Articles By All

All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Oklahoma Sooners check in at No. 5 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Landry Jones, QB
The veteran quarterback holds the key to the Sooners aspirations of a Big 12 and national title. It was an interesting 2011 season for Jones, who passed for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns but also threw 15 interceptions and saw backup QB Blake Bell’s running often take over in the red zone. Leading receiver Ryan Broyles has departed, but OU has a solid offensive line and plenty of weapons for its1 all-time passing leader to succeed in his final season.

Upset Alert: at TCU (Dec. 1)
For the first time since 2004, the Sooners’ final regular season will not be the Bedlam matchup with Oklahoma State. Instead OU will visit league-newcomer TCU, a program that Gary Patterson has built into being a national contender. Quarterback Casey Pachall and the Horned Frogs will be tough to beat, and this contest concludes a brutal three-game stretch where the Sooners will travel to West Virginia, host the aforementioned Cowboys and then end the season in Fort Worth.

Trap Game: at Iowa State (Nov. 3)
The Sooners should beat the Cyclones for the 14th time in a row, but hated-rival Oklahoma State found out last season that underestimating the trip to Jack Trice Stadium can have consequences. Paul Rhoads has done a solid job in Ames, and this road trip is wedged between a national spotlight game against Notre Dame and a revenge mission versus Baylor. OU cannot afford to take ISU for granted.

Defensive MVP: Tony Jefferson, DB
The uber-talented Californian will be moving back to safety this season, after playing a hybrid linebacker position much of the time during his first two years in Norman. Jefferson compiled 74 tackles with 4.5 sacks last year, while also adding a team-high four interceptions and a forced fumble. His versatility and sure tackling will make Jefferson an All-America and All-Big 12 candidate, and he will be a leader for new coordinator Mike Stoops.

Breakout Player: Trey Metoyer, WR
It’s unusual to have a breakout candidate who has yet to play a game at Memorial Stadium, but Metoyer’s talent has him projected to be OU’s next big-time receiver. He originally signed as part of the 2011 recruiting class but spent last year at Hargrave Military Academy improving his academics. Now in Norman, Metoyer had six receptions for a team-high 72 yards in the Sooners’ spring game and looks like a future star.

Unsung Hero: Trey Millard, RB
The Big 12’s best fullback is known more for lead blocking and special-teams play than getting touches (169 yards rushing, 127 receiving yards and three total touchdowns), but the league’s coaches thought highly enough of his play to select him first-team All-Big 12 last season. Look for Millard to continue paving the way for a stellar Sooners offense, as well as being a special-teams star (team-high 14 tackles).

Biggest Game: Texas (Oct. 13)
You may have noticed this one on the schedule. The Red River Rivalry is always one of college football’s best spectacles, especially with the Cotton Bowl being split between crimson and burnt orange. Additionally, the Sooners and Longhorns battle will likely determine the Big 12 champion. OU has won two in a row since dropping four of five from 2005-09, and Bob Stoops’ bunch would like to build on a new winning streak over the hated Horns.

Revenge Game: at Texas Tech (Oct. 6)
There are three main candidates here, but the Texas Tech loss last season was especially painful. The Sooners were 6-0 and thinking Big 12/national title when Tommy Tuberville’s Red Raiders pulled off the shocker in Norman, 41-38. OU has lost in its last three trips to Lubbock, so there will plenty of revenge motivation for the Sooners in early October.

Freshman to Watch: Durron Neal, WR
Much of the attention on Signing Day went to fellow receiver Trey Metoyer, but Neal was rated as the No. 74 prospect in the nation in this year’s AC100. The Missouri native played all over the field at De Smet Jesuit High School, and he caught 35 passes for 825 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 716 yards and 11 scores during his senior season. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound athlete should compete for early playing time.

Newcomer to Watch: Chaz Nelson, DE
Ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis accounted for 32 tackles behind the line of scrimmage last season, so there is plenty of production to replace. Nelson was the Jayhawk Conference Defensive Player of the Year at Garden City Community College, compiling 96 tackles, 9.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles. The starters are set, but the 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior should earn early playing time in the Sooners defensive end rotation.

Position Battle: Wide Receiver
With the departure of leading pass catcher Ryan Broyles and some off-the-field issues, there are question marks at this position past Kenny Stills. Obviously Stills’ numbers (61 catches for 849 yards and eight touchdowns) project him as the group’s leader, and the hope is that newcomer Trey Metoyer lives up to the hype. Returners Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson were all suspended in the offseason. There will be competition here, including freshmen wideouts Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal and Derrick Woods.

Related Oklahoma Content

Oklahoma Sooners 2012 Team Preview
Can Landry Jones Be a National Championship Quarterback?
Oklahoma Sooners Top 10 Players for 2012

Oklahoma Sooners Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Oklahoma Football History

Oklahoma Sooners Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Oklahoma Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma Sooners 2012 Team Predictions.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-football-landry-jones-national-championship-quarterback
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 5 Oklahoma. The Sooners suffered some losses in the receiving corps, but the passing attack should be in good hands with quarterback Landry Jones and receiver Kenny Stills returning. The defense will have a revamped front seven, but remains one of the best in the Big 12.

Can Landry Jones Be a National Championship Quarterback?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
So much of Landry Jones’ success in the fall probably will be determined by seven on sevens with his receivers this summer. Jones is a quality quarterback, but he was lost without Ryan Broyles. Without Broyles, Landry Jones didn’t simply struggle. He statistically was one of the worst quarterbacks in the Big 12. In the four full games without Broyles, Jones had a passer rating of 116.5, more than 30 points lower than his his rating through the first nine games. Over a full season, that pass efficiency rating would have been the worst among Big 12 starting quarterbacks. Jones’ passing yards per attempt dropped from 8.5 yards to 6.6, which was fewer yards per attempt than Kansas’ Jordan Webb. Losing a receiver like Broyles threw the offense into disarray, not just Broyles, too. Kenny Stills needs to be ready to assume the No. 1 receiver role, a spot that’s going to be even more critical than it was a year ago. With third-leading receiver Jaz Reynolds suspended indefinitely, the position behind Stills is awfully inexperienced. If Reynolds is gone for any appreciable amount of time, Jones and Stills will need to be a championship-caliber duo because it’s a mystery what Oklahoma will get out of the rest of the receiver group. Of course, they were all major recruits, but guys like Trey Metoyer, Durron Neal and Sterling Shepard are all freshmen. I believe Jones can become a championship-level quarterback despite all these variables in the Oklahoma offense. Jones has the experience and he’ll have talent around him, even if some of it is untested. There are questions here, but I don’t think we can take Jones’ experience and career production lightly.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Yes, but if the Oklahoma Sooners win, or even simply play, in the BCS National Championship game this fall, Mike Stoops and Tim Kish will deserve more credit than Jones. The senior quarterback has been incredibly productive in his career in Norman and should only post another statistically stellar season for the Sooners. But not many players have ever entered their final season with over 12,000 yards passing, nearly 100 touchdowns and as many question marks as Jones.

I've written about his numbers numerous times this summer, but just in case you missed our Big 12 quarterback rankings, here it goes. The Sooner showed major development from 2009 to 2010, increasing his completion percentage (58.1% to 65.6%) and significantly dropped his interception rate (one INT every 32.1 attempts versus one every 51.4 attempts). Yet, 2011 saw Jones regress in both categories — to 63.1% and 37.5 attempts/INT. Additionally, his road record has been a major issue. He is 7-8 on the road as a starter and is 19-1 in Norman. Finally, he limped to the finish last year, going without a single touchdown pass in the final three games of the regular season — with five interceptions nonetheless.

Certainly, a healthier running game, featuring Dominique Whaley, and full receiving corps will help Jones get back on track. The emergence of Kenny Stills and expected contributions from newcomer Trey Metoyer will only help stabilize the Broyles-less wide receiver position. Additionally, Jones worked with quarterback guru George Whittfield over the off-season and should be at his best as a senior. Still, Jones needs to prove he can win the key games on the road in key situations — e.g., at West Virginia, TCU, Texas Tech, Iowa State and the all-important neutral site contest in Dallas against Texas.

Jones can absolutely be a national championship quarterback, but if the Sooners are to go undefeated and play in Miami Gardens next January, I have a sneaking suspicion it will be more because of defense — aka Mike Stoops and Kish — than Jones himself. Hmm? A Mike Stoops-led stifling Sooner defense that ends up playing in South Florida for a national title? Sound familiar?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Oklahoma can win the national title with Landry Jones as its quarterback, but he does need to play better. Consistency and cutting down on the interceptions are two areas that Jones needs to improve upon this year but that could be tricky with some uncertainty at the skill positions.

Jones was having a solid 2011 season prior to receiver Ryan Broyles suffering a torn ACL in the victory against Texas A&M. He threw for 448 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-28 victory over Missouri and completed 31 of 50 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-17 rout against Texas. However, the offense came unglued after losing Broyles and posting 38 points in a loss to Baylor, as Jones tossed six interceptions and failed to throw for more than 256 yards in each of the final three games. With a full offseason to work on replacing Broyles, I expect Oklahoma’s passing attack to be better this year – even if it has some true freshman in the rotation.

As with any quarterback, Landry Jones gets too much of the blame when things go bad and too much credit when things go right. As a senior, Jones should put together a solid season, and if the Sooners are the Big 12’s best team, then they will be in the national title hunt. However, the Sooners’ quest to play in Miami at the end of the year could rest on running back Dominique Whaley’s health and a rebuilt front seven on defense. Jones is the least of Oklahoma’s concerns, but he does need to take his play up another level if the Sooners want to finish in the top two of the BCS standings.

Mark Ross
Absolutely. Since Oklahoma is a preseason top 10 team, by our own (Athlon's) estimations, the Sooners figure to be in the national title hunt all season long, provided they take care of business in the Big 12 conference. Texas looks to be very strong on defense, but the annual Red River Shootout could be just the game where Jones, the seasoned senior quarterback, is the difference. Jones' experience may also come up big at the end of the regular season when OU finishes up with road games at Big 12 newcomers West Virginia and TCU, sandwiched by a home date against in-state rival Oklahoma State. Outside of their Big 12 slate, the Sooners' toughest non-conference foe will be Notre Dame, who comes to Norman on Oct. 27.

As far as Oklahoma's national title aspirations go, I think the least of the Sooners' worries is Jones. Here's a kid who's averaged more than 4,100 yards passing and 31 touchdowns in his first three seasons, and has completed more than 63 percent of his passes in his career. He's led the team to a 22-5 record the past two years, including a 11-5 mark in the Big 12 and the 2010 Big 12 title.

Last season, even though All-American wide receiver Ryan Broyles missed four games because of injury, Jones still finished second in passing yards (4,463) and tied for second in touchdowns (29) in the Big 12. The quarterbacks who finished ahead of him? Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and fellow first-round NFL draft pick Brandon Weeden.

Broyles is gone, but Jones appears to have plenty of weapons at his disposal, including wide receivers Kenny Stills and Trey Metoyer, among others. The Sooners' running game still needs to sort itself out, but the offensive line returns three starters including All-American candidate Gabe Ikard. The defense also should be strong as seven starters return, including three in the secondary.

So the pieces appear to be in place for Oklahoma to make a run at another national title. There's still plenty of business to take care of on the field, but to that end I think the Sooners could do a whole lot worse than having Jones as their quarterback.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
It will be difficult for the Sooners to win it all, but I definitely think that Jones is a good enough signal caller to lead OU to a title. He is already Oklahoma’s s all-time passing leader with 12,379 career yards, and the New Mexico native owns 13 school passing records. Some critics point to “his” road record being subpar, but Jones does not get enough credit for what he does do. If the 2008 Sooners offense is the standard, then every QB in the land would fall short of expectation. Jones’ record as a starter over the last two seasons is 22-5, and the defense allowed 33, 36, 41, 45 and 44 points in those defeats.

