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In case you missed Sunday's incredible World Cup game when the US squared off against Portugal, this GIF pretty much summarizes it. 

 

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In case you missed Sunday's incredible World Cup game when the US squared off against Portugal, this GIF pretty much summarizes it.
Post date: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 10:31
Path: /nba/3-most-likely-landing-spots-carmelo-anthony-ranked
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Carmelo Anthony has a monumental decision to make in the coming weeks. Stay with the Knicks or bolt town to join a more promising contender? Will it be as dramatic as LeBron’s “The Decision”? That’s not possible. Still, one of the most lethal scorers in the NBA will get his fair share of attention from suitors this offseason.

 

Carmelo has recently stated that he wants the “Dwight Howard Treatment”, meaning he’ll expect all seriously interested parties to send the house to New York in order to convince him that their teams are the right fit. He’s right in the thick of his prime, so wherever he signs will likely be his home for the remainder of his career, a place he'll be searching for championships and sinking silky smooth jumpers night after night.

 

From the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks, it hasn’t exactly been a comfortable ride for Melo. Given ample opportunity, management has failed to provide him with adequate partners in order to make a postseason run. Some of the responsibility rests with him, but in time Anthony has realized that to excel in this league, he must take matters into his own hands.

 

Coming soon to a city near you: the second best scorer in the NBA (Kevin Durant is just too good). But, where, you ask? Below are the 3 most probable destinations for the star.

 

1. Houston Rockets

 

Houston wants Melo the most, and that’s a good place to start. Logistically, signing Anthony would take some work. With the contracts of James Harden and Dwight Howard, there’s hardly any cap room left to lure a player of Carmelo’s caliber. Some sort of sign-and-trade would have to happen, and that would leave the cupboard bare for the Rockets outside of their big three. Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Omer Asik are potential trade pieces as a part of any deal. The Rockets would likely have to part ways with a fair amount of draft picks for the Knicks to accept the deal, so it looks like Houston would be taking a championship-or-bust approach to the situation.

 

Dwight Howard, a player the Rockets sacrificed so much to acquire this past year, has been vocal in his recruitment of Carmelo. Howard has experience playing in both big markets (Los Angeles) and small ones (Orlando). His career path has been relatively similar to that of Carmelo. There’s a chance that Melo follows in Superman’s footsteps and abandons the Knicks for Houston. One underrated factor: There’s no state income tax in Texas, and we all know how much Melo loves his cash.

 

2. Chicago Bulls

 

This summer Chicago will almost certainly amnesty Carlos Boozer, who’s been a major disappointment in Chi-town. Boozer was supposed to be the answer after signing in 2010, but four years later it’s clear that project has failed miserably. With Derrick Rose coming back from injury this year, the Bulls are ready to shed their dead weight and make some offseason moves to vault them back into championship contention.

 

The team will have enough cap room to sign Melo, and without all the messy maneuvering that the Rockets need to pull off. Chicago doesn’t need the Knicks to agree to anything, they can acquire No. 7 in free agency if they ditch a few of their role players this summer. Adding Anthony to a well-coached team featuring a healthy Rose and Joakim Noah, the reigning defensive player of the year, immediately turns the Bulls into one of the East’s best. Melo’s presence would take the pressure off Rose to carry the team, in effect helping the point guard recuperate from his knee issues. It seems like a nice fit, but it’s odd that the Bulls’ stars haven’t been as outspoken about signing Carmelo as Howard has.

 

Anthony would probably only net about $18 million if he signs with the Bulls. Chicago could push that number up higher if need be, but in doing so they would be trading away many valuable assets. If Rose, Noah, and Anthony are on board, and Carmelo buys into Coach Thibodeau's system, the Bulls could be very dangerous for years to come.

 

3. Dallas Mavericks

 

Another team that plays in the Lonestar State is in position to score big in free agency this offseason. In my opinion, the third spot is a battle between the Boston Celtics and the Mavs. However, Carmelo wants to win now and the Celtics are in major rebuilding mode. The Mavs, who nearly eliminated the 2014 NBA Champion Spurs in the first round of the playoffs, are just one player away from hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the second time in five years.

 

Mark Cuban is quietly one of the best owners in the NBA. Well, “quietly” isn’t the best wording. Cuban has proven that he's unafraid to speak out on his concerns about officiating, the salary cap, and the Donald Sterling fiasco. But behind the scenes, he keeps the Mavericks on the top of the West annually. Now, it doesn’t hurt to have Dirk Nowitzki on your side, but that’s just proof that Cuban knows how to handle stars. Last year, Cuban negotiated well enough to reach the interview stage with Howard and you can expect Dallas to be active late in the running for Carmelo this summer too.

 

Reports claim Nowitzki has said, “If Carmelo would really love to come here, we would love to have him”. A trio of Dirk, Melo, and Monta Ellis would be easy on the eyes and brutal for opposing defenses. The Mavs will have enough cap space to offer Melo a max contract, so that gives them an edge on other competitors for Anthony’s services. I have some doubt about the Mavs’ abilities to convince a big time free agent to come to Dallas, though. In the past few years, the team has missed on targets LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, and Derron Williams among others. Cuban and the entire organization will be working and wishing for their fortune to change this offseason.

 

It appears Melo will have a lot of options on the table when it comes time for him to make his decision. His most preferable scenario is staying with the Knicks. Ideally, Phil Jackson brings multiple stars to the big apple and builds a championship-caliber team around Melo. But for now, Anthony is stuck alongside ball-hog J.R. Smith, mystery man Amar’e Stoudemire, and a barren supporting cast. If positive changes don’t come soon, Carmelo will be scoring points in a different jersey later this year.

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Three Potential Landing Spots for Carmelo Anthony
Post date: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/stanford-football-2014-schedule-analysis
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David Shaw is now a two-time defending Pac-12 champion. 

 

Stanford has established itself as one of the premier programs west of the Mississippi after an unprecedented run of success over the last half decade. But Shaw is facing something he hasn't really had to face during his brief time leading the ship in Palo Alto. He is facing stability issues for the first time.

 

He must replace a host of elite starters on defense while also breaking in a new defensive coordinator. And he must do so in what could be the best conference in the nation. 

 

The Cardinal will face one of the toughest schedules in the nation this fall and should they land in the playoff or win a third straight league crown, they will have earned it.

 

2014 Stanford Schedule Analysis

 

2014 Stanford Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 30UC Davis
2.Sept. 6
3.Sept. 13
4.Sept. 20Bye
5.Sept. 27at 
6.Oct. 4at 
7.Oct. 10
8.Oct. 18at 
9.Oct. 25
10.Nov. 1at 
11.Nov. 8Bye
12.Nov. 15
13.Nov. 22at 
14.Nov. 29at 
Right out of the gate

The Cardinal face both UC Davis and Army in the first month, but in the first four weeks of the season, Stanford also will play two of the five most important games of the year. The first will feature USC at home in just Week 2 and the other will come on the road against a divisional foe who beat them the last time it visited. Stanford lost to Washington in Seattle two years ago on a Thursday night and the Huskies have only gotten better since then. A win over Stanford would be the first marquee victory for new UW coach Chris Petersen. The good news for David Shaw is the off weekend prior to the game, giving the staff two weeks to prepare for Washington.

 

Sweep of October?

Stanford will play four opponents in the month of October that it played and beat last year five times. Stanford smoked Arizona State (twice) and Washington State last year but snuck past both Oregon State (20-12) and Notre Dame (27-20). The two easier games will come at home, but a return to the Pac-12 title game location in Tempe could prove to be a major hurdle to repeating as Pac-12 champs. The road trip to Notre Dame is a huge game of national importance and could carry playoff implications, but means nothing to the Cardinal’s Pac-12 title hopes. The focus should be on the Sun Devils in October.

 

On the road in November

Three of the final four games for Stanford will come on the road and two of those feature the two teams Athlon Sports is predicting to play in the Pac-12 title game. Stanford won the last time it visited Oregon and will start a nasty final month of the season with arguably the biggest game of the year in Eugene. A third straight win over the Ducks all but gives Stanford the North Division. A road trip to UCLA — should the Cardinal top Oregon — could hold a College Football Playoff berth in the balance before what could be a rematch the following week in Levi’s Stadium. In between are two easy games with Utah at home and Cal on the road — even if The Big Game is an important rivalry tilt. Stanford has beaten Cal four years in a row and has won the last two by a combined score of 84-16.

 

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Final Verdict

The Cardinal have their goals set on repeating as Pac-12 champs and securing a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff. Should Stanford make it through the Pac-12 slate unscathed or with just one loss, this team will have earned the right to play for the national title. According to Athlon Sports’ preseason Top 25 rankings, David Shaw’s bunch will play the Nos. 6, 7, 13, 14, 16 and 24 teams in the regular season alone, with a likely rematch against one of its South Division foes in the Pac-12 title game. A 10-2 record would be extremely respectable but likely won’t win the league or score a playoff berth.

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Stanford Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/13-things-you-need-know-about-college-football-recruiting
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There are the hats and the star rankings, the Signing Day ceremonies and the fanbase hopes that are rewarded or dashed with each announcement. February’s National Signing Day, as it’s known across the country, is the conclusion of a long cycle that’s complete with living room visits, phone calls and countless bags of mail.
 

A signature is just the beginning. College football recruiting is almost an entirely different sport — outside the hashmarks, complete with its own etiquette, rules, and regulations. Here are 13 things you need to know about it.


Players Commit to a Coach But Sign With a School


When James Franklin left Vanderbilt for Penn State earlier this year, he took with him eight Commodore coaches, four Commodore administrators and three Commodore strength coaches.
 

And, perhaps most controversial of all, he took five recruits who had been committed to Vanderbilt.
 

Verbal commitments are non-binding, but that certainly didn’t stop people in Nashville from accusing Franklin and the Penn State staff of poaching players.
 

“I didn’t see it that way,” says Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, who made the move to Happy Valley with Franklin. “These kids were calling him, asking, ‘How can we come with you?’ It was kinda awkward at the time.”
 

Idealistically, recruits choose and enroll in schools. But they build personal relationships with those schools’ coaches, who check in with them about their grades and their lives and have sit-down conversations with their families in their living rooms.
 

It follows, then, that those recruits would wish to tag along with the coaches who sold them on the school to which they originally committed. Still, those who take advantage of the relationships they fostered are roundly criticized if the end result is recruits jumping ship after a coach changes jobs.
 

“It’s kinda hypocritical,” Shoop says. “I watch some get recognized as great recruiters for flipping guys, then we were criticized when guys said they wanted to come with us to Penn State. Coach (Franklin) got a bad rap for that.”


The Best Recruiters Are The Recruits Themselves


When consensus four-star quarterback Drew Barker, a native of Burlington, Ky., committed to Kentucky in May 2013, he revived the Wildcats’ credibility in the Commonwealth. Barker’s commitment was an initial piece of evidence that the new Kentucky staff, led by former Florida State assistant coach Mark Stoops, would be one to reckon with on the recruiting trail.
 

But just being a potential cornerstone for a struggling in-state program wasn’t enough. Barker wanted more; specifically, he wanted more players, as talented as himself, to join him at Kentucky.
 

So he grabbed the digital megaphone that is Twitter and challenged his peers to join him. He created a Twitter account (@UK2014Class) and sent out tweets like, “THE 2014 UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY RECRUITING CLASS WILL GO DOWN IN HISTORY!” and, “Come be a HERO.”
 

Recruits sift through letters and endure countless monotonous phone calls from college coaches. When a committed (literally and figuratively) recruit has another prospect’s ear, it can be a valuable asset for coaching staffs.
 

“(Drew) became the face of the class,” Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown says. “The class kind of gravitated to him. He took it and ran with it himself. He took the reins with the whole class.”
 

With an assist from Barker, perhaps, Kentucky’s 2014 signing class was its highest-ranked in the history of Rivals, at 17th overall — better than Ole Miss, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.


Recruits sift through letters and endure countless monotonous phone calls from college coaches. When a committed (literally and figuratively) recruit has another prospect’s ear, it can be a valuable asset for coaching staffs.
 

“(Drew) became the face of the class,” Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown says. “The class kind of gravitated to him. He took it and ran with it himself. He took the reins with the whole class.”
 

With an assist from Barker, perhaps, Kentucky’s 2014 signing class was its highest-ranked in the history of Rivals, at 17th overall — better than Ole Miss, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.


Unofficial Visits Are More Important Than Ever
 

One of the universally accepted facts of recruiting in college football is that unless you can get a prospect on campus for an unofficial visit — i.e., on his own dime — chances are, the prospect won’t choose your school.
 

There are two types of visits in recruiting: One is the official, which one Pac-12 staffer calls “sacred.” Under the official visit guidelines, schools are permitted to pay for things like transportation, hotel rooms, food (three meals a day) and entertainment. Each Division I prospect is allowed to take five such visits beginning in September of his senior year.
 

But, in the age of booming scouting websites, football coaches can’t wait until a prospect is a senior — which is why the unofficial visit has taken on more and more importance in today’s recruiting world. Prospects can take as many unofficial visits as their hearts desire. Many times, these happen in the form of Junior Day camps, where schools work hands-on with hordes of junior prospects in the spring.
 

“Everybody is basing their decision off of the experience of the unofficial visit,”

Tennessee assistant Mark Elder says. “Unofficial visits are unbelievably crucial. You go and look at recruiting rankings, and half the kids are committed by Sept. 1 of their senior year (the first day they can take official visits).”


Official Visits Are Not All-Expenses-Paid-Vacations


On a recent spring afternoon from his office in Tempe, Ariz., Patrick Suddes could only marvel at the weather.
 

“It’s perfect, man,” Arizona State’s recruiting coordinator said. “78 degrees. Slightly windy. It’s just perfect.”
 

With that kind of beauty, though, comes a challenge for Suddes and his coaching cohorts. They heavily research and vet prospects before inviting them to come to campus for an official visit. The Sun Devils don’t want to simply be a temporary vacation spot for a recruit; they want to ensure that there’s legitimate interest on the recruit’s end in attending the school.
 

“We don’t want guys to come in just to see the palm trees,” Suddes says. “So you do as much research as possible.”
 

Though places like Arizona State, Hawaii and Miami are some of the more aesthetically pleasing locales in the country, the problem isn’t unique to them. When Suddes was at Alabama, he said prospects took official visits just so they could get a taste of the environment at Crimson Tide home games.
 

“No matter where you are, if your school has a certain niche or is on some kind of bucket list, you always kind of experience that problem,” Suddes says. “You try to do as much on the front end, but you can’t tell a top kid he can’t visit for the experience.”


Letters Can Be More Headache Than Heartfelt


Drew Richmond is a consensus Top 50 junior offensive lineman prospect from Memphis University School. That being the case, he gets heaps upon heaps of letters from just about every school in the nation. One day, he came home to 200 pieces of mail — most of it sprawled out on the street — from an SEC school. For Richmond, hand-written equals hassle — because where could all this mail possibly fit?
 

“You get so much mail,” says the 6'6", 315-pound lineman, who has offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and more. “That stuff doesn’t really mean a lot. I’m more of a Twitter guy.”
 

Richmond prefers his written interactions with college coaches be condensed into 140 characters (or less). That way, he can sift through recruiting pitch after recruiting pitch with one swipe and not have to worry about finding a place to stow them.


Not to say there haven’t been pieces of mail that stuck out. The University of Memphis, Richmond’s hometown school, sent him a mock newspaper article that laid out a detailed scenario in which the Tigers, led by Richmond in this fantasy world, could make the College Football Playoff in 2016.


Early Commitments Aren’t Always Firm Commitments


Tennessee assistant coach Mark Elder likens committing early to a college — as, say, an underclassman — to getting married at 19. It might work if you’ve found the right person. But, more than likely, you haven’t had enough life experience to know if you’ve found the right person.
 

If Elder were a relationship therapist, he would recommend more relationships. Since he’s a college football coach, he recommends that a prospect take as many visits as possible before settling down.


“If you’ve got a kid willing to commit that hasn’t been a lot of places and is just sort of wanting to commit to the best place he’s seen to that point, it’s too early,” Elder says. “You haven’t seen places and you haven’t had the experience.”


Those are the prospects, Elder says, who get cold feet — though there are exceptions. Legacies and local players who grew up Volunteer fans are always welcome. It varies case-by-case; when Tennessee makes the decision whether to accept an underclassman commitment, they properly vet the committing party beforehand.


“Early commitments can be very beneficial, especially if you can get a guy who can get involved in recruiting other kids,” he says. “The tough part is if you don’t feel it’s a strong one — if it’s more reservation than commitment — he can be difficult to hang on to for a long time.”


Location, Location, Location Still Matters Most


For as much as Nebraska has to offer, with its tradition and unrivaled state support, there are recruiting stigmas the Cornhuskers must face. Nebraska’s biggest battle, unfortunately, is one it can do nothing about: its location.

In an age when unofficial visits are more important than ever, it’s a constant challenge for a program like Nebraska’s — smack-dab in the middle of the Midwest — to get recruits on campus on their own dime. The recruiting pool in the state is shallow at best.
 

“If you drew a four-hour circle around every school in the Big Ten, we would have the least population,” Nebraska director of recruiting Ross Els says. “It puts us at a disadvantage, purely on numbers.”
 

It’s not like Nebraska is exactly going without on the recruiting trail; its 2015 class is currently ranked No. 17 by Rivals, and three of the last four Huskers classes finished in the top 25.
 

