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Path: /college-football/big-12s-top-heisman-contenders-2013

his role as the starting quarterback, but there are no guarantees that he will return to form. TCU can still be a very good team with Trevone Boykin at quarterback, but to be elite, the Horned Frogs need Pachall, the more gifted passer, to take the majority of the snaps in 2013.

2013 Big 12 Team Previews

BaylorOklahoma State
Iowa StateTCU
Kansas StateTexas Tech
OklahomaWest Virginia

Best of the Rest:


Five Defensive Players to Watch:

Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas

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<p> The Big 12's Top Heisman Contenders in 2013</p>
Post date: Sunday, June 2, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /monthly/lance-armstrong-lost-his-tour-de-france-titles-does-second-place-person-now-get-titles

Ever since Lance Armstrong lost his Tour de France titles, I have been wondering if the people who came in second in those races were awarded the titles. 

— Irene Paul, Northfield, N.H.

That would be the simple solution, but the ubiquity of doping in cycling renders such a simple solution impossible. The sport’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), stripped Armstrong of his titles in late 2012 following the report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that implicated Armstrong (among many others) and chose not to award those titles to other riders. 

<p> <strong style="font-size: 18.18181800842285px;">Ever since Lance Armstrong lost his Tour de France titles, I have been wondering if the people who came in second in those races were awarded the titles.&nbsp;</strong></p>
Post date: Friday, May 31, 2013 - 12:14
All taxonomy terms: Ask Athlon, Monthly
Path: /monthly/how-would-jim-thorpe-compare-today%E2%80%99s-top-performers

How would legendary athlete Jim Thorpe compare to today’s top performers?

— James A. Clark, Ardmore, Okla.

It’s an age-old debate: How would athletes from past eras compare to today’s outsized, highly trained, mega-talented superstars? Could Babe Ruth hit a homer off Clayton Kershaw? Could Jim Brown crack 100 yards against the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens? Without a time machine, it’s impossible to know for sure, but in Thorpe’s case, his unparalleled versatility would indicate an ability to thrive in any era. Thorpe was a world-class track and field athlete who won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Summer Olympics; he played football, basketball and baseball at the professional level; and he’s a member of both the Pro and College Football Halls of Fame. Give the 6'1", 202-pound Oklahoma native a few months in a modern weight room and at a 21st century training table, and he’d take his place alongside today’s greats. The best part of this is, you can never prove us wrong.

<p> <strong style="font-size: 18.18181800842285px;">How would legendary athlete Jim Thorpe compare to today’s top performers?</strong></p>
Post date: Friday, May 31, 2013 - 11:57
All taxonomy terms: LSU Tigers, SEC, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/greatest-les-miles-gif-all-time

LSU Tigers and SEC fans alike have grown to know and love "LSU Freek." The message board legend has been building hiliarious and creative GIFs for years. 

However, he might have topped himself. The picture of Les Miles to the right surfaced on Thursday and it might be the greatest photo ever taken of the The Hat. Twitter fell out of its chair laughing when the LSU head football coach geared up to rappell off of a 24-story building in downtown Baton Rouge for charity (Over the Edge for Adoption).

Miles, to his credit, doesn't care what you think. And we should all be able to laugh at ourselves if it means helping someone else in need. So Miles certainly doesn't care what LSU Freek has to say either. But we do... and this is likely Mr. Freek's finest work to date: "Miles Impossible: Geauxst Protocal."

Miles appears to be channeling his inner Tom Cruise, and, with special assistance from Mike the Tiger, has saved the day once again as only Leslie Miles can: 

Related: Athlon Sports 2013 LSU Tigers Team Preview

<p> Greatest Les Miles GIF of All-Time</p>
Post date: Friday, May 31, 2013 - 11:35
All taxonomy terms: Monthly, News
Path: /monthly/what-does-nascar-do-money-fines-against-owners-and-drivers

What does NASCAR do with the money from the fines they levy against the owners and drivers?

— B. Linely, Morristown, Tenn.

Thankfully, it goes to a good cause and not back into the sport’s already deep pockets. Beginning in 2008, NASCAR mandated that all fines from competitors go to the NASCAR Foundation, which raises funds and increases volunteerism to support nonprofit charities and charitable causes with an emphasis placed on initiatives that affect children.

Of course, since owners and drivers are essentially making a charitable donation, it begs the question whether the money is tax-deductible. Or worse, if penalty checks — typically somewhere between $50,000 and $200,000 per major offense — are written directly to NASCAR, can the sanctioning body itself write off that money? It certainly makes one wonder.

<p> <span style="font-size: 18px;">What does NASCAR do with the money from the fines they levy against the owners and drivers?</span></p>
Post date: Friday, May 31, 2013 - 11:18
Path: /nascar/keselowski-stewart-look-rebound-dover

1. Crew chief returns to No. 2 as Brad Keselowski rides streak of poor finishes
Just a few hours before Brad Keselowski was slated to start the seventh race of the year at Texas Motor Speedway in his blue No. 2, all seemed to be fine. After a disappointing 23rd-place finish at Auto Club Speedway two races prior, Keselowski had rallied at Martinsville Speedway to score his fifth top 10 in the series first six races.

Then, as both he teammate Joey Logano's car rolled through pre-race inspection in Fort Worth, things started to fall apart. Both cars were required to make substantial changes in pre-race after NASCAR ruled a new rear suspension to be illegal. Keselowski rallied again to a Texas top 10 and a top 10 the next week at Kansas, but then bad luck started to bite.

Ultimately crew chief Paul Wolfe, his car chief and lead engineer were expelled from being at the track three total races (two points events) after an appeal for the Texas incident. Keselowski's finishes following the sixth-place Kansas run dropped considerably as he recorded results of 33rd, 15th, 32nd and 36th.

Wolfe and the rest of Penske's suspended crew make their triumphant — and sorely needed — return this weekend at Dover. Keselowski said after wrecking in last week's race at Charlotte that he hopes it's a good luck charm.

"I’m very proud of everyone that stepped up during the last three weeks," Keselowski said. "We’ve really improved our depth at Penske Racing, but now everyone can go back to their normal jobs. Hopefully that means we can get some of our mojo back.”

Keselowski, of course, is Dover's most recent winner thanks to Wolfe's fuel mileage gamble last fall. Otherwise, last year's champion has a best Dover finish of 12th in six Cup starts.

2. Kyle Busch thinking sweep of NASCAR triple-header weekend
All three of the top NASCAR national series — Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck — will be in action this weekend at Dover. That marks the first time all three series will compete in a three-day period at the same track since the season-openers for all at Daytona International Speedway in February.

It also marks the second opportunity of the season for Kyle Busch to aim for three race wins in one race weekend, as he'll pilot his self-owned No. 51 in Friday's truck series event, Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 54 on Saturday in the Nationwide 300-miler and JGR's No. 18 on Sunday in the Sprint Cup 400-miler.

Winning the triple certainly is not out of reach of Busch as he showed in 2010 at Dover. Then, a mechanical issue dropped him out late in the truck race after leading 174 of the scheduled 200 laps. He went on to win the next two races of the weekend. A few months later he finally became the first driver to pull off a three-race weekend sweep at NASCAR's other concrete track — Bristol Motor Speedway.

Busch's odds to finally get the clean sweep of Dover stand to be pretty good. In the Nationwide Series, Busch has won six of the 10 events this season. And in Sprint Cup, Busch returns to the track where he led more than 300 laps in last fall's race before getting beat in a fuel mileage finish.

<p> Geoffrey Miller highlights the five NASCAR storylines to watch in this weekend's FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 31, 2013 - 10:06
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/top-10-oregon-ducks-football-teams-all-time

No program in the nation has elevated themselves in the college football hierarchy over the last 15 years more than the Oregon Ducks. All eight double-digit win seasons in program history have taken place since 2000. Five of the school's eight conference championships have come since the turn of the millennium as well.

Much of this growth can be attributed to great coaching — and NIKE. Rich Brooks, Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly have been brilliant hires but Phil Knight’s overwhelming influence (and money) has gone a long way in building the Ducks into a national recruiting powerhouse.

But how would Joey Harrington’s team compete against Darron Thomas’ squad? Could the historic 1994 Rose Bowl team hang with the 2011 Rose Bowl champions? The Ducks have claimed eight conference championships since the AP Era debuted in 1934, but which was the best? And was the best team in school history one that didn't even win the league? The fact of the matter is no one will ever know for sure, so trying to rank the best teams in Ducks' history is virtually impossible.

But we're going to try anyway.

1. 2010 (12-1, 9-0)
Head Coach: Chip Kelly

The most dominant regular season in program history began with a 48-13 showcase in vaunted Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. Wins over three ranked Pac-10 teams later and the Ducks finished the regular season 12-0 as Pac-10 champions. Record-setting quarterback Darron Thomas and Doak Walker winner LaMichael James led an offense that scored a school-record 611 points (since broken). Names like Casey Matthews, Kenny Rowe, John Boyett and Brandon Bair led what has to be considered a very underrated defense. The Ducks lost a heart-breaker in the national championship game against Auburn 22-19, but this defense held Cam Newton and the Tigers to their second-lowest output of the year (17, Mississippi State). This team was one tackle or blocked kick away from winning the school’s first national championship.

Related: Top 10 Notre Dame Fighting Football Teams of All-Time
Related: Top 15 Alabama Crimson Tide Football Teams of All-Time

2. 2001 (11-1, 8-1)
Head Coach: Mike Bellotti

Led by Heisman Trophy finalist Joey Harrington, these Ducks rolled through the Pac-10 en route to the program's first outright conference championship since 1994 and just its second since 1957. A deep and talented offensive skill group — Maurice Morris, Onterrio Smith, Samie Parker — helped the Ducks defeat four ranked teams, including a 38-16 destruction of No. 3 Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl. In fact, if not for the national championship being played in Pasadena, Calif., this team likely would have captured Oregon's first Rose Bowl win since 1917. This offense scored 412 points, which was good for second all-time in school history at the time, and no Oregon team has finished higher in the final AP Poll than the ’01 squad (No. 2). A seven-point home shootout loss to a nine-win Stanford team was the only thing keeping this team from being the only unbeaten squad in Ducks history.

3. 2012 (12-1, 8-1)
Head Coach: Chip Kelly

Quarterbacked by Marcus Mariota, this Oregon team was never ranked outside of the AP's top 5. The offense also featured Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas and tied a school record for points scored with 645. The Ducks led the nation in turnover margin and destroyed five ranked teams en route to a tie for the best AP finish in school history (No. 2). A three-point overtime loss to Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champ Stanford not only kept the Ducks from winning the Pac-12 title, but also cost Oregon a chance at a second BCS National Championship game berth.

4. 2011 (12-2, 8-1)
Head Coach: Chip Kelly

A brutal neutral field loss to eventual SEC champ LSU in the season opener and bizarre home upset to USC were the only blemishes on the Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champions’ resume in ’11. This offense, led by Darron Thomas at quarterback and a three-headed monster at running back, set a school record for points scored with 645 (tied one year later). Wins over three ranked opponents, including No. 3 Stanford and No. 9 Wisconsin highlighted one of the best seasons in school history. One that ended with a No. 4 ranking in the final AP Poll, which is just one of four top-five finishes in program history.

5. 2000 (10-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Mike Bellotti

A preview of things to come the following year, the 2000 team played six ranked opponents (beating four) and finished seventh in the final AP poll. A three-way tie atop the Pac-10 with Washington (win) and Oregon State (loss), resulted in the Huskies going to Pasadena, Calif., to play in the Rose Bowl while the Ducks flew south to San Diego to play in the Holiday Bowl against Texas. Harrington, Morris and Parker showed flashes of brilliance in 2000 before taking their play to the next level the following season (see No. 2). This team was the first in school history to win 10 games in a single season.

6. 2009 (10-3, 8-1)
Head Coach: Chip Kelly

Chip Kelly took over for Mike Bellotti as a relative unknown and proved in one year he was the right guy for the job. His team led the league in scoring offense and rushing en route to the school’s first Rose Bowl berth since 1994. The season got started in bad fashion with the “Blount Punch” and a loss to Boise State but ended with a Pac-10 championship. This team faced six ranked opponents, going 4-2, and finished 11th in the final AP Poll. Jeremiah Masoli and LaMicheal James were virtually unstoppable in the backfield for Kelly’s first team.

7. 2005 (10-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Mike Bellotti

This team didn’t win the Pac-10 championship. It didn’t win its bowl game against Oklahoma. And it didn’t win any major awards or set any school records. But from a pure talent perspective, few Oregon teams can match the ’05 roster. A loss to No. 1 USC was the only regular season blemish and wins over ranked Fresno State, Arizona State and Cal dot the resume. The backfield featured Kellen Clemens and Dennis Dixon at quarterback with Jonathan Stewart, Terrence Whitehead and Jeremiah Johnson at running back. Demetrius Williams posted one of the greatest receiving years in school history and all-universe nose tackle Haloti Ngata spearheaded the defense. Depsite the loss to the Sooners to end the year, Oregon finished 12th in the final AP Poll.

8. 2008 (10-3, 7-2)
Head Coach: Mike Bellotti

Mike Bellotti’s final team was one of his best. The 2008 team had two 1,000-yard rushers in Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount as Jeremiah Masoli quarterbacked the first team to score 500 points in school history (545). Jeff Maehl, Terence Scott, Jaison Williams and Ed Dickson formed one of the best receiving corps in school history as well. But what made this team one of the best was the defense. In particular, the secondary was loaded with T.J. Ward, Jairus Bryd, Walter Thurmond III and Patrick Chung. This group went 2-1 against ranked opponents and finished the year as one of Oregon’s seven top-10 teams (AP No. 10).

9. 1994 (9-4, 7-1)
Head Coach: Rich Brooks

After decades of turmoil, Rich Brooks finally broke through with the school’s first conference championship in nearly 40 years. Non-conference losses to Hawaii and Utah early in the year were quickly turned into a 7-1 Pac-10 record — including wins over a ranked USC, Washington and Arizona. Danny O’Niel, Dino Philyaw and Ricky Whittle led the offense that returned Oregon to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1958.

10a. 1948: (9-2, 7-0)
Head Coach: Jim Aiken

Strangely, this Pacific Coast Conference co-champion team played seven of 11 games on the road but didn’t lose a game in league play. It finished No. 9 in the final AP Poll, which was the first and only top-10 finish for Oregon until the 2000 team finished seventh. The defense allowed just 9.4 points per game.

10b. 1957 (7-4, 6-2)
Head Coach: Len Casanova

It didn’t wow in the statistical or win-loss categories but this is one of just four teams in school history to play in the Rose Bowl. This team is also the only Ducks team to win a conference championship (PCC) between 1950 and 1993. It went 2-2 against four ranked opponents, including a narrow 10-7 loss to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Oregon lost all four games by a grand total of 16 points and had three three-point losses.

The best of the rest:

1999 (9-3) Head Coach: Mike Bellotti
1998 (8-4) Head Coach: Mike Bellotti
2007 (9-4) Head Coach: Mike Bellotti
1995 (9-3) Head Coach: Mike Bellotti
1959 (8-2) Head Coach: Len Casanova

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Post date: Friday, May 31, 2013 - 08:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/bret-bielema-and-tim-brewster-trade-jabs-over-twitter

Bret Bielema is one of the most active college football coaches on Twitter, and the newly-appointed Arkansas coach isn’t afraid to back down from anyone on social media. Whether it’s opposing fans or coaches, Bielema has provided plenty of memorable tweets this offseason.

The first-year Arkansas coach continued to provide college football fans with offseason entertainment by trading jabs with Florida State assistant Tim Brewster on Thursday night.   

And make no mistake: These two coaches aren’t friends. Bielema and Brewster have a history, dating back to 2010 and a disagreement over a two-point conversion. Despite a 25-point lead in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin went for two when Brewster was the head coach at Minnesota, drawing the ire of the Golden Gophers’ coaching staff.

Just like Bielema, Brewster isn't afraid to promote his program on Twitter, as he works as an assistant under Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. And Brewster started the back-and-forth with a notice that the Seminoles weren't afraid to play anyone in the SEC. Of course, this could have something to do with the fact Georgia and Florida State were rumored to be scheduling a game for 2016, but it appears that matchup won't happen.


So Bielema responded...

And here's what Brewster had to say in return:


And Bielema caps it off with a clear message it's not about Florida State and more about Brewster. 

So there you have it. Bielema isn't afraid to throw a few jabs in Brewster's direction, and the Florida State assistant is going to continue to promote his program. And for both coaches, this style should work well at their respective schools. Brewster is regarded as one of college football's top recruiters and isn't afraid to get his message out via Twitter. For Bielema, he needs to promote his program as much as possible, especially since he's trying to create a new identity for Arkansas in his first year.

Needless to say, a Florida State-Arkansas meeting in a bowl game sometime in the near future (assuming both coaches are in their current positions) would be an entertaining possibility. 

Just another day in college football's long offseason. 

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<p> Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Florida State's Tim Brewster Trade Jabs Over Twitter</p>
Post date: Friday, May 31, 2013 - 08:25
Path: /college-football/9-college-football-teams-may-struggle-early

Yesterday, we looked at nine teams that could get off to quick starts thanks to manageable schedules in September and early October. Today, we’ll look at the other side.

These nine teams could have rough starts in 2013 thanks to difficult early season schedules.


ARIZONA STATE (Team Preview)
Sept. 5 Sacramento State (6-5, 5-4 Big Sky)
Sept. 14 Wisconsin (8-6, 5-4 Big Ten)
Sept. 21 at Stanford (12-2, 8-1 Pac-12)
Sept. 28 USC (7-6, 5-4 Pac-12)
Oct. 5 Notre Dame (Arlington) (12-1)

Arizona State had a top-25 offense last season, but the Sun Devils will face three top-20 defenses in the first five games (Wisconsin, Stanford and Notre Dame). Arizona State’s eight returning starters on defense also will be tested early, first by Wisconsin’s and Stanford’s physical run games, then by USC’s Marqise Lee. So if you’re keeping track, Arizona State will face the defending Pac-12 champion, the defending Big Ten champion and the BCS runner-up. And even Sacramento State defeated Colorado in Boulder last year.

Related: Athlon Sports preseason top 25 countdown

Aug. 31 Northwestern (10-3, 5-3 Big Ten)
Sept. 7 Portland State (3-8, 2-6 Big Sky)
Sept. 14 Ohio State (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten)
Sept. 28 at Oregon (12-1, 8-1 Pac-12)

Sonny Dykes won’t have time to ease into his new gig at Cal. Oregon and Ohio State open the season in Athlon’s top three while Northwestern was ranked 24th. The Bears ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in total defense last season, so expect Kain Colter, Marcus Mariota and Braxton Miller to put up numbers. At least there’s Portland State to break up the misery.

