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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
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/kansas-embiid-athlons-national-player-week

The line about shot blockers is that they can cover up a ton of their team's mistakes.

Beyond the defensive end, freshman Joel Embiid did his share of covering for his Kansas teammates on Saturday against Oklahoma State.

Perry Ellis scored only six points. Wayne Selden was 2 of 9 from the floor. And Andrew Wiggins made only one field goal against the Cowboys. Yet Kansas defeated one of the top challengers in the Big 12 80-78 thanks to an overwhelming performance from Embiid.

A contender for the top spot in the NBA Draft, Embiid finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks. He also had 16 points, nine rebounds and tow blocks in Monday’s win at Iowa State to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week and National Freshman of the Week honors.

In two games against then-top 10 competition, Embiid was 12 of 14 from the floor — and Kansas coach Bill Self thinks he could be getting more opportunities.

“If we would just remember to throw it to him, he is pretty good,” Self said. “That would probably help our team. If you think about it, Perry, Wayne and Wiggins, who would have thought we would win the game with those guys having off-days the way they did.”

National Player of the Week and National Freshman of the Week: Joel Embiid, Kansas
Embiid is playing like the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. The freshman center was sensational in Kansas’ 80–78 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday, scoring 13 points (on 5-of-6 shooting) with 11 rebounds and eight blocked shots. Earlier in the week, the Cameroon native scored 16 points and had nine boards and five blocks in a key Big 12 road win at Iowa State.

Under-the-Radar Player of the Week: Julius Brown, Toledo
Toledo’s steady rise in the MAC turned a key corner during the weekend as the Rockets defeated Akron, the league’s representative in the NCAA Tournament in three of the last five seasons, on the road for the first time since 2001. Brown scored 25 points in the 75-61 win over the Zips. Brown added 20 points and a game-winning buzzer beater in Wednesday’s 67-65 win over Buffalo. Toledo is 3-1 in the MAC with wins over two of the league’s better teams.

Other Primetime Players

Fuquan Edwin, Seton Hall
Edwin fueled Seton Hall’s second-half rally with 19 of his 24 points in the final 17 minutes to help the Pirates beat Georgetown 67–57 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. A senior guard, Edwin connected on all five of his 3-point attempts in the second half as the Pirates turned a 10-point deficit into a 10-point win. Edwin also recorded five steals and is now the school’s all-time leader with 263. Seton Hall, now 2–3 in the Big East, had not defeated Georgetown on the road since January 2003.

Gavin Ware, Mississippi State
Ware recorded a double-double with 22 points (tying an SEC career high) and 10 rebounds to lead Mississippi State to an 81–72 overtime win over Texas A&M at home. The sophomore forward hit 8-of-11 from the field and 6-of-8 from the foul line en route to his third 20-point game of the season. Guard Craig Sword chipped in a team-high 23 points for Mississippi State, which is 2–2 in the SEC.

Kameron Woods, Butler
Four days after being held scoreless on 0-of-9 shooting in a 28-point loss at Creighton, Woods scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in Butler’s 69–57 overtime win over Marquette. The Bulldogs had been 0–5 in the Big East, with three of the five losses coming in overtime. Woods, a 6'9" sophomore, has had at least 10 rebounds in four straight games.

Drew Crawford, Northwestern
Northwestern won its first Big Ten road game in more than a calendar year thanks to a big game from Crawford, who scored 17 points and added 11 rebounds in the Wildcats’ surprising 54–47 win at Indiana. Northwestern, under first-year coach Chris Collins, is 9–10 overall and 2–4 in the Big Ten, but the Cats have won two of their last three games.

Nik Stauskas, Michigan  
Stauskas scored 23 points to lead Michigan to a rare win over Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. The sophomore sharpshooter hit three 3-pointers, none more important than a step back jumper from the left side that gave the Wolverines a four-point lead with under a minute to play. Stauskas added four free throws down the stretch to secure Michigan’s first win in Madison since 1999. The Wolverines, who are playing without standout big man Mitch McGary (out for the season with a back injury), have won seven straight games.

Bryce Cotton, Providence
Cotton scored a game-high 23 points to lead short-handed Providence to an 81–68 win over Creighton, which entered the game with a 5–0 record in Big East play. Cotton, a senior guard, has scored 20 points or more in three straight games — wins over Georgetown, St. John’s (on the road) and Creighton. He is averaging 20.4 points per game.

Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Harrell recorded a double-double for the third time in four games, scoring 18 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the Cardinals’ 76–64 win at UConn on Saturday night. Harrell, who is shooting .634 from the field, connected on 8-of-10 from the field and also blocked three shots for the surging Cards, who have won three straight games.

Johnny O’Bryant, LSU
O’Bryant, a former McDonald’s All-American, rebounded from a subpar game in LSU’s loss at Ole Miss to score 22 points and grab 12 rebounds in the Tigers’ 81–58 win over Vanderbilt in Baton Rouge. O’Bryant and the LSU frontline dominated Vanderbilt on the glass, outrebounding the Commodores 48-to-24.

Chasson Randle, Stanford
Randle tied a career high with 33 points to lead Stanford to a 79–67 win over Washington late Saturday in Palo Alto. A junior guard from Illinois, Randle hit 11-of-15 from the field and 10-of-13 from the foul line en route to his third game with 30-plus points this season. He leads the team in scoring at 19.5 points per game.

Roberto Nelson, Oregon State
Nelson, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, led the way with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting as the Beavers knocked off rival Oregon 80–72 Sunday night in Corvallis. Nelson, a 6-4 guard, is averaging 21.5 points and shooting .390 from 3-point range and .877 from the foul line.

Kansas' Embiid is Athlon's National Player of the Week
Post date: Monday, January 20, 2014 - 14:51
All taxonomy terms: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Golf
Path: /golf/mickelsons-mini-meltdown-costs-him-abu-dhabi

Phil Mickelson played three largely brilliant rounds of golf to finish second at the European Tour's Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, one shot behind winner Pablo Larrazabal, leaving Lefty with plenty of positives heading into his PGA Tour season. But one hole was vintage Phil, and not in a good way. On 13 at Abu Dhabi National, Mickelson hit his drive into the brush, then incurred a penalty with a double-hit attempting to get the ball back into play with a right-handed punch, leading to a triple-bogey 7. "I was just trying to dribble it out of the bush because I couldn't get the unplayable penalty lie to give me a shot without stroke and distance and I felt it was worth the risk," he said. "It not only cost a penalty shot, but it also stopped the ball from going to a spot where I could hit again. So after that I got refocused and got aggressive and made some birdies and gave myself a chance. If Pablo had not birdied the last hole to win, I would have gotten into a playoff, and so I give him a lot of credit for finishing the tournament off the right way."

Here's the offending sequence:


Mickelson finished tied with Rory McIlroy, who incurred a penalty of his own on Saturday for failing to take full relief from a spectator crosswalk. Bottom line: If these two titans can get out of their own way, we can expect some great golf from them this season.



Patrick Reed threw his hat into the ring of up-and-coming talent with his second career victory, a two-shot win over Ryan Palmer at the Humana Challenge. The 23-year-old Reed jumped from 73rd to 41st in the Official World Golf Ranking, givign him a spot in next month's 64-man World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship field.

"I always play to try to prove to everybody that I belong out here," Reed said. "As well as, I belong, not only out here on the PGA Tour, but also with the best players in the world."

Zach Johnson and Justin Leonard tied for third at 25-under. Johnson birdied the final five holes for a final-round 62.
Post date: Monday, January 20, 2014 - 11:02
All taxonomy terms: super-bowl, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/athlon-sports-all-time-super-bowl-team

As Super Bowl XLVIII approaches (Feb. 2), it seems like the perfect time to look back at Super Bowls of the past and the great players who made those games so memorable. 

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

Athlon Sports' All-time Super Bowl Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HM: Shannon Sharpe, Denver/Baltimore; Marv Fleming, Green Bay/Miami

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

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

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

HM: Bob Kuechenberg, Miami; Russ Grimm, Washington

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

HM: Ray Mansfield, Pittsburgh; Mike Webster, Pittsburgh

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Dent, DE, Chicago
The Monsters of the Midway had a stacked roster of defensive stars but Dent won the MVP in Super Bowl XX with 1.5 sacks as the Bears gave up a total of 10 points to New England.

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

Joe Greene, DT, Pittsburgh
As the heart of the front of the Steel Curtain, Greene intimidated quarterbacks, running backs and offensive linemen. In four Super wins, opponents averaged less than 100 yards rushing against Pittsburgh as Greene made life miserable for Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton and Vince Ferragamo.

