Articles By All

All taxonomy terms: Hybrids, Golf
Path: /golf/golf-equipment-hybrids
Body:

• Adams Golf Idea Super S Hybrid
Bought by TaylorMade-adidas Golf last year, Adams Golf continues to churn out quality clubs for all skill levels. The newest line, called Super S, was designed to be easy to hit. The Cut-Thru sole slot on the hybrid is thinner, deeper and longer, designed to increase ball speeds for greater distance. Website: www.adamsgolf.com.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 17:43
All taxonomy terms: Putters, Golf
Path: /golf/golf-equipment-putters
Body:

• Bridgestone Golf
All three e-Series golf balls (e5, e6 and e7) have experienced an aerodynamic upgrade in 2013, utilizing a new 326-seamless dual dimple pattern. Dimples that are six percent larger and cover 2.5 percent more surface area on the ball reduce drag and increase lift to maximize distance. The three-piece Surlyn cover construction of the e6 — available in white, yellow and orange — reduces sidespin for more accuracy. Website: www.bridgestonegolf.com.

FASHION

• Loudmouth Golf
Founded in 2000, Loudmouth has time-warped the outrageous 1970s fashions into today’s world. John Daly helped put the brand on the map, but the company offers more than just Daly’s wild colors and patterns. For the more conservative types, there are stylish Loudmouth outfits that will look great on anyone. Then again, most golfers wearing Loudmouth want to stand out from the crowd, not blend in. Website: www.loudmouthgolf.com.

• TRUE Linkswear
Ryan Moore, always the snappy dresser, wears the sensei for its mix of comfort and fashion. TRUE Linkswear, founded just two years ago, created the first golf shoe built on a barefoot platform with the thinnest sole in the game. They’re so comfortable they feel more like slippers and look more like casual tennis shoes than traditional golf shoes. Expanded offerings in 2013 ensure this upstart a place in a market dominated by Footjoy and other major manufacturers. Website: www.truelinkswear.com.

• AHEAD
Acquired by Sweden-based New Wave Group AB in the summer of 2011, this versatile brand is best known for its logoed hats and visors. It is the leading supplier of headwear to the United States Golf Association and PGA of America, and has relationships with Annika Sorenstam, Luke Donald, Retief Goosen, Jim Furyk, Sean O’Hair and Brittany Lincicome. Men will enjoy the classic look of the polos and the splash of color contrast in its growing PGA Authentic line. Women can accessorize to the max with the Kate Lord Collection. The 2013 fall line adds new colors, like thistle and oasis blue, and new thermal pieces with rich hues.Website: www.aheadweb.com.

• Oakley RadarLock Pitch sunglasses
The RadarLock Pitch, a durable carbon-fiber sports performance frame, features two lenses. The G30 Iridium lens is called the “golf lens” for its ability to improve contrast and depth perception and reduce glare, all great for reading greens. SwitchLock technology makes changing lenses fast and hassle-free. Oakley recently signed Zach Johnson and Bubba Watson to endorsement contracts. Website: www.oakley.com.

• Nexbelt X-Factor Golf Belt
Nexbelt designs “The Belt With No Holes” thanks to PreciseFit, an innovative ratcheting system that allows for ¼” adjustments. With no holes, Nexbelt gives off a fashionable, streamlined appearance. There’s even a hidden ball marker under the buckle just a flip away. The company has introduced three new styles in 2013 to complement their colorful existing lineup of men’s and women’s belts. Website: www.nexbelt.com.

 

GROW THE GAME GEAR

• Hello Kitty Golf
Want your daughter to get bitten by the golf bug? New pink golf gear from Hello Kitty Golf just might nudge her in the right direction. Junior sets with a golf bag come in separate sizes for ages 3-5 (three clubs), ages 6-8 (five clubs) and ages 9-12 (six clubs). A full women’s set and accessories such as golf balls, divot tools, towels and head covers are also available. Website: www.sanrio.com/hello-kitty-golf.

• SNAG Golf
SNAG, which stands for Starting New at Golf, uses oversized clubs and color-coded teaching aids to inspire children and beginners to take up the game without all the confusing technical talk of the golf swing. Troon Golf, which operates courses around the world, uses SNAG in a successful learning program at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz. The new Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues, powered by SNAG, will be introduced at select local park and recreation facilities around the country this year for players ages 5-12. Individual kits of clubs and training tools, sold in different sizes by age, are perfect for any little player. Website: www.snaggolf.com.

TRAVEL GEAR

• The Last Bag by Club Glove
This durable road warrior, preferred by most PGA Tour players, can take clubs wherever they dare to travel, from Ireland to New Zealand and back. The water-resistant nylon cover comes in 17 different colors and with a limited lifetime warranty. There are two exterior pockets for golf shoes and durable zippers, handles and wheels. The bag can also connect to other ClubGlove luggage, making transportation to and from the airport easier. Website: www.clubglove.com.

 

• Stiff Arm
Even the clubs of PGA Tour players aren’t immune to the hazards of airline travel. Lee Janzen had his clubs trashed either by airline staff or the airport ground crew in 2011. Protect your clubs with the Stiff Arm by Club Glove, a fully adjustable three-piece crutch that fits in all travel bags. The nylon plastic head will take the beating while protecting even the longest club in your bag (presumably the driver). It’s a smart $30 investment. Website: www.clubglove.com.

BAD WEATHER GEAR

• Sunice Albany Jacket
This versatile rain jacket comes from the Hurricane Collection of Sunice, a Canadian company known for excellent outerwear. It is 25 percent lighter with 25 percent more stretch than other jackets in its category. Gore-Tex, a high performance fabric, will keep the water out, while the warmth stays in. Lockdown waterproof zippers keep the iPod storage chest pocket dry. Website: www.sunice.com

 

• Pro Gold Golf Umbrella
GustBuster calls this product the only “UN-Flippable, UN-Flappable, UN-Leakable” umbrella in the world. Wind-release vents in the nylon fabric can withstand winds of more than 55 miles-per-hour, and the frame, made of carbonized steel and aluminum, won’t collapse. The fabric is backed by a lifetime repair or replacement warranty. It will blow away in a storm before it will break. Website: www.Gustbuster.com.

COOL APPs

• My Pro To Go
Need a quick swing fix on the road? This new app brings the highly trained and experienced teaching pros of GolfTEC right to your fingertips. Golfers who capture a front and side view of their swing with their smartphone can send the videos to the app or the website to receive a video swing lesson and drills from a certified GolfTEC coach. A single private lesson costs $39, with savings for a series of lessons. Colorado-based GolfTEC, founded in 1995, has grown to more than 140 improvement centers around the United States, Canada and Japan. Website: www.myprotogo.com, www.golftec.com

• GolfLogix
GolfLogix, the first company to introduce handheld GPS to the golf industry, offers a free app that provides accurate distances on nearly 30,000 golf courses worldwide. It features yardage-book quality imagery and aerial flyovers. For $20 a year, players can track every shot to learn club distances and shot trends. Website: www.Golflogix.com.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 16:42
All taxonomy terms: Golf Gear, Golf
Path: /golf/golf-equipment-gear
Body:

• Bridgestone Golf
All three e-Series golf balls (e5, e6 and e7) have experienced an aerodynamic upgrade in 2013, utilizing a new 326-seamless dual dimple pattern. Dimples that are six percent larger and cover 2.5 percent more surface area on the ball reduce drag and increase lift to maximize distance. The three-piece Surlyn cover construction of the e6 — available in white, yellow and orange — reduces sidespin for more accuracy. Website: www.bridgestonegolf.com.

FASHION

• Loudmouth Golf
Founded in 2000, Loudmouth has time-warped the outrageous 1970s fashions into today’s world. John Daly helped put the brand on the map, but the company offers more than just Daly’s wild colors and patterns. For the more conservative types, there are stylish Loudmouth outfits that will look great on anyone. Then again, most golfers wearing Loudmouth want to stand out from the crowd, not blend in. Website: www.loudmouthgolf.com.

• TRUE Linkswear
Ryan Moore, always the snappy dresser, wears the sensei for its mix of comfort and fashion. TRUE Linkswear, founded just two years ago, created the first golf shoe built on a barefoot platform with the thinnest sole in the game. They’re so comfortable they feel more like slippers and look more like casual tennis shoes than traditional golf shoes. Expanded offerings in 2013 ensure this upstart a place in a market dominated by Footjoy and other major manufacturers. Website: www.truelinkswear.com.

• AHEAD
Acquired by Sweden-based New Wave Group AB in the summer of 2011, this versatile brand is best known for its logoed hats and visors. It is the leading supplier of headwear to the United States Golf Association and PGA of America, and has relationships with Annika Sorenstam, Luke Donald, Retief Goosen, Jim Furyk, Sean O’Hair and Brittany Lincicome. Men will enjoy the classic look of the polos and the splash of color contrast in its growing PGA Authentic line. Women can accessorize to the max with the Kate Lord Collection. The 2013 fall line adds new colors, like thistle and oasis blue, and new thermal pieces with rich hues.Website: www.aheadweb.com.

• Oakley RadarLock Pitch sunglasses
The RadarLock Pitch, a durable carbon-fiber sports performance frame, features two lenses. The G30 Iridium lens is called the “golf lens” for its ability to improve contrast and depth perception and reduce glare, all great for reading greens. SwitchLock technology makes changing lenses fast and hassle-free. Oakley recently signed Zach Johnson and Bubba Watson to endorsement contracts. Website: www.oakley.com.

• Nexbelt X-Factor Golf Belt
Nexbelt designs “The Belt With No Holes” thanks to PreciseFit, an innovative ratcheting system that allows for ¼” adjustments. With no holes, Nexbelt gives off a fashionable, streamlined appearance. There’s even a hidden ball marker under the buckle just a flip away. The company has introduced three new styles in 2013 to complement their colorful existing lineup of men’s and women’s belts. Website: www.nexbelt.com.

 

GROW THE GAME GEAR

• Hello Kitty Golf
Want your daughter to get bitten by the golf bug? New pink golf gear from Hello Kitty Golf just might nudge her in the right direction. Junior sets with a golf bag come in separate sizes for ages 3-5 (three clubs), ages 6-8 (five clubs) and ages 9-12 (six clubs). A full women’s set and accessories such as golf balls, divot tools, towels and head covers are also available. Website: www.sanrio.com/hello-kitty-golf.

• SNAG Golf
SNAG, which stands for Starting New at Golf, uses oversized clubs and color-coded teaching aids to inspire children and beginners to take up the game without all the confusing technical talk of the golf swing. Troon Golf, which operates courses around the world, uses SNAG in a successful learning program at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz. The new Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues, powered by SNAG, will be introduced at select local park and recreation facilities around the country this year for players ages 5-12. Individual kits of clubs and training tools, sold in different sizes by age, are perfect for any little player. Website: www.snaggolf.com.

TRAVEL GEAR

• The Last Bag by Club Glove
This durable road warrior, preferred by most PGA Tour players, can take clubs wherever they dare to travel, from Ireland to New Zealand and back. The water-resistant nylon cover comes in 17 different colors and with a limited lifetime warranty. There are two exterior pockets for golf shoes and durable zippers, handles and wheels. The bag can also connect to other ClubGlove luggage, making transportation to and from the airport easier. Website: www.clubglove.com.

 

• Stiff Arm
Even the clubs of PGA Tour players aren’t immune to the hazards of airline travel. Lee Janzen had his clubs trashed either by airline staff or the airport ground crew in 2011. Protect your clubs with the Stiff Arm by Club Glove, a fully adjustable three-piece crutch that fits in all travel bags. The nylon plastic head will take the beating while protecting even the longest club in your bag (presumably the driver). It’s a smart $30 investment. Website: www.clubglove.com.

BAD WEATHER GEAR

• Sunice Albany Jacket
This versatile rain jacket comes from the Hurricane Collection of Sunice, a Canadian company known for excellent outerwear. It is 25 percent lighter with 25 percent more stretch than other jackets in its category. Gore-Tex, a high performance fabric, will keep the water out, while the warmth stays in. Lockdown waterproof zippers keep the iPod storage chest pocket dry. Website: www.sunice.com

 

• Pro Gold Golf Umbrella
GustBuster calls this product the only “UN-Flippable, UN-Flappable, UN-Leakable” umbrella in the world. Wind-release vents in the nylon fabric can withstand winds of more than 55 miles-per-hour, and the frame, made of carbonized steel and aluminum, won’t collapse. The fabric is backed by a lifetime repair or replacement warranty. It will blow away in a storm before it will break. Website: www.Gustbuster.com.

COOL APPs

• My Pro To Go
Need a quick swing fix on the road? This new app brings the highly trained and experienced teaching pros of GolfTEC right to your fingertips. Golfers who capture a front and side view of their swing with their smartphone can send the videos to the app or the website to receive a video swing lesson and drills from a certified GolfTEC coach. A single private lesson costs $39, with savings for a series of lessons. Colorado-based GolfTEC, founded in 1995, has grown to more than 140 improvement centers around the United States, Canada and Japan. Website: www.myprotogo.com, www.golftec.com

• GolfLogix
GolfLogix, the first company to introduce handheld GPS to the golf industry, offers a free app that provides accurate distances on nearly 30,000 golf courses worldwide. It features yardage-book quality imagery and aerial flyovers. For $20 a year, players can track every shot to learn club distances and shot trends. Website: www.Golflogix.com.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 14:24
All taxonomy terms: Irons, Golf
Path: /golf/golf-equipment-irons
Body:

• Mizuno JPX-825 Irons
Mizuno calls these irons "the longest and most forgiving irons in the company’s history." That should get your attention. Mizuno’s distance-generating JPX technologies of Hot Metal and MAX COR create an ultra-thin face that delivers extra distance. In the 4- through 7-irons, the MAX COR ultra-pocket cavity design and a multi-thickness face result in solid feel, highest allowable ball speeds, and maximum forgiveness with an easy, high launch. The 8-iron through wedge utilize a Mid COR through a Deep Pocket Cavity Design that delivers greater precision and distance. Lastly, the Solid Power Design in the gap wedge provides enhanced solid feel and maximum control.
Website: www.mizunousa.com/golf

• Rocketbladez irons
The “Speed Pocket,” a small slot in the sole of the Rocketbladez iron, flexes and rebounds at impact, an action that promotes faster ball speed, a higher launch angle and more powerful ball flight. TaylorMade studies indicate that 68 percent of iron shots by amateurs are miss-hits below the center of the clubface. The Speed Pocket — used in the 3- through 7-irons — will help the distance and trajectory on those shots. Website: taylormadegolf.com.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 12:40
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/us-open-television-schedule
Body:
Thursday, June 13 9 a.m.-3 p.m. ESPN First Round
  3-5 p.m. NBC First Round
  5-7 p.m. ESPN First Round (Part II)
  8-11 p.m. ESPN Best of First Round (tape)
Friday, June 14 12-1 a.m. ESPN2 SportsCenter at the U.S. Open
  1-4 a.m. ESPN2 Best of First Round (tape)
  9 a.m.-3 p.m. ESPN Second Round
  3-5 p.m. NBC Second Round
  5-7 p.m. ESPN Second Round (Part II)
  8-11 p.m. ESPN Best of Second Round (tape)
Saturday, June 15 12-1 a.m. ESPN2 SportsCenter at the U.S. Open
  2-5 a.m. ESPN2 Best of Second Round (tape)
  11 a.m.-Noon ESPN SportsCenter at the U.S. Open
  Noon-7:30 p.m. NBC Third Round
Sunday, June 16 12-1 a.m. ESPN2 SportsCenter at the U.S. Open
  2-5 a.m. ESPN2 Best of Third Round (tape)
  11 a.m.-Noon ESPN SportsCenter at the U.S. Open
  Noon-7:30 p.m. NBC Fourth Round
Monday, June 17 12-1 a.m. ESPN2 SportsCenter at the U.S. Open
  1-4 a.m. ESPN2 Best of Fourth Round (tape)
  Noon-2 p.m. ESPN Playoff Round (if necessary)
  2 p.m.-Conclusion NBC

Playoff Round (if necessary)

All Times Eastern

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 11:39
All taxonomy terms: MLB, MLB
Path: /mlb/10-baseball-players-who-would-make-great-managers
Body:

When it comes to managing a baseball team, who knows the game better than someone who played it? That’s why it should come as no surprise that of the league’s 30 current managers, 25 of them are former MLB players.

With an established history and track record of making the transition from the field to the dugout already in place, the question becomes which current players would make the best manager?

This was just one of the many questions Athlon Sports posed to today’s players, with the goal of gauging their opinions, tastes and preferences on a variety of topics related to both on and off-field issues. More than a fifth of all MLB players responded for this survey, which appears in full in the upcoming June issue of Athlon Sports Magazine, so we feel this is a fair representation of the mindset of today’s major-leaguers.

Which current player will make the best manager?
(Numbers following name represent the percentage of the vote player received)

1. Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees (7.1%)
There should be little surprise the Yankees captain received the most votes from his peers. Even though he has yet to play in a game this season, Jeter’s Hall of Fame legacy is secure, as is his standing as one of the greatest to ever wear Yankee pinstripes.

Whether Jeter even has any managerial aspirations is for him to reveal, but it’s clear that his peers think he’s more than capable of making the transition. Playing his entire career in the media capital of the world for one of the world’s most recognizable franchises and becoming one of the greatest of all-time certainly doesn’t hurt his credentials either.

2. Jason Giambi, 1B/DH, Cleveland (6.4%)
A 19-year veteran who has played for four different teams, Giambi has left enough of an impression on his peers in regard to his chances of making it as a manager. Giambi has a reputation for being a great teammate, and he also gained some credibility and respect when he publicly apologized in May 2007 for steroid use. Giambi reportedly was considered as a possible managerial candidate in Colorado during this past offseason before the Rockies settled on Walt Weiss. First-year Cleveland manager Terry Francona also was adamant about signing Giambi, believing he would be a great mentor for the Indians' younger players. So it appears that the players aren’t the only ones who think highly of Giambi in this respect.

3. David Wright, 3B, New York Mets (5.7%)
Similar to Jeter, Wright is the face of the other baseball team in New York, as he already is the all-time Mets’ franchise leader in numerous offensive categories. Wright hasn’t enjoyed near as much team success as Jeter, but the Mets’ struggles in the win-loss column haven’t impacted the complete, all-out effort Wright puts into every game. He’s been known to play hurt or at less than 100 percent and has clearly won the respect of his teammates, as he was named the fourth captain in Mets’ franchise history this season.

4. Mark DeRosa, 2B/3B/OF, Toronto (4.3%)
A 16-year veteran who has played for eight different teams, DeRosa has seen and done it all during his career. He is a versatile player who has spent time at every position on the diamond with the exception of pitcher, catcher and center field. He has been an asset to the managers he’s played for during the latter part of his career as a do-everything, utility player who is ready when called upon and won’t grouse about at-bats while on the bench. A graduate of the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania, DeRosa certainly appears to have the ingredients players like to see in their managers.

5. David Ross, C, Boston (4.3%)
He’s played for six different teams in 12 seasons and has appeared in more than 90 games just once. A career .237 hitter, Ross has obviously earned the respect of his teammates and peers for his contributions to a team based on him finishing tied for fourth in this vote. While he may just be a backup catcher, Ross is in good company as 10 current managers, which is a third of MLB teams, spent time behind the plate during their playing careers.

