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All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/steve-byrnes-passing-after-bristol-race-felt-throughout-nascar

Bristol’s race this weekend was aptly titled the Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer. It was a chance for the NASCAR community to give back, lending its support to one of its most respected broadcasters.


It was also a special chance for so many to say goodbye. Byrnes passed away Tuesday morning after a nearly two-year, hard-fought battle with head and neck cancer. He was 56 and leaves behind wife Karen, 12-year-old son Bryson, two nephews and countless other family and friends who supported him in his battle. Byrnes, the play-by-play announcer for NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series had been involved with the sport for decades, from its days moonlighting on TNN to reaching the big stage of FOX Sports beginning in 2001.


I’m not going to sit here and say I knew Byrnes well; we sat in the same production meetings together during my time doing TV on the circuit but our conversations were limited. What I can tell you for certain, though is what he brought to the table was a level of professionalism and respect acknowledged by most everyone involved in the sport. When you do your job in that fashion, treating everyone the way you’d like to be treated it’s no surprise he was held in such high regard. Whether it’s the crew chief of a small, independent team, a powerhouse owner like Rick Hendrick or a TV production staffer, they’ll all be paying tribute to the man in much the same way. No one, no matter their position has a bad thing to say about him, a hard road to pave in an industry where one off-kilter report can color someone’s opinion for life.


Byrnes’ passing at such a young age reminds us all to live life to the fullest, every single day as tomorrow is not promised to any of us. Byrnes packed a lot into his 30-year career, traveling across the country to connect millions of fans to the beauty of stock car racing. He did it while balancing family life, close to son Bryson and keeping his priorities in order. In the midst of senseless tragedy, it’s refreshing to know Byrnes lived his life without regret, making his time here memorable enough that he leaves it connected to millions. At the end of the day, your biggest impact in this world is not the number of hours you work or the number of dollars you collect, but the way in which you treat and connect with other people. In that department, Byrnes was an A+, and it’s only fitting the Bristol event named after him was the sport’s best of the season. It’s only fair.


“Whether you had the privilege of knowing him or if you watched him on television for the past three decades,” said NASCAR CEO Brian France, “Steve’s work ethic and authenticity made him a beloved individual inside and outside the garage.”


France continued, “His level of professionalism was matched only by the warmth he showed everyone he met. He battled cancer with tenacity and was a true inspiration to everyone in the NASCAR family.”


Godspeed, Steve. You’ll be missed.


Let’s take a deep breath and look at the big NASCAR news items on the front burner after Bristol…


FIRST GEAR: Matt Kenseth finally gets over the hump


Kenseth’s first year at Joe Gibbs Racing was magical, a seven-win season that landed just short of a Sprint Cup championship. But 2014 was a different story. The veteran, now 43, was shut out of Victory Lane, scored just two runner-up finishes and never quite showed the speed that could make him a serious title contender in the new Chase. Just one year behind the retiring Jeff Gordon, a long list of prospects in Nationwide and Trucks (including phenom Erik Jones) made some wonder if Kenseth would start thinking retirement, too.


Not a chance. After a solid start this season, Kenseth took advantage at his best track, winning from the pole while surviving several challenges on late-race restarts in Thunder Valley. The victory locks him into NASCAR’s postseason early while finally putting to bed a winless streak that had clearly started to bother him.


“It wears on you a little bit,” he admitted. “Last year, there were some races we had chances to win and things just wouldn’t line up for us. [Sunday] was exactly the opposite.”


The victory gives JGR as an organization two wins through eight races, putting Kenseth and Denny Hamlin in the Chase. While most of their muscle has been flexed on the short tracks, that’s still light years ahead of the two wins in 36 races they accumulated all last year. Kenseth, who is one of the sport’s most consistent drivers can’t be counted out in the postseason, and while not known as a short track racer has shown considerable strength the last few years at Bristol and Martinsville. Expect him to win more this season.


SECOND GEAR: Close, but no cigar for so many


While Kenseth won the race, he wasn’t the fastest car. Many others saw their chance at victory go up through self-induced mistakes. Teammate Carl Edwards appeared to be a match for Kenseth, but he fell behind a bit on pit road and never got the preferred line during the final series of restarts. Fighting for second late, he slipped up while running side-by-side, slapped the outside wall and collected a surging Kurt Busch in a melee that left him out of contention.


“I made a mistake,” he said afterwards after dropping to 24th. “100 percent my fault. I was racing really aggressively there at the end and I drove into turn one and that was the first time I lifted off throttle. I just pitched sideways -- I drove it way too deep.”


As for Busch, he probably had the best car of all on Sunday but a decision to go down pit road during a late caution trapped him back in the field. While fresh tires helped, the loss of track position left him fighting through traffic with too few laps (19) to make up the distance. You wonder if the team would have made the same decision if regular head wrench Tony Gibson was on top of the pit box; kidney stones forced him to the sidelines and left him out of commission at the race’s crucial stage. It’s the third time in a month Busch has potentially had a winning car only to have circumstances out of his control cost him that chance at victory.


THIRD GEAR: Wrecked by the rain?


NASCAR suffered through several rain delays at Bristol but was determined all day to get the race in. While most celebrated their dedication, keeping the race from being run on a Monday, Team Penske wondered if they jumpstarted things too fast. An early wreck where Brad Keselowski lost control collected teammate Joey Logano and left them skeptical as to whether the track was race-ready after hours of track drying before the initial green flag.


“It’s been raining since we started the race,” Keselowski said afterwards. “It was just a really light sprinkle and the track was just barely dry. I don’t know. The rain was coming in and out and the car just took off on me. I would like to blame the rain, but I honestly don’t know. Usually when a car gets that far sideways and it’s kind of out of nowhere there’s a reason behind it. I just really hate that I tore up my teammate in the process. I hate racing in the rain, but I understand the position that NASCAR is in. They want to get the race going and this is one of those days where it’s gonna just keep raining off and on and we’re trying to get as many laps in at a time as we can to give the fans the best race possible, but we’re racing in the rain to do it and that’s what happens.”


Both drivers are already postseason eligible, so that reduced the sting a bit. But if that wreck had been worse, collecting 10 or 12 more cars, it would be a really hot-button issue within the garage this week.


FOURTH GEAR: The beauty of surviving Bristol


In some cases, the best way to get a good finish at Bristol’s fast-paced, 15 seconds-a-lap oval is refreshingly simple: survive. It’s not a matter of dodging the carnage but fighting through it, making sure your car makes it to the finish line intact that can make the difference between ninth and 39th.


Justin Allgaier and Danica Patrick were too such examples. Both had good cars but were caught up in several wrecks. Both could have had one bad hit leave them sitting behind the wall. But their teams did amazing work on pit road, patching up each car and allowing both drivers to stay either on the lead lap or within striking distance. When the smoke cleared at the end of the race, both had top-10 finishes and for Patrick, it was a performance that put her on the right side of the Chase cutoff.


Meanwhile, boss Tony Stewart, while cranky on the radio, had a crucial top-10 performance of his own. A sixth-place effort, his best of the season now puts the No. 14 car on the right side of the top 30 in points. That means a single victory could change things around for the program, landing them inside the Chase and ending whispers Stewart has lost a step during the past few years riddled with both injury and tragedy.


Other shoutouts go to Kyle Larson (seventh) and Brett Moffitt (17th) who each had one of their better 2015 performances.




Richard Childress Racing has issued a final appeal of their penalties for doctoring tires. It’s a risk, as their initial appeal dropped the points lost by Ryan Newman from 75 to 50, a crucial 25-point difference that currently has him inside NASCAR’s Chase cutoff. Final Appeals Officer Bryan Moss will hear the case and issue an official ruling… Kevin Harvick’s involvement in a mid-race wreck ended his streak of seven top-10 finishes to start the NASCAR season. The good news for him? Martin Truex, Jr. and Logano had troubles of their own, meaning no Sprint Cup driver has been able to start the season 8-for-8. Harvick’s lead in the standings remains a healthy 30 points… Jeff Gordon, third at Bristol now has five straight top-10 finishes to counterbalance an awful start to the season. Now ninth in the standings, he’s put himself in position to win the last few weeks and looks like he’ll easily qualify for the Chase in his final season… Denny Hamlin had back spasms during one of the rain delays, causing him to be replaced by young Erik Jones. Jones held his own in his Sprint Cup debut and strengthened his case to be in the No. 18 Toyota before Kyle Busch returns… It’s the second straight year the Bristol spring race has been delayed by rain.


— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the Majority Owner of NASCAR Web site He can be reached at or on Twitter @NASCARBowles.


Steve Byrnes photo courtesy of NASCAR / Getty Images, other photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Steve Byrnes’ Passing After Bristol Race Felt Throughout NASCAR
Post date: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 - 17:40
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/nba-names-coach-sixth-man-year-award-winners

All things NBA come to a head in the spring, with playoff basketball coming as award season begins as well. This week, the league handed out the first two of its major trophies.


Lou Williams of the Toronto Raptors was designated Sixth Man of the Year after a renaissance season, during which he averaged 15.5 points, the most of his career, and was often the No. 1 offensive option in crunch time for the four-seeded dinosaurs.


The heartening part of Williams’ victory is that it means he’s made more than a full recovery from a torn ACL suffered in January 2013. Lou struggled to find a larger role with the Atlanta Hawks after that malady, but has a found a new home in Canada.


Williams garnered 78 out of 130 first-place votes, edging Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics and Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers—last year’s winner of the award.


The mystery of why this honor has been typecast goes, on though: It almost always goes to a score-first guard:


Post date: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 - 15:42
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-2015-football-schedule-and-analysis

Oregon enters a season after losing in the national title game for the second time in six years.


This time, Mark Helfrich has to rebuild without the best player in school history. While finding a replacement for Marcus Mariota is critical, it's just one of many challenges the Ducks must overcome if they expect to repeat as Pac-12 champs in 2015.


Oregon has one of the best rosters in the league but must face a schedule befitting a defending national runner-up.


2015 Oregon Ducks Schedule


Bye: Week 8, * - Thurs., ** - Fri.


