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It's nearly time for Super Bowl XLVII—aka Super Bowl 2013, Super Bowl 47, and the big game—between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. So what time does the Super Bowl start? Well, we have that and more for you: 

Super Bowl XLVII Facts

When is it? Feb. 3, 2013, Kickoff at 6:30 pm ET
Where? Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
TV: CBS
 
The NFC is the designated home team and will have choice of jersey.
 
The winning team receives the Lombardi Trophy, produced by Tiffany is 20.75 inches tall and weighs 107.3 ounces (6.7 pounds)
 
The Teams of Super Bowl XLVII
How they got to Super Bowl XLVII: Champions of AFC North (10-6), defeated Indianapolis 24-9 in AFC Wild Card round, defeated Denver 38-35 in double OT in AFC Divisional round, defeated New England 28-13 in AFC Championship Game
Founded: In November 1995, Art Modell, then-owner of the Cleveland Browns announced his intentions to relocate his franchise to Baltimore. The NFL approved the move in February 1996. The relocated Baltimore franchise was named the Ravens after a Baltimore Sun telephone poll received a record number of calls supporting the name. The name was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem from 1845, “The Raven.”
 
Super Bowl Championships (1)
Conference Championships (1)
Division Championships (4)
Playoff appearances (9)
 
Head-to-head vs. San Francisco 49ers: 3-1 (.750), last meeting taking place Nov. 24, 2011 Baltimore 16, San Francisco 6 at Baltimore.  
 
How they got to Super Bowl XLVII: Champions of NFC West (11-4-1), defeated Green Bay 45-31 in NFC Divisional round, defeated Atlanta 28-24 in NFC Championship Game
Founded: Originated in 1946 as a charter member of the All-American Football Conference (AAFC). Joined the NFL in December 1949 when the AAFC and NFL merged. The name “49ers” comes from the name given to the gold prospectors who arrived in Northern California around 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It is the only name the team has ever had. The 49ers are the oldest major professional sports team in California.
 
Super Bowl Championships (5)
Conference Championships (5)
Division Championships (19)
Playoff appearances (25)
 
Head-to-Head vs. Baltimore Ravens: 1-3 (.250), last meeting taking place Nov. 24, 2011 Baltimore 16, San Francisco 6 at Baltimore. 
 

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> It's nearly time for Super Bowl XLVII—aka Super Bowl 2013, Super Bowl 47, and the big game—between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. So what time does the Super Bowl start? Well, we have that and more for you.</p>
Post date: Sunday, February 3, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/super-bowl-xlvii-preview-and-predictions-baltimore-ravens-vs-san-francisco-49ers
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While the head-coaching bloodlines may have been the focus entering Super Bowl XLVII, the attention will finally shift to the teams on Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers face off in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS. As tantalizing as the Harbaugh brothers coaching matchup may be, there are plenty of storylines on both teams to go around. The one that will matter most come late Sunday night, however, is which team will be on the podium when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell presents the Lombardi Trophy to the newest world champions.

San Francisco is looking for a record-tying sixth Super Bowl victory in as many tries, while Baltimore would like to pair its Super Bowl XXXV trophy with another. This will be the 10th Super Bowl played in New Orleans and the seventh in what used to be called the Louisiana Superdome. The NFC champion currently holds a 4-2 edge in Super Bowls played in the Superdome, including San Francisco’s 55-10 victory over Denver in Super Bowl XXIV on Jan. 28, 1990. That game remains as the largest rout in Super Bowl history.

Super Bowl XLVII Breakdown

When the Baltimore Ravens run:
Even though Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco and the passing game have been instrumental in the Ravens’ playoff run, this offense is at its best when it can run the ball. The Ravens averaged less than 119 yards rushing per game during the regular season, but have picked up the production in the postseason. In wins over Indianapolis, Denver and New England, Baltimore is averaging nearly 150 yards on the ground.

Running back Ray Rice is the key to the Ravens’ running game and he leads all players this postseason in both attempts (64) and rushing yards (247). Bernard Pierce has averaged more than six yards per carry in the playoffs, and the extended break between the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl should have allowed his knee (bone bruise) to fully heal. Another key cog of the Ravens’ running game is All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach, who will be called on to open up holes and clear lanes for his backfield mates.

San Francisco’s defense was one of the stingiest against the run in the regular season and the unit has maintained its production thus far. The 49ers finished fourth in the NFL in rushing defense during the regular season, allowing less than 95 yards rushing per game, and they have given up a total of 185 yards (92.5 ypg) in their wins over Green Bay and Atlanta. The key to success for San Francisco’s base 3-4 alignment is the depth of its talent, especially at linebacker, and the personnel’s ability to get the job done against the run and in pass coverage.

Up front, starting ends Ray McDonald and Justin Smith take care of their assignments, which allows linebackers NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis to hit the gaps and either make plays in the backfield or drop the running back for a loss. All four 49er starting linebackers were named to the Associated Press’ All-Pro team this season with Bowman, Smith and Willis making first team and Brooks named to the second team.

One thing to watch on Sunday is the effectiveness of Justin Smith, who said earlier in the week that he thinks his left triceps tendon is at least 50 percent torn. Smith, who earned second-team All-Pro honors, sustained the injury in Week 15 against New England. The good news is he has been able to play through the injury during the playoffs after missing the final two regular-season games. It’s worth noting, however, that four of the 49ers’ worst defensive performances of the season, in terms of yards allowed, have been over their past five games, or back to when Smith was injured against the Patriots.

Related: 5 Reasons Why the Baltimore Ravens Will Win Super Bowl XLVII

When the Ravens pass:
No one has come up bigger in the postseason for Baltimore than Joe Flacco, who leads all quarterbacks with 853 yards passing, eight touchdowns and a 114.7 passer rating. The only quarterback in NFL history to win at least one playoff game in each of the first five seasons of his career, Flacco has yet to throw an interception this postseason either.

Flacco’s main targets in the passing game are wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta. Boldin is the reliable veteran leads all receivers with 276 yards and three touchdown catches. Smith is the Ravens’ main vertical threat (22 ypc in playoffs), while fellow wideout Jacoby Jones also is capable of making the big play, as he did when he caught the game-tying 70-yard touchdown against Denver late in the fourth quarter.

Rice is another reliable receiving option out of the backfield, but the key for the Ravens’ passing game will be attacking the 49ers’ secondary. The wide receivers in particular are the ones to watch as Boldin, Smith and Jones would like nothing more than to duplicate the success that Atlanta’s Julio Jones (11 rec., 182 yds., 2 TDs) and Roddy White (7, 100) had against the 49ers in the NFC Championship game.

Statistically speaking, San Francisco’s defense has fared very well against the pass, but that doesn’t mean plays can’t be made on the 49ers through the air. The 49ers ended the regular season ranked fourth in passing defense (200 ypg), but both (Aaron Rodgers (248 yards passing) and Matt Ryan (396) put up solid numbers against them in their respective playoff matchups.

The 49ers’ don’t have the most productive pass rush in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. Aldon Smith is the team’s sack specialist, a role he excels in (19.5 sacks in regular season), as the 49ers primarily rely on their front three and Smith to generate the pressure. They don’t blitz that much, which allows linebackers Bowman, Brooks and Willis the freedom to make plays and support the secondary in pass coverage.

Baltimore’s offensive line went through a bit of an overhaul late in the regular season and to this point, the changes up front have worked. Flacco is playing the best football of his career this postseason and a big reason for that is his “new” offensive line has allowed just four sacks in the Ravens’ three playoff wins.

When the San Francisco 49ers run:
Following head coach Jim Harbaugh’s “old school” approach, San Francisco’s offense is built around its ability to run the football, something the 49ers do quite well. Fourth in the regular season with 155.7 yards rushing per game, the 49ers have increased that t0 a total of 472 yards on the ground in its two playoff wins.

As a team, the 49ers are averaging 6.6 yards per carry and have scored seven rushing touchdowns already. And while a big chunk of the damage has been done by quarterback Colin Kaepernick (NFL quarterback record 181 vs. Green Bay), it has not been a one-man show.

For one, running back Frank Gore has rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns in two games, while backups LaMichael James and Anthony Dixon have also scored. Kaepernick’s ability to pick up big gains with his legs (11.2 ypc in the playoffs) certainly makes the 49ers’ rushing attack that much more dangerous, but as he showed in the NFC Championship game, he doesn’t have to run the ball to be effective either.

Even though Kaepernick had just 21 yards rushing against the Falcons, the 49ers as a team piled up 149 yards. Kaepernick had just two of the team’s 29 carries, even though the 49ers used the read option 13 times. On the plays when Kaepernick handed off rather than keeping it himself, the running backs averaged 5.2 yards per attempt and scored three touchdowns.

Regardless of whether it’s Kaepernick getting loose for a big gain or Gore busting it up the middle, the real key to the success of the 49ers’ running game is the offensive line. One of the best in the entire NFL, the starting five of Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Jonathan Goodwin, Mike Iupati (first team All-Pro) and Joe Staley (second team) excel in run-blocking as they function as a disciplined, physical cohesive unit.

Baltimore’s rush defense has been fairly consistent throughout the season. The Ravens gave up less than 123 yards rushing per game during the regular season and are allowing a little more than 128 on the ground during the playoffs.

Like San Francisco, Baltimore’s base defensive package is a 3-4. One of the keys to Baltimore’s run defense is end Haloti Ngata, who was named second team All-Pro. Ngata is the best run defender the Ravens have up front and he will he need to be effective in some fashion against San Francisco’s staunch offensive line if the Ravens want to slow down the 49ers’ ground game.

Ray Lewis may be leading all players in the postseason in tackles, but he won’t be able to stop the 49ers by himself. He will need younger linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dannell Ellerbe to continue their strong play against the run. Safety Bernard Pollard is a big hitter who is not afraid to come up to the line and play the run, but the Ravens miss the presence of cornerback Lardarius Webb, who was lost early in the season due to injury.

Related: 5 Reasons Why the San Francisco 49ers Will Win Super Bowl XLVII

When the 49ers pass:
San Francisco may not throw the ball as much as some other teams do, but that doesn’t mean the 49ers aren’t productive when they do. Colin Kaepernick has posted a 105.9 passer rating in his first two career playoffs games, having completed 33 of 52 passes for 496 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Wide receiver Michael Crabtree has emerged as Kaepernick’s go-to target and he should be able to find some space working against the Ravens’ secondary. Remember, the Ravens are without the services of Webb, their top coverage guy. As good as safety Ed Reed has been over the years, his effectiveness has slipped some this season.

Another potential matchup San Francisco may be able to exploit is tight end Vernon Davis. After not getting many looks when Kaepernick first took over the starting quarterback job, Davis (5 rec., 106 yds., TD) played a pivotal role in the 49ers’ second-half comeback in the NFC Championship game.

While not nearly as productive as Crabtree or Davis, veteran wide receiver Randy Moss always seems to thrive playing on the big stage and tight end Delanie Walker has made some key plays when called on.

Baltimore’s pass defense may be allowing nearly 290 yards passing during the playoffs, but the Ravens have made teams work for every yard gained through the air. The Ravens’ road to New Orleans has been anything but easy, especially when you look at the quarterbacks they have defeated.

Not only have they already defeated Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, the latter two victories coming on the road, the Ravens have held the trio to a combined 56.2 completion percentage and four touchdown passes, while forcing seven (5 INTs, 2 fumbles) turnovers. Luck’s Colts were unable to find the end zone in their Wild Card loss, while the Ravens completely shut out Brady and the Patriots in the second half of the AFC Championship game.

The pass rush has helped with this effort, as the Ravens sacked Luck and Manning three times each, and as good as the 49ers’ offensive line is, it also allowed 41 sacks during the regular season. Kaepernick has gone down just twice so far this postseason, so the Ravens will have their work cut out for them if they want to pressure him and, more importantly, bring him down before he can escape the pocket.

Special Teams:
Baltimore kick returner Jacoby Jones could be a huge factor on Sunday. Jones was named first-team All-Pro this season after averaging 30.7 yards per kickoff return and scoring three (two kickoffs, one punt) return touchdowns. Not only did the Ravens lead the NFL in kickoff return average (27.3 ypr), San Francisco allowed the second-most (26.9) yards per kickoff return. That could be a recipe for trouble for the 49ers’ kick coverage unit.

That does not mean, however, that the 49ers don’t have their own special teams weapon. A first-team All-Pro in his own right, punter Andy Lee tied for the league lead in net punting (43.2 ypg) and placed more than half (36 of 67) of his punts inside the 20-yard line during the regular season. Opponents averaged less than seven yards per return on Lee’s punts, and he had just four touchbacks.

It’s a good thing the 49ers have Lee since they seem to have very little, if any, confidence in kicker David Akers right now. Akers, a 14-year veteran, finished with the second-lowest success rate (69 percent) on field goals during the regular season and missed his only attempt in the NFC Championship game.

Contrast Akers’ issues with that of his counterpart, rookie Justin Tucker. The Ravens’ kicker is a perfect 14-of-14 in the postseason (12 PATs, 2 FGs) and he missed only three of his 33 field goal attempts during the regular season. It’s no reach to say that Tucker truly does have a leg up on Akers entering the big game.

Key Factors:
Much has been made about Jim and John Harbaugh becoming the first brothers to ever coach against one other in a championship game. Familial ties aside for one moment, what really should be lauded is the key coaching decision each made that had direct ramifications on their teams’ respective paths to this Super Bowl.

For Jim, it was his decision to stick with Colin Kaepernick as his starting quarterback even after Alex Smith was cleared to return to the field following his concussion. Kaepernick has started the past nine games under center and in those games the 49ers have averaged 28.6 points per game, which is 4.9 more points than they averaged in the previous nine games that Smith started.

Kaepernick also has some history on his side, as he will become the fifth first- or second-year quarterback to start the Super Bowl. Of the previous four, three (Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XXXIV, Tom Brady in XXXVI , Ben Roethlisberger in XL) led their team to victory and two (Warner, Brady) were named the game’s MVP. The only quarterback that lost was Dan Marino in Super Bowl XIX.

For the Ravens, older brother John’s pivotal decision wasn’t related to a player change, it was a change on his coaching staff. With three games left in the regular season, Harbaugh decided to relieve offensive coordinator Cam Cameron of his duties and turn the play-calling over to quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell.

Even though Baltimore lost two of those final three games, the impact Caldwell has had on the offense, particularly the passing game, is indisputable. Since Caldwell has been running the offense, Flacco has thrown 10 touchdown passes and no interceptions in six total games, including the playoffs, while posting a 111.5 passer rating.

While there’s little doubt the quarterbacks will play a big part in deciding the winner on Sunday, I think another key aspect to watch will be which team is able to run the ball with more success. The 49ers rely heavily on the run to fuel their offense and control the clock, while the Ravens use the ground game to open things up for their aerial attack. If either offense is forced to be more one-dimensional in its game plan, it very likely could sway things in the respective defense’s favor.

Can San Francisco make it a perfect six-for-six in the Super Bowl and tie Pittsburgh for the most Lombardi Trophies? Or will Baltimore write the perfect ending to its fairy tale season?

Athlon’s editors make their pick for Super Bowl XLVII:

Editor Score MVP
Rob Doster BAL 20, SF 17 Ray Rice
David Fox SF 28, BAL 21 Colin Kaepernick
Braden Gall SF 20, BAL 17 Vernon Davis
Steven Lassan SF 27, BAL 24 Colin Kaepernick
Mitch Light SF 24, BAL 17 Vernon Davis
Rich McVey SF 24, BAL 17 Colin Kaepernick
Charlie Miller SF 35, BAL 31 Vernon Davis
Mark Ross SF 27, BAL 23 Frank Gore
Nathan Rush BAL 23, SF 17 Joe Flacco

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> Super Bowl XLVII Preview and Predictions: Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers</p>
Post date: Sunday, February 3, 2013 - 08:45
Path: /nfl/super-bowl-xlvii-prop-bets
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Super Bowl betting — and prop bets, in particular — attract sharks and suckers alike who can’t afford a $3.8-million, 30-second commercial spot on CBS’s telecast or a $2,500 nosebleed seat at the Mercedes Benz Superdome, but do have some lunch money to wager on Super Sunday.

Here’s a quick look at this year’s popular Super Bowl bets, along with advice on where the smart money should play. For consistency’s sake, all odds and lines are courtesy of Bovada.lv — the online gambling website formerly known as Bodog.com.

(For the average Joe who doesn’t speak in Vegas tongues, when the odds are –150, you must wager $150 in order to win $100; when the odds are +150, your $100 bet nets $150. Just FYI.)

NATIONAL ANTHEM

How long will it take Alicia Keys to sing the National Anthem?

Over 2:10 (+120)
Under 2:10 (–160)

The all-time record is Whitney Houston’s 1:55 effort — which included an 11-second — “brave” finale before Super Bowl XXV. Last year, Kelly Clarkson clocked in at an economical 1:34. The year before, Christina Aguilera went 1:54 without even knowing the lyrics. Alicia Keys would have to add another verse to over 2:10, right?

COIN TOSS

Heads or tails?

Heads (–105)
Tails (–105)

Heads has a 24–22 all-time lead over Tails in this head-to-tail showdown. Expect Tails to make a comeback in the Big Easy.

Which team will win coin toss?

Baltimore Ravens (–105)
San Francisco 49ers (–105)

The NFC has a 31–15 all-time lead, but its streak of 14 straight coin toss victories was snapped last year. Still, the NFC has had the hot hand for 15 years or so, let it ride. Historically, the coin toss hasn’t mattered much; the winner has a 22–24 record.



HALFTIME

Will Beyonce be joined by Jay-Z on stage during the halftime show?

Yes (–105)
No (–135)

A Destiny’s Child reunion won’t be enough. Blue Ivy’s dad has to make an appearance. Expect Shawn Carter to stomp on stage and steal the show in the N-to-the-izz-O.

BIG GAME

Total touchdowns scored in game

Over 5.5 (–125)
Under 5.5 (–105)

The Ravens and 49ers have combined to allow 20 second-half points over five games. If there aren’t fireworks on the scoreboard early, there probably won’t be much scoring late.

How many times will Harbaugh be said during the game?

Over 22.5 (–150)
Under 22.5 (+110)

Jim and John are tremendous storylines leading up to kickoff. But neither is playing in the game. There should be long stretches where neither Harbaugh is mentioned at all.

Will the team that scores last win the game?

Yes (–190)
No (+155)

Let’s hope it’s that kind of Super Bowl.

Will the game go to overtime?

Yes (+600)
No (–1000)

There has never been an overtime game in Super Bowl history. Ofer-46. Go ahead and bet $1,000 to make a sweet $100 profit that there will be no free football. Seriously, don’t do that. Put all your money on the coin toss.

POSTGAME

What color will the Gatorade (or liquid) be that is dumped on the winning coach?

Yellow (7/4)
Clear/Water (19/10)
Orange (7/2)
Red (13/2)
Blue (7/1)
Green (7/1)

Four of the last 10 Gatorade baths have been clear, with orange, yellow and purple each coming in at twice apiece over that same time. Jim Harbaugh was dumped with yellow Gatorade after clinching the NFC West title last season.

Who will be named Super Bowl MVP?

Colin Kaepernick (8/5)
Joe Flacco (11/4)
Frank Gore (7/1)
Ray Lewis (7/1)
Ray Rice (12/1)
Michael Crabtree (14/1)
Anquan Boldin (16/1)
Vernon Davis (18/1)
Torrey Smith (20/1)
Ed Reed (33/1)
Patrick Willis (40/1)

Seven of the last 12 Super Bowl MVPs were the quarterback of the winning team. Ray Lewis is one of the five that wasn’t and he will look to become just the sixth player — and first non-quarterback — to win the award multiple times.

BOTTOM LINE

Baltimore Ravens (+4) (+140)
San Francisco 49ers (–4) (–160)

Deer antler spray aside, Ray Lewis will ride off into the sunset as a two-time Super Bowl champ. “Smokin’ Joe” Flacco will hit a deep ball at some point and Ed Reed might just make a splash play in front of his hometown NOLA crowd. Win or lose, the Ravens should keep it close enough to pay out.

Over 47.5 (–110)
Under 47.5 (–110)

The teams combined to score 22 points in the first Har-Bowl on Thanksgiving last year. There will be more points than that this time around, but don’t expect a shootout. Go low.
 

Teaser:
<p> Super Bowl XLVII Prop Bets, including the National Anthem time sung by Alicia Keys, the halftime show with Beyonce, heads or tails on the coin toss, the color of the Gatorade bath, the game's MVP and which team will cover the spread.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 1, 2013 - 16:35
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On Saturday the Associated Press will reveal the winners for its Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards for the 2012 NFL season. Unlike, last year when Cam Newton and Von Miller took home the offensive and defensive awards by sizeable margins, this year’s rookie class is rather deep on both sides of the ball.

The AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honor looks to be at least a three-man race between quarterbacks Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, and that doesn’t include running backs Doug Martin or Alfred Morris. Defensively, the two main contenders appear to be linebackers Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner, but that doesn’t mean someone else, like a Casey Hayward or Lavonte David perhaps, won’t get their fair share of votes either. Who knows? Kicker Blair Walsh could even possibly get a vote or two, especially considering the fact he’s already received one honor from the AP – first-team All-Pro.

Whoever ends up picking up the AP’s hardware one thing is clear: This year’s rookie class did not lack for productive, impact players. Here are Athlon Sports' top rookies of the 2012 NFL season.

1. Russell Wilson, QB
2012 Draft: Third Round (No. 75 overall) by Seattle
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 252-of-393, 3,118 yards passing, 26 TDs, 10 INTs, 100.0 passer rating, 94 att., 489 yards rushing, 4 TDs, 3 lost fumbles

While the gap between first and second on this list is fairly small, Wilson gets the nod because he went from a questionable third-round pick who was not expected to start to a record-breaking quarterback who got better as the season went on. Matt Flynn, who Seattle signed as a free agent before they took Wilson in the third round, was projected to be the team’s starter but a preseason elbow injury opened the door for Wilson, and he promptly took full advantage of the opportunity.

Although he did have the support of one of the league’s best defenses, Wilson more than did his job on offense. Besides tying Peyton Manning’s single-season record for touchdown passes by a rookie, Wilson finished fourth in the NFL in passer rating. Not a prolific passer (tied for 25th in attempts), Wilson made the most of the chances he got, as his 26 touchdown passes tied him for 9th and he was eighth in completion percentage at 64.1 percent.

The most important statistic, however, is wins and not only did Wilson help lead the Seahawks to four more wins (11) in 2012 compared to 2011, he also won his first career playoff start on the road against Washington. He nearly pulled it off again the following week in Atlanta when he set a franchise postseason record for passing yards (385) in leading a furious second-half comeback that came up just short in the Divisional loss to the Falcons. Over his last 10 games of the season, including the two playoff games, Wilson accounted for 24 total touchdowns (19 pass, 5 rush) and only four turnovers (3 INTs, 1 fumble).

2. Robert Griffin III, QB
2012 Draft:
First Round (No. 2 overall) by Washington
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 258-of-393, 3,200 yards passing, 20 TDs, 5 INTs, 102.4 passer rating, 120 att., 815 yards rushing, 7 TDs, 2 lost fumbles (15 games)

If the early returns are any indication, there’s little doubt that Washington made the right decision in trading with St. Louis for the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft. In fact, after helping orchestrate a five-win turnaround that resulted in the Redskins’ first division title since 1999, the only question surrounding Griffin is will he be able to stay healthy enough to take them even farther in the future?

How quickly Griffin will be able to bounce back from the ACL and LCL damage he sustained in the Redskins’ Wild Card loss to Seattle remains to be seen. What we already know, however, is what he is capable of doing when he is on the field and healthy. The first NFL starting quarterback born in the 1990s, Griffin set the rookie record for passer rating at 102.4, while also finishing 20th in the league in rushing.

Griffin showed plenty of poise in the pocket, as he threw the fewest interceptions (five) among quarterbacks with more than 350 attempts. He was fourth in completion percentage (65.6), while also averaging nearly seven yards a carry. Griffin still has a lot to learn when it comes to protecting himself once he gets out of the pocket, but there’s no questioning his athleticism, playmaking ability or toughness for that matter.

Just a week after sustaining a concussion, Griffin ran for a season-high 138 yards in a win against Minnesota. His work on the ground that game included a 76-yard touchdown run, the longest by a quarterback since 1996. A little more than a month later Griffin posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating in a win over the Eagles, making him the youngest player in NFL history (22 years, 284 days old) to do so. With production like this, it’s little surprise that Griffin was the only rookie position player (not special teams) named to the initial Pro Bowl roster.

3. Andrew Luck, QB
2012 Draft:
First Round (No. 1 overall) by Indianapolis
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 339-of-627, 4,374 yards passing, 23 TDs, 18 INTs, 76.5 passer rating, 62 att., 255 yards rushing, 5 TDs, 5 lost fumbles

Even though he ends up third on this list, Indianapolis fans have to be thrilled about what they saw in Year One of the Andrew Luck era. Whether or not Luck will be able to replicate the sort of success Peyton Manning had remains to be seen, but he certainly got things started on the right foot. Even with all of the roster turnover the Colts went through prior to the season, Luck was the biggest and most important on-field factor behind the team’s nine-win improvement and playoff appearance in 2012.

Luck broke Cam Newton’s single-season record for passing yards by a rookie quarterback (4,374) as he posted six 300-yard games, including a season-high 433 against Miami. Luck also proved he was capable of carrying a team on his back, as he engineered four fourth-quarter comebacks and seven game-winning drives.

The downside to all of the passes he threw (fifth in the NFL in attempts) were the interceptions (18, tied for third) and the accuracy. His 54.1 completion percentage was second-lowest in the league among quarterbacks with 300 attempts. But it doesn’t mean he won’t get better in those two areas either. Luck didn’t throw a single pick in his final three regular-season games.

4. Alfred Morris, RB
2012 Draft:
Sixth Round (No. 173 overall) by Washington
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 335 att., 1,613 yards rushing, 13 TDs, 11 rec., 77 yards receiving, 3 lost fumbles

If not for Russell Wilson’s performance, Morris would win the award for most surprising 2012 rookie campaign. An unheralded sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic, Morris came out of nowhere to not only earn the Redskins' starting running back job, which is no small feat in and of itself considering Mike Shanahan is his head coach, but to thrive in it.

Morris finished second only to Adrian Peterson in rushing yards, setting a new Redskins’ franchise single-season record in the process. Together he and Griffin helped this team set a new franchise single-season mark for rushing yards (2,709) as well. Morris also was second in the NFL in both rushing touchdowns and first downs, and proved himself to be a durable and reliable back. He was third in the league in attempts and turned all those carries into seven 100-yard games, including a season-high 200 against Dallas in the final game of the regular season, a win that also earned Washington the NFC East title.

Although he wasn’t selected for the Pro Bowl, Morris was named second team All-Pro by the Associated Press. He was only one of three rookies (Blair Walsh first team, David Wilson second) to receive this honor.

5. Doug Martin, RB
2012 Draft:
First Round (No. 31 overall) by Tampa Bay
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 319 att., 1,454 yards rushing, 11 TDs, 49 rec., 472 yards receiving, 1 TD, 1 lost fumble

Tampa Bay traded back into the first round to draft Martin, and the Buccaneers were rewarded handsomely for their faith in the diminutive running back out of Boise State. The man known as the “Muscle Hamster” did some mighty fine work with his legs, finishing fifth in the NFL in rushing, third in yards from scrimmage and tied for sixth in total touchdowns. His 1,926 yards from scrimmage placed him second all-time in Tampa Bay franchise history, while he set a new single-season rushing mark for Buccaneer rookies.

Besides re-writing the Tampa Bay record books, Martin also carved out some space for him in the NFL history books when he piled up 251 yards rushing and scored four touchdowns against Oakland in Week 9. The third-most rushing yards by a rookie in a game, Martin joined Mike Anderson as the only backs in NFL history with at least 250 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a single contest. Martin’s four touchdowns came on runs of 70 yards, 67, 45 and 1, making him the first back since 1940 to score on three runs of at least 45 yards in one game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Martin capped off his fine rookie campaign by being named to the Pro Bowl as Frank Gore’s replacement. In Hawaii, Martin picked up eight yards rushing on three carries and also caught three passes for 40 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass from fellow rookie Russell Wilson.

6. Trent Richardson, RB
2012 Draft:
First Round (No. 3 overall) by Cleveland
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 267 att., 950 yards rushing, 11 TDs, 51 rec., 367 yards receiving, 1 TD, 0 lost fumbles (15 games)

While his statistical production may not have matched the likes of Alfred Morris or Doug Martin, Richardson gave Cleveland fans plenty of reasons to be excited about the future. Showing the power, vision and toughness that made him a star at Alabama, Richardson finished just 50 yards shy of the 1,000-yard rushing mark, as a rib injury caused him to miss one game and limited him in a few others.

Still, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft was top 20 in the league in rushing, tied for fifth with 11 rushing touchdowns and finished second on the Browns and seventh among all NFL running backs with 51 receptions. It also should be pointed out that for the season Richardson averaged less than 18 carries per game. He only got 20 or more attempts five times, and in those games he averaged nearly 96 yards rushing per game. Don’t be surprised if new Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski leans on Richardson a lot this coming season.

7. Matt Kalil, OL
2012 Draft:
First Round (No. 4 overall) by Minnesota
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 16 starts at left tackle, 2 sacks allowed, 2 QB hits allowed, 2 QB hurries allowed, six penalties called on (stats courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com)

Although it’s somewhat difficult to quantify the production of an offensive lineman, there is no mistaking the impact Kalil had for Minnesota in his first season. The first offensive lineman taken and the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, the Vikings plugged Kalil in at the critical left tackle position and never looked back.

The starter at left tackle the entire season, Kalil played a big role in Adrian Peterson’s 2,097-yard season, while also getting the job done in pass protection. According to ProFootballFocus.com’s position rankings, Kalil finished the season tied at No. 22 overall among offensive tackles and 15th among left tackles. Kalil allowed just two sacks during the regular season and was rewarded for his efforts with a trip to Hawaii when he was named as a Pro Bowl injury replacement for Washington’s Trent Williams.

8. Luke Kuechly, LB
2012 Draft:
First Round (No. 9 overall) by Carolina
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 164 total tackles (103 solo), 1 sack, 8 passes defended, 2 INTs, 22 yards, 3 fumble recoveries

Kuechly, a tackling machine at Boston College, was the first linebacker selected in the 2012 NFL Draft and he wasted no time in making an impression in the NFL. Plugged into the middle of Carolina’s linebacking corps from Week 1, Kuechly finished his rookie campaign with an NFL-leading 164 total tackles, 103 of them being solo stops. He posted 10 or more total tackles in 10 games, while also holding his own in pass coverage, collecting two interceptions along with his three fumble recoveries.

9. Bobby Wagner, LB
2012 Draft:
Second Round (No. 47 overall) by Seattle
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 140 total tackles (86 solo), 2 sacks, 4 passes defended, 3 INTs, 55 yards

Right behind Kuechly on this list is Wagner, whom Seattle drafted a round later out of Utah State and ended up being a fixture of a talented, athletic Seahawks linebacking corps. Wagner started all but one game at middle linebacker, leading the team and ranking seventh in the NFL in total tackles with 140 (86 solo). His three interceptions were tied for the second-most on the team and he had six games with 10 or more tackles. Wagner continued his strong play in the postseason, picking up 17 more tackles (12 solo) and an interception in the Seahawks’ two playoff contests.

10. Blair Walsh, K
2012 Draft:
Sixth Round (No. 175 overall) by Minnesota
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 35-of-38 FGs, 36-of-36 PATs, 141 points

Say what you want about kickers, but when a rookie gets voted to the Pro Bowl and is named first-team All-Pro, you have to give credit where credit is due. Especially when the rookie in question led the league in field goals made, including 10-of-10 from 50 yards and beyond.

Walsh, who tied the NFL single-season record for field goals made a by a rookie kicker, finished fourth in the league in points and field goal accuracy (92.1 percent). He had seven games with three or more made field goals, including one where he kicked five, three of which were longer than 50 yards. Walsh’s part in Minnesota’s turnaround from 3-13 in 2011 to 10-6 and a Wild Card berth this season can’t be overlooked.

11. Casey Hayward, CB
2012 Draft:
Second Round (No. 62 overall) by Green Bay
2012 Regular-Season Draft: 53 total tackles (40 solo), 21 passes defended, 6 INTs, 81 yards, 1 forced fumble

Although he was a second-round pick, I’m not even sure Green Bay expected this type of season out of the former Vanderbilt cornerback. Hayward excelled in pass coverage, tying for fifth in the league in interceptions with six and tied for third with 21 passes defended. A contributor all season long, Hayward worked his way into the starting lineup and figures to remain there for the long haul as ProFootballFocus.com rated him as the third-best cornerback in the entire NFL for the 2012 season.

12. David Wilson, KR/RB
2012 Draft:
First Round (No. 32 overall) by New York Giants
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 71 att., 358 yards rushing, 4 TDs, 4 rec., 34 yards receiving, TD, 57 kickoff returns, 1,533 return yards, TD, 1 lost fumble

If not for a fumble in the season opener and the coaching staff’s decision to “ground” him for an extended period following that, there’s no telling where Wilson could have finished on this list. There is no doubting his production, as the last pick of the first round out of Virginia Tech averaged 14.6 yards per touch. All he needed was more opportunities.

Still, Wilson more than made an impact when he did get his hands on the ball, as evidenced by his league-leading kickoff return yards and fifth-place finish in all-purpose yards. His biggest game of the season by far came in Week 14 against New Orleans when he set a new Giants’ franchise record for all-purpose yards. Wilson piled up 327 yards against the Saints, 100 of them rushing on just 13 carries, including a 52-yard touchdown run, and the rest coming on four kickoff returns for 227 yards, highlighted by a 97-yard return for a touchdown.

Wilson was named to the AP’s All-Pro second team as the kick returner, joining fellow rookies Blair Walsh (first) and Alfred Morris (second) in this distinction.

13. Lavonte David, LB
2012 Draft:
Second Round (No. 58 overall) by Tampa Bay
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 139 total tackles (112 solo), 2 sacks, 5 passes defended, 1 INT, 27 yards

Although he lasted until late in the second round, David played like the first-round talent many thought he could be coming out of Nebraska. A starter from Week 1 for Tampa Bay, David tied for eighth in the NFL in total tackles (139) and was second in solo stops with 112. David proved his worth in both stopping the run and pass coverage, as he rarely left the field and finished his rookie season rated No. 5 among 4-3 outside linebackers by ProFootballFocus.com.

14. Harrison Smith, S
2012 Draft:
First Round (No. 29 overall) by Minnesota
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 103 total tackles (73 solo), 11 passes defended, 3 INTs, 87 yards, 2 TDs, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery

Some draft analysts were surprised when Minnesota traded back into the first round to select the former Notre Dame safety, but Smith provided an instant upgrade to the Vikings’ secondary. Excelling in pass coverage, Smith turned two of his three interceptions into touchdowns and finished as a top-20 safety, according to ProFootballFocus.com’s ratings. Between Smith and left tackle Matt Kalil (No. 7), Minnesota picked up two, solid building blocks for its future in the first round of the 2012 draft.

15. T.Y. Hilton, WR
2012 Draft:
Third Round (No. 92 overall) by Indianapolis
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 50 rec., 861 yards receiving, 7 TDs, 5 att., 29 yards rushing, 7 kickoff returns, 118 kickoff return yards, 26 punt returns, 300 return yards, TD, 0 fumbles lost

Even though Indianapolis’ 2012 draft haul included the likes of Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen and Vick Ballard, it could be argued that other than Luck no selection was more valuable than Hilton. A slight, but electric playmaker at FIU, Hilton was much more than just a return specialist in his first season with the Colts. A favorite deep target for Luck in the passing game, Hilton led all rookies with seven touchdown catches, was second in receiving yards and third in receptions. Hilton’s versatility and ability to make a difference on offense and special teams is why he gets the nod over his fellow rookie wide receivers.

Best of the rest:
(In alphabetical order)

Vick Ballard, RB
2012 Draft:
Fifth Round (No. 170 overall) by Indianapolis
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 211 att., 814 yards rushing, 2 TDs, 17 rec., 152 yards receiving, TD, 0 lost fumbles

Justin Blackmon, WR
2012 Draft:
First Round (No. 5 overall) by Jacksonville
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 64 rec., 865 yards receiving, 5 TDs, 2 att., 23 yards rushing, 0 lost fumbles

Vontaze Burfict, LB
2012 Draft:
Signed with Cincinnati as undrafted free agent
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 127 total tackles (73 solo), 1 sack, 2 passes defended, 2 fumble recoveries

Josh Gordon, WR
2012 Draft:
Taken by Cleveland in the Second Round of the Supplemental Draft (Browns will forfeit their pick in the Second Round of 2013 NFL Draft as a result)
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 50 rec., 805 yards receiving, 5 TDs, 1 lost fumble

Janoris Jenkins, CB
2012 Draft:
Second Round (No. 39 overall) by St. Louis
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 73 total tackles (64 solo), 14 passes defended, 4 INTs, 150 yards, 3 TDs, 1 fumble recovery, 1 TD, 1 blocked kick

Bernard Pierce, RB
2012 Draft:
Third Round (No. 84 overall) by Baltimore
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 108 att., 532 yards rushing, 3 TDs, 7 rec., 47 yards receiving

Kendall Wright, WR
2012 Draft:
First Round (No. 20 overall) by Tennessee
2012 Regular-Season Stats: 64 rec., 626 yards receiving, 4 TDs, 1 att., 4 yards rushing, 1 lost fumble

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the NFL’s Top Rookies of 2012</p>
Post date: Friday, February 1, 2013 - 11:50
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-weekend-preview-michigan-indiana-matchup-year
Body:

Wednesday night turned out to be only a formality for the top two teams in the Big Ten.

If anything, two easy victories against overmatched conference opponents for Michigan and Indiana showed neither teams are having jitters for one of the biggest games of the regular season. Michigan dispatched Northwestern 68-46, and Indiana followed in the nightcap with a 97-60 win over Purdue.

Neither had the look of two programs days away from a showdown between teams hungry to end Big Ten title droughts.

And that’s not the only way the Hoosiers and Wolverines are enjoying parallel seasons:

• Both are 7-1 in the Big Ten heading into Saturday’s game in Bloomington with the conference lead on the line. The winner would have an edge to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

• Both are balanced offensive teams, who can drive to the basket, score down low and shoot the three-pointer. Indiana is second in the nation in scoring (83.3 points per game), while Michigan is 12th (78.5).

• Both jump start that offense as two of the best teams in transition in the country.

Altogether, not a bad setup for the Super Bowl.

Related: NCAA Tournament Projections and Bubble Watch

GAME OF THE WEEK
Michigan at Indiana
When: Saturday, 9 p.m.
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.
(cap. 17,472)
TV: ESPN
Michigan probable starters
G Trey Burke (6-0/190, So.)
G Tim Hardaway Jr. (6-6/206, Jr.)
G Nik Stauskas (6-6/190, Fr.)
F Glenn Robinsion III (6-6/210, Fr.)
F Jon Horford (6-10/250, So.)
Indiana probable starters
G Yogi Ferrell (6-0/178, Fr.)
G Jordan Hulls (6-0/182, Sr.)
G Victor Oladipo (6-5/214, Jr.)
F Christian Watford (6-9/232, Sr.)
C Cody Zeller (7-0/240, So.)

Game-defining matchup: Michigan’s Trey Burke vs. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo
In Michigan’s only loss this season, Ohio State’s Arron Craft gave the Wolverines point guard trouble. Burke scored 15 points in the loss to the Buckeyes, but he was 4-of-13 from the field. Granted, Burke was playing in his hometown, and nerves may have been a factor. Oladipo is a National Defensive Player of the Year candidate who could be matched up with Burke to disrupt the explosive Michigan offense.

Players we’re watching: Michigan’s Nik Stauskas and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell
The headline matchups will be between the stars, but one interesting subplot may be the play of key freshmen for both teams. The Hoosiers’ point guard Ferrell is playing some of his best basketball of the season. He’s averaged 12.3 points in the last three games, including 11 points in 19 minutes against Purdue. Stauskas is one of the most efficient guards in the country, converting 49.7 percent of his field goals, 49.5 percent of this three-pointers and 81.8 percent of his free throws.

Stat that matters: Offensive efficiency
Tempo-free stats are coming into more regular use in college basketball, so let’s highlight one here: Michigan and Indiana rank first and second nationally in points per possession: The Wolverines at 1.22 points per possession, followed by Indiana at 1.2.

How Michigan can win: Defend
Anonymous coaches have suggested Michigan’s Achilles’ heel is in the defensive end of the court -- the Wolverines are tied for fifth in the Big Ten in points allowed per possession (0.92). Between Indiana’s ability to score on the fast break and to score from inside and out, Michigan will have a chance to prove or disprove that assessment.

