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Path: /college-football/top-12-best-big-ten-teams-bcs-era

The BCS just put a bow on its 15th season of action and Athlon has dissected the numbers and reviewed the tapes of all six BCS conferences in order to rank the best each league has had to offer. Which Oklahoma team was the best of the decade? Which Florida team was the toughest to stop? How do you rank the Florida State teams of the late '90s? Which Miami team was the best? How about those loaded USC teams? Alabama vs. Auburn?

The debates will rage on for decades, but here is Athlon's two cents. Here are the Top 12 Big Ten teams of the BCS Era (1998-present):

Note: "First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks

1. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2002 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs, Fiesta Bowl, National Championship
Key Stats: Ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense (13.1 ppg) and No. 3 nationally in rushing defense (77.7 ypg), this was the first team in NCAA history to finish 14-0
Award Winners: Maurice Clarett (Big Ten Freshman of the Year), Mike Doss (Big Ten Co-Def. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Mike Doss (2nd, 2003), Will Smith (1st, 2004), Chris Gamble (1st, 2004), Michael Jenkins (1st, 2004), Mike Nugent (2nd, 2005)

The team that never gave up began the season ranked No. 13 in the nation and slowly grinded their way to the No. 1 spot in the final standings. The Buckeyes beat five ranked teams, including the Big East's No. 2 team of the BCS era, en route to the 2002 National Championship. Behind gritty play from quarterback Craig Krenzel and a freshman school rushing record from Maurice Clarett (1,237 yards), the Bucks found themselves as heavy underdogs to defending national champs Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. Yet, the staunch Buckeye defense and two key touchdowns (and one great forced fumble/recovery) from Clarett gave Ohio State its sixth consensus national championship. The much-debated passing interference penalty also will go down in history as one of the more controversial plays — even if it was the right call. This Ohio State team sent an NFL-record 14 players to the league in the 2004 draft (five were selected in 2003 and three in 2005). This is the only Big Ten team to have claimed a BCS National Championship making them the top Big Ten team of the BCS Era.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes, 1998 (11-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: John Cooper
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: The Buckeyes lost five total turnovers (four fumbles) and surrendered 19 unanswered points in home loss to Michigan State.
Award Winners: David Boston (Sugar Bowl MVP), Joe Germaine (Big Ten Co-Off. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: David Boston (1st, 1999), Antoine Winfield (1st, 1999), Andy Katzenmoyer (1st, 1999), Joe Montgomery (2nd, 1999), Ahmad Plummer (2nd, 2000), Nate Clements (1st, 2001), Ryan Pickett (1st, 2001),

The most talented team to play under John Cooper had the National Championship rings already sized in the preseason. Ohio State began the year atop the polls and rolled to an 8-0 start before giving away a late 15-point lead to Michigan State — and a chance at the national title. Despite crushing Iowa and Michigan to finish the year with one loss, Ohio State just missed a chance to face Tennessee in the BCS National Championship game. After handling Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl, the Buckeyes finished No. 2 in the polls.

3. Penn State Nittany Lions, 2005 (11-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Joe Paterno
Championships: Big Ten, Orange Bowl
Key Stats: Tamba Hali led the Big Ten in sacks (0.92 pg), PSU finished seventh nationally against the run (93.0 ypg) and never allowed a team to reach 30 points all season.
Award Winners: Michael Robinson (Big Ten Off. Player of the Year), Paul Posluszny (Bednarik Award, Butkus Award), Tamba Hali (Big Ten Def. Lineman of the Year), Joe Paterno (AP, Home Depot, Walter Camp, AFCA National Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Tamba Hali (1st, 2006), Levi Brown (1st, 2007), Paul Posluszny (2nd, 2007)

Led by star quarterback Michael Robinson and stellar defensive tandem Tamba Hali and Paul Posluszny, the Penn State Nittany Lions were one play from making quite a ruckus in the BCS standings with an undefeated season. After starting 6-0 with convincing wins over ranked Minnesota and Ohio State, the Nittany Lions allowed Chad Henne to connect with Mario Manningham on the final play of the game in Ann Arbor - costing PSU a chance to challenge USC and Texas for title game rights. Penn State rolled through the rest of its schedule, including an impressive 35-14 win over top-15 Wisconsin. The Orange Bowl win over Florida State was the school's first BCS bowl win.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2006 (12-1, 8-0)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Championships: Big Ten
Key Stats: The fourth highest scoring team in program history (450 pts), Troy Smith led the Big Ten in passer efficiency (161.91). Finished in top three in the league in 15 of 17 tracked NCAA team stats.
Award Winners: Troy Smith (Heisman Trophy, Davey O'Brien, Big Ten Off. Player of the Year), James Laurinaitis (Nagurski Trophy)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Ted Ginn Jr. (1st, 2007), Anthony Gonzalez (1st, 2007), Vernon Gholston (1st, 2008), Beanie Wells (1st, 2009), Malcolm Jenkins (1st, 2009), James Laurinaitis (2nd, 2009), Brian Robiskie (2nd, 2009)

The Ohio State Buckeyes began the 2006 season as the team to beat — and proved it by going wire-to-wire as the nation's No. 1 ranked team. Troy Smith became only the third quarterback in league history to throw for at least 30 touchdowns (Drew Brees, Kyle Orton) and claimed the Heisman Trophy as he led the Buckeyes to an undefeated regular season that was capped by a thrilling 42-39 win over No. 2 Michigan. In its third game against the No. 2-ranked team, the Buckeyes offense never knew what hit them as the Florida Gators pressured Smith all game long. Poor coaching, poor preparation and poor execution in one game cost the Buckeyes the national championship.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2012 (12-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: Big Ten Leaders
Key Stats: Led the Big Ten in scoring at 37.2 points per game, Braxton Miller was second in total offense and fifth in rushing in the Big Ten. Carlos Hyde led the league in scoring at 10.2 points per game.
Award Winners: Braxton Miller (Big Ten Off. Player of the Year), John Simon (Big Ten Def. Player of the Year)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: N/A

In Urban Meyer's first season, the Buckeyes were left to wonder "what if" after a perfect season. One year after going 6-7 and losing in the Gator Bowl to a mediocre Florida team, the Buckeyes, led by super star Heisman candidate Braxton Miller, won every game they played including road wins over Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State, and home victories over Michigan and Nebraska. Was this team an elite OSU roster that would have been able to compete against either Notre Dame or Alabama? Odds are no, however, the current BCS system is set up to put No. 1 and No. 2 into the BCS title game and if Ohio State had been eligible, there is little doubt it would have faced the Fighting Irish in Miami instead of the Crimson Tide

6. Wisconsin Badgers, 1998 (11-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Barry Alvarez
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs, Rose Bowl
Key Stats: Dayne rushed for a current BCS bowl record 246 yards and four touchdowns against UCLA.
Award Winners: Ron Dayne (Rose Bowl MVP), Barry Alvarez (Big Ten Coach of the Year), Tom Burke (Big Ten Def. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Ron Dayne (1st, 2000), Chris McIntosh (1st, 2000), Jamar Fletcher (1st, 2001), Michael Bennett (1st, 2001), Chris Chambers (2nd, 2001), Wendell Bryant (1st, 2002)

Craig James began bowl season by claiming this was "the worst team to ever play in the Rose Bowl." With five first-round picks, an extraordinary offensive line, the conference's top defensive player, an eventual Thorpe Award winner and the NCAA's all-time leading rusher/Heisman Trophy winner, it is safe to say he was sorely mistaken. Ron Dayne set BCS bowl records for yards (246) and touchdowns (4) and carries (27 - which he broke himself the next year) in the 38-31 Rose Bowl win over the favored UCLA Bruins. Wisconsin's only loss came in Ann Arbor to the 10-3 (7-1) Wolverines.

7. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2007 (11-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Championships: Big Ten
Key Stats: Led the nation in scoring defense at 12.8 ppg. Led the nation in pass defense at 150.2 ypg. Led the Big Ten in seven of 17 tracked NCAA team stats.
Award Winners: James Laurinaitis (Butkus, Big Ten Def. Player of the Year), Vernon Gholston (Big Ten Def. Lineman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Vernon Gholston (1st, 2008), Beanie Wells (1st, 2009), Malcolm Jenkins (1st, 2009), James Laurinaitis (2nd, 2009), Brian Robiskie (2nd, 2009)

With road wins over ranked opponents Michigan, Penn State and Purdue to go with a home win over ranked Wisconsin, Ohio State found itself in its second straight BCS national title game. A late home loss to eventual Rose Bowl rep Illinois and to LSU in the championship game were the only blemishes on a season that started 10-0.

8. Wisconsin Badgers, 2011 (11-3, 6-2)
Head Coach: Bret Bielema
Championships: Big Ten
Key Stats: Russell Wilson set NCAA record for single-season passing efficiency (191.78) and NCAA record for consecutive games with a TD pass. Led the Big Ten in rushing offense, scoring offense, total offense and turnover margin. Montee Ball tied Barry Sanders' all-time single-season TD record with 39.
Award Winners: Russell Wilson (Big Ten QB of the Year), Montee Ball (Big Ten Off. Player of the Year, RB of the Year), 
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Kevin Zeitler (1st, 2012), Peter Konz (2nd, 2012)

This team was literally inches away from a 12-0 regular season as the Michigan State Hail Mary barely crossed the goal line and Braxton Miller's last-minute heave was this colse to being an illegal forward pass. That said, this team still went on to win the Big Ten in dramatic fashion in the conference title game and played tooth and nail with the high-flying Oregon Ducks. Russell Wilson posted the greatest single season by a Badgers quarterback in history and was a third-round pick who led the Seahawks to the playoffs as a rookie. The records, the overall talent, the statistical production and the entertainment value makes this team one of the best Wisconsin squads of all time. 

9. Michigan Wolverines, 2006 (11-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Lloyd Carr
Championships: None
Key Stats: Led the nation in rushing defense at an astonishing 43.4 ypg, LaMarr Woodley (0.92 spg) and team (3.23 spg) led the Big Ten in sacks.
Award Winners: LaMarr Woodley (Ted Hendricks, Lombardi, Big Ten Def. Player of the Year/Lineman of the Year), Jake Long (Big Ten Off. Lineman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Leon Hall (1st, 2007), David Harris (2nd, 2007), LaMarr Woodley (2nd, 2007), Alan Branch (2nd, 2007), Jake Long (1st, 2008), Chad Henne (2nd, 2008)

This Maize and Blue team started 11-0, including a 41-17 thumping of No. 2 Notre Dame, before losing by three on the road against the nation's No. 1 team,  Ohio State, on the final weekend of play. With three consensus first-team All-Americans (Hall, Long, Woodley), this team went as high as No. 2 in the polls before losing out on a title chance to Florida. Thirteen players from this team were selected in the 2007 and 2008 NFL Drafts including the '08 No. 1 overall pick, Jake Long.

10. Iowa Hawkeyes, 2002 (11-2, 8-0)
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs
Key Stats: Marked first time in school history Iowa won 11 games. Highest scoring team in Iowa history (484 points). Brad Banks led the nation in passing efficiency (157.12).
Award Winners: Kirk Ferentz (Walter Camp Coach of the Year), Brad Banks (Davey O'Brien), Nate Kaeding (Lou Groza), Dallas Clark (John Mackey)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Dallas Clark (1st, 2003), Eric Steinbach (2nd, 2003), Bruce Nelson (2nd, 2003), Robert Gallery (1st, 2004), Bob Sanders (2nd, 2004)

Stacked with NFL talent, the Hawkeyes posted the best record in school history — including tying eventual national champ Ohio State at 8-0 for the Big Ten co-championship (they didn't play each other that year). An offense led by Heisman Trophy runner-up Brad Banks (and Fred Russell) scored more points than any team in Iowa history. Road wins at Penn State and Michigan highlighted a season that ended in defeat at the hands of Heisman winner Carson Palmer and USC in the program's first-ever BCS bowl (Orange).

11. Wisconsin Badgers, 1999 (10-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Barry Alvarez
Championships: Big Ten, Rose Bowl
Key Stats: Ron Dayne became the NCAA's all-time leading rusher at 6,397 yards (7,125 counting bowls), finished No. 3 in the nation in rushing as a team (279.5 ypg), led the league in scoring at 35.6 ppg.
Award Winners: Ron Dayne (Heisman Trophy, Doak Walker, Maxwell, Walter Camp, Rose Bowl MVP), Brooks Bollinger (Big Ten Freshman of the Year), Chris McIntosh (Big Ten Off. Lineman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Aaron Gibson (1st, 1999), Ron Dayne (1st, 2000), Chris McIntosh (1st, 2000), Jamar Fletcher (1st, 2001), Michael Bennett (1st, 2001), Chris Chambers (2nd, 2001), Wendell Bryant (1st, 2002)

Following its Rose Bowl championship the previous season, the Badgers started 2-2 thanks to a shocking loss to Cincinnati on the road and five-point home defeat to Michigan. Wisconsin never lost again, beating five ranked teams to finish as Rose Bowl champs, including a road destruction of No. 12 Ohio State and home beat down of No. 11 Michigan State. Ron Dayne became the NCAA's all-time leading rusher in late October against Iowa, and claimed the Badgers' second Heisman Trophy. Dayne set the current BCS bowl record for rushing attempts with 34 (for 200 yards) in the Rose Bowl win over Stanford.

12. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2010 (12-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: The highest scoring team in OSU history (504 pts), Led the Big Ten in rushing (96.7 ypg), passing (165.5), total (262.2) and scoring (14.3 ppg) defense while leading the conference in turnover margin (+1.15).
Award Winners: Terrelle Pryor (Sugar Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Cameron Heyward (1st, 2011), Mike Adams (2nd, 2012)

The only loss the Buckeyes experienced in 2010 was a 31-18 defeat in Camp Randall to the 11-1 co-Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers. This team was loaded with NFL talent all over the offense and topped a ranked Miami and Iowa teams along with crushing rival Michigan. Ohio State also defeated an SEC team for the first time in school history with a Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas. Obviously, this season carries with it a large asterisk, as the entire season was later vacated. (The 2009 Buckeyes just missed making this list).

<p> Top 10 Best Big Ten Teams of the BCS Era</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-offensive-lineman

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

The offensive line is where championships are won. Just look at Alabama the last few seasons. The Texas Longhorns, which have always recruited extremely well along the line, need some of those five-star names to pan out. Mack Brown is poised to land two of the top three players in the nation along the line, including what many believe is the top center in the nation—Darius James. The No. 24 offensive lineman, Jake Raulerson, is a two-way star from Celina, Texas, who could end up on either side of the ball.

Notre Dame and Michigan each have five offensive linemen in the top 30 committed. Brady Hoke wants to build his program around the running game and landing the nation's No. 1 O-Line class will go a long way towards having success in the Big Ten. Brian Kelly, meanwhile, got a quick education about SEC defensive lines and is set to land the No. 2 O-Line class this cycle

Additionally, Pitt, Maryland and LSU all kept the top blockers from their home bases in the fold with key verbal pledges

The big prize, however, is still left on the board as the nation's top lineman and No. 4-rated overall prospect Laremy Tunsil is still uncommitted. The Lake City (Fla.) Columbia blocker has Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida State and Georgia listed as his finalists.

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

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Laremy Tunsil No. 4 Lake City, FL 6-6 295 --
2. Darius James No. 34 Harker Heights, TX 6-5 320 Texas
3. Kent Perkins No. 38 Dallas, TX 6-6 285 Texas
4. Dorian Johnson No. 43 Belle Vernon, PA 6-6 270 Pitt
5. Ethan Pocic No. 57 Lemont, IL 6-7 280 LSU
6. Grant Hill No. 62 Hunstville, AL 6-6 300 Alabama
7. Patrick Kugler No. 68 Wexford, PA 6-4 270 Michigan
8. Evan Lisle No. 80 Centreville, OH 6-6 265 Ohio St
9. Kyle Bosch No. 92 Wheaton, IL 6-5 305 Michigan
10. Derwin Gray No. 95 Washington, DC 6-5 295 Maryland
11. Steve Elmer No. 97 Midland, MI 6-6 305 Notre Dame
12. John Montelus No. 101 Everett, MA 6-5 305 Notre Dame
13. Hunter Bivin No. 102 Owensboro, KY 6-7 290 Notre Dame
14. Khaliel Rodgers No. 105 Elkton, MD 6-3 300 USC
15. Austin Golson No. 107 Prattville, AL 6-6 285 Florida St
16. David Dawson No. 110 Detroit, MI 6-4 280 Michigan
17. Ira Denson No. 120 Madison, FL 6-4 320 Florida St
18. Brandon Mahon No. 132 Randolph, NJ 6-5 315 Penn St
19. Tyrone Crowder No. 135 Rockingham, NC 6-1 330 --
20. Mike McGlinchey No. 140 Philadelphia, PA 6-8 280 Notre Dame
21. Josh Boutte No. 144 New Iberia, LA 6-5 305 LSU
22. Chris Fox No. 147 Parker, CO 6-6 300 Michigan
23. Logan Tuley-Tillman No. 155 Peoria, IL 6-7 305 Michigan
24. Jake Raulerson No. 161 Celina, TX 6-5 260 Texas
25. Colin McGovern No. 181 New Lenox, IL 6-5 285 Notre Dame
26. Denver Kirkland No. 183 Miami, FL 6-5 330 --
27. Christian Morris No. 207 Memphis, TN 6-6 295 UCLA
28. Shamire DeVine No. 215 Atlanta, GA 6-6 350 Georgia Tech
29. Brandon Kublanow No. 229 Marietta, GA 6-3 290 Georgia


View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

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

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Offensive Lineman</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-linebackers

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

The linebacker position has become one of the most difficult to pinpoint in the recruiting process. A prospect could range from 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-4 and from 200 to 260 pounds, depending on what type of scheme he will be used in. The proliferation of the hybrid 3-4 outside linebacker/defensive end has created what could be considered an entirely new position. Nick Saban calls it the "Jack Back" and has won three national titles with elite players like Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and Xzavier Dickson (who is 6-3, 265) playing the position. Still other more traditional schemes feature smaller, speedy outside linebackers who can excel at 6-foot and 210 pounds. The definition of "linebacker" has been stretched mightily in the last decade.

And Saban has the next great one in end/backer hybrid Jonathan Allen (pictured). He is a massive prospect who could easily grow into a true end, but his frame and skill set seems perfectly suited for the Jack Back. The Tide also is still in on two top 10 players nationally in Reuben Foster and Matthew Thomas. Foster, who is a true middle linebacker, has been committed to both Auburn and Alabama and will have Washington and Georgia in the mix as well when all the dust settles. Thomas is a freak athlete who will pick between Miami, Florida State, Georgia, Alabama and USC.

Should Bama land both, they would easily claim the top class in the nation — to go with four returning starters at the linebacker position. Otherwise, the Florida Gators likely can claim the best collection of tacklers with the No. 5 (Alex Anzalone), No. 6 (Daniel McMillian) and No. 19 (Matt Rolin) overall linebackers in the nation heading to Gainesville. Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers deserve a tip of the cap as well, landing three of the top 23 (No. 13, No. 18, No. 23) LBs in the nation. 

The No. 1 linebacking prospect is headed to Notre Dame, though, as Jaylon Smith showcased in the U.S. Army Bowl how talented the four-time state champion will be on the next level. He is a freakish athlete who can rush the passer, drop into coverage and block kicks on special teams. Look for Brian Kelly to have fun finding ways of getting Smith involved early in his career.

As a side note, the state of Virginia is loaded at the position in 2013 as five of the top 30 linebackers in the nation hail from The Commonwealth. However, only one is slated to stay close to home — Holland Fisher at Virginia Tech.

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

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Jaylon Smith No. 2 Fort Wayne, IN 6-3 220 Notre Dame
2. Reuben Foster No. 6 Auburn, AL 6-1 240 --
3. Matthew Thomas No. 8 Miami, FL 6-3 210 --
4. Jonathan Allen No. 17 Ashburn, VA 6-3 250 Alabama
5. Alex Anzalone No. 53 Reading, PA 6-3 230 Florida
6. Daniel McMillian No. 56 Jacksonville, FL 6-2 220 Florida
7. Mike Mitchell No. 58 Plano, TX 6-3 220 Ohio St
8. Holland Fisher No. 59 Midlothian, VA 6-1 210 Virginia Tech
9. Isaac Savaiinaea No. 93 Honolulu, HI 6-3 230 --
10. Larenz Bryant No. 96 Charlotte, NC 6-1 210 South Carolina
11. Michael Hutchings No. 100 Concord, CA 6-2 215 USC
12. Trey Johnson No. 111 Lawrenceville, GA 6-1 220 Ohio St
13. Dorian O'Daniel No. 121 Olney, MD 6-1 205 Clemson
14. Deoundrei Davis No. 130 Cypress, TX 6-3 215 Texas
15. Myles Jack No. 137 Bellevue, WA 6-2 215 UCLA
16. Peter Kalambayi No. 145 Matthews, NC 6-3 235 Stanford
17. Mike McCray No. 147 Trotwood, OH 6-4 230 Michigan
18. Ben Boulware No. 148 Anderson, SC 6-0 220 Clemson
19. Matt Rolin No. 152 Ashburn, VA 6-3 210 Florida
20. Yannick Ngakoue No. 159 Washington, DC 6-3 235 --
21. Tim Kimbrough No. 165 Indianapolis, IN 6-1 225 Georgia
22. Quinton Powell No. 172 Daytona Beach, FL 6-2 195 --
23. Jayron Kearse No. 174 Fort Myers, FL 6-3 200 Clemson
24. Deon Hollins Jr. No. 178 Missouri City, TX 6-2 225 UCLA
25. E.J. Levenberry Jr. No. 183 Woodbridge, VA 6-3 225 Florida St
26. Doug Randolph No. 203 Richmond, VA 6-3 235 Notre Dame
27. Jermaine Grace No. 220 Miramar, FL 6-1 200 --
28. Jon Reschke No. 223 Bloomfield, MI 6-2 225 Michigan St
29. Marcus Newby No. 228 New Potomac, MD 6-1 210 Nebraska
30. Chans Cox No. 236 Lakeside, AZ 6-3 230 Arizona St

View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

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

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Linebackers</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/senior-bowl-preview-5-things-watch

The 63rd Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., kicks off Saturday (Jan. 26, 2013) at 4 p.m. EST on NFL Network — or Ladd-Peebles Stadium, if you want to scout from a front row seat. Jim Schwartz and the Detroit Lions are coaching the South squad, with Dennis Allen and the Oakland Raiders leading the North team.