Once prospects set foot on campus officially, the program sells itself. But, for Nebraska, the official visit tends to be more of a culmination of the recruiting process. And what precedes it.
 

The Huskers coaches first must debunk myths for their targets: It’s not, in fact, simply a cornfield where they play football. To facilitate that cause, the coaches in Lincoln have a program in place called “Teach Nebraska.” They start recruiting players as early as possible, sending them waves and waves of information through social media, mail and every medium available to them.
 

A prospect may or may not be able to make it to Nebraska for an unofficial visit — but this way, at least, he’ll know exactly what the school has to offer.
 

“We do have a lot of contacts throughout the country,” Els says. “We develop those relationships and the trust factor and send kids as much information as possible so that they can realize just what a special place we have here.”


High School Senior Seasons Are An Afterthought


With the explosion of combines, camps and websites like HUDL, which allow prospects to upload their own highlights, college coaches agree: As it concerns top prospects, the senior season is obsolete.
 

Recruiting works at hyper-speed in 2014. Coaches race to get to a prospect first simply to call dibs. The prevalence of unofficial visits and online scouting websites has sped up the cycle. By early May, 33 of Rivals’ Top 100 2015 prospects were committed to a school.
 

Bob Shoop, the defensive coordinator at Penn State, says he and his staff have already watched film of 150 safeties in the Class of 2015 and a “significant” number of local 2016 prospects in the region. These days, coaches can’t afford to wait for senior film; they have to evaluate prospects and determine if they’re good enough much earlier.
 

“A significant portion of evaluation is done well prior to the senior year,” Shoop says. “It’s sort of become, ‘Let’s get an offer out to this guy, let’s get one out to that guy.’”
 

As always, there are exceptions. As a junior at Katy High School in Texas, Andy Dalton didn’t even start full-time at quarterback. He split time and wasn’t handed the reins until he was a senior. Now an NFL starting quarterback, Dalton had just two offers in high school: UTEP and TCU, where he ultimately ended up.
 

“Sometimes people can get overlooked,” says Memphis coach Justin Fuente, who coached Dalton at TCU. “We take a little bit more of an old-school approach to it. We try to slow down just a little bit.”


Dead Period? What Dead Period? There is None


By definition, the dead period in college football recruiting keeps a coach from making any evaluations or basic in-person contact with a prospect. Telephone calls are allowed. The next dead period in the 2014 calendar, for example, goes from June 30 to July 13.
 

When asked about the existence of a dead period, however, more than one college coach laughed. You follow the rules, of course, but make no mistake: For a good recruiter, dead period does not mean days off.
 

On Christmas Day, there are Merry Christmas texts to be sent. Don’t you dare forget about birthdays, either.
 

“There’s always recruiting going on,” Tennessee assistant Mark Elder says. “You have to be constantly recruiting. If you’re not, somebody else is.”
 

The dead period isn’t the only contact period coaches have to navigate. There’s the quiet period, which allows coaches to make in-person contact in addition to phone calls with a prospect and his family provided it’s on campus. The evaluation period gives coaches the freedom to visit prospects for practices or games to assess their skill level.
 

While the dead period regulates in-person contact, the NCAA’s restrictions on social media use are far less stringent, giving coaches another way to circumvent the limitations of the recruiting calendar.
 

“You’ve got to stay in constant contact,” Nebraska’s Ross Els says. “Recruiting never stops. Never, ever, ever.”


Don’t Forget to Recruit Coaches and Family Members


There is a growing concern among college football coaches that their sport’s recruiting is becoming more and more akin to college basketball, where AAU coaches and self-serving family friends with the self-applied label of “mentor” suddenly find themselves with influence over a college recruit’s decision.
 

There’s no AAU football, but there are traveling 7-on-7 tournament teams. And it’s those organizers and outside influences that concern coaches like Memphis’ Justin Fuente.
 

Fuente encourages and expects parents and high school coaches to be involved in the recruiting process. As a man who spent several years in Texas, where high school football is part sport, part religion, Fuente is used to high school coaches having a say. He’s not, however, a fan of the grey area that handlers and mentors sometimes represent and exploit.
 

“It’s part of our charge as coaches to keep it within the family and high school coaches in football recruiting,” Fuente says.
 

Two years ago, a 7-on-7 coach based in Nashville named Byron De’Vinner was at the center of an NCAA investigation when he was said to have witnessed a Mississippi State booster hand money to then-Bulldogs recruit Will Redmond.
 

The increased presence and influence of characters like De’Vinner is what disappoints Fuente and other coaches the most.
 

“Are we going the direction of AAU with these handlers?” Nittany Lions assistant coach Bob Shoop says. “It’s just another piece and another angle. It’s become challenging.”


Today’s Recruits Are Savvier Than Ever Before
 

Order a copy of Athlon's College Football Preview (Regional Edition), which includes features for the upcoming season, a playoff primer, rankings and predictions for 2014.
University of Memphis offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey has coached in Division I since 1985. His career has taken him everywhere from Memphis to New Mexico and back to Memphis again. No part of college football has changed more in the last 30 years, he says, than recruits’ awareness.
 

Thirty years ago, coaches used to have to explain the recruiting process to parents and kids. Those days are no longer. Nowadays, recruits know everything from depth charts to contract extension statuses.
 

“Used to, in December, you’d go in the living room and have to explain they have five official visits,” Dickey says. “They know all that now. They’re much better educated than they used to be. Social media has had a pretty big impact on recruiting — and it’s not just us keeping up with them.”
 

Drew Richmond, a four-star offensive lineman, studies depth charts. He knows what recruits are coming in and what players are graduating or leaving for the NFL. If avoiding a transfer down the line is the goal, poring over as much information as is available is the key.
 

“Coaches will tell you anything,” Richmond says. “You believe (some of) it to a certain extent, but I’d rather have more proof for myself.”


Recruiting Budgets Vary Widely Within Conferences

 

There’s a common denominator with every coach at every school in the country: Coaches want full support and commitment from their administration. Whether it’s as big-picture as facility work or immediate as a recruiting budget, it’s difficult for coaches to operate without resources.
 

Tennessee spent $2.4 million on recruiting in the 2012-13 fiscal year. Kentucky spent $1.7 million. Ole Miss spent $1.2 million. Mississippi State spent just over $1 million.
 

There’s a wide range of recruiting budgets throughout the country, but the expenses are generally universal: Mail, coaching visits and official visits.
 

Earlier this year, Kentucky grabbed headlines when it sent 182 letters in one day to 372-pound defensive lineman Matt Elam.
 

One American Athletic Conference coach, however, downplays certain aspects of an engorged recruiting budget.
 

“People can out-mail you and out-propaganda you through spending dollars,” the coach says. “There’s always someone out there with a bigger stick.”
 

A long expense sheet in recruiting doesn’t always correlate to a huge recruiting class, just as a more modest budget doesn’t doom a program to mediocrity. Florida State, for instance, spent a hair over $1 million — less than most of the SEC — and still finished with the No. 4-ranked recruiting class, according to Rivals.


An Offer is Not an Offer Until the LOI is Signed
 

It’s an instant-information, instant-gratification recruiting world we live in, and nothing has proven to be more ambiguous than the scholarship offer. Prospects get lost in coach-speak and half-hearted overtures, oftentimes confusing interest for a concrete, all-expenses-paid invitation to join the program.
 

In taking steps to avoid misinterpretation, assistant coaches Mark Elder and Darrell Dickey say they try to be as crystal-clear as humanly possible.
 

“We don’t deal in committable vs. non-committable,” Elder says. “We’re not offering someone that (we wouldn’t accept) on the same day. That’s not how we do business.”
 

Dickey, the former head coach at North Texas, says he tried to avoid casting an overly-large net knowing he had only 25 spots to fill.
 

“There’s places out there that have 150 offers out and only so many spots,” Dickey says. “I never felt very comfortable having thousands of offers out there and then all of a sudden you’ve got to tell kids you can’t take them.”
 

There’s an important difference, however, between rescinding an offer and a prospect being misled.
 

Unlike in basketball, where coaches can afford to ride out an elite-level prospect’s recruitment until the end due to smaller numbers on the roster, the task for college football coaches is more complex. Every year, there’s a (usually) set number of holes to fill. If a prospect waits too long and a school takes another player at the same position, it’s not that he was lied to about having an offer — he was simply beaten to the spot.
 

“The offer is good at that moment,” Elder says. “But it may not be good all the way up to Signing Day, because we may offer, for example, a couple of other tight ends. It’s good until we fill up at that position.”

Written by John Martin (), columnist for 92.9 FM ESPN Radio in Memphis, Tenn. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 College Football Regional Preview Editions.  to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

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13 Things You Need to Know About College Football Recruiting
Post date: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-20-quarterbacks-hot-seat-2014
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The term “hot seat” is no stranger to college football fans. Hot seat talk usually revolves around coaches, but quarterbacks can be grouped into the same conversation. Without a good coach or quarterback, it’s not easy to win games on the FBS level.

Considering how valuable quarterbacks are to reaching a bowl game, conference title or national championship, let’s take a look at some of the signal-callers on the hot seat for 2014.

Something important to keep in mind: This list doesn’t necessarily reflect quarterbacks that are in danger of losing their job.

With different potential for teams, each quarterback has their own set of expectations for 2014. For instance, Georgia’s Hutson Mason is the clear No. 1 quarterback in Athens. If he’s just adequate, the Bulldogs are probably ticketed for No. 2 or even No. 3 finish in the SEC East. However, if Mason is an All-SEC candidate, Georgia could be a darkhorse in the national title picture. At Arkansas, Brandon Allen’s development will play a key role in determining whether or not the Razorbacks can win a game in SEC play in 2014. North Carolina's Marquise Williams played well in the final half of 2013. If he can pickup where he left off, expect the Tar Heels to finish near the top of the Coastal.


College Football's Top 20 QBs on the Hot Seat for 2014
 

Brandon Allen, Arkansas
The SEC West is college football’s toughest division, so a rebuilding Arkansas team will have trouble earning a win in conference play for the second year in a row. The Razorbacks’ backfield is among the best in the nation with Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams and Korliss Marshall leading the way. Allen started 2013 on a high note by completing 15 of 22 passes for 230 yards and three scores against UL Lafayette. However, Allen suffered a shoulder injury against Southern Miss and threw only eight touchdowns to nine interceptions over the final eight contests. In SEC play, Allen completed just 47.7 percent of his throws and only eight of his completions went for 30 yards or more. Arkansas’ receiving corps is still a work in progress, but sophomore tight end Hunter Henry is already among the best in the nation. With a potent ground attack and an emerging star at tight end, Allen’s development is critical for a team that needs to upgrade its passing game to push for a bowl in 2014.


Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska
With Wisconsin losing a few key pieces from last year’s team, Nebraska and Iowa have a good chance to push for the division crown. The Cornhuskers do have their share of personnel concerns, including a rebuilt offensive line and secondary, but this team has talent at the skill positions with running back Ameer Abdullah and receiver Kenny Bell. Armstrong was thrown into the fire last year due to an injury to Taylor Martinez and performed well considering the circumstances. Armstrong finished 2013 with 966 passing yards and nine touchdowns and 202 yards on the ground. After learning on the job last season, Armstrong should be prepared for the week-to-week rigors of the Big Ten. And if the sophomore takes a step forward in his development, the Cornhuskers could emerge as the team to beat in the Big Ten’s West Division – and quiet some of the pressure on Bo Pelini. 

David Ash, Texas
Ash never had a chance to build off a promising 2012 season, as a concussion prematurely ended his 2013 campaign. In 2012, Ash completed 67.3 percent of his throws for 2,699 yards and 19 touchdowns. Talent is never a question mark at Texas, and Charlie Strong seems to be the right coach to develop elite recruiting classes into production. However, if the Longhorns want to challenge Baylor or Oklahoma in the Big 12, quarterback play has to improve. Ash’s injury history is a concern, especially as there’s little in the way of proven options on the depth chart, and Max Wittek did not graduate in time to transfer to Austin for 2014. The defense should improve under Strong’s watch this season, and the backfield could be among the best in the nation. The Longhorns don’t need a huge statistical season from Ash, but they definitely need him on the field for all 12 regular season games.

Jacoby Brissett, NC State
After five quarterbacks attempted a pass in a NC State uniform last season, second-year coach Dave Doeren is counting on Brissett to bring stability to the Wolfpack’s offense in 2014. Brissett ranked as a four-star recruit by 247Sports in the 2011 signing class and threw for 455 yards and three touchdowns in two years in Gainesville. With Jeff Driskel entrenched as the starter, Brissett transferred to Raleigh for more playing time. The junior should be a good fit in coordinator Matt Canada’s offense and will provide an immediate upgrade for the offense after NC State averaged only 221.6 passing yards per game in 2013. If Brissett struggles, it’s back to the drawing board for Doeren, as true freshman Jalan McClendon is slated to be the No. 2 option. 
 

Brandon Connette, Fresno State

Derek Carr leaves big shoes to fill in Fresno State, and the Bulldogs had three quarterbacks vying for the No. 1 spot in the spring. Brian Burrell and Zack Greenlee remain in the mix, with Myles Carr slated to move to receiver. Connette is eligible immediately after transferring from Duke and should have an impact for coach Tim DeRuyter. Connette’s best season with the Blue Devils came in 2013, as he threw for 1,212 yards and 13 touchdowns and added 14 scores on the ground. It’s never easy replacing someone like Carr, who exited his career as one of the top players in school history. Connette will be asked to throw it a little more than he was at Duke, but his experience should help to provide an easy transition to the starting lineup. If he picks up where he left off in Durham, Connette could lead Fresno State to another Mountain West title.


Jeff Driskel, Florida

Even though Driskel missed nearly all of last season due to injury, it’s still hard to fathom why Florida’s offense averaged only 312.5 yards and 19.9 points per game in SEC play. Change was necessary after a horrific year on offense, with coach Will Muschamp hiring Kurt Roper from Duke to call the plays in 2014. Roper’s first priority is to help Driskel (a five-star recruit by 247Sports in 2011) reach his potential. Driskel has displayed promise at times, and his dual-threat ability is an asset for a team struggling to find the right pieces up front. However, Driskel has only one performance of more than 220 passing yards and tossed three picks through the first two games last season. It’s unfair to blame Driskel for all of Florida’s offensive woes, especially since the receiving corps is thin on proven options. If Driskel thrives under Roper, Florida can easily double its win total from 2013. But if Driskel struggles, the Gators will have to turn to true freshman Will Grier or sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg – a move that will likely ensure someone other than Muschamp is on the Florida sideline in 2015.
 

Devin Gardner, Michigan
Gardner’s first full year as Michigan’s starter had its share of ups and downs, which included a late-season foot injury that pressed Shane Morris into starting duty against Kansas State in the bowl game. On the surface, Gardner wasn’t bad last year. He threw for 2,960 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for 483 yards and 11 scores. Gardner also led the Big Ten (conference-only games) with 269.9 passing yards per game and did not toss a pick in his final four starts. While his overall numbers were solid, Gardner needs to be more consistent. He threw for 97 yards and tossed two picks against UConn, which came one week after throwing three picks against Akron. Gardner went just 13 of 28 against Iowa (98 yards) and threw for only 196 yards on 18 completions against Nebraska. Of course, it’s unfair to blame Gardner for all of Michigan’s problems, as the offensive line, rushing attack and receiving corps each had their share of question marks. If Gardner plays with more consistency, the Wolverines will have a chance to win 10 games. But if the supporting cast struggles, and Gardner is up and down once again, the pressure will start to build even more on coach Brady Hoke.   
 

Hutson Mason, Georgia
Why so much pressure on a first-year quarterback? Even though the Bulldogs are coming off an 8-5 record from 2013, this team has the pieces to be a factor for a spot in college football’s new four-team playoff format. Georgia’s offense will have a healthy Todd Gurley at running back, along with receiver Malcolm Mitchell at full strength after missing nearly all of last year with a torn ACL. With Gurley and Mitchell back in the mix, combined with the addition of Jeremy Pruitt as the team’s defensive coordinator, the Bulldogs are poised to push for 10 wins. Of course, much of that depends on Mason. He showed plenty of progress in limited action last year, throwing for 320 yards in awful weather conditions against Nebraska and 299 yards in a victory against Georgia Tech. Georgia usually has no trouble developing solid quarterbacks. If Mason is as good as advertised this spring, the Bulldogs will be a factor in the mix for the SEC title. 
 

Listen to Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Quarterback Breakdown for 2014

 


Cyler Miles, Washington
Chris Petersen’s first spring in Seattle was somewhat eventful. Miles was suspended for the spring after an off-the-field incident, which allowed Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams to get an early start on learning the new offense. Miles was reinstated earlier this summer and is expected to win the No. 1 job by the season opener. The sophomore was solid in his first taste of FBS action last year, completing 37 of 61 passes for 418 yards and four touchdowns. Most preseason predictions have Washington as the No. 3 team in the Pac-12 North behind Stanford and Oregon. With the Cardinal visiting Seattle in 2014, the opportunity is there for the Huskies to surprise. But that largely depends on how quickly Miles can pickup the new offense and how fast Petersen can find a replacement for running back Bishop Sankey.

