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Path: /college-football/jokes-about-west-virginia-rivals
Body:

 

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

• What does a Pittsburgh fan do when the Panthers win the BCS championship?
He turns off the PlayStation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

• The Foo Fighters are playing at Joan C. Edwards Stadium this fall.
They're 10-point favorites.

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

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

Related West Virginia Content

West Virginia Mountaineers 2012 Team Preview
West Virginia Mountaineers Top 10 Players for 2012

West Virginia Mountaineers 2012 Team Predictions
West Virginia Mountaineers Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in West Virginia Football History

West Virginia Cheerleader Gallery

Is Geno Smith the Big 12's Best Quarterback?

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 18, 2012 - 02:38
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day-0
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for May 18.

• Sorry for running late today. I was out day trading my new Facebook shares.

• If the Pacers beat the Heat, would Pat Riley blow up the Big Three?

• There is a new agreement where the champions of the SEC and Big 12 would play in the postseason if neither is in the proposed four-team model to determine the national champion. The SEC champ not in the title game?!

• I’m not one for planning an interesting death, but many around the office think this is a good way to go. Personally, I just can’t see the last three people I talk to being Cinnamon, Jade and Destiny.

• It’s so nice to have Mike Leach — relationship advice, bear hunting, pirate gear, etc. —back in college football.

• The Cardinals lost 7-5 in San Francisco yesterday and made three errors. I think the issue for the World Champions may have been “Bad Tuxedo Day.” Check out these pics.

• Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee says that Steve Spurrier’s plan to award SEC division titles based only on division record will not happen.

• The Cubs' Kerry Wood will retire today. It seems like ages (actually, 1998) since his 20-strikeout performance against the Astros.

• The NFL Combine has well over 300 players looking to be drafted somewhere in the 250+ selections. However here are 37 players who were not invited to the Combine but were drafted, including four in the top 100 picks.

• CBS has the latest on the suspension of MLB umpire Bob Davidson.

• With the Champions League final this weekend, we thought it was time to throw soccer fans a rare bone. And when you combine Hank Williams Jr. and European soccer, it means things are getting pretty silly here on a Friday. Here’s our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 17

• The Saints offseason has been tumultuous enough. The last thing New Orleans needs is an issue with re-signing quarterback Drew Brees.

• Want your own Super Bowl ring? You can join the auction for New York Giants’ legend Lawrence Taylor’s XXV ring right here.

• Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com details the Top 10 players in the league under the age of 25.

• In Chicago, apparently Metta World Peace is known as “Lakers Idiot.”

• ESPN Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller looks at the league’s breakout players during spring ball.

• Delvon Roe’s promising Michigan State basketball career was cut short with knee issues, but now the former Spartan has a new passion — making a romantic drama feature film.

• The Texas Rangers are looking brilliant so far with their high-dollar acquisition of pitcher Yu Darvish, who just keeps winning.

• The Missouri legislature made an SEC-level move by only allowing Show-Me-State schools to be featured on state license plates. For all of the University of Kansas fans in the K.C. area, the rivalry continues.

• Bleacher Report has a slideshow of NFL veterans who could be cut before the season.

• ACC Commissioner John Swofford believes in his league’s stability and says he’s not been affected by the Florida State defection rumors.

Boston fans are a passionate lot, and it’s nice to see a little daughter watching the Celtics game with her father. The salty language is a tad scary, but she’s precious enough to get away with it. Here’s our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)


May 16

• Did a former NBA assistant plagiarize his ESPN Insider analysis of the Spurs-Clippers series from a message board? Deadspin has the latest.

• The Angels fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher with the offense — especially Albert Pujols — struggling. Hatcher had been on Mike Scioscia’s staff since 2000.

• FARK.com led us to this “Drunken Saylor” in Florida. There’s not much more fun around the neighborhood than a 43-year-old, exposed woman with a .194 BAL.

• With the current Florida State rumors not going away, ESPN Big 12 blogger David Ubben details how the Seminoles have fared against current league schools.

• Will the Jets offense have more discipline under new coordinator Tony Sparano?

• With the Knicks out of the playoffs, Amar’e Stoudemire is now attending college — at the University of Miami.

• Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times looks at the possibility of the Bulls not having Derrick Rose next season.

• Fellas, you may have eyeballed those Skechers commercials with Brooke Burke and Kim Kardashian but hopefully you didn’t buy your significant other any “Shape-Ups.”

• New Penn State coach Bill O’Brien does not want a constant quarterback battle during August.

• Can Colt McCoy still win the Browns starting quarterback job after the team drafted Brandon Weeden?

• In case you missed it, Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays had an unfortunate reaction to some bad umpiring last night. Here’s our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 15

• Congratulations to this year’s inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame.

• Bears quarterback Jay Cutler may have some new weapons in Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery, but he’s still concerned about the Chicago offensive line.

• Is Ohio State’s only focus on Michigan this season, especially with no postseason for the Buckeyes?

• If you’re heading out on a Bachelor party weekend soon, Mandatory.com has some no-no’s for your trip. Don’t be that guy.

• Can Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy rekindle the UConn-Boston College rivalry after all of the conference realignment politics? Big East Coast Bias has the latest.

• ESPN’s Ryan McGee has sits down with NASCAR owner Rick Hendrick after his organization’s 200th victory. I want to go to “Redneck Disney World."

• Nationals phenom Bryce Harper hit his first career home run Monday night, and he wasted no time getting around the bases.

• SB Nation breaks down the Thunder’s blowout of the Lakers in Game 1 of their playoff series.

• Bleacher Report’s Michael Walsh believes the Orioles can stay atop the AL East standings.

• Gizmodo cannot believe these phones are still for sale in 2012.

• With record-breaking BYU quarterback Ty Detmer going into the Hall of Fame, we look back at the day he probably won the Heisman — the Cougars’ 28-21 win over No. 1 Miami in 1990. Here’s our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 14

• Florida State to the Big 12 is the rumor that will just not go away. Tulsa World columnist John Hoover looks at the league's future, while Ingram Smith of ChuckOliver.net and Bud Elliott of TomahawkNation.com discuss the Seminoles’ future.

• Adam Kramer has a humorous look at the Big 12 footprint if Florida State joined the Texas-controlled league.

• Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee speculates on further SEC expansion — Virginia Tech and NC State — if the ACC loses current members.

• Do people really still have MySpace accounts? We offer help.

• Would the Phillies trade Cole Hamels?

• Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz calls out the Pacers for blaming referees after a 95-86, Game 1 loss to the Heat.

• So Jersey Shore tool “Pauly D” is coming out with a new alcoholic beverage. Does anyone over the age of 21 care?

• Texas A&M’s move to the SEC is already producing wins (as long as Erin Andrews shows up). The Aggies edged out Nebraska to have ESPN’s “College GameDay" shoot a commercial on the A&M campus.

• CBS’ Jon Heyman thinks the Astros roster will be the focus of MLB buyers over the summer.

• Can the Ravens play elite defense without edge rusher Terrell Suggs?

• Matt Kuchar’s two-stroke victory at The Players Championship is impressive on its own. But the fact that he did it playing with the insufferable pre-shot routine of Kevin Na on the final day is remarkable. Here’s our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> The web's best stories from the NFL, college football, MLB, NBA, college basketball and entertainment.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 20:33
Path: /nascar/kurt-busch-nascar-career-controversy
Body:

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone, they paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.” – Joni Mitchell

Fame and fortune can be a cruel beast: the second it’s taken away, you want it 10-times worse than those who have never had the chance. Kurt Busch, on the precipice of getting himself fired once again, knows that line better than any other on the Sprint Cup circuit. Well, I guess perhaps the only difference is that in his “parking lot” he just rams everyone with a car who tries to find a space.

People will disagree on what happened Saturday night at Darlington, why Busch pulled a burnout through Ryan Newman’s pit and then slammed into the No. 39 car on pit road like a bumper car on steroids. But when it comes to the 2004 Cup Series champ, we can all agree on one thing: he’s frustrated. The 33-year-old is currently driving an unsponsored car with limited speed where even 110 percent guarantees no more than a ninth- or 10th-place finish. His forced aggression on each lap is what the fans want to see but that comes with consequences: he’s now wrecked in five of 11 races, more than any other driver in this year of green-flag, single-file parades.

It’s not easy for a guy used to winning to run the 1995 Honda Accord when everyone else is slim-fitted into a Lexus with 10 engineers by their side plotting out every simulation and aerodynamic advantage. But Busch is not to be pitied — if anything, he’s a role model for children as to what not to do when you’re handed the world on a silver platter. After being nailed with a $50,000 fine for Saturday’s incident (paired with probation), the downhill slide is rolling once again for a man who’s simply a victim of his own choices.

Remember, it was Busch who chose to leave his team less than nine months after winning the first Chase title while in mid-contract and despite no major dip in performance. Know that every Cup champion since 1990, at the time, had stayed with their former team from that point on, as trophies typically breed loyalty. But Busch felt hidden at Roush Fenway Racing, behind the “superstar” presence of Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and up-and-coming Carl Edwards. Even though he had as many titles as all of them combined, Penske offered greater exposure in his mind, a chance to be the star of a smaller team while getting more credit – and control – over the organization. Roush Fenway? The “villain” was privately relieved, freed of a man who in private drove public relations people to the edge. Busch gave them the ability to cut a cord they never could otherwise because of on-track success. The driver could have been at Roush for a decade, but instead, after an awkward confrontation with police at Phoenix, he was sent packing for his next gig two races early.

That brought him to Penske, where Busch was paired with an iconic sponsor – Miller Lite – and the best equipment a multi-millionaire could find. In six years, Busch made the Chase four times, winning nine races while scoring a dozen poles. Combined, those numbers blow rival superstars out of the water during that stretch — even current points leader Greg Biffle would kill for those numbers. Sure, a second Cup title remained elusive, but the current playoff system has proven itself to be defined by luck — two bad breaks, and you’re out no matter how well you do the rest of the way. Busch should know that, considering his championship run in ’04 helped redefine the way teams approach a title.

But for Busch, having the world on a silver platter and enjoying consistent success at Penske wasn’t enough. The team always needed fixing, whether it was faulty engineering, poor pit strategy or the paint guy that left a smudge on the side of the front bumper. Fits of swearing were weekly occurrences, in public and private, while a number of pink slips were forced during a six-year Reign Of Terror.

Yet even after Busch’s Anger Management melted away, expanding from inner turmoil to picking public fights with the media, both Penske and his sponsor stood by him. Following a Richmond confrontation with two national reporters last season, he could have rallied to win the Chase and been guaranteed millions for the rest of his career. Instead, the postseason netted a disappointing 11th-place finish in the final standings, but all the pieces were there for 2012 success. Just look at Penske’s current stud: Brad Keselowski has won twice, sits just outside the top 10 in points and has flashed speed at virtually every track.

Busch could have been his teammate. Instead, he lost his cool at Homestead, in public, with one of the sport’s iconic media figures. Dr. Jerry Punch was appalled, over a half-million saw it all unfold on YouTube, and within two weeks Busch was toast.

His current team, which start-and-parked at times last season due to lack of funding, was a last resort, a forced marriage after Penske was pushed to show him the door when no other options existed. Busch may be beside himself, dealing with “C-level” equipment that doesn’t match his capability, but in this Choose Your Own Adventure game, he’s also responsible for the choices that led him here.

Some have speculated Busch is not fully to blame for Saturday night’s scuffle, where members of Newman’s crew barreled after him to the point a NASCAR official got knocked on a car hood. The driver himself claims hitting Newman’s car on pit road was because “he couldn’t see while taking his helmet off” — an excuse so comical it wouldn’t fool a five-year-old. But even if by some odd series of circumstances Newman is at fault here (I’m just hypothesizing) none of it matters. Busch, in a position where he has no sponsor, knew heading into 2012 that every move, every minute, would be scrutinized by all those inside and outside the garage area. Perfection when it came to behavior was a necessity; anything less and the chance to return to NASCAR’s top tier would disappear in an age where talent needs to be paired with money. Busch, even when provoked, needs to be the better man, similar to what brother Kyle has done during an uneventful but sponsor-pleasing 2012.