Aug. 30 at Miami (7-5, 5-3 ACC)
Sept. 5 at East Carolina (8-5, 7-1 Conference USA)
Sept. 14 at USF (3-9, 1-6 Big East)
Sept. 21 Middle Tennessee (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt)
Sept. 28 at Rice (7-6, 4-4 Conference USA)

FAU won’t see much of the stadium the Owls opened a few years ago. They start the season with three road games and only play in Boca Raton twice before November.

GEORGIA (Team Preview)
Aug. 31 at Clemson (11-2, 7-1 ACC)
Sept. 7 South Carolina (11-2, 6-2 SEC)
Sept. 21 North Texas (4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt)
Sept. 28 LSU (10-3, 6-2 SEC)

Georgia is Athlon’s pick to win the SEC East, but a 1-3 start is possible against Heisman contenders in the first two weeks of the season (Tajh Boyd and Jadeveon Clowney). If there’s a good time to face LSU, however, it may be early in the season as the Tigers find their legs on a rebuilding defense.

Aug. 29 USC (7-6, 5-3 Pac-12)
Sept. 7 at Oregon State (9-4, 6-3 Pac-12)
Sept. 21 at Nevada (7-6, 4-4 Mountain West)
Sept. 28 Fresno State (9-4, 7-1 Mountain West)
Oct. 5 San Jose State (11-2, 5-1 WAC)

Hawaii brought back the Rainbow Warriors nickname, a nickname that was nixed by June Jones. Hawaii has also gone back to pre-June Jones results. This opening schedule won’t help.

Aug. 29 at Vanderbilt (9-4, 5-3 SEC)
Sept. 7 Southeast Missouri State (3-8, 2-6 OVC)
Sept. 14 at Texas (9-4, 5-3 Big 12)
Sept. 28 at Alabama (13-1, 8-1 SEC)
Oct. 5 at Auburn (3-9, 0-8 SEC)
Oct. 12 Texas A&M (11-2, 6-2 SEC)
Oct. 19 LSU (10-3, 6-2 SEC)

Ole Miss won the Egg Bowl, won a bowl game and brought in a top-10 signing class. Still, maybe we should tap the brakes on the Rebels for now. The opening part of the schedule is brutal with four road games in the first five. We know about Alabama’s dominance and Vanderbilt’s resurgence, but don’t forget Texas defeated Ole Miss 66-31 last season. Welcoming Ole Miss back to Oxford are Texas A&M and LSU.

Aug. 30 Texas Tech (8-5, 4-5 Big 12)
Sept. 7 Montana State (11-2, 7-1 Big Sky)
Sept. 21 at Texas A&M (11-2, 6-2 SEC)
Sept. 28 at TCU (7-6, 4-5 Big 12)
Oct. 5 Rutgers (9-4, 5-2 Big East)

Before SMU begins play in the American Athletic Conference, the Mustangs will take a quick tour of its former Southwest Conference foes. SMU will have a tough time getting through Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU (the latter two on the road) with a win. Even SMU’s FCS opponent, Montana State, is expected to contend for that division’s title.

Aug. 31 Texas State (4-8, 2-4 WAC)
Sept. 7 at Nebraska (10-4, 7-2 Big Ten)
Sept. 14 at Arkansas (4-8, 2-6 SEC)
Sept. 28 at Boise State (11-2, 7-1 Mountain West)

After going 0-12 last season, Southern Miss probably needs to defeat Texas State in the opener to avoid extending its losing streak to 16 games. The game against Nebraska originally was scheduled to be in Hattiesburg but moved to Lincoln when Southern Miss needed the cash to buy out coach Ellis Johnson after one season.

Aug. 29 at Utah (5-7, 3-6 Pac-12)
Sept. 7 at Air Force (6-7, 5-3 Mountain West)
Sept. 14 Weber State (2-9, 2-6 Big Sky)
Sept. 21 at USC (7-6, 5-4 Pac-12)
Sept. 27 at San Jose State (11-2, 5-1 WAC)
Oct. 4 BYU (8-5)
Oct. 12 Boise State (11-2, 7-1 Mountain West)

Utah State enjoyed its best season in school history last season. Building momentum into 2013 may be tough with four of the first five games on the road. Before the Aggies play the first home Mountain West game -- against Boise State, no less -- Utah State will face two conference teams on the road (Air Force, San Jose State), two Pac-12 teams on the road (Utah and USC) and two in-state rivals (at Utah, BYU).

<p> Tough early schedules could trip up these teams in September</p>
Post date: Friday, May 31, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /college-football/college-football-2013-preseason-rankings-61-80

The start of the 2013 college football season is still a few months away. However, Athlon Sports is already counting down the teams for the upcoming year.

Alabama is Athlon’s pick to win the national championship, with Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes expected to finish No. 2 nationally.

While there is always plenty of intrigue in filling out the top 25, No. 26-40 features a handful of teams that just missed. And 41-60 showcases plenty of teams fighting to move up college football's food chain or improve after a disappointing season. 

But it's a different story in the No. 61-80 range.

Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia all make an appearance in this range, as all three look to improve off disappointing 2012 seasons. For other teams - San Jose State, San Diego State and UL Lafayette - climbing this high in 2013 rankings shows all three could be among the top non-BCS teams in college football for this season.

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2013, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, beginning with No. 26-4041-60 and 61-80

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2013 season

College Football 2013 Team Rankings: 61-80

61. Minnesota
They haven’t won a Big Ten title in 46 years, haven’t been to the Rose Bowl in more than half a century. Yet Minnesota’s long-suffering fans fervently believe that history is finally on their side. Not their own history. Their coach’s.

Jerry Kill’s records during his first three seasons at Southern Illinois were 1–10, 4–8 and 10–2, the latter commencing a streak of seven straight I-AA playoff appearances. Kill’s records during his three seasons at Northern Illinois were 6–7, 7–6 and 10–3, and he left behind the nucleus of a team that reached the Orange Bowl last January.

Kill has the Gophers on a similar trajectory so far, going 3–9 and 6–7 his first two seasons. The Gophers were noticeably improved last year, particularly on defense, and though they remain overmatched against the Big Ten’s elite, they still managed to qualify for a minor bowl game. So after two seasons of what he describes as “baby steps,” can Kill take a giant leap forward once again?

“You’ve got to have high expectations,” says Tracy Claeys, Kill’s defensive coordinator at every stop.

2013 Minnesota Golden Gophers Team Preview

62. Virginia
A six-game losing streak and 4–8 finish sapped the momentum coach Mike London had built over the previous two years. The overhaul of his staff smacked, if not of desperation, then clearly of a need for stronger direction and identity.

London has recruited well but has been criticized for his game management and lack of a consistent vision. His new hires have a combined 135 years of coaching experience. It feels a bit like a new start. Entering his fourth year, it’s probably the last one London will get.

2013 Virginia Cavaliers Team Preview

63. San Jose State
Ron Caragher has some big shoes to fill, taking over a Spartans squad that went 11–2 under Mike MacIntyre, who then bolted for Colorado. The 11 wins were the most by a San Jose State football team since 1940.

Still, with a top-notch quarterback in David Fales, an outstanding group of wide receivers and key returnees at several other spots, the Spartans figure to be very competitive in their first year in the Mountain West. The schedule, which features non-conference games against Pac-12 heavyweight Stanford, Navy and a road date at improving Minnesota of the Big Ten, is a tough one. One break for the Spartans is that they skip Boise State in conference play.

2013 San Jose State Spartans Team Preview

64. San Diego State
San Diego State has appeared in three consecutive bowl games for the first time in its history. And with the school finally deciding to remain in the Mountain West and rather than depart for the Big East, the opportunity is there for the program to position itself as the second-best program in the conference behind Boise State. Winning a share of the Mountain West crown last season earned coach Rocky Long a two-year contract extension through the 2017 season, and the belief is that bowl bids will continue to be the norm.

The Aztecs will again have a strong defense this season and one of the top running backs in the West in Adam Muema. If Adam Dingwell can again avoid mistakes, and one or two receivers can emerge as a consistent threat, San Diego State will again battle for the conference crown. Regardless, a fourth straight bowl appearance would seem to be well within reach.

2013 San Diego State Aztecs Team Preview

65. Kentucky
Mark Stoops has made all the right moves. He’s reinvigorated the fan base (season ticket sales are way up), signed the program’s highest-rated recruiting class in at least a dozen years, vowed to fix the defense and installed a (theoretically) high-powered offense. But he knows the roster, which got the last guy fired, leaves a lot to be desired. There’s also the matter of the schedule, which at one point features Louisville, Florida, at South Carolina, Alabama all in a row. Anything above five wins would constitute magic.

2013 Kentucky Wildcats Team Preview

66. UL Lafayette
The Cajuns led the Sun Belt in scoring last season (35.5 ppg) and could be even better offensively this year. They will need to be, since ULL’s defense ranged from mediocre to bad in 2012. Coach Mark Hudspeth is confident that the new scheme will solve some of his team’s defensive issues. Still, it’s clear that the Cajuns will have to score a bunch of points to win games this season — something they are more than capable of doing. The school’s first Sun Belt title since 2005 is well within reach.

2013 UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns Team Preview

67. Navy
Navy has displayed remarkable consistency over the last decade, posting winning records in nine of 10 seasons and capturing the coveted Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy eight times during that span. However, such sustained success has not come easy — the Midshipmen played in 56 games that were decided by eight points or less from 2002-12.

Navy owns a 32–24 record in such games during that span, which is a major reason why it played in nine bowl games during the most successful period in program history. That ability to win the close ones will be key again this season against a rigorous schedule that features seven schools that went to bowl games in 2012.

Navy has an agreement to appear in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas if it posts a winning record. 

2013 Navy Midshipmen Team Preview

68. Washington State
Leach arrived in Pullman last year with warranted fanfare. The new Washington State coach had led Texas Tech to 10 bowl games. But Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense sputtered.

The season was marked with big losses and a controversy involving WSU’s all-time leading receiver, Marquess Wilson, who left the team in November after claiming verbal, mental and physical abuse by the coaching staff. That prompted Washington State and Pac-12 investigations, which cleared the staff of any wrongdoing.

Most Cougar fans support Leach’s disciplined approach, believing that a culture change was necessary after Washington State went 9–40 during the previous four seasons under Paul Wulff.

From all indications, players know what to expect from Leach now. They’re all on board, pulling in the same direction. That is a good start, but the Cougars still have work to do. They should be improved, but it would be a bit of a surprise if they flirted with a .500 record. 

2013 Washington State Cougars Team Preview

69. Iowa
Kirk Ferentz enters his 15th season as the Iowa coach with his once-proud legacy now hanging in the balance. The Hawkeyes closed the 2012 season with six consecutive defeats en route to a 4–8 record, their worst since 2000.

While there are some bright spots — the running game should be solid and there is decent talent on the defense — it’s tough to envision a big turnaround in 2013. With questions at quarterback and receiver, and a much tougher schedule — Ohio State and Wisconsin replace Indiana and Penn State — the Hawkeyes appear headed toward a second straight losing season.

2013 Iowa Hawkeyes Team Preview

70. Wake Forest
This is a crucial season for the program. Coach Jim Grobe hasn’t had a winning record since the 2006-08 bowl streak, and last year was filled with problems, including uncharacteristic off-the-field issues. This year’s team fits Grobe’s formula, though, relying on at least 14 seniors to play key roles. He loves the redshirt freshmen challenging for spots and admits that a better attitude surrounds the program. “You can sense that there’s a lot of guys who like to play football,” he says. “That’s maybe something we’ve missed for a little while. We haven’t quite had that spark that makes you feel that everybody’s loving it.”

2013 Wake Forest Team Preview

71. South Florida
“Do something.’’ It’s the mantra of coach Willie Taggart — and it’s appropriate for a South Florida program that hasn’t done nearly enough in recent seasons. The Bulls, picked for second place in last season’s Big East poll, were 3–9 and 1–6 in the league. Skip Holtz was fired after losing 14 of his last 16 conference games.

The Bulls, in the retooled American Athletic Conference, just need to do something, as Taggart might say. The recruiting and energy level already have picked up considerably. A winning record and a bowl-game appearance — not seen at South Florida since 2010 — are achievable steps in the right direction.

2013 South Florida Team Preview

72. Marshall
This looks like a team that can win the reconfigured and depleted Conference USA. Quarterback Rakeem Cato has a shot to be the league’s best player again, and the offense should be able to put up big points if the outside receivers can be productive and stretch defenses away from receiver Tommy Shuler and tight end Gator Hoskins.

Defensively, the unit is more experienced and has a new coordinator, so there is at least hope it can hold up its end of the bargain one year after surrendering over 50 points five times.

With UCF off to the Big East and the game with East Carolina at home, the East Division title is certainly within reach for the Herd.

2013 Marshall Thundering Herd Team Preview

73. Duke
The good news is that the 2012 Duke season was not a flash in the pan. If anything, the 2013 team has more experience and more talent across the board. But there are still issues that need to be addressed — run defense, anyone? — and there is the fact that the rest of the ACC has improved right alongside the Blue Devils. 

Duke is certainly capable of running the table with its non-conference schedule, and there are several winnable ACC games out there — Pittsburgh at home on Sept. 21 comes to mind — but Duke doesn’t have much margin for error if it wants to reach a bowl game for the second straight season. 

2013 Duke Blue Devils Team Preview

74. Ball State
For the first time in school history, Ball State knocked off back-to-back BCS conference foes (Indiana and South Florida) last year. That’s a sign of where the Cardinals are headed. If the defense takes a step forward and the new specialists hold their own, Ball State will challenge for MAC West supremacy.

2013 Ball State Cardinals Team Preview

75. Syracuse
With Doug Marrone guiding the 2012 team to a 6–1 finish, the stage was set for a smooth transition to the ACC. Marrone’s departure clouded the optimism. That noted, new coach Scott Shafer was part of Marrone’s staff and understands the program and personnel well. He knows the onus will shift from the offense to defense and special teams this season. The ability of those units to offset the inexperience on offense holds the key to SU’s season.

2013 Syracuse Orange Team Preview

76. Nevada
A new regime makes Nevada tough to predict. The offense should still be formidable, and the Wolf Pack’s porous defense could be improved. But with a brutal road schedule that includes trips to UCLA, Florida State, Boise State, Fresno State and San Diego State, even a modest defensive improvement might not be enough for the Wolf Pack to return to a bowl for a ninth consecutive season.

2013 Nevada Wolf Pack Team Preview

77. East Carolina
Quarterback Shane Carden seems primed for another big year in coordinator Lincoln Riley’s spread offense. Receiver Justin Hardy is a dynamic, game-changing player, and NFL scouts are drooling over Justin Jones, who could bust out big this season.

The question marks are on defense, where new coordinator Rick Smith begins his second tour of duty at East Carolina. He was the school’s defensive backs coach from 2005-09 and has 32 years of experience. If he can shore up the pass defense, East Carolina will be in position to earn its seventh bowl bid in the last eight years and contend for the Conference USA East Division title. 

2013 East Carolina Pirates Team Preview

78. Purdue
Coach Darrell Hazell and his staff weren’t left with an abundance of talent, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. The non-conference schedule is difficult with home games against Notre Dame and Northern Illinois in addition to the trip to Cincinnati.  We’ll get an idea if Purdue has a chance to be any kind of factor in the Big Ten when it plays its conference opener at Wisconsin on Sept. 21. A winning record equals a successful season. Make that very successful.

2013 Purdue Boilermakers Team Preview

79. Toledo
Toledo has a 26–13 record overall and 20–4 mark in the MAC over the past three seasons with three straight bowl appearances. The only thing missing is a conference title, something this program has not won since 2004.

The offense is loaded, with four all-conference players back, plus a veteran quarterback in Terrance Owens. The Rockets, however, might have to overwhelm the opposition to reach a championship. The strength of the defense remains in doubt, following the loss of Dan Molls, the nation’s leading tackler in 2012, and eight other starters.

Second-year coach Matt Campbell contends he has the talent on hand to finally conquer the MAC West Division, but his defense will need to show up early and often for that to happen.

2013 Toledo Rockets Team Preview

80. UL Monroe
Injuries to arguably ULM’s top six players derailed last season’s Sun Belt title hopes. The Warhawks still played in their first FBS bowl, but that ended with a surprisingly lopsided 45–14 loss to Ohio in the Independence Bowl.

This season represents the best shot at a conference crown for coach Todd Berry and quarterback Kolton Browning, who guided the program to its best season in two decades of FBS competition in 2012.

“I think this group is hungry. They are not arrogant, but there is a little more swagger than before,” says Berry, who received a new four-year contract in the offseason. “We had to get through some injuries, and we did not end last year like we wanted. So our team doesn’t like how people are talking about them. But those injuries forced other guys to play a lot, and that’s led us to where we are now.”

The Warhawks have pivotal home conference games against Western Kentucky and Arkansas State, both bowl teams a year ago, and a season-ending trip to rival UL Lafayette that could have conference title implications. 

2013 ULM Warhawks Team Preview

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<p> College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 61-80</p>
Post date: Friday, May 31, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /college-basketball/2013-14-college-basketball-big-east-early-rankings

The Big East will be a new league with an old name. One of the big storylines for the 2013-14 season will be the new Big East, an amalgam of the so-called Catholic 7, two Atlantic 10 teams and one Missouri Valley powerhouse.

At first look, the new Big East appears to be as competitive from top to bottom, other than perhaps DePaul and Seton Hall, as any league. The return of Doug McDermott to Creighton gives the league instant star power in a season in which the two likely favorites -- Marquette and Georgetown -- lost their top players to the draft.

In the middle of the league, Big East charter members St. John’s and Providence are gearing up for returns to the NCAA Tournament. Traditional Atlantic 10 power Xavier could say the same.

Here’s a quick look at the Big East and early rankings for 2013-14.

Other conference snapshots:
Big Ten
Big 12 (June 6)
Pac-12 (June 11)
Mountain West, A-10, MVC and others (June 13)

1. MARQUETTE (26-9, 14-4 Big East, NCAA Elite Eight)
Key players gone: Vander Blue, Junior Cadougan, Trent Lockett
Top returners: Juan Anderson, Davante Gardner, Chris Otule, Jamil Wilson
New faces: Deonte Burton (freshman), JaJuan Johnson (freshman), Jameel McKay (junior college), Duane Wilson (freshman)
Vander Blue’s departure hurts and likely knocks Marquette out of the preseason top 10. Gardner (11.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and Jamil Wilson (9.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg) still give Buzz Williams veterans to work with in 2013-14. In addition to the returners, Marquette may have a new point guard (Wilson) and two major freshmen in Johnson and Burton.