The offensive line and running game should be improved this season as Jones searches for new weapons on the outside with Ryan Broyles’ graduation. Kenny Stills (61 catches for 849 yards and eight touchdowns) is a proven receiver and newcomer Trey Metoyer looks like a player, but there are off-the-field questions with the suspended Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson. Jones should lead another powerful offense, while new coordinator Mike Stoops takes over the defense. The run game and defense must be better to win it all, and OU has a brutal three-game stretch to end the season at West Virginia, hosting Oklahoma State and at TCU. However if his teammates play to their potential, Jones can lead the Sooners to a BCS crown.

Related Oklahoma Content

Oklahoma Sooners 2012 Team Preview
Oklahoma Sooners 2012 Team Predictions

Oklahoma Sooners Top 10 Players for 2012

Oklahoma Sooners Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Oklahoma Football History

Oklahoma Sooners Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Oklahoma Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Can Landry Jones lead Oklahoma to a national title?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 05:57
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC West, Seattle Seahawks, NFL
Path: /nfl/seattle-seahawks-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Seattle Seahawks 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Arizona
Week 2: Dallas
Week 3: Green Bay (Mon.)
Week 4: at St. Louis
Week 5: at Carolina
Week 6: New England
Week 7: at San Francisco (Thurs.)
Week 8: at Detroit
Week 9: Minnesota
Week 10: New York Jets
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: at Miami
Week 13: at Chicago
Week 14: Arizona
Week 15: at Buffalo
Week 16: San Francisco
Week 17: St. Louis

- It's definitely a tale of two halves for Seattle in 2012 as the Seahawks will play four teams that made the playoffs last season in their first eight games, compared to just one in their final eight.

- Seattle also faces a tough slate when it comes to its cross-divsional and AFC opponents in 2012. From the NFC, the Seahawks will play all four teams from the North, which could have as many as three playoff teams in Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay, as well as Dallas and Carolina. Seattle also has the entire AFC East on tap, which means perennial Super Bowl contender New England, along with Buffalo, Miami and the Jets.

- The good news regarding Seattle's difficult non-divisional schedule is that Dallas, Green Bay, New England and the Jets will have to make the cross-country trip to CenturyLink Field. The long trip out west and adjusting to the time-zone change has proven to be an obstacle for the visiting team, while this also brings four teams to Seattle that Seahawks' fans aren't accustomed to seeing up close and personal.

- Seattle opens on the road against NFC West division foe Arizona before hosting Dallas and then Green Bay on Monday Night Football in Week 3. Besides having the national spotlight focused solely on this game, the match up against the Packers will more than likely pit presumed starting quarterback Matt Flynn against his former Green Bay teammates.

- The Seahawks are on the road at St. Louis and Carolina the next two weeks before entering arguably their toughest three- game stretch - home to New England, then at San Francisco on Thursday night and at Detroit the following week. Seattle's defense, which the team attempted to address through this year's draft, will undoubtedly be tested against the Patriots and Lions.

- Seattle's bye week falls in Week 11, the latest of any team in the league, and once the Seahawks finally get the chance to catch their collective breaths, the going shouldn't be near as tough the final six weeks of the regular season. Seattle will host all three NFC West foes, and make trips to Miami, Chicago and Buffalo. If the Seahawks are able to win two out of three on the road the first time around against their West divison rivals, it's possible the NFC West title could be won, or lost, on their home turf. Remember back in 2010 when Seattle defeated St. Louis 16-6 in the final week of the regular season to win the division crown? That could happen again this season as the Rams come calling in Week 17, although San Francisco more than likely will have a say in the division's outcome.

- Also, if there's a team that's somewhat suited for playing December games in Chicago and Buffalo, one would think the team that hails from the Pacific Northwest and plays in a open-air stadium would make the list. Plus, you certainly have to figure that former Bill Marshawn Lynch has that Week 15 match up in Buffalo circled on his calendar.

Fantasy Focus: Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch could be a prime sell-high candidate as the season progresses. Lynch, who finished fifth among running backs in fantasy points in 2011 according to Athlon's scoring, appears to have a very appetizing four-game stretch from Weeks 3-6. During this span, Lynch will go up against four of the teams that finished in the top 14 last season in fantasy points allowed to running backs - Green Bay (14th-most points allowed), St. Louis (5th), Carolina (2nd) and New England (13th). After that, however, the going gets much tougher. Other than Buffalo (4th-most) in Week 15 and the Rams again in Week 17, all of the Seahawks' other opponents ranked no lower than No. 15 in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs in 2011. This 10-game stretch includes two against San Francisco, who yielded the fewest fantasy points to running backs last season.

— by Mark Ross, published on May 30, 2012

Order your 2012 Seattle Seahawks Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine.

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers


NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Seattle Seahawks 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 03:05
All taxonomy terms: New Orleans Saints, NFC, NFC South, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-orleans-saints-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

New Orleans Saints 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Washington
Week 2: at Carolina
Week 3: Kansas City
Week 4: at Green Bay
Week 5: San Diego
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: at Tampa Bay
Week 8: at Denver
Week 9: Philadelphia (Mon.)
Week 10: Atlanta
Week 11: at Oakland
Week 12: San Francisco
Week 13: at Atlanta (Thur.)
Week 14: at New York Giants
Week 15: Tampa Bay
Week 16: at Dallas
Week 17: Carolina

Order your 2012 New Orleans Saints Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Joe Vitt is the interim head coach for the New Orleans Saints in 2012, but he won’t officially begin his stint on the sidelines until after his own six-game suspension is over. The Saints will have to tackle the Packers and Chargers in their first six, but otherwise, face four beatable opponents (WAS, CAR, KC, TB). If the Saints get Vitt back sporting a 4-2 mark, Who Dat nation might be postseason bound. The bye week coming during the interim’s interim should also help the coaching staff adapt.

- Vitt and company better get work done early in the 2012 season because the second half, and more specifically the final month, will provide brutal tests. Three of the final five games will be on the road, including road trips to division rival Atlanta, the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants and into Jerry’s Palace to battle the Cowboys. Only once will the Saints have back-to-back home games all season — Weeks 9 and 10 against the Eagles and Falcons.

- The NFC East will be the intra-conference round robin for the NFC South. The season gets started with a visit from Robert Griffin III and the Redskins while Michael Vick brings the Eagles to town for a Monday night showdown to start November. Finally, the Saints have the misfortune of having to face both the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys on the road — both within the final four weeks of the regular season.

- The intriguing aspect to the Saints divisional slate in 2012 is how spaced out the schedule is. Not one time will New Orleans face back-to-back divisional opponents this fall. It does have to face division favorite Atlanta twice in a four-week span, packaged around a long road trip to Oakland and a visit from the 49ers. It wraps-up NFC South play facing Tampa and Carolina at home in the final three weeks of the season (sandwiched around a trip to Dallas). This could be the Saints' saving grace if it expects to compete for a division title in 2012.

- The Saints' schedule as a whole looks extremely difficult — as if Roger Godell would have it any other way. But a three-week stretch from Week 12 to 14 could make or break the Saints' playoff hopes this season. After facing Atlanta at home and visiting Oakland, the Saints will have to host San Francisco (Week 12), visit Atlanta four days later (Week 13) before heading north to East Rutherford to take on the Super Bowl Champs (Week 14). Yes, the Falcons will have a short week to prepare for the Thursday night bout with the Saints, but visiting the Bucs the Sunday before will be slightly less strenuous than battling with Jim Harbaugh’s hard-hitting defense.

- In crossover play, the NFC South faces the AFC West in 2012. There are no elite teams out west in the AFC but each has a chance to be improved from a year ago. Kansas City at home is the closest thing to a sure-fire win, but trips to Denver and Oakland won’t be easy. When New Orleans travels to Denver to face the Broncos in Week 8 it will mark the first time that Peyton Manning will face the Saints since tossing his infamous interception in the Super Bowl XLIV loss to Drew Brees and company.

- The two floating games for the Saints couldn’t be tougher — and have to be the toughest of any team in the league. Brees will have to visit Lambeau Field for the second straight season in Week 4 and will host the 49ers in Week 12. Those were the two best teams in the stacked NFC a year ago and likely will have the best records in the conference again in 2012.

- Will any defense face more athleticism at the quarterback position than the Saints? Aaron Rodgers, Vick, RG3 and Cam Newton (twice) will get their crack at the reworked New Orleans defense. Toss in both Mannings, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan twice, and Carson Palmer and the Saints secondary appears to be in for a long season this fall. 

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> New Orleans Saints 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 03:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, jokes
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-oklahoma-rivals
Body:

Here are some of our favorite jokes about Oklahoma's biggest rivals.

• What does an Oklahoma State fan do when the Cowboys win the BCS championship?
He turns off the PlayStation.

• What's the difference between a litter of puppies and Oklahoma State fans?
Eventually puppies grow up and stop whining.

• What does the average Texas football player get on his SAT?
Drool.

• Did you hear about the new honor system at Texas?
Yes, your Honor. No, your Honor.

• How many Oklahoma State freshmen does it take to change a light bulb?
None. That’s a sophomore course.

• How many Texas fans does it take to change a flat tire?
Just one . . . unless it’s a blowout, then they all show up!

• Why is Texas replacing the turf in its stadium with cardboard?
The Longhorns always look better on paper.

• Why don’t Oklahoma State fans eat barbecue beans?
Because they keep falling through the holes in the grill.

• What do you call 20 Texas fans skydiving from an airplane?
Skeet.

• You know you’re from Texas if:
Someone asks to see your ID and you show them your belt buckle.

Teaser:
<p> Jokes About Oklahoma Rivals</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 00:48
Path: /nascar/truexs-future-newmans-style-and-earnhardts-consistency
Body:

With Toyota extending it’s deal with Michael Waltrip Racing, along with Joe Gibbs Racing and JTG Daugherty, it leads to the question of what will happen to Martin Truex Jr., who is in the final year of his contract at MWR.

Truex enters this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover sixth in the point standings with seven top-10 finishes in the first 12 races. He turns 32 later this month and with the improvements at MWR, seems set to show what he can do in the prime of his career. Then again, someone else also could be interested in his services.

“I’ll tell you this, I really hope to be back where I'm at right now,” Truex said last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I love this team. I love the direction we’re going. And, hopefully we’ll just have to see how everything lines up. My heart is with the team and that's where I want to be.

“I feel like we’ve come a long, long way. We’ve worked very, very hard to get to where we are. It would be a shame to have to do something different after coming this far. My career has been one of those where it seems like every time things would start going good — something big happened or something big changes and really hurt progress. Hopefully, that won’t be the case this time.”

This is Truex’s third season with Waltrip’s team and he’s headed toward his best season with the organization. His four top-five finishes thus far equal how many he’s had the past two seasons combined. His best finish in the points at MWR was last year when he was 18th.

Truex also notes that the extension with Toyota is important for Michael Waltrip Racing for various reasons.

“I think it’s a big thing for NAPA to know that Toyota is behind them 100 percent for the next number of years,” Truex said. “Great manufacturer, great support team — they do so much for Michael Waltrip Racing and really Toyota Racing Development ... has been a huge part of the turnaround and the resurgence of Michael Waltrip Racing. To have that support going forward for the next few years, it obviously has to make Michael (Waltrip, team owner) and Rob (Kaufmann, team owner) and everybody there feel good about the direction the team’s headed.  

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get our deal done soon too and kind of coincide with all that and be able to go race and go after wins for a lot of years to come.”


GIVE-AND-TAKE  Ryan Newman often was considered among the toughest drivers to pass during a race. He explains what earned him that distinction and how he’s changed over the years.

“I was never taught to give-and-take,” Newman said. “I was always taught to race hard. Going back to quarter midgets and then especially in the stock cars, I was always taught to race hard. Buddy Baker never taught me (about give-and-take). And I don’t think that they did that back in the ’80s.

“I always had fast-enough racecars that I never had to give. I could always take. And that came back to haunt me I guess for a few years there because I was the one getting turned around because I wasn’t giving it up and rightfully so — probably because I didn’t know and didn’t get taught that. So, I’m trying to be better at the give-and-take thing.