Instead, Kurt Busch made a choice again, resulting in a fine so large, any company that might have dared sneak a peek has thrown him in the trash. So don’t pity the man who put himself in this position, just shake your head and wonder why one of the sport’s greatest talents has chosen to become his own worst enemy.


by Tom Bowles
Follow Tom on Twitter:
@NASCARBowles
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Tom Bowles examines how Kurt Busch's poor decisions may derail a successful NASCAR career.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 17:58
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-arkansas-no-13-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

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

To celebrate the Arkansas Razorbacks being named No. 13, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

John L. Smith’s Arkansas Razorbacks continue the countdown at No. 13 with one preseason All-American and nine players selected as All-SEC performers. Athlon Sports predicts Arkansas will finish third in the SEC’s Western Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“The Razorbacks could have another special season with Tyler Wilson leading the way,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “There will be an adjustment with John L. Smith taking over in Fayetteville, but Arkansas has the talent to be in the SEC West hunt.”

One Arkansas standout was named a preseason All-American, with offensive lineman Alvin Bailey being voted to the first team. In addition, the Arkansas quarterbacks unit was ranked No. 5 nationally.

Nine Razorbacks earned preseason All-SEC honors, including Bailey, running back Knile Davis, wide receiver Cobi Hamilton and tight end Chris Gragg on the first team. Quarterback Tyler Wilson and linebacker Alonzo Highsmith were named to the second team, while offensive lineman Travis Swanson, kicker Zach Hocker and kick returner Dennis Johnson garnered third-team honors.

Arkansas Team Preview

Arkansas' Top 10 Players of 2012

Arkansas’ 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> <strong><span>Athlon Sports Names Arkansas No. 13 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></strong></p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 09:33
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-razorbacks-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Arkansas Razorbacks check in at No. 13 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Tyler Wilson, QB
Wilson was the first Razorbacks signal caller to be named first-team All-SEC since the Hogs joined the league in 1992. Obviously his 3,638 passing yards and 24 touchdown throws were excellent numbers, but Wilson’s efficiency in tossing only six interceptions in 438 attempts was also impressive. The Greenwood native will have to find new favorite targets this season but should have a stellar senior season.

Upset Alert: at Auburn (Oct. 6)
The Razorbacks have to travel to the Lone Star State the week before Auburn to take on SEC newcomer Texas A&M, and then head to the always-challenging environment of Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers went through a rebuilding season last year of the national championship campaign of 2010. Gene Chizik’s crew will be improved this season, and the Hogs will have to bring their top game to Auburn.

Trap Game: at Mississippi State (Nov. 17)
Once again, the Hogs will be on the second leg of two straight road trips when they take on the Bulldogs. Arkansas plays a very tough game at South Carolina on November 10 and hosts rival LSU on November 23, the Friday after Thanksgiving. The Razorbacks cannot overlook a Mississippi State that is desperate to score an SEC West win outside of Ole Miss.

Defensive MVP: Alonzo Highsmith, LB
The senior linebacker is Arkansas’ leading retuning tackler, finishing last season with 80 stops, 4.5 sacks and one interception. There was bad news in March as Highsmith missed the entire spring practice period with an injury to his left pectoral muscle. He should be healthy for the fall, and the active backer will need to be the leader of a defense that lost top tacklers Jerry Franklin and Tramain Thomas.

Breakout Player: Cobi Hamilton, WR
Arkansas should have another powerful offense this season, and Hamilton looks like the next star receiver in Fayetteville. With Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright now in the NFL, the 6-foot-3, 209-pound Hamilton will assume the role as top pass catcher. He had 34 catches for 542 yards and four scores in 2011, and Hamilton should be one of the top wideouts in the SEC this season.

Unsung Hero: Tenarius Wright, DE/LB
The Memphis pass rusher has established himself as a solid SEC defensive end over three seasons, but he will make the selfless move to linebacker this fall to help out a thin unit on the defense. Wright had five tackles for loss in eight games in 2011, and his senior leadership and team-first transition to linebacker will be valuable to the Hogs this season.

Comeback player: Knile Davis, RB
The long-anticipated return of Davis will provide a major boost to the Arkansas offense this fall. He became a star in 2010, rushing for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns. In fact, he totaled 1,028 yards and 12 scores in the last seven games of that Sugar Bowl season. A severe ankle injury kept Davis out of action last year, but he should provide great balance to the powerful Hogs passing game in 2012.

Biggest Game: Alabama (Sept. 15)
The Razorbacks have lost five straight to the Crimson Tide, but the defending national champions lost several stars to the NFL. Alabama will always present a tough challenge, but this game is in Fayetteville and could be a springboard for an amazing season. If the defense can keep the Hogs in it, Wilson and company could pull off a meaningful upset.

Revenge Game: LSU (Nov. 24)
The Hogs were leading the undefeated Tigers last year in Baton Rouge, 14-0, in the middle of the second quarter. LSU roared back for a 21-14 halftime lead, and Arkansas only trailed by a touchdown after three quarters before the SEC champions took over late. This year’s game in Fayetteville will be a chance to pay back Les Miles’ bunch, and the Razorbacks were victorious the last two times the Tigers traveled to Arkansas.

Freshman to Watch: Otha Peters, LB
The inside linebacker from Louisiana has the size and strength to play early at Arkansas. Peters was a Tennessee verbal throughout the recruiting process before flipping to the Razorbacks in the final week before Signing Day. With leading tackler Jerry Franklin gone and a spring injury to Alonzo Highsmith, the linebacking group will be looking for help. Peters should get in the mix right away.

Position Battle: Wide receiver
Cobi Hamilton will lead the receiver group and Chris Gragg is a solid tight end, but the Razorbacks offense needs more than one outside threat for All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson. No other returning wideouts caught 10 balls last season. Marquel Wade, Julian Horton, Javontee Herndon, Keante Minor and Maudrecus Humphrey are among the candidates to emerge as a complement to Hamilton and Gragg. However, Wade and Humphrey are suspended indefinitely due to an off-the-field incident in May.

Related Arkansas Content

Arkansas Razorbacks 2012 Team Preview
Arkansas Razorbacks Top 10 Players for 2012

Can Arkansas Win the SEC West Without Bobby Petrino?
The Greatest Moments in Arkansas Football History

Arkansas Razorbacks Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Arkansas Razorbacks Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Arkansas Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Arkansas Razorbacks 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 06:06
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-football-can-razorbacks-win-sec-without-bobby-petrino
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 13 Arkansas. Bobby Petrino was fired as the team's coach, prompting John L. Smith to be hired for the 2012 season. The offense is dangerous, but doubts remain about the Razorbacks without Petrino.

Is Arkansas Still a Threat to Win the SEC West Without Bobby Petrino?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Arkansas seems to think that’s possible as the Razorbacks brought in John L. Smith to patch the coaching staff without rocking the boat too much with an outsider coach or new philosophy. Smith can be something of a punchline at times. But he’s also been successful in spurts, which is pretty much all Arkansas is seeking from him. He turned a 4-8 Michigan State team into a 8-5 team in his first season there. He also led Louisville to an 11-2 season led by Dave Ragone and Deion Branch. At least for 2012, Smith is taking over a more established team. Arkansas’ personnel is good enough to win the West, especially on offense. Tyler Wilson was already the SEC’s top passer, and on top of that, he was on fire during spring practice. If Knile Davis is the same running back he was in during the second half of 2010, the Hogs’ offense will be that much more balanced. What Arkansas may miss most is Bobby Petrino’s play calling. The margin of error against SEC defenses is thin enough as it is, and even last season Petrino, Wilson and Arkansas couldn’t crack 20 points against either LSU or Alabama. It’s going to be tough to expect that to change this season. If there is an advantage, though, Arkansas will face Alabama on Sept. 15, perhaps while the Crimson Tide are still trying to work out the kinks on a defense returning only four starters. The Hogs’ will make up for it on the other end of the schedule with a road trip South Carolina and a home game against LSU in November. Arkansas can win the West without Petrino, but the Hogs don’t have much room for error.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
No. Arkansas will not compete for an SEC title in 2012 now that Bobby Petrino isn't ruling the roost in Fayetteville. Leadership is the only aspect of college football that trumps talent and that is exactly what Petrino had done for Arkansas football in recent years. Despite what most uninformed national media members tell you, the Razorbacks do not have a "top 10 roster". They do not have "elite talent" everywhere on the depth chart. No, Arkansas has finished ninth, 10th and eighth consecutively in the SEC recruiting rankings the last three seasons. There are plenty of nice pieces and this is a quality football team, but it does not boast the same level of overall talent and depth that Alabama and LSU can claim.

If anything, it's a crystal clear testament to the development, evaluation and game day preparation skills of Petrino. He overachieved during his time at Arkansas. The edge with which he works permeated every aspect of the football program and that edge led to victories. Additionally, there are few coaches in the nation who manage the game on Saturday's as well as Petrino. Calling plays, making adjustments and motivating greatness is an innate talent that is largely based on instincts and feel more than anything else. And Petrino can do it with the best in the nation.

Getting Alabama and LSU at home gave Arkansas a chance to compete in the West, but even with Bobby-P, I had the Hogs penciled in for 10-2. The Razorback defense does not operate at the same level as the Bayou Bengals or Crimson Tide, as the 79-31 combined score a year ago indicated. John L. Smith is a solid caretaker who will get this team to a bowl game, but he lost 32 games his last five seasons as a head coach and posted one bowl win in seven career tries. His antics play well at the local watering hole, but not in national primetime against Nick Saban. He will lose two games that Bobby-P would not have — my guess is at South Carolina and either at Auburn, Texas A&M or Mississippi State — and will win a bowl game for a 9-4 mark.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even with Bobby Petrino on the sidelines, Arkansas was going to have a difficult time passing LSU and Alabama in the SEC West standings. Consider this: The 21 victories by the Razorbacks from 2010-11 was the best two-year stretch in school history. Although Petrino had his shortcomings, there’s no denying he was one of the top coaches in the SEC.

John L. Smith is a good short-term answer for the program and his experience in Fayetteville will allow the assistants to stay in their current roles. Bobby Petrino’s gameplans and play-calling will be missed, but his brother – Paul Petrino – is well-versed in this offense. Quarterback Tyler Wilson is one of the best in college football, and the Razorbacks will get a boost on the ground with the return of running back Knile Davis. Finding replacements at receiver for Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs will be crucial to keeping the passing attack among the best in the nation, but Cobi Hamilton and tight end Chris Gragg are two reliable weapons.

Scoring points won’t be a problem for Arkansas, but the defense is a question mark once again. New coordinator Paul Haynes has six returning starters, but must replace end Jake Bequette, linebacker Jerry Franklin and safety Tramain Thomas. Linebacker Alonzo Highsmith missed spring practice due to a pectoral injury, but he is expected to return in time for the 2012 season. The Razorbacks have some pieces to work with on defense, but this unit needs to make strides to win the SEC West.

With Bobby Petrino, I think Arkansas would have been ranked in Athlon’s Top 10 for 2012. However, there’s too much uncertainty hanging around this program to expect the Razorbacks to win 10 or 11 games once again. Catching LSU and Alabama at home is a tremendous opportunity, but Arkansas won’t be able to capitalize off of that this season and will finish third in the SEC West. 

Mark Ross
Arkansas will no doubt look different with Bobby Petrino no longer roaming the Hogs' sidelines, but I don't think his absence will have that much effect on their SEC title aspirations. For one, the new head man is John L. Smith, a familiar face who was part of Petrino's staff the past three seasons before leaving (briefly) to take the head coaching job at his alma mater, Weber State.

There also will still be a Petrino on the coaching staff, although he will be up in the press box rather than on the sidelines on game days. Paul Petrino, Bobby's younger brother, is back with the Hogs after serving as Illinois' offensive coordinator the past two seasons. The younger Petrino actually rejoined the team prior to last season's Cotton Bowl and he was Arkansas' offensive coordinator from 2008-09. Between Smith and the other Petrino, there's enough familiarity there that for most intents and purposes, it will seem like nothing's changed to the players.

And in the end, it's the players, not the coaches, who will ultimately decide whether Arkansas will contend for the SEC title or not. To get there, the Hogs will first have to take care of business in its own division, meaning beating defending national champion Alabama and defending SEC champion LSU and rest of the West teams in the standings so they end up playing in Atlanta on Dec. 1 in the SEC Championship Game.

The last time Arkansas played in the SEC title game was in 2006, a game that they lost to eventual national champion Florida. That season, the Hogs beat Alabama, but lost to LSU. In fact, the last time Arkansas has defeated both Alabama and LSU In the same season was in 1998. This season the Hogs get both the Crimson Tide and LSU in Fayetteville, so the schedule appears to be set up for them, now it's up to the players, and not the coaches, to follow through.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I do not see the Razorbacks contending for the SEC crown after a tumultuous offseason. Competing against LSU and Alabama in the SEC West is tough enough, but the departure of offensive guru Petrino and other off-the-field issues may prevent the Hogs from closing the gap on the Crimson Tide and Tigers. Arkansas will still have a quality team, with quarterback Tyler Wilson leading a potentially potent aerial attack. The offense will also receive a boost with the return of running back Knile Davis, who rushed for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010.

