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Recent weeks have presented the classic conundrum for those who spend time ranking teams: Do you rank a team based on what they have been all season, what they can be or what they are right now?

Tough life, right?

Teams like Wisconsin and Iowa State have seen winning streaks turn into losing streaks. Right now, clearly, they’re not very good, but the body of work suggests they’re still among the best in the country.

Teams like Kansas and Duke are starting to look more like the teams we thought we’d see this season, but — again — their body of work might suggest a lower ranking.

Maybe we’ll get more answers during the weekend, but probably not. Here’s a look at where teams standing heading into Saturday.

College Basketball Pre-Weekend Power Rankings: Jan. 24
All games Saturday unless noted.

1. Arizona (19-0, 6-0 Pac-12)
This weekend: Utah (Sunday)
The only weakness for Arizona? Try free throw shooting (66.7 percent). Otherwise, nada.

2. Syracuse (18-0, 5-0 ACC)
This weekend: at Miami
The undefeated Orange got a bit of bad news this week with a season-ending injury to DaJuan Coleman, Syracuse’s best low-post player.

3. Michigan State (18-1, 7-0 Big Ten)
This weekend: Michigan
The Spartans will head into Saturday’s game against Michigan — also perfect in the Big Ten — without Adreian Payne (foot) and Branden Dawson (hand).

4. Florida (16-2, 5-0 SEC)
This weekend: Tennessee
Florida is 5-9 against Tennessee since the 2006-07 season, including the current three-game losing streak to the Volunteers.

5. Kansas (14-4, 5-0 Big 12)
This weekend: at TCU
The Jayhawks have been rewarded for wins over four consecutive ranked teams with four days off and a date with lowly TCU.

6. San Diego State (17-1, 6-0 MWC)
This weekend: at Utah State
The Aztecs have a great defense, but they’re shooting 43.5 percent from 2-point range, ranking 326th nationally.

7. Wichita State (20-0, 7-0 MVC)
This weekend: at Drake
Since the overtime scare against Missouri State, Wichita State has won their last three games by an average of 19 points.

8. Villanova (16-2, 5-1 Big East)
This weekend: at Marquette
Creighton exposed Villanova’s leaky 3-point defense in a major way. Teams are shooting 36.2 percent from 3 vs. the Wildcats.

9. Oklahoma State (15-3, 3-2 Big 12)
This weekend: at West Virginia
The Cowboys played one poor half and one good half in Lawrence on Saturday.

10. Louisville (17-3, 3-1 American)
This weekend: UCF
Freshman point guard Terry Rozier has 14 assists and two turnovers in three games since taking over for an injured Chris Jones.

11. Creighton (16-3, 6-1 Big East)
This weekend: Georgetown
The Bluejays have the highest offensive efficiency rating on since at least 2003.

12. Iowa (15-4, 4-2 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Northwestern
In the last two games, Aaron White has scored one point total in the first half ... and a combined 34 in the second.

13. Saint Louis (18-2, 5-0 A-10)
This weekend: Richmond
The Billikens were able to survive defensive lapses to beat a bad Duquesne team on the road Wednesday.

14. Michigan (14-4, 6-0 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Michigan State
Nik Stauskas is averaging 23.3 points in his last three games heading into huge showdown with rival Michigan State.

15. Pittsburgh (17-2, 5-1 ACC)
This weekend: at Maryland
The Panthers responded to a hard-fought loss at Syracuse by scoring 76 points and shooting 56.3 percent in a win over a salty defensive team in Clemson.

16. Duke (15-4, 4-2 ACC)
This weekend: Florida State
Is Duke on its way back up? Jabari Parker is dominating again and the Blue Devils can defend again ... against NC State and Miami.

17. Wisconsin (16-3, 3-3 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Purdue
The Badgers have allowed opponents to shoot 55 percent from the field during this three-game losing streak.

18. Iowa State (14-3, 3-2 Big 12)
This weekend: Kansas State
The Cyclones have lost three in a row, and it’s tough to find where the streak will end: Iowa State’s upcoming schedule is Kansas State, at Kansas, Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State.

19. Kentucky (14-4, 4-1 SEC)
This weekend: Georgia
Alex Poythress has proven to be a key contributor off the bench, scoring 16 against Texas A&M on Tuesday.

20. Cincinnati (18-2, 7-0 American)
This weekend: at Temple (Sunday)
The Bearcats are in the midst of six-game stretch against the weaker teams in the American before facing Louisville on the road on Jan. 30.

21. UConn (15-4, 3-3 American)
This weekend: at Rutgers
The Huskies are shooting a stellar 41.7 percent from 3-point range.

22. Memphis (14-4, 4-2 American)
This weekend: USF (Sunday)
Shaq Goodwin is averaging 17 points and 6.8 rebounds in his last four games against AAC competition.

23. UMass (16-2, 3-1 A-10)
This weekend: at St. Bonaventure
The Minutemen’s close calls in A-10 play caught up with them in 55-52 loss to Richmond on Wednesday.

24. Minnesota (15-5, 4-3 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Nebraska (Sunday)
The Gophers split a tough 11 days with wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin and losses to Michigan State and Iowa. Not bad for the young Pitino.

25. Virginia (14-5, 5-1 ACC)
This weekend: Virginia Tech
The Cavaliers are quietly contending for the ACC regular season title. Virginia won’t play Duke again and gets Syracuse at home. Cavs must beat Pitt on the road next week.

College Basketball Pre-Weekend Power Rankings Jan. 24
Post date: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 07:30
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-12-wide-receivers-bcs-era

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

More so than any other league in America, the Big 12 has had the most decorated wide receivers during the BCS Era. Only two players in the history of college football have ever won two Biletnikoff Awards and both of them played in the Big 12 during the 16-year BCS Era. In fact, 17 different times has someone caught more than 100 passes in the Big 12 (1996), and until 2013, no ACC player had ever topped 100 catches in a single season.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08)
Stats: 231 rec., 3,127 yds, 41 TDs

No player has been as productive in just two seasons as the Dallas, Texas native. As a redshirt freshman, Crabtree set NCAA records for receptions (134), yards (1,962) and touchdowns (22) and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wideout. He also won Big 12 Newcomer and Offensive Player of the Year honors and still owns the single-season league record for receptions and yards as just a freshman. He became the first player in NCAA history to win a second Biletnikoff Award when he caught 97 passes for 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns for the 11-2 Red Raiders the next year. He finished fifth in the Heisman balloting in ’08 — one of just four wide receivers to finish in the top five during the BCS Era. Certainly, Mike Leach’s system inflated the two-time consensus All-American’s numbers, but the 6-foot-2, 215-pound wideout was — and still is — easily the most talented Texas Tech receiver in program history.

2. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11)
Stats: 252 rec., 3,564 yds, 40 TDs, 136 rush, TD

Similarly to Crabtree, Blackmon’s numbers are inflated due to an elite offensive system. But make no mistake, he is the one of the greatest pass-catchers to ever play. He posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns, earning consensus All-American honors twice. The Ardmore (Okla.) Plainview product also became just the second player in NCAA history to claim two Biletnikoff Awards. Blackmon won Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2010 and capped his illustrious career with a Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl MVP performance against Stanford. At a program with a long track record of elite wideouts, Blackmon has to be considered the best. He is one of just four wide receivers to finish in the top five for the Heisman Trophy (5th, 2010) during the BCS Era.

3. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma (2008-11)
Stats: 349 rec., 4,586 yds, 45 TDs, 97 rush, TD, 1,307 ret. yds, 2 TDs

No one in NCAA history caught more passes than the smallish local star from Norman, Okla. And it didn’t take long for him to become a star, catching seven passes for a freshman school-record 141 yards in his first collegiate game. He posted three straight seasons of at least 80 catches, 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns. He led the nation in both receptions (131) and punt returns (34) as a junior and is the Big 12’s all-time leading receiver in all three major categories. Broyles was a two-time consensus All-American.

4. Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2009-12)
Stats: 288 rec., 3,413 yds, 29 TDs, 1,031 rush, 6 TDs, 2,840 ret. yds, 5 TDs

Be it through the air, on the ground or in the kicking game, Austin was downright unstoppable. The diminutive talent won’t ever be confused with prototypical physical outside receivers, but with the ball in his hands, few were as productive. The Baltimore prospect was a two-time All-American and two-time Big East Special Teamer of the Year before moving to the Big 12. He posted back-to-back 100-catch/1,000-yard seasons and was a 1,000-yard rusher for his career. In fact, Austin’s signature performance came as a running back against Oklahoma as senior when he nearly set an NCAA record for all-purpose production with 572 yards (344 rushing, 82 receiving, 146 kick return). He scored four different ways during his unbelievable senior season and finished eighth in the Heisman voting. His 2,910 all-purpose yards set a Big 12 single-season record.

5. Roy Williams, Texas (2000-03)
Stats: 241 rec., 3,866 yds, 36 TDs, 243 rush, 3 TDs

Right out of the gate, Texas knew they had a great one in the massive 6-foot-3, 218-pound in-state star from Odessa. He was a three-time All-Big 12 selection and left school with the records for receptions, yards and touchdowns. “The Legend” never caught fewer than seven touchdowns or 800 yards in any of his four NCAA seasons. He is ninth all-time in Big 12 history in receptions, fourth in receiving yards and fifth in touchdown catches. 

6. Jeremy Maclin, Missouri (2007-08)
Stats: 182 rec., 2,315 yds, 22 TDs, 668 rush, 6 TDs, 2,626 ret. yds, 5 TDs

He only played two seasons but was outstanding from the first time he stepped onto the college gridiron. He was a consensus All-American both years, topped 1,000 yards receiving in both years, scored at least 10 total touchdowns in both seasons and topped 1,000 return yards in both seasons. He set an NCAA freshman all-purpose yardage record with 2,776 total yards for a 12-2 Tigers team. He posted 5,609 all-purpose yards in just two seasons, which ranks ninth all-time in league history and third among all Big 12 wide receivers, and might be the most underrated wideout of the BCS Era.

7. Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State (2000-03)
Stats: 293 rec., 4,414 yds, 42 TDs

Oklahoma State has one of the best wide receiver traditions in the nation and Woods was one of the first high-profile stars. Three seasons with at least 77 catches, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns makes him one of the most prolific receivers in BCS history. And his NCAA-record seven touchdowns against SMU still stands today. The consensus All-American finished fourth in Big 12 history in receptions, second in yards and second in touchdowns.

8. Jordan Shipley, Texas (2006-09)
Stats: 248 rec., 3,191 yds, 33 TDs, 162 rush, 843 ret. yds, 4 TDs

Colt McCoy’s go-to target made big plays in big games and was as dependable as any receiver in Big 12 history. He was a consensus All-American in 2009 when he caught 116 passes for 1,485 yards and scored 15 total touchdowns for an unbeaten Texas team that lost to Alabama in the national championship game. He is seventh all-time in receptions, eighth all-time in yards and seventh all-time in touchdown catches, barely trailing the aforementioned Williams for all of Texas' big three receiving records.

9. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State (2007-09)
Stats: 147 rec., 2,425 yds, 29 TDs, 574 ret. yds, 3 TDs

He may not have Blackmon’s numbers, but Bryant might be the most talented Pokes wideout of all-time. He was named a consensus All-American after 87 receptions, 1,480 yards and 21 total touchdowns as just a sophomore. Had he not been suspended for most of the 2009 season, his numbers would’ve rivaled anyone’s on this list. His overall physical ability was painfully obvious and it led to him being taken with the 24th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

10. Mark Clayton, Oklahoma (2001-04)
Stats: 220 rec., 3,236 yds, 31 TDs, 221 ret. yds, TD

Jason White's No. 1 target helped Oklahoma play in two national championship games. The Sooners had many elite wideouts but Clayton might have been the most dynamic (possibly, more so than Broyles even). His unstoppable junior season gets him onto this list alone: 83 rec., 1,425 yds, 15 TDs. He helped his team to three Big 12 championships, is sixth all-time in league history in yards and ninth all-time in touchdown catches.

Just missed the cut:

11. Kendall Wright, Baylor (2008-11)
Stats: 308 rec., 4,004 yds, 30 TDs, 425 rush, 2 TDs

There are just 15 receivers with 4,000 yards in their college careers and there are just 10 wideouts with at least 300 catches. There are just three such players with both (Ryan Broyles, Jordan White). Wright's offensive system certainly helped but he was as versatile, dependable and explosive as any player during this era.

12. Wes Welker, Texas Tech (2000-03)
Stats: 259 rec., 3,069 yds, 21 TDs, 562 rush, 2 TDs, 2,102 ret. yds, 8 TDs

Welker’s ranks 5,699 all-purpose yards rank seventh all-time in league history and trail only Ryan Broyles for No. 1 all-time among wide receivers. He is fifth all-time in receptions and sits just outside of the top 10 in terms of receiving yards. The do-everything prospect was excelling at versatility long before the all-purpose position was en vogue.

13. Jordy Nelson, Kansas State (2005-07)
Stats: 206 rec., 2,822 yds, 20 TDs, 267 ret. yds, 3 TDs

Nelson was a consensus All-American after catching 122 passes (No. 3 in Big 12 history) for 1,606 yards (No. 9 in Big 12 history) and 11 touchdowns in 2007 before leaving for the NFL. He also returned two punts for touchdowns and threw two touchdowns during that memorable season. He finished just outside the top 10 all-time in league history in receptions and yards.

14. Terrance Williams, Baylor (2009-12)
Stats: 202 rec., 3,334 yds, 27 TDs, 1,342 ret. yds

The consensus All-American posted one of the greatest single seasons in league history when he caught 97 passes for 1,832 yards (second in Big 12 history) and 12 scores in ’12 (with Nick Florence under center). Depending on if bowl stats are counted or not, Williams finished sixth all-time in yards and was just outside the top 10 in receptions and touchdowns.

15. Stedman Bailey, West Virginia (2010-12)
Stats: 210 rec., 3,218 yds, 41 TDs

Like Austin, only one of his seasons took place in the Big 12, but it was a monster year. He caught 114 passes (sixth-best in Big 12 history) for 1,622 yards (seventh-best) and 25 touchdowns (Big 12 record). In fact, no Big 12 receiver has ever topped Bailey in single-season scoring and his 150 points ranks sixth all-time behind only Ricky Williams, Collin Klein and Joseph Randle among position players. His career yards would be top 10 in the Big 12 had he played all three seasons there. His 41 TD receptions would be tied for third in Big 12 history. 

Best of the rest:

16. Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas (2007-09): 219 rec., 3,240 yds, 31 TDs, 37 rush, TD, 651 ret. yds, TD
Two monster years before leaving early for the NFL. Seventh in yards and ninth in TD receptions.

17. Todd Blythe, Iowa State (2004-07): 176 rec., 3,096 yds, 31 TDs
Tied for ninth with 31 TD receptions and is 10th all-time in yards. Holds every major ISU record.

18. Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (2009-12): 252 rec., 3,117 yds, 24 TDs
One year in SEC, but did most of his damage in the Big 12. Aggies' all-time leader in most categories.

19. Adarius Bowman, Oklahoma State (2003-06): 155 rec., 2,697 yds, 25 TDs
After two uneventful years at North Carolina, Bowman starred in Stillwater with two 1,000-yard seasons.

20. Danario Alexander, Missouri (2006-09): 191 rec., 2,778 yds, 22 TDs
Uninspiring career blossomed with monster 113-catch, 1,781-yard, 14-TD senior season.

21. Quan Cosby, Texas (2005-08): 212 rec., 2,598 yds, 19 TDs, 2,103 ret. yds, 2 TDs
Steady all-around performer for a team that went 45-7 in his four seasons (with a BCS title).

22. Quincy Morgan, Kansas State (1999-00): 106 rec., 2,173 yds, 23 TDs
Played only two years but topped 1,000 yards in both with 23 TDs in 24 games.

23. Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M (2008-11): 233 rec., 3,092 yds, 34 TDs
One of the conference's all-time leaders in all three categories but never seemed to reach full potential.

24. Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma (2005-08): 202 rec., 2,861 yds, 19 TDs, 1,676 ret. yds, TD
Consistent playmaker as a receiver and return man on team that won three Big 12 titles.

25. Jarrett Hicks, Texas Tech (2003-06): 198 rec., 2,859 yds, 30 TDs
Was injured his senior year or else his numbers could have been among the league’s best.

Top 10 Big 12 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era
Post date: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/freshman-15-college-basketball-freshman-power-rankings-jan-24

Five freshmen were among the midseason top 25 released by the Wooden Award earlier this week, but the nation’s top freshman — at least this week — was not among them.

Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis, Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Kentucky’s Julius Randle and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon all made the watch list for the national player of the year. The Jayhawks’ Joel Embiid did not.

Granted, the voting took place before Embiid’s breakout against Oklahoma State on Saturday. And the midseason top 25 wouldn’t preclude Embiid from winning — “the players on the list are considered strong candidates” for the award, the Wooden Award release notes.

Whether Embiid is a contender by the end of the year we don’t know, but at least this week, he’s the freshman with the most momentum.

The Freshman 15: Jan. 24 Power Rankings

1. Joel Embiid, Kansas
The rumblings that Embiid may be outshining his other great freshman teammate have been going on for several weeks, but Saturday was the breakout. Embiid came two blocked shots short of a triple double against Oklahoma State with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks. In one game, he proved he can not only finish, but start, an alley-oop.

2. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Ennis numbers as a passer — 5.5 assists per game, 1.3 turnovers — remain outstanding, but Pittsburgh learned he’s just as dangerous with the ball in his hands in crunch time Saturday. Ennis scored 16 points and clinched the 59-54 win with two driving layups and two free throws late.

3. Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker never really went away as he continues to lead Duke in scoring. That said, his efficiency numbers dipped early in ACC play. In the last two games, though, he returned to his early season pace, converting 12 of 26 shots from the field against Miami and NC State. He averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds in his two games last week.

4. Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Gordon keeps chugging along for the undefeated Wildcats. The forward is averaging 14 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in his last four while shooting 54.8 percent from the field.

5. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
No question, Wiggins was a virtual no-show in Saturday’s win over Oklahoma State. But even considering his three points and two rebounds against the Cowboys, Wiggins averaged 14.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in Kansas’ run of four consecutive games (and wins) against ranked teams.

6. Julius Randle, Kentucky
Randle emerged from a physical game with Tennessee’s frontcourt with only two rebounds, the only time in SEC play he failed to grab double-digit boards.

7. Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Vonleh is becoming a more effective player in the offensive end in recent games as the Hooisers need all the help they can get. Vonleh had double-doubles against Michigan State and Northwestern last week, but Indiana lost both games.

8. Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
With the Volunteers dominating down low last week, John Calipari put the game in Harrison’s hands on the outside. The guard finished with 26 points, including 10-for-10 free-throw shooting.

9. Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
Texas A&M stopped Harrison’s hot streak, holding him to 1-of-5 shooting. In the three games prior, Harrison averaged 14.7 points per game.

10. Marcus Foster, Kansas State
The book is clear on Kansas State: Shut down Foster and win. Foster is averaging 16.5 points per game in the Wildcats’ Big 12 wins. He scored 7 of and 8 points on a combined 6-of-24 shooting in losses to Kansas and Texas.

11. Jordan Mickey, LSU
Mickey came back from a dismal performance against Ole Miss to pick up 13 points and give rebounds against Vanderbilt and 14 points and 13 rebounds against Missouri.

12. Zach LaVine, UCLA
LaVine is averaging 13.6 points per game in Pac-12 play. He’s certainly getting more involved, taking at least nine shots in each game in conference play.

13. James Young, Kentucky
Young has been a little streaky, but the Wildcats’ guard/forward is averaging 14.3 points and 4.5 rebounds.

14. Jordan Woodard, Oklahoma
Woodard is coming off a lackluster game against TCU, but his presence in our freshman power rankings is long overdue. The point guard had 10 points and eight assists in a road win over Baylor on Saturday.

15. Terry Rozier, Louisville
Rozier hasn’t put up big scoring numbers since taking over the point guard role for an injured Chris Jones, but he has amassed 14 assists to two turnovers in three games as a starter.

The Freshman 15: College Basketball Freshman Power Rankings Jan. 24
Post date: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-weekend-preview-michigan-michigan-state-top-game

This weekend will feature only two games between ranked teams, but one of them is a doozy.

After Michigan defeated Iowa on Wednesday and Michigan State dodged Indiana on Wednesday, the top two teams in the Big Ten standings will meet in East Lansing.

Especially in this league, staying undefeated in conference play in late January is a major feat. Just ask Ohio State and Wisconsin. Certainly the two coaches meeting Saturday at the Breslin Center are feeling a bit lucky to be playing for the Big Ten lead.

Michigan has played nine games this season without forward Mitch McGary, and John Beilein is adapting to playing without him for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Michigan State has had ongoing injuries issues that at some point or another have claimed Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Gary Harris.

The matchup between the Michigan schools isn’t the only key game this week. The story of the month seems to be slumping teams — Wisconsin, Iowa State, Baylor and others are facing critical games this week to show if any of them can pull out of recent funks.

