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All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/johnny-manziel-taunts-rice-defenders

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel spent the first half of Saturday’s game on the sidelines due to a suspension from the offseason autograph scandal. However, Manziel didn’t let that slow him down against Rice, completing 6 of 8 passes for 94 yards and three touchdowns in the second half.

But the postgame chatter about Manziel wasn’t due to his performance. Instead, the sophomore was in the spotlight due to his money gestures after scoring a touchdown, an unsportsmanlike penalty and his jabs with Rice defenders while making an autograph gesture. Coach Kevin Sumlin wasn't happy with Manziel after the game, as the sophomore did not play after his penalty in the fourth quarter.

Check out the reaction from the web compiled in storify by @DavidFox615:

Johnny Manziel Taunts Rice Defenders
Post date: Saturday, August 31, 2013 - 21:49
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, NC State Wolfpack, News
Path: /college-football/nc-state-qb-brandon-mitchell-suffers-fractured-foot

NC State opened the Dave Doeren era with an impressive 40-14 win over Louisiana Tech. However, victory came at a heavy price. Quarterback Brandon Mitchell suffered a foot fracture against the Bulldogs and will be out four to six weeks.

Mitchell transferred to NC State from Arkansas this offseason and was off to a good start, throwing for 93 yards on three completions.

With Mitchell out, NC State will turn to Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas. Against Louisiana Tech, Thomas threw for 212 yards on 15 completions.

Although Mitchell will miss at least four weeks, NC State has favorable matchups against Central Michigan and Richmond in September. Assuming the Wolfpack loses to Clemson, they should be 3-1 in case Mitchell returns to play Wake Forest on Oct. 5.

NC State QB Brandon Mitchell Suffers Fractured Foot
Post date: Saturday, August 31, 2013 - 18:06
Path: /college-football/kurtis-drummond-makes-one-handed-int-michigan-state-video

Michigan State defensive back Kurtis Drummond had quite the game in the opener against Western Michigan. Drummond returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and later followed up that play with a crazy one-handed interception.

It’s only Week 1, but Drummond’s interception might be one of the best defensive plays we see in college football this year.

Post date: Saturday, August 31, 2013 - 14:27
Path: /college-football/fau-spikes-ball-fourth-down-video

It’s the first week of the college football season, so coaches and players are bound to have some rust.

However, FAU committed a silly blunder against Miami on Friday night, which is simply the result of not paying attention to the down marker or scoreboard.

With the Owls trying to score late in the fourth quarter, quarterback Jaquez Johnson was tackled around the 26-yard line with 19 seconds left to play on third down. And instead of trying to get one more play, FAU forgets its fourth down and proceeds to spike the ball. The best part? Watching FAU coach Carl Pelini give the spike symbol to his quarterback.


FAU Spikes the Ball on Fourth Down (Video)
Post date: Saturday, August 31, 2013 - 13:23
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-vs-virginia-tech-hokies-2013-game-preview-and-prediction

Alabama begins its national title defense with a trip to a familiar destination – Atlanta. The Crimson Tide played and won two out of the last four SEC Championships in the Georgia Dome, including last year’s 32-28 thriller over Georgia.

Nick Saban’s team won’t be playing for a berth in the national championship in this trip to Atlanta, and the hype for this matchup has been a subdued. The Crimson Tide is a listed as a three-touchdown favorite in some locations, and Virginia Tech is dealing with a myriad of issues on offense.

The Hokies are coming off a 7-6 season but needed three wins in overtime to get bowl eligible. As a result of the lackluster record, coach Frank Beamer made some changes to his coaching staff. Former Auburn and Temple assistant Scot Loeffler was hired as Virginia Tech’s offensive coordinator, Aaron Moorhead was brought aboard to coach the receivers and Jeff Grimes was appointed the new offensive line coach.

Virginia Tech and Alabama met in Atlanta to start the 2009 season, with the Crimson Tide earning a 34-24 victory. These two teams have played 12 times, and Alabama holds a commanding 11-1 series edge.

More Week 1 Previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Three Things to Watch

A fresh start for Logan Thomas
After throwing for 3,013 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushing for 469 yards and 11 scores in 2011, Thomas was supposed to be the ACC’s next standout quarterback. Instead, Thomas regressed as a junior and finished with just 2,976 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. The blame for the struggles on Virginia Tech’s offense doesn’t rest solely on Thomas’ shoulders, especially since the rushing attack, receiving corps and offensive line had their own issues. But if the Hokies want to hang around, the senior passer has to have a big game. Mobile quarterbacks have given a few headaches to Nick Saban’s defenses in recent years, and Thomas’ ability to move on the run could be crucial to keeping drives alive. Considering Virginia Tech’s small margin for error, the senior quarterback cannot afford any turnovers.

Alabama’s offensive line against Virginia Tech’s defensive front
If there’s one unit Alabama is concerned about, it has to be the offensive line. With Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack departing, it won’t be easy for the Crimson Tide to dominate opposing defenses like they did last year. However, this group should remain among the best in the nation, as left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is a future first-round pick, and center Ryan Kelly played well in limited action last year. Virginia Tech’s defensive line is the strength of the team, led by senior end James Gayle and tackles Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy. With three new starters on the line, Alabama’s pass protection and run blocking will be tested by Virginia Tech’s active defensive line.

Who steps up at running back and wide receiver for the Hokies?
Although Logan Thomas needs to have a big game for Virginia Tech to pull off the upset, the performance of the running game and receiving corps is just as crucial. Last year’s leading rusher (J.C. Coleman) finished 2012 with just 492 yards and did not make the trip to Atlanta due to injury. With Coleman sidelined, the Hokies will turn to redshirt freshmen Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus on the ground. Redshirt freshman Joshua Stanford and sophomore Demitri Knowles are listed as the starters at receiver for Saturday’s game and the duo combined for 20 catches last year. Tight end Ryan Malleck was ruled out for the year this week due to a shoulder injury, which puts even more pressure on the three key players in the receiving corps: Knowles, Stanford and senior D.J. Coles.

Key Player: Jonathan McLaughlin, OT, Virginia Tech
Starting a true freshman at left tackle is usually enough to give any coach nightmares throughout game week. However, it’s an even bigger concern against a defense like Alabama. McLaughlin was rated as a three-star recruit by and secured the left tackle job this fall. Not only will the true freshman have his hands full against Alabama’s 3-4 defense, but he is also protecting quarterback Logan Thomas’ blindside.

Final Analysis

Even though this game has plenty of appeal in terms of name value, this is a huge mismatch. Virginia Tech just has too many new faces on offense to threaten Alabama. The Hokies could keep this one close in the first half, largely due to their advantage on the defensive line against the Crimson Tide’s offensive line. However, Virginia Tech’s offense will struggle to generate much production on the scoreboard, which allows Alabama to pull away in the second half.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Virginia Tech 13

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Saturday, August 31, 2013 - 10:01
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-vs-georgia-bulldogs-2013-preview-and-prediction

It’s only Week 1 of the 2013 college football season, but the stakes are high for Georgia and Clemson in Death Valley on Saturday night. Both teams have national title aspirations, and while a loss won’t knock either out of the BCS Championship picture, it would be a pretty significant setback.

Clemson is a heavy favorite to win the ACC title, and the Tigers are coming off back-to-back double-digit win seasons for the first time since 1989-90. Coach Dabo Swinney’s team should be favored in all of its ACC games in 2013, but the success of the season could rest with how the Tigers perform in matchups against the SEC – Georgia (Aug. 31) and at South Carolina (Nov. 30)

Georgia fell just short of playing for the national championship last year, and even with key personnel losses on defense, coach Mark Richt should have the Bulldogs back in the mix to win the SEC.

This is the first meeting between these two schools since 2003. Georgia has a five-game winning streak over Clemson, which includes a 30-0 win over the Tigers in 2003. These two teams have plenty of history on the gridiron, as they have met 62 overall times, with the first meeting in 1897.

More Week 1 Previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Three Things to Watch

Georgia’s defense
The Bulldogs return only three starters on defense and will have their hands full against Clemson’s offense. Even though the front seven has been revamped and will miss linebacker Jarvis Jones and tackle John Jenkins, the secondary might be the biggest concern. Freshmen Brendan Langley and Tray Matthews are slated to start, while strong safety Connor Norman has played mostly on special teams over the last two years. After starting all 14 games in 2012, junior Damian Swann is the team’s most experienced defensive back and will be crucial to slowing down Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.

The Tigers averaged 41 points a game and 512.7 yards per contest last season, with the catalyst being senior quarterback (and Heisman Trophy contender) Tajh Boyd. The senior has four offensive line starters at his disposal, and senior Roderick McDowell lining up at running back. With Georgia’s defense in rebuild mode, the opportunity is there for Boyd to make a statement on Saturday night.