1.Sept. 5Eugene, OR
Adams Bowl Should former Eastern Washington star quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. win the starting QB job for Oregon (as expected), he will have to face his former team in Week 1. From a storyline standpoint, it doesn't get any better than this. That EWU is an extremely good FCS program only adds more intrigue.
2.Sept. 12East Lansing, MI
Playoff Primer These two national powers played a thrilling, high-scoring bout a year ago before the Ducks pulled away in the final few minutes (46-27). This will mark the sixth-ever meeting — Oregon leads 3-2 — but this time around Michigan State is the team at home and with the star quarterback (Connor Cook).
3.Sept. 19Eugene, OR
The first meeting between these two programs could be ugly. State has only been playing high-level college football for a few years and the Panthers their last 11 games in 2014. Helfrich will get to see a lot of his young players in this one.
4.Sept. 26Eugene, OR
Utah was sneaky good last year and will be sneaky good again this year. But the Ducks handled the Utes with ease, 51-27, giving Oregon its third straight win over Utah in three Pac-12 meetings. The only win for Utah in the series since 1994 came in 2003 in Salt Lake. 
5.Oct. 3Boulder, CO
The all-time series appears close (11-8, Oregon) but the Buffs haven't been competitive since the late 1990s. Oregon has won five straight in the series and has averaged 50.8 points per game in the process. Colorado has scored 11.6 points per game over that span. Any crossover schedule that includes the Buffaloes is a lucky break.
6.Oct. 10Eugene, OR
The Ducks have won eight straight games against the Cougars and have scored at least 43 points in seven of those games — and at least 50 in five. That said, last year's 38-31 decision was the closest the Cougs have played the Ducks since the '06 upset win in Pullman. 
7.Oct. 17Seattle, WA
Upset Alert Despite dominating the series with 11 straight victories, the rebuilt Ducks will need to be on high alert in Seattle midway through October. The Huskies will get extra time to prep for arguably the biggest game in the Pac-12 North while the Ducks could be looking ahead to their bye the following week and the daunting slate that awaits them.
9.Oct. 29*Tempe, AZ
Pac-12 Title Game Preview? Arizona State could be one of the top picks to win the South Division and the long trip to the desert could be the toughest road trip for the Ducks all season. Oregon has a narrow edge in the all-time series 17-16 but only because ASU has lost eight straight. These two haven't met since 2012 and the Ducks have won four straight in Tempe. The bye week comes at a great time, giving Oregon two weeks to prepare.
10.Nov. 7Eugene, OR
Cal leads the all-time series 40-35-2 and that includes six straight losses to the Ducks. Oregon has scored at least 55 points in each of the last three meetings and only once over the last six have the Bears even topped 17 points.
11.Nov. 14Palo Alto, CA
North Division Championship Many are buying major improvement from an already solid Stanford squad in '15. And this physical rivalry has gone the way of the Cardinal in both 2012 and '13, giving Stanford the division and eventual Pac-12 title. The winner of this game has won the last five Pac-12 championships.
12.Nov. 21Eugene, OR
Pac-12 Title Game Preview II USC and Oregon could enter this game undefeated with both division titles, a Pac-12 title and potential Playoff berth hanging in the balance. Oregon should be playing its best football and will be looking for revenge for what took place the last time the Trojans paid a visit to Autzen Stadium - a thrilling 38-35 USC victory in 2011. Otherwise, Oregon has won three of four meetings with the most recent one occurring in 2012.
13.Nov. 27**Eugene, OR
The Civil War The 119th meeting between the two in-state rivals has gone the way of the Ducks seven consecutive years. Only two of those, 2013's overtime classic and a six-point game in '09, have even been close. This could be a coronation for Oregon once again.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Pac-12 Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Oregon Ducks 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-sec-college-towns-expert-poll

The old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” couldn’t be more true when it comes to ranking college towns.


Do you prefer larger metropolitan areas? Do you enjoy the isolated peace and quiet of a quaint small town? Cost of living, night life, food, culture, weather, surrounding geography and more go into evaluating a city.


Every college campus is unique and each one brings something different to the table.


When evaluating a bigger city like Nashville against a small town like Starkville or the culture of Gainesville with the Midwest tempo of Columbia, Mo., personal opinions will vary greatly. So we had some fun asking 12 SEC experts to rank their favorite SEC locations and here is what we learned:


The Voting Panel:


Tim Brando, FOX Sports

Dari Nowkhah, SEC Network

Tony Barnhart, AJC/SEC Net

Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated

Chris Low, ESPN

Wes Rucker, 247Sports

Laura Rutledge, SEC Network

Chad Withrow, 104.5 The Zone-Nashville

Kayce Smith, ESPN/SEC Net

Seth Emerson, Macon Telegraph

Josh Ward, WNML-Knoxville

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM


The Results:


Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 14 points.


RkJobVotes (1st)
1.Vanderbilt Football31 (5)
Nashville, Tenn. There may not be a hotter city in the nation than the 615. An exploding food and rock music scene have only added to the historic charm and excitement of Music City, USA. Vandy is located just outside of downtown and doesn't add too much to the city but West End (where the campus is located), like every surrounding borough, has grown exponentially over the last decade. A cultural hub of the Southeast, there is literally something for everyone in this exploding it-city. Nashville was voted first or second in the SEC by eight of the 12 experts.
2.34 (5)
Athens, Ga. Great food, great bars, great music — try R.E.M., Widespread Panic, Danger Mouse and the B-52s — and the gorgeous natural beauty of the East Georgia mountains make Athens a contender for best college town in America every year. There are few places in the country where catching a college football game is more enjoyable than Athens, Ga. The Dawgs' home town got five first-place votes and two second-place votes.
3.49 (2)
Oxford, Miss. It's a very small town but is rich on tradition and culture. Some of America's greatest writers call it home (William Faulkner, John Grisham) and The Grove might be the best place to tailgate anywhere in the world. It's extremely charming and has an excellent night life on Courthouse Square. Square Books, Library, The Blind Pig and countless other shops, bars and eateries belong on your must-do list. Oxford got the other two first-place votes.
Knoxville, Tenn. Larger than most towns in the SEC, Knoxville offers some unique attributes others in the league cannot. First, the greatest whitewater rafting in the world and Smoky Mountain National Park are just south of town. But a developing food and night life scene downtown have made Knoxville a much more attractive place to be in recent years. Check out Market Square for shopping, drinking and eating. The same can be said for the Old City as well. 
Baton Rouge, La. If food is your thing, then few places in college football can match LSU's home town. The most creative, eclectic and delicious menu of any tailgate can be found in Baton Rouge. And it's all amazing. The weather can border on desert-like when it comes to heat, but being a capital city gives it a ton of modern growth and technology. And being just up the road from New Orleans has its perks.
Tuscaloosa, Ala. Houndstooth Sports Bar and Dreamland BBQ are famous for a reason. They are must-do stops if ever in T-Town. Most of the city revolves around the extremely passionate fandom of Alabama sports. But the town is bigger than outsiders traditionally think, giving it more things to do than one might assume. Tuscaloosa is probably the nicest of the true SEC small towns. Which is why Tuscaloosa was voted as high as fourth and as low as 13th in this poll.
Auburn, Ala. It's one of the smallest college towns in the nation and there is literally nothing else in the area but the university so it's not for everyone. However, the charm is unending and the food scene is getting better and better. The Hound is awesome for brunch and BBQ. Acre is incredible fine dining and Hamilton's is right off Toomer's Corner (also, a must-see locale). I've eaten at all three and I'd go back to all of them. The developments and upgrades to the gorgeous brick campus only continue to improve the area.
Columbia, Mo. Possibly the most underrated town in the SEC, Columbia is one of the most forward-thinking locations in the league. The arts, journalism and social conscious attitudes are fostered by the university. The night scene is extremely underrated (and filled with crazy good pizza). This town has the most Midwestern vibe of any SEC town. 
Lexington, Ky. The horse capital of the world is one of the bigger places to live in the SEC at over 300,000 residents. There is a distinct identity with this town that is undeniable. The surrounding horse land has been preserved and the world's largest basketball-specific arena is located in downtown. Bluegrass and hoops, that's what Lexington does! 
College Station, Texas If you think Auburn is small and in the middle of nowhere, then you won't like College Station much either. It's flat and non-descript with little else going on but the campus. The food is excellent (duh, it's Texas) and there are a few solid bars with good music. So if you love golf, BBQ and Texas A&M sports, you will enjoy this place.
Gainesville, Fla. Unless you are an undergrad at the university, there isn't a whole lot to the city of Gainesville. It's really, really hot and humid most of the year and isn't a beach city like many outside of the region believe. There is some good music and plenty of places to party. But from a standard of living perspective for adults, there isn't a whole lot to sell about this town.
Fayetteville, Ark. Not much separates Fayetteville from Tuscaloosa. Arkansas' home base is more charming than outsiders believe and the beautiful Ozark Mountains offer plenty to do outside of town. There is also much more development in the area due to massive corporate growth from Walmart and Tyson. However, Fayetteville is difficult to get to for most travelers. For what it's worth, I had Fayetteville at eighth on my ballot.
Columbia, S.C. Another capital city mixing with a college campus. There is a ton of promise in this town but it has yet to catch its stride and develop like a Nashville for example. The school and campus are the best part of being in Columbia. Four of the 12 voters placed this town as one of the worst two in the SEC.
Starkville, Miss. There isn't a whole lot to write about here. The atmosphere surrounding the various sporting events (namely, football and baseball) add plenty of charm but there is nothing to do here and it's smack dab in the middle of nowhere. It got nine of the 12 last-place votes.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 SEC Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Ranking the SEC College Towns (Expert Poll)
Post date: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA
Path: /nba/chicago-bulls-win-playoff-brawl-milwaukee-bucks

A new rivalry might be brewing in the NBA’s midwest.


The Chicago Bulls went up 2-0 in their first round playoff series Monday night, defeating the young, underdog Milwaukee Bucks 91-82. Jimmy Butler led the way for Chicago, scoring 31 points, including a 12-point explosion in the fourth quarter. He also displayed his confidence with this moment:


The game got a bit chippy, too. Bucks big man Zaza Pachulia was ejected from the game late in the fourth quarter, after wrestling with Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic and then elbowing him in the head. Mirotic then sat out the rest of the contest with a strained quad, and possibly a concussion.