Related: Michigan new No. 1 in our weekly power rankings

How Indiana can win: Cody Zeller plays like top player in the game.
The Hoosiers center hasn’t always played like the national player of the year this season. At times, he hasn’t even been the best player on his own team. In two games against Penn State and Michigan State, Zeller was a combined 2 of 11 from the field with 11 points and rebounds. He broke out of that funk Wednesday against Purdue with 19 points and 11 rebounds. But that was in a 37-point win against an overmatched Boilermakers team. Will Zeller start playing at his top level down the stretch for the Hoosiers? He’ll face another center who can run the floor in Michigan freshman Mitch McGary, who may continued to see an increased role as Jordan Morgan nurses an ankle injury.

Prediction: Indiana 78, Michigan 73

WEEKEND ON TAP
All times Eastern

Syracuse at Pittsburgh (Saturday, noon, ESPN)
Syracuse had the week off after its surprising overtime loss at Villanova. The Orange have not shot the ball well in Big East action (31.4 percent from three, 45.7 percent from two), but have done a great job on the glass and have defended well. Pittsburgh is only 2–2 at home in the Big East, with wins over UConn and DePaul and losses to Cincinnati and Marquette.

Related: NCAA Tournament Report: Kentucky

Miami at NC State (Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS)
The Hurricanes are the first team other than Duke or North Carolina since 1981 to start 7-0 in the ACC, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Jim Larranaga’s club has been outstanding on defense and has the size to match up with NC State’s formidable frontcourt. The Wolfpack have the talent to reach the Final Four, but not the focus. NC State has defeated Duke and North Carolina but lost to Wake Forest and Virginia.

Kansas State at Oklahoma (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2)
This is a key game between two teams jockeying for position in the middle of the Big 12 standings. Kansas State won its first four league games but lost to Kansas at home and at Iowa State over the weekend. After feasting on a relatively soft early slate in the Big 12, Oklahoma is in the midst of a grueling stretch that features two games with Kansas, trips to Baylor and Iowa State and this home date vs. Kansas State.

Related: College basketball's villains: Where does Henderson stand?

Ole Miss at Florida (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU)
Marshall Henderson takes his traveling road show to Gainesville in what might be the game of the year in the SEC. Ole Miss has been one of the nation’s biggest surprises, but Florida might be the best team in the country. The Gators won their first seven SEC games by an average of 28.3 points, after a 75-36 rout of South Carolina on Wednesday. Florida’s focus will be to slow down Henderson, who is averaging a league-best 21.3 points in SEC games.

Baylor at Iowa State (Saturday, 8 p.m., ESPN2)
This is an important game for Baylor after a loss to Oklahoma earlier this week. The Bears are 5–2 in the Big 12, but none of the five wins came against a team with a winning record in the league. Iowa State needs to protect its homecourt to remain in the NCAA Tournament discussion. The Cyclones still have to play at Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma.

Marquette at Louisville (Sunday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
Despite its 6–1 record in the Big East, not many people truly believe Marquette is a threat to win the regular-season title The Golden Eagles can change some minds with a win at Louisville on Sunday. The Cards have struggled of late, but they are still arguably the most talented team in the league. This is huge game for both teams.

Wisconsin at Illinois (Sunday, 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network)
No one expects Wisconsin to win the Big Ten title, but Bo Ryan’s club will be a factor in the final six weeks. The Badgers have an efficient offense and a stout defense, but they’re coming off an odd game against Ohio State in which they didn’t attempt a free throw shot

Teaser:
<p> Michigan's trip to Indiana will be a good way to start Super Bowl weekend in a great night for college basketball. Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson heads to the road to face a dominant Florida team.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 1, 2013 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL, Golf
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-11-links-day-5
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Feb. 1.

• It's finally Super Bowl weekend. Here's everything that you, the fan, needs to know about the Big Game.

• If you just can't wait until Sunday, here's a sneak peek at supermodel Bar Refaeli's GoDaddy commercial. The screen grab alone is priceless.

Ravens cheerleader claims she was fired for gaining a pound and a half. Who knew that cheerleaders had weigh-ins like they were Vegas showgirls?

• Some tasty Super Bowl morsels from our friends at Mandatory: Infamous Super Bowl moments, and even cooler, the biggest plays in Super Bowl history at all 100 yard-lines.

• Randy Moss is an all-time great receiver. He's not an all-time great judge of personnel. Moss ruled himself out of any future GM jobs yesterday by including Terrell Owens (and himself) on his list of the five greatest players of all time.

JJ Watt "proposes" to an adorable six-year-old fan. Supremely cute, or strangely creepy? You be the judge.

• As recruiting season reaches a crescendo, here are the top 10 SEC recruiting classes of the last 10 years. Those classes have gone on to win quite a few national titles.

Phil Mickelson came agonizingly close to a 59 yesterday.

The New York Post has a hold of this Dan Marino story like a dog with a chew toy. Not good for Dan.

• Now that "30 Rock" is in the dustbin of television history, here's a rundown of great sports moments on the dearly departed sitcom.

• In today's video, a D-II player throws down a between-the-legs slam. As a reminder that this is D-II, the dude at the beginning totally clanks it off the bottom of the backboard, WNBA-style.

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


January 31

• It's almost time for the Super Bowl, which brings together the two best teams in the NFL…along with their cheerleaders. In case you haven't seen it yet, we have a gallery of the fabulous Gold Rush cheerleaders.
 
• Ever wonder just how much your favorite NFL team spends for its talent? Here's an interactive graphic that shows NFL salaries by team and position. Sorry Raiders fans, this will really depress you. 
 
• Green Bay Packers great Donald Driver is hanging up his cleats for good. We'll miss you.
 
• The Texans J.J. Watt is getting married to a 6-year-old…sort of. We wish the happy couple nothing but the best.
 
• Note to self: Stop asking Michael Oher about "The Blind Side."
 
• Want to be the know-it-all at this year's Super Bowl party? Sure you do. Here is everything you need to know about the Super Bowl. And a lot of stuff you don't. 
 
• One of our favorite sites on the Interweb has gotten a makeover. Check out the new and improved awesomeness of Extra Mustard. Trust us, you won't regret it.
 
• How many five-star college football QBs panned out in the last 10 years? Find out. 
 
• Have you ever wanted to see the most important play to happen on every yard in the history of the Super Bowl? Yeah neither did we, but it is pretty cool. 
 
• Google is honoring Dodgers infielder Jackie Robinson, who was born 94 years ago today. Happy Birthday to one of the greats. 
 
• Sometimes being a great team in the NFL isn't enough to make it Super Sunday. 
 
Joe Rogan REALLY enjoys a good UFC stare down. And we enjoy the Benny Hill music. So it's a win-win.



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

Look who was reporting from Super Bowl Media Day. Yep, the object of Brent Musberger's affection.

• $114 million is a lot to pay a disgraced steroid user, even for the Yankees, who are exploring their options to void A-Fraud's remaining contract.

Hines Ward has really let himself go since his retirement.

• From Mars and Michael to Li'l Penny to Grandmama, the guys at Mandatory present the best athlete ad campaigns of all time.

• Apparently, the deer spray craze has poked its antlers into the college game. Three Alabama players reportedly met with the guys at SWATS prior to the BCS title game with LSU.

Jeff Saturday wants a one-day contract to retire as a Colt. Let's hope that day is a Saturday.

• College hoops' newest villain, Ole Miss gunner Marshall Henderson, struggled last night in a loss to Kentucky. This GIF offers a delicious morsel of said struggles.

Bama's facilities (and players) looked a little different in 1965. Thank God Nick Saban doesn't have to recruit under these conditions.

• Apparently, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo admitted to Dr. Phil that he fell in love with Manti Te'o, later copping to being "confused." Join the club, Ronaiah.

• Lest we forget, there's an NBA season going on, and the Blazers and Mavericks put on a show last night.

• Talk about under the radar: Ohio Bobcats guard D.J. Cooper is on pace to become the only player in the history of Division I college basketball to have 2,000 points, 900 assists, 500 rebounds and 300 steals. Let's make this kid famous before it's too late.

• Now this is good parenting at work. A 2-year-old unveils a masterful array of WWE impersonations.

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


January 29

• Competing for eyeballs this Sunday in the Mercedes Benz Superdome: the lovely Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders. I think they'll hold their own.

• In anticipation of today's Super Bowl Media Day circus, here's an amusing roundup of Jim Harbaugh press conference non-answers. My favorite: "I know what you just asked, but I was so mesmerized and dazzled by your voice right there. You have got a great voice. I lost my train of thought."

Ray Lewis has forgiven Wes Welker's wife for disparaging him on Facebook. Our long national nightmare is over.

JaMarcus to the Jets? What could possibly go wrong?

A clinic in Miami was apparently providing PEDs to athletes. Maybe you'll recognize some of the names in their little black book: A-Rod, Melky Cabrera, people like that.

Tiger Woods played this weekend exactly how the game of golf needs him to play: He was both dominant and vulnerable.

• This was as inevitable as Taiwanese animation: Somebody auto-tuned the Katie Couric-Manti Te'o interview. Speaking of Te'o, the folks at PETA found an animal-rights angle to exploit.

• This should be a conversation-starter: Columnist says that college basketball stinks now.

Terrifying photo of the day: Some lunatic surfed a 100-foot wave.

Ray Lewis enjoyed the way that SNL spoofed him. He enjoyed it so much that he laughed until he cried. Why does everything always end with Ray Lewis crying?

• Former Yankee great Bernie Williams is known for his guitar chops, and he got to bust them out with Paul Simon for charity.

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


January 28

Jennifer Lawrence had a wardrobe malfunction at the SAG Awards last night. Now that I have your attention, here's the sports news:

The prop bet: Adding a whole new layer of Super Bowl enjoyment for the degenerate gambler in your life.

• If you're going to New Orleans for the big game, here's a guide to the new and improved New Orleans. They've come a long way.

• Yesterday's Pro Bowl score was 62-35, but the best highlight came from a kicker. That says it all about this annual affront to the game of football.

• Aussie Open, Rondo, Real Madrid, POTUS and more: A handy weekend wrapup from Grantland.

• The little snarky sports website that could: An oral history of Deadspin. When you break some big news amid all the pee-pee jokes, people start paying attention.

• Attention, recruiting coordinators: What you do today could impact the Super Bowl 10 years from now. Patrick Willis is still pissed that he got snubbed by his home-state Tennessee Vols.

Charles Barkley delivers weather news about as well as he swings a golf club. Hint: His golf swing is an abomination.

If you attend the Winter X Games as a fan, make sure your insurance is in order.

• Evidence that there are way too many "celebrity" reality shows: Ndamukong Suh had to save obese comedian Louis Anderson from potentially drowning on some stupid diving show.

• A CM Punk fan watched The Rock take away his guy's belt last night. He did not take it well. Strong language warning.

• Ray Lewis was the subject of some gentle ribbing from SNL over the weekend. Well played, Kenan.

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

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 1, 2013 - 09:30
Path: /nfl/super-bowl-xlvii-numbers
Body:

An in-depth look at Super Bowl XLVII through statistics, numbers, records and trends: 

9: Career starts for Colin Kaepernick
Jeff Hostetler had started just four regular season games and six total before defeating the Buffalo Bills in thrilling fashion in Super Bowl XXV. Vince Ferragamo had started just five career regular season games and seven total before taking the field as the leader of the Rams' offense in Super Bowl XIV against Pittsburgh. Colin Kaepernick will rank third all-time with just seven regular season and nine total starts under his belt when he takes the field Sunday night. He is just the fourth QB to start in the Super Bowl in the same season in which he made his regular season staring debut (Ferragamo, Kurt Warner, Tom Brady). Ironically, nine also is the number of times Alex Smith was sacked by Baltimore in the only previous meeting between John and Jim Harbaugh in 2011’s 16-6 Thanksgiving win for the Ravens.

0: Interceptions thrown by 49ers QBs in five Super Bowls
Everyone knows the 49ers are 5-0 all-time in Super Bowls — the best record in NFL history. But a huge reason why that number stands where it does has been elite quarterback play. Joe Montana (122 att.), Steve Young (36 att.), Bill Musgrave (1 att.) and Elvis Grbac (1 att.) have combined to throw 17 touchdowns and zero interceptions in five Super Bowl appearances.

8: Joe Flacco playoff victories
Flacco is currently 8-4 as a starter in the playoffs for the Ravens. A win in the Super Bowl would give him a ninth playoff win and an NFL Championship ring. Why is a ninth playoff win worth noting for Mr. Flacco? Well, he is up for a new contract and is looking to sign a contract worth “Peyton Manning money.” As it turns out, with the win, Flacco would tie Manning with nine career playoff wins and one Super Bowl title. Manning is 9-11 in the playoffs. Another reason the number eight is special to Flacco? Only five QBs have finished a postseason with at least eight touchdown passes and no interceptions and all five won the Super Bowl and were named MVP (Montana, Young, Phil Simms, Troy Aikman, Drew Brees). Flacco enters Sunday with eight touchdowns and no interceptions thus far in three playoff wins.

416: Postseason rushing yards for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce
Ray Rice has 247 yards in three playoff wins and two touchdowns. Bernard Pierce has 169 rushing and a 100-yard effort against the Colts on Wild Card Weekend. In fact, Pierce has been the leading rusher since Week 15 — when Jim Caldwell took over the play-calling duties. He has 401 yards while Rice has 397 over that span.

23-1-1: Jim Harbaugh’s record when his team scores at least 20 points
Jim Harbaugh is 27-8-1 as an NFL head coach and only once in his career has his team lost when scoring at least 20 points. That one loss came in his second career NFL game in overtime against the Dallas Cowboys. His teams are 4-7 when failing to score at least 20 points in a game including the NFC Championship game loss to the New York Giants a year ago.

More: The 20 Best Super Bowl Stats of All-Time

75: Combined Ray Lewis tackles in 2000 and 2012 postseasons
Lewis led the 2000 playoffs with 31 tackles en route to his Super Bowl ring and game MVP trophy. Entering this Sunday, Lewis once again is leading the playoffs with 44 tackles.

110.5: Vernon Davis career postseason receiving yards per game
Davis has been dominant in the playoffs. In four career postseason games, he has scored five times, topped 100 yards three times and is averaging nearly 30 yards per catch (27.6 ypc). He is a freakish athlete who is a sneaky good pick to win the MVP and will be a matchup nightmare for anyone wearing purple and black.

$3.8 million: Average cost of a 30-second commercial in Super Bowl XLVII
The cost of a television ad in Super Bowl I was $42,000 per 30-second spot. That number reached seven figures for the first time in 1995 ($1.15 million) and has more than tripled since. This year, CBS is anticipating more than $225 million in ad revenue alone at a 30-second per unit cost of $3.8 million.

22: Sets of brothers who have reached the Super Bowl
It has happened for players and coaches, for different teams and in different years. But brothers Jim and John Harbaugh have taken the sibling rivalry to a new level coaching against each other in the same game. It is unprecedented on all levels.

$432 million: Projected economic impact on New Orleans
Home college football games in the football crazy SEC, say in Baton Rouge, are worth roughly $10 million in revenue to the college, surrounding city and local businesses. Super Bowl XLVII, according to a study conducted by the University of New Orleans, will be worth roughly $432 million to the economy of New Orleans, La.

1.23 billion: Projected chicken wings consumed during the game
The National Chicken Council — yes, there is such a thing — is projecting that Americans will eat 1.23 billion chicken wings during Super Bowl XLVII this weekend. That is a one-percent decline from last season.

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> Super Bowl XLVII By the Numbers</p>
Post date: Friday, February 1, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /nfl/grading-nfls-head-coach-hires-2013
Body:

Eight NFL teams, or a quarter of the league, have hired new head coaches since the first of the year. The seemingly flush job market was initially created on Dec. 31, the day after the regular season ended, when Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Philadelphia and San Diego all fired their head coaches.

Those seven firings, on what is referred to as “Black Monday” around the league, alone were more than the total number of head coaches fired on the same day in the last three seasons combined. And that wasn’t the end of the openings either, as Jacksonville made the decision to part ways with its head coach earlier this month following the hiring of a new general manager.

The end result is that 25 percent of the league has a new head coach, as all but one of the eight divisions have been impacted by this hiring frenzy. That division is the NFC South, and even then you could make the argument that New Orleans will have a “new” head coach next season with Sean Payton’s return from his year-long BountyGate suspension.

Here are the eight teams that are truly under “new” management and our grade for each franchise’s new hire. Please keep in mind that grading these new hires is an inexact science, but previous experience, state of the roster/franchise, makeup of the coaching staff, and how well we think they fit their team factored heavily in the rankings and letter grade. That is why, for example, just because Philadelphia made the most headlines by luring Chip Kelly away from Oregon, that doesn’t mean that’s the hire that received our top marks.

Grading and Ranking the NFL's Head Coach Hires for 2013

1. Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers
Predecessor: Norv Turner (7-9 this season, 56-40 overall in 6 seasons w/ SD)
Grade: A

What’s to Like: Plenty. McCoy was one of the most sought-after candidates during this hiring frenzy, so he had the luxury of choosing the job that seemed to be the best fit. An offensive mind with 12 years of coaching experience in the NFL, McCoy had spent the past four seasons in Denver as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator. Starting out with Jay Cutler, McCoy was then able to adapt the Broncos’ offense to get the most out of Kyle Orton and then Tim Tebow, before helping Peyton Manning resurrect his career this season. Now he gets the opportunity to do something similar with Philip Rivers, who despite his declining production is only 31 years old and just three seasons removed from a 4,700-yard, 30-touchdown campaign. Bringing in former Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator should only help Rivers even more, while retaining defensive coordinator John Pagano will provide continuity for a young defense that should only continue to develop and improve.

What’s Not to Like: Call us optimistic, but we really think San Diego nailed this one on the head. The only real reason for concern that we can see is that this is McCoy’s first head-coaching gig. That’s not to say he won’t thrive in his new role along the lines of a Jim or John Harbaugh for example, but there are also plenty of examples of those so-called “hot shot” new head coaches who had trouble adjusting to the added responsibilities and pressure. There also have to be some concerns about Rivers’ steady decline in production and whether or not his problems can be “fixed,” along with the nagging health issues that seem to plague two of Rivers’ most important weapons – running back Ryan Mathews and tight end Antonio Gates.

2. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
Predecessor: Romeo Crennel (2-14 this season, 4-15 overall in 1+ seasons w/ KC)
Grade: A-

What’s to Like: Once Reid and the Eagles parted ways, it was widely believed that he would land on his feet as long as he didn’t want to take a year or two off. And that indeed was the case as the Chiefs snatched Reid up before any other team, notably Arizona, could, making him the first new head coach to be hired. Even though Reid was fired by his previous employer, who can really argue with the Chiefs’ decision considering he won 130 games in his 14 seasons in Philadelphia, leading the Eagles to six NFC East titles and one Super Bowl appearance. Kansas City is by far an easier place to coach in than Philadelphia (weaker division, less media scrutiny, more gracious fan base), and this change of scenery may be just what Reid needs to re-energize him and re-ignite his love and passion for the game. If anything, Chiefs fans and supporters alike have to agree that Reid is a significant upgrade from the previous two holders of the job – Crennel and Todd Haley. That’s a start, right?

What’s Not to Like: Tell us who Kansas City’s quarterback will be in Week 1 next season and it’s entirely possible the “minus” above could go away or the “A” could be replaced by a “B.” Our guess is that the Chiefs’ 2013 starting quarterback isn’t currently on the roster, as there will probably be other options available on the market (Alex Smith? Matt Flynn? Michael Vick?), and it’s likely the team drafts one in the early rounds. We don’t expect them to take one with the No. 1 overall pick, however, nor do we like their chances of fully maximizing the pick’s value in a trade, like what St. Louis did last year trading the No. 2 overall pick to Washington for a bevy of picks.

3. Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns
Predecessor: Pat Shurmur (5-11 this season, 9-23 overall in 2 seasons with CLE)
Grade: B

What’s to Like: The 44-year-old Toledo, Ohio, native said the Cleveland gig was his “dream job.” Chudzinski previously served as the Browns’ offensive coordinator in 2007-08, so he should be well aware of what he is taking on. He helped develop Cam Newton into AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011. He made great hires with Norv Turner as offensive coordinator and Ray Horton as defensive coordinator. Browns have pieces to build around, including running back Trent Richardson and a young, improving defense. Chudzinksi also was the Browns’ offensive coordinator when Derek Anderson put together his lone Pro Bowl season in 2007.

What’s Not to Like: Faces a tough uphill climb being in the same division as the AFC Champion Ravens, Cincinnati, who has earned Wild Card berths in consecutive seasons, and Pittsburgh, who has played in two of the past six Super Bowls. Jury is still out whether or not quarterback Brandon Weeden is the long-term solution, and the Browns still need more offensive weapons to complement Richardson.

4. Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears
Predecessor: Lovie Smith (10-6 this season, 81-63 overall in 9 seasons w/ CHI)
Grade: B

What’s to Like: Brings more than 30 years worth of coaching experience on both the collegiate and professional levels, including five seasons as a head coach in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Led the Montreal Alouettes to back-to-back Grey Cups in 2009 and ’10. Offensive-minded coach who has served as offensive coordinator for several NFL teams and tutored numerous quarterbacks, including Bernie Kosar, Steve Young and Rich Gannon. Has several offensive pieces already in place on the roster starting with quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte and wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Brought in Aaron Kromer, who was with New Orleans, to serve as offensive coordinator/offensive line coach, which was one of the Bears’ biggest weaknesses last season.

What’s Not to Like: Once considered a hot coaching prospect in the NFL, Trestman had to go north to the CFL to get his first head-coaching gig. There probably will be some adjustment for Trestman as he comes back to the NFL after his tenure (2008-12) in the CFL. He is the only new head coach taking over a team that finished with a winning record last season. Trestman was unable to convince defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to stick around, so new DC Mel Tucker is now tasked with maintaining unit’s production, while dealing with some tough personnel decisions related to having a mostly veteran unit.

5. Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles
Predecessor: Andy Reid (4-12 this season, 130-93-1 overall in 14 seasons with PHI)
Grade: B-

What’s to Like: A 46-7 record in four seasons at Oregon that included three Pac-12 titles and four BCS bowl appearances. The architect of one of college football’s most explosive and prolific offenses during his Oregon tenure, one that put up ridiculous numbers and was a lot of fun to watch. A bright mind known for his creativity, it seems like an ideal time to see if he can be successful at the next level. Appears to have some players (Bryce Brown, Brent Celek, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy) who should fit his offensive scheme well. Brought in Pat Shurmur, who was Browns’ head coach previously and offensive coordinator for the Rams before that, to help adapt his offensive style for the NFL. Kelly seems to be comfortable with Nick Foles, who he coached against in college, as his quarterback moving forward.

What’s Not to Like: Collegiate success doesn’t necessarily translate to the pros, and this is especially a concern considering Kelly is an offensive-minded coach. Has yet to hire a defensive coordinator, which could cause this grade to go up a tick or two, or go down. His Oregon offenses seemed to struggle with some of the more pro-oriented defenses, such as Auburn’s in the national title game in the 2010 season and Stanford’s this season. Can’t “recruit” to find the personnel to fit his system, so the key for him will be finding what elements will work in the NFL. Could be a longer than usual adjustment period as Kelly will have to adapt to the NFL, and his team will have to adapt to the new offense. He also has some tough decisions to make, namely at quarterback and whether to stick with Foles, who finished the season as a starter, or to retain Michael Vick and have the two compete for the job during training camp.

6. Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills
Predecessor: Chan Gailey (6-10 this season, 16-32 overall in 3 seasons with BUF)
Grade: B-

What’s to Like: An under-the-radar hire, Marrone has seven years of previous NFL coaching experience. After starting his coaching career with numerous stops in the collegiate ranks, Marrone served as the Jets’ offensive line coach from 2002-05 before heading to New Orleans as offensive coordinator/line coach. Marrone’s first season in New Orleans was also quarterback Drew Brees’ first with the Saints and together, along with head coach Sean Payton, the three laid the offensive foundation for the eventual 2009 championship team. Marrone wasn’t around to enjoy the fruits of his labor, however, as he left the Saints near the end of the 2008 season to become the head coach at Syracuse, his alma mater. Taking over a team that had won just three games the season prior, Marrone led the Orange to a 25-25 mark and two Pinstripe Bowl wins (2010, ’12) in his four seasons. No stranger to taking on challenges and orchestrating turnarounds, Marrone seems to be a good fit to try and reverse the fortunes of a franchise that has posted eight straight losing seasons and has the longest current playoff drought in the NFL (13 seasons).

What’s Not to Like: An under-the-radar hire, many were left scratching their heads when Marrone was named the Bills’ sixth head coach since 2000. His college head coaching resume pales in comparison to some of his recent peers who have made the jump to the pros, such as a Greg Schiano or Chip Kelly. Marrone’s offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, was with him at Syracuse but doesn’t have significant NFL experience. The Bills also have to decide whether Ryan Fitzpatrick, who still has more than $40 million left on his contract that runs through the 2016 season, is the long-term answer at quarterback or not.

7. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
Predecessor: Ken Whisenhunt (5-11 this season, 45-51 in 6 seasons w/ ARI)
Grade: C

What’s to Like: Long-time coach with more than 30 years of experience paid his dues and earned his shot after leading Indianapolis to the playoffs as the interim head coach for an ailing Chuck Pagano. Offensive-minded coach who helped Ben Roethlisberger win a Super Bowl and Andrew Luck break the record for most passing yards by a rookie quarterback. Arians has experience in helping teams turn things around, as Colts went 2-14 in 2011, improving to 10-6 this season.

What’s Not to Like: For starters, how about Arizona’s quarterback situation? Do they even have a viable option on the roster right now? The Cardinals do have a solid defense that should continue to get better, but they lost the man largely responsible for developing it, former coordinator Ray Horton. The job now falls to Todd Bowles, who got his first taste as a defensive coordinator for Philadelphia last season, but only following the dismissal of Juan Castillo in October. Arizona’s offensive line was a disaster last season and there are far more questions compared to answers when it comes to that side of the ball. Arians has a first-year offensive coordinator in Harold Goodwin and a 74-year-old offensive line coach in Tom Moore to help him overhaul the offense. Overall, Arians’ staff to this point appears to be one of the weakest of the new head coaches.

8. Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars
Predecessor: Mike Mularkey (2-14 this season, only season w/ JAC)
Grade: C-

What’s to Like: He’s relatively young (46) and helped build and develop one of the league’s best, young defenses as Seattle’s coordinator from 2009-12. Has some young talent (Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts) to build around and will more than likely add some more with the help of early draft picks. He also has an owner in Shahid Khan that has the money to spend to improve the team, if he so chooses.

What’s Not to Like: This grade is more a reflection of the state of the Jacksonville franchise than Bradley himself. Well respected in the business among his peers, Bradley has the toughest task of any of the new head coaches ahead of them. As it stands now, the Jaguars have plenty of holes to fill throughout their roster, starting at quarterback. The team’s best player, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, is looking to get paid like a franchise cornerstone, but doesn’t have the best of relationships with the team itself and is coming off of an injury-plagued season. No fault of Bradley’s, but the Jaguars probably should have focused more on hiring a “bigger” name, like an Andy Reid or Chip Kelly for example, which would have given a dwindling fan base something to get excited about. Fan involvement is tepid at best and the franchise itself faces somewhat of an uncertain future in Jacksonville. Honestly, if we were grading just the franchise, the grade would be no higher than a D right now.

Related Content

Grading College Football's Head Coach Hires for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Grading the NFL’s Head Coach Hires for 2013</p>
Post date: Friday, February 1, 2013 - 07:20
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/football-recruiting-war-stories-trail
Body:

The competition for the signatures of unproven 18-year-olds often includes more twists and turns than a spy novel. Here, insiders present a few slices of life out on the recruiting trail.

Athlon Consensus 100: 2013's Top 100 Prospects

From J.C. Shurburtt (@JCShurburtt), 247Sports.com:

One evening during the 2011 recruiting cycle, I received a well-written e-mail from a James Wilder Jr. claiming he had committed to Florida. Wilder Jr., of course, was the highly regarded running back/linebacker from H.B. Plant High in Tampa who everybody in the country wanted and we had heard the Gators, then coached by Urban Meyer, were in good shape for his services. So naturally, without thinking, I sent out a Tweet ‘Just got an e-mail from James Wilder saying he has committed to Florida.’ The thing went viral in a matter of minutes as other writers ‘re-tweeted’ the blurb.

I quickly thought after sending it that it may be a hoax. I wasn’t particularly close to Wilder during the process and though it’s common for prospects to send out mass e-mails and texts to media members when they make a decision, something didn’t feel right about this one. Come to find out, it was a hoax. Some clown had created a fake Facebook page, e-mail address, etc., for Wilder and wanted to take the media for a little ride. Unfortunately, I was the victim. Several newspapers picked up on the story and I had a little egg on my face for a while, but it’s something I will never forget. It also goes to show you that even with the coverage of college football recruiting – which hit its prime during the advancement of technology and the Internet – that it is indeed a brave new world we live in with regards to social media and the flow of information.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch), Athlon Sports:

Back in the late 1990s, I was covering Vanderbilt, and the staff was really after Jimmy Williams, a running back (at the time) from Baton Rouge. He final five schools were Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Northwestern and Vanderbilt. This was the type of kid Vanderbilt never gets. About a week before Signing Day he committed to Northwestern. Perry Fewell, the current defensive coordinator of the Giants, was the defensive backs coach at Vanderbilt, and he was recruiting Williams. Perry was absolutely crushed. Well, the Sunday before Signing Day, I got a call from someone who told me to get in touch with Jimmy Williams. So I called Jimmy, and he told me that he had just committed to Vanderbilt. He was a very religious kid. The night before he prayed about his decision and went to bed as a Northwestern commitment but woke up and decided to go to Vanderbilt. He said ‘the man upstairs’ directed him to Vanderbilt. He played running back as a true freshman and Vanderbilt before switching to cornerback. He played six years in the NFL as corner and kick returner.

Chris Level (@ChrisLevel), RedRaiderSports.com:

I had a running back a few years ago — who ended up signing with a school on the west coast — text message me on the Saturday night of his official visit, ‘Yo man, where are the girls at?’ ... not sure if he had me mixed up with someone else or why he thought I'd know but we found it amusing.

Tom Kakert (@HawkeyeReport), HawkeyeReport.com:

There was a kid named Ka’Lial Glaud from New Jersey who had interesting idea about how to decide which college program he would chose, flipping a coin. That's right, flipping a coin. Iowa was in the final three and finished third, very late deciding to eliminate them. With little time to decide, Glaud decided between Rutgers and West Virginia by flipping a coin on Signing Day. Heads means West Virginia, tails and he is headed to Rutgers. He ended up with the Scarlet Knights.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports:

Nothing compares to Kevin Hart’s story. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman at Fernley (Nev.) High wanted so badly to play college football that he wrote his own fairytale ending complete with press conference. On February 1, 2008, Hart held a historic announcement at his high school in which he picked Cal over Oregon. “Coach Tedford and I talked a lot, and the fact that the head coach did most of the recruiting of me kind gave me that real personal experience,” Hart said at the announcement.

There was only one problem. Jeff Tedford had never spoken to, visited or contacted Mr. Hart. Neither had Oregon, Washington or Oklahoma State, his other finalists, for that matter. Eventually, Hart admitted the entire recruitment was fictitious and apologized to all parties involved.

Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer), Pac-12 Digital:

I heard from a coach about a juco safety that had received several Pac-10 offers, so I decided to give him a call and do a story on him. Called him and talked with him for maybe 30 minutes and had a great conversation with him about several schools he was interested in. I hang up and write up the story that was going to run the next morning. A few hours later I got a text from one of our regional recruiting guys telling me the kid had committed to Utah this morning — before our conversation. I talked with the kid for 30 minutes about five schools, and he didn't once bring up the fact that he had already committed. I even asked when he was planning on committing and he said not for several months. Needless to say, the story never ran.

Barry Every, National Underclassmen:

When I worked at Georgia we had this top OL prospect with offers from all over the country coming in for a visit. His dad drove him down and dropped him off. After 48 hours the dad had not come back to pick him up. The coaches called (the father) and said it was a violation for him to be on campus for more than 48 hours. The compliance office stepped in and made the kid sit on the curb outside the football building (Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall) and said we could have no contact with him. Who knows when his dad came back to get him. But he ended up signing with NC State and later was drafted in the NFL.

Barton Simmons (@BartonSimmons), 247Sports.com:

A few years ago I was keeping close tabs on one wide receiver recruit that was trying to decide between a west coast program with a wide open offense and his hometown school in the southeast. I was texting with this prospect into the night and past midnight and he was completely torn up about the decision. He wanted more than anything to head out west but his family wanted him to stay home. When he went to bed that night, he had decided that he would head to the west coast. The next morning he signed with the hometown school. The lesson from my perspective is that any time a prospect is having a hard time with a decision, the smart bet is on Mom and the local program. As a side note, that prospect has yet to see significant playing time or make any kind of any impact.

Scott Kennedy, Scout.com/FoxSports:

A few years ago there was a player I didn’t particularly think much of. I asked a well-respected offensive line coach what he thought of him. ‘Nah, I didn’t like him. I mean we offered him because everyone else had, but we weren’t going to take him.’ I asked the coach if they really offered him. He said ‘Does he think we have?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said ‘That’s what we want him to think.’

Tom Lemming, CBS Sports:

In the 1980s, there was a really good ball player in Illinois, being nationally recruited. Back then, head coaches were the ones going out and signing the top players. They had to be there at 8 o’clock in the morning (on Signing Day). Everybody was coming after this kid, so at 8 o’clock there were several head coaches waiting by the front door ready to sign this player. The door opens at 8 a.m. promptly and out walks a very famous Big Eight head coach who had spent the night on the kid’s couch, outsmarting all the other coaches. He signed him before any of the other schools had a shot to get him.

Barton Simmons (@BartonSimmons), 247Sports.com:

Just this year (2011) one of the more bizarre recruiting situations played out that I’ve seen since doing this. Floyd Raven was an unknown prospect heading into the summer before his senior year. He blew up at Ole Miss’ summer camp and eventually committed to Ole Miss. However leading up to signing day, he showed a lot of uncertainty. He decommitted from Ole Miss, committed to Texas A&M, decommitted again only to re-commit to Ole Miss.

Heading into National Signing Day it was assumed that he would sign with Ole Miss without any kind of issues. The Letter of Intent did arrive in Oxford that day but as Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt informed the media later that day, Raven’s signature wasn’t his own but his mother’s. She had forged his signature and so Ole Miss didn’t accept the LOI and asked for another one. Raven instead signed an LOI and sent it to Texas A&M. Added to the situation is the fact that Ole Miss was in desperate need of cornerbacks and assumed that two great ones were coming in with Raven and 4-star Jermaine Whitehead. Not only did Raven shock the Ole Miss staff ,but Auburn was able to make a Signing Day steal with Whitehead as well, issuing a major hit in an area of need for the Ole Miss class.

Scott Kennedy, Scout.com/FoxSports:

One of my favorite misnomers in this business is the perception that college coaches spend hours upon hours poring over high school game film, doing exhaustive research on players. There was one player who from Florida who had all the offers anyone could imagine, but anyone I knew who had seen him in person said the kid couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie. So, I’m at a college prospect camp and one of the coaches is justifiably excited about the players who have shown up to his camp, and as he’s going over the list with me, he mentions the player with all of the offers, and I said ‘Coach, what do you like about him, I’ve heard some mixed reviews.’ He proudly answered, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what, Miami brought him right into their office and offered him.’ Gee, thanks for the scouting report.

Related: Athlon Consensus 100: 2013's Top 100 Prospects

Teaser:
<p> Recruiting is complicated and Athlon has collected some of the best tales from the trail.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 1, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-biggest-villains-where-does-henderson-stand
Body:

The emergence of Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson has brought back a vestige of an older age in college basketball.

The villain.

He’s brash. He’s super-confident. He seems to relish his role of going into a opposing arenas and being the target of boos.

And most important, he’s good.

The villain in college sports is a complex label. And we don’t mean villain necessarily is a bad guy. After all, some of us rooted for the players on this list. As villains, they break from the norm: Ignoring the taunts from fans isn’t for them. Clashing with opponents is common. Humility is optional.

But they have to be good first. They’re villains because they’re probably better than the players they’re facing.

Marshall Henderson’s sharp-shooting, jersey-popping emergence this season baited us into asking who are college basketball’s best villains in the last few decades.

And, yes, it’s more than just guys who played for Duke.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL'S GREATEST VILLAINS

1. Christian Laettner, Duke
Basketball credentials: Naismith and Wooden Award winner and All-American in 1992, the most famous shot in college basketball history in the 1992 Final Four
Villain credentials: Intentionally stepping on a Kentucky player in the same Final Four game has his miracle shot, highlighting his nasty player cred. And he still relishes being UK’s nemesis by coaching a Villain team in a charity game against Kentucky basketball alums.

2. J.J. Redick, Duke
Basketball credentials: Two-time first-team All-America, Naismith and Wooden award winner in 2006
Villain credentials: He didn’t lack for confidence in his ability as a shooter (which was legit) or a poet (which was not). He had heaps of praise poured on him from the media, even from non-Dukies. Profanities rained upon Redick in opposing gyms, which only seemed to make him more unstoppable.
Quote to The New York Times: “There's just something wrong with the culture of playing on the road in college basketball. If you say those things on the street, you can probably press criminal charges. But for some reason, in the arena of sport, it's OK."

3. Joakim Noah, Florida
Basketball credentials: Second-team All-American in 2007, Final Four MVP in 2006
Villain credentials: The long-haired forward let his freak flag fly during two national title runs with the Gators. Outspoken and goofy, Noah also played with enough energy on the court to draw the ire of opposing SEC fans.
Quote to CBSSports.com: "[Bill Walton] was an unbelievable college player. But off the court, I share his views ... I'm against the war. I don't understand it. When I hear Bill Walton I think, 'Oh yeah, he was a hippie.' It's so much more than that. He spoke his mind. ... I respect that, players who don't mind speaking their minds."

4. Eric Devendorf, Syracuse
Basketball credentials: All-Big East honorable mention in 2008-09, 14.5 career points per game
Villain credentials: Defendorf was a foul-mouthed sharp-shooter who had an altercation with a woman that was taken to the student judicial board. His personal appearance was compared to Kevin Federline. At the end of regulation in the 2009 Big East Tournament quarterfinal against Connecticut, Devendorf hit a game-winning shot and jumped on the scorer’s table, screaming at fans. The shot was waved off, and the game went to six overtimes.

5. Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
Basketball credentials: 19.3 points per game in 2012-13
Villain credentials: Henderson’s taunting of Auburn fans on Saturday was the tipping point of his all-time villain cred. Here’s what he did a few weeks before:

Quote: Upon transferring from Utah, Henderson said this to the student newspaper about former coach Jim Boylen: "Coach Boylen's program also has certain rules and restrictions that I respect, but I don't feel they fit with my individualism. This is not about the coaches, the system or the players."

6. The Fab Five, Michigan
Basketball credentials:
Heralded as best recruiting class ever, reached national championship game in 1992 and ’93.
Villain credentials: Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson weren’t greeted with warmth when they arrived in Ann Arbor in 1991. Things we take for granted now -- hip hop in the locker room, baggy shorts, shaved heads, black socks -- were new when the Fab Five took the court. NCAA violations stemming from the Fab Five era landed Michigan on probation.



7. 1990 UNLV
Basketball credentials: Went 35-5, won national championship
Villain credentials: The counterbalance to Duke villainy in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Like the Fab Five, UNLV brought a style that made the Rebels villains by shaking up the establishment with an up-and-down style that turned a no-name program into a title contender. UNLV’s coach, Jerry Tarkanian, thumbed his nose at the NCAA, and the media portrayed his team in a negative light, especially when facing clean-cut Duke in the 1990 title game. UNLV won 103-73.

8. Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
Basketball credentials: Three-time All-American, consensus national player of the year in 2008.
Villain credentials: Don’t think Duke players get all the villain love. The Cameron Crazies despised Hansbrough. Psycho T played with relentless abandon, even if he flopped or took a flagrant foul from Duke’s Gerald Henderson.

9. Steve Wojchiechowski, Duke
Basketball credentials: National Defensive Player of the Year in 1998
Villain credentials: Duke’s godfather of floor-slapping guards.

10. Adam Morrison, Gonzaga
Basketball credentials: First-team All-American and national scoring champion in 2006
Villain credentials: Perhaps the sign that Gonzaga had finally made it as a major program, the Bulldogs had a player worthy of villain-hood. Morrison was an emotional player who trash talked opponents. He also had trouble filling out his mustache, which made him an easy target. His competition with J.J. Redick for the scoring title and player of the year honors made him a villain-by-association.

Teaser:
<p> Marshall Henderson has revived Ole Miss basketball, but he's also become one of college basketball's most divisive players. He's great, but he's also a villain alongside Christian Laettner, J.J. Redick and more.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 1, 2013 - 06:45
Path: /college-football/recruiting-ranking-big-tens-best-football-rosters
Body:

Preseason prognosticators like Athlon Sports — the most accurate college football preview magazine on newsstands — use many things to predict what the coming football season will look like. Returning starters, scheduling, historic trends, coaching, pending off-the-field issues and, of course, recruiting rankings all help Athlon editors predict the future of college football.