Clemson’s run defense against Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall
If you aren’t familiar with Georgia’s backfield, it’s time to take notice. Gurley and Marshall combined for 2,144 yards and 25 scores on the ground last season and will be running behind an offensive line that has all five starters back. Considering the question marks residing on the Bulldogs’ defense, controlling the clock and keeping Boyd on the sidelines might be Georgia’s best chance to win. Clemson allowed 155.9 yards per game on the ground last season. However, six starts are back in the front seven, and the line held their own against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU. It’s impossible to control Gurley and Marshall for the full game. However, Clemson can’t afford to let the Bulldogs control the pace of the game by letting Gurley and Marshall chew up the clock.

Clemson’s cornerbacks
The Tigers finished fall practice without a definitive answer at cornerback. The depth chart indicates Garry Peters and Bashaud Breeland will share one spot, with Darius Robinson and Martin Jenkins listed with an or on the other side. Clemson’s secondary ranked ninth in the ACC in pass efficiency defense and allowed 300 or more yards four times last year. Sophomore safety Travis Blanks is a future star, but the Tigers need more consistency from their cornerbacks. And this unit will be under fire on Saturday night, as Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray ranked second nationally in passing efficiency last year and will be throwing to a deep group of weapons, including Malcolm Mitchell and tight end Arthur Lynch.

Key Player: Roderick McDowell, RB, Clemson
Replacing Andre Ellington is no easy task, but Clemson feels confident in McDowell. The senior has waited his turn, spending the last three years as a backup and rushing for 674 yards on 129 carries. McDowell faces a rebuilt Georgia front seven on Saturday night, and with four starters back on Clemson’s offensive line, there should be running lanes for the senior to exploit. The Tigers don’t need 150 yards from McDowell, but with Georgia’s attacking 3-4 defense coming to Death Valley, his presence could be crucial on passes out of the backfield or blocking to keep defenders away from Boyd.

Final Analysis

There’s not much separating these two teams. Clemson’s home-field advantage should be a huge asset on Saturday night, but the Bulldogs can lean on the experience of quarterback Aaron Murray to navigate the crowd noise on offense. The Tigers’ passing attack will be tough for Georgia to stop, especially with the injuries the secondary has dealt with this fall. The Bulldogs have to find a way to disrupt Boyd’s timing, which will be difficult with the new faces in the front seven. One x-factor that could come into play is special teams. Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan may not play, which leaves junior Adam Erickson or sophomore Patrick Beless as the No. 1 kicker. And both players have yet to attempt a field goal in a game in their career.

This one is a tossup. But let’s give Georgia a slight edge, as the combination of Gurley and Marshall could be the difference in the fourth quarter.

Georgia 38, Clemson 34

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 1 Preview and Predictions
Big 12 Week 1 Preview and Predictions
Big Ten Week 1 Preview and Predictions
Pac-12 Week 1 Preview and Predictions
SEC Week 1 Preview and Predictions
College Football's Pre-Week 1 Heisman Voting
Top 10 Games of Week 1

Clemson Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs 2013 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Saturday, August 31, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-vs-tcu-horned-frogs-2013-preview-and-prediction

Week 1 of the college football season doesn’t have a ton of marquee matchups, but there should be plenty of intrigue when LSU and TCU meet in Arlington, Texas on Saturday night.

Adding to the interest level for Saturday night’s game is a little gamesmanship between the two head coaches. LSU’s Les Miles has refused to indicate whether or not running back Jeremy Hill will be suspended for an off-the-field incident. And after announcing a two-game suspension for defensive end Devonte Fields earlier in the offseason, TCU coach Gary Patterson has indicated he will dress and appear on the sidelines during the game. Fields isn’t expected to play, but the mind games for a huge non-conference matchup were in full effect this week.

For the second time in three years, LSU opens a season with a neutral site affair in Arlington. The Tigers defeated Oregon 40-27 in 2011, which helped to key a run to the national championship.

These two teams have met eight times, with LSU owning a 5-2-1 series edge. The Horned Frogs and Tigers have not played since 1968.

More Week 1 Previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Three Things to Watch

Casey Pachall’s return to the starting lineup
TCU coach Gary Patterson has remained coy on his choice to start at quarterback on Saturday night, but all signs point to Casey Pachall returning to the lineup. The senior missed most of last year due to a suspension and was pushed by backup Trevone Boykin for the No. 1 spot this offseason. Pachall is the better passer, but Boykin’s mobility could be an asset against LSU’s defense. How rusty will Pachall be in his return to the starting lineup? With plenty of talent at receiver and running back, Pachall doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards. But with a fast and athletic defense like LSU waiting to pounce, the senior has to be smart and efficient in his return to the lineup.

TCU’s pass rush
Although Fields will be on the sidelines for this game, the sophomore is not expected to play. And there’s no question TCU will miss his presence off the edge. Stansly Maponga left for the NFL after 2012, and with Fields suspended, defensive tackles Davion Pierson and Chucky Hunter are the top returning sack men (3.5 last year) for the Horned Frogs. Senior Jon Koontz, junior Matt Anderson and sophomores James McFarland and Josh Carraway will have a lot of pressure on their shoulders as they try to generate a pass rush and replace Fields’ production for the first two games of 2013. 

LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger
Mettenberger had his share of ups and downs in 2012, finishing the year with 2,609 passing yards and 12 scores. More is expected out of the senior in 2013, as former NFL coordinator Cam Cameron was brought aboard to improve the offense. Mettenberger showed signs of promise last year when he threw for 298 yards against Alabama but finished the year by throwing for just 120 yards in the bowl loss to Clemson. Mettenberger isn’t short on talent or capable playmakers at receiver, so there’s plenty of pressure on him to deliver in 2013. TCU’s pass rush will miss Fields, but the secondary is one of the nation’s best. Is Mettenberger ready to step up in 2013? Saturday night should give the LSU coaching staff a good idea of just how far along the senior has improved since last year. 

Key Player: TCU’s offensive line
We will cheat just a bit here and list an entire unit instead of one player. TCU’s offensive line was shaky at times last year, allowing 2.2 sacks a game. Only two starters are back this season, and starting tackle Tayo Fabuluje decided to leave the team in fall practice. LSU’s defensive line will have four new starters but isn’t short on talent. Tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson will be a handful, and ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter are athletic and fast off the edge. Can TCU’s offensive line give Pachall time to throw and open up lanes for its running backs?

Final Analysis

Despite the new faces stepping into the lineup, LSU is still one of the top 10-15 teams in college football. TCU is one of the frontrunners to win the Big 12, but the Horned Frogs might be a bigger mystery than the Tigers in Week 1. How will Pachall perform? Can the offensive line match up against LSU’s defense line? TCU’s defense will make life difficult for Mettenberger and the rest of the Tigers’ offense. However, LSU does just enough on that side of the ball to edge the Horned Frogs. 

Prediction: LSU 27, TCU 20

LSU Tigers vs. TCU Horned Frogs 2013 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Saturday, August 31, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ucf-qb-blake-bortles-throws-crazy-td-pass-against-akron

UCF-Akron wasn’t much of a game on Thursday night, as the Knights rolled to an easy 38-7 win in the opener.

However, the game provided one of the weekend’s top plays, as UCF quarterback Blake Bortles had the ball slip out of his hand, then proceeded to throw a 39-yard touchdown to receiver J.J. Worton.


Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 12:15
Path: /college-football/unc-takes-cheap-shot-jadeveon-clowney

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney didn’t make a huge impact on the stat sheet on Thursday night (three tackles), but the junior was around the line of scrimmage most of the night. Clowney’s presence altered North Carolina’s gameplan from the first snap, as the Tar Heels did their best to avoid No. 7.

North Carolina’s offensive line did a decent job of keeping quarterback Bryn Renner upright, but the Tar Heels draw a negative grade for this cheap shot on Clowney. Kiaro Holts appears to be the lineman in the SB Nation gif, as he dives at Clowney’s knees well after Renner has thrown the pass. The junior defensive end did not suffer an injury and stayed in the game after the shot from Holts.


Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 12:15
Path: /nfl/adrian-peterson-and-quest-2500

FOX Sports sideline reporter Pam Oliver was the first to deliver the news. Only moments after the Vikings’ 2012 regular season ended, Oliver set about informing Adrian Peterson of his high-profile disappointment.

As Oliver stopped Peterson on his way off Mall of America Field, the final tallies were official, and the Viking star’s 2,097 rushing yards — including 199 in a playoff-clinching win over Green Bay that afternoon — had not surpassed the 2,105 yards Eric Dickerson amassed in 1984.

Nine yards shy of a new record. Nine measly yards.

“You played your heart out,” Oliver said. “Nine yards. Boy. That’s got to hurt.”

Peterson recoiled with surprise.

“Nine yards what?” he questioned. “Nine yards what? From breaking it?”

“That’s what I heard,” Oliver said.

Peterson shook his head.

“Oh. Well, ultimately, we got the ‘W.’ And that was my main focus coming into the game. I said, ‘If it happens, it happens. But don’t focus on it.’”

Still, Peterson’s initial shock was obvious. And for a moment — for the next couple weeks, really — his mind-boggling productivity in a comeback season for the ages was often footnoted by those nine yards he didn’t get.