Gary Nova, Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights were a big winner in realignment by moving from the American Athletic Conference to the Big Ten, but it’s not an easy transition for a program coming off a 6-7 record in 2013. The hire of Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator was one of the top assistant additions by any FBS team and should help the offense improve after managing only 23 points per game in conference play last season. Nova was benched late in 2013 and has tossed 30 interceptions over the last two seasons. There’s not much in the way of proven options behind Nova for Friedgen, as Mike Bimonte and Chris Laviano have yet to complete a pass on the collegiate level. If Friedgen can help Nova limit his mistakes, Rutgers will have a chance to push for a bowl in its Big Ten debut. But if he struggles early in the year, Bimonte or Laviano will see plenty of playing time in 2014.
 

Kevin Olsen, Miami

Miami’s quarterback situation has already changed significantly since the start of spring practice. Ryan Williams was slated to replace Stephen Morris, but he suffered a torn ACL in the spring, and coach Al Golden added Kansas transfer Jake Heaps this summer. Olsen redshirted in his first season in Coral Gables last year and is on track to start the season opener at Louisville. Four-star recruit Brad Kaaya is set to join the battle this summer, and his development will be critical with Olsen’s inexperience and Heaps learning the offense after joining the team in June.  
 

Stephen Rivers, Vanderbilt

James Franklin set the bar high for new coach Derek Mason, and the first-year coach enters 2014 with a glaring question mark at quarterback. Mason hopes Rivers (a LSU transfer) is the answer under center, with redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary also pushing for time. Rivers has prototypical size for a quarterback (6-foot-7) and you may have heard of his brother (Philip) in NFL circles. Rivers played in only four games at LSU and misfired on both of his pass attempts. Making the junior’s job even tougher in 2014 is Vanderbilt’s receiving corps, which lost standout Jordan Matthews to the NFL. With a solid defense and rushing attack, Rivers won’t have to post All-SEC numbers for the Commodores to return to the postseason. However, for a program coming off 18 wins in the last two years and the departure of the team’s No. 1 player (Matthews), there’s extra pressure on the quarterbacks to perform in 2014.

Joel Stave, Wisconsin
The Badgers will once again own one of the nation’s top rushing attacks. Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement headline a backfield that is the best in the Big Ten and is capable of carrying Wisconsin to a Big Ten West Division title. While there are no concerns about the ground attack, coach Gary Andersen is hoping to jumpstart a passing attack that averaged only 201.9 yards per game in Big Ten games last season. Stave certainly wasn’t awful last year, completing 208 passes for 2,494 yards and 22 touchdowns. However, the staff would like more from its passing attack and is intrigued by Tanner McEvoy, a former junior college recruit who spent some time at safety in 2013. Stave missed part of spring practice due to a shoulder injury, which opened the door for McEvoy to state his case for the No. 1 spot. The Badgers must replace several key players, but the schedule is favorable and there’s a strong rushing attack to lean on. If Stave or McEvoy brings stability under center, Wisconsin can push for a final ranking among the top 10-15 teams in the nation.

 

Cole Stoudt, Clemson
After Florida State’s Jameis Winston, there is very little in the way of proven options in the ACC at quarterback for 2014. Stoudt is a darkhorse candidate for all-conference honors this year, especially under the direction of coordinator Chad Morris. The senior won a three-way competition in the spring to claim the starting job, which included touted freshman Deshaun Watson. In three years at Clemson, Stoudt has completed 86 of 119 passes for 742 yards and eight scores. If Stoudt successfully replaces Tajh Boyd, the Tigers should be the No. 2 team in the ACC and have a chance to win 10 games. But if he struggles early, expect to hear the calls for Watson increase.
 

Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
There’s very little separation among the top-six teams in the Coastal Division, so the difference between No. 1 and No. 6 could be just a game or two in the final standings. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has recorded at least a .500 mark in ACC play in each of the last six years, but there’s a lot of pressure on the coaching staff to produce after going 14-13 over the last two seasons. Vad Lee decided to transfer after last season, leaving Thomas as the clear No. 1 in Atlanta. Thomas is regarded as an excellent athlete and averaged 7.1 yards per carry in 2013. If Thomas runs Johnson’s offense and limits the turnovers, the Yellow Jackets should be in the mix to win the Coastal. However, if he struggles in the starter role, Georgia Tech could have a new coaching staff in 2015.


Dylan Thompson, South Carolina
Similar to Georgia’s Hutson Mason, Thompson isn’t in any danger of losing his starting job, but his play could be the difference in whether or not South Carolina wins the East. After throwing for 1,027 yards and 10 touchdowns in relief of Connor Shaw in 2012, Thompson wasn’t as sharp in 2013. He posted a better completion percentage in 2013 (58.4 percent after 52.0 in 2012), but his interception total increased by one on fewer attempts, and Thompson left room for improvement in his performances against Missouri and UCF. Coach Steve Spurrier has already anointed Thompson as the starter, so there’s little doubt about the depth chart. However, the Gamecocks hope a full offseason to work as the No. 1 quarterback helps Thompson produce like an All-SEC passer.

Clint Trickett, West Virginia
Considering West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is known for his pass-first offenses, it seems odd for the Mountaineers to enter the season with so much uncertainty at quarterback. However, that’s the scenario playing out in Morgantown this offseason, as none of the quarterbacks claimed the job in spring practice. West Virginia finished 2013 ranked No. 3 in the Big 12 (conference-only games) in passing offense, but the Mountaineers tossed 13 picks and threw just 12 touchdowns in nine league games. Trickett led the team with 1,605 yards and seven touchdown passes last season but was forced to miss spring workouts due to shoulder surgery. With West Virginia facing a tough non-conference schedule (Alabama and Maryland), and the pressure to rebound after a 4-8 mark in 2013, the Mountaineers need Trickett to be the answer under center. If he isn’t, junior college recruit Skyler Howard or Paul Millard will move into the starting lineup. True freshman William Crest is a wildcard to watch. 
 

Bo Wallace, Ole Miss
With the personnel losses at LSU and Texas A&M, Ole Miss has a chance to make some noise in the SEC West. The Rebels have made steady improvement under coach Hugh Freeze and a healthy year from Wallace should make a difference. After offseason shoulder surgery, Wallace watched his touchdown total dip from 22 in 2012 to 18 last season, while he averaged just 11.8 yards per completion in 2013. Quarterbacks that have shoulder surgery seem to need a full year before returning to 100 percent. If Wallace builds off his progress from the last two seasons and stays healthy, the Rebels could push for nine wins in 2014.

 

Marquise Williams, North Carolina
With victories in six out of their last seven games, North Carolina has momentum on its side in 2014. And there are many reasons to be optimistic about the offense, as coach Larry Fedora has recruited a wealth of talent at the skill positions, and Williams showed promise in a limited stint as the team’s starting quarterback last year. The Charlotte native is a good fit for Fedora’s offense, and his dual-threat ability is a valuable asset for a team with a rebuilding offensive line. The junior finished 2013 with 1,698 yards and 15 scores, but he was pushed for snaps in the spring by redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky. Williams is already feeling pressure on the depth chart to perform to hold onto his No. 1 spot. However, there’s added demands on Williams with North Carolina in position to win the Coastal. The good news for the Tar Heels: It seems like there are two quarterbacks Fedora feels comfortable with. The bad news: If Williams struggles, the quarterback battle will begin once again with Trubisky ready to claim the starting job. 
 

Justin Worley, Tennessee

Butch Jones enters his second season at Tennessee with a myriad of question marks, none bigger than who starts at quarterback for the opener against Utah State. The Volunteers finished spring with three quarterbacks fighting for snaps, but Riley Ferguson transferred, leaving Worley and Joshua Dobbs vying for the No. 1 spot. Worley started seven games in 2013 and threw for 10 touchdowns and 1,239 yards in 2013. However, a thumb injury ended his season in late October. With a challenging schedule ahead in 2014, finding a quarterback could be the difference in Tennessee making a bowl or missing the postseason for the fourth consecutive season.

Teaser:
College Football's Top 20 Quarterbacks on the Hot Seat for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /overtime/world-cup-2014-advancement-scenarios-group-g
Body:

In the closing minute of extra time on Sunday, citizens throughout the country waited in anticipation of the final whistle, one that would secure the United States’ entry into the knockout stage of the World Cup. Up 2-1 with precious time ticking away, all the Americans needed to do was keep the Portuguese from netting a desperation goal. But Cristiano Ronaldo’s beautiful cross created an opportunity, and Portugal seized it quickly in order to stay alive. In one swift motion, the group standings became immensely complicated. Though the U.S. is still in second place at the moment, all four teams are still in contention to advance. The Americans would have moved on from Group G if they had held on, but there’s still a good chance the USA ends up in first or second place after the match with Germany. Here are a few scenarios that could play out in the coming days.

 

 The USA Will Advance If…

 

We beat Germany.  This outcome would give us seven points, leave Germany with four, and regardless of what happens with Portugal v. Ghana, the USA would be moving on as the group winner.

 

We tie Germany. This scenario would leave both the Americans and the Germans with five points each. No matter what happens in the other game, the teams can max out their points at four points respectively, and neither Ghana nor Portugal would qualify to advance.

 

Germany defeats the USA and Portugal v. Ghana ends in a tie. Though we would still have only four points after a loss, Ghana and Portugal would only match our total with their combined point count.

 

The USA Will Be Eliminated If…

 

We lose to Germany, and there is a decisive winner in the Portugal v. Ghana match. Losing to Germany would leave us with a mere four points. If Portugal wins, they would end with four points as well. If Ghana wins, they will reach that same mark. In the case of ties in the group stage at the World Cup, the rankings are determined by goal differential.

 

Portugal is in a tough spot because of their early 4-0 loss against the Germans. The Portuguese currently have a goal differential of -4. They would need to win by a large margin, while also hoping the Americans lose by two or more goals. This situation seems unlikely.

 

Ghana is in a better position so it is more realistic that in some twisted way they end up eliminating America from the World Cup for the third consecutive time. If Ghana beats Portugal by more than one goal AND the US loses to Germany by more than one goal, the Black Stars would advance.

 

To conclude, Germany and the USA are in prime position to move out of Group G. It would be mutually beneficial for the teams to accept a draw. It’s hard to say what the strategy will be for the Americans going into the game against Germany. There is a multitude of ways that the USMNT can squeeze through their opening in the group of death. No matter the outcome, Group G’s next two matches will cap off an exciting start to the 2014 World Cup for America.
 

Teaser:
World Cup 2014: How the United States Can Advance to the Round of 16
Post date: Monday, June 23, 2014 - 13:44
Path: /nascar/after-sonoma-win-carl-edwards-nascar-destiny-clear-cut
Body:

Let’s have a quick flashback to NASCAR 2011. The hottest free agent on the Sprint Cup Series market? Carl Edwards, whose decision lie between sticking with Roush Fenway Racing and replacing a struggling Joey Logano at Joe Gibbs Racing. The choice was difficult, as Edwards was on the comeback trail with RFR after a 2008 season that witnessed a gaudy nine victories and found him on the cusp of unseating Jimmie Johnson.  Carl Edwards

 

Back then, through 16 races, Edwards had nine top 5s, 12 top 10s and led the point standings, which was a better mark of consistency compared to a 2014 format where winning is, indeed, everything. On the flip side, JGR was struggling, yet its potential was unquestioned. Denny Hamlin was enduring a runner-up hangover while Kyle Busch was flashing signs of inconsistency paired with a temper that would result in a one-race suspension during the Chase. Toyota offered Edwards the keys to that rebuilding project, promising him the face of its franchise and plenty of money with which to race to the top.

 

Ultimately, his decision was to stick with Ford. Edwards was convinced JGR was a lateral move while the No. 99 team stood in position to win a championship. They came close, losing a tiebreaker to Tony Stewart and appeared poised to remain a strong contender for several seasons to come. Except … they haven’t. Over the past three years Edwards has accumulated a total of 16 top-5 finishes with RFR — three less than his 2011 total — while running 15th and 13th in the standings, respectively. JGR, by comparison, has risen into title contention with near misses the past two years with Hamlin and Matt Kenseth.

 

But as Edwards absorbs a shocking victory at Sonoma — his first career Cup win on a road course — the 2014 decision very much mirrors 2011. Ford is still offering quite a bit of money to stick around; RFR, for the next few years, still needs him as the face of its franchise in order to stay relevant. And with two victories, Edwards has already matched his yearly high since that season of 2008 — with 20 races still left. Currently sixth in points, RFR and Edwards have been an obvious step behind on intermediates, once their bread and butter, but in a world where winning is everything, they’ve found a way to stay in the championship hunt. It’s not inconceivable that if Edwards stays this team could go deep into the Chase — into at least the final eight, and then who knows what could happen. 

 

JGR, on the other hand, is struggling once again; did you know their organization has just as many wins as RFR, which has been a media punching bag thus far in 2014?

 

Edwards, according to several reports, has already made the decision to jump to JGR. (I don’t know the answer, but know JGR is actively hiring for what it’s calling a 2015 expansion. Put the pieces together from there.) Everyone during the post-race celebrations at Sonoma remained tight-lipped. But for a choice many claim has already been made, it’s not as much of a slam dunk thought process as we’re being led to believe.

 

“Through the Gears” we go, post-Sonoma …

 

 

FIRST GEAR: Sonoma: the new Martinsville? 

Two decades ago, no one seemed to like road courses on the NASCAR schedule. Half the Cup drivers struggled to race on them, jumping off course every lap like amateurs. Old school road ringers, from Tommy Kendall to Scott Pruett to Ron Fellows, contended for wins while helping give these left-turn drivers a little education in turning right.

 

But now? In an era of aerodynamics, engineering and money dominating the Cup circuit in too many places, the road courses have become a welcome respite on tour. The lower-tier teams, knowing driver skill is essential to success, feel the right strategy can put them up front and in position to contend for wins. Ringers, while far fewer in number, still pop in and add a little spice to the competition. Among the 43-car grid, there’s far more Cup drivers experienced on these types of courses, taking the time to work at places like VIR and Road Atlanta in order to improve their skill set and not make a fool of themselves twice a season. It has seemingly become a badge of pride to run well on the roadies.

 

Therefore, what you get almost every time out at these places are some of the most intriguing races of the season. The specter of who might win Sunday passed from driver to driver: Jamie McMurray, Marcos Ambrose, AJ Allmendinger and even Paul Menard were all names who spent time at or near the front. Yes, the grand finale was a duel between Edwards and road king Jeff Gordon, but the amount of hard racing, contact and shuffling of position to get there kept fans entertained throughout. 

 

Surprisingly, the Nielsen ratings often do not reflect the growing excitement of road course racing — they’re still among the least-watched events — but that’s changing, ever so slowly. There’s no doubt Sunday’s action left a positive NASCAR vibe going forward for the first time in over a month.

 

 

SECOND GEAR: How much do minor mistakes matter?  Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson

At this point, the four best drivers on paper are becoming painstakingly clear: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. All four were in contention Sunday, each with a shot to win, but there was a clearly different philosophy per team.

 

Gordon, clearly, is hungry. He had the second-fastest car it seemed and ran down Edwards, who used a two-tire stop to get up front during the closing segment of the race. If Gordon had another lap, maybe two, he would have added to his all-time leading victory total at Sonoma. Leading the points, the No. 24 team is showing the most versatility at all tracks since it gave Johnson a run for his money back in 2007. Oh, did I mention that was the last time the title came down to a heavyweight fight between those two?

 

Johnson, for his part is, running on cruise control, clearly ready to engage in that battle while maintaining the simplest of NASCAR philosophies: racing within your means. After his final stop, the No. 48 was a top-10 car and Johnson didn’t overplay his hand, running a comfortable seventh to maintain momentum after a strong month. It’s the way in which Gordon and Johnson run — minimizing mistakes while maintaining speed — that has been rewarded with 10 championships between the duo throughout their Hall of Fame careers.

 

Earnhardt, by comparison, showed aggression in a third-place effort, his career best at Sonoma. It’s clear he and crew chief Steve Letarte are clicking. The driver joked that if Letarte called every year like it was his last, maybe they would have done far better in their time together. But Earnhardt, despite all his improvements this year, has still made a few crucial mistakes. At Sonoma alone, he hit AJ Allmendinger and ruined the day for an underdog that appeared in position for a miracle victory. He also jumped the curb and slammed friend Matt Kenseth hard into the tire barrier. While taking responsibility for his actions, it’s those types of mistakes, as I’ve said often in this space, that will get you in trouble during the Chase. In the new format it only takes one bad moment and you’ll be sitting on the sidelines instead of inside the Final Four.

 

Ditto for Harvick, who once again had the fastest car but fell victim to a “wrong place, wrong time” incident when Jamie McMurray turned Clint Bowyer. What put Harvick back in the pack? You guessed it — bad luck combined with a bad pit stop. Harvick’s claim that the poor stops are getting “really, really, really old” was heard by those around them, but his criticism is also ringing hollow. You can now tell on the radio that crew chief Rodney Childers, a mild-mannered guy used to working with veterans like Mark Martin and the understated David Reutimann, is getting tentative on handling a tempestuous alternative. How can he calm Harvick down, on a crew where public verbal slaps will make them less likely to turn things around? Patience needs to be a virtue here, but I’m struggling to see it.  

 

Those two are your aggressive title picks. Johnson and Gordon? Blue-chip stocks.

 

 

THIRD GEAR: The one that got away.  Jamie McMurray, AJ Allmendinger and Carl Edwards

You can’t say the David’s of the world got denied at Sonoma. Instead, McMurray, Ambrose and Allmendinger systematically denied themselves. For McMurray, he spun the tires on the final restart, never could get in front of Edwards and paid the price. The All-Star winner probably needs a “real” win to make the Chase and this day could be the one he looks back on with regret when the checkers fall at Richmond in September.