The Hogs should have top pass catchers in receiver Cobi Hamilton and tight end Chris Gragg, but no other returning wideout caught 10 balls last season. Legal issues could affect the eligibility of Marquel Wade and Maudrecus Humphrey, so a complement to Hamilton will need to emerge. The defense has talent but loses key players in Jerry Franklin, Tramain Thomas and Jake Bequette. It’s not doom and gloom in Fayetteville, but an SEC title looks too ambitious for a program going through a ton of issues at the current time.

Related Arkansas Content

Arkansas Razorbacks 2012 Team Preview
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Teaser:
<p> Can the Razorbacks Win the SEC Without Bobby Petrino?</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-2012-realignment-breakdown
Body:

College football realignment dominated the headlines last summer and if you thought it was over, think again. More movement in college football could be coming this summer, especially with the mixed messages coming out of Tallahassee with Florida State. Are the Seminoles content to stay in the ACC or are they interested in the Big 12? If Florida State does make the jump to the Big 12, the domino effect will be felt across all of college football. 

It's anybody's guess what will happen with realignment this summer, but a lot has changed since last season. Here's a primer on what has happened for all 11 conferences and Independent teams and what could happen this summer if more moves begin to take place. 

ACC

What’s Happened: The ACC made an early strike in conference realignment last season, plucking Pittsburgh and Syracuse away from the Big East. The conference is scheduled to become a 14-team league, with the Panthers and Orange expected to join in time for the 2013 season. Pittsburgh will join the Coastal Division, while Syracuse has been placed in the Atlantic.

What’s Next: The first domino in the next round of realignment could fall with Florida State. The Seminoles joined the ACC in 1991, but could be looking to explore membership in the Big 12. If Florida State leaves the ACC, it may not come alone, as Miami and Clemson have also been mentioned as possible Big 12 expansion candidates. If the Seminoles decide to stay, the ACC will proceed with its 14-team alignment, but could look to add Rutgers and Connecticut in the future.

Big East

What’s Happened: The Big East has been a punching bag through this round of realignment. Pittsburgh and Syracuse left to join the ACC, while West Virginia bolted for the Big 12. With those defections, the conference was left with just five teams. The Big East should have expanded in previous years, but secured eight schools to join over the next couple of seasons. Temple was brought aboard for 2012, while Houston, SMU, UCF, Memphis, Boise State and San Diego State will join in time for 2013. Navy is scheduled to join in 2015.

What’s Next: Although the Big East is in a better position than it was in October, the conference could be facing more defections. If Florida State leaves the ACC, Connecticut and/or Rutgers could be targeted to replace the Seminoles. Louisville is interested in joining the Big 12, while Boise State and San Diego State could be forced to return to the Mountain West. Unless the Broncos can find a home for their other sports, they will have to depart the Big East, and the Aztecs will certainly follow. Boise State is expected to apply for membership in the Big West, and if accepted, would guarantee the Broncos play in the Big East for 2013. The conference is also going through a transition period, as John Marinatto is out as commissioner and Joseph Bailey is working on an interim basis. The Big East can’t feel too secure about its future until Boise State’s situation is resolved. Also, the conference is still looking for another Western member, which could be BYU, Air Force or UNLV.

Big Ten

What’s Happened: The Big Ten added Nebraska in 2010 to get to 12 teams and stage a conference championship game.

What’s Next: The Big Ten is in no hurry to expand and isn’t in any danger of losing teams. The conference will always keep a spot open for Notre Dame, but is there a clear 14th team? Unless there is a shift by the other BCS conferences to get to 16 teams, the Big Ten is likely to remain quiet on the realignment front.

Big 12

What’s Happened: Realignment talk has dominated the Big 12 for the last two years. The conference lost Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12 in June 2010. The Big 12 decided not to expand after losing the Cornhuskers and Buffaloes, choosing to stay at 10 teams for the 2011 season. Realignment dominated the conference early in the year, as Texas A&M and Missouri bolted for the Big 12, while the conference got back to 10 teams with the additions of West Virginia and TCU.

What’s Next: The top priority for new commissioner Bob Bowlsby is the decision on expansion. Does the Big 12 want to expand to 12 teams or stay with its 10-team alignment? Texas – which has a large voice in the conference – does not want to expand. However, there is interest from the other teams to get back to 12. If Florida State wants to join the Big 12, the conference would have a hard time saying no to one of college football’s top 20 programs. If the Seminoles do make the jump from the ACC, Louisville is a strong candidate to be team No. 12, while rumors around the Big 12 have suggested Clemson and Miami might be interested in the Big 12 as well. Much of the next round of realignment will hinge on Florida State and the Big 12. Even if the Seminoles pass on the Big 12, the conference could look to expand by adding Louisville and BYU. If the Big 12 decides not to expand, realignment talk should quiet.

Conference USA

What’s Happened: Conference USA lost four teams to the Big East – UCF, Memphis, Houston and SMU – which was the league’s first change in football membership since 2005. The Tigers have struggled on the gridiron, but was the conference’s top basketball program. SMU is a team on the rise, while Houston was on the doorstep of playing in a BCS bowl this season. UCF is located in a valuable market (Orlando) and won three East Division titles since joining the conference in 2005.

What’s Next: Conference USA and the Mountain West discussed a merger, but decided to operate as separate conferences. With only eight members in the league for 2013, Conference USA expanded to include FIU, Louisiana Tech, North Texas and UTSA. UNC Charlotte will join in time for the 2015 season, and Old Dominion has announced its intentions to jump to the FBS level. Conference USA will be a 14-team league once UNC Charlotte and Old Dominion join. 

Independents

Army – The Black Knights’ participated as a member of Conference USA from 1998-2004, but decided to return to Independent status. Although Army could be targeted by the Big East for future expansion, it’s unlikely the Black Knights will give up Independence.

BYU – The Cougars had a successful first season of Independent scheduling, recording a 10-3 record with a victory over Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl. BYU was targeted by the Big East for expansion, but decided not to join, at least for now. The Cougars have been mentioned as a candidate for Big 12 expansion, but with the rumors of Florida State’s possible interest in leaving the ACC, BYU could be slipping down the pecking order. The Cougars are content to remain an Independent, but their access to the BCS/playoff system won’t change.

Navy – The Midshipmen will play as an Independent the next few seasons, but will join the Big East in time for the 2015 season.

Notre Dame – Although the Big 12, Big Ten and ACC could try to pull the Irish into a conference, it’s very unlikely Notre Dame will give up its Independence. The new college football playoff requirements won’t force the Irish to join a conference, so barring some drastic change in the next couple of years, Notre Dame will remain Independent. 

MAC

What’s Happened: After playing with 13 teams and unbalanced divisions since 2007, the MAC was set to become a 14-team conference in 2012. UMass is making the jump from FCS and will play a full MAC schedule this season. However, Temple decided to return to the Big East, leaving the MAC with 13 teams once again.

What’s Next: Expect the MAC to explore expansion to get to 14 teams. Candidates could be at the FCS level or could the conference take a look at Idaho? There’s no easy fit for the MAC, so the conference will be selective in choosing a 14th team – and it may not be anytime soon. 

Mountain West

What’s Happened: With TCU, BYU, Utah in the conference and Boise State on the way, the Mountain West appeared on the verge of earning an automatic spot into the BCS. How quickly things have changed. TCU and Utah left for BCS conferences, and BYU chose to go Independent. Boise State and San Diego State are slated to join the Big East in time for the 2013 season, provided the Broncos can find a home for their non-football programs. The Mountain West raided the WAC two years ago, pulling in Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii to have 10 football members for 2012. Utah State and San Jose State will join the Mountain West in time for the 2013 season.

What’s Next: Commissioner Craig Thompson has at least 10 teams secured for 2013 and isn’t in a hurry to expand. If Boise State is unable to find a home for its non-football sports, the Broncos and San Diego State could return to the Mountain West. If both teams stay in the Big East, the Mountain West could revisit adding Idaho and New Mexico State to get to 12 teams, but it’s unlikely either will be extended an invitation this year.

Pac-12

What’s Happened: Aggressive has been the word surrounding Larry Scott’s tenure as Pac-12 commissioner. Since taking over in 2009, Scott has helped the Pac-12 land a solid television deal, while starting up a conference television network. Scott added Utah and Colorado to get the conference to 12 members. He also made an unsuccessful run at Texas and Oklahoma, hoping to create college football’s first 16-team BCS conference.

What’s Next: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State expressed interest in joining the Pac-12 last season, but talk of that has quieted down since things in the Big 12 have stabilized. Scott is aggressive, and at the first sign of changes across the landscape, he will look to add more teams. Boise State could be a possible target in the future, but outside of BYU – which seems unlikely to ever join the Pac-12 – there are no logical fits out West. Unless the Big 12 becomes unstable once again, the Pac-12 should be quiet when it comes to expansion. 

SEC

What’s Happened: An opportunity to expand into Texas and the St. Louis/Kansas City markets was simply too good for the SEC to pass up. For the first time since 1991, the SEC invited new members, as Texas A&M and Missouri jumped from the Big 12 to join college football’s top conference.

What’s Next: The SEC is in no hurry to add any teams. And it may be a while before we see the conference make the jump to 16 members. Whenever the SEC looks to expand, it will be about new markets. NC State and Virginia Tech are possible new teams and markets, but neither has expressed any interest in leaving the ACC. The SEC expanded to 12 teams in 1991 and moved to 14 in 2012. Considering the conference will be very selective with any future membership, it may be 20 years before the SEC expands again.

Sun Belt

What’s Happened: Until recently, the Sun Belt Conference had been quiet on the expansion scene. South Alabama is bringing its upstart football program from the FCS ranks this season, which will give the conference 10 teams for 2012. Former WAC commissioner Karl Benson was appointed as the head of the Sun Belt earlier this year and has been aggressive with exploring expansion possibilities. Georgia State and Texas State will join the conference in 2013, but FIU and North Texas are departing for Conference USA.

What’s Next: The Sun Belt is not finished with expansion. UT Arlington has been rumored as a possible candidate, while Appalachian State is interested in making the move from the FCS ranks, but seems to be aiming for a Conference USA invite. Liberty recently announced its intentions to move to FBS play and could be a target for the Sun Belt. New Mexico State and Idaho previously played in the Sun Belt and could look to join as football-only members.

WAC

What’s Happened: The WAC has been picked apart over the last couple of years and could be entering its final season as a football conference. Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada all jumped to the Mountain West, leaving Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Texas State and UTSA as its members for 2012.

What’s Next: With Karl Benson leaving to be the commissioner of the Sun Belt, the WAC is in total disarray. Texas State is slated to join the Sun Belt in 2013, while Louisiana Tech and UTSA are moving to Conference USA. Utah State and San Jose State are joining the Mountain West next season. Idaho and New Mexico State are the only two football schools slated to participate in the WAC next season and both are exploring options with other conferences. The Aggies have been mentioned as a possible candidate for Sun Belt expansion, while the Vandals are still searching for a home on the FBS level. Unless the WAC can convince a handful of FCS schools to move up to FBS play, this conference won’t have a football schedule next year. 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Related College Football Content

Athlon's Top 25 Countdown for 2012

Teaser:
<p> College football realignment preview for 2012.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 05:04
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-arkansas-rivals
Body:

 

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

• What happens when Nick Saban takes Viagra?
He gets taller.

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

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

• Did you hear that Ole Miss’ football team doesn't have a website?
The Rebs can't string three "Ws" together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Arkansas Content

Arkansas Razorbacks 2012 Team Preview
Arkansas Razorbacks Top 10 Players for 2012

Can Arkansas Win the SEC West Without Bobby Petrino?
The Greatest Moments in Arkansas Football History

Arkansas Razorbacks Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Arkansas Razorbacks Cheerleader Gallery

Arkansas Razorbacks 2012 Team Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 02:29
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-may-17
Body:

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

Kemp Unable to Dodge DL
Back on May 5, Los Angeles Dodgers’ outfielder Matt Kemp suffered a left hamstring strain during a game against the Cubs in Chicago. He missed the following game, pinch-hitting in the seventh, but was back in the starting line up a day later at home versus the Giants.

However, after going 3-for-3 against the Giants last Monday, which pushed his batting average to .406 at the time, Kemp went ice cold. He got one hit in his next 16 at-bats and then left Sunday’s game against Colorado in the fourth inning after apparently reinjuring his hamstring.