6. Mark Kotsay, OF/1B, San Diego (3.5%)
The recipient of the Golden Spikes Award in 1995 as college baseball’s best player while at Cal State Fullerton, Kotsay is in his 17th major-league season. A career .278 hitter with 127 home runs who has played for seven different teams, Kotsay’s contributions to a ball club go beyond what he can do at the plate. Kotsay has made the transition from full-time starter to part-time player and done so while maintaining the respect of both his teammates and the franchises he has played for.

7. Joe Mauer, C/1B, Minnesota (3.5%)
The 2009 AL MVP, there’s no disputing Mauer’s status as one of the game’s top hitters. His worth to the Twins goes well beyond his contributions on the diamond, as evidenced by the eight-year, $184 million contract he signed in 2011. An established, well-respected player on the field and a profitable, likeable and marketable commodity off of it, Mauer is a perfect fit to eventually become the next in a line of “home-grown” Minnesota managers, similar to Tom Kelly and current Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire.

8. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis (2.8%)
Long known as one of the best defensive catchers and game-callers in the game, Molina also has developed into one of the top offensive backstops in recent seasons. His contributions and importance to the success of the Cardinals’ pitching staff during his tenure is unmistakable, so it only makes sense that his peers feel Molina would make a great manager. Besides his work with the pitchers, Molina often will direct the positioning of the other fielders. Molina’s middle brother Jose is a catcher with Tampa Bay, while his older brother Benjie is the assistant hitting coach for the Cardinals. So why not a Molina-heavy coaching staff with Yadier as manager?

9. Nick Punto, 2B/3B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (2.8%)
Punto is the epitome of a major-league utility man, having played 13 seasons for five different teams even though he’s started more than 100 games in a season just twice. He’s played all four infield positions and also spent time in the outfield. He won a World Series with the Cardinals in 2011 and represented Italy in the World Baseball Classic in both 2009 and ’13. More known for his glove than his bat, Punto is your prototypical solid, yet not spectacular, professional major-leaguer in the mold of current Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum.

10. Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox (1.6%*)
A 17-year veteran with more than 400 career home runs, Konerko is second all-time in White Sox franchise history in both homers and RBIs and has been the team's captain since 2006. Whether Konerko decides to follow in the footsteps of former teammate and current manager Robin Ventura remains to be seen, but he is well respected for his baseball mind and has had a good working relationship with the media during his career. Rather than Ventura, a better comparison for Konerko would be current Los Angeles Dodgers skipper and former All-Star first baseman Don Mattingly.

*Jerry Hairston Jr. (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) and Michael Young (3B/2B, Philadelphia) also each received 1.6 percent of the vote.

Teaser:
<p> 10 Baseball Players Who Would Make Great Managers</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: U.S. Open, Golf, News
Path: /golf/us-open-5-storylines
Body:

Here are some of the stories we'll be following when the players tee it up at the Merion Golf Club for the 2013 U.S. Open on Thursday morning:

Is Merion Tough Enough?
In the clubhouse at Merion Golf Club hangs the iconic photo that has found its way into many picture frames across the world: Ben Hogan’s famous 1-iron shot to Merion’s 18th green at the 1950 U.S. Open. The photo is famous for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it captures Hogan on his way to winning the U.S. Open less than two years after nearly being killed in an auto accident that affected the rest of his career. But also notable is the fact that Hogan is using a 1-iron. Nobody uses that club today. And it is quite unlikely that a player today, hitting from the same distance to the pin, would need that much club.

The club near Philadelphia will host the U.S. Open for the fifth time, but the first since 1981. The course was believed to be too short for the world’s best golfers 30 years ago, which leads to the same kind of questions today. And if it is not too short, then how will the United States Golf Association’s Mike Davis go about setting it up to make it a firm enough test?

Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, had the chance to play at Merion last summer and raved about the venue. He also wondered “just how high are they going to grow the grass, how difficult will the rough be?’’

It's a given that the rough will be brutal, the fairways narrow and the greens as fast and treacherous as possible given the torrential rains that have soaked the area.

In order to get the Open again — it is played on the club’s East Course, about a mile from the West Course, where the players will practice and have locker room facilities — Merion officials had to agree to some changes put forth by the USGA. Of course, lengthening several holes was part of the process. In 1981, when David Graham hit all 18 greens in regulation during the final round, Merion measured less than 6,500 yards.

The USGA feels that those changes were worth it, and that Merion is worth showcasing. “This is a national treasure in the world of golf and to expose it to the world, I feel good about that,” said Davis, who is the USGA’s executive director and also in charge of setting up its championship venues. “If I have a fear, it’s four days of wet conditions, where they are throwing darts, but I feel that way at every Open. If we get firm conditions, this course will be an awesome test.”

Whether it's playing tough or not, Merion should provide plenty of thrills, as tweeted by Rory McIlroy: "What a golf course! Plenty of birdie chances mixed with plenty of potential disaster! Going to be an exciting US Open!"

Dream Threesome
The marquee group for the first two rounds of the U.S. Open at Merion is a doozy: three-time Open champ Tiger Woods, 2011 champ Rory McIlroy and reigning Masters champion Adam Scott. The grouping provides subplots aplenty, not the least of which is the fact that Woods and former caddie Steve Williams, now on Scott’s bag, will be reunited for only the second time since their acrimonious parting. It also marks the first time — but hopefully not the last — that Woods and McIlroy will be paired at a major. The group will tee off on Thursday at 1:14 p.m. Eastern from tee No. 1 and then at 7:44 a.m. on Friday from tee No. 11. We’ll be watching.

Is Rory Ready?
Former World No. 1 Rory McIlroy has been underwhelming in 2013, to say the least. He missed the cut in his only two European Tour appearances this season, and aside from a runner-up at the Valero Texas Open, he hasn't contended in the U.S. either. His ballstriking has been better than you would think; he ranks fourth on Tour in Greens in Regulation. If he can get a few putts to drop and avoid too many trips to the knee-high rough, he'll contend.

What About the 40-Somethings?
At last year's British Open, Ernie Els, then 42, proved that 40 is not a death sentence for golfers, winning his fourth major. Can another 40-something kiss the trophy this week? Merion doesn't require the prodigious length that eliminates some older players before they start, giving hope to the aged this week. Els himself is a candidate to win his third U.S. Open after a respectable T13 at The Masters, although his British Open win is his only victory since 2010 and may have been an outlier. Jim Furyk seemed primed to win his second U.S. Open last year at age 42 before a disappointing final round left him T4. But the guy we're watching this week is Phil Mickelson. This tournament owes something to Lefty, who celebrates his 43rd birthday on Sunday. What a birthday and Father's Day it would be for Mickelson if he got over the hump at a tournament where he's finished second a record five times. His runner-up finish at the FedEx St. Jude could bode well.

Will the Drought Finally End?
It's been a full five years since Tiger Woods' one-legged U.S. Open win. Who knew at the time that it would be his swan song for the foreseeable future. Tiger seems primed to end the drought, winning four tournaments before the end of May for the first time in his career and posting his first win at the Players Championship since 2001. He ranks first on Tour in Adjusted Scoring, All Around and FedExCup points. Once again, he's the undisputed best player in the world. A poor putting performance at the Memorial could have been a red flag, but we think it's a mere blip. We expect him to be the last man standing, this time on two good legs.

Teaser:
<p> 5 Storylines to Watch at the U.S. Open</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Arizona Cardinals, NFC, NFC West, NFL
Path: /nfl/arizona-cardinals-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

The Arizona Cardinals have a new head coach (Bruce Arians) and quarterback (Carson Palmer) this season. Will these and other personnel changes get them back to the playoffs? Here's our look at the Cardinals' 2013 NFL schedule.

Arizona Cardinals 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at St. Louis
Week 2: Detroit
Week 3: at New Orleans
Week 4: at Tampa Bay
Week 5: Carolina
Week 6: at San Francisco
Week 7: Seattle (Thurs.)
Week 8: Atlanta
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Houston
Week 11: at Jacksonville
Week 12: Indianapolis
Week 13: at Philadelphia
Week 14: St. Louis
Week 15: at Tennessee
Week 16: at Seattle
Week 17: San Francisco

Order your 2013 Arizona Cardinals Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: Arizona and first-year head coach Bruce Arians open the season on the road in St. Louis against the Rams in a NFC West divisional matchup. The next two games figure to be tough tests for Todd Bowles' defense as the Cardinals host Detroit and then go to New Orleans in Weeks 2 and 3. The first month of the season concludes with a second straight road game in Tampa Bay.

Toughest Stretch: October certainly could be a scary month for the Cardinals with a road game against defending NFC champion San Francisco, a Thursday night date with Seattle and visit from Atlanta falling in a two-week span before Arizona's bye week in Week 9. It doesn't get much easier after the break either, with Houston coming out to the desert in Week 10.

Swing Games: DET (Week 2), at PHI (Week 13)
Crossover Divisions: NFC West, AFC South
Bye Week: Week 9
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .520 (T-7th)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 17th

Easiest Stretch: If Arizona wants to make any sort of noise in Arians' first season it will most likely have to happen in late November and early December. After the Cardinals host the Texans in Week 10, they get Jacksonville on the road followed by Indianapolis at home. The first Sunday in December has rookie NFL head coaches squaring off in Philadelphia with Arians matching wits with Chip Kelly, followed by a home game with the Rams and a Week 15 visit to Tennessee. A minimum of three wins out of this five-game stretch figures to be key to any hopes of improving on last season's five victories.

Circle The Calendar: Weeks 12 and 13 offer some intriguing matchups for the Cardinals' coaching staff. Arizona head coach Bruce Arians will be reunited with his former team when Indianapolis comes to town on Nov. 24. The Colts' offensive coordinator and interim head coach in Chuck Pagano's absence last season, Arians will now try to beat his former employer and players. Don't forget that in 2012 quarterback Andrew Luck broke the single-season record for passing yards by a rookie while under Arians' tutelage. The following Sunday it's the defense's turn, as coordinator Todd Bowles returns to Philadelphia, where he served in the same capacity for the Eagles last season following the dismissal of Juan Castillo.

Divisional Notes: Arizona opens and closes the regular season against NFC West opponents, starting with a road game in St. Louis and finishing with San Francisco. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the schedule has them facing Seattle and the 49ers in consecutive weeks twice. To make matters worse, the first encounter with the two projected Super Bowl contenders will take place in a span of five days as the Cardinals play at San Francisco in Week 6 and then turn around and host the Seahawks for the Thursday night game in Week 7.

Playoff Push: While the first part of December provides some winnable matchups (see Easiest Stretch above) for the Cardinals, the final two weeks of the regular season have them playing Seattle (road) and San Francisco (home) on consecutive Sundays. With the Seahawks and 49ers expected to be in contention for a top seed in the NFC playoffs, the Cardinals should expect nothing less than their NFC West foes' best shots.

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): The Cardinals’ get two NFC West division games sandwiched by a road trip to Tennessee for the fantasy playoffs. The good news is the Titans allowed the second-most fantasy points last season. The bad news is the Rams and Seahawks weren’t anywhere near as generous. That was especially the case with Seattle, who gave up the fewest fantasy points to QBs and second-fewest to WRs in 2012.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo (6/13) Baltimore Houston (6/19) Denver (6/18)
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati (6/14) Indianapolis (6/20) Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26) Cleveland (6/17) Jacksonville (6/21) Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
       
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas (6/18) Chicago (6/17) Atlanta (6/13) Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit (6/19) Carolina (6/14) St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay (6/20) New Orleans (6/24) San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota (6/21) Tampa Bay (7/2) Seattle (7/1)

Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
<p> Arizona Cardinals 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC, AFC North, AFC Schedule, Baltimore Ravens, NFL, NFL
Path: /nfl/baltimore-ravens-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

The Baltimore Ravens will begin defense of their Super Bowl Championship in style this season with a huge showdown against an AFC rival. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Baltimore Ravens 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at Denver (Thurs.)
Week 2: Cleveland
Week 3: Houston
Week 4: at Buffalo
Week 5: at Miami
Week 6: Green Bay
Week 7: at Pittsburgh
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: at Cleveland
Week 10: Cincinnati
Week 11: at Chicago
Week 12: NY Jets
Week 13: Pittsburgh (Thurs.)
Week 14: Minnesota
Week 15: at Detroit (Mon.)
Week 16: New England
Week 17: at Cincinnati

Order your 2013 Baltimore Ravens Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate The Ravens certainly won't be easing their way into their title defense. In the first three weeks, Joe Flacco will battle with Peyton Manning on Thursday night in Denver and host the Texans, two teams that won their respective divisions last season. Mix in a divisional game at home and a road trip to Buffalo and the Ravens are staring at a rough first month of the season.

Toughest Stretch: From Week 4 to Week 7, the Ravens will play three road games and host Green Bay. Trips to Pittsburgh and Miami won't be easy sandwiched around the visit from the Packers. And this comes after the daunting first three weeks of the schedule. The good news is an off weekend awaits the Super Bowl champs in Week 8.

Swing Games:at DEN (Week 1), HOU (Week 3)
Crossover Divisions:AFC East, NFC North
Bye Week:Week 8
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.535 (5th)
Athlon's SOS Rank:15th

Easiest Stretch: If Baltimore can make it to the bye weekend around .500, it will have a chance to make some headway in the standings. Of the four games following the open date, only one — Cincinnati — features a predicted playoff team. The Browns and Jets are easy wins and getting the Bengals at home helps as well. Should the Ravens go into Chicago and beat a team with a new coach and question marks all over the defense, it has a good chance to go 4-0 in November before welcoming the Steelers to town on a Thursday night.

Circle The Calendar: Both Ravens-Steelers games will be epic as it has developed into one of the best NFL rivalries. So will huge AFC games with Houston (Week 3) and New England (Week 16). However, Thursday night in Denver against Manning and the Broncos in a primetime slot to start the entire 2013 NFL season has to be the premiere game on this schedule. Anything shy of last year's historic divisional overtime showdown will be a disappointment.

Divisional Notes: The divisional slate is fairly balanced and spread out through the season with the exception of back-to-back games with Cleveland (Week 9) and Cincinnati (Week 10). A trip to Pittsburgh will be not only the toughest AFC North game of the year but will also come immediately after hosting NFC power Green Bay. Getting up for both games will be tough for the Ravens. Finally, visiting the Bengals in the season finale could be epic, as a playoff berth and divisional crown could be on the line in Week 17.

Playoff Push: The good news is Minnesota and Detroit start the final month of the season for the Champs. The bad news is the Ravens will face New England at home and the Bengals on the road in the season's final two games. Baltimore likely needs to be at seven or eight wins entering December to make the playoffs with a nasty end to its season.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Not only will Ray Rice face the eighth-, ninth- and 10th-best defenses against fantasy RBs, the matchups with Detroit and New England could result in a more pass-oriented offensive game plan for the Ravens. That could be good news for Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith owners, as all three of the Ravens’ opponents during this stretch were 21st or worse against fantasy QBs and WRs last season.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
Buffalo (6/13)BaltimoreHouston (6/19)Denver (6/18)
Miami (6/25)Cincinnati (6/14)Indianapolis (6/20)Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26)Cleveland (6/17)Jacksonville (6/21)Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27)Pittsburgh (7/1)Tennessee (7/3)San Diego (7/2)
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
Dallas (6/18)Chicago (6/17)Atlanta (6/13)Arizona
NY Giants (6/25)Detroit (6/19)Carolina (6/14)St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26)Green Bay (6/20)New Orleans (6/24)San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3)Minnesota (6/21)Tampa Bay (7/2)Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
<p> Baltimore Ravens 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Wedges, Golf
Path: /golf/golf-equipment-wedges
Body:
• Cleveland 588 RTX wedges
More precise U-Groves that are 16 percent larger and directionally milled on a new Rotex Face create more friction at impact on these new wedges, potentially adding more spin control for players. A sole that is wider near the heel and narrower near the toe improves bunker performance. It comes in a satin Chrome or Black Pearl finish. Website: clevelandgolf.com.
Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 10:03
Path: /college-football/acc-football-2013-all-conference-team
Body:

The 2013 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at our first, second and third All-ACC teams for this season.

Related Content: ACC Predictions for 2013

Note: Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum was not projected on an all-conference team due to the uncertainty surrounding his knee injury for the 2013 season.
 

Athlon’s 2013 All-ACC Team

First-Team Offense

QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson

RB Duke Johnson, Miami

RB Jerome Smith, Syracuse

WR Stefon Diggs, Maryland

WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina

C Bryan Stork, Florida State

OG Tre’ Jackson, Florida State

OG Brandon Linder, Miami

OT James Hurst, North Carolina

OT Brandon Thomas, Clemson



First-Team Defense

DE James Gayle, Virginia Tech

DE Kareem Martin, North Carolina

DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

LB Christian Jones, Florida State

LB Quayshawn Nealy, Georgia Tech

LB Jack Tyler, Virginia Tech

CB Ross Cockrell, Duke

CB Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

S Kyshoen Jarrett, Virginia Tech

S Jason Hendricks, Pittsburgh



First-Team Specialists

K Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson

P Will Monday, Duke

KR Duke Johnson, Miami

PR Rashad Greene, Florida State


The Breakdown of Athlon's 2013 All-ACC Team

  First Second Third Overall
Boston College 0 2 2 4
Clemson 4 0 5 9
Duke 2 1 1 4
Florida State 6 3 2 11
Georgia Tech 1 6 1 8
Maryland 2 0 0 2
Miami 3 2 3 8
North Carolina 3 4 1 8
NC State 0 0 3 3
Pittsburgh 2 0 0 2
Syracuse 1 0 2 3
Virginia 0 4 0 4
Virginia Tech 3 1 3 7
Wake Forest 0 2 3 5


Second-Team Offense

QB Bryn Renner, North Carolina

RB Kevin Parks, Virginia

RB James Wilder Jr., Florida State

WR Alex Amidon, Boston College

WR Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest

TE Jake McGee, Virginia

C Russell Bodine, North Carolina

OG Shaquille Mason, Georgia Tech

OG Josue Matias, Florida State

OT Cameron Erving, Florida State

OT Morgan Moses, Virginia



Second-Team Defense

DE Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech

DE Anthony Chickillo, Miami

DT Derrick Hopkins, Virginia Tech

DT Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest

LB Jabari Hunt-Days, Georgia Tech

LB Denzel Perryman, Miami

LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College

CB Demetrious Nicholson, Virginia

CB Jemea Thomas, Georgia Tech

S Tre Boston, North Carolina

S Isaiah Johnson, Georgia Tech



Second-Team Specialists

K Ross Martin, Duke

P Tommy Hibbard, North Carolina

KR Stefon Diggs, Maryland

PR Jamal Golden, Georgia Tech


Related Content: ACC Predictions for 2013


Third-Team Offense

QB Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech

RB Roderick McDowell, Clemson

RB David Sims, Georgia Tech

WR Quinshad Davis, North Carolina

WR Rashad Greene, Florida State

TE Nick O'Leary, Florida State

C Shane McDermott, Miami

OG Laken Tomlinson, Duke

OG Ian White, Boston College

OT Rob Crisp, NC State

OT Seantrel Henderson, Miami



Third-Team Defense

DE Vic Beasley, Clemson

DE Art Norman, NC State

DT Jay Bromley, Syracuse

DT T.Y. McGill, NC State

LB Dyshawn Davis, Syracuse

LB Justin Jackson, Wake Forest

LB Spencer Shuey, Clemson

CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest

S Travis Blanks, Clemson

S Deon Bush, Miami



Third-Team Specialists

K Cody Journell, Virginia Tech

P Alex Kinal, Wake Forest

KR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

PR Spiffy Evans, Boston College



Note: Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum was not projected on an all-conference team due to the uncertainty surrounding his knee injury for the 2013 season.


