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

To celebrate the Oklahoma State Cowboys being named No. 19, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys continue the countdown at No. 19 with two preseason All-Americans and 10 players selected as All-Big 12 performers. Athlon Sports predicts Oklahoma State will finish fourth in the Big 12 Conference. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Top running back Joseph Randle and an aggressive defense will be the key to helping Oklahoma State through an early transition,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “The Cowboys lost some big-time offensive stars, but Mike Gundy has built them into a perennial Top 25 program.”

Two Oklahoma State standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with running back Joseph Randle being voted to the second team and defensive back Brodrick Brown to the third team. In addition, the Cowboys running backs unit was ranked No. 9 nationally and best in the Big 12.

Ten Cowboys earned preseason All-Big 12 honors, including Randle, Brown, offensive lineman Lane Taylor and Quinn Sharp at both kicker and punter on the first team. Linebacker Shaun Lewis was named to the second team, while wide receiver Tracy Moore, defensive lineman Nigel Nicholas, linebacker Alex Elkins, safety Daytawion Lowe and Justin Gilbert at both cornerback and kick returner garnered third-team honors.

Oklahoma State Team Preview

Oklahoma State's Top 10 Players of 2012

Oklahoma State’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Names Oklahoma State No. 19 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 10:06
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-state-football-can-cowboys-repeat-big-12-champs
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 19 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are the defending Big 12 champs, but must replace quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon.

Can Oklahoma State Repeat as Big 12 Champs with a True Freshman Quarterback?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Mike Gundy, with some help from T. Boone Pickens’ bank account, has turned Oklahoma State into a program built to last. Two years ago, the departure of Zac Robinson, Dez Bryant and Russell Okung was reason for concern. Then it was the departure of offensive coordinator Larry Fedora a year later. By 2011, the names and faces had changed but the results were among the best in school history with Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and offensive coordinator Todd Monken leading the way last season. I believe in Oklahoma State’s ability to replace talent in offensive personnel, but starting a freshman quarterback may be pushing the limits of the system Gundy has built in Stillwater. For the last four seasons, Oklahoma State has had the benefit of starting juniors and seniors at quarterback (Weeden and Robinson). Gundy hasn’t started a freshman since his first season in Stillwater, when the Cowboys went 4-7. The quarterback rotation in 2005 didn’t end until 2006 when Gundy benched Reid and settled on the sophomore Robinson. During the offseason, selecting Lunt after the spring clearly is a more decisive outcome than what Gundy had in his early years, but that doesn’t mean Lunt is going to put up results like Weeden and Robinson did as veterans, particularly in a league where he stands to be the only freshman starting quarterback. The Big 12 projects to have five senior starting quarterbacks and one junior. Only two of those six (Baylor’s Nick Florence and Kansas’ Dayne Crist) are not returning starters, but they still have starting experience in previous seasons. Oklahoma State will be a bowl team with a freshman quarterback. The Cowboys, however, should adjust their expectation level as Lunt goes through some early bumps.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Not a chance. The good news is Oklahoma State is close to entering "reloading" status rather than "rebuilding." But in a league with elite coaches and so many quality football teams, it seems virtually impossible for the Pokes to repeat. This is a solid football team with eight- or nine-win potential, but replacing Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and the majority of the offensive line without missing a beat is a tall order. Mike Gundy has his offensive installed and transitioning from one quarterback to the next has proven to be possible. But Wes Lunt is almost a decade younger than Weeden was when he took over for Zac Robinson. The transition won't be nearly as smooth.

Key swing games against Texas, TCU, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Iowa State all come at home. But that is as daunting a home slate as there is in the league, so running that gauntlet unblemished seems unlikely — something I feel the Cowboys would have to do in order to win the Big 12. The road schedule, with the exception of the Bedlam Series, is very manageable as Okie State visits Kansas, Kansas State and Baylor along with Oklahoma. A 4-1 home mark and a 3-1 road record feel like the maximum upside for this team. The great news for Oklahoma State football fans is that, thanks to Gundy's coaching and hefty financial contributions from one major booster, this team is in a position to replace a handful of the greatest players in school history and still target a 7-2 league record. A remarkable statement for a team coming off its first outright conference championship since winning the Missouri Valley in 1948 (co-champs of the Big 8 in 1976 and the MVC in 1953).

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
It’s not easy winning a Big 12 title with a true freshman quarterback, but I think Oklahoma State can certainly contend in 2012. The Cowboys have won at least nine games in each of the last four seasons, including 11 with a first-year starter (Brandon Weeden) in 2010.

A factor working in Oklahoma State’s favor is the rest of the conference. Oklahoma is expected to be the preseason favorite, but the Sooners finished 2-2 over the final four games of last season and must replace receiver Ryan Broyles. Texas is climbing back into contender status, but can the Longhorns get consistent quarterback play? West Virginia will be a factor in its first year of the Big 12, but its offensive line is a question mark, and the defense is breaking in new co-coordinators.

Another positive for Oklahoma State is the return of eight starters on defense. Sure, the Cowboys might give up some yards, but led the nation in takeaways last year. The line needs to find replacements for ends Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, but the rest of the defense is solid. And with a true freshman quarterback, the defense may have to carry the team early in the year.

While Lunt will have his growing pains, he will be surrounded by a solid supporting cast. Running back Joseph Randle is one of the best in college football, and Tracy Moore, Josh Stewart and Isaiah Anderson form a quality trio at receiver. Replacing Levy Adcock and Grant Garner on the offensive line won’t be easy, but there’s enough experience to keep this unit playing at a high level.

The schedule also sets up favorably for Oklahoma State, as it has winnable games against Savannah State, Arizona and Louisiana-Lafayette in the first three weeks. After a bye week in Week 4, the Cowboys host Texas in Stillwater, then have an off date in Week 6, followed by games against Kansas and Iowa State. The schedule is backloaded with TCU, Kansas State, West Virginia and Oklahoma in the last half of the season, and that should give Lunt plenty of time to get comfortable as the starter.

Even though Oklahoma State suffered some key losses, I wouldn’t write this team off from contending for the Big 12 title in 2012.

Mark Ross
So it looks like coach Mike Gundy has decided to go with true freshman Wes Lunt as the successor to Brandon Weeden under center for Oklahoma State. No one can expect Lunt to do what Weeden did last season (4,727 passing yards, 37 TDs), especially with electric wide receiver Justin Blackmon having joined Weeden as first-round picks in last month's NFL Draft. But have no fear Cowboys fans, Lunt doesn't need to put up Weeden-like numbers this fall because your beloved team has all the pieces it needs to repeat as champions of the Big 12.

On offense, the running game should be pretty strong with Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith leading the way. The duo combined for more than 1,800 yards and 33 TDs on the ground alone in 2011. The Cowboys also bring back plenty of experience along the offensive line and in the receiving corps to help Lunt settle into the starter's role. Even without Weeden and Blackmon and some other key players, the offense should still be able to point a fair number of points on the board, although it probably won't result in nearly 49 points a game like last year's team produced.

The 2012 team's strength may actually be the defense, which has not been the case in Stillwater in recent years. The Cowboys return eight starters on defense, including all but one from its back seven. Cornerbacks Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert, safety Daytawion Lowe and linebacker Shaun Lewis are the standouts on the defense, which also has plenty of depth up front. Stopping the best offenses in the Big 12 is next to impossible, but sometimes all that is needed to turn the tide in your favor is to slow them down. This Cowboys' defense appears to have the horses to do just that, but can the unit do so consistently?

The true tests for this team will come when the offense is matched up against one of the conference's better defenses like Texas (Sept. 29, Big 12 opener) or Oklahoma (in Norman on Nov. 24) or when the defense is tasked with slowing down the Big 12's most potent offenses. To that end, the Cowboys' 2012 title hopes may come down to how well the defense holds up in November when it has to face West Virginia, Texas Tech (both at home) and the aforementioned Sooners on consecutive Saturdays. 

Last season, the Oklahoma State offense finished near the top of the Big 12 in the major offensive categories, including first in both total and scoring offense. On the other hand, the defense finished fourth or lower in the major defensive categories, with the exception of pass efficiency defense (2nd). With a true freshman running the show on offense, no one should be surprised to see the Cowboys' rankings fall on offense.

The key, however, will be with the defense. If the defense capitalizes on its experience and plays up to its potential, the unit's improvement should be reflected in the conference rankings. As long as the defense finishes in the top half of the conference in a majority of the defensive categories then I think the Cowboys have a pretty good shot at making it two Big 12 titles in a row, even if their starting quarterback is 16 years younger than last year's.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I do not see Oklahoma State repeating in the Big 12 with any of the quarterbacks on the roster. Wes Lunt may be a star one day, but the Cowboys lost too many stars to contend for the league crown this season. Mike Gundy does have several returning starters and has built OSU into a perennial Top 25 program, but players like Justin Blackmon, Levy Adcock, Brandon Weeden and Markelle Martin were on an All-America level. That attrition, along with the loss of all-conference performers Grant Garner and Jamie Blatnick, projects the Cowboys to take a step back from the 11- and 12-win seasons from the past two years.

Gundy and staff have instilled an expectation of winning in Stillwater, and there are still All-America caliber players at Oklahoma State like running back Joseph Randle and cornerback Brodrick Brown. The offense has solid potential, and the defense did a great job of forcing turnovers last year despite finishing 107th in the country. I see the Cowboys finishing anywhere from third to fifth in the Big 12 in 2012.

Related Oklahoma State Content

Oklahoma State 2012 Team Preview
Oklahoma State Cowboys Top 10 Players for 2012

Oklahoma State 2012 Team Predictions

Oklahoma State Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Oklahoma State Cheerleader Gallery

The Greatest Moments in Oklahoma State Football History

Jokes About Oklahoma State Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Can the Oklahoma State Repeat as Big 12 Champions in 2012?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-state-cowboys-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Oklahoma State Cowboys check in at No. 19 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Joseph Randle, RB
With quarterback Brandon Weeden moving onto the NFL, the focus of the offense will shift to the rushing attack. Randle was superb in his first season as the starter last year, rushing for 1,216 yards and 24 scores. He was also a major factor in the passing game, catching 43 passes for 266 yards and two scores. Randle was a threat to score each time he touched the ball and will be expected to handle 220-240 carries in 2012.

Trap Game: Texas Tech (Nov. 17)
Oklahoma State has an interesting schedule, as it has off dates in Week 4 and 6, while playing eight consecutive games to end the 2012 season. The Cowboys have a loaded back half of the schedule, especially with dates against TCU, Kansas State, West Virginia and Oklahoma starting in late October. Oklahoma State is a better team than Texas Tech, but the timing of the matchup could leave it vulnerable. The Cowboys host West Virginia one week before playing the Red Raiders and have a trip to Norman to take on Oklahoma on Nov. 24. If Oklahoma State is looking too far ahead, Texas Tech could sneak out of Stillwater with a victory.