“I’ve had problems with other guys who are just as bullheaded as I am and I’m not afraid to say it. A guy like Paul Menard is just that. We race each other hard every time we got around each other. That’s just how we did it. And it was frustrating to both of us, but we made good out of it. We never crashed each other per se, so it was just the way we raced. So, we don’t do that quite so much anymore. We’ve both learned how to adjust to that a little bit and be faster in the end for both of us.”

Teaser:
<p> Following Kasey Kahne's win in the Coca-Cola 500, Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 18:07
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-may-29
Body:

 

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for May 29, 2012.

 1. Dodgers—Scored six or more runs in seven of last 10 games.

 2. Rangers—25-2 when allowing three runs or less; 5-16 otherwise.

 3. Orioles—Outscored Royals and Red Sox on homestand, but lost 4 of 6.

 4. Rays—Fernando Rodney finally blew a save.

 5. Yankees—Andy Pettitte has found the fountain of youth.

 6. Nationals—Sweep at Atlanta has Nats cruising.

7. Reds—Won eight of nine and next nine vs. Pirates and Astros.

 8. Braves—Tough week drops Braves to fourth, but still squarely in hunt.

 9. Marlins—Can gain ground in East this week.

10. Blue Jays—Lost five straight and Baltimore and Boston visit this week.

11. Cardinals—Losing record outside the division.

12. Indians—Majors best at 10-2 in one-run games.

13. Mets—8-2 when R.A. Dickey starts.

14. Angels—Lookout! Pujols and Angels hitting their stride.

15. Phillies—Roy Halladay’s shoulder is balking.

16. Giants—Melky Cabrera (.369) having a terrific season.

17. White Sox—June schedule lines up well for Sox.

18. Tigers—Must improve defensively to climb in standings.

19. Red Sox—4-8 at Fenway Park vs. AL East.

20. Diamondbacks—Offense better; pitching worse in May.

21. A’s—Bullpen has 2.55 ERA, 1.16 WHIP.

22. Pirates—Third-best ERA (3.23) in majors.

23. Mariners—Starters allowed just 33 homers in 49 starts.

24. Astros—Won seven of nine prior to losing last two at Los Angeles.

25. Brewers—Opponents batting .185 off Zack Greinke at home; .369 on road.

26. Royals—Jonathan Broxton doing nice job as fill-in closer.

27. Padres—Get to play Cubs next.

28. Rockies—Cubs only team in NL playing worse right now.

29. Twins—On pace to have worst two-season stretch in franchise history.

30. Cubs—Scored 18 runs in last nine games — all losses.

Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 11:38
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-ohio-state-no-6-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at www.athlonsports.com. The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the Ohio State Buckeyes being named No. 6, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes continue the countdown at No. 6 with two preseason All-Americans and 10 players selected as All-Big Ten performers. Athlon Sports predicts Ohio State will finish first in the Big Ten’s Leaders Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“It won't take long for Urban Meyer to have the Buckeyes back on top in the Big Ten,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “Ohio State isn't eligible for the postseason, but this looks like the best team in the league in 2012.”

Two Ohio State standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with defensive linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins both being voted to the second team. In addition, the OSU defensive line unit was ranked No. 6 nationally and best in the Big Ten. The secondary was rated No. 5 in the country.

Ten Buckeyes earned preseason All-Big Ten honors, including Simon, Hankins, tight end Jake Stoneburner and defensive back C.J. Barnett on the first team. Quarterback Braxton Miller, offensive linemen Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell, kicker Drew Basil and defensive backs Bradley Roby and Christian Bryant garnered second-team honors.

Ohio State Team Preview

Ohio State's Top 10 Players of 2012

Ohio State’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<h1 class="ha" style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 12px 1px 9px 0px; padding: 0px 0px 0px 8px; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background: inherit; border-right: inherit; background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.917969); font-weight: normal; "> <span class="hP" id=":6v" style="padding-right: 10px; ">Athlon Sports Names Ohio State No. 6 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></h1>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 09:06
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Ohio State Buckeyes check in at No. 6 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Braxton Miller, QB (SO)
Uber recruit Miller did very little to dispel his title of heir apparent in Columbus. While it might have come one year sooner than Bucknuts would have hoped, Miller’s experience in 2011 was invaluable. He showed flashes of brilliance in the second half of the season both on the ground and through the air. Now, he has a coach who knows exactly what to do with the lightning quick 6-foot-2, 210-pound dual-threat dynamo. Meyer’s spread system is the perfect fit for Miller, who will use 2012 as a practice field for potential greatness in 2013.

Trap Game: Illinois (Nov. 3)
The Buckeyes two biggest games of the year should be a road trip to Wisconsin and Michigan at home in the final two weeks of the year. Coming off a tough road trip to Happy Valley and with a bye week looming, the Bucks could be in for a letdown against division foe Illinois as they prepare for their brutal two-game season finale. The Orange Crush is a talented roster and should be dramatically better coached under Tim Beckman. It wouldn’t be the first time a Fighting Illini team went into the Horseshoe and toppled an undefeated OSU squad.

Upset Alert: at Penn State (Oct. 27)
Braxton Miller had one of his worst passing games of the season last fall in the 20-14 home loss to Penn State. He completed only 7-of-17 passes for 83 yards as the Nittany Lions rushed for 239 yards. Fans can bet that Miller will be better and the Bucks rushing defense will be better, but if Ohio State isn’t careful heading into Halloween weekend, it could be looking at another upset. The PSU defense will be stout as usual and the Buckeyes will be playing on the road on primetime national television. This game could either carry divisional implications for the Lions — or, if they are out of it, could be considered their Super Bowl of 2012.

Unsung Hero: Jack Mewhort, OL (SR)
On a unit that is lacking for depth, star power and consistency, Mewhort might be the most important. The Toledo, Ohio, native has played at every position along the offensive line and will now be asked to protect Braxton Miller’s blindside. The outside of the offensive line will be the major question mark and it falls to Mewhort to stabilize the edge. Meyer believes that “he is probably our best lineman and he is our most consistent lineman.”

Biggest Game: Michigan (Nov. 24)
The Wolverines could be the only thing any Buckeye is thinking about this fall. With little to play for but respect, revenge and honor, beating Michigan — and, say, knocking it out of the Big Ten title game — would be the sweetest victory Ohio State faithful will taste all season. With nothing else to play for on the final weekend of the regular season, fans can bet that every ounce of energy will be poured into beating that team from up North.

Revenge Game: Nebraska (Oct. 6)
The Buckeyes were up 27-6 in Lincoln last year with just over 10 minutes left in the third quarter. But Braxton Miller sprained his ankle and the OSU offense went into the tank. The Huskers ended up scoring 28 straight points and winning 34-28. The Bucks finished 3-4 down the stretch after the loss and will now have a chance get revenge on the title contending Big Red on its home turf.

Freshman To Watch: Taylor Decker, OL
The offensive line is the only major area of concern for Urban Meyer heading into this season. He has had to shuffle players around, switch tight ends to tackles and is banking on two young freshman to bolster his spotty front line. Decker has already, through one spring practice in Columbus, found himself as the third tackle on the roster behind Jack Mewhort and Reid Fragel. Expect him and fellow freshman Kyle Dodson to become regulars in the OSU offensive line rotation.

Comeback Player: Nathan Williams, DL (SR)
The senior will battle with sophomore Michael Bennett — and his rehabbing knee — for starting time opposite of John Simon all summer long. Williams missed all but one game last year with a knee injury. The 2011 preseason All-Big Ten selection posted 45 tackles and 4.5 sacks back in 2010 and will be either a starter or top reserve on arguably the best defensive line in the Big Ten.

Defensive MVP: Johnathan Hankins, DT (JR)
John Simon might be the best leader, the most consistent and the strongest force up front for the Bucks, but Hankins is the most talented. The massive defensive tackle has trimmed his weight to 317 pounds and all reports are he is much quicker. In fact, one of the best quotes in the Athlon Sports 2012 Big Ten preview magazine comes from veteran center Corey Linsley. “Hank is now a little bit less of an immovable object and is more of an unstoppable force.” The more explosive Hankins could easily be a top ten pick in the 2013 NFL Draft with an outstanding season this fall.

Newcomer To Watch: Mike Thomas, WR (FR)
The wide receiving corps has no clear playmaker to speak of heading into 2012. The tight ends are very talented but Philly Brown, Devin Smith and Chris Fields don’t exactly inspire greatness. While they are solid players, none are elite All-American talents. Thomas, who caught 12 passes in the spring game, has coaches raving about the 6-foot-2, 193-pounders ability to contribute right away. Braxton Miller clearly had no problems finding him on the field this spring.

Season Defining Moment: at Michigan St (Sept. 29)
Does November 28, 2011 count? The day Urban Meyer accepted the Ohio State job may not be eligible for this list but it might be more than just a season-defining moment but a program-defining moment. And Meyer’s impact could be no more evident than in the Big Ten opener against Michigan State. If the Spartans can beat Boise State and Notre Dame, they will be 4-0 when Ohio State comes to town. If the Buckeyes can go into East Lansing and beat what will likely be a top 15 team, the rest of the conference will be warned. Especially considering how well the offensive line will have to play to defeat Sparty on the road.

Related Ohio State Content

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Preview
Ohio State Buckeyes Top 10 Players for 2012

Will Ohio State Have the Big Ten's Best Record in 2012?
The Greatest Players in Ohio State Football Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Ohio State Football History

Ohio State Buckeyes Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Ohio State Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 05:56
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-football-will-buckeyes-have-best-record-big-ten
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 6 Ohio State. New coach Urban Meyer should bring a quick turnaround to Columbus, especially with sophomore Braxton Miller due for a breakout season. The Buckeyes are ineligible to play for the Big Ten title in 2012.

Will Ohio State Have the Best Record in the Big Ten?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’m a believer that Ohio State will be vastly improved -- judging by our top-10 ranking of the Buckeyes, that’s not news -- but I am concerned that improving from 6-7 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten to the top team in the Big Ten is a stretch. True, Ohio State’s last six losses were all by a touchdown or less and only two of them were in Columbus. I credit some of those lapses to a rookie coach and a freshman quarterback. Now, Ohio State has Urban Meyer and a sophomore signal-caller who could be a perfect fit in the offense. Let’s face it: Meyer is a miracle worker in year one. He’s never won fewer than eight games in his debut season -- he improved Bowling Green from 2-9 to 8-3, Utah from 5-6 to 10-2 and Florida from 7-5 to 9-3. I tend to believe his first year at Ohio State will be closer to his first year at Florida than his stops in the MAC and Mountain West. Ohio State will have a top-notch defense loaded with upperclassmen and two talented sophomores (cornerback Bradley Roby and linebacker Ryan Shazier), but the offense is a question mark. We just assume Miller is going to be a star overnight. The talent is there as is the coaching, but he’s still a guy who didn’t complete more than eight passes in a game until the last two games against Michigan and Florida. He rarely completed even half his passes after taking over as the starter. Ohio State will be better, but the Buckeyes aren’t going to be the (on paper) Big Ten champion.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I will say yes, but since the Big Ten feels so wide open in 2012, I don't feel strongly about it. Ohio State will be dramatically improved in the win-loss ledger simply because the team is finally unified, led by one of the nation's elite head coaches and can only improve from what was the worst Buckeye team since...1988?

The non-conference slate offers some interesting challenges that should be perfect for a developing star quarterback and stellar defense. UCF and Cal are both bowl teams with quality talent but winning at the Horseshoe is highly unlikely. A 4-0 record heading into conference play is all but certain for the Bucknuts. However, Week 5 is where things get interesting. We will know most of what we need to know about Ohio State when they open Big Ten play in East Lansing. The Spartans have the offensive line and defense to challenge the Buckeyes, but do they get the quarterback play needed to beat OSU? If Ohio State wins that game, they won't lose until late November — if at all.