Recruiting rankings have their detractors. Yes, evaluating 16- and 17-year-old kids is an inexact science. No, star rankings aren’t the only thing that matters. Yes, leadership (e.g., Nick Saban) is more important than national recruiting rankings (See Auburn).

But using national team recruiting rankings to attempt to pinpoint how “talented” any given roster is an interesting and illuminating practice.

For the sake of this discussion, the 2013 conference alignment was used to calculate, rank and organize teams and leagues. Rivals.com national team rankings over a five-year span (2008-12) were used for the sake of consistency. And the 72 “BCS” conference teams as well as Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU were used to form the 75-team ranking.

Rutgers and Maryland are not included in the rankings, however, tune in Monday for the national rankings to see how they compare to the Big Ten.

So what do the team recruiting rankings teach us about the Big Ten:

Ohio State is a cut above
This isn’t some newsflash or top secret recruiting bulletin, but the numbers are clear. Ohio State has the best roster in the Big Ten and is five losses better than any other team in the league. The OSU football budget is significantly larger than any other program in the Big Ten, they reinvest in football more than any other school and it shows on the field with at least a share of seven Big Ten championships since 2002. If the unblemished 12-0 mark of 2012 counts, Ohio State has four outright Big Ten titles since 2006. With Urban Meyer instantly returning the Bucknuts to prominence both on the field and on the recruiting trail, fans better get used to hearing Hang On Sloopy.

Big Ten-Year War on the horizon
Ohio State's exploits are well-documented but Michigan is no slouch either. Despite three poor seasons (2008-10), the Maize and Blue still recruited at a near top-ten level nationally and is clearly the second-most talented team in the league. With Brady Hoke at the helm, however, the team has had success on the field as well. Michigan is tied with Nebraska and Penn State for the best conference record in the Big Ten (12-4) over the last two seasons. With OSU coming off of sanctions and the Wolverines returning to national relevance, the second coming of the 10-Year War is upon the Big Ten. And fans in every other city in the league should be concerned.

The curious case of Bo Pelini
If Bo Pelini had left Lincoln for the Tennessee job, let’s just say, would Big Red Nation have been devastated? Pelini has recruited well with the No. 3-rated roster in the Big Ten, the No. 21st-rated roster in the nation and a top 25 average ranking (24.0). He also has led his team to 29 conference wins in his five-year tenure at Nebraska, including three championship game appearances and four division titles. He’s also lost four games in each of the last five seasons. Pelini’s antagonistic demeanor and boiling temper likely give him a short leash with some, but his win-loss record matches his recruiting and the Cornhuskers are competing for league championships nearly every year.

Bill O’Brien was smart to stay
If Coach O’Brien wants to win the Lombardi Trophy, he will have to go to the NFL to do it. If winning the Crystal Ball is what he wants, then Penn State is the place to do it. Not only is he coaching and recruiting extremely well in the face of the worst NCAA scandal in history, but the Penn State brand has tons of upside. Joe Paterno recruited the 4th-best roster in the Big Ten and just the 30th-best roster over the last five seasons. However, the Nittany Lions have the No. 2 Big Ten record (29-11) over that span and is No. 3 overall at 48-20. Coach BoB will have to face tough sanctions including a bowl ban the next three seasons, but if he sticks it out, Penn State could easily be the next national super power. Something Jim Delany is likely rooting for as well.

Northwestern can’t overpay Pat Fitzgerald
According to the recruiting rankings, Northwestern has the least talented roster in the Big Ten and is better than only Syracuse, SMU, Washington State, UConn and Temple among BCS conference teams. Yet, the Wildcats are 40-25 over that span and are sixth in the conference with 21 Big Ten wins. Coach Fitz also has led his alma mater to five straight bowl games at a school with 11 total bowl appearances in program history, not to mention its first postseason win since 1949. All while doing it with the worst roster in the league.

Who gets the credit in Madison?
Many thought Bret Bielema’s move to Fayetteville, Ark., was curious but one look at the recruiting rankings might shed some light on the situation. Wisconsin is a unique job with elite fan support and a powerful athletic department. However, it also is nestled in a terrible recruiting territory and rarely can win battles with the big boys of the Big Ten much less the SEC. This team owns the ninth-most talented roster in the league and the 55th-rated roster in the nation — well behind teams like Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Colorado or Boston College. Yet, the Badgers have been to three straight Rose Bowls and are competing for Big Ten titles nearly every season. So why did Bielema leave? Did he feel like he topped out? Or that the Big Red has reached its peak as a program? Does it even matter who coaches as long as Barry Alvarez is still in the building? Many believe Gary Andersen was a great hire, but make no mistake, Wisconsin will always have to overachieve to find success on the field.

Midwestern volatility
In terms of recruiting, it appears that the true pecking order (after Ohio State and Michigan) is more volatile in the Big Ten than any other league. Minnesota has had a class rank of 17th nationally and then 72nd a few years later. Penn State posted the No. 12-rated class in 2010 and then the 51st-rated group two years later. Illinois went from 23rd nationally in 2008 to 70th in 2010. Michigan State was ranked 47th in 2008 and then 17th in 2009. Balance and parity is a good thing for the league as a whole as it indicates potential across the board, but it can’t be good for the individual coach’s indigestion.

More: Ranking the ACC's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the SEC's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the Big 12's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the Big East's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the Pac-12's Best Rosters

Big Ten's National Team Recruiting Rankings Breakdown:

  School Avg Nat'l Rank "BCS" Rank 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Record (Conf.)
1. Ohio State 9.4 8th 4th 3rd 25th 11th 4th 51-13 (32-8)
2. Michigan 13.2 11th 10th 8th 20th 21st 7th 34-29 (18-22)
3. Nebraska 24.0 21st 30th 28th 22nd 15th 25th 48-20 (29-11)
4. Penn State 33.0 30th 43rd 24th 12th 35th 51st 46-18 (29-11)
5. Michigan State 33.2 32nd 47th 17th 30th 31st 41st 44-22 (27-13)
6. Iowa 46.2 42nd 53rd 63rd 42nd 30th 43rd 39-25 (21-19)
7. Minnesota 46.2 43rd 17th 39th 51st 52nd 72nd 25-38 (12-28)
8. Illinois 46.8 45th 23rd 35th 70th 42nd 64th 24-38 (11-29)
9. Wisconsin 53.4 55th 41st 43rd 87th 40th 56th 47-20 (25-15)
10. Purdue 63.4 62nd 63rd 74th 54th 93rd 33rd 26-36 (15-25)
11. Indiana 70.8 69th 78th 59th 92nd 59th 66th 17-43 (5-35)
12. Northwestern 71.0 70th 73rd 58th 77th 87th 60th 40-25 (21-19)

 

Related: How many five-star RBs panned out in the last 10 years?

Teaser:
<p> Recruiting: Ranking the Big Ten's Best Football Rosters</p>
Post date: Friday, February 1, 2013 - 06:20
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-quarterbacks
Body:

National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?

Every quarterback class is different and the tiers of talent vary greatly from one year to the next. In the Class of 2013, there are two names, literally and figuratively, above the rest.

Max Browne is the nation's top quarterback and is headed to USC from storied Pacific Northwest prep program Skyline High School. He is a prototypical Trojans quarterback at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds. Browne is poised, mature, a natural leader, has an accurate arm and will push for early playing time.

Meanwhile, 3000 miles away at Fork Union Military Academy, Christian Hackenberg has Penn State fans excited about their future for the first time in over a year. Hackenberg has a huge frame, huge arm and huge upside. There is a reason Bill O’Brien stayed put at Penn State instead of bolting for the NFL and he stands 6-foot-4 and will grow into a 230-pound monster in Happy Valley.

No other quarterback is ranked in the top 70 nationally, so these two pro-style signal callers are head and shoulders above the rest of this class.

The rest of the rankings read as a who’s who of college football powerhouses. And since very few quarterbacks are willing to compete with another star recruit for playing time, everyone got in on the action. Miami, Michigan, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, LSU, Texas, Stanford, Washington and a dozen other major programs landed their future leader at quarterback.

In fact, Texas A&M is the only program with two nationally ranked quarterbacks committed currently in Lone Star State prospects Kenny Hill and Kohl Stewart. Running Kevin Sumlin’s system is extremely attractive and Johnny Manziel has made College Station a glamorous place to play, so both players are willing to compete for time. Few programs right now can demand competition for star quarterback recruits like the Aggies.

The name to watch might be out in the desert, however. Rich Rodriguez has found a guy to immediately replace Matt Scott in dual-threat star Anu Solomon. He led famed high school Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas to a 57-3 record and four straight state championships. He has the perfect skill set to run the zone read option and is thick enough (205 pounds) to withstand the beating. Pac-12 defensive coordinators might want to start watching film on him as soon as possible.

2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Max Browne No. 11 Sammamish, WA 6-5 210 USC
2. Christian Hackenberg No. 13 Fork Union, VA 6-4 210 Penn St
3. Shane Morris No. 74 Warren, MI 6-3 200 Michigan
4. Cooper Bateman No. 76 Salt Lake City, UT 6-3 195 Alabama
5. Brice Ramsey No. 86 Kingsland, GA 6-3 200 Georgia
6. Kevin Olsen No. 87 Wayne, NJ 6-3 195 Miami
7. Ryan Burns No. 113 Ashburn, VA 6-5 225 Stanford
8. Troy Williams No. 114 Harbor City, CA 6-0 175 Washington
9. Cody Thomas No. 119 Colleyville, TX 6-5 220 Oklahoma
10. Hayden Rettig No. 143 Los Angeles, CA 6-4 210 LSU
11. Tyrone Swoopes No. 150 Whitewright, TX 6-4 230 Texas
12. Mitch Trubisky No. 151 Mentor, OH 6-3 195 North Carolina
13. Aslantli Woulard No. 153 Winter Park, FL 6-3 205 --
14. Jeremy Johnson No. 155 Montgomery, AL 6-5 205 Auburn
15. Joshua Dobbs No. 166 Alpharetta, GA 6-3 190 Arizona St
16. Kohl Stewart No. 170 Houston, TX 6-3 185 Texas A&M
17. Anu Solomon No. 173 Las Vegas, NV 6-1 205 Arizona
18. J.T. Barrett No. 175 Wichita Falls, TX 6-1 210 Ohio St
19. Bucky Hodges No. 188 Farnham, VA 6-5 225 Virginia Tech
20. Damion Terry No. 198 Erie, PA 6-4 210 Michigan St
21. Malik Zaire No. 199 Ketting, OH 6-0 195 Notre Dame
22. Aaron Bailey No. 215 Bolingbrook, IL 6-2 215 Illinois
23. Kenny Hill No. 219 Southlake, TX 6-1 205 Texas A&M
24. Jared Goff No. 224 Kentfield, CA 6-4 190 Cal
25. Anthony Jennings No. 231 Marietta, GA 6-2 205 LSU
26. Zack Greenlee No. 232 Stockton, CA 6-2 185 Fresno St

View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Quarterbacks</p>
Post date: Friday, February 1, 2013 - 06:15
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-defensive-line
Body:

National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?

The defensive line is the new high profile football position. More nationally ranked prospects are left uncommitted along the defensive line than any other position on the field and the recruiting sagas are something out of a daytime TV script. Three of the top four and four of the top 10 are still on the board including the nation's No. 1 player Robert Nkemdiche. The former Clemson Tigers verbal is now apparently set to pick between Ole Miss and LSU.

Speaking of LSU, should the Tigers land Nkemdiche, Les Miles' defensive line class would have to be considered one of the best in history. The Bayou Bengals already have three AC100 commitments in Frank Herron (No. 70), Greg Gilmore (No. 73) and Kendell Beckwith (No. 77) as well as two other nationally ranked prospects in Christian Lecouture and Maquedius Bain. It is easily the best D-line haul in the nation.

Many point to the SEC's defensive lines as the key reason why the conference is dominating college football. The SEC is poised to land three of the five uncommitted AC100 defensive lineman. If that happens, the seven-time BCS champions would claim 13 of the top 19 defensive lineman in the nation. Currently, seven different SEC schools have an AC100 D-Lineman committed with Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss still competing for Nkemdiche, Dee Liner and Montravius Adams.

Out West, USC has three commitments at the key position including a top-ten talent in Kenny Bigelow. If Eddie Vanderdoes re-commits to the Trojans, it would give Lane Kiffin two of the top three prospects in the nation and four total nationally ranked tackles or ends. This group would be second only to LSU nationally if Vanderdoes picks USC.

Tosh Lupoi's influence is also being felt on the West Coast as the star defensive line coach and ace recruiter has Washington poised to sign a pair of top prospects in Elijah Qualls and Daeshon Hall — both of whom rank in the top 150 nationally. Otherwise, the rest of the Pac-12, and most of the Big 12 for that matter, is noticeably absent from the defensive line rankings. 

2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Robert Nkemdiche No. 1 Loganville, GA 6-4 285 --
2. Eddie Vanderdoes No. 6 Auburn, CA 6-3 300 --
3. Kenny Bigelow No. 9 Elkton, MD 6-3 300 USC
4. Montravius Adams No. 10 Vienna, GA 6-4 310 --
5. Chris Jones No. 18 Houston, MS 6-5 250 Mississippi St
6. Carl Lawson No. 21 Alpharetta, GA 6-3 250 Auburn
7. A'Shawn Robinson No. 34 Ft. Worth, TX 6-5 300 Texas
8. Demarcus Walker No. 36 Jacksonville, FL 6-3 275 Florida St
9. Joey Bosa No. 37 Ft. Lauderdale, FL 6-5 270 Ohio St
10. Dee Liner No. 47 Muscle Shoals, AL 6-3 275 --
11. Alquadin Muhammad No. 48 Ramsey, NJ 6-4 230 Miami
12. Elijah Daniel No. 51 Avon, IN 6-4 250 Ole Miss
13. Frank Herron No. 70 Memphis, TN 6-5 260 LSU
14. Greg Gilmore No. 73 Hope Mills, NC 6-4 275 LSU
15. Justin Manning No. 75 Dallas, TX 6-3 275 Texas A&M
16. Kendell Beckwith No. 77 Jackson, LA 6-3 230 LSU
17. Tim Williams No. 83 Baton Rouge, LA 6-3 230 Alabama
18. Kelsey Griffin No. 90 Hoschton, GA 6-2 285 South Carolina
19. Isaiah Golden No. 94 Carthage, TX 6-2 295 Texas A&M
20. Kylie Fitts No. 103 Redlands, CA 6-4 245 --
21. Elijah Qualls No. 109 Petaluma, CA 6-1 280 Washington
22. Wyatt Teller No. 116 Bealeton, VA 6-4 265 Virginia Tech
23. Caleb Brantley No. 118 Crescent City, FL 6-3 310 Florida
24. Henry Poggi No. 122 Baltimore, MD 6-4 260 Michigan
25. Darius Page No. 129 Foley, AL 6-3 295 Alabama
26. Daeshon Hall No. 136 Lancaster, TX 6-6 240 Washington
27. Taco Charlton No. 142 Pickerington, OH 6-5 250 Michigan
28. Greg Webb No. 156 Erial, NJ 6-2 290 North Carolina
29. Isaac Rochell No. 158 McDonough, GA 6-5 260 Notre Dame
30. D.J. Ward No. 164 Moore, OK 6-3 245 Oklahoma
31. Andrew Billings No. 171 Waco, TX 6-1 305 --
32. Garrett Sickels No. 176 Little Silver, NJ 6-4 245 Penn St
33. Jason Hatcher No. 177 Louisville, KY 6-2 240 USC
34. Jason Carr No. 192 Memphis, TN 6-6 280 Tennessee
35. Dajuan Drennon No. 196 Sicklerville, NJ 6-3 230 North Carolina
36. Torrodney Prevot No. 202 Houston, TX 6-3 210 USC
37. Ebenezer Ogundeko No. 204 Brooklyn, NY 6-3 230 Clemson
38. Christian Lecouture No. 206 Lincoln, NE 6-5 270 LSU
39. Maquedius Bain No. 209 Ft. Lauderdale, FL 6-3 310 LSU
40. Tashawn Bower No. 212 Somerville, NJ 6-5 240 Auburn
41. Takkarist McKinley No. 213 Fremont, CA 6-3 240 Cal
42. Keith Bryant No. 216 Delray Beach, FL 6-2 305 --
43. Maurice Hurst Jr. No. 222 Westwood, MA 6-2 305 Michigan
44. Michael Hill No. 227 Pendleton, SC 6-3 315 Ohio St
45. Joe Mathis No. 234 Upland, CA 6-4 255 Washington

View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Defensive Line</p>
Post date: Friday, February 1, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /nfl/30-best-brothers-sisters-and-twins-sports
Body:

The Harbaugh Brothers are hogging — or Har-gging or whatever — all the attention at Super Bowl XLVII. But little Johnny and Jimbo aren’t the only tikes in the backyard turned titans in the world of sports. Here’s a rundown of the top 30 sets of active athlete siblings, with the combined accomplishments of the top 10 brothers, sisters and twins.


1. Manning Brothers
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos (36)
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants (32)


91,014 passing yards
647 TD passes
15 Pro Bowls
4 NFL MVPs
3 Super Bowl wins
3 Super Bowl MVPs
2 No. 1 overall picks

Archie and Olivia’s boys — you know, Cooper’s younger brothers — are still the standard. Both Peyton and Eli are former No. 1 overall picks, Super Bowl MVPs and Saturday Night Live hosts.


2. Williams Sisters
Venus Williams, Tennis (32)
Serena Williams, Tennis (31)


10 Wimbledon singles titles
6 U.S. Open singles titles
5 Australian Open singles titles
2 Olympic Gold singles medals
1 French Open singles title

5 Wimbledon doubles titles
4 Australian Open doubles titles
3 Olympic Gold doubles medals
2 U.S. Open doubles titles
2 French Open doubles titles

Everyone thought Richard was the craziest cook in Compton, Calif., when he was training Venus and Serena. Everyone still thinks he’s a loon, but his unorthodox style resulted in a pair of champions.
 

3. Harbaugh Brothers
John Harbaugh, Coach, Baltimore Ravens (50)
Jim Harbaugh, Coach, San Francisco 49ers (49)


78–33–1 regular season record
11–5 postseason record
1 Super Bowl win (pending)

Jack’s coaching career included an FCS national title at Western Kentucky. Impressive. But one of his boys is about to win the Super Bowl, while the other will lose the NFL’s big game. Unbelievable.


4. Klitschko Brothers
Vitali Klitschko, Boxing (41)
Wladimir Klitschko, Boxing (36)


104–5 record
91 KO
6 Heavyweight title belts (WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO, Ring)
1 Olympic Gold medal

The Ukrainian fighters weigh in at 6’8”, 245 pounds and 6’6”, 245 pounds, respectively. But the heavyweight champs will never fight each other — despite the fact that it would be a pay per view goldmine.


5. Bryan Twins
Bob Bryan, Tennis (34)
Mike Bryan, Tennis (34)


6 Australian Open doubles titles
4 U.S. Open doubles titles
2 Wimbledon doubles titles
1 French Open doubles titles
1 Olympic Gold doubles medal
1 Olympic Bronze doubles medal

The greatest doubles tennis team in the history of racket sports, Bob’s the lefty and Mike’s the righty — that’s how you tell the identical duo apart. Together, they’ve won a record 13 Grand Slam titles.


6. Sedin Twins
Daniel Sedin, LW, Vancouver Canucks (32)
Henrik Sedin, C, Vancouver Canucks (32)


5 All-Star Games
2 Olympic Gold medals
2 Art Ross Trophies
1 Hart Memorial Trophy
1 Ted Lindsay Award
Nos. 2-3 overall picks

The cerebral Swedes are identical twins with a seemingly telepathic connection on the ice. Henrik is the passer and Daniel is the scorer — but both ginger geniuses look a little like Vincent van Gogh.


7. Gasol Hermanos
Pau Gasol, C, Los Angeles Lakers (32)
Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies (27)


5 NBA All-Star Games
4 Olympic Silver medals
2 NBA championships
1 Rookie of the Year Award

The Spanish 7-footers were traded for each other back when Pau was an All-Star and Marc was his baby-fatted kid brother. Times have changed. Pau is on the trade block and Marc is the All-Star.


8. Kalil Brothers
Ryan Kalil, C, Carolina Panthers (27)
Matt Kalil, LT, Minnesota Vikings (23)


4 Pro Bowl appearances
2 Morris Trophies
2 First-team All-America

Two of the best young O-linemen in the NFL, Ryan and Matt were both named Pac-12 lineman of the year at USC. That’s great and all, but everyone really just wants to talk about their mom, Cheryl.


