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All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12, News
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USC receiver Aaron Minor is trying to earn a spot on the team as a walk-on. And the true freshman certainly opened some eyes with a crazy catch in Saturday’s scrimmage.

Check out this crazy catch from USC’s scrimmage, with Minor catching a pass off the back of a defensive back:
 

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USC Receiver Makes Crazy Catch in Scrimmage
Post date: Monday, August 19, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Monthly, News
Path: /college-football/fox-sports-1-what-you-need-know-about-newest-24-hour-sports-network
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Fox Sports 1

From those wonderful folks who gave you Bart Simpson and Bill O’Reilly comes FOX Sports 1, “America’s New Sports Network." Rupert Murdoch’s latest underdog upstart follows in the successful footsteps of FOX Broadcasting Company and FOX News, two networks that went from the cheap seats to luxury suites against all odds.

FOX’s newest expansion franchise, which debuts Aug. 17, is attempting to be the fun alternative to staid sports establishment ESPN. But don’t be fooled by the light-hearted schtick — FS1 has the potential to be a serious challenger to ESPN’s status as “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.” 

HOSER HUMOR

ESPN has SportsCenter. Followed by a rerun of SportsCenter. FS1 has FOX SPORTS LIVE, a three-hour bloc of programming that airs from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. ET and features a variety of shows. Former ESPN SportsNation host Charissa Thompson (pictured above on right) and a slew of retired athletes — including Andy Roddick, Gary Payton and Donovan McNabb — are all on board. 

But the stars of the show are expected to be co-anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, along with Producer Tim. They were stars north of the border on TSN’s SportsCentre in Canada. Onrait and O’Toole have been compared to early-ESPN quick-witted trailblazers like Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann and Craig Kilborn. There is concern over how their humor will be received stateside, but Canadians everywhere were sad to see the wisecracking Canucks fly south.

CROWD SURFING

For roughly 60 years, Regis Philbin has hosted a talk show. The 81-year-old is back in the saddle with “Crowd Goes W!ld,” a daily (5 p.m. ET) sports-entertainment show shot at Chelsea Piers sports facility in Manhattan.

The rabid New York Yankees fan and Notre Dame alum will be joined by an eclectic lineup that includes YouTube star Katie Nolan, the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay, two-time Super Bowl champ Trevor Pryce, tennis-playing comedian Michael Kosta and British beauty Georgie Thompson.

FS1: Numero Uno?

FS1 has game-day content — with NFL, MLB, college football, NASCAR, UEFA Champions League and UFC. And FS1 has a plan of attack, hoping the Al Bundys of the world would rather laugh and check out foxy girls than dissect X’s and O’s. But only time will tell if FS1 can go toe-to-toe with ESPN. “We’ve always had competition,” ESPN president John Skipper told Businessweek. “But most of that competition has been segmented competition — network television is competing against our network television, Yahoo! Sports is competing against us in digital, Sports Illustrated competing in magazines. We have always been the one entity that had cross-platform assets. But FOX is a different animal than we’ve dealt with in the past.”

PREGAME PARTY

Before kickoff on Saturdays this fall, FS1 will have an expanded two-hour pregame show — a la ESPN’s College GameDay — before Pac-12 and Big 12 coverage. Familiar faces Erin Andrews (of ESPN fame and infamy), Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George and resident referee Mike Pereira are joined by SEC expert fire-starter Clay Travis as well as former radio personalities Joel Klatt and Petros Papadakis.

Cult favorite Gus Johnson is back handling play-by-play with Charles Davis as the color commentator in the booth on Saturdays, with Kristina Pink on the sideline. FS1 will also have a weekly Thursday night game.

IT'S IN THE GAME

FOX Sports 1 has no NBA coverage, but FS1 will more than hold its own against ESPN in the NFL and MLB. 

FOX: 105 NFL regular-season games, four playoff games, Super Bowl every three years 

ESPN: 17 regular-season games

FOX: 92 MLB regular-season games, All-Star Game, NL or ALDS, NL or ALCS, World Series

ESPN: 90 MLB regular-season games, NL or AL Wild Card 

Last year, ESPN made $9 billion. Only $3 billion was generated by advertising revenue. The remaining $6 billion came from cable television companies charged to carry the network. Driving up the price-per-subscriber and, as a result, profits, is the primary reason sporting events like the BCS national title game are aired on ESPN rather than ABC, which Disney also owns. FS1 is expected to initially carry a price-per-subscriber of between 75 cents and $1.

Price-per-subscriber

$5.06 » ESPN

$2.71 » ESPN 3D

$1.21 » TNT

$0.97 » Disney Channel

$0.84 » NFL Network

$0.82 » Fox News

$0.67 » ESPN2

$0.62 » USA Network

$0.59 » TBS

* Information from 2012 via SNL Kagan

 

 

Teaser:
Fox Sports 1: What you need to know about the newest 24-hour sports network
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 17:01
Path: /nascar/drivers-look-secure-nascar-chase-bids-michigan
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Winning still not everything for nearly locked-in Chase drivers  Jimmie Johnson
Sunday’s green flag at Michigan International Speedway will leave just three left before NASCAR’s field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup is set. Series points leader Jimmie Johnson is the only one of the 43 drivers who will start the race who knows he’s completely and totally locked in the championship field.

But several others — Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne — are on the verge of being locked in to the 10-race championship fight by virtue of points scored or races won. Still, many aren’t bullish enough to admit that going all out for a race win Sunday is a worthy goal. Consistency and a decent amount of points earned is the preferred result to a potential three-point Chase bonus for regular season wins.

“We are in a good position right now on the points side, but to be honest I’m pretty superstitious when it comes to talking about anything related to (the Chase) until I know for sure if I’m going to be there,” Bowyer said. “I like our chances, but at the same time a lot can happen in the next couple races. One or two things go the wrong way and we’ll be back fighting for our spot.”

Bowyer isn’t saying, of course, that he doesn’t want to win. But the lack of urgency presents an interesting opening into the lack of emphasis that NASCAR’s point structure puts on race wins. Wouldn’t it be nice if Sunday’s race could earn a winning driver a bonus of 20 points or so usable in the Chase?



How will Hendrick Motorsports respond to June failures?  Jeff GordonJeff Gordon’s race ended in a crash against the Turn 2 wall on Lap 6. Kahne exited the competition on Lap 104 after a blown tire sent him to a fiery Turn 1 wall collision. Earnhardt sat helplessly as his No. 88 erupted the smoke of a blown engine on Lap 131. Johnson, vying for the lead, watched his dreams of a checkered flag end with a blown tire three laps from the finish.

The June Michigan race had a sorry finish to a day of such promise for most of the Hendrick Motorsports camp. Kahne, Earnhardt and Johnson were first, first and second, respectively, when their individual problems began. They all finished worse than 25th. They likely all should have been in the top 10.

Those results will make Sunday’s race awful interesting to see just how far teams evolve over the course of NASCAR’s summer stretch. In what amounts to just over two months, will Hendrick’s impressive initial returns in June translate to the August event? Or will the competition have made progress on what made the HMS cars so fast, if not reliable?


Ford teams circle back to site of last 2013 win
Ford was certainly the manufacturer most pleased with the HMS struggles during the June race, but not for ill-suited or low-blow purposes. Instead, the problems with Hendrick’s Chevrolets gave an opening for Greg Biffle to grab the checkered flag and take credit for Ford’s 1,000th victory in a NASCAR national series.

Hopefully the gleeful haze of that victory in the home state of the Blue Oval stuck around for a while because Ford hasn’t won a Cup Series event since then — a span of two months and seven races. On the six oval tracks, Brad Keselowski (fourth at New Hampshire) and Joey Logano (fourth at Kentucky) have tied for Ford’s best overall finish. Keselowski was second last week at Watkins Glen.

Just like questions about a Hendrick recovery, Sunday’s race will be an important footnote in seeing if Ford is making progress in a season filled with surprisingly few strong results. The manufacturer has just three Cup wins in the 22 races, and one of them came when David Ragan emerged with a surprise victory at Talladega in May.

A saving grace for Ford has been the impressive consistency from Carl Edwards. Third in the point standings, Edwards has 12 top 10s and has finished on the lead lap of all but two races this season.


Austin Dillon up next in Tony Stewart’s seat
Predicting another Jamie McMurray moment — remember when he won his second-career Cup Series race as a fill-in for Sterling Marlin in the fall of 2002? — is next to impossible in today’s NASCAR. And even if he won Sunday, Austin Dillon’s story wouldn’t have quite the same lore: Sunday marks Dillon’s 10th Cup start.

But Dillon, the 2011 Truck Series champion, should be considered a darkhorse for Sunday’s win as he takes over as the second driver to fill in for the indefinitely-sidelined Tony Stewart in the No. 14. The grandson of team owner Richard Childress, Dillon will start Sunday at the track where in June he finished an impressive 11th. He’ll start a car for a team that finished fifth.

Beyond a good opportunity to run well, Sunday’s race provides an interesting glimpse into how Dillon is viewed across the NASCAR garage area. The call from Stewart-Haas Racing to get Dillon in the car proves that his talents and on-track success has defined Dillon beyond just being the grandson of a major series team owner. It’s cemented by the fact that Dillon will have to split time between Michigan and his Nationwide Series ride at Mid-Ohio.

Sure, Dillon’s connections with SHR sponsor Bass Pro Shops played a role in the process and we know that sponsor money is large influence on other decisions made by SHR (and across the sport, for that matter). But SHR undoubtedly could have gone any number of other routes for a temporary replacement. Instead, it landed on Dillon.

That’s a nice compliment.



Michigan among NASCAR’s annual repeat-race pilgrimageMichigan’s second race of the season is among NASCAR’s annual run back through many tracks it has visited previously this season. In fact, of the 14 races remaining on the Sprint Cup calendar, just three of them will mark the track’s only date on the schedule. The rest are repeats.

The ink is still drying on NASCAR’s most recent round of television deals, and the security of more than $6 billion coming to the sport over the next decade may provide decision-makers with extra flexibility to freshen up the 36-race Cup Series schedule a bit. Of course, the money could also be cushioning for executives who think everything in the sport is the way it simply ought to be.

I disagree pretty heavily with that idea, if only because of the some of the staleness that both the current and most recent incarnation of NASCAR-designed race vehicle in use has produced on track. NASCAR seems a long way from solving the competitive aerodynamic advantage of a race leader.

One option NASCAR should consider is happening as an example this weekend in a series owned by the France family. The Rolex Grand-Am Series is racing at Kansas Speedway Saturday night under the lights on a road course that travels through the infield and uses three-quarters of the track’s oval. Returns aren’t quite in yet on how competitive the layout will be, but it’s an event that NASCAR should watch closely.

Think about it: In a series that is begging for a few more right turns in its schedule, why not keep a second date at a current facility and simply use a different style of racing?

I’m typically fine with tracks having repeat dates, but there are exceptions. Thinking a bit outside the box like the Kansas example might just be an answer to improve the racing product.


Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
Photos by Actions Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Geoffrey Miller's five things to watch as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series hits Michigan International Speedway for the Pure Michigan 400.
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 13:58
All taxonomy terms: High School
Path: /high-school/2013-alabama-high-school-football-top-10-and-preview
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Alabama Preseason Top 10

1. Hoover Buccaneers
It’s not exactly a bold prediction to call for the Bucs to return to the state title game — Hoover has been there every year this century with the exception of 2008. Winning the game will be another matter, as the Bucs will look to replace a corps of senior leaders with a strong group of younger stars, including superstar senior Marlon Humphrey along with rising juniors Christian Bell and Darrell Williams on defense.

2. Clay-Chalkville Cougars (Pinson)
After a fourth-round playoff loss to Hoover to end last season, the Cougars will be out for revenge this fall, and they’ll have the weapons to pull it off. Clay-Chalkville returns quarterback Hayden Moore and running back Sidney Battle, and the Cougars boasted one of the state’s most stifling defenses last season.

3. Auburn Tigers
One of the state’s top producers of college talent, Auburn once again features a large crop of impressive athletes, including defensive end Rashaan Evans and cornerback/wide receiver Blaise Taylor.

4. Opelika Bulldogs
The surprise of the 2012 season, the Bulldogs shocked high school football fans with their unlikely run to the 6A state title game. They return cornerback Stephen Roberts (an Alabama commit) and tight end Jakell Mitchell (an Auburn commit).

5. Spanish Fort Toros
Coming off his second state title in the last three seasons, head coach Mark Freeman will look to fill the holes left by a strong senior class, including breaking in a new starting quarterback.

6. Carver Wolverines (Montgomery)
After making a run to the state semifinals last season, Carver loses Mr. Football winner Jeremy Johnson but returns defensive stars Shaun Hamilton and Jon Michael Edwards.

7. Calera Eagles
After a tough early exit from last year’s playoffs, the Eagles will enter the 2013 season with plenty of motivation and with one of the state’s top athletes in two-way star Ronnie Clark.

8. Muscle Shoals Trojans
The Trojans must reload after losing star defensive lineman Dee Liner and their top two rushers from last season’s undefeated regular-season run.

9. St. Paul’s Episcopal Saints (Mobile)
One of the powerhouses of the Mobile area, St. Paul’s will look to make yet another deep playoff run thanks to elite stars like linebacker Tre’ Williams and offensive lineman Joshua Casher.

10. Vigor Wolves (Prichard)
New head coach Ashley Johnson hopes to lead the Wolves back into the state championship discussion. Key players include running back Desherrius Flowers and defensive end Justin Thornton.

Five Can't Miss Matchups

8.30 – Colquitt County (Ga.) at Hoover
Alabama’s top program opens the season against one of the top teams in Georgia. The real intrigue centers around Colquitt County’s head coach Rush Propst, the former Hoover head coach who built the Bucs into a powerhouse program.

8.30 – Tanner at Madison Academy
Another intriguing opening weekend game features the defending state champions from the 2A and 3A divisions squaring off against each other. Tanner has lost just twice in the last three years. Madison Academy boasts several major college prospects.

9.13 – Thomasville at UMS-Wright
A rematch of one of the 2012 season’s most exciting games, a 49–42 shootout between the top two teams in the Mobile area. UMS-Wright pulled off the road win last year. Can Thomasville return the favor this season?