Related: Realignment tracker for all college basketball moves

2. GEORGETOWN (25-7, 14-4 Big East, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Otto Porter
Top returners: Mikael Hopkins, Nate Lubick, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Markel Starks, Jabril Trawick, Greg Whittington
New faces: Josh Smith (transfer from UCLA)
The Hoyas won a share of the Big East title without a senior last season, so that’s the good news. The bad news is that the Hoyas’ centerpiece, Porter, is gone. Georgetown will return a healthy Whittington, who averaged 12.1 points and seven rebounds in 13 games last season. The Hoyas would love for Smith-Rivera to continue the momentum of the second half of last season into his sophomore year.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: Big Ten

3. CREIGHTON (28-8, 13-5 Missouri Valley, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: Greg Echenique, Grant Gibbs
Top returners: Austin Chatman, Jahenns Manigat, Doug McDermott, Ethan Wragge
Creighton received a nice surprise when McDermott elected to return for his senior season, and now the Bluejays hope to get another. Guard Grant Gibbs is seeking a sixth season of eligibility. McDermott alone makes Creighton a possible NCAA Tournament team. Gibbs’ return may make Creighton a Big East title contender.

4. BUTLER (27-9, 11-5 Atlantic 10, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: Rotnei Clarke, Andrew Smith
Top returners: Alex Barlow, Kellen Dunham, Erik Fromm, Roosevelt Jones, Kyle Marshall, Kameron Woods
The top two scorers are gone in Clarke and Smith, but Butler should have the players to keep the Bulldogs in NCAA contention. Jones, Marshall and Dunham all averaged at least 9.5 points per game. Expect more from Dunham, a 6-6 guard who was Butler’s top recruit in 2012. His minutes dwindled late in his rookie year, but Butler needs more in 2013-14. It's worth noting the Bulldogs are in their third conference in three seasons.

Related: Butler among top recruiting classes since 2000

5. ST. JOHN’S (17-16, 8-10 Big East, NIT second round)
Key players gone: Amir Garrett
Top returners: Jamal Branch, Phil Greene IV, D’Angelo Harrison, Chris Obekpa, Sir’Dominic Pointer, JaKarr Sampson
New faces: God’sgift Achiuwa (redshirt), Max Hooper (transfer from Harvard), Rysheed Jordan (freshman), Orlando Sanchez (redshirt)
The Red Storm are poised for a rebound after missing the NCAA Tournament last season. Sampson averaged a quiet 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds last season. He’ll make up an imposing frontcourt with Achiuwa, who redshirted last season, and Obekpa, who averaged four blocks per game. Jordan was one of the nation’s top high school point guards.

6. VILLANOVA (20-14, 10-8 Big East, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone:
Achraf Yacoubou, Mouphtaou Yarou
Top returners: Ryan Arcidiacono, Darrun Hilliard, Daniel Ochefu, JayVaughn Pinkston
New faces: Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins (freshmen)
Besides Yarou, freshmen and sophomores carried Villanova back into the NCAA Tournament last season. The Wildcats will look to Arcidiacono (11.9 ppg, 3.5 apg) to carry the mantle for Point Guard U.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: SEC

7. XAVIER (17-14, 9-7 Atlantic 10)
Key players gone: Travis Taylor, Brad Redford, Jeff Robinson
Top returners: Semaj Christon, Dee Davis, Justin Martin, Isaiah Philmore
New faces: Brandon Randolph (freshman), Matt Stainbrook (transfer from Western Michigan)
Three of Xavier’s top four scorers last season were freshmen or sophomores for a team that started to look like an NCAA Tournament team in February. Christon (15.2 ppg, 4.6 apg) is a rising star in the backcourt, and he’ll get some help up front with the transfer of Stainbrook, a 6-10 center who averaged 11.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in his final season at Western Michigan.

8. PROVIDENCE (19-15, 9-9 Big East, NIT quarterfinal)
Key players gone: Vincent Council, Ricky Ledo
Top returners: Kadeem Batts, Bryce Cotton, Kris Dunn, LaDontae Henton
New faces: Brandon Austin (freshman), Rodney Bullock (freshman), Carson Desrosiers (transfer from Wake Forest), Tyler Harris (transfer from NC State)
Providence had four wins over NCAA-bound Big East teams last season, so the Friars are looking to get over the hump in 2013-14. Cotton led the Big East in scoring last season (19.7 ppg), leading Providence’s three double-digit scorers returning. The Friars never got a game out of the highly touted prospect Ledo, but he’s replaced by Philadelphia wing Austin.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: American

9. SETON HALL (15-18, 3-15 Big East)
Key players gone: Aaron Cosby, Freddie Wilson
Top returners: Fuquan Edwin, Tom Maayan, Brandon Mobley, Brandon Oliver, Gene Teague
New faces: Jaren Sina (freshman), Sterling Gibbs (transfer from Texas)
Seton Hall took a major step back last season, dropping from 8-10 to 3-15 in the Big East. Seniors Edwin (16.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Teague (11.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg) return, but Cosby (12.6 rpg, 2.5 apg) elected to transfer. The Pirates will hope the freshman Sina is the answer at point guard.

10. DePAUL (11-21, 2-16 Big East)
Key players gone: Worrel Clahar, Donnavan Kirk, Moses Morgan
Top returners: Jamee Crockett, Charles McKinney, Cleveland Melvin, Brandon Young
New faces: Billy Garrett (freshman), Sandi Marcius (transfer from Purdue)
Maybe this new version of the Big East will be friendlier to DePaul than the last one. The top three scorers from last season return, led by Young (16.7 ppg) and Melvin (16.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg). DePaul will need six newcomers -- three freshmen, two jucos and a Division I transfer -- to perform better than the five players who left the program, chief among them Kirk and Morgan. Garrett is a local four-star point guard, and the 6-9 Marcius was a role player for Purdue.

<p> Who's gone and who's back in the American Athletic Conference for 2013-14</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 11:15
Path: /college-football/college-football-teams-ready-for-hot-starts

Much of college football success and failure is based on who you play and where you play them. As we get closer to the first games of the 2012 season -- hey, we crossed the 100-day mark last week -- Athlon Sports looks at the teams that have good chances to surprise us early on.

By the end of September, we may look at the following nine teams surprised to see them 4-0, 5-0 or better. The schedule may have something to do with that.


Aug. 29 Illinois State (9-4, 5-3 MVC)
Sept. 7 Army (2-10)
Sept. 14 at North Texas (4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt)
Sept. 21 at Eastern Michigan (2-10, 1-7 MAC)

Back-to-back road games in September aren’t ideal, but Ball State should be able to handle North Texas and Eastern Michigan after defeating Indiana and USF in consecutive weeks last season. A 4-0 start seems likely for Ball State before the Cardinals try to take charge in the MAC West against Toledo on Sept. 28.

Aug. 31 Wofford (9-4, 6-2 Southern)
Sept. 7 Buffalo (4-8, 3-5 MAC)
Sept. 21 ULM (8-5, 6-2 Sun Belt)
Oct. 5 West Virginia (7-6, 4-5 Big 12)
Oct. 12 at Kansas State (11-2, 8-1 Big 12)
Oct. 19 Iowa State (6-7, 3-6 Big 12)
Oct. 26 at Kansas (1-11, 0-9 Big 12)

Like many teams in the Big 12, Baylor has a handful of questions on offense, starting at quarterback and offensive line. With two off weeks in September, the Bears will have time to work things out early, however. Baylor should have little trouble with Wofford and Buffalo. ULM’s Kolton Browning gave the Bears all they could handle last season, but he’s probably the best quarterback the Baylor defense will see until November. Kansas State is a tough road trip, but the Wildcats are re-tooling without Collin Klein.

Aug. 29 Indiana State (7-4, 5-3 MVC)
Sept. 7 Navy (8-5)
Sept. 14 Bowling Green (8-5, 6-2 MAC)
Sept. 21 Missouri (5-7, 2-6 SEC)

Indiana will find out in the first four weeks if it is bowl material in Kevin Wilson’s third season. The first three opponents all had winning records last season and the fourth is from the SEC, but all four games are in Bloomington. Indiana’s lackluster defense will learn where it stands when it faces three FBS teams ranked 60th or lower in yards per play last season -- Navy (61st), Bowling Green (87th) and Missouri (107th). Indiana needs to pile up wins early because the October slate features Penn State and road trips to Michigan State and Michigan.

Sept. 7 South Dakota (1-10, 0-8 MVC)
Sept. 14 at Rice (7-6, 4-4 Conference USA)
Sept. 21 Louisiana Tech (9-3, 4-2 WAC)

A bad FCS team, a middle-of-the-road Conference USA team and a squad with five returning starters and a new coach should be easy work for most teams. Maybe not for Kansas, which lost to Rice at home last season. If Kansas is going to end a 21-game losing streak to FBS teams, September would be the most likely time for that to happen before facing Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor in October.

Aug. 31 at NC State (7-6, 4-4 ACC)
Sept. 7 Lamar (4-8, 1-6 Southland)
Sept. 12 Tulane (2-10, 2-6 Conference USA)
Sept. 21 at Kansas (1-11, 0-9 Big 12)
Sept. 28 Army (Dallas) (2-10)
Oct. 5 at UTEP (3-9, 2-6 Conference USA)
Oct. 19 North Texas (4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt)
Oct. 26 at FIU (3-9, 2-6 Sun Belt)
Nov. 9 Southern Miss (0-12, 0-8 Conference USA)

A road win over NC State may be too much to expect for a Louisiana Tech team with one returning starter on offense, but Skip Holtz could still have a nice start as the Bulldogs coach. After NC State, Louisiana Tech’s next eight opponents went a combined 19-77 in 2012. After the Aug. 31 opener, Louisiana Tech won’t play another team with a winning record until Nov. 16 at Rice (7-6).

LOUISVILLE (Team Preview)
Sept. 1 Ohio (9-4, 4-4 MAC)
Sept. 7 Eastern Kentucky (8-3, 6-2 OVC)
Sept. 14 Kentucky (2-10, 0-8 SEC)
Sept. 21 FIU (3-9, 2-6 Sun Belt)
Oct. 5 at Temple (4-7, 2-5 Big East)

The MAC played the role of spoiler against the Big East last season (Kent State over Rutgers, Toledo over Cincinnati, Western Michigan over Connecticut). Ohio returns quarterback Tyler Tettleton and running back Beau Blankenship from the team that upset Penn State last season, so Louisville should be on alert. That said, if the Cardinals are indeed a top-10 team in 2013, they shouldn’t have much trouble with the first five games. After that, Louisville faces American Athletic Conference contender Rutgers on only five days rest on a Thursday night game on Oct. 10.

Aug. 29 UNLV (2-11, 2-6 Mountain West)
Sept. 7 at New Mexico State (1-11, 0-5 WAC)
Sept. 14 Western Illinois (3-8, 1-7 MVC)
Sept. 21 San Jose State (11-2, 5-1 WAC)
Sept. 28 Iowa (4-8, 2-6 Big Ten)

The third season has been the turning point for Jerry Kill’s teams at Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois. If that’s the case at Minnesota, the Gophers could be able to reel off four or five wins before hitting the meat of their Big Ten schedule. On paper, this should be a manageable start for the Gophers despite past close calls against these early season opponents. UNLV took Minnesota to three overtimes in Vegas to start last season, and New Mexico State upset the Gophers in Minneapolis in 2011. The biggest stumbling block in the first five games may be San Jose State and NFL quarterback prospect David Fales.

Aug. 31 Murray State (5-6, 4-4 OVC)
Sept. 7 Toledo (9-4, 6-2 MAC)
Sept. 21 at Indiana (4-8, 2-6 Big Ten)
Sept. 28 Arkansas State (10-3, 7-1 Sun Belt)

Missouri’s defense will be tested against Toledo and Indiana, and although Arkansas State won 10 games last season, the Red Wolves lost quarterback Ryan Aplin from last season. Missouri will need to rack up wins early if the Tigers are going to reach a bowl. Missouri’s October slate includes Vanderbilt and Georgia on the road, plus Florida and South Carolina. Lose early, and Missouri's in big trouble.

Aug. 29 at Hawaii (3-9, 1-7 Mountain West)
Sept. 7 Washington State (3-9, 1-8 Pac-12)
Sept. 14 Boston College (2-10, 1-7 Pac-12)
Sept. 21 Utah State (11-2, 6-0 WAC)

The toughest matchup in USC’s first four is against a Utah State team with 14 returning starters by a first-time head coach. The opener could get ugly as there no love lost between Hawaii coach Norm Chow and Lane Kiffin stemming from their days on Pete Carroll’s staff. Even a USC team with a new quarterback has a significant talent edge over the first four teams on the schedule. USC finishes September with a road trip to Arizona State, Athlon’s pick to win the Pac-12 South.

On the other side of the coin, some teams will raise expectations early in the season, but by late October and into November, we may wonder what went wrong.

Simply put, maybe the schedule got a little tougher.

Here are nine teams that had better be ready for a tough finish to the season.


Nov. 7 Oklahoma (10-3, 8-1 Big 12)
Nov. 16 Texas Tech (Arlington) (8-5, 4-5 Big 12)
Nov. 23 at Oklahoma State (8-5, 5-4 Big 12)
Nov. 30 at TCU (7-6, 4-5 Big 12)
Dec. 7 Texas (9-4, 5-4 Big 12)

Baylor makes up for its manageable early schedule by facing Athlon’s top four Big 12 teams in the final five games, including back-to-back road against against Oklahoma State and TCU. Texas Tech isn’t a pushover, either. Baylor has won the last two meetings against Texas Tech in Arlington, but those two games have featured a grand total of 205 points.

FLORIDA (Team Preview)
Nov. 2 Georgia (Jacksonville) (12-2, 7-1 SEC)
Nov. 9 Vanderbilt (9-4, 5-3 SEC)
Nov. 16 at South Carolina (11-2, 6-2 SEC)
Nov. 23 Georgia Southern (10-4, 6-2 Southern)
Nov. 30 Florida State (12-2, 7-1 ACC)

November is the make-or-break month for Florida’s SEC East hopes with Georgia in Jacksonville and South Carolina in Columbia. Florida’s November opponents, including Georgia Southern, went a combined 54-14 last season. Meanwhile, South Carolina won’t play on the road in November, and Georgia draws Auburn and Kentucky in its SEC slate that month.

Oct. 19 at Ohio State (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten)
Oct. 26 Northwestern (10-3, 5-3 Big Ten)
Nov. 2 Wisconsin (8-6, 4-4 Big Ten)
Nov. 9 at Purdue (6-7, 3-5 Big Ten)
Nov. 23 Michigan (8-5, 6-2 Big Ten)
Nov. 29 at Nebraska (10-4, 7-1 Big Ten)

Iowa’s win total has decreased from 11 to eight to seven to four in the last four seasons. The Hawkeyes will have trouble ending that slide against in the final six games of the season. Five teams in that span are in the Athlon preseason top 25 (Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Northwestern). The exception is a road trip to Purdue. Iowa went 0-4 against those six teams last season, dodging games against Ohio State and Wisconsin.

MICHIGAN (Team Preview)
Nov. 2 at Michigan State (7-6, 3-5 Big Ten)
Nov. 9 Nebraska (10-4, 7-1 Big Ten)
Nov. 16 at Northwestern (10-3, 5-3 Big Ten)
Nov. 23 at Iowa (4-8, 2-6 Big Ten)
Nov. 30 Ohio State
(12-0, 8-0 Big Ten)
If Michigan is going to win the Big Ten, the Wolverines had better be ready for a difficult November. Three road games, two rivalry games and three of the league’s top playmaking quarterbacks (Taylor Martinez, Kain Colter and Braxton Miller). And if the Wolverines make it that far, they’ll play in a Big Ten title game.

Nov. 2 at South Carolina (11-2, 6-2 SEC)
Nov. 9 at Texas A&M (11-2, 6-2 SEC)
Nov. 16 Alabama (13-1, 7-1 SEC)
Nov. 23 Arkansas (Little Rock) (4-8, 2-6 SEC)
Nov. 28 Ole Miss (7-6, 3-5 SEC)

Mississippi State finished last season on a 1-5 slide. History could repeat itself against this schedule. The Bulldogs open November against three potential top-10 opponents, two of which are on the road. Then comes Arkansas in Little Rock and the Egg Bowl against an improving Ole Miss team that defeated Mississippi State 41-24 last season.

Nov. 2 at San Diego State (9-4, 7-1 Mountain West)
Nov. 8 Air Force (6-7, 5-3 Mountain West)
Nov. 16 Colorado State (4-8, 3-5 Mountain West)
Nov. 23 at Fresno State (9-4, 7-1 Mountain West)
Nov. 30 at Boise State (11-2, 7-1 Mountain West)

Opponents caught on to New Mexico’s Pistol offense by the second half of last season as the Lobos lost six in a row after a 4-3 start. Improved as New Mexico may be, it’s going to be tough for the Lobos to get through November with two or more wins. New Mexico will face the three teams that tied for the league title last season on the road in the final five games.

OKLAHOMA (Team Preview)
Nov. 7 at Baylor (8-5, 4-5 Big 12)
Nov. 16 Iowa State (6-7, 3-5 Big 12)
Nov. 23 at Kansas State (11-2, 8-1 Big 12)
Dec. 7 at Oklahoma State (8-5, 5-4 Big 12)

The Sooners likely will start the season outside of the Associated Press top 10 for the first time since 2000 (Athlon ranks OU at No. 17). Will Oklahoma finish that way, too? Three of Oklahoma’s last four games are on the road, all three against teams that have defeated the Sooners in the last two seasons. The lone home game is against Iowa State, which won’t be intimidated in Norman.

OREGON STATE (Team Preview)
Oct. 26 Stanford (12-2, 8-1 Pac-12)
Nov. 1 USC (7-6, 5-4 Pac-12)
Nov. 16 at Arizona State (8-5, 5-4 Pac-12)
Nov. 23 Washington (7-6, 5-4 Pac-12)
Nov. 29 at Oregon (12-1, 8-1 Pac-12)

Oregon State used to be a slow starter and strong finisher. That’s changed a bit as the Beavers finished 3-4 in 2012 and 1-4 in both 2011 and 2010. This season’s final five games will be tough again. Oregon State will face Athlon’s top two teams in the Pac-12 North (Stanford, at Oregon), top two teams in the Pac-12 South (at Arizona State, USC), plus a likely bowl team in Washington.

Oct. 26 Georgia Tech (7-7, 5-4 ACC)
Nov. 2 Clemson (11-2, 7-1 ACC)
Nov. 9 at North Carolina (8-4, 5-3 ACC)
Nov. 23 at Miami (7-5, 5-3 ACC)
Nov. 30 Virginia Tech (7-6, 4-4 ACC)

Best of luck to Jon Tenuta. In the final six weeks of the season the Virginia defensive coordinator will plan for Georgia Tech’s option, the ACC’s best spread offense coaches (Clemson’s Chad Morris and North Carolina’s Larry Fedora), the league’s best backfield (Miami’s Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson) and one of the league’s top quarterback prospects (Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas). Virginia’s bowl prospects were iffy to begin with. The Cavs better stock up on wins early.