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

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

Jack Lambert, LB, Pittsburgh
Lambert was in the middle of all things defensively for the Steelers for 11 seasons, including four trips to the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh would not have been 4-0 in the most important game of the season without him.

Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore
Lewis is one of two linebackers to win a Super Bowl MVP (XXXV) and nearly a decade later posted seven tackles in winning his second Lombardi Trophy with the Ravens. It was his final game in the NFL.

Chuck Howley, LB, Dallas
This Cowboy is one of two at his position to ever win an MVP (V) and is the only player to win an MVP for a losing team in Super Bowl history. He also won a Super Bowl the following year with a big performance (INT, fumble recovery) in Dallas' win over Miami in Super Bowl VI. He played 13 years with Dallas.

HM: Tedy Bruschi, New England; Mike Vrabel, New England; Rod Martin, Oakland; Jack Ham, Pittsburgh; Keena Turner, San Francisco; Ray Nitschke, Green Bay; Nick Buoniconti, Miami

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

Mel Blount, CB, Pittsburgh
Blount played for four winners, and contributed with an interception in Super Bowls IX and XIII.

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

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

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

HM: Cliff Harris, Dallas; Dick Anderson, Miami, Dexter Jackson, Tampa Bay; Willie Wood, Green Bay; Charlie Waters, Dallas; Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh; Mike Wagner, Pittsburgh

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

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

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

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

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

Athlon Sports' All-Time Super Bowl Team
Post date: Monday, January 20, 2014 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/98-underclassmen-declare-2014-nfl-draft

The deadline for college football players to enter the 2014 NFL Draft has passed, and the official tally stands at 98 underclassmen declaring early for the next level.

The list of early entrants also includes four players that have already graduated and are leaving with eligibility remaining, including Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard, Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford and USC safety Dion Bailey.

Here’s the full list of the 98 underclassmen leaving for the NFL, along with four other players that have already graduated and set to move onto the next level.

Davante AdamsWRFresno State
Nick AddisonDBBethune-Cookman
Jace AmaroTETexas Tech
George AtkinsonRBNotre Dame
Odell BeckhamWRLouisiana State
Kelvin BenjaminWRFlorida State
Kapri BibbsRBColorado State
Brendan BigelowRBCalifornia
Alfred BlueRBLouisiana State
Russell BodineCNorth Carolina
Blake BortlesQBCentral Florida
Chris BoydWRVanderbilt
Bashaud BreelandDBClemson
Martavis BryantWRClemson
Ka'Deem CareyRBArizona
Ha Ha Clinton-DixDBAlabama
Jadeveon ClowneyDESouth Carolina
Brandon ColemanWRRutgers
Brandin CooksWROregon State
Scott CrichtonDEOregon State
Isaiah CrowellRBAlabama State
Jonathan DowlingDBWestern Kentucky
Kony EalyDEMissouri
Eric EbronTENorth Carolina
Bruce EllingtonWRSouth Carolina
Mike EvansWRTexas A&M
Ego FergusonDTLouisiana State
Cameron FlemingTStanford
Khairi ForttLBCalifornia
Austin FranklinWRNew Mexico State
Devonta FreemanRBFlorida State
Carlos GrayDTNorth Carolina State
Xavier GrimbleTESouthern California
Terrance HackneyTBethune-Cookman
Victor HamptonDBSouth Carolina
Jeremy HillRBLouisiana State
Kameron JacksonDBCalifornia
Nic JacobsTEMcNeese State
Timmy JerniganDTFlorida State
Anthony JohnsonDTLouisiana State
Jamel JohnsonWRAlabama State
Storm JohnsonRBCentral Florida
Henry JoseyRBMissouri
Cyrus KouandjioTAlabama
Jarvis LandryWRLouisiana State
Cody LatimerWRIndiana
Demarcus LawrenceDEBoise State
Marqise LeeWRSouthern California
A.C. LeonardTETennessee State
Albert Louis-JeanDBBoston College
Colt LyerlaTEOregon
Aaron LynchDESouth Florida
Johnny ManzielQBTexas A&M
Marcus MartinCSouthern California
Tre MasonRBAuburn
Chris McCainDECalifornia
Terrance MitchellDBOregon
Viliami MoalaDTCalifornia
Donte MoncriefWRMississippi
Adam MuemaRBSan Diego State
Jake MurphyTEUtah
Troy NiklasTENotre Dame
Louis NixDTNotre Dame
Jeoffrey PaganDEAlabama
Ronald PowellDEFlorida
Calvin PryorDBLouisville
Loucheiz PurifoyDBFlorida
Kelcy QuarlesDTSouth Carolina
Darrin ReavesRBAlabama-Birmingham
Ed ReynoldsDBStanford
Antonio RichardsonTTennessee
Paul RichardsonWRColorado
Marcus RobersonDBFlorida
Allen RobinsonWRPenn State
Greg RobinsonTAuburn
Bradley RobyDBOhio State
Richard RodgersTECalifornia
Bishop SankeyRBWashington
Lache SeastrunkRBBaylor
Austin Seferian-JenkinsTEWashington
Ryan ShazierLBOhio State
Yawin SmallwoodLBConnecticut
Brett SmithQBWyoming
Jerome SmithRBSyracuse
Willie SneadWRBall State
John SpooneyRBBrown
Josh StewartWROklahoma State
Xavier Su’a-FiloGUCLA
Vinnie SunseriDBAlabama
De’Anthony ThomasRBOregon
Stephon TuittDENotre Dame
Trai TurnerGLouisiana State
George UkoDESouthern California
Pierre WarrenDBJacksonville State
Sammy WatkinsWRClemson
Terrance WestRBTowson
James WilderRBFlorida State
David YankeyTStanford
Dion BaileyDBSouthern California
Carl BradfordDEArizona State
Teddy BridgewaterQBLouisville
Adrian HubbardLBAlabama
98 Underclassmen Declare for the 2014 NFL Draft
Post date: Monday, January 20, 2014 - 10:33
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-20-2014

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 20.

Lolo Jones is officially a Winter Olympian. Congrats. She even manages to look good in the bobsled outfit, don't you think?

• We should get a great Super Bowl out of yesterday's results. Here's how the Broncos and Seahawks got to where they are.

So Richard Sherman totally overshadowed Brady-Manning on Championship Sunday. Pretty impressive accomplishment.

• One thing is clear: Seattle-San Francisco is now the NFL's best rivalry. Look for a couple of salty matchups next year after incidents like this one.

Bill Belichick took time to say what makes Peyton Manning so great. Careful, Bill, I'm actually starting to like you. Although it didn't stop him from totally calling out his former go-to receiver Wes Welker for what he perceived to be a dirty play.

• Meanwhile, Jim Harbaugh hitched up his $8 WalMark khakis and dropped a literary reference on Pam Oliver. It was a calm reaction from Harbaugh after an afternoon spent doing this.

• Terrence "Pot Roast" Knighton is a budding folk hero, but he needs to say no to crack.

Richard Sherman wasn't the only athlete to display a lack of graciousness over the weekend.

Paul George threw down in rather filthy fashion over the weekend.

• Nick Saban has made it his mission to troll the entire nation. First Lane Kiffin, now the Electric Slide.


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

Post date: Monday, January 20, 2014 - 10:31
Path: /college-football/alabama-coach-nick-saban-does-electric-slide-video

With the college football season completed, the next few weeks are all about recruiting. And there’s not a better coach in the nation at it than Alabama’s Nick Saban.

Last weekend, Saban hosted incoming recruits and their parents at his home. And thankfully, someone captured video of the coach dancing to the Electric Slide.

The clip isn’t very long, but it’s worth your time to watch Saban making a few moves on the dance floor.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban Does the Electric Slide (Video)
Post date: Monday, January 20, 2014 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/very-early-college-football-top-25-2014

College football’s 2014 season won’t start until August, but it’s never too early to take a look at what’s ahead.


Florida State edged Auburn for the national championship in early January, and both teams will be in the mix for a playoff spot next year. But the Seminoles and Tigers will be pushed by Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma and Ohio State.


College football’s new four-team playoff format adds another dimension to an already drama-filled regular season. With a selection committee and new bowl contracts, the postseason is going to look quite different next year.


In December, Athlon Sports released an early top 25 for 2014. But as expected, early entries to the NFL Draft and coaching hires changed the outlook of that top 25 ranking.


With coaching hires and the early entries to the draft declared, let’s revisit the top 25 teams for 2014.