 

Meanwhile, Ambrose will probably have a better shot at Watkins Glen to put a Chase bid in the bank. But a horrid restart, the one where Edwards got ahead on lap 85, doomed his chances on Sunday. Ambrose initially said Edwards jumped — similar to a Richmond controversy not long ago where NASCAR penalized the No. 99. Unfortunately for him, the rules are different now with the leader in control of their destiny, and it seemed like the No. 9 just never got going.

 

In perhaps the best car of the three, Allmendinger got shuffled back through pit strategy before contact with Earnhardt ended the chances of his No. 47. Outside of the top 20 in points after a 37th, it’s becoming likely this season will be a big step forward for the single-car operation — just not the miracle postseason berth they were hoping for.

 

 

FOURTH GEAR: Tough times for Toyota.  Matt Kenseth

At times, Clint Bowyer looked like a car that could win before a flat tire at the wrong time took him out of contention (combined with McMurray’s push into traffic in Turn 11). Brian Vickers, enduring contact from Ricky Stenhouse Jr., endured a similar fate. But that paled in comparison to top Toyota team Joe Gibbs Racing, which saw all three drivers suffer through spins and/or contact en route to finishes of 25th, 26th and 42nd. Kenseth’s hit into the tire barrier was one of the roughest seen at Sonoma in recent years. 

 

That leaves Camrys with a total of one top-5 finish and three top 10s in the last three races. In the last two, it’s been only Bowyer cracking the list, scoring a 10th in both cases. A Ford may have found victory Sunday, snapping the Hendrick/Chevy win streak, but the fact remains both manufacturers are a major step behind and running out of time to get things fixed.

 

 

OVERDRIVE

The decreasing number of road course ringers in the Cup Series failed to get a boost on Sunday. Boris Said, after going off course early, was never a factor and finished a lap back in 35th. The fact he was the best of the bunch is all you need to know. … Sunday’s race featured a lap 72 caution for debris. No wreck, just debris. On a road course, which has the added bonus of “local yellows” on a particular turn where there’s plenty of time to pick up any pieces of metal, how do you throw a full course caution for that? I notice none of the other major racing series that run on road courses do such a thing. … Austin Dillon, 17th on Sunday, broke Kyle Larson’s streak of top Sprint Cup rookie performances. Larson, whose power steering broke, was a disappointing 28th after upping expectations by winning the K&N Pro Series race the day before. 

 

 

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Teaser:
Post-race reaction from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Toyota-Save Mart 350, won by Carl Edwards.
Post date: Monday, June 23, 2014 - 13:19
All taxonomy terms: Kevin Streelman, Michelle Wie, Tiger Woods, Golf
Path: /golf/5-key-stats-weekend-golf-0
Body:

At a time when golf could use a boost, it got one from two of its marquee names: Tiger Woods announced his return to action, proving his ability to move the needle without picking up a club, and Michelle Wie finally delivered on a decade of unfulfilled promise by winning the Women's U.S. Open. The duo's timing couldn't have been better; following a boring U.S. Open blowout win by Martin Kaymer that was watched start-to-finish only by proud parents and spouses, the game needed a jolt of adrenaline. Cue the return of its transcendent superstar, coupled with a long-awaited major breakthrough by the one player who can stir interest in the women's game, and golf's back on track. Oh, and the Travelers Championship offered a little history of its own, courtesy of champion Kevin Streelman. Here are the key numbers to know from an important weekend in golf.

 

109

It's been 109 days since Tiger Woods last put club to ball on the PGA Tour. His last competitive round was a Sunday 78 at the Cadillac Championship on March 9 prior to his surgery to relieve a pinched nerve in his back at the end of March.

 

24

There have been 24 major championships since Woods' last major win, the 2008 U.S. Open. His return coincides with the return of the British Open to Royal Liverpool, a course that Tiger dismantled in winning the 2006 Open.

 

24 years, 8 months

Michelle Wie has finally won her first major at the age of 24 years, 8 months, after a decade in the public eye. But it's worth pointing out that Wie is slightly younger than Annika Sorenstam was when she won the first of her 10 career major titles. There's plenty of time for Wie to deliver on her youthful promise after nearly being derailed by a premature hype machine. After threatening a late collapse with a double bogey at 16, Wie collected herself with a 25-foot birdie bomb at 17, using her distinctive table-top putting stance, to clinch a two-shot win over Stacy Lewis at Pinehurst No. 2.

 

0

Speaking of that unusual putting stance, it may earn some snickers, but Wie is getting results. She didn't have a single three-putt on Donald Ross' treacherous greens at Pinehurst No. 2 in shooting 68-68-72-70, and she had 25 one-putts.

 

7

Almost consumed in the Woods-Wie hype, Kevin Streelman made history at the Travelers Championship with seven consecutive closing birdies, a record for a tournament winner. The birdie binge gave Streelman a one-shot win over K.J. Choi and Sergio Garcia. Making the turn, Streelman told his caddie that he would shoot a closing 29. His prediction was off by a stroke; he closed with a 28 at TPC River Highlands. "I had 10 one-putts in a row," Streelman said. "That's something I've definitely never done before."

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, June 23, 2014 - 12:28
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-june-23-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for June 23:

. That's surfer Anastasia Ashley joining the fun.

.

. Lolo Jones took to Instagram to .

• See what the draw means for the U.S. moving forward by .

.

• More athletic opulence: .

. He didn't weigh in about Ron Goldman.

.

• Note to American exchange students in Germany: .

.

• Marcell Ozuna's game-ending strike from left field to home might be the highlight of the Marlins' season.

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, June 23, 2014 - 11:07
Path: /college-football/college-football-2014-all-america-team
Body:

The 2014 college football season kicks off on Aug. 27 and concludes in Dallas with the first four-team playoff in the FBS ranks on January 12, 2015. Since it’s never too early to start thinking about the upcoming college football season, Athlon Sports has already released its projected rankings, predictions for all 10 leagues and all-conference teams for 2014.

 

With the predictions and all-conference teams released, it’s time to take a look at the best players in the nation.

 

Athlon Sports continues its countdown to 2014 with our first, second, third and fourth All-America teams.

 

An important note on the All-America teams: These are based on how players will perform in 2014. Career statistics and awards matter in the evaluation, but choosing players for the 2014 All-America and all-conference teams are largely based on predicting and projecting the best for the upcoming year.

Athlon's 2014 All-Conference Teams: |  |  |  |  | 

Athlon Sports 2014 All-America Team

 First-Team OffenseSecond-Team OffenseThird-Team OffenseFourth-Team Offense
QBJameis Winston
Florida State 
Marcus Mariota
Oregon 
Braxton Miller
Ohio State 
Bryce Petty
Baylor 
RBMelvin Gordon
Wisconsin 
Ameer Abdullah
Nebraska 
Mike Davis
South Carolina 
Karlos Williams
Florida State 
RBTodd Gurley
Georgia 
T.J. Yeldon
Alabama 
Duke Johnson
Miami 
Jeremy Langford
Michigan State 
WRNelson Agholor
USC 
Antwan Goodley
Baylor 
Tyler Boyd
Pittsburgh 
DeVante Parker
Louisville 
WRAmari Cooper
Alabama 
Rashad Greene
Florida State 
Laquon Treadwell
Ole Miss 
Jaelen Strong
Arizona State 
TENick O'Leary
Florida State 
O.J. Howard
Alabama 
Jeff Heuerman
Ohio State 
Ben Koyack
Notre Dame 
CHroniss Grasu
Oregon 
Reese Dismukes
Auburn 
B.J. Finney
Kansas State 
Isaac Seumalo
Oregon State 
GA.J. Cann
South Carolina 
Josue Matias
Florida State 
Alex Kozan
Auburn 
Shaquille Mason
Georgia Tech 
GTre' Jackson
Florida State 
Laken Tomlinson
Duke 
Quinton Spain
West Virginia 
Max Tuerk (C)
USC 
TCameron Erving
Florida State 
Cedric Ogbuehi
Texas A&M 
La'el Collins
LSU 
Le'Raven Clark
Texas Tech 
TAndrus Peat
Stanford 
Brandon Scherff
Iowa 
Laremy Tunsil
Ole Miss 
Spencer Drango
Baylor 
APTyler Lockett
Kansas State 
Stefon Diggs
Maryland 
Derrick Henry
Alabama 
Jamison Crowder
Duke 
 First-Team DefenseSecond-Team DefenseThird-Team DefenseFourth-Team Defense
DEVic Beasley
Clemson
Shilique Calhoun
Michigan State 
Mario Edwards
Florida State 
Joey Bosa
Ohio State 
DELeonard Williams
USC 
Randy Gregory
Nebraska 
Ryan Mueller
Kansas State 
A'Shawn Robinson
Alabama 
DTMichael Bennett
Ohio State 
Luther Maddy
Virginia Tech 
Malcom Brown
Texas 
Carl Davis
Iowa 
DTChris Jones
Mississippi State 
Robert Nkemdiche
Ole Miss 
Danny Shelton
Washington 
Cedric Reed (DE)
Texas 
LBMyles Jack
UCLA 
Trey DePriest
Alabama 
Eric Kendricks
UCLA 
Leonard Floyd
Georgia 
LBShaq Thompson
Washington 
A.J. Johnson
Tennessee 
Hayes Pullard
USC 
Jake Ryan
Michigan 
LBRamik Wilson
Georgia 
Eric Striker
Oklahoma 
Jaylon Smith
Notre Dame 
Denzel Perryman
Miami 
CBIfo Ekpre-Olomu
Oregon 
Quandre Diggs
Texas 
Tre'Davious White
LSU 
KeiVarae Russell
Notre Dame 
CBVernon Hargreaves
Florida 
Kendall Fuller
Virginia Tech 
P.J. Williams
Florida State 
Trae Waynes
Michigan State 
SLandon Collins
Alabama 
Anthony Harris
Virginia 
Kurtis Drummond
Michigan State 
Sam Carter
TCU 
SJalen Ramsey
Florida State 
Cody Prewitt
Ole Miss 
Derron Smith
Fresno State 

Jordan Richards
Stanford 

 First-Team SpecialistsSecond-Team SpecialistsThird-Team SpecialistsFourth-Team Specialists
KRoberto Aguayo
Florida State 
Marshall Morgan
Georgia 
Marvin Kloss
USF 
Andy Phillips
Utah 
PMike Sadler
Michigan State 
Drew Kaser
Texas A&M 
Cameron Johnston
Ohio State 
A.J. Hughes
Virginia Tech 
KRTy Montgomery
Stanford 
Carlos Wiggins
New Mexico 
Kermit Whitfield
Florida State 
DeVon Edwards
Duke 
PRRyan Switzer
North Carolina 
Jamison Crowder
Duke 
Nelson Agholor
USC
Venric Mark
Northwestern 

Conference Breakdown of Athlon's 2014 All-America Team

 First TeamSecond TeamThird TeamFourth Team
ACC
Offense: 4
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 2
Offense: 3
Defense: 3
​Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 2
Defense: 2
​Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 4
Defense: 1
​Sp. Teams: 2
American Athletic
Offense: 0 
Defense: 0
​Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
​Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
​Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
​Sp. Teams: 0
Big 12
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
​Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 2
​Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 2
Defense: 2
​Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 3
Defense: 1
​Sp. Teams: 1
Big Ten
Offense: 1
Defense: 1
​Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 3
Defense: 2
​Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 2
Defense: 1
​Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 1
Defense: 4
​Sp. Teams: 1
Mountain West
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
​Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
​Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
​Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
​Sp. Teams: 0
Notre Dame
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
​Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
​Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
​Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 1
​Sp. Teams: 0
Pac-12
Offense: 3
Defense: 4
​Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
​Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 3
​Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 3
Defense: 1
​Sp. Teams: 1
SEC
Offense: 3
Defense: 4
​Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 4
Defense: 4
​Sp. Teams: 2
Offense: 6
Defense: 1
​Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 2
​Sp. Teams: 0

 

Teaser:
College Football 2014 All-America Team
Post date: Monday, June 23, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12-stadiums-2014-experts-poll
Body:

Ranking anything in sports is subjective. We may all agree on certain things — like Michael Jordan is better than Kobe Bryant or that Lambeau Field is better than the Edward Jones Dome — but for the most part, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

Ranking college football stadiums is not only subjective but also extremely intricate. General atmosphere, fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tailgating, the surrounding campus and the college town should all be considered when trying to rank college football stadiums.

 

Basically, there is no right or wrong answer. Athlon Sports polled Big 12 experts and asked them to rank their favorite Big 12 stadiums based on all of the above factors. Here is how things shook out:

 

The Voters:

 

Dan Hawkins, SiriusXM ()

Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star ()

Chip Brown, HornsDigest ()

Allen Kenney, BlatantHomerism ()

Bill Connelly, SB Nation/Football Outsiders ()

Chris Level, RedRaiderSports ()

Geoff Ketchum, OrangeBloods ()

Sean Callahan, HuskerOnline ()

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports ()

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM ()

 

The Results:

 

 DHBKCBAKBCCLGKSCSLBG
1. Oklahoma2111112111
2. Texas1232241222
3. Oklahoma State3523623353
4. Texas Tech8464834644
5. Kansas State4356376477
6. West Virginia5645568536
7. Baylor687104105865
8. Iowa State107879510988
9. TCU7998789799
10. Kansas9101091097101010

 

The Stadiums:

 

 
1. Memorial Stadium, Oklahoma

Opened: 1925 Capacity: 82,112

Easily the top spot to catch a game in the Big 12, Norman’s college football palace provides the loudest and most passionate fan base in the league. Regularly drawing over 100 percent capacity proves that. A recent round of renovations have added 8,000 seats, a massive new brick-lined video board, new luxury suites, a new press box and beautiful brick exterior. Large gaps in the end zone seating keep the capacity below that of a certain archrival in Austin, but the atmosphere in Oklahoma is more electric.

 

2. Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium, Texas

Opened: 1924 Capacity: 100,119

Everything is actually bigger in Texas and the Longhorns' stadium tops the Big 12 based on sheer size. It isn’t the loudest 100,000 fans in the nation, but the building is arguably the most imposing facility, as it dwarfs most every other stadium in the Big 12. After the most recent run of extensive exterior construction, the amenities are second to none in the league as well. Plans are also in the works to expand the south end zone that will push DKR’s capacity to upwards of 112,000 fans — which would make it the nation’s largest stadium. And finally, located in the heart of one of the world’s best cities, fans have a long list of attractions while pre- and post-gaming on Saturdays.

 

 

3. Boone Pickens Stadium, Oklahoma State

Opened: 1920 Capacity: 60,218

The Cowboys' home stadium got a massive facelift, new additions, extra seats and a beautiful new façade in the last few years. The single-tiered, true horseshoe building is now flanked on the west by a 146,000-square foot, state-of-the-art facility that contains all of the Pokes' football operations. The brick and mortar exterior creates a massive set of exterior columns that majestically climb above the Stillwater skyline. There isn’t a bad seat in the house and when packed, BPS is as raucous as any place in the nation. Keeping the seats full during down times as well as the overall lack of size is what keeps this gorgeous facility from competing with Texas or Oklahoma.

 

4. Jones AT&T Stadium, Texas Tech

Opened: 1947 Capacity: 60,862

Mike Leach had his issues departing Lubbock but he is largely responsible for the consistent growth and development of Texas Tech’s home venue. The stadium was improved and upgraded in 2005 (luxury suites, parking garage), '07 (master plan), '08 (Spanish façade), '09 (6,000 east side seats) and '13 (new jumbotron). The atmosphere is electric and the facilities have advanced dramatically from over the last decade. The trip to Lubbock makes getting to a game slightly more difficult than even some of the other Big 12 outposts.

 

5. Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Kansas State

Opened: 1968 Capacity: 50,000

It’s small on three sides and has some quirky lines, but Bill Snyder Family Stadium will rock when the Wildcats are rolling. Like Iowa State, this building was over capacity on average two years ago as K-State clinched its first Big 12 title since 2003. A 2006 renovation expanded seating in the north end zone and also upgraded the locker rooms. It isn’t the biggest or fanciest building in the conference, but this place generally over-delivers on game day.

 

 

6. Milan Puskar Stadium, West Virginia

Opened: 1980 Capacity: 60,000

When it comes to rabid, passionate supporters, the Mountaineers are much closer to SEC levels rather than Big East or even Big 12. And the surrounding mountains of Morgantown are a fantastic setting for a college football Saturday. That said, the building isn’t one of the nation’s biggest and the stadium itself is a fairly straightforward facility that likely could use another round of renovations.

 

7. McLane Stadium, Baylor

Opened: 2014 Capacity: 45,000

For six decades, Baylor called Floyd Casey Stadium home. It wasn’t on campus, wasn’t normally filled and lacked stylish character or modern amenities. So after the three best years of football in program history, Art Briles and the Bears will open a brand-new, on-campus facility in 2014. McLane Stadium, in honor of business magnate Drayton McLane, cost $250 million and will be expanded from 45,000 to 55,000 in the near future. The plans look gorgeous and if Baylor keeps winning, the fans could make this one of the better places to watch a game in the Big 12. Track the construction progress .
 