The skirmish between Pachulia and Mirotic was a culmination of multiple scrums throughout. The Bucks are outmatched by veteran Chicago, but they’re hungry, lengthy at every position, and coached well enough by Jason Kidd to give the Bulls some serious problems. Butler, Derrick Rose and Co. struggled for much of the game through Milwaukee’s forest of strategic limbs, scoring a measly 11 points in the opening quarter.


The Bucks may have stumbled into the postseason on a string of bad growing pains, but they’re showing against the Bulls that they are — at the very least — a nuisance to be taken seriously. Their competitive fire against a team that could be Finals-bound is a surely refreshing sight to fans of the rebuilding franchise, and their ability to at least get under Chicago’s skin a little is an omen of greater things to come.


Game 3 between the sides moves to Milwaukee, on Thursday night. The Bucks’ home court is typically invaded by fans from nearby Chicago when the Bulls visit, but an exciting new squad may start reversing that trend soon.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/reds-manager-bryan-price-delivers-profane-rant-ages

Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price secured a spot among great managerial rants in baseball history with an expletive-filled tirade with reporters after Monday’s 6-1 win over the Brewers.


Responding to a question from C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer on the status of All-Star catcher Devin Mesoraco, Price lit into accurate reports about roster moves concerning his team.


The final tally was 77 “F” words and 11 “S” words. Quite impressive for a rant after game No. 13 of a 162-game season.


Reds Manager Bryan Price Delivers Profane Rant for the Ages
Post date: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 - 09:19
Path: /college-football/north-carolina-updates-football-uniforms-argyle-design-2015

North Carolina’s uniform is one of the best in the ACC, and the Tar Heels will open 2015 with a revamped design to the helmet, jersey and pants.


By no means is this a drastic redesign for North Carolina. However, the uniform features argyle on the uniform and helmet.


Here are more photos of North Carolina’s football uniforms for 2015:  

North Carolina Updates Football Uniforms With Argyle Design for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/ranking-nbas-best-2015-draft-prospects

6. D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State

Russell surprised many with his freshman year performance at Ohio State and has emerged only in recent months as a potential lottery selection. Just as Elfrid Payton rose in last year’s draft on the strength of intangible traits, Russell's standing seems to be quickly rising due to qualities that you can’t exactly put your hands on. D’Angelo is confident and creative and has instincts that seem tailor-made for a bold step up into the next level. We might look back and see him as a steal.


5. Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia

The Latvian big man has enjoyed some rising buzz in recent days. Like Dirk Nowizki before him, Porzingis is a lengthy European with a tantalizing skill set. A seven-footer with unusual mobility and shooting range, his upside has scouts drooling. Kristaps can leap like a man much smaller than him, and frequently gets out ahead of the pack on the break, for alley-oop finishes. Players this tall, who run the floor this well, simply don’t come around very often. His wiry frame is a source of concern — can Porzingis beef up enough to avoid the abuse of NBA bullies, and can he keep his unique body healthy while doing so? These are seemingly valid questions, but they may be asked in vain if Porzingis is what he looks like: a singular player.


4. Jahlil Okafor, Duke

Okafor is still regarded as the top man in the upcoming draft by many analysts. But while the dominance he displayed as a post scorer in college does look largely translatable to the professional level, it’s not clear the Chicago-born big man can do much else that will carry over. An average defender, at best, under Krzyzewski, Jahlil’s strong suit of scoring down low is of debatable relevance in the contemporary NBA. Today, professional centers — more than ever — are expected to squash easy attempts at the rim from the opposition. Skeptics believe Okafor might give up, on the other end, as much he gives as a scorer.


3. Justise Winslow, Duke

Winslow appreciators came out in droves during the NCAA tournament, in which Justise became an indispensable piece of a title run, and arguably a more important one than Jahlil Okafor, Duke’s center who’d enjoyed much of the team’s glory throughout the regular season. Winslow’s versatility, mobility, and poise under pressure make him an appealing option at the small forward position, which has been one of the NBA’s weakest for years. And, of course, it never hurts to have gone through a year of the Mike Krzyzewski thresher.


2. Emmanuel Mudiay, China

Mudiay is the best 2015 point prospect for a league that’s increasingly guard-driven. A bit off the radar for his decision to play in China for $1.2 million (as opposed to zero dollars, in the NCAA), Emmanuel is along a path previously only forged by Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings. The same questions that plagued Jennings (a No. 10 overall selection by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2009) and his draft status are likely to threaten Mudiay’s stock. The choice to go abroad will help his wallet in the short term, but it leaves many scouts wondering if his development wouldn’t have been better served domestically. Mudiay is big for a point guard, though, without sacrificing any elite athleticism for his frame, and the right organization could easily turn him into a franchise player over time.


1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

The role of big men in the NBA has changed quite bit over the last decade, and Kentucky’s Towns is perhaps better suited to fit into the demands of contemporary league centers than any draft prospect we’ve seen this decade. As a freshman, he showed an all-around knack that bodes well for his future as a pro. He’s not just a post scorer, or a defensive bully — though he’s capable of being both — but is also comfortable operating near the elbow, playing a pass-first style, or chasing stretch bigs out to the perimeter. If his outside shooting can improve, he has the chance to be something like a very bulky wing man. Towns is not only massive — he’s also incredibly skilled.


— John Wilmes

Post date: Monday, April 20, 2015 - 17:07
All taxonomy terms: Philadelphia Eagles, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/tim-tebow-gets-another-chance-signs-philadelphia-eagles

Tim Tebow will receive at least one more shot at an NFL career after signing a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday.


The 2007 Heisman winner and two-time national champion at Florida participated in an offseason workout for Philadelphia on Monday.


The signing of Tebow, who hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2012, is the latest in a number of high-profile unorthodox moves by Eagles coach Chip Kelly.


Tebow was a first-round NFL draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2010 and went 7-4 as a starter in 2011, leading the Broncos to a playoff win in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers.


The Broncos traded Tebow to the New York Jets in 2012 where he played sparingly. He signed with the Patriots in 2013 but did not make the regular season roster.


Tebow is 8-6 as a starter in his career and has completed 47.9 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions, all with Denver.


Since he was cut by the Patriots, Tebow had been an analyst for the SEC Network.



Tim Tebow Gets Another Chance, Signs with Philadelphia Eagles
Post date: Monday, April 20, 2015 - 16:40
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-takes-no-1-spot-spring-game-attendance-record

Some day a college football program is going to hit six figures in attendance — for a spring game.


Ohio State came 609 fans short of the 100,000 mark Saturday when it drew what is presumed to be a record for spring game attendance.


The Buckeyes counted 99,391 fans to their spring scrimmage Saturday, and just think what it would have been had quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and/or Braxton Miller played. Would that might have been good for an extra 400 fans?


Spring game attendance is a tricky thing: Not every school tracks it. Tickets are often free. Many schools provide merely estimates.


That said, in recent years, several schools have provided attendance figures, so it’s worth looking at which schools had the biggest spring crowds.


Ohio State has the top two, but Alabama has six of the top 11 on record.


For this list, we used figures from for crowds through 2013, for 2014 and Kevin McGuire of for 2015 so far.


Top Spring Game Attendance Figures Since 2007


1.201599,391Defending national champion
4.200792,138First season under Nick Saban
5.201091,312Defending national champion
7.201383,401First season under Gus Malzahn
8.201281,112First season under Urban Meyer
9.200880,149First season under Bo Pelini
10.201378,315Defending national champion
11.201278,315Defending national champion
12.201576,881First season under Mike Riley
15.201472,000First season under James Franklin
20.200965,000Defending national champion
24.201560,000First season under Jim Harbuagh


Ohio State Takes No. 1 Spot for Spring Game Attendance Record
Post date: Monday, April 20, 2015 - 13:48
Path: /college-football/holgorsen-howard-clear-cut-number-1

On Saturday, the West Virginia University football team wrapped up its final open practice at The Greenbrier before the Gold-Blue game Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.


Most of the news this past Saturday was centered around Mountaineer junior quarterback Skyler Howard.


During his media session, West Virginia head football coach Dana Holgorsen announced Howard as the "clear-cut" No. 1 quarterback.


"He is the clear-cut No. 1 right now. Not even close," Holgorsen said. "He's a different kid. He's operating well. I sure hope I am not jinxing him right now. He is operating very well and looks great. His teammates believe in him. The coaches believe in him."


Holgorsen mentioned he has grown from the end of last season through the spring to this point.


"Everything. His knowledge. His fundamentals are good," he said. "He's accurate and he's throwing the deep ball well. His communication is really good. His understanding of the offense continues to improve."


Holgorsen continued.


"He's stepped up. I said the same thing last year (wanting someone to step up and take the quarterback job). He just wasn't ready to do it. He's making plays. Just put it that way. He's making plays and people believe in him. That's what you look for in a quarterback." Holgorsen said.


After listening to Holgorsen, it sounds like the team has a clear understanding of who's leading in the clubhouse.


"Probably. I don't think I need to say it to the team," Holgorsen said. "I think they understand where we are at with it. It's all about the development of the young guys. Are any of the young guys going to get enough reps and make enough plays where they warrant a first team rep?"


Right now, the answer is no. So Skyler is the guy.


As for the younger guys, the work to improve continues.


"All the other young kids are young kids. They are freshman and keep getting better. How good they get I don't know. We are going to keep repping the heck out of them and watch them and see how they progress." he said.


With the team set to put a bow on the 2015 spring, WVU has the confidence in knowing they have found a starter and can focus on chemistry during the summer months.


[Skyler Howard photo courtesy of]


— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.

West Virginia Head Coach Dana Holgorsen Tabs Skyler Howard "Clear-cut" No. 1 Quarterback
Post date: Monday, April 20, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/texas-am-aggies-2015-schedule-and-analysis

Kevin Sumlin enters his fourth season at Texas A&M with a rising collection of elite recruits and a brand-new defensive coordinator to go with his brand-new stadium.


The Aggies may be ready to compete for a SEC West Division crown with John Chavis manning the defense. But to reach Atlanta, this squad will have to navigate one of the more difficult schedules in the nation — even with two “easier” crossover opponents.