9.20 – Davidson at McGill-Toolen
Another big matchup between two of the Mobile area’s powerhouse programs. Last year’s game was a 29–28 thriller in favor of McGill-Toolen, but the Yellowjackets will be breaking in a new starting QB this season.

10.25 – Auburn at Opelika
These rivals split their two meetings last season, with Opelika eliminating Auburn from the playoffs. Both teams return key pieces on both offense and defense along with loads of SEC-level talent.

2013 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Racean Thomas, RB, Oxford
Senior, 5-11, 195

Thomas goes by the nickname “Rock,” and over the past two seasons, he has more than earned that moniker. He was named first-team All-State (Alabama Sports Writers Association) and second-team All-American (247Sports) as a junior for his 1,968-yard, 26-touchdown performance (combined rushing and receiving) that almost single-handedly propelled a young Oxford Yellow Jackets squad to six wins. As one of the top offensive playmakers in the Class of 2014, Thomas is likely to be the subject of an intense recruiting battle between Alabama and Auburn, though out of state schools have shown interest as well, including Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss. Thomas has the soft hands to contribute as a receiving threat while his solid frame and tackle-breaking ability make him an ideal running back in the SEC, where toughness is a must for a between-the-tackles runner. With a more experienced quarterback and offensive line in front of him, “Rock” could be poised for his best season yet in 2013.

2013 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Hoover
Senior, 6-1, 175

After Humphrey’s junior season — highlighted by four interceptions and 15 pass breakups — recruiting analysts raved about his astounding speed and quickness. Humphrey put those skills to use again during the spring when he broke numerous state and national track and field records. Widely regarded as the nation’s top cornerback in the class of 2014, Humphrey has also proven himself to be a dangerous special teams threat, blocking two punts and returning two kickoffs for touchdowns. At 6'1", 175 pounds, Humphrey also has the size to get physical with receivers in press man-to-man coverage, an asset that makes him a strong candidate for early playing time at the college level. Humphrey’s athletic prowess hardly comes as a surprise — he’s the son of former University of Alabama running back Bobby Humphrey. Many expect that the Crimson Tide legacy will end up in Tuscaloosa, but he has also shown significant interest in South Carolina as well.

 

Order your copy of Athlon Sports High School Football Preview today!


 

Teaser:
Marlon Humphrey and the Hoover Buccaneers are the best in Alabama.
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 13:11
All taxonomy terms: High School
Path: /high-school/2013-texas-high-school-football-top-10-and-preview
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Texas Preseason Top 10

1. Allen Eagles
The Eagles are a solid pick to repeat as Class 5A Division I state champions. Led by sensational junior quarterback Kyler Murray, who topped 2,000 passing yards and ran for over 1,500 yards and 42 total touchdowns, the Eagles will be a handful for teams to slow down. Allen’s defense has possibly the best tandem of linebackers in the state in Christian Sam and Tay Evans.

2. Katy Tigers
The lone unbeaten team in 5A a year ago, Katy has some holes to fill, but that’s nothing new for one of the state’s most tradition-rich programs. Rodney Anderson will take over at running back after making solid contributions as a freshman and sophomore. Katy won’t overwhelm you with athleticism, but the Tigers are always solid and well-coached.

3. Euless Trinity Trojans
Trinity is known for winning state titles in odd-numbered years (2005, 2007 and 2009). The Trojans once again will be massive in the trenches, and they have a bevy of experienced skill position players returning.

4. DeSoto Eagles
The always athletic Eagles are coming off their best season in school history. They’ll play one of the toughest non-district schedules in the country, ensuring that they’ll be prepared for the grind that is the 5A playoffs.

5. Cibolo Steele Knights
Despite losing their head coach this offseason, Steele is the unanimous selection as the top team in the San Antonio area. The Knights will be led by running back and Texas Tech commit Justin Stockton and a physical and athletic defensive unit.  

6. Austin Westlake Chaparrals
The Chaps are fresh off a surprise run to the 5A Division II semifinals a year ago, and coach Darren Allman returns one of the state’s most experienced squads. Westlake will have to battle five-time 4A champion Lake Travis (now in 5A) in district play.  

7. Southlake Carroll Dragons
Tradition-rich Southlake Carroll fell to DeSoto in the quarterfinals a year ago but is poised to reload. The Dragons have to replace quarterback Kenny Hill, who signed with Texas A&M, and four starters on the offensive line.

8. Houston Lamar Redskins
Lamar made a surprise run to the 5A Division I title game before falling to Allen. Hopes are high that the Redskins can repeat, as they are led by quarterback Darrell Colbert, who is an SMU commit.

9. Arlington Bowie Volunteers
Bowie posted an 11-2 record a year ago, and the Volunteers return a bevy of talent on both sides of the ball. They could employ a two-quarterback system under new coach Danny DeArman.

10. Galena Park North Shore Mustangs
Legendary coach David Aymond has another outstanding team returning, and the Mustangs will look to avenge a loss to Houston Lamar in last year’s quarterfinals. North Shore will be athletic and very physical on defense.

Five Can't Miss Matchups

8.30 – Allen at Southlake Carroll
Carroll will look to turn the tables on Allen in this top-10 matchup. Last year, Allen opened its new stadium with a win over the Dragons, who were the defending state champions. Now Allen is the defending champion going on the road.

9.14 – Euless Trinity vs. DeSoto
A neutral site showdown is a size vs. speed test as Trinity, with its bruising play in the trenches, takes on a DeSoto team considered among the fastest in the country. Trinity will be out for revenge after DeSoto knocked off the Trojans 42-21 in 2012.

9.20 – Austin Westlake at Cibolo Steele
A possible state championship preview pits two semifinalists from a year ago playing for bragging rights. Westlake is considered by most to be Austin’s top team, while Steele is considered the top team in San Antonio. Steele won last year’s game 35-10.  

9.27 – Cedar Park at Leander
The district opener for both teams will likely decide the 25-4A title. Cedar Park is the defending 4A Division II state champion, while Leander is fresh off an 11-2 campaign. It’s likely that both teams will be in the 4A top five when this matchup takes place.

10.4 – El Campo at Bellville
The 25-3A title will be on the line in one of the top small-school matchups in 2013. Division I state runner-up El Campo meets up with Division II semifinalist Bellville. Both teams love to run the football, so if you like the spread, this may not be your cup of tea.

2013 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Jerrod Heard, QB, Denton Guyer
Senior, 6-1, 193

What to do for an encore? That’s the question for Heard, who capped off a magical junior season with a jaw-dropping performance in the Wildcats’ 48-37 win over Georgetown in the 4A Division I state championship. Heard ran for 143 yards and five touchdowns and threw for 189 yards and two scores in the title game. The future Texas Longhorn led GHS to a 14-2 record in 2012 as he threw for 2,090 yards and 17 touchdowns and ran for another 2,138 yards and 35 touchdowns. Guyer, which also produced current Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh, could be poised for a second straight title with Heard running the show once again. “Things come naturally for him, whether it’s understanding the game or throwing the ball,” Guyer coach John Walsh says. “He’s just got that calm demeanor.”

2013 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Hoza Scott, LB, La Porte
Senior, 6-2, 205

If you want a prototypical linebacker, there’s not a better candidate in the state than Scott. For the past three years, he’s terrorized opposing offenses in the Houston area, and he’s helped put the Bulldogs on the map as an elite team statewide. Scott has the perfect blend of size, speed and instincts, which he uses to make plays all over the field. The Texas A&M commit battled through some nagging injuries a year ago, but he’s healthy heading into his senior season. La Porte and state powerhouse Katy met in each of the last two years in the third round of the state playoffs, with the two teams splitting those meetings. Katy got the best of Scott’s Bulldogs a year ago, so leading La Porte to a possible regional and state title is of paramount importance for Scott before he makes the short trip to College Station.

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Teaser:
Texas' best high school football teams, preseason players of the year and games to watch.
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 13:07
All taxonomy terms: High School
Path: /high-school/2013-ohio-high-school-football-top-10-and-preview
Body:

Ohio Preseason Top 10

1. St. Edward Eagles (Lakewood)
Simply put, St. Edward has been as successful as any program in the state at attracting and grooming top-level players in recent years. This season, the Eagles have to replace quarterback Ryan Fallon and running back Dwayne Aaron, among others, but there is plenty of returning talent as well as motivation after last season ended in a stunning 63-56 playoff loss in which Mentor scored the game’s last 21 points.

2. Archbishop Moeller Fighting Crusaders (Cincinnati)
The Crusaders can move the ball on anybody and will win their share of shootouts, but they will need to tighten up defensively in order to repeat as Division I state champs. Star linebacker Sam Hubbard, who has committed to Ohio State, helps that cause.

3. St. Ignatius Wildcats (Cleveland)
Jimmy Byrne anchors a powerful offensive line, and linebacker Kyle Berger is the playmaker of a stingy defense. Led by legendary coach Chuck Kyle, the Cats face a daunting schedule but appear headed for yet another 10-win season.

4. St. Vincent-St. Mary Fighting Irish (Akron)
LeBron’s alma mater is rife with speed and talent, especially at the skill positions, and promises to be explosive. Forget the Division III designation — this is simply one of the elite outfits in the state.

5. Glenville Tarblooders (Cleveland)
Coach Ted Ginn Sr. has reloaded and is primed for another shot at an elusive state title, this time in Division II. The defense is stocked with major college prospects; the offense, as usual, is jet-fast.

6. Colerain Cardinals (Cincinnati)
One of the top public school programs in the state, Colerain turned in an undefeated regular season and finished 12-1 in 2012. Many key performers, including slippery running back De’Tuan Smith, are back in the fold.

7. Central Catholic Fighting Irish (Toledo)
Toledo Whitmer played for the Division I state title last year, but Central Catholic has been the most consistent force in northwest Ohio in recent years and should only benefit by dropping from D-II to D-III.

8. Coffman Shamrocks (Dublin)
Coffman is the class of the best league in central Ohio, the Ohio Capital Conference, and is always a postseason threat. However, there is unfinished business after last year’s 9-0 start quickly became an unfulfilling 9-2 season.

9. Washington Tigers (Massillon)
Dripping with tradition and boasting one of the best fan bases in the state, the Tigers are ready to pounce again this season. Their drop to Division II could open the door to yet another state title.

10. Clinton-Massie Falcons (Clarksville)
Clinton-Massie has 213 male students, and about 50 of them are very good football players. The Falcons again are the class of Division IV and will thrive with a sophisticated offensive attack.

Five Can't Miss Matchups

9.6 – Coldwater at Columbus Bishop Hartley
This intriguing early-season matchup — and potential preview of the Division V title game — pits a pair of recent state champs. The Cavaliers could be riding a 16-game winning streak but will have to slow down electrifying Hartley running back Alonzo Saxton.

9.20 – Dublin Coffman at Hilliard Davidson
This is a central Ohio rivalry that has produced both euphoria and heartbreak. Last year, for example, Coffman rolled to a 33-10 win in September but committed four turnovers and fell 17-14 to the Wildcats in its playoff opener. More drama awaits.

10.25 – St. Vincent-St. Mary at Massillon Washington
Paul Brown Tiger Stadium will be rocking when these two area powers clash. Washington erupted late in last year’s 44-23 win. The Fighting Irish will return to the scene of the crime with revenge on their minds.

10.26 – Cincinnati Moeller at Lakewood St. Edward
You can’t do much better in October. The defending state champs travel to Cuyahoga County to take on powerful St. Ed’s in a Saturday night special. The trenches will feature disruptive Moeller defensive lineman Elijah Taylor against a top-notch offensive line.

11.2 – Cleveland St. Ignatius at Lakewood St. Edward
How’s this for a little doubleheader at home to end the campaign? Fans will be packed in for this battle for Cleveland-area bragging rights between a pair of state superpowers.

2013 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Parris Campbell, RB, St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron)
Senior, 6-1, 179

Campbell already was a known commodity as a 15-year-old junior, but his bust-out performance came in front of Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer in the state title game when he racked up 165 yards rushing and three touchdowns on just 14 carries, leading the Fighting Irish to the Division III crown. He became the first recruit to commit to OSU after the 2013 National Signing Day and is now poised for a huge senior season. Last year, the slick tailback totaled 1,353 rushing yards and 28 TDs on 160 carries and added 13 receptions and three kick returns (two punts, one kickoff) for scores. His encore, at 16, figures to be impressive as well. “He is starting to become a pretty good football player,” SVSM coach Dan Boarman says. “He can run inside. We can put him in the slot and he’s able to catch the ball also.”

2013 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Kyle Berger, LB, St. Ignatius (Cleveland)
Senior, 6-3, 215

The prospect Michigan coach Brady Hoke once mistakenly called “Alex” on a recruiting visit, Berger made a name for himself with a breakthrough 2012 season, showing he could attack from near the line of scrimmage as well as get outside. He’s as crafty as he is physical and has a penchant for game-turning plays. Why is St. Ignatius one of the premier teams in Ohio? Start with Berger, who is the point man on a defense that posted three shutouts and held foes to fewer than 10 points per game last season. He racked up 105 tackles and took up residence in opposing backfields with 10.5 sacks and an astounding 44 TFLs. Berger underwent offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia but should be full-go to terrorize teams again this fall. He committed to Ohio State in April over a host of schools including Michigan, Tennessee and UCLA.

Order your Athlon Sports High School Football Preview today!

Teaser:
Ohio's best high school football teams, players of the year and games to watch.
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 12:57
All taxonomy terms: High School
Path: /high-school/2013-california-high-school-football-top-10-and-preview
Body:

California Preseason Top 10

1. De La Salle Spartans (Concord)
Coach Bob Ladoueceur has stepped down at 58, taking his 399-24-2 record to a less-stressed role of mentoring running backs. The new coach is Justin Alumbaugh, who played at De La Salle and has been a top assistant the last 13 seasons. The Spartans return quarterback Chris Williams (29 total TDs in 2012) and 1,000-yard rusher Das Tautalatasi.

2. Junipero Serra Cavaliers (Gardena)
The Cavaliers rolled to a CIF State D-II Bowl rout over Oakdale and have the core group back, including All-America candidate Adoree’ Jackson, a defensive back, return specialist and receiver/slot gamebreaker. The D-line is anchored by Rasheem Green (6'5", 275).