(Rankings updated on Jan. 20)

College Football’s Very Early Top 25 for 2014

1. Florida State
The Seminoles have a few holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but this team is equipped to repeat in 2014. Quarterback Jameis Winston returns after winning the Heisman last year and should only get better with another offseason to work under coach Jimbo Fisher. Winston’s supporting cast is solid, as Karlos Williams and Dalvin Cook are set to replace Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. at running back, and receiver Rashad Greene turned down the NFL for his senior year. Center Bryan Stork will be missed, but Austin Barron is an experienced backup and four other starters return to the offensive line. The defense loses linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith and cornerback/safety Lamarcus Joyner. But none of those losses are as big as Timmy Jernigan, who declared early for the NFL Draft. Replacing Jernigan will be a talented, but young group of tackles. Jeremy Pruitt was outstanding in his only year as the defensive coordinator at Florida State. Can Fisher make the right hire once again?

Related Content: Early ACC Predictions for 2014

2. Alabama
A two-game losing streak to end the season should provide plenty of motivation for Nick Saban in 2014. And Saban has already taken steps to prevent another repeat of 2013, as he made a few changes to his coaching staff, including hiring Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator and returning Kevin Steele to a position coach. Kiffin’s top priority in spring practice will be to develop a new starting quarterback. The race to replace AJ McCarron is wide open, with Blake Sims, Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, Parker McLeod and incoming freshman David Cornwell each having an opportunity to win the job. And regardless of who wins the job in the spring, the job may not be settled into the fall, especially if Florida State quarterback Jacob Coker transfers to Alabama. Until a quarterback is found, the offense can lean on the one-two punch of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry on the ground. Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart will once again develop one of the SEC’s top defenses. But this unit will have concerns to address, starting with replacing linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The Crimson Tide also needs to develop more depth and talent at cornerback. 

3. Auburn
Alabama has a slight edge over Auburn for the top spot in the SEC West in our pre-spring predictions. But the gap between the Tigers and Crimson Tide is slim. Auburn’s run to the national title included a few fortunate bounces, but this team was no fluke in 2013. Gus Malzahn’s offense returns nearly intact next season, and Nick Marshall could be the preseason first-team all-conference quarterback in the SEC. With Marshall working with Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee for a full offseason, he should show improvement as a passer, which is critical with Auburn returning a talented group of receivers. Running back Tre Mason and left tackle Greg Robinson are huge losses on offense. Defensively, the Tigers have a few issues to address. End Dee Ford departs after recording 10.5 sacks. Safety Ryan Smith, defensive tackle Nosa Eguae, cornerback Chris Davis and linebacker Jake Holland are other key departures on defense. Can Auburn quickly reload on that side of the ball? Ford and Eguae are huge losses on the line, but Elijah Daniel, Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson are three talented sophomores ready for a bigger role in 2014.

Related Content: Early SEC Predictions for 2014

4. Oregon
The Ducks were a big winner from the NFL Draft’s early entry deadline. Quarterback Marcus Mariota, center Hroniss Grasu and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu all decided to return in 2014. With Mariota returning, plus a home game against Stanford next year, Oregon gets the nod as the favorite in the North Division. Mariota will have one of the nation’s top supporting casts at his side next year, as all five offensive line starters from the Alamo Bowl are back, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner return at running back, and the receiving corps is headlined by Bralon Addison, Keanon Lowe and tight end Johnny Mundt. While the offense will have no trouble scoring points, there will be a transition period on defense. Don Pellum was promoted to coordinator after Nick Aliotti retired. This will be Pellum’s first chance to call plays, and the Ducks have to replace three key defensive tackles, cornerback Terrance Mitchell and both starting safeties. In addition to Stanford visiting Eugene, Oregon won’t have to play USC or Arizona State from the South Division in crossover play.

5. Oklahoma
When projecting for 2014, we have to be careful to not put too much stock in bowl games. Oklahoma defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, which certainly raised expectations for this team for next year. But the Sooners’ spot in this poll is more than just a reaction on beating the Crimson Tide. In what was essentially a rebuilding year, Oklahoma won 11 games and finished the regular season by defeating Kansas State and Oklahoma State on the road. The Sooners also have a favorable slate next year, as Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State come to Norman. Bob Stoops’ defense returns nearly everyone, but cornerback Aaron Colvin will be tough to replace. But the key to how high Oklahoma climbs in the rankings next season is quarterback Trevor Knight. He struggled in his first year as the starter and finished by throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns against Alabama. Was the performance against the Crimson Tide a sign of things to come? Or was Knight’s 348 passing yards just a one-game mirage?

6. Ohio State
The Buckeyes ended 2013 on a down note by losing their final two games after a 12-0 start. Urban Meyer’s team is a slight favorite to win the Big Ten in Athlon’s early projections, but Michigan State isn’t far behind. Offense certainly wasn’t a problem for the Buckeyes in 2013. Quarterback Braxton Miller, running back Carlos Hyde and a veteran offensive line helped the offense average 7.2 yards per play. Miller decided to return for his senior year, but four starters from the line and Hyde are gone. Meyer and his staff have recruited well, so there is talent in the program. However, losing nearly all of the offensive line and a 1,000-yard back in Hyde won’t be easy to replace. Despite the concerns on offense, the defense is an even bigger issue. Sure, Ohio State might have one of the top defensive lines in the nation. But the back seven is a concern. Linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby decided to leave early for the NFL, only adding to the pressure for a secondary that ranked 11th in the Big Ten. Road games at Michigan State and Penn State will be a huge challenge, but the Buckeyes won’t play Nebraska, Iowa or Wisconsin in crossover play with the West Division.

7. Michigan State
Coming off a 13-1 record with a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl victory over Stanford, Michigan State will be hard-pressed to top its 2013 season. However, Mark Dantonio’s team will be in the mix for the conference championship once again. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi turned down an opportunity to be a head coach at UConn, and his return will help rebuild a unit that loses a few key players, including both starting tackles, linebacker Max Bullough, cornerback Darqueze Dennard and safety Isaiah Lewis. The defense may take a step back, but the offense should continue to improve. Connor Cook solidified the quarterback position (22 TDs, 6 INTs), and running back Jeremy Langford will contend with Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah for the Big Ten’s rushing title. Cook and Langford’s emergence was crucial for the offense’s development, but the line was an underrated cog in the Rose Bowl run. However, three starters depart in 2014. Michigan State plays at Oregon in Week 2 and finishes the regular season at Penn State. But with Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State visiting Spartan Stadium, the path to a Big Ten title runs through East Lansing.

The South Division champion has yet to win the Pac-12 conference title game. Could that change in 2014? UCLA seems to have all of the pieces to challenge Oregon or Stanford for the conference crown. Quarterback Brett Hundley is back after considering an early departure to the NFL. Hundley has room to improve in his junior season, but his job will be made easier by an offensive line that could progress despite losing guard Xavier Su’a-Filo to the NFL. Linebacker Anthony Barr was one of the top defensive players in the nation, and his ability to get after opposing quarterbacks will be missed. But the linebacking corps should remain a strength. Myles Jack is one of college football’s rising superstars, and Eric Kendricks is back after leading the team with 106 tackles in 2013. Owamagbe Odighizuwa missed 2013 due to injury but is set to return in 2014 to anchor the defensive line. And the Bruins could have one of the best defensive backfields in the nation, as all four starters are slated to return. The schedule features a non-conference road trip to Virginia and a neutral site matchup against Texas. In Pac-12 play, UCLA plays at Arizona State and Washington but hosts Stanford, USC and Oregon.

Related Content: Early Pac-12 Predictions for 2014

9. Baylor
Despite losing to UCF in the Fiesta Bowl, the Bears have momentum entering the 2014 season. Baylor is coming off its first conference title since 1980, coach Art Briles didn’t leave for Texas, and quarterback Bryce Petty decided to stay for his senior year. The Bears are also set to open a new stadium in 2014, which figures to only help Baylor continue to climb the ladder in the Big 12 program hierarchy. Petty’s return will keep Baylor’s offense among the best in the nation, and Shock Linwood appears to be a capable replacement for Lache Seastrunk at running back. The line is the biggest concern on offense, as All-American Cyril Richardson and center Stefan Huber and tackle Kelvin Palmer depart. The defense was an underrated part of Baylor’s Big 12 title and several key players have expired their eligibility. Safety Ahmad Dixon, linebacker Eddie Lackey, cornerback K.J. Morton and defensive ends Terrance Lloyd and Chris McAllister are gone. But the news isn’t all bad for coordinator Phil Bennett, as the Bears have recruited better recently, and there’s talent ready to step into the lineup. The schedule is manageable, but trips to Texas and Oklahoma will determine if Baylor can repeat as conference champions.