Oliver was the first to ask. But fans would follow. Reporters, too.

And when Peterson was asked for the 328th time to summarize his deflation in not being able to topple Dickerson, he finally just shrugged, certain that those nine yards he didn’t gain were not more significant than the 2,097 he had churned out.

Those nine yards certainly weren’t more meaningful than the 861 he put up in December alone, including a clutch 26-yard dash on his final regular-season carry, the one that put a rookie kicker in position for a last-second game-winning chip shot.

Those missing nine yards weren’t more important than the Vikings’ 10 wins, their surprising playoff berth or the MVP award Peterson earned.

“It just shows me how people are never pleased,” Peterson says.

Yet as the thought of those nine yards twisted inside his hyper-competitive, ultra-ambitious mind, he quickly settled on a new number: 2,500.

Yep, this is Peterson’s rushing yardage wish for 2013. It’s the MVP’s new goal, outlandish and intriguing all at once.

Sure, 2,500 seems like a preposterous bar to set. After all, of the six running backs to previously rush for 2,000 yards in a season, only one topped 1,400 the following year. That was Barry Sanders, who had 1,491 yards in 1998 a year after gaining 2,053 with the Lions.

But with a goal system that Vikings coach Leslie Frazier labels as “name it and claim it,” Peterson asks that everyone view 2,500 yards as attainable, not impossible.

“All things are possible through God who strengthens me,” Peterson says. “That’s a mark I want to reach. No one has ever tried to accomplish something like that.”

Peterson has now begun this quest: The march toward 2,500.

This is what he has mapped out for his encore to a year in which he posted the second-greatest rushing season in history after overcoming major reconstructive surgery on his left knee.

And only two days after the Vikings bowed out of last season’s playoffs, Peterson had already started gathering believers.

“I really don’t feel like it’s out of reach,” Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton says. “You look at it and it’s what, around 155 yards per game? With him, that’s doable.”

Technically, Peterson will have to average 156.25 yards per game to reach 2,500. But last year, he topped 150 yards seven times in the final 10 games.

“With Adrian and the way he goes after things, if 2,500 yards is in his sights, there’s no reason to question it,” right guard Brandon Fusco says.

And then there’s Jared Allen, a five-time Pro Bowler who in 2011 fell just short of a prestigious NFL single-season record himself. Allen’s 22 sacks that season were 0.5 shy of Michael Strahan’s all-time record, a magnificent season with opponents always game-planning to limit him.

But then in 2012, Allen battled injuries, faced increased attention from offensive coordinators and wound up with only 12 sacks in his sequel season.

So, yeah, he knows the challenge of trying to better a career year. Still, Allen feels nothing but love for Peterson’s push toward 2,500.

“With that dude? It’s logical,” Allen says. “And yeah, that’s crazy. … But I think too, with the way the league is now as such a pass-dominant league, you’re seeing smaller fronts. You’re not having that 330-pound nose tackle anymore. You’ve got to have guys there who can rush the passer because of these spread offenses and these check-down systems. So you get a team like us that likes to run the ball with a back like Adrian and smaller (defenders) on the field, 2,500 might not be a stretch.”

OK, so maybe at this point Peterson should be granted the license to dream big. Or perhaps, more precisely, to strive big.

Just consider the 2012 calendar year. On New Year’s Day, he was still in an Alabama hospital bed, two days removed from what could have been a career-derailing operation.

Immediately following ACL and MCL surgery, Peterson’s 2012 return seemed iffy at best. Coming back from an injury that severe, logic said, meant that Peterson would be lucky to be back at full strength by October, fortunate to even make a push at 1,000 yards. Instead, by Dec. 31, Peterson was waking up in the Twin Cities with those 2,097 yards under his belt, the star who had taken his game to a new level while propelling his team into the postseason.

Peterson’s production never tailed off, either. Not after the Vikings lost top receiver Percy Harvin in Week 9 to a season-ending ankle injury. Not after second-year quarterback Christian Ponder malfunctioned into a maddening stretch of midseason inconsistency.

During the final eight games, Peterson actually accumulated more rushing yards (1,322) than Ponder had passing yards (1,192).

Oh, and that ridiculous finishing charge, an average of 172 yards per game and 6.4 yards per carry over the final five weeks? Turns out Peterson did all that with a sports hernia injury that required surgery after the season.

Not once over the final six weeks did Peterson deliver a full week of practice, limited most weeks to just a Friday cameo. Yet on Sundays, he never showed signs of pain or fatigue.

Said Frazier: “I’d talk to him on those Fridays when he would get in some practice time and say, ‘What do you think?’ He’d say, ‘Coach, I’ll be ready. I’ll be ready.’ But I ­couldn’t always tell if he was going to be ready. And you’d go through warm-ups in pregame, and it was like, ‘Man, he’s going to be OK.’

“But still in the back of your mind you’re just wondering if he can finish. And then he’d break a long run and you’re like, ‘He’s different.’”

Peterson’s path back to such an otherworldly level was paved by positivity in the wake of his knee injury. It started even before he left the hospital and was certainly evident when he met the media for the first time two weeks later.

It was then that he first vowed not only to be back for the season opener on Sept. 9 but also to return better than ever.

Peterson’s promises were not hollow, and he continued oozing optimism during his time working with physical therapist Russ Paine in Houston.

Paine marveled first at Peterson’s genuine friendliness and push to encourage other patients at the facility. Then Paine watched as Peterson attacked his own recovery with so much purpose.

People kept reminding Peterson he’d never be the same back he was before the injury. Which gave him two options: to come back a bit slower and less explosive, or to return better than he’d ever been.

Paine understood why Peterson, against all common sense, promised to be back starting on Sept. 9. Even with the Vikings reminding him that caution and patience were acceptable, Peterson craved the added pressure.

“It forced him to his ultimate,” Paine says. “When you have someone like him who’s an absolute superhuman and better than everyone else, he could be at 90 percent and still wow everyone. But when you’re in the top half of one percent of the world’s athletes and you then push yourself to focus and achieve at that level, then you become a freaking superstar.

“That’s what separates Adrian.”

Vikings strength and conditioning coach Tom Kanavy and head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman tapped into Peterson’s intensity in the early parts of training camp. The Vikings cautiously set Peterson aside on the Physically Unable to Perform list when camp opened.

But Peterson, while understanding the team’s logic, was agitated by the move and decided he’d attack his isolated rehab work in a manner where he’d finish each day having exerted himself more than any player who had engaged in the full practice.

Sugarman’s amazement only heightened when thinking back to the flood of thoughts he had when approaching Peterson immediately after the running back’s knee blew out on Christmas Eve 2011.

“I knew instantly the gravity of what had happened,” Sugarman says. “And I remember thinking, ‘Wow, these coming months are going to be filled with pressure and scrutiny. This ­wasn’t somebody nobody had ever heard of. This is the best running back in the National Football League. There were going to be a lot of eyes on him.”

Which is what Peterson wanted. After one particularly demanding rehab session in training camp, Kanavy asked Peterson to finish the day with a sequence in which he ran speed ladders, then immediately followed each set with a 40-yard dash. Peterson was torching the grass, so much so that Kanavy secretly timed several of the 40s. Not one registered above 4.8 seconds, with Peterson frequently dipping into the low 4.5s.

Says Kanavy: “When you have a genetic freak who had always kept himself in tip-top shape and then sets out to absolutely attack the rehab, that is what the result is. Everybody got a chance to see it. And it was at a level surprising to everyone other than Adrian.”

Week by week, Peterson’s odds-defying comeback gathered steam. He delivered the longest run of his career in Week 13 at Green Bay, bursting 82 yards for a touchdown on a day when he ripped off 210 yards on only 21 carries.

He then proceeded to match that 82-yard run two weeks later in St. Louis on his way to a season-best 212 yards. In all, Peterson tied an NFL record with seven runs of 50 yards or longer. No wonder that 2,500-yard landmark doesn’t seem as ridiculous as it should.

Granted, the Vikings know that as a team, they’ll be far better off if they can diversify their offense. The goal is to revive a passing attack that ranked 31st in the league last season, to not give opponents the luxury of knowing Peterson will touch the ball 24 times per game like he did last season.

Realistically, 1,700 or 1,800 yards would be marvelous.

But hey, if the MVP running back wants to make a push at 2,500, you give him the green light.

“I think it’s a good goal to have if you’re Adrian Peterson,” Frazier says. “He’s more than capable of getting it accomplished.”

Heck, look at what Peterson did last fall, gathering new acolytes week after week.

“I feel that a lot of people who doubted me became believers,” he says. “The rewards and accomplishments are good. But being able to change someone’s mindset, whether it’s a little kid or grown-ups, and make them believe differently and look at things in a different light, that’s the ultimate goal.”

Even Allen admits that Peterson’s positive energy had stimulated the entire team’s imagination, pushing them to dream bigger.

“Maybe I can get 2,000 sacks,” Allen jokes.