 

8. Jack Trice Stadium, Iowa State

Opened: 1975 Capacity: 55,000

Iowa State is home to one of the most underrated home atmospheres in the nation in a building named after Iowa’s first black athlete. The passion of the fans cannot be questioned, as the Cyclones outdrew their capacity in 2012 on a team that barely reached the postseason the last two years. In the works are future expansions of the south end zone and east concourse that will move capacity to 61,000, making it the third biggest venue in the Big 12. The move will upgrade the facilities across the board and will add an upper deck to the end zone by August 2015.

 

9. Amon Carter Stadium, TCU

Opened: 1929 Capacity: 45,000

TCU completely rebuilt its home venue following the 2010 season. The $164 million renovation changed the quaint, worn-down stadium into a state-of-the-art football facility that provides more room to grow in the near future. The beautiful Southwestern art deco blends with the new football facilities as well as the popular design trend in the DFW area. The building is brand new and fans showed up in force last year (over capacity) but it is still small and will take time to build up the long-term tradition and pageantry that exists throughout college football’s blueblood venues.

 

 

10. Memorial Stadium, Kansas

Opened: 1921 Capacity: 50,071

A poor home win-loss record (212-203-16), the old-school athletic track circling the field and simple styling make this the worst venue in the conference. The last major upgrade took place over a decade ago, the attendance is fairly small and the building itself lacks tradition and character.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12 Stadiums for 2014 (Experts Poll)
Post date: Monday, June 23, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /overtime/world-cup-2014-us-vs-portugal-game-preview-and-prediction
Body:

After defeating Ghana 2-1 in a thrilling match, the Americans now face the talented Cristiano Ronaldo and a reeling Portugal team coming off a 4-0 loss to Germany.

 

When and Where to Watch

The two countries face off Sunday, June 22, 6:00 pm (ET), live on ESPN. The game is being played in Arena Amazônia in Manaus, Amazonas. After a huge victory for the U.S. against Ghana, restaurants and bars all across the United States will be packed for the team’s penultimate match of the group stage. Show up early because it might be too crowded to get a seat at your town’s more popular spots.

 

Why You Should Watch

A win would bring our point total to 6, almost assuredly securing a trip to the knockout round for the United States. At the same time, Portugal is desperate after losing by a large margin to Germany. The Portuguese must be thinking they need to win the next two games to advance, considering it would be hard for them to move on based on goal differential at this point. Therefore, both squads will be playing their hearts out on the world’s biggest stage. Portugal’s last game featured a number of hard fouls and even a headbutt, so for fans of the UFC and Boxing, this game might just be physical enough to keep you entertained. We’ve got two teams fighting for second place in the “Group of Death” after both had unexpected outcomes in their opening matches. What’s not to like?

 

You saw the exciting style of play that the American team offered against Ghana and these 90 minutes should be no less exhilarating. Though Jozy Altidore will not be available to contribute, our substitutes have proven that they can perform at a world-class level. By the way, Cristiano Ronaldo, who made little to no impact against Germany, is still one of the best players in the world. Seeing a player with his qualifications take the field is enough reason to tune-in.  If the USA plays well here and Germany defeats Ghana, USA v. Germany will probably be no more than a glorified scrimmage, as the two teams will be happy to accept a draw and advance without wasting their precious energy and showing future opponents their tactical strategies. This could be the last competitive game that Group G presents, make sure you don’t miss it. 

 

Who to Watch for the United States

Clint Dempsey. Clint Dempsey. Did I mention Clint Dempsey? He scored in the opening seconds of last game and will be on a mission to repeat that miracle again. However, his talent is no real surprise for anyone at this point. This means that the Portugal defense will likely be keying in on Dempsey, possibly opening up holes for some other American players. With Jozy Altidore out of the game and potentially the entire tournament, other strikers must step up and be the difference in this game.

 

Michael Bradley was a rare non-factor against Ghana. I wouldn’t count on that to happen again. Though Portugal is better than Ghana on paper, it’s extremely difficult for any defense to contain every offensive-minded player on the American team. In order to do so, the Portuguese must dominate possession and remain on the attack for the entire game. Just like the way USA v. Ghana played out, I’d expect Portugal to hold the ball for the majority of the match. This should open up the quick counterattack for the USA, with the star midfielder as the catalyst. Keep your eyes on Michael Bradley because odds are with him to rebound in a big way against Portugal.

 

Last week, I predicted a 2-1 victory over Ghana, with Clint Dempsey and Aron Jóhannsson scoring the lone goals. Because of Jozy Altidore’s presence against Ghana, Jóhannsson didn’t bear much of the load on Monday. With Altidore sidelined, Jóhannsson must step up. If Aron plays well in his matchup, the United States should have a slight advantage. You’ll want to watch the Alabama-born Icelandic-American to see if he is up to the task of filling Altidore’s role over the course of the tournament.

 

Why the U.S. Will Walk Away Victorious

The 4 goals that Germany scored on Portugal are a bit misleading. Don’t expect the U.S. to have that much offensive success, unless the injuries and red cards start flooding in. The Portuguese were playing with 10 men for much of the match. Add to that the fact that the Germans are one of the best all-around teams in the tournament and you have yourselves a blowout. This game will be much closer considering the Portuguese know that a loss basically eliminates them from further contention. Expect Head Coach Paulo Bento to have his team composed and ready to take on the USMNT. Having said that, I expect a tense, closely contested match with minimal risks taken and few goals scored.

 

Around 85% of teams who win their first match of the World Cup move past the group stage. Still not feeling confident in the U.S. chances of advancement after defeating Ghana? Well, now we face a shorthanded Portugal team who is missing a number of important contributors. Portugal’s best defender, Pepe, will not be seeing any action after earning a red card for his antics against Germany. Portugal will also be without Fábio Coentrão and Hugo Almeida. It seems as though the U.S. will be doing all it can to stymie Cristiano Ronaldo. If the Americans limit Ronaldo as effectively as the Germans did, another win could be in store.

 

Prediction

No goals are scored in a stressful first half of play. Michael Bradley puts one in the net in the 63rd minute on a furious counterattack. The Americans walk away with 3 hard-earned points, giving the Portuguese their second goose egg of the World Cup. USA 1, Portugal 0.

Teaser:
Post date: Saturday, June 21, 2014 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-football-2014-schedule-analysis
Body:

Quick, which Pac-12 team had the best record in the league last year?

 

It wasn’t the defending champion Stanford Cardinal and it wasn’t the Oregon Ducks. It was the Sun Devils of Arizona State who posted the best record in the league a year ago, losing just once in the regular season.

 

Todd Graham has obviously done a masterful job in just two years at the helm in Tempe. He has an excellent third-year starter returning under center in Taylor Kelly and a host of big-play weapons with which to surround him. But Graham also has to replace eight all-conference defensive starters.

 

So while Arizona State is a team that has grown accustomed to playing in marquee showdowns out West, many believe that a brutal schedule packaged with a totally rebuilt defensive depth chart will make repeating as Pac-12 South champs extremely difficult.

 

2014 Arizona State Schedule Analysis

 

2014 ASU Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 28Weber St
2.Sept. 6at 
3.Sept. 13at 
4.Sept. 20Bye
5.Sept. 25
6.Oct. 4at 
7.Oct. 11Bye
8.Oct. 16
9.Oct. 25at 
10.Nov. 1
11.Nov. 8
12.Nov. 15at 
13.Nov. 22
14.Nov. 29at 
Ease into things 

The beginning of the season for Todd Graham should be a welcome sight. His brand-new defense won’t really be tested by Weber State or New Mexico in the first two weeks. And while Colorado should be much improved on offense, the Sun Devils should be capable of handling the Buffaloes in Boulder in Week 3. Arizona State, which gets an off weekend after the first three games, topped the Buffs 54-13 a year ago.

 

South Division Round-Robin

While USC and UCLA won’t play until much later in the year (Nov. 22), Arizona State will face its top two competitors in the South Division in back-to-back weeks as the calendar flips to October. The Bruins come to town to renew a developing coaching rivalry between Graham and Jim Mora. The road team has won both meetings between the two coaches and the combined scores of the two games is 81-78 (ASU). The following week, ASU must visit USC. While Graham single-handedly removed Lane Kiffin from power a year ago in Tempe, his Sun Devils were smoked the last time they visited The Coliseum (38-17). These two games could decide the entire season for Arizona State and they will happen in a two-week span early in the year.

 

Brutal October

On the heels of facing UCLA and USC — the top two teams picked in the South Division — Arizona State is fortunate to get an off weekend, because the Devils will have to face Stanford (home) and Washington (road) in the last two weeks of October. So over a five-week span, Arizona State will face four of the five best teams in the league, missing only Oregon. A 2-2 record might be considered a huge success, especially if those two wins come against the Bruins and Trojans.

 

Stretch run offers no breaks

After the bye week in Week 7, Arizona State literally won’t have a break in the schedule. The Sun Devils will play seven straight games to end the year. The good news is there are plenty of winnable contests in the month of November. Utah and Washington State at home are must-wins while two road trips to pesky Oregon State and in-state rival Arizona will be difficult. The lone marquee showdown in the final month is a bout with Notre Dame — who comes to Sun Devil Stadium on Nov. 8. Graham’s squad could win four, possibly five, games in the final month if the defense rounds into form and it could make ASU one of the hotter teams in the nation at the end of the season.
 

Related:

 

Final Verdict

Arizona State should be happy it eases into action in 2014 with three guaranteed wins to start. This should allow the defense some time to develop, as so many new faces will dot the starting lineup.  After that, however, things get really salty as the heart of the 2014 schedule will make or break the Sun Devils chances to repeat in the South. Three wins over a four-game span from Sept. 25 to Oct. 25 will likely decide the division race. Should Arizona State make it through the October gauntlet, this team could surge down the stretch. There are tricky but winnable games in November and even a loss to Notre Dame wouldn’t hurt a Pac-12 title run. Fans should know all they need to about ASU’s title hopes before Halloween.

Teaser:
Arizona State Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-june-20-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for June 20:

. And I thought American pro athletes did well in the lady department.

• Bizarre World Cup photo of the day: . Not sure what's going on here.

• Today's dollop of schadenfreude: .

.

. Money quote: telling LeBron and the other stars to stay, "if you've got the guts."

.

.

• Longform goodness: .

• If you're a 12-year-old at heart like me, you'll enjoy this: . Presenting: Fartzenegger.

.

, giving the Bears the league's most punchable QB duo.

• Billy Hamilton made a spectacular ninth-inning, wall-crashing catch.

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 10:55
Path: /nba/future-miami-heat
Body:

After being blown away in the 2014 NBA Finals by the San Antonio Spurs in five games, the Miami Heat’s future seems to be more unpredictable than ever. Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James all have the opportunity to test the free agency market this offseason. Bosh has repeatedly mentioned on radio shows and television that he plans on staying in South Beach. Wade has publicly declared that he doesn’t plan on taking another pay cut. James has kept his thoughts private, focusing on the game instead of talking about the future. The team played well down the stretch, but ultimately they did not have enough firepower to defeat a Spurs team that was rolling on all 15 of its cylinders. The Spurs are poised for another title run next year, but what about Miami? The team’s owner, Micky Arison, declared during an ESPN radio interview that the chances of the three players remaining with the team were “one hundred percent”. But what can we realistically expect in this crucial offseason from the Heat? What moves will they make in hopes of returning back to the pinnacle of NBA basketball? 

 

Keeping the Big 3

 

The most important action that Miami’s management must take in the coming months is retaining the team’s stars: James, Wade, and Bosh. All three have early termination options, and counter intuitively, it may be best for the team if the three stars all opt-out. This way, the players can restructure their contracts, take less money, and create some financial breathing room for Pat Riley to acquire additional contributors in the offseason. In a perfect world all three would sign contracts on the lower end of the fiscal spectrum, but only Bosh and James seem compliant with that notion at the moment. If all three players decide to stick with the Heat for at least one more year, this conversation about the Heat’s future will simply be delayed until next offseason. The best outcome in this situation would be inking up these core pieces with long-term contracts, with Wade taking a hefty pay-cut. It will be a complicated situation but if there is one priority for the Miami Heat this offseason it’s this: Hold onto the best player in the world, LeBron James.

 

The Wade Conundrum

 

In all honesty, Wade shouldn’t be making much money anymore. He is an All-Star talent and one of the league’s best guards at his best, but when he only dresses for a third of games his salary fails to match his production. Wade was largely a disappointment in the Finals, which is interesting to note because he loves to insist that the playoffs is all that matters when he has an off night. Still, Wade led Miami to a championship in 2006 and the respect and adoration that he’s earned from the city almost guarantees his stay in South Beach. Pat Riley and Micky Arison will have a difficult time convincing Wade to take less money considering Dwyane’s success was a major reason why LeBron came to Miami in the first place. It will be interesting to see what other teams would offer Dwyane in terms of years and dollars taking into account his 2014 Finals performance.

 

Retirees

 

Shane Battier, one of the NBA’s peskiest defenders, is retiring. He established that in the middle of the season, which in my opinion was not a positive sign of the team’s confidence or health. He’s been checked out since last year though, as his play has been on the decline for a while. Battier’s exceptional defense and occasional burst of shooting will be missed, but overall this loss doesn’t hurt them too badly. Battier is joining ESPN as an analyst, which opens up a new roster spot for the Heat.

 

Ray Allen has stated that he is thinking about retiring and will announce his decision in the coming days. He played at a high level this past season, but he could get more money elsewhere. The Heat would need him to sign for the minimum in order to construct a better supporting cast and after winning a championship in 2013, it’s hard to be sure if Allen is willing to make that sacrifice once again. The Heat should be looking to get younger, so maybe it’s time to let Allen go and find someone with fresher legs who can fill his role off the bench.

 

Finding Help

 

There should be plenty of room on the Heat roster next season, as a good portion of the players in Miami are slated to become free agents this offseason. Though veterans like James Jones, Udonis Haslem, and Rashard Lewis will probably sign for little money in order to return to the team, there are others who will be taking a different approach to contract negotiations.

 

The Miami Heat have problems at the point guard position. Mario Chalmers was benched in favor of Norris Cole during the 2014 Finals, but neither guard played well enough to earn Coach Spoelstra’s confidence. It may be better at this point for Chalmers and the Heat to part ways, but this doesn’t mean another franchise won’t recognize his value. Look for him to excel in another city once he finds his place. Norris Cole played well against Indiana and is a serviceable back up, but Miami desperately needs a high-level ball handler not named LeBron James. Kyle Lowry, Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Thomas are all outstanding guards that will be looking for a new home this summer. But Miami doesn’t have enough money to bring one of them in. More reasonable options include Nick “Swaggy P” Young of the Lakers and Ramon Sessions of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat need a starter here but can afford to take a below average player due to James’ ability to play point. They’re looking for someone who can create off the dribble, operate the pick and roll, and defend. If Chalmers isn’t back, they’ll search long and hard to find their guy this offseason.

 

Center is another position where the Heat are troubled. Chris “Birdman” Andersen is showing signs of his age and could probably secure more money in a deal with a different team. The Greg Oden experiment was a failure and who knows if he’ll be back in Miami next year or even in the NBA. Heck, he may be in a wheelchair within the next six months the way his knee strength is dwindling. Bosh has always been a stretch at the 5. What the Heat want is a solid rebounder and inside presence that can occupy a big man on both offense and defense. This would be an answer to the likes of Roy Hibbert or a potential matchup with Dwight Howard in the Finals. Marcin Gortat and Greg Monroe could solve the problem in a hurry for the Heat, but this is only if they are willing to earn less money than they are worth. Otherwise, free agents like Spencer Hawes and Jermaine O’Neal, if available, would get looks from Miami.

 

There are other ways to build a team than through free agency. James Ennis, a developing Miami Heat draft pick, will likely upgrade from the D-League to the 15-man squad this coming season. Ennis is athletic and has played well on the Heat’s farm team, but he will have to prove himself early in the NBA. As a small forward, hopefully Ennis will be able to extend the longevity of LeBron James’ career by relieving the King when he needs a breather. The Heat are not used to building a team from the draft like the Spurs have, but getting a boost of energy and youth from Ennis in the 2015 season would be a step in the right direction.

 

The Big Four?

 

The rumors have been rampant about Carmelo Anthony coming to Miami. Technically, the Heat have the cap room and flexibility to make it work. Considering Melo’s uneventful and distressful career in New York, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him leave town. But would he go to Miami? Don’t they already have enough scorers? Sources have reported that the Heat have been exploring that option. And Melo, looking for his first championship despite being a perennial MVP contender, might be willing to listen. He would be leaving more than $50 million on the table, but there’s no state income tax in Florida and he would be able to further his brand in Miami. The Bulls, Rockets, and Celtics will be intensely competing for Anthony’s services, but if Melo wants to join the enemy instead of attempting to beat them, he may decide to sign with the Heat. That’s a big if, though. Over the course of Carmelo’s career he’s proven two things: No. 1: He’s a prolific scorer and No. 2: He loves money. He might be more mature after struggling mightily in New York, but odds are this dream scenario doesn’t play out the way that Miami fans hope it will.

 

These options all sound terrific, but ultimately it depends upon the cap room that is freed up after the Big Three make their respective decisions. If any of the Heat’s stars choose to leave town, the entire roster may be facing an overhaul in free agency. In the end, the fate of the Heat’s franchise rests in the hands of #6. Your move, Mr. James. The Heat, and the rest of the NBA, await.