Nebraska, Purdue and Illinois will all be tests at home with the Huskers offering the toughest opposition. Yet, Ohio State was up 27-6 in Lincoln last year when Braxton Miller got hurt and Big Red made the improbable second-half comeback. There is no chance that type of loss happens again under Urban Meyer. Road trips to Penn State and Indiana sprinkled in should be wins as well.

That leaves the final three weeks of the season to likely determine who has the best record in the league. The bye week is perfectly situated in front of a road trip to Wisconsin. The Badgers and Spartans will likely be the two toughest games of the year and I believe Ohio State will slip up against one of the two. Ohio State hasn't lost in East Lansing since 1999 and is 7-1 in the last eight against MSU while it's 1-2 in its last three trips to MadTown.

This, of course, brings us to the season finale against the bitter rival from up North. With nothing left to play for but a chance to ruin it's arch-rival's title bid, I cannot see Ohio State losing at home to Michigan. Last year's 40-34 shootout road loss to Michigan is telling. The worst Ohio State team in over two decades nearly upset the best Michigan team since 2006 on the road. If Ohio State goes 11-1, it will have the best overall record in the league, and, at 7-1, will likely tie for the best conference record as well.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The balance of power in the Big Ten for the 2012 season is definitely tilted in favor to the Legends Division. Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska each have a strong case to be picked No. 1 in the Legends and be ranked among the top 10-15 teams for the upcoming year. The Leaders Division is down, as Wisconsin is not expected to repeat last season’s win total, and Penn State will be in a battle just to get to seven victories.

Considering the strength of the Legends Division, I think Ohio State will emerge with the Big Ten’s best record. The Buckeyes are coming off a disappointing 6-7 season, but the pieces are in place for a big improvement in the win column. New coach Urban Meyer has engineered quick turnarounds at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, and Ohio State figures to fall into a similar path.

Outside of Meyer’s arrival, the biggest reason for optimism in Columbus is quarterback Braxton Miller. He took his lumps as a true freshman last season and should thrive in Meyer’s spread attack. The Buckeyes need the receiving corps and offensive line to jell, but the defense should be one of the best in the nation.

Ohio State should sweep the non-conference portion of its schedule, but could lose at least two games in Big Ten play. Matchups at Michigan State and Wisconsin won’t be easy, while the Buckeyes host Nebraska and Michigan.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the champion of the Legends Division and Ohio State finish the regular season with the same amount of Big Ten wins (six), but I think Meyer finds a way to lead the Buckeyes to the conference’s best record.

Mark Ross
Big things are expected in Columbus in Urban Meyer's first year. However, the Buckeyes' regular season success will have to satisfy OSU fans in 2012 since there will be no postseason in Year 1 under Meyer. As long as Meyer and the coaching staff can find a way to keep their players motivated throughout the season, then it wouldn't surprise me one bit to find them with the top conference mark when all is said and done, even if it doesn't result in a trip to Indianapolis to play in the Big Ten Championship game.

Wisconsin should be Ohio State's toughest opposition in the Leaders Division and these two will meet up in Madison on Nov. 17. That's a week before the Buckeyes' true season finale, a home game against none other than Michigan. Ohio State also faces another tough back-to-back assignment earlier in the season when it takes on Legends contenders Michigan State (in Lansing, Sept. 29) and Nebraska (home, Oct. 6) on consecutive Saturdays.

If Ohio State can navigate these four games with no worse than a split, than the Buckeyes are looking at no worse than a 6-2 conference record. However, I think Meyer uses the postseason ban to his advantage in firing up his guys, and the Buckeyes bond together to prove a point to the rest of the Big Ten. And just like what happened last season with USC winning its division, but not being eligible to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game, a 7-1 Ohio State team will see to it that the 2012 Big Ten title game includes just one true division winner. 

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I see the Buckeyes going either 6-2 or 7-1 in league play, so they should at least tie for the best Big Ten record. Ohio State does have to play the three top teams from the Legends Division — Michigan State, Nebraska and Michigan — plus travel to Wisconsin. But I think Urban Meyer has the roster to split those four conference games, if not go 3-1. Last season in Columbus involved so much turmoil and change, and I see the Buckeyes going right back to the top of the Big Ten pecking order this year.

The OSU resurgence will start with an excellent defense, led by linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins as well as secondary members C.J. Barnett, Bradley Roby and Christian Bryant. The Buckeyes were a lock for top 10 in total defense for most of the past decade, and I see them getting back to that lofty standard. On offense, quarterback Braxton Miller could have a breakout sophomore season in Meyer’s dual-threat system and with a year of experience under his belt. Ohio State will not be eligible for the Big Ten Championship or a bowl game, but the Buckeyes are a top candidate for having the league’s best record.

Related Ohio State Content

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Preview
Ohio State Buckeyes Top 10 Players for 2012

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Predictions

The Greatest Players in Ohio State Football Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Ohio State Football History

Ohio State Buckeyes Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Ohio State Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Will Ohio State Have the Big Ten's Best Record in 2012?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 05:55
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-may-29
Body:

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

Patience is a virtue. Those who have bided their time with first basemen Mark Teixeira, Albert Pujols, Justin Morneau and outfielder Nelson Cruz have seen their fantasy teams rewarded. Getting Pujols for dirt cheap may never happen again, so if you want to go after the historic slugger, now is the time. His price is rising by the day.

Cruz has the ability to completely dominate the fantasy world when hot – and that Nelson Cruz is so hot right now.

And don't look now, but the White Sox outfield is a pretty good place to find fantasy support if your lineup needs a boost.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (05/21-05/28):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Melky Cabrera SF OF 11 2 8 3 .414 1.245
2. Paul Konerko CWS 1B 10 3 10 0 .536 1.567
3. Mark Teixeira NYY 1B 8 4 10 0 .524 1.868
4. Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 7 2 6 3 .448 1.122
5. Troy Tulowitzki COL SS 8 3 9 0 .429 1.341
6. Giancarlo Stanton MIA OF 8 3 8 1 .370 1.285
7. Albert Pujols LAA 1B 6 4 8 1 .357 1.227
8. Nelson Cruz TEX OF 6 3 11 1 .320 1.106
9. Alex Rios* CWS OF 8 3 9 1 .286 1.012
10. Michael Brantley* CLE OF 6 0 6 4 .409 .935
11. Dayan Viciedo* CWS OF 6 3 10 0 .357 1.093
12. Justin Morneau* MIN 1B 7 4 10 0 .250 1.017
13. Brandon Phillips CIN 2B 7 3 8 0 .348 1.247
14. Jeff Francoeur* KC OF 5 3 4 1 .478 1.457
15. Dexter Fowler* COL OF 6 2 4 1 .533 1.630
16. Carlos Gonzalez COL OF 8 2 5 1 .333 1.127
17. Yadier Molina STL C 3 2 9 0 .417 1.107
18. Adrian Beltre TEX 3B 4 2 7 0 .400 1.087
19. Starlin Castro CHC SS 3 2 6 2 .308 .923
20. Joe Mauer MIN C/1B 8 1 2 1 .385 1.038
21. Colby Rasmus* TOR OF 3 2 5 2 .333 1.083
22. Quintin Berry* DET OF 6 0 2 3 .360 .869
23. Bryce Harper WAS OF 6 2 4 0 .391 1.220
24. Tony Gywnn Jr.* LAD OF 4 0 6 3 .308 .616
25. David Freese STL 3B 7 2 4 0 .350 1.181

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Outfield Help

Of the Top 25 hitters from last week, 13 of them were outfielders. But most importantly, eight of those 13 are owned in 70% or less of Yahoo! leagues. If you need power Dayan Viciedo, who has been hitting seventh behind Paul Konerko, Alex Rios and A.J. Pierzynski, should be able to provide some pop — and some ribeye steaks as well. Rios and Jeff Francoeur are what they are but have the ability to deliver over short periods of time — only if you can handle the 2-for-23 runs that generally follow suit. 

I would be more interested in the "post-hype" names on this list, Dexter Fowler and Colby Rasmus. Fowler is playing at a high fantasy level currently and should be one of the top OF adds this week. Rasmus might need to prove it for another 7-10 days before I give him a shot. 

For what it is worth, I picked-up Viciedo this morning over all other OFers on this list.

DL Watch

- I can't make this up. Brewers stud catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who is hitting .345, was sent to the DL after breaking his hand on his own luggage. While searching for a sock under his hotel bed, his wife somehow managed to drop the suitcase on his hand. It is broken and he will miss 4-to-6 weeks. 

- Jered Weaver has provided the biggest fantasy scare of the week thus far after leaving his Monday start after throwing to just four Yankees. After 12 pitches, the Angels ace left with "excruciating lower back pain." He will have an MRI Tuesday and a trip to the DL is uncertain. It certainly didn't look good. Especially, considering CJ Wilson is questionable for his June 2 start against Texas.

- Roy Halladay is questionable for his June 2 start against Miami. This one is very concerning as his shoulder soreness has led the Phillies' ace to get an examination after lasting only two innings on Sunday. He is having one of his worst seasons, so fantasy owners' worries should be warranted.

- Freddie Freeman is questionable for Tuesday's game against the Cardinals with an eye issue. He missed Monday's game because of vision problems and Atlanta doesn't seem too optimistic about his long-term availability. Apparently, he cannot make tears. 

- Dustin Pedroia is doubtful for Tuesday's game against Detroit with a thumb issue. The two-sacker left Monday's game with a jammed right thumb, but it doesn't appear to be serious enough to warrant a DL trip. He could miss a few games, however.

- Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera is doubtful for Tuesday's start against Kansas City. He is day-to-day due to tightness in his left hamstring. Those are tricky to nail down. The Indians need the shortstop's bat now that catcher Carlos Santana is on the seven-day DL with concussion issues.

- The brittle David Freese had a great week over the last seven days but is questionable for Tuesday's game with a wrist injury. 

- Matt Kemp has begun his Triple-A rehab assignment and could be back as early as Tuesday. The A's Yoenis Cespedes also went 1-for-3 and played left field in his rehab stint and should be back this week as well while pitcher Brandon McCarthy could return to the mound June 2 against the Royals. The Mets' Jason Bay has been DHing and will soon play the field in an effort to return to the Flushing this weekend. 

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Chris Sale CWS 19.2 3 28 0.92 0.76
2. Gio Gonzalez WAS 20.0 3 29 2.25 0.80
3. R.A. Dickey* NYM 20.1 2 29 1.77 0.74
4. Kevin Millwood* SEA 20.0 2 14 0.45 0.65
5. James McDonald PIT 20.2 2 24 1.74 0.82
6. Josh Beckett BOS 21.2 2 19 1.25 0.88
7. Justin Verlander DET 17.0 1 19 1.06 0.59
8. Cole Hamels PHI 23.0 3 23 2.74 0.96
9. Andy Pettitte* NYY 15.0 2 17 1.20 0.87
10. C.J. Wilson LAA 17.2 2 15 1.02 0.96
11. Dan Haren LAA 15.2 1 19 1.72 0.70
12. Kyle Kendrick* PHI 22.0 1 12 1.23 0.77
13. Chris Capuano LAD 19.1 2 19 2.33 0.93
14. Adam Wainwright STL 20.2 2 12 1.31 1.06
15. Brandon Beachy ATL 21.0 1 18 2.14 0.90
16. Felix Doubront* BOS 17.2 2 22 2.55 1.19
17. Clayton Kershaw LAD 16.0 1 10 1.12 0.88
18. Ryan Vogelsong* SF 13.1 2 9 2.02 0.90
19. Johan Santana NYM 22.0 1 19 2.45 1.00
20. J.A. Happ HOU 18.1 2 20 1.47 1.42

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Top 5 Spot Starts for the Week (Tues. - Sun.):

1. Chris Sale, CWS: Seattle (Sun.)
The stud Sox youngster has rebounded perfectly after a short injury scare. Struck out 15 hitters on Monday against Tampa and should dominate the Mariners this weekend.

2. Ryan Dempster, CHC: San Diego (Wed.)
Might not be on your wire, but has yet to win a game in 8 starts. This is his best chance yet.

