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Path: /college-football/2014-college-football-fcs-top-25-and-predictions
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College football isn't just about the major conferences, as the FCS has provided plenty of intrigue on a national level in recent years. North Dakota State has dominated the FCS ranks with three consecutive national titles, but Eastern Washington ranks as Athlon’s projected champion for 2014, with the Bison picked No. 2 nationally.

The Bison lost coach Craig Bohl to Wyoming, and there are a handful of key seniors departing. However, the defense should be solid, and there’s still talent at the skill positions on offense.

The Eagles are explosive on offense with quarterback Vernon Adams back at the controls, and the defense is expected to improve in 2014. Eastern Washington will have a chance to play spoiler at Washington on Sept. 6.

2014 FCS Top 25 and Playoff Predictions

1. Eastern Washington
Few teams are motivated quite like the Eagles, who have lost at home in the FCS semifinals the last two seasons. Coach Beau Baldwin’s program has the firepower to match the 2010 national championship squad, as opponents must pick their poison between trying to stop quarterback Vernon Adams (4,994 yards, 55 TDs), wide receiver Cooper Kupp (93 receptions, 1,691 yards, 21 TDs) and running back Quincy Forte (1,208 rushing yards, 16 total TDs). While the offense scores in bunches, linebackers Ronnie Hamlin and Cody McCarthy will push for improvement from the defense.

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2. North Dakota State

(15–0, 8–0 Missouri Valley) New coach Chris Klieman inherits a team that graduated 24 seniors, so the Bison must display the overall depth built up by the previous regime while chasing what would be an FCS-record fourth straight national title. The nation’s best defense for three straight years still features linebacker Carlton Littlejohn and safety Colten Heagle. New quarterback Carson Wentz has go-to weapons in wide receiver Zach Vraa and running back John Crockett.

 

3. Southeastern Louisiana

(11–3, 7–0 Southland) Former Oregon quarterback Bryan Bennett has set the bar high for the many transfers whom coach Ron Roberts has brought into the program. The 2013 conference Player of the Year is a dual threat, but he also wants to get the ball to playmakers Rasheed Harrell and Xavier Roberson. Pass-rushing linebacker Isiah Corbett fuels the defense.

 

4. New Hampshire

(10–5, 6–2 CAA) Many key players return from last season’s surprising national semifinalists, including 1,000-yard rusher Nico Steriti and 1,000-yard wide receiver R.J. Harris. The big plays on coach Sean McDonnell’s defense often come from linebacker Akil Anderson and safety Casey DeAndrade. New Hampshire doesn’t face Villanova or Towson in CAA play.

 

5. Northern Iowa

(7–5, 3–5 Missouri Valley) The Panthers ended the 2013 season strong after injuries wrecked their promising start. Better health with quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen, running back David Johnson and linebacker Jake Farley, son of coach Mark Farley, could lead to a conference title run. Opposing ball-carriers will look to avoid 6'4", 311-pound defensive tackle Xavier Williams.

 

6. Jacksonville State

(11–4, 5–3 OVC) Offensive coordinator John Grass was elevated to head coach after Bill Clark left for UAB. Grass’ veteran team will keep relying on bulldozer running back DaMarcus James and sophomore quarterback Eli Jenkins. The Gamecocks added Alabama transfer LaMichael Fanning, a defensive end.
 

Projected Playoff Teams

 

» Coastal Carolina (Big South champ)

» Eastern Washington (Big Sky champ)

» Fordham (Patriot champ)

» Furman (at-large)

» Jacksonville State (OVC champ)

» McNeese State (at-large)

» Montana (at-large)

» Montana State (at-large)

» New Hampshire (CAA champ)

» North Dakota State (Missouri Valley champ)

» Northern Iowa (at-large)

» Richmond (at-large)

» Sacred Heart (NEC champ)

» Sam Houston State (at-large)

» San Diego (Pioneer champ)

» South Carolina State (MEAC champ)

» South Dakota State (at-large)

» Southeastern Louisiana (Southland champ)

» Southern Illinois (at-large)

» Chattanooga (Southern champ)

» Tennessee State (at-large)

» Towson (at-large)

» Villanova (at-large)

» William & Mary (at-large)

7. Montana

(10–3, 6–2 Big Sky) Senior quarterback Jordan Johnson ignites an offense that has plenty of options with wide receiver Ellis Henderson and running backs Jordan Canada and Travon Van. Although there are big losses at linebacker, defensive end Zack Wagenmann is among the best in the nation. The special teams are strong.

 

8. Villanova

(6–5, 5–3 CAA) Last year’s CAA favorites were among the nation’s more disappointing teams, but the Wildcats will return to prominence behind dual-threat quarterback John Robertson, who can be unstoppable, and running backs Kevin Monangai and Austin Medley. Linebackers Don Cherry and Joey Harmon both had breakthrough seasons.

 

9. McNeese State

(10–3, 6–1 Southland) Coach Matt Viator must replace quarterback Cody Stroud and other key players on offense, but running backs Kelvin Bennett and Derek Milton, a Mississippi State transfer, are ready for lead roles. There were fewer losses on defense, where senior end Everett Ellefsen is the leader.

 

10. Towson

(13–3, 6–2 CAA) The early departure of 2,500-yard running back Terrance West to the NFL has set back the national runner-up Tigers. But his understudy, Darius Victor, impressed as a freshman last season, and coach Rob Ambrose has raised the talent level. Defensive end Ryan Delaire and cornerback Tye Smith are difference-makers.
 

11. South Dakota State

(9–5, 5–3 Missouri Valley) Senior running back Zach Zenner can become the first FCS player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season three times. The Austin Sumner-to-Jason Schneider passing combo takes pressure off Zenner. Still, the Jackrabbits have to fill some holes on both lines.

 

12. Chattanooga

(8–4, 6–2 Southern) The Southern Conference is down, and the Mocs, seeking their first FCS playoff berth since 1984, return the SoCon Offensive Player of the Year (quarterback Jacob Huesman) and Defensive Player of the Year (end Davis Tull). A healthier Keon Williams could make a run at a 1,000-yard season.

 

13. Fordham

(12–2, 0–0 Patriot) The Rams, who began awarding scholarships three years before the rest of the Patriot League, are eligible for the league title again. Senior quarterback Michael Nebrich (4,380 yards, 35 touchdowns) will pick apart defenses with his three 1,000-yard wide receivers — Sam Ajala, Tebucky Jones and Brian Wetzel.

 

14. Coastal Carolina

(12–3, 4–1 Big South) Junior quarterback Alex Ross is one of the better-kept secrets in the FCS. Running back De’Angelo Henderson will try to replace All-American Lorenzo Taliaferro. Speaking of All-Americans, linebacker Quinn Backus already owns two Big South Defensive Player of the Year awards.

 

15. William & Mary

(7–5, 4–4 CAA) There will be a mugging or two reported in Williamsburg, where the Tribe have a suffocating defense led by All-CAA selections Mike Reilly at end and Airek Green and Luke Rhodes at linebacker. The offense features running back Mikal Abdul-Saboor and wide receiver Tre McBride.

 

16. Montana State

(7–5, 5–3 Big Sky) One of the easier Big Sky schedules will help the Bobcats try to rebound from a disappointing season. All-purpose standout Shawn Johnson racks up the yards, and Na’a Moeakiola returns from injury to join Alex Singleton at linebacker.

 

17. Tennessee State

(10–4, 6–2 OVC) Ball-hawking safety Daniel Fitzpatrick allows defensive end Anthony Bass and linebacker Nick Thrasher to dominate in the front seven. Quarterback Michael German needs to remain on the field, although Ronald Butler is capable of spelling him.

 

18. Richmond

(6–6, 4–4 CAA) The CAA’s most dangerous passer, senior Michael Strauss, will operate behind a veteran offensive line and alongside excellent weapons, including wide receiver Stephen Barnette. The defense forces turnovers, and defensive tackle Evan Kelly gets into opposing backfields.

 

19. Furman

(8–6, 6–2 Southern) Coach Bruce Fowler flipped the switch on a team that was 2–4 in mid-October. Much of the talent is back, including quarterback Reese Hannon, blue-collar running back Hank ­McCloud and the defensive playmakers, defensive end Gary Wilkins and nickel Jairus Hollman.

 

20. Southern Illinois

(7–5, 5–3 Missouri Valley) Sophomore quarterback Ryan West will spread the ball around to running back Malcolm Agnew, All-America tight end MyCole Pruitt and all-purpose threat LaSteven McKinney. The former FCS power has to win more of the close games.

 

21. Sam Houston State

(9–5, 4–3 Southland) Former FCS title-winning coach K.C. Keeler from Delaware is the new sheriff in Huntsville, Texas, but change was coming regardless after the Bearkats’ standout senior class moved on. Running back Keshawn Hill is a breakaway threat, while free safety Michael Wade fuels a retooled defense.

 

22. James Madison

(6–6, 3–5 CAA) The big crowds at Bridgeforth Stadium are hoping for quick returns from new coach Everett Withers, who was the interim head coach at North Carolina in 2011. Georgia Tech transfer Vad Lee takes over at quarterback. Safety Dean Marlowe and linebacker Gage Steele are standouts on defense.

 

23. Delaware

(7–5, 4–4 CAA) The Trent Hurley-to-Michael Johnson passing connection is dangerous, and linebacker Patrick Callaway fortifies the defense. The Blue Hens missed the 2013 playoffs by losing their final three games last season.

 

24. Eastern Illinois

(12–2, 8–0 OVC) A drop-off is likely after the Panthers lost star quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the NFL and coach Dino Babers to Bowling Green. First-year coach Kim Dameron still has top receivers and playmaking running back Shepard Little (1,551 yards, 19 total TDs).

 

25. Youngstown State

(8–4, 5–3 Missouri Valley) Opponents will key on sophomore tailback Martin Ruiz now that four-year quarterback Kurt Hess is gone. The new signal-caller will have a strong group of receivers, but the four-time FCS championship-winning program hasn’t been to the postseason since 2006.

Teaser:
2014 College Football FCS Top 25 and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/big-ten-football-2014-all-conference-team
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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 for 2014, as well as conference predictions.

 

With the predictions released, it’s time to take a look at the best players by conference.

 

Athlon Sports kicks off its release of preseason all-conference teams with a look at our first, second, third and fourth All-Big Ten teams for 2014.

 

Related Content:

 

An important note on the all-conference 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-conference team is largely based on predicting and projecting the best for the upcoming year.
 

2014 Big Ten Team Previews
     
 
National Rank:685826483211522951322807315


Athlon's 2014 All-Big Ten Team

 First-Team OffenseSecond-Team OffenseThird-Team OffenseFourth-Team Offense
QBBraxton Miller
Ohio State 
________________
Christian Hackenberg
Penn State 
________________
Connor Cook
Michigan State 
________________
Devin Gardner
Michigan 
________________
RBAmeer Abdullah
Nebraska 
Jeremy Langford
Michigan State 
Tevin Coleman
Indiana 
David Cobb
Minnesota 
RBMelvin Gordon
Wisconsin 
________________
Venric Mark
Northwestern 
________________
Ezekiel Elliott
Ohio State 
________________
Mark Weisman
Iowa 
________________
WRStefon Diggs
Maryland 
Kenny Bell
Nebraska 
Tony Lippett
Michigan State 

Christian Jones
Northwestern 

WRDevin Funchess
Michigan 
Shane Wynn
Indiana 
Devin Smith
Ohio State 
Kevonte Martin-Manley 
Iowa 
TEJeff Heuerman
Ohio State 
________________
Tyler Kroft
Rutgers 
________________
Maxx Williams
Minnesota 
________________
Dan Vitale
Northwestern 
________________
CJack Allen
Michigan State 
Brandon Vitabile
Northwestern 
Austin Blythe
Iowa 
Dan Voltz
Wisconsin 
GJake Cotton
Nebraska 
Zac Epping
Minnesota 
Kyle Costigan
Wisconsin 
Ted Karras
Illinois 
GPat Elflein
Ohio State 
Kaleb Johnson
Rutgers 
Dan Feeney
Indiana 
Jordan Walsh
Iowa 
TRob Havenstein
Wisconsin 
Taylor Decker
Ohio State 
Jack Conklin
Michigan State 
Alex Lewis
Nebraska 
TBrandon Scherff
Iowa 
Donovan Smith
Penn State 
Jason Spriggs
Indiana 
Tyler Marz
Wisconsin 
 First-Team DefenseSecond-Team DefenseThird-Team DefenseFourth-Team Defense
DEShilique Calhoun
Michigan State 
Joey Bosa
Ohio State 
Theiren Cockran
Minnesota 
Frank Clark
Michigan 
DERandy Gregory
Nebraska 
Noah Spence
Ohio State 

Andre Monroe
Maryland 

C.J. Olaniyan
Penn State 
DTMichael Bennett
Ohio State 
Louis Trinca-Pasat
Iowa 
Darius Hamilton
Rutgers 
Austin Johnson
Penn State 
DTCarl Davis
Iowa 
________________
Adolphus Washington
Ohio State 
________________
Warren Herring
Wisconsin 
________________
Vincent Valentine
Nebraska 
________________
LBChi Chi Ariguzo
Northwestern 

Taiwan Jones
Michigan State 

Cole Farrand
Maryland 
Derek Landisch
Wisconsin 
LBMike Hull
Penn State 
Steve Longa
Rutgers 
Josh Perry
Ohio State 
Mason Monheim
Illinois 
LBJake Ryan
Michigan 
________________
James Ross III
Michigan 
________________
David Santos
Nebraska 
________________
Michael Rose
Nebraska 
________________
CBBlake Countess
Michigan 
Doran Grant
Ohio State 
Desmond King
Iowa 
Eric Murray
Minnesota 
CBTrae Waynes
Michigan State 
Jordan Lucas
Penn State 
Sojourn Shelton
Wisconsin 
Nick VanHoose
Northwestern 
SIbraheim Campbell
Northwestern 
Adrian Amos
Penn State 
John Lowdermilk
Iowa 
Michael Caputo
Wisconsin 
SKurtis Drummond
Michigan State 
Corey Cooper
Nebraska 
Tyvis Powell
Ohio State 
Cedric Thompson
Minnesota 
 First-Team SpecialistsSecond-Team SpecialistsThird-Team SpecialistsFourth-Team Specialists
KMichael Geiger
Michigan State 
Brad Craddock
Maryland 
Sam Ficken
Penn State 
Kyle Federico
Rutgers 
PMike Sadler
Michigan State 
Cameron Johnston
Ohio State 
Will Hagerup
Michigan 
Peter Mortell
Minnesota 
KR

William Likely
Maryland 

Kenny Bell
Nebraska 
Raheem Mostert
Purdue 

Dontre Wilson
Ohio State 

PRVenric Mark
Northwestern 
Kevonte Martin-Manley
Iowa 
V'Angelo Bentley
Illinois 
Macgarrett Kings Jr.
Michigan State 


Related Content:


Team-by-Team Breakdown of Athlon's 2014 All-Big Ten Team

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Teaser:
Big Ten Football 2014 All-Conference Team
Post date: Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/10-reasons-you-should-watch-2014-world-cup
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The 20th World Cup is upon us and you don’t care at all, do you?

 

I know it is going to be an uphill battle trying to convince you, a proud American, lover of freedom, democracy and contact sports, that you should watch the FIFA World Cup. I realize this is a fool’s errand but I am going to give it the old college try.

 

Because I love the World Cup. And so should you. Here are 10 reasons you should tune in to the 2014 World Cup:

 

World’s Largest Sporting Event

It’s not called the South American Cup or the European Cup, it’s The World Cup, people. The Olympics is the only sporting event that really even comes close to the international intrigue and passion that this event offers. Futbol — hereto for called soccer — is the most popular sport in the world and is akin to religion for most countries not called America. Fans and teams from 32 different nations all converge on one country every four years to earn the most coveted international trophy in sports. Cultures clash, fans mingle, beverages are consumed and only one nation can stand above the rest after a month-long battle. These are the greatest players in the world all playing in one unified tournament. What’s not to love about that?

 

The FIFA Commentary

John Oliver of HBO went off on FIFA last weekend. He began, “I want to talk to you about the sausage principle. It says, if you love something, never find out how it’s made.” Oliver then went on to point out the unbelievable layers of corruption that course through the world’s largest soccer organization. The good broadcasters should cover the 2014 World Cup in its entirety and that includes the dark side of FIFA. Among the topics that will likely be discussed at some point are: local economies, bribes, poverty, protests and a $270 million stadium that will be used for four games and can’t be really be reached by car since it’s so far into the Brazilian jungle. So keep your ears peeled for talking heads destroying the international soccer organization. It should be must-see TV and Oliver could be just the beginning:

 

Because you love your country

The United States is the biggest dog on most sporting blocks. But not in soccer, where we are consistently one of the bigger underdogs in the world. The US Men’s National Team (USMNT) hasn't finished inside of the top eight in the World Cup since the debut event in 1930 (3rd) — the best we've done is 10th (1950) and eighth (2002). Our country has only reached the quarterfinals twice ('30, ’02) in the eight-decade history of the event. Should we emerge from the Group of Death this time around, all insufferable Americans would go berserk — much to the chagrin of every other nation in the world. The United States dominates most major sports on this globe and soccer is the last remaining field (or pitch, as they say) we’ve yet to conquer. We begin the World Cup on June 16 at 6 p.m. ET against Ghana. U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!

 

Jurgen Klinsmann

After the US finished a disappointing 12th in 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the USMNT hired one of the most famous European soccer names in the business to be their coach. Klinsmann, from Goppingen, Germany, was a striker on zee West German team that won the 1990 FIFA World Cup championship and went on to coach Germany’s national team from 2004-08, including a third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup. Now, charged with rebuilding American soccer, Klinsmann has to face his own country in group play. The US will play Germany Thurs., June 26 at noon ET.