Upset Alert: Louisiana-Lafayette (Sept. 15)
This will be the third consecutive season Oklahoma State has matched up against Louisiana-Lafayette. The Cowboys won 54-28 in 2010 and won 61-34 last season in Stillwater. Although Oklahoma State was in control of last year’s game, the Ragin’ Cajuns picked off Brandon Weeden three times and returned two of those for scores. Louisiana-Lafayette should be one of the top teams in the Sun Belt this year and won’t be a pushover on Sept. 15. The Cowboys should win this one, but a sluggish start would allow the Ragin’ Cajuns to build some early confidence. It’s a longshot to suggest Louisiana-Lafayette will win, but this is not a team that should be overlooked.

Defensive MVP: Brodrick Brown, CB
It’s not easy being a cornerback in the Big 12. Five teams averaged at least 290 passing yards per game last year, and new conference members West Virginia and TCU will certainly throw the ball around in 2012. Brown has been a steady performer at cornerback and he enters 2012 with 28 consecutive starts. He earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last year and recorded 68 tackles with five interceptions and 15 passes broken up. In a conference dominated by offense, Brown will give up some plays. However, he’s also a reliable cornerback and should be one of the best in the Big 12 once again in 2012.

Breakout Player: Josh Stewart/Charlie Moore, WR
Justin Blackmon is gone to the NFL, leaving Oklahoma State with a void in the receiving corps. Stewart played well as a true freshman last season, catching 19 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns. At 5-foot-10, the sophomore isn’t the biggest option for Oklahoma State quarterbacks, but he should thrive in one of the inside receiver roles. Charlie Moore has just seven receptions through the first two years, but turned in a monster performance in the spring game and will be a factor in the passing attack.

Unsung Hero: Lane Taylor, OL
Grant Garner and Levy Adcock garnered most of the attention on the offensive line over the last few years, but now it’s Taylor’s return in 2012. The senior has 36 career starts and will start at right guard this season. Taylor earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors last year, but is expected to challenge for first-team accolades in 2012.

Biggest Game: at Oklahoma (Nov. 24)
You could point to a number of games on Oklahoma State’s schedule to fill this category. However, the Sooners will likely begin the year as the preseason favorite in the Big 12. If Oklahoma State wants to repeat as Big 12 champions, it needs to go on the road and win in Norman. Beating Oklahoma away from Stillwater has been rare, as the Cowboys have just one win in Norman since 1998.

Revenge Game: Iowa State (Oct. 20)
The only blemish on Oklahoma State’s schedule last season was a costly one. The Cowboys were upset 37-31 at Iowa State, which likely cost them a shot to play for the national championship. The Cyclones won’t be a pushover, but Oklahoma State will be out for revenge.

Freshman to Watch: Wes Lunt, QB
Replacing Brandon Weeden is no easy task. During his Oklahoma State career, the former minor league baseball player threw for 9,260 yards and 75 scores. Although Weeden will be missed, coach Mike Gundy has done a good job of replacing successful starting quarterbacks in Stillwater. Lunt ranked as a four-star prospect by rivals.com and enrolled in time for spring practices. Although he was an underdog to win the starting nod, Lunt outplayed J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf to emerge as Oklahoma State’s No. 1 quarterback. There will certainly be some growing pains, but Lunt appears to be a future star in the Big 12.

Comeback Player: Jonathan Rush, OL
With three starters gone from the offensive line, Rush’s return will help ease the transition for new quarterback Wes Lunt. Rush was lost in the fourth game of last season due to a knee injury, but is expected to return at full strength in 2012. The senior had made 16 consecutive starters prior to his injury and is expected to start at left guard this year.

Newcomer of the Year: Blake Jackson, TE
At 6-foot-3 and 238 pounds, Jackson isn’t exactly a receiver and he’s not exactly a prototypical tight end. However, he raised eyebrows with his performance in the spring and is expected to claim one of the four starting receiver spots. Jackson is a transfer from Scottsdale Community College and earned first-team NJCAA All-American honors last year.

Position Battle: Defensive Line
With Lunt taking an early lead in the quarterback derby, the focus turns to the defensive line for Oklahoma State in the fall. Coordinator Bill Young has moved some players around, shifting Nigel Nicholas from tackle to end. The Cowboys must replace ends Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, who combined for 12 sacks last year. Finding players who can keep the pass rush going is going to be critical for Young in fall camp.

Related Oklahoma State Content

Oklahoma State 2012 Team Preview
Oklahoma State Cowboys Top 10 Players for 2012

Can Oklahoma State Win the Big 12 With a Freshman Quarterback?

Oklahoma State Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Oklahoma State Cheerleader Gallery

The Greatest Moments in Oklahoma State Football History

Jokes About Oklahoma State Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma State Cowboys 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-oklahoma-state-rivals
Body:

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

 

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

 

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

 

• A man in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and asks, "Wanna hear an Oklahoma Sooner joke?" The guy next to him replies, "Look, fella, I'm six feet tall, 200 pounds, and I'm an OU grad. The guy next to me is 6-2, 225, and he's an OU grad. The big dude next to him is 6-5, weighs 250, and he's an OU grad. You still wanna tell that joke?" The first man replies: "Not if I'm gonna have to explain it three times."

 

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


• Things you will never hear an Oklahoma fan say: I’ll take Shakespeare for 1000, Alex.

 

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

 

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

 

• What do you get when you cross Texas Tech with a groundhog? Six more weeks of bad football.

 

• How do you get an Oklahoma graduate off your front porch? You pay for the pizza.

 

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

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 02:36
Path: /nascar/keselowskis-win-biffles-lead-and-ambroses-tough-start
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The Long and Short of It


Brad Keselowski’s victory in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega did more than put him in position to make the Chase again, it reaffirmed his position as one of the sport’s top drivers.

Over the past 26 races — the length of the “regular season’’ in the Sprint Cup Series — only Tony Stewart has more victories than Keselowski. Stewart has seven; Keselowski four. No other driver has more than two in that span, which dates to Pocono in August 2011.

Keselowski’s victories during that stretch have come at Pocono, both Bristol races and Talladega. He’s finished second twice.

Keselowski has done more, too. He has finished in the top 10 in 14 of the last 26 races and placed in the top five in 11 of 26 races as well as led at least one lap in 18 of 26 races.

“He’s matured a lot,” car owner Roger Penske says of Keselowski. “He’s been a tremendous asset to the team, not just for Brad Keselowski, for Penske Racing. You can see when he comes in the shop, he’s spending a lot of time. I wouldn't trade him for anybody right now.

“He came to me before he went to work for us, he said, ‘I’d like to come to Penske Racing and help build a winning Cup team.’ He’s certainly demonstrated that from the driving ability. His chemistry with (crew chief) Paul Wolfe and that whole team has made a difference.

“This is not about the driver, the car, the sponsor — it’s about the whole team. He's the real package. What we're trying to do is give him everything we can to make him a winner.”

Keselowski made the Chase via a “wild card” entry last year with three victories. Discounted as a title threat, he climbed to third in the standings and was 18 points out of the lead with four races to go. He was in position for a top-10 finish at Martinsville until he was wrecked in the final laps and finished 17th. That dropped him to fourth in the season standings, 27 points out of the lead. Keselowski and Wolfe were more aggressive with their strategy after that and it backfired as Keselowski ultimately finished fifth.

What he and the team learned last year could make it a stronger contender this year. With two wins in 2012, he seems sure to at least take a wild card spot again.

“I refuse to label this year a failure if we don’t win a championship,” Keselowski says. “Part of what defines a man is what code you live by. One of my codes — it’s probably my strongest code — is to be better today than I was yesterday, and to be even better tomorrow than I was today.

“We’ve shown that we’re better here at this point in the year than we were last year, at this point in the year, and we were better last year at this point in the year than we were the year before. You know, that’s my code. I'm surrounded by the proper people to execute it.”

It’s worked so far.
 

Teaser:
<p> Following Brad Keselowski's win at Talladega Superspeedway, Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 18:27
Path: /nascar/brad-keselowski-wins-talladega
Body:

Every five or six visits to NASCAR’s ultimate spectacle at Talladega Superspeedway, someone figures out a new way to conquer the beast. The freight train, the lead-the-conga-line, the tri-oval slingshot — all have taken their turns as last-lap moves du jour at the 2.66-mile behemoth in Alabama. In Sunday’s Aaron’s 499, Brad Keselowski introduced a new move.

As yet unnamed, Keselowski’s Turn 3 move — “Shake ’n’ Bake” need not apply — to stave off Kyle Busch with the checkered flag in the air was, according to the race winner, one of cool calculation.

“Those are the kind of moves, similar to the move made here in ’09, that you get one chance to make, that nobody wises up on,” Keseloski said. “From there, everybody knows how to make it work. I’m sure everybody will wise up on it from here and they’ll make their moves earlier, which will change the racing again.

“It’s just evolution. You get one shot to be that guy that helps to evolve it. We had the opportunity to do that today and that’s part of what helped us win the race.”

A green-white-checker restart — caused when Keselowski spun Kurt Busch’s No. 51 Chevy — precipitated his two-lap dash to his second career Talladega win.

The ensuing lap 185 restart played witness to a nine-car pile up in Turn 1 that marked the end of the day for Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Michael Waltrip, among others.

When the field next took the green flag, Matt Kenseth — who led a race-high 73 laps — led the pack, with teammate Greg Biffle immediately in arrears. Keselowski and Kyle Busch lined up along side.

Kenseth’s stout Ford pulled away immediately, but when he and Biffle briefly separated, their draft was broken, opening the door for the Keselowski/Busch freight train.

The latter pairing roared to the lead as the white flag was displayed and jumped out to an insurmountable lead. Recent history proved that running second was the preferred position on the final lap, as the runner-up had made a last-lap pass for the win in the previous four Talladega races.

However, with Busch hooked to his rear bumper, Keselowski dove from the high groove in Turn 3 to the low side of the track exiting Turn 4. The brief separation doomed Busch, who could not get close enough to execute a pass in the tri-oval.

“I just needed to make the move, (and I ) made it in (Turn) three,” Keselowski explained. “That disconnected us. That was the key right there. Once we got that air bubble in between the two cars, it was going to take two or three laps for him to pop that.”

For his part, Busch wasn’t immediately sure how Keselowski broke the draft.

“Unfortunately, I must have screwed something up, because we got to Turn 3 and come unhooked,” Busch said. “Just gave the win away over there. Not sure exactly what happened — we definitely need to go back and figure out what it was.”

Keselowski’s win was his second of the 2012 season, putting him in position for a Wild Card entry into the Chase for the Championship if he is not in the top 10 in points at the Richmond cutoff race in September.