Related Content: Early Big 12 Predictions for 2014

10. Stanford
David Shaw has his work cut out for him in 2014. The Cardinal has won at least 11 games in three seasons in a row, but that mark could be in jeopardy next year. Not only is Stanford is replacing a wealth of talent, but one of the key cogs in the recent run – defensive coordinator Derek Mason – is now the head coach at Vanderbilt. The rebuilding effort for next year has to start on the offensive line. The Cardinal return only one starter up front, but there’s talent waiting in the wings, including Joshua Garnett and Kyle Murphy to team with left tackle Andrus Peat. Don’t expect Stanford’s offense to change its philosophy despite the personnel losses, but Shaw can lean more on quarterback Kevin Hogan and a veteran group of receivers. In addition to replacing Mason’s play-calling, the Cardinal loses linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, defensive end Josh Mauro and safety Ed Reynolds. Stanford’s schedule could be one of the toughest in the nation next year. The Cardinal host USC and Oregon State but play at Washington, Notre Dame, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA.

11. Georgia
The SEC East will be a tight battle between Missouri, South Carolina and Georgia next year. For now, the early nod goes with the Bulldogs. Mark Richt needs to replace quarterback Aaron Murray, but Hutson Mason started the final two games of 2013 and should be a capable starter. Mason’s transition into the lineup will be easier with running back Todd Gurley returning to full strength, along with Malcolm Mitchell and Keith Marshall back from knee injuries. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham left for Louisville, but the defense upgraded by hiring Jeremy Pruitt from Florida State. Pruitt will have plenty of talent to work with, starting with linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd. The Bulldogs host Auburn in crossover play with the West Division but travel to Missouri and South Carolina next year.

12. South Carolina
The Gamecocks have won 11 games in each of the last three seasons. Coach Steve Spurrier has this program on solid ground, and South Carolina will be back in the hunt for the SEC East title. Quarterback Connor Shaw is a big loss, but Dylan Thompson showed he was a capable option over the last two years. Thompson won’t have to carry the team, especially with running back Mike Davis and four starters returning on the line. While Shaw will be tough to replace, the biggest losses are on defense. The Gamecocks have to replace ends Chaz Sutton and Jadeveon Clowney and tackle Kelcy Quarles. Cornerback Victor Hampton left early for the NFL Draft. Talent isn’t an issue for South Carolina, but restocking the defensive line to replace Clowney, Sutton and Quarles won’t be easy. South Carolina might have the most favorable path in the East Division to a trip to Atlanta. Missouri and Georgia visit Williams-Brice Stadium and a matchup against Texas A&M in the opener comes at an opportune time with a rebuilding Aggies’ offense. 

Related Content: Early SEC Predictions for 2014

13. LSU
Another year, another batch of players departed early for the NFL. After losing 11 players last season, Les Miles lost seven to the NFL this January. But despite the personnel concerns, LSU isn’t short on talent. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has to overhaul the passing game, as quarterback Zach Mettenberger and receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham depart. With one of the SEC’s best offensive lines returning and a five-star freshman running back in Leonard Fournette available, Cameron can ease quarterback Anthony Jennings into the starting role. Linebacker Lamin Barrow and safety Craig Loston will be missed by the defense. But the biggest losses are in the trenches, as tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson decided to leave early for the NFL.

14. Wisconsin
The Badgers finished 2013 on a two-game losing streak, but Gary Andersen’s first season in Madison was still a success. Wisconsin has won at least seven games in every year since 2002 and there’s little doubt that streak can continue in 2014. Running back Melvin Gordon turned down an opportunity to enter the NFL Draft and expects to shoulder the bulk of the carries with James White expiring his eligibility. As usual in Madison, the Badgers will be strong in the trenches and on the ground. But the passing attack is a question mark. Quarterback Joel Stave will face competition in the spring, and standout receiver Jared Abbrederis will be missed. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is a rising star in the coaching ranks, but can he keep Wisconsin’s defense among the best in the Big Ten in 2014 with linemen Pat Muldoon, Beau Allen, Ethan Hemer and linebackers Chris Borland, Ethan Armstrong and Brendan Kelly departing? Wisconsin has a favorable path to a Big Ten West Division title. The Badgers host Nebraska and won’t face Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan or Michigan State in crossover play.

Related Content: Early Big Ten Predictions for 2014

15. Missouri
As mentioned in the Georgia and South Carolina write-ups, the gap in the SEC East is very small. For now, the Bulldogs and Gamecocks are slightly ahead of Missouri and Florida. Despite some key personnel departures, Gary Pinkel’s team should have a good shot at repeating as the East Division champion. Maty Mauk will provide a seamless transition from James Franklin at quarterback, and Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy are set to replace Henry Josey at running back. Replacing left tackle Justin Britt and guard Max Copeland are the biggest question marks on offense. On defense, ends Michael Sam and Kony Ealy, along with cornerback E.J. Gaines are huge losses. But the Tigers have the necessary depth to ensure there’s not a huge drop in production. Road trips to South Carolina, Florida and Texas A&M will be tough, but Missouri hosts Georgia, Vanderbilt, Arkansas and key non-conference games against Indiana and UCF.

16. USC
New coach Steve Sarkisian isn’t walking into a rebuilding effort, as the Trojans finished 2013 with 10 victories. Quarterback Cody Kessler will have to hold off redshirt freshman Max Browne for the starting spot, but Kessler finished last season on a high note by throwing for 344 yards and four touchdowns against Fresno State. Marqise Lee entered the NFL Draft, leaving Nelson Agholor as the No. 1 target. The offensive line is thin on depth and center Marus Martin, guard John Martinez and tackle Kevin Graf must be replaced. With the Trojans short on proven receivers, expect the ground attack to lead the way on offense next year. The good news for Sarkisian is USC isn’t short on talented runners, including Javorius Allen, Tre Madden and Ty Isaac. Safety Dion Bailey and lineman George Uko left early for the NFL Draft. But the rest of the defense returns largely intact, including standout end Leonard Williams, linebacker Hayes Pullard and safety Su’a Cravens. USC has a challenging schedule, including road trips to Stanford, Arizona, Washington State and UCLA. But the Trojans miss Oregon in crossover play and Arizona State travels to Los Angeles next year. 

17. Arizona State
UCLA is the early favorite to win the Pac-12 South, but Arizona State and USC aren’t far behind. The Sun Devils’ quest to repeat as the division champs starts with an explosive offense that averaged 39.7 points per game in 2013. Quarterback Taylor Kelly headlines the offense, but he will have help from running back D.J. Foster and receiver Jaelen Strong. Having an offense capable of scoring 40 points a game is critical, especially with a defense that has several holes to fill. Gone are tackle Will Sutton, end Davon Coleman, linebackers Carl Bradford and Chris Young, cornerbacks Robert Nelson and Osahon Irabor and safety Alden Darby. A rebuilding defense will have time to grow with Weber State, New Mexico and Colorado to open the season. But Arizona State’s next four games will define how high it can climb in the Pac-12 standings: UCLA, at USC, Stanford and at Washington.

18. Clemson
Quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins are huge losses, but Clemson kept one of the top offensive play-callers in college football on its staff – Chad Morris. With Morris returning, the Tigers will rank among the best offenses in the ACC once again. Cole Stoudt, Chad Kelly and Deshaun Watson will battle to replace Boyd, while the receiving corps will turn to Mike Williams, Adam Humphries and Charone Peake to become the top targets in the passing game. With Vic Beasley returning at defensive end, Clemson should have one of the top defensive fronts in the ACC. The cornerback spot is a concern, especially after Bashaud Breeland left early for the NFL. Redshirt freshman Mackensie Alexander will be a player to watch in the secondary next year.

Related Content: Early ACC Predictions for 2014

19. Ole Miss
With LSU losing a chunk of talent to the NFL, the door is open for Ole Miss to make a run at third place in the SEC West. Despite losing receiver Donte Moncrief to the NFL, the Rebels are poised to push LSU in the West Division and exceed last year’s eight victories. Quarterback Bo Wallace will benefit from another offseason to rehab his shoulder, while Laquon Treadwell is set to replace Moncrief as the top option at receiver. Three starters depart from the line, but Laremy Tunsil is back after a standout freshman season, and guard Aaron Morris returns after missing nearly all of 2013 due to a knee injury. Linebacker Mike Marry and end Cameron Whigham will be missed, but the defense returns nearly intact. This unit will benefit from another year of development out of defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, safety Tony Conner and linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche. The Rebels host Auburn, Mississippi State and Alabama but travel to Vanderbilt, Texas A&M and LSU. Ole Miss opens the year with a neutral site matchup against Boise State in Atlanta.