 

Brazilian Fans

The people of Brazil love soccer. They also love bikinis, beaches and the sunshine. The Brazilian culture is one of the most vibrant in the world and the images from South America should be spectacular. The crowd shots during every game will be loaded with beautiful scenery in the stands and the cutaways to the local beaches will be even better. Just . .

 

No commercials

Uh, hello? We all hate commercials and one of the coolest reasons to watch World Cup soccer matches is that they can fly by free of commercial interruption. There is a short break at halftime obviously that will be full of advertisement, but during the first and second half of action, we will not be inundated with 30-second spots. What a great way to watch a sporting event.

 

Julian Green and the new faces

One of the reasons Klinsmann was hired was his influence on luring semi-German players to the US Team. Julian Green is a 19-year old phenom who is one of 17 players making their World Cup debut this year. Green is also one of four players with deep ties to Germany, either growing up or being born there. Defensemen John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin are only 21 and 20 years of age respectively. Fabian Johnson (26) is another name to watch as well. However, it’s not just the youth that will be fun to watch as a guy like Kyle Beckerman, at age 32, is making his WC debut. He is second all-time among midfielders in MLS history with 335 games played.

 

Tim Howard can do this

The best player on the US team is goalkeeper Tim Howard. He has 100 caps and is the third longest tenured player on the team behind only Clint Dempsey (105) and DeMarcus Beasley (116). He is one of the best keepers in the world and this is all you need to know about how good he is: 

 

Corruption and the favelas

There has been no hiding the corruption that runs through both the Brazilian government and FIFA alike. And when millions of fans pour millions of dollars into a corrupt and dangerous economy, anything can happen. No other place in the country will exhibit this strange dichotomy of glitzy night life and extreme poverty than in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Favela is a term used to describe the different slums or neighborhoods surrounding Rio and each is controlled with brutal authority by a different drug cartel. Something is bound to occur that will steal headlines from the best soccer players in the world.

 

There's nothing else on

The NBA Finals, NHL Stanley Cup Final and the College World Series will all be over in less than two weeks. At that point, the average sports fan will enter the slowest portion of the sports calendar year. Other than regular season baseball games, the World Cup has very little to compete with on the television set in terms of your daily sports diet. So tune in, folks, and cheer for your country.

 

Please? (I promise, you won't be disappointed.)

Teaser:
10 Reasons You Should Watch the 2014 World Cup
Post date: Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/pac-12s-top-10-must-see-non-conference-games-2014
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If there is one league in college football this season that needs to take it easy in the non-conference slate, it’s the Pac-12.

 

Larry Scott has built what  in 2014 and it would make sense for most of the programs to take it easy outside of their league. But, for most of the contenders out West this fall, that couldn't be further from the truth.

 

The Pac-12 will play marquee showdowns with the Big Ten, Big 12 and three times with Notre Dame. Here are the best non-conference games to watch in the Pac-12 this fall:

 

1. Michigan State at Oregon (Sept. 6)

It cannot be overstated what a win for Michigan State in this game would mean for the Big Ten. So the rebuilt Sparty defense early in the year or the Ducks could be knocked out of playoff contention by Week 2. The schematic chess match between Marcus Mariota and Mark Dantonio's defense should be fascinating to watch. It's a classic Big Ten-Pac-12, offense-defense showdown that should feature two top 10 teams. It might be the best non-conference game of the year regardless of conference.

 

2.Stanford at Notre Dame (Oct. 4)

This historic rivalry has been elevated in recent years after a memorable overtime goal-line stand for Notre Dame in 2012 and a physical 27-20 victory for Stanford a year ago. Only four times have both teams been ranked at the time of the meeting (28 total games) and three of those have come in the last three meetings. A fourth straight meeting of two ranked teams is likely to happen again this year and could be on the line this time around.

 

3. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 29)

The battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh will take place for the 86th time in 2014 . The Irish lead the series 45-35-5 — including the vacated 2005 USC victory — and Notre Dame has won two straight and three out of four overall. Both teams enter the season ranked in the top 15 and by season’s end, each could be positioned to play for a national championship. Which means, only one is likely to get that chance once they meet on the final weekend of the regular season.

 

4. Texas vs. UCLA (Sept. 13, Arlington)

UCLA and possibly more as Brett Hundley enters his third season under center. Texas will be three weeks into the Charlie Strong Era in Austin and will provide a nasty early-season test for the Bruins on a “neutral field” in Dallas. The Longhorns will be a much more disciplined and focused team under the new regime, so if the Bruins expect to compete for a playoff spot this fall, an early season slip-up must be avoided.

 

5. Notre Dame at Arizona State (Nov. 8)

It’s not a traditional rivalry like USC or Stanford but a visit from Notre Dame in early November is must-see TV for all college football fans. The Irish beat the Sun Devils 37-34 a year ago in Arlington, giving Notre Dame a perfect record in three total meetings with Arizona State. this offseason but should be settling in by the time Brian Kelly’s offense gets to Tempe. Expect fireworks from both sides.

 

6. Colorado vs. Colorado State (Aug. 29, Denver)

West of the Mississippi, this is one of the more heated and underrated rivalries in the college game. And with two quality, semi-new head coaches in Jim McElwain (3rd year) and , this game should develop into a M(a)cShowdown every year in Denver. Colorado State won (22-17) two years ago before MacIntrye got the Buffs back on track (41-27) last fall.

 

7. Big Ten Round-Robin (September)

The Big Ten and Pac-12 won’t just face off in Eugene or the Rose Bowl this year. Utah visits Michigan on Sept. 20. Washington State and Rutgers will meet in Seattle on Aug. 28. And Illinois will visit Washington on Sept. 13. While there is no marquee team in the bunch, there are conference bragging rights on the line in this trio of Big 5 games. Both Michigan and Utah expect to be respectable teams and fans certainly haven’t forgotten the last time the Utes visited the Big House. In 2008, Utah, led by quarterback Brian Johnson, topped the Wolverines 25-23 en route to a perfect season.

 

8. Nevada at Arizona (Sept. 13)

Neither team is an elite squad nationally but both offenses are traditionally extremely productive and entertaining to watch. The Wolfpack are expected to be a contender in the Mountain West Conference's West Division and in the Pac-12 South. This might be the best non-conference game Rich Rodriguez has played since arriving in Tucson — he’s 6-0 in non-conference play and 8-10 in Pac-12 games in two years.

 

9. USC at Boston College (Sept. 13)

The Trojans' three non-conference foes in 2014 will all be rematches from a year ago (Fresno State not listed here). Boston College and Heisman finalist Andre Williams went out to L.A. last September and got crushed 35-7. Despite that loss, Steve Addazio still took a two-win team from 2012 and led them to seven wins. Despite losing Williams, Boston College could sneak up on USC early in the year if the Men of Troy aren’t careful.

 

10. UCLA at Virginia (Aug. 30)

Wait, a preseason top 10 team in the nation visiting a bad ACC team with a head coach that is teetering on the brink of unemployment? Well, backed into a corner, Mike London and the Cavaliers pulled a huge upset over BYU in the season opener last year at home. To have a chance against UCLA, London and the Wahoos better pray for more rainy conditions. Or else the Bruins will do what Oregon did to Virginia in Week 2 (which was a 59-10 win).

Teaser:
Pac-12's Top 10 Must-See Non-Conference Games of 2014
Post date: Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /world-cup-countries-college-football-teams
Body:

With the 2014 World Cup set to kick off in Brazil, we thought it made sense to get our readers up to speed on the teams. To make it easy, we put things in college football terms. Here's a look at each of the 32 countries competing, as well as what we perceive their American college football counterparts are north of Rio. After all, football is a religion all around the globe, whether it involves slide-tackling or a wrap-up technique. (All odds provided by Bovada.com and indicate odds of winning the World Cup outright.)


GROUP A



Brazil (3:1) = Alabama

The backups for A Selecao and Bama could probably contend.


Mexico (125:1) = Texas

Mexico futbol and Texas football are about equal right now.
 

Croatia (150:1) = Penn State

James Franklin could coach Vatreni to the Knockout Stage.
 

Cameroon (500:1) = Texas A&M

Samuel Eto'o a.k.a. Samuel Fo'otbo'ol or Sammy Football.

 

GROUP B



Spain (6:1) = Florida State
Reigning champs have support of Spanish and Seminole cowgirls.

Netherlands (25:1) = Oregon
Oranje, Oregon. Gotta wear sunglasses the colors are so bright.

Chile (40:1) = Baylor
Are the best days behind or ahead of La Roja and Baylor?

Australia (500:1) = Miami
Australia and Miami. Socceroos and Hurricanes. All night long.
 

GROUP C

Colombia (33:1) = Stanford
The Stanford Band and Tree are running - from Los Cafeteros?

Ivory Coast (125:1) = Ole Miss
Is this finally the year for Les Elephants and Colonel Reb?

Japan (150:1) = Wisconsin
Samurai Blue and Bucky Badger could make a surprise run.

Greece (200:1) = Michigan
Remember when Greece and Michigan were contenders? Ancient history.


GROUP D



Italy (22:1) = Auburn
Mario and Luigi could lead Azzurri to the promised land. War Eagle!

England (22:1) = Georgia
The Three Lions and the Dawgs underachieve with elite talent.

Uruguay (25:1) = South Carolina
Don't be surprised if La Celeste or Ol' Ball Coach advances.

Costa Rica (1,000:1) = North Carolina
Pretty sure Rashad McCants is a high-ranking FIFA member.
 

GROUP E



France (25:1) = LSU
Les Bleus in Baton Rouge yelling Geaux Tigers! Mardi Gras?

Switzerland (125:1) = Florida
Will Muschamp likes Nickelback and Switzerland.

Ecuador (150:1) = Clemson
La Tri and the Tigers must regroup to stay competitive.

Honduras (1,500:1) = Virginia Tech
Los Catrachos is Chupacabra meets Hokie.
 

GROUP F



Argentina (4:1) = Oklahoma
Lionel Messi is in Adrian Peterson prime form.

Bosnia & Herzegovina (150:1) = Missouri
First trip to World Cup for Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Nigeria (250:1) = Louisville
Super Eagles and Cardinals look to air for scoring.

Iran (1,500:1) = Iowa
"What are four-letter places where I don't want to go, Alex?"

 

GROUP G



Germany (11:2) = Ohio State
Group of Death: Die Adler and Ohio Hate could win it all this year.

Portugal (25:1) = USC
Cristiano Ronald is Hollywood. USC Trojans? Also Hollywood.

USA (100:1) = Notre Dame
Egomaniacal coach? Check. Overhyped program? Check. Envied by all? Check.

Ghana (200:1) = Arizona State
Black Stars have been Sun Devils to USMNT in World Cup.
 

GROUP H



Belgium (18:1) = UCLA
Do all the women in Belgium look like Bruins cheerleaders?

Russia (100:1) = Michigan State
The Fightin' Putins are shirtless Spartans on horseback. No?

South Korea (300:1) = Washington
Seattle's got Seoul. What else do you need?

Algeria (1,000:1) = Nebraska
"Al Jazeera?" asks Bo Pellini. Bo clearly does not know.

Teaser:
The college football equivalent of all 32 World Cup teams
Post date: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 13:45
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-june-11-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for June 11.

 

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• Yoenis Cespedes botched his attempt at fielding a fly ball. .

 

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. I'm withholding judgment.
 

 

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• Watch Kobe handle Kimmel's 3 Ridiculous Questions.

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 10:46
Path: /college-football/keenan-reynolds-poised-lead-navy-new-heights-2014
Body:

By Kyle Kensing, 

San Jose State defenders hesitated as Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds faked a pitch to Darius Staten. It was flawless execution of the Midshipmen’s signature, triple-option offense.

A block down the field left nothing but daylight ahead of Reynolds, and he scampered 25 yards to cap a wild, 58-52 Navy win in triple-overtime.
 

“That’s a testament to our offense and production as a team,” Reynolds said of the Mids’ historic night.

The game-winner was Reynolds’ eighth touchdown of the contest and seventh via the rush. He said on the cross-country trip from San Jose back to Annapolis, Maryland, the magnitude of his performance hit him.
 

“On the plane ride, it kind of dawned on me that I’d scored every touchdown,” he said. “I’d never done that in middle school or Pee Wee [League]. That’s the most I’ve ever scored.”
 

No one in NCAA history can say they scored as many rushing touchdowns in one game, either.
 

And no other Football Bowl Subdivision quarterback can stake claim to 31 rushing touchdowns in a single season, as Reynolds can.
 

In Navy’s next outing, its annual rivalry encounter with Army, Reynolds surpassed former Kansas State standout Collin Klein and Navy alum Ricky Dobbs to break the record with touchdown No. 28.
 

He tacked on one more against the Cadets for good measure, then added two in the Armed Forces Bowl win over Middle Tennessee State.  
 

The single-season record was a goal Reynolds said he set for himself, but had “lost track” of his progress during the season’s course. It wasn’t until the San Jose State trip and those seven rushing touchdowns that the mark was in sight.
 

 “I definitely didn’t expect that,” he said.
 

Presumably, neither did the national television audience tuned in on ESPN. The Mids and Spartans commanded the football spotlight in the only game that late-November Friday night, and Reynolds delivered a star performance that has brought him attention since.

 

 

“The biggest mistake you can make is starting to believe your own hype.”
 

In the wake of his record-setting campaign, accolades are making their way to Reynolds. Preseason Heisman Trophy watch lists, such as Chris Huston’s via HeismanPundit.com, include his name.
 

“It’s a big deal and I’m definitely grateful to be [mentioned] in the presence of great athletes who have won the Heisman like Jameis Winston and others who are going to be first-round [NFL] draft picks,” he said.
 

With 39 total touchdowns, Reynolds was not far behind Winston, the Florida State quarterback who claimed the award in 2013 with 44 scores—albeit in one game more than Reynolds and Navy played.
 

Certainly he’s a dark horse for the most prestigious individual award in college football. Voters follow a pattern that does not have room for players beyond the cast of power-conference programs.
 

The last Heisman recipient outside of one of those five leagues was Ty Detmer in 1990. The last service academy player to hoist the Heisman was Navy quarterback Roger Staubach in 1963.
 

Still, even being suggested for the award is an honor in and of itself for Reynolds. He called it “very humbling,” but added his focus is elsewhere as the 2014 season approaches.
 

“My concern is Ohio State. All that matters is Aug. 30,” he said.
 

Aug. 30 is when the Mids kickoff the 2014 season against Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes, a team expected to compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
 

The date is the second half of a series first played in 2009. Behind Dobbs’ four touchdowns that September afternoon, the Mids took the Buckeyes to the brink.
 

Ohio State escaped with a 31-27 victory, but Navy’s performance—and especially that of Dobbs--left an impression on Reynolds.
 

“Even before I knew about Navy football, I watched the Ohio State game in 2009, so I knew the legacy [Dobbs] had left,” Reynolds said. “He’s on the flyer they send out [to recruits].”
 

Since setting the rushing touchdown record, Reynolds is well on his way to establishing his own Navy legacy—another goal he said he set for himself.
 

“I wanted to do some great things with special guys that other people here haven’t been able to do,” he said.

Upsetting a juggernaut such as Ohio State would certainly qualify. And he’ll have had almost eight months to focus on it by the time the Buckeyes and Mids kickoff in Baltimore.
 

“Jan. 1,” Reynolds said is when the team turned attention to Ohio State, just two days after the Armed Forces Bowl. “As soon as the new year started…[the team discussion] was ‘we have Ohio State next year.’”
 

Navy’s months of preparation for a likely Top 10-ranked opponent are not being invested in simply putting up a good fight.
 

Reynolds described an attitude at Navy that certainly applies to the Ohio State matchup.
 

“Every Saturday, we got out to play and win,” he said. “We’re not there to survive. We’re there to win.”
 

 Playing with the Buckeyes, winners of 24 games combined in the past two seasons, is certainly a challenge. But then, playing football, being a student and working toward commission as an officer at the Naval Academy is about routinely overcoming challenges.
 

A decision for “20-30 years down the road”
 

Coming out of Madison, Tennessee’s Goodpasture Christian School, recruiting feelers came Reynolds’ way. Navy was one suitor that offered him an opportunity to play his prep position, quarterback.
 

But Mids head coach Ken Niumatalolo could also offer an opportunity for Reynolds to start as freshman. Navy replaced Kriss Proctor after the 2011 season, opening a competition Reynolds won by the Mids' Week 5 game against Central Michigan. Prior, he traveled for the 2012 season opener in Dublin, Ireland, against Notre Dame, his first exposure to the college game.
 

“That was a big opportunity, to go to another country to play a game,” he said.
 

Opportunity defines Reynolds’ decision to enroll at the Naval Academy. The student-athlete experience in Annapolis is unique, as he explained.
 

“The midshipman life [compared] to the normal college student life,” he said. “It’s a complete 180.”

And for Navy football players, the process can be even more demanding.
 

“Everyone, for the most part, is allotted four weeks of leave. [Football players] take one or two,” he said. “The rest of the time we’re training up in Annapolis. We sacrifice most of our summer.
 

“But that’s something we knew coming into the Naval Academy, joining the military,” he added. “We were going to have to be part of the structured lifestyle to better prepare ourselves to be Naval officers.”
 

Receiving commission as either a naval or Marine Corps officer is an opportunity Reynolds said goes beyond what he does on the football field.
 

“There are so many great things that come from graduating from the Naval Academy,” he said. “I even had a coach recruiting me to a different school tell me, ‘you’d be dumb not to take [the Navy] offer.’
 

“’Make this decision for 20-30 years down the road, not five years down the road.’”
 