Kenseth held on for a third-place run and sits second to Biffle (fifth at Talladega) in the standings. Kasey Kahne was fourth, while Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Trevor Bayne, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton rounded out the top 10.


by Matt Taliaferro
Follow Matt on Twitter:
@MattTaliaferro
 

Teaser:
<p> Brad Keselowski held off Kyle Busch to win NASCAR's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 18:08
Path: /mlb/baseball-numbers-weak-al-central-position-players-pitching-and-mo-rivera
Body:

0-8
Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez suffered through an 0-fer day against Baltimore in the Red Sox’ 9-6 loss in 17 innings. The first baseman struck out in the 17th representing the tying run against the Orioles’ Chris Davis, who
began the day simply as the DH and ended it with a win. Gonzalez was the first AL cleanup hitter to go 0-8 since Andre Thornton of the Indians in 1984.



1968
The last time (before Sunday) that a position player picked up a win on the mound in the majors. Rocky Colavito of the last-place Yankees won a game in relief of Steve Barber against the first-place Tigers.

-21
At the end of the weekend, the five AL Central teams were a combined 21 games below .500 at home. They were two games over .500 on the road. So much for playing for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

0
Home runs from pitchers in April. It marks the first season since 1994 that no pitcher has gone deep in April. So, maybe Albert Pujols shouldn’t feel so bad.

42
Mariano Rivera’s age, uniform number and record for postseason saves.

1
Save in the minor leagues by Rivera prior to notching 608 in the major leagues.

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 16:55
Path: /mlb/reds-first-baseman-joey-votto-raises-everyones-average
Body:

We often hear baseball pundits talk about the value of hitters being surrounded by other feared hitters in the lineup. It’s easy to see the impact of not having protection behind hitters in the lineup. We learned the importance of that nearly a decade ago watching Barry Bonds walk 232 times in 2004, with 120 of those intentional.

But what about the table-setters hitting in front of the big guns? A clear example is happening right before our eyes in Cincinnati.

Shortstop Zack Cozart is hitting.196 batting leadoff and .354 batting No. 2. Similarly, when center fielder Drew Stubbs bats leadoff, he’s a paltry .107. But put him second in the order and his average jumps to .373. Stubbs also struggles in the seventh spot at .182.

That is what you call the Joey Votto Effect. Votto is the Reds’ No. 3 hitter, and this helps explain why Cincinnati has committed more than $200 million to their first baseman.

- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Joey Votto's presence in the Reds' lineup boosts the batting averages of Reds' No. 2 hitters.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 16:36
All taxonomy terms: Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees, MLB
Path: /mlb/mariano-rivera-vows-come-back
Body:

Mariano Rivera vows that he will come back next season, telling reporters last week, “I am coming back,” and to “write it down in big letters.” So…MARIANO RIVERA IS COMING BACK NEXT SEASON.

There. Mo obviously does not want his career to end this way.

But how else could we expect Rivera’s career to end? We don’t expect him to lose the effectiveness of his cutter. It doesn’t appear that he will ever wear out by pitching. So how else could baseball keep Rivera from answering the call to the bullpen?

A knee injury while shagging flies during BP. Yeah, that’s the only way to stop the Sandman — the best relief pitcher in the history of the game. Rivera may never be too old to pitch. He may never be too old to break bats with his devastating cutter. But maybe he is too old to shag flies during BP.

But Rivera resolves to come back and has no regrets.

“If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen doing something I love to do,” explains Rivera. “And shagging I love to do. I’d do the same thing, without hesitation. The reasons why it happen, you have to take it as it is. You know, just have to fight.”

His illustrious Hall-of-Fame career began inconspicuously enough. There was no fanfare like we’ve seen recently with Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg. None of that, “he’ll be the next whomever.”

Very quietly, on May 23, 1995, Rivera took the mound as the starting pitcher — that’s right — starting pitcher for the Yankees at Anaheim against the Angels’ Chuck Finley. His manager was Buck Showalter and his catcher was Mike Stanley, the Yankees’ cleanup hitter that day.

Rivera didn’t last long. He struck out Tony Philips swinging, then caught Jim Edmonds looking. After that, the Angels began to catch up to the Sandman. The future New York closer gave up a three-run jack to Edmonds, then walked Tim Salmon on four straight and Showalter was out of the dugout with the hook. Bob Macdonald was summoned from the Yankees’ bullpen but the damage was done. Joe Ausanio and Scott Bankhead followed Macdonald, but Finley was too good.

In 3.1 innings, Rivera gave up eight hits, three walks, five runs and struck out five. Of his 89 pitches, 50 were strikes. There is no record of how many bats Mo may have broken that day.

He made seven more starts, winning three of them, before making his first relief appearance on Aug. 1. And even that beginning was nondescript. He gave up three runs over two innings, blowing a save in relief of Andy Pettitte before the Yankees scored three runs of their own to make Rivera the winner.

Rivera completed his rookie season with a 5.51 ERA and 1.507 WHIP and looked like anything but a Hall of Famer.

But in 1996, the idea of starting was scrapped for good. He was John Wetteland’s setup man for the world champs in 1996, appearing in 67 games and tossing 107.2 innings. He had five saves and 26 holds and blew just three save chances. He had a more Rivera-like ERA of 2.09 and 0.994 WHIP in his second season. He finished third in Cy Young voting and 12th in the MVP race. By the fall of 1996, everyone knew the name Mariano Rivera.

Rivera’s first save came at Yankee Stadium on May 17, 1996. He induced the Angels’ Garret Anderson to ground into a double play turned by Derek Jeter in a game won by Andy Pettitte. His last — make that his most recent — came on April 30 of this season vs. Baltimore. That was save No. 608 for his career. His next save will come sometime in April of 2013 at the age of 43.
 

  Mo's Milestone Saves
No. Date Opponent Winning Pitcher
1 May 17, 1996 Angels Andy Pettitte
100 June 11, 1999 at Marlins Orlando Hernandez
200 Aug. 1, 2001 Rangers Sterling Hitchcock
300 May 28, 2004 at Devil Rays Javier Vazquez
400 July 16, 2006 White Sox Jaret Wright
500 June 28, 2009 at Mets Chien-Ming Wang
600 Sept. 13, 2011 at Mariners A.J. Burnett
608 April 30, 2012 Orioles Hiroki Kuroda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


What they’re saying about Mo...
“Rivera has shagged entire pro career. In Single-A in ’91, his mgr Brian Butterfield watched, said, ‘This guy’s our best outfielder.’”
— Tweet by Joel Sherman of the New York Post

“I saw it all go down. It’s hard even to talk about it tonight. I mean, Mo has meant so much to us on a personal level, and his significance on the field, on the mound. But the bottom line is we’re the New York Yankees, and nobody is going to feel sorry for us.”
— New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez

“You have freak injuries, and this is one of them. We had a guy carrying a box down the stairs that broke his foot. You can fall off a curb. You have to allow him to be an athlete and a baseball player and have fun out there. I’ve never seen Mo do anything recklessly, or seen Mo dive to try to rob a home run. It’s the way he exercises.”
— Yankees manager Joe Girardi

“I always argued he was the best pitcher of all-time. Not just the best reliever, but the best pitcher of all-time.”
— New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira

Teaser:
<p> When the great Mariano Rivera suffered a serious knee injury last week, it first appeared his career may be over. But Mo promises to be back.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 15:22
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-may-8
Body:

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

As we enter our second month of the 2012 season, these weekly rankings updates will switch gears a bit. Thus far, we have looked at the best players across the board for the season up until this point. Matt Kemp and Josh Hamilton are still pacing the field and have justified thier lofty draft status. Yet, starting next week, we will only be ranking the best players of the week to show owners excatly what has taken place over the last weekend. So you Bryan LaHair and Jose Altuve owners will have one more list to gloat about...

Here are your current Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters:

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Matt Kemp LAD OF 29 12 27 2 .406 1.320
2. Josh Hamilton TEX OF 21 10 28 2 .376 1.138
3. Carlos Gonzalez COL OF 22 7 26 5 .320 .998
4. David Ortiz BOS UTL 21 7 23 0 .380 1.128
5. Adam Jones BAL OF 23 8 17 5 .297 .917
6. Derek Jeter NYY SS 22 5 15 1 .397 1.034
7. Edwin Encarnacion TOR 1B/3B 17 9 25 4 .279 .931
8. Carlos Beltran STL OF 21 8 20 5 .280 .925
9. Starlin Castro CHC SS 15 1 19 11 .350 .825
10. Jay Bruce CIN OF 18 9 21 3 .298 .980
11. Ryan Braun MIL OF 18 9 19 4 .288 .974
12. Ian Kinsler TEX 2B 29 5 17 2 .287 .884
13. Rafael Furcal STL SS 22 2 15 6 .342 .905
14. Freddie Freeman ATL 1B 21 6 26 0 .291 .848
15. Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 19 5 19 6 .287 .875
16. Bryan LaHair CHC 1B/OF 14 8 17 0 .388 1.279
17. Curtis Granderson NYY OF 20 9 18 0 .284 .973
18. David Freese STL 3B 14 7 26 0 .307 .933
19. David Wright NYM 3B 18 3 16 3 .374 1.031
20. Michael Bourn ATL OF 20 0 7 11 .333 .809
21. Andre Ethier LAD OF 15 6 30 0 .278 .880
22. Jose Altuve HOU 2B 18 2 13 5 .351 .920
23. Hunter Pence PHI OF 18 6 20 3 .267 .780
24. Jason Heyward ATL OF 17 4 13 9 .269 .849
25. Mike Aviles BOS 2B/SS 20 5 19 4 .261 .750

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

DL Watch

-Ryan Zimmerman has been activated from the DL while Jayson Werth will miss roughly 12 weeks after having surgery on his broken wrist. I guess Bryce Harper isn't headed back to Triple-A ball anytime soon.

-Nolan Reimold continues to frustrate with solid numbers and missed at-bats. He landed on the DL with a bulging disc in his neck. He was hitting .313 with a .960 OPS and five homers in 67 ABs so he might be worth stashing if you have the space. 

-The Giant's Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval, was hitting .316 when he broke his left hand. He had surgery and is supposed to miss at least four weeks.

-Josh Beckett is questionable for his start on May 9th against Kansas City.

-Brett Gardner is slated to make his rehab starts in Triple-A this week and could be ready shortly thereafter for the Yankees.

-Jemile Weeks is questionable for Tuesday's start after tweaking his groin injury recently. The A's two-sacker has struggled mightily this season thus far. 

-Cliff Lee is schedule to come of the DL on Wednesday against the Mets. BE SURE TO ACTIVATE HIM TODAY IF YOU HAVE TO!

- The Cardinals are supposed to welcome back Lance Berkman this weekend. Be sure to monitor closely and adjust your line-up accordingly.

-Kevin Youkilis is on the disabled list for the forseeable future. Will Middlebrooks might be the long-term solution at the hot corner for Boston.

-Scott Downs didn't last too long in the closers' role in L.A. He underwent an MRI on his knee on Sunday but the test showed little damage. He should be held back for a week and could be ready by the weekend.