3. Trevor Cahill, ARI: at San Diego (Sun.)
Is walking too many people (12 in his last five starts) but has been solid of late. Will face one of worst offenses in the league.

4. Ubaldo Jimanez, CLE: Minnesota (Sat.)
Has been very wild but if any match-up will get him back into the swing of things, it will be against the Twins.

5. Gavin Floyd, CWS: Seattle (Sat.)
Got shelled the last three outings but has nice 8.0 K/9 and 3.18 K/BB ratio thus far. Will face lowly Mariners at home.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Fernando Rodney TB 16.2 1 10 17 0 1.08 0.84
2. Aroldis Chapman CIN 13.2 2 3 23 3 0.00 0.44
3. Santiago Casilla SF 14.1 1 10 13 0 1.26 1.05
4. Chris Perez CLE 12.1 0 10 15 0 1.46 0.73
5. Jim Johnson BAL 13.2 0 9 8 0 1.32 0.51
6. Jason Motte STL 12.1 2 5 10 0 2.19 0.73
7. Kenley Jansen LAD 10.1 2 5 15 2 1.74 0.97
8. Joe Nathan TEX 11.0 0 6 14 0 0.82 0.64
9. Ernesto Frieri* LAA 14.0 0 2 26 4 0.64 0.71
10. Joel Hanrahan PIT 11.0 1 8 12 0 2.45 1.09
11. Tyler Clippard* WAS 11.2 0 3 15 5 0.77 0.51
12. Jake McGee* TB 12.0 2 0 13 4 0.75 0.67
13. Nate Jones* CWS 15.0 2 0 16 2 0.60 1.00
14. Jonathan Papelbon PHI 11.1 0 7 15 0 3.18 0.88
15. Brett Myers HOU 11.2 0 8 9 0 2.31 1.03
16. Craig Stammen* WAS 18.1 1 0 18 1 1.47 0.82
17. Casey Janssen* TOR 10.1 0 4 8 1 0.00 0.68
18. Brian Fuentes* OAK 11.1 1 4 7 1 1.59 0.79
19. Alfredo Aceves BOS 17.2 0 6 20 0 3.06 1.08
20. Jordan Walden* LAA 12.1 2 0 12 4 0.73 0.89

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: May 29</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 03:10
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC North, Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL
Path: /nfl/pittsburgh-steelers-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Denver
Week 2: NY Jets
Week 3: at Oakland
Week 4: BYE
Week 5: Philadelphia
Week 6: at Tennessee (Thur.)
Week 7: at Cincinnati
Week 8: Washington
Week 9: at NY Giants
Week 10: Kansas City (Mon.)
Week 11: Baltimore
Week 12: at Cleveland
Week 13: at Baltimore
Week 14: San Diego
Week 15: at Dallas
Week 16: Cincinnati
Week 17: Cleveland

Order your 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The Steelers will face the NFC East in 2012 and that delivers no favors for the Steelers. The Giants are the defending Super Bowl champs, while Philadelphia, Dallas and Washington are no easy outs. The East could be second only to the NFC North in terms of depth in a loaded NFC this fall. To top it off, Pittsburgh must face the top two contenders in the East — Dallas and New York — on the road.

- Within the conference, the Steelers will play the AFC West. While it isn’t the strongest division in the AFC, it could end up as the most balanced. The most intriguing match-up will take place in Week 1 when Pittsburgh returns to the scene of the crime in Denver. Now led by Peyton Manning, the Broncos will face a Steel Curtain defense that is sure to test the reconstructed neck of No. 18. Pittsburgh’s season was infamously ended in overtime at the hands of Tim Tebow last year and fans can bet that every member of the Steelers' organization will be ready to compete right out of the gate — which will be a good thing for a team likely picked to win the division.

- The NFL has squeezed the bye weeks into a smaller window over the last few years, starting them later and ending them sooner. But the Steelers will get the first bye week available after playing three AFC games in 2012. Generally speaking, most teams would want the bye to fall as close to Week 8 or 9 as possible to split the season evenly — or just before or just after a key stretch of the schedule. That said, the Steelers are trying to get Rashard Mendenhall back into the line-up and the early bye week could give him one extra game played. The bye week also could benefit the team if there are any growing pains with Todd Haley’s new offensive system that need to be ironed out after three weeks.

- The division slate is very interesting. First, the two games with the rival Baltimore Ravens will take place within a three-week span between Week 11 and Week 13 — generally, the most difficult area of any NFL schedule — sandwiched around another division road game against the Browns. The division crown will likely be decided in that three-week period of time. Second, the Steelers won’t face a divisional opponent until Week 7 when they visit Cincinnati, meaning six of the final 11 games will be within the division. Lastly, the final two weeks of the season will feature two home division games against the Bengals and Browns.

- Notably absent from the 2012 Pittsburgh schedule are what could be considered the top two teams in the AFC, New England and Houston. Missing the rival Patriots and rising Texans could play a huge role in two ways come seeding time for the playoffs. Head-to-head tie-breakers will not be applicable for first-round byes between what will likely be considered the top three teams in the conference.

- Home-road splits are intriguing with this team. Pittsburgh will be forced to play four of its first six games on the road — against four teams that were at least .500 a year ago nonetheless. The flipside of that equation, of course, is finishing the 2012 campaign with three of the last four at home – including back-to-back home divisional games against Cincinnati and Cleveland. An interesting twist comes from Week 6 to Week 9, when the Steelers will have three brutal road games (TEN, CIN, NYG) in four weeks which begins with a short week of preparation for a Thursday night road trip to Tennessee.

- The two floating games will be a home game against the Jets in Week 2 and a road trip to the Tennessee Titans in Week 6.

- As a completely meaningless side note that matters very little to the outcome of anything, Pittsburgh will begin its 2012 season against Denver, the team that drafted Tim Tebow, followed by the Jets, the team that currently employs Tim Tebow.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers


NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 03:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC South, Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL
Path: /nfl/jacksonville-jaguars-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Jacksonville Jaguars 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Minnesota
Week 2: Houston
Week 3: at Indianapolis
Week 4: Cincinnati
Week 5: Chicago
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: at Oakland
Week 8: at Green Bay
Week 9: Detroit
Week 10: Indianapolis (Thur.)
Week 11: at Houston
Week 12: Tennessee
Week 13: at Buffalo
Week 14: New York Jets
Week 15: at Miami
Week 16: New England
Week 17: at Tennessee

Order your 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The season won’t get started easily for second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert. He will have to face fierce pass rushes from Houston, Cincinnati and Chicago all within the first five weeks of the season before reaching the bye. The Colts and Vikings do offer some respite, but both of those games will come on the road. It feels like 0-5 and 1-4 heading into the bye week while 2-3 would be considered a windfall.

- The Jags will need that bye when it comes around in Week 6. They will have faced some powerful defenses in the first month and then have two brutal road trips following their off week. First, they travel 3,000 miles to Oakland before heading north to face Green Bay in Lambeau in the first two games following the bye. Just to make sure they are tested, Matt Stafford and Megatron come to town the next week.

- The NFC North is the cross-over division Jacksonville will face in 2012 and it could be the top division in a loaded NFC. Three playoff teams could come from this group this fall, including what many consider the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in the Packers. The only comfort? The Jags get Detroit and Chicago at home and Minnesota on the road. Green Bay is a loss either way, so it might as well come on the road. All four NFC North games will take place in the first half of the season, giving the Jags eight straight AFC foes to end the year.

- The intraconference division Jacksonville will face this season is the AFC East. One excellent team, two quality teams and one improving squad makes for another tough draw for the Jags. The real bizarre story line, however, for Jacksonville’s round robin with the AFC East is the timing. Jacksonville will play all four teams from the East in four consecutive weeks starting in Week 13 — on the heels of playing three straight divisional games. The most intriguing story line here, obviously, includes a visit from local legend Tim Tebow. The Jets visit the largest metro area in the lower US in Week 14. Expect a hero’s welcome for No. 15. It could be the biggest crowd of the year for the Jags as they will likely to have to remove some tarps to accommodate the Tebow fanatics.

- Speaking of division play, the Jags will be in a fierce battle with the Colts to see who won't finish last in the AFC South. The intriguing aspect to the Jags' schedule is the peaks and valleys. They will play back-to-back games within the division in Weeks 2 and 3 and won’t face another AFC South team until Week 10 — where they will face three straight. Following their strange four-game run against AFC East teams, Jacksonville will wrap-up 2012 on the road against the Titans.

- The really nice aspect of the Jaguars' schedule are the home and road splits. The 2012 slate is extremely balanced from this perspective as Jacksonville will alternate home-road games over the first four weeks and the final seven weeks of the season. It is a small comfort that it will play back-to-back road games only one time all season long — Week 7 and 8 following the bye week.

- Jacksonville will visit Oakland and host Cincinnati in their two floating games of the year. Not deadly, but not easy either.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers


NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 02:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, jokes
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-ohio-state-rivals
Body:


Here are some of our favorite jokes about Ohio State's biggest rivals.

• What's the difference between a litter of puppies and Michigan fans?
Eventually puppies grow up and stop whining.

• Why do Michigan football players like smart women?
Opposites attract.

• How does an Indiana fan count to 10?
0-1, 0-2, 0-3, 0-4…..

• How many Michigan fans does it take to change a flat tire?
Just one . . . unless it’s a blowout, then they all show up!

• What do Michigan fans use for birth control?
Their personalities.

• Did you hear what happened to the Michigan fan when he found out that 90% of all car accidents occur within five miles of home?
He moved.

• What do you call a beautiful woman on the arm of a Michigan fan?
A tattoo.

• The Foo Fighters are playing at Ross-Ade Stadium this fall.
They're 10-point favorites.

• What do you call 20 Michigan fans skydiving from an airplane?
Skeet.

• You know you’re from Wisconsin if:
You’ve ever climbed a water tower with a bucket of paint to defend your sister’s honor.

Related Ohio State Content

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Preview
Ohio State Buckeyes Top 10 Players for 2012

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Predictions

The Greatest Players in Ohio State Football Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Ohio State Football History

Ohio State Buckeyes Cheerleader Gallery

Will Ohio State Have the Big Ten's Best Record in 2012?

Teaser:
<p> Jokes About Ohio State Rivals</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 02:41
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/ask-athlon-sports-usain-bolt
Body:

Q: How fast was Usain Bolt running in miles per hour at his top speed during his world-record 100-meter dash?

— Curt Whitmire, Rockford, Ill.

A: Bolt’s accomplishments are quickly — pun intended — becoming legendary. He’s a five-time world champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist, and he’s the current world record-holder in the 100m, 200m and 4x100 meter relay (with teammates). Perhaps his greatest personal achievement came at the 2009 World Championships, where Bolt broke his own world record for the 100 meters, re-earning his unofficial title as the World’s Fastest Man, with a blinding time of 9.58 seconds. In taking more than a tenth of a second off his own mark, Bolt posted the largest single improvement in the 100m world record since the advent of electronic timing. As for your question: According to a biometrical analysis of Bolt’s run, he reached an astonishing top speed of 27.45 mph. Just for reference, a white-tailed deer tops out at 30 mph.

— Rob Doster, Senior Editor

Have a question? Email us with any sports-related questions at editor@athlonsports.com
Please include first and last name, plus hometown.
 

Teaser:
<p> Usain Bolt</p>
Post date: Monday, May 28, 2012 - 23:14
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/ask-athlon-sports-baseball-history
Body:

Q: In baseball, the names of the different positions — catcher, pitcher, first base, second base, etc. — seem to make sense. But what is the origin of the term “shortstop”?

— John Daneluk, Beverly, Mass.

A: There are two theories that appear to have some merit. One is that the player known as the shortstop was positioned there to field batted balls; the other supposes that the player’s primary purpose was to field throws from the outfield.