20. Notre Dame
It’s been a busy offseason for Brian Kelly. The Fighting Irish lost both of their coordinators (Chuck Martin and Bob Diaco) to head coaching jobs, and tight end Troy Niklas, running back George Atkinson III, defensive end Stephon Tuitt and tackle Louis Nix III all left for the NFL. Perhaps lost in the roster and coaching staff turnover is the return of quarterback Everett Golson. Although Golson will have some rust after missing a year of college football, his return is a boost to the passing game. Replacing Tuitt and Nix III is a tough assignment for new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. But the cupboard isn’t empty. Linebacker Jaylon Smith had a standout freshman season (67 tackles), the line can restock with Sheldon Day, Isaac Rochell and Jarron Jones. The schedule is tough, but Stanford, Northwestern, Louisville, Michigan and North Carolina come to South Bend. 

21. Washington
Washington deserves an A+ for its hire of Chris Petersen, and the Huskies will be one of the Pac-12’s most-intriguing teams to watch in 2014. While Petersen oversaw some of the nation’s top offenses at Boise State, expect defense to carry Washington next year. Seven starters return for coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, including linebacker Shaq Thompson and end Hau’oli Kikaha. Offensively, the Huskies will be solid, but quarterback Keith Price, running back Bishop Sankey and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be tough to replace. Cyler Miles is slated to replace Price after throwing for 418 yards and four scores in eight games in 2013. A favorable schedule should allow Washington to open the year 4-0 before Stanford comes to Husky Stadium on Sept. 27.

Related Content: Early Pac-12 Predictions for 2014

22. Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel is gone, but the Aggies aren’t short on talent. Kevin Sumlin recruited a top-10 class last season and could have a top-five haul in 2014. Replacing Manziel is the No. 1 priority in spring ball for Sumlin and coordinator Jake Spavital. Senior Matt Joeckel has the most experience, but Kenny Hill and incoming freshman Kyle Allen have more upside. The supporting cast is solid for the new quarterback. Brandon Williams, Tra Carson and Trey Williams form a solid trio in the backfield, while four starters return on the line. After allowing 475.8 yards and 32.2 points a game on defense in 2013, the Aggies need considerable improvement to help an offense that will slightly regress without Manziel and receiver Mike Evans. Although the numbers on defense were awful last season, Texas A&M had a host of underclassmen playing major snaps. This unit should be better by default, but another recruiting class is needed to help establish more talent and depth.

23. Kansas State
The Wildcats were one of the Big 12’s hottest teams to finish 2013, winning six out of their final seven games. Despite some personnel losses, Bill Snyder’s team is poised to build off that momentum next year. Kansas State’s offense has to find a new go-to running back with John Hubert expiring his eligibility, but quarterback Jake Waters returns, and Daniel Sams can move to an all-purpose threat if necessary. Receiver Tyler Lockett is quietly one of the nation’s best. Despite only two returning starters, the Wildcats’ defense finished third in the Big 12 in fewest yards allowed and held their opponents to 22.9 points per game. This unit will have a few holes to fill at each level, but end Ryan Mueller is one of the top defenders in the Big 12. Kansas State plays Auburn in non-conference action, while Texas Tech, Texas and Oklahoma State visit Manhattan.

24. Texas
A new era begins in Austin next year. Charlie Strong takes over for Mack Brown after a four-year stint at Louisville. Can Strong return Texas to the nation’s elite? The Longhorns have talent, but Strong needs some time to find answers on offense. David Ash returns at quarterback after missing most of 2013 due to a concussion. But he will be pushed for the No. 1 spot by sophomore Tyrone Swoopes this spring. Until Strong and his staff can settle on a quarterback, expect the ground attack to be featured on offense. Texas has a wealth of talent at running back, but Johnathan Gray is recovering from a torn Achilles. Strong is known as one of college football’s top defensive coaches, and he inherits a unit that allowed 407.2 yards per game in 2013. Expect immediate improvement with Strong and coordinator Vance Bedford calling the plays. This unit received a boost in January when Cedric Reed and Quandre Diggs decided to return for their senior season.

25. Miami
Another year, more uncertainty in the Coastal Division. North Carolina and Duke will be in the mix, but for now, an early edge goes to the Hurricanes. Is 2014 the year Miami finally plays for the ACC title? The offense has averaged at least 30 points a game in each of the last two seasons, and there’s firepower returning with running back Duke Johnson and receiver Stacy Coley. Departing quarterback Stephen Morris had an inconsistent, but productive career. Will Memphis transfer Ryan Williams replace Morris? Or will offensive coordinator turn to sophomore Gray Crow, redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen or incoming freshman Brad Kaaya? Quarterback is a huge question mark, but the defense is an even bigger issue. Miami allowed 426.4 yards per game (5.7 yards per play) in 2013 and ranked 10th in the ACC in points allowed (26.8 ppg). Despite the lackluster numbers over the last two years on defense, this unit has reason to expect improvement. Linebacker Denzel Perryman and end Anthony Chickillo decided to return for their senior year, and Tracy Howard could be one of the top cornerbacks in the ACC in 2014. More talent is needed on defense, but Miami has to show improvement if it wants to win the Coastal.

The Next Five Teams

26. Iowa
Hawkeyes must replace entire linebacking corps, but a favorable schedule (no Ohio State or Michigan State in crossover play) should have Kirk Ferentz’s team in the mix for the Big Ten West Division title.

27. North Carolina
The offensive line and defense are a concern for Larry Fedora’s team. However, the Tar Heels should be dynamic on offense behind quarterback Marquise Williams, running back T.J. Logan and receiver Quinshad Davis.

28. Florida
There’s simply no way the Gators can be as bad as they were last season. The offense won’t be dynamic but improvement is expected. Florida should be solid on defense.

29. Oklahoma State
Mike Gundy has a significant rebuilding effort ahead in 2014. The Cowboys lose 28 seniors, including quarterback Clint Chelf, linebackers Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey, cornerback Justin Gilbert and defensive tackle Calvin Barnett. Receiver Josh Stewart also declared for the NFL Draft.

30. Mississippi State
Dan Mullen’s 2014 squad should be the best in his tenure. Quarterback Dak Prescott returns after averaging 251.7 total yards per game in 2013, and the defense has to replace only one starter.

A Very Early College Football Top 25 for 2014
Post date: Monday, January 20, 2014 - 08:15
All taxonomy terms: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods, Golf
Path: /clone-tiger-woods-vs-jack-nicklaus-tale-tape-updated

Jack NicklausTiger Woods makes his 2014 season debut at the Farmers Insurance Open at a course he loves, Torrey Pines. At this point in Tiger's career, every non-major tournament is merely a step toward his goal of peaking for the majors. You've heard this before, but this is a critical season in Woods' pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record 18 major championship wins. Tiger remains stalled at 14, with his drought now well into its fifth year.

Still, here's a little math that could shut up the naysayers who claim that Tiger's pursuit is permanently stalled.

Heading into this year's Masters, the 38-year-old Tiger has 14 wins in 64 major championship starts as a professional; heading into the 1978 Masters, the 38-year-old Nicklaus had 14 wins in 64 major championship starts as a professional.

That's some amazing career symmetry right there, but it seems appropriate, given that Tiger came out of the gate with Nicklaus' major championship record as his ultimate target.

For a long time, Woods was well ahead of Nicklaus' career pace, but his drought has put a serious dent in Tiger's major aspirations. Of course, Nicklaus won his last major at age 46, giving Woods eight more years of viability on the major championship scene, a reasonable assumption considering the similarity of their career trajectories.

Here are the final four major wins of Nicklaus' career, all of which came at age 38 and beyond:
1978 British Open (age 38)
1980 U.S. Open (age 40)
1980 PGA Championship (age 40)
1986 Masters (age 46)

Woods turns 46 in December 2021. Between now and then, there will be 32 major championships contested; Woods needs to win five of them to reach his career Holy Grail of 19 major championships.

Of course, Tiger has already moved well past Nicklaus into second on the Tour's all-time wins ledger. Tiger trails only Sam Snead, who won 82 times over a 30-year span; Woods has crammed his 79 wins into 18-plus stellar, occasionally storm-tossed seasons on Tour.

Jack thinks he'll do it. "I still think he'll break my record," Nicklaus said last year. "Tiger's talent, at 37 ... it's not that old. I won four after that. They were spread out. It wasn't that difficult. I don't think for Tiger to get four or five more — or six or seven — is that big a stretch.
"But that said, he has still got to do it. He hasn't won one in five years. He had better get with it if he's going to."