Kemp had an MRI on Monday and the Dodgers placed their slugger on the disabled list that night. Kemp, who finished second to Ryan Braun in the NL MVP voting last season, was off to another sensational start in 2012 as he was in the top five of the NL in batting average (.359), home runs (12) and RBIs (28) as of when he went on the DL.

Not surprisingly, Kemp’s absence in the Dodgers’ line up is already evident. In the first three games without Kemp, the offense has generated a total of six runs, losing two of those games in the process. The Dodgers are still in first place in the NL West, holding a six-game lead over the Diamondbacks entering Thursday, but if the team continues to struggle to score, that gap will probably continue to narrow.

As far as the Dodgers go, with Kemp and fellow outfielder Juan Rivera (torn hamstring) both on the DL, recently acquired Bobby Abreu will probably get a lot more playing time. Abreu, who joined the Dodgers on May 4 after being released by the Angels, is off to decent start back in the NL. The 38-year-old is batting .296 with four doubles and four RBIs in his first 10 games. Clearly though his best days are well past him as he has yet to hit a home run in 2012 and can’t be relied on to produce consistently.

Short-term options on the waiver wire could include Boston’s Cody Ross (.252-6-23, 21 R), San Francisco’s Angel Pagan (.293-4-10, 7 SB), the Yankees’ Raul Ibanez (.263-7-22), Tampa’s Luke Scott (.233-7-27), Detroit’s Andy Dirks (.370-3-12, 17 R) or Arizona’s Gerardo Parra (.257-2-3, 18 R, 8 SB) or Jason Kubel (.295-3-15). All of these guys are currently owned in less than half of the Yahoo! leagues.

Finally!
It’s the middle of May, but it appears that some guys who much more was expected from at this point are starting to turn things around. Let’s start with the big guy, “El Hombre,” also known as Albert Pujols.

Pujols didn’t hit his first home run of the 2012 season until May 6. He cranked his second one on Wednesday night, but it’s the overall body of work that has been encouraging. After managing a total of four RBIs in all of April (92 at-bats), Pujols has already driven in 13 in May (58 at-bats entering Thursday). He’s still nowhere close to being the hitting machine he’s been throughout his career, but he’s had at least one hit in his last five games and has five RBIs in the last two.

Better still, perhaps Pujols can call on some familiar foes to help get his bat going. Interleague play kicks off on Friday and the Angels will be headed south to San Diego to take on the Padres. Pujols holds a career .333 batting average, along with 20 home runs and 63 RBIs in 71 games against the Padres. What’s more, his numbers in pitcher-friendly Petco Park (.258-7-17 in 25 G) aren’t that bad, considering that they are better than his current season totals through 37 games.

Pujols isn’t the only slugger starting to get into the swing of things. Alfonso Soriano, who had 340 career home runs entering this season, finally hit his first on Tuesday against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Soriano then hit his second one the following night in Philadelphia.

The Cubs’ outfielder is well known for being a streaky hitter, so now may be an opportune time to take a flier on him if he’s available, possibly even as a fill-in for the aforementioned Kemp. Soriano is batting .292 with two home runs and six RBIs over the last seven days.

The Cubs and cross-town rival White Sox will get reacquainted with one another starting Friday. In his career, Soriano is a .258 hitter with 14 home runs and 33 RBIs in 63 career games against the Windy City team from the south side.

Others who finally connected for their first home run of the season this week included Kansas City’s Jeff Francoeur (20 HR in 2011) and Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins (16 in ’11). Then there’s Bryce Harper, Washington’s passionate 19-year-old outfielder who has already endeared himself to the Phillies’ Cole Hamels.

Harper hit his first career home run on Monday against San Diego and then victimized the Padres again the next night. Harper’s numbers may not stand out (.238-2-5) through his first 63 major-league at-bats, but remember he’s just 19 and to this point, he doesn’t appear to be overmatched either based on his acceptable 13:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

While Harper may be getting the bulk of the attention and headlines, it’s fellow uber-prospect Mike Trout who’s putting up the better numbers. Trout, the Angels’ 20-year-old outfielder is off to a .333-3-8 start since being called up in late April. Trout, who has out-homered teammate Pujols in 90 fewer at-bats (150 to 60), has at least one hit in eight of his last 10 games, with six multiple-hit efforts in that same span.

On the mound, Florida’s Josh Johnson picked up not only his first win of the season, but also his first victory in more than a year on Tuesday. The Marlins’ ace was limited to just nine starts last season (3-1, 1.64 ERA, 56 K in 60 1/3 IP) due to shoulder issues. Johnson looked good during spring training, but the results to this point (1-3, 5.36 ERA, 57 H, 15 BB, 38 K in 45 1/3 IP) have done nothing to quell any suspicions regarding his health.

The good news for those Johnson owners who have been patient with him is there have been some encouraging signs in his recent starts. After giving up 11 runs on 16 hits in a combined nine innings in his last start in April and first one in May, Johnson has produced consecutive seven-inning starts in which he has given up just two runs in each. His next scheduled start is on Sunday afternoon against the Indians in Cleveland. It will be his first time facing them.

DL Watch
*Tampa Bay right-hander Jeff Niemann (2-3, 3.38 ERA) suffered a broken right leg when he was struck by an Adam Lind line drive in the second inning of Monday’s game in Toronto. Niemann is expected to be out at least two months as the team has already transferred him to the 60-day DL. Alex Cobb is expected to take Niemann’s place in the starting rotation. The 24-year-old righty went 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in nine starts for the Rays last season.

*Philadelphia right-hander Vance Worley (3-2, 3.07 ERA) was scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday night against the Cubs and was put on the DL with elbow inflammation. The team has since said he will be shut down for a week, but an MRI and other tests have not revealed any structural or extensive damage to his pitching elbow. Kyle Kendrick will take Worley’s place in the starting rotation for the time being and he went six innings against the Cubs last night, giving up just three hits and one earned run in six innings.

*David Robertson, who was pegged as the Yankees’ closer after Mariano Rivera was lost for the season, was placed on the DL on Tuesday with a strained left oblique. Rafael Soriano will assume the closer’s role for now and he picked up the save on Monday against Baltimore when Roberston was unavailable.

*Yankees’ starter Ivan Novoa (4-1, 5.44 ERA), left Monday’s game against the Orioles in the sixth inning after apparently injuring his ankle. Novoa picked up the win in that game despite giving up five runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. He has said he will take the mound on Saturday, his next scheduled start, but Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi has yet to commit to that. Even if Novoa does pitch on Saturday, he may not be 100 percent.

Weekend Series to Watch

Boston at Philadelphia
Two teams that have struggled out of the gate will get together in this interleague series as Boston travels to Philadelphia in hopes that its recent string of strong starting pitching continues. Daniel Bard (3-4, 4.30 ERA) will take the mound in Friday’s opener against Cole Hamels (5-1, 2.28 ERA). Bard had one of his best outings of the year on Sunday when he surrendered just one run in six innings in a win over the Indians. Bard’s control (20 BB, 23 K) has been an issue all season and could lead to bigger problems down the road if he doesn’t start limiting his hits allowed (38 H in 37 2/3 innings).

Jon Lester (2-3, 3.71 ERA) and Joe Blanton (4-3, 2.96 ERA) will take the mound on Saturday. Lester put forth his best performance of the season on Monday against Seattle, going the distance against the Mariners and giving up just one run while striking out six. Blanton was equally solid in his last start on Monday in defeating the Astros (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 7 K).

Carlos Ruiz (.343-7-24) has been a pleasant surprise for an otherwise plodding Phillies’ offense as the catcher leads the team in batting average and is second only to Hunter Pence in home runs and RBIs. Pence has hit two home runs over the last seven days, but he only has two other hits during this span (.174 average).

For the Red Sox, fill-in outfielder Daniel Nava (.474-1-7, 4 2B last seven days) and catchers Kelly Shoppach and Jarod Saltalamacchia (combined .393-2-6 last seven days) have been doing the bulk of the damage recently, while Adrian Gonzalez (.270-2-20 on the season) is still searching for his power stroke.

Baltimore at Washington
Raise your hand if you had predicted before the season started that this interleague match up would also be a battle between division leaders? The Orioles have been the surprise of the AL thanks to strong pitching and timely hitting. J.J. Hardy has been hitting the ball with authority recently, as he is hitting .381 with three home runs, eight RBIs and nine runs scored in his last 10 games. Teammate Adam Jones has four home runs and seven RBIs over the last seven days.

On the mound, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (4-0, 2.45 ERA) has been a pleasant surprise for the Orioles. He defeated the Yankees (7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER) on Tuesday and will be matched up against Washington ace Stephen Strasburg on Saturday. Strasburg had one of his rougher outings last time out against San Diego, giving up four runs in four innings in a loss to the Padres on Tuesday. On the season, however, he’s 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 56 strikeouts in just 48 innings.

Adam LaRoche (.339-7-29) has shown so far that his pitiful 2011 numbers (.172-3-15 in 43 G) were a direct result of him not being healthy. Health is an ongoing issue for Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who has yet to get it going at the plate, hitting just .222 with one home run and nine RBIs on the season.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports takes a quick look at the latest news, injury updates and more to get your fantasy baseball team ready for this weekend's slate of games</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 01:00
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-7
Body:

Is NASCAR still on a high as Tony Stewart says? What should have been done to Kurt Busch and others for the incidents at Darlington? What about the All-Star Race? Are changes needed there?
Those were among the topics members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council debated this week. And some of their responses might surprise you. Check them out.


DO YOU AGREE WITH TONY STEWART’S COMMENTS ABOUT THE SEASON?
Asked if he was surprised that some people are questioning the racing in NASCAR after the high the sport experienced at the end of last season, Tony Stewart said at Darlington: "I still think it's on a high. The racing has been awesome this year. You look at the whole Richmond weekend, the whole Richmond weekend the races were great. I think it's proof that the sport is still on a high right now.''

Fan Council members were asked if they agreed with Stewart’s statement:

54.4 percent said Yes
45.6 percent said No

What Fan Council members said:
• NASCAR is on a possible competitive "high" but the competition is greater than it ever has been and it is very difficult to get a setup right to win. BUT, NASCAR fans want drama. The fuel-mileage strategies added drama. The Kurt Busch/Ryan Newman wreck with six laps ago was drama. The No. 39 gasman going after Busch added post-race drama. We as fans need more than great competition, we need some drama to stay interested.

• Stewart is NOT the one who are sitting at home watching the so-called "great racing" on TV. A lot of it has stunk worse than Pepe Le Pew.

• I'm not hard to please. If they are racing, I like it.

• I think the racing has been great. I'm a race fan though, not a crash fan. I don't go to the track or tune in on TV to see crashing. Personally I think the fans that do that should just go away.

• Most of what I've seen has been follow-the-leader racing where the only passing came on infrequent restarts or on pit road. That's not racing in my book — that's freeway driving.

• The racing is boring. Maybe you could ask Tony why, if the racing is so great, I changed the channel and watched the NBA playoffs half way through the Southern 500

• I agree with Smoke. The racing this year has been good despite many naysayers.

• It seems that, instead of enjoying our sport, everyone is analyzing it to death. On the broadcast at Darlington, during the long green flag, all that was talked about was the lack of cautions. During a 500-mile race the drivers are always laying back until the end. Are you new here? It got exciting at the end the way all the races do. Just watch the race and enjoy it and shut up!

• It's certainly not on the high it was at the end of last year, but it's still "up" from where it has been.

• I believe the drivers and even the media (to a degree) think the sport is "on a high". I went to the Bristol race and thought the racing was great … because I was there. I don't necessarily think the racing is bad, but FOX is doing a horrible job of capturing the race. Just look at Twitter during a race. FOX has a ton of commercials & the production of the race is poorly done. That gets fans into a negative mood and therefore they perceive the racing as bad.

• Was Stewart giving a sarcastic answer again? I'm not sure why, or what to change, but I don't seem to be as into NASCAR recently as I have been in the past. I still watch the races on a weekly basis, however, I'm not scouring the internet for news articles during the week as I would normally do.

• Yes we are blessed with the best racing in the world.

