in order to rank the best each league has had to offer. Which Oklahoma team was the best of the decade? Which Florida team was the toughest to stop? How do you rank the Florida State teams of the late '90s? Which Miami team was the best? How about those loaded USC teams? Alabama vs. Auburn?

The debates will most assuredly rage on for decades, but here is Athlon's two cents. Here are the Top 10 Big East teams of the BCS Era (1998-present):

"First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks
* - team played in the ACC Championship game

10. West Virginia Mountaineers, 2006 (11-2, 5-2)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
Championships: Gator Bowl
Key Stats: No. 2 in nation in rushing offense (303.0 ypg), no. 3 in scoring offense (38.9 ppg), no. 5 in total offense (461.4 ypg), Steve Slaton no. 4 in nation in rushing (134.2 ypg) and no. 2 in all-purpose yards (161.9 ypg)
Award Winners: Dan Mozes (Rimington Trophy), Pat White (Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Gator Bowl co-MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (1): Pat White (2nd, 2009)

These Mountaineers began the season ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll and rose as high as No. 3 as they won their first seven games handily. The stage was set for a Nov. 2 nationally televised showdown with No. 5 Louisville on the road. The Mountaineers would lose to the eventual Big East champion Cardinals 44-34 and later fall at home to South Florida 24-19. West Virginia would rebound to win its final two games, first defeating No. 13 Rutgers 41-39 in triple overtime and then beating No. 25 Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl. The Mountaineers were powered by a high-octane offense that scored 34 or more points in 11 of 13 games and was led by dual-threat quarterback Pat White and consensus All-American running back Steve Slaton.

9. Cincinnati Bearcats, 2008 (11-3, 6-1)
Head Coach: Brian Kelly
Championships: Big East
Key Stats: Led the nation in net punting (41.5 yards per punt), no. 9 in the nation in sacks (2.9 per game), Mardy Gilyard no. 11 in the nation in kickoff returns (27.6 ypr) and all-purpose yards (162.9 ypg)
Award Winners: Mardy Gilyard (Big East Special Teams Player of the Year), Brian Kelly (Big East Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (1): Connor Barwin (2nd, 2009), Isaiah Pead (2nd, 2012), Derek Wolfe (2nd, 2012)

Cincinnati would rebound from an early-season beat down at No. 4 Oklahoma, 52-26, to win the Big East and earn a berth in the Orange Bowl against the ACC Champion Virginia Tech Hokies. The Hokies would hold the Bearcats to just one touchdown as Cincinnati’s season ended with a 20-7 loss on New Year’s Day.

8. Louisville Cardinals, 2006 (12-1, 6-1)
Head Coach: Bobby Petrino
Championships: Big East, Orange Bowl
Key Stats: School record 12 wins, no. 2 in the nation in total offense (475.3 ypg), no. 4 in scoring offense (37.8 ppg), no. 2 in sacks (45 total, 3.5 per game), Art Carmody no. 4 in scoring (9.5 ppg), made all 60 PATs and 21 out of 25 field goal attempts
Award Winners: Brian Brohm (Orange Bowl MVP), Art Carmody (Lou Groza Award)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (3): Amobi Okoye (1st, 2007), Brian Brohm (2nd, 2008), Eric Wood (1st, 2009)

These high-flying Cardinals’ lone blemish on the season was a three-point loss to No. 14 Rutgers on the road in November. Louisville placed seven on the first-team All Big East team including three offensive linemen and two future NFL draft picks in defensive lineman Amobi Okoye and cornerback William Gay. The offense was led by quarterback Brian Brohm, running back Kolby Smith and wide receiver Harry Douglas. The Cardinals would bounce back from the Rutgers loss and win their final four games, capped off with a 24-13 Orange Bowl victory over No. 15 Wake Forest. A week after the program’s first BCS Bowl win, head coach Bobby Petrino left to become the head coach of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

7. West Virginia Mountaineers, 2007 (11-2, 5-2)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
Championships: Big East co-champions, Fiesta Bowl
Key Stats: No. 3 in rushing offense (297.2 ypg), no. 7 in total defense (301.7 ypg)
Award Winners: Pat White (Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP), Reed Williams (Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (1): Pat White (2nd, 2009)

Ranked No. 3 in the preseason, the Mountaineers went into the final game of the regular season, the 100th Backyard Brawl against Pittsburgh, as the top-ranked team in the Coaches Poll. The unranked Panthers got the best of their bitter rival, 13-9, dashing the Mountaineers’ title hopes in the process. To make matters worse, head coach Rick Rodriguez left to become Michigan’s head coach as the team prepared for its Fiesta Bowl showdown with No. 3 Oklahoma. The team would rally behind interim head coach Bill Stewart as the Mountaineers stunned the nation by dominating the Sooners 48-28. Pat White led the way with 326 total yards of offense and the Mountaineers ran roughshod over the Sooners, gaining 349 yards on the ground alone.