Considering that most players in the game’s infancy were right-handed hitters, and there were no Nolan Ryan fastball-type pitchers, most balls in play went to the left side of the field. There were players assigned to cover each base, and because most balls were hit toward the left side, players soon discovered that by positioning themselves between second and third they could stop balls short of the outfield. Given the condition of most playing fields, it is easy to assume that most balls that hit the ground were quickly and abruptly slowed by tall, unmanicured grass. Therefore, this position stopped many ground balls short of the outfield.

The other theory is presented well by historian John Thorn as he writes about Daniel Lucas “Doc” Adams, one of the original players for the New York Knickerbockers before 1850. Thorn quotes Adams himself from interviews given when the former player was an advanced age near the end of the century: “I used to play shortstop,” Adams reminisced, “and I believe I was the first one to occupy that place, as it had formerly been left uncovered.”

But when Adams first went out to short, it was not to bolster the infield but to assist in relays from the outfield. The early Knickerbocker ball was so light that it could not be thrown even two hundred feet, thus the need for a short fielder to send the ball in to the pitcher’s point…When the ball was wound tighter, gaining more hardness and resilience, it could be hit farther and, crucially, thrown farther. This permitted the shortstop to come into the infield, which Adams did.

So, there you have it. Did the position and name originate as a fielder or a cut-off man? It’s difficult to disagree with Thorn, one of the foremost historians in baseball, but logically, the other theory makes for a better story to the derivation of the name.

— Charlie Miller, Editorial Director

Have a question? Email us with any sports-related questions at editor@athlonsports.com
Please include first and last name, plus hometown.
 

Teaser:
<p> &nbsp;Baseball History</p>
Post date: Monday, May 28, 2012 - 23:07
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/ask-athlon-sports-baseball-numbers
Body:

Q: In what year did jersey numbers first appear on major league baseball jerseys? What team was the first one to use jersey numbers? And did Ty Cobb ever wear a jersey number during his playing days?

— Steven Manowitz, Brooklyn, N.Y.

A: Some of the details concerning number usage are a little fuzzy, although the Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit Dressed to the Nines has filled in many of the blanks. The earliest documented instance of jersey numbers in baseball dates to 1907, when the minor league Reading Red Roses gave their players numbers to help fans identify them, although it’s unknown if the players ever wore them on the field.

The barnstorming Cuban Stars provide the earliest photographic evidence of jersey numbers in baseball history; a 1909 Chicago Daily News account included a photo of pitcher Jose Mendez wearing a 12 on his sleeve.

The first MLB team to take the field with jersey numbers was the Cleveland Indians, who wore numbers on their sleeves for the first time on June 26, 1916, although their experiment didn’t last long. In 1923, the Cardinals tried out jersey numbers on their sleeves at the insistence of innovative manager Branch Rickey, but the numbers were soon discarded. As Rickey later said, “Ridicule followed throughout the country, presswise and otherwise. More particularly, the players were subjected to field criticism from the stands and especially from opposing players.”

Numbers came to stay in 1929, when the Yankees and Indians both put numbers on the backs of their jerseys. Although the Yankees often get the credit, their opener was rained out, allowing the Indians to take the field first sporting the national pastime’s new sartorial standard. The Yankees took their famous jersey numbers from the batting order — Babe Ruth wore 3, Lou Gehrig 4, and so on.

You didn’t ask, but names first appeared on jersey backs thanks to another great innovator, White Sox executive Bill Veeck, who saw the value of player ID as the game entered the television age. He added names during spring training in 1960. Interestingly, the tradition-bound Yankees have never followed suit.

As for your final question — Cobb’s career ended in 1928, just before number usage came into fashion. Like many early Hall of Fame legends, the great Cobb never had a number retired, because he never wore one.

— Rob Doster, Senior Editor

Have a question? Email us with any sports-related questions at editor@athlonsports.com
Please include first and last name, plus hometown.
 

Teaser:
<p> Baseball Numbers</p>
Post date: Monday, May 28, 2012 - 23:00
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-michigan-no-7-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at www.athlonsports.com. The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the Michigan Wolverines being named No. 7, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Brady Hoke’s Michigan Wolverines continue the countdown at No. 7 with one preseason All-American and nine players selected as All-Big Ten performers. Athlon Sports predicts Michigan will finish first in the Big Ten’s Legends Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Brady Hoke has returned Michigan to prominence and has the Wolverines looking like the favorite in the Legends Division,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “Heisman candidate Denard Robinson will lead a high-scoring offense once again, and the defense should continue the improvement it showed last season under coordinator Greg Mattison.”

One Michigan standout was named a preseason All-American, with quarterback Denard Robinson being voted to the third team. In addition, the U-M quarterbacks unit was ranked No. 3 nationally and best in the Big Ten. The offensive line was rated No. 10 in the country.

Nine Wolverines earned preseason All-Big Ten honors, including Robinson and offensive lineman Taylor Lewan on the first team. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint and wide receiver Roy Roundtree were named to the second team, while offensive lineman Patrick Omameh, defensive lineman Craig Roh, linebacker Kenny Demens and defensive backs Blake Countess and Jordan Kovacs garnered third-team honors.

Michigan Team Preview

Michigan's Top 10 Players of 2012

Michigan’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> <strong><span>Athlon Sports Names Michigan No. 7 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></strong></p>
Post date: Friday, May 25, 2012 - 10:26
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Overtime
Path: /mlb/stanton-nearly-decapitates-morrison-throw
Body:

During last night's Giants-Marlins game, Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton threw a rocket toward home plate, but nearly took off the head of teammate Logan Morrison in the process. OK, we exaggerate slightly, but check out their reactions in the video below as Morrison ends up on his butt.

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Friday, May 25, 2012 - 08:33
Path: /college-football/michigan-football-will-denard-robinson-be-heisman-finalist
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 7 Michigan. Quarterback Denard Robinson is back, but the Wolverines must replace center David Molk. The defense must replace tackle Mike Martin, but should be solid in the back seven.

Will Denard Robinson Be a Heisman Finalist in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Robinson has nearly all the trademarks for a Heisman finalist according to HeismanPundit.com’s 10 Heismandments. He’s a senior quarterback for one of college football’s elite programs. With a nickname like Shoelace, he’s likable. His games are mandatory viewing and on just about every play he has a chance to set Twitter ablaze -- a fair amount of those pundits out there, of course, are Heisman voters. Even if he has one underwhelming game -- say, against Alabama to start the season -- he’ll have Notre Dame to recover. Or Michigan State. Or Nebraska. Or Ohio State. Or the Big Ten championship game. What’s holding Robinson back is consistency. He had some serious lapses last season in throwing up a pass and hoping for the best. Against Notre Dame, it worked. Other times, it didn't. Still, there’s plenty of reason to believe Robinson will improve. He threw nine of his 15 interceptions last season in the first six games. Then, he threw six picks in the final seven, never more than one in a game during that stretch. That’s not good enough to be Heisman-worthy, but it’s at least a sign of progress. If Robinson marginally improves to become a 60 percent passer and throws only 10 interceptions (after completing 55 percent of his passes and throwing 15 picks), Michigan may be the national title race. And that’s not even counting the breakaway runs he’s sure to have throughout the season. To win the Heisman, Robinson may need a career year, but career achievement alone might be enough to get him to New York.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Yes. Barring any major injuries — which is certainly possible with Robinson's playing style — the Michigan quarterback should be the Big Ten's representative in New York City come December. With no disrespect meant to Montee Ball or Rex Burkhead, who should both have stellar senior seasons, there's no better situation for a Heisman run in that league than the guy under center at Michigan. And it all starts Week 1 on primetime national television against the defending national champions in the biggest football stadium in the world.

While he needs to show improved efficiency and decision making, all of the needed factors are in place for Shoelace to make a serious run at the stiff-arm trophy. He plays the quarterback position, and 11 of the last 12 Heisman winners have played under center. He is the leader and engine of the potential Big Ten champions and will play in marquee match-ups against the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State. He is unequivocally the single-most electrifying athlete playing the quarterback position in the entire nation. And statistically, there may not be another player in the history of the sport who can match D-Rob's production when his career is all said and done.

He is the only player to ever top 2,500 yards passing and 1,500 yards rushing in one year. He is only the fourth player in history to go for 2,000-1,000 twice in his career and could become the only player ever to do it three times. He already owns the NCAA single-season quarterback rushing record with 1,702 yards, and with 1,252 yards on the ground this season, he will pass Pat White to become the top rushing quarterback in NCAA history. Robinson has all the necessary pieces laid out in front of him for a forceful Heisman run — as long as he can stay healthy.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The battle to win a spot to New York for the Heisman ceremony will be an interesting race to watch this season. Barring injury, you can go ahead and write in USC quarterback Matt Barkley for one of the five spots. Although Wisconsin’s (and 2011 Heisman finalist) Montee Ball won’t repeat last season’s numbers, he should be in the mix for a trip to the Big Apple once again. After that? It’s anybody’s guess.

West Virginia’s Geno Smith should improve on last season’s totals in the second year of Dana Holgorsen’s spread attack and is a potential darkhorse candidate to get to New York. Other top preseason candidates have question marks, including Clemson’s Sammy Watkins with a potential suspension, while South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore is coming off a torn ACL.

Considering the question marks with some of the other top candidates, I think Robinson will be a Heisman finalist in 2012. There will always be a couple of off-the-radar candidates that emerge, but the senior quarterback seems to be in good position to earn a trip to New York at the end of the year. Although Robinson needs to be a better passer, his rushing ability will give him another opportunity to record over 3,000 yards of total offense.

As long as Robinson stays healthy and Michigan is in the mix to win the Big Ten title, he will remain a frontrunner for the Heisman. However, should the Wolverines struggle or Robinson miss a couple of games due to injury, he will fall short of finishing among the top five in voting at the end of the season.

After Barkley, the battle to get to New York for the Heisman ceremony is up for grabs. However, I expect Robinson to be one of the five finalists in early December. 

Mark Ross
Robinson burst on the scene his sophomore season in 2010, when he finished sixth in the Heisman voting after rushing for more than 1,700 yards, passing for more than 2,500 and accounting for 32 touchdowns. He had another productive season in 2011, earning second team All-Big Ten honors and accounting for more touchdowns (36) than the previous season, but he also saw his total offense drop by by more than 900 yards.

The fact that Michigan should be a strong contender for a return to a BCS bowl, not to mention the Big Ten title, certainly helps Robinson's Heisman chances in 2012, however, it also should be noted that in 2010, when Robinson was a near-Heisman finalist, the Wolverines won just seven games. Last season, Michigan won 11, including an overtime victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, thanks not only to Robinson's production, but also a much-improved defense and the emergence of 1,000-yard rusher Fitzgerald Toussaint.

Robinson is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and arguably the best in the Big Ten, but the fact that Michigan is a more complete and balanced team actually hurts Robinson in terms of Heisman consideration. In 2010, he was basically a one-man show, which was a large reason for his lofty numbers and subsequent Heisman votes.

And although he is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, he's still not an extremely polished passer as he has completed less than 60 percent of his throws and holds a 40:30 touchdown-to-interception ratio entering his senior season. The Wolverines' offense, and the team for that matter, is no longer a one-man show. I just think it will be too hard for Robinson to put up the numbers necessary to compete, if you will, with other expected Heisman-contending quarterbacks like Matt Barkley, Tajh Boyd, Landry Jones and Geno Smith, to name a few, and finish the season as a finalist for college football's most coveted honor.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I do not think Robinson will be one of the top five players in 2012, but he has a great shot to receive an invitation to New York in December. The key with the always-political Heisman is late momentum, something that has eluded Michigan’s quarterback for the last two seasons. If the Wolverines can win the Big Ten for the first time since 2004, then D-Rob almost seems assured of a trip to the Big Apple.

Robinson should put up solid numbers with his elite speed, but it’s tough to build a Heisman campaign around a 55-percent passer with 15 interceptions. Those 2011 numbers will need to improve this season. While D-Rob is an electric playmaker on the ground, his TD-INT ratio for his career is 40-30. If Michigan continues to spread the running yards around, Robinson could see his rushing yards decline once again. Plus the Wolverines add Alabama to the schedule this season, and it’s difficult to see Robinson producing the same type of numbers that he did against Notre Dame and Ohio State a year ago. While Robinson will still make plenty of highlight plays, I’m not sure that he will put up the consistent numbers to be a top five player. But if Michigan wins the Big Ten, he will be invited to NYC.