9. Upton Brothers
B.J. Upton, CF, Atlanta Braves (28)
Justin Upton, LF, Atlanta Braves (25)


312 Stolen Bases
226 Home Runs
2 MLB All-Star Games
1 Silver Slugger Award
Nos. 1-2 overall picks

After the Braves signed Bossman Junior to a five-year, $75-million free agent deal, they turned around and traded for little-but-bigger Justin. Their next move should be to acquire Kate Upton (no relation).


10. Busch Brothers
Kurt Busch, NASCAR (34)
Kyle Busch, NASCAR (27)


48 Cup Series wins
3 Rookie of the Year Awards (Cup, Busch, Truck)
1 Cup Series championship
1 Nationwide Series championship

The troubled but talent Busch bros are known as much for their hot tempers as they are for their hot wheels. Kurt is a former Cup champ; it’s only a matter of time before Kyle joins those ranks.



11. Boateng Brothers
Kevin-Prince Boateng, M, A.C. Milan (25)
Jerome Boateng, D, Bayern Munich (24)

In the 2010 World Cup, Prince played for Ghana and Jerome suited up for Germany.


12. Harrison Twins
Andrew Harrison, G, Kentucky signee (18)
Aaron Harrison, G, Kentucky signee (18)

John Calipari has already locked up the blue-chip twin talents for Big Blue Nation.


13. Dillon Brothers
Austin Dillon, NASCAR (22)
Ty Dillon, NASCAR (20)

Richard Childress’ grandsons are on the fast track — with Austin driving Dale’s No. 3.



14. Jones Brothers
Arthur Jones, DE, Baltimore Ravens (26)
Jon Jones, MMA fighter, UFC (25)
Chandler Jones, DE, New England Patriots (22)

“Bones” is a mixed martial artist, while Arthur and Chandler are both sack artists.


15. Lopez Twins
Brook Lopez, C, Brooklyn Nets (24)
Robin Lopez, C, New Orleans Hornets (24)

Following in the pine tree footsteps of Stanford twin towers Jason and Jarron Collins.


16. Pouncey Twins
Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers (23)
Mike Pouncey, C, Miami Dolphins (23)

Maurkice is more talented but Mike lives in Miami, where there’s way more talent.


17. Staal Brothers
Eric Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes (28)
Marc Staal, D, New York Rangers (26)
Jordan Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes (24)
Jared Staal, RW, Charlotte Checkers (22)

Quantity outweighs quality with these Thunder Bay, Ontario, thunder-stick clappers.


18. Molina Brothers
Jose Molina, C, Tampa Bay Rays (37)
Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals (30)

The mystique of the Molina family name results in overrating; plus Bengie just retired.


19. Davis Brothers
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers (28)
Vontae Davis, CB, Indianapolis Colts (24)

Vernon (6’3”, 250) and Vontae (5’11”, 205) are like Schwarzenegger and DeVito, right?


20. Brownlee Brothers
Alistair Brownlee, Triathlon (24)
Jonny Brownlee, Triathlon (22)

Alistair is a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire; Jonny is not.


21. McCourty Twins
Devin McCourty, S, New England Patriots (25)
Jason McCourty, CB, Tennessee Titans (25)

Did Devin and Jason pull a Parent Trap this year, when Devin moved from CB to FS?


22. Zeller Brothers
Luke Zeller, F, Phoenix Suns (25)
Tyler Zeller, F, Cleveland Cavaliers (23)
Cody Zeller, F, Indiana Hoosiers (20)

Are there any more Zeller boys coming up? They keep getting better and better.


23. Plumlee Brothers
Miles Plumlee, F, Indiana Pacers (24)
Mason Plumlee, F, Duke Blue Devils (22)
Marshall Plumlee, C, Duke Blue Devils (20)

Like the Zellers, only less talented and all alums of Coach K’s school of hardwood.


24. Curry Brothers
Stephen Curry, G, Golden State Warriors (24)
Seth Curry, G, Duke Blue Devils (22)

Dell’s sons inherited their old man’s 3-point stroke but mom Sonya is the real star.


25. Ryan Twins
Rex Ryan, Coach, New York Jets (50)
Rob Ryan, Defensive Coordinator, TBD (50)

Buddy’s boys would have been ranked higher in years past — or like five minutes ago.


26. Molinari Brothers
Edoardo Molinari, Golf (31)
Francesco Molinari, Golf (30)

The Italian maestros are have strikingly different swings but similar disappointing results.


27. Jerry Brothers
Peria Jerry, DT, Atlanta Falcons (28)
John Jerry, G, Miami Dolphins (26)

Imagine dinner with the Jerrys, who live large at 295 and 345 pounds, respectively.


28. Landry Brothers
Dawan Landry, S, Jacksonville Jaguars (30)
LaRon Landry, S, New York Jets (28)

LaRon is jacked up and hyped up, but on game days it’s Dawan who actually shows up.


29. Trufant Brothers
Marcus Trufant, CB, Seattle Seahawks (32)
Isaiah Trufant, CB, New York Jets (30)
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington Huskies (21)

Desmond is quickly moving up draft boards and might join Marcus as a first-round pick.

30. Mowen Sisters
Justine Mowen, Beach Volleyball (26)
Jordan Mowen, Beach Volleyball (23)

Australian blondes will take their bikinis to Brazil for the 2016 Olympics — hopefully.

 

Teaser:
<p> The Harbaugh Brothers are both in Super Bowl XLVII, but are not the only active siblings in sports.</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/behind-scenes-super-bowl-xlvii-things-are-about-get-weird
Body:

NEW ORLEANS—I am at the Super Bowl — No. XV for me — and I’m pretty sure I have seen it all. Well, maybe not “all” but over the years I’ve seen Gilbert Gottfried shouting at Bill Belichick, a Brazilian woman in a wedding dress proposing to Tom Brady, Michael Strahan singing, and this guy (pictured right) who defies description.

I’m not sure what else there really is.
 
It’s funny. When people ask me about my Super Bowl experience, it rarely has anything to do with the game, which might just be the least important part of any Super Bowl week. This is all about hyperventilating over hype and an excess of access, and it only seems to grow bigger every year. There were more than 5,200 “journalists” at Media Day on Tuesday, for example, even though it’s fair to say that less than half of them actually knew what the word “journalist” really means.
 
For a writer during Super Bowl week, though, journalism doesn’t define the experience. It’s about surviving the noise, marveling at the spectacle and trying hard not to be annoyed. Yes, the games have been great over the last decade, for the most part. And yes, it is a special thing having a seat inside a party that more than 100 million people around the world would love to attend.
 
But what is it really like to be a writer during Super Bowl week? It’s aggravating and exhilarating, all at the same time. To survive it, though, here are eight “truths” that everyone really needs to know:
 

1. Real journalists don’t wear beads – They also don’t wear clown costumes, Superhero outfits, masks, wedding dresses, football uniforms, big wooly hats, crowns and robes, or anything else that would be considered a costume. OK, sportswriters don’t always dress nicely (or, in some cases, even appropriately). You’ll find many of them at fancy restaurants in ripped sweatshirts and the same jeans they wore the day before. But the idiots you see walking around Super Bowl Media Day in costumes aren't real media members. They are, in fact, idiots.
 
2. TV Azteca is real, but not spectacular – They get a lot of attention because they send scantily clad women to the Super Bowl so they can pretend to be reporters. There may even be a few of them who are serious about it too, but dancing with athletes and shaking their assets for the cameras probably isn’t the best way to prove it. Perhaps viewers of TV Azteca love it, but most of the media in the United States find it offensive and degrading to women, and most – not all, but most – of the athletes are uncomfortable with the spectacle, too. The NFL actually should be embarrassed by their presence. Sadly we know they’re not.
 
3.  All Super Bowl bus drivers are from out of town – They must be, because none of them know where they are going. I can only vouch for the media buses, but I’ve heard the same horror stories from fans trying to 
get to and from games. In Jacksonville, my bus driver was actually from Detroit and took us on a 10-mile ride to go one actual mile. In New Orleans last week, a ride from the Superdome to the Media Center a mere half-mile away, took nearly a half hour. The NFL is a $9 billion industry, but it apparently can’t afford maps.
 
4. The Media Party is all about free food (and it certainly isn’t about the media) – The NFL every year hosts a “Media Party” that is attended by several thousand people who definitely are not part of the media. It’s usually at an interesting venue and involves interesting things, such as the gymnasts suspended from the ceiling doing routines while hanging onto curtains on Tuesday night. I’m sure the NFL spends a lot of money on it, but the only reason any writer goes there is because the food and drinks are free. An open bar in the Marriott lobby would be cheaper and would definitely suffice. Maybe throw in the gymnasts on the ceiling, too.
 
5. The Commissioner’s Party was a monument to excess – It doesn’t exist anymore, at least in its old form, but back in “the day” it was held in every Super Bowl city, usually in a unique local venue and redefined the word “overdone.” For example, when the Super Bowl was in Houston, the party was in the Astrodome. The whole Astrodome. The entire field was covered by a floor and big black curtains separated the dome into five separate rooms. Each room had a band and mounds and mounds of food. Oh, and there were living statues everywhere. People who were paid to be painted like statues and stand there, on a podium, not moving at all. And all that was only in the part of the party that media types were invited to. I have no doubt that somewhere there was an “A list” room. It was probably solid gold.
 
6. Actual writers hate Media Day. Hate it. Hate. It. – Did I mention we hate it? It’s not just the clowns and comedians, it’s Deion Sanders and other former NFL players walking around and hijacking interviews. It’s the fact that it’s so crowded that you’re basically left to shout questions at players from afar, and you can forget about following up. Now the NFL has allowed fans to watch – why you’d pay money to do that, I’ll never know – which has only added to the chaos. When the clock on the scoreboard at Media Day reads “0:00”, writers on the field celebrate like they just won the Super Bowl themselves.
 
7. By Thursday, most writers are bored – Seriously, we’re just killing time during the Thursday interview sessions. Think about this: The 49ers arrived on Sunday night and we talked to about a half dozen of them. Then on Monday, we talked to another half dozen. Then on Tuesday we got the full team and all the coaches. Then on Wednesday we got the full team and all the coaches. And then – and only then – did they head out for their first practice. By the time they did, most of the assembled media had enough to write books on both teams. Yet on Thursday, another hour of full team access was scheduled. With both teams.
 
8. The game is not the thing – For anyone. At least not anyone who is actually in the Super Bowl city. It’s all about the hype, the event, the corporate sponsorships, being seen, seeing people, a week’s worth of interviews, hype and total craziness. Yeah, for the players the game seems to matter, but they revel in the experience too. It’s why most of them are constantly holding video cameras taking video of people who are probably taking pictures of them.
 
It’s the same for the members of the media, although no one is taking pictures of us – unless we’re wearing wedding dresses or clown makeup. Maybe more of us should, though, since most of the coverage is about the circus anyway. The game is just the thing at the end of the week.
 
—By RALPH VACCHIANO
 
Teaser:
<p> 8 truths that everyone really needs to know</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 12:45
Path: /nfl/super-bowl-xlviis-top-5-most-likely-mvps
Body:

Pinpointing any big game MVP is a complete crapshoot. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways of handicapping the most likely candidates — or keeping Vegas from setting odds on favorites.

San Francisco and Baltimore will battle Sunday night in the 47th edition of the Super Bowl. As the world’s biggest sporting event each year, the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player is, in some sense, the most important athlete of each calendar year.

The quarterback position is an obvious place to start looking for MVPs. It is the most important player on any football field as 25 of the 46 Super Bowl MVPs, including the last three, have been quarterbacks. Seven MVPs were running backs, six were wide receivers, one (Desmond Howard) was technically a wide receiver but won it on special teams and seven times has a defensive player won the award.

More: The 20 Most Interesting Super Bowl Stats of All-Time

Who are the odds-on favorites to be named the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII?

1. Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco
Vegas Odds: 7/4

The odds are heavily in favor of a signal caller winning the award and CK-7 is playing for the team that is favored to win the game. However, this is only Kaepernick’s ninth career NFL start and despite his other-worldy performance against Green Bay, one has to believe that the veteran Ravens defenders will have a sound game plan for the Niners QB. While quarterbacks are the heavy favorites to win the award, generally speaking, they are established stars (Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Elway, Warner). Doug Williams in Super Bowl XXII is the last time a non-established star QB won the MVP. That said, No. 7 has the athletic ability to do things on the football field that no one else in this game is capable of.

2. Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore
Vegas Odds: 5/2

Flacco is dramatically more established player than Kaepernick and it’s why he would be my top choice for MVP. This Ravens team has some special mojo working in the locker room, but Flacco has been nearly as inspirational in the playoffs thus far. He has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions in three playoff wins and has averaged 284 yards passing per game. He also made the big plays needed to defeat the Broncos in Denver. Flacco is in the best situation to win the MVP heading into the game.

3. Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore
Vegas Odds: 6/1

Lewis is too high (or low) in the odds so it makes little sense to put anything down on the aging linebacker to win the MVP. He is a 6:1 favorite to win the MVP based on history — he won the MVP in Super Bowl XXXV — storylines and general appeal. Lewis has made plenty of tackles this postseason but hasn’t been the driving force on the field of years past. He is the most important Raven in the locker room, but he might be the third- or fourth-best Raven defender at this point of his career.

4. Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco
Vegas Odds: 17/2

This is as safe a bet as there is on Sunday due in large part to the San Francisco game plan. It is unlikely Kaepernick can carry his team to victory without the help of the 49ers' powerful running game and offensive line. Gore is the Niners' all-time leading rusher and all-time rushing touchdown leader and could get some sentimental votes should no one player stand out. If San-Fran is going to win the game, the ground game will have to be a focal point. And Frank Gore is the lead actor in that role.

5. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore
Vegas Odds: 12/1

Rice is younger, more talented, more explosive and is an overall better player than Gore. However, the emergence of Bernard Pierce has eaten into his workload and is likely why Gore is favored in the MVP race over the Ravens running back. That said, he could easily be the most important player on the field come Sunday night. He will get goal-line carries and his ability to catch passes and improvise gives him as good a chance as any to be the star of the show.

More: Athlon's sit-down with Baltimore LB Dannell Ellerbe

Long shots I’d take a chance on:

Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco
Vegas Odds: 22/1

A tight end has never won the award but there is no reason to think Davis won’t be a super star in this game. He is too big for corners to cover and too fast for safeties and his postseason resume proves that. He has shredded defenses in the playoffs to the tune of 442 yards and five touchdowns on 16 catches — for a sick 27.6 yards per catch — in four career playoff games. He is the single-most difficult matchup on either side of the ball.

Ed Reed, S, Baltimore
Vegas Odds: 33/1

Yes, Ray-Ray is the star of the show, but Reed might be the better player right now. He hasn’t won a Super Bowl and could retire after the game himself. He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and can change the game instantly with one big play. If I am betting on a defensive player from the Ravens, my money is on No. 20.

Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco
Vegas Odds: 66/1

Lewis might be the third- or fourth-best linebacker in the game, depending on what position Aldon Smith is listed, and few would disagree that Willis is tops. The former Ole Miss Rebels tackler should be the best defensive player on the field Sunday night, and at 66:1, what’s the harm in dropping a little coin on the superstar defensive leader of the 49ers?

More: Who are the greatest NFL player to never play in the Super Bowl?

Teaser:
<p> The Top 5 Most Likely Super Bowl MVPs</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/recruiting-ranking-pac-12s-best-football-rosters
Body:

Preseason prognosticators like Athlon Sports — the most accurate college football preview magazine on newsstands — use many things to predict what the coming football season will look like. Returning starters, scheduling, historic trends, coaching, pending off-the-field issues and, of course, recruiting rankings all help Athlon editors predict the future of college football.

Recruiting rankings have their detractors. Yes, evaluating 16- and 17-year-old kids is an inexact science. No, star rankings aren’t the only thing that matters. Yes, leadership (e.g., Nick Saban) is more important than national recruiting rankings (See Auburn).

But using national team recruiting rankings to attempt to pinpoint how “talented” any given roster is an interesting and illuminating practice.

For the sake of this discussion, the 2013 conference alignment was used to calculate, rank and organize teams and leagues. Rivals.com national team rankings over a five-year span (2008-12) were used for the sake of consistency. And the 72 “BCS” conference teams as well as Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU were used to form the 75-team ranking.

So what do the team recruiting rankings teach us about the Pac-12:

The Most Top-Heavy League in America
There is a reason that Stanford in 2012 was the first outright Pac-12 champion not named USC or Oregon since 1999. The Ducks and Trojans are the two most-talented teams in the league over the last five years, ranking first (40-5) and third (30-15) in Pac-12 wins. These two powerhouses have earned at least a share of the conference crown for 12 straight seasons prior to last season. Only Stanford (34-11) and Oregon State (26-19) have winning Pac-12 records over the last five years — Utah's winning clip came mostly in the Mountain West. The rest of the league is getting better and coaching issues in both L.A. and Eugene will help close the gap, but make no mistake, this has been a two-horse conference race for over a decade.

The magical Jim Harbaugh
David Shaw is the head coach at Stanford and has done a remarkable job continuing Stanford's success over the last two seasons both on the field and on the recruiting trail. However, Jim Harbaugh deserves much of the credit for rebuilding the Cardinal program. Stanford was 16-40 the five years prior to Harbaugh taking over and he immediately raised the awareness of Palo Alto on the recruiting trail. By his second full class (2009), he had Stanford securely in the top 25 nationally in terms of talent. Shaw needs to be given loads of credit for continuing success post-Andrew Luck last fall, but there is a reason the San Francisco 49ers are in the Super Bowl and his name is Jim Harbaugh.

Mike Riley is consistently underrated
The Beavers are ranked ahead of only Washington State in terms of roster talent in the Pac-12 and are 49th nationally in recruiting over the last five years. And while Oregon State has had a down year or two here or there, Riley has this team achieving at unprecedented levels in Corvallis. The Beavers are being out-recruited by teams like Colorado, Kansas, Illinois and Minnesota but have experienced dramatically more success than all of the above. The credit has to go to Riley, one of the nicest guys in the business.

UCLA was in much better shape than their record indicated
The Bruins have always had talent. That has never been the issue in Westwood, be it under Rick Neuheisel or DeWayne Walker. Both coaches clearly recruited at an elite level, ranking the Bruins' roster third in the Pac-12 and 17th nationally in terms of talent. It was the coaching that was the issue. And it only took a small bit of energy from the new regime to kickstart the very talented UCLA roster. A 19-26 conference record is unacceptable for a team with "better" talent than Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Wisconsin and Stanford.

The middle of the league has upside
Washington, Arizona State and Cal have recruited at a top-35 level the last five years despite all being at least five games under .500 in Pac-12 play over that same span. Only Cal (32-31) has a winning overall record as well over that span. However, the Huskies were 0-12 in 2008 and are 26-25 under Steve Sarkisian. And with a potential top 10 class signing in 2013 and totally reworked facilities, Washington appears poised to return to national prominence. There also appears to be plenty of talent for Todd Graham in year two at Arizona State and Sonny Dykes in his first season at Cal for each to be much better than past regimes.

Welcome to the big leagues, Utah
Kyle Whittingham’s team is 7-11 in two seasons in the Pac-12. The Utes were 21-3 in the Mountain West the three years prior to entering one of the power conferences. Yet, their recruiting has only gotten better over the last five years going from 60th to 44th to 32nd over that span. While 37th in the nation would likely give them the top roster in the MWC, it gives them the eighth-best collection of players in the Pac-12. It indicates that sledding will be tough in the loaded and developing Pac-12 South for the newbies from Salt Lake City.

What is wrong in Pullman?
There have been some famous quotes from players — recently and historically — about how tough it is to be a Wazzu football player. But this team won at least a share of the conference championship and went to the Rose Bowl twice between 1997 and 2003. So how is it that the Cougars are only ahead of UConn and Temple in terms of talent nationally? No power conference team has won fewer conference games over the last five than the Cougars (Indiana is tied with five wins as well but in five fewer games). Mike Leach has his hands full in Pullman, but if anyone’s scheme can overcome a talent differential like the one WSU is facing, it is the crazy pirate.