Much like his game-winning touchdown rush to beat San Jose State in triple-overtime that late-November night, there’s daylight ahead for Keenan Reynolds—20 years down the road, or simply in the upcoming football season.

Teaser:
Keenan Reynolds Poised to Lead Navy to New Heights in 2014
Post date: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/sec-football-2014-all-conference-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 for 2014, as well as conference predictions.

 

With the predictions released, it’s time to take a look at the best players by conference.

 

Athlon Sports kicks off its release of preseason all-conference teams with a look at our first, second, third and fourth All-SEC teams for 2014.

 

Related Content:

 

An important note on the all-conference 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-conference team is largely based on predicting and projecting the best for the upcoming year.
 

2014 SEC Team Previews
 
National
Rank:
263523870193325189423444


Athlon's 2014 All-SEC Team

 First-Team OffenseSecond-Team OffenseThird-Team OffenseFourth-Team Offense
QBNick Marshall
Auburn 
________________
Bo Wallace
Ole Miss 
________________
Maty Mauk
Missouri 
________________
Dak Prescott
Miss. State 
________________
RBTodd Gurley
Georgia 
Alex Collins
Arkansas 
Derrick Henry
Alabama 
Leonard Fournette
LSU
RBT.J. Yeldon
Alabama 
________________
Mike Davis
South Carolina 
________________
Kelvin Taylor
Florida 
________________
Jonathan Williams
Arkansas 
________________
WRAmari Cooper
Alabama 
Sammie Coates
Auburn 
Jameon Lewis
Miss. State 
Malcome Kennedy
Texas A&M 
WRLaquon Treadwell
Ole Miss 
Malcolm Mitchell
Georgia 
Marquez North
Tennessee 
Shaq Roland
South Carolina 
TEO.J. Howard
Alabama 
________________
Hunter Henry
Arkansas 
________________
Evan Engram
Ole Miss 
________________
Malcolm Johnson
Miss. State 
________________
CReese Dismukes
Auburn 
David Andrews
Georgia 
Evan Boehm
Missouri 
Ryan Kelly
Alabama 
GA.J. Cann
South Carolina 
Jarvis Harrison
Texas A&M 
Vadal Alexander
LSU 
Denver Kirkland
Arkansas 
GAlex Kozan
Auburn 
Aaron Morris
Ole Miss 
Chad Slade
Auburn 
Arie Kouandjio
Alabama 
TCedric Ogbuehi
Texas A&M 
La'El Collins
LSU 
Corey Robinson
South Carolina 
Mitch Morse
Missouri
TLaremy Tunsil
Ole Miss 
Austin Shepherd
Alabama 
John Theus
Georgia 
Dan Skipper
Arkansas 
 First-Team DefenseSecond-Team DefenseThird-Team DefenseFourth-Team Defense
DEDante Fowler
Florida 
Trey Flowers
Arkansas 
Alvin Dupree
Kentucky 
Ray Drew
Georgia 
DEA'Shawn Robinson
Alabama 

Markus Golden
Missouri 

Carl Lawson
Auburn 
Danielle Hunter
LSU 
DTChris Jones
Miss. State 
Jonathan Bullard
Florida 
Darius Philon
Arkansas 
Christian LaCouture
LSU 
DTRobert Nkemdiche
Ole Miss 
________________
Gabe Wright
Auburn 
________________
Vince Taylor
Vanderbilt 
________________
Brandon Ivory
Alabama 
________________
LBTrey DePriest
Alabama 
Leonard Floyd
Georgia 
Serderius Bryant
Ole Miss 
Caleb Azubike
Vanderbilt 
LBA.J. Johnson
Tennessee 
Jordan Jenkins
Georgia 
Benardrick McKinney
Miss. State 
Denzel Devall
Alabama 
LBRamik Wilson
Georgia 
________________
Skai Moore
South Carolina 
________________
Cassanova McKinzy
Auburn 
________________
Amarlo Herrera
Georgia 
________________
CBVernon Hargreaves III
Florida 
Deshazor Everett
Texas A&M 
Taveze Calhoun
Miss. State 
Cam Sutton
Tennessee 
CBTre'Davious White
LSU 
Rashard Robinson
LSU 
Damian Swann
Georgia 
Jonathan Mincy
Auburn 
SLandon Collins
Alabama 
Tony Conner
Ole Miss 
Braylon Webb
Missouri 
Brian Randolph
Tennessee 
SCody Prewitt
Ole Miss 
Robenson Therezie
Auburn 
Jermaine Whitehead
Auburn 
Kwon Alexander (LB)
LSU 
 First-Team SpecialistsSecond-Team SpecialistsThird-Team SpecialistsFourth-Team Specialists
KMarshall Morgan
Georgia 
Colby Delahoussaye
LSU 
Elliott Fry
South Carolina 
Andrew Baggett
Missouri 
PDrew Kaser
Texas A&M 
Sam Irwin-Hill
Arkansas 
Landon Foster
Kentucky 
Jamie Keehn
LSU 
KRChristion Jones
Alabama 
Trey Williams
Texas A&M 
Andre Debose
Florida 
Darrius Sims
Vanderbilt 
PRChristion Jones
Alabama 
Marcus Murphy
Missouri 
Speedy Noil
Texas A&M 
DeMarco Robinson
Kentucky 

Related Content: 

Team-by-Team Breakdown of Athlon's 2014 All-SEC Team
 FirstSecondThirdFourth

Offense: 3
Defense: 3
Sp. Teams: 2
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 2
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 2
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 3
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 3
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 3
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 0
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 1
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 2
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 1

Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 3
Sp. Teams: 1

Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 2
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 2
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 1

Offense: 2
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 2
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 1
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 1

 

Teaser:
SEC Football 2014 All-Conference Team
Post date: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/accs-top-12-must-see-non-conference-games-2014
Body:

The ACC may be the defending champion of college football but it has a long way to go before it earns the type of respect its regional rival, the SEC, gets nationally. Some of that can be attributed to the struggles the league has had outside of its conference — especially, against the SEC.

 

Florida State rolled up a big number on Florida and outlasted Auburn in the BCS title game, however, the rest of the league hasn’t been as fortunate. Clemson has lost five straight to South Carolina. Georgia Tech has lost five straight and 12 out of 13 to Georgia and was beaten by Ole Miss last year in the Music City Bowl. Both North Carolina and Virginia Tech were stomped in season openers against South Carolina and Alabama respectively. Duke lost to Texas A&M in a memorable Chick-fil-A Bowl. Even Vanderbilt has beaten up on the ACC of late, going 4-0 over the last three years against the league.

 

There is reason for optimism, however, and it’s not just Florida State. Clemson beat Georgia in the season opener last year and then topped Ohio State in the Orange Bowl for its first and only BCS bowl win. Miami did beat Florida early in the year, albeit one of the worst Gator teams in school history. Notre Dame has been added to four schedules every season, offering multiple teams a chance to knock off a quality opponent. And Louisville joins the mix this year with its annual Bluegrass State bout with Kentucky.

 

The ACC on the whole is getting better, there is no doubt, but key wins over quality non-conference opponents might be the only way to gain national respect. Like most years, there will be plenty of great opportunities for that very thing in 2014:

 

1. Notre Dame at Florida State (Oct. 18)

Florida State’s in 2014 may come from the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame has the talent, gets its signal-caller back under center and could be on a roll by mid-October. Few games in the nation will feature two more powerful brands with more at stake than when Brian Kelly brings his team south to Tallahassee. Very few teams have what it takes to challenge the defending champs but Notre Dame is definitely one of them. These two have met seven times with FSU taking five games, including the last two meetings in 2003 and '11.

 

2. South Carolina at Clemson (Nov. 29)

As far as deeply entrenched rivalries and overall importance of the game to the national landscape go, it's hard to argue the Palmetto State season finale won't be one the biggest non-conference games in the league. Carolina and Steve Spurrier are eyeing an SEC East title and possible playoff berth, so a loss to the Tigers for the first time since 2008 would be crippling to those hopes. If quickly, this could be another top-15 matchup.

 

3. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 29)

This was a blowout a year ago but Florida expects to be much improved this year and the historic Sunshine State rivalry could hold national championship implications for the Seminoles. Florida may have the best roster of any team Florida State will face in the 2014 regular season so fans should expect a much closer bout this time around — as long as the Gators' coaching staff is still intact by season's end.

 

4. Clemson at Georgia (Aug. 30)

Last year's meeting was an epic offensive showdown that featured elite playmakers and provided a memorable experience for everyone. This year, Clemson's defense is its strength while Georgia returns nine starters on D. With two new quarterbacks for both teams, expect a sloppier performance from both offenses in the first week of the season — which could be equally as entertaining. Each team has an outside shot at playoff contention so this season-opening meeting is monumental for both teams.

 

5. Miami at Nebraska (Sept. 20)

From an intrigue standpoint, few non-conference games in college football will feature two more powerful brands than this . These two have met in multiple national title situations, including four Orange Bowl and three national title games. The last two meetings were a Miami beatdown in the BCS title game in 2001 and a Nebraska national championship-clinching win in the 1995 Orange Bowl. And, of course, who could forget the 1984 Orange Bowl and the most infamous two-point conversion attempt in college football history.

 

6. Louisville at Notre Dame (Nov. 22)

Bobby Petrino has a this fall and the biggest one might be a trip to South Bend in late November. The meeting will mark the first time in history that these two programs have ever met despite being just four hours apart. The matching of offensive wits between Petrino and Brian Kelly will be a thing to behold and must-see TV.

 

Related:

 

7. Florida State vs. Oklahoma State (Aug. 30, Arlington)

Oklahoma State won the Big 12 title in 2011 and was one drive away from a second conference crown a year ago. However, with massive departures, the Pokes are in rebuilding mode and playing the defending national champs in Week 1 is a recipe for disaster. Still, anytime two big programs get together in the season opener in Jerry’s World it’s something the nation needs to watch.

 

8. Virginia Tech at Ohio State (Sept. 6)

The Hokies will once again led by well-respected coordinator Bud Foster. This is the reason Virginia Tech is the front-runner to win the Coastal Division and face Florida State in the ACC title game. Ohio State is a top playoff contender and is breaking in a new offensive line, so facing the Hokies' defensive line is a great early measuring stick for Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes will be a clear favorite in this game and a decisive win could give OSU a critical non-conference win over a quality opponent.

 
9. North Carolina at Notre Dame (Oct.11)

Much like Louisville and Florida State, North Carolina has a shot at a headline-making, non-conference win if it can go into South Bend and pull the upset. The Tar Heels may not have the same talent as the Seminoles or the coaching of the Cardinals, but in mid-October. The Heels are 2-16 all-time against the Irish but won the last meeting 29-24 in Chapel Hill in 2008.

 
10. Georgia Tech at Georgia (Nov. 29)

Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate featured one of the most thrilling finishes of 2013 (unfortunately for Tech). The Jackets coughed up a 20-point lead and eventually lost in double overtime. Paul Johnson has one win in six tries against the Dawgs, as Tech has lost 12 of 13 against their in-state rival. cannot be undervalued for Johnson.

 

11. Kentucky at Louisville (Nov. 29)

Mark Stoops is making Kentucky more relevant every day and his team should be at its best by season's end. Bobby Petrino will be wrapping up his first season back in Louisville. With in-state recruiting battles growing more fierce by the day, the Wildcats-Cardinals matchup just gets that much more intriguing.

 

12. Iowa at Pitt (Sept. 20)

Pitt is going to be one of the this year and will give Iowa all it can handle at home in Week 4. The Hawkeyes are spying a run at a Big Ten West Division title and Paul Chryst is very familiar with Kirk Ferentz from his time at Wisconsin. This would be a huge win for a team on the rise against a quality foe at home.

 

Others games to watch:

 

USC at Boston College (Sept. 13)

Syracuse vs. Notre Dame (Sept. 27, East Rutherford)

Cincinnati at Miami (Oct. 11)

UCLA at Virginia (Aug. 30)

Teaser:
ACC's Top 12 Must-See Non-Conference Games of 2014
Post date: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/move-road-trip-louisville-cardinals
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By the time any college football game kicks off, one team has already executed a game plan. Behind every major college football team is another team of support staff making sure the players and coaches can focus solely on the game at hand. Athlon Sports followed Louisville’s equipment and training staff for the Dec. 5 game at Cincinnati for a behind-the-scenes look at the logistics of moving a football team from Point A to Point B.

Slideshow:

If Mike Kurowski hasn’t received the call yet, he knows to expect it soon. The call will come from his counterpart in equipment operations at Texas, where Charlie Strong became the head coach after the 2013 season.

Kurowski knows to expect that call, because that’s what Kurowski did when Louisville hired Strong. Kurowski, who has worked at Louisville since 2009, called the equipment manager at Florida for insight on how Strong, the former Gators defensive coordinator, would want to run his program, down to gameday wardrobe and snacks.

The job of the director of athletic equipment operations in its simplest terms is to make sure that each player has his helmet, pads and uniform for practice and gameday and that each coach has a working headset and the proper sideline attire.

This feature and more can be found in every regional edition of the .

Again, that’s the simplest way to put it. Every coach has his idiosyncrasies. Even the most routine road trip has its challenges.

Kurowski and his staff — along with the trainers and director of football operations — are charged with the task of making sure a traveling football team and its coaching staff arrive at the stadium without any concerns aside from winning a football game.

Through repetition and game-planning, the travel process is down to a science, but Kurowski knows enough to plan for surprises.

When Texas calls Kurowski for what to expect from Strong, Kurowski will tell the Longhorns what Florida told him: Make sure to have plenty of Atomic Fireballs. Even then, after Kurowski did his homework on his new boss and his affinity for cinnamon candy, Strong threw a curve.

“The very first time we were out at practice, I said ‘What are all these little white pellets?’ and I finally saw him do it,” Kurowski says. “He sucks the fire out of it and throws them down. He doesn’t chew or anything.”

The responsibility of Kurowski’s staff and every member of Louisville’s support staff is to remember that no detail is too small, from the sideline candy to the uniforms to the pregame meal.

One floor up from Kurowski’s equipment office in the Schnellenberger Football Complex, Clifford Snow, the director of football operations, works through his meticulous checklist.

The team needs Kurowski and the equipment staff to set up the locker rooms. It also needs Snow to make sure the players have a place to sleep, food to eat, a space for the pregame walk-through and a room large enough to accommodate team meetings.

Snow’s preparation for the Cincinnati trip and nearly all of Louisville’s road trips for the season started in the spring when the American Athletic Conference announced its schedule. A road game to Cincinnati is easy, comparatively speaking. It’s one Snow has organized before, and the best part for him is that the team will travel by bus.

If Charlie Strong seems like the most particular or detail-oriented person in this chain, he’s not. It’s Snow.


Snow is the one with a six-page checklist for a 100-mile bus trip to face an opponent Louisville has visited every other year for nearly 50 seasons. The checklist accounts for every phone call, e-mail and fax Snow will send during the two weeks leading up to the game to confirm hotel and meal arrangements, bus reservations and a police escort for a travel party of nearly 200 people.

“Winning the game is the object. My object is to make it so nothing is going to distract from the purpose of winning the game,” says Snow, who joined Strong in the same role at Texas. “Everything is supposed to be seamless.”
 



The process of moving Louisville to Cincinnati for a Thursday night game begins immediately after practice Tuesday.

The equipment staff, consisting of two full-timers and seven student managers, has cleaned and sorted jerseys and placed them in trunks with cubbies for each player. Anything outside of the standard items — uniforms, helmets and pads — is the responsibility of the player to pack in a duffle bag. This includes extra contact lenses, mouthpieces, Breathe Right strips and knee braces.

When one defensive back arrives in Cincinnati, he’ll find out he won’t have a hand warmer waiting for him in the equipment truck. He didn’t return his after the previous game.

“When he asks for it, we’ll remind him he has to bring one back,” Kurowski tells his staff.

The next gear to pack is the sideline attire for the coaching staff — T-shirts, polos, hoodies and, most important, Strong’s mock turtlenecks. Again, the coach’s wardrobe habits are one of Kurowski’s primary concerns. Strong started on polos in his first season and moved to the cotton mock turtleneck in the second. That stuck, so when Kurowski needed a Dri-FIT mock turtleneck, he custom-ordered one.

 

"If everything goes smoothly, nobody notices anything."

And then comes the sweatshirt, and it’s always one from Strong’s first season at the school. The lettering is outdated from the standard issue sweatshirts the rest of the coaching staff receives, but the head coach is the one who wears exactly what he wants.

“Coaches can be just as superstitious as the players,” Kurowski says.

That said, the players don’t have much room to be superstitious under Strong’s watch. Every week, one team or another in college football wears a specialty uniform, a throwback or some new combination of jerseys and pants.

Not Louisville.

In this regard, the traditional look of Texas is perfect for Strong. At Louisville, the Cardinals wore all red at home and all white on the road.

“Any time I have an idea, (Strong) says, ‘Alabama doesn’t change, Penn State doesn’t change,’” Kurowski says.

Elsewhere, the staff prepares trunks filled with 55 cases of Gatorade, gum, towels, wristbands, extra pants and facemasks and, certainly not to be forgotten, the locker-room stereo. The training staff has its duties, too, packing trunks full of athletic tape, splints, IV materials, a defibrillator and exercise bikes. All of which is packed snugly into the Louisville team trailer before the equipment staff leaves at 10:30 a.m. sharp on Wednesday for the Thursday night kickoff.

“It’s real-life Tetris,” freshman student manager Drew Miniard says.

By the time the busload of equipment managers arrives at Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, it’s time to wait. The truck with the equipment is running an hour behind the bus.