<p> A quick look at early season and late season schedules that could shape 2013.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 10:50
Path: /mlb/10-biggest-hitting-duds-fantasy-baseball-so-far

Although the weather has definitely had an impact on the MLB schedule, most teams have played around 50 games by now, meaning we are roughly a third of the way through the 2013 regular season. As we prepare to enter the dog days of summer what better time than now to evaluate which expected fantasy studs at the plate have turned out to be nothing but highly drafted duds.

To be fair, several hitters have been given a free pass because of injury which has either kept them out of action for an extended period of time, such as Curtis Granderson, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Giancarlo Stanton, or out of the lineup altogether, like Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.

No, for the most part, the hitters listed below (in no particular order of how poorly they have performed) have had their share of opportunities and chances to produce in accordance with where they were drafted. They just haven’t gotten the job done with the bat thus far.

Note: Statistics referenced are through games of Wednesday, May 29.

1. Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
From a near 40/40 season in 2011 to just 23 home runs and nine stolen bases in ‘12 is one thing, especially considering Kemp played in only 106 games last season. The shoulder injury was a big reason why fantasy GMs gave Kemp a pass headed into this season, drafting him like a top-five overall player.

Things have not worked out so far, however, as the outfielder has just two home runs and 17 RBIs in his first 51 games. He also left Wednesday night's game against the Angels with a strained right hamstring, so he may be headed for a DL stint soon. Put it all together and that first-round pick spent on Kemp has resulted in fantasy production in Yahoo! leagues that lags behind the likes of David DeJesus, Justin Ruggiano and Chris Carter, who is batting a robust .216.

2. Josh Hamilton, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Kemp is not the only high-priced Los Angeles-based outfielder struggling at the plate. Hamilton has fared even worse in the batting average category (.219 to Kemp’s .251), although he does have eight home runs. The good news for Angels fans and Hamilton owners is that six of those round-trippers have come this month, but the overall batting average and .393 slugging percentage is not what either were expecting from the $125 million slugger who was drafted as a top-20 player.

3. B.J. Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves
The Upton brothers reunion in Atlanta has been enjoyed more by younger sibling Justin rather than B.J., especially at the plate. Never really one to hit for a high batting average, B.J. has sunk to new lows so far in 2013. Try a .146 average with four home runs, eight RBIs and three stolen bases. The appealing part of Upton’s game has always been the power-speed combo, but if he doesn’t get on base (.232 on-base percentage) he can’t do much of anything. A top-50 player in Yahoo! drafts, Upton is nearing waiver wire territory, especially as he’s seen his playing time decrease (67 at-bats in May).

4. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals
No one should really be surprised that Zimmerman has already spent time on the DL this season for a hamstring injury, right? Even with his documented injury history, the Nationals’ third baseman maintained his top-five draft status at the hot corner entering this season. Up until Wednesday night's three-home run outburst against the Orioles, however, Zimmerman was on the lower end of being a top-20 third baseman. Maybe this will finally get his bat (.298-6-28 on the season) going. It doesn't help Zimmerman's case that Manny Machado, the Beltway's other third sacker has gotten off to a .332-5-29 (with 36 R) start in just his first full season in the majors.

5. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
The top fantasy shortstop in Yahoo! leagues last season, Rollins was drafted among the top 75 players overall entering this season. Unfortunately, it appears that age may finally be catching up to the 34-year-old veteran, as he’s hitting just .255 with three home runs, four stolen bases and only 19 runs scored. Colorado’s Josh Rutledge, who got demoted to Triple-A last week, is still ranked higher in Yahoo! leagues at shortstop than Rollins.

6. Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies
Not much was expected of Howard last season as he missed more than half of the season recovering from a torn Achilles sustained in the 2011 NDLS. Expectations for 2013, however, went up after he hit 14 home runs in just 260 at-bats following his return last July. The reality is that the left-handed slugger’s 30-100 seasons may well be past him as he’s hit just six home runs and is batting .258 this season. Certainly not helping his production is a 60:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio, putting his on-base percentage, which was .425 during his 2006 NL MVP campaign, at just .289. Drafted as a top-100 overall player, Howard is barely a top-40 first baseman right now.

7. Danny Espinosa 2B/SS, Washington Nationals
When you can get near 20/20 numbers from a middle infielder you’re willing to forgive a sub-.250 batting average, which is what Espinosa did in 2012. Even with the obvious warts (46 BB, 189 SO in 594 at-bats), Espinosa was still drafted among the top-15 second basemen and shortstop. To this point, he’s not even a top 1,000 player in Yahoo! leagues as he’s hitting only .166 with three home runs and an ugly 43:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It has been revealed that he’s playing with a fracture in his right wrist, an injury sustained back in April, but it didn’t cause him to miss too much time until recently. I imagine his owners would have appreciated him not trying to play through the injury.

8. Martin Prado, 2B/3B/SS/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
If for no other reason, Prado was targeted in drafts because of his versatility – carrying eligibility at three infield spots and in the outfield for Yahoo! leagues. Of course his numbers from last season (.301-10-70, 81 R, 17 SB) certainly didn’t hurt either. Even with the trade from Atlanta to Arizona, it was little surprise that Prado was drafted as a top-10 second baseman and top-15 at shortstop. Unfortunately, he’s currently performing nowhere near those rankings, as his .257 average is nearly 40 points lower than his career mark (.295) entering this season. One of the biggest culprits so far? He’s batting just .133 (6-for-45) with runners in scoring position.

9. Ike Davis, 1B, New York Mets
Following a horrendous start last season (.170 with five home runs through May) that could be attributed to his recovery from valley fever, Davis rebounded to slug 27 home runs and bat a more respectable .253 the rest of the way. Fantasy GMs were obviously encouraged and optimistic as Davis was drafted among the top 120 players overall and along the lines of a top-20 first baseman. At this point, however, only the hardiest of Davis supporters remain as the lefty is batting just .160 with four home runs and 60 strikeouts in 163 at-bats. The Mets have reportedly put Davis on notice that he could be sent to the minors if he doesn't improve at the plate and he certainly shouldn’t be on your fantasy roster.

10. Rickie Weeks, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
By now everyone is fully aware of what to expect from Weeks – 20-plus home runs and double-digit steals with a low batting average – in a typical season. Still, the power and speed potential has been more than enough to maintain his status as a top-10 fantasy second sacker and top 125 overall player, at least in drafts. So far this season the batting average has plummeted (from .230 last season to .181 thus far) and he has more stolen bases (four) than home runs (three), which isn’t saying much.

Just missed… (alphabetical order)

Billy Butler, 1B, Kansas City Royals
Butler’s numbers (.263-5-31) aren’t horrible, they just aren’t worthy of his top-50 overall draft status. Considered a top-10 first baseman entering the season, the hitter known as “Country Breakfast” is currently behind the likes of James Loney, Mitch Moreland, Eric Chavez and Brandon Belt in Yahoo!’s fantasy rankings.

Ian Desmond, SS, Washington Nationals
Not surprisingly, 25 home runs and 21 stolen bases with a .292 average as a shortstop get you top-five treatment at the position in fantasy drafts. Too bad those who afforded that to Desmond are still waiting for his end of the deal (.260-6-20, 5 SB so far).

Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves
Heyward is a hard one to judge by his body of work to this point (99 at-bats) considering he missed nearly a month after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. That excuse will only cover him for so long, as much more was expected out of the Braves outfielder who was drafted as a top-30 overall player and is currently hitting .152 with two home runs, eight RBIs and has one stolen base.

Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox
It has been a long, highly productive career for the potential future Hall of Famer. And based on his current output (.235-5-19), it looks like it may be near the end of the road for the veteran who was drafted among the top 110 players.

Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
The only thing that saved Lawrie from inclusion in the above list is injury, as he’s had less than 100 at-bats so far. On the other hand, the injury risk alone (back on the DL after spraining his ankle stealing second Monday night) will start to impact his draft status, especially if his production (.209-5-14, 2 SB) continues to disappoint.

<p> 10 Biggest Hitting Duds in Fantasy Baseball So Far</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College World Series, MLB, News
Path: /mlb/top-mlb-draft-prospects-watch-ncaa-tournament

Michael Roth could run for office in Columbia, S.C. — and he would win in a landslide.

The former Gamecocks pitcher started back-to-back College World Series Championship-clinching games in 2010 and '11 before leading South Carolina back to Omaha in '12. The lefty starter was a ninth-round pick by the Los Angeles Angels last June and has already made his MLB debut.

LSU’s Kevin Gausman was a part of history in last year’s tournament as well. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft who has already made his Baltimore Orioles debut watched Stony Brook upset his Tigers in Baton Rouge Super Regional play last year in heart-breaking fashion.

Florida’s CWS run last year was spearheaded by names like Mike Zunino, Brian Johnson and Paco Rodriguez. Rodriguez, a second-round pick by the Dodgers, debuted last year and has become one of the more dependable relievers for the Boys in Blue. Zunino has crushed his way to AAA-Tacoma for the Seattle Mariners after being the third overall pick in the ’12 MLB Draft while Johnson also was taken in the first round by the Red Sox.

In all, eight College World Series teams produced 53 total MLB Draft picks in 2012. Five of those were first-round picks — Zunino, Johnson, Stony Brook’s Travis Jankowski, Florida State’s James Ramsey and UCLA’s Jeff Gelalich.

The point of all this information? The best players in college baseball will be on display in the NCAA Tournament over the next month and many will be starring for your favorite MLB team sooner rather than later. So with regionals set to get underway this weekend, they have some unfinished business. Who are the top prospects to watch in the tournament?

Potential Top 10 Picks:

Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma (6-4, 240)
With Mark Appel and Stanford left out of the bracket, Gray become the top pitching prospect to watch. The two-seeded Sooners will be visiting Blacksburg, Va., with a good chance at an upset because of Gray. The power righty was 16th nationally in earned run average (1.55 ERA) after allowing just 19 runs in 110.0 innings, while his 127 strikeouts were fourth overall. Gray has a powerful fastball that touches 98-99 and he also will throw a slider and a change-up.

Kris Bryant, 1B/3B, San Diego (6-5, 215)
There are thousands of college baseball players and only two hit more than 20 home runs this year. But only Bryant topped 30 as he blasted a nation's best 31 long bombs — which is more home runs than 225 of the 296 TEAMS in the nation. The massive prospect hails from Las Vegas originally and his huge frame and raw power project him as either a first or third baseman in the majors. The third-seeded Toreros will have to battle through the UCLA Bruins in the first round this weekend.

Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina (6-3, 215)
Much like Bryant, Moran projects at either corner infield spot and this gives him some versatility. He also appears to be very “signable” and that could work in his favor come draft day. He led the nation with 83 RBIs and hit .376 while becoming the seventh Tar Heel to win ACC Player of the Year honors. He doesn’t have Bryant’s power but he has led North Carolina to the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.

Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas (6-4, 190)
If you are looking for an upset pick this tourney, take the Hogs and their excellent pitching staff. The two-seeded Razorbacks will visit host Kansas State this weekend and Stanek's four-pitch repertoire will be on full display. He has a quirky release, but features a powerful fastball (touching 97), a plus-slider and will mix in an improving change-up and adequate curve. He was a third-round pick two years ago and has clearly improved his stock. Pitching in the best league in the nation, his 1.40 ERA (90.0 IP) is 11th nationally.

Hunter Renfroe, OF, Mississippi State (6-1, 210)
The Bulldogs were gifted a regional host assignment and the SEC’s home run leader (15) will be the star of the show in Starkville. He also has played catcher and has an arm that might intrigue scouts as well. Will his versatility help his draft stock or does he lack a true position?

D.J. Peterson, 1B/3B/OF, New Mexico (6-1, 210)
The third-seeded Lobos won the Mountain West conference by a wide margin and Peterson was a huge part of that. His .411 average was third nationally and his 18 big flies finished third in the nation as well. The smooth swinging righty is one of the best pure hitters in the nation and will make New Mexico a tough out in the Cal-State Fullerton regional.

Related: 2013 College World Series and Regional Predictions

Other Potential First-Rounders:

Alex Balog, RHP, San Francisco (6-5, 210)
The big righty has been a late riser in the draft process and should slip into the first round. He will lead the three-seeded Dons into the Eugene Regional to face Rice, Oregon and South Dakota State.

Jonathon Crawford, RHP, Florida (6-2, 205)
The talented Gators arm blossomed on the 2012 CWS team as his no-hitter against Bethune-Cookman in the Gainesville Regional a year ago helped propel UF to Omaha. He has a plus fastball and three upside pitches

Ryan Eades, RHP, LSU (6-3, 200)
As one of two aces for the SEC tourney champs, Eades has a chance to make himself some money in this tournament. He has excellent command of all three upside pitches and will throw his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s. He struck out 75 batters in 93.2 innings.

Bobby Wahl, RHP, Ole Miss (6-3, 200)
The Virginia native won nine games with 76 strikeouts in 90.2 innings in the nation’s toughest league. He was No. 2 in the SEC in batting average against with a nasty .189 mark. He uses a solid fastball, upside slider and tricky change-up.

Jason Hursh, RHP, Oklahoma State (6-2, 200)
A redshirt sophomore who was a sixth-round pick in 2010 has a fastball that tops out at 97-98 and has an above-average slider. He missed all of last year after Tommy John surgery and will lead the Pokes into the Louisville Regional as a three-seed.

Kevin Ziomek, LHP, Vanderbilt (6-3, 190)
Led the best SEC team in history while leading the conference in strikeouts (106) and opponents batting average (.179). He was fourth in innings (105.1), third in wins (10) and posted a 2.05 ERA for the year.

Chad Pinder, 3B, Virginia Tech (6-2, 192)
The Hokies were 11th in RPI at season’s end and it earned them a spot as a Regional host. Pinder’s bat is a big reason as he has improved each year and has been above .300 his entire NCAA career. He has the size and athleticism to stick at third.

Michael Lorenzen, OF, Cal State Fullerton (6-3, 195)
He has a big arm and defensive skill to stick in center field. He’s been inconsistent at the plate but has led CSF to a national seed (No. 5) and a 48-8 record. He also doubles as a flame-throwing closer for the Titans.

Trevor Williams, RHP, Arizona State (6-3, 230)
He began his career in the pen and made the transition to the rotation with relative ease. He will lead the second-seeded Sun Devils into the Cal-State Fullerton Regional this weekend. He works quick and locates but won’t overpower hitters.

Kent Emanuel, LHP, North Carolina (6-4, 205)
Earned ACC Pitcher of the Year honors on the nation’s No. 1 team. He doesn’t have elite velocity but he has above-average command and knows how to win.

Others to watch:

Jared King, OF, Kansas State (5-11, 200)
Dillon Overton, LHP, Oklahoma (6-2, 170)
Daniel Gibson, LHP, Florida (6-3, 220)
Stuart Turner, C, Ole Miss (6-2, 220)
Colby Suggs, RHP, Arkansas (6-0, 225)
Jimmie Sherfy, RHP, Oregon (6-0, 175)
Zane Evans, C, Georgia Tech (6-2, 220)
Jacoby Jones, 2B, LSU (6-3, 200)

<p> First Round MLB Draft Prospects to Watch in the NCAA Tournament</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/college-football-2013-preseason-rankings-41-60

The start of the 2013 college football season is still a few months away. However, Athlon Sports is already counting down the teams for the upcoming year.

Alabama is Athlon’s pick to win the national championship, with Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes expected to finish No. 2 nationally.

While there is always plenty of intrigue in filling out the top 25, No. 26-40 features a handful of teams that just missed. And 41-60 showcases plenty of teams fighting to move up college football's food chain or improve after a disappointing season. Auburn was one of the SEC's worst teams last year but expects to rebound with the hire of Gus Malzahn. Missouri struggled in its SEC debut, and the Tigers hope a healthy James Franklin at quarterback can make a big difference in 2013.

Another intriguing team to watch in this range is West Virginia. The Mountaineers must replace quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. With so many new faces stepping into key roles in Morgantown, West Virginia could struggle just to get to a bowl game.

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2013, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, beginning with No. 26-40 and 41-60

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2013 season

College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 41-60

41. Mississippi State
MSU has won 29 games in four years under coach Dan Mullen, earning bowl berths each of the last three seasons. That’s a big step forward for this program, but there is a hunger for much more. The Bulldogs just moved into a $25 million football-only facility, which could be viewed as symbolic of their effort to join the SEC’s elite.

To do that, both lines must play at a much higher level, because the SEC will always expose weaknesses in the trenches. As it was last year, the back end of MSU’s schedule is loaded, with games against South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss. That closing stretch will define the Bulldogs’ season and show just how far the program has come under Mullen.

2013 Mississippi State Bulldogs Team Preview

42. Auburn
There is talent at Auburn, which has signed many highly rated classes in recent years. The most telling factor of coach Gus Malzahn’s tenure will be whether he can coach up and retain that talent, two areas where Gene Chizik failed before his firing.

Most likely, Malzahn’s first year will see too many SEC teams that are more talented and have more depth than Auburn at too many positions. The Tigers do play in the SEC West, after all. But expect Malzahn and his offense to have some fun along the way. Auburn will beat someone it shouldn’t because of Malzahn’s fast-paced offense.

2013 Auburn Tigers Team Preview

43. BYU
Staging a slideshow to illustrate his points, coach Bronco Mendenhall outlined BYU’s success on and off the field in his first eight seasons with a Signing Day news conference that served as an impassioned defense of his program. Of course, BYU’s most pressing issue is upgrading the offense. Its ineffectiveness kept the Cougars from capitalizing on the best defensive performance in school history.

Matching last season’s 8–5 record will be a challenge in 2013, even if coordinator Robert Anae’s fast-tempo offense is more productive. The Cougars are facing what Mendenhall labels their toughest schedule ever, with home games against Boise State and Texas and visits to Wisconsin and Notre Dame. 

2013 BYU Cougars Team Preview

44. Northern Illinois
New coach Rod Carey inherits a program with a fan base thirsting to follow in the footsteps of BCS crashers Boise State and TCU. Expectations have reached unreal levels at Northern Illinois after three straight seasons with at least 11 wins, five consecutive bowl appearances — including last year’s Orange Bowl — and two MAC championships in a row. The 2012 season was a perfect combination of a favorable schedule, weakened conference and some key late developments — most beyond NIU’s control — that allowed the Huskies to elbow their way into a BCS bowl.

The offense faces a new set of questions in 2013. Opponents won’t be caught off guard after spending the offseason game-planning to stop quarterback Jordan Lynch. The success of the season might hinge on NIU finding playmakers to take pressure off of their record-setting quarterback. There’s also the question about Carey’s ability to handle the transition from assistant coach to CEO at what is now a high-pressured job.

The pieces are in place for a third straight MAC title, but it won’t be as easy as many NIU fans envision.

2013 Northern Illinois Team Preview

45. Texas Tech
Things changed in Lubbock the night Kliff Kingsbury was announced as Texas Tech’s new head football coach. With one move, a fan base that had been fractured since the tail end of the Mike Leach era suddenly became united.