College Basketball Weekend Preview
All times Eastern

Game of the Week:
Michigan at Michigan State (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN)

No one would dare say that the basketball matchup between the Wolverines and Spartans is bigger than the football game, but this is pretty close. Both teams are in Big Ten contention despite major injuries. Michigan has weathered the season-ending injury to Mitch McGary with wins over Wisconsin and Iowa in the last week. Thanks to the hot hand of Nik Stauskas (20-plus points in three consecutive games), Michigan leads the Big Ten in points per possession at 118 points per 100 possessions in conference games. Meanwhile, Tom Izzo only wishes he had injury concerns so simple. Adreian Payne is not likely to play with an ongoing foot injury, and Branden Dawson is out four to five weeks after sustaining a broken hand when he slammed his hand in frustration while watching game film. With those combined injuries, expect a backcourt battle in East Lansing.

Tricky Road Trip:
Xavier at Providence (Saturday, noon, Fox Sports 1)

Providence isn’t quite on the NCAA Tournament bubble yet, but the Friars are riding a four-game winning streak that includes a 81-68 defeat of Creighton at home. Providence’s Bryce Cotton and Xavier’s Semaj Christon should be able to match each other shot for shot in what could be one of the best individual matchups of the weekend.

Kansas State at Iowa State (Saturday, 1:45 p.m., Big 12 Network)

Iowa State, which has lost three straight games following a 14–0 start, desperately needs a win to remain relevant in the Big 12 title chase. Kansas State has been one of the league’s early surprises; the Cats are 4–1 in the Big 12, with the only loss coming on the road at Kansas. Bruce Weber’s team has been terrific on the defensive end, so defending Iowa State’s many set plays will be key in this game. After a last-second loss to Texas on Tuesday, Kansas State also needs a win for its psyche.

Streaking vs. Slumping:
Texas at Baylor (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big 12 Network)

Texas has suffered major personnel losses in recent years, but Rick Barnes has the Longhorns in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth. Jonathan Holmes’ buzzer-beater against Kansas State on Tuesday has given Texas a four-game winning streak. Baylor, on the other hand, has too much talent to be 1–4 in the Big 12. With non-conference wins over Colorado, Dayton and Kentucky, Baylor’s NCAA résumé is solid, but at some point this team needs to start winning games in league play.

Late-Night Tilt:
BYU at Gonzaga (Saturday, 11 p.m., ESPN2)

The West Coast Conference is looking more and more like a one-bid league, especially after BYU added a triple overtime loss to Portland on Thursday to defeats to Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount. Gonzaga also lost to the Pilots earlier this season, but the Bulldogs have found their stride. On Saturday, they'll look to contain guard Tyler Haws, who scored 48 points in 50 minutes of play Thursday.

Others to Watch

Florida State at Duke (Saturday, noon, ESPN)
This is an intriguing matchup between one of the nation’s top defensive teams in Florida State and a Duke team that is loaded with offensive weapons. Florida State is holding its opponents to 40.5 percent shooting on 2-point field goals, a figure that ranks sixth in the nation. Duke, which shoots 41.4 percent from three and 52.7 percent from two, ranks second nationally in offensive efficiency (123 points per 100 possession).

Tennessee at Florida (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
Florida, off to a 4–0 start in the league, has emerged as the team to beat in the SEC. The Gators do just about everything well except shoot free throws, where they shoot 66.6 percent from the line. Tennessee features one of the most talented rosters in the league, but the Vols have some troubling losses — vs. UTEP on a neutral court and against NC State and Texas A&M at home. This team is searching for a quality win to pad its NCAA Tournament résumé.

Wisconsin at Purdue (Saturday 5 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Wisconsin has suddenly forgot how to defend the perimeter, as the Badgers have allowed all three opponents to top 50 percent shooting in three losses. The Badgers are entering must-win territory, especially against a lackluster Purdue team that has struggled to score at times this season. The Boilermakers are coming off a lost to Northwestern, but they had won three in a row before Tuesday.

Villanova at Marquette (Saturday, 2 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Villanova must regroup after its stunning 28-point loss at home to Creighton on Monday night. Defending the 3-point line will obviously be a focus in practice for Jay Wright. Good thing Marquette is one of the worst teams in the country from the 3-point line (30.4 percent).

Georgetown at Creighton (Saturday, 8 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Both teams had eventful games Monday night. Creighton set a bunch of shooting records at Villanova en route to a 96–68 stunner over the Wildcats. The Bluejays are 6–1 in league play in their first season in the Big East. Georgetown blew a seven-point lead in the final three minutes on its way to an 80–72 overtime loss at home to Marquette. The Hoyas, who have lost three straight games, dropped to 11–7 overall and 3–4 in the Big East.

Illinois at Indiana (Sunday, 3 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Just a few weeks ago, Illinois was 13–2 overall and 2–0 in the Big Ten. Now, the Illini are 13–6 and 2–4 in the Big Ten. Barring a quick turnaround, John Groce’s team will have a tough time earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Indiana regrouped from its embarrassing loss to Northwestern by giving Michigan State a fight on Tuesday in East Lansing, but it wasn’t enough for a win. The Hoosiers cannot afford to lose another home game to a team in the bottom half of the Big Ten.

Clemson at North Carolina (Sunday, 6 p.m., ESPNU)
At some point, North Carolina has to turn a corner if the Tar Heels aren’t going to see their wins over Michigan State, Louisville and Kentucky wasted on an NIT bid. The Heels have lost three of their last four, and the inconsistent offense faces one of the better defensive teams in the ACC in Clemson.

California at UCLA (Sunday, 8 p.m., ESPNU)
At one point Cal looked like it would be a viable No. 2 team in the league thanks to Oregon’s slump and Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury at Colorado. Then the Bears lost to USC  77-69 on Wednesday. UCLA is coming off a deflating loss of its own on the road to Utah.

Athlon Sports’ Mitch Light contributed to this report.

College Basketball Weekend Preview: Michigan-Michigan State is top game
Post date: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: super-bowl, NFL, News
Path: /10-best-nfl-teams-didnt-play-super-bowl-2014

Although a wild card team, many believed that Jim Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers had a legitimate shot of getting back to the Super Bowl this season. After two playoff wins on the road, the 49ers were positioned to do just that before coming up short in Seattle in the NFC Championship Game. So with their season now over, the question becomes where does this 49ers team rank among the rest of the field in terms of great teams that didn't play on Super Sunday?

With that in mind, Athlon Sports has examined win-loss records, overall talent, statistics, playoff performances and more and come up with our list of the best NFL teams that never reached the Super Bowl. As you can see below, this 49ers team barely makes it into the discussion.

* - eventual Super Bowl Champion

1. San Francisco 49ers, 1992 (14-2)
Lost: 30-20 to Dallas* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7

Steve Young won the MVP and led a 49ers offense that topped the NFL in scoring (26.9 ppg) and total offense. The defense was third in the NFL in points allowed and 15th in total defense. The only losses came to the defending and would-be AFC champion Bills in Week 2 and on the road against the Cardinals in Week 9. Ricky Waters led the team in rushing while Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Brent Jones torched secondaries. This defense also was loaded with names like Dave Whitemore, Bill Romanowski, Merton Hanks, Eric Davis and sack leader Tim Harris (17.0).

2. Dallas Cowboys, 1994 (12-4)
Lost: 38-28 to San Francisco* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7

Dallas and San Francisco went back and forth in the early '90s and this was the best Cowboys team to not finish the deal. This was essentially the same team that won three of four Super Bowls, as the triplets came up just one game short of four straight Super Sundays. The offense was second in the league in scoring (25.9 ppg) while the defense was third in points allowed (15.5 ppg). Charles Haley led the team in sacks, Robert Jones in tackles and Darren Woodson in interceptions.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers, 2004 (15-1)
Lost: 41-27 to New England* in AFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 9

Tommy Maddox started three games in 2004 and was 2-1. Ben Roethlisberger started 13 games and won every start behind the best defense in the NFL. This Steelers team led the league in scoring (15.7 ppg) and total defense en route to a near-perfect record. Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis formed a one-two punch in the backfield while a loaded receiving corps gave Big Ben plenty to work with. What made this team great, however, was the nasty, Pro Bowl-laden defense. The lone regular season loss came in Week 2 against Baltimore.

4. Minnesota Vikings, 1998 (15-1)
Lost: 30-27 (OT) to Atlanta in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 10

This team scored at an alarming rate. Led by Randall Cunningham at quarterback and a trio of playmakers in Robert Smith, Cris Carter and Randy Moss, the Vikings paced the NFL at 34.8 points per game. As well as owning the top offense in the league, Minnesota boasted the No. 6-rated scoring defense and No. 13-rated total defense. One loss to Tampa Bay in the middle of the year was the only regular season blemish and these Vikings came one missed Gary Anderson field goal away from playing in the Super Bowl.

5. San Francisco 49ers, 1990 (14-2)
Lost: 15-13 to NY Giants* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 5

The defending Super Bowl champs rolled through the regular season led by NFL MVP Joe Montana. This team was No. 2 in total offense and No. 3 in total defense while ranking No. 2 in scoring defense and No. 8 in total offense. Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley and Bill Romanowski led one of the best 49ers defenses of all-time.

6. Chicago Bears, 1986 (14-2)
Lost: 27-13 to Washington in NFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 7

Walter Payton and Jim McMahon were electric on offense, but the defending Super Bowl champs won 14 games in 1986 because of the defense. The Bears allowed an absurd 11.7 points and 258.1 yards per game on that side of the ball to lead the NFL in both categories. Wilber Marshall, Steve McMichael, Dave Duerson and Mike Singletary were Pro Bowlers while Richard Dent, William Perry and Dan Hampton did not receive invites to Hawaii. Few defenses were as talented as this version of the Monsters of the Midway.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1999 (14-2)
Lost: 33-14 to Tennessee in AFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7

The Jaguars beat Dan Marino and the Dolphins 62-7 in the Hall of Famer's final game to reach the AFC Championship Game. But Jacksonville and Mark Brunell lost for a third time to the Titans after going 14-0 against every other team in the NFL. The Brunell, Jimmy Smith, Fred Taylor, James Stewart, Keenan McCardell, Tony Boselli and Leon Searcy offense was sixth in scoring and seventh in yards, while the defense led the league in points allowed (13.6 ppg) and finished fourth in yards allowed.

8. Green Bay Packers, 2007 (13-3)
Lost: 23-20 (OT) to NY Giants* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 5

Three teams finished 13-3 in 2007 (Dallas, Indianapolis) but none came as close to unseating the eventual champs than the Packers. On a frigid night at Lambeau Field, the Giants outlasted this stacked Packers team in overtime. This team was second in total offense and 11th in total defense while finishing fourth in scoring offense and sixth in scoring defense. It was the last time that Brett Favre would ever suit up for Green Bay.

9. Tennessee Titans, 2000 (13-3)
Lost: 24-10 to Baltimore* in AFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 9

Despite six Pro Bowlers on offense, it was the defense that made this team special. The defense led the NFL in yards allowed and was No. 2 in points allowed. After splitting with the Ravens in the regular season, a bizarre Eddie George-Ray Lewis turnover sealed the Titans' fate. An offense that featured franchise bests at quarterback (Steve McNair), running back (George), tight end (Frank Wycheck), wide receiver (Derrick Mason) and offensive tackle (Bruce Matthews) came up just short of defending their AFC crown.

10. Indianapolis Colts, 2005 (14-2)
Lost: 21-18 to Pittsburgh* in AFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 8

Peyton Manning’s best all-around team (that never played in a Super Bowl) wasn’t necessarily his best statistical year. But this team was No. 2 in the NFL in scoring defense (15.4 ppg) and No. 2 in scoring offense (27.4 ppg) to lead the league in scoring differential. His offense featured a 1,500-yard rusher in Edgerrin James and four elite pass-catchers in Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney formed an elite pass-rush tandem that combined for 22.5 sacks while Bob Sanders and Cato June led the back seven.

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


Best of the Rest:

11. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1972 (11-3)
Lost: 21-17 to Miami* in AFC Championship

12. Oakland Raiders, 1974 (12-2)
Lost: 24-13 to Pittsburgh* in AFC Championship

13. Minnesota Vikings, 2009 (12-4)
Lost: 31-28 (OT) to New Orleans* in NFC Championship

14. Green Bay Packers, 2011 (15-1)
Lost: 37-20 to NY Giants* in NFC Championship

15. Indianapolis Colts, 2007 (13-3)
Lost: 28-24 to San Diego in AFC Divisional

16. Miami Dolphins, 1985 (12-4)
Lost: 31-14 to New England in AFC Championship

17. Dallas Cowboys, 1980 (12-4)
Lost: 20-7 to Philadelphia in NFC Championship

18. Pittsburgh Steelers, 2001 (13-3)
Lost: 24-17 to New England* in AFC Championship

19. LA Rams, 1976 (10-3-1)
Lost: 24-13 to Minnesota in NFC Championship

20. Cleveland Browns, 1986 (12-4) CG
Lost: 23-20 to Denver in AFC Championship

21. Dallas, 1981 (12-4)
22. Baltimore, 1967 (11-1-2)
23. San Francisco, 2013 (12-4)
24. Philadelphia, 2002 (12-4)
25. NY Giants, 1989 (12-4)
26. San Francisco, 1987 (13-2)
27. San Diego, 1979 (12-4)
28. New England, 2010 (14-2)
29. New England, 1976 (11-3)
30. LA Rams, 1975 (12-2)

10 Best NFL Teams That Didn't Play in a Super Bowl
Post date: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-23-2014

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 23.

Danica Patrick's new GoDaddy commercial is somewhat disturbing. Here she is in a more familiar, palatable form.

A Denver appliance store has gone on a class offensive against Richard Sherman with its billboards.

The first-ever Pro Bowl Draft happened. Credit for trying something different.

Team USA's Opening Ceremony uniforms are ridiculous, and not in the fun, barbershop quartet way that the Norwegian curling team's uniforms are ridiculous.

• This is fun: Current NBA players if they were '70s ABA players.

A Michigan State commit was caught on video body-slamming a security guard. Not sure about the laws in Detroit, but I think this is frowned upon.

Justin Bieber was arrested for DUI and drag racing. Please take your monkey and go far, far away.

Minnesota coeds were caught on GIF in their natural habitat — taking selfies with a bedazzled smartphone.

Wichita State's Tekele Cotton posterized an Illinois State Redbird last night. If this is normal behavior for Wichita State, I'm not surprised they're unbeaten.

A ref rode Derek Fisher like a pony last night.

Chipper Jones copped to starting a forest fire in his back yard. This is what happens when old guys retire and have nothing to do.

• This guy made a Jersey snowpocalypse a little more enjoyable by videobombing a reporter with a sweet air guitar solo.


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

Post date: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 10:35
Path: /2014-acc-football-schedule-analysis

John Swofford’s league was at a crossroads and it feels like the ACC made the right choice.

A Grant of Rights has been signed, the Louisville Cardinals — and mastermind athletic director Tom Jurich — are joining the ranks (and will be showcased on Labor Day night), Notre Dame has been officially added to the schedule for half the year and, of course, the ACC will enter the College Football Playoff Era as the home of the reigning national champions.

As the ACC 2014 football schedule is now finalized, fans can tell Swofford and his collection of excellent ADs have made it clear they value rivalries and TV ratings. New season-ending games could become permanent (like North Carolina-NC State) to go along with the already juicy list of in-state and cross-conference rivalries that dot the final weekend of action.

The biggest difference, and challenge, in 2014 and beyond for ACC fans will be seeing Notre Dame five times each year and how that impacts scheduling. It means an interesting 6-1-1 crossover slate and nationally televised games on Thursday (six games), Fridays (three) and even on Monday (one game). Below are some league superlatives and a team-by-team breakdown of the ’14 football season in the ACC.

Biggest Game in the Atlantic: Florida State at Louisville (Thurs., Oct. 30)
Biggest Game in the Coastal: North Carolina at Miami (Nov. 1) 
Marquee Non-Conference Showdown: Oklahoma State vs. Florida State (Aug. 30)
Marquee Non-Conference Showdown II: Notre Dame at Florida State (Nov. 8)
Marquee Non-Conference Showdown III: Clemson at Georgia (Aug. 30)
League’s Toughest Schedule: Miami
League’s Easiest Schedule: Duke

Boston College Eagles (7-6, 4-4)

A sneaky good non-conference slate highlights the Eagles' early season schedule. Games with USC and Colorado State — as well as conference foe Pitt — will all take place at Alumni Stadium in the first five weeks of the season before an open date. As the calendar begins to flip from October to November, Boston College’s schedule begins to toughen. The Eagles will play a six-game stretch that includes Clemson, at Wake Forest, at Virginia Tech, Louisville, at Florida State and Syracuse. There is a bye week between Louisville and Florida State, giving Steve Addazio two weeks to prepare for the defending champs.

Best Non-Conference Game: USC (Sept. 13)
Crossover Games: Pitt (Sept. 5), at Virginia Tech (Nov. 1)
Upset Opportunity: Louisville (Nov. 8)
Must-Win: Syracuse (Nov. 29)

Clemson Tigers (11-2, 7-1)

Clemson isn’t going to ease into life without Tajh Boyd very easily. The Tigers will visit Georgia and Florida State in the first four weeks of the season before North Carolina comes to town to end the month of September. Should Clemson survive that run, things don’t get any easier in October: NC State, Louisville, at Boston College, Syracuse. At least, three of those four will come at home in Death Valley before an open date prepares this team for the stretch run. November will feature conference road trips to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech before ending with two non-conference games against Georgia State and South Carolina. Clemson will play in the state of Georgia twice and face three teams from the Peach State by the season’s end. Challenging for an ACC title with this schedule seems unlikely.

Best Non-Conference Game: South Carolina (Nov. 29)
Crossover Games: North Carolina (Sept. 27), at Georgia Tech (Nov. 15)
Upset Alert: at Georgia Tech (Nov. 15)
Must-Win: North Carolina (Sept. 27)

Florida State Seminoles (14-0, 8-0)

The Noles will begin their title defense in style with a neutral field game against Oklahoma State in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The crowd should be big and the game is one of the best non-conference tilts on tap for 2014. The Pokes highlight what will be a challenging opening month for the national champs. Aside from Okie State, Florida State also faces Clemson at home and must travel to Raleigh to face nemesis NC State within the first month. Notre Dame comes to town in mid-October to start the toughest stretch of games for the Noles that also involves road trips to Louisville and Miami as well as a home game with lowly Virginia. The season will end, as usual, against in-state rival Florida. Not facing Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Pitt or Georgia Tech makes a manageable schedule even better.

Best Non-Conference Game: Colorado State (Aug. 30)
Crossover Games: Virginia (Nov. 8), at Miami (Nov. 15)
Upset Alert: Utah (Nov. 29)
Must-Win: Clemson (Sept. 20) 

Louisville Cardinals (12-1, 7-1)

The ACC knows how to throw a welcoming party by sending Miami to Louisville on Labor Day night to kick things off in 2014. Not only is it the first-ever ACC game for the Cardinals but it’s a meeting between two of the better teams in the league. Should the Cards get past Miami, there is a good chance Bobby Petrino’s squad is undefeated as it heads to Death Valley to face Clemson in Week 7. The month of October will be tough with road games against Syracuse and Clemson and NC State and Florida State coming to town. In fact, the ACC schedule will be over by Nov. 8 with three weeks left in the slate. Over the final four weeks, Louisville will be off (Nov. 15), face Notre Dame on the road (Nov. 22) and Kentucky at home (Nov. 29) with the ACC title game set for Dec. 6. In all, the Cardinals will play on Thursday (Florida State), Friday (at Cuse), Saturdays and Monday (Miami). 

Best Non-Conference Game: at Notre Dame (Nov. 22)
Crossover Games: Miami (Sept. 1), at Virginia (Sept. 13)
Upset Alert: at Boston College (Nov. 8)
Must-Win: at Syracuse (Oct. 3)

NC State Wolfpack (3-9, 0-8)

The Wolfpack went 0-for-the-ACC and 0-for-the-state with eight losses in conference and four losses to teams in the state of North Carolina. Things should be better for the Pack in 2014 as an easy non-conference slate to start the year should provide four wins before facing Florida State and Clemson in back-to-back weeks. In the second half of the season, the schedule affords some chances for home wins against Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Dave Doeren will have to pull some upsets because the road slate in the second half is brutal: at Louisville (Oct. 18), at Syracuse (Nov. 1) and at North Carolina (No. 29). 

Best Non-Conference Game: at South Florida (Sept. 13)
Crossover Games: Georgia Tech (Nov. 8), at North Carolina (No. 29)
Upset Opportunity: Georgia Tech (Nov. 8)
Must-Win: Wake Forest (Nov. 15)

Syracuse Orange (7-6, 4-4)

The Orange’s search of a third straight bowl game will come with a quality non-conference schedule that features Maryland at home, Notre Dame in MetLife Stadium and a bizarre road trip to Mount Pleasant to face Central Michigan. Cuse then gets the three best teams in its division — Florida State, Louisville and Clemson — over a four-week span between Oct. 3 and Oct. 25. At least, the Cardinals and Seminoles must come North to play in the Carrier Dome. Over the final month of the year, Cuse fans will be on the edge of their seat in an effort to get to the postseason. NC State and Duke at home are winnable games with tricky road trips to Pitt and Boston College to end the year. The Orange will get a bye week before the final two-game road trip to cap the season.