When the visitors’ locker room opens, assistant equipment manager Ed Connell and student manager David Moser diagram who will sit where. Connell puts the 31 defensive players to the right, the 24 offensive players on the left and the five special teamers in the back. Star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater gets the prime real estate in a corner locker.

Connell sets up a makeshift equipment area in the corner of the locker room where players can grab towels, wristbands and hand warmers.  

It’s the last game of the year and a short road trip, so Strong has brought everyone on the roster, including walk-ons and freshmen who are redshirting.

The Nippert locker room, as a result, is too small for Louisville this week. Connell had sized up the situation and texted Snow to remind the players who aren’t dressing for the game that they’ll need warm clothes and rain gear — they’ll be outside of the locker room all night.

By 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the trailer has arrived from Louisville, and the managers and trainers begin setup. Moser begins sorting through the magnetic nameplates for each player, matching them with jerseys. Senior manager Creighton Harley takes the audio equipment up to the coaches booth to set up the headsets. The underclassman student managers get the grunt work of buffing helmets, fresh with new decals for the Cincinnati game, and touching up scuffs with Wite-Out.

Meanwhile, the training staff is setting up the training room at the front of the locker room. Most important is the sign-in area for pre-game taping, where six rows of masking tape will show the waiting list for six trainers.


“They’re creatures of habit,” assistant athletic trainer Sam Zuege says. “Some of them have to get taped by the same trainer every day.”

By 3 p.m., everything that can be offloaded and set up the day before the game is done, and the equipment staff heads back to the team hotel for the walk-through.

At the hotel, Snow is working through his checklist: Two banquet rooms for team meetings (one for the full team and a second when they split into offense and defense), a banquet room for trainers, 125 guest rooms for the Wednesday night before the Thursday game and two buffet lines for players ready to feed the equivalent of 160 people.

“I tell my hotels, they’re going to eat two-and-a-half or three times the amount of a normal person,” Snow says. “Don’t quote me on what you think I’m going to eat. They’re going to eat three plates.”

If the team will be waiting around for a night game, Snow is also charged with making the movie arrangements, which must fit into time parameters (roughly two hours) and genre constraints (action, not sci-fi).

“If everything goes smoothly, nobody notices anything,” he says. “That’s a win for me.”
 



The weather on this Thursday in December is dreary. Temperature at kickoff Thursday night will be 39 degrees.


In the afternoon, as the equipment managers are setting up, the temperatures are dropping into the mid-40s. It’s cloudy and windy, but dry.

“I hope it stays just like this,” student manager Jake Turner says. It won’t.

The rain will be on its way by the afternoon with the potential to wreak havoc on the pieces of equipment Kurowski and his staff spend the most time checking, re-checking and checking again: the headsets from the coaching booth to the sideline.

“Once ESPN comes on and the game starts, you just cross your fingers and hope everything is ready,” Connell says. “You hope no one trips a fuse or crosses a frequency.”

The problem right now, though, is the rain. Kurowski would prefer snow, but it won’t be cold enough before kickoff.


“You try to be a step ahead all the time. But they’re right behind you on your heels.”
Rain has caused plenty of problems for Louisville in the last two seasons. A deluge for the Southern Miss game in Hattiesburg in 2012 left a foot of standing water in front of the equipment truck as the Cardinals loaded for the trip back to Louisville. A week before that Southern Miss game, a storm in Miami before a game against Florida International forced the Cardinals to scrap plans to do a walk-through at a high school stadium, which had flooded. Louisville did the walk-through in a parking garage instead.

At Cincinnati, Kurowski is checking the weather report on his iPad: Rain it is. The primary concern is the headsets, covered only with towels. Without tarps readily available, Kurowski cuts open two equipment bags to drape over the headsets. Crisis averted.

Beyond the rain, the cold will be an issue, especially for a team with its share of Floridians.

Strong’s strict dress code includes an edict forbidding tights, even for cold night games. When a player attempted to take the field wearing tights during a game against Rutgers in 2010, Strong turned the player around to change. The ‘no tights’ rule is similar to other facets of Strong’s dress code: No helmet visors without a prescription and no sleeves on a single arm.

 

As for keeping warm, the trainers have brought a tub of Vaseline for players to put on their legs. When asked if that actually helps, Zuege shrugs.

“They think it keeps them warm,” he says. “I’m sure it insulates a little bit.”

They didn’t even have to find out for certain. Six hours before kickoff, Kurowski receives a text message from the big boss: Did he bring the forbidden tights? Strong had changed his mind on one of his uniform rules. Lucky for Kurowski, he brought a full complement of leg tights just in case.

“You try to be a step ahead all the time,” Kurowski says. “But they’re right behind you on your heels.”

The team is scheduled to arrive at 5:30 p.m. By 3 p.m., nearly every preparation for the Cardinals’ arrival is made.

With two-and-a-half hours to kill, the student trainers and managers sit in front of lockers on the training tables, lined up in a row with their laptops flipped open. The country music that filled the locker room during setup has been turned off, and the trainers are working on papers and PowerPoint presentations and studying for finals. Or trying to grab a quick nap, outstretched across folding chairs. This is the down time, before the kickoff brings new responsibilities.

Turner, the senior equipment manager, holds the poster board to send in plays from the sideline. Other managers warm up the quarterbacks and dry the footballs. The student trainers who aren’t on the field are in the locker room starting to tear down the training room they set up only 12 hours earlier.

Other than the in-game essentials, they’ll be packed up for the trip back to Louisville 45 minutes after kickoff.

Amy Riordan, a video assistant, will be busy changing memory cards in the six cameras set up around the field so coaches can review the game on the ride back.

Snow, with no more pregame meals to schedule or hotel reservations to double-check, has his own duties on the sideline. When Louisville scores the first touchdown less than three minutes into the game, Snow is reminding players on the bench to celebrate on the sideline and not on the field; he’s the “get-back” coach.

“In my position,” Snow says. “I worry about everything.”

Mainly, so his coaches and players don’t have to.

Teaser:
On the Move: A Road Trip with the Louisville Cardinals
Post date: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /nascar/exclusive-qa-nascar-rookie-michael-annett
Body:

Welcome to the Athlon Rookie Report, where each week David Smith will evaluate the deepest crop of new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series talent since 2006. The Report will include twice-monthly rankings, in-depth analysis, Q&A sessions with the drivers, and more.

 

Following his 20th-place finish at Pocono Raceway, rookie Michael Annett, driver of the No. 7 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet SS for Tommy Baldwin Racing, sat down with David for an exclusive, extended interview. What follows is an edited transcript of their chat.

 

 

David Smith: You finished 20th at Pocono in your first visit there (the NASCAR Nationwide Series, of which Annett is graduate, does not compete at Pocono). I take it you like the place now?

 

Michael Annett: Not really (laughs).  Michael Annett

 

 

No?

 

Well, I think we had a good strategy going into it. We got to test there last week, which was huge. Our mindset was — and I’d never been there before in anything — that we’ve got a lot of practice time between the test and the actual race practices and it’s a chance to figure some things out. On the first day of the test, I’d come in and say ‘Don’t change anything on the car, because I’m not doing anything right yet.’ We went through lunch changing, maybe, just a half-pound of air pressure. 

 

With that place — I’m sure you saw it — track position is everything. You get on the restarts, get all your passing done and then run for 30 laps until there’s another restart. As far as driving the track, there’s so much that goes into it. You can shift in every corner or you can shift in one corner. If the car was good and I felt like I could pass somebody, I’d charge and shift in every corner. If you’re 20 car lengths behind the car in front of you and there’s not a car close behind you, you start saving your stuff. To me, that’s not the kind of racing I like. The track is fun, but it’s not a fun race for me.

 

One thing I do like about it is that we go back there in a little over a month and I feel we’re way ahead of where we were when we first arrived for the test.

 

 

You’ve tested quite a bit this year. I’d imagine that a busy testing schedule is something that’s also relatively new for you. How often did you test when you were in the Nationwide Series?

 

When I was at Germain (Racing), we did a lot of short track testing near Greensboro. To me, we weren’t learning anything. Unless you’re at the tracks you race at, you’re not learning a whole lot. We’d go to Gresham (Motorsports Park in Georgia), but we went there when it had just been repaved and anybody could have crew chief’d a car and made it handle well because there was so much grip — like going to Kansas now. That’s why cars are so close there, because it’s not that hard to make them handle well.

 

We did quite a bit of testing with the 62 team (Rusty Wallace Racing) and hardly any with the 43 (Richard Petty Motorsports). Last year we did one test at Chicago and that was it.

 

 

So I take it the Tommy Baldwin Racing bunch makes more effective use of testing?

 

It’s been important for me, this being my first year in the Cup car, to see which changes do what. It’s also been good to work with Bono (Manion, crew chief). I was asked last weekend if I had more confidence in him now than I did at the beginning of the year. It was never a matter of confidence — he’s accomplished more in this sport than I have — it’s a matter of comfort. We’re way more comfortable now, and that’s what testing has done for us. Going to the track for six or seven hours, getting out of the car and just talking has helped his notebook grow. Last year he was with another team and another driver. This year he has to make a lot more happen for a smaller team and do it with a rookie driver, and I think he’s learning more and more about how to do that and that’s what we’ve seen here in the past few weeks.

 

 

I heard you’re a film study guy — you watch in-car video from old races on your iPad. How has that helped you?  Michael Annett

 

It’s huge. The only problem is that each year the sport changes. Now we’ve got the new rules package. By talking to a Cup driver, you can learn about the characteristics of the track and get an idea for where the lift points are. I rode around with (Jamie) McMurray at Pocono and he was showing me ‘this is where I normally lift.’ He came back to me after being in the car and said, ‘I’m now driving it in way past where I told you.’ It’s because these cars have so much more downforce.

 

The in-cars are big for an idea of how to get around a place, but everybody this year is learning still.

 

 

What drivers do you typically watch on the in-cars?

 

Jimmie Johnson. You just have to. Normally it’s Johnson or Jeff Gordon. Now you can watch Kyle Busch and see how to go fast, but not a lot of people can drive like Kyle Busch can. I don't think there is anyone else that can drive a car that free. Jimmie Johnson is more of a middle-of-the-road setup guy. A driver with any kind of style can at least adapt to the way he drives.

 

 

It’s your first year seeing some of these drivers you’re competing against. Has there been a driver that has surprised you? Maybe one that is better than you initially thought they’d be?

 

That’s a good question. I’ve never gotten that one.

 

I think the one that sticks out is Kyle Larson. I guess I’m not surprised that he’s good, because I’ve never seen anybody do what he has been able to do on the way up. What surprises me is that he’s had so much success this year without even winning a Nationwide race last year. Obviously he ran well, but I noticed there were races where he struggled. I haven’t seen him struggle this year.

 

 

Let’s talk about your relationship with Tommy Baldwin, your team owner. You first worked with him when you were a development driver for Bill Davis Racing. Those early NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts with him as an advisor showed a lot of speed. How has the relationship been the second time around? Did it pick up where it left off?

 

At this point, the relationship is the same as it was. I still look up to him and take everything he says to heart. This time around, I’m more nervous to disappoint him. I know every time I come to the garage after practice is over, I’m going to hear from him. This is his company. It’s the TBR logo on every shirt. In the Truck Series, I was supposed to make mistakes. I was a rookie. Tommy was the crew chief of the 22 car (at Bill Davis Racing) and his hands were full, but he’d still call and ask, ‘Hey, how did that truck do?’ or ‘How did that ARCA car do?’ and there was one time he tore into me for a dumb mistake in an ARCA race. If I make a mistake now, it’s at a higher level. You don’t just not want to disappoint Tommy, you want to do better for him. I’m not worried about coming back and getting yelled it. I want to come back and have him say, ‘That was awesome.’

 

 

He goes to the stands to watch races, sort of like a football coordinator. How has he helped you adapt to some of these tracks during races?

 

It can go two ways. It’s a big help sometimes and other times I want to unstrap from the car and go and take the radio off of his head (laughs). But he and I joke about that. There are times when I know I did something wrong and know he’s getting ready to say something and I’ll just hold the radio down and say ‘I know, I know’ before he gets a chance to jump on me. Everything he tries to do is only to help. It’s constructive criticism.

 

 

Winning races is obviously a goal, but what else needs to happen for you this year? What do you want to get out of your rookie season that you haven’t gotten already?

 

We know what kind of equipment Larson has. We know what the 3 car (for driver Austin Dillon) has and what they’re working with, and I think we’re getting closer. I was ahead of the 3 until that final restart at Pocono and beat the 27 (of Paul Menard, Dillon’s Richard Childress Racing stable mate), so if we can start racing with the 3 and the 42 — and I think the 42 is bound to win a race this year — if we can battle with them and get a few Rookie of the Race awards, that would mean a lot this year. When you go to the driver’s meeting each weekend they present the award from the previous week and to get our name on that, and I think we’re getting closer and closer, that’s a huge goal.

 

 

David Smith is the founder of and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projection, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at .

 

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Teaser:
An exclusive Q&A with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year contender Michael Annett.
Post date: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 17:05
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-june-10-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for June 10.

• Kate Upton turns 22 today. .

.

.

. Paid for by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation (not Mike Shanahan).

.

• In honor of the Padres' drafting of Johnny Football, .

• Going to Brazil for the World Cup?.

. This is better than it sounds.

.

. Fortunately, he didn't ruin it.

.

• Watch a high school kid get his first career varsity hit: a walk-off homer in the state championship game.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 10:59
Path: /college-football/big-tens-top-10-must-see-non-conference-games-2014
Body:

The Big Ten is in desperate need of some non-conference success.

 

This league has begun to fall behind the rest of the biggest boys in college football and some marquee non-conference wins — along with expansion — is a great way to regain some national respect.

 

In 2014, the Big Ten has plenty of opportunities for headline grabbing wins against national powerhouses (like LSU or Oregon). Because after what happened to the Big Ten a year ago outside of the league was downright shameful.

 

Michigan beat Notre Dame and Wisconsin beat BYU. That’s about it as far as marquee non-conference wins for the league. (For the record, Notre Dame also beat Michigan State and Purdue).

 

The B1G went 5-4 against Power 5 teams and those five wins came against 1-11 Cal (twice), 6-6 Syracuse (twice) and 3-9 Iowa State. The league lost to every quality opponent it faced from a Big 5 league — UCLA, Missouri, Arizona State and Washington — while also taking losses to Navy, UCF, Northern Illinois and Cincinnati (well, mostly just Purdue, but you get the point).

 

Not only are there marquee showdowns on the slate for this league in ’14 but the matchups are fairly even and the Big Ten could easily win one or two meaningful non-conference tilts. Here are the top 10 most important out of league bouts for the Big Ten in 2014:
 

1. Michigan State at Oregon (Sept. 6)

It cannot be overstated what a win for Michigan State in this game would mean for the Big Ten. Not only would it give the league a marquee non-conference win over a playoff contender on the road, but Mark Dantonio would send a massive shot across the B1G bow that Sparty isn’t going anywhere. A and would immediately place the Spartans in playoff contention. That said, with a rebuilt defense, stopping Oregon on the road in Week 2 will be a tall order.

 

2. LSU vs. Wisconsin (Aug. 30, Houston)

From a pure entertainment standpoint, the Tigers-Badgers semi-neutral field battle in Houston might be the most entertaining non-conference game to watch in '14 regardless of league. This game will feature what should be two equally matched opponents, in their respective leagues. The winner is buoyed right out of the gate with a top-20 win, while the loser may be out of the national title picture after just 60 minutes of football. LSU and Wisconsin feature two of the best power running games in the land and this game will be a throwback showcase for both.

 

3. Michigan at Notre Dame (Sept. 6)

There is rich history and tradition between these two programs, and with the game going the way of the dodo bird, this meeting has more meaning. These two teams are breaking in three new coordinators, most importantly, Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. He will be pitted against new Irish defensive mind Brian VanGorder as both units have questions entering the season. A entering Big Ten play can’t be overvalued, while a victory for Brian Kelly could place Notre Dame into playoff contention.

 

4. Miami at Nebraska (Sept. 20)

From an intrigue standpoint, few non-conference games in college football will feature two more powerful brands than . These two have met in multiple national title situations, including four Orange Bowl and three national title games. The last two meetings were a Miami beatdown in the BCS title game in 2001 and a Nebraska national championship-clinching win in the 1995 Orange Bowl. And, of course, who could forget the 1984 Orange Bowl and the most infamous two-point conversion attempt in college football history.

 

5. Virginia Tech at Ohio State (Sept. 6)

The Hokies will once again have an elite defense led by historic coordinator Bud Foster. This is the reason Virginia Tech is the frontrunner to win the Coastal Division and face Florida State in the ACC title game. and is breaking in a new offensive line, so facing this defensive line is a great early measuring stick for Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes will be a clear favorite in this game and a decisive win could give OSU a critical non-conference win over a quality opponent.


Related:

 

6. Iowa at Pitt (Sept. 20)

Pitt is going to be one of the most improved teams in the ACC this year and will give Iowa all it can handle at home in Week 4. The Hawkeyes are spying a and while games with Pitt and Iowa State don’t impact the standings, two wins over those foes will catapult Kirk Ferentz’s squad into conference play with tremendous confidence.

 

7. Iowa State at Iowa (Sept. 13)

This is a passionate in-state rivalry that has been played 61 times (Iowa leads 41-20). The Hawkeyes won easily in Ames a year ago but lost 9-6 the last time these two met in Iowa City (2012). This game has seen high-scoring overtime affairs (44-41 in 2011) and low-scoring defensive battles. Fans never really know what they are going to see when these two get together.

 

8. Northwestern at Notre Dame (Nov. 15)

From a regional standpoint, this game has tremendous intrigue. The Irish have dominated the Wildcats, winning 37 of 47 total meetings. That said, the last time these two met was a historic 17-15 win for the Wildcats in 1995 — a win that propelled the traditional Big Ten doormat into a historic Rose Bowl season. , especially by the middle of November.