But a united fan base doesn’t guarantee success. The Red Raiders have some nice pieces, but there might be a few too many questions — Can Michael Brewer shine at quarterback? Can the offensive line replace three starters? Can the secondary hold its own? — for this team to be a significant factor in the Big 12 race in 2013.

2013 Texas Tech Red Raiders Team Preview

46. Tennessee
Butch Jones inherited a questionable roster and a brutal schedule, but his first year might also come with an unusual gift in the cutthroat SEC — very reasonable expectations from a win-starved fan base. If the Vols can pull off six wins and make a bowl, fans would be thrilled. (So would bowl executives, because ticket sales would be brisk.)

A large senior class that seems to have eagerly embraced the new coaching staff offers hope that this group can overachieve. And after three seasons in which every close SEC game seemed to go the other way, the Vols are due for some better luck.

2013 Tennessee Volunteers Team Preview

47. Rutgers
These are heady times for Rutgers. A year removed from a share of the program’s first league title, the school is Big Ten-bound after this season. That makes this year — in the newly named American Athletic Conference — a transition year. That could be the case on the field as well for coach Kyle Flood, whose team staggered to a 2–4 finish despite featuring six players invited to the NFL Combine.

The development of quarterback Gary Nova and the revamped back seven hold the keys to this season. If both areas turn out to be a strength, Rutgers can compete for a league title and a BCS berth. If not, the Scarlet Knights could have trouble breaking the .500 mark.

2013 Rutgers Scarlet Knights Team Preview

48. Missouri
Missouri’s first year in the SEC was rife with change, and it wasn’t for the better as the Tigers suffered their first losing season since 2004. The changes continued in the offseason with the abrupt resignation of offensive coordinator David Yost, a longtime Gary Pinkel assistant. Former offensive line coach Josh Henson is now in charge of a Missouri attack that found life in the SEC to be more physical — and low scoring — than the Big 12. 

As Pinkel enters his 13th year at Missouri, faith in the Tigers boss could be floundering. The Tigers haven’t suffered back-to-back losing seasons since Pinkel’s first two years in Columbia, but their transition to the SEC was hardly smooth. After a clear step back in 2012, Missouri needs to move forward in 2013 or be left in the dust by their new conference foes.

2013 Missouri Tigers Team Preview

49. Arkansas
The Razorbacks have question marks in too many areas to be considered a contender. Having three head coaches in an eight-month span in the aftermath of the Bobby Petrino scandal has seemingly sidetracked a program that passed its way into the top 10 for a couple of seasons. Expecting a well-oiled transition to a stronger drive-blocking running game would be unreasonable. In a best-case scenario, quality blockers emerge across the board, quarterback play is efficient, the running game is unleashed and playmakers rise up on all three levels on defense. Even if several of those scenarios take place, the Razorbacks have a long trip back to SEC West contention.

2013 Arkansas Razorbacks Team Preview

50. Tulsa
Tulsa has quietly become a solid football program. The Golden Hurricane have won 10-plus games in four of their last six seasons and have been to a bowl game in seven of the past eight years. In his second season, coach Bill Blankenship led the school to its first C-USA title since 2005 and second top-25 ranking in three seasons.

Blankenship often said in the spring that maintaining the championship level is more difficult than chasing a title. He has challenged his team to repeat in its final season in Conference USA before it leaves for the American Athletic Conference in 2014.

For that to happen, Tulsa must identify some new playmakers on defense and continue to have success running the ball on offense.

2013 Tulsa Golden Hurricane Team Preview

51. UCF
The knock on UCF has long been its inability to string together winning seasons. With quarterback Blake Bortles at the head of an experienced and versatile offense, the Knights feel like they’re primed to match their 10-win output from 2012 and silence those critics.

The key will be the growth and development on the other side of the ball, however.

If UCF can develop its defense and find the right players to plug into several key holes in the secondary and at linebacker, it might find a way to challenge for a conference title with the likes of Louisville and Cincinnati. If not, the Knights could struggle against a consistently higher level of competition than they ever faced in Conference USA.

2013 UCF Knights Team Preview

52. Pittsburgh
Change is sweeping through the Pittsburgh football program as it moves from the Big East to the ACC. But the absolute biggest storyline is what remains the same: Paul Chryst. By returning, Chryst ended a tumultuous three-year odyssey in which Pittsburgh saw three different coaches lead its program. The next step for Chryst is to elevate a team that has been mediocre the past three seasons.

With uncertainty at quarterback and running back — and with the transition to a new conference — Pittsburgh likely will endure growing pains. The Panthers, though, could go a long way toward building instant momentum by defeating ACC foe Florida State in a nationally televised season opener at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh nearly pulled off a triple-overtime win at Notre Dame last season, so an upset isn’t out of the question. Nor is a slight improvement in Chryst’s second season.

2013 Pittsburgh Panthers Team Preview

53. Maryland
It’s the final go-round in the ACC for Maryland, which moves to the Big Ten in 2014. The Terrapins has six victories to show for coach Randy Edsall’s first two seasons and enough injuries to fill medical manuals for years. Maryland lost 10 players to season-enders last year, including four quarterbacks. Now, the Terps have some speed and some big-play potential but a lot of questions.

C.J. Brown, the first of the four quarterbacks to go down last year, is an inspirational team leader who seems to rally those around him. If he can do that — and get the ball in the hands of wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long and those running backs in space — Maryland should at least be fun to watch.

The defense looks faster, too, but that doesn’t necessarily mean improved. Special teams weren’t so special last year, either. Edsall has back-to-back top 35 recruiting classes, but he may need at least one more before the Terps can be a real threat. And then they’ll have to do it in the Big Ten.

2013 Maryland Terrapins Team Preview

54. NC State
NC State athletic director Debbie Yow has already said she expects 2013 to be a rebuilding season, but coach Dave Doeren won quickly at NIU with a roster he inherited from another coach. The offense will have to run the ball more effectively, and quarterback Pete Thomas will have to learn a new scheme. The defense should be able to carry the mail, especially with the first four games at home, as the team adjusts to the new staff. Don’t expect State to be a significant factor in the ACC Atlantic Division race, but there is enough talent on the roster to return to a bowl game for the fourth straight season.

2013 NC State Wolfpack Team Preview

55. California
Coach Sonny Dykes needs to find a quarterback, but he is inheriting enough talent at running back and wide receiver to have immediate success on offense. The defense, however, could be an issue, especially with some expected growing pains with a new coordinator and a new system.

The schedule is also extremely difficult — the Bears play USC and UCLA from the South and host Ohio State and Northwestern in non-conference action. There will be progress, but it might not show up in the win column. Reaching bowl-eligibility will be a challenge. 

2013 California Golden Bears Team Preview

56. West Virginia
Early in spring drills, coach Dana Holgorsen said his team “lost a lot of star power, but we have a lot of hungry kids.” It’s a good thing. Holgorsen, his players and Mountaineers fans have a lot to chew on. One can always expect offense from Holgorsen. But this might be his toughest challenge in years. Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey rewrote WVU’s offensive records. Holgorsen will have to rely not only on a young quarterback, but also young receivers and a rebuilt offensive line. His defense is getting better talent, but not much should be expected there this season. On top of it all, Holgorsen has five new assistants.

2013 West Virginia Mountaineers Team Preview

57. Iowa State
The Cyclones have reached the postseason three of the last four years, and each time they outperformed expectations to get there. That will have to be the case again this season in their quest for (at least) six wins and a bowl bid.

The pieces are in place offensively to improve upon last year’s production (24.5 points and 364.2 yards per game), and it has to in order to be a factor in the Big 12. The defense lost a number of important players whose absence will be felt tremendously. Untested players will have to step in and have an impact right away for ISU to have any shot at reaching its goals.

The program is on the up-tick, in a lot of ways. Fan support has always been strong, and with the success under coach Paul Rhoads it’s reached unprecedented heights. Fans should expect growing pains, especially on defense, although there’s a chance to once again be playing and practicing in December.   

2013 Iowa State Cyclones Team Preview

58. Utah
The Utes became known for their major bowl breakthroughs and high national rankings as a Mountain West power, but they have found life in the Pac-12 to be much more demanding. Utah has gone 7–11 in two seasons of conference play. How Dennis Erickson’s product performs against Pac-12 defenses will determine whether the Utes can get back to a bowl game in 2013. They face a more difficult challenge, with Oregon and Stanford on their schedule for the first time since the Utes joined the league. “We have a lot of work to do, addressing our deficiencies,” coach Kyle Whittingham says. 

2013 Utah Utes Team Preview

59. Indiana
Coach Kevin Wilson is tired of merely coming close and knows that this is the season that the Hoosiers should at least enjoy bowl-eligibility. The schedule is loaded with eight home games, and Indiana does not play away from Memorial Stadium until Oct. 12. Wilson and his staff recruited the highest-ranked class in IU history, packing it with the speed and size that his defense has lacked to stop the run.

But winning with freshmen is difficult in the Big Ten, so offense will remain Indiana’s calling card for at least one more season. Indiana’s best offensive players — Tre Roberson, Stephen Houston, Ted Bolser, Kofi Hughes — are starting their third season in Wilson’s high-tempo system, mastering the necessary deceptions. If the defense can make modest improvement, Indiana could score its way to six victories.

2013 Indiana Hoosiers Team Preview

60. Utah State
The Aggies return plenty of experience from a team that won 11 games and was ranked No. 16 in the final AP poll. However, the move to the stronger Mountain West will pose plenty of challenges. The non-conference schedule is difficult as well, with trips to Utah and USC and a home date with BYU.

There could be a few hiccups with the transition from Gary Andersen to Matt Wells, but there have been no significant changes in philosophy, which should help this veteran team pick up where it left off. USU has won 16 of its last 19 games, and the three losses were by a combined six points. Another bowl game should be in the Aggies’ sights.

2013 Utah State Aggies Team Preview

Related College Football Content

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

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era

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

<p> College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 41-60</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 07:17
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-fedex-400-dover-international-speedway

To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its first visit to the other DIS — Dover International Speedway — this weekend for 400 miles around, as one driver calls it, “a one-mile roller coaster.” Delaware’s standard oval features corners lower than the banked straightaways, giving drivers the sensation that they “drop” into the turn and “climb” back up to the straights.

Choosing a fantasy lineup for Dover can sometimes be just as random as a card shuffle at the track’s backstretch casino thanks to the tight confines of the track occasionally producing massive multi-car accidents that wipe out a slew of contenders in one stroke. Still, we’ll take a stab.

Note: This fantasy preview is a bit different this week as we try a new format. Instead of ranking every driver at Dover, we’ll make it easier on you by telling you which drivers to call up and be ready to start for Sunday’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks.

A-List Drivers (choose two, start one)

Jimmie Johnson
With consideration for many players conserving starts for Johnson until later in the season when he inevitably gets hot, Dover is almost a no-brainer time to have Johnson in your lineup for race day. Consider this: in the last 16 Dover races going back eight seasons, Johnson is averaging 121 laps led per race.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver has averaged a finish of sixth in that period (his average career finish in all races is 11th) and has turned the fastest lap 878 times, which is good for nearly 400 more than the second-most fastest laps in that period by Carl Edwards. Oh, one other thing: Johnson’s seven career wins at Dover are three more than any active driver. Beyond the wins, he has four more top-5 finishes and nine more top-10 finishes.

Sure, you could bet he’ll have an off weekend at a track he dominates in the name of conserving the No. 48’s start until the fall. But is that really wise a week after Johnson wrecked by himself at Charlotte? If anyone is coming back with a vengeance, it’s Mr. Five Time.

Clint Bowyer
So you’ve used Johnson a few too many times to your liking this early in the year and you’re looking for a suitable replacement? If you haven’t overused Matt Kenseth to this point (I hope you’ve used Matt Kenseth plenty at this point), he’s your guy. But one driver who likely has plenty of starts remaining on your fantasy roster is Clint Bowyer.

Bowyer is riding a Dover streak of four straight races where he’s finished in the top 10 — moderately impressive considering the span included races with both Michael Waltrip Racing and Richard Childress Racing. Bowyer has led just 30 laps in those four starts, but those finishes and overall performances contributed to make him the third-best Dover driver among A-Listers during the last eight seasons.

Other picks:
Matt Kenseth (Average running position of eighth; 18 top 10s, 2 wins)
Jeff Gordon (Four career wins; 73 percent of laps in top 15 during last eight races)

B-List Drivers (choose four, start two)

Carl Edwards
Would you believe Carl Edwards was one spot away from making it four straight top-10 finishes last week? Quietly and steadily, Edwards and Roush-Fenway Racing seem to be making inroads on catching the dominance of Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing this year. Dover should continue the recent positive trend.

Edwards crashed in the spring Dover race a year ago and wound up 26th, marking his first finish of worse than 11th at the concrete oval since 2006. He was one win in that period and his fifth-place run last fall marked his eighth career top 5 at Dover. Only Johnson and Kenseth have a better Dover driver rating than Edwards in the last 16 Dover races.

Mark Martin
Thanks to his limited schedule, you’ll probably not run through all nine available starts for Mark Martin this season. That makes him an easy choice at Dover.

Last year, Martin had two top-15 finishes at the Monster Mile — including a third-place run in the fall that tied for his second-best finish of the 2012 season. Beyond that, Martin has been good at Dover both recently and throughout his career. In the last eight seasons, he has an average finish of 11th and has spent more than three-fourths of his laps in the top 15. He’s tied with Jeff Gordon for the second-most Dover wins among active drivers (4) and he hasn’t finished worse than 23rd there since 2002.

Kyle Busch
Last year Dover — land of local seafood restaurants featuring fresh catches from the nearby Atlantic Ocean — proved to be the Sea of Heartbreak (hat tip, Don Gibson!) for Kyle Busch. The No. 18 blew an engine in the spring race just past halfway as Joe Gibbs Racing cars are wont to do. Busch stormed back in the fall in his missed-Chase rage to lead 302 laps before a fuel mileage finish dropped him to 14th. It was a leave-the-track-without-comment kind of day for Kyle.

Even with those issues — and two other blown engines at Dover in his career — Busch’s numbers there make him a good bet Sunday. In his last 16 Dover starts, Busch has led the third-most laps of any active driver.

Greg Biffle
Biffle is another driver you’ve likely used sparingly this year, waiting for RFR to finally find fourth gear amid a mostly middling start. Remember, at his point one year ago Biffle held a 10-point lead in the series standings. Now, he’s 13th and 121 points back.

Dover has long been good to the Biff with a recent average finish of 9.6 and an average running position of 10th. His percentage of fastest in-race laps in that 16-race period is the highest among B-Listers. Though he has struggled some recently at the track where he’s won twice, Biffle is due to jumpstart his season after three finishes of 31st or worse in his last four races. That team is too good to continue a poor streak like that.

Other picks:
Ryan Newman (Three career Dover wins; second-best track for career average finish)
Kurt Busch (Surging team returns to site of Kurt’s last win)
Martin Truex Jr. (Site of lone career race win in 2007; two top 10s in 2012)

C-List (Choose two, start one)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Undoubtedly, you’ve used Stenhouse plenty this season thanks to the lack of other consistent, quality talent in the C-List. He’s still the best pick for Dover among the group — and he’s likely better than almost half of the B-Listers. Stenhouse finished 12th in his lone Sprint Cup start at Dover, five spots ahead of his 17th-place start.

Regan Smith
At a place like Dover, Smith seems to be as good a bet as any in the C-List. He drives for James Finch’s team for the seventh time this year Sunday following his 17th-place run last weekend at Charlotte. No, that car hasn’t had noteworthy speed and, no, a top 20 isn’t guaranteed. But Smith has yet to come home worse than 25th in that car this season. Better yet, he’s finished nine of his 10 career Dover races.

Other picks:
David Reutimann (Average Dover finish is 20th)
David Ragan (Average Dover finish is 24th)

by Geoffrey Miller
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter

<p> Fantasy Picks for the FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 19:32
Path: /mlb/ncaa-baseball-2013-college-world-series-predictions

The California Golden Bears announced in September of 2010 that their baseball program would be cut because the school couldn’t afford it any longer. After a change of heart eight months later — mostly stemming from a huge influx of cash from supporters — the program was reinstated and became the darlings of the 2011 College World Series. The Bears even won a game in Omaha, saving the program.

Last year, little Stony Brook went into the toughest environment in the nation and beat LSU to earn a trip to Omaha. Kent State took two out of three at No. 5 Oregon in the Super Regionals to join the Seawolves as fan favorites in Omaha.

Over the last two seasons, 10 of the 16 College World Series participants were national, or top eight, seeds. Over the last five seasons, 24 of the 40 College World Series teams were national seeds. This means that five of the eight teams heading to New Rosenblatt Stadium this June will be national seeds.

But it also means three of the eight will be unexpected underdog upsets. In fact, two of the last three champions — Arizona a year ago and South Carolina in 2010 — were not national seeds.

So who is going to make that historic trip to Omaha for the College World Series in 2013? Here are our predictions:

North Carolina (1) over South Carolina
I wasn’t going to take the Tar Heels after they lost their last two ACC series of the regular season, however, North Carolina got the weakest regional draw of the tourney and should skate through to the Super Regionals. In-state rivals Clemson and South Carolina will battle in the Columbia Regional for a second straight season. The Cocks won this battle last year and the Tigers have lost five straight games, so South Carolina is poised to battle North Carolina in the Supers. Look for ACC Player and Pitcher of the Year Colin Moran and Kent Emanuel to lead the Tar Heels to the College World Series for the fifth time in eight years.

Vanderbilt (2) over Louisville
Both host teams will face intriguing tests as Vandy faces Golden Spikes candidate Kerry Doane on Friday night and a talented but slumping Georgia Tech team potentially on Saturday. However, the Dores are the best team in SEC history by record and should get to the second weekend with relative ease. Louisville has a much tougher path to the Super Regional as it will have to face both Miami and Oklahoma State in the first weekend. The Cardinals won 16 straight to end the regular season and their pitching should advance the Redbirds into a showdown with the Commodores. Tim Corbin’s deep lineup and nasty 1-2 punch atop the rotation — Kevin Ziomek and Tyler Beede — will get Vanderbilt to Omaha for the second time in three years.

Arkansas over Oregon State (3)
This is the best Beavers team since Pat Casey won back-to-back CWS championships in 2006 and '07. But having to host either Kansas State or Arkansas in the Supers is a tough draw for the No. 3 overall seed. The Razorbacks have elite pitching both in the rotation and the bullpen as ace Ryne Stanek leads the way. Dave Van Horn’s team made it to the College World Series last year by winning on the road twice against Rice and Baylor and I expect the SEC-tested and second-seeded Hogs to do it again this year. Arkansas upsets the Wildcats in Manhattan, Kan., and then takes down Oregon State in Corvallis to reach the CWS for the second consecutive season.