2013 ACC Team Previews

Atlantic Coastal
Boston College Duke 
Clemson Georgia Tech
Florida State Miami
Maryland  North Carolina
NC State  Pittsburgh
Syracuse Virginia
Wake Forest  Virginia Tech

 

Related College Football Content

ACC Predictions for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60

College Fooball Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era

College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> ACC Football 2013 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 07:50
Path: /college-football/ranking-american-athletic-conferences-football-stadiums
Body:

Fall Saturdays are special.

Small towns, huge crowds, tailgating, bands, cheerleaders and student sections are just a few of the reasons college football is the best sport on the planet. When campuses jump to life across the nation each weekend in the fall, college stadiums become a staging ground for history.

There are a variety of ways to evaluate the greatness of a stadium. Huge attendance numbers, home-field advantage in the win-loss column, rich traditions, picturesque landscapes and amenities are just a few of the aspects that must be considered to rank so many great college football cathedrals.

With that in mind, here's how the stadiums in the American Athletic Conference stack up.

1. Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville
Opened: 1998
Capacity: 55,000
2012 Attendance: 49,991 (40th)

When it opened, the Cardinals' home stadium was a 42,000-seat, single-deck facility. After the 2010 expansion, which added an upper deck to the East Side, capacity grew to 55,000. The completion of the Howard Schnellenberger Complex and the addition of the massive video board put the final touches on the American Athletic Conference’s finest stadium. The amenities are new and there is plenty of area to enjoy an adult beverage or two. Should things continue under mastermind A.D. Tom Jurich, this venue — which already leads the league in attendance — is poised to grow even further.

2. High Point Solutions Stadium, Rutgers
Opened: 1994
Capacity: 52,454
2012 Attendance: 49,188 (42nd)

The No. 2 stadium in attendance in the league formerly known as the Big East is located in New Jersey. This on-campus facility grew from 41,500 seats to its current capacity after an extensive round of additions in 2009. The Knights use a signature two-tone green field turf for football games and the atmosphere performed well in signature moments — see Jeremy Ito’s field goal in 2006. It lacks a great name due to corporate sponsorship, but its symmetry, fan support and view of the Raritan River make it one of the AAC’s top venues.

3. Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati
Opened: 1924
Capacity: 35,097
2012 Attendance: 29,138 (77th)

Easily the league’s oldest venue, there is much to like about quaint Nippert Stadium. Built into the downtown campus streets of UC, Nippert is named after a player (Jimmy Nippert) who suffered a deadly injury during a 1923 game with Miami (Ohio). Multiple renovations and new turf — the first of its kind in the U.S. in 2000 — have not taken away from the old-school feel of the classic brick and wrought iron trim. It is one of the smallest buildings in the nation but sells tickets at one of the AAC’s best rates (83.3 percent).

4. Bright House Networks Stadium, UCF
Opened: 2007
Capacity: 45,323
2012 Attendance: 34,608 (68th)

After playing in the dilapidated Citrus Bowl for years, the Knights moved into a brand new, on-campus facility in 2007. It’s one of the newest facilities in the nation, is one of the AAC’s bigger on-campus venues and has excellent surrounding scenery. Additionally, considering UCF’s massive student body population, the building has been built to expand to seat 65,000 if an upper deck is needed. That said, the building is said to be lacking in character and nearly 10,000 seats in its current configuration were empty each Saturday in 2012.

5. Rentschler Field, UConn
Opened: 2003
Capacity: 40,000
2012 Attendance: 34,672 (67th)

Built just a decade ago and named after famous aviator Frederick Rentschler, the Huskies' football stadium is actually underrated nationally. While ranking just 67th in attendance a year ago, the building provides one of the league’s top ticket rates at 86.7-percent sold. Two narrow decks make the building feel bigger than its 40,000-seat capacity might indicate and it is located in the plush greenery of a former airfield run by Pratt & Whitney.

6. Liberty Bowl, Memphis
Opened: 1965
Capacity: 62,380
2012 Attendance: 24,371 (87th)

This building is a bizarre dichotomy of characteristics. Because it houses the Liberty Bowl each winter, the powers that be maintain its upkeep fairly well. And its strangely curved shape give it plenty of character. However, Memphis sells only 39.1-percent of its tickets each weekend, leaving nearly 40,000 empty seats to suck the pageantry out of the building. This facility has plenty of upside should the team ever compete at a high level for an extended period of time. But until then, it will never be considered one of the better locations to watch a game.

7. Gerald Ford Stadium, SMU
Opened: 2000
Capacity: 32,000
2012 Attendance: 21,292 (92nd)

Built 25 feet below street level, SMU’s single-tier horseshoe opened just 12 seasons ago in Dallas. The Mustangs have a rich and high profile football tradition in a football crazy state. And the building is a nice facility. Yet, SMU is would have been last in the conference in attendance a year ago as nearly 11,000 seats go empty each weekend. Simply put, there isn’t much to Gerald Ford Stadium.

8. Raymond James Stadium, South Florida
Opened: 1998
Capacity: 65,857
2012 Attendance: 44,130 (53rd)

The facility is fairly new, good enough for an NFL team and the Bulls are third in the league in attendance. However, this means the building is not on campus and that roughly 20,000 seats go empty each Saturday. The building is adorned with Buccaneers logos and a tacky pirate ship caps the North end zone. At least, those in charge repaint the end zones with “Bulls” for home games unlike other NFL-turned-NCAA stadiums in the nation.

9. Lincoln Financial Field, Temple
Opened: 2003
Capacity: 68,532
2012 Attendance: 26,580 (81st)

The building is nearly brand new and is amenity heavy because the Philadelphia Eagles call it home. But on Saturdays, this is arguably the worst atmosphere in the newly formed American Athletic Conference. Only SMU trails the Owls in attendance as more than 40,000 seats go empty each weekend at “The Link.” Adorned by Eagles logos, Temple takes a back seat in its off-campus, shared facility.

10. Reliant Stadium, Houston
Opened: 2002
Capacity: 71,054
2012 Attendance: 27,247 (80th)

By default, this building is ranked last in the AAC. Reliant is an awesome football stadium that is packed to the gills and loud as any in the nation — when the Texans are playing. Houston will rent the facility in 2013 while a replacement for Robertson Stadium is built. The new $105 million building will be at the same site as the old building and will seat 40,000. As far as 2013 goes, however, the 30,000 Cougar fans will look wildly out of place in the Texans' home, which will double as the AAC's largest venue this fall.

2013 American Athletic Conference Team Previews

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut SMU
Houston South Florida
Louisville Temple
Memphis UCF


Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60

College Fooball Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 101-125

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era

College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the American Athletic Conference's Football Stadiums</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-50-offensive-linemen-bcs-era
Body:

Greatness is defined in so many different ways. Statistical production, individual awards, team success, longevity, supporting cast, level of competition, raw talent and athletic ability all factor heavily in determining overall greatness. Sometimes, you simply know greatness when you see it.

So all factors were considered when trying to determine who the greatest offensive linemen of the BCS era have been. Here are the Top 50 tackles, guards and centers since the BCS was implemented in 1998:

Agree or disagree with our ranking of College Football's Top 50 blockers of the BCS Era? Let us know on Twitter at @AthlonSports, using the hashtag #AthlonOL50.

1. Bryant McKinnie, T, Miami
He only played two seasons for Miami after beginning at Lackawanna College (Pa.) but he was downright unstoppable during his time in a Hurricanes' uniform. He was an All-American in both seasons, won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman and led Miami to a 23-1 record and the 2001 BCS National Championship. He is the only offensive lineman during the BCS era to finish in the top 10 of Heisman Trophy balloting. The Pro Bowl left tackle was the seventh overall pick by the Vikings in the 2002 NFL Draft.

2. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
No offensive lineman during the BCS era was more decorated than the Memphis native. He started at right guard and earned freshman All-American honors for the 2009 BCS champs. He slid out to left tackle in 2011 and won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman for the 2011 BCS champs. Jones then manned the pivot and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center for the 2012 BCS champs. The two-time consensus All-American won three national titles at three different positions while graduating with a Master’s Degree and 4.0 GPA. Jones pretty much dominated college.

3. Joe Thomas, T, Wisconsin
One of the few big-time recruits from the state of Wisconsin, Thomas was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy winner for a team that went 31-7 during his three seasons as the starting left tackle. He has rare footspeed, agility and overall athletic ability — and it’s why he has been to the Pro Bowl in all six of his NFL seasons. He was taken No. 3 overall in 2007 by the Cleveland Browns.

4. Greg Eslinger, C, Minnesota
Not many centers have an Outland Trophy on their mantle at home but Eslinger has one (2005). He was a freshman All-American in 2002, a third-team All-American as a sophomore, a first-teamer in '04 and earned consensus All-American honors as a senior. He won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center and earned Big Ten Lineman of the Year honors in ’05 too. The best stat for Eslinger, however, is that Minnesota never had a losing record during his four-year career and had the school’s first 10-win campaign since 1905.

5. Chris Samuels, T, Alabama
The massive 'Bama blocker earned every award possible for an offensive tackle. Samuels claimed the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy and earned the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman in 1999. He helped Alabama to its first SEC championship since 1992 and was a consensus All-American. He was picked third overall by the Redskins in the 2000 NFL Draft.

6. Jammal Brown, T, Oklahoma
Starting his career as a defensive tackle, Brown exploded onto the national scene as a blocker as a sophomore. He helped lead the Sooners to the BCS National Championship game twice and was recognized as the nation’s top offensive lineman in 2004 when he was awarded the Outland Trophy. The consensus All-American paved the way for Adrian Peterson’s NCAA record-setting freshman season. Brown was the 13th overall pick by the Saints in the 2005 NFL Draft.

7. Jake Long, T, Michigan
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft (Miami) was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy finalist. He was a Freshman All-American in his first year playing in college and was the Big Ten Lineman of the Year award twice as a junior and senior. He’s been to four Pro Bowls in his five-year NFL career.

8. Dominic Raiola, C, Nebraska
At a school known for its big uglies, Raiola is the Huskers’ best of the BCS era. He was the first freshman O-lineman to start since 1991 when he took the field in 1998. The following two seasons he set school records for knockdowns. As a junior, Raiola was the Rimington Trophy winner as the nation’s top center, was an Outland Finalist and earned consensus All-American honors before leaving school early for the NFL.

9. Luke Joeckel, T, Texas A&M 
The supremely talented Joeckel helped lead the Aggies from the Big 12 to the SEC seamlessly due in large part to his blocking. He won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best lineman and earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the SEC’s top blocker. The consensus All-American was the No. 2 overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2013 NFL Draft.

10. Andre Smith, T, Alabama
Smith was a dominant, five-star prospect from Birmingham before dominating the SEC for three seasons at Alabama. As a junior, Smith won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman and was a consensus All-American. He left school early or else would have been a part of the 2009 BCS championship team. Still, Smith gets credit for helping to rebuild Alabama and was selected with the sixth overall pick by the Bengals in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Related: The Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

11. Shawn Andrews, T, Arkansas
A two-time consensus All-American, Andrews was an Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award finalist in 2003. He earned back-to-back Jacobs Blocking Awards as the SEC’s top lineman in 2002-03. Andrews was the No. 16 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Eagles and has been to three Pro Bowls.

12. Steve Hutchinson, G, Michigan
Starting for four seasons for the Wolverines, Hutchinson helped the Wolverines win the 1997 national championship. He capped his career with consensus All-American honors, was an Outland Trophy finalist and didn’t allow a sack in his final two seasons at Michigan. He was a first-round pick by the Seahawks in 2001 and earned seven Pro Bowl invites during his 12-year NFL career.

13. Alex Barron, T, Florida State
The 6-foot-8, 315-pounder was arguably Florida State’s top lineman of the BCS era. He was a two-time consensus All-American (2003-04) and an Outland Trophy finalist in 2004. He was the 19th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Rams.

14. Jonathan Luigs, C, Arkansas
The Razorbacks’ pivot for Darren McFadden, Peyton Hillis and Felix Jones was a three-time first-team All-SEC performer. Luigs was a two-time Rimington finalist, winning the award given to the nation’s top center in 2007. He was a consensus All-American in 2007 and was a fourth-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He ended his collegiate career with 49 consecutive starts.

15. Brett Romberg, C, Miami
With Romberg at center, the Hurricanes went 35-2, won three Big East championships, played in two national championship games and won the 2001 BCS national title. He won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center and was a consensus All-American in 2002.

16. Duke Robinson, G, Oklahoma
The guard from Atlanta was one of Bob Stoops' greatest players. He was two-time consensus All-American in 2007 and '08 and helped lead Oklahoma to the BCS Championship game against Florida. He was an Outland Trophy finalist in 2008.

17. Dan Mozes, C, West Virginia
The captain of one of the best WVU teams in history, Mozes earned first-team All-Big East honors three different times. The Mountaineers went 22-3 over his final two seasons and he was awarded with consensus All-American honors and the 2006 Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center.

18. Sam Baker, T, USC
The stud left tackle charged with protecting Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush was a three-time, first-team All-American and three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection. He played in two BCS national title games and was a first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft.

19. Justin Blalock, T, Texas
The star blocker for the Horns helped return Texas to the promised land by paving the way for Vince Young on the 2005 BCS title team. He was a four-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and earned Big 12 Lineman of the Year honors in 2006. He was a consensus All-American that year and was a second-round pick of the Falcons in 2007.

20. Michael Oher, T, Ole Miss
One of the most high profile lineman during the BCS era, Oher was a consensus All-American, a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection and the SEC’s top offensive lineman in 2008 (Jacobs Trophy). The Outland finalist was a freshman All-American in 2005 and a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Related: The Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

21. Chris McIntosh, T, Wisconsin
An Outland Trophy finalist and consensus All-American, McIntosh helped pave the way for the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher and led Wisconsin to back-to-back Rose Bowl championships. He was also a first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2000 NFL Draft.

22. Ben Wilkerson, C, LSU
Starting for Nick Saban up front, Wilkerson helped lead LSU to two SEC championships and its first national title (2003) in over 50 years. He was a consensus All-American in 2004 and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center. He was a two-time Rimington finalist.

23. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, T, Virginia
Ferguson started 49 games in his Virginia career, helping the Cavaliers to four straight bowl games. He was a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection and earned All-American honors in 2005. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the New York Jets and has gone to three Pro Bowls.

24. David Baas, C, Michigan
The interior blocker was a three-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection and capped his career with a Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center. He also earned consensus All-American honors and was named the Big Ten’s top lineman. He was a second-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 NFL Draft.

25. Gabe Carimi, T, Wisconsin
Carimi perpetuated the run of elite Badgers blockers by winning the Outland Trophy in 2010. He was the Big Ten Lineman of the Year and earned consensus All-American honors. He was a first-round pick by the Bears in 2011.

26. Trent Williams, T, Oklahoma
The big fella was forced into action as true freshman and earned freshman All-American honors in 2006. He paved the way for arguably the most productive backfield in Sooners history (Sam Bradford, Demarco Murray) and helped lead the Sooners to the 2008 BCS national championship game. He was a consensus All-American in 2009 and was the fourth overall pick by the Redskins in the 2010 NFL Draft.

27. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
There are no holes in Pouncey’s resume. He won the SEC and BCS National Championship in 2008. He was a consensus All-American and Rimington Trophy winner in 2009. And was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 2010.

28. Kris Farris, T, UCLA
The 1998 Outland Trophy winner was a consensus All-American for the Bruins in 1998. He helped lead UCLA to back-to-back 10-2 seasons and a Rose Bowl berth in his final season. Farris was a third-round pick by the Bills in 1999.

29. Robert Gallery, T, Iowa
The massive blocker helped Iowa win a share of the Big Ten title as a junior in 2002. He won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top blocker the next year as the Hawkeyes went 21-5 over his final two years. The consensus All-American was the No. 2 pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

30. Mike Iupati, G, Idaho
Academic issues caused some speed bumps for Iupati, but eventually he developed into a first-round NFL Draft pick. He was a consensus All-American and helped the Vandals to an eight-win season in 2009 — the school’s second-best win total ever. He is an NFL Pro Bowler already for the 49ers.

Related: The Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era

31. Russell Okung, T, Oklahoma State
The star left tackle for the Pokes was a two-time All-American, an Outland Trophy finalist, the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year (2009) and claimed the Jim Parker Trophy. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and has already been to one Pro Bowl.

32. Ryan Kalil, C, USC
The Rimington Finalist was one of the stars of the USC offensive line during its national championship run in the early 2000s. He played a big roll on both the 2004 and '05 BCS title game teams and was voted the Morris Trophy winner in 2006. He also earned All-Americn honors and was drafted in the second round of the 2007 Draft by the Panthers. He is a three-time Pro Bowler.

33. Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Warmack has three BCS National Championship rings from his three-year starting career at Alabama. He was a consensus All-American, an Outland Trophy finalist and first-round pick of the Titans in April. He started 39 games over his final three years paving the way for Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy.

34. Alex Mack, C, Cal
The star center started 39 consecutive games for the Golden Bears. He won the “Academic Heisman” when was named the recipient of the Draddy Trophy in 2008 and was a two-time Rimington Finalist. Mack also claimed the Morris Trophy as the top Pac-10 lineman and was a three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection. He also was a rare first-round pick as a center by the Browns in 2009 and has been sent to three Pro Bowls in his career.

35. Nick Mangold, C, Ohio State
From a technique and fundamentals standpoint, Mangold is one of the best college centers to ever play the game. He was a Rimington Finalist, a three-year starter and a first-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Jets. He has gone to four Pro Bowls in eight NFL seasons.

36. Leonard Davis, T, Texas
The 6-foot-6, 355-pound stud from Texas was a consensus All-American in 2000 and an Outland Trophy Finalist. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft and has gone to three Pro Bowls in the NFL.

37. Marcus McNeil, T, Auburn
The All-American helped lead the Tigers to an unbeaten SEC championship season in 2004 (13-0). He was again an All-American as a senior in 2005 and was taken in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Chargers. He’s gone to two Pro Bowls.

38. Ryan Clady, T, Boise State
As a sophomore and in his first year as a starter, Clady earned All-American recognition from some outlets before leading Boise to a perfect 13-0 record as a junior and earning consensus All-American honors in 2007. He was the 12th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft and has been to three Pro Bowls already.

39. Jordan Gross, T, Utah
A consensus All-American and Outland Trophy finalist in 2002, Gross is one of the Mountain West’s best blockers of all-time. He was the eighth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft and has gone to two Pro Bowls.

40. LeCharles Bentley, C, Ohio State
The Cleveland native was a consensus All-American in 2001. He also won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center that year before getting drafted in the second round by the Saints in 2002.

Related: The Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

41. Steve Justice, C, Wake Forest
Few players have meant more to their school than Justice did to Wake Forest. As a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection, the pivot helped lead the Deacons to the ACC Championship in 2006 before earning consensus All-American honors in 2007. He was a Rimington finalist that year as well.

42. Rodney Hudson, G, Florida State
The mauler from Mobile was a three-time, first-team All-ACC selection, a two-time, first-team All-American and the Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner in 2009. He was a second-round pick of the Chiefs in 2011.

43. Logan Mankins, G, Fresno State
Easily one of the best lineman of this generation, Mankins is the best blocker to ever play at Fresno State. He wasn't highly decorated (All-WAC) but as a first-round pick, Mankins has earned five Pro Bowl bids. 