Best Non-Conference Game: Notre Dame (Sept. 27, MetLife Stadium)
Crossover Games: Duke (Nov. 8), at Pitt (Nov. 22)
Upset Opportunity: Louisville (Oct. 3) 
Must-Win: Maryland (Sept. 20)

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-8, 2-6)

Wake Forest has a good shot at being 3-1 in Dave Clawson's first month on the job in Winston-Salem. Should Wake start out strong and win on the road at Utah State (easier said than done), this team could easily be unblemished heading to Louisville to start ACC play. That, however, is where things start to get ugly. Clawson gets back-to-back road trips to Louisville and Florida State before three straight home games with bowl teams Syracuse, Boston College and Clemson. The Deacons will have a tough time winning more than one of those five. The only comfort might come in the final three weeks, where the Deacs won't leave the state. Wake Forest finishes at NC State, Virginia Tech at home and at Duke. Bowl eligibility seems highly unlikely despite an easy non-conference slate.

Best Non-Conference Game: at Utah State (Sept. 13)
Crossover Games: Virginia Tech (Nov. 22), at Duke (Nov. 29)
Upset Opportunity: Virginia Tech (Nov. 22)
Must-Win: Syracuse (Oct. 18)

Duke Blue Devils (10-4, 6-3)

The defending division champs don’t have as tough a trip back to the title game as fellow division contenders Georgia Tech, Miami or North Carolina have. Duke gets two easier crossover games with Wake Forest and Syracuse and will host Virginia Tech and North Carolina late in the year (Weeks 12-13). The non-conference schedule should be four wins and the off weekends are well placed after five games and just before November. First half road trips to Miami and Georgia Tech — with a bye week in between — will likely decide if the Devils return to the ACC title game. Two sneaky road trips to start November to Pitt and Cuse could cause problems but both come after a bye weekend. There is a lot to like about this schedule for Duke but also plenty of speed bumps for a team that lost four games last season.

Best Non-Conference Game: Kansas (Sept. 13)
Crossover Games: at Syracuse (Nov. 8), Wake Forest (Nov. 29)
Upset Alert: at Syracuse (Nov. 8)
Must-Win: North Carolina (Nov. 20)

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-6, 5-3)

Visiting Tulane isn’t an easy game but it is a must-win if Tech expects to compete in the ACC. After what should be a 3-0 start for Paul Johnson, Yellow Jackets fans won’t have to wait long to figure out their standing in the ACC. Georgia Tech will play at Virginia Tech, host both Miami and Duke and visit North Carolina in four straight games. Survive that and Tech wins the division, if not, the second half could be a long uphill battle. Trips to Pitt, NC State and in-state rival Georgia as well as a visit from Clemson make the second half of the slate no easier than the already difficult first half. Virginia at home on Nov. 1 might be the only game in which Tech is a clear favorite after Week 2.

Best Non-Conference Game: at Georgia (Nov. 29)
Crossover Games: at NC State (Nov. 8), Clemson (Nov. 15)
Upset Opportunity: Clemson (Nov. 15)
Must-Win: Duke (Oct. 11)

Miami Hurricanes (9-4, 5-3)

The Hurricanes' first month of the season won’t be easy and its crossover schedule is easily the toughest in the league. Miami will travel to Louisville and to Nebraska before facing Duke at home all in the month of September. In addition to critical Coastal Division games with Duke, at Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech and North Carolina at home, Al Golden will face arguably the two best teams in the Atlantic: at Louisville to open the year and Florida State at home in mid-November. Mix in a tough non-conference game with Cincinnati on Oct. 11 and Miami has one of the toughest schedules in the league.  

Best Non-Conference Game: at Nebraska (Sept. 20)
Crossover Games: at Louisville (Sept. 1), Florida St (Nov. 15)
Upset Alert: at Georgia Tech (Oct. 4)
Must-win: Duke (Sept. 27)

North Carolina Tar Heels (7-6, 4-4)

The Tar Heels' ACC destiny in 2014 will be determined away from home. Conference games at Clemson, Duke and Miami, and a non-conference tilt in South Bend against Notre Dame, are extremely daunting for a team with eyes on a conference championship. North Carolina will play two games at home between Week 3 and Week 11. Both Techs — Virginia and Georgia — will have to come to Chapel Hill during that span, however, in a small bit of fortune. The season finale will now feature in-state rival NC State in crossover play and that, too, will come at home at Kenan Memorial. If the Tar Heels can make it to the month of November in contention, they will have a shot at a conference crown as the final three games are winnable (Pitt, at Duke, NC State). 

Best Non-Conference Game: at Notre Dame (Oct. 11)
Crossover Games: at Clemson (Sept. 27), NC State (Nov. 29)
Upset Alert: Georgia Tech (Oct. 18)
Must-Win: Virginia Tech (Oct. 4)

Pitt Panthers (7-6, 3-5)

There are a lot of winnable games in the first month of the season for Paul Chryst. Four non-conference games are highlighted by a visit from Iowa in Week 4 as two road ACC games against Boston College and Virginia will be played as well before the off date in Week 7. The break comes at a good time as the Panthers will face Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke in three consecutive games at home. A second bye week then prepares the Panthers for a tough final three weeks of the season - at North Carolina, home against Syracuse and at former Big East rival Miami. This slate isn’t all that daunting with how it is laid out and with winnable crossovers. Could Pitt actually be in contention entering that final three weeks of the season?

Best Non-Conference Game: Iowa (Sept. 20)
Crossover Games: at Boston College (Sept. 5), Syracuse (Nov. 22)
Upset Opportunity: Virginia Tech (Oct. 16)
Defining Moment: Syracuse (Nov. 22)

Virginia Cavaliers (2-10, 0-8)

Mike London enters a critical season in Charlottesville and the schedule-makers are doing him no favors. The non-conference slate involves a season opener against a potential top 10 team in UCLA at home and a road trip to BYU in Week 4 that could involve a heavy dose of revenge from the Cougars. In between is an ACC opener against Bobby Petrino and Louisville. The Cavaliers will play two home ACC games (UL, Pitt) to begin, so a brutal road slate awaits in the second half of the season. Trips to Durham, Atlanta, Tallahassee and Blacksburg loom with nasty home games against division frontrunners North Carolina and Miami mixed in. One win after Week 6 might be considered a success.

Best Non-Conference Game: UCLA (Aug. 30)
Crossover Games: Louisville (Sept. 13), at Florida State (Nov. 8)
Upset Opportunity: Louisville (Sept. 13)
Must-Win: Pitt (Oct. 4)

Virginia Tech Hokies (8-5, 5-3)

The most noticeable aspect to the Hokies ’14 slate is the road trip to Ohio State in Week 2 before hosting upstart East Carolina in Week 3. A 1-2 start to the season could be devastating as Tech’s most difficult stretch of ACC play comes between Weeks 4-9. Virginia Tech gets the important battle with Georgia Tech at home before back-to-back divisional road trips to North Carolina and Pitt. The trip to Pittsburgh will happen on a Thursday night, the first of two consecutive Thursday night games when Miami comes to town the following week. Much like UNC, should Tech make it to November in contention, things are looking positive. The Hokies will finish with four winnable games and a bye in the final five weeks of the season. The Commonwealth Cup is one of many rivalry games that the ACC is attempting to feature on the season’s final weekend. From a crossover standpoint (BC and at Wake), Tech has the clear advantage over Miami and North Carolina in the scheduling department.

Best Non-Conference Game: at Ohio State (Sept. 6)
Crossover Games: Boston College (Nov. 1), at Wake Forest (Nov. 22)
Upset Opportunity: Miami (Oct. 23)
Must-Win: Georgia Tech (Sept. 20)

2014 ACC Football Schedule Analysis
Post date: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-pac-12-wide-receivers-bcs-era

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

In a league with elite offensive systems and big-time pocket passers, the wide receivers from the Pac-12 have remarkable statistics, records and accomplishments. National titles and Biletnikoff Awards dot the list of the best of the BCS Era, but a guy who tried to challenge the NFL tops the list.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Mike Williams, USC (2002-03)
Stats: 176 rec., 2,579 yds, 30 TDs

Fans in Los Angeles may always wonder what could have been had Williams not pressed NFL Draft eligibility rules. In his two underclass seasons for USC, Williams was extraordinary. As a true freshman, the massive 6-foot-5, 240-pounder caught 81 passes for 1,265 yards and 14 TDs. He returned to top those numbers as a sophomore with 95 receptions (third in league history at the time), 1,314 yards and 16 scores in 2003 (still third in league history). He was a consensus All-American and finished eighth in the Heisman voting. Williams declared for the draft following his sophomore season, but was ultimately ruled ineligible and couldn't return to USC either. Although he was taken 10th overall in the 2005 draft, he ended up being of the biggest draft busts in recent history, especially given the talent and potential he showed in college.

2. Marqise Lee, USC (2011- 13)
Stats: 248 rec., 3,655 yds, 29 TDs, 146 rush, 1,351 ret. yds, 2 TDs

As just a sophomore, Lee won the Biletnikoff Award, was a consensus All-American, was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and broke multiple USC and Pac-12 receiving records. He is one of just two wideouts in BCS history to finish in the top four of the Heisman voting. Lee owns the single-game Pac-12 record with 345 yards against Arizona in 2012 and is third all-time with 16 catches in that game. His 118 catches and 1,721 yards were both Pac-12 records that stood for one year until Brandin Cooks showed up in 2013. He is fourth all-time in career receptions and yards in league history and ninth in TD catches.

3. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State (2011-13)
Stats: 226 rec., 3,272 yds, 24 TDs, 340 rush, 2 TDs

Cooks set the Pac-12 single-season records for receptions and yards when he caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards and finished third all-time with 16 touchdown receptions in 2013. He won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver before leaving early for the NFL Draft. Cooks is arguably the best of a long list of elite do-everything Beaver wide receivers, finishing 10th in league history in receptions and eighth all-time in yards.

4. Dwayne Jarrett, USC (2004-06)
Stats: 216 rec., 3,138 yds, 41 TDs

A two-time consensus All-American, Jarrett was a touchdown machine. He scored 13, 16 and 12 receiving touchdowns respectively while helping USC earn trips to back-to-back BCS National Championship Games. His 2005 campaign was his best — 91 rec., 1,274 yds, 16 TDs — and he finished ninth in the Heisman voting as a junior in 2006 before turning pro. In the red zone, few players have ever been as dominant as his 41 career touchdown receptions are nine more than any other Pac-12 player. He’s 15th in league history in receptions and 14th all-time in yards.

5. Troy Walters, Stanford (1996-99)
Stats: 245 rec., 3,995 yds, 26 TDs

Walters had as complete a final season as any player on this list. He won Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year honors, was a consensus All-American and won the Biletnikoff Award in 1999, the same year that Stanford won the league championship and played in the Rose Bowl. He is still the Pac-12's all-time leading receiver, as he is the only player to top 4,000 yards in league history. He’s tied with Lee for No. 4 all-time in receptions and he is 13th in league history with 26 touchdowns.

6. Reggie Williams, Washington (2001-03)
Stats: 238 rec., 3,536 yds, 22 TDs

Williams is sixth all-time in league history in receptions and fifth all-time in yards — all in just three years. He never had fewer than 973 yards in a season and never had fewer than 55 catches. He was excellent as a freshman before exploding as a sophomore for a school-record 94 catches and 1,454 yards in 2002. The massive 6-foot-4, 220-pound consensus All-American was the ninth overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft and likely would have been the league’s all-time leading receiver had he played his fourth year.

7. Mike Hass, Oregon State (2003-05)
Stats: 220 rec., 3,924 yds, 20 TDs

He may not be the most talented wideout to play during this era but Hass is one of the best. He was the first Pac-10 receiver in history to post three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and left school with the best single game in league history with 293 yards against Boise State in 2004. He won the Biletnikoff Award in 2005 as the nation’s best wide receiver. He is No. 3 all-time in yards and top 15 in receptions while only playing three seasons in college.

8. Robert Woods, USC (2010-12)
Stats: 251 rec., 2,924 yds, 32 TDs, 142 rush, 1,547 ret. yds, TDs

Before Lee set school and league records in 2012, Woods put his name atop the Pac-12 record books with a 111-catch season in '11. Woods finished third all-time in league history with 251 receptions — more than Lee posted in the same number of years (three). Woods was a consensus All-American and finished tied for second all-time with 32 touchdown receptions. Woods was the complete package as a wideout, return man and worked hard as a blocker as well. He was a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

9. Derek Hagan, Arizona State (2002-05)
Stats: 258 rec., 3,939 yds, 27 TDs

The all-time leading receiver in school history, Hagan tied Hass as the first player in league history to post three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He is still No. 2 in the league all-time in receptions and yards while ranking 12th all-time with 27 touchdown catches. Each of his four ASU teams were ranked and three of them went to bowl games. He was as consistent as it gets in a 50-game career.

10. James Rodgers, Oregon State (2007-11)
Stats: 222 rec., 2,578 yds, 19 TDs, 1,410 rush, 9 TDs, 2,385 ret. yds, 2 TDs

There are bigger names, both literally and figuratively, at the wideout position but few meant as much to their team and community than Rodgers to Oregon State. He finished top 15 in league history in receptions and posted big numbers receiving, but what made Rodgers a rare player was his versatility. He finished with 6,373 all-purpose yards after amassing 222 receptions, 173 rushing attempts and 107 kick and punt returns. One of two Rodgers (Jacquizz, a running back) to suit up for OSU around the same time, older sibling James could do everything for the Beavers.

Just missed the cut:

11. DeSean Jackson, Cal (2005-07)
Stats: 162 rec., 2,423 yds, 22 TDs, 199 rush, TDs, 671 ret. yds, 6 TDs

The electric playmaker could score from anywhere at anytime in any game. He was an explosive return man and huge vertical threat in the passing game. He was a consensus All-American in 2006 as a sophomore when he topped 1,000 yards receiving and returned four punts for touchdowns.

12. Michael Thomas, Arizona (2005-08)
Stats: 259 rec., 3,231 yds, 22 TDs, 395 rush, 3 TDs, 1,354 yds, 2 TDs

The Pac-12's all-time leading receiver didn’t play at USC or Oregon State. Instead he was a diminutive, but durable Wildcat. Thomas posted four straight seasons with at least 50 catches, was used in the ground game on trick plays and also was an excellent return man during his final two seasons. His junior season was his best as he caught 83 passes for 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns.

13. Bobby Wade, Arizona (1999-02)
Stats: 230 rec., 3,351 yds, 23 TDs

Wade has more touchdowns and yards than fellow Wildcat Thomas but he didn’t catch as many passes or else he would be the school’s all-time top pass-catcher. Wade is seventh all-time in league history in both receptions and yards. His final season set a school record with 93 receptions and was a few yards shy of setting the single-season yards record as well with 1,389 in 2002.

14. Geoff McArthur, Cal (2000-04)
Stats: 202 rec., 3,188 yds, 20 TDs

McArthur didn’t have a consistent career in Berkley but posted one of the greatest seasons ever by anyone in league history. In 2003, McArthur set Cal records with 85 receptions and 1,504 yards and added 10 touchdown catches on a team that began a bowl run for the Bears that lasted seven seasons.

15. Markus Wheaton, Oregon State (2009-12)
Stats: 227 rec., 2,994 yds, 16 TDs, 631 rush, 5 TDs

Hailing from a program that doesn't lack for production from the position, Wheaton is Oregon State's all-time leading receiver by a grand total of one catch over the aforementioned Cooks. Wheaton is top 20 in league history in yards as well as ninth all-time in catches. Wheaton was used like James Rodgers before him as a versatile threat who made plays all over the field. He had 83 carries on the ground for a 7.6 yards per carry average during his time in Corvallis.

Best of the rest:

16. Dennis Northcutt, Arizona (1996-99): 217 rec., 3,188 yds, 24 TDs, 382 rush, 2 TDs, 1,568 ret. yds, 2 TDs
Do-everything dynamo for the Cats before all-purpose was en vogue.

17. Keenan Allen, Cal (2010-12): 205 rec., 2,570 yds, 17 TDs, 230 rush, 2 TDs, 658 ret. yds, TD
Electric five-star athlete who caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards in 2011.

18. Jason Hill, Washington State (2003-06): 148 rec., 2,704 yds, 32 TDs
Tied for second all-time in Pac-12 history with 32 TD catches in just three years.

19. Steve Smith, USC (2003-06): 190 rec., 3,019 yds, 22 TDs
Dependable go-to target for a team that won a national title and played for another.

20. Sammie Stroughter, Oregon State (2004-08): 164 rec., 2,653 yds, 14 TDs, 1,612 ret. yds, 3 TDs
Explosive, big-play threat in passing game and on special teams. Two 1,000-yard seasons.

21. Freddie Mitchell, UCLA (1998-00): 110 rec., 1,955 yds, 9 TDs
Consensus All-American with huge 2000 season and one horrific leg injury.

22. Danny Farmer, UCLA (1996-99): 159 rec., 3,020 yds, 19 TDs
Huge junior season (1,274 yards, 9 TDs) highlighted solid career as UCLA's leading receiver.

23. James Newson, Oregon State (2000-03): 213 rec., 3,572 yds, 20 TDs
Extremely productive career ranks sixth in league history in yards and top 20 in receptions.

24. Kareem Kelly, USC (1999-02): 201 rec., 3,071 yds, 15 TDs
Model of consistency as he recorded at least one catch in a then school-record 48 straight games.

25. Juron Criner, Arizona (2008-11): 209 rec., 2,859 yds, 32 TDs
Pass-happy offense led to Criner finishing No. 2 in league history in TDs.

Top 10 Pac-12 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/where-are-they-now-college-football-class-2008

Each year, Athlon Sports takes a look back at one recruiting class to figure out what happened to the best and brightest prospects in the nation.

The 2008 class was as heralded as any in modern era of recruiting rankings and was highlighted by a number of potential first round picks. The wide receiver class in particular was incredibly talented with names like Julio Jones and A.J. Green ranked in the top 10 coming out of high school.

Jones and Green weren’t the only All-Americans ranked in the top 40 as high school players though. Seven years later, here is a look at the top 40 players in the 2008 recruiting cycle as ranked by Athlon Sports, what they accomplished in college and what they are doing now.

1. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State
Jeannette (Pa.) High

A two-sport state champion, Pryor took to the limelight, extending his decision to sign well beyond National Signing Day. Six weeks later, the star quarterback inked with Ohio State over Oregon, Penn State and Michigan. By the fourth game of his career, Pryor was the starting quarterback, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors en route to the first of three straight Big Ten championships. However, following his junior season, his career in Columbus came to an end when an NCAA investigation discovered improper benefits and activities. He was the centerpiece of the scandal that led to the firing of coach Jim Tressel and the suspension of other key players. On June 7, 2011, Pryor withdrew from Ohio State with a 31–4 record as the starter. He was taken by the Oakland Raiders in the third round of the 2011 Supplemental Draft.

2. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Foley (Ala.) High

One of the most coveted prospects in recent memory, Jones signed with Alabama over Florida, Oklahoma and Florida State. He caught a touchdown in four of his first five college games, quickly showing a truly rare blend of size and speed. The wideout helped lead Bama back to a national title as a sophomore and a 10–3 record as a junior. Jones finished second in school history in receptions (179) and yards (2,653) and fourth in touchdowns (15) despite playing just three years in a run-first offense. The Atlanta Falcons traded most of their draft to move up and select the star wideout with the sixth overall pick in 2011.

3. Darrell Scott, RB, Colorado
Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure

Born in Tallahassee, Fla., Scott grew up in Texas and California, where he developed into one of the best running back prospects in the nation. He rushed for nearly 6,000 yards and 79 touchdowns in his final two prep seasons at two different California high schools. He picked Colorado over Texas, Florida and LSU. After two undistinguished seasons in Boulder, he transferred to South Florida. He posted career highs in 2011 for the Bulls, rushing for 814 yards and five touchdowns. After three unremarkable seasons at two schools, Scott left early for the NFL and went undrafted in 2012.

4. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bamberg (S.C.) Bamberg-Ehrhardt

A freak athlete, Bowers excelled at defensive end, running back and kick returner his final season in high school. At Clemson, he contributed immediately as a freshman and continued to develop as a sophomore, posting 18.5 tackles for a loss in his first two seasons. As a junior, he led the nation in tackles for a loss (26.0) and sacks (15.5), earning consensus All-America honors. He took home the Nagurski, Ted Hendricks and ACC Defensive Player of the Year awards and departed early for the NFL. Major knee issues caused his NFL stock to drop, resulting in Tampa Bay selecting Bowers with the 51st overall pick in the 2011 Draft.

5. Will Hill, S, Florida
West Orange (N.J.) St. Peter’s

Hill did everything for St. Peter’s, playing quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive back. He picked Florida and went on to become an SEC All-Freshman in 2008 after recording 48 tackles and two INTs en route to the BCS National Championship. Hill never developed into a star, however, and finished with 144 career tackles and four career picks. He declared early for the NFL but went undrafted. In May 2012, he signed with the New York Giants and played in 12 games as a rookie.

6. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Summerville (S.C.) High

Forever linked with Julio Jones, Green signed with Georgia after a high-profile and extremely productive high school career. Like Jones, Green brought rare size, length, big-play ability and speed to the college game the second he stepped onto campus. And like Jones, he caught a touchdown in his first college game. He never posted a 1,000-yard season, but Green led the SEC in receiving yards (963) and touchdowns (eight) as a freshman. He finished his career with 166 receptions, 2,619 yards and 23 scores before leaving early for the NFL. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and has had one of the best statistical starts of any wide receiver in NFL history.