LSU (4) over Oklahoma
The second-seeded Sooners have to go through Virginia Tech in Blacksburg to get to the Bayou Bengals but ace Jonathan Gray should be up to the task. This team has won five straight and clinched the automatic berth by winning the Big 12 tournament last weekend. That said, the surging Sooners won’t pull a Stony Brook this year as their run will end in Alex Box Stadium. LSU is on a mission this year led by three Golden Spikes semifinalists — starter Aaron Nola, slugger Mason Katz and star freshman shortstop Alex Bregman — and won’t be denied a trip to Omaha.


Cal State Fullerton (5) over UCLA
No team in the nation lost fewer games than the Titans' eight this year, but CSF will be pressed by upstart New Mexico and fellow West Coast power Arizona State in the first weekend. Fullerton has been knocked out of the last two tournaments by Pac-12 teams Oregon (2012) and Stanford (2011) and will likely have to get through two in Arizona State and UCLA to get to Omaha for the first time since 2009. Head coach and alum Rick Vanderhook, who played on the 1984 national championship team, is looking to put his stamp on the historic program after both George Horton and Dave Serrano led the Titans to Omaha. This team might be the pick to win the whole thing if they can make it through the first two weekends.

Virginia (6) over South Alabama
The Wahoos have a nice draw in the first weekend and should be a lock to make it to the second weekend. South Alabama was the best team in an extremely underrated Sun Belt conference (four bids) and gets to play against a surprise host in Mississippi State. The Jaguars, who won 42 games this year, will shock the Bulldogs faithful at famed Dudy Noble in Starkville, Miss. However, look for the superior talent of the Cavaliers to overpower the lack of postseason experience for South Alabama as Brian O’Connor gets his squad to Omaha for the third time in five seasons.

Indiana over Alabama
The Big Ten regular-season and tournament champions could be this year’s surprise team in Omaha but they will have to earn their way into the finals. Austin Peay won 45 games and Florida is extremely talented so the first weekend could be tougher than the second for Indiana. Meanwhile in Tallahassee, Alabama might be the team to beat after giving Vanderbilt all it could handle in the final weekend of the regular season. Host Florida State is the most vulnerable national seed and a should a No. 2 seed end up making its way to Omaha, it seems most likely that it would come from this “pod” of action.

NC State over Oregon (8)
Ole Miss and NC State are both poised to make deep runs on the backs of aces Bobby Wahl and Carlos Rodon respectively. However, they’ll meet this weekend in Raleigh and only one can advance to the Super Regionals. Both are toying with starting Wahl and Rodon head-to-head on Saturday instead of Friday in the opener. It means a trip to Omaha could be on the line on the second day of the regional. Rodon has been downright nasty of late and has the stuff — 8-2, 3.48 ERA, 151 K, .199 BAA in 101 IP — to carry his team to New Rosenblatt Stadium.

<p> NCAA Baseball: 2013 College World Series Predictions</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 15:40
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-30-tight-ends-bcs-era

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

So all factors were considered when trying to determine who the greatest tight ends of the BCS era have been. Here are the Top 30 tight ends since the BCS was implemented in 1998:

Agree or disagree with our ranking of College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era? Let us know on Twitter at @AthlonSports, using the hashtag #AthlonTE30.

1. Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08)
Stats: 247 rec., 2,659 yds, 30 TDs

It didn’t take long for Tigers fans to see what they had in Coffman as he earned first-team Freshman All-American honors in 2005. He then broke Mizzou tight end receiving records with 58 receptions, 638 yards and nine touchdowns as just a sophomore. After two straight All-Big 12 seasons, Coffman claimed the John Mackey Award as a senior as the nation’s top tight end after posting 90 receptions, 987 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008. Missouri went 22-6 over his final two seasons in what many believe to be the best two-year run in program history. And the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Coffman was a huge part of that success.

2. Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma (2006-09)
Stats: 111 rec., 1,629 yds, 26 TDs

Had the 6-foot-6, 260-pound star tight end stayed healthy and played his fourth season at Oklahoma, Gresham likely would have been the best player at his position during the BCS era. He scored 25 touchdowns in two seasons as the starter from 2007-08 — just eight shy of the NCAA tight end record (33). His All-American junior season features Sooners' tight end records for yards (950) and touchdowns (14) — one shy of Mark Clayton’s all-time single-season record regardless of position. He was arguably the top playmaker for a Big 12 champion and BCS National Championship runner-up that year as well. His season-ending knee injury prior to the start of his 2009 campaign left those in Norman wondering what could have been.

3. Heath Miller, Virginia (2002-04)
Stats: 144 rec., 1,703 yds, 20 TDs

Perhaps the greatest tight end in ACC history, Miller became the first player in league history to win the John Mackey Award in 2004. He wrote his name into the school and conference record books for receiving by a tight end, setting a new benchmark in all three major receiving categories despite only playing three seasons. However, it wasn’t just his elite receiving ability that made the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder one of the game’s best. Miller relished the blocking side of the game and his physicality and dependability is what has made the consensus All-American one of the NFL’s best tight ends for the last decade.

4. Dallas Clark, Iowa (2000-02)
Stats: 77 rec., 1,251 yds, 8 TDs

The walk-on began his career as a linebacker but quickly developed into a star at tight end. He earned All-Big Ten recognition as a sophomore and then became the nation’s top tight end as a junior in 2002. The John Mackey Award winner caught 43 passes for 742 yards and four touchdowns while helping Iowa (11-2) to a Big Ten co-championship and Orange Bowl berth. The dynamic in-state talent was a first-round pick and proved in the NFL that his college career was no fluke.

5. Aaron Hernandez, Florida (2007-09)
Stats: 111 rec., 1,382 yds, 12 TDs

The undersized but athletic playmaker came from Bristol (Conn.) Central originally, but proved quickly he had what it took to succeed in the deep South. All Hernandez did while at Florida is set school records for receptions in a season (68) and a career. And his elite 2009 campaign in which he posted 850 yards and five touchdowns made the 6-foot-2, 250-pounder the SEC’s first-ever John Mackey Award winner. He was a go-to target for Tim Tebow and was a big piece of the 2008 BCS National Championship squad. Florida went 26-2 over his last two years in Gainesville.

6. Marcedes Lewis, UCLA (2002-05)
Stats: 126 rec., 1,571 yds, 21 TDs

The red-zone touchdown machine improved his production each of his four seasons at UCLA, culminating with All-American and John Mackey honors as a senior in 2005. He set school records in all three major categories for a tight end that year and helped UCLA to its best record (10-2) since 1998. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound consensus All-American was a matchup nightmare for defenses and was the Pac-10’s best player at his position during the BCS era in a league known for its great tight ends.

7. Dennis Pitta, BYU (2004, '07-09)
Stats: 221 rec., 2,901 yds, 21 TDs

Few tight ends during the BCS era combine the statistical production, team success and overall NFL talent that Pitta did. He began his career as a freshman in 2004 before taking his Mormon mission and returning in 2007. His teams went 32-7 during his three-year starting career and few tight ends in the history of the sport have topped 200 catches, nearly 3,000 yards or 20 touchdowns — much less all three. He owns nearly every major receiving record at BYU for tight ends and is BYU’s all-time leading receiver with 221 receptions regardless of position. His 2,901 career receiving yards are an NCAA record for tight ends.

8. Travis Beckum, Wisconsin (2005-08)
Stats: 159 rec., 2,149 yds, 11 TDs

From a speed and agility standpoint, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound pass-catcher has few peers. One of the fastest and most dynamic tight ends in BCS history, Beckum switched to tight end as a sophomore and became a second-team All-American in just his first season playing the position. He posted back-to-back 900-yard seasons and saved his best games for the biggest competition (9 rec., 140 yds vs. Ohio State, 10 rec., 132 vs. Michigan State, for example). He was poised to set NCAA records for a tight end until a broken leg in Week 6 ended his college career. At a school known for elite All-American tight ends, Beckum was the most explosive, most talented and most productive.

9. D.J. Williams, Arkansas (2007-10)
Stats: 152 rec., 1,855 yds, 10 TDs

The star Razorback never had an 800-yard season, never caught more than 61 passes and never scored more than four times in a year, but Williams is one of the BCS’s best. His career numbers are excellent and he was extremely dependable for three full seasons for the Hogs. His career culminated in a John Mackey Award in 2010 and helped lead Arkansas to 10 wins and a Sugar Bowl berth.

10. James Casey, Rice (2007-08)
Stats: 157 rec., 1,914 yds, 17 TDs, 362 rush, 11 TDs, 2 TD passes

Affectionately known as “Thor,” no other tight end during the BCS era was as versatile and productive in two seasons as Casey. He didn’t face elite competition, obviously, but no tight end has ever put together a season like Thor did in 2008: 111 rec., 1,329 yards, 13 TDs, 241 yards rushing, 6 TDs, 14 punt returns for 112 yards and even two touchdown passes. He was the No. 1 overall college fantasy player in 2008 regardless of position (yes, that includes quarterbacks) and it has to be considered the best season for a tight end in NCAA history.

Related: The Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

11. Jeremy Shockey, Miami (2000-01)
Stats: 61 rec., 815 yds, 10 TDs

The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder was one of the most physically gifted players to ever play the position. He didn’t have the huge stats of other elite players but he was an All-American and helped Miami win the national title in 2001. He was one of three finalists for the Mackey Award before leaving school early to become a first-round NFL Draft pick.

12. Kellen Winslow, Miami (2001-03)
Stats: 119 rec., 1,365 yds, 9 TDs

Bizarre post-game interviews aside, Winslow was a monster on the field at Miami. He played a small role on the national championship team in 2001 and was a huge force — 57 rec., 726 yds, 8 TD — on the '02 team that was defeated by Ohio State in the title game. He was a consensus All-American and John Mackey Award winner despite just one touchdown catch in 2003.

13. Martin Rucker, Missouri (2004-07)
Stats: 203 rec., 2,175 yds, 18 TDs

The complementary piece to Coffman at Mizzou was Rucker, a star from St. Joseph’s (Mo.) Benton. Playing three years with Coffman, Rucker is one of the just five tight ends on this list who topped 200 receptions and one of just 10 names on this list with 2,000 yards. He was a consensus All-American and senior leader for a 12-2 Tigers team that finished fourth in the AP poll.

14. Jason Witten, Tennessee (2000-02)
Stats: 68 rec., 797 yds, 7 TDs

The numbers were never huge, but Witten is clearly one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the sport. He never missed a game during his three-year career at Tennessee and helped the Vols to a 27-11 record and an SEC East championship. From a dual-threat (blocking and receiving) perspective, Witten might be the best tight end to play the game during the BCS era.

15. Ron Gronkowski, Arizona (2007-08)
Stats: 75 rec., 1,197 yds, 16 TDs

The Gronk played just 20 career college games but was a touchdown machine in college well before setting NFL tight end touchdown records. Unfortunately, the 'Zona tight end missed all of the 2009 season after preseason back surgery after being named a preseason first-team All-American and the Mackey Award frontrunner.

16. Fred Davis, USC (2004-07)
Stats: 117 rec., 1,408 yds, 13 TDs

It took some time for Davis to develop, especially considering the wide receiver talent asking for the football at USC during his career. But when he made his mark as a senior in 2007 it was as the best tight end in the nation. He won the John Mackey Award that year and was an All-American. He played in two national title games, winning one as a freshman in 2004.

17. Zach Miller, Arizona State (2004-06)
Stats: 144 rec., 1,512 yds, 14 TDs

Miller gets a slight nod over fellow Sun Devil Todd Heap due to slightly better production and All-American recognition. He is the school’s all-time leading receiver at the tight end position and consistently made big plays for his offense. He was one of three Mackey finalists in 2006.

18. Todd Heap, Arizona State (1998-2000)
Stats: 112 rec., 1,658 yds, 10 TDs

Arguing between Miller and Heap is futile. Both were great players and Heap’s NFL career proved his school records were legitimate. The “Golden Retriever” was a two-time All-Pac-10 performer who was as dependable as any player at his position.

19. Dwayne Allen, Clemson (2009-11)
Stats: 93 rec., 1,079 yds, 12 TDs

A consensus All-American, Allen was one of the most clutch performers in the game during his time at Clemson. When the Tigers needed a big play on third down or in the red zone, Allen was the go-to target. He claimed the Mackey Award as a junior, was an All-American and helped Clemson win its first ACC title in two decades in 2010.

20. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington (2011-present)
Stats: 109 rec., 1,396 yds, 13 TDs

There is some projecting with ASJ, but he has already broken most school tight end records and will make a push this fall for the John Mackey Award. He was the No. 1 TE recruit in the nation two years ago and is poised for one of the greatest careers in Huskies history.

Related: The Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

21. Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame (2008-10)
Stats: 90 rec., 1,032 yds, 8 TDs

22. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame (2010-12)*
Stats: 140 rec., 1,840 yds, 11 TDs

23. Daniel Graham, Colorado (1998-2001)
Stats: 106 rec., 1,543 yds, 11 TDs

24. Matt Spaeth, Minnesota (2003-06)
Stats: 109 rec., 1,293 yds, 12 TDs

25. Vernon Davis, Maryland (2003-05)
Stats: 83 rec., 1,371 yds, 9 TDs

26. Tim Stratton, Purdue (1998-2001)
Stats: 190 rec., 1,976 yds, 15 TDs

27. Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State (2005-08)
Stats: 112 rec., 1,450 yds, 9 TDs

28. Dustin Keller, Purdue (2004-07)
Stats: 142 rec., 1,882 yds, 16 TDs

29. Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin (2008-10)
Stats: 78 rec., 1,160 yds, 8 TDs

30. Garrett Graham, Wisconsin (2007-09)
Stats: 121 rec., 1,492 yds, 16 TD

Related: The Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era  

The Next 30:

31. Zach Ertz, Stanford (2010-12): 112 rec., 1,434 yds, 15 TDs
32. Coby Fleener, Stanford (2008-11): 96 rec., 1,543 yds, 18 TDs
33. Ben Troupe, Florida (2000-03): 64 rec., 958 yds, 7 TDs
34. Bubba Franks, Miami (1997-99): 77 rec., 1,038 yds, 12 TDs
35. Garrett Mills, Tulsa (2002-05): 201 rec., 2,389 yds, 23 TDs
36. David Thomas, Texas (2002-05): 97 rec., 1,354 yds, 15 TDs
37. Ed Dickson, Oregon (2006-09): 124 rec., 1,557 yds, 12 TDs
38. Darius Hill, Ball State (2005-08): 158 rec., 2,473 yds, 31 TDs
39. Jacob Tamme, Kentucky (2004-07): 133 rec., 1,417 yds, 11 TDs
40. Owen Daniels, Wisconsin (2002-05): 62 rec., 852 yds, 8 TDs

41. Jonny Harline, BYU (2005-06): 121 rec., 1,788 yds, 17 TDs
42. Ibn Green, Louisville (1996-99): 217 rec., 2,830 yds, 33 TDs
43. Michael Egnew, Missouri (2008-11): 147 rec., 1,332 yds, 8 TDs
44. Shawn Nelson, Southern Miss (2005-08): 157 rec., 2,054 yds, 16 TDs
45. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State (2010-12): 122 rec., 1,646 yds, 17 TDs
46. Ladarius Green, UL-Lafayette (2008-11): 148 rec., 2,202 yds, 22 TDs
47. James Whalen, Kentucky (1997-99): 120 rec., 1,324 yds, 13 TDs
48. Orson Charles, Georgia (2009-11): 94 rec., 1,370 yds, 10 TDs
49. Cody Slate, Marshall (2006-09): 199 rec., 2,619 yds, 23 TDs
50. Jared Cook, South Carolina (2006-08): 73 rec., 1,107 yds, 7 TDs

51. Leonard Pope, Georgia (2003-05): 65 rec., 1,044 yds, 10 TDs
52. Chris Cooley, Utah State (2001-03): 96 rec., 1,255 yds, 11 TDs
53. Gary Barnidge, Louisville (2004-07): 108 rec., 1,491 yds, 17 TDs
54. Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern (2007-11): 143 rec., 1,567 yds, 14 TDs
55. Dorin Dickerson, Pitt (2006-09): 63 rec., 708 yds, 12 TDs
56. George Bryan, NC State (2008-11): 126 rec, 1,323 yds, 17 TDs
57. Kory Sperry, Colorado State (2004-08): 141 rec., 1,763 yds, 20 TDs
58. Greg Olsen, Miami (2004-06): 87 rec., 1,215 yds, 6 TDs
59. Ben Watson, Georgia (2001-03): 65 rec., 852 yds, 6 TDs
60. Bennie Joppru, Michigan (1999-2002): 79 rec., 731 yds, 8 TDs

Top 50s of the BCS Era:

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

The Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era

Agree or disagree with our ranking of College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era? Let us know on Twitter (@AthlonSports), using the hashtag #AthlonTE30

<p> College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /college-football/college-football-2013-preseason-rankings-26-40

The start of the college football season is just weeks away, and Athlon Sports is counting down the top teams for the upcoming year.

Alabama is Athlon’s pick to win the national championship, with Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes expected to finish No. 2 nationally.

While there is always plenty of intrigue in filling out the top 25, Nos. 26-40 feature a handful of teams that just missed. USC and UCLA should push Arizona State for the Pac-12 title and will be among the top 30 teams in college football this year. This range also finds a handful of teams from the ACC Coastal, including projected division champ Miami. 

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2013, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, beginning with Nos. 26-40. 

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2013 season

College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 26-40

26. USC
Lane Kiffin is feeling considerable heat after 2012’s disappointing 7–6 finish for a team some ranked No. 1 nationally heading into the season. Now he has the unenviable task of trying to return to prominence with an inexperienced quarterback, a major question mark at left tackle and a defense that could be vulnerable in the secondary.

If nothing else, at least he gets a break in a schedule that doesn’t include national power Oregon and opens with four games that the Trojans should win — three of them at home.

After that, though, things get difficult. The feeling is Kiffin needs nine or 10 victories, or his job could be in serious jeopardy.

2013 USC Trojans Team Preview

27. UCLA
The path to a division title is tougher in 2013, especially with a schedule that features road games at USC, Stanford and Oregon. Quarterback Brett Hundley will be better as a sophomore, but the Bruins need to find a replacement for running back Johnathan Franklin. The defense, which returns five starters, has room to improve after giving up 415.9 yards per game last year. The Bruins could be a better team, yet fail to repeat as division champs.

2013 UCLA Bruins Team Preview

28. Vanderbilt
James Franklin has accomplished something most thought was not possible: He’s made Vanderbilt football relevant in the SEC. The Commodores went 9–4 overall and 5–3 in the SEC. The nine wins were the most since 1915, and the winning record in the league was the school’s first since 1982. And there was nothing fluky about Vanderbilt’s breakthrough season — the Dores ranked fifth in the league in total defense and a respectable eighth in total offense. While a few key players must be replaced on both sides of the ball, there is more than enough returning talent to take this program to a third straight bowl game.