 

9. Nebraska at Fresno State (Sept. 13)

The week before Nebraska welcomes Miami to Memorial Stadium, Bo Pelini will have to take his team on a long road trip to Southern California. Fresno State is breaking in a new quarterback but is still considered one of the best teams in the Mountain West. Pelini needs to be sure his squad doesn’t look ahead to the Hurricanes or the Bulldogs will jump up and bite him.

 

10. Minnesota at TCU (Sept. 13)

Jerry Kill and Gary Patterson are two of the most well respected coaches in the game today. and wants to prove it can sustain some level of success, while TCU is projected to be a much better team in 2014. This game may not look like a great matchup on paper but by season’s end, one of these two teams will have a really good non-conference win.

 

Other games to watch:

 

Penn State vs. UCF (Aug. 30, Dublin)

It’s James Franklin’s debut, the game is in Ireland and there will be revenge on the mind of Penn State.

 

Bowling Green at Wisconsin (Sept. 20)

The Falcons are going to be sneaky good and UW better not take them lightly.

 

Cincinnati at Ohio State (Sept. 27)

The Bearcats are the frontrunner for the AAC crown and the regional rivalry adds some interest.

 

Indiana at Missouri (Sept. 20)

Two great passing offenses could rack up a boatload of points in an SEC-Big Ten bout.

 

West Virginia at Maryland (Sept. 13)

An under-the-radar rivalry that needs to be dubbed the Steve Slaton Bowl.

Teaser:
Big Ten's Top 10 Must-See Non-Conference Games of 2014
Post date: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/fathers-day-golf-gift-guide
Body:

Equipment manufacturers have gone back to the future, dusting off some iconic brands with new versions. Adams Golf has resurrected the Tight Lies fairway wood, the club that took the small company to new heights in the 1990s. COBRA Golf has launched a new line of easy-to-hit drivers, fairways, hybrids and irons for men and women called the Baffler XL, a family of clubs that takes inspiration from the original Baffler driver built 40 years ago. PowerBilt is offering a contemporary version of the Countess, a women's set that originally debuted in 1968. Most intriguing of all, Callaway Golf revived the Big Bertha with two new drivers in 2014, the Big Bertha and Big Bertha Alpha. Phil Mickelson already has one in his bag.

 

The retro theme has certainly raised some eyebrows in the golf industry, but new ideas and concepts continue to dominate the marketplace. Here’s a look at a handful of hot products for Father's Day 2014:

 

Golf Clubs

 

Cleveland Golf 588 Woods – The 460cc titanium head of the 588 Custom Driver offers the greatest combination of distance, forgiveness and accuracy of any driver Cleveland Golf has ever made. An adjustable hosel creates 12 different settings to precisely tune loft, lie and face angle. The back of the sole has an adjustable weight screw to optimize swing weight. The line includes 588 Fairway woods and 588 hybrids. Variable face thickness helps both maximize distance and playability. The hybrid features a slightly offset face and Gliderail Technology. Website: .

 

TaylorMade Golf SpeedBlade Irons - The ‘Speed Pocket’ of the SpeedBlade irons is wider and longer than the successful Rocketballz line. The handlebar-shaped slot in the sole of the 3-7 irons enables a large area of the face to flex and rebound at impact, resulting in faster ball speed, higher launch and better feel. This improvement allows shots hit below the center of the face, where most golfers miss, to come out higher and longer. More skilled players might gravitate toward the newer Tour Preferred MB, Tour Preferred MC and Tour Preferred CB irons released in January. Website: .

 

Adams Golf New Idea Hybrid irons – High handicappers can rejoice that Adams Golf continues to look after their needs. A revolutionary wraparound slot helps these new hybrid irons generate higher ball speeds and more forgiveness, especially on mis-hits. Extensive research revealed that 15-plus handicap golfers make the majority of contact nearly a half-inch toward the toe. These irons enhance the face speed in the area. Adams recently signed Ernie Els to an endorsement contract, proving that its equipment can satisfy the game’s elite, too. Website: .

 

Scotty Cameron Futura X Dual Balance mallet putter – Master craftsman Scotty Cameron has created another magic wand that coaxes balls into the hole with striking consistency. The club’s advanced perimeter stability weighting in the head, a 50-gram counterweight in the butt of the shaft and the 15-inch grip that reduces hand action all work together to promote a smoother, more stable stroke. The proper length of a Dual Balance putter is 38 inches, three inches longer than a conventional putter length. Two of the hottest players in golf, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth, use Scotty Cameron putters. Website:

 

Miura K-Grind Wedge – The distinctive fluted sole of this popular 56-degree wedge is known for producing high-spin exits from bunkers. Two new recently introduced lofts, 52 and 60 degrees, make this short-game weapon more versatile than ever. Katsuhiro Miura, a one-man wizard of craftsmanship, has built Miura Golf, Inc., based in Vancouver, Canada, into the world’s preeminent maker of quality forged golf clubs. Its wedges are second to none. Website: .

 

Golf Balls

 

Nicklaus Golf Balls – Jack Nicklaus has thrown his hat into the competitive golf ball industry. Forget about launch monitors and ball testing. Players choose their Nicklaus ball — the Nicklaus Black, Nicklaus Blue and Nicklaus White — based on the color of the tees they tend to play from. A percentage of every golf ball sold will be donated directly back to the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation to support pediatric programs and hospitals nationwide. Balls sold through the website listed below will be cheaper — the Black for $32 and Blue and White for $28 — than those sold at pro shops nationwide (costing between $46-$50) to encourage consumers to donate to the cause. Website: .

 

NIKE Golf RZN Golf Balls - For the second time in three years, Nike Golf has unveiled another industry first. Building on the success of the 20XI ball, Nike Golf has introduced its innovative Speedlock RZN core technology with four golf balls — the RZN Platinum, RZN Black, RZN Red and RZN White — designed to deliver more distance, better feel and a more consistent, stable ball flight. The new Speedlock RZN core technology features an interlocking core that connects with the compression layer to form a tighter bond. This ‘Speedlock’ harnesses energy for more explosive results. Website: .

 

Golf Shoes

adidas Golf adizero one shoes – Weighing less than 10 ounces, the second generation of the adizero line weighs 10 percent less than last year’s innovative Tour shoe, already among the lightest in golf. The seven spikes strategically located on the sole are three fewer than the Tour shoe, yet still maintain traction and stability on the ground. Seven flashy color patterns will be available by May 1. Website:

 

Ecco Street EVO One – Ecco dominates the casual street shoe market with a stylish look that functions at a high level. The Street EVO One comes in high-grade cow leather or genuine camel leather versions. Both combine the award-winning ECCO-Dynamic Traction System (E-DTS) with an array of stabilization and weather-resistant features. Its design cups and cushions the heel, delivering comfort and support. The Danish company owns its own factories, a key component in delivering a quality product. Website: .

 

Golf Fashions

Tommy Hilfiger Golf - Preppy, with a splash of attitude, defines Tommy’s fashions. Its spring 2014 golf collection celebrates the energy and spirit of coastal destinations like California’s trendy Monterey Peninsula all the way to the traditional country clubs of East Hampton in New York. A palette of tonal blues and turquoise accents color certain polo shirts and sweaters inspired by the California lifestyle. Other pieces toned in sophisticated greens, navy blues and whites mimic the classic look of East Coast heritage. Special fabrics and cottons combine comfort with performance. Website: .

 

TravisMathew – The Spring 2014 Huntington Collection hearkens back to California of the 1960s. As children of the postwar baby boom became teenagers, the so-called “Age of Youth” became a time of freedom and exploration. The Huntington Beach-based golf outfitter wanted to capture what it calls “A Wonderful Time” with its hip patterns, styles and colors. These cool and casual golf outfits can be worn on the course and to the party afterward. Website: .

 

Sunice Pro Sport Collection – This Canadian sportswear company makes cold and wet weather tolerable with lightweight and fashion-driven layering pieces. The new Triberg, a super lightweight and four-way stretch jacket, is the category’s most breathable piece. It’s 100 percent windproof and highly water repellent. The sharp Malaga vest incorporates the same features. The Harvey, York, and Huntley all provide new design options for Sunice’s Windstopper-lined sweaters. Website: .

 

Golf Accessories

 

Sun Mountain H2NO Golf Bags – This line’s popularity in Europe comes down to its walker-friendly design and waterproof characteristics. The integrated handles on top and swinging legs make it easy to pick the bag up or set it down. The E-Z Fit Dual Strap System distributes weight equally across each shoulder. The bag bottom still fits snug into a golf cart for riding. Multiple pockets organize and store items with ease. Website: .

 

Bushnell Golf – Three new Bushnell products help golfers answer the age-old question: What club should I use? The NEO XS Golf GPS Watch is not only preloaded with over 33,000-plus courses in more than 30 countries, but it also features market-leading battery life and can be used as an odometer on the course or while exercising away from golf. The Pro X7 range finder and the more compact Tour Z6 JOLT use JOLT Technology, where vibrations alert golfers when they’ve hit the pin, and Second Generation E.S.P. (Extreme. Speed. Precision.) for faster, more accurate readings. Website: .

Under Armour Fire Sunglasses – Made for the elite athlete such as spokesman Hunter Mahan, the new UA Fire offers a wide field of view through its ArmourSight Shield lenses. Adjustable nose pads create a snug fit. They’re versatile enough for baseball as well as golf. Website: .

 

Oakley Belts – Oakley’s unique custom belt program launched last year, allowing customers to mix and match belt buckles with leather straps of all colors. The new aluminum Golf Pro Series Buckles ($25) are interchangeable with the Premium Belt Straps ($70) or the Reversible Leather Belt Strap ($45), which has stripes on one side and a solid color on the other. Website: .

 

Practice Aid

SKLZ - Want to hone your game at home? Create your own practice range just about anywhere with the Glide Pad and Quickster Net by SKLZ, an innovative company of sports training equipment located in Carlsbad, Calif. The Glide Pad (costing $99.99) gives way when golfers strike it, allowing them to hit down and through. Its sliding mechanism simulates natural turf movement and helps reduce shock and injury during practice. The 6-foot-by-6-foot Quickster Net ($99.99) is easy to set up and take down. Website: .

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/acc-football-2014-all-conference-team
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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 for 2014, as well as conference predictions.

With the predictions released, it’s time to take a look at the best players by conference.

Athlon Sports kicks off its release of preseason all-conference teams with a look at our first, second, third and fourth All-ACC teams for 2014.

Related Content:

An important note on the all-conference 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-conference team is largely based on predicting and projecting the best for the upcoming year.
 

 
2014 ACC Team Previews
   
 
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Athlon's All-ACC Team for 2014

 First-Team OffenseSecond-Team OffenseThird-Team OffenseFourth-Team Offense
QB
 
Jameis Winston
Florida State
________________
Marquise Williams
North Carolina
________________
Anthony Boone
Duke
________________
Cole Stoudt
Clemson
________________
RBDuke Johnson
Miami
Kevin Parks
Virginia
James Conner
Pittsburgh
T.J. Logan
North Carolina
RBKarlos Williams
Florida State
________________
Shadrach Thornton
NC State
________________
Michael Dyer
Louisville
________________
Myles Willis
Boston College 
________________
WRTyler Boyd
Pittsburgh
Jamison Crowder
Duke
Stacy Coley
Miami
Phillip Dorsett
Miami 
WRRashad Greene
Florida State
DeVante Parker
Louisville
Quinshad Davis
North Carolina
Charone Peake
Clemson 
TENick O'Leary
Florida State
________________
Braxton Deaver
Duke
________________
Gerald Christian
Louisville
________________
Clive Walford
Miami 
________________
CAndy Gallik
Boston College
Jake Smith
Louisville
Shane McDermott
Miami
Ryan Norton
Clemson
GTre' Jackson
Florida State
Josue Matias
Florida State
Jon Feliciano
Miami
Matt Rotheram
Pittsburgh
GLaken Tomlinson
Duke
Shaquille Mason
Georgia Tech
Bobby Vardaro
Boston College
Landon Turner
North Carolina
TCameron Erving
Florida State
Ereck Flowers
Miami
Jamon Brown
Louisville
Isaiah Battle
Clemson
TBobby Hart
Florida State
Sean Hickey
Syracuse
Rob Crisp
NC State
Jonathan McLaughlin
Virginia Tech
 First-Team DefenseSecond-Team DefenseThird-Team DefenseFourth-Team Defense
DEVic Beasley
Clemson
Eli Harold
Virginia
Corey Crawford
Clemson
Anthony Chickillo
Miami 
DEMario Edwards Jr.
Florida State
Lorenzo Mauldin
Louisville
Dadi Nicolas
Virginia Tech
Norkeithus Otis
North Carolina 
DTGrady Jarrett
Clemson
Eddie Goldman
Florida State
Mehdi Abdesmad
Boston College
N. Lawrence-Stample
Florida State 
DTLuther Maddy
Virginia Tech
________________
Adam Gotsis
Georgia Tech
________________
T.Y. McGill
NC State
________________
Darryl Render
Pittsburgh 
________________
LBStephone Anthony
Clemson
Kelby Brown
Duke
Steven Daniels
Boston College
James Burgess
Louisville 
LBDenzel Perryman
Miami
Dyshawn Davis
Syracuse
Cameron Lynch
Syracuse
Brandon Chubb
Wake Forest 
LBTerrance Smith
Florida State
________________
Quayshawn Nealy
Georgia Tech
________________
Matthew Thomas
Florida State
________________
David Helton
Duke 
________________
CBKendall Fuller
Virginia Tech
Ronald Darby
Florida State
Tracy Howard
Miami
Charles Gaines
Louisville 
CBP.J. Williams
Florida State
Brandon Facyson
Virginia Tech
Demetrious Nicholson
Virginia
Kevin Johnson
Wake Forest 
SAnthony Harris
Virginia
Jeremy Cash
Duke
Kyshoen Jarrett
Virginia Tech
Deon Bush
Miami 
SJalen Ramsey
Florida State
Durell Eskridge
Syracuse
Isaiah Johnson
Georgia Tech
DeVon Edwards
Duke 
 First-Team SpecialistsSecond-Team SpecialistsThird-Team SpecialistsFourth-Team Specialists
KRoberto Aguayo
Florida State
Niklas Sade
NC State
John Wallace
Louisville
Ross Martin
Duke 
PA.J. Hughes
Virginia Tech
Thomas Hibbard
North Carolina
Will Monday
Duke
Alec Vozenilek
Virginia 
KRKermit Whitfield
Florida State
DeVon Edwards
Duke
Duke Johnson
Miami
T.J. Logan
North Carolina 
PRRyan Switzer
North Carolina 
Jamison Crowder
Duke
Jamal Golden
Georgia Tech
Stacy Coley
Miami 


Related Content: 

 

Team-by-Team Breakdown of Athlon's 2014 All-ACC Team

 FirstSecondThirdFourth

Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams:
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 0
Defense: 3
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 4
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 2
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 2
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 0
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 1

Offense: 7
Defense: 4
Sp. Teams: 2
Offense: 1
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 2
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 3
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 0
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 1
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 3
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 2
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 1

Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 2
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 1

Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 1
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 1

Offense: 0
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 1
Offense: 0
Defense: 1
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 1
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0

Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 0
Sp. Teams: 0
Offense: 0
Defense: 2
Sp. Teams: 0

 

Teaser:
ACC Football 2014 All-Conference Team
Post date: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 07:15
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The first FIFA World Cup was held in 1930 in Uruguay and was an absurdly exclusive event. Only 13 teams participated because of the costly trip across the Atlantic Ocean and other financial restrictions. The host nation walked away victorious and one of the greatest events in sports was born. Underdogs have rarely fared well in the tournament’s history, but in a sporting event of this magnitude, no team should be overlooked. In 2002, South Korea finished on top of a group consisting of Poland, the USA, and Portugal. South Korea would go on to defeat Italy and Spain before falling to Germany and finishing in fourth place.

The 2002 World Cup shows that even the least serious of teams can make spectacular runs in the tournament. With cautious confidence and a bit of good fortune, anything can happen. These three teams are poised to surprise tournament viewers this year in spite of their low rankings.

Three Underdogs in Position to Advance in the 2014 World Cup
 

1. Ivory Coast

Though the team is a popular pick to advance to the quarterfinals, FIFA ranks Ivory Coast as the 3 seed in Group C. This means that the Elephants must face Japan, Greece, and a formidable opponent in Colombia starting in mid-June. With Didier Drogba, Gervinho, and Yaya Toure on its side, Ivory Coast should boast one of the strongest attacks of the teams in the field. Additionally, the 20-year-old Serge Aurier is as talented a fullback as you’ll find in the world. At keeper, Ivory Coast plays Boubacar Barry who didn’t allow a single goal during the entirety of the 2012 Nations Cup. This collection of players could serve to energize an Ivory Coast team that has failed to play at a high level during its previous World Cup showings.

 

Advancing out of the group stage would be a first for Ivory Coast. In 2006 and 2010 respectively, the country’s only other World Cup appearances, the Elephants posted just one win and failed to advance to the Knockout Round. But in those instances, Ivory Coast was destined to lose, as it was grouped with powerhouses Argentina and Netherlands in 2006 and Brazil and Portugal in 2010. This year, the team hopes they will have more success.

 

Ivory Coast will showcase a 4-2-3-1 formation, which will provide strength from the midfield and from its overlapping outside defenders. As long as the squad maintains its focus and discipline over the course of the 90-minute matches, there shouldn’t be many defensive lapses. Manager Sabri Lamouchi is hardly proven and is quite possibly the biggest weak point of the team. As long as Lamouchi doesn’t get in the way, considering their relatively easy draw in the first round, Ivory Coast should place in the top 2 of Group C.