7. Arthur Brown, LB, Miami
Wichita (Kan.) East

After a long and high-profile recruitment, Brown signed with Miami over powerhouses like LSU and Florida. After struggling his first two seasons in Coral Gables, he transferred back home to Kansas State. Once back in the Sunflower State, Brown flourished, earning Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in 2011 after recording 101 tackles. He returned for his senior season and helped lead the Wildcats to a Big 12 title and earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors after another 100-tackle season. The Cats went 21–5 during his tenure.

8. Jermie Calhoun, RB, Oklahoma
Van (Texas) High

Garnering unwarranted comparisons to Adrian Peterson, the Lone Star State runner went North to Oklahoma and never realized his potential. He rushed for just 242 yards and one touchdown before transferring to Angelo (Texas) State in 2011. He rushed for 341 yards and two touchdowns in 2012 for the Rams.

9. Patrick Johnson, CB, LSU
Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely

The highly coveted prospect changed his name from Johnson to Peterson in August 2008 prior to playing a down for LSU. He played in all 13 games as a freshman, starting the final four games. His elite athletic ability was obvious, not only on defense but also on special teams. The accolades piled up as Peterson won the Thorpe and Bednarik awards as the nation’s top defensive back and top defensive player. He was a consensus All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and also racked up 1,350 yards and two touchdowns as a return man. He left LSU early and was the fifth overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.

10. R.J. Washington, DE, Oklahoma
Fort Worth (Texas) Keller Fossil Ridge

Washington never lived up to the hype of being ranked the No. 2 defensive end in the nation. He played in 40 career games but started just six in his career, all during his senior season in 2012. His tenure in Norman ended with 57 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, 7.0 sacks and one forced fumble.

11. Marcus Forston, DT, Miami
Miami (Fla.) Northwestern

The star prep nose tackle was the most high-profile member of the 2007 Miami Northwestern state championship team that sent seven prospects to Miami and Lavonte David (eventually) to Nebraska. Forston played in 12 games as a freshman and earned Freshman All-America honors. After a promising first season, Forston missed all but three games as a sophomore due to injury. Returning in 2010, the big nose guard started 12 games and posted 37 tackles with 12 tackles for a loss. However, a knee injury ended his 2011 season after just three games. His collegiate career ended when he declared early for the NFL Draft. He went unselected, but made the New England Patriots practice squad in 2012.

12. Michael Brewster, OL, Ohio State
Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater

The 6'5", 305-pound pivot is one of the greatest centers to play at Ohio State. He entered the starting lineup in the fourth game of his college career as a freshman and never let go. His 49 consecutive starts comprised the second-longest streak in school history. He earned Freshman All-America honors in 2008 and was a Rimington Trophy finalist in 2010. The star center played in 51 games and was a part of three Big Ten championships. He went undrafted in 2012 but started seven games for the Jaguars as a rookie.

13. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall

Hailing from one of the most talent-rich high schools in the Midwest, Floyd burst onto the scene at Notre Dame as a freshman by playing in 11 games and setting school freshman records for receptions (48), yards (719) and touchdowns (7). He dealt with minor injuries and off-the-field issues throughout his career in South Bend, but he rewrote the Irish receiving record book. He set school marks for receptions (271), yards (3,689), touchdowns (37) and 100-yard efforts (16) to go with the single-season record for catches (100) in 2011. He was the 13th overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Arizona Cardinals.

14. Nigel Bradham, LB, Florida State
Crawfordville (Fla.) Wakulla

Bradham never became the superstar the experts imagined, but he was a dependable three-year starter for the Seminoles. He became the first Noles defender to lead the team in tackles for three consecutive years since Marvin Jones did it in the early ’90s. His career culminated by being named All-ACC honorable mention in 2011. Bradham was selected 105th overall in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. He started 11 games and posted 57 tackles as a rookie last season.

15. Blake Ayles, TE, USC
Orange (Calif.) Lutheran

Ayles played for three seasons at USC, catching just 14 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown. He 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.

16. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
Aliquippa (Pa.) High

Another big-bodied receiver in the ’08 receiver class, Baldwin made a quick impact. As a sophomore, he had 57 receptions for 1,111 yards as the school’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2004. He was first-team All-Big East and received some All-America recognition. He finished his three-year career with 128 catches, 2,337 yards and 16 touchdowns before leaving early for the NFL Draft. He was a first-round pick by the Chiefs in 2011 but has yet to deliver in the professional ranks.

17. DeAndre Brown, WR, Southern Miss
Ocean Springs (Miss.) High

Fans in Hattiesburg wonder what could have been with Brown. He dominated Conference USA as a freshman, setting a school record with 67 receptions. Yet, his first season ended when he suffered a gruesome broken leg in the bowl game. From there, Brown was never the same player. He is second in Southern Miss history with 24 TD catches, third with 2,207 yards and fifth with 134 catches. He went undrafted, and his NFL career consists of a 15-day stint with the Eagles.

18. Matt Kalil, OL, USC
Corona (Calif.) Servite

Kalil was the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, started all 16 games in front of Adrian Peterson and earned a Pro Bowl invite as a Minnesota Vikings rookie. With a father, Frank, and brother, Ryan, excelling as not only college stars but also NFL performers, the youngest Kalil was well prepared for life at USC. He started for two full seasons protecting Matt Barkley’s blind side without allowing a sack in 2011.

19. Richard Samuel, RB, Georgia
Cartersville (Ga.) Cass

Samuel never settled into one position while in Athens during his injury-plagued career. He played running back in his first two seasons, rushing for 528 yards before redshirting in 2010 to facilitate a move to linebacker. However, he moved back to running back for his final two seasons, rushing for just 305 yards in 2011 and ’12.

20. Dayne Crist, QB, Notre Dame
Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame

Injuries played a role in Crist being labeled a bust, but he had his chances and failed to come close to his lofty recruiting status. He played in just 17 games for Notre Dame in three years (2,327 yards, 16 TDs, eight INTs) before transferring to Kansas to reunite with Charlie Weis. As a Jayhawk, he had yet another shot at being the star but managed to throw just four touchdowns with nine interceptions in 2012.

21.  EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside

On one hand, Manuel dealt with injuries and inconsistency throughout his career and was never a first-team All-ACC quarterback. On the other, he is third all-time at Florida State with 25 wins in 31 starts; he led the Noles back to an ACC championship; he completed a school-record 66.9-percent of his passes; and he became the second quarterback in NCAA history to win four consecutive bowl games. He finished third all-time in school history for passing yards (7,736), third in total offense (8,563), fourth in completions (600) and seventh in TDs passes (47). Manuel was selected by Buffalo with the No. 16 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

22. B.J. Scott, ATH, Alabama
Prichard (Ala.) Vigor

Scott projected as an “athlete” because of his potential at both defensive back and wide receiver. It turns out that he wasn’t good enough at either to stick at Alabama. He transferred to South Alabama and finished third on the team with 84 tackles in 2012.

23. Tyler Love, OL, Alabama
Mountain Brook (Ala.) High

Nick Saban rarely misses on 5-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 14 games in his four-year career and decided to step away from football after the 2011 season with one year of eligibility remaining.

24. DeAngelo Tyson, DT, Georgia
Statesboro (Ga.) High

The big in-state lineman was never a star in Athens but was a consistent, dependable member of the defense for four years and helped return the Bulldogs defense to prominence in 2010. He was named to the SEC All-Freshman team by the coaches in 2008 and played in 13 games in 2009 before entering the starting lineup as a junior. He started 23 games over his final two years, posting 56 tackles and 7.5 tackles for a loss. Tyson was drafted by the Ravens in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, playing in 10 games for the Super Bowl champs.

25. Mike Adams, OL, Ohio State
Dublin (Ohio) Coffman

Adams was an integral part of the highly touted 2008 Ohio State offensive line class. Playing for three Big Ten title teams, he started five games his first two seasons and earned all-conference honors in his final two seasons. Like teammate Terrelle Pryor, Adams was named in the tattoo scandal that brought NCAA sanctions to Ohio State. The Steelers made him a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

26. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder

Rudolph became the first Notre Dame tight end to start every game of his freshman season before injuries limited his sophomore and junior seasons. His final three-year stat line of 90 receptions, 1,032 yards and eight touchdowns seems underwhelming, but he showed enough to be a second-round draft pick of the Vikings after three seasons. He has established himself as one of the most dynamic players at his position in the NFL.

27. Tyron Smith, OL, USC
Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde

Smith and Matt Kalil gave USC two first-round picks in one offensive line class. Smith appeared in 10 games as a freshman and started 12 as a sophomore, earning All-Pac-10 honorable mention in the process. As a starting right tackle in 2010, Smith earned the Morris Trophy as the league’s top offensive lineman before leaving early for the NFL. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Cowboys, and he has started 31 games since.

28. T.J. Bryant, DB, USC
Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln

The cross-country trip from Florida to Los Angeles didn’t work as Bryant had planned. After a suspension in his final year at USC, Bryant transferred to Troy, where he played 10 games and picked up 22 tackles in 2012.

29. Stephen Good, OL, Oklahoma
Paris (Texas) High

Expectations were high for Good after he was a part-time starter as a sophomore, but he never locked down a starting spot as an upperclassman. He was arrested in a nightclub altercation near the end of his college career and went undrafted in 2012.

30. Aldarius Johnson, WR, Miami
Miami (Fla.) Northwestern

The second-highest rated Hurricanes recruit from Miami Northwestern, Johnson made a quick impact with the Canes, leading the team with 31 receptions, 332 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman. His numbers dropped from there, and he was eventually suspended as a senior for his connection to the Nevin Shapiro scandal.

31. Matt Patchan, OL, Florida
Tampa (Fla.) Armwood

After a dramatic recruitment, Patchan had an injury-plagued career at Florida. He started his career as a defensive lineman and missed most of 2009 and all of 2010 with injuries. He returned as an offensive tackle in 2011 and missed all of 2012 due to injury. Patchan transferred to Boston College, where he’s expected to start in 2013.

32. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Ballwin (Mo.) Parkway West

A one-time Nebraska commit, Gabbert ended up as a backup to Chase Daniel at Missouri as a freshman. Becoming the starter in 2009, he threw for 6,779 yards and 40 touchdowns over the next two seasons while leading Mizzou to an 18–8 record. His marquee win over Oklahoma in 2010 was the first for the Tigers over OU since 1998 and just the second since 1983. He was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 10th overall pick in 2011 and set a franchise rookie record with 14 starts.

33. Etienne Sabino, LB, Ohio State
North Miami Beach (Fla.) Dr. Krop

It took a long time for Sabino to earn his starting spot, but as a senior in 2012 he was named a team co-captain and starting linebacker. Sabino finished with 119 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. He was a member of two Big Ten championship teams and was a leader on the undefeated 2012 squad.

34. D.J. Shoemate, WR, USC
Corona (Calif.) Servite

A fullback and wide receiver at USC, Shoemate played in 21 games but never had a defined role. Shoemate eventually transferred to UConn, where he played in 15 games in two years before shoulder injuries ended his career.

35. Lucas Nix, OL, Pittsburgh
Jefferson Hills (Pa.) Thomas Jefferson

The massive offensive lineman started as a sophomore, paving the way for Dion Lewis’ 1,799-yard season in 2009. Nix started 12 games as a junior and played eight games as a senior before going undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft. However, Nix earned a spot on the Oakland Raiders roster and played in one game as a rookie last season.

36. Ethan Johnson, DL, Notre Dame
Portland (Ore.) Lincoln

The cross-country recruit was never a star in South Bend but played a lot of football. He played in every game during his first three seasons with the Irish, starting 24 of 25 games in 2009-10. Johnson finished his Notre Dame career with 97 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks and one blocked kick. He went undrafted in 2012 but landed on the practice squad with the Kansas City Chiefs.

37. Baker Steinkuhler, OL, Nebraska
Lincoln (Neb.) Southwest

Steinkuhler came to Lincoln with high expectations as the son of legendary Nebraska Hall of Famer Dean Steinkuhler. After a redshirt season in 2008, the younger Steinkuhler made a name for himself in a big way. He finished his career with 150 total tackles, 17 tackles for a loss and eight sacks to go with three division titles. He was a Big 12 All-Freshman selection in 2009 and second-team All-Big Ten in 2012.

38.  Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
Manassas (Va.) Stonewall Jackson

An unexpected starter as a redshirt freshman, Williams replaced the injured Darren Evans for a record-breaking season. Williams set a single-season school and ACC freshman record with 1,655 yards in addition to an ACC-record 22 touchdowns. He capped his first season as the ACC’s Rookie of the Year, a first-team All-ACC selection and the Chick-fil-A Bowl MVP. After an injury-shortened sophomore season, Williams left school early and was drafted in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals with the 38th overall pick. The explosive tailback has missed 27 of his first 32 professional games due to injury.

39. DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio State
Cincinnati (Ohio) LaSalle

A high-profile member of the heralded ’08 Buckeyes signing class, Posey played in all 12 games as a freshman before posting big numbers as a sophomore (60 receptions, 828 yards, eight TDs) and junior (53 receptions, 848 yards, seven TDs) alongside his star quarterback, Terrelle Pryor. Yet, much like Pryor, Adams and Dan Herron, Posey was implicated in the tattoo scandal that resulted in Jim Tressel’s ouster in Columbus. He played three games as a senior and was drafted in the third round by the Houston Texans in the 2012 NFL Draft.

40. Dan Buckner, WR, Texas
Allen (Texas) High

A dominant physical specimen at 6'4" and 220 pounds, Buckner showed loads of promise, playing in all 12 games as a true freshman. He then started eight games as a sophomore, catching 45 passes for 442 yards and four touchdowns on an undefeated regular-season Big 12 title team that lost to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game. Following an arrest in College Station, Buckner transferred to Arizona, where he sat out the 2010 season. In two seasons in the desert, Buckner caught 103 passes for 1,379 yards and seven scores.


Where Are They Now: College Football Class of 2008
Post date: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/9-nba-draft-early-entries-who-could-be-helping-their-college-teams

Go ahead and do the math: 48 college underclassmen declared for the NBA Draft in 2013 for the opportunity at 30 first-round picks and guaranteed contracts.

With a handful of college seniors and international players in the first round, plenty of players have a chance to be disappointed on draft day.

College fans have reason to be disappointed, too. Their teams take hits in the draft, and some with little payoff in terms of an NBA roster spot.

A few college teams are struggling at this point of the season, and some could simply be better with an extra veteran on the roster.

This is our look at the top missing pieces — the players who could reasonably still be on college rosters. Sure, Indiana would be better off with Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo this season, but both were top-four draft picks. We’re not looking at those cases.

Instead, we’re looking at how the early entries from the 2013 and 2012 drafts who were not selected in the first round could have impacted their college teams in 2013-14.

This isn’t to shame players who declared early for the NBA Draft but missed out on being a lottery pick, either.

Surely, some didn’t make great decisions. But staying on a college basketball roster isn’t the perfect solution for everyone. After all, sitting on the end of an NBA roster or playing professionally in Europe still guarantees more (legitimate) income than playing in college.

For our purposes, this is a look at teams that may or may not be struggling this season and how some of the departed players who weren’t NBA locks may have helped this season.

Missing Pieces: NBA Draft Early Entries Who Could be Helping their College Teams

Vander Blue, Marquette
Final season: Junior, 2013
Draft status: Undrafted
Where he is now: Boston Celtics
After Blue recently signed a 10-day contract with the Boston Celtics, he will have a shot at playing in an NBA game, but meanwhile, Marquette has struggled all season to score consistently. The Golden Eagles’ backcourt production has been lacking all season thanks in part to the season-long leg injury to incoming freshman Duane Wilson. The 6-4, 200-pound Blue led Marquette in scoring last season and was a clutch player in the team’s run to the Elite Eight last season. The Eagles haven’t won three consecutive games since.

C.J. Leslie, NC State
Final season: Junior, 2013
Draft status: Undrafted
Where he is now: Released by the New York Knicks
The cast of highly touted freshmen and veterans never meshed at NC State last season as the Wolfpack finished 11-7 in the ACC and lost to Temple in the NCAA round of 64 with Leslie on board. Sophomore T.J. Warren is still on the Wolfpack roster, but he sure could use some help. He’s averaging 22.2 points per game, but it takes him nearly 18 shots to get there. Although he was inconsistent last season, Leslie averaged 14.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last season. He and Warren would at least give NC State a one-two punch that could put the Wolfpack onto the NCAA bubble.

Amath M’Baye, Oklahoma
Final season: Junior, 2013
Draft status: Undrafted
Where he is now: Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins, Japan
Oklahoma probably is an NCAA Tournament team without M’Baye, but an extra big body could make an impact in a tough Big 12. A Sooners team with a 6-9, 208-pound forward who can defend the perimeter in the mix would be a Big 12 title contender.

Phil Pressey, Missouri
Final season: Junior, 2013
Draft status: Undrafted
Where he is now: Averaging 1.6 points per game with the Celtics
Pressey has spent the entire season on an NBA roster, which is pretty good for an undrafted free agent. His alma mater Missouri started 12-1 but has since lost three of the last five in the SEC. Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson has fared well as the point guard, but the Tigers have managed to lose close games to Illinois, Georgia, Vanderbilt and LSU — all winnable games for the Tigers.

Adonis Thomas, Memphis
Final season: Sophomore, 2013
Draft status: Undrafted
Where he is now: Springfield Armor, NBA D-League
Adonis Thomas’ career at Memphis wasn’t what his recruiting reputation suggested he should have produced. And Tigers may be better this season anyway. Still, Thomas averaged 11.7 points per game last season. Not a bad piece to have around.

Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
Final season: Junior, 2013
Draft status: 58th overall pick
Where he is now: Nanterre (France)
Ohio State can defend, but the Buckeyes rank 122nd in offensive efficiency on Put Thomas on this season’s roster, and Ohio State is essentially the same team that went 29-8 and reached the Elite Eight last season. Thomas averaged 19.8 points per game last year while no Buckeye averages more than 14 points per game in 2013-14.

Royce White, Iowa State
Final season: Sophomore, 2012
Draft status: 16th overall, has not played
Where he is now: Cut by the Philadelphia 76ers
Every other player on this list was either undrafted or a late second round draft pick. White is an exception as the No. 16 pick of the Houston Rockets two years ago. He’s never played a game in the NBA as he and the team that drafted him couldn’t agree on stipulations he requested to deal with anxiety. If White had stayed at Iowa State, he’d be a fifth-year senior on a team that started 14-0. He and DeAndre Kane could have been No. 1 and No. 2 in nearly every major category for the Cyclones.

B.J. Young and Marshawn Powell, Arkansas
Final season: Sophomore (Young) and junior (Powell), 2013
Draft status: Undrafted
Where they are now: Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-League (Young) and Ferro-ZNTU in the Ukraine (Powell)
Arkansas built itself into a fringe NCAA Tournament team this season in the non-conference schedule with decent wins over SMU, Minnesota and Cal. The Razorbacks, in foul-filled game for both sides, also managed to beat Kentucky in overtime last week. But the SEC road woes continued with losses to Texas A&M and Georgia. McDonald’s All-American freshman Bobby Portis has already been a difference maker, Houston transfer Alandise Harris is an impact player, and sophomore Michael Qualls is one of the most improved players in the SEC. Throw Young and Powell into the mix, and the Razorbacks would have one of the strongest rosters in the league.

9 NBA Draft Early Entries Who Could Be Helping Their College Teams
Post date: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/qb-jacob-coker-transfers-florida-state-next-stop-alabama

With Jameis Winston entrenched as Florida State’s quarterback next season, playing time was going to be limited for Jacob Coker, and the sophomore has decided to transfer from Tallahassee to Alabama. With Coker set to graduate in May, he can transfer to another team and start in 2014. 

Coker was Florida State’s backup quarterback for the first half of the season, throwing for 250 yards on 18 completions. However, he suffered a knee injury and was forced to miss the final six games.

As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Coker completed 3 of 5 passes for 45 yards.

Coker was only a three-star prospect coming out of high school. However, the Alabama native has all of the physical tools necessary to become a starting quarterback for a BCS team.

At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds and a strong arm, Coker is expected to be highly sought after this spring.

The Crimson Tide need a replacement for AJ McCarron, and Coker would be a good fit for their offense.

With Coker transferring to Alabama, he joins a crowded depth chart at quarterback. Blake Sims has the most experience of any passer on the team, but Alec Morris, Parker McLeod, Cooper Bateman and incoming freshman David Cornwell will compete for the job this preseason.

Florida State QB Jacob Coker Transfers; Next Stop Alabama?
Post date: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-22-2014

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 22.

• Alexa Vega was once a kid star in the "Spy Kids" movies. Now she looks like this. Wow.

Norway's curling team is dressing for success in Sochi. Or else they're dressing to test those controversial Russian laws we've been hearing about.

A Velveeta shortage? For the Super Bowl? In the two states where weed is legal? If people weren't already so baked, there'd be riots.

Mike Tyson had his picture taken with the Abominable Snowman. I don't ask, I just link.

If you fill out a perfect March Madness bracket, Warren Buffett will give you $1 billion. Of course, the odds of filling out a perfect bracket are 1 in 9.2 quintillion. So good luck with that.