Hearing that, Peterson smiles. “That’s what I’m talking about,” he says. “He wasn’t talking about 2,000 sacks last year or the year before.”

So now, without skepticism, perhaps we should all begin talking about 2,500 yards.

Written by Dan Wiederer for Athlon Sports. Visit our online store to order your 2013 Pro Football preview magazine to get in-depth team previews and more analysis on the 2013 NFL season.

Adrian Peterson and the Quest for 2,500
Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-30-2013

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Aug. 30.


• Leading off the last Friday before college football's first weekend, here's a different spin on this week's Top 25 matchups: cheerleader vs. cheerleader.


• Okay, so Vandy-Ole Miss was bananas. Not a bad start to the season. Pat Forde has a nice recap of Jeff Scott's run to glory. Here's Jordan Matthews puking his guts out on the field (fair warning: it's pretty nasty). And here are five takeaways from Opening Night in the SEC.


• Twitter erupted a bit over Jadeveon Clowney's apparent lack of conditioning. Steve Spurrier even got in on the act.


College football fandom displayed in terms of Facebook likes. Zuckerburg's always watching.


• Here at Athlon, we're rooting for Mark Sanchez to play as much as possible, purely for the entertainment value. Here's Sanchez's 2012 season in GIFs, including the immortal buttfumble.


• In 2013, the joy of football is always tempered by the dark concussion cloud. In the wake of the NFL settlement yesterday, Jim McMahon talked about his own dementia and thoughts of suicide. Sorry for the buzzkill; now back to our regular programming. Here are 20 great drunk moments in sports!


• Geography fail and anti-Southern bias rolled into one: The New York Post thinks North Carolina and South Carolina are in-state rivals.


So did Tim Tebow earn a job last night?


• One of the highlights of USC's lackluster win over Hawaii: The Warriors quarterback absolutely lighting up a hapless Trojan defender.




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

Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 10:55
Path: /college-football/texas-tech-start-baker-mayfield-qb-against-smu

With Michael Brewer nursing a back injury, Texas Tech had a difficult decision to make at quarterback with two inexperienced options vying for snaps. But according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter, Red Raiders have selected true freshman (and walk-on) Baker Mayfield to start on Friday night against SMU.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury had only two options to choose from, with neither quarterback having any experience on the FBS level. However, Webb and Mayfield had all fall to work with the top two units on offense, and both have impressive high school pedigrees.

Mayfield is a walk-on, but he led Lake Travis to a 25-2 mark as the school’s starting quarterback. The freshman threw for 3,788 yards and 45 scores in his first year as a starting quarterback in high school.

Webb joined the team in time for spring practice and completed 17 of 30 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown in Texas Tech’s spring game.

Brewer is out indefinitely with a back injury, so it will be Mayfield and Webb battling for snaps for the foreseeable future. Kingsbury is certainly capable of getting production from anyone under center, but the Red Raiders’ offense will be a work in progress with a freshman quarterback running the offense.

Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 10:50
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-2013-nfl-team-preview

The disappointment that the Giants felt when they missed the playoffs last season, 11 months after winning the Super Bowl, was only matched by their shock and confusion. They were 9–7, which isn’t bad. Along the way they beat some of the NFL’s best teams. But they also lost to Atlanta and Baltimore in Weeks 15 and 16 by a combined score of 67–14.

Those shocking blowouts set the tone for an offseason of introspection in which the Giants tried to restock for another run in the Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning era. They know that the remaining players and coaches will be hungrier now, and that will certainly help.

But they knew they needed to find something else in the offseason, too. “We need to re-establish that toughness in front,” Giants co-owner John Mara says. “Teams ran the ball against us too easily last year. And the offensive line, that performance needs to get a little better, too.”

In other words, in an era that may very well be defined by speed and spread-option offenses, the Giants are going back to an old NFL truism: Games are won in the trenches. This season, they’re hoping that’s true.

Athlon Sports NFC Power Ranking: 2nd

Related: 2013 New York Giants Schedule Analysis

As long as Manning stays upright — and he’s started 146 consecutive regular-season and playoff games — the Giants’ offense should be fine. He’s so good that a shaky offensive line allowed a league-low 20 sacks last season, and the Giants averaged 26.8 points — sixth in the league — despite a middling rushing attack and a star receiver (Hakeem Nicks) battling a knee injury all year.

Nicks had that knee repaired during the offseason, and the Giants are convinced that if he’s healthy, they’ll have one of the most explosive offenses in all of football. Victor Cruz is a sensational slot receiver, but Nicks is their most dynamic receiving talent. And with promising young receiver Rueben Randle, they’ve got a threesome as good as they had when Mario Manningham was in town. Randle's presence is even more important given Nicks' injury history and the fact that Cruz injured his heel in a preseason game. And free agent pickup Brandon Myers, who caught 79 passes for 806 yards in Oakland in 2012, should be at least as good at tight end as Martellus Bennett was last season.

As for the middling rushing attack, with the oft-injured Ahmad Bradshaw gone, things are in the sometimes-slippery hands of David Wilson, their uber-explosive first-round pick from last year. Wilson only rushed for 358 yards in 2012, but he averaged a healthy 5.0 yards on his 71 carries. The Giants were planning on complementing Wilson's speed with Andre Brown's power, but the team's second-leading rusher last season suffered a fracture in his left leg playing in the final preseason game. This marks the second straight season Brown has broken that leg, although this fracture won't require surgery and he reportedly could be back in less than two months. Until then, the Giants will look to seventh-round pick Michael Cox and veterans Da'Rel Scott and Ryan Torain to help Wilson carry the load.

The Giants return their entire offensive line from last year, but injuries and age are catching up to this veteran group. Three of the returning starters had offseason surgeries, while four of them are already over 30 years old. The talent is there, but the Giants are crossing their fingers that the old gang will be able to hold together for one more year before the rebuilding starts in 2014. The early results have not been promising, as center David Baas and right tackle David Diehl both got hurt during training camp. Baas injured his knee, but he's hopeful to be ready by Week 1. That's not the case with Diehl, who needed surgery on his right thumb and is expected to miss most, if not all, of the first month of the regular season. These injuries put even more pressure on first-round pick Justin Pugh, who could start the season in Diehl's spot.

Related: New York Giants' Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013

New York Giants: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013

Perry Fewell’s defense was a big reason for the Giants' Super Bowl XLVII run, and perhaps the biggest culprit for the 2012 collapse. It was a disaster from front to back. It ­couldn’t stop the run. The coverage at times was terrible. And what once was a fierce pass rush was filled with players who looked old, tired and done. That miserable combination had them ranked 31st in the league.

What’s different this year? Not much other than the losses of several key players, including pass-rush specialist Osi Umenyiora. The Giants did beef up the middle of their defensive line, signing ex-Eagles defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson. But other than plugging in ex-Cowboy Dan Connor at middle linebacker and bringing back Aaron Ross as the third or fourth corner, they didn’t do much. Losing starting strong safety Stevie Brown, who led the team with eight interceptions in 2012, to a season-ending ACL injury during the preseason certainly doesn't help either.

Despite Brown's loss, what the Giants' defense and coaching staff are counting on is that everyone will play better. They believe defensive end Justin Tuck, an aging warrior, has one last good season in him. They believe end Jason Pierre-Paul, after seeing his sack numbers fall off the cliff last year, can return to his dominant form, although his season debut could be delayed a game or two following June 4 back surgery. And they believe the defensive line will get a boost from Mathias Kiwanuka joining the fun after being miscast as a linebacker for several years.

From there, they pray that everything will fall into place. The Giants believe that everything starts up front — that if the defensive linemen can stop the run and rush the passer, their defense will be good again. Last year was a reminder of what can happen when their front line disappears.

The Giants have a solid, veteran pair of kickers, though it’s slightly different from a year ago. Gone is the clutch leg of kicker Lawrence Tynes, and in his place is veteran Josh Brown. If there’s a drop-off, it should be negligible. Steve Weatherford remains the punter and continues to be an underappreciated weapon who is a terrific directional punter and a master at handling the swirling Meadowlands winds.

The return game is a bit of an unknown, though. Wilson is a huge threat on kickoff returns — one of the most dangerous in the NFL. But with his increased role at running back, it’s unclear how much the Giants will use him on special teams. They don’t appear to have anyone else in his class. As for punt returns, Randle figures to get the first shot, though it depends on how he holds onto the ball. Coughlin values ball-security above all else. He’s not looking for a lot of yards — he just doesn’t want the ball to end up on the ground.

Final Analysis: 1st in NFC East
As bad as last year was — and it probably felt worse than it looked — the Giants were still 9–7 and in the playoff hunt until the final day. They haven’t gotten worse, so there’s no reason to believe they won’t be a contender again. They are going to score a lot of points, and probably will until Manning retires.

What separates this team from other contenders, though, is its defense. It was 31st last season and doesn’t look much better now. Unless Tuck can rediscover his youth, the pass rush can’t be better now that Umenyiora is in Atlanta. Pierre-Paul probably will return to form, but the defensive front doesn’t have the fear factor of the Giants’ last two Super Bowl teams.