More: Ranking the ACC's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the SEC's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the Big 12's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the Big East's Best Rosters

Pac-12's National Team Recruiting Rankings Breakdown:

  School Avg Nat'l Rank "BCS" Rank 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Record (Conf.)
1. USC 5.0 2nd 8th 4th 1st 4th 8th 46-18 (30-15)
2. Oregon 17.8 15th 19th 32nd 13th 9th 16th 56-10 (40-5)
3. UCLA 18.6 17th 13th 14th 8th 45th 13th 30-33 (19-26)
4. Stanford 24.6 22nd 50th 20th 26th 22nd 5th 48-17 (34-11)
5. Cal 25.4 24th 34th 42nd 11th 17th 23rd 32-31 (20-25)
6. Washington 32.8 28th 24th 68th 28th 23rd 21st 26-37 (19-26)
7. Arizona St 36.2 35th 21st 30th 35th 57th 38th 29-33 (19-26)
8. Utah 40.2 37th 60th 44th 32nd 37th 32nd 46-18 (28-14)
9. Arizona 44.4 41st 39th 45th 37th 55th 46th 35-29 (21-24)
10. Colorado 47.8 48th 15th 48th 66th 74th 36th 17-44 (9-33)
11. Oregon St 49.0 49th 52nd 54th 44th 56th 39th 34-27 (26-19)
12. Washington St 79.6 73rd 87th 92nd 92nd 72nd 55th 12-49 (5-40)

Teaser:
<p> Recruiting: Ranking the Pac-12's Best Football Rosters</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-wide-receivers
Body:

National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?

The growth of the spread offense has created a need for more pass-catchers. This means more smallish, quicker slot receivers who can make things happen with the ball in their hands. This means more rangy, vertical threats who can stretch the defense down the field. It means more big, physical red-zone targets. And the 2013 class is loaded with all of the above.

It also appears that catching passes for Johnny Manziel is appealing to high school athletes. The Aggies have the No. 3- (Ricky Seals-Jean), No. 5- (Derrick Griffin) and No. 13-rated (Sebastian Larue) wide receivers in the nation. Seals-Jean, listed at 6-5 and 225 pounds, and Griffin, listed at 6-5 and 215 pounds, gives Kevin Sumlin two of the biggest pass-catchers in the nation. Larue, at 5-11 and 185 pounds, gives the offense another dimension in the slot. Should Manziel stick around for more than one more season, he is assured an elite collection of wideouts.

The Washington Huskies aren't too far behind the Aggies in this class as they landed three of the top 25 wideouts in the nation. Demorea Stringfellow has an elite combination of size and speed and has No. 1 wide receiver written all over him. Darrell Daniels has a similar build and will push for early playing time as well while John Ross brings speed to the slot. Both Washington and Texas A&M recruited complete starting lineups (X, Y and Z) in this class.

The Florida Gators have a chance to challenge these two, however, should they land one of the remaining targets. Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood are both ranked in the Top 12 nationally and both bring size and strength to a major position of need for the Gators. Oregon, Texas and Auburn also landed two of the nationally rated wideouts as well.

Otherwise, Ole Miss, Baylor and Louisville landed their newest superstar with Laquon Treadwell, Robbie Rhodes and James Quick respectively. All three are special talents who will immediately change the dynamics of their respective offenses. Bears fans should be daydreaming about Rhodes in Art Briles' pass-happy system.

2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Laquon Treadwell No. 14 Crete, IL 6-3 195 Ole Miss
2. Robert Foster No. 23 Monaca, PA 6-3 190 Alabama
3. Ricky Seals-Jean No. 25 Sealy, TX 6-5 225 Texas A&M
4. Robbie Rhodes No. 28 Ft. Worth, TX 6-1 190 Baylor
5. Derrick Griffin No. 40 Rosenberg, TX 6-5 215 Texas A&M
6. James Quick No. 63 Louisville, KY 6-0 180 Louisville
7. Stacy Coley No. 64 Ft. Lauderdale, FL 6-1 175 --
8. Steven Mitchell No. 67 Mission Hills, CA 5-10 180 USC
9. Demorea Stringfellow No. 79 Moreno Valley, CA 6-3 195 Washington
10. Demarcus Robinson No. 81 Ft. Valley, GA 6-2 200 Florida
11. Marquez North No. 99 Charlotte, NC 6-3 215 Tennessee
12. Ahmad Fulwood No. 126 Jacksonville, FL 6-4 200 Florida
13. Sebastian Larue No. 127 Santa Monica, CA 5-11 185 Texas A&M
14. Stanvon Taylor No. 160 Tulsa, OK 5-11 165 Oklahoma
15. Tony Stevens No. 167 Orlando, FL 6-4 185 Auburn
16. Torii Hunter Jr. No. 168 Prosper, TX 6-0 175 Notre Dame
17. Tyler Boyd No. 179 Clairton, PA 6-1 170 Pitt
18. Jason Smith No. 180 Mobile, AL 6-1 190 Auburn
19. Jordan Cunningham No. 182 Ft. Lauderdale, FL 6-1 175 --
20. John Ross No. 186 Long Beach, CA 5-9 165 Washington
21. Devon Allen No. 189 Phoenix, AZ 6-1 190 Oregon
22. Earnest Robinson No. 190 Pinson Valley, AL 6-2 200 Auburn
23. Jacorey Warrick No. 197 Houston, TX 5-10 170 Texas
24. Darrell Daniels No. 200 Oakley, CA 6-3 210 Washington
25. Shelton Gibson No. 208 Cleveland Heights, OH 5-11 175 West Virginia
26. Darren Carrington No. 210 San Diego, CA 6-3 185 Oregon
27. Jake Oliver No. 235 Dallas, TX 6-4 205 Texas

View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-defensive-backs
Body:

National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?

As passing offenses and the talent that makes those offenses run get more advanced and more talented, the need for elite defensive backs continues to rise. Lockdown cover corners who can play the run or physical high-point safeties who can man-up in coverage have become the norm. Versatility is the name of the game when defending the pass these days. This is why both safeties and corners are listed below in one list.

Florida and USC lead the way in the 2013 secondary class. The Gators claim three of the top 19 DBs in the nation including the top coverman, Vernon Hargreaves III. He is an elite talent who will continue the recent trend of young star corners (Joe Haden, Janoris Jenkins). VH-3 will be joined by a pair of big safeties in Marcell Harris (6-1, 210) and Keanu Neal (6-1, 205).

While the Gators have the top prospect in the class, the Trojans have the best overall collection. Su'a Cravens is the top safety in the nation while Jalen Ramsey offers Lane Kiffin tremendous cover-corner skills in the body of a safety. Leon McQuay III and Chris Hawkins give the Trojans four of the top 12 defensive backs. All four are ranked in the top 50 nationally.

UCLA also landed four nationally rated defensive backs with two AC100 talents leading the way, Priest Willis and Tahaan Goodman. Ohio State also landed two AC100 talents in Eli Apple and Cam Burrows, as well as nationally ranked Gareon Conley. Alabama is poised to sign three nationally ranked defensive backs too.

Georgia and LSU each landed a pair of nationally ranked DBs.  

2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Vernon Hargreaves III No. 3 Tampa, FL 5-11 185 Florida
2. Su'a Cravens No. 5 Murrieta, CA 6-1 205 USC
3. Jalen Ramsey No. 15 Nashville, TN 6-0 190 USC
4. Kendall Fuller No. 16 Olney, MD 6-0 175 Virginia Tech
5. Vonn Bell No. 26 Rossville, GA 5-11 190 --
6. Mackensie Alexander No. 30 Immokalee, FL 5-10 175 --
7. Leon McQuay III No. 31 Seffner, FL 6-2 185 USC
8. Tony Conner No. 32 Batesville, MS 6-1 205 --
9. Priest Willis No. 39 Tempe, AZ 6-2 200 UCLA
10. Tre'Davious White No. 45 Shreveport, LA 5-10 170 LSU
11. Eli Apple No. 49 Voorhees, NJ 6-1 185 Ohio St
12. Chris Hawkins No. 50 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 6-0 175 USC
13. Cameron Burrows No. 61 Trotwood, OH 6-0 195 Ohio St
14. Tahaan Goodman No. 65 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 6-1 185 UCLA
15. Marcell Harris No. 78 Orlando, FL 6-1 210 Florida
16. Tray Matthews No. 82 Newnan, GA 6-0 195 Georgia
17. Maurice Smith No. 89 Sugar Land, TX 5-11 175 Alabama
18. Artie Burns No. 98 Miami, FL 6-0 180 Miami
19. Keanu Neal No. 104 Bushnell, FL 6-1 205 Florida
20. Jourdan Lewis No. 107 Detroit, MI 5-10 160 Michigan
21. Gareon Conley No. 115 Massillon, OH 6-1 165 Ohio St
22. Shaq Wiggins No. 124 Tyrone, GA 5-10 170 Georgia
23. Cole Luke No. 133 Chandler, AZ 6-0 170 Notre Dame
24. Johnny Johnson No. 146 Fresno, CA 5-10 175 UCLA
25. Antwuan Davis No. 162 Bastrop, LA 6-0 180 Texas
26. Hatari Byrd No. 163 Fresno, CA 6-1 190 Oklahoma
27. Tyler Foreman No. 169 Encino, CA 6-2 190 UCLA
28. Ashton Shumpert No. 187 Tupelo, MS 6-1 205 Miss. St
29. Anthony Averett No. 191 Woodbury, NJ 6-1 175 Alabama
30. Brian Walker No. 193 Charlotte, NC 5-10 170 North Carolina
31. Rashard Robinson No. 194 Pompano Beach, FL 6-1 170 LSU
32. Kameron Miles No. 195 Mesquite, TX 6-2 200 Texas A&M
33. Tim Harris No. 225 Richmond, VA 6-2 190 Virginia
34. Jonathan Cook No. 229 Spanish Fort, AL 6-0 185 Alabama

View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Defensive Backs</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /news/vandy-coach-james-franklin-calls-nick-saban-nicky-satan
Body:

With college football’s national signing day coming up next week, coaches are hitting the recruiting trail in full force. And it’s no surprise every coach is doing whatever they can to win every prospect battle. The war that is recruiting is magnified in the SEC, where programs are going head-to-head for several big-name prospects.

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin made a stop in Macon, Ga. for a high school football banquet and took a small jab at Alabama, calling head coach Nick Saban “Nicky Satan.”

You can’t blame Franklin for pumping up his program after the last two years, especially since he follows up his “Nicky Satan” comments by mentioning how he plans to outwork him.

Needless to say, this is a perfect example of life in the SEC. 

Who knows, maybe it'll inspire a movie? 

Teaser:
<p> Vandy Coach James Franklin Calls Nick Saban "Nicky Satan</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 14:56
All taxonomy terms: Kentucky Wildcats, SEC, College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-report-card-kentucky-or-out
Body:

Throughout the final months of the college basketball season, Athlon Sports will take a quick snapshot of key movers in the potential NCAA field. Who's moving up? Who's moving down? Who's on the bubble and who's off? What can we expect in the coming days from these teams.

We start with Kentucky, which has followed up its national title season with a year of postseason uncertainty. The Wildcats defeated Ole Miss 87-74 on the road for their best win of the season, which is good news for UK’s Tourney hopes.

By the numbers
Record: 14-6, 5-2 SEC
RPI: 44
Strength of schedule: 52
Best wins: No. 39 Ole Miss, No. 63 Maryland
Worst losses: No. 78 Texas A&M, No. 62 Alabama
Source: ESPN.com

Reasons for optimism

In the numbers game: Kentucky lacked a top-60 win until Tuesday night, when the Wildcats picked up an 87-74 road win over Ole Miss. The Wildcats’ victory was a good two-fer: Defeating an opponent in the top 40 of the RPI and doing so on the road. Although it’s been a disappointing season for Kentucky, the Wildcats have few bad losses. An 83-71 home loss to Texas A&M is the worst mark on Kentucky’s NCAA resume, now that the Wildcats have picked up a top-40 win.

In the real game: Kentucky’s talented, for sure, but it’s been a long wait for a group of potential first-round NBA draft picks to put it together. Freshman Nerlens Noel is having a standout defensive season. Meanwhile, sophomore Kyle Wiltjer has been an unexpected spark on offense. He scored 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting against Ole Miss and has averaged 16.4 points in his last five games.

Related: Previewing Michigan-Indiana and key games this week

Reasons for concern

This remains a young team that is a week removed from a 59-55 loss to Alabama. The Wildcats are 13th in the SEC in turnover margin in conference games, thanks to forcing the fewest turnovers in the league (9.7 per game). The SEC will offer more opportunities for bad losses than good wins in the remainder of the schedule. The margin of error is slim.

Related: A new No. 1 in our weekly power rankings

Looking ahead
Kentucky is probably in the field as of today, but the Wildcats need to mind the schedule for the remainder of the season. Facing RPI No. 7 Florida twice in the final eight regular season games is probably good news for a team anchored by freshmen. Otherwise, Florida and No. 28 Missouri are the only top-75 the Wildcats will face in the regular season. In comparison, Kentucky will face two teams ranked 200th or worse (Auburn and Mississippi State) and three more ranked 100th or worse (South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Georgia).

Teaser:
<p> After a convincing win over Ole Miss, Kentucky has improved its NCAA Tournament stock. Here's where the Wildcats stand now, and what they can look forward to down the road.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 13:57
Path: /nfl/super-bowl-xlvii-one-one-baltimore-ravens-linebacker-dannell-ellerbe
Body:

Unless a nagging ankle injury sidelines him, Baltimore linebacker Dannell Ellerbe should line up next to Ray Lewis when the Ravens’ defense takes the field in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday. An undrafted free agent out of Georgia who signed with the Ravens following the 2009 NFL Draft, Ellerbe has asserted and established himself in his fourth pro season.

Besides working his way into the starting lineup, Ellerbe posted a career-high 92 tackles during the regular season, finishing second on the team in that category, to go along with 4.5 sacks (tied for third). Even though Ellerbe’s been dealing with an ankle injury and a back issue, he hasn’t let either malady take him off of the field during the playoffs. He collected nine tackles in Baltimore’s wins over Indianapolis and Denver, and picked up his first interception of the season against New England quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game.

With the biggest game of his NFL career set to kick off on Sunday, Ellerbe sat down with Athlon Sports earlier this week to talk about the Ravens’ remarkable postseason run, playing alongside a Hall of Fame linebacker, his impressions of his own quarterback, the Super Bowl matchup with San Francisco and more.

What has the past week been like for you and your teammates?
“It’s crazy man, at the beginning of the week you have to put in for rooms and get tickets in line for everyone. It’s a headache getting all of that in line, but this is my first Super Bowl so I want my family to come, and I want them to come and want to get them down there. As far as practice goes, I haven’t been practicing this week because of injuries, but you want to get most of your work done here, before you get down there and give away what you are practicing, and getting most of our work in now so when we get down there we can polish up what we have don. Going forward, this week I’m gonna be in my playbook studying up, but now I’ve just been getting my family straight and all the tickets and rooms in line and rehabbing a lot. It’s busy.”

Is the preparation for this game any different?
“It hasn’t been really different, I wanna treat this like a regular game, I don’t want to be like ‘Oh man, it’s the Super Bowl’ and freak out. I’m just staying lighthearted about it and going about it like a regular season game, and don’t wanna get caught up in the superstitions, and just go out there and have fun like I have been doing all year.”

What has the atmosphere been like in Baltimore this past month on the path to the Super Bowl?
“Oh man, I saw a picture after we beat Denver and there were so many people downtown, it was crazy. At the radio show the fans come out and fans are calling in and the fans are outstanding. It’s just a great time to be in Baltimore right now.”

How much of a challenge will it be facing a guy like Colin Kaepernick, and his unique skill set on Sunday?
“It’s always difficult when you face a dual-threat quarterback. Not only do you have to worry about him throwing the ball, you have to worry about him taking off and running it, or vice versa. I would rather face a pocket passer, because that’s a headache in itself. When you have everyone covered a pocket passer will throw it out of bounds, but a guy that is fast and can take off and run makes it hard. You can’t run too much man defense and you have to spy. It’s tough, but we faced some guys this year like RGIII and Andrew Luck, and Mike Vick, so we know about them.”

Your quarterback isn't mentioned with the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys of the world, but Joe Flacco has an impressive resume in his time in the league. What makes him so good under pressure?
“The more experience he has been getting the better he has been doing, and the offensive line is doing a hell of a job blocking for him. You can tell he is comfortable in the pocket right now and he’s not looking to scramble. You can tell when the timer goes off in his head. I mean its just ‘Joe Cool.’ That’s his nickname around here, because you can never tell if he is flustered or not, he just has that nonchalant attitude, but is cool under pressure.”

You've played with Ray Lewis now for four years. Has his approach changed since coming back from injury and announcing his retirement?
“His approach has been a little more intense, if that’s possible, but I mean he has pretty much stayed the same. I feel like he is upping it a little bit more, because this is his last ride, so you know this is it for him. But he is staying true to his self and bringing the same work ethic. He always puts his all into it, but he is definitely putting everything he has into it now.”

What has he taught you about being an NFL linebacker? And how is it playing alongside a Hall of Famer like Ray?
“I just want to start off saying that it’s a blessing to play beside a guy like Ray Lewis, arguably the best inside linebacker to ever play the game. A guy that’s gonna be a Hall of Famer no doubt about it, great character, Christian guy. As far as what I have learned from him, I have just learned how to watch film a certain way and look for certain things when watching film. The first thing he told me when I got here was treat football like a business, come to work do your job, go home and just do your job, because it is a business, and keep my body fresh and how to take care of my body. There’s just so much I have learned from him, always take notes and learn all the little tools, so you can be a step ahead of everyone else.”

Has it sunk in that you are a part of the defense that beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road to get to the Super Bowl?
“I’m not sure, because of everything I’m going through with these tickets and rehab. I am definitely aware that these two quarterbacks are going to be Hall of Famers, and with how our defense played earlier in the year and with all the scrutiny our defense we went through a lot. So for us to come back at the end when it really mattered and play great, and to hold them [Patriots] to 13 points is just crazy. It’s awesome.”

Is there one specific play or moment that you will forever remember from this run through the playoffs?
“Definitely my interception against the Broncos, it basically sealed the game. You know what I’m saying, they were driving to get some points, and I will always remember because I had the cast on my hand and the ball got tipped at the line and it looked like a punt and I felt like I was in a movie. The ball was coming down so slow man, it was crazy, it was a play I will never forget, plus I will never forget any of my picks. I remember all of them like it was yesterday. I’m gonna try and get me one in this Super Bowl hopefully.”

—by Blake Southerland

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> Super Bowl XLVII: One on One With Ravens Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-bracket-update-jan-30
Body:

A light week of college basketball, relatively speaking, should come to a thrilling end.

Michigan at Indiana has the potential to be one of the best games of the season, with both teams in the top three, with rosters containing Player of the Year candidates and with both playing some of the best basketball in the country on the offensive end of the floor.

And that’s the finale on Saturday. The undercard is a matchup between Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson, who has quickly become a lightning rod in the SEC, going on the road against the best team in the league.

Elsewhere, the week is a little short on great matchups. The Big 12 will be worth watching, however. Baylor and Oklahoma are in Tournament contention, but both teams need to pick up some wins to convince skeptics.

All times Eastern.

Related: Key stats from last week

JAN. 30 NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET UPDATE

MOST IMPORTANT GAME:
Michigan at Indiana (Saturday, 9 p.m, ESPN)

If only the actual game lives up to the hype: The top two teams in the nation’s top conference, have made returns to national title-winning status. For now, though, the Big Ten is on the line. Michigan hasn’t won an outright conference title since 1985-86. Indiana hasn’t won one in 20 years. Another subplot is the matchup between Michigan point guard Trey Burke and Indiana’s emerging player of the year candidate Victor Oladipo. And from an NCAA Tournament perspective, the winner of this game could be on track for a No. 1 seed.

Related: Michigan takes top spot in power rankings

ALL EYES ON: Baylor
Oklahoma (Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPNU)
at Iowa State (Saturday, 8 p.m., ESPN2)

Baylor’s 5-1 in the Big 12. Missed it? That’s because the Bears have played few teams of note in the league other than a 61-44 loss to Kansas. Baylor has defeated Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and TCU (twice) on the way to second place in the Big 12. Now, the Bears face three consecutive NCAA contenders, with two on the road. Time to find out where Baylor’s ceiling might be.

UNDER PRESSURE: Oklahoma
at Baylor (Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPNU)
Kansas State (Saturday, 4 p.m., Big 12 syndication)

We know Oklahoma is better in its second year under Lon Kruger. We know the Sooners are in the NCAA Tournament mix. But we also know the Sooners aren’t good enough to defeat stingy defensive teams like Kansas State and Kansas on the road. The Sooners will find out of those road woes extend to Waco on Wednesday. And Saturday will match the top two scorers in Big 12 games - Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder (18.7 points per game) and Oklahoma’s Romero Osby (18 ppg).