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /nascar/marcos-ambrose-tony-stewart-look-nascar-chase-berth-sonoma
Body:

Each week, Geoffrey Miller’s “Five Things to Watch” will help you catch up on the biggest stories of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ upcoming race weekend. This week, the nuances of road course racing on the Cup and Nationwide series and the Chase hopes of road aces Marcos Ambrose and Tony Stewart highlight the storylines leading up to the Toyota-Save Mart 350.

 

 

Road course ride heights a big question at Sonoma

Don’t be surprised if you see Marcos Ambrose laying on the ground on pit road, sizing up his competition this weekend from the pavement up. Why? Blame NASCAR’s change in a ride height rule. Nobody knows what to expect.

 

“I think there's going to be different strategies going into this weekend,” Ambrose said. “I’m going to be one of the drivers that has a keen eye on the attitude of the car in pit lane, down the garage area, looking at what teams are doing to go fast. We're going to have to work it on the fly.”

 

For years, NASCAR mandated rules involving a race car’s minimum front end ride height — or the distance it sits above the ground — as a way to promote performance parity among teams. But over time, the rule became one of the front lines of expensive innovation as teams worked to find an ideal combination of shocks and springs that allowed the nose of a car to get low at speed while still passing technical inspection.

 

A lower car, especially on an oval, created more front downforce that, in turn, created more grip. More grip equaled more corner speed. But a car that was too low after qualifying or a race became a penalty — and an expensive mistake.

 

NASCAR eliminated the front end rule for 2014 as a way to introduce more aerodynamic stability to the cars. Now at its first road course race of the season, the ride height rule has many scratching their heads about how it will best be applied.

 

Road courses present a unique animal because of the corner curbing. With a car ride height too low, drivers face the prospect of either bottoming out the front end on the curbing or causing significant damage to a car’s nose section. However, the lower ride heights assist with high-speed cornering like those found in Sonoma’s Turns 8, 8A, 9 and 10.

 

It’s a wait-and-see approach, says Kurt Busch:

 

“We just have to watch out for the curbing. Is that car riding so low that it’ll drag the curbs differently? That’s one of my questions coming in to this weekend.”

 

 

Sonoma can fulfill Marcos Ambrose’s season  Marcos Ambrose

Ambrose will be pulling out any and all stops to stay ahead of the competition this weekend because he’s firmly aware of the race’s importance, all thanks to NASCAR’s offseason championship qualifying format change. For Ambrose it’s win, get in and breathe a deep sigh of relief.

 

Oh, and make “The King” happy.

 

“I haven't made it to the Chase yet,” says Ambrose who is in his fourth season driving for Richard Petty Motorsports. “This format will give us our best chance to do it, if we can win a race at either Watkins Glen or Sonoma. We know that. It would really make our year, no doubt about it. It would certainly make our sponsors and Richard Petty very happy.”

 

Beyond appeasing his team owner, Ambrose is treating this season’s two Sprint Cup swings around road courses as make-or-break situations.

 

“We know our year is not complete if you can't make the Chase. It's like you haven't qualified for the finals.”

 

If the Australian road course ace that’s a two-time Cup victor at Watkins Glen does win, it will largely be about his improved ability to conserve rubber at the tire-hungry Sonoma. He says that lack of longevity has been his No. 1 downfall at the northern California track. 

 

“I haven't found the magic to make our tires last there,” Ambrose says. “Certainly it's the biggest question mark going into this year's race for me.”

 

 

Changing gears between tracks, and in the car, has Stewart positive about Sonoma weekend

The switch of scenery provided by NASCAR’s first road course race of the 2014 may just be what Tony Stewart needs. The three-time champ, still on the mend from a gruesome sprint car crash last August, has yet to win this year and has just five top-10 finishes in the season’s first 15 races.

 

Stewart was 11th last week at Michigan — and was admittedly pleased with the run — but isn’t afraid to admit that coming to Sonoma’s technical left-and-right challenge should be a boost. He’s a two-time Sonoma winner.

 

“There are some drivers that can’t adapt to it and haven’t learned it,” Stewart says of road course racing. “Then there are guys like myself that, from day one, have always really liked it and looked at the challenge of it as something really fun for us.”

 

For Stewart, an advantage at the road course track may come in his ability to work the transmission. In his team release this week, Stewart says his brief stints in sports car racing have left crew members impressed with his lack of damage on a gearbox during an event.

 

“There’s just something about the shifting side of it that’s been really natural to me, and it’s fun,” Stewart says. “I like having a different discipline to race on. I like having the opportunity to do something twice a year that we don’t get a shot at doing very often.

 

“It’s nice to get out of the box of what we do weekly and Sonoma is an awesome, awesome racetrack that has a lot of history. It’s very challenging and that’s why drivers like it.”

 

 

Sonoma winners tend to get out front early and often  Martin Truex Jr.

With nine different winners in the last nine seasons of Sprint Cup racing at Sonoma, it would seem that a path to victory for anyone at the 1.99-mile road course is more varied than the region’s elevation. Surprisingly, it’s been pretty consistent.

 

Since the nine-driver streak started, eight of the nine drivers who went on to take the race win led early and often. The only driver to win and lead fewer than 37 of the race’s scheduled 110 laps was Juan Pablo Montoya in 2007. The eight other drivers with wins since 2006 have averaged nearly 57 laps led.

 

Last season, a surprisingly dominant Martin Truex Jr. moved up from 14th to the lead after 41 laps and led 51 circuits en route to his first career road course win. Teammate Clint Bowyer was even more impressive the year before with a win after leading 71 laps. The most laps led by a race winner in the span, however, was Kyle Busch with 78 circuits out front in 2008.

 

Jeff Gordon, with wins in 2004 and ’06, is the most recent duplicate winner at the track.

 

 

MORE |

 

 

Nationwide Series makes fifth appearance at Road America

More than halfway across the country on Saturday the NASCAR Nationwide Series will also get in on the non-traditional right-and-left action at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc. The 50-lap race around the 4.048-mile, 14-corner track will be the fifth in series history at the well-regarded venue.

 

The race has somewhat become the new stomping ground for road course drivers from other disciplines looking to drop in and go for a NASCAR win — a fact likely equally attributable to the rising cost of Sprint Cup racing and the rising talent level of its drivers on road course tracks. Notably, Sunday’s race will include 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year and Tudor United Sports Car Championship Porsche driver Andy Lally as well as former Indianapolis 500 pole sitter Alex Tagliani.

 

Saturday’s race will feature a first time winner at the track after none of the previous four winners (Carl Edwards, Reed Sorenson, Nelson Piquet Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger) showed up on the race’s entry list. Josh Wise is the only driver scheduled to race both at Sonoma and Elkhart Lake this weekend.

 

 

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Teaser:
Each week, Geoffrey Miller’s “Five Things to Watch” will help you catch up on the biggest stories of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ upcoming race weekend. This week, the nuances of road course racing on the Cup and Nationwide series and the Chase hopes of road aces Marcos Ambrose and Tony Stewart highlight the storylines leading up to the Toyota-Save Mart 350.
Post date: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 08:11
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-toughest-schedules-2014
Body:

Over the past few seasons, when Athlon Sports sat down to predict our SEC East final standings there has been one factor that seems to have been the deciding factor.


Scheduling.

 

We caught a lot heat in 2011 when we picked the Georgia Bulldogs to win the East over the South Carolina Gamecocks. Especially from those clad in Garnett and Black. The same could have been said about picking the Bulldogs in 2012. The Dawgs had the easier path to the SEC East title those years and the ever-so-slight difference in scheduling played a huge role in earning Mark Richt and Georgia a trip to Atlanta in both 2011 and ’12.


In 2014, as the SEC enters the College Football Playoff Era, the schedules don’t seem nearly as imbalanced. And it makes projecting the SEC virtually impossible. Of the main contenders — Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Auburn — Alabama has the easiest slate, South Carolina gets the most critical home schedule, Georgia gets only three home SEC games and Auburn has the toughest road schedule and crossover opponents. 


With the football season fast approaching, Athlon Sports has ranked the toughest schedules in the SEC and how it impacted our .

 

1. Tennessee Volunteers

Crossover: at Ole Miss, Alabama

Non-conference: Utah St, Arkansas St, at Oklahoma, Chattanooga

Opponents' '13 Record: 101-54 (65.2%, 3rd)


The Vols will have to battle one of the toughest slates in the nation this fall. They will play one of the Mountain West and Sun Belt frontrunners and the Big 12 frontrunner in non-conference action. Tennessee also will have to travel to Georgia, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt while hosting Alabama, Missouri and a Florida team it hasn’t beaten in nearly a decade. overall in 2014 and could still easily lose seven games for a sixth time in seven years.

 

2. Arkansas Razorbacks

Crossover: Georgia (Little Rock), at Mizzou

Non-conference: Nicholls St, at Texas Tech, N. Illinois, UAB

Opponents ’13 Record: 103-54 (65.6%, 1st)


According to last year’s records, the Razorbacks will face the toughest schedule in the nation. While using last year’s win-loss totals to predict strength of schedule has numerous flaws, it does appear on paper that Arkansas will have the toughest road in the SEC West in 2014. To start, a road trip to defending SEC champ Auburn in Week 1 and a long, circuitous trip to Texas Tech in Week 3 both loom large. Once SEC plays really begins, . The Hogs will face Texas A&M, Alabama and Georgia in a four-week span and then a murderous November arrives with little hope for an upset: at Mississippi State, LSU, Ole Miss and at Mizzou. Crossover play for Arkansas could feature the best two teams in the East as well.

 

3. Auburn Tigers

Crossover: South Carolina, at Georgia

Non-conference: San Jose St, at Kansas St, La. Tech, Samford

Opponents ’13 Record: 93-60 (60.8%, 16th)


The Tigers should ease into the ’14 slate with two winnable games to start and an open date in Week 3. But after that, there are few breathers for the defending SEC champs. A road trip to Kansas State, a visit from LSU and a trip to Starkville makes the transition from September to October very difficult. Then, Auburn will likely have the toughest set of crossover opponents in the entire SEC this fall, as the Tigers will face South Carolina at home and go to Athens to take on Georgia — both in the second half of the season. Mixed in is a road trip to Ole Miss and a home date with Texas A&M. Lastly, the on the road against Alabama in the regular-season finale.

 

4. Kentucky Wildcats

Crossover: at LSU, Mississippi St

Non-conference: UT-Martin, Ohio, ULM, at Louisville

Opponents' '13 Record: 98-55 (6th)


Normally, if you are going to be a in the nation, non-conference slates and crossovers are supposed to help. But a 3-1 record out of SEC play might be a best case and one win against either LSU or Mississippi State from the West seems unlikely. Toss in the usual laundry list of brutal divisional games with all the SEC East blue bloods and making a bowl seems virtually impossible. Since Kentucky doesn’t have to play itself, its schedule is one of the toughest in the nation.

 

5. Florida Gators

Crossover: at Alabama, LSU

Non-conference: Idaho, E. Michigan, E. Kentucky, at Florida St

Opponents' '13 Record: 91-62 (59.5%, 22nd)


The Gators do get three marquee SEC showdowns at home and three non-conference foes not named the Seminoles should result in be three lock wins. But overall, with both Alabama and LSU in crossover play and a road trip to Florida State to cap the year. From Week 4 to 12, Florida will face Alabama, Tennessee and Vanderbilt on the road with LSU, Missouri and South Carolina at home as well as Georgia in Jacksonville. Luckily, both off weekends will fall within that seven-game stretch.

 

6. Texas A&M Aggies

Crossover: at South Carolina, Missouri

Non-conference: Lamar, Rice, at SMU, ULM

Opponents ’13 Record: 100-55 (64.2%, 5th)


The Aggies play nobody of note in the non-conference schedule with the possible exception of SMU in Dallas. And it’s a good thing Texas A&M scheduled those four wins because the league slate is absolutely nasty. The Aggies get Ole Miss, Mizzou and LSU at home and could pull an upset or two — especially because both Tigers will visit College Station late in the year. But one of the toughest away slates in the SEC leaves little room for error with road trips to Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State. Texas A&M should be 4-1 entering October but there are only a handful of winnable games after that for .

 

7. Ole Miss Rebels

Crossover: at Vanderbilt, Tennessee

Non-conference: Boise St, ULL, Memphis, Presbyterian

Opponents ’13 Record: 89-63 (58.6%, 26th)


Boise State is a tough start to the season but Chris Petersen is in Seattle now and that makes that game dramatically less difficult. A matchup with Vanderbilt on the road and UL-Lafayette at home creates a difficult start to the year. However, three tricky games to start means lots of breathers late in the year — i.e., Tennessee at home, Memphis, Presbyterian, at Arkansas and two bye weeks in the final 10 weeks. However, mixed in will be showdowns of epic proportions as Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State all come to Oxford during that span. Road trips to Kyle Field and Tiger Stadium fall in October as well. with key swing games at home, winnable but tricky non-conference tilts and two really brutal SEC road trips.

 

8. LSU Tigers

Crossover: at Florida, Kentucky

Non-conference: Wisconsin, Sam Houston St, ULM, New Mexico St

Opponents ’13 Record: 82-71 (53.6%, 57th)


Playing Wisconsin and Florida would normally make for an extremely difficult schedule. However, the Badgers are coming all the way down to Houston and are rebuilding on defense while Florida posted the worst season in school history a year ago. And the rest of the non-conference and crossover schedule (Kentucky) is very easy. So how does the home-road SEC West slate shape up for the Tigers? Road trips to Arkansas and Texas A&M come late in the year but those should be the worst two teams in the division while back-to-back visits to Auburn and Florida to start October loom large. The good news is LSU gets Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State at home and those three games more so than any other game minus Auburn.

 

9. South Carolina Gamecocks

Crossover: Texas A&M, at Auburn

Non-conference: East Carolina, Furman, South Alabama, at Clemson

Opponents' '13 Record: 96-59 (61.9%, 13th)


South Carolina and Georgia have eerily similar schedules. Both play Clemson out of conference and both play defending SEC champ Auburn in crossover. Carolina, however, has to play both Tigers on the road whereas the Bulldogs get both of those striped opponents at home. That said, Carolina gets three critical home SEC East games with contenders Georgia and Missouri as well as Tennessee in addition to Texas A&M. Road trips to Vanderbilt and Kentucky are manageable but a trip to Gainesville — while UGA gets Florida on a neutral field — also makes .

 

10. Georgia Bulldogs

Crossover: at Arkansas, Auburn

Non-conference: Clemson, Troy, Charleston Southern, Georgia Tech

Opponents' '13 Record: 92-61 (60.1%, 19th)


Only getting three home games in SEC play hurts but two road trips to Arkansas and Kentucky shouldn’t be too difficult. Non-conference games with Clemson and Georgia Tech will be battles but both come at home to bookend the season. Home games with Tennessee and Vanderbilt are very winnable and a rematch of the Prayer at Jordan-Hare will come Between the Hedges. Two road trips to South Carolina and Missouri could , however, as these three teams appear to be the top SEC East contenders. The good news is the Dawgs get a bye week to prepare for their trip to Columbia, S.C.

 

11. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Crossover: at Kentucky, Vanderbilt

Non-conference: Southern Miss, UAB, at S. Alabama, UT Martin

Opponents ’13 Record: 80-71 (52.9%, 62nd)


Like Texas A&M and Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs won’t challenge themselves in non-conference play like some of the bigger programs. Which is good, considering the normally brutal SEC West round-robin Mississippi State faces each year. Home games with Texas A&M (Week 6), Auburn (Week 7), Arkansas (Week 10) and Vanderbilt (Week 13) are all winnable and could feature three, possibly four, league victories. Road tilts with LSU and Alabama will be difficult and a rivalry game in Oxford is always tough, but the saving grace for Dan Mullen (and what makes this schedule lighter than others in the league) is two very winnable crossover games and four likely wins in the non-conference. It’s not just the that makes the Bulldogs an intriguing team to follow entering ’14, it’s also a relatively lenient SEC schedule.

 

12. Alabama Crimson Tide

Crossover: Florida, at Tennessee

Non-conference: West Virginia, FAU, Southern Miss, W. Carolina

Opponents ’13 Record: 71-79 (47.3%, 95th)


Alabama should breeze into conference play with three very winnable non-conference games (and one more in November). Crossover play against two powerhouse programs that have fallen on hard times in the Gators (home, Week 4) and Vols (road, Week 9) also gives the Tide a fortunate break in 2014. Add in a home game in the Iron Bowl against Auburn and the Tide looks poised for a perfect record at home. A road trip to Baton Rouge — a rivalry where the road team has consistently played well — and Ole Miss are the only other tricky games on the schedule — and Alabama gets two weeks to prepare for both games. This 12-game slate has three (maybe four) marquee games on it and two of those will come at home with the other two coming after the bye weeks. is almost a guarantee in Tuscaloosa.

 

13. Vanderbilt Commodores

Crossover:  Ole Miss, at Mississippi State

Non-conference: Temple, UMass, Charleston Southern, Old Dominion

Opponents' '13 Record: 78-73 (51.6%, 69th)


Getting both Mississippi schools in crossover play normally would be a blessing but not in 2014 as the two Magnolia programs are improved and confident. The non-conference schedule, however, might be the easiest of any team in the nation. Other winnable games like Tennessee at home and Kentucky on the road makes getting to a bowl game a likely possibility. But winning games against traditional powers Georgia and Florida like it did last year seem to be a much taller order this time around. And that doesn’t include a road trip to Missouri and a home game with South Carolina. There are plenty of upset chances and this fall.