Teaser:
<p> The Backseat Drivers Fan Council weighs in on racing at Darlington, Kurt Busch's fine and raises interesting ideas about NASCAR's All-Star Race in Charlotte.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 19:55
All taxonomy terms: crossword, Monthly
Path: /monthly/may-2012-crossword-solution
Body:

Teaser:
<p> <img alt="" src="http://ath-clients.s3.amazonaws.com/athlon/athloncrosswordMay2012solution.jpg" /></p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 11:25
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-nebraska-no-14-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

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

To celebrate the Nebraska Cornhuskers being named No. 14, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Bo Pelini’s Nebraska Cornhuskers continue the countdown at No. 14 with two preseason All-Americans and 11 players selected as All-Big Ten performers. Athlon Sports predicts Nebraska will finish second in the Big Ten’s Legends Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Heisman candidate Rex Burkhead will lead the powerful Cornhuskers running attack once again,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “The defense must improve under a new staff, but Bo Pelini's program is a perennial contender and will be in the hunt for the Legends Division title.”

Two Nebraska standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with running back Rex Burkhead and kicker Brett Maher both being voted to the second team. In addition, the Cornhuskers’ running backs unit was ranked No. 6 nationally.

Eleven Cornhuskers earned preseason All-Big Ten honors, including Burkhead, offensive lineman Spencer Long and Maher at both kicker and punter on the first team. Wide receiver Kenny Bell, defensive lineman Baker Steinkuhler and kick returner Ameer Abdullah were named to the second team, while quarterback Taylor Martinez, tight end Kyler Reed, defensive lineman Cameron Meredith, linebacker Will Compton and safety Daimion Stafford garnered third-team honors.

Nebraska Team Preview

Nebraska's Top 10 Players of 2012

Nebraska’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Names Nebraska No. 14 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 10:16
Path: /college-football/nebraska-football-taylor-martinez-one-big-tens-top-quarterbacks
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 14 Nebraska. The Cornhuskers return 14 starters, including running back Rex Burkhead and quarterback Taylor Martinez. The defense returns most of its core, but must replace linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.

Is Nebraska's Taylor Martinez One of the Big Ten's Top Quarterbacks?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Let’s consider the field for a moment: Denard Robinson is a clear No. 1 in the Big Ten. After that, who should we consider? Iowa’s James Vandenberg is the next best passer. Ohio State’s Braxton Miller has the most potential. Northwestern’s Kain Colter was a supersub for Dan Persa. Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray is a fantastic runner but still struggling as a passer. Wisconsin’s Danny O’Brien was last seen losing his job at Maryland. Although Martinez struggled to remain in the conversation for the second tier of Big Ten quarterbacks last season, he is poised for a better season in 2012. His numbers regressed in some areas as a sophomore, but that’s not a shock. He was dynamic early in his freshman season in 2011 against weaker competition before returning to Earth in a second half hampered by injuries. In 2012, Martinez will have two years of starting experience under his belt, one year of experience against Big Ten opponents, one of the Big Ten’s best receiver groups, plus all the ability to be one of the nation’s best dual-threat quarterbacks. All the pieces are in place for Martinez to have a breakout year. Still, Nebraska doesn’t necessarily need Martinez to be an All-America quarterback, since running back Rex Burkhead is the likely centerpiece of this offense. Martinez simply needs to be very good, limiting mistakes and turnovers. That might not be enough to be a national superstar, but it will be enough to keep Nebraska in contention for a Big Ten title. By his junior year, Martinez should be up to the challenge.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Will he be the Big Ten's best quarterback in 2012? No. Can he lead his team to a Big Ten title by playing efficient and composed football within the framework of the offense thus making him one of the best? Absolutely. He had mental toughness and maturity issues in his first season under center back in 2010. And Martinez possibly took too much blame for the public dust-up with head coach Bo Pelini against Texas A&M considering he was a redshirt freshman — and that Pelini has a tendency to blow a gasket. Martinez also showed flashed of brilliant athletic ability and play-making skill. It appears he conquered those woes, as well as mastering the playbook, in year No. 2 as the starter in Lincoln while still exhibiting one of the quickest first five yards of any signal caller in the nation.

Now he faces his biggest challenge yet: Refining his accuracy in order to consistently and efficiently complete key passes in key situations. Easier said than done. T-Magic has never completed 60% of his passes and has dedicated his off-season work to honing his throwing motion and developing proper footwork. No one expects Martinez to be a pocket-passer with perfect drops, but should he simply improve his accuracy and protect the football, year No. 3 under center will easily be his best. It is the next step in his development process and it isn't an unreasonable expectation. Nebraska features one of the nation's elite tailbacks and arguably the Big Ten's top pass-catching corps, so, with his ability to make game-changing plays on the ground, there is no reason Martinez can't simple manage games through the air. If he can do this, Nebraska could be headed to Pasadena.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There’s not a lot of turnover among Big Ten quarterbacks, but some of the conference’s best (Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson and Dan Persa) are gone. Denard Robinson should be the Big Ten’s preseason first-team all-conference quarterback, but after that is where the debate gets interesting.

Ohio State’s Braxton Miller is going to emerge as a star in Urban Meyer’s spread offense and even though he didn’t turn in an overwhelming performance last year, he has to be considered for the No. 2 spot. Outside of Miller, Iowa’s James Vandenberg, Martinez and Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray could be the top options to rank No. 3 among the quarterbacks for the 2012 season. Vandenberg is coming off a solid season, but the offensive line is a question mark, while top target Marvin McNutt is gone. Gray showed progress last season, but needs to develop as a passer.

When you look at the field, it’s easy to see why Martinez should be one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten this year. Sure, he’s had his ups and downs, but Martinez is entering his third year as the starter and threw only one interception over the final five games of last season. His rushing ability makes him one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in college football, but how much he can improve as a passer will determine how high Nebraska can climb in the Big Ten standings.

Martinez is putting in extra work on his passing skills and drew positive reviews throughout spring. Nebraska also returns one of the Big Ten's top receiving corps for 2012. The lack of other options certainly help Martinez's case, but all of the pieces seem to be in place for the junior to have a career year. 

Mark Ross
In terms of where we stand and what we know right now I would say yes, but in Martinez's case, that distinction is due more to the lack of quality quarterbacks in the Big Ten more than anything else. Michigan's Denard Robinson, Ohio State's Taylor Braxton and Martinez are probably considered to the top three signal callers in the Big Ten this season. All three are similar in style in that they can beat you with their arm or their legs, although with varying degrees of success.

Robinson finished ahead of the other two last season and fourth in the Big Ten in passing efficiency with a completion rate of a little better than 55 percent and despite throwing 15 interceptions compared to 20 touchdowns. Miller completed fewer passes and had a much better touchdown-to-interception ratio (13:4), but he also attempted the fewest passes of the three by far. Martinez had the best completion percentage of the trio (56.3) and attempted the most passes (288 to Robinson's 258), but had 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Of the three, Miller is in a position to make the greatest leap in production this season as the sophomore will be running new Buckeyes' head coach Urban Meyer's spread system, the same system that helped Tim Tebow develop into a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback during Meyer's tenure at Florida.

That said, Martinez also could continue to improve in his own right, but in the end, the fact he is considered one of the Big Ten's best under center in 2012 is probably more an indication of who's no longer around, namely Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, and Northwestern's Dan Persa. That also doesn't mean that Martinez won't be outplayed at his position this season by Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase or Iowa's James Vandenberg or someone else, showing just how precarious the Nebraska junior's top-tier "status" in the Big Ten is, and it's only May.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think it’s fair to say that Martinez is one of the  best signal callers in the Big Ten, but he will have to become a more efficient passer to reach elite status in the conference and nationally. T-Magic is at his best running the ball, and his speed and athleticism have produced an outstanding 1,839 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground over the last two seasons. However, the NU quarterback had a meager completion percentage of 56.3 without enough big plays during the 2011 campaign. If coordinator Tim Beck puts less emphasis on quarterback runs due to schematic decisions or to protect Martinez’ 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame, the Nebraska offense could become extremely predictable.

As good as tailback Rex Burkhead is, the Huskers need their quarterback play to improve to contend for the league crown and/or the BCS. In double-digit losses to Wisconsin, Michigan and South Carolina last season, Martinez completed a combined 30 passes and ran for less than 150 yards total. The NU staff and others have worked with the California native on his passing and mechanics, and marked improvement could lead to big results for Bo Pelini’s team. Martinez will always be a threat on the ground, and I think he’ll become an effective enough passer to be among the Big Ten’s best QBs.

Related Nebraska Content

Teaser:
<p> Is Taylor Martinez One of the Big Ten's Top Quarterbacks?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 05:56
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-2012-team-predictions
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The Nebraska Cornhuskers check in at No. 14 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Rex Burkhead, RB (SR)
Taylor Martinez might be the most important player, but no one is better in Big Red country than No. 22. Burkhead is arguably the most complete player in the nation. He can move the pile, get to the edge, pick-up the blitz, catch passes as a receiver and, most importantly, lead by example. He is a tireless worker who never turns off the motor. If Nebraska is to compete for a Big Ten title, it will undoubtedly be on the back of the three-down workhorse from Plano, Texas.

Trap Game: at Northwestern (Oct. 20)
It may be tough for the Wildcats to sneak up on Nebraska in 2012 considering what Pat Fitzgerald’s team did in Lincoln last fall. But with the most important two-game stretch of the 2012 season looming — Michigan at home and at Michigan State — directly after the trip to Evanston, Huskers fans can’t help but look past Northwestern. The players, however, better not overlook the Wildcats or they will be on the losing end of Purple Power once again.

Upset Alert: at UCLA (Sept. 8)
The season finale against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium could also fall into this category, considering what could be on the line on November 23, but a Week 2 cross-country trip to face the talented but underachieving Bruins could be tricky. New head coach Jim Mora has built a talented coaching staff to lead his roster full of four and five-star prospects. UCLA played for their conference crown last year and won’t be scared of Nebraska coming to the Rose Bowl. A win over UCLA would be the first step in the effort to make a return trip to Pasadena in 2012.

Unsung Hero: Brett Maher, K/P (SO)
Maybe he isn’t as unsung as others considering he was named Big Ten Kicker and Punter of the Year last fall. But not many kickers or punters contribute as much to their team’s success as Maher does. He drilled 19 of his 23 field goal attempts and averaged nearly 45 yards per punt while knocking 42.4% of his boots inside the 20. His ability to handle both jobs with ease is invaluable in the modern scholarship era of college football.

Biggest Game: Michigan (Oct. 27)
The Huskers will be on primetime TV three times this Big Ten season and the third visit to Saturday Night Football on ABC will be the biggest when it welcomes conference favorite Michigan to town. The Blackshirts were beaten and battered to the tune of 238 yards rushing at the hands of Denard Robinson and company last fall in Ann Arbor. But if Nebraska has conference title aspirations in 2012, it will have to close the 28-point gap from 2011.

Revenge Game: Michigan (Oct. 27)
Nebraska wasn’t just beaten by the Maize and Blue last fall, they were embarrassed. Taylor Martinez completed just nine of his 23 passes, Rex Burkhead has his worst game of the season with only 36 yards rushing and Denard Robinson accounted for four touchdowns in the 45-17 destruction in Ann Arbor. The Wisconsin game features a similar story line, but the Badgers don’t play within the division like the Wolverines. Nebraska is undoubtedly focused on revenge against both teams this fall.

Freshman To Watch: David Santos, LB
The Spring, Texas, product added nearly 20 pounds during his redshirt season — which almost didn’t happen at all. Santos was prepared to play a big role as a true freshman last fall until an injury forced him into a redshirt situation. With the loss of superstar Lavonte David, Bo Pelini appears to be leaning toward a by-committee replacement approach. In which case, Santos will get more than a few opportunities to prove his mettle.

Comeback Player: Andrew Rodriguez, OL (JR)
The big hog molly played in eight games last season for the Huskers. Halfway through the season, the 6-foot-6, 325-pounder was slowed by an injury that eventually cost him the final four games of the season. He has been shifted to right tackle where, when healthy, he will be a major force in the powerful Huskers ground game. Again, if he can stay on the field.

Defensive MVP: John Papuchis, DC
Along with new defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski and secondary coach Terry Joseph, Papuchis is the most important member of the Huskers defensive unit. Will Compton or Baker Steinkuhler might be the on-the-field MVPs for this unit, but if Nebraska returns to its Blackshirt way of life, it will be because of the new defensive coordinator. This unit was dominant just two years ago (93.1 rushing yards allowed per game in 2009) but has been less than salty over the last two (over 150 rushing yards allowed per game since). With plenty of talent on all three levels, Nebraska should be much-improved on defense in 2012.