But here’s what to really watch for between the lines once the game gets going:

1. Elite Left Tackles
Texas A&M true junior Luke Joekel isn’t eligible to compete at the Senior Bowl; he’ll probably be kicking it with Johnny Football attempting ridiculous trick shots or gambling or something else crazy. Joekel is considered this year’s top left tackle prospect — and a legit candidate to go No. 1 overall in the draft to the Kansas City Chiefs.

But a pair of first-round candidates will be in Mobile. Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher (6’7”, 305) will man the blindside up North and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson (6’6”, 303) handles the big money spot down South. Both dancing bears have been cashing in during practice all week, with Fisher working his way into fringe-top-10-pick range.

2. QB Shuffle
Before arriving on the scene at Super Bowl XLVII, Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick were low profile Senior Bowl quarterbacks from Delaware and Nevada, respectively. But they aren’t the only recent success stories, four Senior Bowl quarterbacks have been taken in the first-round over the past three drafts.

This year crop of QBs includes NC State’s Mike Glennon, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib, Florida State’s EJ Manuel and Miami (Ohio)’s Zac Dysert. With so many teams still unsettled at quarterback, one of these signal-callers could make a late charge up draft boards like Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler (No. 11 in 2006) or TCU’s Andy Dalton (No. 35 in 2011).

3. Family Traditions
Several familiar surnames will be doing pops and/or big bro proud in Mobile.

Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant studded out during practice this week and might have earned a first-round grade — although he won’t go as high as Marcus Trufant (No. 11) did out of Washington State back in 2003.

USC safety T.J. McDonald weighed in at 6’2” and 205 pounds, with a similar frame to his old man Tim (6’2”, 215) — who went on to a six-time All-Pro and Super Bowl XXIX championship career after being the No. 34 pick in 1987.

Oregon O-lineman Kyle Long is the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and brother of former No. 2 pick Rams defensive end Chris Long. After measuring in at 6’7”, 312 with shorter than expected arms, Kyle may have to kick in from tackle to guard — but he’s still likely to carry on the Long tradition of his NFL family.

4. Denard X-Factor
The Senior Bowl has proven to be fertile proving ground for quarterbacks-turned-receivers/runners/return-specialists like Indiana’s Antwaan Randle El (MVP in 2002) and West Virginia’s Pat White (MVP in 2009) — both of whom went on to be second-round picks after MVP efforts in the Senior Bowl.

This year, Michigan’s Denard Robinson has had a choppy week of practice while trying to prove he can successfully transition from quarterback to triple-threat playmaker. “Shoelace” will have one last shot to perform in pads — after a career that saw Denard X. pass for 6,250 yards, rush for 4,459 yards and account for 91 total TDs.

5. Raw, Unreal Athletes
Although Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker won’t play in Saturday afternoon’s game, Danny Lee Jesus stole the show during weigh-ins earlier in the week — checking in at 6’5”, 355 pounds and carrying his weight with impressive ease. Fluker's fellow Crimson Tide national champion, linebacker Nico Johnson, will give local Bama fans a reason to yell "Roll Tide," however, so Nick Saban's club will be well represented.

On game day, all eyes will be on potential 3-4 elephant man Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, BYU’s 6’5”, 270-pound pass rushing specimen who has only been playing football for three years but has been called the “next Jason Pierre-Paul” by some. A few splash plays in the Senior Bowl would go a long way to securing Ziggy’s status as a first-rounder.

Arguably the biggest boom-or-bust prospect in the Senior Bowl — and maybe the entire 2013 draft pool — is 359-pound Georgia nose tackle John Jenkins. To no one’s surprise, Jenkins was the heaviest man on the scales in Mobile and will be one of the players with the most ground to gain or lose on Saturday.

<p> Senior Bowl Preview: 5 Things to Watch, including Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher, Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson, Michigan's Denard Robinson, Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, USC safety T.J. McDonald, BYU's Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah and Georgia nose tackle John Jenkins.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 18:57
Path: /nfl/5-under-radar-players-who-could-help-their-team-win-super-bowl-xlvii

Super Bowl XLVIIThe stars of Super Bowl XLVII are easy to pick out. Joe Flacco, the Ravens quarterback, has been playing out of his mind. Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback, has played like he’s been around for a decade. Ray Lewis is the emotional center of the Ravens, just like Patrick Willis is for the 49ers. Frank Gore and Ray Rice, the running backs are the engines that make their offenses go.

It’s a good bet that one of those six will be the star of the Super Bowl when the Baltimore Ravens play the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday night. And it’s a good bet that all of them will make a big play somewhere in the game. But the harder bet is to find the unsung hero. Who will be the guy, like Mario Manningham a year ago, to step out of the shadows and make the play of the game?

The beauty of it is it could be anybody. But here are six guys – three for each team — that may be flying under your radar, but that should have the opportunity to make a big difference at some point in the game:

Anquan BoldinRavens receiver Anquan Boldin
Torrey Smith is the No. 1 receiver on this team, but Boldin hasn’t exactly faded into aging, possession receiver territory. He may be 32, but he’s taken advantage of some open space and single coverage in the playoffs by catching 16 passes in three games for 276 yards and three touchdowns. By far the team’s leading receiver, he had two touchdowns in the AFC championship game and he’s not likely to get any extra attention as long as Smith is on the other side.

Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta

He doesn’t fit into the Ravens’ offense the way Todd Heap used to fit, and his numbers are decent, but not great in an era of explosive tight ends. But he’s a sneaky weapon, way down the list behind Smith, Boldin, Rice and probably one or two others. Witness his 7 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 15 game against Denver for proof of what he can do. He also has two touchdowns in the playoffs. Lose track of him, and he can make a defense pay.

49ers running back LaMichael James
The emergence of Colin Kaepernick and his ability to run has really diminished the need for a second running back and LaMichael James is an extreme situational player. But he had five runs for 34 yards in the NFC championship game and his 15-yard touchdown run was an incredible combination of burst and speed. When he gets going, he’s like a cannonball, which makes him always one broken tackle away from a game-changing play.


49ers receiver Randy Moss
There was a time not that long ago that Moss was still the most dangerous player on most fields he was on. Now, he’s a bit player in the 49ers offense. The bigger threats are Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Gore. But the Ravens will overlook Moss at their own peril. He has five catches for 71 yards in two playoff games, but he’s still got the size, skill and hands to make big plays. Maybe the consistent speed isn’t there, but all it takes is one big catch to change a game.

Ravens running back Bernard Pierce
This running game belongs to Rice, but the speed and shiftiness of the Ravens’ starter puts the defense on its heels and allows the 6-foot, 218-pound Pierce to come in and knock them over. A very effective 2 in the 1-2 punch, the rookie has only had 27 carries through three playoff games, but he’s rushed for 169 yards – or 6.3 yards per carry. He’s a threat to break a big run if the defense isn’t on its toes, and he can wear them down while Rice gets a breather on the sidelines.

49ers return man Ted Ginn Jr.
He has been solid but unspectacular in the playoffs, until a 20-yard return to the Atlanta 38 put the 49ers in position for the game-winning touchdown last week. He still has the skills and speed to break a big return and he needs to be contained by the Ravens. And if you doubt his importance, just remember what happened in the NFC championship game last season, when Ginn was injured and his replacement, Kyle Williams, literally fumbled away a trip to Super Bowl XLVI.


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

<p> Who will be the unsung heroes of the big game?</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 11:31
Path: /college-basketball/college-baskebtall-weekend-preview-michigan-state-indiana-top-game

Perhaps the best sign of the Big Ten’s depth this season is the revolving door of teams as the flavor of the week.

Indiana started the season as the preseason No. 1. Then, Illinois won the Maui Invitational and started 12-0. After that, Minnesota teased us with a 15-1 start, culminating in a rout of Illinois on the road. And all the while Michigan has spent most of the season knocking on the door of the No. 1 spot in the polls.

Now, Michigan State has a turn. Tom Izzo's Spartans lead the Big Ten at 6-1, one win ahead of Indiana and two ahead of Michigan. Every other Big Ten team has at least two conference losses.

One of these teams can take a sense of control in the Big Ten on Sunday. Indiana is looking for a more complete showing than what the Hoosiers have displayed in recent weeks. After the loss to Wisconsin at Assembly Hall, Indiana had fits in the second half with Northwestern. On Thursday, the Hoosiers defeated Penn State soundly, but Cody Zeller had his worst game of the year.

Meanwhile, Michigan State has show a knack for winning the close games. The Spartans may have lucked out against Ohio State thanks to an ill-advised final shot from Buckeyes guard Shannon Scott, but Michigan State came back to grind through a 49-47 win at Wisconsin.

Michigan State at Indiana
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.
(cap. 17,472)
Michigan State probable starters
G Keith Appling (6-1/190, Jr.)
G Gary Harris (6-4/205, Fr.)
G Branden Dawson (6-6/230, So.)
C Derrick Nix (6-9/270, Sr.)
C Adreian Payne (6-10/240, Jr.)
Indiana probable starters
G Yogi Ferrell (6-0/178, Fr.)
G Jordan Hulls (6-0/182, Sr.)
G Victor Oladipo (6-5/214, Jr.)
F Christian Watford (6-9/232, Sr.)
C Cody Zeller (7-0/240, So.)

Game-defining matchup: Adreian Payne vs Cody Zeller
Zeller is coming off his worst game of the season, in which he went 0 for 4 from the field in 21 minutes against Penn State. The Indiana center should bounce back, but he’ll run into a tough matchup against Payne. The Spartans big man has had a breakout season and watched his own four-game hot streak come to an end the last time out against Wisconsin. If he can run the floor with Zeller and cause problems around the basket, Michigan State will be in good shape.

Player we’re watching: Keith Appling
The Spartans’ point guard hit a handful of key shots on the way to 19 points in the ugly 49-47 win over Wisconsin on Tuesday. After struggling for a bit, he’s had a good two-game stretch in close games against the Badgers and Ohio State. He’s 12 of 30 from the field in the last two games.

Stat that matters: Indiana’s free throw opportunities
The Hoosiers’ 73-percent rate from the free throw line isn’t among the top 50 in the country, but Indiana gets its fair share of points from the line. Part of that is because the tempo Indiana likes to run, but also because of the pressure the Hoosiers put on the defense. Indiana is fouled on 30.2 percent of possessions, a rate that leads the Big Ten. Not surprisingly, nearly a quarter of the Hoosiers’ scoring (24.7 percent) comes from the line, a stat that also leads the league.

How Michigan State can win: Slow the game down
Wisconsin frustrated Indiana by slowing the pace in the Hoosiers’ 64-59 loss on Jan. 15. Michigan State is much more adept at playing the grinding, low-scoring game than Indiana -- the Spartans defeated Wisconsin 49-47 and Ohio State 59-56 in the last week. Limiting the nation’s top-scoring team in transition will be a key to victory.

How Indiana can win: Win the backcourt matchup
Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell is coming off his best game of the season (it was against Penn State, so don’t get too excited). Will Sheehey appears to have broken out of a slump. And Victor Oladipo has played well against Michigan State in the past. Those are good trends for Indiana against Michigan State, especially if Indiana can limit production from Appling and Branden Dawson, who combined for 37 of the Spartans’ 49 points against Wisconsin.

Prediction: Indiana 80, Michigan State 75

Related: NCAA Tournament projections and bubble watch

All times Eastern

Louisville at Georgetown (Saturday, noon, ESPN)
Georgetown was sharp offensively in a surprisingly easy win at Notre Dame on Monday night, but the Hoyas have had trouble scoring with consistency for much of the season. Louisville is one of the nation’s elite defensive teams — easy baskets will be tough to come by for Otto Porter and the rest of JT3’s club, even at home.

Maryland at Duke (Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS)
Poor shooting (39.4 percent) has doomed Maryland through the first three weeks of the ACC season, and Duke is coming off a 4-of-23 performance from the three-point line in the lopsided loss to Miami. The Blue Devils are 2-4 the last two seasons without Ryan Kelly in the lineup.

Kansas State at Iowa State (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big 12 syndication)
Iowa State took Kansas to overtime on Jan. 9 and won three in a row thereafter. But then the Cyclones delivered a puzzling loss to Texas Tech on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Kansas State, despite a loss to Kansas, should remain in the Big 12 race all season because the Wildcats defend very well and get after it on the glass.

Minnesota at Wisconsin (Saturday, 2 p.m., Big Ten Network)
The Golden Gophers are on a three-game losing streak after getting beat up on the glass in a surprising loss to Northwestern. Now, the Gophers visit Madison, where Minnesota won only once in its last 15 games. With back-to-back losses to Iowa and Michigan State after the upset of Indiana, Wisconsin also needs a win to keep itself afloat in the Big Ten.

Oklahoma at Kansas (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
We’re not ready to call Oklahoma a legitimate contender in the Big 12, but the Sooners are 4–1 in the league after Monday’s win over Texas. Lon Kruger clearly has this program on the right path. Kansas features one of the nation’s top freshmen in guard Ben McLemore and an elite shot-blocker in center Jeff Withey. This is a very tough task for the Sooners.

New Mexico at San Diego State (Saturday, 4 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
San Diego State shot a combined 43-of-126 (34.1 percent) overall and 5-of-37 from three (13.5 percent) in recent losses to UNLV at home and at Wyoming. That, obviously, has to improve. New Mexico is the only team without a loss in Mountain West play while every other MWC team has two or more league losses.

Temple at Butler (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2)
Without Rotnei Clarke, Butler has had two thrilling finishes against Gonzaga (a win) and La Salle (a loss). Clarke is hopeful to return against the Owls after a frightening neck injury on Jan. 12. Temple guard Khaliff Wyatt is averaging 24.8 points in his last four games.

North Carolina at NC State (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN)
After an 0–2 start in the ACC, North Carolina won at Florida State, blew out Maryland at home and handle Georgia Tech on the road. UNC still struggles to shoot the ball from the 3-point line and doesn’t get to the foul line enough, but the Heels are good enough to be a threat in the ACC. Since defeating Duke, NC State has lost two of its last three, including a defense-optional loss to Wake Forest.

Florida State at Miami (Sunday, 6 p.m., ESPNU)
This is one of the biggest weeks in years for Miami basketball. The Hurricanes are the only unbeaten team (5–0) in the ACC after the rout of Duke. Rival Florida State is searching for answers on the offensive end of the floor after scoring only 36 points in a 20-point loss at Virginia last weekend.

Michigan at Illinois (Sunday, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Illinois won its first 12 games under new coach John Groce, but the Fighting Illini went 3–5 over their next seven games. Illinois is far too reliant on the 3-point shot to enjoy sustained success throughout the entire season. Michigan is more balanced on offense, but the Wolverines still don’t do a great job of getting to the foul line. Only 15.8 percent of their scoring comes from the line, which ranks 333rd in the nation.

Athlon Sports managing editor Mitch Light contributed to this report.

<p> College Baskebtall Weekend Preview: Michigan State-Indiana is top game</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /nfl/10-greatest-players-never-play-super-bowl

Being a future Hall of Famer does not guarantee a trip to the Super Bowl. In fact, many of the game’s greatest players never took the field with the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the line. This year, Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed will finally end his Super Sunday drought against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. But these all-time greats were not so lucky.

1. Barry Sanders, RB, Lions (1989-98)
Playoff record: 1–5
Playoff stats: 386 rush yards (4.2 ypc), TD; 111 receiving yards (5.3 ypc), TD
Best team: 1991 Lions (12–4 record, lost in NFC Championship Game)
Closest call: 1991 (NFC Championship Game, 41–10 loss at Redskins)

After winning his playoff debut 38–6 against the Cowboys, Sanders lost his next five postseason games. Shockingly, one of the most exciting players of all-time was limited to 13 or fewer carries in four of his six playoff contests. The only time No. 20 was given more than 20 carries, he ripped off 169 yards in a 28–24 loss to the Packers. Although Sanders ran wild every year on Thanksgiving Day, he never showed up to the party on Super Bowl Sunday.

2. Deacon Jones, DE, Rams (1961-71), Chargers (’72-73), Redskins (’74)
Playoff record: 0–2
Playoff stats: N/A
Best team: 1967 Rams (11–1–2 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 1969 (Divisional Round, 23–20 loss at Vikings)

The “Secretary of Defense” was known for head-slapping opposing offensive linemen, but the two-time Defensive Player of the Year must have been doing some head-scratching after retiring with zero playoff wins — and zero Super Bowl appearances — despite an unofficial total of 173.5 sacks during his Hall of Fame career.

3. Dick Butkus, LB, Bears (1965-73)
Playoff record: 0–0
Playoff stats: N/A
Best team: 1965 Bears (9–5 record, missed postseason)

Arguably the greatest middle linebacker in history, Butkus played for George Halas — the legendary coach whose name graces the trophy awarded to the winner of the NFC Championship Game — and on the same team as Hall of Fame triple-threat playmaker Gale Sayers. Despite looking great on paper at the time and even better in historical hindsight, Butkus’ Bears were unable to make the playoffs, which is the first step toward advancing to the Super Bowl.

4. Gale Sayers, RB, Bears (1965-71)
Playoff record: 0–0
Playoff stats: N/A
Best team: 1965 Bears (9–5 record, missed postseason)

Butkus and Sayers were drafted Nos. 3 and 4 overall, respectively, by the Bears in 1965. But the Hall of Fame duo were unable to translate their individual achievements into team success. Sayers notched a record six TDs in a single game — with nine carries for 113 yards and four TDs, two catches for 89 yards and one TD, and five punt returns for 134 yards and one TD as a rookie — but failed to score even a single Super Bowl trip.

5. Earl Campbell, RB, Oilers (1978-84), Saints (’84-85)
Playoff record: 3–3
Playoff stats: 420 rush yards (3.1 ypc), 4 TDs; 45 receiving yards (9.0 ypc)
Best team: 1979 Oilers (11–5 record, lost in AFC Championship Game), 1980 Oilers (11–5 record, lost in Wild Card Round)
Closest call: 1979 (AFC Championship Game, 27–13 loss at Steelers), 1978 (AFC Championship Game, 34–5 loss at Steelers)

The “Luv Ya Blue” bulldozer was unable to take down the powerful “Steel Curtain” during back-to-back AFC Championship Game losses. In two painful defeats at Pittsburgh, Campbell had a combined 39 carries for 77 yards (1.97 ypc), two catches for 15 yards, and zero TDs. Campbell’s two scoreless games against the Steelers were the only two playoff games in which he failed to find the end zone.

6. O.J. Simpson, RB, Bills (1969-77), 49ers (’78-79)
Playoff record: 0–1
Playoff stats: 49 rush yards (3.3 ypc); 37 receiving yards (12.3 ypc), TD
Best team: 1974 Bills (9–5 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 1974 (Divisional Round, 32–14 loss at Steelers)

Another victim of the mighty Steelers, the Juice had better luck than Campbell — with 18 touches for 86 total yards and one TD — but was unable to lead the Bills to victory in what would be his only postseason appearance. The actor and defendant never basked in the spotlight of the Super Bowl but he was seen by millions during his days as Lt. Nordberg in the "Naked Gun" franchise and his starring role in the Trial of the Century.

7. Eric Dickerson, RB, Rams (1983-87), Colts (’87-91), Raiders (’92), Falcons (’93)
Playoff record: 2–5
Playoff stats: 724 rush yards (4.9 ypc), 3 TDs; 91 receiving yards (4.8 ypc), TD
Best team: 1985 Rams (11–5 record, lost in NFC Championship Game)
Closest call: 1985 (NFC Championship Game, 24–0 loss at Bears)

Upon first glance, the single-season rushing yards record holder posted solid playoff numbers. But take off the goggles and you’ll see that Dickerson’s 248-yard, two-TD outburst during a 20–0 win over the Cowboys in 1985 accounted for one-third of his career postseason rushing yards and half of his total TDs.

8. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers (2001-09), Jets (’10-11)
Playoff record: 4–5
Playoff stats: 468 rush yards (3.6 ypc), 6 TDs; 176 receiving yards (7.0 ypc), TD
Best team: 2006 Chargers (14–2 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 2010 (AFC Championship Game, 24–19 loss at Steelers), 2007 (AFC Championship Game, 21–12 loss at Patriots)

Infamously sulking on the sideline, injured and wearing in a Darth Vader facemask and trench coat at New England — after just two carries for five yards — was clearly the low point of L.T.’s playoff career. Staying on the dark side, three of his five playoff losses were by margins of three points, one defeat came by four points and the most lopsided was a nine-pointer.

9. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Chiefs (1997-2008), Falcons (2009-12)
Playoff record: 1–6
Playoff stats: 30 catches for 286 yards (9.5 ypc) and 4 TDs
Best team: 2012 Falcons (13–3 record, lost in NFC Championship Game), 2010 Falcons (13–3 record, lost in Divisional Round), 2003 Chiefs (13–3 record, lost in Divisional Round), 1997 Chiefs (13–3 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 2012 (NFC Championship Game, 28–24 loss vs. 49ers)

It took Gonzo 16 seasons to finally earn a playoff win. Then, with the Falcons holding a 17–0 lead over the 49ers in the NFC title game, it looked like the future Hall of Fame tight end would be punching his ticket to the Super Bowl and possibly riding off into the sunset as a champion. Nope. Not this year. Gonzalez will have to come back for a 17th season if he hopes to break his Super Bowl-less slide.