• Tired of being irrelevant, the Yanks come out swinging: Masahiro Tanaka, seven years, $155 mil.

Nice show of class from Northwestern students after a shooting at Purdue.

That commercial featuring deaf Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman inspired this adorable response from a deaf girl.

Today Down Under: Federer-Nadal, round 33.

Catching up with Sad Scott, the face of Georgetown basketball this season.

Jason Whitlock watched "Wolf of Wall Street" and saw parallels to today's sports culture.

• Jacoby Jones was enjoying himself at the Pelicans game when a reporter tracked him down for an enjoyably awkward interview.


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

Post date: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 10:29
Path: /college-football/northwestern-rb-venric-mark-granted-fifth-year-eligibility-2014

Northwestern running back Venric Mark was expected to be one of the Big Ten’s top running backs in 2013, but an ankle injury sidelined him for most of the season.

But the Wildcats received some good news for 2014 this week, as Mark was granted a fifth-year of eligibility, and the Texas native will return to Northwestern next year.

Mark rushed for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns and caught 20 passes for 104 yards in 2012.

He was also a huge factor on special teams in 2012, averaging 18.7 yards per punt return and taking two back for scores.

Considering Mark is listed at 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, he isn’t a player that can handle 300 carries. However, having the senior back in the lineup is a huge plus for Northwestern’s offense. Mark should be in the mix for All-Big Ten honors in 2014.

Northwestern RB Venric Mark Granted Fifth Year of Eligibility for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/grading-college-footballs-head-coach-hires-2014

After a whopping 31 changes last year, college football’s head coach carousel was relatively quiet this offseason.

The 2013-14 cycle featured just 20 teams making a switch at head coach. But the offseason wasn’t short on drama, as two of college football’s premier jobs opened (USC and Texas), while there was movement in early January at Penn State, UAB and Vanderbilt.

All 20 schools hiring a coach graded out well in this year’s report card. There were no D’s or F’s awarded, and eight schools will be bringing home a letter grade of A.

Penn State and Washington were the two biggest winners of the coaching cycle. The Nittany Lions hired James Franklin away from Vanderbilt, while the Huskies managed to lure Chris Petersen from Boise State. Franklin and Petersen should win plenty of games at their new home.

Louisville made one of the most intriguing moves of the offseason by hiring Bobby Petrino to replace Charlie Strong. Petrino is no stranger to Louisville, but he certainly comes with some baggage.

At the bottom of the rankings, Western Kentucky’s Jeff Brohm ranks as the No. 20 coach in the hires, but he should be a good fit in Bowling Green.

In most coaching cycles, there will be a handful of teams that simply make a bad hire. But in 2014, all schools appear to have met their needs and hired a quality coach.

Grading College Football's New Coach Hires for 2014

1. James Franklin, Penn State
Previous Job: Head coach at Vanderbilt
Career Record: 24-15 (3 years)

Bill O’Brien only stayed at Penn State for two seasons, but he stabilized and kept the program from collapsing after NCAA sanctions limited scholarships and included a four-year bowl ban. Fast forward to 2014 and the Nittany Lions are slowly digging out of the NCAA sanctions, and the program made the offseason’s top hire by pulling Franklin away from Vanderbilt. Penn State is one of the top 15-20 jobs in college football, and with Franklin leading the way, this program is poised to return to national prominence. In three years at Vanderbilt – the SEC’s toughest job – Franklin guided the Commodores to a 24-15 mark, including back-to-back nine-win seasons. Under Franklin’s watch, Vanderbilt finished ranked in the final Associated Press poll in both 2012 and '13 and went 9-7 in SEC play during that span. The nine victories in SEC play since 2012 are the best two-year conference record for the Commodores since 1934-35. In addition to his success on the field, Franklin is regarded as an outstanding recruiter and motivator. Franklin grew up in Pennsylvania and played his college ball at East Stroudsburg, so coming to Penn State is essentially a homecoming for the 41-year-old coach. Some will dismiss Franklin’s record as not enough for a job like Penn State. However, let’s also consider how difficult it is to win at Vanderbilt. Franklin is bringing a top-notch staff to Happy Valley, including offensive line coach Herb Hand and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. Expect Franklin to win – and win big – at Penn State.

Final Grade: A+

2. Chris Petersen, Washington
Previous Job: Head coach at Boise State
Career Record: 92-12 (8 years)

Petersen’s name popped up for various openings at BCS programs over the last seven years, but he stayed at Boise State for eight years, recording an impressive 92-12 mark with two BCS bowl victories. Despite turning down overtures from BCS programs in previous seasons, 2014 was just the right time for Petersen to leave Boise State. Petersen is a California native, but he has spent most of his coaching tenure in the Pacific Northwest. Petersen worked as an assistant at Portland State from 1993-94, Oregon from 1995-2000 and at Boise State from 2001-05. After Dan Hawkins left for Colorado, Petersen was promoted to head coach in 2006. The Broncos won at least 10 games in seven of Petersen’s eight seasons and had four top-10 finishes in the Associated Press poll. Matching 92 victories in eight years will be difficult at Washington, but Petersen is a good fit for Seattle. Former coach Steve Sarkisian rebuilt a program that bottomed out after an 0-12 mark in 2008. But now it’s up to Petersen to elevate Washington back into Pac-12 title contention. With a new stadium and good facilities, everything is in place for the Huskies to win big. 

Final Grade: A+

3. Craig Bohl, Wyoming
Previous Job: Head coach at North Dakota State
Career Record: 104-32 (11 years)

Considering North Dakota State’s recent success, it was no surprise Bohl was hired by a FBS program. But it comes as a surprise he ends up at Wyoming and not a BCS team. Regardless of location or team, Wyoming made one of the top hires of the 2013-14 coaching carousel. Bohl was hired as North Dakota State’s coach in 2003 and had only one losing season during his 11-year stint in Fargo. The Bison moved to the FCS level in 2004 and won 35 games in their first four seasons after making the transition. After an 9-13 stint from 2008-09, North Dakota State has emerged as the top program in the FCS ranks. The Bison are 43-2 over their last three years and won three consecutive FCS titles. Prior to taking over at North Dakota State, Bohl worked as an assistant under Tom Osborne and Frank Solich at Nebraska, while also making stops at Duke, Rice, Wisconsin and Tulsa. Bohl isn’t flashy, and he prefers a strong defense and rushing attack to the wide-open spread offenses taking over college football. But make no mistake, he knows how to win and built North Dakota State into a powerhouse on the FCS level. There’s a lot of work to be done at Wyoming and rebuilding won’t be easy. However, Bohl is clearly capable of leading the Cowboys back into Mountain West title contention.

Final Grade: A+

4. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
Previous Job: Defensive coordinator at Stanford
Career Record: First Season

In terms of fit, there’s not a better one in this coaching cycle than Mason and Vanderbilt. Mason spent the last four years at Stanford, including the last three as the defensive coordinator. Under Mason’s direction, the Cardinal never allowed an average of more than 22 points per game from 2011-13 and allowed less than five yards per play in 2012-13. Prior to his stint at Stanford, Mason worked for three years with the Vikings (2007-09) and served as an assistant at a handful of stops, including Ohio, New Mexico State, St. Mary’s, Utah, Bucknell, Idaho State, Weber State and San Diego Mesa College. Despite his connections on the West Coast, Mason recruited Florida for Stanford, and his experience at an academic institution will be a huge plus as he attempts to replicate Franklin’s success. There’s very little to dislike about this hire for Vanderbilt. Mason is one of the top coordinators in college football and is well-liked by his players. He also is a good recruiter and developed some of the Pac-12’s top defensive players during his stint in Palo Alto. The only knock on Mason is a lack of head coaching experience, especially as he jumps into the SEC. Also, Franklin was persistent about facility and program upgrades. Can Mason continue to push Vanderbilt for more improvements to keep this program trending in the right direction?

Final Grade: A

5. Dino Babers, Bowling Green
Previous Job: Head coach at Eastern Illinois
Career Record: 19-7 (2 years)

With a wealth of experience and a background on offense, Babers should feel right at home in the MAC next season. After spending nearly 30 years as an assistant, Babers earned his first head coaching gig at Eastern Illinois in 2012. The Panthers went 7-5 in Babers’ first season and 12-2 in 2013, losing to Towson in the FCS playoffs. Prior to Babers tenure, Eastern Illinois won just four games in two seasons. Babers inherited quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo – a likely pick in the 2014 NFL Draft – but he transformed the Illinois native into the 2013 Walter Payton Award winner. Before he was a head coach at Eastern Illinois, Babers worked as an assistant under Art Briles at Baylor for three seasons and made stops at UCLA, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M, Arizona, San Diego State, Purdue, Northern Arizona and UNLV. Babers has clearly paid his dues as an assistant and transformed Eastern Illinois into a playoff team in back-to-back seasons. Yes, there’s some risk hiring someone who has only two years of head coaching experience, but Babers’ offense-first approach should work for a Bowling Green team that returns quarterback Matt Johnson and running back Travis Greene in 2014.

Final Grade: A

6. Charlie Strong, Texas
Previous Job: Head coach at Louisville
Career Record: 37-16 (4 years)

Mack Brown set the bar high for Texas after a run of nine seasons with at least 10 wins from 2001-09. But the Longhorns regressed at the end of his tenure, finishing the last four years with an 18-17 record in Big 12 play. Strong isn’t the politician that Brown was, but a different approach is what Texas needs. In four years at Louisville, Strong went 37-15 and won 23 games over the last two seasons. The Cardinals played in four straight bowl games under Strong’s watch and finished in the top 15 of the final Associated Press poll in both 2012 and '13. Strong also transformed Louisville’s defense, as the Cardinals never finished outside of the top 25 nationally in yards allowed per game. As evidenced by the numbers above, there are no doubts about Strong’s coaching ability. He’s an excellent motivator and is a strong X’s and O’s coach. But his decision to leave Louisville – a year after turning down Tennessee – is a surprise. Despite all of the perks and built-in advantages of coaching in Texas, Strong doesn’t seem like the best fit in Austin. For a coach that isn’t crazy about media obligations, he will face extra scrutiny with the Longhorn Network – something that could eat into his time to coach each week. It may not be the best possible fit, but Strong is going to bring immediate improvement to Texas in 2014.

Final Grade: A-

7. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest
Previous Job: Head coach at Bowling Green
Career Record: 90-80 (14 years)

Clawson inherits one of the toughest jobs in the ACC, but the New York native is a proven winner at three previous stops. From 1999-2003 at Fordham, he recorded a 29-29 mark over five seasons, which included 26 wins over the final three years. Clawson went 3-8 in his first season at Richmond but rebounded to win 26 games over the final three seasons. The Spiders also finished in the top 10 of the final FCS poll twice. Clawson experienced immediate success at Bowling Green, guiding the Falcons to a 7-6 record in 2009. The program took a step back in 2010, bottoming out to 2-10 overall. But Clawson’s team wasn’t down for long, as he improved Bowling Green’s win total by three games from 2010 to '11, and the Falcons made back-to-back bowls in 2012-13. He also has experience from time as an offense coordinator at Tennessee (2008) and Villanova (1996-98). Jim Grobe took Wake Forest to new heights in 2006, but the Demon Deacons were unable to sustain that success for long. Clawson has a tough job ahead in the coming seasons, but he has a track record of success and has won at three different programs. Considering Clawson has excelled at getting the most out of his roster at Fordham, Richmond and Bowling Green, that coaching style should work at a place like Wake Forest where recruiting five- or four-star players is tough. 

Final Grade: A-

8. Bobby Petrino, Louisville
Previous Job: Head coach at Western Kentucky
Career Record: 83-30 (9 years)

Mention the name Bobby Petrino to any college football fan and you are likely to get a variety of reactions. Sure, there’s baggage. Petrino left Louisville after signing a 10-year contract in 2006, had a disastrous one-year stint with the Falcons and was fired after lying to Arkansas’ athletic director Jeff Long in '12. After the end of his tenure in Fayetteville, it’s surprising Petrino has rebounded this quickly into a BCS job. He spent 2013 at Western Kentucky, guiding the Hilltoppers to an 8-4 mark. Petrino’s career record is 83-30 and he has only one season of fewer than eight wins in his nine seasons in college. There’s no question what you are getting with Petrino. The Montana native is going to win a lot of games and is one of the top offensive minds in college football. But you also inherit the baggage, and the concern he’s always looking to jump to another job. However, if there’s anyone that could hire Petrino away from Western Kentucky, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich is one of the few. Jurich, widely respected as one of the top athletic directors in college football, likely knows Petrino better than anyone. And with a $10 million buyout, Petrino isn’t going anywhere. With a move to the ACC on tap, this is an important hire for Louisville. Bringing back Petrino probably isn’t the most popular move for this program, but Jurich is choosing familiarity and a proven winner. In a tougher league, the Cardinals need to be competitive right away and the baggage is worth the risk.

Final Grade: B+

9. Steve Sarkisian, USC
Previous Job: Head coach at Washington
Career Record: 34-29 (5 years)

After five years at Washington, Sarkisian returns to his old stomping grounds, taking over at one of college football’s premier jobs. Sarkisian’s overall record at Washington was only 34-29, but the Huskies made considerable progress under his watch. Prior to Sarkisian’s arrival in 2009, Washington won just 11 games in the four previous seasons. The Huskies won at least five Pac-12 contests in four out of Sarkisian’s five years in Seattle, with a 4-5 mark in his first season. Washington didn’t win big, but there was clear progress. And with Oregon and Stanford among the nation’s elite, it wasn’t easy for the Huskies to make any progress in the Pac-12 North. At USC, Sarkisian isn’t inheriting a rebuilding project and this is arguably one of the top five jobs in college football. The heavy NCAA sanctions this program was handed as a result of the Reggie Bush investigation are nearly over. Everything appears to be set for the Trojans to return to national prominence. While Sarkisian may not have been the splashy hire some USC fans expected, he’s a California native with previous experience at USC. He’s also a good offensive coach and has recruited four consecutive top-25 classes at Washington. Armed with a top-notch staff, Sarkisian is capable of winning big at USC.

Final Grade: B

10. Bryan Harsin, Boise State
Previous Job: Head coach at Arkansas State
Career Record: 7-5 (1 year)

It’s hard to call a coach a perfect fit for any job, but Harsin is truly a perfect match for Boise State. Harsin grew up in Boise, played with the Broncos from 1995-99 and later served as an assistant at the school from 2001-10. As Boise State’s offensive coordinator from 2006-10, he directed an attack that averaged at least 400 yards in every season. Harsin was hired at Texas in 2011 and called the plays for the Longhorns for two seasons. He spent one year as the head coach at Arkansas State, helping the Red Wolves to a 7-5 overall record with an appearance in the GoDaddy Bowl. Harsin’s team lost to Auburn, Memphis and Missouri in non-conference play but lost by just three points to Western Kentucky and 23-7 to Sun Belt champ Louisiana-Lafayette. Replacing Chris Petersen is a tough assignment, but Harsin seems to be the perfect fit. Harsin’s one-year stint at Arkansas State will help with his takeover at Boise State, especially as he inherits a team capable of winning the Mountain West in 2014.

Final Grade: B

11. Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern
Previous Job: Head coach at Sam Houston State
Career Record: 176-67-1 (21 years)

Georgia Southern is set to transition from the FCS ranks to the FBS level in 2014. The Eagles are losing a good coach in Jeff Monken, but Fritz is a proven winner at three different stops. After serving as an assistant at Coffeyville College and Sam Houston State from 1987-92, Fritz landed his first head coach gig at Blinn College in 1993. In four seasons, Fritz guided Blinn College to a 39-5-1 record. He coached at Central Missouri from 1997-2009 and accumulated a 97-47 mark. Fritz was hired at Sam Houston State in 2010 and guided the Bearkats to a 6-5 record in his first season, followed by three consecutive playoff appearances. Sam Houston State went 14-1 in 2011 and won 20 games from 2012-13. Fritz will have an interesting decision to make in terms of scheme. The Eagles ran the option under Monken, while Fritz used a spread at Sam Houston State. Transitioning to a different scheme will take time, but with Fritz’s strong track record, he should have Georgia Southern competitive right away in the Sun Belt.

Final Grade: B

12. Bob Diaco, Connecticut
Previous Job: Defensive coordinator at Notre Dame
Career Record: First Season

Every head coach hire is important for a program, but this one carries even bigger importance for Connecticut. With Louisville and Rutgers departing the American Athletic Conference, the Huskies have a chance to move up the ladder in the conference pecking order. Diaco has never been a head coach, but he has worked as an assistant on the college level since 1996. The New Jersey native played at Iowa and served as a graduate assistant with the Hawkeyes under Hayden Fry from 1996-97. After stops at Western Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Western Michigan, Diaco had a three-year stint at Virginia and joined Brian Kelly’s staff at Cincinnati in 2009. Diaco followed Kelly to Notre Dame and spent the last four years as the Fighting Irish’s defensive coordinator. Only once during Diaco’s tenure did Notre Dame rank outside of the top 35 nationally in total defense. Diaco earned the Broyles Award in 2012, which is awarded to the top assistant in college football. It seems like a broken record this year, but this seems like a solid hire. Diaco’s staff was slightly underwhelming and the lack of had coaching experience is a concern. But after going the veteran route with its last hire, Connecticut went with a coach that’s young and energetic. Diaco has a lot to prove, but he should get the Huskies back into bowl games. 

Final Grade: B

13. Charlie Partridge, FAU
Previous Job: Defensive line coach at Arkansas
Career Record: First Season

Normally, we would frown on programs hiring a defensive line coach as a head coach, but this move seems like it will work for FAU. Partridge grew up less than an hour outside of Boca Raton, Fla., and is regarded for his connections on on the high school level in the Sunshine State. This is Partridge’s first chance to be a head coach, but he has stops as an assistant at Eastern Illinois, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and Arkansas. Partridge appears to be going for a CEO approach in his first year, retaining coordinators Jovan Dewitt and Brian Wright from a team that went 6-6 despite the coaching turmoil that surrounded this team last season. The resume on Partridge is pretty thin. He doesn’t have head coach experience and has never been a coordinator. Experience in either position is generally an easier gauge for future success, but Partridge is a good hire for a program that is capable of winning a lot of games in Conference USA. If Partridge continues to bring in talent, the Owls will be one of C-USA’s top programs.

Final Grade: B-

14. Jeff Monken, Army
Previous Job: Head coach at Georgia Southern
Career Record: 38-16 (4 years)

Army has a rich history on the gridiron, but success has eluded this program in recent seasons. The Black Knights have only one winning season since 1997 and have not won more than four games since 2010. Rich Ellerson seemed like the perfect fit in West Point, but he was fired after a 20-41 record. Has Army developed into a job that’s just too tough to sustain success? Or has the program just missed on its last four head coaches? Monken comes to West Point with a background specializing in the option offense. He was an assistant under Paul Johnson at Georgia Southern from 1997-01, at Navy from 2002-07 and at Georgia Tech from 2008-09. Monken was hired as Georgia Southern’s head coach prior to the 2010 season and he guided the Eagles to 38 wins over the last four years. Georgia Southern is transitioning to the FBS level, so the program was ineligible to compete for a playoff spot in 2013. However, the Eagles defeated Florida 26-20 in their regular season finale. Monken doesn’t have a ton of head coaching experience and most of it came at a program (GSU) that has consistently been one of the most successful in the FCS ranks. Can he rebuild an Army program that has struggled to compete with Navy and Air Force? If he can, Monken’s background running the option and as an assistant at Navy should help Army turn the corner from bottom-feeder into a consistent bowl team.

Final Grade: B-

15. Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio)
Previous Job: Offensive coordinator at Notre Dame
Career Record: 74-7 (6 years)

From 1994-2005, Miami (Ohio) was one of the premier programs in the MAC. The RedHawks did not post a losing record during that stretch, won 13 games and the MAC title in 2003, made two bowl appearances and claimed the East Division title in 2004. But this program has fallen on hard times recently, winning just eight games over its last three years. Martin needs time to rebuild this program, but he appears to be the right coach for the job. He spent six years as the head coach at Grand Valley State after Brian Kelly left for Central Michigan. Martin amassed a 74-7 mark in six seasons, including a Division II title in 2005. In 2010, he reunited with Kelly, serving as the defensive backs coach for one season before moving to offensive coordinator in 2012. Instead of maintaining a program as Martin did at Grand Valley State, he will have a significant rebuilding project on his hands over the next few seasons.

Final Grade: B-

16. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State
Previous Job: Offensive coordinator at North Carolina
Career Record: First Season

Arkansas State is no stranger to change, as Anderson will be the program’s fifth coach in five seasons. The athletic department deserves credit for finding and hiring successful coaches, but constant turnover is never a good idea. That cycle should stop in 2014, as Anderson has a $3 million buyout for the next two years. Arkansas State is one of the top programs in the remodeled Sun Belt, and Anderson’s arrival should keep this program in the mix for the conference title in 2014. Much like the last three coaches (Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn and Bryan Harsin), Anderson has an extensive background on offense. He spent the last two years as North Carolina’s offensive coordinator and worked under Larry Fedora at Southern Miss from 2008-11. Prior to his stint in Hattiesburg, Anderson served as the offensive coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette in 2007, co-offensive coordinator at MTSU from 2002-04 and an assistant at New Mexico from 1999-01. The only knock on Anderson’s resume is a lack of head coaching experience.