44. David DeCastro, G, Stanford
As a freshman in 2009, he started all 13 games for the 8-5 Cardinal and was a freshman All-American. He started all 13 games as a sophomore for the 12-1 Cardinal, helping to win the program’s first BCS bowl game (Orange Bowl). He capped his career with a consensus All-American season for the 11-2 Cardinal. He left school early and was the 24th overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Steelers.

45. Jake Kirkpatrick, C, TCU
The Horned Frogs pivot was a two-time Rimington finalist as the nation's top center and claimed the trophy in 2010. He was a two-time All-American as well.

46. David Molk, C, Michigan
The Wolverines center was a two-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection and earned Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the year in a conference with Michael Brewster and Peter Konz. Molk was a consensus All-American and Rimington Trophy winner in 2011.

47. Jonathan Scott, T, Texas
The two-time All-Big 12 pick was also a consensus All-American in 2005 — the same season he helped lead Texas back to the national championship game. He was a fifth-round pick of the Lions and has played on five NFL teams.

48. Matt Stinchcomb, T, Georgia
The older Stinchcomb brother was a two-time All-American at Georgia and won the Draddy Trophy (the "academic Heisman"). He was a first-round pick of the Oakland Raiders in the 1999 NFL Draft.

49. Nate Solder, T, Colorado
A consensus All-American, first-round NFL Draft pick and Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year dot his college resume. He was two-time, first-team All-Big 12 pick and Outland Trophy finalist before joining the Patriots in 2011.

50. Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
The big Tar Heels blocker was a three-time All-ACC performer and an Outland Trophy finalist in 2012. The consensus All-American was the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Cardinals after paving the way for the ACC’s top running back (Gio Bernard).

The Next 25:

51. Max Jean-Gilles, G, Georgia
52. Aaron Gibson, T, Wisconsin
53. Casey Rabach, C, Wisconsin
54. Anthony Davis, T, Rutgers
55. Jake Grove, C, Virginia Tech
56. Craig Page, C, Georgia Tech
57. Anthony Collins, T, Kansas
58. Nate Potter, T, Boise State
59. A.Q. Shipley, C, Penn State
60. D.J. Fluker, T, Alabama
61. Levy Adcock, T, Oklahoma State
62. Toniu Fonoti, G, Nebraska
63. Levi Brown, T, Penn State
64. Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
65. Eric Steinbach, G, Iowa
66. Lee Ziemba, T, Auburn
67. Damien Woody, C, Boston College
68. Deuce Lutui, T, USC
69. Chase Beeler, C, Stanford
70. Duane Brown, T, Virginia Tech
71. Ben Grubbs, G, Auburn
72. Elton Brown, T, Virginia
73. Joe Staley, T, Central Michigan
74. Kenyatta Walker, T, Florida
75. Eugene Monroe, T, Virginia

Top 50s of the BCS Era:

The Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

The Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era

The Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era


Agree or disagree with our ranking of College Football's Top 50 offensive linemen of the BCS Era? Let us know on Twitter (@AthlonSports), using the hashtag #AthlonOL50

Teaser:
<p> College Football's Top 50 Offensive Linemen of the BCS Era</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 07:42
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-finds-perfect-fit-new-coach-gary-andersen
Body:

Gary Andersen’s final act as Utah State’s head football coach, heartfelt but atypical among college coaches, helped assuage the pain and frustration felt by his players, most of whom were stunned to learn their coach had taken a new job less than a week after capping arguably the most memorable season in the history of the program.

Andersen’s decision to call the Utah State players — one by one over a span of two days — so he could personally explain the reasons behind his decision to take over the Wisconsin program impressed the players at his new school.

“That did surprise me, because you don’t hear about things like that very often,” says Wisconsin senior linebacker Chris Borland, who learned of Andersen’s classy gesture online. “That speaks a lot to his character. Coaches fly by night these days. To stay connected to his guys like that, at all hours of the night, over 100 guys, that is really special.”

Kyle Whittingham, who has been the head coach at Utah for the last eight seasons, has known Andersen since the two first worked together at Idaho State in 1992. Whittingham wasn’t surprised to learn that Andersen had devoted hours on the phone to talk to his players before he left Logan, his home from 2009-12, for Madison.

“He cares tremendously about his players,” Whittingham says. “That is one of his strengths. He has a great rapport and has always been able to develop a strong bond with his players.”

And Wisconsin’s players needed a hug — probably even more than Utah State’s did.

Three days after crushing Nebraska in the Big Ten title game, the UW players learned they were losing their coach, Bret Bielema.

About 24 hours after Bielema told the players not to worry if they heard his name linked to any job openings, he was in New York City finalizing an agreement to take over the Arkansas program.

By the time he returned to Madison for a team meeting, the UW players knew Bielema was gone. Although most of them respected his right to make such a career move, many were taken aback when he said he was leaving in part to win a championship.

Hadn’t UW just won its third consecutive Big Ten title?

“I was a little surprised by that, and he said that to me,” UW athletic director Barry Alvarez says. “I thought we were very close to playing for a national championship a year ago (2011). We just won three (Big Ten) championships.”

Andersen, 49, has been working at a frenetic pace since being introduced as UW’s head coach on Dec. 21. He had the opportunity to meet the players and evaluate the team’s personnel shortly after he was hired and watched the 2013 Rose Bowl from the UW sideline.

However, he generally kept a low profile and let the UW staff focus on the bowl game.

“I respected that,” senior defensive end Tyler Dippel says. “I thought it was cool. He wasn’t some guy trying to come in and move everyone aside and say this is what we’re doing now.”

Instead, Andersen focused on building his staff, holding together the bulk of UW’s 2013 recruiting class and reaching out to the state’s high school coaches.

Andersen hired five coaches with whom he had worked, including three from Utah State; retained two from UW’s 2012 staff; and added two others to finalize the staff.

“It is an important part to this puzzle,” Andersen said when asked about hiring familiar faces. “It helps the transition. We need to hit the ground running. It is important to start fast.”

 Andersen’s final team at Utah State had 47 in-state players, or 44.8 percent of the roster. Shortly after UW lost to Stanford in the Rose Bowl, Andersen met with key members of the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association to assure them he would work diligently to keep the state’s best high school players home.

“He did a really good job explaining his philosophy and how they’re going to handle things,” says Tom Swittel, president of the WFCA. “He seems like a very down-to-earth guy. He’s not going to blow smoke up anyone’s rear end. He is going to say what is on his mind, and as a coach I appreciate that.

“He wants to continue to get the best kids in the state of Wisconsin. He made a point of saying that they don’t know how many that means every year. But they are committed to that.”

Andersen is also committed to keeping UW in contention for Big Ten titles.

When Bielema took over as UW’s head coach in 2006, he inherited a veteran-laden team coming off a 10–3 season under Alvarez. Bielema’s record in his first season: 12–1, with the lone loss at Michigan.

Andersen inherits a team that returns a total of 12 starters on offense and defense, as well as both specialists, from a group that finished 8–6.

“What’s my stamp going to be on it?” Andersen said when asked about the direction of the program. “I sure hope my stamp at the end of the day is to be a football team that’s physical, tough-minded, plays aggressive, plays the game the right way, is respected by their opponents, solid in all three phases (and) has one of the best graduation rates in the country. That’s what I expect. … Again, we’ll never be perfect. I’ll never say that. But we sure will try to be every single day and fight to get to that position.”

Andersen’s Utah State résumé suggests that he will not disappoint at UW.

From 1998-2008, the Aggies compiled a cumulative record of 35–90. They never finished above .500 in that 11-year span. Utah State finished 4–8, 4–8 and 7–6 in Andersen’s first three seasons. In 2012, Andersen guided the Aggies to the outright Western Athletic Conference title with a 6–0 league record. The 11–2 overall mark was the best in program history, and the Aggies finished 16th in the final Associated Press poll. The 41–15 victory over Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl was the second bowl victory in program history.

“It was a rebuild, a complete rebuild,” Whittingham says. “He built it from the ground up. But Gary is organized, pays attention to details and has a good vision of the big picture.”

Andersen, whose Utah State team suffered a 16–14 loss at Wisconsin last season, wasn’t planning to change jobs until UW entered the picture. He reportedly turned down offers from California, Kentucky and Colorado. But when Alvarez offered him a new challenge, Andersen jumped at the chance, because he had seen the campus and the fan support, and the players reminded him of those he recruited at Utah State.

“The second that Coach Alvarez had contacted me and gave me the opportunity,” Andersen says, “I knew that that was a job I was going to take.”


This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Big Ten Preview Edition. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 SEC season.
 

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Teaser:
<p> Wisconsin Finds the Perfect Fit in New Coach Gary Andersen</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /nascar/nascar-numbers-game-6-amazing-stats-michigan
Body:

Watch the telecast of this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway and you will hear it referred to as “the sister track” to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. While that’s true in some ways — both are two-mile D-shaped tracks and the latter was built by Roger Penske to resemble the former — the two surfaces have now created two completely different styles of racing.

The weather-beaten surface in Fontana created a manic multiple-groove free-for-all earlier this year. Michigan, which was repaved prior to its two race dates in 2012, is speedy, stretches out the field and welcomes savvy pit strategy. It won’t provide the action that Fontana had, but it will create an atmosphere that allows the smartest race teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to prevail.

In just two events last season, we caught a glimpse of what future races at MIS might entail. It favors some of the usual suspects.


195  Not a statistic, but the lap (out of a scheduled 200) on which Jimmie Johnson’s motor blew while leading the race at Michigan last summer.

Johnson’s detractors might have blacked this out, but the No. 48 was dangerously close to scoring the win in the most recent race at MIS (and the only race run on the current Goodyear tire compound). He led 23 laps in a heated battle with Brad Keselowski and Greg Biffle before his Hendrick motor popped, saddling him with a 27th-place result and forcing a green-white-checker finish. If not for the malfunction, Johnson would have likely joined Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in finishing inside the top 5 in both 2012 Michigan races.


99.5%  Keselowski spent a race-high 99.5 percent of all laps in the top 15 during last summer’s race at Michigan.

He led 17 laps and averaged a running position of 6.95 before finishing second to Biffle. The Michigan native has been knocking on the door to Cup Series victory lane at MIS ever since he collected back-to-back wins in the Nationwide Series races in 2009 and 2010. Really, a win this weekend would be the official break in a rare Keselowski slump. In six races dating back to Kansas, he and the No. 2 Penske Racing team have averaged a finish of 22.8 and seen their Chase-making probability drop by 22.67 percent.


54.8%  Johnson (55.9 percent) and Keselowski (53.3 percent) combined for a 54.8 percent passing efficiency on 336 total encounters in the most recent race at MIS.

Despite two different pit strategies, the two eventual title contenders had no trouble moving through traffic before sizing up one another. The race was an early sign that the two drivers were destined to duel for a championship, even though neither was the day’s victor.
 

Teaser:
<p> David Smith crunches the numbers and finds the key NASCAR stats for the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 18:54
All taxonomy terms: New England Patriots, Tim Tebow, NFL
Path: /nfl/tebow-patriots-why-it-will-work-why-it-wont
Body:

Tim Tebow’s first minicamp workout as a Patriot is finished (he went 4 for 7). His jersey is on sale (he’ll wear No. 5). And New England coach Bill Belichick has thrown his first wet blanket on Tebowmania (“We’ll see how it goes”).

Just as Tebow’s NFL career hung by a thread, the Patriots swooped in and gave him a shot of reclaiming his pro career. Whether he’s a quarterback or a multi-faceted offensive weapon (or linebacker, for that matter) is up in the air.

Here are a few reasons Tebow and Pats are a good match, a few reasons it might fail and insight from the experts.

Why it might work

He won’t sniff the starting quarterback job.
The backup quarterback for Tom Brady is a little less popular than the one for Mark Sanchez, to say nothing of the third-stringer. Tebow starts behind Brady and Ryan Mallett, signaling Tebow’s status as an experiment. An injury to Brady is the only thing separating the Patriots from the “Tebow should start” firestorm, but Brady has made 71 consecutive starts.

He can flourish as a specialist.
The theory is that Belichick will find a way to capitalize on Tebow’s size, toughness and athleticism. New England is where a linebacker became a red zone receiving threat, where a Jets castoff from Chadron State amassed more than 2,100 yards from scrimmage in three seasons, where a converted MAC quarterback has been a key contributor on special teams and as receiver, and where a veteran receiver played cornerback during a Super Bowl run.

Even if Tebow is not a Mike Vrabel, Danny Woodhead, Julian Edelman or Troy Brown, he’s still the only read option quarterback on the Patriots’ roster. And with the two-year-old rule allowing emergency quarterbacks to be active for the entire game, Belichick has extra flexibility.

He’s in the right organization.
Tebow’s hometown organization of Jacksonville wanted nothing to do with him, so this is as close as a homecoming as the lefty could have. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels drafted him in Denver, Belichick and former Florida coach Urban Meyer are close colleagues (and Vrabel is now Meyer’s linebackers coach at Ohio State). Three other members of Florida’s 2008 title team are on the Pats’ roster -- tight end Aaron Hernandez, linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive end Jermaine Cunningham.

Why it might not work

He’s not suited to any position, provided he’s willing to move
Here’s what we know: Tebow is a liability as a passer. He’s a physical runner taking direct snaps or scrambling. There’s little evidence other than his build that suggests Tebow can play tight end, fullback or H-back in the NFL. Tebow has never caught a pass at the collegiate or pro level. He may not be the next Brad Smith or Kordell Stewart. That, of course, assumes Tebow is willing to be Belichick’s and McRoberts’ wild card in the offense in the first place.

Brady gets hurt
Even the most ardent (and sane) Tebow fan can live with the lefty backing up Brady, but what if Brady’s out of the picture? He’ll be 36 years old and already missed a season to a torn ACL. If Tebow is in a realistic position to start for New England, expect the Tebow brigade to speak up.

Reaction from the experts:

• USA Today’s Dan Shanoff, who established the TimTeblog, wrote in April he thought the Patriots were always the most logical landing spot. “Watch Belichich get Tebow 10 TDs, just to show he can.” Shanoff lists some of the same reasons Athlon did as to why it may work in New England, but notes some of the intangibles and the possibilities of it works out:

Just when you think things can’t get any more crazy, they do. Forget how last season played out and consider the long game: Given the widespread animus for both Tim Tebow and Boston sports teams/fans, it would take the Tebow insanity to new levels.

• Chris Brown at Smart Football notes Tebow has improved little as passer, especially since regressing at Florida in 2009, but he’s modestly hopeful he can clean up his deficiencies now that he’s in the right spot.

I still would: his flaws then are still his flaws now, but the talent is still there too, though somewhat obscured. The question is whether, in 2013, it’s too late for Tebow to learn any better. - See more at: http://smartfootball.com/quarterbacking/tim-tebows-last-chance#sthash.4GzzH1nH.dpuf
I still would: his flaws then are still his flaws now, but the talent is still there too, though somewhat obscured. The question is whether, in 2013, it’s too late for Tebow to learn any better. - See more at: http://smartfootball.com/quarterbacking/tim-tebows-last-chance#sthash.4GzzH1nH.dpuf
his flaws then are still his flaws now, but the talent is still there too, though somewhat obscured. The question is whether, in 2013, it’s too late for Tebow to learn any better. - See more at: http://smartfootball.com/quarterbacking/tim-tebows-last-chance#sthash.4GzzH1nH.dpuf

His flaws (in 2005) are still his flaws now, but the talent is still there too, though somewhat obscured. The question is whether, in 2013, it’s too late for Tebow to learn any better.

• Bruce Allen at Boston Sports Media looks at the media circus angle for the Patriots. Yes, it’s going to be crazy at first. It’s red meat for the talking heads, but the media throng will shrink eventually. Timothy Burke at Deadspin notes ESPN mentioned Tebow 137 times in 120 minutes Tuesday.

• Ben Volin, who covered Florida during the 2008 national championship run, is back on the Tebow beat now that he covers the Pats for the Boston Globe. He’s one of the myriad reporters and columnists saying Tebow has landed in the perfect spot.

In theory, Tebow is athletic enough to be a “slash” type of player like Kordell Stewart or Jim “Crash” Jensen. He’s big enough to play tight end (6 feet 3 inches, 236 pounds), smashes into defenders hard enough to play fullback, and throws well enough to be a trick-play asset on special teams.

• And on to the only place where Tebow is a sure thing: The Patriots opened the online store for Tebow jerseys, as noted by Sports Grid. The Pats’ email was sent before Tebow had a jersey number (Mallett wears No. 15, Tebow will wear No. 5).

• Odds are you’ll read some unintentionally bad columns about the Tebow signing. Might as well read one that’s trying to be awful from Grantland’s Andrew Sharp.  The tally: 36 paragraphs, 19 of them are a sentence or less.

Teaser:
<p> Are Belichick and Tebow a perfect match?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 14:35
Path: /mlb/18-amazing-mlb-stats-week-june-3-9
Body:

Puigmania hits Los Angeles, the Redbirds finally win in extras, Cleveland can't win on the road and is Howie Kendrick really the Angels' best hitter? These and more amazing stats from the week of June 3-9.

13    Hits for Yasiel Puig in his first seven games
Not since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 has a rookie for the Dodgers taken the baseball world by storm like Puig. The rookie totaled 13 hits in just seven games, including four homers and 10 RBIs. That is the most hits for any Dodger in his first six games since 1900. Puig’s accomplishments include four home runs, two outfield assists and 10 RBIs.

.042    Starlin Castro’s June batting average
The Cubs’ shortstop began the month in a 1-for-24 slump. In seven games, he scored three runs and his only hit was a double. His OBP is a sparkling .179 due to a couple of HBPs, but he’s slugging just .083.

1    Extra-inning win for St. Louis in 2013
The Cardinals may have the best record in baseball, but when opponents take them into extra frames the Redbirds struggle. It wasn’t until this past Sunday when the Cards plated seven runs in the 10th inning at Cincinnati that the club won its first extra-inning game this season in five tries.

11    Consecutive road losses for the Indians
Just as manager Terry Francona had his troops charging into contention, the Indians have played miserably on the road. After defeating the Red Sox at Fenway on May 23, the Tribe has dropped three at Boston, two at Cincinnati, three at Yankee Stadium and three at Detroit. Cleveland was outscored 67-35 in those games.

19    Runs allowed by the Braves in their last nine games
Atlanta pitching has been especially stingy of late. The staff has allowed more than three runs just twice over the past 12 games. The Braves are 8-4 in those games.

20-8    Oakland’s record within its division
In order to win a division title, teams must play well against their rivals. The A’s ended the week with the best intradivision mark in baseball.

.542    Howie Kendrick’s batting average last week
The Angels’ second baseman now leads the club with a .317 average for the season and has more total bases then teammates Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton and more RBIs than Hamilton.

11-6    Nationals record in one-run games
Where would the Nats be without a little luck in winning tight games? Washington hitters are struggling and the pitching is keeping the team afloat, especially in close games. The Nationals are the best team in the NL in one-run games.

.184    Pirates batting average last week
The Bucs’ hitters didn’t enjoy the road trip to Atlanta and Chicago at all. Pittsburgh bats were held to a .184 average as the team lost four of six and fell farther behind the Cardinals in the NL Central.

3    Most runs allowed in a game in June by Kansas City
The Royals began the month on a 6-2 tear led by a stingy pitching staff. No opponent has managed more than three runs in any game in June as the Royals have outscored foes 29-15 through the first eight games of the month.

3-10    White Sox record since Memorial Day weekend
Over the holiday weekend, the White Sox swept the Marlins and celebrated reaching the .500 mark for the first time since April 10 when the team was 4-4. Since then, the team has slumped and lost 10 of 13 and sunk to the bottom of the AL Central.