So expect the Giants to be fun to watch. Expect them to beat some of the best teams in the NFL, and also to suffer some inexcusable losses. In other words, expect these Giants to look a lot like the confusing, maddening version from 2012. They are capable of great things — including the playoffs and a run to the Super Bowl — but it’s far from certain they’ll have enough consistency to reach their potential.

Order your 2013 New York Giants Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHoustonDenver (9/3)
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco (9/3)
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle


New York Giants 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/new-england-patriots-2013-nfl-team-preview

The Patriots’ championship window, or at least the Tom Brady era, is approaching its end, but there is no reason to believe that another AFC East title isn’t on the way this season. The Bills, Jets and Dolphins do not appear ready to challenge the Patriots, setting up New England for its fifth straight playoff appearance. The Patriots lost one of the league’s most dangerous weapons in the offseason in wide receiver Wes Welker, and there are legitimate questions on defense. But this team is not ready to fall out of the league’s elite quite yet.

Athlon Sports AFC Power Ranking: 2nd

Related: 2013 New England Patriots Schedule Analysis

The Patriots’ recent regular-season dominance on offense has been nothing short of astounding. The Pats led the league in points in 2012 with 34.8 per game, scoring over 500 points for the third consecutive year (matched only by the 1999-2001 Rams). They also led in yards per game with 427.9, giving them six straight seasons in the league’s top 10. Brady led the team to six games of 40 points or more (including the playoffs), and the team matched a franchise record by scoring 59 against the Colts.

Will the success carry over into 2013? With Brady back for his 14th season, the prospects look good, but the biggest obstacle will be overcoming the loss of Welker, who signed a free agent contract with the Broncos in the offseason. Welker led the Patriots in receptions in each of his six seasons in New England, leading the league three times. Welker had 118 catches in 2012, which was 44 more than Pats’ No. 2 receiver Brandon Lloyd (who also is gone). Danny Amendola, signed from the Rams, is slated to fill Welker’s role in the slot, and he appears to be a good fit. The 27-year-old Amendola, however, has played in only 12 games the past two seasons due to injuries after a productive 2010 that saw him catch 85 passes. He must stay healthy if the Patriots hope to have him replace Welker’s productivity.

The rest of the receiving corps is also an unknown. The Pats drafted Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce, but it's undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins who has made the most noise during training camp. One or more of the rookies will need to step up as Amendola and Julian Edelman, the lone holdover from the Patriots' receiving corps, are the only veteran options Brady has to lean on.

To make matters worse, tight end went from a position of strength for New England to a rather large question mark during the offseason. First it was Rob Gronkowski, who after undergoing multiple surgeries on a forearm that limited him late last season ended up having back surgery in early June. Then later that same month, Aaron Hernandez was released by the team following his arrest for murder and other gun-related charges. With Hernandez off the roster and Gronkowski's return up in the air, one of the Patriots' primary focuses during training camp was to identify other options. While veterans Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells and Michael Hoomanawanui were the most experienced, undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld from Nevada was the one who made the strongest impression during camp and in preseason games. Sudfeld's performance not only netted him a roster spot, but the Patriots also released Ballard and Fells after the final preseason game, leaving the rookie, Hoomanawanui and Gronkowski as the only tight ends on the roster. Based on these moves, it's looking more and more likely that Gronkowski's not too far away from returning and that regardless of when he does return, Sudfeld should have some sort of role. It's no secret that the tight end position has been key to the Pats' passing attack in recent seasons, so it's entirely possible that Gronkowski and Sudfeld could both end up on the field at the same time, just like Gronk and Hernandez did last season.

The Patriots’ offensive line returns intact, led by five-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins. Stevan Ridley is expected to lead the rushing attack after his 1,263-yard, 12-touchdown performance in 2012. He will be supported by Shane Vereen, who had just 62 carries in the regular season but exploded for 124 total yards and three touchdowns in the Pats’ 41–28 playoff win over the Texans. The Patriots added to their backfield depth by trading for former 1,000-yard rusher LeGarrette Blount.

The Patriots’ defense has been cited as the reason the team has not won a championship since 2004. The criticism has generally been fair, although in their two Super Bowl losses since 2004 the defense gave up only 17 and 21 points, respectively. Still, that side of the ball has lagged behind the offense, and efforts have been made to get it back to the championship-level unit it was in the early 2000s. The Pats jumped from 15th in the league in points allowed to tied for ninth in 2012, but they were 25th in yards allowed and need improvement in several areas.

That starts with defending the pass, where the Pats were 29th, allowing 271.4 yards per game. The re-signing of cornerback Aqib Talib to a one-year contract was critical. He immediately bolstered the beleaguered secondary after his midseason arrival last year, and the team clearly suffered when he went out early in the AFC title game against the Ravens. The Patriots also brought in veteran safety Adrian Wilson from the Cardinals and drafted cornerback Logan Ryan from Rutgers to improve the secondary. Second-round draft pick Jamie Collins is labeled an edge-rusher, acquired to complement defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones, whose efforts helped the Patriots rank 15th in sacks last season.

The Patriots were better against the run last season, ranking ninth, thanks to the efforts of stalwart defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and the All-SEC linebacking crew of Jerod Mayo (Tennessee), Brandon Spikes (Florida) and Dont’a Hightower (Alabama). Most of the offseason acquisitions focused on the secondary, meaning that the staff is confident the front seven will improve with experience.

The Patriots were able to compensate for the poor ranking in total yardage last season by forcing 41 turnovers — en route to a league-leading plus-25 turnover margin — and scoring five defensive touchdowns.

Stephen Gostkowski enters his eighth season and is as solid as ever. Gostkowski has made 84 percent of his career field goals and was 11-of-15 from beyond 40 in 2012.

Punter Zoltan Mesko returns for a fourth season after seeing a dip in his net punting to 37.9 yards, although he was able to put 47 percent of his kicks inside the 20.

The Patriots added veteran return man Leon Washington to improve what had been a stagnant return game. Washington shares the NFL record for career kickoff returns for TDs with eight and averaged 29 yards per return with the Seahawks last season.

Final Analysis: 1st in AFC East
The keys for the Patriots to challenge for a Super Bowl title will be to get production out of a revamped wide receiver corps and for the pass defense to make major strides. Brady is still one of the most efficient and dangerous quarterbacks in the game, and the offensive line, running backs and tight end are all known quantities from last season’s dominating offense. If Amendola and Gronkowski can both stay healthy and one of the rookie wideouts can emerge, the Patriots should put up over 30 points per game again. Defensively, having Talib for a full season and starting Devin McCourty as a full-time safety rather than moving him around should stabilize what has been a glaring weakness for a few years. Adding a pass-rush specialist and two defensive backs in the early rounds of the draft demonstrates the team’s concern about its pass defense.

Can Brady and Belichick capture that elusive fourth Super Bowl ring? They will not be a preseason favorite, but they should be in the mix once again next January.

Order your 2013 New England Patriots Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHoustonDenver (9/3)
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco (9/3)
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle


New England Patriots 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: GIF, Overtime
Path: /overtime/awkward-celebrating-fans-day-these-ole-miss-fans

Ole Miss runs 75 yards to beat Vanderbilt

Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott ran 75 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to beat Vanderbilt 39-35 in an exciting season opener. Ole Miss fans reactions ran the gamut of emotions: stunned open-armed shock, mild clapping, and (our favorite) a guy dancing what appears to be a jig.  

Ole Miss fans celebrate a 75 yard game winning TD run over Vanderbilt
Ole Miss fans celebrate a game-winning 75-yard touchdown run over Vanderbilt.
Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 08:09
Path: /college-football/washington-te-austin-seferian-jenkins-suspended-opener

Washington has a huge game against Boise State on Saturday night, and it appears the Huskies will be without one of their top weapons. According to Adam Jude of The Seattle Times, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be suspended for the opener.

The junior pled guilty to a drunk driving charge in July and was forced to pay a $695 fine and spend one night in jail. Seferian-Jenkins will be missed against Boise State, especially after he caught six passes for 61 yards and one touchdown in the bowl loss to the Broncos.

In his first two years at Washington, Seferian-Jenkins caught 110 passes for 1,390 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Seferian-Jenkins is the No. 1 tight end in college football, and his suspension is a huge blow to a Washington offense that hopes to get back on track after finishing ninth in the Pac-12 in scoring offense last year.


Washington TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins Suspended For Opener
Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-ranking-big-easts-coaches-2013-14

The new Big East has a leg up on other basketball leagues that don’t have major college football. That’s clear. Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, St. John’s and even Butler and Xavier are established basketball brands.

The resumes of the league's coaches, though, may be a bit lacking compared to the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12.

Only two Big East coaches have a Final Four appearance, and neither claimed the top spot in our league coach rankings. That honor belongs to Buzz Williams.

The Marquette coach is accomplished as anyone during the last three seasons, but he has a grand total of eight NCAA Tournament wins in his career.