So let's look at the two legends — Tiger today, and Nicklaus at a similar point in his career.

Bottom line from the data presented here: Tiger's building the better overall career, but Jack remains the greatest performer in major championship history. That's the carrot that Tiger is still chasing, and he has time to get there.

 Tiger Woods Jack Nicklaus (entering the 1978 season)
Tournaments won    7964
Tournament winning %26.819.4
Majors won (first 64 starts) 1414
Major winning %       21.921.9
Major top 5s   3145
Major top 10s    3852
Longest streak of top-5 in majors   67
Longest streak of top-10 in majors 813
Lowest scoring avg.        9 times8 times
Money leader      10 times8 times


<p> A Comparison of Woods and Nicklaus at age 38</p>
Post date: Monday, January 20, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-ten-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 Big Ten wide receiver ranks were highlighted by two Biletnikoff Award winners, numerous All-Americans and a host of records from the Joe Tiller-Drew Brees era at Purdue. Here are the Top 10 Big Ten wide receivers of the BCS Era:

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

1. Braylon Edwards, Michigan (2001-04)
Stats: 252 rec., 3,541 yds, 39 TDs

Not many players have three consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns but that is what the Detroit native did at Michigan. He was uncoverable during his time at Ann Arbor, setting school records in every major receiving category. His 39 career touchdowns remain a Big Ten record. Edwards claimed Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and the Biletnikoff Award as a senior in 2004. The consensus All-American finished 10th in the Heisman voting that season as well.

2. Charles Rogers, Michigan State (2001-02)
Stats: 135 rec., 2,821 yds, 27 TDs, 110 rush, TD, 177 ret. yds, TD

The in-state product from Saginaw played just two seasons for the Spartans but was an All-Big Ten performer both years. He posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning consensus All-American and Biletnikoff honors in 2002. He set an NCAA record with 13 straight games with a TD catch (since broken) and owns just about every Michigan State receiving record. His 1,470 yards in 2001 trail only one player in Big Ten history…

3. Lee Evans, Wisconsin (1999-2003)
Stats: 175 rec., 3,468 yds, 27 TDs

Despite missing extended time with a torn ACL, Evans is the best wide receiver to play at Wisconsin since Al Toon. His two-year run was as good as any in Big Ten history, posting a league-record 1,545 yards in 2001. He came back after the knee injury and nearly duplicated his numbers with 1,213 yards and 13 TDs in 2003. His 10-catch, 258-yard, 5-TD game against Michigan State might have been the best single performance by any Badger. Evans is one of two B1G players to ever catch five TDs in one game (Omar Douglas) and he is fifth all-time in Big Ten history in receiving yards.

4. David Boston, Ohio State (1996-98)
Stats: 191 rec., 2,855 yds, 34 TDs, 959 ret. yds, 2 TDs

Suspicions of performance enhancers will always hang around Boston's resume so it is difficult to evaluate where he ranks. While on the field at Ohio State, he was dominant. He caught 27 touchdowns over his last two seasons and was the superstar — 85 rec., 1,435 yds, 13 TD — for the '98 team that likely should have played Tennessee for a national championship. His 34 TDs are fourth all-time in league history, he excelled on special teams and was the eighth overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

5. D’Wayne Bates, Northwestern (1995-98)
Stats: 210 rec., 3,370 yds, 26 TDs

From the time he stepped onto Ryan Field, Bates was a playmaker for the Wildcats. He was the leading receiver on the ’95 Rose Bowl team as a true freshman before setting school records for yards (1,196) and touchdowns (12) as a sophomore. After missing all but one game as a junior, Bates returned to break his own receiving records with a huge senior season: 83 receptions and 1,245 yards. In just three years, he also set Northwestern’s career marks for receptions (210), touchdowns (26) and yards (3,370). His 3,370 yards were second all-time when he left Evanston.

6. Allen Robinson, Penn State (2011-13)
Stats: 177 rec., 2,479 yards, 17 TDs

With a fourth full season at Penn State, Robinson would have become one of the greatest wideouts in Big Ten history. His 97 catches in 2013 are tied for fourth in Big Ten history and his 1,432 yards are also good for fourth all-time in league history. And he did all of that with a true freshman quarterback in ’13. He owns basically every major Penn State single-season and career receiving record and consistently made huge plays in huge moments in close games.

7. Plaxico Burress, Michigan State (1998-99)
Stats: 131 rec., 2,155 yds, 20 TDs

Many of Michigan State’s best — Rogers, Burress and Devin Thomas — played only briefly in the Big Ten, yet, their influence is no less felt. The eighth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft was unstoppable in two seasons in East Lansing. He posted a school-record 65 receptions for 1,013 yards and eight scores in his first year. Then broke his own record with 66 receptions, 1,142 yards and 12 touchdowns in his second year. The massive 6-foot-6, 230-pounder rewrote the MSU record book in just two seasons.

8. James Hardy, Indiana (2005-07)
Stats: 191 rec., 2,740 yds, 36 TDs

Few players have ever been as effective in the red zone as Hardy was for the Hoosiers. He scored at least 10 touchdowns in each of his three seasons, capping his remarkable career with a monster junior season: 79 receptions, 1,125 yards and 16 TDs — which is tied for third-best in Big Ten history. His 36 career TD catches rank third all-time in the Big Ten and he owns all three major school career receiving records. His 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame, much like Burress, was impossible to stop in jump ball situations and after leaving Indiana early, Hardy was selected in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

9. Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin (2010-13)
Stats: 202 rec., 3,140 yds, 23 TDs, 291 rush, 2 TDs, 1,387 ret. yds, TD

From an all-around standpoint, Abbrederis is one of the greatest to ever suit up in the Big Ten. He is one reception from being in the top 10 all-time, is eighth all-time in yards and contributed to UW’s offense in more ways than most wideouts. He was used in the ground game, was an All-American caliber returner and helped lead Wisconsin to three straight Big Ten championships. He played in at least 13 games all four years, finishing with 53 career games to his credit.

10. Eric Decker, Minnesota (2006-09)
Stats: 227 rec., 3,119 yds, 24 TDs, 114 rush, TD

Few players have been as consistent as Decker was at Minnesota and had he not missed nearly half a season as a senior, his career numbers would be among the Big Ten’s best. He started 12 games as a freshman and posted an impressive sophomore line of 68 catches, 909 yards and nine scores. He improved on those numbers as a junior, setting career highs with 84 catches and 1,074 yards. He started 44 of the first 45 games of his career. His 227 catches are sixth all-time and his 3,119 yards are ninth all-time. With five more games as a senior, he could have finished in the top five in both categories.

Just Missed the cut:

11. Marvin McNutt, Iowa (2008-11)
Stats: 170 rec., 2,861 yds, 28 TDs 

The speedy big-play target for Kirk Ferentz capped an excellent career with one of the most prolific single-seasons in Big Ten history. He caught 82 passes for 1,315 (seventh-best in league history) and 12 touchdowns. All three of which set or tied Iowa single-season records. No Hawkeye has more career receiving yards than McNutt.

12. Ron Johnson, Minnesota (1998-2001)
Stats: 196 rec., 2,931 yds, 31 TDs

His 31 TD receptions are tied for sixth all-time in Big Ten history. Johnson posted three straight seasons with at least seven touchdowns and caught 115 passes for 1,962 yards and 20 TDs over his final two seasons.

13. Dorien Bryant, Purdue (2004-07)
Stats: 292 rec., 3,548 yds, 21 TDs, 421 rush, 6 TDs, 2,250 ret. yds, 3 TDs

Bryant is No. 2 all-time in receptions with 292 and No. 3 all-time in yards with 3,548. But Bryant was much more versatile than his predecessors. His 6,219 all-purpose yards rank fourth all-time behind Ron Dayne, Archie Griffin and Anthony Thompson.

14. Taylor Stubblefield, Purdue (2001-04)
Stats: 325 rec., 3,629 yds, 21 TDs

Deciphering Joe Tiller's wide receivers is nearly impossible. Stubblefield is No. 1 all-time in the B1G with 325 catches and No. 2 all-time with 3,629 yards. The consensus All-American never had fewer than 73 catches (Fr.) or 789 yards (So.) in any of his four seasons.

15. John Standeford, Purdue (2000-03)
Stats: 266 rec., 3,788 yds, 27 TDs

Standeford is No. 3 all-time in Big Ten history with 266 receptions and No. 1 all-time with 3,788 yards. His final two seasons are one of the top two-year runs by any wideout in league history: 152 rec., 2,457 yards, 17 TDs.