2    Number of batters Adam Wainwright has faced with the bases loaded
In 96 innings, Wainwright has faced just two hitters in a bases-loaded jam. He retired them both.

0    RBIs for Andre Ethier since May 20
The Dodgers’ right fielder last drove in a run on May 20 and is batting .150 with three extra-base hits since then.

1    Day spent above .500 by the Phillies
Last Thursday, the Phillies defeated the Brewers 5-1 to extend their winning streak to five games and push their record above .500 at 31-30. The excitement didn’t last long as the Phils dropped three in a row to the Brew Crew over the weekend.

8    Stolen bases by Everth Cabrera last week
The speedy shortstop for San Diego hit .485 with a .514 OBP last week and stole eight bags, getting caught just once. He managed to score only three runs as the Padres lost four of seven.

.431    Paul Goldschmidt’s average with runners in scoring position
The Diamondbacks’ first baseman, who leads the National League with 58 RBIs, is batting just .283 without ducks on the pond.

.199    Red Sox and Orioles combined batting average vs. each other this season
The two AL East rivals will meet for an important four-game series this weekend. They’ve met just once for a three-game set in early April in Boston this season. During that series the pitchers ruled the day. The two teams combined to hit .199.

6    Pitches into the career of Curtis Partch when he gave up a grand slam
It took seven seasons, 210 games and 702.1 innings in the minor leagues before Curtis Partch reached the major leagues with Cincinnati. The right-handed reliever made his major league debut on Sunday against St. Louis. But in all of his wisdom, Reds manager Dusty Baker decided that facing Matt Holliday in the 10th inning with the bases loaded and one out would be an appropriate spot for Partch to get his feet wet.

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Puigmania hits Los Angeles, the Redbirds finally win in extras, Cleveland can't win on the road and is Howie Kendrick really the Angels' best hitter? These and more amazing stats from the week of June 3-9.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/2013-mlb-power-rankings-june-11
Body:

Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (St. Louis Cardinals) and worst (Miami Marlins) baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.

1. Cardinals Plated seven 10th-inning runs Sunday for first extra-inning win.

2. Red Sox Only four games left in June vs. losing teams.

3. Braves Given up 19 runs over their last nine games.

4. Rangers Nelson Cruz is batting. 367 with RISP and two outs.

5. A’s At 20-8, A’s have majors’ best intradivision record.

6. Reds Should spruce up record vs. Cubs and Brewers this week.

7. Pirates Bucs batted just .184 last week.

8. Yankees Still don’t seem to be missing any superstars.

9. Diamondbacks Patrick Corbin: 9-0, 1.98; rest of rotation: 13-21, 4.91.

10. Tigers Swept Cleveland to build their biggest lead of the season.

11. Orioles Important four-game series with Red Sox this weekend.

12. Rays Have won nine of 10 against NL foes.

13. Rockies Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are best 1-2 punch in NL.

14. Giants Buster Posey leads National Leaguers in All-Star votes.

15. Nationals 11-6 record is best NL mark for one-run games.

16. Phillies Spent one day over .500 this season — last Thursday.

17. Padres Everth Cabrera stole eight bases last week.

18. Indians Lost 11 straight (and counting) road games.

19. Angels Howie Kendrick hit .542 for the week.

20. Royals Opponents yet to score more than three runs in a game in June.

21. White Sox 3-10 since reaching .500 on Memorial Day weekend.

22. Twins Bullpen owns 1.14 WHIP and 2.93 ERA.

23. Mariners Jesus Montero batting .250, playing first base since demotion.

24. Dodgers Andre Ethier’s last RBI came on May 20.

25. Blue Jays Jose Reyes’ return on the horizon.

26. Brewers Where would this team be without the late signing of Kyle Lohse? 

27. Cubs Starlin Castro mired in a 1-for-24 slump.

28. Mets Taken seven of eight vs. AL teams.

29. Astros Lucas Harrell looks like a real ace.

30. Marlins Play six of next nine vs. division leaders.

AL Player of the Week

Brett Gardner, New York

The fleet outfielder had the best week of his season with 13 hits last week. The Yankees won six of seven and Gardner batted .520 with a home run, five runs and six extra-base hits. He capped the week with three hits on Saturday and four on Sunday.

 

AL Pitcher of the Week

David Phelps, New York

The righthander was inserted into the starting rotation in May, and the Yanks have won six of his eight starts, including two last week. Phelps tossed six shutout innings against Cleveland, then allowed only one run over six frames in a 2-1 win at Seattle.

 

NL Player of the Week

Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles

Not since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 has a rookie for the Dodgers taken the baseball world by storm like Puig. The rookie totaled 13 hits in just seven games, including four homers and 10 RBIs.

 

NL Pitcher of the Week

Kris Medlen, Atlanta

The Braves and their fans carried high expectations of Medlen into this season after his terrific showing in 2012. In starts against Pittsburgh and the Dodgers last week, Medlen gave up just one run — which was unearned — over 13.2 innings to earn two wins. He also socked the first home run of his career.

Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 12:29
Path: /college-basketball/2013-14-college-basketball-early-rankings-pac-12
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After several seasons in the wilderness, the Pac-12 finally started to regain some respect last season.

Five league teams reached the NCAA Tournament, the most since 2009. Three teams were ranked in the final Associated Press top 25 before the Tournament. And two teams reached the Sweet 16 with Arizona losing to Ohio State and Oregon losing to eventual national champion Louisville.

Now, it’s time to see if the Pac-12 can avoid slipping back to where it was two seasons ago.

Only three of 10 members of the Pac-12’s official first-team all-conference squad return, and none plays for traditional powers (Arizona State’s Jahii Carson, Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie and Stanford’s Dwight Powell). Meanwhile, one of those traditional powers is starting over, at least on the bench. Steve Alford takes over at UCLA where he inherits a talented roster, but these are the same players who couldn’t save Ben Howland.

Led by Nick Johnson, Arizona may be the most equipped to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats have coaching stability, returning veterans and an influx of talented newcomers.

Beyond UCLA and Arizona, here is who is back, who is gone and who is on the way in the Pac-12 for 2013-14.

Other conference snapshots:
ACC
American
Big East
Big Ten
SEC
Big 12
Mountain West, A-10, MVC and others (June 13)

1. ARIZONA (27-6, 12-6, NCAA Sweet 16)
Key players gone: Angelo Chol, Solomon Hill, Grant Jerrett, Mark Lyons, Keith Parrom
Top returners: Brandon Ashley, Nick Johnson, Kaleb Tarczewski
New faces: Aaron Gordon (freshman), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (freshman), T.J. McConnell (transfer from Duquesne), Elliott Pitts (freshman)
The top two scorers, Lyons and Hill, exhausted their eligibility, and Jerrett made a surprising call to enter the NBA Draft. Still, the Wildcats expect to be the Pac-12 favorites and a top-10 team. T.J. McConnell will take over at point guard after averaging 11.1 points, 4.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds in two seasons at Duquesne. He and Johnson (11.5 ppg) should make a solid backcourt pairing. Arizona also adds two freshman wings in Hollis-Jefferson and Gordon, a 6-8 forward who was the fourth-ranked recruit in the 2013 class. The key to the season may be getting Gordon to play the four.

Related: UCLA among top recruiting classes since 2000

2. UCLA (25-10, 13-5, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Shabazz Muhammad, Larry Drew II
Top returners: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker, Norman Powell, David Wear, Travis Wear
New faces: Wannah Bail (former Texas Tech signee), Zach LaVine (freshman)
After several seasons of underachieving, player departures and off-court distractions, UCLA hopes to move on under Steve Alford (with mixed results so far). Alford starts his tenure in Westwood with a good sophomore nucleus in Adams and Anderson. Other freshmen received more fanfare last season, but Adams was arguably UCLA’s most important player -- the Bruins lost to Oregon and Minnesota in the last two games without him. Beyond the sophomores, the Bruins need someone to take over the point guard spot vacated by Drew, who was fourth in the nation in assists. This team has the talent for another Pac-12 title, but UCLA has not been able to capitalize in recent years.

Related: Conference snapshot: Big 12

3. COLORADO (21-12, 10-8, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Jeremy Adams, Sabatino Chen, Andre Roberson
Top returners: Askia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie, Xavier Johnson, Josh Scott
New faces: Tre’Shaun Fletcher (freshman)
Even without Roberson, Colorado returns four of its top five scorers. Dinwiddie (15.3 ppg) and Booker (12.4 ppg) give the Buffaloes one of the league’s best backcourts. The biggest void will be on the glass, where Roberson accounted for more than a quarter of Colorado’s rebounds. The Buffaloes’ two top freshmen from last season, Scott and Johnson, will need to fill the void. Colorado should be able to reach the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: ACC

4. OREGON (28-9, 12-6, NCAA Sweet 16)
Key players gone: Carlos Emory, Arsalan Kazemi, Willie Moore, E.J. Singler, Tony Woods
Top returners: Dominic Artis, Ben Carter, Damyean Dotson, Johnathan Loyd
New faces: Jordan Bell (freshman), Elgin Cook (junior college transfer), Mike Moser (transfer from UNLV)
The sophomore Dotson is the only one of Oregon’s top five scorers returning. Perhaps more than that, Oregon will miss Kazemi’s defensive prowess. Still, coach Dana Altman has enough at his disposal for another NCAA berth. Moser struggled in his last season at UNLV when Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch squeezed him from his natural role closer to the basket, but Moser was an All-America candidate before the season. As a freshman, Artis shot only 37.2 percent from the field, but Oregon was at its best with him running the point.

Related: Conference Snapshot: Big Ten

5. STANFORD (19-15, 9-9, NIT second round)
Key players gone: Andy Brown, Gabriel Harris
Top returners: Roscoe Allen, Aaron Bright, John Gage, Josh Huestis, Robbie Lemons, Stefan Nastic, Dwight Powell, Chasson Randle, Christian Sanders
New faces: Marcus Allen (freshman)
Stanford returns nearly every notable player from last season, including the top four scorers. Powell and Huestis were double-double threats on a nightly basis, but that hasn’t translated to a breakout season for the Cardinal under Johnny Dawkins. In his sixth season at Stanford, Dawkins is under pressure to produce an NCAA Tournament team.

Related: Realignment tracker for all college basketball moves

6. CAL (21-12, 12-6, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: Bak Bak, Allen Crabbe, Brandon Smith, Robert Thurman
Top returners: Justin Cobbs, David Kravish, Ricky Kreklow, Richard Solomon, Tyrone Wallace
New faces: Jabari Bird (freshman)
Crabbe (18.4 ppg) is a major departure for a team that struggled at times offensively. Bird, a 6-6 guard, could step into Crabbe’s spot and make a quick impact as a freshman alongside the veteran Cobbs (15.1 ppg). Solomon and Kravish form a solid, veteran frontcourt duo. There’s not a lot that jumps off the page for Cal, but the Bears should remain a postseason contender.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: American

7. ARIZONA STATE (22-13, 9-9, NIT second round)
Key players gone: Chris Colvin, Carrick Felix, Evan Gordon
Top returners: Jordan Bachynski, Jahii Carson, Jonathan Gilling
New faces: Richie Edwards (transfer from Valparaiso), Sai Tummala (junior college transfer)
The point guard Carson elected to return to school, and he’ll be one of the top players in the league. The sophomore will need some help around him, though, as Felix (14.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg) graduated and Gordon (10.1 ppg) transferred to Indiana. Bachynski, a 7-2 senior, will anchor the frontcourt while 6-7 forward Gilling will provide perimeter shooting after leading the Pac-12 in 3-point attempts and baskets last season.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: Big East

8. WASHINGTON (18-16, 9-9, NIT first round)
Key players gone: Abdul Gaddy, Aziz N’Diaye, Scott Suggs
Top returners: Andrew Andrews, Jernard Jarreau, Shawn Kemp Jr., Desmond Simmons, C.J. Wilcox
New faces: Perris Blackwell (transfer from San Francisco), Darin Johnson (freshman), Nigel Williams-Goss (freshman)
Washington is looking to rebound from back-to-back NIT appearances, though the Huskies did win the 2012 Pac-12 regular season title. Wilcox will hope to be healthy for a full season after averaging 16.8 points per game last year despite playing on a bad foot late last season. The sophomore Andrews and freshman Williams-Goss will look to lock down the point guard spot with Gaddy gone, and the 6-9 Blackwell should be an impact transfer after averaging 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds at San Francisco two seasons ago.

9. OREGON STATE (14-18, 4-14)
Key players gone: Joe Burton, Ahmad Starks
Top returners: Charlie Barton, Devon Collier, Eric Moreland, Roberto Nelson, Jarmal Reid, Olaf Schaftenaar
New faces: Angus Brandt (returning from ACL injury)
Oregon State will look for a rebound season in 2013-14 with the top two leading scorers returning in Nelson (17.8 ppg) and Collier (12.6). Moreland, who nearly averaged a double-double at 9.4 points and 10.6 rebounds, is also back. Perhaps the most important improvement in personnel is the return of Brandt, who started as a sophomore and junior before missing all but four games last season with a torn ACL.

10. USC (14-18, 9-9)
Key players gone: Dewayne Dedmon, Jio Fontan, Eric Wise, Renardo Woolridge
Top returners: Chass Bryan, Omar Oraby, Ari Stewart, J.T. Terrell, Byron Wesley
After Dedmon’s surprising leap to the NBA Draft, USC returns only two players who averaged more than 15 minutes per game. Point guard also may be a troublesome issue as Andy Enfield begins his rebuilding job with the Trojans.

11. UTAH (15-18, 5-13)
Key players gone: Glen Dean, Jarred DuBois, Cedric Martin, Justin Seymour, Jason Washburn
Top returners: Dallin Bachynski, Jordan Loveridge, Brandon Taylor
Utah showed signs of progress at the end of last season, earning nearly as many Pac-12 wins (five) as overall wins from the previous season (six). Utah will build around Loveridge, who averaged 12.1 points and seven rounds as a freshman. The Utes still have a long way to go after loading up on junior college players to fill out the roster.

12. WASHINGTON STATE (13-19, 4-14)
Key players gone: Mike Ladd, Brock Motum
Top returners: Will DiIorio, Dexter Kernich-Drew, Devonte Lacy, D.J. Shelton, Royce Woolridge
New faces: Que Johnson (partial qualifier), Brett Kingma (Oregon transfer), Jordan Railey (transfer from Washington State)
The Cougars’ top player, Motum, is gone, and they have few options to replace him. Que Johnson was Washington State’s top recruit last season, but he did not play as a partial qualifier. Coach Ken Bone will be looking for answers if Washington State is gong to be competitive.

Teaser:
<p> Who's gone and who's back in the Pac-12 for 2013-14</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 11:45
Path: /golf/greatest-golfers-all-time
Body:

Call it a knee-jerk reaction, but Phil Mickelson's stunning sprint to the Claret Jug has caused us to revisit our rankings. Lefty now holds three of the four majors and gets extra credit for his record six runner-ups in the one he doesn't hold, putting him in our all-time top 10, where he nudges out the great Seve Ballesteros, who also won five majors but only two of the four (two Masters and three British Opens).

As with any sport, it's hard if not impossible to compare players across different eras. In golf, it's doubly so, given the game's equipment advances and changing conditions of golf courses over the years.

In compiling this ranking, I used two primary criteria: achievement and impact. Who won important golf tournaments, and who transcended the game while doing so?

Here, then, are the 20 men who have had the greatest careers and most lasting impact on the game of golf. Feel free to tell me where I’m wrong.

 

20. Greg Norman
The star-crossed Norman is better remembered for his spectacular failures than his successes, but we can't overlook his 20 career PGA Tour wins and his 331 weeks spent as the world's No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Rankings. A little better luck and a little more clutch play and he would have seven or eight major wins instead of two (1986 and 1993 British Opens). 

 

19. Cary Middlecoff
Middlecoff set aside a career in dentistry to become one of the greatest players of all time, challenging Ben Hogan and Sam Snead for world supremacy in the late 1940s and 1950s. Won 40 times on the PGA Tour, including three majors.

 

18. Vijay Singh
His career might be tainted on the front end by cheating allegations and on the back end by association with performance-enhancing drugs, but it's hard to deny Vijay a spot in the golf pantheon. He's won 34 times on the PGA Tour, including two PGA Championships and a Masters win.

 

17. Billy Casper
The Big Three — Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player — dominated the golf headlines in the 1960s, but the unassuming Casper was as good as anybody in his era. Casper won 51 PGA Tour events, seventh all time, and earned three majors, including the 1966 U.S. Open, where he denied Palmer a coveted win.

 

16. Ernie Els
With four majors — two U.S. Opens and two British Opens — the Big Easy is a legitimate challenger for the title of second-best player of the Tiger Woods era. His smooth, easy swing is the envy of hackers from here to Johannesburg and has led him to 19 PGA Tour victories.

 

15. Walter Hagen
The flamboyant Hagen was the first ultra-successful touring pro and raised the stature of the lowly pro golfer substantially in an era when amateurs like Bobby Jones ruled the sport. Hagen won 11 professional majors — two U.S. Opens, four British Opens and five PGAs — to set a record that would stand until the 1960s, and he also won five Western Opens during a time when that tournament was essentially a major.

 

14. Nick Faldo
Sir Nick dominated world golf for a time at the expense of chief rival Greg Norman, whom he drubbed in a memorable British Open showdown in 1990 and beat in the 1996 Masters following Norman's epic collapse. Faldo won six majors — three Masters and three British Opens — and earned 30 wins on the European Tour while providing a steadying influence on five Ryder Cup-winning teams.

 

13. Lee Trevino
The Merry Mex got a lot out of an unorthodox, self-taught game, winning 29 PGA Tour events and six majors. Four times, Trevino denied Nicklaus at a major championship, adding to his legend as one of the few players who could stare down the Golden Bear. Trevino also brought an unprecedented level of working-man appeal and humor to the Tour, although, as he said, "I played the tour in 1967 and told jokes and nobody laughed. Then I won the Open the next year, told the same jokes, and everybody laughed like hell."

 

12. Byron Nelson
For a few months in 1945, Byron Nelson played better than anyone ever has. That year, Lord Byron won 11 tournaments in a row, including the PGA Championship. When you consider that Payne Stewart won 11 tournaments in his career and is considered one of the all-time greats, you get a sense of the magnitude of that accomplishment. More than one-fifth of Nelson’s 52 career wins came courtesy of the Streak. And lest we dismiss the accomplishment on the basis of inferior competition, remember that Sam Snead was nearing his prime and a young Ben Hogan was making a name for himself. For one incredible spring and summer, Lord Byron invented and patented The Zone. For the year, Nelson won a staggering 18 events and was named AP Athlete of the Year. For his career, he was the game's greatest gentleman.

 

11. Seve Ballesteros
Maybe we loved him because we could identify with him. We were often hitting out of the woods, from bunkers, from parking lots, just like he was. The difference? Seve Ballesteros would often make a birdie from the woods, or the bunker, or the parking lot, and he’d do it with a style and grace that was impossible not to admire and envy. Almost two decades before Tiger Woods, Ballesteros exploded onto the scene as a precocious 19-year-old, finishing tied for second with the great Jack Nicklaus at the 1976 British Open at Royal Birkdale. Having fashioned his game by hitting rocks on the beaches of Pedrena, Spain, with a homemade 3-iron, Ballesteros was ready to attack any lie, any condition, any circumstance, making him ideally suited for the demanding conditions at Britain’s links courses.