Beyond Williams and mainstays Jay Wright at Villanova and John Thompson III at Georgetown, there’s an interesting dynamic to watch in the reformed league. Steve Lavin and Ed Cooley have rebuilt their programs in the shadow of Louisville and Syracuse, and now could be poised to take a major step up in a league without a clear power program on top.

Doug McDermott and Chris Mack have accomplished much at the Missouri Valley and Atlantic 10 levels, but the day-to-day competition will be improved in their new conferences (at least on days when they’re not facing DePaul).

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

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

Other conference coach rankings: ACC | American | Big 12

1. Buzz Williams, Marquette
Record: 136-71
Record at Marquette: 122-54 overall (.693), 60-30 Big East (.667)
NCAA Tournament: 8-5
Buzz Williams’ name keeps getting thrown out for other major jobs, but the stat-minded Texan is doing just fine in Milwaukee. Marquette is one of only four teams to reach the Sweet 16 in each of the last three seasons, joining Florida, Kansas and Ohio State. And he’s done this without the benefit of McDonald’s All-Americans. And despite the departure of Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom before last season, Marquette won a share of the Big East title. 

2. John Thompson III, Georgetown
Record: 277-131
Record at Georgetown: 209-89 overall (.701), 99-57 (.635)
NCAA Tournament: 8-9, one Final Four
Thompson’s tenure at Georgetown has been marred by early NCAA Tournament exits, but consider three of the last five teams that knocked the Hoyas out of the Tournament: Florida Gulf Coast, a Final Four-bound VCU and a Stephen Curry-led Davidson. Thompson’s career shouldn’t be defined by those exits. Georgetown surprised last season by winning a share of the Big East title, the third time the Hoyas have won the regular-season championship under Thompson.

3. Jay Wright, Villanova
Record: 379-229
Record at Villanova: 257-144 overall (.641), 114-90 Big East (.559)
NCAA Tournament: 12-10, one Final Four
Villanova bounced back from a losing 2011-12 season by going 20-14 overall and 10-8 in the Big East last year. The Wildcats aren't competing at the same level as they were in the late 2000s, but they’re showing signs of getting back. Villanova defeated each of the Big East’s tri-champs (Louisville, Marquette and Georgetown) at least once last season plus Syracuse. Wright also has a point guard in Ryan Arcidiacono who is poised to be one of the league’s breakout stars. After reaching the NCAA Tournament in eight of the last nine seasons, 2011-12 was an aberration.

4. Chris Mack, Xavier
Record (all at Xavier): 90-44 overall (.672), 48-16 Atlantic 10 (.750)
NCAA Tournament: 4-3
This could be a critical season for Mack’s momentum at Xavier. A Cincinnati and Xavier product through and through, Mack led Xavier to A-10 titles in his first two seasons and to the Sweet 16 twice in his first three seasons. With a depleted roster, Xavier slipped to 17-14 last season. The Musketeers have a potential All-American in sophomore Semaj Christon, so Mack should expect to return to form in his fifth season.

5. Steve Lavin, St. John’s
Record: 196-125
Record at St. John’s: 51-47 overall (.520), 26-28 Big East (.481)
NCAA Tournament: 11-7
Lavin’s record technically includes the majority of the 2011-12 season when he missed all but the first four games while recovering from successful treatment for prostate cancer. The Red Storm’s record with Lavin on the bench is 20-17 in the Big East. Beyond the record, Lavin has brought momentum back to St. John’s. Lavin took a veteran team to the NCAA Tournament in 2011, but he has replenished the program with standout recruiting classes in recent years. St. John’s should be a consistent contender in the new Big East.

6. Greg McDermott, Creighton
Record: 229-161
Record at Creighton: 80-30 overall (.727), 37-17 Missouri Valley (.685)
NCAA Tournament: 2-5
McDermott may be best suited as a mid-major coach. There’s no shame in that, but it will be interesting to see how he and Creighton perform in the new Big East, especially once his son Doug McDermott is gone. Greg has an 86-58 all-time conference record as a Missouri Valley coach at Northern Iowa and Creighton compared to 18-46 against the Big 12 while at Iowa State. He’s the big question for McDermott: Will the level of competition in the new Big East be closer to the MVC or the Big 12?

7. Ed Cooley, Providence
Record: 126-101
Record at Providence: 34-32 overall (.515), 13-23 Big East (.361)
NCAA Tournament: None
The Rhode Island-born Cooley has coached in the Northeast most of his career, and may be the perfect fit in returning Providence to contention. The Friars improved from 4-14 in the Big East in his first to 9-9 in his second, and that was without one of his top recruits, Ricky Ledo. This season could end a decade-long absence from the NCAA Tournament for the Friars.

8. Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
Record: 94-98
Record at Seton Hall: 49-49 overall (.500), 18-36 Big East (.333)
NCAA Tournament: None
Willard’s rebuilding job at Seton Hall hit a snag last season as the Pirates went 3-15 in the league after an NIT appearance a season earlier. We know Willard can rebuild — Iona went 2-28 the year before he arrived and 21-10 four years later. He hopes he’s a point guard away from getting closer to .500 in the league.

9. Brandon Miller, Butler
Record: First season
Given Butler’s track record of hiring coaches, we wouldn’t be shocked if Miller quickly moved up the rankings, even if duplicating Brad Stevens’ run would be an impossible task. Miller took a year away from college basketball two seasons ago, but Butler knows what it’s getting in its new coach. He’s an alum who coached at Butler and under a former Bulldogs coach Thad Matta at Ohio State.

10. Oliver Purnell, DePaul
Record: 424-343
Record at DePaul: 30-64 overall (.319), 6-50 Big East (.107)
NCAA Tournament record: 0-6
Programs know what they get with Purnell. He’s taken over rough situations at Radford, Old Dominion, Dayton and Clemson. He’s made them competitive in their respective leagues. Then he takes the next rebuilding job. DePaul, though, may be a job too difficult to salvage. The only hope is that the new Big East will be more forgiving than the last one for the Blue Demons.

Marquette's Buzz Williams takes top spot in new conference
Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-week-1-picks

Like it or not, Las Vegas rarely gets it wrong, so tracking betting lines should always be a big part of each football weekend — even if there are no bets on the line.

Whether you condone gambling or not, think of it as becoming a more informed fan.

Week 1 of the college football season offers some unique opportunities, however, as the lines will be further “off” this weekend than at any other point of the season. This is the weekend to make moves — if done correctly.

Here are my top picks of the week as well as our editorial staff’s picks for every single Top 25 game of the weekend.

More Week 1 Previews: ACCBig 12 Big Ten Pac-12 SEC

2013 Record Against the Spread: 0-0

Week 1 Picks of the Week:

Florida State (-10) at Pitt
The Noles are breaking in a new quarterback in redshirt freshman Jameis Winston in primetime on Labor Day night. He will make mistakes, but this defense is BCS national title good and the skill around Winston on offense is elite. Pitt is headed in the right direction but Florida State is not just a cut above the Panthers, but maybe two or three tiers better. Take the Noles and end your weekend with victory. Pick: Florida State -10

Alabama (-19.5) vs. Virginia Tech
If your favorite team has a quarterback who is desperately lacking in confidence, an offensive line that is totally reworked, it lacks a true running game and has reworked the offensive coaching staff, what is the last thing you’d want to do on opening night? Yup, play the Alabama defense as the Crimson Tide begin to defend both of their BCS National Championships. Good luck, Hokies. Pick: Alabama -19.5

LSU (-4) vs. TCU
TCU might be the best-coached team in the Big 12. It might have the best quarterback in the Big 12. And it has the best defense in the Big 12. But that doesn’t mean it can compete with one of the SEC’s most physical and talented squads. And without the best player in its league, defensive end Davonte Fields, TCU will be hard-pressed to compete in the trenches for four quarters. This one is close for 45 minutes with LSU’s physicality extending the score in the final frame. Pick: LSU -4

Washington State (+14.5) at Auburn
Auburn was dead last in plays per game on offense last year nationally and fans can expect a huge increase with Gus Malzahn running the show now. Washington State struggles to run the ball and, while they should be improved across the board, will be badly outmatched in always-hostile Jordan-Hare Stadium. Look for Nick Marshall to have a coming out party against one of the Pac-12’s worst defenses. Pick: Auburn -14.5

FIU (+21) at Maryland
The Terps showed marked improvement last year in Randy Edsall's second season — and that was with their fifth-string QB starting. This team should be healthier and dramatically improved on both sides of the ball this year. FIU is missing some key playmakers and is picked to finish last in the C-USA East. Take the Terps to roll big. Pick: Maryland -21

Underdogs I like this weekend:

Ohio (+21) at Louisville
UL Monroe (+21) at Oklahoma

Toledo (+23) at Florida
UL Lafayette (+10.5) at Arkansas

Top 25 Picks Against the Spread:

Note: games with FCS opponents won't be included each week

Top 25 GamesMitch LightBraden GallSteven LassanDavid Fox
No. 1 Alabama (-18.5) vs. Virginia Tech*
Buffalo (+34.5) at No. 2 Ohio State
No. 5 Georgia (-1.5) at (8) Clemson
Rice (+26.5) at No. 7 Texas A&M
Ohio (+21) at No. 9 Louisville
Toledo (+23.5) at No. 10 Florida
No. 11 Florida State (-10) at Pitt
No. 12 LSU (-4) vs. No. 20 TCU*
Mississippi St (+13) vs. No. 13 Oklahoma St*
Temple (+29.5) at No. 14 Notre Dame
New Mexico St (+42) at No. 15 Texas
UL Monroe (+21) at No. 16 Oklahoma
Central Michigan (+31) at No. 17 Michigan
Wyoming (+29) at No. 18 Nebraska
No. 19 Boise St (+3.5) at Washington
Nevada (+21) at No. 21 UCLA
No. 22 Northwestern (-5.5) at Cal
UMass (+44.5) at No. 23 Wisconsin
Last Week:0-00-00-00-0

* - neutral field

Betting Against the Spread: College Football Week 1 Picks
Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /nfl/75-funny-fantasy-football-team-names

The NFL season is right around the corner, which means it’s almost time for everyone’s real favorite sport — fantasy football. It takes a strong draft, savvy free-agent eye and a little luck to win your league. But it just takes an off-color Aaron Hernandez murder trial reference or some other well-crafted joke to take the title belt for best fantasy football team name. Here’s our list of suggestions for 2013:

Dirty Sanchez Butt-Fumblers

Vladimir Putin’s Bling Ring

Connecticut Cholos

The Gronk Abides

Hernandez Hit Men

Duped by a Doper

Jersey Exchange Program

Zombie Al Davis

Smokin’ Jay Cutler

Purple Jesus Juice

All Day 2K

J.J. S.W.A.T.T. Team

Kaepernick Swag

Eli Looking at Things

Waka Flacco Flame

Butt-Fumbling Foot Fetishers

No Romo

Jason Garrett’s Ginger Boys

Monte Kiffin’s 401K

Titletown TDs

Titletown Cheeseheads

Super Bowl Quadruple-Check

Don Beebe’s Hustle

Toronto Bills

Manning’s O-Face

Pray for Mojo

J-Ville RedZone Channel

12th Man Records

Gisele’s Bundchens

Mr. UGGs Boots

RG 3000

RG3’s Wedding Registry



No More Norv

Cry Me a Rivers

Peyton Manning’s 5-Head

Mile High Manning

52 Problems But Big Ben Ain’t One

The Real Chip Shady

Chip Let the Dogs Out

Injured Head & Shoulders

Rolando McClain Mugshots

What You Talkin’ Bout Patrick

Big P-Willie Style

Andy Retread Regime

Somewhere Over Dwayne Bowe

Motown Megatrons

Suh Girls, One Cup

Boy Named Suh

Drinkin’ Fortes

More Bang For Lang’s Buck

Turn Your Head and Coughlin

Vince Young’s Steakhouse

Jeff Fisher’s Son’s Friends

How My Skittles Taste

Mr. Kerry Washington

Nnamdi’s Scandal

Polk High Panthers

DUI: Denver

JaMarcus’ Purple Drank Diet

Jim Haslem’s Accountants

Illiterate Read Option

Springfield Atoms

I Pitta the Fool

Forgetting Brandon Marshall

Ron Mexico’s Perro

It’s Always Runny in Philadelphia

Favre Dollar Footlong

Gotham Rogues

Van Buren Boys

Show Me Your TDs

Makin’ It Wayne

Red Hot Julius Peppers

Straight Cash Homey



These 75 funny fantasy football team names will make your league laugh.
Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-29


Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Thursday, August 29th

Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples says the NCAA would be better off letting Johnny Manziel play than enforce the letter of the law.

Texas A&M may turn to Kenny Hill as its starting quarterback (at least for a half) over Matt Joeckel. Here's an interesting backstory on the freshman quarterback.

The Wall Street Journal has an awesome graphic on college football's grid of shame.

Saturday Down South looks at the most-improved players in the SEC for 2013. And a look at the SEC's toughest venues.

Alex Collins has garnered plenty of preseason attention, but Jonathan Williams is still the starter for Arkansas.

Miami has some intriguing options to rush the passer this year.

Bryce Petty is ready for assume the reins for Baylor's offense.

James White will start at running back for Wisconsin, but Melvin Gordon is going to receive plenty of carries. Bucky's 5th Quarter also takes a look at the Badgers' defense in 2013. 

Nebraska plans to redshirt a running back that was in the mix for playing time this fall.

Maryland coach Randy Edsall isn't happy with his backup quarterbacks.

Ohio State has moved an offensive lineman to the defensive side to help with depth.

Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 14:20
Path: /college-football/cincinnati-unveils-new-white-helmets-week-1

Cincinnati opens the Tommy Tuberville era with a tough matchup against Purdue. But the Bearcats will break out a new helmet for Saturday’s game, choosing to ditch their traditional black scheme for a white version.

Check out the helmets Cincinnati will wear this Saturday:

Cincinnati Unveils New White Helmets for Week 1
Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 13:43
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-unveils-new-helmets-week-1

Mississippi State has a tough opener in Houston against Oklahoma State this Saturday. The Bulldogs are a double-digit underdog for this week’s game and need a big game from quarterback Tyler Russell to beat the Cowboys.

Mississippi State will wear a new helmet for Saturday’s game, which was unveiled through coach Dan Mullen’s twitter account this week:


Mississippi State Unveils New Helmets for Week 1
Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 13:06
Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-commodores-vs-ole-miss-rebels-2013-preview-and-prediction

The only conference game in the SEC for Week 1 takes place in Nashville. Vanderbilt hosts Ole Miss in a key early season matchup on Thursday night. The Commodores opened SEC play on Thursday night last year but lost 17-13 to South Carolina.

Both teams – for different reasons – have been in the spotlight this offseason. Vanderbilt is dealing with the fallout from an off-the-field scandal involving four former players and suspended receiver Chris Boyd.

In Oxford, the Rebels reeled in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes and hope to make another jump in the SEC standings in 2013. Coach Hugh Freeze brought dramatic improvement to Ole Miss last year, and the addition of a top-10 recruiting class will immediately help address a lack of depth.

Vanderbilt has won five out of the last six meetings against Ole Miss, including a 27-26 thriller in Oxford last year. The Commodores also enter this game riding a four-game winning streak in SEC play.

Three Things to Watch

Quarterback play
Vanderbilt’s Austyn Carta-Samuels made one start last season, throwing for 195 yards and one touchdown in a win over Presbyterian. But the senior has attempted just three passes in SEC play, and won’t have the services of Boyd for this game. Carta-Samuels started two years at Wyoming before transferring to Vanderbilt, so he won’t be intimated by making a Thursday night debut in the SEC. With a solid defense and rushing attack, the Commodores won’t need Carta-Samuels to win the game. However, he has to avoid turnovers against an Ole Miss defense that generated 28 last year.

On the Ole Miss sideline, there’s plenty of anxiety about Bo Wallace. In his first season with the Rebels last year, Wallace threw for 2,994 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 390 yards and eight scores. However, Wallace also tossed 17 picks and had shoulder surgery after the bowl win over Pittsburgh. Although all signs point to a full recovery by Wallace, Missouri’s James Franklin had shoulder surgery last year and was never 100 percent. Vanderbilt’s secondary is one of the best in the SEC, so this should be a good test for Wallace and his right shoulder.   

Stepping up at Receiver
Both teams will be without key pieces in the receiving corps. Boyd is suspended for Vanderbilt, while Ole Miss lost Vince Sanders to a collarbone injury in fall camp. Neither team has a standout option at tight end, but the Rebels have more depth at receiver. True freshman Laquon Treadwell was a huge catch on the recruiting trail and is expected to start on Thursday night. Ole Miss also has another proven option to fill Sanders’ role in senior Ja-Mes Logan.

But who steps up for Vanderbilt? Is it senior Jonathan Krause or freshman Jordan Cunningham? Senior Jordan Matthews is one of the nation’s best receivers, but he will see plenty of extra attention from Ole Miss’ secondary unless Krause, Cunningham or someone else emerges as a reliable target.

Ole Miss DE Robert Nkemdiche
The nation’s No. 1 recruit didn’t disappoint in fall practice, securing a starting spot for Thursday night’s game. Vanderbilt’s offensive line has made considerable progress over the last few seasons, with senior tackle Wesley Johnson one of the most underrated players in the SEC. And if Nkemdiche isn’t matched up against Johnson, he will likely face junior Andrew Bridges, who has 13 starts under his belt. It’s unrealistic to expect the true freshman to dominate the line of scrimmage in his first game. But Nkemdiche is a difference maker for Ole Miss and should play a key role in the outcome of Thursday night’s matchup.