Newcomer To Watch: Mike Marrow, FB
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound thumper has a chance to make a name for himself this fall. Whether it’s lead-blocking, catching passes or picking up short yardage first downs, Marrow has a chance to be the unsung hero on this offense. The son of Nebraska graduate assistant Vince Marrow, the fullback signed with Alabama out of Holland, Ohio, before landing at Eastern Michigan. He transferred to the Huskers and sat out last fall, but is ready lay the lumber in 2012.

Season Defining Moment: Wisconsin (Sept. 29)
There may be bigger games later in the season against the state of Michigan, but from a psychological standpoint, how the Huskers perform against the Big Ten’s other Big Red at home to start conference play on national television will be huge. Should they handle the Badgers with relative ease, fans can get excited about a potential conference title run. Should Wisconsin, and its rebuilt two-deep, walk into Memorial Stadium and win, the fans in Lincoln would have to be excited about their fifth nine-win season in a row.

Related Nebraska Content

Teaser:
<p> Nebraska Cornhuskers 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 05:51
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-nebraska-rivals
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Here are some of our favorite jokes about Nebraska's biggest rivals.

• What do you call a Golden Gopher in a BCS bowl game?
A referee. 

• What's the difference between an Iowa football player and a dollar? 

You can get four quarters out of a dollar.
 
• What do you get when you cross Minnesota with a groundhog?
Six more weeks of bad football.
 
• Where was O.J. headed in the white Bronco?
Michigan State. He knew that the police would never look there for a Heisman Trophy winner.
 
• Did you hear that Minnesota's football team doesn't have a website?
The Gophers can't string three "Ws" together.
 
• What do Ohio State fans use for birth control?
Their personalities.
 
• Why don’t Minnesota fans eat barbecue beans?
Because they keep falling through the holes in the grill.
 
• You know you’re from Michigan if:
You’ve ever climbed a water tower with a bucket of paint to defend your sister’s honor.
 
• The Foo Fighters are playing at Ryan Field this fall.
They're 10-point favorites.
 
• Things you will never hear an Iowa fan say:
I just couldn’t find a thing at Walmart today.
 
Related Nebraska Content
 
Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 03:20
Path: /nascar/danicas-darlington-dance-and-kurt-busch-fined-nascar
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NASCAR fined Kurt Busch $50,000 on Tuesday for his actions toward the end and after Saturday night’s Southern 500 at Darlington.

Busch was one of three people fined and one of four people placed on probation.

NASCAR put Busch on probation until July 25, citing Busch for “reckless driving on pit road during the race’’ and for being involved in an altercation with another competitor after the race.

Busch’s reckless driving on pit road was for shooting through Ryan Newman’s pits after a stop late in the race. Newman’s crew chief, Tony Gibson, said that his pit crew had “to jump out of the way ... and try not to get hit.”

After the race, Busch ran into Newman’s car on pit road. Newman told SI.com that Busch said it was an accident and it happened as he was taking off his helmet.

“I’m pretty sure there were 42 other guys that are taking their helmets off and doing whatever for the last 10 years and that’s the first time that’s happened to me. Circumstances, I think, are that he lied and was so frustrated that he doesn’t know how to deal with his anger.”

As for when Busch fired out of his pit stall late in the race, Newman told SI.com: “I’m not sure why [Busch] did it and tried to run over our guys and NASCAR officials. And nobody is. I think the chemical imbalance speaks for itself.”

Busch will be on probation for the All-Star Race, along with the Coca-Cola 600 and races at Dover, Pocono, Michigan, Sonoma, Kentucky, Daytona and New Hampshire. Provided he has no other issues, his probation would end before Indianapolis.

NASCAR also issued other penalties for an incident after the race between the teams.

• NASCAR fined Newman’s gas man, Andrew Rueger, $5,000 and placed him on probation until June 27 for failing to comply with a directive from a NASCAR official.

• NASCAR placed Gibson on probation until June 27 since the crew chief assumes responsibility for the actions of his team members.

• NASCAR fined Craig Strickler, Busch’s motorcoach driver, $5,000 and placed him on probation until Dec. 31 for interfering with a member of the broadcast media.
 

Teaser:
<p> Following Hendrick Motorsports' 200th Cup win at Darlington, Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 18:34
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-clemson-no-15-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
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Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at www.athlonsports.com. The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the Clemson Tigers being named No. 15, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers continue the countdown at No. 15 with one preseason All-American and nine players selected as All-ACC performers. Athlon Sports predicts Clemson will finish second in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Heisman candidates Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins will lead a powerful Clemson attack once again,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “If the defense can develop early, the Tigers will have a great chance to repeat as ACC champions.”

One Clemson standout was named a preseason All-American, with wide receiver Sammy Watkins being voted to the first team. In addition, the Tigers quarterbacks unit was ranked No. 6 nationally and best in the ACC. The running backs group was rated No. 7 in the country and tops in the conference, while the wide receivers unit was tabbed No. 2 in the nation and best in the ACC.

Nine Tigers earned preseason All-ACC honors, including Watkins, quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and offensive lineman Dalton Freeman on the first team. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, defensive lineman Malliciah Goodman, defensive back Rashard Hall, kicker Chandler Catanzaro and kick returner Sammy Watkins were named to the second team, while tight end Brandon Ford garnered third-team honors.

Clemson Team Preview

Clemson's Top 10 Players of 2012

Clemson’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<h1 class="ha"> Athlon Sports Names Clemson No. 15 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</h1>
Post date: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 09:38
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-2012-team-predictions
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The Clemson Tigers check in at No. 15 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Tajh Boyd, QB
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is the more talented player and will more than likely receive more awards and recognition once the season is over, but Boyd is the engine that makes Clemson’s offense hum. In his first year as the Tigers’ starting quarterback, the junior set single-season school records for passing yards (3,828), total offense (4,046) and touchdown passes (33), while breaking the ACC mark for touchdown responsibility (38). The 10 victories Boyd led Clemson to in 2011 tied the school record for most wins by a first-year starting quarterback, and he became the first sophomore quarterback at the school to earn first-team All-ACC honors since Harvey White did in 1957. Boyd is anything but a one-man show as he’s surrounded by explosive playmakers, but Clemson would be nowhere near as dangerous on offense if someone other than Boyd was under center.

Trap Game: at Wake Forest (Oct. 25)
Yes, Clemson holds a commanding 59-17-1 advantage in its head-to-head meetings with Wake Forest and has won the past three by a combined 58 points. However, the Demon Deacons gave the Tigers all they could handle last season in Death Valley, building a 14-point third-quarter lead before Clemson scored the final 17 points and won the game on a 43-yard field goal as time expired. This season, Clemson has to travel to Winston-Salem, N.C., and the Thursday night game against their fellow ACC Atlantic opponent comes just five days after the Tigers host Virginia Tech in an ACC title game rematch.

Upset Alert: vs. Auburn (Sept. 1)
Even though Auburn went just 8-5 as a follow up to its 2010 national championship, these Tigers out of the SEC can’t be overlooked. The season-opening catfight will take place in the Georgia Dome, which is more familiar turf for Auburn compared to Clemson. Auburn played Virginia, another ACC team, there in last season’s Peach Bowl, a game they dominated winning 43-24. Auburn also will be looking to exact a little revenge, as Clemson came to Jordan-Hare Stadium last season and left with a 14-point victory in hand. Clemson could also be without the services of receiver Sammy Watkins, who was arrested in early May and is facing a suspension.

Biggest Game: at Florida State (Sept. 22)
Clemson won last season’s game 35-30 behind Tajh Boyd’s 344 yards passing and three touchdowns. Even though this was the ACC opener for both, last year marked the third straight season that found the winner of this game going on to play in the ACC Championship game. Clemson is currently enjoying a four-game home winning streak against Florida State, but has come up short the last two times the teams have played in Tallahassee. Clemson wants to show everyone that last year was no fluke as well as get a chance at some redemption in another BCS bowl game. To have any hopes of playing in a second straight BCS bowl, the Tigers will more than likely need to get back to the ACC title game, and Florida State appears to be one of the biggest obstacles in their way.

Freshman to Watch: Travis Blanks, DB
Blanks went to high school in Tallahassee, which is where Clemson’s ACC Coastal Division rival Florida State is located, and was regarded by several recruiting services as one of the top prospects at his position. In the end, he chose to sign with the Tigers and the true freshman may get the chance to torment his home town Seminoles as early as this fall. Blanks enrolled at Clemson in January and impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic during the spring. Don’t be surprised to see Blanks on the field early and often this fall when new defensive coordinator Brent Venables employs the Tigers’ nickel packages.

Revenge Game: vs. NC State (Nov. 17)
Outside of its 37-point loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, Clemson’s largest margin of defeat in 2011 was at the hands of NC State. The Wolf Pack took advantage of four Tiger turnovers and scored 27 points in the second quarter to coast to an easy 37-13 victory in Raleigh. Clemson was ranked No. 7 at the time, and although the loss didn’t cost the Tigers the ACC Atlantic Division crown and a spot in the ACC title game, there’s little doubt they want to put forth a better showing when the two meet in Death Valley in November. That’s especially true for quarterback Tajh Boyd, who was responsible for three (two INTs, one fumble) of the four turnovers in last season’s meeting. That NC State game also was the only game in 2011 in which he didn’t throw at least one touchdown pass.

Season-Defining Moment: vs. South Carolina (Nov. 24)
Clemson’s regular season will have already been defined by the time the two in-state rivals meet up at the end of November as the Tigers will already know if they will be headed to Charlotte for the ACC Championship game in Charlotte that next Saturday. If that is indeed the case, however, then it’s entirely possible that Clemson could still be in the national title hunt, meaning the last thing the Tigers could afford is a loss to South Carolina. And even if a shot at the national title isn’t in the picture, there’s this: the Tigers have lost three in a row to the Gamecocks, by an average of 20 points. South Carolina was truly the dominant team last season, as Clemson managed only 153 yards of offense while giving up 420 to the Gamecocks. In the end, regardless of what may or not be at stake, this is a season-defining game as far as the state of South Carolina is concerned.

Defensive MVP: Malliciah Goodman, DE
Goodman enters his senior season having played in 41 games, including 15 starts. His value cannot be measured in statistics alone as he played 767 snaps last year, not only the most among Clemson lineman in 2011, but the most by a Tigers’ defensive lineman in school history. However, besides bringing experience to and providing veteran leadership for Clemson’s defensive line, the Tigers also need Goodman to increase his production as he will attempt to fill the void left behind by Andre Branch, the ACC’s sack leader (10.5) in 2011. Goodman had 59 tackles last season, 43 of those solo stops, but only two sacks.

Unsung Hero: Chandler Cantanzaro, K
Cantanzaro was named second-team All-ACC in 2011 as he set a new school record for kicking points in a season with 118. He was the ACC’s leading scorer and tied for the conference lead in made field goals with 22. The one-time walk-on was 9-of-12 on field goal attempts of 40 yards or more and is 15-of-21 from that distance over the last two years. His career 71.4 success rate from 40 yards and out is a school record. He has missed one extra point attempt (86-87) in 27 games and is already seventh in school history in extra points made. He also established Clemson records for both extra points made (52) and attempted (53) in 2011.

Newcomer to Watch: Stephone Anthony, LB
Anthony was a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school who saw action in 13 games, including three starts, as a true freshman. Heading into the fall the sophomore is the projected starter at middle linebacker, and head coach Dabo Swinney and new defensive coordinator Brent Venables are hoping he has a huge impact from Week 1. He showed flashes of his immense talent and potential at times last season, most notably in the ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech. In that game, Anthony tallied three tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and forced a fumble in the Tigers’ convincing 38-10 win over the Hokies.

Comeback Player: Tony Steward, LB
Steward is another of the prized recruits from Clemson’s 2011 class as is fellow linebacker Stephone Anthony, who was a USA Today first-team All-American out of high school. Steward, just like Anthony, also played right away getting on the field in five of the Tigers’ first seven games. Then on Oct. 18, Steward tore his ACL in practice, ending his freshman season prematurely. He missed spring practice as he is still recovering, but is expected to be ready to go when practice starts in August. After seniors Tig Willard and Corico Hawkins, Clemson’s linebacker depth is pretty young and inexperienced, so the coaching staff is hoping that Steward will be healthy enough to continue his growth and development on the field this fall.

Related Clemson Content

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Will Clemson Repeat as ACC Champions in 2012?

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Teaser:
<p> Clemson Tigers 2012 Team Predictions.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 05:35
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/clemson-football-will-tigers-repeat-acc-champions
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Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 15 Clemson. The Tigers return the top offense in the ACC, but the defense has some key holes to fill.