3. St. John Bosco Braves (Bellflower)
The Braves return nine starters on defense, including linemen Damien Mama, Malik Dorton and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and nationally recruited linebacker Chandler Leniu, with the makings of a dominant unit to completely negate the run. Quarterback Josh Rosen, just a junior, passed for 2,082 yard and 22 TDs.

4. Centennial Huskies (Corona)
The Huskies rolled all comers last season before falling to De La Salle in the CIF State Open Bowl game 48-28. Few teams in the land run the spread quite like this one, with Robert Webber returning at quarterback along with running back Tre Watson, wide receiver Barry Ware and impact transfer lineman Austin Maloata from American Samoa. A return to the State Open game is within reach.

5. Folsom Bulldogs
A fast-rising state power in Sacramento County, the Bulldogs are spread-option wonders, having won the 2010 CIF State D-II bowl with a win over Serra behind the MaxPreps National Player of the Year, quarterback Dano Graves. Next in line is junior Jake Browning, who passed for 5,248 yards and 63 touchdowns in 2012. He joins 13 other returning starters.

6. Granite Bay Grizzlies
A Week 1 opener against Folsom will be telling for a program coming off a CIF State D-I championship win over Long Beach Poly. The defense is headed by linebackers Cameron Smith and Dylan Keeney and the Fly offense by back Tony Ellison. State Coach of the Year Ernie Cooper stepped down on the eve of summer.

7. Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits
Poly reached the state CIF Division I Bowl game and returns a wealth of talent, including defensive backs Iman Marshall and John Smith, defensive lineman Jason Fao and quarterback Tai Tiedermann.

8. Vista Murrieta Broncos
The Broncos have just two on-field losses in the past two seasons amid the rough-and-tumble Southern Section, including the 2012 playoffs to Corona Centennial. Vista returns top running back Kishawn Holmes (1,109 yards, 10 touchdowns) and wide receiver Colin Baker (7 TDs) and sack leader Curtis Bolton (10.5).

9. Mater Dei Monarchs (Santa Ana)
The Monarchs will rumble again with quarterback Chase Forrest, two-way impact leader Jonathan Lockett and speed on defense for longtime coach Bruce Rollinson.

10. Mission Viejo Diablos
Veteran coach Bob Johnson, a quarterback guru, has his main cogs back on offense in quarterback Ian Fieber and tailback Alex Sushesk.

Five Can't Miss Matchups

9.6 – Oceanside at Junipero Serra
A playoff-like setting will help kickstart the academic year between programs that each have state titles in the past three seasons. Oceanside has gone 105-15-3 the last nine years, while Serra boasts a fast, explosive, heavily recruited program.

9.13 – Corona Centennial vs. Long Beach Poly (at Mission Viejo)
Speed kills, and it’ll scorch the field here with a unique showdown of Southern California heavies that are nationally ranked in a recruiting haven. Long Beach Poly has a speed-machine program that has sent more talents to the NFL than any other high school in the land — ever.

9.13 – Freedom at Granite Bay


All-America tailback candidate Joe Mixon of Freedom tests the D of the defending state Division I champion Grizzlies of Placer County, who are led by 6'3", 230-pound linebacker Cameron Smith.

9.14 – Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) at Mission Viejo


A titanic inter-state rumble brings the national power Ironmen from the East, sporting an 89-5 record since 2005, against a decades-long West Coast power.

9.20 – Del Oro at De La Salle
Tradition-rich and fear-no-one Del Oro of the Sac-Joaquin Section braces for a team that has gone 384-7-2 against NorCal foes since 1984. DLS has the talent to win its fifth successive CIF State Open championship in extending a remarkable legacy.

2013 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Joe Mixon, RB, Freedom (Oakley)
Senior, 6-2, 210

With a mixture of power, speed and burst, Mixon is a 5-star recruit with seemingly the entire country in pursuit, including USC, Oklahoma, Cal, Notre Dame, Texas and Oregon. He has a second gear, and then he has the end zone in sight. Mixon rushed for 1,134 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore and went for 1,443 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior last fall for a team that was often pass-heavy. Mixon went for 188 yards and four touchdowns against Castro Valley, and he scored in every game. He also had 18 receptions for 383 yards and six scores for a team that went 9-3, won the Bay Valley League championship and reached the second round of the North Coast Section D-I playoffs. Mixon knows the heat is on, and he embraces it, saying, “I’m ready for a big year. The whole team is. We’re excited.”

2013 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Dwight Williams, LB, Junipero Serra (Gardena)
Senior, 6-1, 205

Soft-spoken out of cleats and shoulder pads, Williams screams ability in heading a national powerhouse program. Able to move sideline-to-sideline and close in a hurry, Williams had 158 tackles, including eight sacks, and two interceptions to help propel the Cavaliers to a 14-2 season and a CIF State Division II Bowl rout over Oakdale. Williams dominated spring and summer combine events and is closing in on 40 scholarship offers. Heading the list as of June: LSU and Alabama. Surrounded by playmakers on defense, he’ll look to stout defensive lineman Rasheem Green to occupy blockers while he flies to the football. Williams says he and his teammate crave the challenge of 2013, “We’ve all got a target on our backs. We love it. I’m ready to help this team win.”

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Teaser:
The top 10 high school football teams in California, plus Preseason Players of the Year and can't miss matchups.
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 12:48
All taxonomy terms: High School
Path: /high-school/2013-georgia-high-school-football-top-10-and-preview
Body:

Georgia Preseason Top 10

1. Norcross Blue Devils
The Blue Devils return 16 of 22 starters from an undefeated state championship team. They have four players with major college offers, led by defensive end Lorenzo Carter, one of the top prospects in America. Versatile threat Myles Autry can play in the backfield or at receiver and accounted for 20 touchdowns last year. The big questions come at quarterback and running back.

2. Sandy Creek Patriots (Tyrone)
Sandy Creek is almost a sure thing to win the Class AAAA crown. The Patriots are 56-2 with three state titles over the past four years, and they should be the biggest favorite in any classification. Quarterback Cole Garvin, receiver Demarre Kitt, defensive lineman Chris Williams, tailback Eric Swinney and linebacker Khari Lain all have FBS offers.

3. Gainesville Red Elephants
The best player in the state resides in Gainesville: quarterback DeShaun Watson. The electric Clemson commit holds most of the state passing records after leading the Red Elephants to their first state title.

4. North Gwinnett Bulldogs (Suwanee)
The Bulldogs have won 10 games or more each year since coach Bob Sphire arrived in 2006. They can announce themselves as a prime contender if they thrive against an opening stretch against Camden County, Grayson and Norcross.

5. Colquitt County Packers (Moultrie)
The Packers return nine starters on defense and 15 overall, and they’ll need the experience to navigate a brutal schedule that includes Grayson, Lovejoy, Carver-Columbus, Lowndes and Camden County. They have advanced to the state semifinals in each of the past four years.

6. Camden County Wildcats (Kingsland)
Camden County never enters a season without a goal of winning a state title. The Wildcats have won three titles over the past 10 years. But the architect of the program, Jeff Herron, left for Prince Avenue Christian. His offensive coordinator, Welton Coffey, takes over.

7. North Cobb Warriors (Acworth)
The Warriors should be able to score on just about anybody with the return of junior quarterback Tyler Queen. He passed for 2,607 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushed for 925 yards and 20 touchdowns. They must replace 15 starters off last year’s semifinalist team.

8. Lovejoy Wildcats
The Wildcats did the improbable, replacing several key starters and navigating a move up in classification to play for a second straight state title. They replace 14 starters, but the program is one of the best in the state.

9. St. Pius X Golden Lions (Atlanta)
St. Pius played in its first state championship game since 1968 last year, losing to Buford in the title game. The Golden Lions will need to replace their quarterback and fullback — the two most important players in their offense. Daniel Crochet and Nick Ruffin return after All-State junior seasons on defense.

10. Tucker Tigers
Top recruits Detric Dukes (linebacker) and Elisha Shaw (defensive tackle) could make Tucker the top contender to dethrone Gainesville in Class AAAAA.

Five Can't Miss Matchups

8.24 – Camden County vs. North Gwinnett
There are plenty of great games in the season-opening Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome, but this game may have the most intrigue with the debut of new Camden County head coach Welton Coffey, who takes over for Jeff Herron. North Gwinnett begins a brutal stretch with games at Grayson and Norcross following this one.

8.24 – Booker T. Washington (Fla.) at Norcross
Apologies to Colquitt County coach Rush Propst’s return to play his old team at Hoover (Ala.), but this matchup is the best one for a Georgia team taking on an out-of-state opponent. The Blue Devils will try to win their 16th straight against Florida’s defending Class 4A champion.

9.6 – Colquitt County at Lovejoy
Lovejoy won 12 straight games last year following its 14-7 early season loss to Colquitt County. Both teams advanced to the semifinals — Lovejoy lost to Norcross in the title game — and this game could provide a similar boost to the winner.

9.6 – Buford at Gainesville
Two of the state’s champions meet in a rematch of Gainesville’s 19-15 win over the Wolves in 2012. Both teams will be among the favorites to repeat, with Buford seeking a sixth state title in seven years. Gainesville quarterback DeShaun Watson and Buford linebacker Korie Rogers are both committed to Clemson.

10.11 – Stephenson at Tucker
These two powers — separated by less than 10 miles — had never played before Stephenson’s 13-6 win last season. Both teams figure to be in the Class AAAAA title chase again this year.

2013 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Deshaun Watson, QB, Gainesville
Senior, 6-3, 195

What didn’t Watson do in 2012? The Clemson commit led the Red Elephants to their first-ever state championship, and he did so by rewriting the state’s record books. He already holds the state’s career records for passing yards (9,360) and passing touchdowns (108), giving him a chance to create some near-untouchable career marks as a senior. In leading Gainesville to the championship, Watson passed for 4,021 yards and rushed for 1,430 yards and became only the second player in state history to toss 50 touchdown passes. He added 24 touchdowns on the ground. The Red Elephants averaged 49 points per game in the playoffs, including a game of 61 points against a Kell secondary that featured two FBS defensive backs. Watson welcomes back one of his top two wide receivers in Rodney Lackey.

2013 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Lorenzo Carter, DL, Norcross
Senior, 6-6, 220

The Blue Devils didn’t enter last season with the same hype as other powers, but they quickly became one of the top contenders for a championship during a five-game stretch in which the defense didn’t allow more than a touchdown. Much of the progress during that stretch could be credited to the playmaking ability of Carter. The hulking defensive lineman finished the season with 136 tackles, 50 tackles for a loss and 17 sacks. He played huge in the big games, including making 12 tackles, five tackles for a loss and forcing a fumble in the championship game win over Lovejoy. Carter, who also helped Norcross win a basketball state title, has even bigger expectations placed on him as a senior. He’s the top prospect in the state, and many of the national recruiting services list Carter among the top-10 prospects in the nation, regardless of position.

 

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Teaser:
Georgia's best high school football teams, players of the year and games to watch.
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 12:44
All taxonomy terms: High School
Path: /high-school/2013-florida-high-school-football-top-10-and-preview
Body:

Florida Preseason Top 10

1. Miami Central Rockets
Miami Central boasts the most talented roster in Florida. The defending 6A state champs return 10 on offense, including two of the top three running backs in the nation in Florida commit Dalvin Cook and Miami commit Joseph Yearby. Miami commit Trevor Darling (6'5", 300) leads the offensive line, and junior Da’Vante Phillips is one of the state’s top 2015 wide receivers.

2. Booker T. Washington Tornadoes (Miami)
The defending Class 4A champs lose just three offensive starters and only five on defense. Coach Ice Harris’ son, Treon, leads the way at quarterback, and the roster is loaded with elite talent, highlighted by wide receiver Lamar Parker, defensive end Chad Thomas and defensive back Nigel Patten. The Tornadoes certainly know the way to the Orlando Citrus Bowl, the site of the state title game.

3. St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders (Fort Lauderdale)
Star wide receiver Corey Holmes is joined by Ely transfer wideout Devante Peete (Class of 2015) to give Western transfer quarterback Wade Freebeck another weapon. Freebeck missed several weeks during the summer with a broken thumb, so Jake Rizzo could also see snaps.

4. University School Suns (Fort Lauderdale)
Transfers at quarterback (Sean White) and linebacker (Richard Yeargin) as well as junior running back Jordan Scarlett lead the way for the Suns, who are making the move from 3A to 4A for the 2013 season.

5. Apopka Blue Darters
The 2012 8A champs boast a father-son combo with head coach Rick Darlington and hard-nosed quarterback Zack Darlington. The Darters have nine returning starters on defense, including standout defensive linemen Isaiah Buehler, Anthony Ellis and Eric Jackson.

6. First Coast Buccaneers (Jacksonville)
Quarterback De’Andre Johnson (a Florida State commit) and linebacker Sherrod Pittman are a pair of juniors who will lead the Bucs as they move up to Class 8A this fall. First Coast has lost only twice in the last two years.

7. Manatee Hurricanes (Bradenton)
The Hurricanes were ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation much of last year, but St. Thomas Aquinas took care of that. Manatee still has some weapons, led by D-tackle Demarcus Christmas, a Florida State commit.

8. Plant Panthers (Tampa)
It was a down year for Plant, which failed to make its annual state title-game trip. But after turning down a job with USF, coach Robert Weiner returns to get things back in order.

9. Sandalwood Saints (Jacksonville)
The Saints have two Florida State commits — linebacker Kain Daub and defensive end Blake McClain. With a few newcomers and some big-time underclassmen, Sandalwood could challenge.

10. Oviedo Lions
The Lions move up to Class 8A after making the 7A quarterfinals last year. The top weapons are back, led by quarterback Chris Davis Jr. and defensive end Tyree Owens, both seniors, and a slew of junior studs.

Five Can't Miss Matchups

8.30 – Miami Central at Plantation American Heritage
This game features the top three running backs in the state with Heritage’s Sony Michel (Georgia commit) and Central’s dynamic duo of Dalvin Cook (Florida commit) and Joseph Yearby (Miami commit). Unfortunately for Michel, he’ll face one of the state’s top defenses.