Final Grade: B-

17. Mark Whipple, UMass
Previous Job: Quarterback coach with the Cleveland Browns (2012)
Career Record: 121-59 (16 years)

In order for UMass to be competitive on the FBS level in the future, it dipped into its past to replace Charley Molnar. Whipple returns to the sidelines in Amherst after a 10-year absence and is tasked with taking the Minutemen – a team in just its third season on the FBS level – to bowl and MAC title contention. Whipple was out of coaching in 2013, but there’s a lot to like about this hire. He was 49-26 in a six-year stint on the UMass sidelines from 1998-2003. Whipple guided the Minutemen to three FCS playoff appearances, including a national title in 1998. Prior to UMass, Whipple was a head coach at Brown (1994-97) and New Haven (1988-93). In 16 years as a head coach, Whipple has only two losing seasons. After leaving UMass in 2003, Whipple worked as a NFL assistant with the Steelers, Eagles and Browns, with a stint as Miami’s offensive coordinator from 2009-10. Although Whipple hasn’t been a head coach since 2003 and much has changed at UMass since, this is a solid hire for a program that has to get competitive in a hurry. Whipple’s background on offense will be a huge boost for a team that averaged only 281.6 yards per game last year. The Minutemen need time to recruit on the FBS level, but Whipple should help this team immediately be more competitive within the MAC in 2014.

Final Grade: B-

18. Bill Clark, UAB
Previous Job: Head coach at Jacksonville State
Career Record: 11-4 (1 year)
Garrick McGee’s resignation came as a surprise to most, but UAB quickly replaced the departed coach with someone who is quite familiar with football in the state of Alabama. Most of Clark’s experience as a coach has been on the high school level. The Alabama native started as an assistant at Piedmont High School in 1990 and stayed in that role until taking a similar position with Tuscaloosa High School in '92. Clark stayed on that path with stops as an assistant at three more high schools: Coffee County (Georgia), Dothan and Prattville. He was hired as South Alabama’s defensive coordinator in 2008 and served in that capacity until a one-year stint at Jacksonville State. Under Clark’s direction, South Alabama’s defense ranked No. 2 in the Sun Belt in fewest yards allowed per game in 2012. Clark’s first (and only) season as a collegiate head coach was a success, as Jacksonville State improved its win total by five games from 2012 to '13. Clark’s resume has a few holes. He doesn’t have any FBS head coaching experience and just one year at Jacksonville State isn’t enough to gauge his ability to lead a program for the long haul. But there are reasons to like this hire. Clark certainly has a few connections in the state from his days as a high school coach, and the Gamecocks made clear improvement under his watch. UAB is not an easy job. But Clark is a good hire for a program that should be able to win in Conference USA.
Final Grade: C+

19. Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan
Previous Job: Head coach at Drake
Career Record: 139-46 (17 years)

Eastern Michigan is one of the – if not the No. 1 – toughest jobs for a head coach in college football. Success has been tough to find recently, as the Eagles have just one season above .500 since 1991. This program has played in only one bowl game (1987) and its last winning conference record occurred in 1995. Needless to say, Creighton won’t have it easy. But this is an intriguing, outside-the-box hire for Eastern Michigan. The California native has been a successful head coach at three different stops (Ottawa University, Wabash and Drake) and has never had a losing season. Creighton’s 139-46 career record is even more impressive when you consider his work at the previous three schools was done with non-scholarship players. Success will be tough for Creighton in 2014, and he needs time to recruit, but this hire looks like a solid fit for Eastern Michigan.  

Final Grade: C+

20. Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky
Previous Job: Offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky
Career Record: First Season

By no means is this a bad hire for Western Kentucky. While Brohm ranks at the bottom of our new coach rankings for 2014, it’s more of a reflection on the depth of hires this offseason. Brohm has been a collegiate assistant since 2003 but this will be his first chance to be a head coach. He worked for five seasons as an assistant at Louisville from 2003-08 before spending time at FAU, Illinois and UAB. In Brohm’s one season in Birmingham, the Blazers finished fifth in Conference USA in total offense. After one year in Birmingham, Brohm joined Bobby Petrino’s staff at Western Kentucky and served as an assistant head coach. A lack of head coaching experience is always a concern, but this is a solid fit and hire for the Hilltoppers. Brohm grew up in Kentucky and has worked as an assistant at two other C-USA programs. One factor that should ease Brohm’s transition to head coach is a veteran staff, which includes former UAB coach Neil Callaway, defensive coordinator Nick Holt and secondary coach Mike Cassity.

Final Grade: C+

Grading College Football's Head Coach Hires for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/state-recruiting-where-do-best-players-come

The phrase “SEC Speed” instantly conjures images of glory, victory and pride for one region in the country and thoughts of depression, agony and exasperation for every other part of the nation. But after claiming seven consecutive national championships in a row, the SEC had the right to boast that it had the best programs, players and coaches.

Yes, SEC fan bases, power boosters and administrations are more dedicated to winning — from top (Alabama) to bottom (Kentucky) — than any other conference in America. Which also means they’ll do whatever it takes to win, at times, pushing more envelopes than anywhere else in the country. Simply put, the Southeast cares more about college football than any other region of the country.

But another conference, the Pac-12, has pulled even with the SEC for the time being as elite coaching hires and a renewed financial commitment to success have totally changed the competitive balance out West. And who knows, maybe in five years on the backs of James Franklin and Urban Meyer, the Big Ten will join the fray as the nation’s best league as well.

Even now, after Florida State ended the SEC's run of national supremacy and the Pac-12 officially caught up, why is it that the SEC will continue to surge on as the nation’s premier league?

One word: Geography.

Using the last five recruiting cycles — 2010 through 2014 — and with some help from the good people at 247Sports, it is very easy to accurately project the geographic distribution of high school talent in this country.

When the College Football Playoff Era begins this fall, it will be clear where all of the best players came from. I looked at the 1,000 best players who have (or will) entered college football between 2010-14 — or the Top 200 players as ranked by the 247 composite rank over each of the last five signing classes — to determine where are the nation’s best prospects come from.

Here is what I learned…

Note: Of the 1,000 players used, 162 of them were considered “five-star” recruits in the composite rankings.

The Big Three Still Dominate… Duh.
This isn’t news. California, Texas and Florida have been and will always be the most fertile recruiting states in the country. Of the 1,000 players studied, 404 of them hail from one of these three states. Of the 162 five-star signees during the span, 71 come from either The Sunshine, Lone Star or Golden States. So a staggering 40.4 percent of Top-200 talents come from these three states and 43.8 percent of five-star recruits come from The Big Three. The SEC can claim both Texas and Florida as “footprint” states and is this is why many are so bullish on Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M as a sleeping giant. Florida tops all states with 156 top-200 prospects and 31 five-star talents over the last five cycles. Texas is second in both categories with 132 and 24 respectively.

Georgia is closing the gap
If fans want to point to one state in particular that has helped keep the SEC stocked with elite players, it is the Peach State. Georgia has delivered no less than 13 top-200 prospects and at least two five-stars in each of the last five classes. In all, Georgia ranks fourth in the nation with 78 top-200 players over the last five — well ahead of Ohio, which ranks fifth with 47 signees. The 13 five-star prospects to come from The Peach State are just three behind the state of California (16) despite having a significantly smaller population base. California is the biggest state in the nation with an estimated 2013 population of over 38 million people while Georgia is ninth with an estimated ’13 population of just less than 10 million. Of those 78 top-200 players, 58 of them have (or will) signed with the SEC with two still left undecided from the ’14 class. Of the 13 five-stars from Georgia over the last five years, 11 of them have inked with an SEC school.

SEC footprint overachieves
The State of Alabama is ranked 23rd nationally in projected 2013 population. Louisiana is projected to be 25th. Yet, Alabama is sixth nationally in terms of producing elite football prospects with 39 top-200 recruits over the last five years and Louisiana is seventh with 37 such recruits. Each boasts the highest percetnage of five-star talent as well with 20 combined (10 each) five-stars out of those states over the last five years. Additionally, South Carolina is ranked 24th in population and Mississippi is 31st — behind Puerto Rico. But both of those states overachieve as well, ranking 14th and 15th with 24 and 22 signees respectively over the last five years. The SEC footprint boasts five of the top seven states for talent but only three of the top 16 states in terms of population. Would you like to know why Virginia and North Carolina are atop the Mike Slive’s wish list of states in which to expand? Because those two territories rank eighth and ninth respectively in producing talent AND are two of the 12 biggest states in the nation in terms of population. Let me be the first to welcome Virginia Tech and NC State to the SEC family.

The Big Ten has upside
There is no secret about the major population decline in the state of Pennsylvania over the last few decades and how that has hurt Midwest football as a whole. As jobs have left the state, so too has the elite football talent. Having said that, the one league in America that has the natural recruiting base to potentially press the SEC is the Big Ten. Jim Delany's league already makes the most money of any league in America based mostly on huge populations and cities. But while the Big 12 depends too much on the state of Texas for everything, the Big Ten, post expansion, can now claim six of the top 16 states in talent production. Ohio is fifth nationally with 47 top-200 recruits over the last five cycles while The Keystone State (30, 10th), Illinois (26, 11th), New Jersey (25, 12th), Michigan (24, 13th) and Maryland (21, 16th) each feed a Big Ten school. There is a reason Delany went after the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights and why he would be interested heavily in schools like Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech or Miami for expansion. Which brings us to...

The battle for Virginia and North Carolina
As previously stated, both the SEC and Big Ten are looking hard at both North Carolina and Virginia for expansion for a reason. Not only are they two unique markets for both leagues as neither has a school in either state, but both are two of the more talent-rich areas in the nation. Virginia is eighth nationally with 36 top-200 signees over the last five years and The Tar Heel State is ninth with 32. The two states have combined to produce 13 five-star prospects and both states boast powerful athletic institutions: North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, NC State and Duke are all very attractive options for expansion. This is why John Swofford and the rest of the ACC are grasping tightly to its Grant of Rights agreement because they realize how valuable this real estate could be in the future landscape of college football.

How has the Pac-12 done it?
Certainly, having a foundation like the state of California to work with helps, but the Pac-12 has made a rise to the top of the college football landscape without the help of a natural recruiting base. Just look at where the league has found its star quarterbacks. States like Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Washington and Oregon have some quality players but no other state in the Pac-12 footprint ranks inside the top 15 in terms of talent production. Arizona (16th) has developed 21 top-200 recruits and three five-stars over the last five years. Washington produced 10 (22nd), Colorado seven (24th), Oregon seven (24th) and Utah just six (28th). Can the Pac-12 sustain its current high level of success without a deep and rich recruiting base from which to cull talent?

No. 1 in the nation
Leonard Fournette is a running back from New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine and he is the No. 1 player in the nation for the class of 2014. He is scheduled to sign with the LSU Tigers in a few weeks on National Signing Day. He is the fifth consecutive No. 1 overall-rated player in the nation to sign with an SEC school. What is more impressive, however, is that all five hail from a different state and all five signed with a different SEC school. Robert Nkemdiche was the top player in the 2013 class and he hails from Georgia and signed with Ole Miss. Missouri landed Dorial Green-Beckham in the 2012 signing class and he came to the SEC from Springfield, Mo. Jadeveon Clowney, from Rock Hill, S.C., signed with the Gamecocks as the unanimous No. 1 overall-rated prospect in 2011. That means each of the last four No. 1 players hail from a different state — each of which is within the SEC’s mighty footprint. Ronald Powell hails from California and signed with Florida as the No. 1 guy in the ’10 class.

No shows
The top 1,000 recruits in the nation over the last five seasons have come from 40 states and the District of Columbia. Alaska, both Dakotas, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Wyoming, Montana, West Virginia and Maine are the only state that didn’t produce a single top-200 recruit over the last five years. Not surprisingly, all 10 of those states are ranked 38th or worse in terms of overall population. Nebraska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho and New Mexico each produced just one elite prospect over the last five cycles.

Below is a chart of the last five recruiting classes and where the top-200 recruits in each class came from (five-star athletes are in parentheses).

1.Florida30 (4)36 (10)32 (5)28 (7)30 (5)156 (31)
2.Texas28 (5)27 (4)27 (5)28 (5)22 (5)132 (24)
3.California26 (4)21 (2)23 (4)23 (3)23 (3)116 (16)
4.Georgia18 (3)13 (2)15 (2)17 (4)15 (2)78 (13)
5.Ohio8 (1)10 (2)12 (1)10747 (4)
6.Alabama8 (1)610 (3)8 (2)7 (4)39 (10)
7.Louisiana5 (1)10 (3)3 (1)712 (5)37 (10)
8.Virginia86 (1)69 (3)7 (3)36 (7)
9.N. Carolina3 (2)68 (3)6932 (6)
10.Pennsylvania7 (1)57 (2)8 (1)326 (4)
11.Illinois4 (1)537 (1)7 (1)26 (3)
12.New Jersey18 (1)4 (1)75 (1)25 (2)
13t.Michigan5 (1)5554 (1)24 (2)
13t.S. Carolina9 (1)5 (1)23524 (2)
15.Mississippi564 (1)4 (2)322 (3)
16t.Arizona25 (1)4 (1)37 (1)21 (3)
16t.Maryland16 (1)7 (2)5 (2)2 (1)21 (5)
18t.Oklahoma4132414 (0)
18t.Tennessee2224 (1)414 (1)
20.Indiana323 (1)3 (1)213 (2)
21.Missouri305 (1)1312 (1)
22.Washington3231 (1)110 (1)
23.Arkansas130228 (0)
24t.Colorado112117 (0)
24t.Oregon3 (1)21 (1)1 (1)07 (3)
24t.Kentucky320017 (0)
27t.New York1 (1)1 (1)2026 (2)
27t.Utah201126 (0)
27t.Kansas320016 (0)
30.D.C.101 (1)11 (1)4 (2)
31t.Minnesota1 (1)00023 (1)
31t.Nevada1 (1)11003 (1)
31t.Mass.002103 (0)
34t.Connecticut200002 (0)
34t.Iowa000022 (0)
34t.Wisconsin001012 (0)
37t.Hawaii000101 (0)
37t.Idaho001001 (0)
37t.Nebraska100001 (0)
37t.New Mexico010001 (0)
37t.Delaware000011 (0)



The State of Recruiting: Where do the best players come from?
Post date: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-sec-wide-receivers-bcs-era

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

The SEC has had some elite true wide receivers, in particular, three of the top six from the 2008 signing class. But the best pass-catcher of the bunch from the nation's toughest league is probably a guy who rushed for nearly 2,000 yards rather than the league's lone Biletnikoff winner.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Percy Harvin, Florida (2006-08)
Stats: 133 rec., 1,929 yds, 13 TDs, 1,852 rush, 19 TD

If Peter Warrick invented the all-purpose position in the late '90s, Harvin glorified it in the mid-2000s. A true dual-threat offensive talent, Harvin burst onto the scene as the SEC Freshman of the Year. He played a key role in the Gators' 2006 BCS National Championship run, totaling 82 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown against Ohio State. He capped his college career with 14 touches for 171 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game against Oklahoma. Few have combined speed, strength, production and winning like Harvin did. He nearly topped 2,000 yards both rushing and receiving, and, if not for nagging injuries his entire career, the Virginia Beach prospect might have been more decorated nationally.

2. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt (2010-2013)
Stats: 262 rec., 3,759 yards, 24 TDs

No player in the history of the SEC has had a more productive career or single season than Matthews. Matthews has caught more passes (262) for more yards (3,759) than anyone in SEC history and it’s not really even close. Earl Bennett is No. 2 in receptions (236) and Terrence Edwards is No. 2 in yards (3,093). No player in the SEC has ever caught 100 passes and Matthews posted 112 receptions as a senior with mediocre quarterback play. His 1,477-yard season is third in league history trailing only Josh Reed (1,740) and Alshon Jeffery (1,517). He helped the Dores to three straight bowl games and was the singular focus of every defense he faced yet still managed to destroy every major SEC receiving record.

3. A.J. Green, Georgia (2008-10)
Stats: 166 rec., 2,619 yds, 23 TDs, 105 rush

Based on raw talent alone, Green is the one of the greatest receivers to play the game. In a league not known for big passing numbers, Green led the SEC in yards and touchdowns as a true freshman. His rare blend of size, speed, vertical ability and red zone ball skills makes him one of the game’s most uncoverable targets. One of the best three-year starts to an NFL career (260 rec., 3,833 yards, 29 TD) justifies his No. 4 overall draft status in 2011, his lofty recruiting ranking in 2008 and his place among the SEC’s best.

4. Josh Reed, LSU (1999-2001)
Stats: 167 rec., 3,001 yds, 17 TDs, 63 rush, TD

The numbers weren’t huge for Reed, but he was the nation’s best in 2001. He was a consensus All-American and Biletnikoff Award winner after catching 94 passes — seven for touchdowns, good for third all-time — for an SEC single-season record 1,740 yards. He is one of the SEC’s greatest wide receivers and is the conference’s only Biletnikoff winner. His 1,860 all-purpose yards in ’01 is one of just five in the top 20 all-time in SEC history posted by a wide receiver (the other 15 were posted by running backs). His 3,001 career yards are fourth all-time in the SEC record books and his 293 yards against Bama on 19 catches were both single-game SEC benchmarks (Cobi Hamilton broke the yards mark in 2012).

5. Julio Jones, Alabama (2008-10)
Stats: 179 rec., 2,653 yds, 15 TDs, 139 rush, 2 TDs

From a talent standpoint, there may not be a more gifted name on this list than the superstar from Alabama. The school’s most talented pass-catcher helped lead the Crimson Tide to a national championship in 2009 and played on three teams that went 36-5 overall. Despite playing in a run-heavy offense, he is 16th all-time in yards and 20th all-time in receptions in league history — a tribute to his big-play ability. His 78 receptions and 1,133 yards as a junior are both Alabama single-season records and it led to the Falcons mortgaging their entire 2011 draft to select him with the sixth overall pick.

6. Randall Cobb, Kentucky (2008-10)
Stats: 144 rec., 1,661 yds, 1,313 rush, 22 TDs, 689 pass, 5 TDs, 1,700 ret. yds, 2 TDs

Was he a true wide receiver at Kentucky like he has been for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers? Maybe not, but he played wideout more than any other position and is one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers to ever suit up. His 2,396 all-purpose yards in 2010 are an SEC single-season record and is the only such campaign posted by a wide receiver in the top 12 (the rest are by running backs). He scored 22 rushing touchdowns, threw for 542 of his 689 passing yards as a true freshman while getting plenty of snaps under center and posted an 84-catch, 1,017-yard, 7-TD receiving season as a junior. He also scored on two punt returns in his career. There is nothing this guy couldn’t do on an SEC field.

7. Terrence Edwards, Georgia (1999-2002)
Stats: 204 rec., 3,093 yds, 30 TDs, 285 ret. yds

When he graduated from UGA, Edwards was the SEC’s all-time leading receiver in yards and was No. 2 in receptions. Both records have since been broken but Edwards’ legacy is unchanged as one the league’s best pass-catchers. He is still No. 2 in yards and is No. 5 in receptions. He is one of just two players with 30 touchdown catches in league history, trailing Chris Doering’s SEC mark by one score. As a senior in 2002, he posted career highs with 59 receptions, 1,004 yards and 11 touchdowns while leading the Bulldogs to their first SEC Championship Game appearance and its first subsequent championship since 1982.

8. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina (2009-11)
Stats: 183 rec., 3,042 yards, 23 TDs

One has to wonder, if Jeffery had been playing for an NFL contract like he did in the NFL in 2013, what his college numbers could have been? His 3,042 yards receiving are No. 3 all-time and he is one of just two players in league history (Reed) to top 1,500 yards in a single season. He was consistently a scoring threat throughout his career but his junior season (49 rec., 762 yards, 8 TDs) was extremely disappointing after his monster sophomore campaign (88 rec., 1,517 yards, 9 TDs). He was a huge part of the rise of South Carolina football and helped lead his team to its first ever SEC Championship Game berth in 2010, but fans are likely still left to wonder what could have been.

9. Dwayne Bowe, LSU (2003-06)
Stats: 154 rec., 2,403 yds, 26 TDs

Much like Green or Jones, Bowe's raw talent makes him one of the greatest of his generation. He played sparingly on the '03 national championship team but was a scoring machine the rest of his career — catching all 26 touchdowns in three SEC seasons — finishing ninth in the SEC all-time. Bowe possessed elite physical tools and played for a team that went 44-8 during his time and played in two BCS bowls. He was drafted 23rd overall in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft.

10. Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt (2005-07)
Stats: 236 rec., 2,852 yds, 20 TDs, 586 ret. yds

Until fellow Dores wideout Matthews broke the record, Bennett was the SEC’s all-time leading receiver with 236 catches in just three seasons. He never missed a game, never caught fewer than 75 passes and never posted fewer than 830 yards receiving. Bennett never played in a bowl game but helped build the foundation for Vandy’s 2008 bowl team — the school’s first since 1982. He was a fundamentally sound player who was as consistent as any in the history of the conference.

Just missed the cut:

11. Sidney Rice, South Carolina (2005-06)
Stats: 142 rec., 2,233 yds, 23 TDs

After redshirting in 2004, Rice exploded for two of the best seasons by an SEC wideout in history. As just a freshman, Rice set South Carolina records with 70 receptions, 1,143 yards and 13 touchdowns. All but the touchdowns mark was broken by Jeffery in 2010. He backed that up with another stellar season in 2006 with 72 receptions, 1,090 yards and 10 more touchdowns.