-Justin Morneau has finally landed on the DL — again — with a wrist issue. The tendinitis is on his left wrist, the same one which needed stabilization surgery last September. He may never return to his AL MVP form.

-Desmond Jennings is questionable for Wednesday's game with a knee injury.

-Rueben Tejada is DLed with a quad injury for the near future. 

Current Top 20 fantasy starting pitchers:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Jered Weaver LAA 50.2 5 47 1.60 0.79
2. Lance Lynn STL 38.2 6 37 1.40 0.85
3. Felix Hernandez SEA 52.1 3 51 1.89 0.94
4. Jake Peavy CHW 45.1 3 39 1.99 0.75
5. Gio Gonzalez WAS 36.2 3 41 1.72 0.90
6. Johnny Cueto CIN 41.1 4 26 1.31 0.99
7. Stephen Strasburg WAS 38.0 2 38 1.66 0.84
8. Jason Hammel BAL 38.2 4 38 2.09 0.98
9. Matt Cain SF 45.1 1 40 2.38 0.73
10. Cole Hamels PHI 40.1 4 44 2.45 1.02
11. Justin Verlander DET 45.1 2 42 2.38 0.86
12. Ted Lilly LAD 32.0 4 21 1.41 0.88
13. Brandon Beachy ATL 39.0 3 27 1.62 0.95
14. David Price TB 38.1 5 35 2.35 1.12
15. Kyle Lohse STL 38.1 4 24 2.11 0.94
16. C.J. Wilson LAA 41.1 4 39 2.61 1.04
17. Chris Capuano* LAD 36.2 4 36 2.21 1.12
18. Brandon Morrow TOR 41.2 3 29 2.38 0.91
19. Madison Bumgarner SF 39.0 5 22 2.31 1.08
20. Matt Garza CHC 33.2 2 36 2.67 0.89

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Doug Fister, Detroit: at Oakland (Sat.)
Ho-hum seven scoreless innings on Monday debut off DL.

2. Carlos Zambrano, Miami: at NY Mets (Sun.)
Lowered ERA to 1.98 after complete game, three-hit shutout on Monday.

3. Eric Bedard, Pittsburgh: Washington (Wed.)
Posted 11 strikeouts against Cardinals last time out.

4. Jonathon Niese, NY Mets: at Miami (Sun.)
Has 29 Ks in 33.2 IP with five quality starts in six trips to the mound this year.

5. Ricky Nolasco, Miami: at NY Mets (Sat.)
Picked up fourth win on Monday, dropping ERA to 2.72 and WHIP to 1.11

Current Top 15 fantasy relief pitchers:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Fernando Rodney TB 13.2 1 9 12 0 0.66 0.66
2. Aroldis Chapman CIN 14.2 2 0 25 3 0.00 0.61
3. Jim Johnson BAL 12.2 0 8 11 0 0.00 0.87
4. Steve Cishek* MIA 14.1 4 0 15 3 0.63 0.91
5. Alexi Ogando* TEX 15.2 1 1 16 6 0.57 0.38
6. Pedro Strop* BAL 17.0 3 2 15 2 1.59 1.00
7. Henry Rodriguez WAS 12.1 1 6 16 0 1.50 1.00
8. Robbie Ross* TEX 11.2 4 0 10 1 1.54 0.69
9. Kenley Jansen LAD 16.2 2 2 27 7 2.70 0.96
10. Chris Perez CLE 12.2 0 11 9 0 2.84 1.11
11. Duane Below* DET 13.1 2 0 9 0 0.00 0.60
12. Jonathan Papelbon PHI 12.0 0 9 13 0 3.00 1.00
13. Brett Myers HOU 8.2 0 7 6 0 1.04 0.58
14. Logan Ondrusek* CIN 13.1 2 0 11 3 0.00 0.83
15. Huston Street (DL) SD 9.2 0 4 13 0 0.93 0.52

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Closing Carousel

Heath Bell. Carlos Marmol. Jordan Walden. Javy Guerra. Huston Street. These are all highly-thought of closers who entered the season with the ninth inning in their hands. And for a variety of reasons, all of them are now sitting on the pine when the ninth frame rolls around.

Bell and Walden are likely to return to the closer role at some point in the near future. They are their teams best options and simply need to iron out the current control issues that have plagued each in the early going. For the time being, Steve Cishek will get the ninth in Miami while look for recently acquired Ernesto Frieri — and his 22 strikeouts in 13.2 innings — could be the sneaky pick-up out in Anahiem.

Marmol and Guerra may have a tougher time returning to the ninth inning. Marmol has been downright atrocious. He has blown two of his three save chances and has 15 walks in 10.2 innings. Look for Rafael Dolis and James Russell to get the call in the ninth inning. Guerra started hot but Kenley Jansen has way too much ability to keep in the eighth. Guerra and Marmol may never see the ninth inning again — at least, not in 2012.

Street, shockingly, went on the DL this weekend. Andrew Cashner, Dale Thayer and Luke Gregerson could all get chances to close while Street is out. Cashner has a closers' pedigree and strikeout stuff but has struggled with control thus far. Look for a day-to-day decision process for Bud Black.

Keep this link handy as Athlon keeps its Closer Grid up to date all season long.

-by Braden Gall

 @bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: May 8</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 13:27
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-notre-dame-no-20-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

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

To celebrate the Notre Dame Fighting Irish being named No. 20, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish continue the countdown at No. 20 with two players being tabbed as preseason All-Americans. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“There are huge expectations for Brian Kelly’s program in his third season in South Bend,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “The Fighting Irish defense should be a solid unit, and the key to Notre Dame navigating a tough schedule will be finding stability and production at quarterback.”

Two Notre Dame standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with tight end Tyler Eifert and linebacker Manti Te’o being voted to the first team. In addition, the Fighting Irish offensive line and linebackers units were ranked No. 9 in the country.

Notre Dame Team Preview

Notre Dame's Top 10 Players of 2012

Notre Dame’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Names Notre Dame No. 20 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 09:59
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-football-can-brian-kelly-lead-irish-bcs-bowl
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 20 Notre Dame. The Irish enter the year with uncertainty at quarterback, but should be solid on defense.

Can Brian Kelly Lead Notre Dame to a BCS Bowl?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Considering the BCS likely ceases to exist in two years, Kelly’s under some pressure here. The bigger question is if Kelly will be the coach who returns Notre Dame to national prominence and to a level where the Irish are playing meaningful postseason games. In that sense, Notre Dame still has a long way to go. The closest Notre Dame has come to playing at that elite level in recent years was the 31-13 win over Big Ten Legends champ Michigan State in September last season. At the same time, Notre Dame lost by multiple touchdowns to USC and Stanford and then by 4 in the bowl game to a weakened Florida State team. Turnovers were a major culprit in last year’s 8-5 season, but it’s not like Notre Dame was an otherwise dominating team – the Irish were 35th nationally in total offense and 30th in total defense. With the quarterbacks continuing to struggle in the spring combined with the sudden departure of defensive end Aaron Lynch, it’s tough to see Notre Dame improving drastically from last season. However, I’m a believer in Kelly. If he can’t bring Notre Dame back, the probably might be with Notre Dame, not the coach. Kelly has won at every stop, including two Division II national championships at Grand Valley State. He’s won at programs where most of his predecessors have not – Central Michigan and Cincinnati. There’s too much of a track record here for me to think Kelly suddenly will be a failure in South Bend. It’s going to take a few years, but Kelly deserves time to get his chance.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The initial luster has certainly worn off of the Brian Kelly hiring in South Bend, but I am still a believer that the offensive guru will be able to return Notre Dame to national prominence. It just won't happen in 2012. Kelly stepped onto campus in northern Indiana with as much fanfare as a Jimmy Clausen commitment ceremony and he had quick success by winning eight games in his first year. With high expectations swirling last fall, the Irish lost two heartbreakers to start the season that should have been wins. Clearly, the Irish were a overrated by the preseason prognosticators — e.g., us here at Athlon Sports. But Kelly's bunch then finished the season 8-2 with their only losses coming at the hands of 10-2 USC and 11-2 Stanford.

The bowl loss to Florida State was tough to watch, especially for anyone who has seen a Brian Kelly offense click on all cylinders. But the defense has clearly been upgraded since the Charlie Weis days and quarterback savior, Gunner Kiel, is, in fact, on campus. The quarterback position has weighted this program down with Kelly at the helm, but Kiel should be able to remedy the situation. Again, it just won't happen in 2012. This team will lose key pieces at the end of the season — Te'o, Eifert, Wood, Watt, Martin, etc — but has a chance to continue to improve after what could be three straight eight-win seasons. Kelly has recruited at an elite level, will have a stellar defensive line coming back and may finally have his quarterback in 2013 — if Kiel can develop. One huge if.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Considering the success Brian Kelly had at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati, I’m a little surprised Notre Dame has recorded back-to-back eight-win seasons. Going 16-10 in two years isn’t awful, but there are high expectations at Notre Dame, and many, including myself, thought Kelly would have this team in contention for a BCS bowl last season.

I still think Kelly is one of the best coaches in college football, but I think this team might be a year away from contending for a BCS bowl. The Irish should be solid on defense, but losing end Aaron Lynch to a transfer will impact the pass rush. The secondary also suffered some key losses and could be an issue early in the year.

While the defense should be solid, Notre Dame’s offense remains a question mark. Who will start at quarterback in 2012? After Tommy Rees’ arrest in early May, Kelly’s decision under center may be easy – Everett Golson or Andrew Hendrix. Rees can be steady, but he’s not a difference-maker at quarterback. Finding consistency and jumpstarting the offense has to be the top priority for Kelly this fall.

Even if the Irish find a quarterback, getting to 10 wins won’t be easy. Notre Dame has road tests against Michigan State, USC and Oklahoma and home dates against Michigan, Stanford and BYU. With the personnel question marks and tough schedule, it seems 2013 may be the year Notre Dame returns to the BCS. And considering the upcoming changes to college football’s postseason, who knows what the BCS and Notre Dame’s bowl options will look like in 2014. The Irish won’t be left out, but getting into one of the BCS bowls isn’t going to get any easier. 

Mark Ross
When Brian Kelly replaced Charlie Weis as Notre Dame's head coach in December 2009, the general consensus is that it would only be a matter of time before he had the Fighting Irish back in contention for the national title with annual appearances in BCS bowls. Two seasons into Kelly's tenure Notre Dame fans are not only still waiting for that BCS bowl appearance, they would probably just like to see their team play in a bowl game in January, period.

Kelly's first two Notre Dame teams have each gone 8-5, ending the 2010 season with a victory over Miami (Fla.) in the Sun Bowl and concluding last season with a disappointing 18-14 defeat to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl. The Irish played in back-to-back BCS bowls in the 2005-06 seasons, but those appearances in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl and 2007 Sugar Bowl probably seem even further away than they actually are.