 

2. Mexico

Mexico nearly failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup. If the United States hadn't scored against Panama in the last round of qualifying matches, El Tri would be watching the World Cup from the stands. A handful of other “lucky” plays resulted in a decent draw for the Mexicans. Manager Miguel Herrera will do everything he can to thrust his squad into the second round by defying the world’s expectations.

 

Rafa Marquez and Javier Hernandez lead a talented but normally unreliable team into the tournament. El Tri has all of the tools to win, but Mexico never seems to maximize its ability in truly important game situations.

 

El Tri will employ a 5-3-2 formation that will allow both wingbacks to be on the attack together at times. Herrera will not back down from opponents and will attempt to set and control the pace during Mexico’s matches. The manager and the rest of his countrymen realize that Mexico has advanced into the round of 16 in the previous five World Cups, and if they perform well, this trend will continue.

 

Mexico is the 3 seed in Group A and will face off against Brazil, Croatia, and Cameroon. Some see the matchup with Brazil as a punishment, but it's really a blessing in disguise. Mexico historically has a leg up on the host country. Also, Mexico’s style matches up well against the Brazilians who may be looking ahead to future matches since they are the favorites to win the entire World Cup. Croatia and Cameroon are experienced squads, but if teams take Mexico lightly, El Tri will survive the group stage.

 

3. England

England is a nation built around football. When Manchester United and Chelsea go at each other, the whole world stops to watch the action. The Three Lions is one of eight squads in history to have won the World Cup, but the country’s sole victory was half a century ago in 1966. Group D’s members, Uruguay, Italy, and Costa Rica will undoubtedly pose a great challenge to the Brits in the 2014 World Cup.

 

Roy Hodgson, England’s manager, has proven himself on the international stage over the course of his career. Outside of England, Hodgson has managed Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, and Finland and he’s won multiple league titles along with those honors. He has an impressive roster to utilize and he’s expected to deliver after England has disappointed in recent World Cup tournaments.

 

With Luis Suarez recovering from a brutal injury, the window is open for England to pull off what many would consider a major upset by emerging out of Group D. Italy is considered a sure thing to advance into the next round. The Azzuri’s stars, Mario Ballotelli and Andrea Pirlo, will likely punish the Three Lions if England gives them any opportunity to do so. Costa Rica does not have the same talent level as the other teams in the grouping, so the main challenge for England will be playing well against Uruguay and Italy. If Hodgson takes some chances and the youngest Lions excel for this squad, England may turn some heads while navigating deftly through the World Cup stages.

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Post date: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 07:15
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Georgia Tech’s record for the biggest rout in college football history — 222-0 over Cumberland College in 1916 — may be one of sports’ unbreakable records. Parity and sportsmanship dictate that teams will let up before hitting the century mark.

 

That's not for lack of trying. Seventy-point routs weren't uncommon in 2013. With a backup quarterback, Ohio State defeated Florida A&M 76-0. Georgia Tech did beat Elon by 70. Miami did the same to Savannah State, a team that lost by 84 to Oklahoma State a year earlier.

 

Even as the College Football Playoff has brought about practices to strengthen schedules — whether it’s the SEC’s requirement for teams to play at least one power conference team or nine-game conference schedules in the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 — a few patsies have found their way onto 2014 schedules.

 

Schools are opening up wallets to schedule these guarantee games, but schools perhaps should consider a cash reward for fans who sit through all 60 minutes.

 

Let’s keep a few things in mind as we run down the most shameful games of 2014:

 

1. We don’t care how or why the game was scheduled, even if the power team in question is in a bind because a better team backed out of a game.

 

2. These games aren’t shameful simply because the opponent is bad or from the lower division. Georgia State opens with Abilene Christian, a team that was in Division II just two seasons ago. We’ll let that one pass as the Panthers, winless as an FBS member, needs all the help it can get.

 

3. We’ll give a little bit of credit to a major team scheduling a in-state foe. Reaching across state lines, though, for an easy win is an easy way to end up on this list.

 

There are games that will be so obviously lopsided that they shouldn’t be on the schedule.

 

1. Western Carolina at Alabama (Nov. 22)


Nick Saban’s breaking of ranks with the SEC to may be commendable. But it’s unclear if that conference game would replace the annual warm up for Auburn. The Crimson Tide continue a tradition since 2009 of making sure it has an exhibition before the Iron Bowl by inviting Western Carolina to be walloped this season. Alabama knows exactly what it’s getting from the Catamounts, an opponent that is 14-76 since 2006. Of Western Carolina’s last four wins — spanning three seasons — three are over Division II Mars Hill. Moreover, Alabama has played Western Carolina twice under Saban, defeating the school from Cullowhee, N.C., by a combined score of 101-6.

 

2. Savannah State at BYU (Nov. 22)

 

Scheduling as an independent can be tough for BYU, especially late in the season. And Savannah State has established itself as will to take a beating to keep funds coming into the athletic program. In the last two seasons, Savannah State has lost to Troy (66-3), Miami (77-7), Oklahoma State (84-0) and Florida State (55-0 in a game with a running clock). The Tigers, 4-41 the last four seasons, found another willing partner in BYU.

 

3. Western Illinois at Wisconsin (Sept. 6)

 

Wisconsin lands on the list by scheduling the least of the directional Illinois schools. First, there’s MAC power Northern Illinois. Even Eastern Illinois has been the home of quarterbacks Tony Romo and new England Patriots draft pick Jimmy Garoppolo. Western Illinois, on the other hand, has been mediocre in the Missouri Valley for a decade. The Leathernecks are 9-25 in the last three years.

 

4. Nicholls State at Arkansas (Sept. 6)

 

Bret Bielema needs all the help he can get, especially if Auburn’s up-tempo offense in the first game of the season extends Bielema’s winless start in the SEC. Still, we can’t excuse an SEC team for scheduling Nicholls State, a team that is 6-28 in the last three years and has endured six consecutive losing seasons. Only Miami’s game against Savannah State saved Oregon’s hosting of Nicholls State last season from being the .

 

5. Presbyterian at NC State (Sept. 20)

 

At No. 231 in the 2013 Sagarin Ratings, Presbyterian is the lowest-rated team a major conference program will face in 2014. NC State was winless in the ACC last season, but the Wolfpack already loaded up on two teams new to the FBS level in Georgia Southern and Old Dominion. In other words, if this game took place a year ago, NC State would be facing three FCS teams.

 

6. Presbyterian at Ole Miss (Sept. 20)

 

Again, Presbyterian is a 3-8 team in only its fourth season removed from Division II. Ole Miss shouldn’t be playing this game, but the Rebels have a non-conference schedule that includes league title contenders from the Mountain West (Boise State in Atlanta) and Sun Belt (Louisiana-Lafayette). That’s why NC State should be more embarrassed by scheduling the same opponent.

 

7. Eastern Kentucky at Florida (Sept. 22)


Will Muschamp said he . That's fine, even if it is amusing since his team lost to an FCS opponent (Georgia Southern) last season. That doesn’t change  he has Eastern Kentucky on the schedule in 2014. The Colonels are better than most of the FCS teams on this list, but Florida gets docked for having two of the worst FBS programs already on the 2014 slate in Idaho and Eastern Michigan.

 

8. South Dakota at Oregon (Aug. 30)

 

At least Oregon found an FCS opponent from within a 2,000-mile radius to clobber this time around. Since facing Portland State in 2010, the Ducks have faced Nicholls State, Tennessee Tech and Missouri State in its annual September exhibition. Still, Oregon scheduled the lesser of two schools in South Dakota. The Coyotes are 4-18 under former Wyoming coach Joe Glenn.

 

9. Idaho State at Utah (Aug. 28)

 

If this game were against Boise State, we’d look forward to it. If it were against Idaho, it would an almost-excusable game against an FBS team. Instead, Utah draws Idaho State, a team that is 9-59 in the last six seasons. Idaho State allowed at least 40 points in every game last season with the exception of a 38-5 win over Division II Black Hills State.

 

10. Weber State at Arizona State (Aug. 28)

 

Weber State was an unlikely victim of the Bobby Petrino fallout at Arkansas when John L. Smith left his post in Ogden, Utah, for Fayetteville before coaching a game. The Wildcats have gone 4-18 since, including a 222-36 margin against four FBS opponents (Fresno State, BYU, Utah and Utah State).

 

11. VMI at Bowling Green (Sept. 6)

 

Bowling Green is a bowl regular and the favorite in the MAC in 2014. The Falcons can do better than scheduling a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 1981.

 

12. Florida A&M at Miami (Sept. 6)

 

Miami will play two teams from Tallahassee. One team was the FBS champion. The other was ranked No. 227 in Sagarin.

 

13. Grambling State at Houston (Sept. 6)


The once-proud Grambling problem is dealing with a host of issues, culminating with a player walk-out in October. Only five teams were ranked lower in Sagarin last season.

 

14. Western Carolina at USF (Aug. 30)

 

This is the same lackluster FBS team Alabama faces in 2014. The difference between USF and Alabama is worth at least 13 spots in our shame rankings.

 

15. Elon at Duke (Aug. 30)

 

As long as David Cutcliffe puts competitive teams on the field at Duke, the less we’ll be able to look away from against against Elon, 5-18 the last two seasons.

 

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. did not have the fastest car at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, but NASCAR’s 11-time most popular driver had strategy, determination and a little bit of luck on his side. And Earnhardt parlayed those attributes into his second win of the season in the Pocono 400.

 

The situation was all-too-familiar for the 2014 Daytona 500 champion. In his six-plus year association with powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt has scored 16 runner-up finishes to a paltry four victories. As the laps wound down at Pocono, it appeared he would have to settle for yet another second-place showing. However, when leader Brad Keselowski picked up a piece of trash on the grille of his Ford — causing it to overheat — Earnhardt suddenly found himself in a position to buck the tendency of a career that has found him to be a consistent performer, not a prolific winner.

 

Keselowski attempted to unhinge the debris by momentarily drafting behind the lapped car of Danica Patrick. When he did so, his momentum slowed and Earnhardt blew past on the inside. In clean air, the No. 88 car led the final five laps en route to the driver’s 21st career Sprint Cup victory.  Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

“I don’t know what his (engine) temperatures were, but they must have been very, very hot for Brad to do that,” Earnhardt said. “I knew right then when he did that, he was so slow, I thought we were going to pass him — we’re going to take the lead, we’re going to have four laps to go, and if I just run tidy corners, he would have trouble with the dirty air and wouldn’t be able to get to us.”

 

In hindsight, Keselowski’s radical move may have not been needed. The engine in his No. 2 Ford lasted the distance.

 

“It was definitely a mistake because the engine made it, but it probably shouldn’t have,” Keselowski said. “It was one of those deals, I think I was going to get passed because I was really down on power down the straightaway. I don’t know — it’s hard to say.”

 

Earnhardt’s win was notable in that it marked the first time since the 2004 season, when he recorded six victories, that Earnhardt has notched multiple wins in one season. The performance has the 16-year veteran — a driver historically at the mercy of the ebbs and flows that momentum brings — brimming with confidence.

 

“I think we have not peaked as a team performance-wise, but we’re certainly at our highest ceiling,” said Earnhardt, who sits third in the point standings and a lock for NASCAR’s Chase. “We’re doing some of our best work, certainly, right now. We should — we have a lot of passion and there's a lot of emotion, considering this is Steve’s (crew chief Steve Letarte) last year, and I think that also adds some drive and determination to the team to do as well as we can.

 

“So that can be dangerous for everybody else if we win to get better. We’re still not the best team — we can always improve, and there’s areas where we can improve. But we’re doing some great work, and I feel like what we do is really dependable. I think our team is very dependable and mistake free, so hopefully we can maintain that.”

 

The circuit visits a track where the performance can be maintained — Michigan International Speedway — where Earnhardt recorded the last two wins of his career prior to the 2014 season. Back-to-back victories are a lot to ask out of any team in the Sprint Cup garage, and last year’s 37th- and 36th-place showings for Earnhardt at the 2-mile track don’t paint a rosy picture. Still, stopping at a facility where he has experienced success is reason for optimism, right?

 

“A win gives you a lot of confidence, but you know how difficult those are to come by and how competitive this garage is,” Earnhardt admitted. “But man, when you win two in a row ... that sets you apart a bit from your competition. That would be a great thing for us.”

 

 

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Teaser:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. scores his second win of the 2014 season by passing Brad Keselowski to win the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Post date: Monday, June 9, 2014 - 15:54
Path: /nascar/can-winning-dale-earnhardt-jr-turn-nascars-tide
Body:

Let’s turn back the clock to 2004. Kyle Larson was adjusting to middle school, simply make it through a daily class routine. People knew Bob Keselowski, Brad’s father, as a former NASCAR driver and Truck Series owner but absolutely nothing about his son. Jimmie Johnson had yet to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup title, while Jeff Gordon was king of the NASCAR hierarchy. Meanwhile, Mark Martin and Viagra remained the most amusing sponsor pairing in sports.

 

That year, NASCAR also had a popular Daytona 500 winner in Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was driving for the team his father built, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Winning six races that season, he came within a curse word at Talladega (and perhaps an ill-fated Atlanta incident) from winning the title he now craves. That first year of the Chase, perhaps its best, also was at the height of NASCAR’s popularity, as the 30-year-old son of a legend popped up on MTV’s Cribs and managed success with the mantra of carrying the sport’s “next generation” of fans onward and upward.  Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

That brings us to 2014, the modern day of NASCAR uncertainty where Earnhardt, once again, has put himself on the pedestal of a multi-win season. Execs down in Daytona have again combined with fans, drivers and teams to mark Junior as the “savior” who can bring the sport back into mainstream popularity. Barring some sort of computer-geek bid by Josh Wise, Reddit and Dogecoin, Earnhardt will wind up the sport’s Most Popular Driver for a 12th consecutive year.

 

But does he really have the power to turn around the sport’s fortunes? Turning 40 this year, Earnhardt’s Twitter feed still lags behind the numbers of Danica Patrick, who has half the on-track results but received a larger ovation during Sunday’s driver introductions. The NASCAR needle has consistently moved downward despite his Daytona 500 win that was supposed to spark renewed interest in the sport. Junior remains one of the sport’s most engaging interviews, a connection to a past longtime fans hunger for. But the 18-year-old new ones were in kindergarten when Dale Earnhardt Sr. died. They know little — aside from what can viewed on YouTube — of that No. 3 team, its driver’s aggression and how that transformed a sport.

 

There’s no question Earnhardt Sr.’s son, while enjoying a career renaissance and legitimate title bid, is good for the sport. But at this point for those placing unrealistic expectations, there is no excuse. Junior is successful, he’s running up front and he’s killing it in front of the media every week. The stats say NASCAR’s most popular driver should be driving fans back into the seats the way Tiger Woods does for golf.

 

So if the word “savior” is real, if Earnhardt really has that type of power, the stands at Michigan and beyond better start selling out.

 

 

FIRST GEAR: What goes around comes around?

It seems the key moment at Pocono was a “get even” deal for Earnahrdt after a failed fuel-mileage gamble at Las Vegas. That left him settling for second in that March race while Brad Keselowski sped past to take the victory. At Pocono, it was Keselwoski first, Earnhardt second — and in position to finish that way — until the leader made an uncharacteristic mistake.

 

The No. 2 car, dominant on the day with 95 of 160 laps led, wound up with a piece of debris on the grille. Concerned about the engine’s soaring temperatures, Keselowski panicked, thinking that it would blow and went out of his way to slide behind the slower car of Danica Patrick in hopes the turbulent air would dislodge the piece of paper. But Patrick, damaged from an earlier wreck, was running too slow of a pace and what happened next cost Keselowski the race.

 

“I could tell she was trying to let me go on the inside and I don't think she knew the situation I was in,” Keselowski said. “I was trying to follow her, and I was trying to follow her towards the top side and she just kept going higher and higher and higher until it sucked me in higher and higher. I just couldn't get out of the wake and lost my momentum. It's one of those things that happens.”

 

Keselowski’s loss was Earnhardt’s gain, as the driver of the No. 88 car seized his opportunity and took the lead. From there, clean air took control as Earnhardt happily took a second 2014 victory despite knowing he did not have the best car.

 

“I think we had a little luck on our side at the end,” said crew chief Steve Letarte, “But you have to put yourself in this position to have that luck fall your way.” 

 

Indeed. Earnhardt is running a level above what had been his norm at Hendrick and that’s left him ready to cash in on these opportunities once they come.

 

 

SECOND GEAR: Stewart-Haas 2014 theme: How to beat yourself.  

Prior to the race, Tony Stewart looked happier than he’d been all season, a tipoff to what should have been a breakout day for Stewart-Haas Racing. At one point, SHR cars ran 1-2-3, with Stewart leading a contingent that included Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.

 

Only Busch, though, would finish in the top 3. Stewart suffered a mid-race speeding penalty, blowing four sections entering pit road while Harvick had a tire go flat for a second straight week. Both lost the crucial track position needed to contend for the win and never recovered, running 13th and 14th, respectively.

 

Even Busch, who had a potential winning car, saw his chances slip away after overshooting his pit under yellow. While third was a big step forward for the No. 41 team — it was its first top 5 since winning Martinsville in early spring — you have to wonder what might have been for the group that could have used that second “lock” to the Chase. 

 

Or maybe you don’t. The 2014 season, for this recently-expanded outfit, is clearly marked by the slogan “Beat yourself.” All year, Harvick’s had the fastest car to the point Earnhardt even labeled him the man to beat in a winning post-race presser. But the No. 4 car has stumbled badly with tire woes, pit stops and broken parts and sits 12th in points. Stewart, meanwhile, has made a few uncharacteristic mistakes on-track while struggling with feedback with new crew chief Chad Johnston. Busch has been … well, Busch, at times. And let’s not even mention the struggles of the fourth SHR team and Danica Patrick.