10. Warren Moon, QB, Oilers (1984-93), Vikings (’94-96), Seahawks (’97-98), Chiefs (’99-00)
Playoff record: 3–7
Playoff stats: 2,870 yards, 17 TDs, 14 INTs, 84.9 passer rating
Best team: 1993 Oilers (12–4 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 1993 (Divisional Round, 28–20 loss vs. Chiefs), 1991 (Divisional Round, 26–24 loss at Broncos), 1988 (Divisional Round, 17–10 loss at Bills)

Moon won five consecutive Grey Cups and was twice named Grey Cup MVP in the Canadian Football League. But in these United States south of the border, the former CFL champion was unable to translate his prior success to the NFL Playoffs. Moon’s waning moment came in the worst collapse in postseason history, as his Oilers watched a 35–3 lead evaporate into a 41–38 overtime loss against the Frank Reich-led Bills.

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

<p> Sanders, Jones, Butkus and LT never played in the Super Bowl.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/texas-ams-johnny-manziel-makes-ridiculous-trick-shot-video

Trick shot videos have been a popular offseason craze in college football over the last few years. Connecticut’s Johnny McEntee seems to have started this recent trend, but several other players have attempted to create their own viral videos, including Pittsburgh kicker Kevin Harper.

While Harper and McEntee’s videos were impressive, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel might take the prize as the best one. The Heisman Trophy winner recently teamed with Dude Perfect to create a ridiculous trick shot video, which showcases the redshirt freshman's accuracy and arm strength. 

Manziel and one of Dude Perfect’s members attempt several different tricks, including throwing a football into a basketball (known as the laser shot), hitting a target in the air, nailing a balloon on the goal post, as well as a deep pass from the top of the stadium to a basketball goal on the field.

Needless to say, this is worth five minutes of your time.

<p> Texas A&amp;M's Johnny Manziel Makes Ridiculous Trick Shot Video</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 07:10
Path: /nfl/5-reasons-why-san-francisco-49ers-will-win-super-bowl-xlvii

Super Bowl XLVII is set for Sunday, Feb. 3, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. While the majority of the focus has been on the matchup up between the sons of Jack Harbaugh, this Har-Bowl (or Super Baugh, if you prefer) will be decided on the field by the teams that are led by John and Jim, the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.

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

Here are five reasons why Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers will maintain the franchise’s perfect Super Bowl record by bringing home a sixth Lombardi Trophy:

1. Youth Will Be Served
It should not be much of a surprise to note that Baltimore and San Francisco are among the oldest teams in the NFL, as age and experience are typically two elements necessary for success. According to STATS, the Ravens and 49ers were three of the six oldest teams in the league based on the average age of their rosters at the end of the regular season, both coming in around 27 ½ years old.

However, it’s no stretch to say that the Ravens’ roster has a little more gray on it than the 49ers, especially when it comes to key positions. For starters, the Ravens have nine players who have played in 10 or more NFL seasons, headlined by 17-year veteran Ray Lewis. Lewis is joined in this distinction by fellow linebacker Terrell Suggs, safety Ed Reed, wide receiver Anquan Boldin and offensive linemen Matt Birk and Bryant McKinnie. All six are starters.

The 49ers, on the other hand, have seven players with more than a decade’s worth of experience, but only three — defensive lineman Justin Smith, wide receiver Randy Moss, offensive lineman Jonathan Goodwin — of theirs are starters, although you could include kicker David Akers in this group if you wanted to.

Even though Ravens starting quarterback Joe Flacco is by no means an “old” quarterback at 28, he’s still got three years on his counterpart, the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick. Since the 2001 season, younger starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl are 10-1 versus their older peers. The only victory by the older signal-caller during this span was courtesy of Peyton Manning (30 at the time) over Rex Grossman (26) in Super Bowl XLI.

Despite that loss to the Rodgers and the Packers, Roethlisberger is still the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl when he helped his Steelers beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL at the ripe old age of 23. In fact, if Kaepernick can do the same for his 49ers against the Ravens he will join a pretty impressive club of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks 25 and under. Besides Roethlisberger, this group includes Tom Brady (24 when he won his first), Joe Montana and Joe Namath (both 25).

For what it’s worth, youth also is on the side of the 49ers when it comes to head coaches, as Jim Harbaugh is a year younger than his older brother, John. Big brother does have a 1-0 edge on his younger sibling in head-to-head matchups, as the Ravens defeated the 49ers 16-6 on Thanksgiving Day in 2011. However, everyone knows that this time and this game, is and will be different.

2. Kaepernick’s Legs Just as Important as His Arm
In his first two career playoff games, Colin Kaepernick is averaging 248 yards passing and 101 yards rushing per contest. He set a new rushing standard for quarterbacks when he gained 181 on the ground against Green Bay in the NFC Divisional round. He followed that up with a mere 21 yards rushing in the NFC Championship game against Atlanta, but those numbers tell only part of the story.

As a team, the 49ers picked up 149 yards rushing on 29 carries against the Falcons. Kaepernick had only two of those carries, even though the 49ers used the read option 13 times. On the plays when Kaepernick handed off rather than keeping it himself, the running backs averaged 5.2 yards per attempt and scored three touchdowns.

During the regular season, teams with quarterbacks similar to Kaepernick, dual threats who can make plays with their arm and legs, put up fairly large numbers on the Ravens, while also defeating them in the process. Michael Vick had more than 400 yards of total offense and accounted for two touchdowns in Philadelphia’s 24-23 win in Week 2, while Robert Griffin III had 276 and a score in helping the Redskins pull out a 31-28 overtime victory in Week 14. The Ravens not only have to try and contain Kaepernick, they also can’t afford to focus all of their defensive efforts and game planning solely on stopping him.

It’s also worth pointing out that the last time the 49ers won a Super Bowl, they had a dual-threat quarterback running the offense. Eighteen years ago, Steve Young took home MVP honors in Super Bowl XXIX in when he threw a record six touchdown passes and led all rushers with 49 yards en route to an easy 49-26 victory over San Diego.

3. San Francisco’s "Old School" Approach
Even though this postseason has served as Colin Kaepernick’s coming out party, the 49ers are still winning games the way they always have under Jim Harbaugh – by running the ball and playing stifling defense. San Francisco finished fourth in the NFL in the regular season in rushing with 155.7 yards per game and averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

The ground game’s production has been even more impressive in the playoffs, as they have piled up 472 yards and scored seven rushing touchdowns in two games and are averaging 6.6 yards per carry. While the highlight so far may be Kaepernick’s quarterback-record 181 yards rushing versus Green Bay, he’s not the only who has gotten the job done on the ground.

Running back Frank Gore is third in the playoffs with 209 yards rushing and leads all players with three rushing touchdowns, while backups LaMichael James and Anthony Dixon have each chipped in a ground score of their own. Between Gore’s ability to run between the tackles, Kaepernick’s mobility, James’ game-breaking speed and explosiveness, and the strength of the offensive line, the 49ers’ ground game has all the elements needed to cause any defense headaches.

To make matters worse, the Ravens have had more than their share of struggles in stopping the run throughout the season. They finished the regular season 20th against the run, allowing 122.8 yards per game, but fared even worse against some of the league’s top rushing teams.

The Ravens yielded 179 yards rushing to the Redskins, who led the NFL in rushing, along with 214 to the Chiefs (fifth) and 181 to the Texans (eighth) during the regular season. They also gave up 227 yards on the ground to the Cowboys, who were second-to-last in rushing during the regular season, and have allowed an average of 128.3 yards rushing per game in the playoffs.

4. Defense Wins Championships
As well as Baltimore’s defense has played in getting to New Orleans, San Francisco’s defense certainly can’t be overlooked. Similar to the Ravens, who beat Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to win the AFC title, the 49ers had to defeat two Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan) to win their conference championship.

On top of that, the 49ers’ defense was one of the top units in the NFL during the regular season, finishing second in scoring defense, third in total defense and fourth in both rushing and passing defense. Six 49er defensive players were named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster; five of them as starters, and this unit is well represented on this year’s AP All-Pro team as well.

All four starting linebackers were named All-Pros with NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis earning first team honors and Ahmad Brooks getting named to the second team. They are joined by safety Dashon Goldson (first team) and defensive tackle Justin Smith (second) on the AP’s All-Pro teams. Contrast this amount of defensive “star” power, if you will, to the Ravens, who placed just two defensive players on the AFC Pro Bowl squad – defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and safety Ed Reed – with Ngata the only Raven earning All-Pro (second team) distinction.

Based on the number of Pro Bowlers and All-Pros, the argument can be made that the 49ers’ defense is deeper and more talented, and it certainly is younger when you consider the fact that the Ravens’ key playmakers on that side of the ball are long-time veterans like Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ngata and Reed.

And while he doesn’t line up on defense, San Francisco punter Andy Lee plays a vital role as it applies to helping the 49ers win the field position battle. Lee tied Thomas Morstead for the league lead in net punting (43.2 ypp), while placing more than half (36 of 67) of his kicks inside the 20. He had just four touchbacks and opponents averaged less than seven yards per return on his punts during the regular season.

Not surprisingly, Lee was named first-team All-Pro for the second season in a row and the third time overall in his career. He has kept up his fine work in the playoffs, including the NFC title game versus Atlanta. Against the Falcons, Lee averaged more than 50 yards per punt on his three kicks, including a long of 62. Besides producing a net average of 48.3 yards per punt, Falcons punt returner Harry Douglas managed a grand a total of six return yards on Lee’s three kicks.

5. Dome-Field Advantage?
Even though San Francisco plays its home games on grass at Candlestick Park, this will not be the 49ers’ first game indoors this season or even their first on the field where Super Bowl XLVII will be played. Besides beating Atlanta in the Georgia Dome in the NFC Championship game, San Francisco defeated New Orleans 31-21 in the Superdome back in Week 12.

San Francisco also faced St. Louis the following week in the Edward Jones Dome, a game the 49ers lost 16-13 in overtime, but perhaps the most important fact regarding this is that quarterback Colin Kaepernick started all three of these indoor games.

On the other side there is Baltimore, who has not played a true indoor game all season. The Ravens did play Houston at Reliant Stadium, which has a retractable roof, back in Week 7. But whether the roof was closed or not mattered little, as the Ravens suffered by far their worst loss of the season, a 43-13 beat down courtesy of the Texans.

Obviously much has changed since that Oct. 21 contest for the Ravens, not to mention the 49ers, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with having some familiarity with the field where you will play the biggest game of the season, no?

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

<p> Harbaugh’s “old school” philosophy is one reason to like his team’s chances.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/big-easts-top-10-teams-bcs-era

The BCS has been in place for 15 seasons and Athlon has dissected the numbers and reviewed the tapes of all six BCS conferences in order to rank the best each league has had to offer. Which Oklahoma team was the best of the decade? Which Florida team was the toughest to stop? How do you rank the Florida State teams of the late '90s? Which Miami team was the best? How about those loaded USC teams? Alabama vs. Auburn?

The debates will most assuredly rage on for decades, but here is Athlon's two cents. Here are the Top 10 Big East teams of the BCS Era (1998-present):

"First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks
* - team played in the ACC Championship game

10. West Virginia Mountaineers, 2006 (11-2, 5-2)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
Championships: Gator Bowl
Key Stats: No. 2 in nation in rushing offense (303.0 ypg), no. 3 in scoring offense (38.9 ppg), no. 5 in total offense (461.4 ypg), Steve Slaton no. 4 in nation in rushing (134.2 ypg) and no. 2 in all-purpose yards (161.9 ypg)
Award Winners: Dan Mozes (Rimington Trophy), Pat White (Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Gator Bowl co-MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (1): Pat White (2nd, 2009)

These Mountaineers began the season ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll and rose as high as No. 3 as they won their first seven games handily. The stage was set for a Nov. 2 nationally televised showdown with No. 5 Louisville on the road. The Mountaineers would lose to the eventual Big East champion Cardinals 44-34 and later fall at home to South Florida 24-19. West Virginia would rebound to win its final two games, first defeating No. 13 Rutgers 41-39 in triple overtime and then beating No. 25 Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl. The Mountaineers were powered by a high-octane offense that scored 34 or more points in 11 of 13 games and was led by dual-threat quarterback Pat White and consensus All-American running back Steve Slaton.

9. Cincinnati Bearcats, 2008 (11-3, 6-1)
Head Coach: Brian Kelly
Championships: Big East
Key Stats: Led the nation in net punting (41.5 yards per punt), no. 9 in the nation in sacks (2.9 per game), Mardy Gilyard no. 11 in the nation in kickoff returns (27.6 ypr) and all-purpose yards (162.9 ypg)
Award Winners: Mardy Gilyard (Big East Special Teams Player of the Year), Brian Kelly (Big East Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (1): Connor Barwin (2nd, 2009), Isaiah Pead (2nd, 2012), Derek Wolfe (2nd, 2012)

Cincinnati would rebound from an early-season beat down at No. 4 Oklahoma, 52-26, to win the Big East and earn a berth in the Orange Bowl against the ACC Champion Virginia Tech Hokies. The Hokies would hold the Bearcats to just one touchdown as Cincinnati’s season ended with a 20-7 loss on New Year’s Day.

8. Louisville Cardinals, 2006 (12-1, 6-1)
Head Coach: Bobby Petrino
Championships: Big East, Orange Bowl
Key Stats: School record 12 wins, no. 2 in the nation in total offense (475.3 ypg), no. 4 in scoring offense (37.8 ppg), no. 2 in sacks (45 total, 3.5 per game), Art Carmody no. 4 in scoring (9.5 ppg), made all 60 PATs and 21 out of 25 field goal attempts
Award Winners: Brian Brohm (Orange Bowl MVP), Art Carmody (Lou Groza Award)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (3): Amobi Okoye (1st, 2007), Brian Brohm (2nd, 2008), Eric Wood (1st, 2009)

These high-flying Cardinals’ lone blemish on the season was a three-point loss to No. 14 Rutgers on the road in November. Louisville placed seven on the first-team All Big East team including three offensive linemen and two future NFL draft picks in defensive lineman Amobi Okoye and cornerback William Gay. The offense was led by quarterback Brian Brohm, running back Kolby Smith and wide receiver Harry Douglas. The Cardinals would bounce back from the Rutgers loss and win their final four games, capped off with a 24-13 Orange Bowl victory over No. 15 Wake Forest. A week after the program’s first BCS Bowl win, head coach Bobby Petrino left to become the head coach of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

7. West Virginia Mountaineers, 2007 (11-2, 5-2)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
Championships: Big East co-champions, Fiesta Bowl
Key Stats: No. 3 in rushing offense (297.2 ypg), no. 7 in total defense (301.7 ypg)
Award Winners: Pat White (Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP), Reed Williams (Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (1): Pat White (2nd, 2009)

Ranked No. 3 in the preseason, the Mountaineers went into the final game of the regular season, the 100th Backyard Brawl against Pittsburgh, as the top-ranked team in the Coaches Poll. The unranked Panthers got the best of their bitter rival, 13-9, dashing the Mountaineers’ title hopes in the process. To make matters worse, head coach Rick Rodriguez left to become Michigan’s head coach as the team prepared for its Fiesta Bowl showdown with No. 3 Oklahoma. The team would rally behind interim head coach Bill Stewart as the Mountaineers stunned the nation by dominating the Sooners 48-28. Pat White led the way with 326 total yards of offense and the Mountaineers ran roughshod over the Sooners, gaining 349 yards on the ground alone.

6. West Virginia Mountaineers, 2005 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
Championships: Big East, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: No. 4 in nation in rushing offense (272.4 ypg), Steve Slaton no. 14 in nation in rushing (112.8 ypg), no. 3 in scoring (19 TDs) as freshman
Award Winners: Rich Rodriguez (Big East Coach of the Year), Steve Slaton (Big East Rookie of the Year, Sugar Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (1): Pat White (2nd, 2009)

In what would be the first of three straight 11-win seasons, the Mountaineers ran over and through the Big East, with their lone blemish being a 34-17 defeat to the No. 3-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies in Morgantown. A 46-44 triple overtime victory over Louisville helped West Virginia finds its stride offensively, as the Mountaineers would score 38 or more points in five of their last six games, including their season-ending 38-35 upset of No. 8 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Steve Slaton capped off a sensational freshman season by rushing for 204 yards and three touchdowns against the Bulldogs to earn Sugar Bowl MVP honors.

5. Cincinnati Bearcats, 2009 (12-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Brian Kelly
Championships: Big East
Key Stats: School record 12 wins, finished regular season undefeated and ranked No. 3 in BCS standings, no. 2 in nation in passing efficiency, no. 4 in scording offense (38.6 ppg)
Award Winners: Mardy Gilyard (Big East Special Teams Player of the Year), Brian Kelly (Big East Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Isaiah Pead (2nd, 2012), Derek Wolfe (2nd, 2012)

The Bearcats unleashed their high-scoring offense on the Big East and their other opponents in 2009, scoring 41 points or more six times. They captured the Big East title and ended the regular season undefeated by coming back from 21 points down in the first half and then scoring the game-winning touchdown with just 33 second left to defeat Pittsburgh 45-44 on the road. Despite being undefeated, the Bearcats were left out of the BCS National Championship game and instead were sent to the Sugar Bowl to face the Florida Gators. They would do so without head coach Brian Kelly, however, as he left to become Notre Dame’s head coach prior to the bowl game, which Cincinnati would lose 51-24 to the Gators.

2009 Schedule:

Sept. 7: Cincinnati 47, Rutgers 15 (Piscataway, NJ)
Sept. 12: Cincinnati 70, Southeast Missouri State 3 (Cincinnati, OH)
Sept. 19: Cincinnati 28, Oregon State 18 (Corvallis, OR)
Sept. 26: Cincinnati 28, Fresno State 20 (Cincinnati, OH)
Oct. 3: Cincinnati 37, Miami (Ohio) 13 (Oxford, OH)
Oct. 15: Cincinnati 34, (#21) South Florida 17 (Tampa, FL)
Oct. 24: Cincinnati 41, Louisville 10 (Cincinnati, OH)
Oct. 31: Cincinnati 28, Syracuse 7 (Syracuse, NY)
Nov. 7: Cincinnati 47, Connecticut 45 (Cincinnati, OH)
Nov. 13: Cincinnati 24, (#25) West Virginia 21 (Cincinnati, OH)
Nov. 27: Cincinnati 49, Illinois 36 (Cincinnati, OH)
Dec. 5: Cincinnati 45, (#15) Pittsburgh 44 (Pittsburgh, PA)
Jan. 1: (#5) Florida 51, Cincinnati 24 (Sugar Bowl)

4. Virginia Tech Hokies, 1999 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Frank Beamer
Championships: Big East
Key Stats: No. 1 in nation in scoring offense (41.4 ppg) and scoring defense (10.5 ppg) in regular season; Michael Vick led the nation in passing efficiency as a freshman
Award Winners: Frank Beamer (Paul “Bear” Bryant Award, Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year), Corey Moore (Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Lombardi Award, Nagurski Award), Michael Vick (Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Big East Rookie of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (4): Michael Vick (1st, 2001), Ike Charlton (2nd, 2000), Andre Davis (2nd, 2002), John Engleberger (2nd, 2000)

Led by freshman quarterback Michael Vick and a stingy defense headlined by unanimous All-American defensive end Corey Moore, the Virginia Tech Hokies went through the regular season unblemished and pretty much unchallenged as their closest margin of victory was two points on the road against West Virginia. Pitted against the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl, the Hokies held onto a one-point lead at the end of the third quarter. The Seminoles would outscore the Hokies 18-0 in the final quarter, putting an end to their national championship dreams.

1999 Schedule:

Sept. 4: Virginia Tech 47, James Madison 0 (Blacksburg, VA)
Sept. 11: Virginia Tech 31, UAB 10 (Blacksburg, VA)
Sept. 23: Virginia Tech 31, Clemson 11 (Blacksburg, VA)
Oct. 2: Virginia Tech 31, (#24) Virginia 7 (Charlottesville, VA)
Oct. 9: Virginia Tech 58, Rutgers 20 (Piscataway, NJ)
Oct. 16: Virginia Tech 62, (#16) Syracuse 0 (Blacksburg, VA)
Oct. 30: Virginia Tech 30, Pittsburgh 17 (Pittsburgh, PA)
Nov. 6: Virginia Tech 22, West Virginia 20 (Morgantown, WV)
Nov. 13: Virginia Tech 43, (#19) Miami (Fla.) 10 (Blacksburg, VA)
Nov. 20: Virginia Tech 62, Temple 7 (Philadelphia, PA)
Nov. 26: Virginia Tech 38, Boston College 14 (Blacksburgh, VA)
Jan. 4: (#1) Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29 (Sugar Bowl)

3. Miami Hurricanes, 2000 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Butch Davis
Championships: Big East, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: No. 2 in nation in scoring offense (42.6 ppg) and no. 5 in scoring defense (15.5 ppg) through regular season
Award Winners: Ken Dorsey (Sugar Bowl MVP), Dan Morgan (Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Bednarik Award, Butkus Award, Nagurski Award), Santana Moss (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (20): Phillip Buchanon (1st, 2002), Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), Damione Lewis (1st, 2001), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Bryant McKinnie (1st, 2002), Dan Morgan (1st, 2001), Santana Moss (1st, 2001), Ed Reed (1st, 2002), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005), Mike Rumph (1st, 2002), Jeremy Shockey (1st, 2002), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Reggie Wayne (1st, 2001), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Clinton Portis (2nd, 2002)

This is the team that laid the groundwork for the 2001 national championship as the roster featured five All-Americans, 12 first-team All Big East selections and 20 future first- or second-round NFL draft picks. Despite beating then No. 1-ranked Florida State earlier in the season and being ranked higher in the polls, the Hurricanes were prevented a chance to vie for the national championship. Instead, they went to the Sugar Bowl and took their frustrations out on another in-state rival, defeating Florida 37-20 and finishing the season ranked No. 2. That victory also was the last for Butch Davis as a collegiate coach, as he left Miami to become the head coach of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.