 

14. Missouri Tigers

Crossover: at Texas A&M, Arkansas

Non-conference: South Dakota State, at Toledo, UCF, Indiana

Opponents' '13 Record: 84-67 (55.6%, 43rd)


As far as crossover and non-conference scheduling among the SEC East contenders, Missouri might have the easiest slate. A visit to Texas A&M in November won’t be easy but the Aggies and Razorbacks could be the worst two teams in the West. The non-conference slate has some solid competition but nothing Mizzou shouldn’t be able to handle with relative ease. The key for the Tigers will be the road slate against South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and the Aggies — despite last year’s win-loss records. A against Georgia comes after a bye week and at home. The Tigers should be perfect at home and in the non-conference slate (8-0) so if they can knock off either South Carolina or Florida on the road, Mizzou could easily repeat as SEC East champs

Teaser:
Ranking the SEC's Toughest Schedules in 2014
Post date: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-ten-stadiums-2014-experts-poll
Body:

Ranking anything in sports is subjective. We may all agree on certain things — like Michael Jordan is better than Kobe Bryant or that Lambeau Field is better than the Edward Jones Dome — but for the most part, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
 

Ranking college football stadiums is not only subjective but also extremely intricate. General atmosphere, fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tailgating, the surrounding campus and the college town should all be considered when trying to rank college football stadiums.
 

Basically, there is no right or wrong answer. Athlon Sports polled Big Ten experts and asked them to rank their favorite Big Ten stadiums based on all of the above factors. Here is how things shook out:
 

The Voters:


Gerry DiNardo, Big Ten Network ()
Eddie George, SiriusXM/Fox Sports ()

David Jones, Harrisburg Patriot-News ()

Herb Gould, Chicago Sun-Times ()

Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network ()

Kevin McGuire, NBC Sports ()

Sean Callahan, HuskerOnline.com ()

Kevin Noon, BuckeyeGrove.com ()

Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network ()

Mike Griffith, MLive.com ()
Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports ()

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM ()
 

The Results:

 

 GDEGDJHGTDKMSCKNBYMGSLBG
1. Ohio St112122111111
2. Nebraska244515322223
3. Wisconsin721233244434
4. Penn St433441553542
5. Michigan657354465356
6. Iowa365666636765
7. Michigan St5712777777677
8. Minnesota81268108888888
9. Illinois13889991012109911
10. Maryland911131411101191213109
11. Northwestern1210910131191314101414
12. Rutgers10910131212131411111213
13. Indiana11141112141312119121312
14. Purdue14131411814141013141110

 

The Stadiums:


 

1. Ohio Stadium, Ohio State

Opened: 1922 Capacity: 102,329

There is little doubt that the Horseshoe is the Big Ten’s best place to watch a game. A great nickname, awesome traditions, tremendous fan support, elite level of success, High Street and the Banks of the Olentangy make Ohio Stadium a bucket list destination for fans of every team. And with a new video board, audio system and LED lighting, Ohio State boasts one of the top college football venues in the nation. Watching the "Dotting of the I" before a Buckeyes game is something all college fans should experience. Finishing in the top five in average attendance every year doesn’t hurt either.

 

Listen to the latest Athlon Sports Cover 2 podcast:

 

2. Memorial Stadium, Nebraska

Opened: 1923 Capacity: 91,000

Towering over the sprawling Lincoln campus, Memorial Stadium rises high into the horizon for all Big Red faithful to see. The façade of Memorial Stadium is extremely intimidating to those down on the field and the crowds are the most committed in the nation. This venue has been sold out since 1962. (1962!) The latest round of multimillion-dollar expansions grew this college football cathedral by nearly 10,000 seats and is even more luxurious.

 

3. Camp Randall Stadium, Wisconsin

Opened: 1917 Capacity: 80,321

Madison is routinely considered one of the nation’s most enjoyable college towns. Nestled between two picturesque lakes, the downtown campus “jumps around” on fall Saturdays. The brat haze that floats over State Street and down Regent Street ushers fans through a gorgeous campus and into the House that Barry built. Camp Randall got its name from its time as a Civil War army base in the 1800s long before Big Ten athletics were created. Wisconsin has consistently poured money into renovating its prized gem of a stadium over the years, with some finishing touches still yet to come. One of the nation’s best game day atmospheres is only getting better with time.

 

 

4. Beaver Stadium, Penn State

Opened: 1960 Capacity: 106,572

From a massive city like Columbus to a sleepy college town like State College, Beaver Stadium nearly matches The Horseshoe’s every facet. Penn State’s home stadium is as intimidating as any in the nation — especially when 100,000 fans are all wearing white. Massive, boisterous crowds steeped in rich tradition and history make the Nittany Lions’ home games a sight to behold. And climbing nearby Mount Nittany is a right of passage of sorts for all who attend a game at Beaver Stadium.

 

5. Michigan Stadium, Michigan

Opened: 1927 Capacity: 109,901

The biggest stadium in the nation is located in Ann Arbor, Mich. It was capable of holding upwards of 80,000 people at the time it opened, making it well ahead of its peers in terms of sheer size and capacity. Built down into the ground, the massive bowl doesn’t tower over the land or hold in the sound like some of its 100,000-seat brethren, however, the renovations completed in 2010 installed new luxury boxes, added a massive video scoreboard and thousands of club seats. These changes have contained the noise to some degree and made The Big House more inhospitable to opposing teams and more majestic to the Maize and Blue faithful.



 

6. Kinnick Stadium, Iowa

Opened: 1929 Capacity: 70,585

Formerly Iowa Stadium, the name changed in 1972 when a local sports writer convinced the powers that be to rename the building after former Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick. The Hawkeyes' home field took its current shape in 2006 when an $86 million renovation added a new press box, video scoreboard and built permanent seating in the south end zone, complete with upgraded amenities. The no-frills, straightforward seating can be as loud as any stadium in the Big Ten and the famous pink visitors’ locker room only adds to the building’s rich tradition.

 

7. Spartans Stadium, Michigan State

Opened: 1923 Capacity: 75,005

Entering the 2012 season, Michigan State has put together an extremely respectable 70 percent winning percentage (341-142-13) at home since taking up residency in Spartan Stadium. The perfectly symmetrical walls of Spartan Stadium are the last of the Big Ten’s “big” stadiums. Renovations completed in 2006 upgraded the luxury suites, club seats, concourses and amenities and added The Grand Entrance, a sharp looking glass and brick façade that welcomes Green and White faithful each Saturday.

 

8. TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota

Opened: 2009 Capacity: 50,805

The newest building in the Big Ten is home to the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. The on-campus, outdoor facility opened in 2009 and cost roughly $300 million to build. Seating capacity can be expanded to 80,000, which is one of the reasons why the Gophers' home also will host the Vikings the next two seasons while a new downtown stadium is under construction. The west end zone is open air, holds a massive HD video board and provides a scenic view of downtown Minneapolis. “The Bank” or “Gopher Hole” has dramatically improved the game day atmosphere for home games and provides Minnesota an on-campus home of its own for decades to come. The amenities are also among the league’s best considering it’s the newest building in the conference.

 

 

9. Memorial Stadium, Illinois

Opened: 1923 Capacity: 60,670

The exterior of Illinois’ facility has always had a classic and traditional feel that welcomes home and road fans. But prior to 2008, this facility lacked the passion and intensity of the bigger Big Ten buildings. However, a brand new press box and luxury suites on the West side coupled with 10,000 new seats in the north end zone have helped rebuild the Memorial experience. The multimillion-dollar video board, new sound system, ribbon video boards and new commemorative lettering on the press box wrapped up the latest round of renovations and has only added to the game day experience.

 

10. Byrd Stadium, Maryland

Opened: 1950 Capacity: 54,000

Dr. H.C. Byrd was a multi-sport athlete and University of Maryland alumnus who went on to coach the football team and also served as university president. The building, nestled at the foot of campus’ North Hill, has gone through various rounds of renovations (1995, '04, '07, '09). Although it has taken time for the building to round into form, the improvements, including upper decks seating, presidential suite and state-of-the-art scoreboard, make Terps games much more enjoyable today than just 15 years ago.

 

 

11. Ryan Field, Northwestern

Opened: 1926 Capacity: 47,130

Formerly Dyche Stadium, the Wildcats' home stadium was renamed Ryan Field in honor of Patrick G. Ryan, who was the chairman of the Board of Trustees at that time. The unique gentle curves of the stadium allow for great sight lines and few bad seats. Located in northeast Chicago along Lake Michigan, the Evanston campus offers plenty for fans to enjoy. However, similar to Duke or Vanderbilt, this venue struggles to match the rabid intensity of bigger, more powerful athletic departments.

 

12. High Point Solutions Stadium, Rutgers

Opened: 1994 Capacity: 52,454

This on-campus facility grew from 41,500 seats to its current capacity after an extensive round of additions in 2009. The Knights use a signature two-tone green field turf for football games and the atmosphere performed well in signature moments — see Jeremy Ito’s field goal in 2006. It lacks a great name due to corporate sponsorship, but its symmetry, fan support and view of the Raritan River give it a lot of upside with an influx of Big Ten dollars expected in the near future.
 

 

13. Memorial Stadium, Indiana

Opened: 1960 Capacity: 52,959

The Hoosiers’ home field is one of the few in the nation that has remained largely unchanged throughout the years. The signature, solitary press box rests gently atop the single-tier bowl nicknamed “The Rock.” A rare 2009 renovation expanded seating slightly, added the brand new Hall of Champions athletic facility and enclosed the north end zone. Bloomington is an awesome college town and Memorial offers the homely experience of a laid-back Midwestern campus. But until the team can win at a higher level more consistently, The Rock won’t be nearly as intimidating as most places in the league.

 

14. Ross Ade Stadium, Purdue

Opened: 1924 Capacity: 62,500

Purdue’s home stadium could be the next Big Ten stadium to get a makeover. It has plenty of tradition, a rich history of elite players and has provided plenty of upsets — just ask Ohio State. But an upper deck on the North and East sides as well as a facelift for the amenities would go a long way to improving the status of this once-proud venue. The rumored additions would balance out the currently western heavy feel to the building — due to the massive press box and luxury suites towering over the single-bowl facility. Winning more games, of course, would go a long way to pushing forward these potential renovations.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten Stadiums for 2014 (Experts Poll)
Post date: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/virginia-techs-frank-beamer-crossroads-2014
Body:

As the Sun Bowl approached last December, the reward for an 8–4 regular season, coach Frank Beamer offered a rare moment of candor regarding his future. The resignations of Texas’ Mack Brown and Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe, two of his contemporaries and closest friends in the coaching business, weighed heavily on his mind.
 

“It just kind of reminds you that nothing is certain about this business,” the 67-year-old Beamer said. “I’m very sensitive to staying around too long. …
 

“It’s just the reality of the business. I understand it. I haven’t seriously thought of (retiring), but I’ve certainly thought about it. But I feel good about things right now. Our recruiting is going great. I like my coaching staff very much. Things are really very positive right now.”
 

There are few things tougher to pull off in football than the graceful exit of a long-time coach. Joe Paterno’s end was ugly at Penn State. Bobby Bowden’s wasn’t as scandalous but still came too late at Florida State.
 

With those situations as a backdrop, the question now facing Virginia Tech is this: Can Beamer, the winningest active Division I coach and about to begin his 28th season in Blacksburg, pull the Hokies out of a two-season swoon and get back to competing for ACC championships?
 

Beamer is partly a victim of his own success. Virginia Tech was the standard bearer for consistency for much of the 2000s, winning at least 10 games in eight straight seasons from 2004-11. But the bottom has fallen out recently. Years of offensive indifference and the decline of Tech’s play on special teams — not many people have been using the term “Beamerball” of late — finally caught up to the Hokies, putting the program at a crossroads.
 

A 7–6 mark in 2012, when Tech nearly missed a bowl game for the first time in two decades, prompted an overhaul to the offensive coaching staff. The Hokies went 8–5 last year on the back of a top-five defense and could have gotten back to 10 wins if not for several turnover-plagued games.
 

Still, 15 wins in two years and no ACC Championship Game appearances — amazingly, the longest drought the Hokies have had since the inception of the title game in 2005 — aren't what folks in Blacksburg are accustomed to.
 

“We’re used to winning 10 games a year, and we haven’t done that,” running backs coach Shane Beamer says. “Not to justify it, but at some places if you win eight, you win seven, they’re giving everyone contract extensions and having celebrations. That’s not our expectation here at Virginia Tech. Our expectation each year, why these players came here, is to win championships.”
 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2014 ACC Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 14 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Those around the program — and even former players like running back Kevin Jones, who was on the committee that recently hired new athletic director Whit Babcock — are confident that the last two years have only been a brief hiccup, although the Hokies’ task of reclaiming their spot atop the ACC they dominated for so long is made tougher by Florida State’s resurgence and Clemson’s recent run.
 

The hope comes from the changes Virginia Tech made on offense prior to the 2013 season. After years of underachieving on that side of the ball, Beamer revamped his staff, going outside the program to hire former Temple and Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and two more offensive assistants (and since then, another one). For Beamer — who hadn’t hired an outside coordinator since 1994 and, it was reported later, considered calling upon old pal Ralph Friedgen to run the offense — it was a bold step, one outside his comfort zone.
 

“I think what he did last year as far as the coaching change showed that the guy still has a burning desire to go win a national championship and see this program continue to grow,” says defensive coordinator Bud Foster, whose consistently strong group has put the Hokies in the mix for two decades now. “You just don’t do that if you don’t have fire. … We’re not going to be complacent here. I think that’s a telltale sign.”
 

While Year 1 under Loeffler wasn’t a wild success — Tech actually went backward in the national rankings in total yardage, from 81st to 101st, and had one of the worst rushing attacks in Beamer’s tenure — it provided a starting point in modernizing the Hokies’ offense, utilizing multiple shifts and more complex schemes than Virginia Tech had used in the past.
 

The issue now is talent. The offense lacks difference-makers of the recent past like Tyrod Taylor, David Wilson and Ryan Williams, the result of several subpar recruiting classes, although Loeffler and Co. have gone about fixing that on the recruiting trail. In the new staff’s first full recruiting cycle, it signed 16 offensive players to replenish the ranks, the biggest influx of talent the program has had on that side of the ball in years.
 

In addition to a pair of freshman quarterbacks, Andrew Ford and Chris Durkin, Loeffler convinced Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer to join the Hokies, adding to the competition to replace three-year starter Logan Thomas.
 

“I see the young talent,” Shane Beamer says. “You look around this room and there’s a lot of young faces of guys that have three years or more of eligibility left. And our talent level hasn’t been probably what it needs to be the last couple years in certain positions, and we’ve known that. We’ve tried hard to get it right in recruiting and I feel like we have.”
 

A significant turnaround might be a matter of time and timing — time for those recruits to mature and timing to get all the parts lined up. This season, the Hokies have to retool on defense after losing seven senior starters and have no known entity at quarterback, despite an older offensive line that could start as many as four seniors. Next year, when an experienced quarterback might be in place and the defense is a year older, the offensive line could be starting an overhaul.
 

Will Beamer still be on the sideline by then? His current contract runs through 2016, and those closest to him say he hasn’t slowed down with age or taken on a figurehead role that many assume is the case.
 

“I’m his son, and we’ve never once talked about how long he’s going to coach,” Shane Beamer says. “Not one time. … I don’t see him slowing down at all.
 

“Anything you need him to do recruiting-wise, he does it. ‘Hey, I need you to call these 10 high school coaches today.’ The next day, he’s got it done. We just played Georgia Tech on a Thursday, he’s in Richmond all day Friday going to high school football games. If he was slowing down, I think he’d say, ‘You know, I think I’d rather just stay home and watch college football all day.’ But he ­doesn’t. Whatever needs to be done, he does.
 

“He sees the youth. The youth on this team keeps us all young. And I know he’s excited about the next step.”

Written by Andy Bitter () of the for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 ACC Football Preview Editions.  to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Is Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer at a Crossroads in 2014?
Post date: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/13-college-basketball-coaches-hot-seat-2014-15
Body:

The final spot in the 2014-15 coaching carousel was filled Wednesday when Marist hired a new basketball coach.

With that bit of news in mind, let’s start taking a look at the next round of potential coaching changes. Yesterday, Athlon featured . These are the jobs they might fill.

Of course, every coach under pressure can buy time with a nice season.

Just think, at this point last season, every hot seat list started with Texas coach Rick Barnes. A year later, Barnes is still in Austin and his team is a top 10 contender.

But the coaches on this list have put themselves into a perform-or-pack-your-bags situation, starting perhaps as early as this season.

Oliver Purnell, DePaul
Purnell has had a unique career in college basketball, coaching at five spots without an NCAA Tournament win. Yet each of his first four jobs — Radford, Old Dominion, Dayton and Clemson — were successful. The DePaul job may be the one program he can’t shepherd into the postseason. The Blue Demons are 9-57 in the Big East under his watch, a mark that didn’t improve even in the newer (and weaker) iteration of the league in 2013-14.

Anthony Grant, Alabama
The Crimson Tide have gone 46-38 in the SEC under Grant, but that’s an underwhelming winning record. Alabama has reached the NCAA Tournament only once in five seasons thanks to untimely non-conference losses and few big wins in the SEC. Grant has brought in some decorated recruits during his tenure, but they’ve been more likely to transfer (Devonta Pollard and Trevor Lacey) rather than become major contributors in Tuscaloosa. Grant had three consecutive 20-seasons before dropping to 13-19 last season.