Best of the Rest:

16. Brandon Lloyd, Illinois (1999-02): 155 rec., 2,527 yards, 19 TDs, 328 ret. yds
Talented wideout posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with at least 8 TDs in both.

17. B.J. Cunningham, Michigan State (2008-11): 218 rec., 3,086 yards, 25 TDs
All-time leading MSU receiver is No. 7 all-time in receptions and one of nine to top 1,300 yards in a season.

18. Michael Jenkins, Ohio State (2001-03): 157 rec., 2,746 yards, 16 TDs, Ret. TD
Helped lead OSU to a national title with critical plays and a 1,000-yard season in 2002.

19. Mario Manningham, Michigan (2005-07): 137 rec., 2,310 yds, 27 TDs, 176 rush
Averaged one touchdown catch every 5.1 receptions in just three seasons.

20. Devin Thomas, Michigan State (2006-07): 85 rec., 1,350 yds, 9 TDs, 177 rush, 1,170 ret. yds
His 2,590 all-purpose yards in 2007 are second all-time (Larry Johnson, 2,655) in conference history.

21. Brandon Williams, Wisconsin (2002-05): 202 rec., 2,924 yards, 10 TDs, 2,787 ret. yards, 2 TDs
Versatile do-everything performer is eighth all-time in all-purpose yards. Played 52 games.

22. Courtney Roby, Indiana (2001-04): 170 rec., 2,524 yds, 12 TDs, 207 rush, 2 TDs, 572 ret. yds
Consistent performer for Hooisers before pass-happy offenses took over.

23. Jeremy Gallon, Michigan (2010-13): 173 rec., 2,704 yds, 17 TDs, 991 ret. yards
Owns Big Ten single-game yards record (369) and Michigan season yards record (1,373).

24. A.J. Jenkins, Illinois (2008-11): 167 rec., 2,432 yds, 19 TDs, 773 ret. yds, TD
Monster senior season — 90 rec., 1,276 yards, 8 TDs — made him a first-round draft pick.

25. Chris Daniels, Purdue (1996-99): 170 rec., 1,845 yards, 15 TDs
Owns Big Ten single-game (21) and single-season (121) receptions records.

Top 10 Big Ten Wide Receivers of the BCS Era
Post date: Monday, January 20, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/10-things-you-need-know-college-basketball-week-jan-20

Not long ago, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa State stood among the ranks of the unbeaten.

Now, Bo Ryan, Thad Matta and Fred Hoiberg may wonder when they’re going to win another game.

Around the same time — in December and earlier this month — teams like Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and a few other preseason favorites had legitimate concerns about their ability to contend for big prizes at the end of the season.

Not so much anymore.

Such is the story of the college basketball season. Hot teams cool off. Young teams mature into conference play. That much was clear on Saturday.

The major storyline was the play of Kansas. The Jayhawks endured four losses against the toughest schedule in the country, but they are starting to look like national championship contenders after defeating Oklahoma State 80-78 in Lawrence on Saturday.

The reason wasn’t the play of Andrew Wiggins, but that of Joel Embiid, who is quickly overtaking his freshman teammate in terms of headlines. Sophomore point guard Naadir Tharpe, a liability to start the season, also had a key game.

Consider this: Kansas defeated perhaps the No. 2 team in the Big 12 and with ease for most of the game despite a virtual no-show from, on paper, what could be its best player.

Kansas’ win wasn’t the only major storyline of the weekend, but it was the most important.

10 Things You Need to Know from the Weekend in College Basketball

1a. Joel Embiid is Kansas’ best freshman and it’s not really close
Let the NBA Draft people sort out the futures of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, but right now, Embiid is the best freshman on Kansas’ roster. Embiid was the key player for the Jayhawks as Kansas built a 19-point lead early against Oklahoma State. The freshman finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocked shots in the 80-78. One of Embiid’s many key sequences was a dunk of an alley oop pass from Naadir Tharpe over national player of the year contender Marcus Smart and then moments later swatted away a shot at close range. Meanwhile, Wiggins was near invisible in one of the biggest games of the season. He finished 1 of 5 from the field with one missed shot in the second half.

1b. Naadir Tharpe is becoming a game changer
Tharpe started the season as a liability, but the Jayhawks wouldn’t have defeated Oklahoma State without him in the second half. Tharpe finished with 21 points, including a jumper with 34 second remaining, a dagger that turned out to be the game-winning basket.

1c. Oklahoma State lost all composure early
Bad shots. Bad fouls. Poor composure. Oklahoma State made a game of it late against Kansas, so the Cowboys have to wonder what would have happened if they had played a sharper game from the start in Lawrence. Le’Bryan Nash picked up two early fouls. Markel Brown was in foul trouble in the first half, too, and ended up fouling out after a personal and technical late, one of three OSU technicals in the game. And Marcus Smart was among many Cowboys who couldn’t get a shot until the final minutes.

2. Duke played its best game since December
ACC play has been shaky for Duke so far with losses to Notre Dame and Clemson, but Saturday was a return to form. The Blue Devils demolished NC State 95-60 and won in key ways that had hampered them through ACC play so far. Duke was content to let T.J. Warren score 23 points since it took him 19 shots to get there. And the Duke defense that had struggled mightily forced 21 turnovers, scoring 33 points off of them. Freshman Jabari Parker (23 points, seven rebounds) was great, but Mike Krzyzewski has to be thrilled to get a combined 24 points from Andre Dawkins and Rasheed Sulaimon off the bench.

3. Kentucky gave up 20 offensive rebounds and won thanks to Andrew Harrison
Tennessee jumped to a nine-point lead on Kentucky in part by controlling the glass in the offensive end. The Volunteers finished with 20 offensive rebounds to Kentucky’s 17 defensive boards, but the Wildcats still won 74-66. Point guard Andrew Harrison had his best game of the season, though, with a second-half surge. Harrison finished with 26 points and went 10 of 10 from the free throw line. The Wildcats, who have struggled from the line all season, went 23 of 24 on Saturday.

4. Indiana’s signature win was a mirage
Indiana is back to being a fringe NCAA Tournament team at best despite handing Wisconsin its first loss of the season earlier in the week. The Hoosiers had one of their worst offensive performances of the Tom Crean era in a 57-54 loss at home to a Northwestern team with a losing record. Indiana shot 25 percent from the field (15 of 60) for the most embarrassing loss in the Big Ten this season.

5. Wichita State’s chances of running the table in the Valley look much better
A week after Wichita State’s close call on the road in overtime against Missouri State, the Shockers still look like they could run the table in the Missouri Valley. Wichita State had no difficulty defeating the No. 2 team in the league with a 68-48 win over Indiana State on Saturday. Granted, the Shockers still have to face the Sycamores on the road, but homecourt advantage in Terre Haute isn’t worth 20 points.

6. Pittsburgh acquitted itself as a top ACC team
Syracuse continued its undefeated start to the season, but Pittsburgh earned a bit of credibility in the 59-54 loss. The Panthers never went away against Syracuse and led by 3 with 4:41 to go. Most impressive: Pitt owned the offensive glass as the Panthers grabbed 16 offensive rebounds while Syracuse claimed 24 defensive boards. Syracuse is the class of the ACC, but Pitt may end up being No. 2 or No. 3 by the end of the season. Lamar Patterson, with 18 points and already one of the season’s breakout players, might be an ACC player of the year contender.

7. We were too quick to write off Michigan
During the midseason report, Athlon Sports noted Michigan as one of the nation’s disappointing teams. Part of that was in anticipation that of the Mitch McGary injury catching up to the Wolverines. Michigan is 9-0 without him after defeating Wisconsin 77-70 in Madison on Saturday. Guards Nik Stausaks and Caris LeVert made up for the absence of their fellow sophomore by combining for 43 points as the Wolverines withstood a late Wisconsin rally. LeVert had one of the best games of his career, adding seven rebounds and four assists, but Stauskas is a Big Ten player of the year contender. A jump shooter on the team that reached the title game last season, he has a more well-rounded game this season and has become a leader on a team that needed one.

8. Kevin Ollie isn’t happy
The uncalled foul and the ejection probably didn’t play a major role in UConn’s 76-64 loss to Louisville, but Huskies coach Kevin Ollie joined Iowa coach Fran McCaffery on the short list of the best coach freakouts this season.

9. Baylor has an execution problem
If anyone wanted to be generous to Baylor in the Bears’ loss to Texas Tech last week by chalking it up as a one-time lapse on the road, that argument should fall on deaf ears. Baylor has fallen apart in recent games as the Bears returned to Waco to lose 66-64 to Oklahoma for its third loss in four games. The final possession was a disaster — the game ended with the ball in the hands of Royce O’Neal (6.1 ppg) — but this loss was determined earlier. Baylor shot 20 3-pointers, despite making only six, and shot 50 percent from the 3-point line. Baylor is 10 of 40 from 3 and 26 of 54 from the free throw line in the last two games.