12. Jabar Gaffney, Florida (2000-01)
Stats: 138 rec., 2,375 yds, 27 TDs

One of only two consensus All-American wide receivers to play in the SEC during the BCS Era (Josh Reed is the other), Gaffney put together as good a two-year run as anyone in any league. In 23 career games, Gaffney caught 27 touchdowns passes, good for seventh all-time in SEC history. Both seasons he topped 1,100 yards (one of only three SEC players to do that) and is the league’s all-time leader in yards per game (103.3 ypg).

13. Mike Evans, Texas A&M (2012-13)
Stats: 151 rec., 2,499 yards, 17 TDs

Playing with Johnny Manziel as his quarterback, Evans took advantage of Kevin Sumlin's offense to post big-time numbers in just two seasons. Evans, along with Matthews and Gaffney, is one of just three players to ever have two 1,100-yard seasons. His 96.1 yards per game average is third all-time in SEC history.

14. Craig Yeast, Kentucky (1995-98)
Stats: 208 rec., 2,899 yds, 28 TDs, 125 rush, 1,256 ret. yds, 4 TDs

He did it all for the Wildcats. When he finished his career, Yeast was the SEC's all-time leading receiver (208 rec., now third), was second all-time in yards (now seventh) and was fourth in touchdowns (now sixth). His 85-catch, 1,311-yard, 14-TD senior season were all Kentucky records while also being a big weapon on special teams too. His 269 yards in '98 against Vanderbilt was an SEC record at the time.

15. D.J. Hall, Alabama (2004-07)
Stats: 194 rec., 2,923 yds, 17 TDs

All of the records Julio Jones broke later on were set by Hall at one point or another. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons as a junior and senior during the forgotten Mike Shula era of Bama football. His 2,923 yards are seventh all-time in SEC history.

Best of the rest:

16. Robert Meachem, Tennessee (2004-06): 125 rec., 2,140 yds, 17 TDs
His 1,298 yards (71 rec.) in 2006 were the fourth-most in SEC history at the time.

17. Michael Clayton, LSU (2001-03): 182 rec., 2,582 yds, 21 TDs
First Tiger to top 700 yards in three straight seasons and owned numerous school records.

18. Kenny McKinley, South Carolina (2005-08): 207 rec., 2,781 yds, 19 TDs
Not as talented as Rice or Jeffery but consistent and the school’s leader in nearly every receiving category.

19. Peerless Price, Tennessee (1995-98): 147 rec., 2,298 yds, 19 TDs, 122 rush, TD, 484 ret. yds, TD
Never had a huge year but posted best BCS performance by any WR during BCS Era.

20. Anthony Lucas, Arkansas (1995-99): 137 rec., 2,879 yds, 23 TDs
A stellar junior season highlighted a great career — without benefit of Bobby Petrino offense.

21. Derek Abney, Kentucky (2000-03): 197 rec., 2,339 yds, 18 TDs, 160 rush, 3,357 yds, 8 TDs
All-purpose dynamo who is eighth all-time in receptions, third all-time in AP yards (5,856).

22. Keenan Burton, Kentucky (2003-08): 189 rec., 2,376 yds, 25 TDs, 1,805 ret. yds, TD
Elite big-play machine who returned the Cats to the postseason (twice).

23. Fred Gibson, Georgia (2001-04): 161 rec., 2,884 yds, 20 TDs, 866 ret. yds, TD
Eighth all-time in yards and helped UGA win an SEC title in 2002.

24. Jarius Wright, Arkansas (2008-11): 168 rec., 2,934 yds, 24 TDs
Sixth all-time in yards

25. Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas (2009-12): 175 rec., 2,854 yds, 18 TDs
Sixth-best season in yards (1,335) and is only player in SEC history with 300-yard game (303).

Top 10 SEC Wide Receivers of the BCS Era
Post date: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/weekly-tipoff-who-wins-big-ten-championship

Some of the names and faces have changed, but the Big Ten is again one of the most intriguing league races.

Michigan State and Michigan are undefeated in league play, but teams like Iowa and Wisconsin lurk on the outside. And despite recent struggles, Ohio State isn’t going to be an easy out for the rest of the regular season.

The schedules are unbalanced, each team has its strengths and weaknesses and all are well-coached. But which team will finish the regular season on top? Our college basketball staff debates.

Weekly Tipoff: Who is your pick to win the Big Ten regular-season title?

Mitch Light: Iowa
Michigan State might be the obvious pick, but I’m going with Iowa. I’ve been on the Hawkeyes’ bandwagon since last season, when they narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament despite going 9–9 — with six of the losses coming by four points or less — in the nation’s most difficult conference. With every key player back, it’s no surprise that Fran McCaffery has his team in the hunt for a league title. Iowa might lack the star power of some of the elite teams in the Big Ten, but no program features more quality depth. McCaffery can go 10 deep and has the ability to mix and match lineups to accentuate his team’s positives. Taking a quick look at the advanced stats, there isn’t one thing that this team does not do well. The Hawkeyes are efficient offensively — and aren’t too reliant on the 3-pointer — and outstanding on the defensive end while playing at one of the fastest tempos in the country.

Related: Creighton, Kansas produced key stats this week

Braden Gall: Michigan State
After watching Wisconsin and Ohio State go a combined 0-5 since starting 16-0 and 15-0 respectively, the answer pretty clearly has to Michigan State. When healthy — a major ongoing concern for Tom Izzo this season — this team is as good as any in the nation. Izzo has veteran leadership, experience and talent in the form of arguably the best backcourt in the nation (Keith Appling, Gary Harris). He has a dominate, athletic, versatile big mane in Adreian Payne. And he has a roster of bouncy supporting players like Branden Dawson, Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice. When fully healthy, the Spartans can beat anyone in the nation and should be considered the Big Ten favorite — and near-lock for the Final Four.

Related: 10 Things You Need to Know in College Basketball This Week

David Fox: Michigan State
I’m picking the Spartans, though it’s a tough call over Wisconsin. Consider that Tom Izzo hasn’t had a fully healthy roster this season and still started 17–1. Gary Harris and Adreian Payne have both been hurt. So has Branden Dawson. That said, Keith Appling is one of the most improved players in the Big Ten, and the Spartans have had the depth in Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice and Kenny Kaminksi to weather the injuries so far. The road will be tough — quite literally, with trips to Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio State — but Michigan State can navigate it.

Weekly Tipoff: Who Wins the Big Ten Championship?
Post date: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/weekly-tipoff-nations-most-underrated-player

The college basketball season has reached its midpoint as teams are well into conference play.

We’ve named All-Americans. We’ve picked breakout players. And we’ve picked our disappointments of the year so far.

So what does that leave? The players who haven’t been mentioned enough by us or other outlets through the course of the season.

The list of underrated players could go on and one, and our editors had a tough time picking only one for this exercise. Feel free to chime in either in the comments or on Twitter (@AthlonSports) if there are players we’ve missed.

Weekly Tipoff: Who is the most underrated player in the nation?

Braden Gall: Kyle Anderson, UCLA
The 6-foot-9 point forward is likely overlooked because he plays on the West Coast in a nondescript Pac-12 for a solid-but-not-special Bruins team. But Anderson is averaging 15.5 points per game and leading UCLA in both rebounding (8.9 rpg) and assists (6.6 apg). This is an NCAA Tournament team and appears headed toward a top-three finish in the Pac-12 despite falling to Utah last weekend for the first time since 1983 — a game in which Anderson scored 28 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out seven assists. Normally, UCLA would be a high-profile location for a player of Anderson’s caliber, but it feels like the sophomore is flying under the national radar this season.

Related: Creighton, Kansas produced key stats this week

Mitch Light: Billy Baron, Canisius
This one is bit off the national radar — Billy Baron from Canisius. Baron, on his third school in four years, is averaging 23.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists while shooting .453 from 3-point range and .913 from the line. Baron began his career at Virginia but transferred to Rhode Island after one semester to play for his father, Jim Baron. The elder Baron was fired at URI after the 2011-12 season, but he landed on his feet and was named head coach at Canisius. Billy followed his dad to upstate New York and has been one of the nation’s premier scorers over the last two seasons.

Related: 10 Things You Need to Know in College Basketball This Week

David Fox: Delon Wright, Utah
Delon Wright probably won’t be underrated for much longer as Utah defeated UCLA on Saturday, but the Utes’ point guard is my pick. Academic issues landed him in junior college out of high school, but the brother of Trail Blazers forward Dorell Wright earned his way onto a Pac-12 roster. Wright is as composed of a point guard as there is, and his numbers are staggering: 15.7 points, 5.2 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game while shooting 63.5 percent from the floor. That statline are in the same category of what All-America contender DeAndre Kane is doing or what Ohio State’s Evan Turner did when he won national player of the year. He’s done all for Utah’s best team since 2008-09.

Weekly Tipoff: The Nation's Most Underrated Player
Post date: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: super-bowl, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/20-most-amazing-stats-super-bowl-history-2014

The NFL provides the greatest reality TV programming of all time. Each NFL season is a completely new and original experience for every player, fan and coach alike. New stories, new personalities, new winners and new losers, as well as a plethora of new statistics. And every season culminates with the Super Bowl, one of the most-watched sporting events across the globe.

Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics to keep in mind about the 47-year history of the Super Bowl:

164,100,000: People who watched Super Bowl XLVII
CBS' broadcast of Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers last Feb. 3 was watched at some point by 164.1 million viewers, setting a new record for total audience, according to the network. The Nielsen Co. reported an estimated 108.4 million people witnessed the Ravens' 34-31 victory in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, making Super Bowl XLVII the third most-watched program in U.S. television history. Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 (111.3 million viewers) and the 2010 game (111 million) are the only two programs that have drawn more eyes, according to the NFL.

4:14: Record running time of Super Bowl XLVII
A 22-minute partial power outage early in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII not only thrust the Mercedes-Benz Superdome into semi-darkness, it delayed the game on the field for 34 minutes and led to some entertaining analysis from CBS' broadcast team. Prior to the blackout, San Francisco had the ball and was trailing Baltimore 28-6 following Jacoby Jones' 108-yard kickoff return to open the second half. When play was finally resumed, the 49ers scored 17 unanswered points, making it a five-point game entering the fourth quarter. The Ravens held off the 49ers' late charge in the end, winning the longest Super Bowl ever played.

23-24: Coin toss winners' record in the Super Bowl
Baltimore won the coin toss last February, but deferred, electing instead to receive the ball to open the second half. The Ravens became the fourth team in Super Bowl history to defer, and all four instances have taken place in the last five years. While not winning the coin toss has still produced more Super Bowl winners over the history of the game, Baltimore joined Green Bay (Super Bowl XLV in 2011) as the only teams to defer on the toss and go on to victory.

35-3: Record of the team with fewer turnovers in the Super Bowl
Baltimore had just one turnover (Ray Rice fumble) compared to two by San Francisco (Colin Kaepernick INT, LaMichael James fumble) in last year's Super Bowl. By winning the turnover battle, the Ravens improved the all-time record of the team with fewer giveaways to 35-3. The formula appears to be fairly straightforward: Protect the football and become a champion. 

 Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Broncos vs. Seahawks and the history of the big game. 
$4 million: Average cost of a 30-second commercial for Super Bowl XLVIII
The going rate for a 30-second spot during FOX's upcoming Super Bowl XLVIII broadcast went for about $4 million. That's up from about $3.8 million on CBS last year and a far cry from the $42,000 it cost for 30 seconds of air time during Super Bowl I. However, with a guaranteed audience of more than 100 million in place, it should surprise no one that the available ad space has been sold out since early December.

338: Media credentials issued for Super Bowl I
By 2012, the number swelled to 5,156 accredited media members covering Super Bowl XLVI, a record for the event. With this year's game in the New York metropolitan area, also known as the media capital of the world, it's possible that Super Bowl XLVIII will set a new milestone for media participation.

3,652,409: Combined attendance for all 47 Super Bowls
Following last year's sellout crowd of 71,024 at the Mercedes Benz-Superdome in New Orleans, all-time Super Bowl attendance climbed past the 3.6 million mark. This year's venue, MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., can hold 82,500 people. While there's little doubt this game won't be a sellout, the mere possibilty of wintry precipitation adds an additional element to the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl.

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
Baltimore went a disappointing 8-8 this season, missing out on a chance at defending its Super Bowl title. However, the Ravens still fared better than Denver in the aftermath of the Broncos' back-to-back championships ( Super Bowl XXXII, XXXIII) in the late 1990s. Following the retirement of quarterback John Elway, the Broncos went 6-10 in 1999, finishing last in the AFC West. This also represented the worst showing by a defending Super Bowl champion.

414: Kurt Warner's record for passing yards
The former grocery bagger threw for a 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's 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, while Smith became the only player to top 200 yards rushing. He finished with 204 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries as the Redskins set the Super Bowl record for total offense (602 yards). Ironically, Smith ended his NFL career with exactly 602 yards rushing (21 games).

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 old, Big Ben also was the youngest quarterback to ever win the big game.

11: Players that 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. Peyton Manning most likely will have a chance to join this exclusive club, as he's all but assured of receiving his record fifth NFL MVP award on Feb. 1, the day before leading his Broncos against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII.

10: Largest comeback in Super Bowl history
The aforementioned Redskins established 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 in Super Bowl XLIV.

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

7: Fewest rushing yards by a team in a Super Bowl
The Monsters of the Midway were one of the most dominant 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.

5: Most Super Bowl starts by any one quarterback
John Elway started his fifth Super Bowl and won his second Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXXIII following Denver's 34-19 victory over Atlanta. Two years ago, 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.

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 end zone. Miami's 24-3 loss to Dallas in Super Bowl VI still stands as the fewest points scored by a team in the history of the game. The 1974 Minnesota Vikings are the only other team to score at least seven points on Super Sunday. In the Vikings' defense, they did reach the end zone — albeit via a defensive touchdown when Terry Brown recovered a Steelers’ fumble in the end zone. Fred Cox missed the extra point, as the Vikings also set the Super Bowl record for fewest yards of total offense with 119.

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 against Minnesota in Super Bowl IV. Mike Ditka, a Hall of Fame tight end for the Bears, Eagles and Cowboys, caught two passes for 28 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl VI. He then led the Bears to a win in Super Bowl XX in 1986 to become the only Super Bowl-winning coach who also earned a world title as a player.

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 just one field goal effort.

20 Most Amazing Stats in Super Bowl History
Post date: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 17:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/key-college-basketball-stats-week-jan-21

A team hitting blackjack on 3-pointers is as good a time as any to look at key numbers during the week.

Creighton rained 3-pointers on Villanova on Monday as the new Big East frontrunner knocked off one of the league’s traditional powers and did so in a way Rollie Massimino might admire. Creighton's win over Villanova also was only one of two key wins for a team in a new league in conference realignment Monday as Nebraska defeated Ohio State for the first time since 1985, a span of nine games.

The night, though, wasn’t all bad for major powers. Far from it. Kansas hit a milestone of its own.

Key college basketball stats of the week: Jan. 21

4. Consecutive wins over ranked teams by Kansas.
Kansas started 9-4 against a hellacious schedule, but there was still plenty of room to wonder if the Jayhawks would struggle to live up to expectations. Not anymore. With wins over then-No. 25 Kansas State, then-No. 8 Iowa State, then-No. 9 Oklahoma State and No. 24 Baylor, the Jayhawks are the first team since 1997 to defeat four ranked teams in a row during the regular season. The last team to accomplish such a feat was 1996-97 North Carolina, which defeated No. 4 Wake Forest, No. 14 Maryland, No. 12 Clemson and No. 7 Duke to finish the regular season. The Tar Heels that year reached the Final Four before losing to Arizona.

58-0. Combined record for Ohio State, Oregon, Iowa State and Wisconsin to start the season.
The AP top 10 on Jan. 6 included undefeated Ohio State (No. 3), Wisconsin (No. 4) and Iowa State (No. 9). A week earlier, the top 10 included undefeated Oregon (No. 10). At the time, all were considered contenders in their respective conferences...

0-13. Record for Ohio State, Oregon, Iowa State and Wisconsin since their undefeated starts.
Those four formerly undefeated teams all endured their first losses in recent weeks and haven’t been able to win since. Not all losses are created equal, though. Ohio State’s 68-62 loss to Nebraska on Monday is the most troubling of the Buckeyes’ four consecutive losses, especially since Ohio State defeated Nebraska by 31 in the first meeting this season. Oregon, whose defensive presence has disappeared, has lost four in a row to Colorado, Cal, Stanford and Oregon State — none are NCAA Tournament locks.

21. 3-point field goals by Creighton on Monday.
Creighton was already one of the nation’s most prolific teams from 3-point range entering Monday’s key matchup against Villanova, but this something else. The Bluejays went 21 of 35 from 3-point range against the Wildcats — at team by virtue of its own offense that should know how to guard the 3-point line. They didn’t. Creighton’s 21 3-pointers was the most in a game since Nov. 29, 2010 and the most in a game between major conference teams since Kentucky hit 21 against North Carolina on Dec. 27, 1989.

97.4. Percentage of Creighton guard Ethan Wragge’s field goals that have been from 3-point range.
You want to talk about a specialist? Creighton guard Ethan Wragge barely ventures inside the 3-point line. Against Villanova, he was 9 of 14 from the field — all from 3-point range. That’s routine for Wragge. He is 74 of 148 from 3-point range this season. He’s 2 of 6 on attempts from 2-point range. Wragge has one job and he does it well. A historical comparison of Wragge? Ken Pomeroy and his readers note Iowa’s Devan Bawinkel, who made 83 3-pointers and one 2-pointer in two seasons from 2008-10.



83 3-pointers and one two-pointer in two seasons from 2008-10. - See more at:

10. Oklahoma’s rank in adjusted tempo on
Lon Kruger isn’t a coach normally associated with high-tempo play — he never really ran enough for the Runnin' Rebels of UNLV — but the 14-4 Sooners rank 10th nationally in adjusted tempo this season. Since the KenPom rankings began in 2005, Kruger’s Oklahoma and UNLV teams have never ranked higher than 60th in adjusted tempo, the only other time they’ve been ranked in the top 100.

344. Syracuse’s rank in adjusted tempo on
Jim Boeheim is the anti-Kruger in terms of tempo through his career, but his Syracuse teams are slowing down. The Orange rank near the bottom nationally in adjusted tempo at No. 344 this season as Syracuse has progressively slowed down every season since 2008. That year, the Orange ranked 27th in adjusted tempo.


Key College Basketball Stats of the Week
Post date: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 12:47
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-21-2014

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 21.

Three of Australia's hottest models posed for Maxim. This post brought to you by the tourism board of Australia.

Sad Tom Brady is sweeping the Internet. To some people, Tom's tears are too delicious.

• This is very cool: a helmet cam view of the skydiving team descending into Mile High Stadium.

• In case you're wondering where I stand on the Richard Sherman thing, I agree with this article: His over-the-top persona is fine, but what he did Sunday was pretty bush-league.

Charles Barkley used talk of Klay Thompson's shooting stroke to make a Kellen Winslow joke. Never change, Chuck.

• Only click through if you have a strong stomach, or if you've already digested your breakfast: the most gruesome sports injuries in history.

Has trying to dispose of your weed by eating it ever worked?

Sometimes the crime is worth the time

Vine celebrity Nash Grier is milking his Dunk Cam thing with amusing results.

• This one's a mind-bender: "Fight Club" with Tyler Durden digitally removed. Of course (spoiler alert) he wasn't really there, so this is how the movie actually should be seen, I guess.

A way-too-early but in-depth look at the SEC East in 2014.

• Kansas' Wayne Selden made a phenomenal play in the Jayhawks' win over Baylor.


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

Post date: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 10:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Kentucky Wildcats, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/kentucky-qb-drew-barker-unveils-all-gray-uniform

Last year, photos of a gray Kentucky jersey and helmet circulated on the internet. But the Wildcats didn’t wear the gray uniforms in 2013.

Could that change in 2014?

The all-gray uniforms returned to the internet this week, with freshman quarterback Drew Barker modeling the new look.

Overall, this isn’t a bad look for Kentucky. 

Kentucky QB Drew Barker Unveils All-Gray Uniform
Post date: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/amazing-stats-nfls-championship-weekend-2013

Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.

Some fall on the sabermetric side of things, while others like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Championship Weekend:

5-10: Peyton Manning’s record against Tom Brady
Brady has had the better of Manning over the course of their career head-to-head matchups. But when it counted the most in what could be their final meeting, Manning cemented his legacy as arguably the greatest quarterback of this generation. He threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns on 32-of-43 passing in the relatively easy 26-16 win over New England on Sunday. He moved to 3-1 in AFC Championship Games in his career with his first victory also coming against Brady and the Pats in the 2006 playoffs. He beat the Jets in 2009 to face the Saints in the Super Bowl and lost to Brady at the end of his '03 season one game shy of the Super Bowl. Brady fell to 5-3 in AFC Championship Games in his career.