2013 Vanderbilt Commodores Team Preview

29. Miami
It’s been a decade since Miami last won 10 games in a season, and the lack of success has gradually eroded expectations. But things could be on the upswing in Coral Gables despite a never-ending NCAA investigation that has dogged Al Golden in his two-plus seasons as coach. With eight starters returning for a potentially explosive offense, four starters back on a rebuilding defense and a manageable schedule, the Hurricanes are a legitimate contender for a Coastal Division title and their first trip to the ACC title game.

2013 Miami Hurricanes Team Preview

30. Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech made changes to its staff in hopes that the shuffling gets the offense closer to the decades-long success of Bud Foster’s defense. The reality is that with completely new offensive tackles, a revamped receiving corps and question marks at running back, it might be more of the same until the new coaches can get a few recruiting classes under their belts.

Virginia Tech still has quarterback Logan Thomas and a defense that returns nine starters from a group that finished 18th nationally last year. An ACC title isn’t out of the question.

2013 Virginia Tech Hokies Team Preview

31. Kansas State
K-State has improved its record each and every season since coach Bill Snyder came out of retirement in 2009. From six wins his first year back to seven victories and a bowl game to 10 wins and the Cotton Bowl to 11 victories and a Big 12 championship last season — the Wildcats have continually gotten better.

But that upward trend will be difficult to continue with the losses of Heisman finalist quarterback Collin Klein, wideout Chris Harper, linebacker Arthur Brown, and several other key defensive starters.

The Wildcats return enough talent to be a threat in the Big 12, but not enough for another BCS bowl.

2013 Kansas State Wildcats Team Preview

32. Michigan State
Michigan State’s close losses last season (five by four points or fewer) are well documented. But the Spartans also won four games by four points or fewer. The margin for error for this team was razor thin. The 2013 season could look a lot like the ’12 campaign. The Spartans will once again be outstanding on defense, but issues remain on offense. The hope is that the improved offensive line will help the rest of the unit flourish. The schedule is favorable, but on paper it’s tough to project this team to finish higher than Michigan, Nebraska or Northwestern in the division. 

2013 Michigan State Spartans Team Preview

33. Ole Miss
Quarterback Bo Wallace can be a star if he cuts down on his interceptions. The Rebels need him to do that to be successful on the road early — they play at Vanderbilt, Texas, Alabama and Auburn — so that they’re not forced to climb uphill in the standings in a late string of home games.

Ole Miss exceeded expectations last year largely because it stayed relatively healthy. A similar dose of good fortune would be helpful again. The starters are talented, but the Rebels do not have quality depth across the board.

2013 Ole Miss Rebels Team Preview

34. Georgia Tech
With 16 returning starters and a team loaded with seniors, the 2013 Yellow Jackets could be coach Paul Johnson’s best team since the 2009 Orange Bowl squad. Much depends on how consistent quarterback Vad Lee can be, and if Georgia Tech can handle a tough schedule in which it will play four Coastal Division opponents in a row, including Virginia Tech on five days’ rest. The Jackets will need to find a way to handle division rivals Miami and Virginia Tech as well. While there have been a number of close calls, Johnson is a combined 2–8 against the Canes and Hokies. Georgia Tech is hardly a favorite, but it has the ingredients to win the division and play for the ACC title.

2013 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Team Preview

35. Cincinnati
The 58-year-old Tommy Tuberville seems energized by his move to Cincinnati. Tuberville went 20–17 at Texas Tech and was never truly embraced by the fans, but Cincinnati boosters are thrilled to have him. UC never has had a coach with anything resembling Tuberville’s national pedigree, which includes an 85–40 record at Auburn from 1999-2008.

There is a solid core of returnees, but the unknown is how much impact to expect from several transfers. Rodriguez Moore (all-purpose back) and Jeff Luc (linebacker), at one point or another, were rated No. 1 nationally at their positions by various recruiting services.

The Bearcats had 10-win seasons in both 2011 and 2012 under Butch Jones, who parlayed his success into the Tennessee job. With a relatively kind schedule, Cincinnati fans could see another season of double-digit wins. 

2013 Cincinnati Bearcats Team Preview

36. Baylor
Admittedly, coach Art Briles is biased, but he likes his team — a lot: “I feel like we’re going to win (the league title) every year,” he says. Quarterback Bryce Petty seems more than capable of taking the Bears to their fourth straight bowl game. And the Bears are loaded with talent at the skill positions, including running back Lache Seastrunk and receiver Tevin Reese. But the offensive line will have to hold up, and the defense has to be much better if Baylor plans on being a factor in the Big 12 title chase.

2013 Baylor Bears Team Preview

37. Washington
With a more imposing Husky Stadium, a new era of Washington football excellence is expected. The Huskies have nearly everyone back, but they need quarterback Keith Price at the top of his game.

Anything short of eight or nine wins and more serious title contention will be disappointing for a program eager to return to the national conversation.

2013 Washington Huskies Team Preview

38. North Carolina
Fans who like offense should get ready for another exciting season in Chapel Hill. Points should be plentiful once again — on both sides of the scoreboard.

The Tar Heels have sufficient firepower on offense as long as the offensive line can hold its own during a transition year up front and quarterback Bryn Renner can stay healthy. The latter, of course, is at least somewhat dependent upon the former.

On the other side of the ball, UNC players and coaches believe that a year of experience will lead to fewer missed assignments and penalties. With little proven talent on defense, the question is whether the Tar Heels can produce enough stops to emerge victorious from shootouts. The answer will go a long way in determining whether UNC can contend for the ACC Coastal Division crown.

2013 North Carolina Tar Heels Team Preview

39. Penn State
The Nittany Lions have the potential to score a lot of points if they’re able to find a reliable quarterback. They averaged just under 30 points per game last season, and that was while everyone was adapting to a radically new offense. This year, the schemes are familiar and players have adjusted to strength coach Craig Fitzgerald’s modernized weight program, so optimism is running high. That said, Penn State may need all the points the offense can muster. An injury or two at linebacker, where depth is precariously low, could create major problems.

2013 Penn State Nittany Lions Team Preview

40. Arizona
Somehow Arizona won eight games, including a bowl game, with the worst defense in school history by balancing it with the most prolific offense in school history. Those numbers aren’t likely to be as extreme this year. With Matt Scott gone, the quarterbacking situation is worrisome, but on defense the Wildcats appear to be improved. 

Arizona’s most telling advantage is its non-conference schedule; the Wildcats open against Northern Arizona, UNLV and UTSA. That should allow coach Rich Rodriguez the time to select a starting quarterback for the Pac-12 season, and replace receiver Austin Hill’s pass-catching load from among a group of five capable receivers. This is a veteran team looking for a quarterback to lead it. By November, when Arizona plays powers UCLA and Oregon in Tucson, the Wildcats could be good enough to upset either.

2013 Arizona Wildcats Team Preview

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<p> College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 26-40</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /nascar/nascar-numbers-game-6-key-stats-dover

“The Monster Mile” isn’t just a title for the purposes of ticket sales. It is a fine summation of a truly unique racetrack that causes fits for the majority of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver roster twice a year.

Dover International Speedway is a one-mile, high-banked attention grabber of a facility with fast closing speeds and diminished reaction time. It also offers some of the greatest lore in modern day NASCAR.

Jimmie Johnson is supremely dominant; so dominant, in fact, that it’s said he can’t be beaten, unless fuel mileage becomes a factor. Denny Hamlin is admittedly awful, so bad that he had to consult a sports psychologist prior to last fall’s race just so that he wouldn’t be mentally defeated before ever making the trip to Delaware.

The numbers from recent seasons seemingly back the mythology. For Hamlin, it is a troublesome track. For Johnson and others, it’s a tremendous coliseum.

For PEER and other metrics with which you may be unfamiliar, I refer you to my glossary of terms on

5.958  Jimmie Johnson’s 5.958 PEER at Dover is the best in the Cup Series.

With four wins in the last eight races, Johnson is arguably better at Dover than any driver at any other track — Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen offers a valid opposition — and easily ranks as the series’ most productive racer. This stems not only from winning, but winning with gusto. His affinity for pacing the field on the Monster Mile is of legendary proportions.

65.6%  In his four victories at Dover during the CoT era, Johnson had an average laps led percentage of 65.6.

This means Johnson doesn’t just win. He dominates. That’s sort of his general modus operandi when it comes to Dover, considering he has led 52.5 percent of the total laps there dating back to the 2009 spring race. In that time frame he averaged a running position of third place or better. Dover delivers a hectic day to most drivers, so it figures that Johnson has dwindled his competition down to about one or two other drivers in races there the last few years. This is also evident in his passing numbers.

78  Johnson converted 39 pass encounters out of a comparatively low two-race total of 78 into green-flag passes during the 2012 races at Dover.

That 50 percent passing efficiency on a low number of encounters is a byproduct of running in the front of the field all day. That he was able to avoid “for-position” traffic for the majority of the races at Dover is fairly advantageous for a team looking to take care of its car and come away with a victory. Aside from lapped traffic, Johnson didn’t often find himself in harm’s way that much last season.

75.5%  Kyle Busch did his best Johnson impression at Dover in last fall’s race, leading 75.5 percent of the race’s total laps. He did not win.

Instead, a rare fuel mileage-predicated ending awarded the win to Brad Keselowski, but Busch demonstrated that he was perfectly able to do “Kyle Busch things” on the dicey one-mile oval. Taking into account how dominant he has been in 2013, Busch is a win threat this weekend despite his sixth-best Dover-specific production rating (3.042).

4.833  Tied for second in Dover PEER with a 4.833 rating is Matt Kenseth, who might serve as a potential spoiler for this weekend’s event.

It takes me aback that there are those that are surprised by Kenseth’s success behind the wheel of a Joe Gibbs Racing car early this season. Kenseth has always been a savvy driver from track to track, but now he is piloting equipment that offers a bigger “home run” threat, so to speak, compared to his former Roush Fenway Racing digs. It appears that JGR is benefiting from the Gen-6 more than a lot of the other heavyweight teams in the sport, so the always-reliable Kenseth is in a plum position to score wins at tracks on which he has always been a skilled producer. Dover is one such track.

<p> David Smith crunches the numbers and finds the key NASCAR stats for the FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 20:02
Path: /mlb/MLB-best-prospects-by-position

Only hard-core baseball junkies are familiar with these names now, but in a few years all baseball fans will recognize these stars. Here’s a brief look at stars of the future who have yet to make their debuts in the major leagues.


Taijuan Walker, Seattle 
With above-average fastball, curve and change, Walker is clearly a future starter, but he must harness control issues. Through 10 starts at Double-A Jackson, opponents are batting just .190, but he has issued 27 walks in 59 innings.

Zack Wheeler, New York Mets
Acquired from the Giants for Carlos Beltran, the righthander possesses a fastball that nears triple digits. Fine-tuning his command and breaking pitches will get him to the majors, and that isn’t far away. In nine starts and 48.1 innings at Triple-A Las Vegas, he has 49 whiffs and allowed only 45 hits.

Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh (pictured)
Last season, his first in pro ball, he progressed from High-A to Triple-A where he made one start. In 10 starts at Triple-A this season, opponents are hitting just .207. Cole owns a major-league ready fastball and curve. He’ll be in Pittsburgh by August.

Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh
Pitching at Double-A this season, Taillon’s fastball will reach the upper 90s. He has 63 punchouts in 55.2 innings this season with a 2.19 ERA. As soon as he develops other pitches, he’ll join the
Pirates’ rotation, which should be in 2014.

Danny Hultzen, Seattle
The second-best left-handed prospect shined in his first four starts at Triple-A but hasn’t pitched since mid-April due to a rotator cuff problem. Red flag.

Archie Bradley, Arizona
After five tremendous starts at Single-A, Bradley has been even better at Double-A this season with a 0.69 ERA in five outings. He turns 21 in August and is on a fast track to the big leagues, although the Diamondbacks are adamant about not rushing him.

Chris Archer, Tampa Bay
With a fastball that reaches 98 and a tight slider, Archer could end up in the bullpen. Tampa Bay is his third organization and he’ll be 25 before the season ends.

Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets
Obtained in the R.A. Dickey trade over the winter, Syndergaard hasn’t disappointed the Mets. In nine starts at High-A Port St. Lucie, the 6'6" righthander has 52 strikeouts in 50.2 innings and has given up just one home run.

First Base

Jonathan Singleton, Houston
Long considered a top prospect in Philadelphia, Singleton is currently serving a suspension for a drug violation. He’s probably better suited for DH.

Keon Barnum, Chicago White Sox
The strong 20-year-old has prodigious power. The question will be whether he can develop consistency at the plate.

Second Base

Kolten Wong, St. Louis
Nothing about Wong will wow you except that he is a ballplayer. Speed, bat and glove are all just a tad above average, but his instincts, will and work ethic should land him a job in the majors and keep him there a long time.

Delino DeShields, Jr., Houston
Speed is his greatest asset, and the son of the former major leaguer has solid makeup and athleticism. He projects as a sturdy leadoff hitter and if his defense doesn’t cut it at second, he’ll make a solid center fielder.

Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore
Originally a shortstop, Schoop can play all over the infield. Second base seems to be where the Orioles need him most.

Nick Franklin, Seattle
Originally a shortstop, Franklin has split time at both middle infield positions this season. In 2010, he had 23 homers and 25 steals at Single-A Clinton.

Third Base

Miguel Sano, Minnesota
Sano turned 20 a few weeks ago and is tearing up the Florida State League with a .354 average and 23 extra-base hits including 11 homers in his first 40 games.


Francisco Lindor, Cleveland (pictured)
A few years ago, Lindor was the youngest player in the Futures Game. He’s considered the best defensive shortstop in the minors, and is batting .331 at Single-A.

Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
While not as refined at the plate as Lindor, Baez has more power. It will be interesting to see who eventually moves to third base, Baez or current Chicago shortstop Starlin Castro.

Xander Bogaerts, Boston
If Jose Iglesias ever blossoms for Boston, Bogaerts could move to third, shifting Will Middlebrooks to first.

Carlos Correa, Houston
His glove is well ahead of his bat, but his .410 OBP this season at Single-A isn’t too shabby.

Addison Russell, Oakland
He’s scuffling at .189 this season, but hit .369 across three levels in 2012.

Hak-Ju Lee, Tampa Bay
In the midst of a breakout season at the plate for Triple-A Durham, Lee suffered torn knee ligaments and will miss the remainder of the year.


Oscar Taveras, St. Louis
Without question, Taveras is the highest-prized prospect not yet called up to the big leagues. The Cardinals’ expectation is that he will be a regular in the Redbirds’ outfield next season.

Wil Myers, Tampa Bay
Outside of Jurickson Profar, Myers has received more attention than anyone in the minors this season. Only a matter of time before he’s helping Evan Longoria carry the Rays’ offense.

Christian Yelich, Miami
The 21-year-old has 20 extra-base hits, 23 runs and 23 RBIs in his first 26 games at Double-A.

Byron Buxton, Minnesota
Twins fans have been dreaming of an outfield that includes Buxton and Aaron Hicks. Buxton is still a few years away, and Hicks has appeared overmatched so far this season.

Nick Castellanos, Detroit
Originally a third baseman, he moved to the outfield this season, which is his quickest track to Detroit. Castellanos is a pure hitter with developing power.

Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati
Most fans are familiar with his 155 steals last season. But in his first foray into Triple-A, he’s struggled at the plate with a .228 average and .286 OBP.

Bubba Starling, Kansas City
Drafted in 2011, Starling chose the Royals over the opportunity to play quarterback at Nebraska. He hasn’t exactly exploded onto the scene, hitting just .213 this season at Single-A.

Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are excited about the young outfielder, currently hitting .296 and slugging .528 at Single-A Daytona.

Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Signed to a seven-year, $42 million deal out of Cuba last year, Puig has raw power and gave the Dodgers a glimpse during spring training just how good he can be.


Mike Zunino, Seattle (pictured)
The third overall pick in 2012 progressed quickly up to Double-A last season hitting .333 in 15 games. Success hasn’t come as easy at Triple-A this season, but the Mariners are convinced he is their long-term solution behind the plate.

Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets
Multiple knee injuries have prevented d’Arnaud from being in the bigs already. His forte is his bat with some power. He’s worked diligently to improve his throwing. The Mets would love to see him completely healthy and in New York in 2014.

Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
He won’t turn 21 until December and has serious power. He hasn’t mastered the nuances behind the plate, but he has a terrific arm. He’s currently hitting .279 at High-A Tampa.

Austin Hedges, San Diego
The Padres spent $3 million on their 2011 second-round pick believing he would be a long-term solution behind the plate. Defensively he has all the tools to be one of the best. His bat will probably never grade as high as his glove, but he has 11 walks and only 11 whiffs so far this season at High-A
Lake Elsinore, which lifts his OBP.

Christian Bethancourt, Atlanta
The Panama native’s prowess behind the plate and outstanding throwing arm may alone be enough for him to replace Brian McCann by 2015. If he improves his plate discipline, that could happen sooner.

<p> Athlon looks at the top stars of tomorrow on the baseball diamond.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 16:30
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/15-amazing-mlb-stats-week-may-20-26

Each week, Athlon Sports highlights the most important, intriguing and bizarre stats in baseball.