9.6 – Miami Central vs. Booker T. Washington (at Sun Life Stadium)
It’s early for this showdown of the state’s top two teams, but these two will play each other anytime, anywhere. They met on the same Dolphins turf last year, with Central rallying behind Joseph Yearby, who played quarterback, for a 37-26 victory.
 
11.1 – Jacksonville First Coast at Jacksonville Sandalwood
Prospects abound in this one, and three of them are already committed to Florida State in Sandalwood linebacker Kain Daub and defensive end Blake McClain and First Coast quarterback De’Andre Johnson. The First Coast offense should give Sandalwood a big test in this key Class 8A district matchup.

11.1 – Oviedo at Orlando Timber Creek
Junior running back Jacques Patrick leads Creek against an Oviedo team that has five players with FBS offers. This will either be for the district title or a clash for second place to determine who stays home for the playoffs.

11.8 – Fort Lauderdale University School at Miami Central
This is a county battle for the ages pitting Broward and Miami-Dade schools. Defending 6A champ Central hosts 3A champ University, which moves to 4A. The scheduling is odd, with the state playoffs beginning the next week, but these teams will be ready for this epic showdown.

2013 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Sony Michel, RB, Plantation
Senior, 5-11, 205

Michel is a special running back who has been starting for the Patriots since his eighth-grade year, when he ran for 1,825 yards and 18 touchdowns. He followed his debut varsity season with another 18 touchdowns and 1,264 yards as a freshman, but he missed his sophomore season with a torn ACL. He was back at it again last year, churning out 1,667 yards and 21 more touchdowns. Michel committed to Georgia in April, and the Bulldogs can’t wait to get him between the hedges. With his recruiting behind him, he can focus on the 2013 season, and he’ll be looking for the 2,000-yard mark. He’s ranked by many recruiting websites as the No. 1 running back prospect in Florida and the No. 2 running back in the country behind everybody’s No. 1, Leonard Fournette of New Orleans.

2013 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Dillon Bates, LB, Ponte Vedra (Ponta Vedra Beach)
Senior, 6-3, 220

The epitome of a football player, Bates has been molded by a big-time role model. Former Dallas Cowboys safety Bill Bates is his dad, and the elder Bates has instilled some of the same characteristics that kept the old man roaming the Cowboys’ defensive secondary for 15 years in the NFL. Dillon Bates is disciplined, hard-hitting and intelligent on the field. He gets after the ball and covers the run and pass with equal efficiency. He’s one of the best pass-coverage linebackers in the state, and against the run, Bates sheds blockers as well as anyone. He’s already announced his top five college choices, with dad’s alma mater Tennessee sitting on top. He also likes, in order: Florida, Alabama, Texas and South Carolina. He had 63 tackles and three interceptions last year after recording 100-plus tackles as a sophomore.

 

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Teaser:
Florida's best high school football teams, preseason players of the year and games to watch.
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 12:35
Path: /college-football/comic-strip-kicks-kent-states-dri-archers-heisman-campaign
Body:

Kent State’s Dri Archer is one of college football’s top all-purpose players. In 14 games last season, he rushed for 1,429 yards and 16 scores, while catching 39 passes for 561 yards and four touchdowns. Archer also took three kickoff returns for scores.

Archer is a longshot to win the Heisman, but Kent State has kicked off a campaign to help promote its senior running back in 2013.

This comic strip is penned by Kent State alumnus Chuck Ayers and is one of the most unique Heisman campaigns from recent years. 

You can follow Dri Archer's Heisman campaign and future comic strips on twitter - @Dri4Heisman

 

Teaser:
Comic Strip Kicks off Kent State's Dri Archer's Heisman Campaign
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-2013-nfl-team-preview
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After four straight non-playoff seasons, you can say this about the Dolphins: They are decidedly different. Jeff Ireland, the holdover general manager, spent the offseason deploying owner Stephen Ross’ cash and his draft pick stash to transform the roster, leaning on input from second-year coach Joe Philbin. Gone are many players — such as Jake Long, Karlos Dansby, Reggie Bush and Davone Bess — who gave the Dolphins plenty of good games in recent seasons, but collectively, weren’t good enough.

Miami will have at least nine new starters, including free agent signings Mike Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe, and first-round pick Dion Jordan. Even with all the additions, though, the Fins still might have issues in the secondary and along the offensive line, and they still need second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill to take a giant leap forward.

“There’s no doubt I feel like we’re a better football team,” Ireland says. “I think we’ve gotten faster in a lot of different areas. I think we’ve added some playmakers.”

Athlon Sports AFC Power Ranking: 12th

Related: 2013 Miami Dolphins Schedule Analysis

Offense
Do the Dolphins finally have their first franchise quarterback since Dan Marino? Maybe. Aided by the presence of his former Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman as the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator, Tannehill ascended to the starting spot as a training camp rookie, and rarely looked overwhelmed by the assignment. Even so, he had little surrounding talent, and his overall performance was uneven, best evidenced by his underwhelming passer rating of 76.1. Miami actually slipped in points and yards per game from the previous season, when Matt Moore, now the backup, was the primary quarterback. Tannehill has the arm strength, mobility and feel for the position, and Sherman expects big improvement in his quarterback’s second season.

The Dolphins believe Tannehill will have more help, even after letting Bush, their leading rusher and most dynamic playmaker, leave for Detroit. Lamar Miller, a fourth-round pick in Tannehill’s draft class, flashed some potential as a rookie, and he will get the chance to carry the backfield burden. Daniel Thomas, a former second-rounder who has had trouble staying healthy or upright in his two seasons, is also in the mix.

Brian Hartline was re-signed to a rich contract after a breakout season in which he and Tannehill quickly developed chemistry, even if it didn’t produce points. Now he can settle into the more appropriate role of second receiver. The top guy? That will be Wallace, who got nearly $30 million in guaranteed money to scare safeties, stretch the field and score touchdowns. Wallace’s contract is relatively small in the first season, but it quintuples in size in 2014. To be worth that, he will need to do something he didn’t in his fourth and final season in Pittsburgh — top 1,000 yards — and at least match his career average of eight touchdowns. At tight end, Dustin Keller signed a one-year deal to replace the departed Anthony Fasano, but the former Jet sustained a serious, season-ending knee injury in the Dolphins' second preseason game. Now the team will look to Charles Clay, fourth-round draft pick Dion Sims and 2012 third-round selection Michael Egnew for production from the position.

Mike Pouncey, one of the league’s better centers, will be expected to lead the line, especially after Long, the former No. 1 overall pick, resisted a late Dolphins effort and signed with St. Louis. Richie Incognito, a wild card in prior stops, has actually been a steadying influence in Miami, and the massive John Jerry showed progress at the other guard spot last season. Jonathan Martin was the regular at right tackle as a rookie and, after bulking up in the offseason, likely will move to the left side to make room for veteran Tyson Clabo.

Defense
Over the past two seasons, the Dolphins ranked sixth and seventh in points allowed, hardly the sort of statistics that cry for a major overhaul. Still, there was some softness beneath the surface, with too few game-turning plays made when it mattered, especially on the edge and in the secondary. Kevin Coyle, in his second season as defensive coordinator, has been given plenty of new pieces to integrate into the 4-3 scheme he introduced in 2012.

The strength remains on the defensive front, where the electric Cameron Wake made the transition to putting his hand in the dirt and put up great numbers (15 sacks) without his teammates mustering much support. That was the inspiration for Ireland’s decision to deal an extra second-round pick, move up nine spots, and grab the ultra-athletic Jordan. He played defensive end in high school, and finished his Oregon career as an outside linebacker. Ireland characterized Jordan as an every-down player, though that will depend on how quickly he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery and whether he can hold up against the run.

Miami should be set inside, with space-eater Paul Soliai and the versatile Randy Starks, though Starks missed some conditioning sessions due to a contract issue.

The biggest offseason surprise came at linebacker. Few expected Miami to dump both Dansby and Kevin Burnett, after both had been productive — though, in Dansby’s case, overpaid — during their Dolphins tenures. In an effort to get younger and faster, Miami aggressively pursued Baltimore’s Dannell Ellerbe and Oakland’s Philip Wheeler, and got them both. Wheeler can play all three positions, and Ellerbe emerged as one of the most reliable performers on the Ravens’ Super Bowl squad. The third linebacker is Koa Misi, who has flashed ability but needs to provide more productivity.

The starters at safety likely will be the same with Chris Clemons re-signed to pair with Reshad Jones, who had a breakout season at age 24. Jones led the team in interceptions and the secondary in tackles and the team rewarded him with a four-year contract extension in early August. Prior to Philbin’s first training camp, it appeared the Dolphins were set for years at cornerback, with the players (Vontae Davis and Sean Smith) they had drafted in the first and second rounds in 2009. Now, neither is on the roster. Instead, Miami will pair a veteran signing (Brent Grimes) and a second-round rookie (Jamar Taylor) to see if that works. It’s better, but there still isn’t much depth.

Specialists
If Brandon Fields hasn’t been the best punter over the past four seasons, he’s been in that conversation. No worries there. Kicker, however, has been a different story, which is why the Dolpins drafted Florida's Caleb Sturgis in the fifth round. The coaching staff obviously has liked what it has already seen from the rookie, as incumbent kicker Dan Carpenter was released during training camp, meaning the job belongs to Sturgis. Marcus Thigpen was an undrafted find last season, and he will be the primary returner again.

Final Analysis: 2nd in AFC East
For the first time in a while, there appeared to be a clear offseason plan for the Dolphins — throw picks and cash at a variety of problems, notably the lack of support for Tannehill and the speed on both sides of the ball. How will that translate to wins? That largely depends, as it always does, on the quarterback. If he makes the leap that his coaches project, Miami can compete for a playoff spot. If not, there will be more calls for Ireland’s ouster and Philbin will be under pressure early in his tenure.

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2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimore (8/26)Houston (8/29)Denver (9/3)
MiamiCincinnati (8/27)Indianapolis (8/23)Kansas City (8/21)
New England (8/30)Cleveland (8/19)JacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburgh (8/28)Tennessee (8/22)San Diego (8/20)
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
Dallas (8/22)Chicago (8/20)Atlanta (8/27)Arizona
NY Giants (8/30)DetroitCarolinaSt. Louis (8/23)
Philadelphia (8/19)Green Bay (8/29)New Orleans (8/26)San Francisco (9/3)
WashingtonMinnesota (8/21)Tampa BaySeattle (8/28)

 

Teaser:
Miami Dolphins 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/ap-poll-where-bcs-champions-rank-preseason
Body:

When we sit down to iron out our Top 25 Poll each year at Athlon Sports, we are trying to project the final year-end standings not build a preseason power poll. It might be a small and subtle difference but an important one to acknowledge.

We don't necessarily think Louisville or Boise State is the 9th- or 11th-best team in the nation as they sit in our rankings, but rather, they will finish 9th and 11th in the final polls of the year. Frankly, I would take LSU in a best of anything series against either team but the Tigers' schedule is much more difficult and will likely result in more losses and therefore a lower postseason ranking.

Makes sense, right?

In 2013, Athlon has predicted the Alabama Crimson Tide will topple the Ohio State Buckeyes in the final BCS National Championship Game. Thus, 'Bama and OSU are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in our preseason magazine. But when trying to pick your national title winner — or pinpoint those capable of making a historic run — there are a few figures to consider.

The 2013 Preseason AP Poll is set to debut for the first time this weekend. Preseason rankings may seem arbitrary to some, in fact, many believe strongly that polls shouldn't exist until later in the year. But every one of the 15 BCS National Champions has been ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 and it has been 29 years since a team came from outside of the AP preseason Top 25 to win the AP National Championship (a controversial BYU title in 1984).

So here are some seriously intriguing factoids to consider:

Be Ranked In the Preseason Top 20
Only one team ranked outside of the AP Top 20 has ever won a BCS National Championship. The Auburn Tigers of 2010, behind junior college transfer and relative unknown commodity Cam Newton, began the year ranked No. 22 in the nation. The Tigers are the lowest ranked preseason team in the BCS era to win the title and are the first team outside of the top 20 since 1990 to even clinch a share of the title. Additionally, Oregon began 2010 outside of the top 10 at No. 11 — making that BCS National Championship game the only national title contest in the last 30+ years to feature two teams that began outside of the top 10 in the preseason polls. Notre Dame last year is the only team during the BCS era to even make it to the BCS title game without being ranked in the preseason AP Top 25.

Really Though, Be Ranked In The Top 10
Only four times in 15 years has the national champ come from outside the preseason Top 10. In addition to Auburn, Oklahoma in 2000 was ranked 19th, LSU in '03 was ranked 15th and Ohio State was ranked 13th. Only three additional teams since 1984 — Notre Dame in 1988 (13th), Michigan in '97 (14th) and Georgia Tech in '90 (UR) — have won the national title starting outside of the top 10. And Tech didn’t claim the AP title.

The Top 5 Is the Place To Be
Five of the last six national champions were ranked in the top five in the AP preseason poll. Alabama in 2009 and Florida in '08 each started the season at No. 5 — although, it should be noted that Athlon Sports had the Gators No. 1 in '08 — while LSU in '07 and both of Alabama's most recent crystal footballs were claimed by teams that were ranked second. In fact, 17 championship teams (including split titles) in the last 24 seasons began the year ranked in the top five. This means, according to Athlon Sports’ rankings, that there is a better than 70 percent chance that either Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, Georgia or South Carolina will win the final BCS championship this year. It also means there is less than a 30 percent chance that the champion comes from the other 120 teams. Sorry, Texas A&M, Louisville, LSU and everyone else.

No. 1 Is Just... Okay
So where is No. 1 in all of this you ask? Nowhere to be found, at least, not in the last decade. The USC Trojans in 2004 were the last AP preseason No. 1 team to claim the national championship. On top of that, the preseason No. 1 team in the AP poll hasn't even played in the national title game since 2006 when Ohio State lost to Florida. In fact, since 1982, only three preseason No. 1 teams have gone on to win the title. Florida State in 1993 and '99 were the only other teams to match the ’04 Trojans' wire-to-wire dominance. Additionally, more teams have lost the national title game as preseason No. 1's than have won it during the BCS era. Yes, six trips (of 15) to the BCS title game is a respectable prediction rate — and obviously most fan bases would take a guaranteed trip to the title game — but more times than not that team loses. The AP preseason No. 1 team is 2-4 in the big game.