6. West Virginia Mountaineers, 2005 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
Championships: Big East, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: No. 4 in nation in rushing offense (272.4 ypg), Steve Slaton no. 14 in nation in rushing (112.8 ypg), no. 3 in scoring (19 TDs) as freshman
Award Winners: Rich Rodriguez (Big East Coach of the Year), Steve Slaton (Big East Rookie of the Year, Sugar Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (1): Pat White (2nd, 2009)

In what would be the first of three straight 11-win seasons, the Mountaineers ran over and through the Big East, with their lone blemish being a 34-17 defeat to the No. 3-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies in Morgantown. A 46-44 triple overtime victory over Louisville helped West Virginia finds its stride offensively, as the Mountaineers would score 38 or more points in five of their last six games, including their season-ending 38-35 upset of No. 8 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Steve Slaton capped off a sensational freshman season by rushing for 204 yards and three touchdowns against the Bulldogs to earn Sugar Bowl MVP honors.

5. Cincinnati Bearcats, 2009 (12-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Brian Kelly
Championships: Big East
Key Stats: School record 12 wins, finished regular season undefeated and ranked No. 3 in BCS standings, no. 2 in nation in passing efficiency, no. 4 in scording offense (38.6 ppg)
Award Winners: Mardy Gilyard (Big East Special Teams Player of the Year), Brian Kelly (Big East Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Isaiah Pead (2nd, 2012), Derek Wolfe (2nd, 2012)

The Bearcats unleashed their high-scoring offense on the Big East and their other opponents in 2009, scoring 41 points or more six times. They captured the Big East title and ended the regular season undefeated by coming back from 21 points down in the first half and then scoring the game-winning touchdown with just 33 second left to defeat Pittsburgh 45-44 on the road. Despite being undefeated, the Bearcats were left out of the BCS National Championship game and instead were sent to the Sugar Bowl to face the Florida Gators. They would do so without head coach Brian Kelly, however, as he left to become Notre Dame’s head coach prior to the bowl game, which Cincinnati would lose 51-24 to the Gators.

2009 Schedule:

Sept. 7: Cincinnati 47, Rutgers 15 (Piscataway, NJ)
Sept. 12: Cincinnati 70, Southeast Missouri State 3 (Cincinnati, OH)
Sept. 19: Cincinnati 28, Oregon State 18 (Corvallis, OR)
Sept. 26: Cincinnati 28, Fresno State 20 (Cincinnati, OH)
Oct. 3: Cincinnati 37, Miami (Ohio) 13 (Oxford, OH)
Oct. 15: Cincinnati 34, (#21) South Florida 17 (Tampa, FL)
Oct. 24: Cincinnati 41, Louisville 10 (Cincinnati, OH)
Oct. 31: Cincinnati 28, Syracuse 7 (Syracuse, NY)
Nov. 7: Cincinnati 47, Connecticut 45 (Cincinnati, OH)
Nov. 13: Cincinnati 24, (#25) West Virginia 21 (Cincinnati, OH)
Nov. 27: Cincinnati 49, Illinois 36 (Cincinnati, OH)
Dec. 5: Cincinnati 45, (#15) Pittsburgh 44 (Pittsburgh, PA)
Jan. 1: (#5) Florida 51, Cincinnati 24 (Sugar Bowl)

4. Virginia Tech Hokies, 1999 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Frank Beamer
Championships: Big East
Key Stats: No. 1 in nation in scoring offense (41.4 ppg) and scoring defense (10.5 ppg) in regular season; Michael Vick led the nation in passing efficiency as a freshman
Award Winners: Frank Beamer (Paul “Bear” Bryant Award, Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year), Corey Moore (Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Lombardi Award, Nagurski Award), Michael Vick (Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Big East Rookie of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (4): Michael Vick (1st, 2001), Ike Charlton (2nd, 2000), Andre Davis (2nd, 2002), John Engleberger (2nd, 2000)

Led by freshman quarterback Michael Vick and a stingy defense headlined by unanimous All-American defensive end Corey Moore, the Virginia Tech Hokies went through the regular season unblemished and pretty much unchallenged as their closest margin of victory was two points on the road against West Virginia. Pitted against the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl, the Hokies held onto a one-point lead at the end of the third quarter. The Seminoles would outscore the Hokies 18-0 in the final quarter, putting an end to their national championship dreams.