Key Player: Wesley Tate, RB, Vanderbilt
Zac Stacy leaves behind big shoes to fill in the Vanderbilt backfield. Brian Kimbrow and Wesley Tate should be a solid one-two combination for coach James Franklin, but Tate is expected to be the workhorse this year. The senior has 542 yards and nine scores in his career and has 39 receptions for 328 yards. With Boyd suspended, Tate could play a key role in the passing attack. Even though Carta-Samuels has experience, Vanderbilt doesn’t want to ask too much of him in his first start in the SEC. Expect to see plenty of Tate on Thursday night. 

Final Analysis

These two teams are essentially a mirror image of each other. Thanks to home-run hires at head coach, both programs are on the rise in the SEC. Both coaching staffs have quarterback concerns heading into this game. And both offenses will be missing the No. 2 receiver from last year.

There’s not much separation between the Commodores and Rebels, but with the uncertainty over Wallace’s shoulder, and this game in Nashville, a slight edge goes to Vanderbilt. 

Prediction: Vanderbilt 24, Ole Miss 20

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 1 Preview and Predictions
Big 12 Week 1 Preview and Predictions
Big Ten Week 1 Preview and Predictions
Pac-12 Week 1 Preview and Predictions
SEC Week 1 Preview and Predictions
College Football's Pre-Week 1 Heisman Voting
Top 10 Games of Week 1

Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Ole Miss Rebels 2013 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-29-2013

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Aug. 29.


• August is almost over (finally), so to celebrate the end of summer, here are the hottest sports-related women of the month, including some wet Song Girls (the best kind).


• Along those same lines, here's a good way to kick off the season: A countdown of college football WAGs.


• It's SEC kickoff day. Here are the league's five toughest venues for visitors. Of course Bryant-Denny is No. 1. If the Tide played at Chuck E Cheese it would still be the toughest venue.


So now that football's finally here, what SEC players are ready to take it to another level?


• There's nothing worse than a season-ending injury in the preseason. Unfortunately, there's been an epidemic of them this year.


A Reds beat writer criticized Brandon Phillips' on-base percentage. Phillips called him a mother-effer. Dusty Baker laughed. All in all, an eventful evening.


The Backstreet Boys toured Alabama's athletic facilities. I'm sure they blended right in.


Here's a ranking of Alabama's five craziest fans. In other words, the five people who'll go on suicide watch if Bama fails to win its third straight national title. Spoiler alert: the tree-killer is No. 1.


The new head coach of the Atlanta Hawks is already familiarizing himself with local law enforcement. That could prove to be useful research.


• Last night in Epic Marlins fail: Two baserunners slide into the same base. I'm no rules expert, but that seems off.


• These never get old: A dog welcomes his master home from deployment.


• We close today with a second Epic Marlins Fail: Logan Morrison gets called off a popup by a fan. Or a ghost.




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

Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 10:33
Path: /nfl/houston-texans-2013-nfl-team-preview

The opportunity to claim the AFC championship was there for the Houston Texans in 2012. Then they folded down the stretch. As a new team takes shape, fans are still grumbling about how the 12–2 Texans needed only one win to secure the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed but inexplicably lost at home, 23–6 to Minnesota, and then failed in the season finale, 28–16 at Indianapolis. A 41–28 playoff exit at New England in the second round reminded this franchise just how important postseason home-field advantage can be.

The Texans didn’t need to overhaul the roster, but they added some components, namely Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed and Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler. The stars are still in place — running back Arian Foster, wide receiver Andre Johnson, defensive end J.J. Watt, quarterback Matt Schaub and inside linebacker Brian Cushing — but a prevailing question still stands: Is this team a bona fide Super Bowl contender or just another pretender?

Athlon Sports AFC Power Ranking: 3rd

Related: 2013 Houston Texans Schedule Analysis

Offseason offensive needs were obvious: Find a wide receiver to go with Johnson, and resolve the right tackle position. The Texans drafted Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the first round and selected North Carolina offensive tackle Brennan Williams in the third round. If right tackle Derek Newton is slow to return from patellar tendon surgery, look for Williams to get his shot immediately. The Texans aren’t deep at wide receiver, so Hopkins will have every opportunity to prove he’s worthy of a starting spot. Johnson gets so much attention on the other side that Hopkins will see man coverage and can expect to get his share of the workload if he proves himself in preseason.

The right guard position also should improve. Ben Jones is a second-year pro who was considered one of the NFL’s top center prospects when selected in the fourth round a year ago. He eventually won the job at right guard, starting 10 games. His progress and the right tackle resolution will be vital to how the team moves forward.

That’s because when talking Texans, this offense is built around Foster. The 2010 NFL rushing champ and three-time Pro Bowl star has been nothing short of phenomenal in his three years as a starter. The problem is, the Texans can’t always count on just handing off to him because defenses crowd the box. This is especially evident in the red zone, when too often the Texans have tried simply to run it in. Foster did have 15 rushing TDs in 2012, but conservative play-calling doesn’t always produce touchdowns. Too many times, ideal scoring chances resulted in field goals.

To that end, Schaub has to be more consistent in big games. He made his second Pro Bowl last season, passing for 4,008 yards with 22 TDs and just 12 interceptions, but he was seriously outplayed in losses to Green Bay and New England by quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. This season, Schaub will go up against Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick on the road as well as Brady and Denver’s Peyton Manning at home. Schaub has to show something in those games, or the questions will linger about whether he has the right stuff to get his team to the Super Bowl.

Schaub won't be able to do it alone, however, which was why Foster's late arrival to training camp generated a lot of attention in early August. Originally held out because of a lingering calf injury he sustained during OTAs in May, Foster was later hampered by a back issue. The good news is he returned to practice right before the team's third preseason game and there is no real concern regarding his Week 1 availability at this point. In the end, his prolonged absence could help him stay fresh during the regular season and, hopefully, the Texans' extended playoff run.

Watt couldn’t have been more dominant as NFL Defensive Player of the Year with a league-best 20.5 sacks and 16 passes defended. Every opponent has to game-plan for the disruptive defensive end. But the Texans have to shore up other areas around him.

The Texans dropped from No. 3 in pass defense to No. 16 and allowed 29 TD passes compared to 18 the year before. Rodgers burned them for six TD passes, Manning for two and Brady for a total of seven in two games. And it wasn’t only the big-name quarterbacks slicing them up. The Texans edged Detroit 34–31 in overtime on Thanksgiving Day, but the Lions had 525 total yards with Matthew Stafford passing for 441 yards and two scores.

That’s why the Texans went out and signed Reed and drafted safety D.J. Swearinger in the second round. Reed is known as one of the NFL’s greatest ball-hawks, and the Texans hope his presence will discourage teams from throwing deep as often. Reed's recovery from offseason hip surgery has taken longer than initially anticipated, so it's possible he will miss the first few games of the regular season. Swearinger will push Danieal Manning at safety, although Manning should keep his job as the rookie transitions to the league. The Texans are pretty much set defensively everywhere else.

The October loss of Cushing to a knee injury was a huge blow. The 3-4 scheme needs its anchor back healthy. They drafted outside linebackers Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams, which suggests sliding linebacker Brooks Reed inside. Wade Phillips’ defense ranked seventh in yards allowed (323.2 ypg) and tied for ninth in points allowed (20.7 ppg).

Randy Bullock takes over as placekicker for Shayne Graham. A fifth-round pick in 2012, Bullock has yet to attempt an NFL field goal because he suffered a groin tear in preseason and ended up on injured reserve. A lot of eyes will be on him. The former Lou Groza Award winner displayed a strong and accurate leg at Texas A&M, making 29-of-33 field goal attempts as a senior.

The Texans had to pay handsomely for Lechler, a seven-time Pro Bowl punter. Houston coughed up $5.5 million over three years with a $1 million signing bonus. But he’s worth it. And he’ll love punting in climate-controlled Reliant Stadium. Expect Lechler, who has a career 47.5-yard average in 13 seasons, to help the Texans earn an edge in field position.

Second-year wide receiver Keshawn Martin is a promising returner, averaging 23.9 yards on 31 kickoffs with a long of 54 yards and 12.1 yards on 22 punt returns with a long of 71.

Final Analysis: 1st in AFC South
The Texans must make the Super Bowl or many of their fans will be convinced that the window of opportunity is closing. That’s how high the bar has been raised in Houston. And the Texans realize this. They saw Baltimore win the championship last year, the same Ravens whom the Texans annihilated 43–13 at Reliant Stadium in October. It’s not a question of whether the Texans have the talent; it’s how they perform down the stretch and in the playoffs. The first objective has to be to secure what eluded them at the end of 2012, the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed and home-field advantage.

Schaub has to raise his game against the NFL’s elite, which means throwing the ball down the field more and taking some chances when they present themselves. Foster can’t carry the offense, although having him ensures that the team will win most weeks.

The playoffs are about which team can get hot at the right time. The Texans have won the AFC South title each of the last two years but weren’t at their best in the playoffs. If they don’t seize the moment this year, when will they?

Order your 2013 Houston Texans Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHoustonDenver (9/3)
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New England (8/30)ClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
NY Giants (8/30)DetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco (9/3)
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle


Houston Texans 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 10:00