Related: Potential Darkhorse National Championship Sleepers

So where is the best spot to be?
No. 2 is where you want to be when the preseason AP Poll comes out. Five of the last 13 national champions began the season ranked No. 2 in the preseason, more than any other preseason ranking by a wide margin. Alabama in 2011-12, LSU in '07, Texas in '05 and Miami in '01 all won the crown beginning from the second starting spot. The preseason No. 2 team has played in the BCS National Championship Game nine times, more than any other slot. Of the 30 total BCS title game teams, 30 percent have started the season as the No. 2 team in the AP poll. The next highest spot is No. 1 with six appearances, and that position is tied with the AP preseason No. 5 team with just two BCS wins.

Where Not To Be?
The preseason number you don’t want your team to be? Third or fourth to start. No team in the BCS era has won a title beginning the year ranked No. 3 or No. 4 — despite No. 4 making three appearances in the BCS Championship Game (0-3). Florida in 1996 was the last preseason No. 4 team to claim the title and Miami in '91 was the last team ranked No. 3 in the preseason to win the big prize. So for Athlon's ranking, this presumably knocks out Oregon (No. 3) and Georgia (No. 4). During the BCS era, teams ranked preseason No. 3, No. 6, No. 8 and No. 9 have never even played in the BCS National Championship game much less won it — although, USC won the AP title in 2003 ranked No. 8 in the preseason. The No. 6-ranked team hasn't won a title since 1997 (Nebraska) and No. 9 hasn't clinched the championship since '92 (Alabama). For good measure, No. 11 hasn't won a title in the last 33 seasons.

What do all these numbers mean for college football in 2013? Maybe nothing, maybe everything. But the stats do indicate that preseason polls are extremely accurate measuring sticks when attempting to pinpoint the quest for the coveted crystal football. So buy your Athlon Sports College Football preview magazine here!

Here is a quick list of how each of the national champs have ranked in the preseason:

YearTeamAP RankBCS Runner-UpAP Rank
2012AlabamaNo. 2Notre DameUR (No. 26)
2011AlabamaNo. 2LSUNo. 4
2010AuburnNo. 22OregonNo. 11
2009AlabamaNo. 5TexasNo. 2
2008FloridaNo. 5OklahomaNo. 4
2007LSUNo. 2Ohio StateNo. 10
2006FloridaNo. 7Ohio StateNo. 1
2005TexasNo. 2USCNo. 1
2004USCNo. 1OklahomaNo. 2
2003*LSUNo. 15OklahomaNo. 1
2003*USC (AP)No. 8----
2002Ohio StateNo. 13MiamiNo. 1
2001MiamiNo. 2NebraskaNo. 4
2000OklahomaNo. 19Florida StateNo. 2
1999Florida StateNo. 1Virginia TechNo. 11
1998TennesseeNo. 10Florida StateNo. 2
1997*Michigan (AP)No. 14----
1997*NebraskaNo. 6----
1996FloridaNo. 4----
1995NebraskaNo. 2----
1994NebraskaNo. 4----
1993Florida StateNo. 1----
1992AlabamaNo. 9----
1991*Miami (AP)No. 3----
1991*WashingtonNo. 4----
1990*Colorado (AP)No. 5----
1990*Georgia TechUnranked----
1989MiamiNo. 3----
1988Notre DameNo. 13----
1987MiamiNo. 10----
1986Penn StateNo. 6----
1985OklahomaNo. 2----
1984BYUUnranked----
1983MiamiUnranked----
1982Penn StateNo. 8----

Teaser:
Where have the BCS National Champions been ranked in the preseason and what does it mean for 2013?
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-16-2013
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Aug. 16.

 

The week's best GIFs and screencaps include this lovely lady who aspires to be the next Mrs. Federer.

 

A-Rod is really A-Rat.

 

Ugly naked guy stormed the field at the Lions-Browns game last night, which resulted in the evening's best form tackle (though not by any member of the Lions or Browns). Not entirely safe for work.

 

• A couple of celebrities are hiring lawyers for their sons this morning. One, Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy. The other, aging heartland rocker John Mellencamp.

 

• We all know that athletes are not mere mortals like you and me, including the way they recover from injuries.

 

• Looking to relocate? This could help: The best cities for meeting beautiful women. Portland's inclusion is surprising; I envision all their women looking like Carrie Brownstein.

 

• The week of Dufner continues. Here's our hero in a cryogenic chamber.

 

The SEC's top wide receivers of the BCS era.

 

Jay Cutler goes all John McEnroe on a lowly ball boy. Dude's in midseason form.

 

• I know, in the concussion era we're not supposed to celebrate big neck-snapping hits, but in this case, we'll make an exception.

 

• Speaking of near-decapitations, this minor league pitcher narrowly averted death to make a great play.

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 10:25
Path: /nfl/washington-redskins-2013-nfl-team-preview
Body:

Two significant obstacles stand between the Redskins and the next step in their turnaround: The fitness of quarterback Robert Griffin III’s right knee and the $18 million salary cap penalty the club is serving in 2013. Washington could hardly enjoy its first NFC East division championship in 13 seasons because Griffin had surgery on Jan. 9 to revise the reconstruction of his ACL and repair his lateral collateral ligament and medial meniscus. Griffin’s status for the regular season won’t crystallize until training camp, and even then, questions will remain about his ability to stay healthy.

Meanwhile, the Redskins’ salary cap sanction hindered efforts to sign free agents to bolster the first string. Washington’s contingency plan was to retain 21 of 22 starters from last year’s squad. That offense led the NFL with 6.2 yards per play, so the continuity could serve the Redskins well if Griffin is healthy. Defensively, though, the secondary needs an infusion of talent. Those problems make defending the division title difficult, though not impossible.

Athlon Sports NFC Power Ranking: 12th

Related: 2013 Washington Redskins Schedule Analysis

Offense
Griffin expected to miss at least the Redskins’ offseason program because of his knee injury. Spring practices would have helped him evolve as a drop-back passer. Coach Mike Shanahan and his son, offensive coordinator Kyle, didn’t force Griffin to drop back frequently during his rookie year because they opted to highlight what he did well at Baylor — line up in the shotgun and use his legs to help set up simple throws. The Shanahans believe Griffin will develop into one of the NFL’s best throwers, but that process is delayed.

There’s also the matter of Griffin’s durability. Coaches are emphasizing the importance of throwing the ball away and sliding, but those self-preservation methods detract from Griffin’s explosiveness and his ability to turn negative plays into positive gains.

Overall, though, Griffin is extremely dynamic when healthy. He protects the ball and became a more accurate passer as his rookie season progressed. He can make every throw, and his running ability allows Washington’s option package to keep defenses guessing.

Fellow second-year quarterback Kirk Cousins has the coaches’ confidence if Griffin can’t play. His tendency to make throws based on instincts can be problematic, but he is smart and well-prepared.

It would be surprising if running back Alfred Morris duplicated his 1,613-yard rookie season because Shanahan knows Morris would wear down if he fed him another 335 carries. Morris will get most of the touches because he has good vision and footwork in the one-cut system, and he usually gains yards after contact. Roy Helu missed virtually all of his second NFL season because of a foot and toe injury that required surgery in the spring. Fifth-round draft pick Chris Thompson tore the ACL in his left knee at Florida State last October and hopes to be ready for training camp.

Washington’s receivers should be even better this season. The sprained right foot that cost Pierre Garcon six games is almost fully healed. Joshua Morgan had a plate and seven screws removed from the right ankle he had surgically repaired in 2011. They might be the most physical receiving duo in the NFL. Tight end Fred Davis can be a dynamic weapon if he returns as expected to full fitness from tearing his left Achilles tendon last October.

The Redskins return all five starting offensive linemen. Tyler Polumbus, Jeremy Trueblood and Tony Pashos will compete to start at right tackle. Polumbus, the incumbent, struggles at times with footwork and leverage in pass protection, but he moves defenders in the run game.

Defense
Washington’s secondary is the team’s greatest source of uncertainty, so getting strong safety Brandon Meriweather back healthy from a torn ACL in his right knee is imperative. His speed enables the Redskins to disguise coverages, and he plays balls in space well.

Free safety presents the biggest question. Tanard Jackson, last summer’s first-stringer, remains suspended indefinitely until at least Aug. 31, so Washington can’t count on him. Incumbent Madieu Williams was the only starter not re-signed; he lacked range in deep coverage. The Redskins could move Meriweather to free safety and fill strong safety with the committee approach they used last season in place of Meriweather. Reed Doughty is a smart player whose tackling ability and physicality suit him well in the box. Jordan Pugh replaced Doughty in passing situations, when his speed in the deep secondary was required.

Coordinator Jim Haslett could go another direction and play sixth-round rookie Bacarri Rambo. He has collegiate experience playing strong and free, which meets the interchangeability requirement the Redskins have for their safeties. Unfortunately, fourth-round pick Phillip Thomas is no longer an option as the rookie will miss all of 2013 after sustaining a season-ending Lisfranc injury in his first preseason game.

Two-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Orakpo returns to aid the pass rush. He is recovered from the torn left pectoral muscle that cost him 14 games last season. His strength, speed and technique help him push the pocket.

The front seven remains an asset, particularly against the run. It must generate a more formidable pass rush with only four rushers. Defensive end Adam Carriker’s recovery from a season-ending quadriceps tear in Week 2 was delayed by a setback in March. His strength makes him an important part of the line rotation in the nickel package. Without him, others have to do extra work, so the Redskins hope he’s back for training camp.

Specialists
The Redskins’ greatest loss in free agency was Pro Bowl special teamer Lorenzo Alexander. He constantly commanded double teams by opposing kickoff and punt return units. Kai Forbath is an accurate field goal kicker, but his kickoffs fall short of desired distance. As long as he’s making field goals, though, his job is safe. Punter Sav Rocca can be inconsistent, but he’s capable of long punts when necessary. Richard Crawford shined as a punt returner late last season because of his fearlessness getting up the field. Niles Paul isn’t an explosive kick returner, so his hold on that job is tenuous.

Final Analysis: 4th in NFC East
The Redskins return all but one starter from the team that overcame significant injuries en route to 10 wins and the division title. Their success hinges on Griffin’s health, but the Redskins are well-coached and deeper than they’ve been in years. If Griffin is healthy all season, they could contend. If not, they could have trouble breaking the .500 mark.

Order your 2013 Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimore (8/26)Houston (8/29)Denver (9/3)
MiamiCincinnati (8/27)Indianapolis (8/23)Kansas City (8/21)
New England (8/30)Cleveland (8/19)JacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburgh (8/28)Tennessee (8/22)San Diego (8/20)
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
Dallas (8/22)Chicago (8/20)Atlanta (8/27)Arizona
NY Giants (8/30)DetroitCarolinaSt. Louis (8/23)
Philadelphia (8/19)Green Bay (8/29)New Orleans (8/26)San Francisco (9/3)
WashingtonMinnesota (8/21)Tampa BaySeattle (8/28)

 

Teaser:
Washington Redskins 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: videos, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/rg3-secretly-rehabbed-some-random-dudes-house
Body:
While Robert Griffin III and Redskins' coach Mike Shanahan go back and forth discussing when the QB will get to play, we learned an interesting backstory on RG3's rehab efforts. Apparently while rehabbing his knee, his doctors' reached out to a random guy near the Redskins training camp with a very awesome pool. Check out the video below.
 

Teaser:
RG3 Secretly Rehabbed at Some Random Dude's House
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 09:06
All taxonomy terms: Funny, videos, Overtime
Path: /overtime/baseball-fan-day-guy
Body:
Do you think this guys has a checklist he goes through before he heads to the Detroit Tigers game?
 
Endangered animal skin jacket? CHECK!
Sunglasses for night game? CHECK!
Glove that's been spray painted gold? CHECK!

Teaser:
Sometimes baseball fans are weird.
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 08:47
All taxonomy terms: Funny, videos, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/streaker-gets-leveled-browns-security-guard
Body:
It wasn't just Cleveland and Detroit that took the field during last night's preseason match-up. A half-dressed dude sprinted across the field until security guards took him out. The only thing missing is some "Chariots of Fire" music playing in the background. 

 

Teaser:
It wasn't just Cleveland and Detroit that took the field during last night's preseason match-up. A half-dressed dude sprinted across the field until security guards took him out. It was a thing of beauty.
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 08:31
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Missouri Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/james-franklin-wins-missouri-qb-battle
Body:

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel decided to end the quarterback speculation on Thursday night, picking James Franklin as the Tigers’ No. 1 passer for the season opener against Murray State.

Franklin was one of the Big 12’s top quarterbacks in 2011 but struggled in his SEC debut. The Texas native was dealing with a shoulder injury last season and was less than full strength for 2012.

Assuming Franklin is 100 percent, he should rebound with a big season in 2013.

Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk pushed Franklin for time this offseason, and the coaching staff plans on getting him into games this season to gain experience for 2014.

It wasn’t much of a surprise, but Missouri made the right call in naming Franklin the starter for 2013.<

Teaser:
James Franklin Wins Missouri QB Battle
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

Mississippi State started 2012 with seven consecutive victories, but the Bulldogs struggled in the second half of the season with a 1-5 mark over their final six contests.

With 11 starters back, Mississippi State should be back in the mix for a winning season in 2013. But the SEC isn’t going to get any easier. Auburn and Arkansas should show improvement under their new coaching staffs, and the addition of Texas A&M will only add another obstacle in the West Division for the Bulldogs.

Coach Dan Mullen has done a good job of elevating Mississippi State into a being a consistent bowl team, but the fanbase wants to compete for SEC West titles.

With a non-conference date against Oklahoma State and a road test at South Carolina in crossover play, Mississippi State will have a tough time replicating last year’s eight wins.