So back to the present, can Brian Kelly take Notre Dame back to the promised land that is the BCS? Yes, as long as he's given enough time to continue to build the roster and the team according to his style of play, because I certainly don't see it happening this year. For starters, Notre Dame's schedule this year is full of BCS conference contenders, not to mention a few national title contenders, along with some other potential pitfalls.

Notre Dame opens its season against Navy in, appropriately, Dublin, Ireland. Whether the luck of the Irish travels across the ocean remains to be seen, but Kelly's team is well aware of how the season-opener can set the tone for what's to come. Look no further than last season's stunning 23-20 opening loss to South Florida in South Bend. Notre Dame will be back at it the next Saturday getting Purdue at home before it faces Michigan and Michigan State, two teams expected to contend for the Big Ten title, in consecutive weeks.

The Irish finally get to catch their breath the last weekend of September to prepare for their Oct. 6 game against Miami at Soldier Field in Chicago. Although they haven't played in the regular season since 1990, these two have plenty of history between them. Notre Dame's next four opponents are Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma and Pittsburgh. They are home for all but Oklahoma, who is considered to be a national title contender this season, but all that really matters is who your matching up with on the other side of the field, and there isn't a cupcake among this quartet.

Notre Dame's final three games are much more manageable, at Boston College, home against Wake Forest, but the Irish conclude their season on the road against USC, another of their traditional rivals and a team that could open, and very will finish, the season at No. 1. For Notre Dame to get to a BCS bowl, it has to finish in the top eight of the BCS standings. Last year, that meant 10 wins. I don't see 10 wins for the Irish with this slate. I'm not sure I see any more than eight. So while I think Notre Dame's football program is in good hands with Kelly at the helm, I still think a return to elite status is at least a year or two away. For the time being, Irish fans should view a return to any January bowl game as a step in the right direction, especially should that happen this year.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I do not see the Fighting Irish making a BCS bowl this season, and Brian Kelly must find an elite quarterback before they get back to an elite level. ND’s talent level projects to an 8-4 or maybe even a 9-3 record, but a big-time signal caller must emerge to navigate the Irish through a tough schedule. Returning starter Tommy Rees’ status is in question in lieu of his recent arrest, so Andrew Hendrix or Everett Golson will battle through August to be that difference maker at quarterback. The skill positions are solid with Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, TJ Jones and All-America candidate Tyler Eifert, and the defense has some major potential — especially in the front seven.

Notre Dame must avoid the costly turnovers that prevented a 10-win season a year ago. It will be interesting to see if Kelly can find the quarterback to get his offense running the way it did at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. Road trips to Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC highlight a very difficult slate for the Irish, but I think Notre Dame has recruited well enough to reach eight or nine wins. However, a BCS-type season will not happen until the offense becomes a major force in South Bend.

Related Notre Dame Content

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2012 Team Preview
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Top 10 Players for 2012

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2012 Team Predictions

The Greatest Moments in Notre Dame Football History

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Notre Dame Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Notre Dame Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Can Brian Kelly Lead the Irish to a BCS Bowl?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 05:41
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish check in at No. 20 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Tyler Eifert, TE
Any quarterback certainly loves a good security blanket – and that’s the role Eifert will be expected to play and more in 2012. With uncertainty at the quarterback spot, and Michael Floyd finishing his eligibility in South Bend, Eifert will be targeted frequently in 2012. He posted 63 receptions for 803 yards and five touchdowns last season, which were all career highs. Eifert is coming off a solid performance in the Champs Sports Bowl, catching six passes for 90 yards, and he could expect to see 10 to 12 passes in his direction each game this year.

Trap Game: Purdue (Sept. 8)
It’s not often you see a trap game in Week 2, but the Irish need to be on upset alert against the Boilermakers. Notre Dame has a long flight to play in Dublin, Ireland in Week 1 and has a date at Michigan State on Sept. 15. Purdue hasn’t won in South Bend since 2004 and will be an underdog in this game. However, with a game in Dublin in Week 1 and a revenge matchup against Michigan State in Week 3, the Irish need to be careful not to overlook the Boilermakers. 

Upset Alert: BYU (Oct. 20)
Notre Dame will likely be favored to win at least eight of its games in 2012, but there are a few potential landmines on the schedule. BYU started 1-2 last year but finished 9-1 over its final ten games. The Cougars didn’t play a particularly difficult schedule in the second half of last season but seemed to jell as a team during that stretch. Quarterback Riley Nelson settled into the starting job, while the defense did not allow an opponent to score more than 21 points in each of the final four games. The Cougars have the offensive firepower to test Notre Dame’s secondary and won’t be pushed around on defense. This will be the first meeting between these two schools since 2005.

Breakout Player: Everett Golson, QB
It’s anybody’s guess who will start the season opener for Notre Dame at quarterback. However, it’s a good chance it won’t be Tommy Rees after his off-the-field incident, and freshman Gunner Kiel probably needs another year to develop. Golson has yet to play a down, but his dual-threat ability could be a much-needed spark for the Irish offense. The redshirt freshman needs more seasoning as a passer, but if he gets the start against Navy, he may not relinquish the job the rest of the year.

Defensive MVP: Manti Te’o, LB
From the moment he stepped on campus, Te’o has been a leader and one of Notre Dame’s top defensive players. He has started 36 games in his career and has topped at least 100 tackles in each of the last two years. Te’o also recorded 13.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks last season. He should be a first-team All-American in 2012 and is likely to be a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Te’o’s decision to return to South Bend was huge for Notre Dame’s defense, which may have to carry the team with question marks at quarterback.

Unsung Hero: Louis Nix III, NG
Anchoring the interior of a 3-4 defense isn’t a glamorous position. The nose tackles don’t garner much in the way of stats and are often used just to plug the gaps. Nix started 11 games last season and recorded 45 tackles. He also registered 4.5 tackles for a loss and broke up one pass. With Aaron Lynch transferring out of Notre Dame, Nix will be counted upon even more for leadership and opening up the lanes for the rushers in 2012.

Biggest Game: at Michigan State (Sept. 15)
If Notre Dame wants to return to a BCS bowl, it’s important to set the tone early in the year. The Spartans defeated the Irish in dramatic fashion in 2010, but Notre Dame returned the favor with a 31-13 victory in South Bend last season. The Irish have not won in East Lansing since 2006. Although it’s only the third game of the year, this matchup will go a long way to determining where Notre Dame stacks up nationally. Michigan State has some key personnel losses, but will still be a top 25 team. If the Irish can win on the road, Brian Kelly’s team just might have a shot to get to 10 wins.

Revenge Game: Michigan (Sept. 22)
Michigan-Notre Dame provided one of the most memorable finishes of the 2011 college football season, and this matchup should be close once again in 2012. The Irish led 24-7 going into the fourth quarter, but a 16-yard touchdown pass from Denard Robinson to Roy Roundtree capped a 28-point fourth quarter by Michigan to win 35-31. The Wolverines should be the better team in 2012 and have won two out of the last three matchups in South Bend. Considering Notre Dame dominated for three quarters last year, there will certainly be plenty of motivation to avenge last season’s fourth-quarter collapse.

Freshman to Watch: Gunner Kiel, QB
Kiel was committed to Indiana, but switched to LSU and appeared set to join the Tigers for the spring. However, he had a change of heart and jumped to South Bend in mid-January and will have an opportunity to compete for the starting job this year. Kiel ranked as the No. 24 overall prospect in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100, but drew mixed reviews from scouts. The freshman has some work to do in order to win the starting job, but he will be awarded every opportunity to play this year.

Freshman to Watch II: Davonte Neal, WR
With Michael Floyd no longer catching passes in South Bend, the Irish desperately need a go-to target to emerge at wide receiver. Neal (5-foot-9) lacks Floyd’s height, but could be a dangerous playmaker. Although TJ Jones, John Goodman and Robby Toma are the likely starters, there’s plenty of room for Neal to work his way into the mix in the fall.

Comeback Player: Braxston Cave, C
The Irish didn’t have many major injuries last year, but Cave missed the final four games due to foot surgery. He started all 13 games in 2010 and was named to the Rimington Trophy watchlist before the 2011 season. Cave’s return should help Notre Dame boast a solid offensive line in 2012.

Offensive Newcomer of the Year: DaVaris Daniels, WR
In addition to settling the quarterback position, the Irish have to find a new go-to receiver. TJ Jones, John Goodman and Robby Toma appear to be the early favorites for the starting receiver positions, but true freshman Davonte Neal and Daniels will figure into the mix. Daniels did not see playing time last year, but was regarded as one of the top receivers coming out of high school in 2011.

Defensive Newcomer of the Year: Ishaq Williams, LB
With Aaron Lynch’s decision to transfer to South Florida, the Irish need Williams to help boost their pass rush in 2012. He played sparingly last year, recording six tackles in 11 games. Williams enters fall behind Prince Shembo on the depth chart, but he is expected to see significant playing time each week.

Position Battle: Quarterback
If the Irish can fix the quarterback position, contending for a BCS Bowl will be within reach. However, the offense left spring practice with few answers under center. Tommy Rees has started 16 games over the last two years, but hasn’t developed into a difference maker. He also ran into legal trouble in early May, which could cloud his availability for the first few contests of 2012. Redshirt freshman Everett Golson and sophomore Andrew Hendrix bring dual-threat potential to the position, but both are inexperienced. True freshman Gunner Kiel enrolled for the spring and will have a chance to earn playing time in the fall. Rees is the safe pick, but for the Irish offense to improve in 2012, it’s likely Golson needs to take the reins.

Related Notre Dame Content

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2012 Team Preview
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Top 10 Players for 2012

Will Brian Kelly Lead Notre Dame to a BCS Bowl?
The Greatest Moments in Notre Dame Football History

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Notre Dame Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Notre Dame Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 05:39
Path: /nascar/nascar-horsepower-rankings-2
Body:

1. Greg Biffle   Found himself in roughly the same position at Talladega as he was in at Daytona ... which isn’t bad when you’re clicking off top 5s like it’s the ARCA Series.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Doesn’t seem able to finish outside of the top 10 if he tries, but this is Dale Earnhardt Jr. we’re talking about, so only a win will keep the critics at bay.

3. Matt Kenseth   Kenseth has roared to within five points of Biffle’s lead in the standings on the strength of four top 5s in the last five races.

4. Denny Hamlin   Hamlin was running in the top 5 at Talladega when he was the victim of a block-gone-bad. It’s hard to factor the resulting 23rd-place finish into these standings, so I will not.

5. Brad Keselowski   He may not have the most consistent team on the circuit, but it’s one that has proven capable of winning on any given weekend. Bristol and Talladega are proof of that.

6. Tony Stewart   Like Hamlin, it’s hard to fault Stewart for a mid-20s finish at Talladega. Unlike Hamlin, Stewart was in position to win despite running out of fuel twice and battling overheating issues throughout the day.

7. Jimmie Johnson   The roll-of-the-dice tracks at Daytona and Talladega are the only ones that can consistently keep Johnson from a top-10 finish. Take plate racing as the anomaly it is and move on.