His three British Open titles were triumphs of courage and ingenuity. His 1979 Open title at Royal Lytham and St. Annes was punctuated by a birdie for the ages from the parking lot. His 1984 title at the Old Course at St. Andrews denied Tom Watson his third consecutive Open and fourth in five years. His 1988 title was, in retrospect, the climax of his playing career and featured one of the great final rounds in golf history. His 65 that day included an 11-hole stretch in which Ballesteros made two pars, two bogeys, six birdies and an eagle. It took a chip shot on the final hole that nudged the flagstick to turn back Nick Price. In all, Ballesteros won five majors, adding two Masters titles to his three British Opens, while collecting 65 titles worldwide. His magical short game led him to six European Tour Vardon trophies for low scoring average.

But in assessing Ballesteros’ career, we can’t overlook his larger impact on golf. Seve was more than a great player. He was Europe’s version of Arnold Palmer, putting a sport on his back and selling it to an entire continent. Almost singlehandedly, Seve made the Ryder Cup an event, transforming a low-key, American-dominated series of exhibitions into one of the greatest spectacles in sports. In fact, Seve’s finest hour may have come not with a golf club in hand, but a walkie-talkie. Because of his legacy and influence, the Ryder Cup was held for the first time on mainland Europe in 1997, at Spain’s Valderrama Golf Club. As non-playing captain, Seve was the fire that ignited the European team against a heavily favored American team. Ballesteros, one of the greatest match-play golfers in history, willed his team to an historic win without firing a shot.

The Ballesteros File
• Winner of five major championships (2 Masters, 3 British Opens)
• Winner of 50 European Tour events, six European Tour Vardon Trophies for low scoring average
• Earned 20 Ryder Cup points in 37 career matches

 

10. Phil Mickelson
Tagged from the beginning as the Next Nicklaus, Mickelson has always lived with massive expectations, some of them self-imposed, and Phil's failures are almost as celebrated as his many successes. But there have been plenty of successes — 42 PGA Tour wins (ninth all time) and five majors, including three Masters. He's also recorded a record six runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open, but that only adds to his everyman appeal. His jaw-dropping 66 in the final round of the 2013 British Open on baked, windswept Muirfield joins the ranks of the greatest rounds in major championship history and vaults Phil the Thrill into our top 10. His visit to Pinehurst No. 2 for the 2014 U.S. Open now makes that tournament one of the most eagerly anticipated in history as Phil goes for the career Grand Slam, which would be a remarkable achievement for a guy who suffered through countless crushing disappointments just to win his first.

The Mickelson File

• Winner of five major championships (3 Masters, 1 British Open, 1 PGA Championship)

• One of only 8 players with as many as three Masters wins

• One of only 15 men to hold at least three legs of the career Grand Slam

• Runner-up at the U.S. Open a record six times

• 20 top-3 finishes, 35 top-10 finishes at major championships

• Winner of 42 PGA Tour events, 9th all time

• Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012

• Remains last amateur to win on the PGA Tour (1991 Northern Telecom Open)

 

No. 9: Gene Sarazen
It’s a shame, really, that Gene Sarazen is remembered primarily for a single shot, when he meant so much more than that to the game. But what a shot it was. It was his first Masters, 1935. He trailed Craig Wood by three shots on the final day when he came to Augusta’s No. 15, a par-5 that is reachable in two shots. His tee shot left him some 220 yards from the flag. The story goes that as he stood in the 15th fairway, he turned to his caddie, Stovepipe, and said, “Should I play it safe?” “Noooo. Go for it,” was Stovepipe’s response. Knowing he needed to get the ball in the air to carry the small creek guarding the front of the green, Sarazen pulled out his 4-wood and promptly made history, holing his shot for a double eagle that put him in a playoff with Wood, which he won. And Bobby Jones’ little gathering in Augusta was never the same.

Sarazen won his first professional title at the age of 19 and never looked back, winning 37 more times in a career that spanned more than four decades. He became the first member of golf’s modern Career Grand Slam club with his Masters win, which he added to his two U.S. Open titles (1922, 1932), his three PGA Championships (1922, 1923 and 1933) and his 1932 British Open win. After 66 years, only four other players — Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods — have joined that elite group. He even impacted the way the game is played. Sarazen is widely credited with the invention of the sand wedge in the early 1930s.

The Sarazen File
• Winner of seven major titles and a career Grand Slam
• Owner of 38 career PGA titles
• Inventor of the sand wedge
• AP Male Athlete of the Year in 1932
• Won his second U.S. Open (1932) by playing the last 28 holes in an incredible 100 strokes in one of the great performances in golf history
• Struck the Shot Heard Round the World, his 4-wood that nestled in the hole for a double eagle at Augusta National’s No. 15

 

8. Gary Player
Before Seve Ballesteros, before Greg Norman, before Ernie Els, there was Gary Player, golf’s first great international ambassador. Before the diminutive South African packed his wife and kids and a few suitcases and set out on his five-decade international odyssey, golf was primarily dominated by British and American players. Then along came the little man in black. Over a career than began in the mid-1950s, Player has logged more air miles than the Space Shuttle, and he has saved many of his greatest achievements for his trips to the States.

Using an unprecedented commitment to physical fitness (for golf, anyway) and an unmatched work ethic, Player has fashioned a remarkable career that has seen him win well over 150 tournaments worldwide, including nine major championships. He is one of only five players to own all four of golf’s modern majors, and one of only four players — Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo are the others — to have won the Masters and the British Open three times apiece.

Augusta was the scene of his greatest win. It was 1978, and Player hadn’t won a major championship in four years. His career seemed to be in decline, and he found himself seven shots out of the lead heading into the final round of the Masters. The 42-year-old Player proceeded to catch fire. Playing well ahead of the leaders, Player blistered Augusta National with a final-round 64, then waited as the leaders faltered down the stretch, giving him his third green jacket. His 64 remains the greatest final-round Masters performance in history, matched in drama only by Nicklaus’ sixth Masters title eight years later.

The Player File
• One of five players — Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods are the others — to own a career Grand Slam.
• One of four players — Nicklaus, Woods and Nick Faldo are the others — to have won the Masters and British Open three times each.
• Recorded wins on the PGA or Senior Tours in a record five decades — the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

 

7. Tom Watson
Watson won eight majors and dominated golf’s oldest tournament, the British Open, like no one else, winning five times in a nine-year span and coming close to a historic sixth win in 2009 at age 59. Like Trevino, he won four memorable duels with Jack Nicklaus in major championships, including the 1977 British Open, the greatest head-to-head duel in golf history. Watson and Nicklaus so distanced themselves from the rest of the field on that baked, windswept surface that Hubert Green, who finished third, remarked, “I won the tournament I was playing. I don’t know what tournament they were playing.” For the weekend, Nicklaus shot 65-66 — and lost. Watson’s 65-65 gave him his second British Open title.

In 2009, Watson was the beloved elder statesman at the British Open at Turnberry, the sentimental choice of an emotional and appreciative crowd that very nearly willed him to the most improbable win in the history of golf’s most storied tournament. But instead of Nicklaus accompanying him down the 18th fairway, he had four days of fatigue, crushing pressure and the hopes of a watching world weighing him down. Standing over the eight-foot par putt that would have provided an improbable capper to his Hall of Fame career, his 59-year-old nerves finally betrayed him. “It would have been a hell of a story, wouldn't it? It would have been a hell of a story,” he said. “It wasn’t to be. And yes, it’s a great disappointment. It tears at your gut, as it always has torn at my gut. It’s not easy to take."

But Watson's triumphs far outnumber his disappointments. His Augusta exploits are overshadowed by his dominance at the British Open, but between 1975 and 1988, no one was better at The Masters — two wins, three runner-ups and 12 top-10 finishes. He outdueled Nicklaus at the 1982 U.S. Open on the strength of one of the greatest shots in golf history — his chip-in on the 71st hole that led to a two-shot win, perhaps the most satisfying of his 39 career wins.

The Watson file
• 39 career PGA Tour wins, including eight major championships
• 5 British Open wins, trailing only Harry Vardon
• 6-time PGA Tour Player of the Year
• Made at least one cut per year from 1971–2007, a streak of 37 years.

 

6. Bobby Jones
In the Golden Age of sports, nobody shone brighter than Bobby Jones. Not Babe Ruth, not Red Grange, not Jack Dempsey. From 1923-30, a nation that was truly embracing sports on an epic scale watched in awe as Jones won everything in sight. Then, having no more worlds to conquer, he walked away from competitive golf, at age 28. No sports legend accomplished more in a shorter period of time, and no sports legend walked away at such a young age.

A golf prodigy at age 14, Jones really didn’t find his game until the ripe old age of 20, when he began his remarkable run. He took the 1923 U.S. Open in an 18-hole playoff, then ripped off another 12 majors before calling it a career. His record of 13 major championships would stand for 40 years, before a youngster named Nicklaus came along.

Obviously, Jones’ crowning achievement came in 1930 with his unprecedented and so far unduplicated Grand Slam. That year, Jones, bore the incredible weight of expectations. Fans and media fully expected him to sweep the majors, which at the time included the U.S. and British Opens and the U.S. and British Amateurs. His run to the Slam almost ended before it began, as Jones sweated out three one-up matches in the British Amateur. He won the British Open by two strokes, then took the U.S. Open by a similarly slim margin.

Only one leg was left, and it was the easiest. Jones waltzed to the U.S. Amateur Championship amid a contingent of Marine bodyguards, and the Slam was his. Less than two months later, Jones retired from competitive golf, his legend secure.

But his contributions to the game didn’t end. A few years later, he organized a gathering of friends that came to be known as the Masters. Jones was a fixture at Augusta each spring, but his golf was confined to the friendly kind. The Georgia Tech and Harvard graduate instead practiced law in Atlanta.

His later years were unkind. He suffered from syringomyelia, a painful and crippling disease that confined him to a wheelchair and finally ended his life on Dec. 18, 1971. The legendary golf writer Herbert Warren Wind eulogized him this way: “As a young man, he was able to stand up to just about the best that life can offer, which is not easy, and later he stood up with equal grace to just about the worst.”

The Jones file
• Winner of the 1930 Grand Slam — the U.S. and British Opens and U.S. and British Amateurs
• Played in 31 majors, won 13 and finished in the top 10 27 times
• Founder of Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters

 

5. Ben Hogan

Brooding, temperamental, focused — Ben Hogan was not a charismatic figure who rallied the masses to follow the game a la Arnold Palmer. Instead, he was all about golf shots. The Hawk remains the greatest shotmaker golf has ever produced. Rather than relying on today’s technologically advanced equipment, Hogan used an uncanny ability to control the flight of his ball to win nine majors — and a greater percentage of majors entered than even Jack Nicklaus. To  Hogan, “the Hawk,” “Bantam Ben,” who was 5’7”, 140 pounds when he was at the peak of his game, striking a ball well was more important than scoring.

Hogan’s life was one struggle after another. The early years, when Hogan couldn’t control the hook. The later years, when he battled back from a terrible 1949 auto crash that nearly killed him. But he never gave in or gave out until suffering a major stroke after his mind and his body had been ravaged by Alzheimer’s and colon cancer.

Others played a golf course; Hogan studied it. He didn’t write down yardages. He interpreted them. “I have to feel a shot,” he said. He squinted from under that familiar white hat, surveyed the land, reached into a bag held by a caddy usually afraid to utter a word and then made that flat, repetitive swing.

He is one of five players to win all of the Grand Slam events. In 1953, he became the first to win as many as three majors in one year, the Masters and both Opens. He didn’t enter the PGA that year, fearing his legs weren’t up to the challenge. The ’53 British Open at Carnoustie, the only British Open he entered, would be his last major.

Hogan’s last tournament was the 1971 Houston Champions International. Playing poorly, bothered by a sprained knee, 58-year-old Ben Hogan walked off the course during the first round and never played again. “I liked to win,” Hogan said, “but more than anything I loved to play the way I wanted to play.”

The Hogan File
• Winner of 64 PGA Tour events, including 9 majors
• One of five players to possess a modern career Grand Slam
• Only player to win Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in same year
• Also a towering figure in equipment manufacturing and golf instruction

 

4. Arnold Palmer

There have been better players with prettier swings. But there has never been a more important golfer than the King, Arnold Palmer. He quadrupled purses, brought golf away from the country clubs and into our living rooms, and assembled an Army of devoted followers. He won — and lost — with more flair than any other athlete.

From 1958 to 1968, Palmer reigned amid the azaleas and pines of Augusta National, where Arnie’s Army first mustered. With the lone exception of 1963, he was in contention at every Masters during that epic stretch, winning four times, finishing second twice, third once and fourth twice.

Although he made his reputation at The Masters — and made the tournament what it is today — it was the 1960 U.S. Open that truly captured the King at the peak of his powers. The leaderboard on that final day included a chubby 20-year-old amateur named Jack Nicklaus. It included a legend — the Hawk, Ben Hogan. The third member of this historic trio lit a cigarette, stalked to the tee of the 318-yard, par-4 first hole at Cherry Hills and drove the green on his way to a historic final-round 65, erasing a seven-stroke deficit for the greatest comeback in Open history.

The Palmer File
• 60 PGA Tour wins
• 7 Major Championships
• 4-time PGA Tour money champ
• 1st PGA Tour millionaire
• 15 consecutive years with at least one victory

 

3. Sam Snead
If winning is the standard for determining excellence, there is no greater player in golf history than Sam Snead. Using a smooth, syrupy swing that looked as natural and effortless as breathing, Slammin’ Sammy won more golf tournaments than any other player — a staggering total of 81 PGA Tour titles, and anywhere from 135 to 165 victories worldwide, depending on whom you ask. He posted wins in four different decades, from the 1936 West Virginia Closed Pro to the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open (his eighth title in that event), when he was 52 years old.

Snead won three Masters, including a 1954 playoff triumph over friend and rival Ben Hogan. He won three PGA Championships and a British Open.

There is one hole in the Slammer’s résumé that prevents him from staking a legitimate claim to being the greatest player in history. Somehow, Snead never won the one tournament that seemingly should have been his by birthright. He never won a U.S. Open. But his near-tragic failures at the Open do not diminish his accomplishments.

His swing was such an efficient device that it served him well into his golden years and remains the gold standard for golf swings. In 1979, he offered golf fans one final glimpse of his greatness, as he became the first player to score below his age, shooting 67 and 66 in the Quad Cities Open at the age of 67. By then, and for the rest of his life, Snead was a beloved ambassador and advocate for the game.

The Snead File
• A record 82 PGA Tour wins, spanning 1936 to 1965
• Seven major championships, including three Masters and three PGA Championships
• Oldest player to win, make a cut and shoot his age in PGA Tour history
• Posted top 10s in majors in five different decades

 

2. Jack Nicklaus

Nicklaus brought out greatness in his opponents — Palmer, Player, Watson, Trevino. But more importantly, he made golf a greater game through his physical skill and strength, his mental toughness, his sustained level of excellence and his genius for strategically dismantling golf courses around the world.

You know the litany of accomplishments. 18 major championships, more than Hogan and Palmer combined. A mind-boggling 37 top twos in majors.

And lest we think the Tour of the 21st Century outshines the Tour in Jack’s prime, consider this: Nicklaus fought many of the game’s greatest at their very peak and beat them all. And when he didn’t beat them, he coaxed their very best out of them.

As if to prove the point, at age 46, Nicklaus was able to muster enough of his old-time wizardry to outduel names like Ballesteros, Kite, Norman — all of them at the peak of their powers — to win his sixth Masters in 1986 in one of the greatest sports moments of all time.

In his golden years, the Golden Bear has continued to shape the game with his prolific golf course design company. 

The Nicklaus File
• Winner of 73 PGA Tour events, including a record 18 major championships
• Winner of a record six Masters
• Finished in top 5 in majors a record 56 times, in the top 10 a record 73 times
• Posted lowest scoring average on Tour eight times
• Won PGA Tour money title eight times
• Won at least two PGA Tour events in 17 consecutive seasons (1962-78)

 

1. Tiger Woods

In April 1997, Woods began a trajectory that led him directly to the top of this list. He so dominated the most storied and tradition-steeped tournament in golf that the sport was changed forever. We all remember the Masters-record 18-under par total that Woods shot in his first Masters as a pro. We remember his incredible 12-shot margin of victory. (Runner-up Tom Kite’s 282 total would have been good enough to win 17 previous Masters, but it only got him within 12 shots of Tiger.) We remember the way his mammoth drives turned the par-5s into pitch-and-putts. What many people don’t remember about the 1997 Masters is how badly Tiger started the tournament. On the front nine on Thursday, Woods went out in 40, leaving him 4-over par. That, apparently, is when the stars aligned and the golf gods smiled. Over the next 63 holes, Woods swept through Augusta National like a tornado, toying with the course and demoralizing the greatest players in the world. 

Tiger’s runaway, far from putting a crimp into the television ratings, instead gave golf its greatest ratings winner to date. In 1996, before Woods turned pro, the ratings were 9.2 on Sunday. In 1997, when Woods won, the number jumped to 14.1.

The rest, as they say, is history — 14 major championships, 78 PGA Tour wins, the lowest career scoring average in PGA Tour history, 10 Player of the Year awards, and, yes, scandal and disgrace. But the impact and the level of achievement are undeniable and unprecedented. Quite simply, at his best, Woods has played the game better than it's ever been played. And when he's done, he'll hold every meaningful record the game has to offer.

The Woods File
• 78 PGA Tour wins, second all-time to Sam Snead
• 14 major championships, second all-time to Jack Nicklaus
• Only player ever to win four consecutive majors
• Lowest scoring average in PGA Tour history
• Scoring average of 67.79 in 2000 the lowest single-season average in Tour history
• Has won a record 27.2 percent of his career PGA Tour starts
• PGA Tour Player of the Year a record 10 times

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2013 Pac-12 Predictions    
North Division Pac-12 Overall
1. Oregon 8-1 12-1
2. Stanford 7-2 10-2
3. Oregon State 5-4 8-4
4. Washington 4-5 7-5
5. California 3-6 4-8
6. Washington State 2-7 4-8
       
South Division    
1. Arizona State 6-3 8-5
2. USC 6-3 9-4
3. UCLA 5-4 8-4
4. Arizona 4-5 7-5
5. Utah 3-6 5-7
6. Colorado 1-8 3-9
       
Pac-12 Championship    
Oregon over Arizona State    

A coaching transition has worked well for Stanford in recent years. Will that be the same theme at Oregon?

That’s the big question surrounding the Pac-12 in 2013.

New Oregon coach Mark Helfrich has been handed the keys to a team capable of winning a national title. But Helfrich has never been a head coach, and former coach Chip Kelly was one of the best in the nation. Helping Helfrich’s transition is one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Marcus Mariota, along with dynamic running back De’Anthony Thomas.

Although Stanford hosts Oregon this year, the Cardinal rank No. 2 in Athlon’s projected Pac-12 standings for 2013. The Cardinal should have the league’s best defense. But the offense has no proven playmakers at receiver or tight end, and running back Stepfan Taylor will be missed.

Whether it’s Oregon or Stanford, the winner of the Pac-12 North should be one of the top contenders for the national title.

Oregon State improved its win total by six games last year and returns 15 starters. The biggest question for the Beavers is at defensive tackle, while finding consistency from the quarterback spot.

Washington has been unable to win more than seven games in a season under Steve Sarkisian, and despite a talented roster, the schedule is a huge challenge once again.