 

It’s four very different personalities, so “Type A” that most people thought the organization’s weakness would be Jerry Springer-like dysfunction in its Tuesday debriefs. Who thought the biggest problem would be the drivers individually making a number of self-induced mistakes?

 

 

THIRD GEAR: Pocono’s tricky triangle too tough?

Pocono’s crowd was healthy Sunday, a far cry from Dover a week ago and a feather in the cap to track president Brandon Igdalsky’s phenomenal marketing program. What makes the difference at Pocono, as opposed to other tracks, is the number of choices fans have for pre-race fun outside of the actual racing itself. The plan, according to those in the know, is to turn Pocono into more of an “entertainment facility” within five years: a central location for concerts, special events and other exciting options besides the main focus of racing.

 

That’s good, because the recent repave has faded into a dull NASCAR product the last two years. Denny Hamlin, who ran fourth, called the racing “uneventful” and several drivers complained of a pure inability to pass. Aerodynamics, which had taken a back seat for 2014, have appeared to be very much in play since Kansas, with track speed records weekly leaving drivers on the edge to the point side-by-side racing is a risk not worth taking.

 

“That's part of really all of racing,” said Keselowski, a “surrender” response that brought exactly no fans to the table. “Aerodynamics taking over motorsports — and we've all kind of learned to live around it and it makes the restarts so critical. But it's just kind of part of the deal.”

 

It’s too bad, because Pocono has done so much to modernize itself and relate to fans in the northeast. But until NASCAR follows suit with a package that allows for more passing and (gasp!) attrition to return to the fold, each race at Pocono will follow the same old formula: great restarts, then run-in-place until fuel mileage or a pit stop mistake decides things.

 

 

 

FOURTH GEAR: The curious case of Kasey Kahne.

Kasey Kahne had a bizarre media session at Pocono Friday, getting so defensive about his season that I wrote in my notes: “General theme: I’m fine. Really.” Kahne was so concerned about repeating how well he’d handled a difficult 2014 campaign that, at times, it felt as if he was busy convincing himself.

 

Not that anyone could blame the poor guy for being frustrated. This year has seen bad luck moment after bad luck moment for the No. 5 car, despite the fact Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis still hit on setups that work. (See: Jimmie Johnson’s Charlotte victory, a direct result of utilizing some Kahne/Francis notes). No doubt, he’s well liked and still a talent loaded with potential. But with Chase Elliott waiting in the wings along with expiring sponsor contracts, there seems to be a greater sense of urgency getting this driver and team into the Chase. A recent Hendrick Motorsports test at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, in which all four team participated, seemed designed more to get Kahne in victory lane than help the organization as a whole.

 

But despite all the support, Kahne just can’t seem to get over the hump. His car was clearly fourth out of four HMS machines Sunday — uneventful until a Kyle Busch mistake pushed the No. 5 car hard into the wall and took everyone there out of their misery. It left a normally even-keeled Kahne frustrated enough to take a shot at Busch: “He was probably (ticked off) because his car was slow,” he said, marking the fourth incident where he’s gotten the short end of the stick with Busch in the last 16 months. “Once we hit, my car went hard right.”

 

Sounds like an apt description of Kahne’s season, just replace the word “right” with “down.” And while it’s nice to see him get emotional, the “Mark Martin” mentality here will make it unlikely at best that we’ll see payback to Busch at some point. Will that inability to get an extra “oomph” on the track — and off — from Kahne ultimately be what defines a career?

 

 

OVERDRIVE  

The spectacular rookie season of Kyle Larson sped right along at Pocono. He won the ARCA race, leading unchallenged for most of it on Saturday before using lessons learned to run fifth in the Cup event. But the biggest breakthrough of all? The freshman finally led his first laps of 2014, pacing the field for seven circuits during a cycle of green-flag stops. Despite sitting 10th in points, he hadn’t put the No. 42 out front for a race all year. …  A fire in Turn 3 (right), from firework shrapnel in the pre-race ceremony, caused the first of Pocono’s seven caution flags. Unusual? Hardly. Forces of nature are nothing new to the track, where a deer once ran across to interrupt proceedings several years ago. …  J.J. Yeley, who ran 38th, had a part break, causing a caution but came back to run at the finish, albeit three laps down. Why is that important? It’s the first time the new Xxxtreme Motorsports has done so in 11 Sprint Cup starts. 

 

 

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Teaser:
Race reaction from NASCAR's Sprint Cup race in Pocono where Dale Earnhardt Jr. recorded his second win of the 2014 season.
Post date: Monday, June 9, 2014 - 15:36
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-june-9-2014
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This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for June 9.

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, much to the chagrin of Tim Duncan and the Spurs.

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• Nifty World Cup appetizer: .

• More World Cup goodness: .

• The sports world's two most elusive prizes: .

• Unclear on the concept: .

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• This phenomenal diving catch helped send Texas Tech to Omaha.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, June 9, 2014 - 10:27
Path: /college-football/american-athletic-conference-football-2014-predictions
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2014 American Athletic Predictions
 American AthleticOverall
1. 7-19-3
2. 7-18-4
3. 6-28-4
4. 5-38-4
5. 5-36-6
6. 3-55-7
7. 3-54-8
8. 3-55-7
9. 2-63-9
10. 2-63-9
11. 1-72-10

After a few years of instability and changes, the American Athletic Conference seems to be on solid footing entering the 2014 season. Although the league has been bumped from the power conference designation, the American Athletic Conference still boasts a handful of top-50 programs and teams like Cincinnati, Houston, East Carolina and UCF are each capable of winning their way into a spot in one of college football’s top bowl games in 2014.
 

The race to win the American Athletic Conference is a wide-open battle in 2014. Four teams – Cincinnati, UCF, East Carolina and Houston – all received consideration for the No. 1 spot in Athlon’s prediction meeting.


Cincinnati is Athlon’s favorite to win the league, as the Bearcats have won at least eight games in seven out of the last eight seasons. Tommy Tuberville made a few changes to his defensive staff in the offseason, and with seven starters back, this should be one of the American Athletic Conference’s top defenses. The offense is guided by Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel at quarterback, the skill positions are loaded with the return of running back Ralph David Abernathy IV and receiver Chris Moore. Three starters headline an offensive line that should be the best in the conference.

A huge reason to like Cincinnati as the preseason favorite is the schedule. The Bearcats host East Carolina and Houston and won’t have to play UCF this year.
 

The Knights will take a small step back without quarterback Blake Bortles, two all-conference linemen and running back Storm Johnson, but George O’Leary’s team is still loaded with enough talent to win the league. With eight starters back, expect UCF’s defense to improve in 2014. One potential pitfall: UCF went 7-1 in one-score games last season – a number not easy to repeat.
 

2014 American Team Previews

East Carolina makes the switch from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference and is picked No. 2 in the league behind Cincinnati. The Pirates are explosive on offense, but the defense returns only four starters. Quarterback Shane Carden threw for over 4,000 yards last season, and he will have the services of Justin Hardy (114 catches, 1,284 yards in 2013) at receiver. The Dec. 4 date at home against UCF could decide which team finishes higher in the conference standings.
 

Houston went 5-7 in Tony Levine’s debut in 2012, but the Cougars made a nice rebound to 8-5 and held their own against Louisville, UCF and Cincinnati. The departure of offensive coordinator Doug Meacham to TCU was a big loss, but new play-caller Travis Bush should provide an easy transition. Quarterback John O’Korn needs to play better against the league’s top teams, and he should have plenty of help from a deep receiving corps, including potential All-American Deontay Greenberry. The Cougars had a +25 turnover margin last season, which won’t be easy to repeat. However, there’s plenty of talent returning to expect a run at the conference title.
 

South Florida should be the most improved team in the American Athletic Conference in 2014. The Bulls are a team on the rise under the direction of Willie Taggart and inked the league’s No. 1 recruiting class. Sophomore quarterback Mike White showed promise in limited action last year, and South Florida as a team played better down the stretch. Look for the Bulls to take a step forward in 2014.
 

First-year coach Bob Diaco inherits a UConn team that won its final three games in 2013. The Huskies have a promising quarterback in Casey Cochran, and five starters return from a defense that should develop under Diaco’s watch. UConn has talent, but how much of a difference will the new coaching staff make in 2014? The biggest concern is an offensive line that returns only one starter.
 

SMU and Memphis are two teams with sleeper potential in 2014. The Mustangs need to replace quarterback Garrett Gilbert, but Neal Burcham and Matt Davis are intriguing options. And as usual under June Jones, there is talent at the skill positions. A brutal schedule awaits SMU, and there’s very little margin for error to get to a bowl.

American Athletic
Bowl Tie-Ins for 2014

 

Military Bowl: 
American vs. ACC


Miami Beach Bowl:
American vs. BYU

Birmingham:
American vs. SEC

Armed Forces Bowl:
American vs. Army/Big 12

St. Petersburg:
American vs. ACC



Memphis is making steady progress under Justin Fuente, and the Tigers could surprise in 2014. Quarterback Paxton Lynch needs to take a step forward for Memphis to reach the postseason, but the defense will be among the best in the league.
 

Tulane is coming off a bowl appearance in Curtis Johnson’s second season, but the Green Wave will have trouble repeating last year’s seven wins. The schedule is tougher, and Tulane needs to find a quarterback, replace standout receiver Ryan Grant and nose guard tackle Chris Davenport. Johnson has the program on the right track, but Tulane may have to take a step back to take a step forward in 2015.
 

Temple and Tulsa are projected to be the No. 10 and No. 11 teams in the American Athletic Conference. However, both teams should be better than they were in 2013. The Owls have a rising star at quarterback in P.J. Walker and had several close losses last year. If Temple can address its defense and give Walker time to throw, the Owls should easily exceed the three-win projection.
 

Tulsa will have to rely on its defense to exceed last year’s three-win mark. The Golden Hurricane lost running back Trey Watts, and quarterback Dane Evans struggled last season.

Teaser:
American Athletic Conference Football 2014 Predictions
Post date: Monday, June 9, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/big-12-football-2014-predictions
Body:

2014 Big 12 Predictions

 Big 12Overall
1. 8-111-1
2. 7-210-2
3. 7-29-3
4.6-38-4
5.  5-47-5 
6. 4-57-5
7. 4-57-5
8. 2-74-8
9. 2-73-9
10. 0-92-10

With Oklahoma coming off a huge Sugar Bowl win against Alabama, Baylor emerging as a national title contender under Art Briles, and Texas trending in the right direction under new coach Charlie Strong, the Big 12 appears poised to take a step forward as a conference. With Texas struggling to compete for league titles in recent years, the Big 12 was struggling to find its place among the SEC, Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten for conference supremacy. While the Big 12 still has a ways to go, the conference is moving in the right direction.

Oklahoma is Athlon’s projected Big 12 champion for 2014. However, there doesn’t appear to be much separation between the Sooners and Baylor. 

Oklahoma finished 11-2 in 2013, in a year largely considered a rebuilding effort by most in the Big 12. The Sooners return 13 starters, and quarterback Trevor Knight is expected to take a step forward in his development after a standout performance in the Sugar Bowl. Nine returning starters lead a stout defense, and Oklahoma hosts Baylor in what could be a de facto Big 12 championship game.
 

The Bears are loaded on offense, but the defense – a key part of last year’s Big 12 title team – needs to reload with just four returning starters. Quarterback Bryce Petty is Athlon’s projected first-team all-conference quarterback, and Baylor has depth, speed and talent at the skill positions. If the defense plays up to last year’s totals, the Bears will be a playoff contender.
 

There’s a gap between Oklahoma and Baylor to Texas and Kansas State, but the Longhorns and Wildcats both rank inside of Athlon’s projected final top 25 for 2014. The Longhorns have loads of talent for new coach Charlie Strong and should be among the Big 12’s best on defense with the return of seven starters. Quarterback play is Strong’s biggest concern, especially since David Ash missed most 2013 due to a concussion. The Wildcats always seem to be underrated under Bill Snyder, and this will be a dangerous team once again in 2014. Kansas State returns quarterback Jake Waters, and standout defensive end Ryan Mueller anchors a defense that returns five starters.
 

After Texas and Kansas State, there’s a bit of a drop until the projected No. 5 team in Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have been a reliable pick for a spot among the top-25 teams in the nation in recent years under Mike Gundy. However, there’s a significant rebuilding effort underway in Stillwater for 2014. 
 

TCU and Texas Tech could both surprise this year, but both teams also have question marks. The Horned Frogs need to take a step forward on offense, while the Red Raiders have concerns on defense. 


It’s a close call for No. 8 between Iowa State and West Virginia, but the Cyclones had a small edge over the Mountaineers in Athlon’s prediction meeting. Iowa State made a huge staff upgrade by hiring Mark Mangino to coordinate the offense, and the Cyclones have a scheduling advantage by hosting West Virginia.

Kansas should show improvement in Charlie Weis’ third season, but the Jayhawks are still projected to finish in the cellar.
 

Prep for the 2014 season, follow Athlon Sports and its college football editors on Twitter: , Steven Lassan (), David Fox () and Braden Gall ()

 

Inside the War Room: Key Questions That Shaped Athlon's 2014 Predictions
 

How close was the pick for No. 1 between Oklahoma and Baylor?

It was very close. There is a lot to like about Baylor. The offense returns only four starters — and there are some concerns on the offensive line — but there is no doubt that the Bears will again roll up a ton of yards and score a bunch of points. That’s a given. There are some concerns on a defense that loses three first-team All-Big 12 performers. This group has come a long way under Phil Bennett in recent years, but the Bears gave up 34 points or more in four of their final five games, including 52 to UCF in the Fiesta Bowl. Baylor’s schedule is also a concern; the Bears play both Oklahoma and Texas — two of their chief competitors in the league — on the road. The last time we saw Oklahoma, the Sooners were putting the finishing touches on a shockingly easy 45–31 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. We don’t want to put too much stock in a bowl game, but the Sooners were very, very impressive against an elite Alabama team. OU welcomes back 16 starters from that team, most notably nine on a defense that figures to be the best in the league. Offensively, we need to see more consistency from quarterback Trevor Knight, but he showed — on a big stage — what he is capable of in the Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma, unlike Baylor, has a favorable league schedule. The Sooners host Baylor and Kansas State and play Texas, as usual, on a neutral site. – David Fox ()

 

How close are Texas and Kansas State to the “Big Two” in the Big 12?

Texas is always tough to evaluate. The Longhorns are never short on talent but have underachieved in recent years due in large part to problems at quarterback. If David Ash can stay healthy — a big if — Texas could compete for a league title. The Longhorns should be strong on the offensive line and have a nice stable of running backs. With seven starters back, the defense should be improved despite some key losses on the line. The biggest difference in Austin, however, will be the coaching. The arrival of Charlie Strong and his staff has re-energized the program and should allow the Longhorns to play to their potential. Strong engineered a quick turnaround at Louisville, and we expect the same at Texas. We also like Kansas State in 2014 — a lot. The Wildcats closed the ’13 season with six wins in their last seven games, highlighted by a dominant performance against Michigan in the bowl game. They lost to the top four teams in the Big 12, but all four games were competitive. With Jake Waters firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback and two All-Big 12 offensive linemen back, the offense should be improved this fall. If the defense can remain among the best in the league, Kansas State could emerge as a dark horse contender in the Big 12. – David Fox ()

 

Why is West Virginia picked ninth when most expect the Mountaineers to improve?

We have West Virginia at No. 9 and projected to have only three wins, which would be a huge disappointment in Morgantown. Admittedly, three wins could be low for this team. But even if the Mountaineers improve, the schedule is one of the toughest in the nation. West Virginia is staring at two non-conference losses against Alabama and Maryland and swing conference games against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Iowa State are on the road. Also, the Mountaineers have a significant question mark at quarterback, and the defense is under the direction of new coordinator Tony Gibson. Make no mistake: West Virginia has talent. The backfield and receivers will give quarterback Clint Trickett plenty of options. However, if the defense allows 33.3 points a game once again, and Trickett is unable to solidify the quarterback position, a tough schedule will keep the Mountaineers out of the bowl picture once again. – Steven Lassan ()

 

Oklahoma State has emerged as one of the most consistent programs in the league. Why don’t the Cowboys get the benefit of the doubt?

The Pokes have been very good of late and have recruited well under Mike Gundy. Still, this team figures to take a small step back in 2014. The losses on defense — including four All-Big-12 players on the front seven and a first-team all-conference cornerback — are too great to ignore. There is still some firepower on offense, but the Cowboys no longer have the type of depth at quarterback that made them so strong in recent years. J.W. Walsh is the last man standing from the three-headed monster that began the 2012 season. Junior Daxx Garman will be given a look in the fall, and true freshman Mason Rudolph is highly touted, but this position is not as strong as in recent years. The Pokes will still be good — we are forecasting a 5–4 Big 12 record — but we just don’t see this team as a legitimate contender in 2014. – David Fox ()

 

Texas Tech or TCU: Which is more likely to surprise in 2014?

TCU. Despite missing out on the postseason with a 4-8 mark last year, the Horned Frogs were much closer to a winning record in Big 12 play than some may realize. TCU lost four games by a touchdown, including a three-point defeat to Baylor and a three-point loss at Oklahoma. Coach Gary Patterson will always have one of the Big 12’s top defenses, but the offense has to improve for TCU to take the next step. Hiring Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham as co-offensive coordinators should help the offense improve, while senior transfer Matt Joeckel will push Trevone Boykin for the starting job. With an improved offense, the Horned Frogs should be able to turn a couple of close losses into wins in 2014. – Steven Lassan ()
 

2014 Big 12 Team Previews

 

 

 

Big 12 Notebook

by John Helsley ()


Parity on Parade

The Big 12 is developing a roll call of champions for football. And hands are rising outside the usual places. Over the past five seasons, five different programs have claimed the conference championship: Baylor (2013), Kansas State (2012), Oklahoma State (2011), Oklahoma (2010) and Texas (2009).