Related Michigan Content

Michigan Wolverines 2012 Team Preview
Michigan Wolverines Top 10 Players for 2012

Michigan Wolverines 2012 Team Predictions

Michigan Wolverines Top 10 Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Michigan Football History

Michigan Wolverines Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Michigan Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Will Denard Robinson be a Heisman Finalist this year?</p>
Post date: Friday, May 25, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /college-football/michigan-wolverines-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Michigan Wolverines check in at No. 7 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Denard Robinson, QB (SR)
How could it be anyone else? The statistical resume is downright historic. And if the Maize and Blue win their first Big Ten title since 2004, it will be because of Robinson’s electrifying play-making ability. There is no more explosive athlete under center in the nation, so improved decision-making could send Shoelace to New York in December this fall.

Trap Game: Iowa
One could argue that every game played the weekend before the Ohio State game should be considered a trap game. This year the Hawkeyes’ come to town to attempt to upset the division favorite while they are supposedly looking ahead to the Buckeyes. Back in 2001, Michigan led this series 37-8-4 all-time. Since then, Iowa has won five of seven and three straight, including the 24-16 win a year ago and the 38-28 victory the last time they visited The Big House.

Upset Alert: at Purdue (Oct. 6)
The Boilermakers have been known to pull an upset or two in West Lafayette and they are coming off their first bowl season since 2007. Should Purdue stay healthy, it is certain to pull more than one upset this year. Purdue has only beaten Michigan four times since 1985, but two have come in the last four years and three of those have come at home.

Unsung Hero: Craig Roh and Jibreel Black, DL
Roh may never live up to his lofty recruiting status, but he has consistently showed up to play every Saturday. He has missed only one game in his three-year career (37 games) and will be playing his fourth position (strong-side end) in as many years this fall. Black, too, will be playing a new position as he slides inside to the 3-technique nose tackle position. This D-Line is the biggest area of concern and solid play from these two will go a long way to alleviate the loss of three starters.

Biggest Game: at Ohio State (Nov. 24)
Alabama may define this season early on, but there is no mistaking which game is the most important. And in 2012 it carries even more weight than usual. A Legend’s Division championship, subsequent Big Ten title game berth, BCS bowl, Heisman Trophy or more could all be riding on the trip to Columbus to end the season. Throw in the fact that it is guaranteed to be the Buckeye’s season finale, and, that these are likely the league’s top two teams, this rivalry game should realize its potential for the first time since 2006.

Revenge Game: Michigan State (Oct. 20)
The story is well documented: The Spartans have spanked the Wolverines four straight years (only one by less than a touchdown) en route to a Big Ten title as well as the league’s first Legend’s Division championship. The fact that Michigan State now annually boasts the league’s top defense and has thumped big brother from Ann Arbor by at least two touchdowns in three of those four wins only adds to the motivation for Michigan.

Co-Freshmen To Watch: Ondre Pipkins, DT and Joe Bolden, LB
There is a plethora of talent to choose from in what turned out to be a top ten recruiting class nationally for Brady Hoke’s Freshman to Watch. Should Pipkins reach his potential, few will play as imperative a role as the massive nose guard from Missouri. He is as game-ready as there is in the nation and the Athlon Consensus 100 prospect will be asked to stabilize the reworked defensive line — which could be the difference in a Big Ten title or not. The linebackers need depth and will likely be asked to lead this defense this fall. Bolden could push Kenny Demens outside or slide into a reserve role. Either way, expect both names to get a lot of playing time this fall.

Comeback Player: Roy Roundtree, WR (SR)
If completely disappearing from an offense counts as an injury, then Roundtree is a perfect bounce-back candidate. In 2010, Roundtree was the team’s top receiver, catching 72 passes for nearly 1,000 yards en route to second-team All-Big Ten honors. Last year, the milk carton special totaled 19 receptions for 355 yards, despite starting all 13 games. The senior should be poised to become Denard Robinson top target once again in 2012.

Defensive MVP: Blake Countess, CB (SO)
In only one short year, Countess has established himself as arguably the most talented defender on the roster. He will lock down one side of the defense which will free-up veteran leaders Jordan Kovacs and Kenny Demens to make more plays — which will be needed considering the weaknesses up front on this defense. The domino effect of Countess’ emergence last fall may not be measurable.

Newcomer To Watch: Jerald Robinson, WR (SO)
Technically, Robinson played in 11 games as a freshman last fall. But since he failed to record a statistic of any kind, he will be considered a newcomer. Offensive coordinator Al Borges has had plenty of glowing things to say about the 6-foot-1, 206-pounder this spring. He could be the best vertical threat on the roster — something that this Wolverines offense will be looking for all season long.

Season Defining Moment: Alabama (Sept. 1, Arlington, Texas)
Yes, the Big Ten title means more. Yes, the game against that team from down South is the biggest. But a win over the defending national champions could do more than simply define a season. If the Michigan defensive line is capable of slowing the Tide’s elite rushing attack and Robinson is able to move the football on the lightning fast track of Cowboys Stadium against the totally rebuilt Nick Saban defense, then the ceiling for this team will go up a few floors. A win over Bama in Week 1 puts Michigan directly on track for South Beach.

Related Michigan Content

Michigan Wolverines 2012 Team Preview
Michigan Wolverines Top 10 Players for 2012

Will Denard Robinson Be a Heisman Finalist in 2012?
Michigan Wolverines Top 10 Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Michigan Football History

Michigan Wolverines Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Michigan Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Michigan Wolverines 2012 Team Predictions.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 25, 2012 - 05:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, jokes
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-michigan-rivals
Body:

Here are some of our favorite jokes about Michigan's biggest rivals.

• What happens when Urban Meyer takes Viagra?
He gets taller.

• How many Ohio State football players does it take to change a light bulb?
Just one, but he gets four academic credits for it.

• What does the average Ohio State football player get on his SAT?
Drool.

• Did you hear about the new honor system at Ohio State?
Yes, your Honor. No, your Honor.

• Where was O.J. headed in the white Bronco?
Michigan State. He knew that the police would never look there for a Heisman Trophy
winner.

• Why is Michigan State replacing the turf in its stadium with cardboard?
The Spartans always look better on paper.

• Why don’t Michigan State fans eat barbecue beans?
Because they keep falling through the holes in the grill.

• How do you get a Michigan State graduate off your front porch?
You pay for the pizza.

• What do you call 20 Notre Dame fans skydiving from an airplane?
Skeet.

• Things you will never hear an Ohio State fan say:
I have reviewed your application.

Related Michigan Content

Michigan Wolverines 2012 Team Preview
Michigan Wolverines Top 10 Players for 2012

Will Denard Robinson Be a Heisman Finalist in 2012?
Michigan Wolverines Top 10 Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Michigan Football History

Michigan Wolverines Cheerleader Gallery

Michigan Wolverines 2012 Team Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Jokes About Michigan Rivals</p>
Post date: Friday, May 25, 2012 - 02:11
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day-1
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for May 25.

Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla is glad to see the Tim Tebow circus leave town.

• New Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is ready for the SEC, telling Will Muschamp to worry about his own team after the Florida coach criticized College Station.

• We saw the Cardinals' "Bad Tuxedo Day" last week, and now the Rays have become "Nerds!"

• Veteran NASCAR pit reporter Dick Berggren will retire after next weekend’s race at Dover.

• The Mark Sanchez-Tim Tebow Jets QB dynamic will be crazy enough in New York, and the incumbent’s agent is already stirring the pot.

• Should the ACC follow the Big 12 and form a bowl game with the SEC?

• The controversial Warren Sapp will not be back on Inside the NFL.

• The rumor that Charlie Sheen bought Lawrence Taylor’s Super Bowl ring is apparently not true.

• The Heat won three in a row to close out the Pacers, with play almost as scorching as Dwyane Wade’s pants.

• The red-hot Reds take over first place in the NL Central.

• We are all appreciative of those who have served in the military. On this Memorial Day weekend, we look back at a sports hero who became an American hero — Pat Tillman.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 24

• The New York Daily News has the Big Apple buzzing with the report that the Steinbrenners could sell the Yankees.

• Kellen Winslow Jr. has many critics for his out-of-control ego and “soldier” rant back in the day. Now, the man who was just released by the Buccaneers is being sued for trashing a $9,000-month rental in San Diego that had “a putrid stench of animal waste.”

• Mandatory.com has a great slideshow of the craziest places the Stanley Cup has traveled.

• Ohio State will already not play for the Big Ten title or in a bowl game this season, but are there more NCAA violations on the way?

• CBS’ Tony Barnhart discusses facing SEC defenses with Missouri and Texas A&M coaches.

• Gizmodo says beware of buying these gadgets right now, including the iPhone.

• Arizona football will already change significantly this fall with Rich Rodriguez taking over. But copper helmets?

• It’s amazing how many bobbleheads look nothing like the celebrities they represent. When did the Philles’ Roy Halladay get weird teeth and an Ervin Santana chinstrap beard?

• Clemson’s board of trustees will meet today to discuss conference affiliation. The ACC-Big 12 rumors have taken over the offseason.

• Check out Ben Wallace’s ride, a “T-Rex.”

• I think more people have seen “Uncle Drew” than saw Cavaliers games this season. “Don’t reach young blood” — here’s our Video of the Day…

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 23

• Olympic hurdler (and major hottie) Lolo Jones tells HBO’s “Real Sports” that remaining a virgin is much harder than graduating college or training for this summer in London.

• Raiders cornerback Ron Bartell tells the Contra Costa Times that he will not wear the league-mandated knee and thigh pads in 2013.

• To celebrate Robert Moog’s birthday, Google gives us a synthesizer to play.

• Did TCU athletic director confirm the Big 12’s expansion interests?

• Speaking of conference expansion gone wild, could we see a six-day Big East basketball tournament? CBS’ Gary Parrish hopes not.

• Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer has some humorous ideas for other schools after Stanford renamed its offensive coordinator the “Andrew Luck Director of Offense.”

• Some early NFL win total propositions have been set in Vegas. The Packers and Patriots lead at 12 victories, while the Colts, Jaguars and Browns bring up rear at 5.5.

• CBS’ Mike Freeman has some interesting thoughts from Saints players who feel they are being “railroaded” by the NFL.

• Maybe golf is not the game for certain Redskins like offensive lineman Trent Williams.

•Could longtime Jazz coach Jerry Sloan return to the NBA bench with either the Magic or Bobcats?

• It’s difficult to find Cubs highlights this season (they’re getting an early start on that “Completely Useless By September” thing), but this Tony Campana dive into third base is awesome…

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 22

• Mitch Vingle of the Charleston Gazette has a moving piece on the passing of former West Virginia coach Bill Stewart.

• Michael Felder remembers Stewart at his brightest moment, WVU’s convincing 48-28 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.

• How much of the MLB season will Phillies slugger Ryan Howard miss?

• CBS’ Jeff Goodman has the story of Dick Vitale raising millions of dollars for cancer research.

• John Hoover of the Tulsa World has an interesting column on Eric Dickerson. The star runner says he would have gone to Oklahoma, but his mother did not trust Barry Switzer.

• You may have heard over the weekend that NASCAR is the first professional sports league to partner directly with Twitter. What will trend worldwide first: #shakeandbake, #spidermonkey or #DaleJrWins?

• David Shaw was already the “Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football” at Stanford, and now offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has changed titles to the “Andrew Luck Director of Offense.”

• Dave Teel of the Daily Press in Virginia details how his state’s ACC athletic directors believe in the stability of the conference despite national rumors.

• Reds’ reliever Aroldis Chapman was arrested for driving 93 MPH and for driving with a suspended license. Don’t the police know that 93 is slow for Chapman?

• Oh to have expensive lawyers on your side. The Jets’ Kenrick Ellis will serve 45 days in jail this summer, but that sentence will be perfectly situated between the team’s minicamp and training camp.