2015 Texas A&M Aggies Schedule


Bye: Week 6


1.Sept. 5Houston, TX*
Scoreboard Showdown It may be called a neutral-site game, but one has to believe that Aggie fans will out-number Sun Devil supporters in Houston. This marks the first-ever meeting between the two and it should be a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair. Both offenses are great and both teams could be ranked in the top 20 to start the season. What's not to love about a rare Pac-12 vs. SEC matchup?
2.Sept. 12College Station, TX
The home opener for the Aggies will come against Ball State. These two have also never faced one another and the Cardinals figure to be overmatched here. The defense needs to show signs of life in this warm-up test.
3.Sept. 19College Station, TX
Only once before have these two programs met — a 48-18 Texas A&M win in 1950 in San Antonio (what?). Nevada can score points, so this should be an interesting test for John Chavis' defense. Although, it won't help much with the following game...
4.Sept. 26Arlington, TX*
Rivalry Restored One of the great aspects to TAMU landing in the SEC West is the renewed rivalry with Arkansas. This was a thriller last season, as Kenny Hill led a wild comeback in overtime. The Hogs lead all-time 41-27-3, but have lost three straight to the Ags. This is a huge early-season pecking order game in the West.
5.Oct. 3College Station, TX
The all-time series is tied at four. These two met four times before World War II, have played three times in SEC play and met in the Independence Bowl in 2000. This has been a high-scoring affair over the last three seasons and the Aggies were embarrassed a year ago in Starkville. Texas A&M has never lost at home to MSU.
7.Oct. 17College Station, TX
Must-See TV This was an obliteration last season when Alabama stepped on Texas A&M's neck 59-0 in an eye-opening win for the Tide. The two previous SEC meetings between Kevin Sumlin and Saban, however, were fantastic battles totaling 144 combined points. Have the Aggies closed the gap enough to compete at home against the mighty Tide?
8.Oct. 24Oxford, MS
Last season was the only win for Ole Miss in the all-time series against Texas A&M (6-1), but it was a thorough performance by the Rebels at Kyle Field. Three times have these two programs met in the Magnolia State and all three times the Aggies prevailed. Facing Ole Miss on the road a week after hosting Alabama is a lot to ask of any team.
9.Oct. 31College Station, TX
My favorite part of the fabricated Alamo Rivalry so far has been Steve Spurrier's comments at last year's SEC Media Days. We can all hope that his Gamecocks don't go down to Texas and "get killed and so forth" this time around. Texas A&M shocked Carolina in the season opener last year in the only meeting between the two programs.
10.Nov. 7College Station, TX
Instant Classic This has been an instant classic ever since the Aggies joined the SEC. The combined score in the last two games is 83-82 and the road team is 3-0 in three SEC meetings. Expect nothing but the same in this late-season divisional showdown. Who could ever forget the fourth quarter when these two last met at Kyle Field two years ago? Texas A&M is 4-1 all-time vs. Auburn with the two pre-SEC meetings coming in 1911 and '86 in Dallas.
11.Nov. 14College Station, TX
Texas A&M's seemingly mandatory November cupcake will be Western Carolina this fall. These two programs have never played and it's a safe bet the Catamounts won't want anything to do with the Aggies after 60 minutes.
12.Nov. 21Nashville, TN
Vanderbilt and Texas A&M have faced each other only once before and it got ugly quickly. Johnny Manziel and the Aggies rolled to a 56-24 win over James Franklin's Dores two seasons ago in College Station. Looking ahead could be the only issue here for the Ags.
13.Nov. 28Baton Rouge, LA
Chavis Bowl There has been one name in the SEC who has managed to shut down Kevin Sumlin's offense and it's John Chavis. Now, Chavis will return to Tiger Stadium with an Aggies logo on his chest. This budding SEC rivalry has featured four straight wins by LSU (2011-14), who leads the all-time series 30-20-3.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 SEC Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Texas A&M Aggies 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Monday, April 20, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-ten-college-towns-expert-poll

The old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” couldn’t be more true when it comes to ranking college towns.


Do you prefer larger metropolitan areas? Do you enjoy the isolated peace and quiet of a quaint small town? Cost of living, nightlife, food, culture, weather, surrounding geography and more go into evaluating a city.


Every college campus is unique and each one brings something different to the table.


When evaluating a big city like Chicago against a small town like State College or the culture of Piscataway with the tempo of Iowa City, personal opinions will vary greatly. So we had some fun asking 10 Big Ten experts to rank their favorite Big Ten locations:


The Voting Panel:


Gerry DiNardo, Big Ten Network

Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune

Adam Rittenberg, ESPN

Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network

Kevin McGuire, College Football Talk

Sean Callahan,

Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network

Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network

Kevin Noon,

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM


The Results:


Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 14 points.


RkJobVotes (1st)
1.12 (8)
Madison, Wis. There is no place like it in the Big Ten during fall Saturdays and it's why Madtown is routinely voted one of the nation's best college towns. The capital city is located between two gorgeous lakes and is home to the famed State Street — and it's delicious brat haze. It's vibrant, fun, welcoming and an absolute blast. This is the case even during the cold winter months, which is why Madison got eight of 10 first-place votes.
2.35 (1)
Ann Arbor, Mich. It’s the quintessential campus locale just 45 minutes west of Lake Erie. There is no doubting you are in a college town as the growth of Ann Arbor has centered around technology and research stemming from the university. The downtown is charming and houses one of the best main streets in the Big Ten complete with fine dining, nightlife and more. There is a stateliness to Ann Arbor that is reflective of the great university located there.
State College, Pa. Dubbed Happy Valley, State College isn't easy to get to but is worth the trip — and not just for the 110,000 screaming Lions fans. Bordered by the Allegheny Mountains, it has a great downtown of roughly 100,000 people while also feeling remote and quaint at the same time. The outdoor activities are among the best in the conference and climbing Mount Nittany is a right of passage. Also be sure to visit Penn State Creamery in this idyllic college locale.
Columbus, Ohio Many outside of Ohio wouldn't guess that Columbus is the biggest city in the state. A revitalized downtown offers more to do than most typical college towns. It might be too big for some (voted 10th by one panelist and ninth by two others) but professional sports, nightlife and High Street give the massive fanbase plenty to do while in town. Columbus got three second-place votes.
Bloomington, Ind. About an hour off any major interstate southwest of Indianapolis, Bloomington has a time-capsule feel. The bar scene is great and the food is solid in this prototypical college atmosphere. Laid back might be the best way to describe the Midwest feel of the gorgeous Indiana campus.
6.64 (1)
Iowa City, Iowa A perfect blend of city and town is where the Hawkeyes call home. The fifth largest city in Iowa, located just west of the Illinois border, Iowa City has a little bit of everything to offer visitors, especially if you are into literature. Sure, there is plenty of nightlife, quality dining and the "Ped Mall" but also a storied literary scene complete with a book festival. It was one of just three places to get a first-place vote on this panel.
Evanston, Ill. If you like big cities, few places in the world compare to The Windy City. Evanston is located on the north side of Chicago, situated along Lake Michigan and is a short train ride to Wrigley Field. Northwestern offers the best of both worlds — campus life nestled inside a bustling, massive metroplex (and they'll tell you about it).
East Lansing, Mich. Located smack-dab in the middle of the state (between Detroit and Grand Rapids), East Lansing could be one of the quicker developing cities on this list. It's fairly non-descript but hosts a variety of festivals and events. It's, uh, east of the state capital of Lansing.
Minneapolis, Minn. A very underrated location to live — at least, for eight months of the year — The Twin Cities offer plenty for visitors and residents alike. Parks, biking and theaters are prevalent and the downtown experience is awesome. If you can handle the frigid winters, Minneapolis is one of the best places in the Big Ten.
Lincoln, Neb. There isn't a lot to do in Lincoln but support the Big Red. The campus is inviting and it should come as no surprise that Memorial Stadium is the focal point of the town, as the massive structure rises from the relatively mundane horizon line. Silicon Prairie is a great place to get a steak and be sure to check out the Haymarket District.
College Park, Md. The nation's capital is just down the road so the busy Beltway could function as a negative or a positive depending on your taste. The rolling-hilled campus is sort of an oasis within the built-up corridor. Check out M Circle or the Memorial Chapel, as there always seems like something to do on Baltimore Ave.
Champaign, Ill. At nearly 150,000 residents, Champaign-Urbana is larger than you'd expect but doesn't have any of the big city problems (like congested traffic). It's located in the middle of nowhere and there isn't much to do. It's really green, though, so it's got that going for it.
Piscataway, N.J. One tourism website designed to sell the Big Ten cities as destinations didn't mention a single thing about Piscataway in the description. I'm guessing that's for a reason. It's cold and in New Jersey. This town got three last-place votes.
West Lafayette, Ind. It's one of the smallest towns on this list at under 50,000 residents. There isn't a whole lot to do, both indoors or out other than the Lafayette Brewery and the Wabash River. If you like brick and Greek parties, then this is your place. Otherwise, continue down I-65 to Indy or Chi-town. Purdue's home city got seven last-place votes.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big Ten Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Expert Poll: Ranking the Big Ten's Football Jobs in 2015
Post date: Monday, April 20, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/texas-tech-needs-david-gibbs-reverse-defensive-woes

Spring practice for the Texas Tech defense may as well be spring training for a high school baseball team.


Always watching, new defensive coordinator David Gibbs is telling his players to keep their eye on the ball. Or more specifically the quarterback and when and where the ball is going.


A defender might break up a pass or get a takeaway, but if his eyes aren’t where Gibbs wants them to be, he’ll hear it.


“If your eyes aren’t in the right spot as you go through a progression, even if you make a play, he won’t be happy because it isn’t the way he teaches it,” safety J.J. Gaines said.


Texas Tech’s defense needs more than just eyes on the ball. The Red Raiders need their hands on the ball.


That’s why Gibbs is here. Texas Tech had only 15 takeaways last season, 18 the year before and 13 before that. The Red Raiders defense hasn’t had more than 20 takeaways in a season since 2010.


At one point, Texas Tech went 16 consecutive games without a positive turnover margin and 12 consecutive games in the red. Obviously, there’s an offensive component to all this, but in those 16 games, Texas Tech’s defense forced only 18 turnovers. Texas Tech went 5-11 overall and 2-10 in the Big 12 in those 16 games.



Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big 12 Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Meanwhile, on the other side of the state, Houston was racking up turnovers at a near-record pace. The Cougars had twice as many takeaways as Texas Tech in 2014. They’ve had more takeaways in the last two seasons (73) than Texas Tech had in their last four (66).


If for no other reason than the stat sheet, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury had to give Houston’s defensive coordinator, Gibbs, a look. Whatever approach Gibbs brought to Houston, Texas Tech needs some of that magic touch if the Red Raiders are going to reverse their momentum.


“I don’t have any miracle answers,” Gibbs said. “Just because it worked at Houston doesn’t mean it’s going work here. But I also believe in the system that we’ve put in.”


Perhaps this is basic, but Gibbs is focusing on eye discipline to boost Texas Tech’s dismal turnover numbers. For a team that has the fewest takeaways in the Big 12 in the last three seasons (40), Gibbs has to start with the basics.


“We’re built on more pressure and keeping eyes on the quarterback and when the ball is thrown, where the ball is thrown, it allows you to have more guys breaking on the ball,” Gibbs said. 


The 47-year-old Gibbs is well-traveled. He’s coached defensive backs for three different NFL teams and has been a coordinator at Minnesota and Auburn.


His 2013 season at Houston was something of a breakout. Houston forced 43 turnovers, eight more than any other team in the country that year. The Cougars also averaged nearly a plus-2 turnover margin per game (plus-1.92).


How did Houston thrive on turnovers? Some of it was certainly ability and coaching. The Cougars were also a statistical anomaly.


According to Football Study Hall, teams recover roughly 50 percent of all fumbles and intercept 22 percent of passes defended (interceptions plus pass breakups). 


The 2013 Houston defense recovered 69.3 percent of fumbles and intercepted 31.3 percent of defending passes. Combined with the offense’s good fortune, Houston “nearly broke the system,” Football Study Hall’s Bill Connelly wrote.


In other words, Houston was lucky. But there’s something to be said about being at the right place at the right time.


“I believe you ask a basketball coach if you believe that his team got outhustled or outrebounded or watch a basketball game and one team always gets the loose balls, what’s the difference between a loose ball in basketball than a fumble in football? It’s hustle,” Gibbs said. “It’s guys running to the football. It’s a combination of things. Is it luck? Yeah, it’s luck.”


As much as Gibbs needs to reverse Tech’s turnover trend, he needs to repair a dismal run defense. The Red Raiders allowed a Big 12-worst 259.5 rushing yards per game and allowed 5.2 yards per carry, the eighth-worst average in the league.


Opponents weren’t afraid to average 50 carries per game against the Red Raiders because they knew Tech couldn’t do anything to stop it.


Defensive line has been a major issue, and Texas Tech is counting on a true freshman, Breiden Fehoko, to be an impact player. The linebackers are short on experience as well.


Perhaps some of the youth might be a good thing. Gibbs is the fifth person to coordinate the defense since Ruffin McNeill left before the 2010 season. 


In many ways, all the ingredients of a disorganized defense were present in Lubbock in recent years.


Gibbs is another new face, so where might he succeed where others have not? If Gibbs can get everyone in the right place at the right time, he’ll have a fighting chance to turn around the Red Raiders’ defense.


“That’s what happens on these bad defenses,” Gibbs said. “You got guys trying to do too much and then all heck breaks loose. I see it on good defenses. But the good defenses have good players behind the players making the mistakes. The problem at some of these places is that you don’t have the erasers. I’m not saying they were doing it last year, but they’re not going to do it this year.”

Texas Tech Needs David Gibbs to Reverse Defensive Woes
Post date: Monday, April 20, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/we-cant-stop-giggling-dizzy-punt

Move over Dizzy Bat, now we have Dizzy Punt.


What’s Dizzy Punt, you ask? Coaches at Dakota State, an NAIA program in Madison, S.D., show us, and we’re pretty much going to keep it on a loop for a few minutes.


(h/t @footballscoop)


What's a Dizzy Punt? Glad You Asked
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 14:55
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/nba-western-conference-playoffs-preview-and-predictions

NBA Western Conference Playoffs: Preview and Predictions


First Round

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans can’t beat the Warriors in a seven-game series. The truer debate lies in deciding whether they can win one game against Golden State. An emboldened, postseason version of Anthony Davis will be a sight to see regardless, though. Davis is the best 21-year-old the league has ever seen, and his late-April debut against Steph Curry’s squad makes for a potentially unforgettable moment of introduction. While this may be the least competitive series in the West’s first round, it could also very well be its most watchable.

Verdict: Warriors in 4


(2) Houston Rockets vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks

With full health, the Rockets would be runaway favorites against discombobulated Dallas. But without Patrick Beverley to help cause Maverick headaches with with his perimeter defense, and without the extra punch Donatas Motiejunas gives them down low, this could be a drawn-out affair for Houston. James Harden and Dwight Howard — along with the armada of relentless Rockets wing defenders—should still be able to lead the way into the second round, but they might tire themselves out quite a bit getting there.

Verdict: Rockets in 7


(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs

Pour one out for Chris Paul. The Clippers point guard has had a fabulous season, and deserves every bit of MVP consideration he gets. But Los Angeles is undeniably overmatched against the surging defending champion Spurs, and their likely first-round exit is only going to give more fuel to the band of CP3 haters who criticize him for his lack of postseason success. The Spurs look poised to take the NBA throne back again, and it seems like a bit of Greek poetry that Paul has to stand in their way so early along the defense path.

Verdict: Spurs in 6


(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies

Both of these teams are somewhat fortunate to have found each other. The Blazers and Grizzlies both limp into the first round, collectors of broken bodies and holders of lowered hopes. Mike Conley Jr. has been far less than his best self for months, playing on a bum foot, Marc Gasol recently sprained his ankle, and Tony Allen and Courtney Lee have been on and off the floor for a long while. At least their injuries aren’t keeping their men out of action, though: the Blazers will do battle without Wesley Matthews, arguably their most important defender. Expect Memphis to come out alive in this war of attrition.

Verdict: Grizzlies in 6


Second Round

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies

Barring Memphis finding a miracle curative elixir, the Warriors’ path of relatively little resistance should continue into the second round. If Memphis can walk into the bout with good health, they can cause Golden State trouble—Zach Randolph is a post-player who can most definitely make the Warriors second-guess their decision to start the undersized Draymond Green at power forward. But the Warriors are likely to waltz through their series with the Pelicans, while the Grizzlies face a more punishing climb in their matchup against Portland. Stamina is always key in the playoffs, and the Warriors look set to have far more of the stuff.

Verdict: Warriors in 5


(2) Houston Rockets vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs

The Rockets, again, should find themselves cursing the injury Gods against San Antonio. Every bit of depth is needed against the Spurs, and the Rockets will more than notice their two missing, crucial pieces of it when Gregg Popovich is running them ragged with relentless ten-man rotations. Putting Kawhi Leonard on James Harden, too, should give San Antonio an edge that no other team in the conference could have over the Rockets. Like Paul before him, Harden might start to see a thin playoff resume diminish his reputation in the eyes of casual fans, after another premature playoff exit.

Verdict: Spurs in 6


Western Conference Finals

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs

This series could very well be the NBA Finals — whoever comes out of the East might be ill-suited to contend with either winner. For the Warriors, the sight of San Antonio is certainly scarier than any that could come from the other coast. A late-season Golden State thrashing at the hands of the Spurs put the league on notice, as San Antonio showed it has what it takes to mess up the Warriors’ brilliance on the perimeter. You can’t stop Steph Curry, but if you’ve got Leonard and Danny Green to throw at him, you can come as close as you need to.

Verdict: Spurs in 6


— John Wilmes


Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 12:54
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/dale-earnhardt-jr-bristol-motor-speedway-dewshine-and-old-crow-medicine-show

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been named the Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver for 12 straight years (2003-14). The 40-year-old son of racing royalty and member of the Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut is a fan favorite, for obvious reasons. But what does Dale Jr. like? Start with Bristol Motor Speedway, where he will race Sunday.


Athlon Sports caught up with Dale Jr. to talk about the iconic track, childhood memories at the bullring, the new paint scheme on his No. 88 Chevrolet and one of Dale Jr.’s favorite bands — Old Crow Medicine Show, who will play the Bristol prerace concert this weekend.


Where does Bristol rank among tracks on the Cup schedule?

Bristol fights for that top spot. I always loved going there as a kid. It’s one of the more exciting racetracks to be at as a fan. When I used to go watch my father race, being able to run around the pits and garage area all weekend long, when they were preparing to race and then sit down and watch the race, there’s not a bad seat in the house at Bristol. And it’s as much fun to race there as it was to see. It’s very special to me and my heart. It’s a tough race to win, but it’s a great feeling when you do.


What is your favorite Bristol memory?

When we swept in ’04. That was a great, great weekend. To be able to win the Nationwide race and the Cup race. We lapped all the way up to sixth place in the Cup race. We had this long, uncharacteristic green-flag run where we had to pit under green. We ended up lapping a lot of cars. Our car was just the class of the field that night.


Does a win mean more at a historic track like Bristol?

Yeah, it does. I like the history of the sport. I grew up in a house full of trophies, right? With my dad winning all the races he won, there was trophies on every shelf. Some of those trophies are different, more unique than others. The trophy for Bristol is a very, very tall trophy. I remember one of the races he won at Bristol, I got a picture of me standing next to the trophy and I’m shorter than the trophy.


When you’re a kid and you see something that big that you can win at that event, No. 1 you hoped it would never change, so when you got your opportunity to race there you could win the same trophy. And you hoped you’d have that opportunity, No. 2. And we were able to do that.



You don’t seem to drive quite as aggressive as your father, “The Intimidator” Dale Earnhardt. Why is that?

Well, it’s easy to be aggressive when your cars are good. I’ve been aggressive when the time comes — when it seems to be necessary and when the car can do it. You can’t go running with guys when you’re not handling well or the car doesn’t have a lot of speed because they’ll get you back pretty easy.


Who’s most likely to cause a problem at Bristol?

Anybody, really. Anybody. Whoever’s up there. … Anyone in that position is gonna do whatever it takes to win. Because Bristol’s a track where guys want that trophy on their mantle.