RISING: Villanova
at Notre Dame (Wednesday, 6 p.m., ESPN2)
Providence (Sunday, noon, Big East syndication)

Villanova may have done enough in one week to erase three losses (Alabama, Columbia, La Salle and Temple) in November and December. The Wildcats defeated top-five Louisville and Syracuse at home last week to return to NCAA contention. Now, Nova goes on the road to Notre Dame. The Wildcats like to get to the free throw line, so facing a tough opponent who does a good job of protecting its home court will be interesting. Villanova scores 28.3 percent of its points from free throw line, a stat that leads the nation.

SINKING: Maryland
at Florida State (Wednesday, 8 p.m., ACC syndication)
Wake Forest (Saturday, 2 p.m., ACC syndication)

Early this month, Maryland was a mystery team because it played few quality opponents other than Kentucky in the opener. Now, there’s little mystery: Maryland’s not ready for ACC contention. The Terrapins have lost four of their last six, but they found room to defeat NC State 51-50 during that span. Maryland desperately needs better play in the backcourt: The Terps are last in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio and turnover margin in conference games.

MID-MAJOR TO WATCH: Ohio at Akron (Saturday, 5 p.m., ESPNU)
Akron gained a little notoriety this week with its to wear jerseys with the Zips' Twitter handle on the back as part of Social Media Night, but this game should stand on its own as a key mid-major contest with or without gimmicks. Both teams are 6-0 in the MAC. Led by NCAA Tournament-tested guard D.J. Cooper, Ohio faces a bigger Akron team that’s played well on the offensive and defensive glass this year.

TIP INS:
Iowa State at Oklahoma State (Wednesday, 8 p.m., Big 12 syndication)
Oklahoma State may be an NCAA Tournament team, but the Cowboys have to pick up better conference wins than TCU (9-11), Texas Tech (9-9), an West Virginia (9-11).

New Mexico at Wyoming (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ROOT Sports)
Wyoming hasn’t been the same since Luke Martinez ran into off-court trouble and ended up suspended. The Cowboys are 3-4 since then, but they can still guard. New Mexico is coming off a 34-point effort against San Diego State.

Syracuse at Pittsburgh (Saturday, noon, ESPN)
James Southerland has been gone for a few weeks. Now center Dajuan Coleman is out for four weeks due to knee surgery. Numbers are dwindling for Syracuse.

Miami at NC State (Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS)
Fun fact: Miami defeated Florida State and Duke by a combined 51 points last week. The Hurricanes scored 51 points in their loss to Florida Gulf Coast in the second game of the season.

Ole Miss at Florida (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU)
Marshall Henderson against the best team in the SEC, in front of rowdy fans on the road -- we’re in.

UNLV at Boise State (Saturday, 9 p.m., Time Warner Cable Sports Net)
UNLV is looking for its talented lineup to find consistency. Meanwhile, NCAA Tournament hopeful Boise State has lost three of four.

Marquette at Louisville (Sunday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
Marquette is quietly sitting atop the Big East standings with Syracuse, but no one seems to consider the Golden Eagles a major player in the league. Vander Blue averages 17.1 points per game in the Big East after a 30-point outburst against USF.

Wisconsin at Illinois (Sunday, 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Illinois is in trouble after a hot start. A home game against a stingy defensive team is a tall task and maybe a must-win.

Teaser:
<p> Michigan-Indiana is the week's key game while Ole Miss' Henderson visits Florida. Important matchups in the Big 12 will also be worth watching for NCAA Tournament purposes.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /nfl/20-best-nfl-teams-didnt-play-super-bowl
Body:

It seems that each year the NFL is filled with a handful of great teams that just seem to blow it when it comes to the playoffs, never realizing their full potential by making it to the Super Bowl. Teams like the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots certainly met that criteria this season. That got us to wondering which teams throughout NFL history have had the talent, but perhaps not the luck to make it to the big game. With that in mind, we examined win-loss records, overall talent, statistics, playoff performances and more in determining the best NFL teams that never reached the Super Bowl:

* - eventual Super Bowl Champion

1. San Francisco 49ers, 1992 (14-2)
Lost: 30-20 to Dallas* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7

Steve Young won the MVP and led a 49ers offense that topped the NFL in scoring (26.9 ppg) and total offense. The defense was third in the NFL in points allowed and 15th in total defense. The only losses came to the defending and would-be AFC champion Bills in Week 2 and on the road against the Cardinals in Week 9. Ricky Waters led the team in rushing while Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Brent Jones torched secondaries. This defense also was loaded with names like Dave Whitemore, Bill Romanowski, Merton Hanks, Eric Davis and sack leader Tim Harris (17.0).

2. Dallas Cowboys, 1994 (12-4)
Lost: 38-28 to San Francisco* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7

These two franchises went back and forth in the early '90s and this was the best Dallas team not to finish the deal. This was essentially the same team that won three of four Super Bowls as the triplets came up just one game short of four straight Super Sundays. This unit was second in the league in scoring (25.9 ppg) and was third in points allowed (15.5 ppg). Charles Haley led the team in sacks, Robert Jones led in tackles while Darren Woodson led in interceptions.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers, 2004 (15-1)
Lost: 41-27 to New England* in AFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 9

Tommy Maddox started three games in 2004 and was 2-1. Ben Roethlisberger started 13 games and won every start behind the best defense in the NFL. This Steelers team led the league in scoring (15.7 ppg) and total defense en route to a near-perfect record. Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis formed a one-two punch in the backfield while a loaded receiving corps gave Big Ben plenty to work with. What made this team great, however, was the nasty, Pro Bowl-laden defense. The lone regular season loss came in Week 2 against Baltimore.

4. Minnesota Vikings, 1998 (15-1)
Lost: 30-27 (OT) to Atlanta in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 10

This team scored at an alarming rate. Led by Randall Cunningham at quarterback and a trio of playmakers in Robert Smith, Cris Carter and Randy Moss, the Vikings paced the NFL at 34.8 points per game. As well as owning the top offense in the league, Minnesota boasted the No. 6-rated scoring defense and No. 13-rated total defense. One loss to Tampa Bay in the middle of the year was the only regular season blemish and these Vikings came one missed Gary Anderson field goal away from playing in the Super Bowl.

5. San Francisco 49ers, 1990 (14-2)
Lost: 15-13 to NY Giants* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 5

The defending Super Bowl champs rolled through the regular season led by NFL MVP Joe Montana. This unit was No. 2 in total offense and No. 3 in total defense while ranking No. 2 in scoring defense and No. 8 in total offense. Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley and Bill Romanowski led one of the best 49ers defenses of all-time.

6. Chicago Bears, 1986 (14-2)
Lost: 27-13 to Washington in NFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 7

Walter Payton and Jim McMahon were electric on offense, but the defending Super Bowl champs won 14 games in 1986 because of the defense. The Bears allowed an absurd 11.7 points and 258.1 yards per game on that side of the ball to lead the NFL in both categories. Wilber Marshall, Steve McMichael, Dave Duerson and Mike Singletary were Pro Bowlers while Richard Dent, William Perry and Dan Hampton did not receive invites to Hawaii. Few defenses were as talented as this version of the Monsters of the Midway.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1999 (14-2)
Lost: 33-14 to Tennessee in AFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7

The Jaguars beat Dan Marino and the Dolphins 62-7 in the Hall of Famer's final game to reach the AFC Championship game. But Jacksonville and Mark Brunell lost for a third time to the Titans after going 14-0 against every other team in the NFL. The Brunell, Jimmy Smith, Fred Taylor, James Stewart, Keenan McCardell, Tony Boselli and Leon Searcy offense was sixth in scoring and seventh in total offense, while the defense led the league in points allowed (13.6 ppg) and finished fourth in total defense.

8. Green Bay Packers, 2007 (13-3)
Lost: 23-20 (OT) to NY Giants* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 5

Three teams finished 13-3 in 2007 (Dallas, Indianapolis) but none came as close to unseating the eventual champs than the Packers. On a frigid night at Lambeau Field, the Giants outlasted this stacked Packers team in overtime. This team was second in total offense and 11th in total defense while finishing fourth in scoring offense and sixth in scoring defense. It was the last time that Brett Favre would ever suit up for Green Bay.

9. Tennessee Titans, 2000 (13-3)
Lost: 24-10 to Baltimore* in AFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 9

Despite six Pro Bowlers on offense, it was the defense that made this team special. The defense led the NFL in total defense and was No. 2 in scoring defense. After splitting with the Ravens in the regular season, a bizarre Eddie George-Ray Lewis turnover sealed the Titans' fate. An offense that featured franchise bests at quarterback (Steve McNair), running back (George), tight end (Frank Wycheck), wide receiver (Derrick Mason) and offensive tackle (Bruce Matthews) came up just short of defending their AFC Championship.

10. Indianapolis Colts, 2005 (14-2)
Lost: 21-18 to Pittsburgh* in AFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 8

Peyton Manning’s best all-around team (that never played in a Super Bowl) wasn’t necessarily his best statistical year. But this team was No. 2 in the NFL in scoring defense (15.4 ppg) and No. 2 in scoring offense (27.4 ppg) to lead the league in scoring differential. His offense featured a 1,500-yard rusher in Edgerrin James and four elite pass catchers in Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney formed an elite pass-rush tandem that combined for 22.5 sacks while Bob Sanders and Cato June led the back seven.

Best of the Rest:

11. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1972 (11-3)
Lost: 21-17 to Miami* in AFC Championship

12. Oakland Raiders, 1974 (12-2)
Lost: 24-13 to Pittsburgh* in AFC Championship

13. Minnesota Vikings, 2009 (12-4)
Lost: 31-28 (OT) to New Orleans* in NFC Championship

14. Green Bay Packers, 2011 (15-1)
Lost: 37-20 to NY Giants* in NFC Championship

15. Indianapolis Colts, 2007 (13-3)
Lost: 28-24 to San Diego in AFC Divisional

16. Miami Dolphins, 1985 (12-4)
Lost: 31-14 to New England in AFC Championship

17. Dallas Cowboys, 1980 (12-4)
Lost: 20-7 to Philadelphia in NFC Championship

18. Pittsburgh Steelers, 2001 (13-3)
Lost: 24-17 to New England* in AFC Championship

19. LA Rams, 1976 (10-3-1)
Lost: 24-13 to Minnesota in NFC Championship

20. Cleveland Browns, 1986 (12-4) CG
Lost: 23-20 to Denver in AFC Championship

21. Dallas, 1981 (12-4)
22. Baltimore, 1967 (11-1-2)
23. Philadelphia, 2002 (12-4)
24. NY Giants, 1989 (12-4)
25. San Francisco, 1987 (13-2)
26. San Diego, 1979 (12-4)
27. New England, 2010 (14-2)
28. New England, 1976 (11-3)
29. LA Rams, 1975 (12-2)
30. San Francisco, 1997 (13-3) 

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> How many great teams fell just shy of Super Sunday?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-best-worst-college-football-coaches-who-went-nfl
Body:

Philadelphia's decision to pick Chip Kelly as its head coach will be one of the most intriguing and heavily scrutinized hires in NFL history. Kelly was a traditional college coach, as he ran an up-tempo, spread offense that most don’t believe will work on a consistent basis in the NFL.

Although he’s yet to coach a game in the NFL, some have already called Kelly’s hire one of the worst ever. Needless to say, there are a lot of misconceptions about Kelly and his offensive scheme that will be played out in the NFL. Will he win multiple Super Bowl titles? Probably not. Will he finish his tenure with Philadelphia as the worst college coach to make the jump to the NFL? Absolutely not.

Hiring a college coach hasn’t produced much in the way of success for NFL franchises. Jimmy Johnson, Tom Coughlin and Barry Switzer won Super Bowl titles, while Dennis Green, Bobby Ross, Pete Carroll, Steve Mariucci and Butch Davis led their teams to playoff appearances. And of course, there’s Jim Harbaugh, leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl in his second season.

With Kelly’s hire in mind, Athlon ranked the top 15 head coaches that jumped from college to the NFL since 1989. The criteria was simple. In order to be ranked, the coach had to be a college head coach, with their next job being in the same position in the NFL. Although Jim Caldwell, Tom Cable and Cam Cameron were head coaches on both levels, all three held positions outside of being a head coach after leaving college.

Ranking the 15 Best College Head Coaches that left for the NFL Since 1989

1. Jimmy Johnson, Miami and Dallas
It’s a close call for the No. 1 spot in these rankings, as Johnson or Tom Coughlin is a worthy candidate. Johnson jumped to the NFL after successful college head coaching stints at Oklahoma State and Miami, recording an 81-34-3 mark from 1979-88. His debut season with the Cowboys resulted in a miserable 1-15 record but the team quickly improved with the emergence of quarterback Troy Aikman. Dallas went 7-9 in Johnson’s second year but made the playoffs – with two Super Bowl wins – in his final three seasons. Johnson left the Cowboys after the 1993 season and resurfaced with the Dolphins in 1996. He led Miami to three playoff games from 1996-99 but never advanced to the AFC Championship game.   

2. Tom Coughlin, Jacksonville and New York Giants
If Jimmy Johnson is 1 in these rankings, Coughlin is essentially 1b. After three years as Boston College’s head coach, the New York native was selected to be the first coach in Jacksonville’s history. The Jaguars went 4-12 in their debut season but made the playoffs in each of the next four seasons. Coughlin took Jacksonville to the AFC Championship game twice but was never able to take the Jaguars to the Super Bowl. He was fired from Jacksonville at the end of the 2002 season and spent 2003 out of football. Coughlin was scooped up by the Giants in 2004 and led New York to a playoff appearance in his second season. The Giants won the Super Bowl in the 2007 and 2011 seasons, while accumulating an 83-61 record under Coughlin’s watch.

3. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco
Give Harbaugh a couple more seasons and he could climb to the No. 1 spot on this list. In two years with the 49ers, the former NFL quarterback has an impressive 24-7-1 mark, which includes two division titles and two playoff appearances. San Francisco narrowly missed a Super Bowl trip in 2011 and navigated a tough path to get to New Orleans in 2012, beating Green Bay and knocking off No. 1 seed Atlanta. 

4. Bobby Ross, San Diego and Detroit
Ross wasn’t the flashiest coach, but he was a proven winner in both college and the NFL. The Virginia native guided Georgia Tech to a national championship in 1990, before joining the Chargers in 1992. San Diego went 11-5 in Ross’ first year and made the Super Bowl after upsetting the Steelers in the AFC Championship game during the 1994 season. After five successful years with the Chargers, Ross left for Detroit in 1997. Despite his solid tenure in San Diego, he was never able to experience the same success with the Lions. Detroit made two playoff appearances under Ross’ watch but never won more than nine games. 

5. Dennis Green, Minnesota and Arizona
Green didn’t have the best pick of jobs on the college level, finishing with a 26-63 mark in eight years. However, it’s not exactly easy winning at Northwestern and Stanford on a consistent basis. After going 8-4 with the Cardinal in 1991, Green left to become the Vikings’ head coach. Minnesota went 11-5 in Green’s first season and made the playoffs in each of his three years. After missing the playoffs in 1995, the Vikings rebounded with five consecutive postseason appearances from 1996-2000, which included a painful, narrow miss at a Super Bowl berth in 1998. Green was canned after winning just five games in 2001 and resurfaced with the Cardinals in 2004. Although Green was a good coach in Minnesota, he had a miserable tenure in Arizona, winning just 16 games from 2004-06.

6. Pete Carroll, New England, New York Jets, Seattle
Carroll was a relatively average coach in his first two stops, leading the Jets to a 6-10 record in 1994 and then the Patriots to a 27-21 mark with two playoff appearances from 1997-99. However, after leading USC to one of the most successful stints by a program in the BCS era, Carroll has returned to the NFL better than ever. The Seahawks made the playoffs with a losing record in 2010 and then went 7-9 in 2011 despite undergoing a roster transformation. However, Seattle went 11-5 in 2012 and a narrow loss to Atlanta was all that separated it from making it to the NFC Championship game. Carroll is pushing the right buttons with the Seahawks and should rise on this list over the next few years.

7. Barry Switzer, Dallas
After resigning as Oklahoma’s head coach in 1988, Switzer was out of football when the Cowboys came calling after the 1993 season. Dallas was coming off back-to-back Super Bowl wins and needed a coach after Jimmy Johnson decided to leave. Switzer went 12-4 in his first season with the Cowboys, before leading Dallas to a Super Bowl victory over the Steelers in 1995. The win over Pittsburgh was the pinnacle of Switzer’s NFL career, as the Cowboys went 10-6 in 1996 and finished with a disappointing 6-10 mark in 1997. Switzer was handed an excellent roster to work with, so it’s hard to judge just how effective a NFL head coach he really was.

8. Steve Mariucci, San Francisco and Detroit
Mariucci experienced a fast rise through the coaching ranks, working as an assistant in Green Bay from 1992-95 and then taking over at California for just one season in 1996. The Michigan native was picked to lead the 49ers after one year in Berkeley and went 57-39 during his six seasons in San Francisco. Mariucci was never able to lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl but had four playoff appearances. He was fired from San Francisco after 2002 and resurfaced with the Lions in 2003. Mariucci had very little success with Detroit, going 15-28 in three years. 

9. Nick Saban, Miami
Whenever Saban finishes his career at Alabama, there’s no question he will be regarded as one of the most successful coaches to work on the collegiate level. Success in the NFL? Well, that’s a different story. Saban wasn’t awful during his Miami tenure, but he bolted after just two seasons to go back to the college game. The Dolphins went 9-7 in Saban’s first season but backtracked to a 6-10 mark in 2006. Had he stayed in Miami, Saban likely would have eventually led the Dolphins to the playoffs. However, the West Virginia native is clearly at home in the college ranks.

10. Butch Davis, Cleveland
Davis is the third Miami coach since 1989 to leave Coral Gables for the NFL. Jimmy Johnson was the most successful of the trio, while Davis and Dennis Erickson struggled to find their footing. Davis had some success with Cleveland, leading the Browns to a 7-9 mark in 2001 and a 9-7 record with a playoff appearance in 2002. Despite his early success, Davis never elevated Cleveland to be a contender in the AFC North, finishing his last two seasons with an 8-18 record. 

11. Steve Spurrier, Washington
In one of the most puzzling coaching moves of recent memory, Spurrier decided to leave one of college football’s premier jobs (Florida) for a spot in the NFL. After compiling a 122-27-1 mark with the Gators, Spurrier gave his Fun N’Gun offense a shot in the NFL. The results were disappointing for Washington, as the Redskins went 12-20 under his watch. Spurrier did finish 7-9 in his first year, but it’s clear the head ball coach belongs in college.  

12. Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay
Schiano is just one season into his NFL tenure, but the Buccaneers showed marked improvement under his watch. Tampa Bay’s win total improved by three games from 2011 to 2012 and had a differential of only five points this year. The Buccaneers also had a handful of close losses in 2012 and got significant contributions from a few rookies, including running back Doug Martin, linebacker Lavonte David and safety Mark Barron. Schiano still has much to prove heading into the 2013 season. However, the former Rutgers coach seems to have Tampa Bay back on track.

13. Dennis Erickson, Seattle and San Francisco
Erickson was largely a mediocre coach in the NFL, never having one season over .500, while missing the playoffs after all six of his seasons. The Washington native had most of his success in college by following Jimmy Johnson at Miami and Mike Riley at Oregon State and struggled to establish himself as a quality NFL coach. Erickson had plenty to work with during his stint with Seattle, which included a roster featuring quarterback Warren Moon, running back Ricky Watters and receiver Joey Galloway. Despite a mediocre tenure with the Seahawks, San Francisco decided to give Erickson another change. As expected, he was a disaster. The 49ers went 7-9 in 2003 but plummeted to 2-14 in 2004.

14. Rich Brooks, St. Louis
Brooks played a central role in turning around two college programs (Oregon and Kentucky) but was never able to work the same type of magic in the NFL. He inherited a team that just moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis and had five consecutive losing seasons. Brooks improved the Rams’ win total by three in his first season but finished a disappointing 6-10 in his second year.

15. Mike Riley, San Diego
Riley has done a tremendous job on the college level, elevating Oregon State from a Pac-12 doormat to a consistent bowl team. However, his work in the NFL was a forgettable three-year stint. Riley went 8-8 in his debut season but recorded a 6-26 mark in the other two years. Of course, it’s hard to evaluate Riley when he was forced to work with Ryan Leaf at quarterback. 

Two other failed tenures:

Bobby Petrino, Atlanta
Not only was Petrino awful in his only season in the NFL (3-10), he quit on his team in the middle of the year to take a college job. 

Dick MacPherson, New England
MacPherson was a good college coach, but he was awful in the NFL. He went 8-24 in two seasons with the Patriots.
 

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Best &amp; Worst College Football Coaches Who Went to the NFL</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 07:10

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