1999 Schedule:

Sept. 4: Virginia Tech 47, James Madison 0 (Blacksburg, VA)
Sept. 11: Virginia Tech 31, UAB 10 (Blacksburg, VA)
Sept. 23: Virginia Tech 31, Clemson 11 (Blacksburg, VA)
Oct. 2: Virginia Tech 31, (#24) Virginia 7 (Charlottesville, VA)
Oct. 9: Virginia Tech 58, Rutgers 20 (Piscataway, NJ)
Oct. 16: Virginia Tech 62, (#16) Syracuse 0 (Blacksburg, VA)
Oct. 30: Virginia Tech 30, Pittsburgh 17 (Pittsburgh, PA)
Nov. 6: Virginia Tech 22, West Virginia 20 (Morgantown, WV)
Nov. 13: Virginia Tech 43, (#19) Miami (Fla.) 10 (Blacksburg, VA)
Nov. 20: Virginia Tech 62, Temple 7 (Philadelphia, PA)
Nov. 26: Virginia Tech 38, Boston College 14 (Blacksburgh, VA)
Jan. 4: (#1) Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29 (Sugar Bowl)

3. Miami Hurricanes, 2000 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Butch Davis
Championships: Big East, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: No. 2 in nation in scoring offense (42.6 ppg) and no. 5 in scoring defense (15.5 ppg) through regular season
Award Winners: Ken Dorsey (Sugar Bowl MVP), Dan Morgan (Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Bednarik Award, Butkus Award, Nagurski Award), Santana Moss (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (20): Phillip Buchanon (1st, 2002), Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), Damione Lewis (1st, 2001), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Bryant McKinnie (1st, 2002), Dan Morgan (1st, 2001), Santana Moss (1st, 2001), Ed Reed (1st, 2002), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005), Mike Rumph (1st, 2002), Jeremy Shockey (1st, 2002), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Reggie Wayne (1st, 2001), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Clinton Portis (2nd, 2002)

This is the team that laid the groundwork for the 2001 national championship as the roster featured five All-Americans, 12 first-team All Big East selections and 20 future first- or second-round NFL draft picks. Despite beating then No. 1-ranked Florida State earlier in the season and being ranked higher in the polls, the Hurricanes were prevented a chance to vie for the national championship. Instead, they went to the Sugar Bowl and took their frustrations out on another in-state rival, defeating Florida 37-20 and finishing the season ranked No. 2. That victory also was the last for Butch Davis as a collegiate coach, as he left Miami to become the head coach of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.

2000 Schedule:

Aug. 31: Miami (Fla.) 61, McNeese State 14 (Miami, FL)
Sept. 9: (#15) Washington 34, Miami (Fla.) 29 (Seattle, WA)
Sept. 23: Miami (Fla.) 47, West Virginia 10 (Morgantown, WV)
Sept. 30: Miami (Fla.) 64, Rutgers 6 (Piscataway, NJ)
Oct. 7: Miami (Fla.) 27, (#1) Florida State 24 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 21: Miami (Fla.) 45, Temple 17 (Philadelphia, PA)
Oct. 28: Miami (Fla.) 42, Louisiana Tech 31 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 4: Miami (Fla.) 41, (#2) Virginia Tech 21 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 11: Miami (Fla.) 35, Pittsburgh 7 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 18: Miami (Fla.) 26, Syracuse 0 (Syracuse, NY)
Nov. 25: Miami (Fla.) 52, Boston College 6 (Miami, FL)
Jan. 2: Miami (Fla.) 37, (#7) Florida 20 (Sugar Bowl)

2. Miami Hurricanes, 2002 (12-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Larry Coker
Championships: Big East
Key Stats: No. 1 pass defense (119.7 pg) in nation; Willis McGahee no. 4 rusher (134.9 ypg), no. 2 scorer (28 TDs) in nation
Award Winners: Ken Dorsey (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year), Willis McGahee (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year), Brett Romberg (Rimington Trophy)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (15): Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Kelly Jennings (1st, 2006), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), William Joseph (1st, 2003), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Rocky McIntosh (2nd, 2006), Sinorice Moss (2nd, 2006), Roscoe Parrish (2nd, 2005)

This team lived up to its billing as defending national champions as it started the season ranked No. 1 and maintained that ranking until the final game. Thirteen Hurricanes were named first-team All Big-East with running back Willis McGahee and center Brett Romberg earning consensus All-American honors. The lone blemish on their record came in the BCS National Championship Game as the ‘Canes fell in two overtimes to Ohio State, ending their reign as national champions and 34-game winning streak.