2000 Schedule:

Aug. 31: Miami (Fla.) 61, McNeese State 14 (Miami, FL)
Sept. 9: (#15) Washington 34, Miami (Fla.) 29 (Seattle, WA)
Sept. 23: Miami (Fla.) 47, West Virginia 10 (Morgantown, WV)
Sept. 30: Miami (Fla.) 64, Rutgers 6 (Piscataway, NJ)
Oct. 7: Miami (Fla.) 27, (#1) Florida State 24 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 21: Miami (Fla.) 45, Temple 17 (Philadelphia, PA)
Oct. 28: Miami (Fla.) 42, Louisiana Tech 31 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 4: Miami (Fla.) 41, (#2) Virginia Tech 21 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 11: Miami (Fla.) 35, Pittsburgh 7 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 18: Miami (Fla.) 26, Syracuse 0 (Syracuse, NY)
Nov. 25: Miami (Fla.) 52, Boston College 6 (Miami, FL)
Jan. 2: Miami (Fla.) 37, (#7) Florida 20 (Sugar Bowl)

2. Miami Hurricanes, 2002 (12-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Larry Coker
Championships: Big East
Key Stats: No. 1 pass defense (119.7 pg) in nation; Willis McGahee no. 4 rusher (134.9 ypg), no. 2 scorer (28 TDs) in nation
Award Winners: Ken Dorsey (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year), Willis McGahee (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year), Brett Romberg (Rimington Trophy)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (15): Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Kelly Jennings (1st, 2006), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), William Joseph (1st, 2003), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Rocky McIntosh (2nd, 2006), Sinorice Moss (2nd, 2006), Roscoe Parrish (2nd, 2005)

This team lived up to its billing as defending national champions as it started the season ranked No. 1 and maintained that ranking until the final game. Thirteen Hurricanes were named first-team All Big-East with running back Willis McGahee and center Brett Romberg earning consensus All-American honors. The lone blemish on their record came in the BCS National Championship Game as the ‘Canes fell in two overtimes to Ohio State, ending their reign as national champions and 34-game winning streak.

2002 Schedule:

Aug. 31: Miami (Fla.) 63, Florida A&M 17 (Miami, FL)
Sept. 7: Miami (Fla.) 41, (#6) Florida 16 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 14: Miami (Fla.) 44, Temple 21 (Philadelphia, PA)
Sept. 21: Miami (Fla.) 38, Boston College 6 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 5: Miami (Fla.) 48, Connecticut 14 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 12: Miami (Fla.) 28, (#9) Florida State (Miami, FL)
Oct. 26: Miami (Fla.) 40, West Virginia 23 (Morgantown, WV)
Nov. 2: Miami (Fla.) 42, Rutgers 17 (Piscataway, NJ)
Nov. 9: Miami (Fla.) 26, Tennessee 3 (Knoxville, TN)
Nov. 21: Miami (Fla.) 28, Pittsburgh 21 (Miami FL)
Nov. 30: Miami (Fla.) 49, Syracuse 7 (Syracuse, NY)
Dec. 7: Miami (Fla.) 56, Virginia Tech 45 (Miami, FL)
Jan. 3: (#2) Ohio State 31, Miami (Fla.) 24 (2OT) (BCS National Championship)

1. Miami Hurricanes, 2001 (12-0, 7-0)
Head Coach: Larry Coker
Championships: Big East, Rose Bowl, National
Key Stats: No. 3 in nation in scoring offense (42.7 ppg), no. 1 in scoring defense (9.8 ppg); average margin of victory 33.2 points per game
Award Winners: Larry Coker (Paul “Bear” Bryant Award), Ken Dorsey (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Maxwell Award, Rose Bowl co-MVP), Andre Johnson (Rose Bowl co-MVP), Bryant McKinnie (Outland Trophy), Ed Reed (co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (17): Phillip Buchanon (1st, 2002), Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), William Joseph (1st, 2003), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Bryant McKinnie (1st, 2002), Ed Reed (1st, 2002), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005), Mike Rumph (1st, 2002), Jeremy Shockey (1st, 2002), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Clinton Portis (2nd, 2002)

Simply put, this team was loaded and is viewed by many as one of the best ever in college football history. With a roster featuring six first-team All-Americans and 13 first-team All-Big East selections, not to mention 32 future NFL draft picks, these Hurricanes dominated on both sides of the ball and steamrolled their competition from start to finish. They started things off by going to Happy Valley and dominating Penn State 33-7, which tied the record for the Nittany Lions’ worst home loss under Joe Paterno. Later on, the ‘Canes defeated No. 14 Syracuse and No. 12 Washington in consecutive weeks at the Orange Bowl with a combined score of 124-7, which set the NCAA record for largest margin of victory over consecutive ranked opponents. They capped things off by dismantling the No. 4 Nebraska Cornhuskers 37-14 in the Rose Bowl, in a game where they held a 34-0 lead in the first half.

2001 Schedule:

Sept. 1: Miami (Fla.) 33, Penn State 7 (State College, PA)
Sept. 8: Miami (Fla.) 61, Rutgers 0 (Miami, FL)
Sept. 27: Miami (Fla.) 43, Pittsburgh 21 (Pittsburgh, PA)
Oct. 6: Miami (Fla.) 38, Troy 7 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 13: Miami (Fla.) 49, (#14) Florida State 27 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 25: Miami (Fla.) 45, West Virginia 3 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 3: Miami (Fla.) 38, Temple 0 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 10: Miami (Fla.) 18, Boston College 7 (Chestnut Hill, MA)
Nov. 17: Miami (Fla.) 59, (#14) Syracuse 0 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 24: Miami (Fla.) 65, (#12) Washington 7 (Miami, FL)
Dec. 1: Miami (Fla.) 26, (#14) Virginia Tech 24 (Blacksburg, VA)
Jan. 3: Miami (Fla.) 37, (#4) Nebraska 14 (Rose Bowl)

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<p> Athlon has ranked the best Big East teams of the BCS era</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Media day, super bowl, NFL, Overtime
Path: /nfl/10-best-media-day-moments-super-bowl-history-0

Super Bowl media day is usually pretty boring. It's full of pat answers and tired cliches. But every once in a while, someone breaks the monotony and actually says or does something interesting. Here are ten of the best (or at least most notable) media day moments in Super Bowl history.

This one barely squeaks in, because there was no media day back then, and the game wasn't even called the Super Bowl yet. But Fred "The Hammer" Williamson set the bar for subsequent game-week trash talk, vowing to inflict harm on Packer receivers Boyd Dowler and Carroll Dale. "Two hammers to Dowler, one to Dale should be enough," he said. Sadly, Fred was on the business end of a hammer himself: He got knocked cold by the knee of Packers guard Gale Gillingham.

Cowboys running back Duane Thomas was a man of so few words that he was known as the Sphinx. Prior to Super Bowl VI, he sat silently through media day, never uttering a single word, part of a year-long media boycott. The previous year, though, Thomas had made a pertinent observation about the Super Bowl: "If it's the ultimate game, why are they playing it again next year?"

Dallas linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson offered up a memorable assessment of Terry Bradshaw's mental acuity, or lack thereof: "He couldn't spell cat if you spotted him the c and the a." Bradshaw proved he could spell TD, or at least toss them - four of them, in fact, in Pittsburgh's 35-31 win. "I didn't say he couldn't play," Henderson said afterwards. "Just that he couldn't spell."

Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett grew up in a household with blind parents, one of whom died when Plunkett was at Stanford. On Media Day, one intrepid reporter wanted to make sure he had his facts straight. He shouted: "Jimmy, Jimmy, I want to make sure I have this right. Was it dead mother, blind father or blind mother, dead father?"

The Super Bowl media day that produced an urban legend — the Doug Williams "How long have you been a black quarterback" myth — did have an entertaining moment when notoriously under-educated Redskins defensive lineman Dexter Manley vowed to "catch the quarterback and hit him from behind, in between his two numbers, and cut his lights out." Reporters took the opportunity to remind him that John Elway wore No. 7.

The international nature of the Super Bowl, and the lack of football savvy among some of its international followers, was driven home at media day prior to the Niners-Bengals matchup when a Japanese reporter asked Joe Montana, "Why do they call you Boomer?"

Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan was so intent on proving that his Falcons didn't mind being underdogs to the Broncos that he wore a dog collar to media day, where he ripped Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe for being "an ugly dude" who looked like Mr. Ed (I think he was mixing him up with John Elway).

All this led to a hilarious back-and-forth between the two.

"Is he my friend? No," Sharpe said. "Did I ever view him as a friend? No. Did I ever view him as an acquaintance? No. Do I like him? No. If I see him in a snowstorm, his truck is broke down, mine is going perfectly, do I pick him up? No."

Buchanan's reply: "Shannon just runs his mouth saying anything, so we don't need to pay attention to him. He'd better watch out for himself, because he might get knocked out like he did that last game. We're not a team that's going to go out on the field and pull up our skirts and show our panties. I'm not saying we wear panties, but I'm saying we can't go out there and play like females and win the game."

Over to you, Shannon: "Tell Ray to put the eyeliner, the lipstick and the high heels away. I'm not saying he's a cross-dresser, but that's just what I heard."

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu took the opportunity of media day to thank "Entertainment Tonight" for giving him a "Best Hair" award, adding, "I'd like to thank Pantene Pro V, or anyone else who wants to send me free shampoo and conditioner."

TV Azteca's Ines Gomez Mont showed up at media day in a wedding gown and asked several players to marry her, including Tom Brady. During Brady's press conference, she shouted out, "I'm the real Miss Brady." Brady, who was busy juggling Gisele Bundchen and Bridget Moynihan, replied, "I've got a few Miss Bradys in my life."

A year after being involved in an incident at a Super Bowl party that resulted in two stabbing deaths, Ray Lewis showed up for Super Bowl XXXV and addressed the inevitable questions about the incident. "Yes I got money. Yes, I'm black and yes, I'm blessed," Lewis told the crowd. "But at the same time, let's find out the real truth. The real truth is [this] was never about those two kids that's dead in the street. This is about Ray Lewis." Okay then. 

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

<p> Sometimes someone says something that's not a cliche.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 06:03
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-biggest-recruiting-surprises-2013-class

National Signing Day is just a few weeks away and six of the top 10 players in the Athlon Consensus 100 are still left uncommitted. In fact, 14 of the top 100 still have yet to make the most important decision in their life. The team, conference and national rankings will be shifting and moving all the way through National Signing Day 2013.

So needless to say, there is still much left to be determined. So teams with disappointing classes could still surge up the rankings while teams in the top 10 could find themselves dropping. But here are a few teams that have been the biggest surprises on the recruiting trail — on both sides of the ledger.

2013's Biggest Surprises: Three Up

Ole Miss Rebels
Team Ranks: Rivals: 11th, 247Sports: 14th, Scout: 13th

The biggest surprise on the recruiting trail in 2013 has to be the Ole Miss Rebels because whatever Huge Freeze has put in the water in Oxford is working. The Rebels are on a furious run after landing the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation Laquon Treadwell (No. 14) as well as AC100 defensive end Elijah Daniel (No. 51). The recruiting coup for Freeze, however, would be landing the nation’s No. 1 player Robert Nkemdiche. The big defensive end will pick between LSU and Ole Miss. To finish in the top 10 nationally after winning four total SEC games the last three seasons is absolutely remarkable.

Penn State Nittany Lions
Team Ranks: Rivals: 35th, 247Sports: 22nd, Scout: 35th

No head coach has more to overcome on the recruiting trail nationally than Bill O’Brien. With Christian Hackenberg, the No. 2-rated quarterback prospect in the nation, leading the way, the Nittany Lions have to be ecstatic about landing the Big Ten’s No. 3 class. Ohio State and Michigan will land first and second in the rankings this year, but the Nits have a chance finish third in the Big Ten and possibly in the Top 25 nationally. In the face of heavy-handed NCAA sanctions and the worst scandal in the history of college sports, the job O’Brien has done has been masterful.

Vanderbilt Commodores
Team Ranks: Rivals: 18th, 247Sports: 28th, Scout: 18th 

It’s one thing to get fans excited about football in Nashville with some smooth talking and entertaining personalities. It’s an entirely different thing to take the Dores to back-to-back bowl games and land a top 20 recruiting class. But that is what James Franklin is poised to do after two seasons on West End. The 2013 haul is a deep class (23 commitments) that is headlined by elite four-star skill talents like quarterback Johnathon McCrary, running back Johnathan Ford and tight end Mitchell Parsons. To finish ahead of Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas or South Carolina in recruiting is nothing short of miracle at Vanderbilt.

Others that have been impressive:

UCLA Bruins
This class could be the No. 1 class in the Pac-12 and easily end up in the top 10 nationally.

Indiana Hoosiers
A top 50 class in Bloomington has to be considered a mild upset.

Cal Golden Bears
To land a top 25 class following a coaching change and a 3-9 season is impressive.

More: View the complete Athlon Consensus 100


2013's Biggest Surprises: Three Down

Texas Tech Red Raiders
Team Rank: Rivals: 85th, 247Sports: 91st, Scout: 74th

The Red Raiders are ranked dead last in the Big 12 team recruiting rankings by all three recruiting websites. This is a team with one losing record since 1992 and the state of Texas to pull talent from. No, fans can’t expect Texas Tech to land Top 25 classes each year or press the Longhorns, Sooners or Aggies for talent, but it should be able to out-recruit Iowa State and Kansas with ease. Bowling Green, UAB and Tulane should not have better classes — especially, with an influx of energy surging through the program with new coach Kliff Kingsbury now leading the way.

Louisville Cardinals
Team Rank: Rivals: 62nd, 247Sports: 54th, Scout: 54th

Landing James Quick at the US Army Bowl was a big get for Charlie Strong, but this team needs to capitalize more on its 11-win season and BCS bowl victory over Florida. The Cardinals are a young team and don’t have extra room for a huge class. But Strong has only two four-star prospects in the fold thus far. Ranking fourth or fifth in the Big East means making the top 50 nationally will be virtually impossible. Strong's first two classes were ranked 34th (2011) and 38th (2012), so anything in the 60s would be a major disappointment considering the upward trajectory of the program.

Miami Hurricanes
Team Rank: Rivals: 57, 247Sports: 27, Scout: 39

Al Golden did a miraculous job landing the No. 8 class in the nation last year in the face of swirling NCAA issues. It was one of the biggest hauls in the nation. One year later, he is bringing in one of the smallest groups in the nation. Much like Louisville, the overall lack of size will have an impact on where this group will be ranked. Miami, a young team, does not have a ton of scholarships to offer. The Canes are still in the mix with some high-level prospects (Matthew Thomas, for example) so they could still move up, however, finishing ninth in the ACC or outside of the top 50 nationally would have to be considered a disappointment.

Others that have been disappointing:

USC Trojans
A great class but half a dozen defections is a concerning trend for Lane Kiffin.

Arkansas Razorbacks
Could finish strong but two coaching changes and a 4-8 season have hurt the brand.

Stanford Cardinal
After signing elite classes the last two seasons, David Shaw’s group won’t crack top 50

<p> College Football's Biggest Recruiting Surprises of the 2013 Class</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/what-major-league-pitcher-hit-most-home-runs

What major league pitcher hit the most home runs? 

— Larry Luttrell, Lubbock, Texas
Wes Farrell, who played primarily for the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox during his 15-year career, which began in 1927, hit 38 career home runs, two of them as a pinch-hitter. Farrell clubbed walk-off home runs on consecutive days in 1935, one of which was a three-run bomb as a pinch-hitter that gave Lefy Grove a 7-6 win. Bob Lemon (37), Red Ruffing (36), and Earl Wilson and Warren Spahn with 35 apiece follow Farrell on the all-time list. You can tell from the decades-long span since those players played that pitchers don’t hit ’em like they used to. Bob Gibson of the Cardinals is the only pitcher who played past 1970 who had as many as 20 career clouts (he hit 24).
— Charlie Miller, Editorial Director
<p> What major league pitcher hit the most home runs?&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 17:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-bracket-projections-jan-24

Selection Sunday is less than two months away, but the picture for who’s in and who’s out of the NCAA Tournament is starting to take shape.

In general, most of the 68 spots are fairly certain. Of the 32 conferences, we’ve tabbed 21 as being one-bid leagues, determined solely by conference tournaments. On the other end of the spectrum, at least 30 teams are safely in the field barring a total collapse between now and March 17.

That leaves the bubble, where every win and loss is magnified and every result from November and December takes on a renewed significance.

Here’s our look at the NCAA Tournament field for 2013. This is not intended to be a prediction, per se, but a snapshot at how the field may look right now.

We looked at RPI, strength of schedule, good wins and bad losses in our projections. You will also see references to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. The selection committee does not use them as a reference, but we include them as an added resource.



ACC (5)
In: Duke, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, NC State
Worth a mention: Florida State, Virginia
Bubble notes: Maryland was the last team in the field this week. The Terps have four losses, two on the road vs. NCAA teams (Miami and North Carolina), one on a neutral court (vs. Kentucky) and one at home (Florida State). Their only good win is vs. NC State, at home. North Carolina has a couple of losses that could come back to haunt it, at Texas and at Virginia. That late-December win at home vs. UNLV is the Heels’ only top-60 RPI win. Virginia has some good wins (at Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida State), but some troubling losses (Delaware, Old Dominion). Plus, the Cavs’ RPI is 131 (with a KenPom rating of 37). Florida State already has seven losses and only has one top-50 win (BYU).

Atlantic 10 (3)
In: Butler, Temple, VCU
Worth a mention: Charlotte, La Salle, Saint Louis, UMass, Xavier
Bubble notes: Barring a late-season slide, Temple should remain in the field thanks in large part to its win over Syracuse at MSG. The Owls have a couple of bad home losses — vs. Canisius in December and St. Bonaventure last week. La Salle has a solid RPI of 32 and picked up a big win on Wednesday night against short-handed Butler, but the Explorers resume still falls short. Xavier has wins over Butler and Temple, plus a 4–1 mark in the A-10, but the Musketeers lost to Pacific on a neutral court, Vanderbilt and Wofford at home and at Wake Forest. Saint Louis has wins over Texas A&M and New Mexico, but the Billikens have five losses and an RPI of 73.

Related: Key games with postseason implications to watch this week

Big 12 (6)
In: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Worth a mention: None
Bubble notes: Baylor has a few puzzling losses (College of Charleston and Northwestern at home), but the Bears have solid computer numbers (RPI 38, KenPom 31). That win at Kentucky isn’t quite as impressive as we thought, but Baylor did beat a good Lehigh team before C.J. McCollum’s season-ending injury. Iowa State was good enough to take Kansas to the wire in Lawrence a few weeks ago but bad enough to lose at Texas Tech on Wednesday night. But he did, and the Cyclones lost in overtime. Oklahoma State isn’t in much danger, but the Cowboys only have one top-70 RPI win, vs. NC State on a neutral court. Four of their five losses have come against top-40 teams, including three on the road.

Related: This week's college basketball power rankings

Big East (7)
In: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Worth a mention: Rutgers, St. John’s, Villanova
Bubble notes: Rutgers is in the discussion due to a decent RPI of 56. But the Scarlet Knights are 101 in KenPom and don’t have any top-50 RPI wins. Beating Pittsburgh at home and winning at St. John’s is nice, but losing at home to St. Peter’s (RPI 271) is not nice. St. John’s won at Cincinnati and Rutgers, but has losses at San Francisco and at home vs. UNC Asheville. Villanova is playing its way into the discussion (a win over Louisville will look very good if this team is on the bubble), but the Wildcats had a lot of catching up to do. Pittsburgh feasted on a soft non-conference schedule, then got off to a rough start in the Big East, but has seemingly righted the ship. The Panthers have no bad losses and a nice win at Georgetown (and a potentially nice win at Villanova on the resume). Notre Dame is trending in the wrong direction but still has more than enough on its resume.

Related: Key stats from Jan. 13-20

Big Ten (8)
In: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Worth a mention: Northwestern, Purdue
Bubble notes: Iowa might be a surprise to some. The Hawkeyes have a bad RPI (65) but are rated No. 33 by KenPom. Five of their six wins have come against teams with an RPI of 22 or better, and the sixth was at Virginia Tech in November when the Hokies were playing very well. They have wins over two NCAA teams, Iowa State and Wisconsin, and also beat Northern Iowa and Northwestern (on the road). Illinois had lost three straight before winning at Nebraska Tuesday night, but the Fighting Illini have three really good wins — Butler (neutral), Gonzaga (road), Ohio State (home). Northwestern has three wins over projected NCAA teams, including two on the road — Baylor and Illinois. Purdue can make a statement over the next week, with a trip to Michigan and home games against Iowa and Indiana.

Conference USA (2)
In: Memphis, Southern Miss
Worth a mention: None
Bubble notes: Surprisingly, Conference USA could be a two-bid league in 2013. Southern Miss was one of the last teams in the field. The Golden Eagles are 16–4 (thought two wins are against non-D-1 schools), and two of their losses are against Arizona and Wichita State, both top-15 RPI teams. The Eagles will need to beat Memphis at least once and avoid any bad losses in the league to remain in the discussion. Memphis is 15–3 but lacks quality wins — but also has no bad losses.

Missouri Valley (2)
In: Creighton, Wichita State
Worth a mention: Indiana State
Bubble notes: Indiana State has a decent RPI of 51 but is ranked 81st by KenPom. The Sycamores have a couple of solid wins on a neutral court (vs. Ole Miss and Miami) but have also lost on the road to Morehead State and Southern Illinois. They were in the field this week until losing at Illinois State on Wednesday night.

Mountain West (6)
In: Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Wyoming
Worth a mention: None
Bubble notes: This is shaping up to be a banner year for the Mountain West. Boise State could earn its first at-large invitation. The Broncos have two top-40 road wins, at Creighton and Wyoming. That could be the difference on Selection Sunday. San Diego State has slipped up a bit recently, but the Aztecs have three top-50 RPI wins (UCLA, Indiana State and Colorado State) and all four of their losses have come against top-40 teams. Colorado State has an RPI of 17 and only one bad loss, at UIC.

Pac-12 (4)
In: Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
Worth a mention: Arizona State, Washington
Bubble notes: Colorado is off to a rough start in the Pac-12 (2–4), but the Buffaloes have two top-40 wins (Baylor and Colorado State) and no bad losses (depending on your opinion of Arizona State and Washington). Also, Colorado’s RPI is 21, though it’s 51 in KenPom. Arizona State has been a nice story this season, but two things on the Sun Devils’ resume stick out (in a bad way): only one win vs. an RPI top-75 team (Colorado at home) and a loss at home to DePaul (RPI 172, KenPom 127). Washington already has three road wins in the league, but only one overall win vs. a top-70 team, and the Huskies have four losses to teams ranked 119th or worse.