What will Mississippi State's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Mississippi State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
Braden
Gall
Mark
Ross
David
Fox
SEC
Logo
8/31 Oklahoma State (Houston)
9/7 Alcorn State
9/14 at Auburn
9/21 Troy
10/5 LSU
10/12 Bowling Green
10/24 Kentucky
11/2 at South Carolina
11/9 at Texas A&M
11/16 Alabama
11/23 Arkansas (Little Rock)
11/28 Ole Miss
Final Projection6-67-56-66-65-7

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Dan Mullen’s overall record at Mississippi State is just 29-22, but the Bulldogs have made considerable progress under his watch. Mississippi State has three consecutive winning seasons for only the second time since 1960, and if the Bulldogs make a bowl, it will be first time in school history the program has made four straight postseason appearances. So while the wins haven’t been as plentiful has some may have wanted, Mississippi State is on the right track and has closed the gap with the rest of the SEC. Surpassing last year’s eight wins will be difficult, especially since the schedule is a little tougher than it was last year, and the Bulldogs must replace standout cornerback Johnthan Banks. Provided a few receivers emerge, the offense should average around 30 points a game. And promoting Geoff Collins to be the defense’s playcaller should pay dividends for Mullen. Mississippi State’s depth and talent has improved in recent years, but the SEC West isn’t getting easier. Auburn and Arkansas will be better than they were last season, and Ole Miss and Texas A&M aren’t expected to take a step back. Expect another bowl game and six or seven win season in Starkville this year.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Dan Mullen must replace some big-time names in his secondary, but I think this team is going to be sneaky good up front on that side of the ball. Offensively, the Bulldogs are one of only three SEC teams returning a 2,800-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher to the same backfield in Tyler Russell and LaDarius Perkins. If Russell can take the next step in his development, this team could be dangerous. More likely, however, is State fails to compete with the big boys and beats the teams it is supposed to. Another bowl game and another five losses for Mullen and Company in Starkville.

Mark Ross
Dan Mullen has averaged just over seven wins in his four seasons at Mississippi State and the Bulldogs have gone to three straight bowl games. Mullen has raised the bar in Starkville, but the schedule-makers did him no favors as he looks to keep the momentum going this fall. It's not that Mississippi State is or will be a bad team, it's just that a schedule that opens with Oklahoma State and also includes Alabama, LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M, as well as the season-ending Egg Bowl with OIe Miss will be tough sledding.

The offense needs a big senior season from quarterback Tyler Russell and some unproven wide receivers to step up, while the front seven of the defense will need to lead the way to allow an inexperienced secondary the time to develop. Even if everything goes right for Mullen and his team, they still could finish no better than .500 during the regular season. The fact that such a showing would be considered a disappointment shows you how far Mullen has already brought this program. Remember this Bulldogs fans, especially when the calendar turns to November.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Give credit to Dan Mullen: His teams rarely lose games they’re supposed to win. They’ve just never won games they’re supposed to lose. Mississippi State is probably better than the 6-6 team I’ve picked here. With a veteran quarterback and a solid defensive line, the Bulldogs should be able to compete in the SEC. But the Bulldogs are going to have to prove they can beat the top teams in the league (or the top teams in the Big 12, for that matter). Getting an untested LSU team at home early in the season will be a good opportunity for Mississippi State to make a statement, plus an Egg Bowl that finally has a bit of appeal outside of the state.

SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
Last year Tyler Russell competed 58.6% of his passes for 2,897 yards 24 TDs / 10 INTs.  Those aren't bad numbers by any stretch, but playing this schedule, they won’t cut it this season.  State has guys who are SEC household names:  Gabe Jackson, Benardrick McKinney,  LaDarius Perkins, that’s NFL talent.  But look at this November slate: at South Carolina, at Texas A&M, Alabama, at Arkansas, Ole Miss.  Brutal... Name to remember: Chris Jones.

Related College Football Content

SEC Predictions for 2013
SEC 2013 All-Conference Team
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College Football's Top 25 Running Back Units for 2013
Florida Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Texas A&M Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Georgia Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Getting to Know the SEC's New Coaches for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-America Team
SEC's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013

Teaser:
Mississippi State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/critical-stretches-2013-key-games-acc
Body:

Two ACC teams will play in the highest-profile games of the first week when Clemson hosts Georgia and Virginia Tech faces Alabama in Atlanta. The deciding conference title, though, will wait until mid-October.

 

That’s when Clemson, Florida State and Miami will all begin key stretches that could determine their division title status.

Clemson and Florida State again will duke it out for the Atlantic division title, but Miami will have an idea of what it needs to do for the Coastal after contenders Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Georgia Tech begin their key runs in September.

Our series looking at critical stretches for every team continues today with a look at the two-, three- and four-game stretches that will make or break seasons in the ACC. We're taking a look at the key series of games that will determine a division title, ability to reach a bowl game or at least avoid embarrassment. We’ve already examined the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12.

*presented in Athlon’s ACC projected order of finish

ACC ATLANTIC

Clemson

Oct. 19 Florida State
Oct. 26 at Maryland
Nov. 2 at Virginia
Nov. 14 Georgia Tech

The key game for Clemson’s national relevance is the Georgia opener. Win that, and the Tigers won’t face another Athlon top-50 team until Florida State on Oct. 19. The ACC, though, won’t be decided until this stretch in late October and early November. Clemson-Florida State may end up determining the Atlantic, but Georgia Tech has won four of the last six games against Georgia Tech. This could be a difficult stretch for the Clemson offense as the Tigers play three teams (FSU, Maryland and Virginia) who ranked in the top four in the ACC in fewest yards allowed per play. The exception, Georgia Tech, changed defensive coordinators since last season.

Related: Clemson game-by-game picks

Florida State
Oct. 19 at Clemson
Oct. 26 NC State
Nov. 2 Miami
Nov. 9 at Wake Forest

In a four-week span, Florida State draws its toughest conference games (Clemson and Miami) and two teams that have successfully spoiled FSU seasons in the past (NC State and Wake Forest). The Seminoles should have a standout secondary again, but the defensive backs will be tested against the top two passers in the ACC in Tajh Boyd and Stephen Morris. The ‘Noles have lost to either NC State or Wake in each of the last three seasons, but all of those have come on the road.

Related: Florida State game-by-game picks

Maryland
Sept. 14 at Connecticut
Sept. 21 West Virginia (Baltimore)
Oct. 5 at Florida State
Oct. 12 Virginia
Oct. 19 at Wake Forest
Oct. 26 Clemson

Maryland appears to be ready for a turnaround season after going 6-18 under Randy Edsall. A healthy quarterback situation and a dynamic offensive playmaker in Stefon Diggs could make the Terrapins a bowl team. Before ACC play begins, however, a pair of games could be a referendum on the Edsall era when he faces his old team for the second team (UConn beat Maryland 24-21 in College Park last season) then a down West Virginia team that has won seven in a row in the series. Once ACC play begins, upsetting either Florida State or Clemson would be a major statement.

NC State
Nov. 2 North Carolina
Nov. 9 at Duke
Nov. 16 at Boston College
Nov. 23 East Carolina
Nov. 30 Maryland

Homecoming against North Carolina will be a key game for first-year coach Dave Doeren. The Tar Heels ended the Wolfpack’s five-game winning streak last season. Escape that, and NC State will be hoping for a 5-0 finish to season. By missing Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, NC State is set up for a good record.

Wake Forest
Aug. 29 Presbyterian
Sept. 6 at Boston College
Sept. 14 ULM
Sept. 21 at Army

Starting with four wins in a row will be mandatory if the Demon Deacons are going to head to a bowl game. A road game against a conference opponent and a non-AQ team with a dynamic quarterback (ULM’s Kolton Browning) means it won’t be easy. Wake won’t play on a Saturday until the third week of the season.

Syracuse
Nov. 23 Pittsburgh
Nov. 30 Boston College

With Penn State and Northwestern on the non-conference schedule, Syracuse may have a tough time getting to a bowl game. Home games against its former Big East brethren could be key games for Scott Shafer’s early tenure.

Boston College
Nov. 16 NC State
Nov. 23 at Maryland
Nov. 30 at Syracuse

Boston College has a brutal schedule in Steve Addazio’s first season -- at USC, Florida State, at Clemson, at North Carolina and Virginia Tech in a six-game span in September and October. If Addazio is going to instill toughness, it will be evident late in the season against second- and third-tier ACC teams NC State, Maryland, Syracuse. The game against the Orange, also under a first-year coach, could be a key game for momentum in the Northeast.

ACC COASTAL

Miami
Oct. 17 at North Carolina
Oct. 26 Wake Forest
Nov. 2 at Florida State
Nov. 9 Virginia Tech

Miami will face the top two contenders in the Coastal (Virginia Tech and North Carolina) and its biggest rival (Florida State) all in a four-week span starting with the Thursday kickoff against Carolina. The FSU and Virginia Tech games will be most intriguing as Miami, a team with little depth behind the starting backfield of Duke Johnson and Stephen Morris, face the league’s top two defenses in back-to-back games late in the season.

Related: Miami game-by-game picks

Virginia Tech
Sept. 26 at Georgia Tech
Oct. 5 North Carolina

Virginia Tech’s opener against Alabama will be the Hokies’ most high-profile game, and Miami on Nov. 9 will play a key role in the Coastal. Still, Virginia Tech’s status as ACC contenders will be answered in this two-game stretch. The development of Logan Thomas may be the key to the season, but the Hokies’ defense will be tested against Georgia Tech’s option one week and North Carolina’s spread the next.

Related: Virginia Tech game-by-game picks

Georgia Tech
Sept. 21 North Carolina
Sept. 26 Virginia Tech
Oct. 5 at Miami
Oct. 12 at BYU

The Yellow Jackets will have an idea of where they stand in the division by the first week of October after facing North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Miami in consecutive weeks. Ted Roof’s Georgia Tech defense, shredded last season under Al Groh, will have an early test against the Tar Heels’ skill position talent.  On a short week, Georgia Tech draws the Hokies on a Thursday night game. The Yellow Jackets have lost three in a row in a game that used to determine the Coastal division title. BYU is a rare non-conference road game in the middle of October, but it's a return trip from a year ago. The Cougars held Georgia Tech to a season-low 3.3 yards per carry last season.

North Carolina
Sept. 21 at Georgia Tech
Sept. 28 East Carolina
Oct. 5 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 17 Miami

North Carolina lost road games to Wake Forest, Louisville and Duke, three games decided by five points or less. If Carolina is going to challenge for the Coastal title, the Tar Heels will need good showings against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech away from Chapel Hill. Keep in mind: North Carolina defeated Virginia Tech and Miami in back-to-back games last season. This year, the Heels get a bye week between the two ACC Coastal contenders.

Pittsburgh
Oct. 12 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 19 Old Dominion
Oct. 26 at Navy
Nov. 2 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 9 Notre Dame

Last season, Pittsburgh lost to Youngstown State, beat Virginia Tech and nearly upset Notre Dame. This stretch has the most potential for chaos.

Virginia
Oct. 26 Georgia Tech
Nov. 2 Clemson
Nov. 9 at North Carolina
Nov. 23 at Miami
Nov. 30 Virginia Tech

Mike London may have to salvage something out of this brutal five-game stretch to avoid hot seat talk going into 2014.

Duke
Sept. 21 Pittsburgh
Sept. 28 Troy
Oct. 12 Navy
Oct. 19 at Virginia

The Blue Devils will need to win at least three of these if they are to make consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history.

Teaser:
Which three- and four-game stretches will determine the ACC title?
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/college-football-top-30-impact-freshmen-2013
Body:

Players like LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore, Braxton Miller and Johnny Manziel have set the bar for freshmen awfully high in recent years with elite first-year performances.

Manziel earned top frosh honors in the SEC a year ago while Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Miami's Duke Johnson, Penn State's Deion Barnes and TCU's Devonte Fields changed the landscape of their respective leagues in just one season on the field.

In the modern era of college football, the first-year player is so much more important than ever before. Key players are playing at key positions on championship-caliber teams in every conference. There are tons of freshmen not listed here that will play a big role this year but are either unknowns (ala Manziel last fall), blocked by All-Americans (looking at you Vernon Hargreaves III) or will need time to develop (looking at you Laremy Tunsil). 

So all things considered, here are the biggest impact, most important, most talented freshmen to watch in 2013:

1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Few first-year players will enter play with as much hype and expectations as the Seminoles' starting quarterback. He has been given the reins to Jimbo Fisher’s offense with eyes on a second straight ACC title. He has a huge arm, big-time intangibles, great size and has already played on a big postseason stage for the Florida State baseball team. The 'Noles will go as far as Winston can take them.

2. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State (pictured)
There is no doubt he is the most gifted quarterback on the Penn State campus, but Hackenberg needs to prove he can handle a big-time NCAA program before he takes the reins. The delicate balance between gaining experience and ruining confidence must always be considered with true freshman quarterbacks. Hackenberg looks like a huge star in the making and he is in good hands under Bill O’Brien. The question is merely when, not if, Hackenberg takes over under center for the Lions.

3. Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Ole Miss
He was the No. 1 prospect in the nation and is drawing (unfairly) comparisons to Jadeveon Clowney. While Nkemdiche is a totally different type of defensive end than Clowney, he should have a similar impact in his first year. His work ethic and physical tools will allow him to make plays each week but he will also spend a good deal of time this year learning how to play one of the toughest positions on the field.

4. Dontre Wilson, AP, Ohio State
The Percy Harvin comparisons have run rampant during camp, but having filmed this kid last year, I can tell you the comparisons are warranted. Yes, he is 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds and will wear No. 1 in an Urban Meyer offense. But he also can score from anywhere on the field, is adept at catching the ball as well as running it and can be used in the return game. Yup, sounds like Harvin alright. Look for Meyer to get Wilson the ball early and often.

5. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The last name should say it all. As the fourth Fuller brother to play at Virginia Tech, Kendall has five-star expectations to match his five-star talent. He is earning his way into the starting lineup in place of the injured Antone Exum. He has elite speed, quickness and football IQ and it could mean a huge first season in Blacksburg for what could be the best of the four Fuller brothers.

6. Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon
The record-setting tailback has all of the tools to earn the starting job at Oregon as just a true freshman. Try a state-record 643 yards and 10 scores in one game on his 18th birthday last fall. He has power, speed and plenty of wiggle to fit into the Ducks' high-powered rushing attack. Expect plenty of mop-up duty early on before potentially earning workhorse status as the year goes along.

7. Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden, OL, Michigan
Kalis was the more high profile recruit and is extremely gifted in his own right, but Taylor Lewan says Braden is “the most physically gifted individual I’ve ever seen.” Kalis and Braden are slotted in as the starting guard tandem and this influx of talent along the line could push Michigan over the top as the Legends Division frontrunner.

8. Hatari Byrd, S, Oklahoma
The rumors about Byrd starting for the struggling Sooner defense have long run rampant in Norman. But as the season inches closer, those rumors are turning into facts as Byrd has seen time with the first-team defense at corner, safety and nickel back. He has great instincts and a big frame (6-1, 200) and will make a big impact in 2013.

9. Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida
The Gators might have finally found an impact playmaker on the outside of the offense in Robinson. He is big, physical, explosive and has NFL written all over him. With injuries mounting, Robinson has a chance to play a huge role for an offense that desperately needs a go-to target in the passing game.

10. Su’a Cravens, S, USC
The No. 1 safety prospect in the nation is looking to crack the starting lineup right out of the gate. Worst-case scenario, Cravens is the top nickel back and gets plenty of chances on passing downs. He has great size and speed and, from what we learned talking with him last year, is prepared for success on the next level.

11. Tray Matthews, S, Georgia
The Bulldogs' defense is working through a major rebuild and getting Matthews onto campus in January was a huge blessing. The Athlon Consensus 100 safety is already slotted into the starting lineup for a unit that desperately needs leadership and stability after heavy turnover in the offseason. Matthews is a great athlete with excellent intangibles, so he should adjust quickly to the college speed.

12. Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel, DE, Auburn
Physically, Lawson is ready to start opposite of Dee Ford at end for Auburn. He will battle with fellow top-100 prospect Daniel — and senior Nosa Eguae — to lock down that spot along the Tigers' front for Ellis Johnson. Short (6-2), quick and powerful (260 pounds), Lawson is developed well beyond his years and has a chance to be a special player on the Plains. Even if it is in spot duty behind Eguae.

13. Zach Kline, QB, Cal
With a few weeks to go before games kickoff, new coach Sonny Dykes hasn’t named a starting quarterback yet. Kline is battling with Jared Goff but is the more talented option and should earn the job at some point in the new future. He has big-time ability and plenty of talented playmakers around him to make an impact as a redshirt freshman.

14. Robbie Rhodes, WR, Baylor
Rhodes might be the most gifted athlete in a long line of elite Baylor wide receivers. Tevin Reese has one starting spot locked down but the big, physical Rhodes should sneak his way into the starting lineup almost immediately. He brings a bigger frame than Terrance Williams and as much athletic ability as Kendall Wright — a scary combination.

15. Jerald Hawkins and Ethan Pocic, OL, LSU
The big redshirt freshman Hawkins had a great offseason and has continued his excellent play in fall camp. After Josh Williford was hurt again, Les Miles has had to move pieces around on his front line. Hawkins could slide into a starting spot at right tackle while the 6-foot-7 Pocic, an early enrollee and top 100 recruit, could start at center.

16. Ishmael Adams, Priest Willis and Tahaan Goodman, DB, UCLA
The UCLA secondary is very, very talented but very, very young. Adams was an elite recruit in 2012 and should be the best of the group as a redshirt freshman. Willis and Goodman were both top-100 prospects nationally in this class as well. All three could be starting by season’s end — which is both good and bad news for the Bruins' pass defense.

17. Marquez North, WR, Tennessee
The Volunteers are in desperate need of playmakers at wide receiver to replace the lawfirm of Hunter, Patterson and Rogers. North has gotten rave reviews in camp thus far and has elite vertical ability and size. The top prospect in the Vols' class, North is 6-foot-4, 215 and should become the top target for whomever is playing quarterback.

18. Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, Northwestern
As one of the highest-rated recruits to ever sign with Northwestern, Odenigbo is surrounded by a lot of hype. After a redshirt season brought on by a season-ending shoulder injury, fans in Evanston are ready to see what the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder can do fully healthy. He will bring elite athleticism to an outside pass rush that ranked 50th in the nation a year ago in sacks per game.

19. Alex Figueroa, LB, Miami
A Fork Union Military Academy product, Figueroa burst onto the scene in spring ball, earning himself a starting spot at outside linebacker. He has excellent athletic ability, toughness and rarely misreads a play. This defense was atrocious last year and Figueroa should be a big part of why it should be better in 2013.

20. Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
There is a host of elite running backs entering the SEC this fall but Collins might have the best combination of upside, talent and opportunity. Bret Bielema’s system is run-heavy and there is little depth in the backfield blocking Collins' path to carries. Look for the 5-foot-11, 210-pound speed-power combo to play early and often for the Hogs.

Related: Biggest Impact Freshmen to Watch in the SEC in 2013

21. Derrick Green, RB, Michigan
Green’s role in Brady Hoke's pro-style offense is yet to be determined. He could easily play over 230 pounds and that would make him the go-to short-yardage and goal-line back to start. However, he wants to be much more than a complementary piece, and knowing the injury history of the Wolverines' backfield, he should be ready to shoulder the load at any point. Picking up the blitz will be the key for Green’s playing time, however.

22. LaQuan Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
The No. 1-rated wide receiver in the nation is landing in an offense that should throw the ball as much as anyone in the league. Treadwell is a monster physically and is as game-ready as any freshman at any position in the nation. He has some talent ahead of him on the depth chart but what he learns from Vince Sanders and Donte Moncrief will only help him develop into a playmaker quicker.

23. Montravius Adams, DL, Auburn
The massive 6-foot-4, 320-pound tackle likely won’t start but fans will known all about him in short order. He will wear an odd number (No. 1) for a guy weighing in at more than three spins. However, it is his play that will get him noticed on the field as he develops into one of the league’s top true nose tackles.

24. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Sure, he is listed as a running back and will get carries but he is so much more than that. He is talented enough to play H-Back, tight end, wide receiver, outside linebacker or even defensive end. But who wants to tackle 6-foot-3, 243 pounds of runner?

25. Eddie Vanderdoes, DL, UCLA
After a back and forth with Notre Dame, Vanderdoes has landed at UCLA and can play right away. And play he should as one of the most talented defensive linemen in this year's freshman class. Coming in as the No. 2-rated D-lineman in the nation, Vanderdoes should help replace the loss of Datone Jones.

26. Riley Bullough, Delton Williams and Gerald Holmes, RB, Michigan State
There are some more experienced options on the roster (e.g., Nick Hill) but it could be a freshman committee running the ball in East Lansing this year. Riley Bullough is currently the No. 1 with Gerald Holmes and Delton Williams making a strong push for time. Bullough is 230 pounds, Holmes is 215 and Williams checks in at 220. All three are in their first season on the field and all three bring a physical style that Mark Dantonio craves from his running game.

27. Taquan Mizzell, RB, Virginia
The speedy tailback should provide a much-needed spark to the Cavaliers' ground attack. Kevin Parks is an undersized, underrated running back but “Smoke” Mizzell should complement him perfectly. The freshman can score from anywhere on the field and makes defenders look silly in the open field. Look for 100-120 touches for the star first-year back.

28. Dan Voltz, C, Wisconsin
A big-time signing in the 2012 class, Voltz nearly got into the starting lineup a year ago before Bret Bielema decided to redshirt him. The talented guard-turned-pivot is now working under his third offensive line coach in 12 months and is looking to replace a star in Travis Frederick. Gary Andersen will run the ball at Wisconsin and Voltz will be an integral piece for the Badgers O-line.

29. Jonathan McLaughlin, OL, Virginia Tech
He wasn’t a five-star prospect like some other names on this list, but McLaughlin should have a similar impact. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder should be the starter at left tackle protecting Logan Thomas in what is a critical year for all parties involved with Hokies football.

30. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
The actual H-back position will likely be filled by Howard. The nation’s top tight end recruit needs to improve his in-line blocking but has all the tools to be a big-time player as a hybrid tight end/H-back.

Related: Biggest Impact Freshmen to Watch in the ACC in 2013

Best of the Rest:

Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson
Through graduation and injury, Leggett appears poised to snag the starting tight end role in one of the nation’s elite offenses. Dwayne Allen was a Mackey Award winner for this team two years ago, and while no one should compare Leggett to Allen just yet, the system has clearly proven to be TE-friendly. Look for big things from the 6-foot-6, 240-pound frosh.

Stacy Coley, WR, Miami
The second-fastest player on the team already, Coley has a chance to make a big impact in his first year. With a stable quarterback situation, the handsy wideout appears to be the most talented pass-catcher on the roster already. There will be growing pains, but the up-tempo offense could mean big numbers for the speedy freshman.

Shelton Gibson and Devonte Mathis, WR, West Virginia
Both youngsters appear to be slotted into, well, the slot. Tavon Austin made this position a marquee location in the West Virginia offense and these two have the potential to replace that production. Both are bigger and more physical than Austin but will have to fight their way into the starting lineup.

Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
He has dealt with a nagging groin issue this camp, but Alexander’s overall talent and a need in the secondary should force the freshman cornerback into action early. Any missed time will hurt the ever-important first month of practice for a first-year player but Mac’s raw upside and cover skills should get him on the field plenty this fall.

Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida
Starter Matt Jones has missed most of camp thus far with a "serious viral infection" and it is starting to concern Will Muschamp. The good news is an true freshman with elite NFL All-Pro pedigree has already stepped in a softened the blow. Jones should still be considered the starter but Fred Taylor's son won't be kept off the field in 2013.

Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
The No. 2 recruit in the Bears' class was this local product from Waco High School. At 6-foot and over 300 pounds, he is physically ready to compete with the Big 12’s O-line. Billings will need to adjust to the pace of play before he can start but that shouldn’t take long for this weight room warrior.

Damore’ea Stringfellow, WR, Washington
The Huskies signed a deep and talented receiving class. John Ross and Darrell Daniels should both play plenty but Stringfellow is the most gifted at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. He will likely begin in a reserve role but should work his way into the starting lineup in short order.

Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
“Grown man” is the phrase that comes to most when watching Foster line up in the middle of the 'Bama defense. He is a physical monster and is trying to pry his way into the lineup as just a true freshman.

Robert Lewis, WR, Washington State
Mike Leach has been very open about his appreciation of Lewis’ ability. He is lightning quick and making progress every day in his quest to lock down a starting spot. He will get plenty of run in an offense known for producing big-time numbers.

Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State
There might not be a team in the nation with better starting safeties than Ohio State. And that should explain just how gifted the freshman safety could be. Bell will be used in nickel back situations and will get tons of time in mop-up duty. He flies all over the field and will be the next great Buckeyes safety.

Related: Biggest Impact Freshmen to Watch in the Big Ten in 2013

Big Name Quarterbacks To Watch:

Malik Zaire, Notre Dame
Tommy Rees is and should be the Irish starter, but Zaire has to be considered a serious threat to the steal the starting job away at some point during the year. This offense could struggle early and should it lose some tough games — say, at Michigan, Oklahoma and Arizona State — Brian Kelly could make a switch mid-year. Zaire is nearly a carbon copy of Everett Golson and brings an element of athleticism to the offense that Kelly so badly craves from the position. Keep an eye on the early enrollee in South Bend.

Anu Solomon, Arizona
B.J. Denker and Jesse Scroggins are in the Wildcats’ quarterback scrum as well but Solomon might be the most talented and best suited to run Rich Rodriguez’ system. He needs to gain experience and likely won’t start the season as the starter, but has electric upside. The talented dual-threat is arguably the top prospect in the history of Nevada high school football after leading famed Bishop Gorman to four straight state championships.

Jeremy Johnson, Auburn
He is the best long-term option but will need to prove he is ready. Kiehl Frazier's move to safety helps both junior college transfer and starting front-runner Nick Marshall and Johnson. While Johnson isn't a true dual-threat and may not fit Guz Malzahn scheme perfectly, his special blend of size (6-5), arm strength and poise make force Auburn to start a true freshman under center.

Tyrone Swoopes, Texas
No, Swoopes won’t relegate David Ash to the bench. But the talk out of camp about the raw physical ability of the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder has been hard to ignore. He could be used in Wildcat situations, short-yardage, trick plays and even as a slot, H-back-type pass-catcher. Look out for this kid.

Davis Webb, Texas Tech
The youngster has been in a battle for the starting gig with Michael Brewer for some time now. And with Brewer missing time due to a nagging back injury, Webb has been getting the reps. Playing in Kliff Kingsbury's offense is a nice play to be, even for a freshman.

Ford Childress, West Virginia
No, Childress likely won’t win the starting QB gig but the coaches haven’t been shy about how much they love the upside of the massive redshirt freshman. Clint Trickett and Paul Millard have much more experience but the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Childress is the long-term plan under center in Morgantown.

Related: Top 15 QB Battles Watch this Fall

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Teaser:
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/critical-games-2013-key-stretches-pac-12
Body:

As Oregon and Stanford have taken over the post-Pete Carroll Pac-12, so have the Ducks’ and Cardinal’s divergent styles. Facing Oregon’s track meet offense and Stanford grinding, physical attack means headaches for coordinators and strength coaches alike.

Schools like Washington and UCLA must wonder what they’ve done wrong to deserve playing both Oregon and Stanford in back-to-back games. Those will be tough two-game stretches, and they're among the key games that will determine the Pac-12 race.

Our series looking at the critical stretches for each major conference continues with the Pac-12 and a look at the two-, three- and four-game stretches that will play a role in division titles, bowl appearances or just any kind of positive development. We’ve already examined the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and SEC.

*presented in Athlon’s Pac-12 predicted order of finish

PAC-12 NORTH

Oregon

Oct. 12 at Washington
Oct. 19 Washington State
Oct. 26 UCLA
Nov. 7 at Stanford

Oregon will face bowl teams in back-to-back weeks only once all season when the Ducks face Arizona and Oregon State in the last two games. Three bowl teams in a five-week stretch, then, is the most taxing part of the Ducks’ season. An off week to break up a matchup against UCLA and Brett Hundley before facing the physical Cardinal offense on a Thursday works helps Oregon, but Stanford has the week off as well before the Thursday showdown.