Any pranks planned for teammate Jeff Gordon’s last season?

I’m sure Jimmie (Johnson) has some ideas on some things he’s got brewing. I don’t know if he’ll clue in me and Kasey (Kahne).


Old Crow Medicine Show is playing the prerace show at Bristol. You’re a big fan of those guys aren’t you?

Yeah I been listening to them guys. I actually come across them about four or five years ago and love a lot of their songs. They kind of turned me on to a new genre of music that I’d really not heard before. And being a fan I was really excited when I heard they were gonna come play at the pre-race, so all the other drivers and mechanics and guys can actually get a chance to see them and hear them. So it’ll be great.


What do you think about the new Mountain Dew DEWshine paint scheme on the No. 88 car, which will debut at Bristol?

I guess what matters is what everybody else thinks. I’m just anxious to see what the fans think. I had a little involvement myself. I think it turned out great. The gold numbers are back for Bristol. We’re gonna put some tire marks on that thing and hopefully put it in Victory Lane on top of that building over there at Turn 3.



Ketch Secor, lead singer of Old Crow Medicine Show, on Bristol:

That’s where motor racing really calls home — the place where Tennessee and North Carolina and Virginia and Kentucky all come together. That’s sort of the epicenter, in my mind, of racing. Racing fans, they really come from that part of the country.


Anyhow, we’ve always loved playing music in Bristol, Tennessee. It’s the birthplace of country music. It’s a place where the Bristol Sessions found the discovery of some of the seminal figures in early country music history. So, we’ll be really proud to be part of the show this April 19.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks about everything going on at the Bristol bullring this weekend.
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 11:46
Path: /college-football/georgia-tech-declares-itself-state-champion-orange-bowl-rings

Georgia Tech is making sure it commemorates its first win over rival Georgia in six years.


The Yellow Jackets also went on to win the Orange Bowl, defeating Mississippi State 49-34 and earning a bowl championship ring.


One side of the Orange Bowl championship ring commemorates the Yellow Jackets' ACC Coastal title. The other salutes the Georgia “State Champs.” Georgia Tech also defeated Sun Belt champion Georgia Southern 42-38.


Georgia Tech quarterback Tim Byerly shared an image of the ring during his stint as a guest Tweeter for @GTStudents on Thursday.


(h/t @KevinOnCFB)



Georgia Tech Declares itself State Champion on Orange Bowl Rings
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 11:24
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-football-coaching-jobs-2015-expert-poll

Is it easier to win at USC or UCLA? How about Oregon, Stanford or Washington?


Which program provides the most support? Which program has access to the best players? Which program has proven it can succeed at a high level over time? Which program has the most pressure to win?


These are all the questions head coaches must ask themselves when deciding to accept a job or not.


So Athlon Sports asked some respected Pac-12 minds one question: Where would you want to coach if the slates (rosters, sanctions, etc.) were wiped clean and all 12 jobs were available?


The Voting Panel:

Anthony Herron, ESPN/Pac-12 Network

Jon Solomon, CBSSports

Pat Forde, Yahoo!

Scott Wolf, LA Daily News

Dennis Dodd, CBSSports

Dan Rubenstein, SB Nation

Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports

George Schroeder, USA Today

Ryan Abraham,

Bryan Fischer,

Ralph Russo, AP

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM


The Results:


Voting: A first-place vote was worth one point and a last-place vote was worth 12 points. The points are a great indicator of what tier your program is in within the conference.


RkJobVotes (1st)
1.13 (13)
Like Ohio State in the Big Ten and Texas in the Big 12, USC dominated the voting by landing all 13 first-place votes. The money is huge, the location is nearly perfect, the rich recruiting base is unmatched, and the history of success is second to none in the league. With the exception of cost of living and the distracted nature of the L.A. market, this job has no weaknesses.
Two decades ago, the Ducks would have been ranked behind UCLA and Washington among others. Yet, the big business of sports and the flash of NIKE money have tangibly increased the Ducks' status not only in the Pac-12 but nationally. Eugene boasts the best stadium/fans in the conference and the facilities are some of the most impressive in the nation. In-state recruiting isn't all that fertile but few brands carry as much clout nationally as Oregon. The Ducks scored all but one second-place vote.
Like Texas A&M or Clemson, there are few excuses for UCLA not to be great. All of the same positives USC enjoys help the Bruins as well. The difference is lack of support and commitment from the administration over time (which is getting better). This has long been a basketball school first. Yet, UCLA has been a sleeping giant for years and Jim Mora may finally be waking the beast. UCLA got six third-place votes and one second-place vote.
The only home atmosphere out West that rivals Autzen Stadium is Husky Stadium. Some of the league's best fans and one of the nation's most picturesque venues/campuses makes UW an extremely desirable gig. Financial support doesn't seem to be a problem and in-state recruiting is adequate (although, not elite). This program has won a national title in the last 30 years and has all of the needed advantages to return to those heights. The Huskies got four third-place votes.
Arizona is a quality state for talent and dipping into California is par for the course at ASU. The stadium keeps getting better, the facilities are improving annually and the fans are, uh, gorgeously supportive. Does this program have the same national appeal and clout of those above it? No. But can Arizona State win at a high level consistently in the Pac-12? You bet.
There are major positives about working in Palo Alto but there are major hurdles as well. The prestige of the job is world renowned and the campus is an easy sell not only to the glut of in-state recruits but also nationally. The facilities are strong as well. However, the fan support won't ever match the bigger programs in the sport and sports aren't always a top priority among the powers that be at Stanford.
Arizona won't ever be confused as a Pac-12 power but it has done an excellent job of competing over time. The recruiting base is excellent but being able to lure outside prospects to the desert is important for any head coach in Tucson. There isn't any big-time tradition of gridiron success, but the stadium is slowly but surely becoming competitive with the bigger boys in the league. Zona isn't an easy job to peg, which is why it was voted as high as sixth and as low as 10th.
Cal is the premier public institution in America and is located in a great area to live and recruit. The facilities used to be an issue but have been renovated lately. There is a lot to like about this job but it has struggled to reach the upper tier of the league for the better part of a century. This program has just two Pac-12 titles since 1958 for a reason.
Going from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 is a tangible move that greatly impacts the national standing of the Utes' program in a positive way. Utah and the surrounding states are underrated for producing talent and the stadium is slowly but surely getting to a point where it can be mentioned as one of the better venues in the league. However, all of these aspects were tops in the Mountain West and are middle of the pack in the Pac-12. It's an uphill battle to get Utah on par with the elite jobs in the Pac-12 South.
The fall from national championship to 10th in the Pac-12 took less than 30 years for Colorado. Most of that stems from lack of support from the administration. The facilities are in desperate need of upgrading and support for the head coach has been questionable in recent years. That said, if new rounds of upgrades to all of the above were to happen, it could help the Buffs return to relevance. When good, the fans are excellent but tend to be a fickle bunch in a town with loads of other things to do. 
The stadium has been upgraded but still lags behind the Pac-12's best in terms of intimidation factor and size, while the facilities pale in comparison to their in-state big brother from Eugene. Getting recruits to Corvallis is extremely difficult as well. This job is better since Mike Riley rebuilt it but there is a reason OSU has won one conference title since 1954.
Everything that applies to Oregon State also applies to Washington State. Except, the Cougars have upgraded facilities but the fan support (when good) isn't as good. Pullman is an extremely difficult place to acquire talent despite some pockets of success over the years.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Pac-12 Preview

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Ranking the Pac-12's Football Coaching Jobs in 2015 (Expert Poll)
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/nba-eastern-conference-playoffs-preview-and-predictions

NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs: Preview and Predictions


First Round

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets

At 60-22, the Hawks earned the East’s best record. Their reward? A first-round opponent who’s the least inspired of the bunch. Ex-Net Paul Pierce rently ripped into the Brooklyn roster, citing a lack of passion on the team and especially calling out Deron Williams. For an efficient, driven team like Atlanta — who have been playing with a Georgia-sized chip on their shoulder all year — this should make for some fast work.

Verdict: Hawks in 5


(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Boston Celtics

The East’s down-to-the-wire race for its two final playoff spots netted us the feistiest of the pack in the form of the Celtics. Brad Stevens’ young team is one of the conference’s surprise stories this year, consistently finding ways to win in the second half of the season, despite a lot of game-changing action at the trade deadline. But they’re no true rival for LeBron James and the Cavaliers, who have improved in every facet as their first year together has gone along. The Cavs are the favorites to break out of the conference, and Boston isn’t the team to break those odds.

Verdict: Cavaliers in 4


(3) Chicago Bulls vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks

It’s been a disjointed year for Chicago, who came into the year with title expectations and closed it with uncertainty about whether head coach Tom Thibodeau would still have a job this summer. Make no mistake, though: this is still one of the league’s most talented, potent teams. Their first-round foe from Milwaukee has finished the season with a surprising amount of fight in them, but their unseasoned ways and lack of outside shooting will inevitably do them in against the Bulls, and probably in short order.

Verdict: Bulls in 5


(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards

Now with the Wizards, Pierce has already made his imprint on this series, too. The veteran has said that the Raptors don’t scare him and his squad, and so this bout kicks off with built-in intrigue. And the Raptors shouldn’t scare Washington, who in John Wall has by far the most transcendent figure of either team. What should scare Wizards fans, though, is their coach Randy Wittman, who has hamstrung their efforts with short-sighted strategy for months now. On talent alone, Washington is the clear favorite — but they lose some chips in their stack by often not knowing what they’re doing out there.

Verdict: Wizards in 7


Second Round

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Washington Wizards

Atlanta’s easy times will end abruptly in the second round. Without Thabo Sefolosha (who’s out for the year with a busted leg) and with a potentially compromised Paul Millsap (who’s nursing a shoulder injury), they should have about all they can handle in the Wizards. Washington faltered against the Indiana Pacers in last year’s second round; they had Indiana beat in most games, but coughed up leads in a state of seeming nervousness. Expect them to execute with more confidence in their trip back to this stage of the postseason dance, and make things very interesting. Atlanta, though, should ultimately have just enough to eke by them.