10. Watch out: Texas is overachieving
Rick Barnes has been criticized for lackluster results with talented teams in recent seasons — no Sweet 16 trips since 2008, for example. If Texas has been an underachiever in recent seasons, this team has been one of the country’s top overachievers. It’s true Barnes’ recruiting classes aren’t as highly rated as they once were, but fringe top-100 prospects Jonathan Holmes and Javan Felix are leading a Longhorns team ready to contend for the NCAA Tournament. Holmes and Felix combined for 40 points in an 86-76 win over Iowa State. On its NCAA resume, Texas has a non-conference win over North Carolina, three consecutive Big 12 wins and no embarrassing losses.

Short stuff
While everyone was watching the NFC title game, Oregon further proved it is falling apart. The Ducks lost their fourth consecutive game with an 80-72 loss to Oregon State. Oregon started the season 13-0. ... Not many teams are going to win in Salt Lake City. UCLA made the final score look closer with a late push, but Utah dominated in a 74-69 win. The Utes went 8-28 in their first two seasons in the Pac-12. At 3-3, they may double that conference win total this season. Kudos to coach Larry Krystowiak. ... Virginia captured a season sweep of Florida State with a 78-66 win over the Seminoles. Joe Harris (15 ppg in his last four) is rounding into form. ... Seton Hall won at Georgetown for the first time since 2003 with a 67-57 victory. What are you doing, Hoyas? ... Butler picked up its first Big East win by outscoring Marquette 43-25 in the second half and overtime. Marquette may go from preseason conference favorite to missing the NIT. ... Providence isn’t an NCAA Tournament contender yet, but the Friars are worth watching after defeating Georgetown, St. John’s and Creighton in consecutive games.

10 Things You Need to Know in College Basketball This Week Jan. 20
Post date: Monday, January 20, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR News & Notes, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/potential-nascar-chase-changes-sacrificing-credibility-bottom-line

Stop, NASCAR. Just please, stop right now. Hit the pause button. Let’s all take a breath and ponder for a moment.


NASCAR, we know you’re wont to send up trial balloons every so often, and the leaked proposal to drastically alter the Chase for the Championship playoff format — and thus the very sport itself — is obviously a zeppelin-sized stethoscope on the chest of the fanbase.

We know you are closely monitoring fan reaction; that Fan and Media Engagement Center is getting a workout about now. Caller feedback on SIRIUS XM’s NASCAR channel is being noted and measured. Hopefully, folks are filling your inbox with thoughts and opinions via email that you’re tabulating. And hopefully, the brass safely tucked away in that ivory Daytona Beach tower are in the process of measuring twice before cutting once.


All that said, allow me to wander for a bit.


NASCAR, please, just stop. ... You’re not a stick ‘n’ ball sport. However, Your unwavering determination to become one has us teetering on the brink of divorce.
See, there’s a fine line in what I do. I was a fan of NASCAR long before I could attach a “media” designation anywhere near my name. I’ve played the professional role the best I know how for the last 12 years. I’ve learned how to parry the “but come on, deep down I know you have a favorite driver!” question (mine retired years ago, so no problem there). I transitioned to watching, commenting on and writing about races and current events in the sport as a third party. In fact, I feel I’ve evolved into as unbiased a viewer of all-things NASCAR as anyone you’ll find. I have no allegiance except to the readers.


But every now and then a situation arises that challenges those “fan vs. professional” pitfalls that have been dutifully and strategically programmed into my brain. The Charlotte Observer’s report late last week has managed to dodge and weave said mental pitfalls like Indiana Jones carrying a golden statuette in a South American rainforest.


So for the first time in over a decade, I’m putting my professional hat aside. If the Observer’s report is, in fact, a method for CEO Brian France, president Mike Helton, vice president of competition Robin Pemberton, et al, to gauge fan reaction then I’ll bite. After all, my passion for the sport, built over 25 years, led me to where I’ve been the last 12 years and what I do today.


So NASCAR, please, just stop. Your obsession with appealing to a new demographic has cost you the diehards that once filled your racetracks; it has cost you a television audience that was once there, but no longer is. You’re not a stick ‘n’ ball sport — and that’s why we fell in love with you in the first place! However, your unwavering determination to become one — and line your already deep pockets in the process — has us teetering on the brink of divorce. These points, though, have been discussed ad nauseam over the years, so I will not dwell.


France has often cited “Game 7 moments” as the goal for what his 10-race Chase format would provide. There have been a couple: Kurt Busch’s wheel coming plum off in the inaugural edition and the classic 2011 clash of Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards are two unforgettable moments in the first 10 years of your playoffs, NASCAR.


That isn’t a bad percentage as “Game 7 moments” go. In fact, it’s just about right. After all, Joe Carter — though technically a Game 6 moment — doesn’t belt a walk-off home run to win the World Series every year. If he did, “the amazing” would become “the expected” and the wonderment of “Game 7 moments” would render said moments non-existent.


See NASCAR, that’s what has perplexed me over the last 10 years. As a fan, the ‘80s, ‘90s and early part of this century were magical times. Cars were racy, drivers were renegades and crew chiefs were salty, stubborn men I’d never cross. You truly didn’t know what mayhem would transpire each week, and every so often something like a Kulwicki vs. Elliott season finale mesmerized us all — I mean absolutely topped any crazy scenario I dreamt while using Hot Wheels to run the Kitchen Table 500. Your sport was still niche, but I was part of the niche, so it was high times. I was hooked, I’m telling ya.

Athlon Sports' 2014 Racing Preview hits newsstands Jan. 21. Order online


But then you went and started taking yourself too seriously, NASCAR. You’re like the rock ‘n’ roll bands of my youth: There was an edge and excitement that drew me in, but once you felt you’d hit the “big time,” it was more about the money, merchandise and endorsements than the music. As the great racing scribe Ed Hinton once noted, “greed does not regress.” The outlaw nature of the sport that appealed to me had been replaced by a safeness that guaranteed middle-of-the-road semi-popularity and lots and lots of cash.


However, NASCAR, once you realized that you didn’t actually have 75 million fans, sponsors were no longer plunking down $30 million to back teams and television ratings were no longer in the stratosphere, a playoff system was hatched in an attempt to mirror what worked for the National Football League. I was never fully sold because I was more interested in a rightful and deserving champion than how much money could be made. And I’ve never felt that tournaments work in a sport like auto racing. Make no mistake, the NFL playoffs and the NCAA’s basketball tourney are about making money just as much as they are about crowning a winner, but they work organically. The old “apples and oranges” adage applies well here.


Oh, but that first Chase was a doozy; I’ll give you that, NASCAR. It actually worked. But then you started tinkering with the system. And you haven’t stopped. Any changes that are announced over the coming weeks — and changes are coming — will mark the fourth points tweak in 11 years. That averages to a change to the playoff format — the way you determine your champion — once every two and three-quarter years! How are fans expected to view the championship (not the champion, mind you) with legitimacy if it’s ever-changing?


That brings me to the present day. Potentially, we could see an expanded Chase field (it’s gone from 10 drivers up to 12, then 13 and now possibly 16), built-in eliminations (although those happen naturally as-is) and, worst of all, points resets that would climax in a four-driver, winner-take-all, one-race setting for the championship.


NASCAR, a scenario such as this is nothing more than a blatant gimmick to attract viewers who, at best, will give you a ratings bump in four select races. Oh, you’ll have your “Game 7 moment” each year, but at what cost? At what point will those moments become the norm and not the memorable? And therefore, at what point will you, NASCAR, conclude that further tweaking must be done once again to satisfy your short-term advertising and ratings goals in an effort to wow the masses?


An emphasis on winning is great, but these reported changes are about much more than that. These changes shine a light on a sanctioning body more concerned with its bottom line than a sport’s credibility. And competition without credibility is simply entertainment, not sport.


The truth is that we don’t know what changes will be made to the Chase, only that change in some form seems likely. It may play out in the radical terms that the Observer outlined or fan feedback may talk NASCAR off the ledge. I hope it’s the latter. I so hope it’s the latter that I’m willing to push aside my professional duties and speak purely as a fan.


If gauging fan reaction is the goal of this most recent report then NASCAR, consider this article feedback from a life-long fan.

Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

Potential tweaks to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Chase for the Championship format rooted in a sanctioning body's bottom line, not the sport's credibility.
Post date: Sunday, January 19, 2014 - 15:38