Stanford
Oct. 19 UCLA
Oct. 26 at Oregon State
Nov. 7 Oregon
Nov. 16 at USC

Stanford won’t play consecutive home games until the final two weeks of the season. This will be the toughest stretch against a pair of South Division contenders, plus Oregon. Stanford’s defense is up to the task, but the Cardinal will face a pair of dual-threat quarterbacks (Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley) and two traditional pro-style attacks with elite receivers in USC and Oregon State.

Oregon State
Oct. 26 Stanford
Nov. 1 USC
Nov. 16 at Arizona State
Nov. 23 Washington
Nov. 29 at Oregon

Oregon State traditionally plays better late in the season, but that’s going to be awful tough in the final five games of the season. The Beavers face Athlon’s division winner picks on the road (Arizona State and Oregon). If the Beavers are going to reach a bowl game of note, they’ll need to pile up wins early in the season, which includes a span of four road trips in five games.

Washington
Oct. 5 at Stanford
Oct. 12 Oregon
Oct. 19 at Arizona State

How well Washington handles the Stanford game could determine the way the remainder of the season goes. The Huskies will face the league’s most physical team on the road and then must prepare for the track meet against Oregon. Arizona State on the road won’t be easy, either.

Cal
Oct. 12 at UCLA
Oct. 19 Oregon State
Oct. 26 at Washington
Nov. 2 Arizona

Sonny Dykes won’t get a great welcome as the Bears face Northwestern, Ohio State and Oregon in three of the first four games. A key sign of progress could be when the Bears take on the second-tier of Pac-12. No one would expect Cal to win all four, but one or two would be nice.

Washington State
Nov. 16 at Arizona
Nov. 23 Utah
Nov. 29 at Washington

Expectations for Mike Leach have been tempered since everyone (including Athlon) tabbed Washington State for a quick turnaround last season. A bowl game may be too much to ask from a Wazzu team with an undermanned offensive line and defense, but Leach may need the final three games to build some kind of momentum into 2014.

PAC-12 SOUTH

Arizona State

Sept. 14 Wisconsin
Sept. 21 at Stanford
Sept. 28 USC
Oct. 5 Notre Dame (Texas)

Athlon likes Arizona State to win the Pac-12 South, but the Sun Devils may have trouble getting through the first five weeks of the season with a winning record. The most remarkable part of this stretch is that Arizona State won’t face an up-tempo team: In these four games, only Notre Dame averaged more than 70 plays per game last season, and the Irish ranked 75th nationally in that category at 71.2 plays per game.

USC
Sept. 28 at Arizona State
Oct. 10 Arizona
Oct. 19 at Notre Dame

USC had its difficulties stopping spread teams last season (including a 39-36 loss to Arizona last season), and now the Trojans will face two spread teams back-to-back, one of which happens to be a South division contender. USC hasn’t lost in South Bend since 2001, but the Irish have finally turned things around vis a vis USC.

UCLA
Oct. 19 at Stanford
Oct. 26 at Oregon

UCLA put itself on the right path last season, but the Bruins weren’t exactly ready for primetime by losing to Stanford twice and Baylor in the final three games. Here’s a chance to prove otherwise.

Arizona
Nov. 9 UCLA
Nov. 16 Washington State
Nov. 23 Oregon
Nov. 30 at Arizona State

The Wildcats may struggle to reach a bowl game, and the struggling Arizona defense will wrap up its season against three of the top four teams in the Pac-12 in yards per play last season (Oregon, UCLA and Arizona State) and two Heisman-contending quarterbacks (Brett Hundley and Marcus Mariota).

Utah
Aug. 29 Utah State
Sept. 7 Weber State
Sept. 14 Oregon State
Sept. 21 at BYU

Utah has won three in a row against BYU, but ended a 12-game winning streak over Utah State last season. Meanwhile, Utah is 7-11 in the Pac-12. The Utes need to establish themselves on two fronts at the start of 2013, both in state and and in the conference.

Colorado
Sept. 1 Colorado State (Denver)
Sept. 7 Central Arkansas

It’s really tough to set the bar lower for Colorado than to hope the Buffaloes can defeat a middling Mountain West team and an FCS program, but Colorado did neither last season.

Teaser:
Which two- and three-game stretches will determine the Pac-12 title?
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-top-50-players-2013
Body:

The Big 12 is a league in transition in 2013. With the departure of some of the conference’s top quarterbacks, the title picture is wide open, and a case could be made for six or seven teams to be picked in the top three of the final standings.

With most teams losing some of their top talent, ranking the top 50 players is a difficult task. TCU’s Casey Pachall ranks as the No. 1 quarterback, but the senior checks in at No. 21 on the top 50 players for 2013. After sitting out most of last season due to an off-the-field incident, Pachall has a lot to prove, especially since he has not played a full year in the Big 12.

Other players such as Texas’ Jordan Hicks and Jackson Jeffcoat are difficult to rank after injuries limited both in 2012. Oklahoma State’s Jeremy Smith is due for a big season as the Cowboys’ No. 1 running back, but he has never carried a full season workload. Also, quarterbacks like Blake Bell and Bryce Petty have a lot of promise, but neither passer has started a game. Although we are projecting both players to have a good season, it’s hard to rank either above the top 40 players in the conference.

Compiling the top 50 players of any conference is never an easy task. However, Athlon established a criteria to help compile the rankings. 

Here are six factors that contributed to the criteria for the rankings:
1. Projection on 2013 Performance 
2. Importance to team
3. Who are the best overall players in terms of talent?
4. Positional importance
5. NFL Draft stock
6. Career performance 
 

Athlon's Top 50 Big 12 Players for 2013

RankPlayerPositionTeam
1Cyril RichardsonOGBaylor
2Devonte FieldsDETCU
3Lache SeastrunkRBBaylor
4Jackson JeffcoatDETexas
5Jason VerrettCBTCU
6Aaron ColvinCBOklahoma
7Trey MillardFBOklahoma
8Calvin BarnettDTOklahoma State
9Kerry HyderDTTexas Tech
10Gabe IkardOLOklahoma
11Cornelius LucasOTKansas State
12BJ FinneyCKansas State
13Eric WardWRTexas Tech
14Ty ZimmermanSKansas State
15Le'Raven ClarkOTTexas Tech
16Bryce HagerLBBaylor
17Shaun LewisLBOklahoma State
18Quandre DiggsCBTexas
19Josh StewartWROklahoma State
20Casey PachallQBTCU
21Jordan HicksLBTexas
22James SimsRBKansas
23Tevin ReeseWRBaylor
24Jalen SaundersWROklahoma
25Carrington ByndomCBTexas
26Dartwan BushDETexas Tech
27Sam CarterSTCU
28Trey HopkinsOGTexas
29Mike DavisWRTexas
30Tyler LockettWRKansas State
31Johnathan GrayRBTexas
32Charles SimsRBWest Virginia
33Clint ChelfQBOklahoma State
34Damien WilliamsRBOklahoma
35Chucky HunterDTTCU
36Ben HeeneyLBKansas
37Jace AmaroTETexas Tech
38Ahmad DixonSBaylor
39Jeremy SmithRBOklahoma State
40Spencer DrangoOTBaylor
41Mason WaltersOGTexas
42Karl JosephSWest Virginia
43Parker GrahamOGOklahoma State
44Daryl WilliamsOTOklahoma
45Cody WhitehairOTKansas State
46Justin GilbertCBOklahoma State
47Jeremiah GeorgeLBIowa State
48Jaxon ShipleyWRTexas
49Blake BellQBOklahoma
50Bryce PettyQBBaylor


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Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12's Top 50 Players for 2013
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: High School
Path: /high-school/2013-virginia-high-school-football-top-10-and-preview
Body:

Virginia Preseason Top 10

1. Ocean Lakes Dolphins (Virginia Beach)
The Dolphins ended a banner 2012 season on a down note, falling in the Group AAA Division 6 championship game. That four-point loss to L.C. Bird should be plenty of motivation for starting quarterback Walter “Churchie” Harold and 1,000-yard running back Brandon Simmons, who return to bolster the offense. On defense, lineman Derrick Nnadi anchors a unit that recorded six regular-season shutouts and held 14 of 15 opponents to 15 or fewer points.

2. C.D. Hylton Bulldogs (Woodbridge)
The Bulldogs, state semifinalists last season, welcome back Travon McMillian, a dual-threat quarterback who threw for 1,313 yards, ran for 1,194 yards and accounted for 28 TDs as a junior. Lineman Brian Roberts and defensive back Lawrence Hunt also could help Hylton challenge for its first state title since 2002.

3. Oscar Smith Tigers (Chesapeake)
After the Tigers missed the state tournament for only the second time in six seasons, prized lineman Andrew Brown and 1,000-yard back DeShawn McClease hope to spearhead a return to form for a team that won state titles in 2008 and 2011.

4. Lake Taylor Titans (Norfolk)
Blue-chip recruit Jalyn Holmes, a tight end and defensive end, joins a host of returners from a Titans squad that last season finished 15–0 and won the school’s first state championship.

5. Lloyd C. Bird Skyhawks (Chesterfield)
The Skyhawks won their first Group AAA Division 6 state championship, carried by 2,000-yard rusher Paul Robertson, who graduated. But quarterback Terrance Ervin (1,549 passing yards, 23 TDs) and most of his receiving corps are back.

6. Phoebus Phantoms (Hampton)
The Phantoms’ running game got an unexpected offseason boost when running back Marshawn Williams, a Virginia Tech recruit, transferred from cross-town rival Hampton. And Phoebus has motivation after falling short of a fifth straight state title.

7. Hermitage Panthers (Richmond)
Dapper coach Patrick Kane, who sports a red tie during games, must replace Michigan-bound star running back Derrick Green. But he has stout lineman Marius Young and the motivation of a surprising loss in last year’s playoff opener.

8. Stone Bridge Bulldogs (Ashburn)
The Bulldogs rolled into the state championship game unbeaten before a heartbreaking six-point loss — the team’s fourth in a state final since 2005. Playmaker D’Ante Yarborough, a 1,000-yard receiver last season, and lineman Connor Smith are back.

9. Lake Braddock Bruins (Burke)
The dynamic pass-and-catch combo of quarterback Caleb Henderson and wide receiver Aramis Alexander have the Bruins eyeing a trip to the state tournament for the first time since a championship game appearance in 2009.

10. Briar Woods Falcons (Ashburn)
Quarterback Trace McSorley has guided the Falcons to three consecutive state titles. But McSorley’s quest for a four-peat will have to come in a more competitive division after the state’s realignment for 2013.

Five Can't Miss Matchups

9.6 – Oscar Smith at Lake Taylor
This season opener matches perennial Southeastern Virginia powers who haven’t played in years. Oscar Smith won Group AAA Division 6 state crowns in 2008 and ’11, while Lake Taylor was 15-0 and won its first Group AAA Division 5 state title last season.

9.27 – Phoebus vs. Hampton
The cross-town rivals often hook up at Darling Stadium during the regular season to decide the Peninsula District title before a trip to the state tournament. Hampton (1995-98) and Phoebus (2008-11) are the only Virginia teams to win four straight state titles.

9.27 – Gate City at Union
A name change — Powell Valley became Union in 2011 — hasn’t diminished this rivalry between two small schools tucked into the southwest corner of the state near the Tennessee border. The teams played for the first time in 1959.

10.18 – Woodbridge at C.D. Hylton
These neighborhood rivals square off in a regular-season game that features two of the state’s top recruits on the field at the same time: Woodbridge defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand and Hylton quarterback Travon McMillian.

11.9 – Woodberry Forest at Episcopal
These boarding schools played for the first time in 1901, and more than 100 years later the rivalry — referred to simply as “The Game” — is still going strong.

2013 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Caleb Henderson, QB, Lake Braddock (Burke)
Senior, 6-4, 223

Henderson has ripped defenses for more than 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, and he’s not finished. Henderson, committed to North Carolina, returns for his senior season after throwing for 2,435 yards and leading Lake Braddock to the playoffs as a junior. He threw for 240 or more yards six times in 2012, including a season-high 310, and added some versatility with 453 yards and nine touchdowns rushing. In two seasons as a starter, Henderson has thrown 46 touchdown passes. Henderson “has a howitzer for an arm,” Lake Braddock coach Jim Poythress said. “Scan the high school ranks and that is not often seen. On top of that, he can run well enough to be elusive in the pocket and to gain some yards if things break down. Then, when you consider he is a coach’s son, you get an intangible that should only help.”

2013 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Da’Shawn Hand, DE, Woodbridge
Senior, 6-4, 255

Karibi Dede has yet to coach Hand in a game, but he’s already impressed. Dede, hired after last season, has gotten to know Hand during the offseason and has watched plenty of film on his star pupil. “The first thing about him is on the field he has a dominating presence,” Dede says. “It doesn’t matter where he lines up on the defensive front. He’s a kid who’s like a man among boys, and he’s a physical kid who delivers a punishing blow.” Hand delivered plenty of them last season despite drawing constant attention from offensive linemen. He had 78 solo tackles, including 28 for a loss, and collected 16 sacks. That followed an 84-tackle, 21-sack sophomore season. Dede can’t wait to get a first-hand look before Hand graduates and moves on to one of his college suitors. “He’s a phenomenal and unique player,” the coach says.

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College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Thursday, August 15th

Two West Virginia players have left the team.

Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett is out three to four weeks with a knee injury.

Saturday Down South takes a look at assistants in the SEC that could be head coaches in the near future.

Alabama's freshmen running backs are pushing for time. 

Kansas State will be anchored by a strong offensive line. 

Good news for Oklahoma: Defensive tackle Quincy Russell has arrived on campus.

Minnesota freshman running back Berkley Edwards is making some noise in fall camp.

Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is nursing a minor ankle injury.

Pittsburgh linebacker Todd Thomas is slowly working his way back.

Two Cincinnati players have quit the team this fall.

A few running backs are standing out for South Florida.

Marshall is interested in Virginia Tech transfer Donaldven Manning

Here's a good analysis of Iowa's offensive line for 2013.

Saturday Blitz lists a few breakout players for the Big 12.

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Post date: Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 14:40

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