Will Clemson Repeat as ACC Champions in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Clemson has a great chance to repeat as ACC champions. I have hunch second-year starting quarterback Tajh Boyd will perform closer to the way he played early in the season instead of when he threw nine interceptions in his final six games. The Clemson defense also should perform better than the unit that allowed 70 points against West Virginia. Despite my optimism about Clemson, I tend to lean toward Florida State in the division. The Seminoles were a classic example of a bad luck team – injuries at the wrong time derailed the Seminoles against Oklahoma, the same spilled into the Clemson game the following week. In all likelihood, Clemson isn’t going to face FSU backup quarterback Clint Trickett, who still managed to pass for 336 yards and three touchdowns on the road against the Tigers. This time around, Clemson probably faces regular starter EJ Manuel in Tallahassee. The road trip to Florida State should be a major cause for concern for Clemson, no matter who is playing for the ‘Noles. In the midst of the Tigers’ collapse a year ago, Clemson struggled away from Death Valley. Clemson finished 1-4 in road games and neutral site games last season, including losses at Georgia Tech, N.C. State and South Carolina by a combined score of 102-43. Even in Clemson’s final true road win over the season, the Tigers needed second-half heroics from Sammy Watkins to beat 2-10 Maryland. In 2012, Clemson will be in 10-win territory again with a chance for revenge against Georgia Tech, N.C. State and South Carolina when all three return to Clemson, but the big game is in Tallahassee against a presumably healthy Florida State team. That prompts me to give the edge to the Seminoles.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This is the ACC we are talking about here, and since the Tigers are loaded on offense and are the defending champs, they have as good a chance as any to win the title in 2012. But if the bet is Clemson or The Field, I am taking the field. The Tigers should be excellent on offense once again, but have to iron out some offensive line issues —and hopefully endure a summer without any more legal slip-ups. But defensively is where my concerns lie. Yes, they are talented. Yes, they should be improved with another year of experience and a new coordinator. And yes, they allowed 172 points in four losses to close the season 2-4 after entering the national championship picture for a few weeks.

Defense wins championships. It's a cliche...for a reason. Virginia Tech and Florida State might have two of the best defensive units in the nation much less the ACC and both will control the line of scrimmage against the Tigers. Clemson has to visit Florida State, and despite two relatively easy wins over the Hokies in 2011, the visit from Frank Beamer's bunch is guaranteed to be more difficult. Toss in other well-coached contenders who handled Clemson with ease a year ago — Georgia Tech and NC State, both of whom visit Death Valley — and it seems a tall order for this Tigers' squad to repeat. Especially considering Clemson has one conference title since 1991 and hasn't repeated since 1987-1988. 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Clemson is a team that has struggled to match preseason expectations in recent years, but winning the ACC Championship last season could help this program finally get over the hump and contend for a conference title each year. There’s plenty of talent returning to Clemson in 2012, so there’s no excuse why this team should not be near the top of the ACC once again.

Quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins will be one of college football’s top pass-catch combinations once again, while the rushing attack is in good hands with Andre Ellington and Mike Bellamy. The biggest issue on offense will be sorting out a line that returns just two starters. If Clemson struggles to block, the offense won’t match last season’s totals.

The defense returns eight starters, but the line was decimated by graduation. The Tigers have recruited well, so there is talent in the reserves. However, outside of end Malliciah Goodman, there’s not much in the way of proven commodities up front. The back seven of the defense should be solid, especially with the emergence of linebacker Stephone Anthony. New coordinator Brent Venables was a great hire, but this unit will struggle without a consistent pass rush.

The biggest obstacle to repeating as ACC champions will be a schedule that features a road date at Florida State and another matchup with Virginia Tech. Although Clemson beat the Hokies twice last year, the Tigers’ personnel losses will have an impact on the matchup. Considering the question marks on the offensive and defensive lines, traveling to Tallahassee to play Florida State in Week 4 is not the best possible timing.

I think Clemson is a solid top-15 team for 2012, but I see the Tigers falling short of repeating as ACC champs. 

Mark Ross
Clemson appears to be in excellent position headed into the fall to repeat as champions of the ACC. To begin with, Dabo Swinney's Tigers return seven starters on offense. Chad Morris' unit should not only be the best in the ACC, but one of the best in the entire nation, with quarterback Tajh Boyd, wide receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins and running back Andre Ellington all at his disposal. If an inexperienced offensive line comes together, and all the key playmakers stay healthy, Clemson's O could be next to impossible to slow down, let alone stop.

The Tigers' repeat title hopes will probably come down to the defense. Statistically speaking, this was not a very good defense last year and that was before West Virginia torched it for 70 points and 589 yards in the Orange Bowl. The Tigers return eight starters on defense, including just about the entire back seven, and have a new defensive coordinator in Brent Venables. No one's expecting Venables, who had been Oklahoma's defensive coordinator the past eight seasons, to turn this year's Tigers into a top-10 unit, like the 2009 Sooners were (8th overall in total defense, 7th in scoring defense), however even improvement that mirrors how last year's Oklahoma defense performed would be a welcome sight.

Last season Oklahoma's defense finished 55th in the nation in total defense, giving up more than 376 yards per game, and 31st in scoring defense, surrendering less than 23 points per contest. Compare that to Clemson's defense in 2011, which gave up nearly 395 yards (71st in the nation) and more than 29 points per game (81st). The good news is that the Tigers' defense doesn't have to worry about trying to stop its own offense in a real game, as Clemson's unit is far and away the ACC's most potent. If the Tigers can figure out a way to somewhat slow down the offenses it will face in its conference schedule, allowing its own to do its thing, then Clemson should find itself in Charlotte in December for a second straight year with an excellent chance at making it two ACC titles in arow. 

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Dabo Swinney’s crew has the offense to win another ACC title, but I would not pick the Tigers as the preseason favorite. With skill players like quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, we know the Clemson offense has vast potential. However, there were some key personnel losses in three starters on the offensive line and All-ACC tight end Dwayne Allen. There are also some concerns at the offense slowed down late in the season, scoring 17 points or less in losses to Georgia Tech. NC State and South Carolina.

The Tigers defense struggled for much of last year, except when playing against Virginia Tech. Eight starters return, but linemen Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson will be missed up front. If new coordinator Brent Venables can improve this unit, Clemson will have a great shot to repeat in the ACC. Right now, I think an improved Florida State and its loaded defense looks like the more complete roster in the Atlantic Division. With the head-to-head matchup in Tallahassee, I’ll take the Seminoles to advance to Charlotte.

Related Clemson Content

Clemson Tigers 2012 Team Preview
Clemson Tigers Top 10 Players for 2012

Clemson Tigers 2012 Team Predictions
The Greatest Moments in Clemson Football History

The 10 Greatest Players in Clemson History Since 1967

Clemson Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Clemson Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Clemson Football: Will the Tigers Repeat as ACC Champions?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 05:33
All taxonomy terms: Clemson Tigers, College Football, jokes
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-clemson-rivals
Body:

 

Here are some of our favorite jokes about Clemson's biggest rivals:

• What does a South Carolina fan do when the Gamecocks win the BCS championship?
He turns off the PlayStation.

• What do you call a Gamecock in a BCS bowl game?
A referee.

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

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

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

• Did you hear what happened to the South Carolina fan when he found out that 90% of all car accidents occur within 5 miles of home?
He moved.

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

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

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

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

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 02:46
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-may-14
Body:

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for May 14, 2012.

 

  1. Rangers—Firing on all cylinders once again.

 2. Dodgers—Team’s worst fear: Matt Kemp leaves game injured.

 3. Braves—Pitching was expected, but offense has been surprising.

 4. Rays—10 of next 13 games vs. Blue Jays and Red Sox.

5. Orioles—At some point we have to start taking the O’s seriously.

 6. Nationals—Tough loss at Cincinnati on Sunday allowing Reds to come back.

 7. Yankees—David Robertson, Rafael Soriano splitting the closer’s job.

 8. Cardinals—Go outside Central and get swept by Braves.

 9. Reds—Making a charge behind former MVP Joey Votto.

10. Tigers—Can’t slump with Justin Verlander on the hill.

11. Blue Jays—Would be leading the AL Central, 2nd in West, but 4th in East.

12. Marlins—Walkoff granny by Giancarlo Stanton caps great week.

13. Indians—Derek Lowe is 5-1, 2.47 ERA; rest of starters: 8-11, 4.92.

14. Mets—David Wright still mashing at .400 clip.

15. Phillies—Hitters are 5th in NL in average, pitchers are 9th in ERA.

16. Giants—Six of Buster Posey’s last 15 starts have been at first base.

17. Diamondbacks—7-12 at home this season; 51-30 in 2011.

18. A’s—Bullpen ERA a run better than rotation’s.

19. Brewers—Starters are 2-2 with 2.51 ERA in May.

20. Angels—Lost two of three in key series at Texas.

21. Mariners—No. 1 and 2 hitters have combined to hit .221.

22. Red Sox—Improved April ERA of 5.54 to 4.38 so far in May.

23. Pirates—Andrew McCutchen hitting .448 in May, rest of team .190.

24. White Sox—No. 2 hitters are slugging .199.

25. Astros—Opponents are batting .207 over last seven days.

26. Rockies—Pitchers have a 6.19 ERA in May.

27. Royals—Batting average down, ERA up, but better record in May.

28. Cubs—One home run from Cubs outfielders this season.

29. Padres—Batting average improved from.215 in April to .234 in May.

30. Twins—Batting .184, slugging .272 this month.

 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's weekly look at baseball's best and worst teams.</p>
Post date: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 11:44
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-virginia-tech-no-16-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

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

To celebrate the Virginia Tech Hokies being named No. 16, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Frank Beamer’s Virginia Tech Hokies continue the countdown at No. 16 with eight players selected as All-ACC performers. Athlon Sports predicts Virginia Tech will finish first in the ACC’s Coastal Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Once again, Frank Beamer's club looks like the team to beat in the Coastal Division,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “The Hokies have a big hole to fill at the tailback position, but they feature one of the nation's most underrated quarterbacks in Logan Thomas, and the defense, as usual, should be very strong.”

Eight Hokies earned preseason All-ACC honors, including defensive lineman James Gayle and defensive back Kyle Fuller on the first team. Quarterback Logan Thomas and defensive lineman J.R. Collins were named to the second team, while wide receiver Marcus Davis, offensive lineman Andrew Miller, defensive lineman Derrick Hopkins and kick returner Dyrell Roberts garnered third-team honors. In addition, the Virginia Tech quarterbacks unit was ranked No. 10 nationally, the defensive line was rated No. 4 in the country, and the defensive backs unit was tabbed No. 7 in the nation.

Virginia Tech Team Preview

Virginia Tech's Top 10 Players of 2012

Virginia Tech’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> <span>Athlon Sports Names Virginia Tech No. 16 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></p>
Post date: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 10:53
Path: /college-football/virginia-tech-football-can-hokies-win-acc-title-2012
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 16 Virginia Tech. Quarterback Logan Thomas is back, but the Hokies have to replace four offensive line starters and running back David Wilson.

Can Virginia Tech Win the ACC Championship in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
As long as Clemson is on the schedule only once, Virginia Tech has a chance. If we learned anything last year Clemson is better than Virginia Tech – or at least everyone learned that except for the voters in the Harris and coaches polls who voted the Hokies higher last year. There’s good reason to be skeptical about Virginia Tech this season. Quarterback Logan Thomas is one of only three returning starters on the offense. As opposed to years past, Virginia Tech has no clear heir apparent at running back as David Wilson was. Beyond that, I thought the Hokies receiving corps was overlooked at times. And the defense, as usual, will keep Virginia Tech near the top of the league. In the end, what the ACC comes down to is the conference championship game. The Hokies are the clear favorite in the Coastal Division. Despite Virginia’s eight-win season, the blowout losses to the Hokies and Auburn to end the season show the Cavaliers aren’t ready to win the conference quite yet. North Carolina is ineligible. Georgia Tech looks like it’s going to top out at around eight wins, and Miami could struggle. If Virginia Tech wins the Coastal, I might be tempted to pick the Hokies in the title game – as long as Clemson isn’t on the other side.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The top of the Atlantic Division may be stronger than the top of the Coastal in 2012, but that is why I am not betting against the Hokies of Virginia Tech. Miami has plenty of talent but is very young. Virginia is extremely well coached and will be strong on defense but lacks the overall talent to win the title (yet). Georgia Tech will be very difficult to stop on offense but plays a rough schedule. And North Carolina might be the most talented foe but has to deal with a coaching change and sanctions. It feels like the Hokies are the clearcut pick to win the division with what could be the nation's best defense. The winner of the "Tech-mo" Bowl has gone on to win this division every year of its existence, and while I like the Yellow Jackets to act as top challenger, I'll take Bud Foster with three months to prepare to stop the option on Labor Day Night.