 

So when league coaches talk about parity, it’s not just babble. It’s real. The five different champions, representing half the Big 12’s membership, are the most among the power conferences. Since 2009, here’s how many teams have won league titles elsewhere: four of 14 in the ACC; three of 12 in the Big Ten; three of 14 in the SEC; and two of 12 in the Pac-12.

 

A year ago, the Big 12 was one of only three leagues — and the only one among the power conferences — to have every team win at least one league game.

 

Upon his arrival at Texas, new coach Charlie Strong acknowledged the challenges ahead, complimenting Oklahoma and coach Bob Stoops and recognizing the league’s reputation for high-powered offenses.

 

“There are some great offenses (in the Big 12),” Strong says. “You look at what Coach (Mike) Gundy has there at Oklahoma State. You look at Coach (Art) Briles at Baylor… It’s a track meet out there. Guys are up and down the field, touchdown after touchdown, so it will be a big challenge for us.”
 

Non-Conference Notice

So much for soft starts in the Big 12. The non-conference schedule features a combined 11 bowl teams from a year ago, highlighted by programs responsible for the past three national championships and both participants from last year’s BCS title game.

 

Oklahoma State takes on defending national champ Florida State in Arlington, Texas, at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Kansas State hosts last year’s runner-up, Auburn, in one of the biggest non-conference games ever in Manhattan. West Virginia and Alabama meet in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff.

 

For all three, it means they’ll each face three teams that appeared in BCS games last winter, since Baylor played in the Fiesta and Oklahoma played in the Sugar.

 

For the Cowboys, who are rebuilding on defense, getting FSU in the season opener represents an immediate wake-up call.

 

“We can debate scheduling that game,” says OSU coach Mike Gundy, who saw athletic director Mike Holder sign off on the matchup. “We have to go play that game.”



Athlon's Cover 2 Podcast Previews the College Football Playoff:
 

 

 

Quarterback Quotient

Once snapped, the ball should be in good hands this fall. Every Big 12 team returns at least one quarterback with starting experience, led by Baylor’s Bryce Petty, the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and a Heisman Trophy candidate.

 

A year ago, several schools were in transition at the position, with quarterback competitions and even controversies carrying throughout preseason and the season in some cases. That does not mean all jobs are closed entering this season, but most league coaches have reason to feel good about the position.

 

Eight of the top 10 league leaders in passing efficiency return from last season. One of those — Oklahoma’s Blake Bell — has moved to tight end, but he has been replaced by exciting sophomore Trevor Knight, coming off a breakout performance against Alabama in the Sooners’ Sugar Bowl victory.
 

Star Power

Until Oklahoma delivered a statement win over Bama, the Big 12’s national appeal had taken a hit in 2013, with the conference far removed from national title talk. The slip was at least partly due to a lack of star power in a year of transition across the league. The conference should be trending back up.

 

The Big 12 returns its Offensive Player of the Year (Petty), Defensive Lineman of the Year (Ryan Mueller, Kansas State), Special Teams Player of the Year (Tyler Lockett, Kansas State) and a long list of underclassmen who have already made an impact on the league and are now poised for greater breakthroughs.

 

Big 12 Coordinator Carousel 

by Mitch Light ()
 

Iowa State: Offensive Coordinator

Old: Courtney Messingham;

New: Mark Mangino

Messingham was fired after five seasons at Iowa State, the final two as the offensive coordinator. Mangino, the former head coach at Kansas, was the tight ends coach at Youngstown State last year.
 

Kansas: Offensive Coordinator

Old: Charlie Weis; 

New: John Reagan

Weis, the head coach at Kansas, no longer has the title of offensive coordinator. Reagan, an assistant at KU from 2005-09, had been the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at Rice. Reagan will call the plays.
 

TCU: Offensive Coordinator

Old: Jarrett Anderson, Rusty Burns;

New: Sonny Cumbie, Doug Meacham

Anderson and Burns are still on the TCU staff, though their roles have yet to be determined. Meacham was the offensive coordinator at Houston last season. Cumbie was the quarterbacks coach and offensive co-coordinator at Texas Tech, his alma mater. Meacham will call the plays.
 

Texas: Offensive Coordinator

Old: Major Applewhite, Darrell Wyatt;

New: Shawn Watson, Joe Wickline

Applewhite and Wyatt, both members of Mack Brown’s staff, were not retained by Charlie Strong. Watson, who has the title of Assistant Head Coach for Offense, made the move from Louisville with Strong. Wickline was the offensive line coach at Oklahoma State. Watson will call the plays.
 

Texas: Defensive Coordinator

Old: Greg Robinson;

New: Vance Bedford

Robinson rejoined the Texas coaching staff in September as the defensive coordinator. He was not retained by the new staff and accepted a position as the coordinator at San Jose State. Bedford was the defensive coordinator at Louisville under Charlie Strong.
 

Texas Tech: Offensive Coordinator

Old: Sonny Cumbie, Eric Morris;

New: Eric Morris

Cumbie left his alma mater to accept a similar position at TCU. Morris has the title of offensive coordinator, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury calls the plays.
 

West Virginia: Defensive Coordinator

Old: Keith Patterson;

New: Tony Gibson

Patterson left to take a similar position at Arizona State. Gibson was promoted from his position as the safeties coach after Patterson departed. He was the defensive coordinator at West Virginia Tech from 1999-2000 and then served as West Virginia’s defensive backs coach under Rich Rodriguez from 2000-07. 

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Big 12 Football 2014 Predictions
Post date: Monday, June 9, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-must-see-non-conference-sec-games-2014
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Obviously, non-conference games have zero impact on conference championships.


But in the SEC, the nation's best and most cut-throat league, a critical non-conference win or loss can mean the difference between playing for a national championship or being relegated to just another bowl game.


Many are quick to point out the SEC's dearth of atrocious matchups in the non-conference in November — Eastern Kentucky (Florida), Charleston Southern (Georgia), South Alabama (South Carolina), Old Dominion (Vanderbilt), Western Carolina (Alabama), Samford (Auburn), UT-Martin (Mississippi State) and Presbyterian (Ole Miss).


But Nick Saban, Les Miles, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina have all challenged themselves year in and year out when it comes to their non-SEC slates. Here are the 10 best non-conference games to watch in the SEC in 2014:


1. at Clemson (Nov. 29)

As far as deeply entrenched rivalries and overall importance of the game to the national landscape go, it's hard to argue the Palmetto State season finale won't be the biggest non-conference game in the league. Carolina and Steve Spurrier are eyeing an SEC East title and possible playoff berth, so a loss to the Tigers for the first time since 2008 would be crippling to those hopes. During the five-game winning streak, the Gamecocks have scored between 27 and 34 points while holding Clemson to 17 points or fewer.


2. vs. Wisconsin (Aug. 30, Houston)

From a pure entertainment standpoint, the Tigers-Badgers semi-neutral field battle in Houston might be the one to watch in '14. This game will feature what should be two equally matched opponents, both of whom are expecting to compete for division titles in their respective leagues. The winner is buoyed right out of the gate with a top 20 win, the loser may be out of the national title picture after just 60 minutes of football. LSU and Wisconsin feature two of the best power running games in the land and this game will be a throwback showcase for both.


3. at Florida State (Nov. 29)

This was a blowout a year ago but Florida expects to be much improved this year and the historic Sunshine State rivalry could hold national championship implications for the Seminoles. Florida may have the best roster of any team Florida State will face in the 2014 regular season so fans should expect a much closer bout this time around — as long as the Gators' coaching staff is still intact by season's end.


4. at Kansas State (Sept. 18)

Gus Malzahn's offense led by Nick Marshall, four returning offensive line starters and a deep receiving corps faces Bill Snyder's defensive wizardry on the road on a Thursday night. Both teams will have extra time to prepare for the primetime mid-week meeting and both will be contenders for their respective conference championships. From a coaching standpoint, it doesn't get much better than Malzahn vs. Snyder.


5. Clemson at (Aug. 30)

Last year's meeting was an epic offensive showdown that featured elite playmakers and provided a memorable experience for everyone. This year, Clemson's defense is its strength while Georgia returns nine starters on D. With two new quarterbacks for both teams, expect a sloppier performance from both offenses — which could be equally as entertaining. Each team has an outside shot at playoff contention so this season-opening meeting is monumental for both teams.


Related:


6. Boise State vs. (Aug. 28, Atlanta)

The sneaky good matchup in Atlanta features two rising stars on the sidelines in Hugh Freeze and Bryan Harsin. Both offenses should be electric on the fast track in the Georgia Dome and both teams think of themselves as conference contenders. The quarterback play for both teams will be fascinating to watch.


7. Georgia Tech at Georgia (Nov. 29)

Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate featured one of the best comebacks and finishes of the season last year. After leading 20-0 for most of the first half, Georgia finally got on the board with a Hutson Mason to Todd Gurley TD pass with 34 seconds left in the second quarter. Mason, who was making his first career start, kept the rally going, eventually sending the game into overtime tied at 27. In double-overtime, Gurley rumbled 25 yards for the improbable win. Anything close to that in '14 and this Peach State battle will be one of the top non-conference games of the year.


8. at Louisville (Nov. 29)

Mark Stoops is making Kentucky more relevant every day and his team should be at its best by season's end. Bobby Petrino will be wrapping up his first season back in Louisville. With in-state recruiting battles growing more fierce by the day, the Wildcats-Cardinals matchup just gets that much more intriguing.


9. at Oklahoma (Sept. 13)

It may not be all that close of a game but any time two major power brands like the Vols and Sooners get together, it's must-see TV. Trevor Knight and Oklahoma enter the year thinking Big 12 championship and postseason bid. Butch Jones and Tennessee are slowly working their way out of the worst slump in program history. There is a lot on the line for both coaches and both teams.


10. at Texas Tech (Sept. 13)

Fans in Fayetteville and around the SEC may learn all they need to know about the Hogs in Week 3. Should Bret Bielema's team play well in Lubbock or even pull the upset, then Arkansas could be a much bigger factor in the SEC than expected. If not and Kliff Kingsbury out tempos the Razorbacks, it could signal a long year for Pig Sooie. This is a huge game for Bielema and his staff.


Other games to watch:


Indiana at Missouri (Sept. 20)

There should be a lot of offense in what is Mizzou's toughest non-conference tilt.

Utah State at Tennessee (Aug. 31)

Vols fans will get to watch Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton's return to college football in what should be a sneaky good Week 1 game.

West Virginia vs. Alabama (Aug. 30, Atlanta)

It won't be the matchup many thought it would be when it was scheduled, but anytime Nick Saban or Dana Holgorsen is on the field, fans need to pay attention.

UCF at Missouri (Sept. 13)

The Knights want to prove they have staying power after a 12-win season and BCS bowl victory. A trip to Mizzou is a good way to do it.

East Carolina at South Carolina (Sept. 6)

Ruffin McNeil historically plays very well against the big boys of his region. Spurrier and company better be ready.

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Top 10 must-see non-conference SEC games of 2014
Post date: Monday, June 9, 2014 - 07:15
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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, a new feature in Pocono’s “Tunnel Turn,” ARCA action, Jimmie Johnson’s win streak, a winless Matt Kenseth and TNT’s return highlight the storylines leading up to the Pocono 400.


Corner curbing at Pocono’s Turn 2 removed
Did Pocono Raceway just bring a feature from the desert — namely, the dogleg corner at Phoenix International Raceway — to its already unique layout?

That’s how one Sprint Cup crew chief sees Pocono’s overhaul of the track’s Turn 2, the infamous “Tunnel Turn.” Gone is the traditional curbing on the inside of the high-speed left-hander, replaced by a wide, flat apron.

“I think that the new paved area in Turn 2 may add a new element to (track preparation) and possibly make it like the dogleg we have at Phoenix,” says Jason Ratcliff, crew chief on Matt Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota.

That dogleg has become a source of controversy in NASCAR since Phoenix’s redesign in 2012. Drivers can now sweep low through the corner, off the banking and through a Mario Kart-like shortcut. The advantage is often minimal but the wide-open space has created some crashes entering Phoenix’s Turn 3.

An identical move won’t be available at Pocono — the apron is not nearly as wide and the corner is much faster — but it will change how drivers utilize Turn 2. In the past, racing two-wide through the Tunnel Turn was always a treacherous plan because the corner’s exit was so narrow.

Now, without the curbing and widened space, the corner — long considered one of NASCAR’s most treacherous — may become more of a passing zone.


Ahead of Pocono Cup debut, Larson makes ARCA start  Kyle Larson
The value of racing in support series races during Sprint Cup weekends has long had drivers at both ends of the debate. Some love the idea of getting track time for a better understanding of tire wear and track changes during race conditions. Others find much of the information learned in a lower series not directly attributable to Sprint Cup success.

Pocono may be the exception to that rule — especially for rookies. For that reason, Kyle Larson will be the lone Sprint Cup driver making a start in Saturday’s ARCA Racing Series event on the 2.5-mile track. The ARCA race will serve as a warm-up for Larson as he makes his Cup debut on the track Sunday.

The unique layout simply has no comparable track in the U.S. and it stands as one of three tracks where Sprint Cup drivers actually shift gears during each lap. Larson will pilot the No. 4 Chevrolet owned by Steve Turner in the 200-mile ARCA race.

Seven current Sprint Cup drivers — Ryan Newman, Casey Mears, Travis Kvapil, Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier and Joey Logano — have ARCA series wins at Pocono.


Anybody but Jimmie?  Jimmie Johnson
Two weeks ago, Jimmie Johnson looked like NASCAR’s top underperformer of 2014 largely because he had yet to win a race in 11 starts. Such is the sledding for a driver with double the amount of wins of any other competitor in the last decade racing in NASCAR’s newest championship structure. Wins are now treated as the most sacrosanct barometer of success in the Cup regular season — a measure that creates a type of blindness to other on-track successes.

Now with consecutive victories in the last two weekends, Johnson has laughed away the concerns about his season and likely set fire to NASCAR fans’ latest slogan of “Anybody but (insert recent dominating driver here).”

And wouldn’t you know? Smart money this weekend at Pocono Raceway has Johnson as the favorite based on how fantastic his No. 48 was at Pocono last summer in two races. Johnson scored the checkered flag in one of them — a commanding performance last June that saw his Chevy out front for 80 percent of the race. He never dropped lower than seventh in the race’s running order even during green flag pit stops.

Johnson was just as good in the August race until he blew a tire and smacked the Turn 1 wall while leading. Despite the damage, Johnson still managed to finish on the lead lap in 13th.


Points leader Kenseth continues under the radar
Next up on the list of drivers who seem to be slightly off in 2014 —for the entirely not egregious sin of failing to win in the season’s first 13 tries — is Matt Kenseth. Of course, Kenseth arrives at Pocono Raceway as the Sprint Cup points leader. It’s hardly a concerning predicament.

Consider that Kenseth, 42, has seven top-7 finishes in his last nine races. Consider that his No. 20 only has one finish worse than 10th in that stretch — a 37th-place result thanks to a crash in the Cup season wild card that is Talladega Superspeedway. Consider, again, that he has scored more points to date in 2014 than any other driver.

It’s all a nice set up for a driver who seems to do his best driving away from the spotlight, whether that be with traditionally mediocre qualifying abilities that allow him to move forward in races without acclaim or how he scored a modest three wins in 2012 even as he had one foot out of the door in his final season with Roush Fenway Racing.

Expect Kenseth to play in Sunday’s proceedings in a similar fashion. He’s not a central storyline and two crashes a year ago at Pocono held him back from potential up-front finishes. But Kenseth has grown more favorable of the three-corner track since a repave in 2012. Maybe his first win at the track is coming soon.


TNT returns for final NASCAR broadcast series
With FOX’s 2014 section of broadcasting Sprint Cup Series races over after Dover, cable network TNT moves in this weekend to handle a six-race stretch that will also be its last for at least the next decade. TNT opted to not pursue future NASCAR broadcasting rights during negotiations last year that ended with FOX and NBC signing long-term deals with the sanctioning body.

As a result, TNT plans to go reflective during the six-race span by showing highlights from 32 years of NASCAR coverage produced by the network during pre-race shows. The Pocono pre-race show will include segments like Dale Earnhardt Jr. racing Charles Barkley in a go-kart race and a behind-the-scenes feature from Josh Wise’s internet-fueled run to the Sprint All-Star Race in May.

A year ago, TNT’s stretch of broadcasting was marked by a heavy rotation of commercials during races that elicited severe fan criticism on social networks.

Adam Alexander returns as lap-by-lap announcer in the booth, flanked by analysts Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach. Larry McReynolds returns to his pit road post, as well.


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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, a new feature in Pocono’s “Tunnel Turn,” ARCA action, Jimmie Johnson’s win streak, a winless Matt Kenseth and TNT’s return highlight the storylines leading up to the Pocono 400.
Post date: Friday, June 6, 2014 - 13:33
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-june-6-2014
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This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for June 6.

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, which claimed LeBron.

. Pot, kettle, etc.

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• Imitation, flattery, etc.: .

, including mullet, short shorts and tube socks.

.

. I'll miss him.

. Don't believe me? Click the link.

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• Norichika Aoki learned first hand about the strength of Yadier Molina's arm.

 

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

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Post date: Friday, June 6, 2014 - 11:26

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