Mark Turgeon, Maryland
If the Terrapins miss the 2015 NCAA Tournament, Maryland will match its longest NCAA drought — five seasons — in more than 40 years. Turgeon, so far, is on the hook for three of those. Turgeon’s 23-29 record in the ACC is of enough concern, but the Terps also have been beset by a . Two assistants, three of six signees from the last two years and four scholarship players in the last month have all departed. Moving into the Big Ten might not help.

Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M
The Aggies’ basketball tradition is limited with the exception of the two coaches who preceded Kennedy. Billy Gillispie and Mark Turgeon led Texas A&M to six consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Kennedy’s three teams have failed to win 20 games in a season while going 19-31 in conference play in the Big 12 and the SEC. After a signee told CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish that opponents used Kennedy’s early-onset Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis against him in recruiting, Kennedy .

Lorenzo Romar, Washington
Romar is Washington’s most successful coach since Tippy Dye in the 1950s, but the Huskies haven’t reached the NCAA Tournament in three seasons. Granted, Washington won the Pac-12 regular season title in 2012, missing the NCAA Tourney anyway. The 18-18 mark in the league the last two seasons isn’t awful, but Washington may look like it’s standing still as Washington State and Oregon State both changed coaches before the season.

Travis Ford, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys’ version of the Big Three last season — Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash — yielded 21 wins, a first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament and frustrations for most of the Big 12 season. Only Nash will return for 2014-15. Ford’s contract is an albatross, but eventually the middling results might force a change.

Dave Rice, UNLV
The Rice hire was a callback to the Jerry Tarkanian days, but the record (69.3 percent) is almost identical to that of the Lon Kruger era. The numbers aren’t bad as UNLV has reached the NCAA Tournament in two of three seasons under Rice. But the Rebels have recruited at too high a level to be a distant third in the Mountain West. UNLV hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2008.

Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has had a winning record in ACC play once since 1995-96, so the bar isn’t exceptionally high. Gregory, 16-26 in the league, hasn’t had the talent predecessor Paul Hewitt did, but it’s time for the Yellow Jackets to start inching toward the .500 mark.

Mike Anderson, Arkansas
Maybe it’s too early to put Anderson on the hot seat — especially after Arkansas posted back-to-back winning records in the SEC for the first time since 1999. Anderson, though, has had teams capable of reaching the NCAA Tournament, but road woes (5-25 under Anderson) have sabotaged each of his three seasons. He’ll have enough returning to his roster to make another run this season.

Herb Sendek, Arizona State
The Sun Devils reached the NCAA Tournament last season, losing in the round of 64 to Texas. That should be a good omen for Sendek, but it’s also only his second NCAA appearance in eight seasons at Arizona State. With Jahii Carson gone, Arizona State could tumble down the Pac-12 standings. Arizona State allowed Sendek to rebuild for five seasons to get back after his first trip to the Tourney. Don’t bank on that kind of patience again.

Steve Lavin, St. John’s
Lavin was in the midst of a contract extension at St. John’s at the end of the season. Even so, the results have flattened since the Red Storm reached the NCAA Tournament in his first season. After returning from prostate cancer treatment in 2012 (he's now cancer-free), Lavin is 18-18 in the Big East in two seasons. The Red Storm  have the roster to make a run at the Tourney in his fifth season. If not, Lavin may be in jeopardy.

Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
Willard appeared to have Seton Hall on the right track after going 7-11 and 8-10 in the Big East in his first two seasons. The Pirates have since bottomed out to 9-27 in league play the last two years. Seton Hall hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2006.

Donnie Jones, UCF
Jones was hit with a show-cause and the program faced sanctions stemming from NCAA violations in 2012, but he remained at his post. Two seasons later, UCF is struggling to stay afloat in the American Athletic Conference, going 4-14 in its first season in the league.

Teaser:
13 College Basketball Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2014-15
Post date: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /youngest-athletes-sport
Body:

Lucy Li (pictured above) is at an age when most girls are arranging stuffed animals and gazing at One Direction posters instead of competing in elite sporting events. The 11-year-old golf prodigy is prowling the fairways at Pinehurst No. 2 at the U.S. Women's Open one week after the best male golfers in the world (sans former fellow prodigy Tiger Woods) played the very same venue.

 

"She looks so darn cute," said one-time phenom Michelle Wie, who played in her first U.S. Women's Open at 13. "I was like, 'I don't think I looked that cute when I was 11.' But she just looks so excited, so wide-eyed … And I'm just really so excited for her to be out. It's a memory that will last her a lifetime. What other 11-year-old can say that they played in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst? And she got to see the men play, too." Li, who qualified for the Open by winning her sectional qualifier by seven shots, joins a long list of athletes who've played well beyond their years in a variety of sports.

 

Here's a rundown of prodigies and phenoms by sport:

Youngest Major League Baseball Player

Joe Nuxhall, 15

Cincinnati Reds, 1944

On June 10, 1944, shortly after the D-Day invasion, Joe Nuxhall made a pitching appearance for the Cincinnati Reds at the age of 15 years, 10 months and 10 days. He faced nine hitters, retiring two, and allowing two hits, five walks and five runs. He wouldn't appear in the majors again until age 23 and went on to post a 135–117 big-league record.

 

Noteworthy: Freddie Lindstrom batted .333 in the 1924 World Series as an 18-year-old (including a four-hit game against Hall of Famer Walter Johnson), making him the youngest player in World Series history. Andruw Jones is the youngest player to hit a home run in World Series play, going yard in Game 1 vs. the Yankees in 1996 at the age of 19 years, 180 days, breaking Mickey Mantle's record.

 

Youngest to Play in the four Men's Major Golf Tournaments

 

Masters — In 2013, Guan Tianlang (pictured above) made the cut at The Masters at 14 years, 5 months, making him the youngest to make the cut at a men's major. After Guan played with Tiger Woods in a practice round, Woods said, "It's frightening to think that he was born after I won my first Masters."

 

U.S. Open — Andy Zhang played in the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club at 14 years, 6 months.

 

British Open — Young Tom Morris lived up to his name, appearing in the 1865 British Open at 14 years, 4 months.

 

PGA Championship — Japan's Ryo Ishikawa played in the 2009 PGA Championship and made the cut at age 17.

 

Youngest NFL Draft Pick

Amobi Okoye, 19

Houston Texans, 2007

The youngest NFL player of the modern era, Okoye emigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria and began playing college football for Louisville at age 16, making him the youngest college football player as well. Taken in the first round by the Texans, Okoye made his NFL debut in 2007 at the age of 20 years, 91 days.

 

Youngest NBA Player

Andrew Bynum, 18 years, 6 days

Los Angeles Lakers, 2005

The era of high school draftees yielded a number of 18-year-old NBA players, but none younger than Bynum, who made his debut for the Lakers at the age of 18 years, 6 days. Bynum narrowly beats out Jermaine O'Neal (18 years, 53 days) and Kobe Bryant (18 years, 72 days). Trailblazing prep-to-pro Kevin Garnett made his debut at 19.

 

Youngest London Olympian

 

Adzo Kpossi, 13

Swimmer, Togo

Kpossi, from the West African nation of Togo, competed in the 50m freestyle swimming event at the 2012 London Olympics, finishing 72nd out of 73 swimmers after training at the only pool in her part of Togo — a hotel pool in the city of Sarakawa.

 

Noteworthy: The youngest-ever Olympian is thought to be Greek gymnast Dimitrios Loundras, who competed in the team parallel bars event at age 10 in the 1896 Athens Games. Swimming legend Michael Phelps competed in Sydney in 2000 at age 15. American Dominique Moceanu (1996 Atlanta Games) is the last gymnast to compete at an Olympic Games legally at the age of 14.

 

Youngest NHL Hockey Player

Armand (Bep) Guidolin, 16

Boston Bruins, 1942

Guidolin made his NHL debut with the WWII-ravaged Boston Bruins on Nov. 12, 1942, at the age of 16 years 11 months, becoming the league's youngest player ever. He later went on to coach Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Orr.

 

Noteworthy: Defenseman Larry Hillman is the youngest player to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup, winning the Cup with Detroit in 1955, at the age of 18 years, 2 months, 9 days. (This is a record that can't be broken under the current rules as a player must be eighteen years old by September 15 to be eligible to play in the NHL that season.)

 

Youngest Driver in a Sprint Cup Race

Tommie Elliott, 15

Altamont-Schenectady Fairgrounds, 1951

Elliott was a driver from Bloomfield, N.J., who competed in seven career races at the highest level of NASCAR, posting four top 10s. He made his debut at the tender age of 15 years, 7 months, 5 days, finishing 15th at Altamont-Schenectady. Next-youngest: Darryl Sage, who ran at the Nashville Speedway in 1982 at 17 years, 2 months, 2 days.

 

Youngest Grand Slam Tennis Champion

Martina Hingis, 15

Tennis bad girl Martina Hingis burst onto the scene by winning a doubles title at Wimbledon in 1996 at at age 15 years and 9 months, with partner Helena Sukova. Hingis went on to become the youngest Grand Slam singles winner in the 20th century by winning the Australian Open in 1997 at age 16 years and 3 months.

 
Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 14:30
Path: /college-football/eastern-michigan-unveils-new-gray-turf-2014
Body:

Eastern Michigan is arguably the toughest job in college football. Located in Ypsilanti, EMU is less than 10 miles from the University of Michigan, and the Eagles’ last winning season was in 1995. Eastern Michigan has just one bowl appearance in its history (1987).

New coach Chris Creighton was a good hire for Eastern Michigan, and the program is doing everything it can to raise its profile by announcing plans to use a gray field in 2014.

Much like Boise State’s blue field and Eastern Washington’s red turf, Eastern Michigan hopes to create some buzz about its program by adding a different look to its field.

Here’s a picture from the school’s instagram account:

 

Teaser:
Eastern Michigan Unveils New Gray Turf for 2014
Post date: Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 13:27
Path: /college-football/florida-state-football-2014-schedule-analysis
Body:

Life is good in Tallahassee right now.

 

Jimbo Fisher is the commander in chief of the reigning national champions, has a Heisman Trophy winner returning under center and will face another extremely manageable schedule in the inferior yet improving ACC.

 

Florida State enters the College Football Playoff Era with one of the best rosters in the nation and the experience of winning it all a year ago. And while the ACC as a whole is improving around the Seminoles, the path back to the national title game appears to be paved with easy wins.

 

In fact, if there is one team most likely to reach the inaugural playoff bracket, it would be the Noles. No team in the nation boasts a better combination of talent, experience, coaching and scheduling than Florida State.

 

2014 Florida State Schedule Analysis

 

2014 FSU Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 30 (Arlington)
2.Sept. 6The Citadel
3.Sept. 13Bye
4.Sept. 20
5.Sept. 27at 
6.Oct. 4
7.Oct. 11at 
8.Oct. 18
9.Oct. 25Bye
10.Oct. 30at 
11.Nov. 8
12.Nov. 15at 
13.Nov. 22
14.Nov. 29
Challenging yourself

Give a lot of credit to Florida State for scheduling one of the toughest out-of-league slates in the nation in 2014. Oklahoma State won the Big 12 in 2011 and was one play away from winning the crown again last year and Florida State will open with the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. Notre Dame will come to Tallahassee in the middle of October and a much-improved Florida team visits Doak Campbell Stadium for the annual Sunshine State rivalry. Can the Seminoles handle all three — and The Citadel — with ease? Sure, but it’s one of the most impressive non-conference schedules in the nation.

 

ACC road upset alert watch

Florida State and Fisher had been knocked prior to 2013 for losing focus on the road from time to time (See: NC State in 2012). The Noles overcame that hurdle last year with convincing wins over Clemson, Florida and Pitt on the road. However, Florida State will once again have to guard against a letdown on the road in the ACC in 2014. Fisher leads his team back to Raleigh to face NC State and also will have to face Louisville, Miami and Syracuse on the road. All four are projected bowl teams this fall.

 

Jam-packed with wins

While Oklahoma State and Clemson, for example, have been traditionally strong programs of late, many teams on the Noles' schedule are going to be “down” this fall. The Tigers are breaking in an entirely new offense and the Pokes lost more than two dozen senior contributors. Boston College, who gave FSU its toughest test last year in Chestnut Hill, isn’t going to be nearly as good without Andre Williams. And both Miami and Louisville are replacing their quarterbacks. Additionally, FSU will get two weeks to prepare for both the Tigers and Cardinals. So while the schedule looks really solid on paper, frankly, it’s packed with a lot of potential blowouts (again).

 

Toughest game?

The question many are asking about Florida State’s schedule in 2014 is which team has the best chance to upset the Noles? Notre Dame and Florida appear to be the most talented teams on the schedule this fall and both should be much improved from a year ago, as both welcome back star quarterbacks from 2012. That said, both games take place in Tallahassee and both teams will be hard-pressed to keep up with Jameis Winston and company. 

 

Related:

 

Final Verdict

The schedule sets up very nicely for Florida State to return to the national championship game — or, at the very least, land in the College Football Playoff. This schedule is much tougher this year than last, especially on paper, but deeper analysis of normally marquee games — Oklahoma State, Clemson, Louisville, Miami, Florida — shows that the Noles should be a heavy favorite in every game they play this fall. Notre Dame will likely give FSU its toughest test of the year (maybe Florida), but with that game taking place at home, it’s hard to see Florida State losing in the regular season. Some bizarre bout of complacency — which has happened in the past — looks like the only thing that could derail the Noles' defense of their national championship.

Teaser:
Florida State Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-june-19-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for June 19:

: Alejandra Buitrago of Colombia.

• Longform read of the day: , who tossed a no-no last night — although .

, although they left early.

• You could make the case that — no walks, 15 Ks.

.

. It went over about as well as you'd expect.

, complete with a safe sign.

. When I was 11, I was shooting in the 60s. For nine holes. Maybe eight.

• This is fun: .

, courtesy of our friend Photoshop.

• Kimmel and Amare pranked Metta World Peace. Good stuff.

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 10:38
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/miami-football-2014-schedule-analysis
Body:

Al Golden is entering a critical fourth season at The U.

 

In the face of nasty NCAA allegations, Miami’s head coach has done solid work to rebuild his program through recruiting and roster turnover. But the Hurricanes are still lagging well behind consistent ACC powers Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech.

 

The defense improved ever so slightly a year ago but still has a long way to go to return to the Miami glory years of the early 2000s. The offense has plenty of dynamic skill weapons but is sorely lacking at the quarterback position. And the schedule isn’t jam-packed with wins like maybe Golden wishes in private moments.

 

Golden is widely respected as a head coach but his 22-15 record in three years isn’t what most Miami fans expect from their once powerhouse program. So while the 2014 schedule is going to be plenty difficult, it also means there are plenty of chances for more marquee wins — a la the Florida Gators a year ago. 
 

2014 Miami Schedule Analysis

 

2014 Miami Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Sept. 1at 
2.Sept. 6Florida A&M
3.Sept. 13
4.Sept. 20at 
5.Sept. 27
6.Oct. 4at 
7.Oct. 11
8.Oct. 18Bye
9.Oct. 25at 
10.Nov. 1
11.Nov. 8Bye
12.Nov. 15
13.Nov. 22at 
14.Nov. 29
Season-opening revenge

Miami is accustomed to playing on Labor Day night and Golden will have to lead his team into a hostile environment to kick off the 2014 regular season. Louisville pounded Miami 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl to end last season and no doubt it left an extremely sour taste in the mouths of Canes fans and players. Now, as the Cardinals begin their first season in the ACC, it’s not only a revenge game in the season opener on national television, but is a conference game. No pressure, Al.

 

Non-conference build up

The U will face Florida A&M and Arkansas State at home in Weeks 2 and 3 and both should be convincing wins for Miami. But a road trip to Lincoln to face Nebraska in Week 4 provides a second brutal away test in the first month. The Huskers and Hurricanes have played for three national titles since 1983, and while much less is on the line in ’14, this game cannot be overvalued for either coaching staff. Miami wraps up September with a home game against Duke — who beat the Canes 48-30 a year ago. A 3-2 mark to start the year might be considered a successful first month.

 

October road trips

The schedule doesn’t exactly lighten up in the month of October with two road trips to historically tough locales in Atlanta (Oct. 4) and Blacksburg (Oct. 23). Miami’s trips to take on the ACC’s Tech schools will be packaged around a testy, home, non-conference game with American Athletic Conference favorite Cincinnati. Miami will face one of the toughest first two months of the season of any team in the ACC. The only respite comes on Oct. 18 when The U will get two weeks to prepare for the potential Coastal Division-deciding showdown with the Hokies. Additionally, Miami will play seven straight games to begin the season before the off weekend on Oct. 18.

 

November is at home (at least)

Golden and the Canes will have to get work done in the first two months of the season because the final four weeks will feature three extremely tough games. Miami will host North Carolina, Florida State and Pittsburgh — all of whom could be improved in 2014 over a year ago (yes, even FSU). The only breather comes in Charlottesville on Nov. 22.
 

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Final Verdict

Frankly, this is one of the hardest ACC schedules in recent memory. Not only does Miami have to play two tough non-conference games and the normally impossible to predict divisional round-robin, but gets to face arguably the top two teams from the Atlantic Division as well. This team could easily contend for a berth in the ACC title game and has the talent to show big improvement, but this schedule doesn’t afford Golden many slip-ups. Miami could be a better team in 2014 than it was last fall and yet post a worse record. 

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Miami Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 09:00

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