Verdict: Hawks in 7


(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Chicago Bulls

And so begins the Bulls’ fight for their coach’s job, and for the right to continue with their core. Several years with their current nucleus seem to have snowballed into a critical mass of organizational pressure to make something happen this year. The Bulls will be playing for this version of their basketball lives, and in their fear they might make this duel with Cleveland into the most watchable series of the playoffs. Kyrie Irving and Co. will have their way in the end, however, and Chicago will be left with some very strained decisions to make.

Verdict: Cavaliers in 7


Eastern Conference Finals

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (2) Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron will once again flex his biggest — though often unnoticed — muscle in this series: his health. The Hawks have had an impressive run to the top of the conference, but they’ve been beset by injuries minor and major over the season’s closing weeks, and it seems like too much to ask for them to continue their insane winning pace. They’ll still make life difficult for Cleveland, as they’re just about the smartest team in the game. But without the extra body of Sefolosha to put on James and slow him down, the Hawks aren’t in a fair fight anymore.

Verdict: Cavaliers in 6


— John Wilmes


Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 10:23
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-2015-schedule-and-analysis

The last two seasons haven't ended the way Nick Saban would like. Two poor showings in the Superdome in New Orleans have left a bad taste in the Crimson Tide's mouth.


So as if Alabama needed any extra motivation, this group should be extra focused this fall. The Tide will have one of the best collections of players in the nation and Saban is still the best coach in the land. 


That doesn't mean Bama's work isn't cut out for it this fall. With a schedule loaded with ranked opponents, rivalry games and playoff contenders, Saban's bunch will have to earn their way into the postseason.


Related: Ranking the SEC's Best Football Jobs in 2015 (Expert Poll)


2015 Alabama Crimson Tide Schedule


Bye: Week 9


1.Sept. 5Arlington, TX*
Non-con Showdown These two powerhouse programs have met just once in history — a 15-0 Badgers victory in Madison way back in 1928. This isn't a vintage UW roster but will still present unique challenges. Look for the epic Big Ten-SEC showdown to go the way of the heavily favored Tide.
2.Sept. 12Tuscaloosa, AL
The home opener will be the third meeting all-time between Middle Tennessee and Alabama. Bama won easily in 2005 in Tuscaloosa and snuck past the Blue Raiders 39-34 back in 2002.
3.Sept. 19Tuscaloosa, AL
Revenge Game Ole Miss heads to Tuscaloosa fully aware of the revenge the Tide will have in mind. The Rebels have lost 12 straight in T-Town dating back to 1988 and had lost 10 straight overall until the 23-17 thriller in Oxford last fall. That said, both teams will be highly ranked (and likely unbeaten) in this early-season clash that will send shockwaves through the West Division by Week 3.
4.Sept. 26Tuscaloosa, AL
Quick, want to win a bar bet? Who owns the edge in the all-time series between Alabama and UL-Monroe? Technically, it's tied at 1-1 but Bama fans will never forget Saban's bizarre loss to the Warhawks at home in 2007 (21-14). The 2006 meeting has been vacated but was a 41-7 Tide victory. Think Saban has forgotten what happened? (My heart goes out to ULM in this one.)
5.Oct. 3Athens, GA
Atlanta Preview? For the first time since 2008, the Crimson Tide will visit Sanford Stadium. Mark Richt is 3-2 against Alabama, but the Tide has won two straight in the series, including one of the most unforgettable SEC title games in recent memory. This could be a preview of the SEC title game that could once again lead to a Playoff berth.
6.Oct. 10Tuscaloosa, AL
Alabama has won eight straight in this series but last year's 14-13 win in Fayetteville is one neither side will ever forget. In fact, before the streak started, Arkansas owned an 8-7 series edge in SEC games. The last time these two met in Tuscaloosa, however, was a 52-0 beatdown. The Hogs should be able to keep it much closer this time around.
7.Oct. 17College Station, TX
Must-See TV This was an obliteration last season when Alabama stepped on Texas A&M's neck 59-0 in an eye-opening win for the Tide. The two previous SEC meetings between Kevin Sumlin and Saban, however, were fantastic battles totaling 144 combined points. Have the Aggies closed the gap enough to compete at home against the mighty Tide?
8.Oct. 24Tuscaloosa, AL
This Saturday in October The historic SEC rivalry has been a series of streaks for decades. Alabama is currently on an eight-game winning streak over Tennessee, including five consecutive blowouts. Bama has won those five by an average of 28.4 points per game. However, this will be the best Vols team the Tide has faced since '09. 
10.Nov. 7Tuscaloosa, AL
Saban-Miles X One of the best rivalry games in college football every year could once again be an instant classic. Bama has won four straight over LSU and Saban is 6-3 in his career against Miles. Of those nine meetings, six were decided by one score or less. This could be an early November elimination game.
11.Nov. 14Starkville, MS
Last fall, No. 1 Mississippi State entered Tuscaloosa and narrowly lost 25-20, eventually launching the Tide into the Playoffs. The roles could easily be reversed this season should the Tide get to this point unbeaten. Saban has won the last three trips to Starkville by a combined score of 75-17 but has experienced defeat in Davis Wade Stadium. The last loss for the Tide in the series came in 2007 on Scott Field in Starkville. 
12.Nov. 21Tuscaloosa, AL
It's about time programs like Alabama (and the rest of the SEC) stop scheduling lower-tier teams in November. Cupcakes in September are perfectly acceptable but this is November 21. It will be ugly and actually could hurt Bama's standing with the selection committee. It's the first meeting between the two programs, if that means anything to anyone.
13.Nov. 28Auburn, AL
Iron Bowl The rivalry of all rivalries usually puts more than just state bragging rights on the line. No one will ever forget what took place on The Plains the last time these two met in Auburn. Bama leads the all-time series 43-35-1. The Tide has won two of the last three at Auburn, but the Tigers are 8-4 all-time against Bama in Jordan-Hare. There is a good chance the SEC West, SEC and a Playoff spot could hang in the balance in this one.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 SEC Preview

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Alabama Crimson Tide 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/can-gene-chizik-save-north-carolina-defense

For now, public shaming will need to be part of the rebuilding process of the North Carolina defense.


Even in spring, there’s plenty of it to go around.


Gene Chizik is in Chapel Hill to fix one of the worst defenses in school history, a unit that has kept Carolina hovering around .500 the last two seasons. Many coaches will spend spring practice preaching physicality. The new defensive coordinator for the Tar Heels is making it part of his central platform.


“We point guys out in meetings that aren’t physical,” Chizik told Athlon Sports. “We’ll point them out and call them out. They know that if they’re not physical and taking the mentality of the physical defense, it’s going to be hard for them to play in it.”


At the same time, hiring Chizik, the former national championship coach at Auburn, to repair the North Carolina defense is as clear a signal as anything in that meeting room.


Cleaning house on the entire defensive coaching staff was a bold move for North Carolina, and one coach Larry Fedora had to make.


Just as players are going to have trouble staying on the field if they’re not playing with the edge Chizik desires, Fedora may have trouble staying at Carolina if Chizik’s defense doesn’t deliver.



North Carolina 2015 schedule analysis

North Carolina spring football preview

Expert Poll: Ranking the jobs in the ACC


There’s no way around it: North Carolina’s defense was historically bad last season. The Tar Heels couldn’t hide it.


• Three times North Carolina scored 35 points or more and lost because the Tar Heels gave up 70 (East Carolina) and 50 (Clemson and Notre Dame) in those games.


• The Tar Heels’ 497.8 yards allowed per game was the fourth-worst in ACC history and second-worst in UNC history.


• North Carolina was last in the ACC pass defense, rush defense, pass efficiency defense and yards allowed per carry. The Heels gave up 67 touchdowns last season, 22 more than the next worst team in the ACC.


• Opponents converted on 49 percent of third downs and scored touchdowns on 72.2 percent of red zone trips, both were among the five worst rates in the nation.


That is the situation Chizik is charged with repairing in his first coaching job since he was fired at Auburn after the 2012 season. With numbers like that, the problems are many — personnel, scheme, leadership, attitude, technique. Chizik keeps going back to square one this spring.


“The biggest thing we have to do is we got to change the mental picture and mindset of these guys,” Chizik said. “You can’t play a style of football without physicality being the No. 1 goal. I don’t feel like we’re there yet at all. They’ve got to learn how to play physical football and bring it every day.”


That much may be true, but Chizik is also changing the scheme at North Carolina, moving from Vic Koenning’s 4-2-5 defense to a more traditional 4-3. That leaves Chizik trying to figure out how last season’s personnel fit in the new look.


“It was recruited as a different defense,” Chizik said. “We’re trying to take some of the spots that are in-between guys. When you have a 4-2-5 you have some guys that are ‘tweener players, so we’ve got to find spots for those guys.”


Middle linebacker Jeff Schoettmer is already one of the top players on the defense, and as a former walk-on safety, he should be plenty comfortable in coverage when North Carolina goes to the Tampa 2 look.


The defensive line has some promise, but the player with the highest ceiling is a true freshman in end Jalen Dalton, a top-100 prospect from Clemmons, N.C. The defensive backs return almost entirely intact, but this was a group torched for an ACC-record 31 touchdown passes. 


This is the area where Chizik may need to thrive the most. His secondaries were the foundation of a national championship team at Texas in 2005 and an undefeated team at Auburn in 2004. Chizik coached three consecutive Thorpe Award winners from 2004-06 — Carlos Rogers at Auburn and Michael Huff and Aaron Ross at Texas.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 ACC Preview

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Beyond the personnel, there’s the problem of his defenses getting off the field.


No ACC defense has been on the field in the last two seasons than North Carolina. The Tar Heels defense played 76.2 snaps per game in 2014 and 76.4 per game in 2013, both the highest rates in the conference in each of the last two seasons.


Opposing offenses aren’t going to change, and neither will Fedora’s up-tempo spread. So the defense has to change to stay off the field for 80 snaps in a game, as happened in four consecutive games at one point last season.


Chizik says the problem isn’t with conditioning, but if the Tar Heels get into a potential shootout, they’re going to need to be more mindful with substitutions.


“If it does become an 85-play game on defense, we’re going to have a great rotation plan with depth particularly early in the season,” Chizik said. “We can’t be afraid to substitute early in the game.”