• Being the ball boy at an MLB game seems pretty cool, unless you miss a play and fall victim to a sunflower seed shower from Braves pitcher Livan Hernandez . Here’s our Video of the Day…

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 21

• The oldest-known Babe Ruth jersey nets over $4 million at auction, breaking the record for a piece of sports memorabilia.

• Speaking of auctions, Giants defender Osi Umenyiora falls short on Twitter followers and does not buy Lawrence Taylor’s Super Bowl XXV ring.

• Could a Florida State move to the Big 12 cause the ACC and Big East to get poached by the powerful SEC and Big Ten? Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage thinks so.

• How’s your Facebook stock faring?

• The Angels fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, but CBS’ Jon Heyman says that longtime manager Mike Scioscia should not be next.

• Dave Miller of the National Football Post looks at five college football players who had breakout springs and could become stars in the fall.

• Former Bengals runner Pete Johnson guarantees that Ohio State rookie Daniel "Boom" Herron will start at running back in the first game of the season for Cincinnati.

Mandatory.com brings us some awful celebrity tattoos, including the Nuggets’ Chris Andersen and Hall of Famer Reggie Miller.

Pro Football Talk has the latest on Ray Rice and a possible contract extension from the Ravens.

• Could the new SEC-Big 12 bowl agreement affect Notre Dame?

• Perhaps inspired by Will Farrell’s character, Ashley Schaeffer, from Eastbound and Down, Lakers star Pau Gasol gives Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka a “love tap” in an interesting place. Here’s our Video of the Day…

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> Sports links from the NFL, College football and basketball, MLB, the NBA and entertainment</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 24, 2012 - 20:54
All taxonomy terms: Tim Tebow, NFL
Path: /nfl/5-questions-surrounding-tebow-0
Body:

There may be no pairing in the history of sports with more explosive potential than New York and Tim Tebow. Not LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Not T.O. and, well, anybody else. Not even Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner.

Take a team struggling to recover from a disappointing season that featured poor play and late-season drama, add in a new backup quarterback with a rock-star following and pour it all into a 24/7 media cycle in the world’s most supercharged city, and you get the potential for an unparalleled spectacle.

But what does it all mean, really? From the pages of Athlon Sports Monthly, Michael Bradley has the answers to some of the more intriguing questions surrounding the Jets-Tebow marriage.

1. Would Tebow have still been the main man in Denver?

It’s possible that the Broncos would have been able to attract better quarterback talent than Caleb Hanie, Adam Weber and draft choice Brock Osweiler to challenge Tebow, had Peyton Manning not chosen Denver as his landing spot. But it wouldn’t have been easy.

The Broncos could have taken a serious run at former Packer backup Matt Flynn, but even though Flynn was great against the Lions last year, he is unproven. Seattle signed him, but the Seahawks guaranteed Flynn a relatively modest $10 million over the three-year duration of his contract and then showed limited faith in the quarterback by drafting Russell Wilson in the third round. The Dolphins, who desperately needed a passer (and ended up selecting Ryan Tannehill in the first round of the draft), low-balled Flynn, demonstrating that the market for a two-time starter might have been soft.

There is no secret that Denver executive John Elway and head coach John Fox were not staunch Tebow supporters, and judging by some of the comments by Broncos in the wake of Tebow’s move to New York, some of his teammates weren’t too thrilled with him, either. But two factors — besides the lack of available challengers — point to Tebow’s being the 2012 starter in Denver, had he stuck around.

First, he did win in 2011. Denver entered the season as a huge long-shot to sniff the playoffs, and the Broncos not only reached the postseason but also did so as the AFC West winner, which guaranteed a divisional round home game. (Denver beat the Steelers in OT on an 80-yard TD pass from Tebow to Demaryius Thomas.) Say what you want about Tebow’s numbers, but he won, and that is the bottom line in the NFL. He would have entered training camp as the starter and would have competed hard to keep his job.

Second, the city loved him. If the Broncos had pushed him aside for Flynn or some other unproven commodity, there might have been an insurrection. And insurrections cost money. Unless Tebow was horrendous in the preseason, he would have started the Sept. 9 rematch against Pittsburgh.

2. Is Tebow merely an insurance policy in New York, or a legitimate option to start?

Tebow may be spouting all the right things about wanting to help the team and that he’ll do whatever he is asked, but make no mistake about it: He wants to start. That’s the best news the Jets could hear, because it might just force Mark Sanchez to step up and become a reliable producer.

Everybody wants to know why the Jets went after Tebow, when Sanchez signed a three-year extension in March. A closer look reveals that while Sanchez will earn a guaranteed $20.5 million in 2012-13, the next three years come in at a modest $12.5 million, making him easy to trade or cut. In other words, if the Jets want to go with Tebow, they can.

But will they? It’s unlikely they’ll do it in the short run, unless Sanchez is absolutely awful. New York is recommitting to the ground game in 2012 (the Jets had 443 rushes in 2011, down from 534 in ’10 and 607 in ’09) and will depend less on Sanchez to make plays. It’s clear Sanchez isn’t the type of passer who can throw for 300 yards every week, so asking him to air it out consistently makes no sense.

Tebow comes to New York to fill a Wildcat role, provide some excitement for a team that must contend with a city rival that won the Super Bowl and remind Sanchez that nobody’s job is safe in the NFL. But he is not in Gotham to replace Sanchez.

Yet.

3. Can a two-quarterback system work in the NFL?

Go ahead and recite the list of teams that have thrived in the NFL with a two-quarterback system.

Maybe you remembered Miami’s “WoodStrock” combination of David Woodley and Don Strock that brought the Fish to Super Bowl XVII. But that was 29 years ago.

Teams that try to make it through a season with two quarterbacks are courting disaster. It’s one thing to have a Wildcat package that throws a changeup at defenses and forces them to prepare for something extra, and quite another to succeed every game without a set starter.
Denver’s decision to jettison Tebow was to avoid any controversy at the quarterback position. Even though Manning is a legend, his recent injury problems have made him susceptible to a slow start. Elway and Fox were not interested in having fans chant for Tebow, nor did they want to start a carousel under center.

Going with both Tebow and Sanchez in anything other than a starter/Wildcat format will do more than just go against historical precedent; it could also mess with Sanchez’s delicate psyche, which has been well documented. If Tebow is going to do anything more than take a few snaps a game at quarterback, the Jets are courting disaster.

4. Pardon the interruption, but how will Tebow’s presence affect the dynamic of the Jets’ locker room?

Last season ended for the Jets with wideout Santonio Holmes nearly getting into a scrap with offensive tackle Wayne Hunter during the finale against Miami, and Holmes and Sanchez sniping at one another — and the Jets’ missing the postseason. The defense feuded with the O. And the Rex Ryan Show, which seemed so fun in 2009 and ’10, appeared to have jumped the shark.

Even though Holmes and Sanchez have been offseason BFFs, going to Knicks’ games together (and getting booed) and working out in Orlando, all it will take is a game or two when the passing attack struggles for that conflagration to reignite. Bringing in a divisive character like Tebow, who can segment a locker room in so many ways (performance, religion, celebrity), can’t be a positive. Even if he becomes a great Wildcat weapon in Tony Sparano’s offense, Tebow could well cause big problems simply by being there.

The Jets’ offense ranked 25th in the NFL last season, and the rededication to the run, coupled with Sparano’s Wildcat musings, is supposed to invigorate things. But a splintered locker room, not to mention an impatient fan base that could turn on Sanchez after his first preseason incompletion, could give Ryan a huge headache. And let’s not forget that Sanchez’s feelings are easily bruised; witness the flap last November when Ryan gave backup Mark Brunell some practice reps with the first team.

The decision to trade for Tebow seems to have come from above, not from Ryan’s mind. He can deal with that. If the Jets need a P.R. boost to fight the Giants’ success, so be it. But if this is a nod to Sparano’s presence on the staff and his need to have a top-flight Wildcatter (hello, jump pass), then that could be worse for Ryan, who will now face an assistant with a little too much power. No matter what, Tebow’s arrival will create more commotion, something Ryan definitely does not need.

5. Bright Lights, Big Drama: How will Tebow respond to New York?

It can be safely assumed that half of New York (and New Jersey and Connecticut) will dislike Tebow, simply because he isn’t a Giant. That’s what happens in a two-team town.
But Tebow’s troubles are likely to be less about his green-and-white uniform and more due to the expected media eruption once he starts playing ball. No matter how crazy things were in Denver, Tebow was still somewhat insulated from the real media furor. That won’t happen in New York, where the convergence of local and national outlets will create a daily avalanche. Already, Big Apple newspapers are discussing assigning individual reporters to cover Tebow and only Tebow, much like what ESPN did in 2010-11 with the Miami Heat. His progress will be charted, dissected and analyzed, and any possible controversy will be celebrated.

Thanks to his strong religious roots, it’s unlikely Tebow will crack under the enormous expectations and start hitting the town with a Namath-like vengeance. The impact of the furor will likely be more subtle and could impact his play, as he tries to live up to the high expectations that will arise. Since he’s the backup quarterback, it’s likely he’ll be pretty popular among the fan base, but should he get onto the field as a starter, either due to injury or Sanchez’s poor play, Tebow will be scrutinized heavily, and if he struggles to produce magic, he will feel the full force of an angry fan base and carnivorous media.

Want more Tebow? Check out Athlon Sports’ exclusive slideshow of the QB through the years.

Teaser:
<p> How Will Tim Tebow and New York Get Along?</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 24, 2012 - 20:47
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-charlotte
Body:

A happy Memorial Day weekend to all the fantasy NASCAR racers out there. This week it’s the most demanding 600 miles on the schedule, the prestigious Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The annual tradition dating back to 1960 tests the best of driver, equipment and team. Coming one week after the All-Star Race, the Coke 600 also marks the next phase of the NASCAR season.

Teams have ebbed and flowed thus far over the season, but with a week of practice under their belts on the 1.5-mile speedway in Charlotte, this Sunday’s 600 miles provides an opportunity to make a statement, maintain consistent finishes, or turn a difficult season around before it is too late.

One team that certainly made a statement in Saturday night’s All-Star Race was the No. 48 team of Hendrick Motorsports. Driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus knew if they won the first of the five segments, the night would fall into their laps.

Starting from the sixth spot, Johnson was able to make his moves to the front in the first 20-lap segment. After taking the caution flag for the break, it was all about avoiding trouble in the back of the pack and making adjustments to the racecar throughout the night. Restarting in the lead for the final 10-lap segment, Johnson powered out front on the green flag and never looked back.

While the format of the All-Star Race is dramatically different from the one we'll see Sunday afternoon and evening, there are a lot of things that will transfer over. Primarily, the fact the No. 48 is the team to beat.

Coming off an historic 200th career win for Hendrick Motorsports in Darlington, the No. 48 team beat the two-time defending champion No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing pit crew for the 2012 Pit Crew Challenge. That momentum carried over into the All-Star Race, where the 48 Chevrolet was the dominant car on the evening.

Enjoying the extended time in the Charlotte area these past two weeks, Hendrick Motorsports enters the Coca-Cola 600 weekend with a ton of momentum, loads of confidence, and the rest of the field looking up at Johnson.

All told, Johnson has six career wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including three consecutive Coca-Cola 600 wins from 2003-05. However, Johnson has not found Victory Lane at Charlotte since 2009.

The win Saturday night gives the No. 48 team confidence heading into Sunday's marathon race, but Johnson knows it will not be easy.

“Even though we won the race, I saw a lot of strong cars tonight,” Johnson said following his third All-Star Race win. “I think track position at the end of the 600 is going to be key. Two or three pit stops from the end, being in the right position, having the right strategy, if it's fuel, two tires, four, none, whatever it might be, that’s going to be key.”

While Johnson will be this week’s fantasy favorite, also keep an eye on a few guys that had solid cars in Saturday's All-Star Race.  

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 24, 2012 - 14:37

Pages