8. Kyle Busch   Consecutive runs of first (Richmond) and second (Talladega) find Rowdy’s stock on the rise. Could this be the beginning of a scorching summer run?

Teaser:
<p> Brad Keselowski earned his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the year at Talladega, but Greg Biffle holds serve atop Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 04:55
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-notre-dame-rivals
Body:

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

• What happens when Lane Kiffin takes Viagra? He gets taller.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

• Things you will never hear a Michigan fan say: I just couldn’t find a thing at Walmart today.

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 03:29
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-may-7
Body:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for May 7, 2012.

1. Dodgers - Lost seven of last 13.

2. Rangers - Lost five of seven and headed to Baltimore.

3. Rays - Orioles suddenly a huge series this weekend.

4. Braves - Freddie Freeman getting it done with bat and glove.

5. Cardinals - +62 run differential is best in baseball.

6. Yankees - Still in shock over losing Mariano Rivera.

7. Nationals - Nattitude alive and well in DC.

8. Orioles - Took five of six in New York and Boston.

9. Blue Jays - Need to gain ground at Oakland and Minnesota this week.

10. Indians - Won four of five with only loss in extra innings to Texas.

11. Tigers - Vaunted offense managed just 12 runs over last four games.

12. Reds - Mired within two games of .500 for past two weeks.

13. Diamondbacks - Need Paul Goldschmidt to unleash his power.

14. Phillies - Starting pitching will be good enough to keep them in hunt.

15. Giants - Leading run-producer Pablo Sandoval out for at least a month.

16. Mets - Frank Francisco has won or saved last four games.

17. Marlins - Giancarlo Stanton is beginning to heat up.

18. Brewers - Ryan Braun enjoyed three-homer day at San Diego.

19. A’s - Getting outhit and outscored, but still better than .500.

20. Angels - Pujols breaks through with homer, but hitting below .200.

21. Mariners - Kyle Seager providing most of the offense.

22. Rockies - Swept by Atlanta as three different pitchers got saves.

23. Astros - Jose Altuve should be NL All-Star second baseman.

24. Red Sox - Baltimore’s DH Chris Davis shut down hitters for two frames.

25. White Sox - Adam Dunn leads team with 23 RBIs.

26. Pirates - Batting .228 and averaging 2.8 runs per game.

27. Cubs - Cards’ Lance Lynn ended both of Cubs’ two-game win streaks.

28. Royals - Haven’t lost a series in two weeks.

29. Padres - Only National League team with single-digit wins.

30. Twins - Have won back-to-back games only once this season.

 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's weekly look at baseball's best and worst teams</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 01:00
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Overtime
Path: /overtime/dallas-cowboys-cheerleaders-bikini-shoot-seems-have-gone-well
Body:

We love the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. And we really love it when they put on bikinis and go to some exotic land and take pictures for their 2013 Swimsuit Calendar. The best part is that in the past week they've shared tons of behind-the-scene shots of their escapades in Mexico on Twitter and Facebook. To save you the time of looking at the less bikini-clad shots, we rounded up our favorite shots from their fun in the sun. If this is any indication, the calendar is going to be amazing.

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Monday, May 7, 2012 - 22:46
Path: /college-football/stanford-football-how-many-pac-12-games-will-cardinal-lose-2012
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 21 Stanford. The Cardinal must replace three NFL first-round draft picks, including No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck. Despite the losses, Stanford remains a contender to push Oregon for the Pac-12 North title, but it will face a challenge from Washington and California. 

How Many Pac-12 Games Will Stanford Lose in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I predict the Cardinal will go 6-3 in Pac-12 play. Stanford did suffer some major personnel losses in quarterback Andrew Luck, top offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro, tight end Coby Fleener and safeties Delano Howell and Michael Thomas, but David Shaw — and Jim Harbaugh before him — have recruited well enough to keep the program in the top 25. A physical running game and stingy defense should carry the weight this season while Brett Nottingham or Josh Nunes develop into a Pac-12 signal caller.

The front seven on defense should be excellent, led by a stellar group of linebackers that includes All-America candidate Chase Thomas. Running back Stepfan Taylor has surpassed the 1,100-yard mark in each of the last two seasons, and he will be the focal point of the Cardinal offense this season. Stanford will be an underdog to USC and Oregon, and I think Shaw’s crew will drop one other game during the league slate. Many pundits may expect the Cardinal to fall off the national scene with the departure of Luck and other stars, but Stanford has formed an expectation of winning over the last few years. I see that Cardinal staying in the top 25 and near the top of the Pac-12 pecking order.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I will go with three — which is one more than the Cardinal have lost over the last two seasons combined. But Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck aren't walking back onto The Farm anytime soon, so a step back should be expected in 2012. There appears to be two certain losses on the schedule as the Pac-12 slate gets kicked-off in brutal fashion as the Men of Troy visits Palo Alto in Week 3 of the season. Much later in the year, November 17, the Cardinal will have to visit Eugene to face North Division favorite. It's tough to see David Shaw's bunch upsetting either of those two West Coast powers this year.

Given those two losses and the much-improved nature of the Pac-12 North, it is hard to see Stanford finishing the rest of its conference schedule unbeaten. Washington State and Arizona have dramatically upgraded their sidelines and offensive schemes. Road trips to Washington, UCLA and Cal should all feature opponents who are better this year than last. Toss in an improving Oregon State team and this conference slate is littered with major land mines that will provide plenty of shrapnel. A 6-3 record in the league this fall should be considered a major success considering who recently traded a Saturday timecard for a Sunday paycheck.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Without quarterback Andrew Luck and two of college football’s best offensive linemen (David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin), there’s no question Stanford will take a step back in 2012. The Cardinal returns a solid core, but there’s a lot of pressure on new quarterback Brett Nottingham to keep this team in the mix for a North title.

Games against San Jose State and Duke in the first two weeks of 2012 should give Nottingham a chance to get comfortable as the starting quarterback. With USC in Week 3, Stanford needs Nottingham to be up to speed and ready to open up the passing attack. The Trojans will also test a rebuilt Cardinal secondary, but the defense could get a boost if linebacker Shayne Skov (torn ACL and likely suspension from off-the-field incident) returns to action by Week 3.

Although the schedule begins favorably, an 0-2 start in Pac-12 play is very likely. After playing USC on Sept. 15, Stanford heads to Washington for a Thursday night showdown on Sept. 27. The Huskies should challenge the Cardinal for second in the North, and the winner of this game will have an early edge for positioning within the division.

After opening up with USC and Washington in Pac-12 play, the schedule lightens for Stanford. The Cardinal should be favored in their next five games (Arizona, California, Washington State, Colorado and Oregon State), before taking on Oregon at Autzen Stadium on Nov. 17. Stanford has lost its last two games against the Ducks by at least 20 points and the outcome likely won’t be much different in 2012.

Considering the personnel losses, an 8-4 season with a 6-3 record in Pac-12 play is my expectation for Stanford in 2012.

Mark Ross
Andrew Luck no longer wears cardinal and white, having swapped it for the blue and white of the Indianapolis Colts, and to me the change at quarterback will directly translate into fewer wins in 2012 for Stanford. This stance is only further strengthened by the fact that head coach David Shaw will not determine who Luck's replacement will be until the fall.

That said, this is still a Cardinal team that will be heard from, thanks to a strong running game led by Stepfan Taylor and a pretty solid defense. In Pac-12 play, however, is where the inexperience under center will come to the forefront. I just don't think Stanford will have the offensive firepower to keep up with some of their conference brethren, who in turn will be able to eventually wear down a tired Cardinal defense.

Stanford certainly didn't get any breaks when it comes to their conference schedule, either. The Cardinal open Pac-12 play by hosting USC, who will no doubt be looking to exact some payback for last season's 56-48 triple-overtime defeat. Stanford then gets a week off before its next game, a road trip to Seattle, followed by a home contest against an Arizona team that will look and play completely different since they are now coached by Rich Rodriguez. It's not out of the realm of possibility that Stanford starts its Pac-12 slate 1-2 or even 0-3, especially if Arizona's new offense is clicking by Oct. 6.

The Cardinal return to Pac-12 play two weeks later against California after hosting Notre Dame the previous Saturday. The final six conference games appear to be more manageable, outside of a Nov. 17 visit to Autzen Stadium to face Oregon, but that doesn't mean there aren't any potential pitfalls remaining either. One game that certainly bears watching is Oct. 27 against Washington State. Like Arizona, Washington State is under new leadership as Mike Leach has brought his Air Raid offense to the Cougars. Although Stanford has a clear advantage when it comes to the defensive match up in this game, Washington State's pace and attacking offensive style could cause problems if Stanford is unable to put up some points of its own.

In the end, I think Stanford is looking at a 5-4 Pac-12 record this season, as a difficult opening conference schedule and offensive disparity translate into three more losses compared to last season. But look at it this way Cardinal fans, that's still probably more wins than your beloved and departed former quarterback and his new team will be able to claim in 2012.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I predict the Cardinal will go 6-3 in Pac-12 play. Stanford did suffer some major personnel losses in quarterback Andrew Luck, top offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro, tight end Coby Fleener and safeties Delano Howell and Michael Thomas, but David Shaw — and Jim Harbaugh before him — have recruited well enough to keep the program in the top 25. A physical running game and stingy defense should carry the weight this season while Brett Nottingham or Josh Nunes develop into a Pac-12 signal caller.

The front seven on defense should be excellent, led by a stellar group of linebackers that includes All-America candidate Chase Thomas. Running back Stepfan Taylor has surpassed the 1,100-yard mark in each of the last two seasons, and he will be the focal point of the Cardinal offense this season. Stanford will be an underdog to USC and Oregon, and I think Shaw’s crew will drop one other game during the league slate. Many pundits may expect the Cardinal to fall off the national scene with the departure of Luck and other stars, but Stanford has formed an expectation of winning over the last few years. I see that Cardinal staying in the top 25 and near the top of the Pac-12 pecking order.

Related Stanford Content

Stanford Cardinal 2012 Team Preview
Stanford Cardinal Top 10 Players for 2012

Stanford Cardinal Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Stanford Cardinal 2012 Team Predictions

The Greatest Moments in Stanford Football History

Stanford Cardinal Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Stanford Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Stanford Football: How Many Pac-12 Games Will the Cardinal Lose in 2012?</p>
Post date: Monday, May 7, 2012 - 05:55
Path: /college-football/stanford-cardinal-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Stanford Cardinal check in at No. 21 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Stepfan Taylor, RB
Taylor has topped the 1,100-yard mark in each of the last two seasons, and he could threaten Darrin Nelson’s school record of 4,033 rushing yards with a solid 2012 campaign. The Texas native has 30 total touchdowns in his career, and he should become the focus of the Cardinal offense with the departure of All-America quarterback Andrew Luck.