2002 Schedule:

Aug. 31: Miami (Fla.) 63, Florida A&M 17 (Miami, FL)
Sept. 7: Miami (Fla.) 41, (#6) Florida 16 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 14: Miami (Fla.) 44, Temple 21 (Philadelphia, PA)
Sept. 21: Miami (Fla.) 38, Boston College 6 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 5: Miami (Fla.) 48, Connecticut 14 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 12: Miami (Fla.) 28, (#9) Florida State (Miami, FL)
Oct. 26: Miami (Fla.) 40, West Virginia 23 (Morgantown, WV)
Nov. 2: Miami (Fla.) 42, Rutgers 17 (Piscataway, NJ)
Nov. 9: Miami (Fla.) 26, Tennessee 3 (Knoxville, TN)
Nov. 21: Miami (Fla.) 28, Pittsburgh 21 (Miami FL)
Nov. 30: Miami (Fla.) 49, Syracuse 7 (Syracuse, NY)
Dec. 7: Miami (Fla.) 56, Virginia Tech 45 (Miami, FL)
Jan. 3: (#2) Ohio State 31, Miami (Fla.) 24 (2OT) (BCS National Championship)

1. Miami Hurricanes, 2001 (12-0, 7-0)
Head Coach: Larry Coker
Championships: Big East, Rose Bowl, National
Key Stats: No. 3 in nation in scoring offense (42.7 ppg), no. 1 in scoring defense (9.8 ppg); average margin of victory 33.2 points per game
Award Winners: Larry Coker (Paul “Bear” Bryant Award), Ken Dorsey (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Maxwell Award, Rose Bowl co-MVP), Andre Johnson (Rose Bowl co-MVP), Bryant McKinnie (Outland Trophy), Ed Reed (co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (17): Phillip Buchanon (1st, 2002), Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), William Joseph (1st, 2003), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Bryant McKinnie (1st, 2002), Ed Reed (1st, 2002), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005), Mike Rumph (1st, 2002), Jeremy Shockey (1st, 2002), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Clinton Portis (2nd, 2002)

Simply put, this team was loaded and is viewed by many as one of the best ever in college football history. With a roster featuring six first-team All-Americans and 13 first-team All-Big East selections, not to mention 32 future NFL draft picks, these Hurricanes dominated on both sides of the ball and steamrolled their competition from start to finish. They started things off by going to Happy Valley and dominating Penn State 33-7, which tied the record for the Nittany Lions’ worst home loss under Joe Paterno. Later on, the ‘Canes defeated No. 14 Syracuse and No. 12 Washington in consecutive weeks at the Orange Bowl with a combined score of 124-7, which set the NCAA record for largest margin of victory over consecutive ranked opponents. They capped things off by dismantling the No. 4 Nebraska Cornhuskers 37-14 in the Rose Bowl, in a game where they held a 34-0 lead in the first half.

2001 Schedule:

Sept. 1: Miami (Fla.) 33, Penn State 7 (State College, PA)
Sept. 8: Miami (Fla.) 61, Rutgers 0 (Miami, FL)
Sept. 27: Miami (Fla.) 43, Pittsburgh 21 (Pittsburgh, PA)
Oct. 6: Miami (Fla.) 38, Troy 7 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 13: Miami (Fla.) 49, (#14) Florida State 27 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 25: Miami (Fla.) 45, West Virginia 3 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 3: Miami (Fla.) 38, Temple 0 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 10: Miami (Fla.) 18, Boston College 7 (Chestnut Hill, MA)
Nov. 17: Miami (Fla.) 59, (#14) Syracuse 0 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 24: Miami (Fla.) 65, (#12) Washington 7 (Miami, FL)
Dec. 1: Miami (Fla.) 26, (#14) Virginia Tech 24 (Blacksburg, VA)
Jan. 3: Miami (Fla.) 37, (#4) Nebraska 14 (Rose Bowl)


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