4: QBs to lead the NFL in yards and TDs and advance to the Super Bowl
Dan Marino set a historic passing record in 1984 as the first player to ever top 5,000 yards. His mark (5,084) stood for more than 20 years and his 48 touchdown passes stood for two decades. Marino also led Miami to the Super Bowl that year, losing to San Francisco 38-16 in Super Bowl XIX. Before Sunday, only two other players had led their teams to Super Bowls while also leading the league in passing yards and touchdowns. Kurt Warner threw for an NFL-best 4,830 yards and 36 TDs in 2001 and lost to New England 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI. Tom Brady led the league with 4,806 and 50 in 2007 while going unbeaten but failed to convert in the big game against the New York Giants (XLII). Manning became the fourth such player by setting new NFL benchmarks with 5,477 yards and 55 TDs this season while leading his team to the Super Bowl.

12-3: Manning’s record when throwing for at least 400 yards
Manning has thrown for at least 400 yards in a game 12 times in the regular season and three times in the postseason. His team is 10-2 in regular season play when he tops 400 yards and, after 400 yards exactly against New England, 2-1 in the postseason. However, Manning moved to 5-0 this season when throwing for at least 400 yards in a game. His single-game high of 472 came in a loss to Kansas City in 2004.

7: Consecutive NFC title games decided by seven points or less
The Seahawks held on in dramatic fashion to earn a sport in the Super Bowl by defeating the 49ers 23-17 in Seattle on Sunday. Simply put, it was a fantastic game. However, greatness is the status quo for for the NFC Championship Game. With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, the NFC has produced seven consecutive championship games decided by seven points or fewer. The 49ers, obviously, have been involved in the last three, losing twice and winning once. Many can complain about Super Bowls being boring (although, not as much lately), but the NFC title game has been delivering dramatic finishes for nearly a decade straight.

3: Fourth-quarter turnovers by Colin Kaepernick
During the regular season, Jim Harbaugh turned to his running game in the fourth quarter. He rushed more times (178) for more yards (780) in the final period than any other quarter in the game (by a healthy margin). Subsequently, the 49ers threw the ball dramatically less in the final quarter (50-for-95) than in any other quarter of the game. Through three quarters against Seattle, Colin Kaepernick had completed just 7-of-13 passes for 83 yards. In three fourth-quarter possessions, Kaepernick threw 11 passes, was sacked once and turned the ball over three times. He had 13 total turnovers in the first 18 games of the season.

27-9: Russell Wilson’s win-loss record as a starter
Wilson won an NFL-record 24 games in his first two seasons as a starter in the league. He has also won a playoff game in each of this two seasons in the NFL. Overall, the talented leader of the Seahawks offense is 27-9 as a starter in the NFL. After topping the Niners at home, Wilson moved to 17-1 at CenturyLink Field. He was 16-of-25 for 215 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers to lead Seattle to just its second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

6: Coaches who led two teams to the Super Bowl
In leading the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl, head coach John Fox joined an elite NFL fraternity of guys who have taken two different teams to the biggest game of the year. Don Shula (Baltimore Colts, Miami), Dick Vermiel (Philadelphia, St. Louis), Bill Parcells (NY Giants, New England), Mike Holmgren (Green Bay, Seattle) and Dan Reeves (Denver, Atlanta) are the only other coaches to lead two different franchises to the promised land. Fox took the Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII at the end of the 2003 seasons. No coach has ever won the Super Bowl with two different teams.

2: Coaches who have won a Super Bowl and a NCAA championship
Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson are the only two coaches in history to have won a college football national championship and a Super Bowl. Switzer won three national titles at Oklahoma (1974-75, ’85) and then claimed victory in Super Bowl XXX for the Dallas Cowboys over the Steelers. Johnson won the ’87 national title with Miami before winning two Super Bowls with the Cowboys (XXVII, XXVIII). Paul Brown also won an AP college football championship in 1942 with Ohio State before moving to the NFL and claiming three NFL championships (1950, ’54, ’55) but never coached in a Super Bowl. Pete Carroll, who won a share of two national titles at USC in 2003-04, has a chance to become just the third coach to ever accomplish this exclusive double dip.

Amazing Stats from the NFL's Championship Weekend
Post date: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-acc-wide-receivers-bcs-era

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

Surprisingly, the ACC has a long list of excellent wide receivers as nearly 30 players have topped 2,500 yards receiving in their ACC careers. For some perspective, Desmond Clark, Eron Riley, Donovan Varner, Dwight Jones, Rich Gunnell, Stefon Diggs, Jacoby Ford, Quinshad Davis, Owen Spencer, Erik Highsmith, Dez White and Scottie Montgomery all failed to make the Top 25.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech (2004-06)
Stats: 178 rec., 2,927 yds, 28 TDs, 40 rush, TD

Appropriately nicknamed Megatron, no player has demonstrated the combination of size and speed that Johnson brought to the Ramblin Wreck offense. The Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek prospect was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2004 before earning back-to-back All-American honors in 2005-06. He owns school records for receiving yards and touchdowns during his time at Tech and claimed the Biletnikoff Award as well as ACC Player of the Year honors in 2006. He is one of 13 wide receivers to finish in the top 10 in the Heisman Trophy voting during the BCS Era (10th). He is simply a freak of nature.

2. Peter Warrick, Florida State (1995-99)
Stats: 207 rec., 3,517 yds, 32 TDs, 188 rush, 4 TDs, 937 ret. yds, 6 TDs

The phrase all-purpose wasn’t en vogue when Warrick broke onto the scene so the Bradenton (Fla.) Southeast superstar might deserve credit for the invention. And if not for an incident at Dillard’s Department Store that resulted in a two-game suspension, Warrick likely would have won the Heisman Trophy. The two-time consensus All-American could do it all. His joystick, open-field moves made him dynamic in the passing game, on special teams and he was one of the first wideouts used in the running game. His Sugar Bowl MVP performance — and touchdown catch — in the 1999 national championship game (six rec., 163 yds, three total TDs) will go down as one of the greatest national title performances in NCAA history.

3. Sammy Watkins, Clemson (2011-13)
Stats: 240 rec., 3,391 yards, 27 TDs, 339 rush, TD, 1,399 ret. yards, TD

Watkins did it all at Clemson. A freakish athlete with the ability to score on any play from anywhere on the field, Watkins helped lead Clemson to a 32-8 record during his three seasons. He finished No. 2 all-time in ACC history with 240 receptions, No. 3 all-time with 3,391 yards receiving and tied for eighth all-time with 27 receiving touchdowns. And he did all of this in just three seasons, while bringing an ACC title back to Clemson for the first time in decades. His 5,129 all-purpose yards are ninth all-time in league history. His 101 receptions in 2013 would have been a single-season ACC record if not for Duke’s Jamison Crowder and his 108 catches this fall. His 1,464 yards in his final season is second all-time to Torry Holt (1,604) and his 82 catches and 12 TDs in 2011 were both ACC records for freshmen.

4. Torry Holt, NC State (1995-98)
Stats: 191 rec., 3,379 yds, 31 TDs, 119 rush

One of the greatest receivers to ever play the game on any level, Holt capped his outstanding Wolfpack career with an ACC Player of the Year award in the first year of the BCS. Over his final two seasons in Raleigh, the Gibsonville (N.C.) Eastern Guilford receiver caught 150 passes for 2,703 yards and 27 touchdowns (he also threw a 45-yard TD pass), finishing eighth in the Heisman voting in 1998. Holt set all types of NC State and ACC records during his college career and he went on to become one of the NFL’s greatest wide receivers. No one ever had a better game during the BCS Era than Holt when he posted 255 yards against Baylor in 1998.

5. Jerricho Cotchery, NC State (2000-03)
Stats: 200 rec., 3,119 yards, 21 TDs, 102 rush, TD, 300 ret. yards, TD

Following in Holt’s footsteps in Raleigh, Cotchery nearly duplicated his predecessor’s production. The Wolfpack playmaker is tied for second in ACC history with 15 100-yard receiving games, posted the fourth-best single-season yardage total in 2003 (1,369) and, at the time, was No. 2 all-time with 86 receptions that same year. Cotchery is ninth all-time in league history with 200 receptions and sixth all-time with 3,119 yards, the first of which is still an NC State record.

6. DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson (2010-12)
Stats: 206 rec., 3,020 yds, 27 TDs

His teammate Watkins garnered all of the attention but Hopkins was virtually unstoppable at Clemson as well. He finished tied with Watkins (and the great Herman Moore) for eighth all-time in ACC history with 27 touchdown catches, including a magical 2012 season that featured the ACC’s single-season record of 18 and then-No. 2 yardage total of 1,405 yards. Hopkins, in just three seasons, is eighth all-time with 206 catches and seventh all-time with 3,020 yards. He posted 12 100-yard games in his career and was a first-round pick of the Houston Texans.

7. Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina (2006-08)
Stats: 181 rec., 2,840 yards, 21 TDs, 43 rush, TD, 235 ret. yards

Much like Hopkins, Watkins and Megatron, Nicks’ ACC star shined briefly but brightly. In three seasons, he set single-season and career North Carolina school receiving records in every major category and proved to be one of the most explosive offensive threats in college football. He led the ACC in receiving in 2008 (1,222) and posted 10 career 100-yard games while at Chapel Hill. Nicks was the 29th overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft.

8. Conner Vernon, Duke (2009-12)
Stats: 283 rec., 3,749 yds, 21 TDs, 570 ret. yds

When it comes to career accomplishments, no one in the ACC can match Vernon’s production at Duke. He is the ACC’s all-time leading receiver in yards and receptions by a fairly wide margin. Watkins trails his 283 receptions by 43 and Warrick trails his 3,749 yards receiving by over 200 yards. He posted three straight seasons with at least 950 yards and 70 receptions from 2010-12 and helped Duke return to the postseason for the first time in 18 years. He wasn’t overly gifted or explosive but was a model of consistency and a huge part of the David Cutcliffe rebuild in Durham.

9. Billy McMullen, Virginia (1999-02)
Stats: 210 rec., 2,978 yards, 24 TDs

When McMullen left Charlottesville, he was one of the most prolific players in league history. When he graduated, McMullen was second all-time to only Desmond Clark by six receptions and fourth all-time in yards. Since, he has dropped to fifth and eighth respectively. Like Vernon, he was a consistent force for his team for four full seasons and his numbers portray it. He also helped his team to three bowl games in four years under two different coaches — which is much easier said than done at Virginia these days.

10. Marvin Minnis, Florida State (1997-2000)
Stats: 115 rec., 2,098 yds, 17 TDs

"Snoop" didn’t do a whole lot playing behind Peter Warrick for the first three years of his career in Tallahassee. But this changed in a big way during this senior season. As one of just two consensus All-Americans from the ACC at wide receiver (Johnson), Minnis caught 63 passes for a then ACC-record 1,340 yards — an absurd 21.3 yards per catch — and 11 touchdowns in ’00. He played on four ACC title teams and for a team that went to three straight BCS title games with a championship in ’99.

Just missed the cut:

11. Koren Robinson, NC State (1999-2000)
Stats: 110 rec., 1,914 yards, 15 TDs, 110 rush, 872 ret. yards, 2 TDs

Robinson only played two seasons but was a huge success in his short time in Raleigh. In just 22 career games, he posted 14 100-yard games — which trails only Clarkston Hines, Cotchery and Jermaine Lewis in ACC history. Robinson’s big-play ability was evident on special teams as well and it got him drafted ninth overall in the 2001 NFL Draft.

12. Kelly Campbell, Georgia Tech (1998-01)
Stats: 195 rec., 2,907 yards, 24 TDs, 152 rush, 3 TDs, 1,415 ret. yards

The smallish do-everything player is Tech’s all-time leading receiver with 195 catches. He was used all over the field and is top 15 in ACC history in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He went to four bowls and was one of Joey Hamilton’s top targets.

13. Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech (2007-09)
Stats: 120 rec., 2,339 yards, 15 TDs

From a talent standpoint, Thomas is one of the league’s best of all-time. Unfortunately, he played in the triple option offense and no one will ever know what his numbers would have been if he had Philip Rivers or Tajh Boyd as his college quarterback.

14. Chris Givens, Wake Forest (2009-11)
Stats: 163 rec., 2,473 yards, 21 TDs, 238 yards, 2 TDs, 798 ret. yards

From an speed and explosiveness standpoint, few can match Givens' all-around ability. He was dynamic in the receiving, running and return games. His 1,330 yards in 2011 are sixth all-time in ACC history and his brief NFL career has verified his excellent college production.

15. Aaron Kelly, Clemson (2005-08)
Stats: 232 rec., 2,733 yds, 20 TDs, 417 ret. yds

Before Watkins passed him this year, Kelly was No. 2 all-time in ACC history with 232 receptions. He is top 20 in yards and touchdowns and his 88 catches in 2007 are fourth-best in ACC history.

Best of the rest:

16. Greg Carr, Florida St (2005-08): 148 rec., 2,574 yards, 29 TDs
Tied for fourth all-time in ACC history with 29 TD catches.

17. Rashad Greene, Florida St (2011-pres.): 171 rec., 2,465 yards, 22 TDs, 373 ret. yards, 2 TDs
All-around production, NFL ability, championships and longevity.

18. Torrey Smith, Maryland (2008-10): 152 rec., 2,215 yds, 19 TDs, 2,983 ret. yds, 3 TDs
Big-play machine is eighth all-time in ACC history with 5,264 all-purpose yards.

19. Rod Gardner, Clemson (1997-00): 159 rec., 2,404 yards, 12 TDs
Led the ACC in receptions (80) in 1999 and was a first-round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.

20. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida St (2012-13): 84 rec., 1,506 yards, 19 TDs
Freakish clone of Megatron is one of six ACC players to ever catch 15 TDs in one year.

21. Jamison Crowder, Duke (2011-pres.): 198 rec., 2,597 yards, 17 TDs, 1,493 ret. yards
Will be top five in ACC in receptions, yards and AP yards with third 1,000-yard season in ‘14.

22. Derrick Hamilton, Clemson (2001-03): 163 rec., 2,218 yds, 15 TDs, 340 rush, 2 TDs, 2,187 ret. yds, 2 TDs
Fourth in ACC history among wide receivers with 4,745 all-purpose yards.

23. Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest (2010-13): 229 rec., 2,506 yards, 14 TDs, 238 rush, 2 TD,s 984 ret. yards, TD
Tied ACC single-game record with 16 catches (2012) and is No. 4 all-time in receptions.

24. Jarrett Boykin, Virginia Tech (2008-11): 184 rec., 2,884 yards, 18 TDs
Tech’s all-time leader in receptions and yards on two ACC title teams.

25. Kenny Moore, Wake Forest (2004-07): 139 rec., 1,458 yards, 7 TDs, 829 rush, 5 TDs, 657 ret. yds, TD
Set ACC single-season record with 98 catches in ’07 (since broken). All-purpose dynamo.

Top 10 ACC Wide Receivers of the BCS Era
Post date: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /nfl/15-greatest-plays-super-bowl-history-2014

What defines a great play?

Degree of difficulty? Gravity of the moment? The greatness of the players involved and their place in NFL history? Entertainment factor? How about all of the above.

Game-winning touchdowns, heroic out-of-body experiences, historic moments and even some hilarious gaffes — looking at you Garo Yepremian — all make the Super Bowl the greatest sporting event of the calendar year. Hall of Fame careers are made and broken in the final football game of the season and trying to narrow down nearly 50 years of action to the 15 best individual plays is virtually impossible.

1. Super Bowl XXXIV: One Yard Short
The Titans and Rams put on a second-half show for the fans in Atlanta. Kurt Warner hit Isaac Bruce on a 73-yard touchdown pass with just over two minutes to go in a tie game to take the lead. Steve McNair then whirled his way down the field to the St. Louis 10-yard line to set up the final play of the game. Mike Jones then made the play of his career by tackling Kevin Dyson just 12 inches shy of the game-tying touchdown. It would have been the first and only overtime game in Super Bowl history.

2. Super Bowl XXXII: John Elway’s helicopter run
It was the defining moment of what many believe is the best Super Bowl ever played. It was third-and-six from the Packers' 12-yard line with the game tied 17-17 in the second half. One of the game’s greatest players drops back to pass, scrambles right and then dives head-first despite being surrounded by three Green Bay defenders. Elway gives up all regard for his body and wills himself to a first down. Terrell Davis scored the go-ahead touchdown two plays later, as Elway goes on to win his first Super Bowl.

3. Super Bowl XXV: Scott Norwood’s wide right
There have been many game-winning field goals in Super Bowl history — but none on the final snap with one team trailing and the chance to win the game. Adam Vinatieri’s kicks were clutch but those games would have gone into overtime had he missed. No, Norwood became the only true goat of a Super Bowl when his 47-yard field goal sailed just inches wide right. The miss capped an extraordinary drive that capped an extraordinary game stacked with Hall of Fame players and coaches.

4. Super Bowl XXIII: Joe Montana to John Taylor
The 10-yard pass to Taylor with 39 seconds left wasn’t in and of itself a miraculous play. It wasn’t all that difficult and it wasn’t all that remarkable. But it represents all that Montana was as an NFL Hall of Famer. He got the ball with 3:10 left on the clock down 16-13 on his own eight-yard line and all he can think about is John Candy. This touchdown pass stood as the latest game-winner touchdown in Super Bowl history for nearly 20 years.

5. Super Bowl XLII: Eli Manning to David Tyree (and Plaxico Burress)
In terms of degree of difficulty, few plays in any game much less the Super Bowl can match this one. Manning's Houdini act in the pocket to avoid getting sacked is nearly as impressive as Tyree’s duct tape and chicken wire helmet catch in traffic 32 yards down the field. Four plays later, Manning floated a 13-yard game-winning touchdown to a wide open Plaxico Burress to give the Patriots their one and only loss of the season. After three extremely slow quarters, Super Bowl XLII ended in extraordinary fashion.

6. Super Bowl XLIII: Big Ben to Santonio Holmes
The Cardinals entered the fourth quarter trailing the Steelers 20-7. Kurt Warner then proceeded to score 16 straight points to take a three-point lead over Pittsburgh with just over two minutes to play. Ben Roethlisberger then marched his team to the Arizona six-yard line where, with unbelievable accuracy and some magic toes at his disposal, he somehow connects with Holmes with 35 seconds left to play.

7. Super Bowl XVIII: Marcus Allen's 74-yard run
It is likely the most impressive run in Super Bowl history. After twisting and changing directions in the backfield, Allen split the heart of the Washington Redskins defense for the longest run in Super Bowl history (later broken by Willie Parker). The play capped the third quarter and put a fork in the ‘Skins' hopes. Allen finished with 191 yards rushing and was named the MVP.

8. Super Bowl XVII: The Diesel’s fourth-and-one gallop
The Redskins were trailing 17-13 with 10 minutes to go, facing a fourth-and-one on the Miami 43-yard line. Joe Gibbs leaves his offense on the field and calls ’70 chip’ for his star running back John Riggins. The burly runner, nicknamed The Diesel, breaks a tackle, bounces the play off tackle and races 43 yards for the game-winning touchdown. The play epitomized who Riggins was as a ball carrier.

9. Super Bowl X: Lynn Swann’s Magical Reception
When it comes to acrobatic, spectacular catches, David Tyree might not even be able top the grace of Swann. From deep in his own territory, the eventual game MVP reeled in a 53-yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw that changed the game. Mark Washington is in perfect position to make a play on the ball for the Cowboys, but somehow Swann out leaps the defender, bobbles the ball and hauls in the pass as he is falling to the ground. Swann finished with four receptions for 161 yards and the game-winning 64-yard touchdown catch as well. This clash of the titans was won with style and grace.

10. Super Bowl III: Joe Namath’s Called Shot/Finger Wag
It wasn’t technically one play, but Broadway Joe’s guarantee and subsequent finger wag will go down in Super Bowl lore. It was likely the most important Super Bowl ever played. It also was the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. And the moment could have only been made possible by a brash personality like Namath.

11. Super Bowl XLIV: Saints onside kick to start second half
Possibly the ballsiest call in Super Bowl history, head coach Sean Payton calls for the onside kick to start the second half. The Saints recover and the gutsy call sets the tone, as New Orleans dominates Indianapolis and the second half to win the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy.

12. Super Bowl XXXVI: Adam Vinatieri Part I
Vinatieri Part I capped Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s coming out party as they upset the heavily favored Rams with a 48-yard game winner.

13. Super Bowl XXXVIII: Adam Vinatieri Part II
An underrated Super Bowl ended with Vinatieri Part II when he broke the 29-29 tie as time expired against the Panthers.

14. Super Bowl XXVII: Leon Lett chased down by Don Beebe
The game wasn’t close and the play didn’t really matter, but no one will ever forget little Beebe embarrassing big Lett at the goal line.

15. Super Bowl I: Max McGee one-hander
A hungover, second-string McGee makes a spectacular one-handed catch to score the first touchdown in Super Bowl history.

Best of the Rest:

16. Super Bowl XIV: Terry Bradshaw to Lance Stallworth for the 73-yard game winning touchdown.
17. Super Bowl XX: William Perry steals Sweetness’ touchdown.
18. Super Bowl XLVI: Eli Manning completes 38-yard sideline fade to Mario Manningham to open eventual game-winning drive agianst New England.
19. Super Bowl XIII: Jackie Smith is "the sickest man in America."
20. Super Bowl XXXI: Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return TD.

15 Greatest Plays in Super Bowl History
Post date: Monday, January 20, 2014 - 19:00