Upset Alert: Oregon State (Nov. 10)
The Beavers struggled mightily last season, but Mike Riley’s crew should be much-improved this year. The OSU contest at home should be a win for David Shaw’s Cardinal, but he must make sure that his team is not looking ahead to the following week’s trip to Oregon. The Ducks are the North favorites, but Stanford must take care of business against Oregon State first.

Trap Game: Arizona (Oct. 6)
The Wildcats will present a challenge with Rich Rodriguez’ offense coming to the Pac-12. Stanford has a trip to Washington at the end of September, and then road games with Notre Dame and rival Cal in the middle of October. In between those contests, the Cardinal will host an interesting Arizona squad that cannot be overlooked.

Defensive MVP: Chase Thomas, LB
Thomas was a first-team All-Pac-12 defender last year, and he will be up for All-America honors in 2012. Stanford’s outside linebackers do a quality job at getting into opponents’ backfields, and Thomas led the team last season with 17.5 tackles for loss while also forcing five fumbles. He will need similar big plays this year with the Cardinal inexperience in the secondary.

Breakout Player: Ty Montgomery, WR
Stanford lost its three leading pass catchers in Griff Whalen, Coby Fleener and Chris Owusu, and Montgomery is the top candidate to fill that void. The native Texan had 24 receptions for 350 yards and two touchdowns last season, and he should put up big numbers in 2012 if the Cardinal can find stability at the quarterback position.

Unsung Hero: Terrence Stephens, NG
The linebackers get much of the credit – and deservedly so – for Stanford’s productive defense, but someone has to tie up the blockers so the LBs can make plays. Stephens is that type of hard-working player. He does not show up much on the stat sheet but plays an important role in the Cardinal top rushing defense.

Biggest Game: at Washington (Sept. 27)
USC and Oregon may be the Pac-12 favorites, but the road trip to Seattle may hold the key to the season for the Cardinal. A loss to the favored Trojans would not derail Stanford’s shot at the North division, but losing to an improving Huskies club would be tough. A victory against UW could provide the confidence that the Cardinal need to have another special season.

Revenge Game: Oregon (Nov. 17)
With all of the success that Stanford has enjoyed over the last couple of seasons, there is not much in the revenge department. However, the Ducks have won two straight over the Cardinal by a combined score of 105-61. Oregon will be breaking in a new quarterback as well, and a win in Eugene would be very sweet for David Shaw’s club.

Freshmen to Watch: Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy, OT
Stanford will find it difficult to replace left tackle Jonathan Martin, but one of this pair of highly-touted recruits could claim the job in August. Both tackles were ranked in the top 25 overall players in the AC100, and they could make the unusual jump to playing time as true freshmen.

Comeback player: Shayne Skov, LB
The 2010 leading tackler suffered a severe knee injury in last season’s third game at Arizona. His healthy return will add even more playmaking to a loaded linebackers unit. Skov had 84 tackles and 7.5 sacks during that ’10 campaign, but it’s difficult to know how much burst he will have when he returns to the filed in the fall. After a brief suspension, Skov should provide a lift to the Stanford defense.

Position Battle: Quarterback
This one is obvious, as Stanford has the monumental task of trying to replace All-America signal caller Andrew Luck. Brett Nottingham and Josh Nunes are the top two candidates, and coach David Shaw said the competition was still even after spring ball. Nottingham has the stronger arm, while Nunes seems to excel at managing the game. The winner of the QB derby will be a major factor in deciding if Stanford will remain a top team in the Pac-12.

Related Stanford Content

Stanford Cardinal 2012 Team Preview
Stanford Cardinal Top 10 Players for 2012

Stanford Cardinal Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

How Many Pac-12 Games Will Stanford Lose in 2012?

The Greatest Moments in Stanford Football History

Stanford Cardinal Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Stanford Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Stanford Cardinal 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Monday, May 7, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /nfl/nfl-draft-do-recruiting-rankings-matter
Body:

Football recruiting is an inexact science.

It is nearly impossible to evaluate the motivation, maturity and integrity of 17- and 18-year old kids. However, I personally believe that recruiting rankings are outstanding indicators of how a prospect will turn out.

Yet, there are still plenty of non-believers out there. The Athlon Consensus 100 rankings consistently raise a question that is always a hot-button issue within the walls of the Athlon Sports headquarters: Do recruiting rankings really matter?

In an effort to shed some light on this long-debated argument, I examined the recently completed first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. What better way to truly evaluate talent than with a list of the best players selected by NFL talent gurus and personnel wizards.

Before I dive into the 2012 first round, the full scope of college football recruiting must be understood. Trying to rank American high school football prospects is an expansive enterprise that is extremely time consuming.

Here is an excerpt from a piece I wrote about the 2008 NFL Draft explaining the depth and breadth of prep football rankings:

Using a 3,000-player pool for any given year (25 scholarships x 124 FBS teams = 3,100 prospects), here is how an average recruiting class looks:

Five-Stars: 25-30 per year
Four-Stars: 275-325 per year
Three-Stars: 700-800 per year
Two-Stars: 1,600-1,800 per year

This means that only the top one percent of high school football players receive that coveted fifth star. The top 10 percent get a fourth star. If a prospect is ranked in the Rivals 100 — or the Athlon Consensus 100 — he is ranked in what is roughly the top three percent of high school prospects.

That is rarified air.

Those are just the ones that get evaluated and receive the subsequent star ratings, however. According to MaxPreps.com, there are roughly 15,000 high school football teams in this country. That is approximately 300,000 senior football players in any given year (15,000 teams, 20 seniors per team). Those aforementioned percentages become microscopic when applied to the true player pool.

One-thousandth of one percent of high school senior football players will ever receive a five-star rating. Keep that in mind.

Now that all of that is out of the way, the following is a look at the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft — according to how there were ranked as high school seniors:

RELATED: NFL Draft 2012: Grading the First Round

Note: For the sake of consistency, star rankings will come from Rivals.com

1. Andrew Luck, QB (2008, AC100) ****
The Houston Stratford quarterback was the No. 4-rated passer in the nation by Athlon Sports and Rivals.com. He was the No. 6-rated player in the state of Texas and was No. 47 in the AC100.

2. Robert Griffin III, QB (2008) ****
The Copperas Cove (Texas) product was ranked by Rivals.com as the nation’s No. 4 dual-threat quarterback and the Lone Star State’s No. 42 player.

3. Trent Richardson, RB (2009, AC100) *****
The Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia tailback was the No. 20-rated player in the nation in the 2009 AC100, the No. 3-rated running back in the nation and the No. 2-rated player in the state of Florida.

4. Matt Kalil, OT (2008, AC100) *****
The big blocker from Anahiem (Calif.) Servite was the No. 2 offensive lineman in the nation back in 2008. He finished as the No. 18-rated player regardless of position nationally and the No. 3 player in the state.

5. Justin Blackmon, WR (2008) ***
A three-star recruit from Ardmore (Okla.) Plainview, Blackmon ranked as the No. 91 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 10 player in the state by Rivals.com.

6. Morris Claiborne, CB (2008) ***
Was ranked as the No. 21 player in the state of Louisiana and the No. 58-rated athlete in the nation by Rivals.com. Claiborne was a three-star player from Shreveport (La.) Fair Park where he played QB.

7. Mark Barron, S (2008, AC100) ****
The Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul safety was the No. 58-rated player in the AC100 and the No. 5 player in the state of Alabama. He was the nation’s No. 6 defensive back in the nation behind names likes Patrick Peterson, Brandon Harris, Rahim Moore, BJ Scott and Dee Finley.

8. Ryan Tannehill, QB (2007) ***
From Big Spring High School, the Aggies quarterback was the No. 23-rated dual-threat quarterback prospect in the nation and the No. 88-ranked prospect in the state of Texas.

9. Luke Kuechly, LB (2009) ***
This Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier tackler was the No. 44 outside linebacker in the nation and the No. 37 player in Ohio.

10. Stephon Gilmore, CB (2009, AC100) ****
The No. 88 overall prospect in the nation, Gilmore signed with South Carolina from Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe. He was ranked as the fourth-best player in the state and was the No. 16-rated defensive back in the nation.

11. Dontari Poe, DT (2008) **
The lowest-rated prospect in the first round was an unknown coming out of Memphis (Tenn.) Wooddale. He was the No. 19-rated player in the state of Tennessee by Rivals.com.

12. Fletcher Cox, DT (2009) ****
The Yazoo City (Miss.) grad missed the AC100 (No. 179) but landed in the Rivals’ version of the Top 100 at No. 94. The recruiting site ranked him as the No. 2 player in the state and the No. 5 weakside defensive end in the nation.

13. Michael Floyd, WR (2008, AC100) *****
This one was pretty unanimous. Floyd was easily the top player in the state, hailing from famed St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall. He was the No. 2 wide receiver in the nation and finished as the No. 13-rated prospect in the entire country regardless of position.

14. Michael Brockers, DT (2009) ****
From Houston (Texas) Chavez, Brockers was ranked as the No. 10-rated strongside defensive end in the nation, the No. 23-rated player in the state of Texas and finished at No. 201 overall.

15. Bruce Irvin, DE (2010, JUCO) ****
Irvin went the junior college route after dropping out of high school before his junior year. He turned into a four-star JUCO talent after excelling at Mt. San Antonio C.C. in Walnut, Calif. He was the No. 6 overall JUCO prospect in the 2010 class.

16. Quinton Coples, DL (2008) ****
After playing at Hargrave Military Academy, Coples finished as the No. 6-rated strongside defensive end in the nation and the No. 4 player in the state of Virginia. He just missed the Rivals100 (No. 105).

17. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB (2009, AC100) *****
The Gadsden City (Ala.) star was the No. 1 cornerback in the nation. He was the No. 1 player in the state of Alabama. And he was the No. 10 player in the AC100.

18. Melvin Ingram, DE (2007) ****
Out of Hamlet (N.C.) Richmond County, Ingram was the No. 10-rated player in the Tar Heel State. He was the nation’s No. 21 outside linebacker, listed at 6’2” and only 224 pounds.

19. Shea McClellin, OLB (2007) **
This Maring (Idaho) product was the No. 7-rated player in the state of Idaho and had no national ranking of any kind.

20. Kendall Wright, WR (2008) ***
The Pittsburg (Texas) native was ranked as the No. 64 “athlete” in the nation and was the No. 81 overall player in the state of Texas by Rivals.

21. Chandler Jones, DE (2008) **
The third two-star prospect taken in the first round, Jones was a unranked tight end recruit from Endicott (N.Y.) Union.

22. Brandon Weeden, QB (2002) N/A
We knew Weeden was old but I bet you didn’t know he is older than Rivals.com recruiting rankings? He played baseball from 2002-07 and pre-dates the star system.

23. Riley Reiff, OL (2008) ***
The Parkston (S.D.) product was a three-star strongside defensive end prospect by Rivals.com.