SEC (3)
In: Florida, Ole Miss, Missouri
Worth a mention: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Texas A&M
Bubble notes: Kentucky is more well-received by KenPom (No. 19) than the RPI (61). The Wildcats have one win against a top-90 RPI team, vs. Maryland (59) on a neutral court in November. They don’t have any horrible losses, though three of the six have come against teams outside the top 50. Alabama has won three straight, but the Crimson Tide have plenty of stains on their resume — losses at home to Dayton (RPI 95), Tulane (150) and Mercer (161). Also, they have no top-50 wins. Texas A&M can boast about a win at Kentucky, but right now that’s a win over an NIT team. The Aggies’ loss at home to Southern in late December is troubling.

West Coast (2)
In: Gonzaga, Saint Mary's
Worth a mention: BYU, Santa Clara
Bubble notes: Saint Mary’s has decent computer numbers (66 RPI, 36 KenPom, but only one win vs. a top-90 RPI team (at BYU). The Gaels also have lost two games, on a neutral court, to teams ranked lower than 100th. They were among the last teams in the field this week. BYU likely would move into the field with a win at Gonzaga on Thursday night — but that’s a tall order. The Cougars have only one top-100 win, at Santa Clara.

One-bid conference projections

Conference Projected winner Conference Projected winner
America East Albany Northeast Bryant
Atlantic Sun Stetson Ohio Valley Belmont
Big Sky Weber State Patriot Lehigh
Big South Charleston Southern Southern Davidson
Colonial Northeastern Southland Stephen F. Austin
Horizon Valparaiso Summit North Dakota State
Ivy Harvard Sun Belt Middle Tennessee
MAAC Niagara SWAC Southern
MAC Akron WAC Louisiana Tech
MEAC Norfolk State    


<p> With Selection Sunday less than two months away, Athlon Sports projects the field for the NCAA Tournament, conference by conference</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/building-super-bowl-rosters

Even on Super Bowl Sunday, the SEC is king.

The SEC is represented more than any other conference on the Super Bowl rosters with 17 players for the Ravens and 49ers playing their final collegiate season in the SEC. That does not include three more players who played their college ball for SEC newcomers Missouri and Texas A&M when both schools were members of the Big 12.

SEC fans bragging about the league’s top-to-bottom balance will find that displayed in Super Bowl XLVII. Other schools sent more alums to the Super Bowl, but no league will be as uniformly represented in the Superdome.

Twelve of the SEC’s 14 teams are represented on Super Bowl rosters with only Kentucky and Vanderbilt missing. Even Ole Miss with linebacker Patrick Willis and offensive tackle Michael Oher made a strong showing. Only the Big Ten is as uniformly represented in the Super Bowl with 10 of 12 teams sending players to New Orleans (Minnesota and Northwestern are the exception).

From conferences and schools to draftees and free agents, here’s how Baltimore and San Francisco were built on the way to the Super Bowl:

Unless otherwise noted, we are working off active 53-man rosters, not including practice squads or injured reserve.


Most represented schools on Super Bowl XLVII rosters
5: Miami
4: Marshall, Ohio State, Oregon, Texas, Utah
2: Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Rutgers, Texas Tech, Virginia, Washburn

The one place the Miami college football dynasty continues is in the Super Bowl. Five former Hurricanes will play in Super Bowl XLVII, and they’re not just players taking up space. Linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed are future Hall of Famers anchoring the Ravens’ defense, and Frank Gore led the 49ers in rushing. The Ravens’ Bryant McKinnie was a starting offensive tackle in the league for 10 seasons before this year. 49ers linebacker Tavares Gooden is not a starter, but he owns the distinction of playing for both teams.

Related: Five reasons the Ravens will win the Super Bowl

Five schools sent four players to the Super Bowl. Three of those aren’t a total surprise: Ohio State, Oregon and Texas. Joining those power programs with four players on Super Bowl rosters are Utah (nose tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu, linebacker Paul Kruger and wide receiver David Reed for the Ravens and quarterback Alex Smith for the 49ers) and Marshall (safety Omar Brown and linebacker Albert McClellan for the Ravens and wide receiver Randy Moss and safety C.J. Spillman for the 49ers).

19 schools sent two players to the Super Bowl, and one of them is more obscure than Delaware, which contributed Baltimore starting quarterback Joe Flacco and rookie lineman Gino Gradkowski. Washburn University, a Division II program in Topeka, Kan., has two former players in the Super Bowl. Former Ichabod Cary Williams is a starting cornerback for Baltimore while Michael Wilhoite is a backup linebacker for San Francisco.

Related: 15 greatest plays in Super Bowl history

According to USA Today, Nebraska has the longest streak of sending a player to the Super Bowl. A Cornhusker has played for the NFL title for 20 consecutive years. Baltimore punter Sam Koch represents Nebraska this season.

Among notable schools not represented in the Super Bowl: Oklahoma and USC, not even on the practice squads.


Every current SEC school except Kentucky and Vanderbilt will be represented in the Super Bowl. Every current Big Ten school except Minnesota and Northwestern made an appearance on the active rosters for the Super Bowl.

The only Football Bowl Subdivision conference to be shut out of the Super Bowl is the Sun Belt.

Of the six major conferences, the Big 12 and Big East will have fewer than half their membership absent from the Super Bowl. Only four of the 10 Big 12 schools are represented (Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech). Only three Big East schools are represented (Louisville, Pittsburgh and Rutgers).

Here's the breakdown of the Super Bowl rosters by conference. We've included the count both by a team's conferene alignment during a given player's final season and by each team's current conference alignment.

CONFERENCE By alignment in player's final season By current alignment
ACC 10 13
Big 12 14 9
Big East 7 7
Big Ten 14 15
Conference USA 7 6
MAC 3 2
Mountain West 6 3
Pac-12 8 13
SEC 17 20
Sun Belt 0 0
WAC 3 1
FBS independents 1 2
FCS 10 9
Division II 5 5
NAIA 1 1


Both teams are similar in how they’ve assembled the roster in the Super Bowl. Baltimore drafted 30 members of its 53-man roster while San Francisco drafted 29. The 49ers haul includes nine first-round picks.

HOW ACQUIRED Baltimore San Francisco
Draft - first round 6 9
Draft - second round 7 2
Draft - third round 3 4
Draft - fourth round 3 3
Draft - fifth round 5 1
Draft - sixth round 4 5
Draft - seventh round 2 5
Free agent 13 15
Undrafted free agent 9 5
Trade 1 1
Waivers 0 3

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

<p> The Ravens and 49ers turned to the SEC, Miami to assemble potential champions</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/grading-college-footballs-head-coach-hires-2013

College football’s coaching carousel was in full effect this offseason. Thirty programs will have a new head coach in 2013, ranging from Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee in the SEC to FBS newcomer Georgia State in the Sun Belt.

As with every offseason of coaching changes, there will be hits and misses among the new hires. And some programs (FIU) are just clueless from the start. Most of the schools looking for a new head coach did a good job of filling their vacancy this year and deserve a passing grade. For example, even though Western Michigan’s hire of P.J. Fleck is ranked near the bottom, the school did a good job of adding a coach that can bring some much-needed energy to the program.

Grading the new hires is an inexact science but previous head coaching experience, background/resume and how well they fit a program factored heavily in the rankings and letter grade. 

Grading and Ranking College Football's New Coach Hires for 2013

1. Willie Taggart, South Florida
Previous Job: Head coach at Western Kentucky
Career Record: 16-20 (3 years)
Grade: A+

Considering its location in a fertile recruiting area and lack of success in recent years, South Florida is a program that has a lot of room to grow. And the Bulls have taken the first step to elevating the program, hiring Taggart from Western Kentucky to be the third coach in school history. Taggart went 16-20 in three years with the Hilltoppers but significantly improved a program that had just made the jump to the FBS level and won two games in the two seasons prior to his arrival. He also gained valuable experience from his three-year stint as an assistant with Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. Additionally, Taggart is a Florida native and played high school football in Bradenton, which is just an hour outside of USF’s campus. Taggart should have no trouble attracting talent to South Florida, especially with his familiarity with the area. After the Bulls underachieved during the Skip Holtz tenure, look for Taggart to bring some much-needed toughness and consistency to Tampa. 

2. Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky
Previous Job:
Head coach at Arkansas
Career Record: 75-26 (8 years)
Grade: A+

Considering what transpired at Arkansas, BCS programs with a vacancy weren’t ready to give Petrino a shot to be a head coach once again. But for Western Kentucky, this is a move that could pay big dividends - even if Petrino leaves after a couple of seasons. In eight years as a college head coach, Petrino has a 75-26 record with only one losing season (Arkansas in 2008). And with the Sun Belt race wide open next year, Petrino’s arrival could be enough for the Hilltoppers to win the conference championship. While the messy end to his tenure in Fayetteville will force Western Kentucky to keep a close eye on Petrino, there’s no reason to expect the Hilltoppers to see a decrease in wins after going 7-6 in 2012. Petrino will eventually jump to a BCS job, but the short-term risk is worth it for Western Kentucky.

3. Gary Andersen, Wisconsin
Previous Job:
Head coach at Utah State
Career Record: 30-31 (5 years)
Grade: A+

After a rebuilding project at Utah State, Andersen inherits a team at Wisconsin that can compete for the Big Ten title in 2013. Andersen took over in Logan in 2009, with the Aggies coming off 11 consecutive losing seasons. Utah State went 8-16 in his first two years but showed steady improvement by going 7-6 in 2011 and claimed an outright WAC title in 2012. Most of Andersen’s coaching experience has occurred out West, as he spent one year at Southern Utah and worked at Utah from 2004-08. The Utah native was hired by current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer when he was leading the Utes in 2004 and that insight could be valuable when the Buckeyes and Badgers meet this season. Wisconsin has been on a roll in recent seasons, making three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances, along with claiming double-digit victories in three out of the last four years. At Utah State, Andersen proved he can build a program from the ground up, while also showing he can take it to the next level. That task will be tougher in the Big Ten, but Andersen is one of college football’s top up-and-coming coaches and will have Wisconsin in the mix for the Big Ten title in 2013 and beyond.

4. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Previous Job: Head coach at Arkansas State
Career Record: 9-3 (1 year)
Grade: A

After one season away, Malzahn has returned to Auburn to push the Tigers back into SEC West title contention. The former offensive coordinator was clearly one of the masterminds behind Auburn’s success from 2009-11 and will provide the program with some much-needed improvement in that area in 2013. In his only season at Arkansas State, Malzahn went 9-3 and led the Red Wolves to the Sun Belt title. While Malzahn is short on head coaching experience, his one season at Arkansas State should pay dividends at Auburn. The Tigers were awful on offense last season, averaging only 305 yards per game. Malzahn helped recruit a majority of the players on that side of the ball, including quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who could hold the keys to Auburn’s 2013 season. Malzahn should find a way to jumpstart the Tigers’ offense next year, and hiring Ellis Johnson as his defensive coordinator could be one of the top assistant moves of the offseason. Digging out of the mess Gene Chizik left behind won’t be easy, but Auburn should have a shot at a winning record in 2013.

Related Content: Big Questions Face New Coaches in the SEC

5. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
Previous Job:
Offensive coordinator at Texas A&M
Career Record: First Season
Grade: A

Kingsbury has been on a meteoric rise through the coaching ranks and returns to his alma mater after successful stints as an offensive coordinator at Houston and Texas A&M. The Texas native threw for over 12,000 yards under former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach and had a short stint in the NFL with the Patriots, Saints and Jets. Kingsbury’s first coaching gig came under Kevin Sumlin at Houston in 2008, and during his time there and with Texas A&M, helped to coordinate some of the nation’s best offenses. At 33 years old, Kingsbury will be one of college football’s youngest head coaches, so expect a few bumps in the road for the Red Raiders. Despite his youth and inexperience, Kingsbury is the perfect fit in Lubbock. Considering his ties to the area and offensive prowess, Kingsbury should make Texas Tech one of the Big 12’s most intriguing programs to watch over the next few seasons, while remaining a consistent winner and annual bowl team.

6. Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Previous Job: Head coach at Wisconsin
Career Record: 68-24 (7 years)
Grade: A

Outside of Tommy Tuberville leaving Texas Tech for Cincinnati, the biggest surprise of the coaching carousel was Bielema leaving Wisconsin for Arkansas. After accumulating a 68-24 mark and three Rose Bowl appearances in seven years, Bielema may have felt he took Wisconsin football as far as it could go in this current climate. With Ohio State and Michigan back on the rise once again, the rest of the teams in the Big Ten face an uphill battle to win the conference title. While moving from Wisconsin to Arkansas is almost a lateral move in terms of job prestige, Bielema has more money to pay his assistants and has a chance to prove he can coach among the best of the best in the SEC. The Razorbacks are facing an uphill battle in 2013, largely due to the departure of a handful of key players. However, the potential is there for this program to turn things around in 2014, as Bielema pieced together an impressive group of assistants, and athletic director Jeff Long is committed to giving the coaching staff whatever it takes to succeed. One downside for Arkansas and Bielema: The SEC isn’t getting any easier. 

7. Sonny Dykes, California
Previous Job: Head coach at Louisiana Tech
Career Record: 22-15 (3 years)
Grade: A

Jeff Tedford had a successful tenure as California’s head coach, but the program grew stale over the last few years, recording a 15-22 mark from 2010-12. Although the Golden Bears have slipped recently, Dykes is the right coach to get California back on track. In three seasons at Louisiana Tech, he led the Bulldogs to a 22-15 record, including one bowl appearance in 2011. Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin are two of the top offensive minds in college football, helping to guide Louisiana Tech to an average of 51.5 points a game in 2012. Although Dykes has no coaching experience in California, he worked under Mike Stoops at Arizona from 2007-09. The Texas native also served as a wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator at Texas Tech from 2000-06. With no proven quarterback and holes on defense to fill, California may struggle to get bowl eligible in 2012. However, Dykes is a good fit and the right hire to get the Golden Bears competitive once again in the Pac-12 North.

8. Dave Doeren, NC State
Previous Job:
Head coach at Northern Illinois
Career Record: 23-4 (2 years)
Grade: A

Although Tom O’Brien led NC State to four bowl games in the last five years, it wasn’t enough for athletic director Debbie Yow. Hoping to elevate the Wolfpack into a contender in the ACC Atlantic, Yow moved quickly in hiring Doeren away from Northern Illinois. The Kansas native has been on the fast track through the coaching ranks, which includes stops at USC, Kansas and Wisconsin as an assistant, before leading the Huskies to a 23-4 mark over the last two years. Although Doeren played a key role in leading Northern Illinois to the Orange Bowl this season, he did inherit plenty of talent from former coach Jerry Kill. Additionally, Doeren has no ties to the ACC and will need time to develop recruiting connections within the state. Although there are question marks for Doeren to answer over the next few years, he built a solid coaching staff, which includes former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada and Dave Huxtable as defensive coordinator. NC State isn’t likely to consistently beat Florida State and Clemson in the ACC Atlantic, but there’s no reason why the Wolfpack can’t be more successful in the win column. And fulfilling that challenge will be Doeren’s goal in 2013 and beyond.

9. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
Previous Job:
Head coach at San Jose State
Career Record: 16-21 (3 years)
Grade: A

MacIntyre is the perfect case of why records for a head coach can be deceiving. At first glance, a 16-21 record isn’t much of an accomplishment. However, dig a little deeper and it’s easy to see why MacIntyre was one of the top non-BCS coaches on the market. The Spartans were coming off a 2-10 season prior to MacIntyre’s arrival and hit rock bottom with a 1-12 mark in 2010. MacIntyre brought steady improvement to San Jose State in his second year, leading the Spartans to a 5-7 record and then a 10-2 mark during the 2012 regular season. After turning around one program, MacIntyre will have a similar task ahead of him in Boulder. Colorado has not had a winning season since 2005 and is in need of facility improvements. MacIntyre is the right coach for the job, but the Buffaloes need to be patient. Expect progress in 2013, but if Colorado is going to have long-term success, MacIntyre needs to build by recruiting freshmen (not JUCOs), while the administration makes a commitment to winning, as well as provides the staff with the necessary facility upgrades. 

10. Trent Miles, Georgia State
Previous Job:
Head coach at Indiana State
Career Record: 20-36 (5 years)
Grade: A

Miles is the highest-ranked coach from a non-BCS conference in Athlon’s look at the new hires for 2013. The Indiana native has made several stops as an assistant in his career, beginning at Indiana State in 1987, then on to New Mexico, Oklahoma, Northern Illinois, Hawaii, Fresno State, Stanford, Washington, Notre Dame and in the NFL with the Packers for one season. After serving as an assistant from 1987-2007, Miles landed his first coaching gig at his alma mater – Indiana State. The Sycamores were a disaster prior to his arrival, recording a dismal 1-32 mark from 2005-07. Although Miles went just 1-22 in his first two seasons, Indiana State improved to 19-14 over his last three years and finished 2012 ranked in the FCS Top 25. The Sycamores were also the only team to beat FCS champion North Dakota State last season. Just as he did at Indiana State, Miles isn’t inheriting much to work with at Georgia State. The Panthers are coming off a 1-10 season and will be playing a full Sun Belt schedule in 2013. With a fertile recruiting area to work with, Miles should get Georgia State football competitive within the conference in the next two years.

11. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati
Previous Job: 
Head coach at Texas Tech
Career Record: 130-77 (17 years)
Grade: B+

In perhaps the coaching carousel’s biggest offseason surprise, Tuberville decided to bolt Texas Tech for Cincinnati. Tuberville wasn’t in any real danger of losing his job in Lubbock, although athletic director Kirby Hocutt wanted to see the program improve from its 2012 record (7-5) in 2013. Adding to the curiosity of this move is the uncertain conference future surrounding Cincinnati. While this move has plenty of question marks, there’s no denying Tuberville is a good coach. He went 25-20 in four seasons with Ole Miss and 85-40 in 10 years with Auburn. After spending most of his time in the South, Tuberville will need some time to get acquainted with Cincinnati’s recruiting area. The Arkansas native prefers to lean on his defense to win but adapted to the style of play in the Big 12, keeping the Red Raiders’ offense among the best in the conference. One question that will play out over the next few years is whether or not Tuberville is committed to Cincinnati for the long haul. The Bearcats are on their fourth head coach in 10 seasons and establishing stability, as well as continuing to elevate the program's profile for the next round of conference expansion, will be crucial. 

12. Butch Jones, Tennessee
Previous Job: Head coach at Cincinnati
Career Record: 50-27 (6 years)
Grade: B+

For the second time in three years, Tennessee’s coaching search didn’t go smoothly. The Volunteers had to find a replacement in mid-January of 2010 once Lane Kiffin left to replace Pete Carroll at USC. And this time around, Tennessee had trouble attracting a big-name coach. While Rocky Top might not be as desirable of a job as it was 10 years ago, the Volunteers still have all of the resources in place to consistently compete for SEC East titles. Although Jones doesn’t bring the national reputation that Charlie Strong would have, this is still a solid hire for Tennessee. Jones started his coaching career in 1990 at Rutgers, then made stops at Wilkes, Ferris State, Central Michigan and West Virginia. The Michigan native took over at Central Michigan in 2007, leading the Chippewas to a 27-13 record in three seasons. Jones then went to Cincinnati and compiled a 23-14 mark from 2010-12. Considering this is his first coaching gig in the SEC, Jones will have an adjustment period in getting acquainted with the 13 other teams and coaches. Additionally, he also will have to overcome questions about building a program on his own for the first time, as Jones followed Brian Kelly at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, never staying at either program for more than three years. There are question marks surrounding Jones, but he should be an improvement over Derek Dooley.

13. Darrell Hazell, Purdue
Previous Job:
Head coach at Kent State
Career Record: 16-10 (2 years)
Grade: B+

After four mediocre seasons under Danny Hope, Purdue hopes Hazell is the right coach to lead the program back into Big Ten title contention. Hazell comes to West Lafayette after two seasons with Kent State, which included the program’s first MAC East title and second bowl appearance in school history. The Golden Flashes took eventual MAC champion Northern Illinois to overtime, and a victory in the conference championship game would have sent Kent State to the Orange Bowl. The New Jersey native is familiar with the surroundings in the Big Ten, as he worked as an assistant under Jim Tressel at Ohio State from 2004-10. Hazell’s resume is solid, and the only negative to find about this hire is the lack of long-term success as a head coach. 

14. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Previous Job:
Defensive coordinator at Florida State
Career Record: First Season
Grade: B+

With Vanderbilt’s recent ascension and the expansion of the conference to include Texas A&M and Missouri, Kentucky needed to make a coaching change to avoid falling too far behind the rest of the SEC. While Stoops doesn’t have any previous head coaching experience, he has brought some much-needed energy into the program, along with making Kentucky a factor on the recruiting trail. The Ohio native has good bloodlines, as his brothers Mike (Arizona) and Bob (Oklahoma) have head coaching experience and are a good soundboard for advice for the first-year coach. Stoops was one of the nation’s top assistants during his time at Florida State, leading the Seminoles to back-to-back top-10 finishes in total defense. So far, Stoops has made all of the right moves in Lexington. He hired a top-notch staff, which includes bringing former Kentucky player Neal Brown back to coordinate the offense. Brown is considered one of college football's rising stars in the assistant ranks, guiding Texas Tech to a rank of second nationally in passing offense in 2012. The Wildcats are also making some noise on the recruiting trail and should finish with a solid class. Stoops still has a lot to prove, but the Wildcats are on the right track.