Arizona State is Athlon’s pick to win the Pac-12 South in 2013. The Sun Devils should have one of the conference’s best front sevens on defense and will be explosive on offense with the return of quarterback Taylor Kelly and running backs Marion Grice and DJ Foster. The schedule is also in favor of Arizona State, as Todd Graham’s team misses Oregon in conference play and hosts USC and Arizona.

After beginning 2012 as one of the favorites to win the national championship, USC is flying under the radar entering 2013. The Trojans have the talent to be a top-25 team and could win the Pac-12 South. However, the battle to replace quarterback Matt Barkley did not yield a clear frontrunner in the spring and will continue into the fall.

UCLA is the back-to-back defending champions of the Pac-12 South, but the Bruins are slated at No. 3 in Athlon’s predictions for 2013. Quarterback Brett Hundley is back, and the defense has one of the top linebacking corps in the Pac-12. The biggest question mark for UCLA is an offensive line that has very little depth, and a schedule that features crossover games against Stanford and Oregon in back-to-back weeks.

Arizona is making progress under second-year coach Rich Rodriguez, but the Wildcats are probably a year away from contending in the Pac-12 South. Arizona needs to improve its defense, while finding a replacement for quarterback Matt Scott.

Colorado and Utah round out the Pac-12 South predictions. The Buffaloes should be better in coach Mike MacIntyre’s first season, while the Utes look to get back to a bowl game after just missing out on one last year (5-7). 

Inside the War Room: Key Questions That Shaped Athlon's 2013 Predictions

Stanford is the defending Pac-12 champ and won at Oregon last year. Why are the Cardinal picked to finish No. 2 in the Pac-12 North?

Stanford won the league last year, but Oregon was the better team throughout the entire 2012 season. The Ducks dominated all but one Pac-12 opponent — yes, that was Stanford — winning their league games by an average of 32.5 points per game. Stanford, on the other hand, had several close calls. Five of the Cardinal’s eight league wins came by seven points or less, including two in overtime. We realize that the goal is to win the game (not necessarily win by 32.5 points), but margin of victory matters over the course of a season when you are assessing the strength of a team. Looking ahead to 2013, both teams will be outstanding. The big issue with Oregon will be the coaching transition from Chip Kelly to Mark Helfrich. Stanford’s big concern is identifying some playmakers at running back and wide receiver. The Cardinal also have the more difficult schedule; they host Oregon but have to play the three best teams, on paper, in the South (Arizona State, USC and UCLA). Oregon doesn’t play either USC or Arizona State. Advantage: Ducks.

What gives Arizona State the edge in the South?

You can make a case for any of the top four teams in the Pac-12 South. Ultimately, we picked Arizona State because the Sun Devils have the fewest issues heading into the 2013 season. They are set at quarterback with Taylor Kelly, solid at running back and on the offensive line, and the defense, led by Will Sutton, should be strong once again. And it doesn’t hurt that Arizona State hosts USC and Arizona and doesn’t play Oregon, our pick to the win the Pac-12 North.

Is this the year Washington crashes through the seven-win plateau and contends in the North?

Steve Sarkisian made an immediate splash at Washington, energizing the fan base by winning five games (including a win over USC) in his first season. Most expected UW to emerge as a perennial Pac-12 contender under Sark’s watch. Hasn’t happened. The Huskies haven’t been bad, but Washington fans aren’t impressed with 7–6 seasons — which have become the norm in Seattle. So is this the year Washington takes the next step? Our guess is no. We like the marked improvement on defense last year, and there is solid talent at the skill positions. But the offensive line is a concern, and quarterback Keith Price regressed in 2012. Even if UW improves overall, a brutal schedule could make it difficult for this team to hit the magical eight-win mark. 

Can Mike Leach make Washington State relevant in Year 2?

We made the assumption at this time last year that Washington State would make a drastic improvement under Mike Leach in his first season. We were wrong. The Cougars were among the worst BCS conference teams in the nation in 2012, stumbling to a 3–9 overall record and a 1–8 mark in the Pac-12. Things will be better in Pullman in Year 2, but Wazzu is still at least a year away from being consistently competitive in the improving Pac-12. There was some talk about picking the Cougars fifth in the North, ahead of California, but this team has too many concerns — on both sides of the ball — to finish anywhere but last.

Who makes a bigger impact in Year 1 — Sonny Dykes at Cal or Mike MacIntyre at Colorado?

Both were outstanding hires, and we believe both coaches will do well in time. In the short term, MacIntyre has the more difficult job. Colorado’s talent level has sunk to pre-Bill McCartney levels, and it will take several years before the Buffs can be consistently competitive in the Pac-12. Cal has some issues, but Dykes is inheriting a more talented roster. We aren’t forecasting a big turnaround in Berkeley, but the Bears are far more likely to exceed expectations in 2013.
 

2013 Pac-12 Team Previews

North South
California Arizona
Oregon Arizona State
Oregon State Colorado
Stanford UCLA
Washington USC
Washington State Utah


Pac-12 Notebook

Soft landings 
Unimaginative best describes the Pac-12 non-conference football schedule, which is greatly watered down, whether by design or chance. Marquee matchups made for national TV are few this season, even with Notre Dame playing three league members (USC, Stanford, Arizona State).

Of the 33 outside teams taking on the Pac-12, 16 come off losing records in 2012. Nine had two victories or fewer. Six were last-place teams. Just nine hail from the so-called power conferences. Their combined record last season was 201–204.

Consider Oregon’s unimposing slate — Nicholls State (1–10), Virginia (4–8) and Tennessee (5–7). Washington State faces the following: Auburn (3–9), Southern Utah (5–6) and Idaho (1–11). Washington opens with challenging Boise State (11–2), but then plays Illinois (2–10) and Idaho State (1–10). Only rebuilding California will show real backbone early, taking on Big Ten contenders Northwestern (10–3) and Ohio State (12–0) sandwiched around Portland State (3–8).
 

Directing the Ducks 
Oregon doesn’t require thick résumés or nationwide searches when it needs a new football coach — it promotes its offensive coordinator. For 20 years this system has worked well, with the job changing hands from Rich Brooks to Mike Bellotti to Chip Kelly and now Mark Helfrich. Yet the question now surrounding Helfrich is this: Can he and his retooled staff continue to recruit like crazy, run up points at even crazier levels and keep winning at unprecedented program levels?

Helfrich might be the least dynamic personality when compared to his predecessors. Also, he once deemed himself unworthy to play for Oregon, rejecting an offer to come to Eugene as a walk-on quarterback and flourishing at lower-level Southern Oregon instead.

“Luckily for Duck fans, I was never allowed to play in Autzen Stadium,” Helfrich said in a light manner at his hiring. “Coach Brooks and Coach Bellotti at that time made a very good evaluation.”
 

Most-watched job battle 
The Oregon State quarterback competition between junior Sean Mannion and senior Cody Vaz promises to be intense and lengthy. It might not be settled until shortly before the Beavers’ Aug. 31 opener against Eastern Washington.

Last season, Mannion started eight games and Vaz five games for the 9–4 Beavers. Mannion threw for 2,446 yards and 15 touchdowns, Vaz for 1,480 and 11. Mannion was the first-teamer to open the season, Vaz to close it. Each was alternately good and bad. 

“It’s a matter of who comes out of it with the most consistency, the best play, and that might take some time,” OSU coach Mike Riley says.
 

Runners reverse field 
Stanford and UCLA each unexpectedly welcomed back a senior running back who left for a season and reconsidered. The Cardinal reclaimed Tyler Gaffney, who rushed for 449 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior in 2011. He is back at Stanford after spending the 2012 season in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization, where he hit .297 as an outfielder for the Class A State College (Pa.) Spikes.

“I have come to realize how much I missed my football family and how much I missed the game,” Gaffney said.

The Bruins added Malcolm Jones, former prep Gatorade National Player of the Year. He quit after carrying the ball just three times in the 2012 opener against Rice, but asked coach Jim Mora if he could come back. He has returned as a walk-on without a scholarship.

Said Mora of Jones, “He came in and said, ‘I think I made a mistake and was hasty in my judgment and I’d like to return to the team.’ … I have not made him any promises.”
 

Pac-12 gypsy 
That Dennis Erickson would resurface as Utah co-offensive coordinator really shouldn’t be a surprise. He’s now worked for one-fourth of the conference members, previously serving as head coach for Washington State (1987-88), Oregon State (1999-2002) and Arizona State (2007-11).  Erickson, 66, also has worked in two other Pac-12 cities as an NFL head coach with Seattle (1995-98) and San Francisco (2003-04).
 

Husky homecoming 
Washington, after playing a season of home games elsewhere (at Seahawks’ Qwest Field) for the first time in 92 years, returns to a renovated Husky Stadium on Aug. 31 against Boise State. Two-thirds of the lakeside facility was torn down and rebuilt for roughly $261 million. Luxury suites and seating closer to the field are the biggest additions.


Coordinator Carousel

Arizona State

Co-Defensive Coordinator
Old: Ron West; New: Chris Ball
West left Arizona State to coach linebackers and serve as the co-defensive coordinator at North Carolina. Ball was promoted to co-defensive coordinator with Paul Randolph after serving as the Sun Devils’ safeties coach and defensive passing game coordinator.
 

California

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Jim Michalczik; New: Tony Franklin
Michalczik, who had been a part of Jeff Tedford’s staff for nine of the past 11 years, landed a job in the Pac-12 as the offensive line coach at Arizona. Tony Franklin made the move from Louisiana Tech with new Cal coach Sonny Dykes.

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Clancy Pendergast; New: Andy Buh
Pendergast was not retained by the new staff but was hired as the defensive coordinator at USC. He has also been a DC with two NFL teams. Buh was the linebackers coach at Wisconsin last year. He was the defensive coordinator at Nevada from 2010-11 and the co-DC at Stanford from 2008-09.
 

Colorado

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Eric Bieniemy; New: Brian Lindgren
Bieniemy, the former star at Colorado, was not retained by the new staff. He is now the running backs coach with the Kansas City Chiefs. Lindgren was on new Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre’s staff last season at San Jose State in the same capacity. The Spartans set 27 offensive records in his only season at San Jose State.

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Greg Brown; New: Kent Baer
Brown was hired by Alabama to coach the secondary. Baer was the defensive coordinator at San Jose State the past three seasons. He also has experience as a DC at Washington (2005-07), Notre Dame (2002-04), Stanford (1995-2001), Arizona State (1992-94), California (1987-91), Idaho (1986) and Utah State (1983-85).
 

Oregon

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Mark Helfrich; New: Scott Frost
Helfrich is now the head coach at Oregon but is expected to call plays for the Ducks. Frost was promoted from his job as the Ducks’ wide receivers coach from 2009-12.
 

Stanford

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Pep Hamilton; New: Mike Bloomgren
Hamilton is now the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts, where he will work with former Stanford QB Andrew Luck. Bloomgren was the run game coordinator and offensive line coach at Stanford for the previous two seasons.
 

USC

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Kennedy Polamalu; New: Clay Helton
Polamalu was dismissed two days after National Signing Day and has not landed a new job. Helton had been on the USC staff as the quarterbacks coach from 2010-12 and also served as the passing game coordinator in 2012. 
 

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Monte Kiffin; New: Clancy Pendergast
Kiffin “resigned” after four seasons working for his son, one at Tennessee and three at USC. He is now the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. Pendergast was the DC at Pac-12 rival California last year.


Utah

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Brian Johnson; New: Brian Johnson, Dennis Erickson
Erickson was out of coaching last year after getting fired following the 2011 season at Arizona State. He previously was the head coach on the collegiate level at Idaho (twice), Oregon State, Miami, Washington State and Wyoming.
 

 

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Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Football 2013 Predictions</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 07:10
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Fall Saturdays are special. Especially, in the South.

Small towns, huge crowds, tailgating, bands, cheerleaders and student sections are just a few of the reasons college football is the best sport on the planet. When campuses jump to life across the nation each weekend in the fall, college stadiums become a staging ground for history.

There are a variety of ways to evaluate the greatness of a stadium. Huge attendance numbers, home-field advantage in the win-loss column, ear-piercing decibels, rich traditions, picturesque landscapes and amenities are just a few of the aspects that must be considered to rank so many great college football cathedrals.

And there is no better collection of home stadiums than in the nation's best conference, so keep in mind that ranking this league's stadiums functions like recruiting rankings. Meaning, Arkansas may be seventh in the SEC but top 20 nationally.

With that in mind, here's how the stadiums in the SEC stack up.

1. Tiger Stadium, LSU
Opened: 1924
Capacity: 92,542
2012 Attendance: 92,626 (7th nationally)

Be it the vast and unique tailgating menu or Richter Scale-inducing fans, few places in the nation can send chills down your spine like a game at Tiger Stadium. As one of the loudest and most rabid atmospheres in the nation, LSU boasts one of the most daunting home-field advantages in college football — especially at night. Les Miles has three perfect home seasons and is 50-7 in Death Valley overall during his eight seasons as head coach. A $70 million renovation is underway to push Tiger Stadium’s capacity to 100,000, only furthering this hallowed ground reputation as one of the nation’s top venues. And, honestly, how many venues have a real live Bengal Tiger roaming the sidelines?

2. Sanford Stadium, Georgia
Opened: 1929
Capacity: 92,746
2012 Attendance: 92,703 (6th)

It may not be the SEC’s biggest or loudest stadium but it is the most beautiful. Named for late former university president Dr. Stedman Vincent Sanford, the Bulldogs' home stadium is located in the heart of the plush greenery of the gorgeous Athens campus. The famed privet hedges line the field and separate the Georgia fans and the action on the field with style that matches the dolled-up student section. Sanford’s Southwest corner is also home to a canine marble mausoleum in which the first eight generations of Bulldog mascots have been laid to rest. Uga IX currently resides in a permanent on-field, air-conditioned doghouse near the cheerleaders’ platform on Saturdays. Mark Richt is 63-13 “Between the Hedges” and has his team poised for another perfect home slate in 2013.

 

3. Neyland Stadium, Tennessee
Opened: 1921
Capacity: 102,455
2012 Attendance: 89,965 (8th)

Named for former head coach General Robert Reese Neyland, the biggest venue in the SEC has, at one time or another, been the biggest college football stadium in the nation. Recent renovations have transformed the once dilapidated exterior into a brick Big Orange cathedral. Towering over the winding Tennessee River and subsequent Vol Navy, Neyland’s double-deck, totally enclosed seating makes it one of the loudest places to watch a game in the nation. A recent run of horrendous win-loss records have impacted attendance in a big way, as thousands of empty upper deck seats have taken away from the once daunting home-field advantage. But the Pride of the Southland Marching band still form the famed Power-T before every game, and, when this program is surging, few places in the nation can match the pageantry and passion of Neyland Stadium.

4. Kyle Field, Texas A&M
Opened: 1904
Capacity: 82,589
2012 Attendance: 87,014 (11th)

If things progress the way Texas A&M faithful believe, Kyle Field is poised to become arguably the best football stadium in the SEC. Once the $450 million renovation is completed prior to the 2015 season, the Aggies' home stadium will be the largest in the SEC (102,500). That said, the home of the 12th Man is no joke today as it stands. Three towering decks of screaming fans urge their team on through choreographed cheering and rich traditions. And fall Saturdays actually begin the night before with Midnight Yell Practice in which thousands of Aggies fill the seats at Kyle to warm up their windpipes for the following day of action. The surrounding campus offers little in the way of sightseeing and the win-loss home record from 2000-12 leaves much to be desired (56-30). Once enclosed and with Kevin Sumlin still patrolling the sidelines, that number is sure to improve. Despite having hosted only half-a-dozen SEC games, Kyle Field is currently the oldest venue in the conference and averaged one of the highest attendance percentiles in the nation (105.3% capacity) a year ago.

5. Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama
Opened: 1929
Capacity: 101,821
2012 Attendance: 101,722 (3rd)

Legendary head coach Bear Bryant and former university president George Denny team up to name one of college football’s most intimidating home venues. Alabama is 224-52-3 since opening the building in 1929 and Nick Saban is 29-6 at home during his tenure. In front of the most dedicated fans in the nation, the Crimson Tide routinely bring opponents to their knees with ear-shattering support and one appropriately named visitor’s locker room (“The Fail Room” after donor James Fail). A round of various multi-million dollar expansions completed in 2010 have made this football palace the No. 2 largest stadium in the SEC and one of the most luxurious places to watch a game.

6. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida
Opened: 1930
Capacity: 88,548
2012 Attendance: 87,587 (10th)

Coined by Steve Spurrier in the early 1990s, no stadium in the nation has a better nickname than “The Swamp.” And when the Gators are rolling, few places in the nation are as intimidating as a hot and humid Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Unique sightlines and design subtleties give BHGS plenty of character and gives the team a huge home-field advantage. From 1990 to 2009, the Gators had the best home field record in the nation at 113-13. When it comes to noise and success, The Swamp is among the game’s most preeminent locations to watch a game.

7. Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Arkansas
Opened: 1938
Capacity: 72,000
2012 Attendance: 68,046 (23rd)

One of the most underrated home atmospheres lies just a few miles north of the Ozarks in Northwest Arkansas. After massive renovations in 2001, “DWRRS” grew to accommodate some of the most dedicated fans in the nation. The nation’s second largest video board (167 feet wide) was added just last year to the North end zone and additional planned renovations will push this stadium to 80,000 seats in the very near future. Arkansas’ all-time record at their home stadium is a solid but uninspiring 166-81-2 and the trademark “Woo Pig Sooie” chant can be heard echoing across campus during each home game in the fall.

8. Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn
Opened: 1939
Capacity: 87,451
2012 Attendance: 82,646 (14th)

The Tigers' football stadium is named after Shug Jordan, the winningest coach in school history, and Cliff Hare, a member of Auburn’s first-ever football team and former president of the Southern Conference. Beautiful and historic murals on the east-side exterior as well as freshly planted “War Eagle” flowers in the end zone give this venue plenty of character. And when “Nova” (War Eagle VII), the team’s live golden eagle mascot, flies into the friendly confines, the Auburn faithful explode into a pre-game frenzy. It takes a special fan base and venue to attract over 82,000 fans to watch a team that didn't win a single SEC game a year ago.

9. Williams-Brice Stadium, South Carolina
Opened: 1934
Capacity: 80,250
2012 Attendance: 80,001 (18th)

Recent upgrades to the tailgating areas and stadium itself have elevated Williams-Brice into the upper echelon of SEC venues. “The Cock Pit” has signature lighting high above the upper deck on either side of the field as the school continues to break attendance records — 85,199 in 2012 against Georgia. Each home game begins with the playing of the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey," giving South Carolina one of the best pre-game reputations in the nation. Formerly known as Carolina Stadium, the name was changed in 1972 to Williams-Brice after university benefactor Martha Williams-Brice. Steve Spurrier has built WBS into one of the impossible places to win, posting a 25-3 mark at home over the last four seasons.

10. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Ole Miss
Opened: 1915
Capacity: 60,580
2012 Attendance: 57,066 (30th)

Can Ole Miss figure out a way to move The Grove inside Vaught-Hemingway? The world’s greatest pre-game tailgate takes place just a few yards away from the comparably small, but no less enjoyable, stadium. So while the third-oldest venue in the SEC hasn’t been all that daunting to opposing teams over the years, it does house what may be the most beautiful fan base in the nation. Everyone should attend at least one tailgate in Oxford, Miss.