Given his track record as a defensive coordinator, Chizik is pretty close to a sure-bet to fix North Carolina. He hasn’t been a coordinator since 2006, but he had a top-25 defense in each of his last four seasons as a DC at Texas and Auburn.


In six seasons as a head coach at Auburn and Iowa State, however, Chizik had as many winning seasons as seasons that finished 3-9 or worse.


There was also a consistent cloud of NCAA issues at Auburn from over-the-top recruiting practices that were eventually banned to pulling assistants off the recruiting trail to the Cam Newton saga that hounded Auburn throughout the the 2010 national championship season.


North Carolina has its own issues with an ongoing academic scandal that may or may not bring NCAA sanctions.


An independent report detailing academic fraud at UNC predates Fedora’s tenure and wasn’t limited to football, but that doesn’t mean the head football coach won’t spend time dealing with the fallout — among other issues.


Part of Chizik’s job, as he puts it, is to take the defense so Fedora doesn’t have to worry about the day-to-day issues on that side of the ball.


“Mack Brown used to tell me all the time: You have no idea the things that are behind the scenes that never get to you because it’s my job to put them out before they do,” Chizik said. “And I know that’s what Larry does. That’s why I want to take all the defensive issues off is plate to the best of my ability so that he can do his duties.”


That means a ton of long days from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., the kinds of days Chizik left behind when he was out of coaching for two seasons. During that time, he worked with the SEC Network and SiriusXM Radio and spent time with his family — his family still lives in Auburn while his daughter finishes school there.


“I hadn’t had many 17-hour days in the last two years,” Chizik said. “I haven’t had any. But I’ve had several in the last couple of months.”


And Chizik hopes eventually some of them will start to involve more praising his defense rather than calling out players.

Can Gene Chizik Save the North Carolina Defense?
Post date: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, NBA, News
Path: /college-basketball/5-college-coaches-who-would-make-interesting-nba-candidates

The NBA Playoffs begin Friday, meaning the NBA coaching carousel is about to get started.


In most years, this is of secondary concern to the college ranks. The checkered track record of college coaches in the NBA, not to mention the wildly different job descriptions, have kept GMs and ADs in their own playgrounds.


The NBA and college coaching ranks have been a little more interchangeable than usual in recent years. Two new college hires for 2015-16 have been NBA head coaches (Alabama’s Avery Johnson and Nevada’s Eric Musselman). The success of former Butler coach Brad Stevens with the Celtics may earn some college coaches another look.


Then there are the usual college coaches with NBA ties who might see the allure in returning to the league, if not this season then perhaps in coming seasons.


With a recent report pegging Florida’s Billy Donovan as a potential candidate for the Oklahoma City Thunder (should they part ways with Scott Brooks), here are five coaches who might earn a look from the NBA in the coming years.


Billy Donovan, Florida

The rumors of Donovan taking a renewed look at the NBA have kicked up in recent months, and Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski names a potential destination of Oklahoma City. Donovan’s contract, extended by one year to 2020, contains a mere $500,000 buyout if he leaves for the NBA. There’s little more for him to accomplish at Florida with two national titles and four Final Fours and an almost certain induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Following the 2007 national title, Donovan was hired as the head coach for the Orlando Magic for a matter of days before having second thoughts and returning to the Gators.


John Calipari, Kentucky

Calipari’s 72-112 stint with the New Jersey Nets from 1996-99 was the least successful period of his career. For a coach as stubborn as Calipari, the opportunity to atone for that failed stint in the pros might be tough to resist. In coach years, that NBA stint was an eternity ago. He’s gone to four Final Fours, won a national title and sent dozens of players to the NBA since then. He could, presumably, land with a team that contains multiple players he coached in college. Calipari had already been offered a sweet deal by the Cleveland Cavaliers before this year’s 38-1 season.


Kevin Ollie, UConn

Ollie was already well-respected in NBA circles before leading the Huskies to the 2014 national championship. He’s a rising star in the profession and would have immediate credibility in an NBA locker room after 12 seasons in the league. The NBA would have to pry him away from his alma mater where he was the handpicked successor to Jim Calhoun.


Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State

Hoiberg has returned his alma mater to national prominence, taking the Cyclones to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in school history. He’s considered one of the sharpest offensive minds in college basketball in part because of his knack for analytics. His exposure to that was honed in the NBA when he worked in the front office for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Like Ollie, he’d have credibility as a former NBA player. Hoiberg is undergoing open heart surgery during the offseason to replace his aortic valve, a procedure related to the surgery that ended his playing career 10 years ago.


Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

Like Ollie and Hoiberg, Krystkowiak comes from NBA stock, playing in the league for more than a decade. Unlike the other two, he’s been an NBA head coach before, going 31-69 in two seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks. Also unlike Ollie and Hoiberg, Krystkowiak isn’t an alum of his employer. His work at Utah can’t be denied as he’s led the Utes to progressive improvement during the last four seasons, culminating with their first Sweet 16 since 2004.

5 College Coaches Who Would Make Interesting NBA Candidates
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 15:38
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/urban-meyer-will-pick-ohio-states-quarterback-middle-training-camp

When Ohio State plays its spring game Saturday, the Buckeyes will be a long way from deciding their biggest offseason question as they head into 2015.


National championship quarterback Cardale Jones will start for one squad. Sophomore Stephen Collier will start for the other.


The spring game won’t include 2013 starter Braxton Miller and 2014 starter J.T. Barrett, who are sitting out this spring due to shoulders.


Naturally, coach Urban Meyer doesn’t expect to make his decision on a starting quarterback until closer to the season.


“I think the middle of training camp because I think every one of them deserve that opportunity and right now two of them aren’t getting it,” Meyer said. “I think by training camp you have to have a handle on that thing.”



Big Ten Schedule Analysis

Ranking the Big Ten Coaching Jobs (Expert Poll)

Podcast: Early Big Ten Preview


Miller was lost for the 2014 season in August to a right shoulder injury. Barrett stepped in and set school records for touchdown passes and total offense before sustaining a shoulder injury of his own against Michigan. Jones then started the Big Ten championship game, the Sugar Bowl semifinal and the national championship game.


All three stayed at Ohio State when Miller could have transferred and been eligible immediately as a graduate transfer. Jones was eligible for the NFL Draft.


“The quarterbacks have continued to amaze me,” Meyer said. “The power of the unit is incredible in that room. Cardale has had a great spring. J.T. has had a very good spring. Braxton is right in the middle of it. You never knew how that dynamic would work out.”


Urban Meyer Will Pick Ohio State's Quarterback in "Middle of Training Camp"
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 15:24
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2015-football-schedule-analysis

Never before has scheduling been a bigger issue than the 2014 College Football Playoff.


The committee clearly took a stance on Baylor’s weak non-conference matchups and it cost the Bears a chance at the national championship. A perceived lack of quality wins also has long been an issue for Big Ten champions. It hurt Michigan State two years ago and nearly cost Ohio State last fall. With a glut of intriguing non-conference games against top-level Power 5 teams, that shouldn't be an issue this fall — at least, not in the deep East Division.


Scheduling is a huge part of Athlon Sports’ process of making predictions as well. Here is what you need to know about the Big Ten’s football schedules in 2015.


East’s best game: Michigan State at Ohio State (Nov. 21)

Ohio State snapped Michigan State’s 14-game Big Ten winning streak with a 49-37 victory by hanging 568 yards on Mark Dantonio’s defense. It was revenge for the B1G title game defeat the year prior. An East Division and Big Ten title as well as Rose Bowl or Playoff berths could be hanging in the balance once again when these two meet late in November. This could easily be replaced by Ohio State's visit to Ann Arbor the following week.


West’s best game: Wisconsin at Nebraska (Oct. 10)

The dairy-fed Big Red from Madison have put up 129 points on the corn-fed Big Red from Lincoln in their last two meetings. The Badgers have won three of four Big Ten meetings, but the Huskers' lone win came in Lincoln. The Big Ten West will likely be determined in this Big Red battle.


Best crossover: Michigan State at Nebraska (Nov. 7)

Wisconsin avoids each of the top four from the East and Nebraska plays just one. Michigan State-Nebraska has been an intense battle in all four conference meetings since the Huskers joined the league, including a wild Taylor Martinez-led rally in East Lansing three years ago. These two are separated by 21 total points over the last three meetings.


Other crossovers to watch:

With the balance of power titled heavily towards the East and Ohio State avoiding both Wisconsin and Nebraska, there aren’t a lot of intriguing crossover games. Minnesota at Ohio State could be fun. Maryland at Iowa isn’t terrible. Wisconsin at Maryland is probably the second-most intriguing crossover in a league devoid of quality crossover matchups.


East's toughest schedule: Rutgers

Rutgers must face five (possibly six) potential bowl teams from the East Division and gets the top two teams from the West (Nebraska, Wisconsin). It also faces two Power 5 teams in non-conference play (albeit Washington State and Kansas). It seems highly unlikely the Knights will return to the postseason.


East’s easiest schedule: Penn State

Penn State has four easy, winnable, non-conference games and gets really lucky in crossover play with Northwestern and Illinois. Yes, PSU must face Michigan State and Ohio State on the road. But, otherwise, the rest of the schedule is manageable in a very difficult division.   


West’s toughest schedule: Minnesota

Minnesota could face two potential playoff teams with TCU in the non-conference and Ohio State in crossover. The Gophers also must face Michigan from the East. Add to that slate divisional dates with Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa and Jerry Kill is looking at an uphill battle in the West.


West’s easiest schedule: Iowa

Wisconsin and Nebraska have tougher non-conference and crossover schedules. This gives the nod to Iowa as the easiest slate in the division despite having to face both Big Red foes on the road. The Hawkeyes could be favorites to win all four of their non-conference games and all four home Big Ten games.


Listen to the Cover 2 Podcast: Early 2015 Big Ten Preview

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Top 10 Non-conference games:


1.Sept. 12
2.Sept. 5*
3.Sept. 7
4.Sept. 3
5.Sept. 19
6.Sept. 7
7.Nov. 28
8.Sept. 19
9.Sept. 3*
10.Nov. 7

* - neutral site

2015 Big Ten Football Schedule Analysis
Post date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 11:30