11-4   Indians’ record in one-run games
Last season much was made of the one-run magic that took up residence in Baltimore (29-9) and stayed all season. But Cleveland had a little magic of its own with a 24-12 record in one-run affairs. It appears that this magic has put down deeper roots in Cleveland. This season, the Indians continue to play well in close games with an 11-4 mark in one-run games, making them the best in the majors.
5-0   Indians’ mark in extra-inning games
Cleveland remains the last undefeated team in extra frames this season.
+4   Run total difference between Oakland and Texas
Even after a doubleheader for Texas on Memorial Day, the A’s had outscored the Rangers through the first 51 games. It seems that a lineup that starts with Coco Crisp and features some combination of Jed Lowrie, Seth Smith, Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson in the middle is a tad better than Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Lance Berkman, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz.
14  Wins by Matt Moore and Alex Cobb
The two young studs for Tampa Bay have the most wins this season of any pitching combination in the big leagues.
34 Quality Starts by Philadelphia
Perhaps this item should be in the Meaningless Stats column. The Phillies’ starters have logged the most Quality Starts in baseball this season as defined by MLB. However, the rotation carries a 4.18 ERA (16th in MLB), has only 16 wins (tied for 19th) and opponents are batting .251 (14th). So maybe it’s time to redefine Quality Start.
10-5, 2.43  W-L record and ERA for Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma
When the two hurlers take the mound for the Mariners, good things seem to follow. When others start for Seattle, very little good happens. The rest of the rotation is a combined 6-17, 6.78.
6-33  Houston record when scoring less than six runs
Okay, we know the Astros aren’t very good. In fact, they are really bad. But the pitchers are giving the team no chance to win. Asking the lineup to produce six runs every night is a bit much. And when the offense is missing — as is the case most nights — losing happens.
1 Series win at Tampa Bay for the Yankees in last 10 visits
When the Yankees rallied for two ninth-inning runs and subsequently won in 11 innings on a Lyle Overbay home run last Saturday, it marked the first time in 10 tries that New York has won a series at Tampa Bay.
.500  Prince Fielder’s batting average after an intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera
How tempting is it to intentionally pass Miguel Cabrera, the best hitter in the game? And how important is it for Miggy to have protection in the Detroit lineup? Since joining the Tigers last season, Prince Fielder is batting .500 (8-for-16) with 11 RBIs following an intentional walk to Cabrera.
.667 Pirates’ winning percentage in May
The Pittsburgh Pirates ended Memorial Day with a 16-8 record in May, the third-best in all of baseball. It just so happens, it’s also the third-best in the NL Central, which means that Pittsburgh has lost ground to both St. Louis and Cincinnati this month. #ToughDivision
10-0 Diamondbacks’ record when Patrick Corbin starts
Last week the young lefthander won both of his starts, defeating division rivals Colorado and San Diego. Corbin went the distance against the Rockies allowing just three hits and a walk. He is now 8-0 with a 1.71 ERA on the season and the Diamondbacks have won all 10 of his starts.
57 RBIs for Miguel Cabrera
Miggy has driven home 57 runs in his first 48 games. The only player with more than 162 RBIs in a 162-game season is Manny Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians in 1999.
.000  Lefthanders’ batting average against Francisco Liriano
 Through his first three starts of the season, left-handed batters are 0-for-12 off Liriano, who began the season with five rehab starts in the minor leagues.
13  Consecutive wins by the St. Louis Cardinals on May 21 
The last time the Redbirds lost on that date was in 1998. In that game, Philadelphia manager Terry Francona called on current Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro to pinch-hit.
5  Consecutive road games in which the Orioles’ Manny Machado had three hits
The young third baseman is batting .363 in 27 games away from home this season.
<p> Highlighting the most important, intriguing and bizarre stats in baseball.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 16:00
Path: /nfl/10-craziest-parents-sports

The craziest parents in sports have all had strange twists and turns along the way to fame or infamy. Many plotted every step of their child’s life. Others got in the way. Some were successful. Some failed. Every one of them made their kid’s journey a wild ride — for better or worse.

1. Marv Marinovich, father of Todd Marinovich
The undisputed worst sports parent in history, Marv was Dr. Frankenstein of “Robo QB” son Todd — who was dubbed “America’s first test-tube athlete” due to Marv’s extreme Eastern Bloc training methods. Only Ivan Drago was more programmed. Every aspect of Todd’s career was choreographed by Marv, who dictated diet, workout and daily routine — going over-the-top at every stop.

Todd’s success in high school and at USC (Marv’s alma mater) resulted in a first-round selection by the L.A. Raiders (Marv’s old team). But after eight games over two seasons, Todd’s NFL career ended with a 50.7 completion percentage, 1,345 yards, eight TDs, nine INTs, a 66.4 passer rating and 3–5 record as a starter.

The sad story of Todd’s post-NFL life has been well-documented. But the key words are heroin addiction, herniated disc, blown-out knee, CFL, Arena League and innocence lost. Oh, and Marv. Most people blame Marv.

2. Minna Wilson, mother of Tony Wilson
Mrs. Wilson remixed the LL Cool J hit “Mama Said Knock You Out” into “Mama Said No Knock Out.” When Steve McCarthy trapped Tony Wilson against the ropes, Mama Minna jumped into the ring and took a few swings of her own — resulting in a Wilson Family disqualification.

3. Andrea McDonald, mother of Alex Collins
One of the top running backs in the Class of 2013, South Plantation (Fla.) product Alex Collins could dodge or bulldoze just about anyone in his way — with the notable exception of his mom.

When Collins decided he was de-committing from Miami and heading to Arkansas, not only did Andrea McDonald refuse to sign his letter of intent, she stole the document and hid it before he could fax it in. When Collins’ dad signed the paperwork instead, McDonald hired The Cochran Firm to represent her. Soo wee! That’s overprotective.

4. Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena
Call Richard crazy like a fox — or crazy like Joe Jackson. It’s hard to argue with results. Richard coached both of his daughters from the Compton, Calif., public courts all the way to No. 1 world rankings.

An outwardly angry man who, rightfully, made race an outspoken issue on his rise to the top, Richard was questioned by the tennis world for holding his daughters back from the traditional youth tournament circuit. But it worked. His public outbursts, paranoia and media ramblings are no big deal these days.

5. Earl Woods, father of Tiger Woods
“My first conscious memory… is my father crazy-gluing this plastic golf club to my hands. His hair was all messed up, and he had this crazy look in his eye,” Tiger Woods, parodied brilliantly by Tim Meadows, says in a classic skit on Saturday Night Live. That’s probably not so far from the truth, consider Earl introduced Tiger to golf before he was age two.

6. William Sanders, father of Barry Sanders
William was an Oklahoma fan who rooted for the Sooners when his Heisman Trophy-winning son Barry was playing for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Seriously. William was Barry’s presenter at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, at which point he took time out of his son’s big day to “say hello to the greatest running back that ever lived, the No. 1 running back that ever lived. He’s not with us today, I think he’s with his family in Los Angeles — Mr. Jim Brown. So, I want to say hello to him.”

William wrapped up by saying, “I want to introduce you to the third best running back that ever lived, Barry Sanders.” Thanks, dad.

7. Larry Fitzgerald Sr., father of Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Sr. is a sportswriter at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder who was both praised and criticized nationally for covering Larry Jr.’s first trip to the Super Bowl as a neutral “journalist” in the press box and not as a cheering “parent” in the stands.

But he didn’t stay out of it this season when his son’s team — which plays roughly 1,600 miles away from Larry Sr.’s beat — went on a nine-game losing streak. “Definition of team quitting? 9 losses n a row. 9th loss 58-0! Injuries handling of offense worst NFL. Adrian Wilson & Darnell Dockett situations!” he tweeted. “…This is the NFL. Humbling embarrassing frustrating angering disappointing painful. What happens when u quit!”

8. Lynn and Rick Raisman, parents of Aly Raisman
While their little girl Aly had a gold-medal-clinching floor routine, Lynn and Rick Raisman had a national-spotlight-stealing fan routine at the 2012 London Olympics — complete with Team USA Polo uniforms, a flair for the dramatic and a knack for knowing where the cameras were placed. They stuck the landing.

9. Cecil Fielder, father of Prince Fielder
The big beef between history’s only father-son duo to each hit 50 home runs in a single season — Cecil hit 51 HR for the Detroit Tigers in 1990 and Prince hit 50 HR for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007 — revolves around Cecil wasting his own money, allegedly stealing six-figures of Prince’s money and calling Prince a fat boy — I’m sorry, an “obese kid.” Who will be the bigger man?

10. A.P. Indy, sire of 1,119 foals
Arguably the greatest stud in thoroughbred horse racing history, A.P. Indy did not attend a single race of his 1,119 foals — of which 142 were stakes winners.

Sharing bloodlines with both Seattle Slew and Secretariat, A.P. Indy was sold for $2.9 million as a yearling, posted an 8–2–1 record in 11 starts and commanded a $300,000 stud fee during his lengthy heyday, before retiring prior to the 2012 breeding season. Absolutely crazy.

<p> The craziest parents in sports, including Marv Marinovich, Richard Williams, Earl Woods, William Sanders, Larry Fitzgerald Sr., Lynn and Rick Raisman, Cecil Fielder, Minna Wilson, Andrea McDonald and A.P. Indy.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 11:25
Path: /college-basketball/2013-14-college-basketball-conference-american-early-rankings

The American Athletic Conference doesn’t have a logo or a site for its conference tournament. But it does have the defending national champion and clear top team for 2013-14.

In its first and final season in the American Athletic Conference, Louisville is the clear favorite with many of the key pieces returning from last season’s title winner.

Although the American won’t be as good as the former Big East, the league is hoping a handful of teams -- both from the old Big East and teams imported from Conference USA -- will keep the league flush with its share of postseason contenders.

The C-USA newcomers, most notably Houston and SMU, have been gearing up for this move. Memphis is, as usual, the best of this bunch, but the Cougars and Mustangs have added top high school recruits and transfers to at least make their first seasons in the new league interesting.

Here’s a quick look at the American Athletic Conference and early rankings for 2013-14.

Other conference snapshots:
Big East
Big Ten
Big 12 (June 6)
Pac-12 (June 11)
Mountain West, A-10, MVC and others (June 13)


1. LOUISVILLE (35-5, 14-4 Big East, won national title)
Key players gone: Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva
Top returners: Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear, Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell, Russ Smith, Kevin Ware
New faces: Anton Gill (Hargrave Military Academy), Chris Jones (junior college), Terry Rozier (Hargrave)
Not so fast on slotting Kentucky as the national championship favorite. The Cardinals will have a chance to defend their title with the return of Russ Smith after early indications had the shooting guard headed to the draft. Chris Jones and Terry Rozier will ease the loss of Peyton Siva while forward Montrezl Harrell could be the Cards’ breakout star in 2013-14 after shining in the postseason.

Related: Realignment tracker for all college basketball moves

2. CONNECTICUT (20-10, 10-8 Big East)
Key players gone: None
Top returners: Ryan Boatright, Omar Calhoun, DeAndre Daniels, Niels Giffey, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander
New faces: Kentan Facey (freshman), Lasan Kromah (transfer from George Washington), Enosch Wolf (suspended)
After a postseason ban, UConn should be back in the NCAA Tournament picture with the return of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. A problematic frontcourt from last season could get a boost with the team’s top freshman (Facey) and a 7-1 center who was suspended all of last season (Wolf). Kromah was a late addition after averaging 10.1 points per game at George Washington last season. The guard could be eligible immediately.

Related: UConn among top recruiting classes since 2000

3. MEMPHIS (31-5, 16-0 Conference USA, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: Antonio Barton, Tarik Black, D.J. Stephens, Adonis Thomas
Top returners: Chris Crawford, Shaq Goodwin, Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson
New faces: Markel Crawford, Kuron Iverson, Nick King, Austin Nichols, RaShawn Powell (all freshmen)
Two former Memphis players -- Tarik Black and Antonio Barton -- are hot commodities in the transfer pool, but the Tigers should be able to absorb those losses with another highly ranked recruiting class, including three top-50 forwards. The new faces will be led by an improving Joe Jackson, plus Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson, who each topped 10 points per game last season.

4. CINCINNATI (22-12, 9-9 Big East, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Cheikh Mbodj, JaQuon Parker, Cashmere Wright
Top returners: Jeremiah Davis, Sean Kilpatrick, Titus Rubles, Jermaine Sanders
New faces: Jermaine Lawrence (freshman)
Losing the point guard Wright will hurt, but Kilpatrick (17 ppg, 5.2 rpg) elected to return to school. The arrival of versatile forward Lawrence was a major recruiting victory for Mick Cronin and another big get out of New York/New Jersey for the Bearcats.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: SEC

5. TEMPLE (24-10, 11-5 Atlantic 10, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: T.J. DiLeo, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, Jake O’Brien, Scootie Randall, Khalif Wyatt
Top returners: Will Cummings, Anthony Lee, Dalton Pepper
Lee (9.8 ppg) is the only returning player who averaged better than six points per game last season, but Temple is nothing if not consistent. The Owls have won between 21 and 29 games with an NCAA Tournament appearance in each of the last six seasons. Two of Temple’s top freshmen from 2012-13, wing Daniel Dingle and big man Devontae Watson, played only 16 games last season.

6. HOUSTON (20-13, 7-9 Conference USA, CBI quarterfinal)
Key players gone: Leon Gibson, J.J. Thompson
Top returners: Danuel House, Valentine Izundu, J.J. Richardson, Jherrod Stiggers, TaShawn Thomas, Tione Womack, Joseph Young
New faces: Danrad “Chicken” Knowles (ineligible last season), Jaaron Simmons (freshman)
Houston is gearing up for tougher competition with Young (18 ppg), Thomas (16.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg) and House, the Conference USA freshman of the year, all returning. With the freshman Knowles, a 6-10 forward, eligible after missing all of last season, Houston could be a surprise team in the AAC.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: Big Ten

7. SMU (15-17, 5-11 Conference USA)
Key players gone: None
Top returners: Brian Bernardi, Cannen Cunningham, Jalen Jones, Ryan Manuel, Nick Russell, Shawn Williams
New faces: Keith Frazier (freshman), Crandall Head (transfer from Illinois), Markus Kennedy (transfer from Villanova), Yanick Moreira (junior college transfer), Nic Moore (transfer from Illinois State)
A slew of transfers are eligible for SMU in Year 2 of Larry Brown’s rebuilding project. Moore led the Missouri Valley with 135 assists as a freshman in 2011-12, but the big addition will be Frazier, a McDonald’s All-American shooting guard. They join a team that returns three double-digit scorers.

8. UCF (20-11, 9-7 Conference USA)
Key players gone: Keith Clanton
Top returners: Calvin Newell, Tristan Spurlock, Isaiah Sykes, Daiquon Walker, Matt Williams, Kasey Wilson
The Knights return from a postseason ban bringing back every key player other than Keith Clanton, who averaged 14.8 points per game and a team-leading 8.5 rebounds. Isaiah Dykes emerged as a stat sheet-stuffing threat with 16 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

Related: Grading Eddie Jordan and other hires for 2013-14

9. RUTGERS (15-16, 5-13 Big East)
Key players gone: Eli Carter, Austin Johnson, Dane Miller, Mike Poole, Derrick Randall, Jerome Seagears
Top returners: Kadeem Jack, Wally Judge, Myles Mack
New coach Eddie Jordan will try to rebuild with a depleted roster that saw Carter and Seagears transfer to SEC schools. Mack (13.6 ppg), Judge (7.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Jack (5.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg) isn’t a bad place to start, but few coaches have been able to succeed in Piscataway.

10. USF (12-19, 3-15 Big East)
Key players gone: Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, Jawanza Polland, Kore White
Top returners: Martino Brock, Anthony Collins, Javontae Hawkins, Zach LeDay, Victor Rudd
New faces: John Egbunu (freshman)
The bottom fell out after USF reached the round of 32 in 2012. The Bulls still have point guard Anthony Collins, who averaged 6.5 assists as a sophomore and improved his shooting percentage from 39 percent to 50 percent. John Egbunu, a rare top-100 recruit to sign with USF, gives the Bulls size in the frontcourt.

<p> Who's gone and who's back in the American Athletic Conference for 2013-14</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 10:45
Path: /college-football/everett-golsons-departure-big-loss-notre-dame

After throwing for 2,405 yards and 12 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman last season, Everett Golson was poised to emerge as one of Notre Dame’s top players for 2013. The Fighting Irish expected their defense to rank among the best nationally once again, but the offense was supposed to shoulder more of the burden this fall.

However, that outlook has changed significantly. Golson has been suspended for the 2013 season due to an academic issue, dealing the Notre Dame offense a huge setback three months before kickoff. While the Fighting Irish offense will miss Golson this season, the sophomore plans on returning to the team in 2014.

Although Golson wasn’t going to be one of the top 10 quarterbacks in college football this year, it was clear he made progress in the second half of 2012 and held his own (21-of-36, 270 yards, TD, INT) against Alabama in the national championship game.

Everett Golson's 2013 Statistics

  Rush Att Rush Yds TDs Comp Att Yards Comp. % TDs INTs
First 7 Games 42 81 2 79 135 968 58.5 4 3
First 6 Games 52 217 4 108 183 1,437 59.0 8 3

Where Does Notre Dame Go From Here?

Losing Golson is a clear setback for Notre Dame’s offense. However, if there is any good news surrounding this situation, it’s the fact that backup Tommy Rees has played in 33 career games and has 18 starts under his belt.

Rees has thrown for 34 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in his career, along with a 63.5 completion percentage. With Golson sidelined against BYU last year, Rees completed seven of 16 passes for 117 yards and one score.

There’s no question Rees has the experience necessary to lead Notre Dame to 10 wins in 2013. However, in terms of talent, Golson clearly had the edge and his mobility added an extra dimension to the offense.

Rees should open fall practice atop the depth chart, but junior Andrew Hendrix (304 career passing yards) and true freshman Malik Zaire will compete for time. Hendrix is a good runner but has yet to prove he can consistently beat defenses with his arm.

Zaire was rated as Athlon's No. 21 quarterback and has dual-threat ability. But would a true freshman be a better option than Rees this season? Probably not.

Considering Brian Kelly’s experience at Cincinnati and at Notre Dame, during which he has won with multiple quarterbacks, the Fighting Irish offense should be solid regardless of who is under center. No, Notre Dame isn't going to score 35-40 points a game, but the offense should do just enough to keep this team in every game. Rees may not bring much dynamic ability to the position, but he has experience and played well when called upon last year. If Zaire has to start, the Fighting Irish will have to lean on their defense even more than last season.

Regardless of which quarterback starts, expect Notre Dame to lean more on its ground attack – even with the departure of running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick. USC transfer Amir Carlisle, George Atkinson III and true freshman Greg Bryant should be a capable trio, and Notre Dame returns three starters on one of the top 15 offensive lines in the nation.

How Many Games Will Notre Dame Win in 2013?

Make no mistake: Notre Dame has one of the toughest schedules in college football for 2013. The Fighting Irish must play 11 bowl teams, with road trips to Michigan, Pittsburgh and Stanford. And there’s a neutral site matchup against Arizona State, who is picked as the favorite by Athlon Sports to win the Pac-12 South.

Considering Notre Dame has one of the nation’s top defenses, along with a reliable rushing attack and offensive line, winning 10 games is certainly possible. Had Golson returned, the Fighting Irish would have to be considered a national title contender. However, without Golson, Notre Dame will take a step back on offense.

Athlon ranked Notre Dame as the No. 8 team for 2013 and projected the Fighting Irish to finish 10-2 prior to Golson’s suspension. But that may be too optimistic with Rees, Zaire or Hendrix under center.

Despite the loss of Golson, the Fighting Irish should have a chance to play for a BCS game. The strength of schedule will help in the polls, and the defense should be able to carry Notre Dame while the offense settles on a quarterback.

There’s not much room for error for Notre Dame in 2013. However, if the defense matches last year’s performance, the Fighting Irish should be able to finish 9-3 or 10-2 and rank among the top 14 teams at the end of the regular season.

After last year's appearance in the national championship game, it was clear Notre Dame was headed on the right track under Brian Kelly. Losing Golson is a setback, but nothing that should derail the Fighting Irish from becoming a consistent top 10-15 team.

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<p> Everett Golson's Departure a Big Loss for Notre Dame</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 10:25