15. Mark Helfrich, Oregon
Previous Job:
Offensive coordinator at Oregon
Career Record: First Season
Grade: B

There’s no question Helfrich will be one of the most-scrutinized head coaches in 2013. The Oregon native has been handed the keys to a Ferrari and with no head coaching experience, is tasked with keeping the Ducks among the nation’s perennial national title contenders. No pressure right? While Helfrich’s lack of head coaching experience is a concern, he has spent the last four years working closely with Chip Kelly. Helfrich didn’t call the plays on offense but had a hand in developing the Ducks’ up-tempo, high-scoring attack. Promoting from within worked well for Oregon in the past, as Mike Bellotti was tabbed to replace Rich Brooks after his departure, and Kelly succeeded Bellotti. However, the stakes are higher for Oregon in 2013. The Ducks are under NCAA investigation, and Stanford has emerged as a national title contender in the Pac-12 North. Is Helfrich the next Larry Coker or the next Chris Petersen? Only time will tell, but the Oregon native should keep the Ducks in the mix to win a national championship in 2013.

16. Bryan Harsin, Arkansas State
Previous Job: Offensive coordinator at Texas
Career Record: First Season
Grade: B

After working as Boise State’s offensive coordinator from 2006-10, Harsin was regarded as one of college football’s rising stars in the coaching ranks. Two seasons in Texas have slightly dimmed Harsin’s prospects, however. The Longhorns struggled to get consistent quarterback play under his watch but averaged 35.7 points a game in 2012. Harsin fits the mold of Arkansas State’s recent head coaches, as the school has targeted younger, offensive-minded coordinators (Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze). Harsin doesn’t have any head coaching experience but the Boise native gained valuable experience by working under Chris Petersen and Mack Brown.

17. Todd Monken, Southern Miss
Previous Job:
Offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State
Career Record: First Season
Grade: B

Southern Miss made one of the worst coaching hires of 2012, choosing Ellis Johnson to replace Larry Fedora. After a failed one-year stint for Johnson, the program got it right by hiring Monken. The Illinois native has made stops as an assistant at Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Louisiana Tech, LSU, and Oklahoma State where he served as Mike Gundy’s offensive coordinator since 2011. He also has NFL experience, working with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2007-10. Monken tutored first-round draft picks Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon in 2011, and despite starting three different quarterbacks in 2012, still led the Cowboys to an average of 45.7 points a game. Monken doesn’t have any head coaching experience, but his background on offense is a perfect fit for Southern Miss and Conference USA. The Golden Eagles still have plenty of talent in the program, so going from 0-12 in 2012 to a bowl game in 2013 is certainly possible. The only downside for Southern Miss? If Monken is successful, he may not stick around too long in Hattiesburg.

18. Steve Addazio, Boston College
Previous Job:
Head coach at Temple
Career Record: 13-11 (2 years)
Grade: B-

Boston College has fallen on hard times over the last two years. The Eagles were once one of the ACC’s most consistent teams, recording 12 consecutive winning seasons from 1999-2010. After a failed stint under Frank Spaziani, Addazio is a good pickup to get the program back on track. Considering Addazio’s ties in the Northeast, he should be able to help Boston College keep some of the top talent from leaving the area. In addition to his work as a relentless recruiter, Addazio went 13-11 in two seasons with Temple and led the program to just its fourth bowl appearance in school history in 2011. The Connecticut native isn’t flashy but is bringing much-needed energy into the program. Boston College may not win an ACC title under Addazio, but the program will be more competitive and is in better shape than it was under Spaziani.  

19. Matt Rhule, Temple
Previous Job:
Assistant OL coach with the New York Giants
Career Record: First Season
Grade: B-

Steve Addazio’s decision to bolt Temple for Boston College came as a small surprise, but the Owls made a good decision to bring Rhule back to Philadelphia. The former Penn State player joined the Temple staff under Al Golden in 2006, before becoming the team’s offensive coordinator from 2008-10. Rhule stayed under Addazio for one season (2011) before joining the Giants as an assistant offensive line coach in 2012. The Pennsylvania native doesn’t have head coaching experience but there’s a lot to like about this hire. Considering Rhule worked at Temple under Golden and grew up in the Quaker State, building recruiting connections in the area won’t be a problem. Rhule is inheriting some promising young talent, and the Owls are in much better shape than when he was an assistant back in 2006.

20. Scott Shafer, Syracuse
Previous Job: Defensive coordinator at Syracuse
Career Record: First Season
Grade: B-

Doug Marrone’s decision to leave for the NFL in early January left Syracuse in a difficult situation. Starting a coaching search in the prime recruiting season is never ideal, and most of the top head coaches and assistants looking to improve their current position had already accepted a new job. With those factors in mind, promoting Shafer to replace Marrone makes a lot of sense for Syracuse. Shafer joined Marrone’s staff in 2009 but has never served as a head coach since becoming a collegiate assistant in 1991. The Ohio native also has stops as a defensive coordinator at Michigan, Syracuse, Stanford, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois. Losing Marrone is a big blow to Syracuse, but Shafer has experience in the program and will have an opportunity to build on the culture that worked from the past few seasons.

21. Matt Wells, Utah State
Previous Job:
Offensive coordinator at Utah State
Career Record: First Season
Grade: B-

Replacing a successful head coach like Gary Andersen is no easy task, but Wells’ familiarity with Utah State should pay big dividends for the program. The Oklahoma native played in Logan under former Utah State head coaches Charlie Weatherbie and John L. Smith from 1993-96. Wells started his coaching career at Navy in 1997 and stayed with the Midshipmen until leaving for Tulsa in 2002. After five seasons with the Golden Hurricane, he spent two years at New Mexico, one with Louisville and then another season with the Lobos, before joining Andersen’s staff in 2011. Wells was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2012, guiding the Aggies to an average of 34.9 points a game. Wells has never been a head coach but his work as the team’s offensive coordinator, along with the experience as a former player should have Utah State feeling optimistic he can continue to build off of Andersen’s success. 

22. Brian Polian, Nevada
Previous Job: Special teams coordinator/Tight Ends coach at Texas A&M
Career Record: First Season
Grade: B-

Polian has big shoes to fill in Reno, as he replaces Nevada coaching legend Chris Ault. The former coach was one of college football’s most innovative head coaches, bringing the Pistol Offense to life in 2005, and he played a key role in shaping the current overtime rules. While Ault leaves behind quite a legacy in Reno, Polian seems to be a good hire for a program that should be a bowl team in 2013. Brian has been around football all of his life, as his dad Bill worked in the front office for the Colts, Panthers and Bills. Brian started his coaching career at Michigan State in 1997 and quickly rose through the ranks, making stops at Buffalo, Baylor, UCF and then Notre Dame in 2005. After five years in South Bend, Polian joined Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford as the special teams coordinator and worked in that role until 2012, leaving to take the same position at Texas A&M. Polian doesn’t have head coaching or coordinator experience but is regarded as an excellent recruiter and made a good decision to retain current offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich. It’s always risky to hire someone with no head coaching experience, but Polian’s ability to recruit should be a positive for a program that can compete for the Mountain West title each year.

23. Ron Caragher, San Jose State
Previous Job: Head coach at San Diego
Career Record: 44-22 (6 years)
Grade: B-

In just four years, San Jose State has moved from WAC doormat to a potential Mountain West title contender in 2013. Much of the credit goes to former coach Mike MacIntyre, who led the Spartans to their first double-digit win total since 1987. Although MacIntyre left for Colorado, he is leaving the program in better shape than how he found it in 2010. Caragher succeeded Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, leading the Toreros to a 44-22 mark in six seasons. While Caragher still has much to prove, this seems to be a good fit for both parties. As a California native and with his experience coaching within the state, Caragher should have plenty of ties to help San Jose State on the recruiting trail. Although he followed Harbaugh, Caragher had back-to-back losing seasons in 2009-10 but steered the program back on track with a 17-5 mark from 2011-12.

24. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech
Previous Job: Head coach at South Florida
Career Record: 88-71 (13 years)
Grade: C

Holtz’s failed tenure at South Florida is one of the most puzzling coaching stints in recent memory. After leading Connecticut to a 34-23 record in five seasons and a 38-27 mark in five years with East Carolina, Holtz was pegged as the right coach to take the Bulls into Big East title contention. After an 8-5 debut season, South Florida went 8-16 in the next two years, which included just two wins in conference play. Considering what transpired at USF, Louisiana Tech fans have to be curious about whether the coach is in decline or whether the program had more issues than appeared on the surface, making it a difficult place to win. Holtz has experienced a lot of success in his career and landing at a program like Louisiana Tech is a good opportunity to prove he’s still a good coach and one that’s capable of taking over at a BCS program once again. It’s easy to point to Holtz’s failures at USF, but his win totals at Connecticut and East Carolina are hard to ignore.

25. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
Previous Job: Offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois
Career Record: 0-1 (first full season)
Grade: C

With Dave Doeren’s leaving for NC State, Carey was handed the keys to one of the MAC’s top programs. Northern Illinois has won at least 11 games in each of the last three years and has posted only two losing seasons since 2000. Carey has experienced a fast rise through the coaching ranks, starting his career as a graduate assistant at Minnesota in 1998, before working his way up to offensive line coach at North Dakota in 2008. Carey joined Doeren in DeKalb in 2011 and was the team’s offensive coordinator in 2012. Promoting from within is often the best way to keep continuity, as well as build on recent success. Carey will have a chance to do that in 2013, as the Huskies will be the preseason favorite to win the MAC. Although his debut resulted in a loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl, Carey’s real test will come this season, as he must guide a program for a full season for the first time.

26. Paul Petrino, Idaho
Previous Job: Offensive coordinator at Arkansas
Career Record: First Season
Grade: C

Considering the uncertain conference future facing Idaho, the program wasn't going to attract a proven coach. Petrino isn’t as proven or established as his brother Bobby, but the Montana native is ready for his first head coaching job after working as an assistant in the college and NFL ranks since 1990. Paul worked as the offensive coordinator under Bobby at Louisville from 2003-06, Arkansas from 2008-09 and then again wtih the Hogs under John L. Smith in 2012. Considering the Vandals are without a conference home for at least the next few years, Petrino is inheriting one of college football’s toughest coaching jobs. The 45-year-old coach has prior experience at the school and having the last name Petrino certainly doesn’t hurt on the recruiting trail.

27. Paul Haynes, Kent State
Previous Job: Defensive coordinator at Arkansas
Career Record: First Season
Grade: C

After recording a 16-10 mark and one MAC East title under Darrell Hazell, Kent State is turning to a former player to maintain the program as a conference title contender in 2013. Haynes is a good fit for the Golden Flashes, as he is an Ohio native, played at Kent State from 1987-91 and has a wealth of experience as an assistant. Haynes has stops at Northern Iowa, Kent State, Louisville, Michigan State, Ohio State and served as Arkansas’ defensive coordinator in 2011. While it’s hard to glean much from serving one year as a coordinator in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks ranked 73rd nationally in yards allowed and gave up 30.4 points a game. Although Haynes’ background should be a positive for Kent State, his lack of head coaching experience and a less than stellar season at Arkansas leaves this hire near the bottom of the new coaches for 2013.   

28. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan
Previous Job: Wide receivers coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Career Record: First season
Grade: C

At 32 years old, Fleck is college football’s youngest head coach. And the Illinois native has brought some much-needed enthusiasm to the program since his appointment in mid-December. Although hiring a young coach with no experience to lead a program is risky, this could be a good fit for Western Michigan. Fleck played at Northern Illinois in the MAC from 1999-2003 and caught 77 passes for 1,028 yards and six scores as a senior. He started as a graduate assistant in 2006 at Ohio State, spent two years at Northern Illinois (2007-09) and Rutgers (2010-11), before joining Greg Schiano in Tampa Bay for 2012. The lack of coordinator or head coaching experience is a concern, but Fleck’s background on offense is a good fit in the MAC and is a low-risk option for Western Michigan.

29. Sean Kugler, UTEP
Previous Job:
Offensive line coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers
Career Record: First season
Grade: D

Kugler is a familiar face in El Paso, as he played at UTEP from 1984-88 and worked as an assistant for the school from 1993-2000. The New York native has spent most of his coaching career in the NFL, making stops with the Lions, Bills and Steelers. Kugler has one year of experience from coaching offensive linemen at Boise State but has never served as a coordinator or head coach. Although the Steelers dealt with injuries on the offensive line over the last three seasons, the unit was never a strength, allowing 122 sacks during that span. Despite his familiarity with the program, Kugler’s lack of head coaching experience and mediocre performance in Pittsburgh has UTEP on the wrong end of the new coach rankings for 2013.

30. Ron Turner, FIU
Previous Job: Quarterbacks coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Career Record: 42-61
Grade: F

In the worst coaching move of the offseason, FIU traded a good coach (Mario Cristobal) for a retread. Even though Cristobal’s overall mark was 27-47 in six years with the Golden Panthers, he clearly elevated a program that was in disarray prior to his arrival in 2007. Turner spent one season as the head coach at San Jose State in 1992 and at Illinois from 1997-2004. Under his watch, the Fighting Illini went 35-57 and made only two bowl appearances. Turner has NFL experience but outside of one season with the Buccaneers, has never coached in the state of Florida. Considering how important recruiting ties are in the Miami area, Turner is clearly a bad fit for a program that shouldn’t have made a coaching switch.

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Early Pac-12 Predictions for 2013

Early SEC Predictions for 2013

<p> Grading College Football's Head Coach Hires for 2013</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 06:34
Path: /college-football/ranking-best-quarterback-recruiting-classes-last-10-years

Recruiting is reaching a fever pitch as the college football machine churns toward National Signing Day 2013. The first Wednesday in February is the NCAA’s version of Christmas morning for fans and coaches alike. Great coaching is the key to winning, but so are great players. If your team has better athletes, generally speaking, it will win the game more often than not.

That doesn’t mean that every five-star is an All-American or every two-star is a Sun Belt third stringer.

Athlon Sports continues its analysis of recruiting over the last 10 years by evaluating the most important player on the field. The quarterback position has evolved dramatically over the last decade and it has made scouting the game’s most intricate position that much more difficult.

Every year isn’t created equally and the Athlon Consensus 100 proves this quite obviously. Since its inception in 2008, two quarterbacks have been ranked as the top player in the nation — Terrelle Pryor (2008) and Matt Barkley (2009). In 2010, however, Jake Heaps was considered the nation’s best quarterback, but was ranked No. 42 overall. Jeff Driskel was the top signal caller in 2011 and was No. 17 overall. Some quarterback classes are deeper and more talented than others.

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks the quarterback classes over the last 10 years:

1. Class of 2006
The Super Stars: Tim Tebow, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker, Case Keenum

The Best of the Rest: Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, Greg McElroy, Todd Reesing, Nate Davis, Juice Williams, TJ Yates, Ricky Stanzi, Thaddeus Lewis, John Skelton, Scott Tolzien, Nathan Enderle

This group features six first-round picks, including two No. 1 overall selections, and two second rounders. It registered two Heisman Trophies, three BCS National Championships and featured the most prolific passer in NCAA history. And Colin Kaepernick, who was a statistical juggernaut at Nevada, has led the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII. Additionally, Yates, Stafford and Dalton have all started NFL playoff games while Ponder led the Vikings to an improbable playoff berth this fall. This class has long been considered the best of the modern era and it appears nothing has changed.

2. Class of 2008
The Super Stars: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Collin Klein, Landry Jones, Blaine Gabbert

The Best of the Rest: EJ Manuel, Terrelle Pryor, Darron Thomas, Mike Glennon, Seth Doege, Tyler Wilson, Colby Cameron, Sean Renfree, Ryan Nassib, Matt Scott, Nick Florence, Zac Dysert, Alex Carder, Jacory Harris

When all is said and done, Luck and Griffin III might be better than anyone in the 2006 class, but the depth at the top isn’t as elite. Jones is one of the most prolific passers in history, but his legacy might be more disappointment than Hall of Fame. Klein, Thomas, and Pryor are electric athletes who used their legs but have issues with accuracy. What makes this class great is its depth in the middle as names like Nick Florence, Matt Scott, Ryan Nassib and Seth Doege are underrated nationally in terms of production. In all, this group claims three first-round picks (with a chance at a couple more), one Heisman Trophy, a handful of conference championships and one BCS title game appearance.

3. Class of 2009
The Super Stars: AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, Tajh Boyd, Taylor Martinez, Denard Robinson, Jordan Lynch

The Best of the Rest: Derek Carr, Logan Thomas, Keith Price, Bryn Renner, Tyler Russell, Brock Osweiler

There is no elite, No. 1 overall type of talent in this class but there are some huge numbers. And athletes. Martinez, Robinson, Lynch and Thomas have combined for 118 career rushing touchdowns and over 10,000 yards rushing. Boyd, Smith, Carr and Barkley have all been elite passers with huge numbers through the air. Aaron Murray has two SEC East titles and could rewrite the SEC passing record books next fall and could potentially make a run at the first round in 2014. And then there are two BCS national championship rings courtesy of McCarron (three if you count his redshirt season). The upside of this group gives it a slight nod over the established stars of the 2007 class as college football should be excited that most of the names in this class decided to return to school instead of going pro (Murray, McCarron, Boyd, Carr, Thomas, Renner).

4. Class of 2007
The Super Stars: Cam Newton, Brandon Weeden, Russell Wilson, Kellen Moore, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Mallett

The Best of the Rest: Ryan Tannehill, Chandler Harnish, Tyrod Taylor, Josh Nesbitt, Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Lindley, Dan Persa, GJ Kinne

One guy gives this class a Heisman Trophy, a BCS national title and a No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. But the rest of the group is underrated as well. Wilson and Weeden are NFL starters who broke all kinds of NCAA records while Kellen Moore is the winningest QB in history. Cousins is an extremely underrated leader and is the best QB in Michigan State history while Mallett, Lindley and Tannehill are all NFL players. Taylor and Nesbitt give this group plenty of athleticism as well.

5. Class of 2003
The Super Stars: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Chris Leak, Paul Smith, Kevin Kolb, Dennis Dixon, Brady Quinn, Andre Woodson

The Best of the Rest: John Beck, John David Booty, Kevin O'Connell, Tom Brandstater, Matt Flynn, JaMarcus Russell, Drew Tate

Ryan and Flacco are elite NFL passers but both were mid-level recruits and Flacco had to transfer to get to the first round. In all, there are four first-round picks, two BCS National Championships and a host of players who would be among their school's greatest of all-time — Woodson, Smith, Kolb and Dixon won a lot of games with big numbers. If JaMarcus Russell wasn't arguably the biggest bust (literally and figuratively) in NFL Draft history, this class could make a case for being higher on the list. 

6. Class of 2011
The Super Stars: Johnny Manziel, Braxton Miller, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Hundley

The Best of the Rest: Everett Golson, Jeff Driskel, Chuckie Keeton, Gary Nova, Trevone Boykin, David Ash, Max Wittek

In just two short seasons, it is hard to argue the upside of the 2011 group. Manziel has a Heisman Trophy while the top five names in this class will feature prominently in the chase for the 2013 stiff-armed trophy. And all five could have their teams in the BCS National Championship hunt as well. Toss in Golson, Driskel and Keeton as well as a host of other names who have yet to be discovered and this group is already well established. This might be the only class that could make a run at the 2006 class for top billing.

7. Class of 2002
The Super Stars: Vince Young, Troy Smith, Colt Brennan

The Best of the Rest: Drew Stanton, Omar Jacobs, Phil Horvath, Trent Edwards, John Stocco, Marcus Vick, Jordan Palmer, Drew Olson, Tyler Palko

At the top, this class had an elite trio. Young is the most unstoppable player I’ve ever seen on a college gridiron and he won the ultimate prize. Smith also led his team to the national title game and claimed Ohio State’s seventh Heisman Trophy. Brennan posted huge numbers at Hawaii in getting the Warriors to their one and only BCS bowl game.

8. Class of 2004
The Super Stars: Brian Brohm, Pat White, Brian Johnson, Graham Harrell, Daryll Clark

The Best of the Rest: Max Hall, Chad Henne, Curtis Painter, Stephen McGee, Brian Hoyer, John Parker Wilson, Erik Ainge, CJ Bacher, Mike Teel, Rudy Carpenter

None of these names will ever be NFL stars but there are some elite college players in this class. Clark, Brohm, White and Johnson all led their teams to historic seasons, conference crowns and BCS bowl wins. Harrell posted elite passing statistics while Hall, Henne, Painter and Parker Wilson all started for at least three seasons at four of the most historic quarterback programs in the nation (BYU, Michigan, Purdue, Alabama). The depth of this class gives it a slight edge on the 2005 group.

9. Class of 2005
The Super Stars: Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, Mark Sanchez, Zac Robinson, Dan LeFevour

The Best of the Rest: Riley Skinner, Tony Pike, Joe Webb, Sean Canfield, Mike Kafka, Levi Brown, Matt Grothe, Tim Hiller, Jarrett Brown

The top five were great players for their schools but that is about all this class has to offer. Yes, Canfield, Kafka, Webb and Pike were NFL Draft picks but all are bench players. McCoy is the real star, finishing his career with more wins than anyone in history (until Kellen Moore) and leading Texas into the championship game. Sanchez had a great team at USC and was a top pick but has very little experience. Robinson and Daniel were, at the time of graduation, likely the top quarterbacks in program history. LeFevour is a big reason why Brian Kelly and Butch Jones are coaching at Notre Dame and Tennessee respectively.

10. Class of 2010
The Super Stars: Taylor Kelly, James Franklin, Tyler Bray

The Best of the Rest: Blake Bell, Tanner Price, Cody Fajardo, Devin Gardner, Stephen Morris, Sean Mannion, David Piland, Connor Shaw, Jake Heaps, Phillip Sims

The top two recruits in this class (Heaps, Sims) have both transferred but have new opportunities to be successful. Kelly, Franklin and Bray are the only established players in this group while some others have high expectations for 2013 (Fajardo, Morris, Bell, Shaw, Gardner). This group has to be ranked last due to the lack of established super stars. However, this class should move up over the next few seasons as more names emerge and the guys above continue to develop.

<p> Ranking the Best Quarterback Recruiting Classes of the last 10 Years</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 06:20
Path: /college-football/top-15-sec-football-teams-bcs-era

The BCS just put a bow on its 15th season of action and Athlon has dissected the numbers and reviewed the tapes of all six BCS conferences in order to rank the best each league has had to offer. Which Oklahoma team was the best of the decade? Which Florida team was the toughest to stop? How do you rank the Florida State teams of the late '90s? Which Miami team was the best? How about those loaded USC teams? Alabama vs. Auburn?