24. David DeCastro, OG (2008) ***
This mauler was the No. 6-rated player in the state of Washington (Bellvue High School). He was rated as the No. 11 center in the nation by Rivals and picked Stanford over Washington, Oregon State and Washington State.

25. Dont’a Hightower, LB (2008) ****
From Lewisburg (Tenn.) Marshall County was ranked as the No. 3 player in the Volunteeer State and the No. 15 player at his position nationally.

26. Whitney Mercilus, DE (2008) ***
Relatively unknown, the nation’s leading sack master (14.5) hails from Akron (Ohio) Garfield High School. He was ranked as the No. 39 prospect in the state of Ohio and the No. 28 weakside defensive end in the nation by Rivals.

27. Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin (2008) ***
Scout rated this Milwaukee (Wis.) Lutheran blocker as the No. 22 offensive guard in the nation. He was the No. 3-rated player in the state of Wisconsin.

28. Nick Perry, DE (2008, AC100) ****
The Detroit MLK pass rusher was the No. 95-rated player in the AC100. He was the No. 5 defensive and the No. 4 player in the state of Michigan.

29. Harrison Smith, S (2007) ****
The Notre Dame safety hails from Knoxville (Tenn.) Catholic and was the No. 25-rated “athlete” in the nation and the No. 7-rated player in the state of Tennessee.

30. A.J. Jenkins, WR (2008) ***
The Jacksonville (Fla.) Terry Parker product was the No. 53-rated wide receiver in the nation by Rivals.com.

31. Doug Martin, RB (2007) **
The fourth two-star prospect in this draft came to Boise State as an unranked tailback from Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary’s.

32. David Wilson, RB (2009) ****
The talented tailback from Danville (Va.) George Washington was the No. 4-rated running back in the nation, the No. 40 overall player in the nation and the No. 1 player in the state of Virginia.

RELATED: Early 2013 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings

  Top 100 5-Stars 4-Stars 3-Stars 2-Stars Pos. Top 5 State Top 10
Total Number: 10 4 13 10 4 9 18
% of 1st Rd: 31.3% 12.5% 40.6% 31.3% 12.5% 28.1% 56.3%

 

CONCLUSION: On the surface, it appears that a five-star recruit is just as likely to get drafted in the first round as the two-stars, considering that four of each were taken this year. But that isn't using math correctly. There are only 25-30 five-star recruits in any given year while there are roughly 1,600-1,800 two-stars each cycle. Therefore, if you are rated as five-star, you have roughly a 13.3% chance to get drafted in the first round (4/30). But if you are a two-star prospect, you have a 0.2% chance of being drafted in the first round (4/1,800).

A pretty massive difference. 

If you are a four-star prospect, you have a 4.3% chance of being drafted in the first round (13/300), and as a three-star recruit, you have a 1.3% chance of going in the first round (10/800). It's safe to say, that the higher-ranked prospects have a dramatically better chance of landing in the first round.

These numbers are not an end-all be-all. There are simply a look at one round of one draft. But as the industry of college football recruiting rankings continue to grow, fans can expect these self-proclaimed talent evaluators to continue getting better at predicting the future.

So as a special service announcement to all the recruiting haters out there, PAY ATTENTION!

Recruiting is the lifeblood of the sport we all love so much.

-By Braden Gall

@bradengall

 

Other NFL Draft Related Content:

NFL Draft 2012: First-Round Review
NFL Draft: A Look at First-Round Trades

NFL Draft History: Busts, Sleepers and Solid Picks - Part 1

NFL Draft History: Busts, Sleepers and Solid Picks - Part 2

Biggest Busts in NFL Draft History

2012 NFL Draft: Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III
2012 NFL Must-See Match Ups
2012 NFL Schedule Highlights

Top 25 Undrafted Free Agents of Last 25 Years

NFL Draft 2012: Grading All 32 NFL Teams

Teaser:
<p> NFL Draft: Do Recruiting Rankings Matter?</p>
Post date: Monday, May 7, 2012 - 05:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, jokes, Stanford Cardinal
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-stanford-rivals
Body:

Here are some of our favorite jokes about the Stanford Cardinal's biggest rivals.

• What do medical marijuana and Cal football have in common? They both get smoked in bowls.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

• What happens when Lane Kiffin takes Viagra? He gets taller.

 

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

 

• What do you get when you cross Washington State with a groundhog? Six more weeks of bad football.

 

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

 

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

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team</p>
Post date: Monday, May 7, 2012 - 01:10
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/global-comparison-sports-leagues-and-their-dominant-teams
Body:

This is a cool visual that gives some historical comparisons of sports leagues around the world and each league's dominant teams. It's amazing to see how the Yankees have dominated MLB, and the Montreal Canadiens have dominated the NHL over the years. And let's not forget that the Bayern Munich appear to be unstoppable in the German Bundesliga...whatever the heck that is.  

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Source: Reddit

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, May 4, 2012 - 10:37
All taxonomy terms: TCU Horned Frogs, Big 12, News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-tcu-no-22-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

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

To celebrate the TCU Horned Frogs being named No. 22, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Gary Patterson’s TCU Horned Frogs continue the countdown at No. 22 with six players selected as All-Big 12 performers. Athlon Sports predicts TCU will finish fifth in the Big 12 Conference. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Gary Patterson has established a tradition of winning at TCU that will have the program prepared for Big 12 competition,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “The Horned Frogs are known for their defense, and rightfully so, but the offense should be very good with Casey Pachall in his second season at quarterback and a very deep collection of tailbacks.”

Six Horned Frogs earned preseason All-Big 12 honors, including defensive lineman Stansly Maponga on the first team. Wide receiver Josh Boyce and offensive lineman Blaize Foltz were named to the second team, while running back Ed Wesley, linebacker Kenny Cain and punt returner Brandon Carter garnered third-team honors.

Links to TCU 2012 Team Preview Content

TCU Team Preview

TCU's Top 10 Players of 2012

TCU’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Teaser:
<p> <strong><span>Athlon Sports Names TCU No. 22 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></strong></p>
Post date: Friday, May 4, 2012 - 10:13
All taxonomy terms: Kentucky Derby, Triple Crown, Union Rags, News
Path: /news/kentucky-derby-primer-road-triple-crown
Body:

The three-year track to the fastest, most exciting two minutes in sports can have conditions ranging anywhere from fast-and-good to slow-and-sloppy. Phyllis Wyeth, the owner of Chadds Ford Stables, has seen them all en route to the 2012 Triple Crown season — when the Kentucky Derby (May 5), Preakness Stakes (May 19) and Belmont Stakes (June 9) are run in a frenetic five-week stretch. After taking a circuitous detour through the mud, Wyeth has come out clean on the other side and has hit full stride with the nation’s top three-year-old thoroughbred racehorse, bay colt Union Rags.

Born and bred near Philadelphia at Chadds Ford Stables, Union Rags — sired by Dixie Union out of Tempo — was sold by Wyeth for $145,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale in 2010. But the sale didn’t sit well with the wife of famed painter Jamie Wyeth. She could not cope with a serious case of seller’s remorse. So six months later, Wyeth bought back her colt for $390,000 — or $245,000 more than she had sold him for.

Despite taking one step back financially, Wyeth and her team led by trainer Michael Matz are aiming to take 10 furlongs (1 1⁄4 miles) forward historically in the “Run for the Roses” at Churchill Downs. After racing in Louisville, the schedule shifts to Pimlico Race Course (1 3⁄16 miles) in Baltimore two weeks later and then to Belmont Park (1 1⁄2 miles) in New York two weeks after that.

Since Wyeth’s risky rebuy, Union Rags has earned well over $1 million and appears poised to contend in, and possibly win, one or more of the season’s big three races.

This is not the first time Matz has trained the early favorite, having guided Barbaro to a win in the 2006 Kentucky Derby before a false start in the Preakness Stakes resulted in a broken leg and ultimately euthanization. Matz, however, has never been one to let tragedy slow him down. In 1989, he and future wife D.D. Alexander were passengers on United Flight 232, which crash-landed in Sioux City, Iowa, killing 111 on board. Matz not only survived the sudden impact but also heroically saved four children — three siblings and an 11-month-old baby girl — from the subsequent wreckage.

Matz’s perseverance is matched by Wyeth. A former model, Wyeth was working in President John F. Kennedy’s administration when she suffered a permanently crippling car accident in 1962. She has since gone on to a decorated career of public service, philanthropy and, of course, horse breeding. After listening to her own instincts, Wyeth is coming down the stretch with Union Rags.

There have been only 11 Triple Crown winners in history — Affirmed (1978), Seattle Slew (1977), Secretariat (1973), Citation (1948), Assault (1946), Count Fleet (1943), Whirlaway (1941), War Admiral (1937), Omaha (1935), Gallant Fox (1930) and Sir Barton (1919). But that doesn’t stop every owner, trainer and jockey from chasing the carrot of Triple Crown immortality.
 

Teaser:
<p> Kentucky Derby 138:The Road to the Triple Crown</p>
Post date: Friday, May 4, 2012 - 08:14
Path: /news/bob-bafferts-journey-kentucky-derby-138
Body:

Bob Baffert is the most recognizable man in horse racing. With his signature silver hair, sunglasses and smile, the 59-year-old is the face of the sport of kings.

The Hall of Fame trainer has won the Kentucky Derby three times (1997, 1998, 2002), the Preakness Stakes five times (1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2010) and the Belmont Stakes once (2001) to lock up the career Triple Crown.

A large part of Baffert’s legend stems from his near misses in the sport’s ongoing quest for the first Triple Crown-winning horse since 1978. Baffert has won two of the three legs of the Triple Crown on four separate occasions — winning both the Derby and Preakness in consecutive years with Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet (1998), taking the Preakness and Belmont with Point Given in 2001, and earning the Derby and Preakness with War Emblem in 2002.

Recently, shockwaves were sent through the racing community when news broke that Baffert had suffered a heart attack on March 26 while in Dubai preparing for the $10 million Dubai World Cup. Baffert had a total of three stents placed in two arteries but was said to be in good spirits following the surgery.

The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, visited Baffert in the hospital. One of the world’s foremost investors in racehorses, Sheikh Mohammed — who won the 2006 Preakness Stakes with Bernardini and has Triple Crown aspirations this season with Alpha — has worked closely with Baffert over the years and guaranteed the finest care for his friend and business associate.

“When you have Sheik Mo come visit you … this is when you know you are being well taken care of,” joked the affable Baffert, in a 13-second cell phone video taken from his hospital bed.

This season, Baffert has a handful of horses primed to contend in the Triple Crown, with Bodemeister and Liaison making the field of 20 in the Kentucky Derby. Health permitting, Baffert will bring his usual swagger to the paddock and track. Regardless, Baffert’s shadow will continue to loom large over the sport.
 

--By Nathan Rush

Teaser:
<p> Kentucky Derby 138<strong>: </strong>The Road to the Triple Crown</p>
Post date: Friday, May 4, 2012 - 08:09

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