So after winning its fifth Coastal title in six years, and its sixth in eigth years, can Virginia Tech topple the Atlantic winner? Be it the offense of Clemson, the defense of Florida State or the sneaky good coaching and quarterback play of NC State that prevails, I'm still taking the Hokies to claim the ACC title this fall.

There are certainly questions about the Hokies offensive line and running game. But when has Frank Beamer not been able to find someone to run the ball? And with a quarterback who can move the pile at will, I am not as concerned about the offense as others seem to be. Logan Thomas will take the next step in his development and make himself a first-round pick by carrying the offense. Foster's defense will do the rest. Clemson proved it can beat the Hokies a year ago but Beamer won't let his team forget that and I just can't see Florida State or NC State consistently moving the ball on the lawfirm of Collins, Gayle, Edwards, Taylor, Fuller and Exum.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There’s not a ton of separation between the ACC’s top three teams for 2012: Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech. And what might make-or-break the conference race is the play on the offensive lines. The Tigers have to replace three starters, while the Hokies lost four from last year. Even though Florida State returns nearly everyone up front, the line is still a major question mark going into 2012.

Barring major injuries, the Hokies should cruise to the ACC Coastal title. Miami is rebuilding, and Georgia Tech, Virginia and North Carolina each have question marks. The Tar Heels might be Virginia Tech’s biggest challenger in the Coastal, but is unable to play for the division title due to NCAA sanctions.

Virginia Tech will get a shot at both Clemson and Florida State in the regular season, but struggled against the Tigers in two matchups last season. Florida State visits Blacksburg on Thursday night in early November, which should be one of the ACC's top matchups for 2012. If the offensive line comes together, and a replacement for running back David Wilson is found early in the year, I think the Hokies will certainly push Clemson and Florida State for the ACC title and a spot among the top 10 teams in college football. The defense is certainly one of the best in college football, but surprisingly for a Frank Beamer-coached team, the special teams (kicker and punter) could be an issue. Although the Hokies are a solid team, I give a slight edge to Clemson or Florida State to win a very competitive (at least at the top) ACC in 2012. 

Mark Ross
There is no reason why Frank Beamer can't lead his team to a third straight ACC title game in 2012. Besides, Virginia Tech has represented the ACC Coastal Division in the championship game five of the seven years it has been played, so why should we expect a different outcome this season?

More to the point, the Hokies are once again the favorite in the Coastal Division because of quarterback Logan Thomas and what could be one of Bud Foster's strongest defenses in his 18 years as coordinator. Georgia Tech and North Carolina will be heard from and may even pull off an upset or two, but Virginia Tech should find itself in familiar territory come December - playing in Charlotte, N.C., for the ACC title.

This is not a typical Beamer-coached Hokies team, however. There are question marks surrounding both the running game and offensive line, while the receiving corps is, for the most part, unproven. Again, the defense could be really, really good, but in order for the unit to get to that elite level it will need its key players, especially at linebacker and in the secondary, to avoid the injury bug.

If Beamer and the coaching staff are able to develop some sort of reliable running game and the offensive line comes together, then Virginia Tech could have a dangerous offense to go with its potentially dominant defense. If that happens, then they are as big a threat in the ACC, and perhaps even nationally, as any other team. If not then Hokie fans will probably have to be content with a second-straight season as the ACC runner-up.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
The Hokies can definitely win the ACC, but I do not see them as the overall favorite. Frank Beamer’s bunch looks primed to win another Coastal crown, while Florida State and Clemson battle for Atlantic supremacy. The Virginia Tech defense should keep the Hokies in every game, but the key to winning the conference will be how an inexperienced offense develops around talented quarterback Logan Thomas. Beamer and staff must replace first-round pick David Wilson at running back, top receivers Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin, as well as four starters on the offensive line.

A talented and deep line rotation will lead the defense, and Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum will be the latest elite secondary members to be produced by coordinator Bud Foster. This solid unit will have to carry the weight early, while new stars like Marcus Davis, D.J. Coles and Michael Holmes develop on offense. The schedule is not easy with a season-opener against Georgia Tech, trips to North Carolina and Clemson, plus games with Florida State and an improving Virginia squad. The Seminoles and Tigers return top rosters, but the Hokies should be improved enough by December to defeat either squad in Charlotte. Beamer’s program has won double-digit games nine times over the last decade, so the Hokies would not surprise anyone by winning another ACC crown.

Related Virginia Tech Content

Virginia Tech Hokies 2012 Team Preview
Virginia Tech Hokies Top 10 Players for 2012

Virginia Tech Hokies 2012 Team Predictions

Virginia Tech's Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Virginia Tech Football History

Virginia Tech Hokies Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Virginia Tech Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Can the Hokies Win the ACC Title in 2012?</p>
Post date: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 06:03
Path: /college-football/virginia-tech-hokies-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Virginia Tech Hokies check in at No. 16 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Logan Thomas, QB
A 1,700-yard running back who was the ACC Player of the Year (David Wilson), the top two wide receivers in school history (Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale), and four fifth-year seniors on the offensive line are all gone, so this is clearly Thomas’ team. The junior showed what he was capable of in his first year as the Hokies’ starting quarterback, but now all eyes and opposing defenses’ attention will be squarely fixed on him. Despite all the personnel changes on offense, Virginia Tech’s goals remain the same – win the ACC Coastal Division, win the ACC Championship, and play in and win a BCS bowl game. As good as the defense is, the offense will certainly have to do its part too, and whether that happens or not depends largely on Thomas’ continued development under center and his production on the field in 2012.

Trap Game: at Miami (Nov. 1)
Virginia Tech has won its last three meetings against Miami, and at this point the Hokies appear to have the edge over the Hurricanes headed into this season’s contest. However, Miami gave Virginia Tech all they could handle last year in Blacksburg, Va., as the home team needed a 19-yard TD scamper by quarterback Logan Thomas with less than a minute remaining to defeat the Hurricanes, 38-35. This game also precedes Virginia Tech’s match up against Florida State the following Saturday, so there’s the risk of the Hokies overlooking one team from the Sunshine State for the other, which is always a dangerous mindset for a team to have, especially on the road in conference play.

Upset Alert: vs. Cincinnati (Sept. 29)
The last time these two teams met was in the 2009 Orange Bowl, which Virginia Tech won 20-9. This year’s contest will also take place on a neutral field, FedEx Field in Landover, Md., and the Hokies better not look past this Big East opponent, even as an Oct. 6 date in Chapel Hill against ACC divisional foe North Carolina lies ahead. Last season, North Carolina State traveled to Cincinnati to play the Bearcats on a Thursday night, with a conference game versus Georgia Tech looming on the horizon. The Wolf Pack got destroyed by Cincinnati 44-14 and then proceeded to fall at home to the Yellow Jackets 45-35 that next Saturday.

Biggest Game: vs. Georgia Tech (Sept. 3)
It’s the season opener for both teams as the two ACC Coastal foes will meet on Labor Day night in Blacksburg, Va. Besides this not only setting the tone for the start to each other’s 2012 seasons and conference slates, consider this: the winner of this annual match up has gone on to win the Coastal division the past six seasons. Both Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech each will play seven more conference games after this, but if recent history has shown us anything, this game could once again determine who plays in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte, N.C., in December.

Revenge Game: at Clemson (Oct. 20)
It’s pretty simple, Clemson came to Blacksburg, Va., last Oct. 1 and embarrassed Virginia Tech on its home turf 23-3, handing the Hokies their first, and what turned out to be their only, loss during the regular season. The two met again on Dec. 3 in Charlotte, N.C., to decide the ACC Championship, and the result was the same again as the Tigers manhandled the Hokies 38-10. Both teams went on to BCS bowls (and lost), but Virginia Tech would like nothing more than to get some payback on Oct. 20 in Death Valley. A win at Clemson would not only take some of the sting away from what happened last season, it also could potentially derail the Tigers’ hopes of playing for a second-straight ACC title and getting back to a BCS bowl.

Defensive MVP: Bruce Taylor, LB
They say the quarterback of the defense is oftentimes the linebacker and that’s certainly the case for Taylor. The fifth-year senior led the team in tackles in 2010 and was named honorable mention All-ACC last season despite missing the final six games after suffering a Lisfranc foot injury. Virginia Tech’s defense is expected to be among the nation’s best this coming season. In order for the unit to reach its true potential, defensive coordinator Bud Foster needs a fully healthy Taylor to not only wreak havoc from his inside linebacker position, but also provide leadership both on and off of the field.

Unsung Hero: Dyrell Roberts, WR
Roberts is a fifth-year senior who played in just three games last year after sustaining a broken arm returning the opening kickoff against Arkansas State. Roberts also had his 2010 season end prematurely, after being injured during another kickoff return, which resulted in him having surgery and missing the Hokies’ final five games. When healthy, Roberts has produced both on offense and special teams. Entering this season, Roberts has caught 63 passes for 965 yards (15.3 ypc) and five touchdowns. He also is already Virginia Tech’s career leader in kickoff return yardage with 1,577 yards on 61 returns, good for an average of nearly 26 yards per return. As long as he can stay on the field, Roberts should have a big impact in 2012 as the Hokies are without their top two receivers and No. 1 kickoff returner from last season.

Newcomer to Watch: Michael Holmes, RB
Holmes redshirted last year as the Hokies relied heavily on David Wilson. Now Wilson, the 2011 ACC Player of the Year, and his 1,709 rushing yards have gone on to the NFL, giving Holmes a golden opportunity to establish himself as Virginia Tech’s next great running back. Holmes (5-11, 208) is not the biggest or strongest of backs, but he was a two-time state player of the year while at Harrisonburg (Va.) High School and apparently has earned the first shot at replacing Wilson thanks to his hard work this spring and all-around ability.

Freshman to Watch: Joel Caleb, WR
Rated by many recruiting services as one of the top prospects in Virginia, Caleb is considered the jewel of Virginia Tech’s 2012 signing class, as he chose to stay in state rather than going to Ohio State or West Virginia. The 6-3, 205-pound receiver from Midlothian, Va., definitely has the size that will allow him to make an immediate impact in the passing game. Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring lost three of this top five receivers from last year’s team, so as long as Caleb shows to the coaching staff and his teammates that’s he ready, the true freshman should see some playing time this fall behind veterans D.J. Coles, Marcus Davis and Dyrell Roberts.

Comeback Players: Tariq Edwards, Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and Bruce Taylor, LBs
Virginia Tech’s linebacking corps is considered to be the best in the ACC, but all three projected starters are coming back from injuries that could impact their performance this fall. Taylor, the Hokies’ leading tackler in 2010, and Gouveia-Winslow both went down with serious Lisfranc foot injuries that shortened their 2011 seasons. Taylor got hurt against Boston College, costing him the final six games, while Gouveia-Winslow was injured two weeks earlier, ending his junior season prematurely. Edwards, who was third on the team in both tackles and tackles for loss last season, was the only one to play in all 14 games in 2011, but had surgery in Marchto place a steel rod in his left fibia to relieve pressure from a stress fracture in his shin.

All three missed spring practice as a result of their injuries, but are expected to be ready to go by the fall. The best-case scenario for Virginia Tech is that all three hold up for the entire season, but if injuries continue to keep them on the sideline or limit them when they are on the field, the Hokies’ defense will certainly look different, and quite possibly, play different, this fall.

Related Virginia Tech Content

Virginia Tech Hokies 2012 Team Preview
Virginia Tech Hokies Top 10 Players for 2012

Will Virginia Tech Win the ACC in 2012?
Virginia Tech's Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Virginia Tech Football History

Virginia Tech Hokies Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Virginia Tech Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Virginia Tech Hokies 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-virginia-tech-rivals
Body:

 

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

• What does a Virginia fan do when the Cavaliers win the BCS championship?
He turns off the PlayStation.

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

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

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

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

• How does a Duke fan count to 10?
0-1, 0-2, 0-3, 0-4...

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

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

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

Related Virginia Tech Content

Virginia Tech Hokies 2012 Team Preview
Virginia Tech Hokies Top 10 Players for 2012

Will Virginia Tech Win the ACC in 2012?
Virginia Tech's Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Virginia Tech Football History

Virginia Tech Hokies Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Virginia Tech Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team.</p>
Post date: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 01:33

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