The debates will rage on for decades, but here is Athlon's two cents. Here are the Top 15 SEC teams of the BCS Era (1998-present):

Note: "First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks

1. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2009 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Finished second in the nation in total (244.1 ypg), rushing (78.1 ypg) and scoring defense (11.7 ppg).
Award Winners: Mark Ingram (Heisman Trophy), Rolando McClain (Butkus, SEC Def. Player of the Year), Javier Arenas (SEC Special Teamer of the Year), Nick Saban (SEC Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Rolando McClain (1st, 2010), Kareem Jackson (1st, 2010), Javier Arenas (2nd, 2010), Terrence Cody (2nd, 2010), Mark Ingram (1st, 2011), James Carpenter (1st, 2011), Marcell Dareus (1st, 2011), Julio Jones (1st, 2011), Trent Richardson (1st, 2012), Mark Barron (1st, 2012), Dont'a Hightower (1st, 2012), Dre Kirkpatrick (1st, 2012), Courtney Upshaw (2nd, 2012)

Led by boy genius quarterback Greg McElroy and a host of national award-winning first-round NFL Draft picks, the Alabama Crimson Tide won their first national title since 1992. Nick Saban defeated five ranked opponents before taking down No. 2 Texas in the BCS National Championship game 37-21. This was the best defense in the nation, finishing second nationally in three of the four major statistical categories. In a rematch of the 2008 SEC title game, McElroy did his best Tebow impression by completing 12-of-18 passes for 239 yards without a turnover while picking up key yards on the ground. Heisman winner Mark Ingram rushed 28 times for 113 yards and three scores in the tear-inducing 32-13 win over Florida in Atlanta. Thus far, 10 first-round picks have entered the NFL from the 2009 roster. That number could grow this April should Barrett Jones get his name called early.

2. Tennessee Volunteers, 1998 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Phillip Fulmer
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: This team put 11 players into the first or second round of the NFL Draft; Peerless Price is second all-time in BCS bowls with 242 all-purpose yards in the Fiesta Bowl, his 49.8 yards per catch is a BCS title game record.
Award Winners: Phillip Fulmer (AP National Coach of the Year), Peerless Price (Fiesta Bowl MVP), David Cutcliffe (Broyles)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Al Wilson (1st, 1999), Peerless Price (2nd, 1999), Jamal Lewis (1st, 2000), Shaun Ellis (1st, 2000), Raynoch Thompson (2nd, 2000), Chad Clifton (2nd, 2000), Dwayne Goodrich (2nd, 2000), Casey Coleman (2nd, 2000), Deon Grant (2nd, 2000), Travis Henry (2nd, 2001), John Henderson (1st, 2002)

In Year 1 A.P. (after Peyton), the Vols put together their greatest season in nearly five decades. Tee Martin stepped in at quarterback, and aided by a monster backfield that included Travis Henry, Jamal Lewis, Travis Stephens and Shawn Bryson, led the Vols past six ranked opponents for Tennessee’s sixth national championship. The defense held nine of its 13 opponents to 18 points or less. Despite a BCS record 199 yards receiving (242 all-purpose yards) and the game-winning 79-yard touchdown for game MVP Peerless Price, the most important and memorable moment from the 1998 title run involved a stumbling Razorback. Late in the Arkansas game, Tennessee was all but beaten until Billy Ratliff forced guard Brandon Burlsworth into quarterback Clint Stoerner, who gently and inexplicably “placed” the football on the ground. The Vols used a Henry touchdown run in the final seconds to seal the comeback from a 21-3 deficit and the eventual national championship.

3. Florida Gators, 2008 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Led the SEC in rushing (231.1 ypg), total offense (445.1 ypg), scoring (43.6 ppg), pass efficiency defense (96.76), scoring defense (12.9 ppg), punting (38.1 ypp), turnover margin (+1.57) and passing efficiency (170.6). Percy Harvin led the SEC in scoring at 10.2 ppg.
Award Winners: Tim Tebow (Maxwell, SEC Off. Player of the Year), Brandon James (SEC Special Teamer of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Percy Harvin (1st, 2009), Tim Tebow (1st, 2010), Joe Haden (1st, 2010), Maurkice Pouncey (1st, 2010), Carlos Dunlap (2nd, 2010), Jermaine Cunningham (2nd, 2010), Brandon Spikes (2nd, 2010), Mike Pouncey (1st, 2011), Marcus Gilbert (2nd, 2011)

Tim Tebow had his Heisman Trophy (2007) and a national championship ring (2006). But when the Florida Gators lost to the Ole Miss Rebels in The Swamp on a final drive fourth-down stop, Tebow took his legendary legacy to new heights. After fumbling, taking sacks and missing open receivers, the Gainesville idol gave one of the most famous speeches in college football history: “You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.” The Gators then went on to crush quality opponents Arkansas, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State and Alabama by an average of 31.8 points per game. The win over No. 1 and unbeaten Alabama pushed the Gators into the national title game against another No. 1. The Chosen One then delivered on his promise (and halftime speech) by throwing for 231 yards and two scores while rushing for 109 yards on 22 carries to outlast Oklahoma 24-14. He claimed his second national championship in three years before announcing he would return for his senior year. The 2008 Gators tied the 1996 national champs as the highest-scoring team in school history (611 points).

4. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2011 (12-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Set a BCS era record with 8.2 points allowed per game, led the nation in total defense (183.6 ypg), rushing defense (72.2 ypg) and passing defense (111.5 ypg). Held LSU to zero points, five first downs and 92 yards of offense in the BCS title game.
Award Winners: Trent Richardson (Doak Walker Award, SEC Off. Player of the Year), Barrett Jones (Outland Trophy, Wuerffel Trophy)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Trent Richardson (1st, 2012), Mark Barron (1st, 2012) Dre Kirkpatrick (1st, 2012), Dont'a Hightower (1st, 2012), Courtney Upshaw (2nd, 2012)

As Athlon Sports' preseason pick as the National Champion, Alabama rolled through its schedule — which included easy victories over three ranked opponents — until the "Game of the Century" on November 5 against LSU. The Tide outplayed the Tigers on offense and defense in that game, but was destroyed on special teams and it cost Saban a perfect season. After crushing rival Auburn, the Tide headed to New Orleans for a rematch with LSU. In a performance that would make the Bear weep openly, the Tide held Jordan Jefferson and the Bayou Bengals to five first downs, 92 yards of offense and no points. Alabama led the nation in every major defensive team NCAA statistic and it showed in the title game. This Crimson Tide team is the only BCS National Champion who failed to win its conference championship and the offense did not possess the same level of explosive talent on offense (and it lost a game) to be ranked ahead of the 2009 Alabama title squad.

5. LSU Tigers, 2003 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Only one time did a team score more than 14 points against LSU (Arkansas, 24). Led the nation in total defense (252.0 ypg) and scoring defense (11.0 ppg), held Heisman winner Jason White to 13-of-37 passing in title game.
Award Winners: Chad Lavalais (SEC Def. Player of the Year), Nick Saban (AP National Coach of the Year), Justin Vincent (Sugar Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Michael Clayton (1st, 2004), Devery Henderson (2nd, 2004), Marquise Hill (2nd, 2004), Marcus Spears (1st, 2005), Corey Webster (2nd, 2005), Joseph Addai (1st, 2006), Andrew Whitworth (2nd, 2006), LaRon Landry (1st, 2007), Dwayne Bowe (1st, 2007), Chris Davis (1st, 2007)

Armed with the nation’s nastiest defense, Nick Saban restored the LSU name to prominence in only his fourth year at the helm. His team led the nation in total defense at 252 yards per game and scoring defense at exactly 11.0 points per game. Arkansas was the only team to score more than 14 points against the Bayou Bengals in 2003. Quarterback Matt Mauck steered the ship, freshman Justin Vincent and sophomore Joseph Addai powered the offense and one of the deepest receiving corps in history gave LSU tremendous balance. With three one-loss teams sitting atop the standings — and USC ranked No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches Poll — the computers controversially placed the Sooners in the National Championship game against the Tigers. After the 21-14 win over an Oklahoma team boasting the Heisman, Thorpe, Lombardi and Bednarik winners, LSU claimed the BCS national title — splitting the votes with USC. It was their first national championship since 1958.

6. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2012 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championship: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Led the nation in rushing and total defense for the second straight year and was second nationally in scoring defense, AJ McCarron was second nationally in passing efficiency. 
Award Winners: Barrett Jones (Rimington)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: N/A

The 2012 Crimson Tide championship team isn't as strong defensively as the unit that dominated the college football landscape the year before, but defending a title is almost always more difficult than winning the first one. AJ McCarron had spotlight moments all season long, including 264 yards and four touchdowns against Notre Dame in the title game. Had McCarron not thrown the goal-line interception against Texas A&M, this team would have easily landed in the top five. This team rolled up 529 yards of offense in one of the more impressive title game performances in the 15-year history of the BCS. And did it against one of the best defenses in the nation.

7. Auburn Tigers, 2004 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Tommy Tuberville
Championships: SEC, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: The Tigers finished the regular season No. 3 in the BCS standings, led the nation in scoring defense (11.3 ppg), led the SEC in scoring offense (32.1 ppg); Jason Campbell led the league in passing efficiency (172.89).
Award Winners: Carlos Rogers (Thorpe), Jason Campbell (SEC Off. Player of the Year), Carnell Williams (SEC Special Teamer of the Year), Tommy Tuberville (AP National, SEC Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Ronnie Brown (1st, 2005), Carnell Williams (1st, 2005), Carlos Rogers (1st, 2005), Jason Campbell (1st, 2005), Marcus McNeill (2nd, 2006), Ben Grubbs (1st, 2007)

The 2004 Auburn Tigers backfield might be one of the most talented in college football history. Ronnie Brown, Carnell Williams (Kenny Irons was redshirting) and Jason Campbell led the Tigers to an unblemished record. Only two teams stayed within 10 points of Auburn during the regular season (LSU 10-9, Alabama 21-13) while the three-headed backfield pounded opposing defenses. While Auburn beat four ranked teams, it missed out on the BCS national title game to an undefeated Oklahoma team. The Sooners got crushed by USC while Auburn snuck past Virginia Tech to win the Sugar Bowl. To this day, Tigers fan rue the missed opportunity of 2004. Auburn would have been a heavy underdog to USC and was defeated by what was largely the same team at home the year before 23-0. But it would have been fun to watch the two teams square off.

8. Florida Gators, 2009 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: SEC East, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: Tim Tebow led the nation in passing efficiency (164.17), set the SEC all-time total offense record (12,232 yards), and the SEC’s all-time touchdowns responsible for record (145).
Award Winners: Aaron Hernandez (John Mackey), Maurkice Pouncey (Rimington), Tim Tebow (SEC Off. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Tim Tebow (1st, 2010), Joe Haden (1st, 2010), Maurkice Pouncey (1st, 2010), Carlos Dunlap (2nd, 2010), Jermaine Cunningham (2nd, 2010), Brandon Spikes (2nd, 2010), Mike Pouncey (1st, 2011), Marcus Gilbert (2nd, 2011)

After the Gators claimed the 2008 BCS National Championship, Tim Tebow decided to return to Gainesville for his senior season. He led the Gators to an undefeated regular season mark and berth in the SEC Championship game against No. 2 Alabama. The rematch of the 2008 SEC title game went the way of the Tide 32-13, as Greg McElroy outplayed Tebow. While it was not the third national title he wanted, Tebow finished his career by setting a BCS bowl record for total yards with 533 and passing yards with 482 in the 51-24 win over Cincinnati. It was only the Gators' second win over a ranked opponent all season.

9. Auburn Tigers, 2010 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Gene Chizik
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Cam Newton's 4,327 yards of total offense set a single-season SEC record; Tigers set a school record with 41.2 points per game, led the nation in passing efficiency 180.52, won seven games by one score or less.
Award Winners: Cam Newton (Heisman Trophy, Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, SEC Off. Player of Year), Nick Fairley (Lombardi), Lee Ziemba (SEC Top Blocker)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Cam Newton (1st, 2011), Nick Fairley (1st, 2011)

One-year wonders Cam Newton and Nick Fairley gave Auburn arguably its most important recruiting haul in history when they both chose the Loveliest Village on the Plains. The Heisman Trophy winner willed his team to victory against Mississippi State, Clemson, Kentucky, Alabama, Oregon and defined his legacy with an incredible 49-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of a tied game with LSU. His 217 rushing yards in the 24-17 win over the Tigers broke a single-game SEC rushing record for a quarterback. Newton finished with 2,854 yards passing, 1,473 yards rushing and an SEC second-best 51 total touchdowns. This is the only 14-win team in school history and was the highest-scoring Tigers team in program history by a wide margin — their 577 points topped Terry Bowden’s 1995 team by 139 points (41.2 ppg against 36.5 ppg).

10. Florida Gators, 2006 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Florida held Heisman winner Troy Smith to four completions in the title game and the Buckeyes to 82 total yards.
Award Winners: Percy Harvin (SEC Freshman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Reggie Nelson (1st, 2007), Jarvis Moss (1st, 2007), Derrick Harvey (1st, 2008), Percy Harvin (1st, 2009), Tim Tebow (1st, 2010), Jermaine Cunningham (2nd, 2010), Brandon Spikes (2nd, 2010)

After defeating a ranked Tennessee, LSU, Georgia and Arkansas, the Florida Gators entered the 2006 BCS national title game as a big underdog to Ohio State. But an NFL-heavy defense delivered one of the greatest defensive performances in championship game history. Jarvis Moss, Reggie Nelson, Derrick Harvey and company harassed Heisman winner Troy Smith all day. Smith threw for 35 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and was sacked five times. They held the OSU rushing attack to 47 yards on 23 carries. Ohio State totaled 82 yards of offense in the 41-14 beatdown. Cult hero Tim Tebow touched the ball 11 times and scored twice to begin his eternal legacy at Florida. This team produced nine 2007 NFL Draft picks alone. The only loss came at the hands of No. 11 Auburn 27-17 in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

11. LSU Tigers, 2007 (12-2, 6-2)
Head Coach: Les Miles
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: LSU beat seven ranked teams; the only BCS champion with two losses.
Award Winners: Glenn Dorsey (Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski, Lott, SEC Def. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Glenn Dorsey (1st, 2008), Tyson Jackson (1st, 2009)

By definition only, this is the “worst” BCS national champion due to its two losses. However, wins over ranked Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee (with back-up quarterback Ryan Perrilloux) and Ohio State gave the Bayou Bengals the crystal football nonetheless. The Tigers were undefeated in regulation, however, as both Kentucky and Arkansas needed overtime to top them. Despite the two losses and the 83 combined points allowed, the LSU Tigers defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes in relatively easy fashion 38-24. Matt Flynn threw four touchdown passes, and the defense, led by an 8-tackle, 1.5-sack, forced fumble performance by Ali Highsmith, kept the Bucks at arm’s length the entire game. It was the Tigers' second national title in five years.

12. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2008 (12-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: SEC West
Key Stats: Finished No. 2 nationally against the run (74.1 ypg) and third nationally in total defense (263.5 ypg); John Parker Wilson’s 7,924 yards are an all-time Alabama record.
Award Winners: Andre Smith (Outland), Nick Saban (SEC Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Andre Smith (1st, 2009), Rolando McClain (1st, 2010), Kareem Jackson (1st, 2010), Mark Ingram (1st, 2011), James Carpenter (1st, 2011), Marcell Dareus (1st, 2011), Julio Jones (1st, 2011)

In Nick Saban’s second season at The Capstone, the Tide was quickly back in the national title picture. The Tide boasted a senior-laden offense, beat three ranked teams for an 8-0 SEC record and were the No. 1 team in the land when they headed to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game with the No. 2-ranked Florida Gators. The Gators' defense foiled the Tide’s hopes for a national title by holding quarterback John Parker Wilson to 12-of-25 passing, no touchdowns and one key interception. The loss to Florida sent Alabama to the Sugar Bowl against an unbeaten Utah team. Without Andre Smith — or a chance at the crystal football — the Tide failed to play motivated football and fell 31-17 to what might be considered the best Ute team in program history.

13. LSU Tigers, 2011 (13-1, 8-0)
Head Coach: Les Miles
Championships: SEC
Key Stats: No. 2 nationally in total and scoring defense, No. 2 nationally in turnover margin
Award Winners: Morris Claiborne (Thorpe Award)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Morris Claiborne (1st, 2012), Michael Brockers (1st, 2012), Reuben Randle (2nd, 2012)

This team was nearly as dominant on defense as the eventual national champion Crimson Tide, but its offense paled in comparison. A perfect regular season was tainted with arguably the worst performance in the BCS National Championship in the 15-year history of the game. Certainly, Alabama deserves credit for why LSU struggled so mightily in New Orleans last year. But 92 total yards of offense and five first downs indicated the 13-0 record was not nearly as pretty as previously assumed. This is the only team to be shutout in the BCS title game and is the only SEC team to ever lose the BCS title game.

14. Georgia Bulldogs, 2002 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Mark Richt
Championships: SEC, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: Finished fourth in the nation in scoring defense (15.1 ppg) and led the SEC in scoring (32.1); no Georgia team has scored more than 2002’s 450 points.
Award Winners: David Pollack (SEC Player of the Year), Mark Richt (SEC Coach of the Year), Musa Smith (Sugar Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Jonathan Sullivan (1st, 2003), George Foster (1st, 2003), Boss Bailey (2nd, 2003), Jon Stinchcomb (2nd, 2003), Ben Watson (1st, 2004), Sean Jones (2nd, 2004), David Pollack (1st, 2005), Thomas Davis (1st, 2005), Reggie Brown (2nd, 2005), Tim Jennings (2nd, 2006)

No Georgia team has ever won more games or scored more points in a single season than the 2002 edition. And other than the 1980 Vince Dooley team and the 1945 Wallace Butts team, no Dawgs squad has had a better record than the 13-1 mark. Led by David Greene at quarterback and a stacked defense (Pollack, Davis, Jones, Jennings), Georgia rolled to an 8-0 mark before losing in the Cocktail Party 20-13 to Florida. After being knocked out of the national title hunt, Georgia crushed Ole Miss, topped Auburn, pummeled rival Georgia Tech before destroying Arkansas in the SEC title game. They capped the season with a Sugar Bowl title over Florida State.

15. Georgia Bulldogs, 2007 (11-2, 6-2)
Head Coach: Mark Richt
Championships: Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: This team led the SEC in sacks (3.23 pg) and was eighth nationally; Georgia’s 42-30 win over Florida was only the second win over the Gators in 10 tries; this was the second-highest scoring team in school history at 32.6 points per game.
Award Winners: Knowshon Moreno (SEC Freshman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Matthew Stafford (1st, 2009), Knowshon Moreno (1st, 2009), Mohamed Massaquoi (2nd, 2009)

The most talented quarterback in school history, Matthew Stafford came close to leading Georgia back to the national title game. An early loss to South Carolina did not end the Dawgs' title hopes, however, an inexplicable 35-14 road loss to underdog Tennessee did cost Mark Richt a chance at playing a two-loss LSU in the SEC title game. The Tigers defeated the Volunteers, who won the SEC East crown via a tie-breaker, and went on to beat Ohio State in the BCS national championship game, while Georgia was left to face an undefeated Hawaii team in the Sugar Bowl — in the same building as LSU. Georgia forced six turnovers and held the Warriors to minus-5 yards rushing in the 41-10 victory. Stafford was the first overall pick in the draft one year later.

<p> Top 15 SEC Football Teams of the BCS Era</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 06:10
All taxonomy terms: super bowl, NFL, Monthly
Path: /nfl/super-bowl-blowouts-era-best-forgotten

It wasn’t so long ago that the star of Super Bowl Sunday was a talking frog. Or a dancing monkey. Or Cindy Crawford enjoying a refreshing cola.

For a stretch of time that lasted more than a decade, the only suspense after kickoff of the Super Bowl came from anticipating the next clever commercial. More often than not, the actual game was over before it even started.

From 1984-97, in particular, the Super Bowl morphed into a near-annual blowout—anything but a battle between the NFL’s two best teams. During that period of time, the average margin of victory was an obscene 21.4 points and nine of the 14 games were decided by more than two touchdowns.

But a funny thing has happened this millennium. The focus has shifted back to football thanks to a series of tight contests, each more compelling than the next. Since 2000, only two Super Bowls have been decided by more than 14 points, while eight games have ended with a one-score differential. Three others—Super Bowl XL (Steelers-Seahawks), XLI (Colts-Bears) and XLIV (Saints-Colts)—also featured one-score margins at some point in the fourth quarter.

Clearly, it seems, something has changed in a drastic way to make the NFL’s title game far more competitive. Except that’s not actually the case.

A common refrain is that the tighter Super Bowl scores are a byproduct of the NFL’s salary cap. The timing makes sense—the cap came into place in 1994, which was the tail end of the blowout era. And the cap’s reason for existence is tied largely to ensuring competitive balance, so a closer Super Bowl would appear to be the perfect manifestation of that goal.

But that’s not consistent with the way the NFL has changed since ’94. Instead, according to Aaron Schatz, who runs Football Outsiders, a popular advanced metrics website, parity has actually declined in the salary cap era. “In general, the best teams have been coming in stronger each year, while the worst teams have been worse and worse, using our advanced stats,” Schatz says.

So how, then, do we explain the Super Bowl shift? It’s actually the product of two factors. First and foremost, time has allowed us to see the 1984-97 period as a statistical outlier. It’s abnormal for any team to beat another by 20-plus points in any game, let alone when two top teams spar in the Super Bowl. The string of blowouts, not the recent stretch of close games, is the real story, because Super Bowls prior to 1984 also tended to be more competitive. What happened in the ’80s and ’90s was unnatural. 