11. Davis Wade Stadium, Mississippi State
Opened: 1914
Capacity: 55,082
2012 Attendance: 55,628 (35th)

The Bulldogs averaged more than 100-percent attendance a year ago and this is one of the reasons why Mississippi State has planned yet another expansion to Davis Wade Stadium. The $75 million work will take two years and will be completed before the 2014 season and will push capacity to 61,337 seats. The North end zone will be sealed off and a high-definition video board will be installed. Opposing fans and teams have grown to despise playing in front of the piercing collection of cowbells.

12. Memorial Stadium, Missouri
Opened: 1927
Capacity: 71,009
2012 Attendance: 67,476 (24th)

Missouri is doing everything it can to make its atmosphere and gameday experience match its big-time SEC rivals. In 2013, Mizzou faithful will be greeted with a brand new luxury suite tower to the West and tweaks to the historic north hill beyond the end zone. The famous rock “M” emblazoned hill was moved closer to the field to get fans closer to the action and create more concourse space. Additionally, a new project to build east-side suits and towers will expand the capacity to 77,000 over the next two years.

13. Commonwealth Stadium, Kentucky
Opened: 1973
Capacity: 67,692
2012 Attendance: 49,691 (41st)

From a percentage standpoint, the Wildcats posted the worst 2012 home attendance in the SEC. However, that had more to do with the poor play of the team than anything else. When this team is good, Big Blue Nation is as loud and passionate as any stadium with less than 70,000 seats in the nation. This venue has witnessed some historic moments — i.e., the Bluegrass Miracle — and Mark Stoops hopes his Spring Game attendance numbers (est. 50,381) are a preview of things to come this fall.

14. Vanderbilt Stadium, Vanderbilt
Opened: 1922
Capacity: 40,350
2012 Attendance: 37,860 (62nd)

The new brick façade and back-to-back winning seasons have helped build up the Dores' home atmosphere. However, the tiny alumni base and single-tiered stadium lacks the pageantry and passion of every other SEC venue. Vandy will always have a tough time selling out and competing in attendance numbers compared to the SEC's bluebloods. However, being located on beautiful West End with plenty to do within walking distance, there is still plenty to enjoy on gameday in Nashville. Of course, if James Franklin keeps winning nine games a season, all of this could change rapidly.

2013 SEC Team Previews

East DivisionWest Division
FloridaAlabama
GeorgiaArkansas
KentuckyAuburn
MissouriLSU
South CarolinaMississippi State
TennesseeOle Miss
VanderbiltTexas A&M


Related College Football Content

SEC All-Conference Team for 2013
SEC Predictions for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60
College Fooball Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 101-125
College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era
College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the SEC's Football Stadiums</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /nascar/motivated-johnson-no-match-nascar-field-pocono
Body:

A five-time champion in their respective sport is rarely in need of motivation. So when you hand it to them on a silver platter, whatever the reason, you better hide yourself inside a bunker and hope for the best. After Dover’s fluky finish a week ago, where a restart penalty all but took a win away from Jimmie Johnson, something inside the 37-year-old snapped. Struggling to hold his tongue on several occasions, it was clear “Mr. Politically Correct” felt NASCAR made the wrong call, robbing him of what would be a record-setting Dover performance.

For a regular season race — sometimes used as test sessions for the No. 48 team — it’s been a long time since I’ve seen them enter the following Sunday so focused. Johnson, typically unflappable, was angry, even borderline insulted over it all. And we see what happens when star athletes get mad. Just ask LeBron James, Michael Jordan or even Joe Namath.

The Dover penalty, no matter what side you’re on, made Johnson “want it” more than anyone else at Pocono. And when a driver of that talent level gets prodded to the point they feel a statement must be made, what you get is the type of dominating snoozer Pocono turned out to be. It may not have been pretty — and at times, borderline unwatchable — but that kind of “whip the field” mentality is what’s made this guy the best NASCAR driver of the last decade … maybe more. Superstars are called that for a reason, and it’s not because they push their sport towards record ratings. That’s unfortunate for stock car racing, which has suffered under the Johnson era but you can’t suspend raw talent. You can only hope to contain it.

After seeing Sunday’s race, I doubt it will be contained anytime soon, especially after chief rivals seemed to stumble all over themselves. Their rough road ahead is what brings us “Through the Gears” after Pocono …


FIRST GEAR: Toyota’s loss is Jimmie Johnson’s gain
It’s easy to wax poetic about Johnson’s dominating performance, his first victory at Pocono since 2004. But to a point, that was expected considering the team’s level of anger, track position at a repaved facility (he started on the pole) and the momentum his No. 48 team has built over the past few months. Consistency-wise, they’re the best in the sport right now — no one else is remotely close.

Perhaps the bigger piece of news for Chevy’s top dog is how the top finishers shook out behind him. For the first time all season, not a single Toyota driver found his way inside the top 5 at race’s end. Mid-week changes at Toyota Racing Development to dial the engines back after a series of reliability problems turned the cars from Superman to Clark Kent. Denny Hamlin, the prototypical favorite at this track, failed to lead a lap, finished a quiet eighth and explained how suddenly, his Camry’s engine appeared to be hindered by kryptonite.

“By no means did we have a winning car this weekend,” he said. “I think all of us had to play defense on the straightaway, which is really tough.”

Add in Matt Kenseth’s rough day, slumping to 25th from fourth after contact with Juan Pablo Montoya, and a so-so sixth for Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing as a whole had an average finish of 13.0 with “Toyota engine, Version II.” That’s crucial for Johnson, whose lone obstacle, it seemed, entering the postseason was whether the durability of these rival motors would hold up. If the Toyotas have to dial it back that much, just to make each race the distance, they’re threatening to gift wrap the 2013 trophy for Johnson and hand it to him at Phoenix, the penultimate race — because he’ll still be able to skip Homestead and still win No. 6.


SECOND GEAR: Tough times for the Gen-6
Clearly, Pocono Raceway is not at fault for Johnson stomping the field. When a driver has a car that good, there’s only so much you can do to make the races exciting. To the Tricky Triangle’s credit, the crowd looked fairly full as track president Brandon Igdalsky continues to come up with great ways to maximize fan experience both inside and outside the track.

But no amount of free concerts, celebrity poker tournaments or cheap tickets can hide how awful NASCAR’s product was on Sunday. Behind Johnson, most of the field kept running in place while even a series of late restarts struggled to live up to their typical excitement. Several drivers appeared on cruise control, running in place, while side-by-side competition was nowhere to be found. It’s a puzzling development, especially at a triangular-shaped facility whose shortened distance last June provided one of the season’s best races and finishes.

When you end up with that type of flat, across-the-board product so soon after, it’s hard to point guilt anywhere other than NASCAR’s Gen-6. Fontana, at this point, seems a distant memory as the same type of aerodynamic issues are plaguing this new generation of car. High speeds, while good for the record books, have posed a problem when it comes to aggressive competition; drivers are chasing the racetrack, so much it makes running two-abreast too big of a risk to take. Add in the conservatism of making the Chase, with such a close battle for those positions (see point four below) and the final equation leaves what you’re watching seem like a conservative, single-file parade.

Is there a fix? One thought would be to slow the cars down; that, in turn, cuts down on the aero push and gives drivers more freedom to maneuver around the track. What made Fontana so great was its multiple grooves, giving drivers control over where to plant the car. Since then, I’ve heard the term “one-groove” track too many times to my liking. If drivers don’t feel they can control a car in a second groove (and under this point system) they’re not going to go there unless forced to — on those crazy restarts.

How you get those multiple grooves back in play? I’m not certain of the answer. But the right people should be racking their brains, because the optimism — and hype — this new car generated is threatening to fade.
 

Teaser:
<p> Reaction from Jimmie Johnson's dominant win in NASCAR's Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 10, 2013 - 16:33
Path: /nascar/jimmie-johnson-pocono-party-pooper
Body:

Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe’s team showed up to Pocono Raceway with something to prove.

After being penalized for jumping a restart the previous weekend in the 400-miler at Dover that cost the team a victory, Johnson was all business as the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit hit Pocono’s quirky, 2.5-mile layout.

And that spelled bad news for everyone else, as Johnson laid waste to the field in the mountains of Pocono. Among the top two in speeds during each practice session, Johnson also sat on the pole when qualifying was rained out and, thus, had his choice of pit stall.

Not one to show strength early in the weekend only to fade late, Johnson dominated the Party in the Poconos 400 on Sunday, leading 128 of 160 laps en route to his third victory of the 2013 campaign. And in doing so, increased his lead in the championship point standings to 51 over second-place Carl Edwards — a full race-worth of a points advantage.

“That car had a ton of speed in it, and not only the car but I think our engine really had a chance to shine today, and the configuration here and the fact that we’re able to shift, our engine shop works really hard to make that power,” Johnson said. “Today it showed, and then at times when we needed to conserve fuel we could get that done, as well.

“I felt like it was a very well-rounded weekend for us — clearly with speed, (and with) that speed you need power, and then when we needed to back it down and save some fuel we could do that, too.”

Johnson, as he’s prone to do, understated the driver’s role in the victory — the 63rd of his illustrious career.

On four occasions inside of 40 laps to go, the driver was forced to hold off all-comers on restarts — which was his undoing at Dover. After starting second in that event, he beat race leader Juan Pablo Montoya to the line when Montoya lagged on the start.

Each driver had a different version of what happened, but Johnson was clearly still stewing about the victory-sapping penalty a week later.

“As racers, we need to work any and every angle we can,” Johnson said prior to Sunday’s race. “I think we need to put a little more weight in the officiating and how the rule reads and how it’s intended to be enforced.”

His restarts were spot-on at Pocono, though, as Johnson flawlessly fended off teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, and others as the race wound down. His trump card being that, as the leader, he controlled the restarts.

“I wanted to prove a point and show everybody really what could happen in that restart zone than what happened to me last week, but I couldn’t do it to a teammate (Earnhardt),” Johnson said. “So I guess if things stay the way they do, I’ll save that for another day and prove my point even more.”

Riding a commanding lead in the standings and with a trio of valuable wins, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus can now employ a strategy that led the duo to five consecutive Cup championships in 2006-10: Use the remainder of the regular season as a live-fire test session for the Chase.

Also, Johnson’s wife, Chandra, is expecting the couple’s second child, due in September — right about the time the 26-race regular season ends and the playoffs begin.

“If Chani goes into labor early, I don’t have to worry about Richmond, honestly,” Johnson said of the regular season finale. “That is what I’m working so hard for. I always work hard anyway, but it sure takes some pressure off if we lock early and don’t have to worry about Richmond.”

That could be further bad news for the competition, as Sunday proved that a motivated Jimmie Johnson can be the most dangerous force on the Sprint Cup circuit.
 

Teaser:
<p> Jimmie Johnson won the NASCAR Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 10, 2013 - 14:55
All taxonomy terms: Roto, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-june-10
Body:

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2013 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire report every Monday. Our fantasy junkies cover the hottest hitters, best waiver wire pick ups, top starting pitching spot starts and sift through bullpens from around the league each week.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (June 3-9):

  Name Pos. Team R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Troy Tulowitzki OF PHI 8 4 8 0 .429 1.444
2. Everth Cabrera 2B/SS SD 3 0 2 8 .485 1.090
3. Yasiel Puig OF LAD 4 4 10 0 .464 1.447
4. Domonic Brown OF PHI 6 3 7 2 .346 1.162
5. Matt Holliday OF STL 9 2 7 0 .407 1.292
6. Kyle Blanks* 1B/OF SD 7 3 7 0 .407 1.319
7. Mike Carp* 1B/OF BOS 7 3 6 0 .500 1.651
8. Yoenis Cespedes OF OAK 7 4 6 0 .345 1.126
9. Carlos Gonzalez OF COL 6 3 12 0 .276 1.103
10. Jarod Saltalamacchia* C BOS 6 3 7 0 .412 1.503
11. David Ortiz 1B BOS 5 3 12 0 .259 1.074
12. Brett Gardner OF NYY 5 1 6 1 .520 1.396
13. Carlos Beltran OF STL 5 2 8 1 .333 0.890
14. Matt Carpenter 1/2/3/OF STL 7 1 5 0 .455 1.193
15. Jay Bruce OF CIN 4 2 7 1 .381 1.131
16. Dan Uggla* 2B ATL 5 3 7 0 .318 1.210
17. Carlos Quentin* OF SD 6 2 4 0 .455 1.293
18. Cameron Maybin* OF SD 4 1 4 4 .278 .794
19. Jean Segura SS MIL 6 1 6 2 .267 .767
20. Howard Kendrick 2B LAA 4 1 3 1 .542 1.244
21. John Mayberry* 1B/OF PHI 5 2 6 0 .368 1.157
22. Jedd Gyorko* 2B/3B SD 6 2 4 0 .355 1.027
23. Coco Crisp OF OAK 5 2 2 2 .323 0.892
24. Ben Zobrist 2B/SS/OF TB 7 1 2 1 .400 1.150
25. Prince Fielder 1B DET 4 1 7 0 .417 1.006

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Weekly Waiver Wire:

Kyle Blanks, 1B/OF, SD (18% owned in Yahoo! Leagues)
A highly touted minor-league prospect for years, the light may finally be coming on for Blanks. Finally getting an opportunity to play thanks to injuries, Blanks is in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak during he's hit .407 (11-for-27) with three doubles, three home runs, seven RBIs and seven runs scored. With Yonder Alonso on the DL with a broken hand, Blanks figures to get plenty of time at first and also carries OF eligibility.

Cameron Maybin, OF, SD (36%)
Maybin got off to a miserable start, hitting just .091 in 33 at-bats in April, but it appears that a wrist injury was largely to blame for that. He came off of the DL on Thursday and has already made an impact in the Padres' lineup, hitting .278 with four runs scored, a home run, four RBIs and four stolen bases in four games. Maybin will never hit for a high average (.248 career average), but it's his speed that could be a difference-maker for your fantasy lineup. Maybin stole a combined 66 bases the last two seasons and just swiped four in four games. Right now, only 20 players have stolen 10 or more bases.

Carlos Quentin, OF, SD (21%)
Through the first two months of the season, Quentin got more headlines for putting Zack Greinke on the DL than he did for his bat (.214-5-17). However, the veteran has started June hot, putting together a seven-game hitting streak last week that saw his average go up 55 points thanks to 14 hits, two of them being home runs, during that span. Alas, one of the issues with Quentin throughout his career has been injuries, as he wasn't in the starting lineup on Sunday because of a sore shoulder. Still, if you are looking for outfield production, you may want to consider Quentin, who averaged 27 home runs a season from 2008-11 with the White Sox.

Anthony Rendon, 3B, WAS (17%)
The Nationals put Danny Espinosa (broken in bone in right wrist) on the DL last week and brought up Rendon, who had just been promoted from Double-A to Triple-A a few days prior. The team wasted no time in plugging Rendon into the lineup and at second, a position he had been working at on occasion in the minors. The reason for the move is that, for now, Rendon is blocked at third by Ryan Zimmerman, and the Nationals wanted to get his bat in there. Following a .375 average in 16 at-bats last week with three RBIs, it's easy to see why. Rendon's roster spot figures to be secure as long as Espinosa is on the DL and depending on your league's eligibility rules, he could soon add 2B/MI status, perhaps as early as this week. If he continues to hit, Rendon is certainly worth taking a look if you need some infield help.

Last Week:

Jonathan Lucroy, C, MIL: .211/.549, 2 RBIs
Matt Joyce, OF, TB: .167/.400, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB
Kendrys Morales, 1B, SEA: .241/.551, 3 R, 2 RBIs
Yasiel Puig, OF, LAD .464/1.447, 4 R, 4 HR, 13 RBIs

 

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Jarrod Parker* OAK 20.1 3 15 1.77 0.84
2. Hyun-Jin Ryu LAD 16.2 1 13 0.54 0.54
3. Rick Porcello* DET 20.0 1 25 1.80 0.80
4. Eric Stults* SD 22.0 1 19 1.64 0.73
5. Cliff Lee PHI 22.2 2 28 2.78 0.97
6. Dillon Gee* NYM 14.1 2 19 1.26 0.98
7. Felix Hernandez SEA 22.1 2 21 2.42 0.90
8. Adam Wainwright STL 24.0 3 22 2.25 1.17
9. Hisashi Iwakuma SEA 15.2 1 10 0.00 0.77
10. Julio Teheran* ATL 14.2 1 20 1.84 0.75
11. CC Sabathia NYY 16.1 2 19 2.76 0.86
12. Shelby Miller STL 13.0 2 16 1.38 1.00
13. Mat Latos CIN 19.1 2 19 1.86 1.09
14. Bartolo Colon* OAK 16.0 2 7 0.56 0.94
15. Max Scherzer DET 15.0 1 19 2.40 0.73
16. Mike Minor ATL 19.0 2 17 2.37 1.00
17. Johnny Cueto (DL) CIN 8.0 1 6 0.00 0.25
18. Clay Buchholz BOS 11.2 2 8 1.54 0.86
19. Yu Darvish TEX 21.2 0 27 2.49 0.92
20. Kris Medlen ATL 15.2 2 13 1.72 1.15

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Julio Teheran, ATL (Mon.) at San Diego (68% owned)
This may seem like cherry picking, but Teheran is still under that 70 percent ownership mark, so he qualifies for this exercise. That may not be the case, however, by the time he takes the mound in San Diego tonight, especially once those looking for pitching help or a spot-starter remember what the young right-hander did his last time out  — 8 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 SO against the Pirates.

2. Tony Cingrani, CIN (Tues.) at Chicago Cubs (44%)
Johnny Cueto's latest trip to the DL presents another opportunity for Cingrani. The 23-year-old lefty has more than held his own in his first six major-league starts (2-0, 3.27 ERA), including two against the Cubs. He's had two no-decisions against the Cubs, but has held them to just six earned runs and eight hits with just one walk and 14 strikeouts in 13 innings.

3. Bronson Arroyo, CIN (Fri.) vs. Milwaukee (41%)
Somewhat quietly, Arroyo has put together a solid start to the season. The veteran of the Reds' rotation, Arroyo has posted quality starts in nine of his 13 trips to the mound thus far, and put together a 6-5 record with a 3.35 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Not a high-strikeout guy, Arroyo has done a good job of limiting base runners and has been very strong at home (5-1, 2.68 ERA in 8 GS).

4. Jarrod Parker (Thurs.) vs. New York Yankees (60%)
The No.1 fantasy pitcher the last two weeks, Parker has put together six straight quality starts, going 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA during that span. The Yankees' offense may have received a boost with the return of Mark Teixeira from the DL, but the A's have been no slouch at the plate themselves and enter this series having won their last eight at home.

5. Scott Feldman, CHC (Sat.) at New York Mets (52%)
Feldman has been a pleasant surprise in the Cubs' rotation, as he's posted a quality start in seven of his last eight trips to the mound. Overall he's 5-4 with a 2.84 ERA in 11 starts and he shut out the Mets over 6 2/3 innings (7 H, 1 BB, 6 K) back on May 18 at Wrigley.

Closing Morsels:

Milwaukee's Jim Henderson (hamstring) was activated from the DL on Sunday and pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the Brewers' 9-1 win against the Phillies. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said he may not immediately call on Henderson to close out games, so for now it seems that Francisco Rodriguez will continue to get save opportunities ... Detroit's Joaquin Benoit got the save on Sunday against Cleveland rather than Jose Valverde, but that's because Valverde had pitched in each of the previous three games. For now, Valverde's job is secure, but Papa Grande has allowed six earned runs over his last four appearances, so it appears that Benoit would get the call if Tigers manager Jim Leyland ever decides to go in a different direction.

Keep up to date all season long with Athlon Sports' Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: June 10</p>
Post date: Monday, June 10, 2013 - 13:15

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