The blowouts weren’t all the product of random chance, though. “We all know the NFC was much better than the AFC throughout the ’80s,” Schatz says. Indeed, the dominant teams of that era were the 49ers, Giants and Redskins, with the Cowboys joining the mix in the ’90s. Facing the AFC champion (often the Broncos or Bills) often turned out to be a breeze compared to surviving the NFC gauntlet. But that still doesn’t mean the outcomes should have been so one-sided.

This year, though, appears headed in the other direction. According to Schatz, this season featured more close games than any in NFL history. Sure, in time we will probably see that as nothing more than a statistical outlier, too. But if you’re into omens, it bodes well for Feb. 3.

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

<p> Super Bowl Blowouts: An Era Best Forgotten</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /nfl/five-reasons-why-baltimore-ravens-will-win-super-bowl-xlvii

Super Bowl XLVII is set for Sunday, Feb. 3 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. While the majority of the focus has been on the matchup up between the sons of Jack Harbaugh, this Har-Bowl (or Super Baugh, if you prefer) will be decided on the field by the teams that are led by John and Jim, the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.

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

Here are five reasons why John Harbaugh’s Ravens will leave New Orleans with the Lombardi Trophy in tow:

1. Ray Lewis’ Storybook Ending
Even Hollywood couldn’t have scripted this potential ending to linebacker Ray Lewis’ Hall of Fame career. Already a lock for enshrinement in Canton, many thought Lewis’ career would end prematurely after sustaining a triceps injury back on Oct. 14. The fact that Lewis was even able to return for the playoffs for one “last ride” is enough of a story in itself, but now that he finds himself with the opportunity to go out on top, as a world champion? Now that’s magical.

The Ravens have rallied around their emotional leader to get to New Orleans, but it’s not like the 17-year veteran hasn’t done his part as well. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year leads all postseason participating with 44 tackles in three games so far, including 25 solo stops. His presence and passion has re-charged a Ravens’ defense that has been able to rise to the occasion during these playoffs. This Ravens team wants nothing more than to send No. 52 off into the sunset with a second Super Bowl ring, just as Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway did back in 1999 in Super Bowl XXXIII.

And Lewis isn’t the only Raven who has waited a long time for this opportunity either. Ed Reed, the ball-hawking safety who took home Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2004, is finally getting his chance on the game’s biggest stage after 11 seasons, as is center Matt Birk, who has started 187 regular-season games in his 14-year career with the Ravens and Vikings.

2. Flacco Playing Like an Extra-Ordinary Joe
As good as Baltimore’s defense has been this postseason, the Ravens would not be in Super Bowl XLVII if not for the performance of quarterback Joe Flacco. Criticized by both pundits and fans alike, Flacco has made considerable progress in quieting down some of the doubters, and it couldn’t come at a better time in his career.

While he has never put up regular-season statistics on par with the likes of a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, or what Andrew Luck did in his first pro season, Flacco has proven he can get the job done when it matters most. The first quarterback in NFL history to win at least one postseason game in each of his first five seasons, Flacco has led the Ravens to the franchise’s second-ever Super Bowl appearance by out-performing Brady, Manning and Luck on the field. This postseason, Flacco has thrown for 853 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions, good enough for a 114.7 passer rating, in leading his Ravens to wins over the Colts, Broncos and Patriots. The latter two victories came on the road, which is also the case for six of his eight career postseason wins.

Flacco is clearly playing the best football of his career, which may not only result in a coveted world championship, but also will more than likely allow him to cash in off the field as well. Flacco is a free agent after the season, and while his next contract numbers probably won’t approach the totals of a Manning, Brady or Drew Brees, there is little doubt he is in for a rather sizable raise. Life is really good for a certain 28-year-old quarterback out of Delaware right now.

3. Ravens’ Defense Soaring at Right Time
Among the top 10 defenses in the NFL in both yards and points allowed from 2008-11, the Ravens took a step backwards during the regular season, finishing tied for 12th in scoring defense (21.5 ppg) and 17th in total defense (350.9 ypg). Some of this can be attributed to injuries, as the team lost All-Pro cornerback Lardarius Webb for the season back in Week 6, while linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis each missed at least half the regular season.

This defense has turned things around in the playoffs, however, especially as it relates to the red zone and tightening things up in the second half. Even though Indianapolis had 25 first downs and 419 yards of total offense against Baltimore in the Wild Card round, the Colts were 0-for-3 in the red-zone, only managing three field goals in a 24-9 loss.

The following game in Denver, the Ravens forced Peyton Manning into three turnovers, including the key interception that led to the game-winning field goal, and held his offense to just three touchdowns (two touchdowns were on special teams). The double overtime victory was Denver’s second loss at home all season and their first loss in 11 games.

The Ravens followed up that huge road victory with an even bigger one, shutting down Tom Brady and the Patriots and shutting the home team out completely in the second half of the AFC Championship game. The Ravens turned the Patriots away on three of their four trips in the red zone, while forcing the home team into three miscues, including two picks of Brady.

4. Special Teams Could Take Flight in Superdome
The Ravens led the NFL in kickoff return average (27.3 ypr), thanks in large part of the efforts of All-Pro kick returner Jacoby Jones. Jones averaged 30.7 yards per kickoff return, taking two kicks back for touchdowns, while also returning a punt for a score too. The 49ers gave up the second-most yards (26.9) per kickoff return during the regular season, so this could potentially be an area the Ravens can take advantage of.

While Ravens punter Sam Koch has a big leg and can use it to pin opponents inside the 20, he is not on the same level as the 49ers’ Andy Lee, who took home first team All-Pro honors this season for the third time in his career. Kicker, however, is a completely different story, as the Ravens have a clear edge there right now, despite the fact that Justin Tucker is just a rookie.

Tucker made 30-of-33 field goal attempts during the regular season, including all four from beyond 50 yards, and has yet to miss a kick in the postseason (2-of-2 FGs, 12-for-12 PATs). Contrast that to his counterpart David Akers, whose 69 percent success rate on field goals during the regular season was second-lowest in the league, and whose struggles continued with a missed 38-yarder against Atlanta in last Sunday’s NFC Championship game.

Fortunately for Akers and the 49ers, that missed kick didn’t cost them the win over the Falcons, but the stakes and pressure will be even higher come Feb. 3. While Akers’ own confidence has already been called into question, what about his coach’s confidence in his kicker. Does Jim Harbaugh even give Akers a shot at a long field goal, say beyond 40 yards, should a 49ers drive stall? That’s not something that John Harbaugh has to worry about right now with Tucker, at least not until the game has started.

5. The Ravens Have Been Down This Road Before
The Ravens entered the playoffs as the fourth seed in the AFC, the same position they were in following the 2000 season when they would go on to defeat the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. That season, the Ravens defeated the No. 5-seeded team (Denver) at home, followed by road wins over the No. 1 (Tennessee) and 2 (Oakland) teams, and finished the job by taking out the NFC’s top seed, the Giants, in Tampa, Fla.

This season, the Ravens got to New Orleans by beating the No. 5-seed Colts at home, followed by victories over No. 1 Denver and No. 2 New England on the road. All that stands between them and a second Lombardi Trophy for the franchise is NFC Champion San Francisco, who was the No. 2 seed on its side of the bracket.

For what it’s worth, since the Ravens defeated the higher-seeded Giants back in Super Bowl XXXV, the lower-seeded teams are 9-2 in the big game. This record could be 10-2 depending on how you view Super Bowl XLIV, when Indianapolis and New Orleans, the top seeds from each conference, met. The Colts won more games in the regular season than the Saints did, although it was the Saints winning the one that counted most, the last one, 31-17 in Miami, Fla.

That said the past two Super Bowl champions were seeded lower than their opponent, Green Bay (sixth) over Pittsburgh (second) in Super Bowl XLV, and the New York Giants (fourth) over New England (first) last year.

<p> Five Reasons Why the Baltimore Ravens Will Win Super Bowl XLVII</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/what-age-do-nfl-players-start-drawing-their-pensions

At what age do NFL players start drawing their pensions?

— Ed Johnson, Panama City Beach, Fla.
Players start collecting their pensions at age 55. To qualify, they must be credited for three full seasons (four for players before 1992). A full season is defined as being on the active roster (or on injured reserve or the physically unable to perform list) in three games.
— Rob Doster, Senior Editor
<p> At what age do NFL players start drawing their pensions?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 16:58
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /mlb/whats-record-most-foul-balls-hit-single-bat

What is the record for most foul balls hit in a single at-bat? 

— Bert Steinberg, Port Hueneme, Calif.

There are no records kept for foul balls during particular at-bats, but there is one unusual record in this category that is likely to never be broken. Philadelphia outfielder Richie Ashburn, who played from 1948-62, was known for his ability to prolong at-bats by fouling off pitches. During one such at-bat in Philadelphia, he fouled off 14 pitches. One of them struck a woman who was sitting in the stands, breaking her nose. While she was being carried off on a stretcher, she was hit by a second foul ball from Ashburn during the same at-bat.
— Charlie Miller, Editorial Director
<p> What's the record for most foul balls hit in a single at-bat?&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 16:52
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/who-considered-best-athlete-turned-musician

Who is considered the best athlete-turned-musician? I think it is one of these three: Wayman Tisdale (jazz), Shaquille O’Neal (rap) or Bernie Williams (soft jazz). What do you say?

— Nelson Jimenez, Stamford, Conn.
I like your mention of late NBA star Tisdale and retired New York Yankee Williams, both of them accomplished musicians. But you’re being a tad generous by including the Big Aristotle, who’s not exactly renowned for busting rhymes. Other examples of athletes-turned-musicians include boxer Oscar de la Hoya, who recorded a pretty cheesy Latin pop album that, astonishingly, was nominated for a Grammy; tennis player John McEnroe, who wielded a rock-and-roll axe for The Johnny Smyth Band back in the 1990s; soccer star Alexi Lalas, who fronted a band called Gypsies that opened for Hootie and the Blowfish during their 1998 European tour; and Deion Sanders, who recorded a poorly received funk album called “Prime Time” that was released in 1995. I’ll go with Tisdale, who got his musical start playing bass guitar at his dad’s church and ultimately mastered the instrument and recorded eight jazz albums prior to his tragic death in 2009. One of those albums, “Face to Face,” reached No. 1 on the Billboard contemporary jazz chart.
I’ll tell you who it’s not: track star Carl Lewis, whose best-known musical foray was his legendary butchering of the National Anthem prior to a Bulls-Nets game in 1993 — proof that most athletes should stick to sports.
— Rob Doster, Senior Editor
<p> <strong>Who is considered the best athlete-turned-musician?&nbsp;</strong></p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 12:46
Path: /nfl/15-greatest-plays-super-bowl-history

What defines a great play?

Degree of difficulty? Gravity of the moment? The greatness of the players involved and their place in NFL history? Entertainment factor? How about all of the above.

Game-winning touchdowns, heroic out-of-body experiences, historic moments and even some hilarious gaffes — looking at you Garo Yepremian — all make the Super Bowl the greatest sporting event of the calendar year. Hall of Fame careers are made and broken in the final football game of the season and trying to narrow down half-a-century of action to the 10 best individual plays is virtually impossible.

1. Super Bowl XXXIV: One Yard Short
The Titans and Rams put on a second-half show for the fans in Atlanta. Kurt Warner hit Isaac Bruce on a 73-yard touchdown pass with just over two minutes to go in a tie game to take the lead. Steve McNair then whirled his way down the field to the St. Louis 10-yard line to set up the final play of the game. Mike Jones then made the play of his career by tackling Kevin Dyson just 12 inches shy of the game-tying touchdown. It would have been the first and only overtime game in Super Bowl history.

2. Super Bowl XXXII: John Elway’s helicopter run
It was the defining moment of what many believe is the best Super Bowl ever played. It was third-and-six from the Packers 12-yard line with the game tied 17-17 in the second half. One of the game’s greatest players drops back to pass, scrambles right and then dives into the air in the face of three Green Bay defenders. Elway gives up all regard for his body and wills himself to a first down. Terrell Davis scored the go-ahead touchdown two plays later and Elway wins his first Super Bowl.

3. Super Bowl XXV: Scott Norwood’s wide right
There have been many game-winning field goals in Super Bowl history — but none on the final snap with one team trailing and the chance to win the game. Adam Vinatieri’s kicks were clutch but those games would have gone into overtime had he missed. No, Scott Norwood became the only true goat of a Super Bowl when his 47-yard field goal sailed just inches wide right. The miss capped an extraordinary drive that capped an extraordinary game stacked with Hall of Fame players and coaches.

4. Super Bowl XXIII: Joe Montana to John Taylor
The 10-yard pass to John Taylor with 39 seconds left wasn’t in and of itself a miraculous play. It wasn’t all that difficult and it wasn’t all that remarkable. But it represents all that Joe Montana was as an NFL Hall of Famer. He got the ball with 3:10 left on the clock down 16-13 on his own eight-yard line and all he can think about is John Candy. It is the latest game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl history.

5. Super Bowl XLII: Eli Manning to David Tyree (and Plaxico Burress)
In terms of degree of difficulty, few plays in any game much less the Super Bowl can match this one. Eli Manning's Houdini act in the pocket to avoid getting sacked is nearly as impressive as David Tyree’s duct tape and chicken wire helmet catch in traffic 32 yards down the field. Four plays later, Manning floated a 13-yard game-winning touchdown to a wide open Plaxico Burress to give the Patriots their one and only loss of the season. After three extremely slow quarters, Super Bowl XLII ended in extraordinary fashion.

6. Super Bowl XLIII: Big Ben to Santonio Holmes
The Cardinals entered the fourth quarter trailing the Steelers 20-7. Kurt Warner then proceeded to score 16 straight points to take a three-point lead over Pittsburgh with just over two minutes to play. Ben Roethlisberger then marched his team to the Arizona six-yard line where, with unbelievable accuracy and some magic toes at his disposal, he somehow connects with Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left to play.

7. Super Bowl XVIII: Marcus Allen 74-yard run
It is likely the most impressive run in Super Bowl history. After twisting and changing directions in the backfield, Marcus Allen split the heart of the Washington Redskins defense for the longest run in Super Bowl history (later broken by Willie Parker). The play capped the third quarter and put a fork in the ‘Skins hopes. Allen finished with 191 yards rushing and was named the MVP.

8. Super Bowl XVII: The Diesel’s fourth-and-one gallop
The Redskins were trailing 17-13 with 10 minutes to go in the game facing a fourth-and-one on the Miami 43-yard line. Joe Gibbs leaves his offense on the field and calls ’70 chip’ for his star running back John Riggins. The burly runner, nicknamed The Diesel, breaks a tackle, bounces the play off tackle and races 43 yards for the game-winning touchdown. The play epitomized who Riggins was as a ball carrier.

9. Super Bowl X: Lynn Swann’s Magical Reception
When it comes to acrobatic, spectacular catches, Tyree might not even be able top the grace of Lynn Swann. From deep in his own territory, the eventual game MVP reeled in a 53-yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw that changed the game. Mark Washington is in perfect position to make a play on the ball for the Cowboys, but somehow Swann out leaps the defender, bobbles the ball and hauls in the pass as he is falling to the ground. Swann finished with four receptions for 161 yards and the game-winning 64-yard touchdown catch as well. This clash of the titans was won with style and grace.

10. Super Bowl III: Joe Namath’s Called Shot/Finger Wag
It wasn’t technically one play, but Joe Namath’s guarantee and subsequent history finger wag will go down in Super Bowl lore. It was likely the most important Super Bowl ever played. It was the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. And the moment could have only been made possible by a brash personality like Namath.

11. Super Bowl XLIV: Saints onside kick to start second half
Possibly the ballsiest call in Super Bowl history, Sean Payton converts on an onside kick to start the second half and it sets the tone for the Saints' storied Super Bowl championship.

12. Super Bowl XXXVI: Adam Vinatieri Part I
Vinatieri Part I capped Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s coming out party as they upset the heavily favored Rams with a 48-yard game winner.

13. Super Bowl XXXVIII: Adam Vinatieri Part II
An underrated Super Bowl ended with Vinatieri Part II when he broke the 29-29 tie as time expired against the Panthers.

14. Super Bowl XXVII: Leon Lett chased down by Don Beebe
The game wasn’t close and the play didn’t really matter, but no one will ever forget little Don Beebe embarrassing big Leon Lett at the goalline.

15. Super Bowl I: Max McGee one-hander
A hungover, second-string Max McGee makes a spectacular one-handed catch to score the first touchdown in Super Bowl history.

Best of the Rest:

16. Super Bowl XIV: Bradshaw to Stallworth for 73-yard game winner
17. Super Bowl XX: William Perry steals Sweetness’ touchdown
18. Super Bowl XLVI: Manning to Manningham Sideline Fade
19. Super Bowl XIII: Jackie Smith is sickest man in America
20. Super Bowl XXXI: Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return TD

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

<p> Top 15 Greatest Plays in Super Bowl History</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-bracket-update-jan-23

As the college basketball season nears the end of the first month of the new year, the standings still reveal a handful of surprises.

Instead of Arizona and UCLA, Oregon is atop the Pac-12. Ole Miss is undefeated in the SEC, though the Rebels have yet to run into the Florida steamroller. Meanwhile, Miami is the only team unscathed in ACC play.

The Hurricanes will have perfection tested this week when they play host to Duke, and on the other side of the country, UCLA and Arizona will try to reclaim a pice of Pac-12 dominance when the two meet at the McKale Center.

Here’s our look at the rest of the week and how it could impact the postseason.

All times Eastern.


UCLA at Arizona (Thursday, 9 p.m., ESPN2)

Just about every preseason source had either UCLA or Arizona as the top team in the Pac-12 (Athlon picked Arizona). Five games into the conference season, and both are chasing Oregon. Arizona bounced back from its loss to the Ducks to defeat Arizona State 71-54 on the road. Meanwhile, UCLA will need more from freshman Jordan Adams, who didn’t have a field goal against Oregon on Saturday.

Related: Key stats from last week in college basketball

Duke (Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPN)
Florida State (Sunday, 6 p.m, ESPNU)

Back in December, it seemed a broken thumb for Reggie Johnson would be a major detriment to Miami’s NCAA Tournament hopes. After losing two of their first three without Johnson, Miami has reeled off five consecutive wins, including a 4-0 start in the ACC. A strong showing against Duke -- Miami already has a win in Chapel Hill as well -- would add to Miami’s legitimacy in the ACC even if Duke is shorthanded without Ryan Kelly. In facing Florida State (10-7, 2-2 ACC), Miami will look to avoid a letdown no matter the result against the Blue Devils.

Related: Duke retains top spot in power rankings

at Nevada (Wednesday, 10 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
New Mexico (Saturday, 4 p.m., NBC Sports Network)

The Mountain West contenders have started to beat each other up, and none has more bruises than San Diego State. Before last week, the Aztecs had gone 14-2 with one loss in an aircraft carrier game in the opener against Syracuse and a one-point loss to Arizona in Hawaii. Then came back-to-back MWC losses. San Diego State lost 82-75 at home to UNLV and then had only four field goals and nine points in the first half of a 58-45 loss at Wyoming. The Aztecs should get past Nevada with little difficulty, but they’ll be tough to take seriously as an MWC contender if they lose at home to New Mexico on Saturday.

RISING: Syracuse
at Villanova (Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPNU)
Syracuse reasserted its spots as one of the nation’s top five five teams last week by defeated Louisville on the road and then grinding out a win over Cincinnati on a quick turnaround Monday afternoon. The Orange this without one of their most most valuable players in James Southerland. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams has proven he’s capable of carrying Syracuse to a Big East title.

SINKING: Illinois
Michigan (Sunday, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network)
The season is in danger of going into a downward spiral for Illinois, which has lost three in a row and started 1-4 in the Big Ten. A 68-54 loss to Northwestern on Thursday was particularly alarming. A swing against Michigan on Saturday, Michigan State, Indiana and Minnesota between now and Feb.1 0 could bury Illinois in its bid for the NCAA Tournament.

Lehigh at Bucknell (Wednesday, 6 p.m., CBS Sports Network)

What a game this could have been if not for a broken foot for Lehigh’s star guard C.J. McCollum. Lehigh averaged 79.4 points per game with McCollum and 67.3 points in the last three without him (not including a win over Division III Muhlenberg). Lehigh is still 3-0 in the Patriot League, but so is Bucknell, who gave Missouri a scare earlier this month.

Colorado State at New Mexico (Wednesday, 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
The Rams have a bit of staying power. Dorian Green came out of nowhere to score 24 points in win over UNLV last week.

Wyoming at UNLV (Thursday, 9 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
Offcourt problems have been an issue in Laramie, but Wyoming may still be a factor after defeating San Diego State 58-45. The Aztecs helped Wyoming by scoring nine points in the first half.

BYU at Gonzaga (Thursday, 11 p.m., ESPN2)
Perhaps the two teams can swap sob stories of being on the wrong end of miracle game-winners -- BYU against Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga against Butler.

Maryland at Duke (Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS)
Maryland has lost three of its last four but defeated NC State 51-50 last week. The Terrapins might not be able to win in Cameron, but can’t they show they’re a Tournament team?

Minnesota at Wisconsin (Saturday, 2 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe is averaging 15 points and 10.3 rebounds in the last three games.

Oklahoma at Kansas (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
We’re starting to hear talk of Ben McLemore having one of the top seasons in Kansas history. Catch him while you can.

UCLA at Arizona State (Saturday, 4 p.m., Fox Sports Network)
The Sun Devils gave Arizona fits until freshman scorer Jahii Carson got into foul trouble.

Temple at Butler (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2)
A run down of the teams Temple and Butler have defeated this year: Indiana, Gonzaga, Syracuse. The Owls have been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde act, though, by losing at home to St. Bonaventure on Saturday.

North Carolina at NC State (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN)
Since defeating Duke, NC State lost to Maryland and slogged through a win over Clemson.

Michigan State at Indiana (Sunday, noon, CBS)
Michigan State’s win over Ohio State on Saturday reminded us not to leave out the Spartans when talking about the Big Ten’s dominance. Tom Izzo and his former assistant Tom Crean split last year’s season series.

<p> UCLA, Arizona try to regain footing in Pac-12 race while Miami looks to make statement in this week's Bracket Update</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 10:30