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Path: /college-football/2012-sec-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

The SEC's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (JR)
If healthy, there is no running back in the nation with more physical talent than the Gamecock junior. The per-game averages are astounding for No. 21 and there is no reason to think he won’t maintain his elite level of production behind one of the better O-Lines in the SEC. He has averaged over 100 yards rushing and has scored 30 total touchdowns in 20 career games. Lattimore can move the pile with power, can get to the edge with speed and will make defenders look silly trying to cover him in the passing game. He has averaged an absurd 130.5 yards from scrimmage for his career and has topped 170 yards rushing five times in 20 games. He has missed time in both seasons due to injury, mostly due to his incredibly physical running style, and he was held back in spring ball this year. However, Lattimore appears ready to lead the Gamecocks in 2012 and, needless to say, he is the complete package in the backfield.

2. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (JR)
Only USC quarterback Matt Barkley returns to college football with more touchdown passes than Murray’s 35. He has posted back-to-back 3,000-yard seasons as an underclassman and has accounted for 65 total touchdowns over the last two years. He also led his team to its first SEC Championship game since 2005. The junior quarterback from Tampa, Fla., is a gamey, tough, poised leader who has competed for championships at every level of play. He will only get better in 2012.

3. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas (SR)
The Hogs quarterback was more efficient (63.2% to 59.1%) than Murray, had a better TD:INT ratio (24:6 to 35:14) and topped the Bulldog in passing yards (3,638 to 3,149). Wilson has all the tools to continue to grow into an NFL quarterback but will likely struggle to repeat his ’11 numbers. There is plenty of talent around him, but replacing Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs won’t be easy. Most importantly, the top offensive mind in football, Bobby Petrino, is no longer calling plays and making adjustments. Wilson should have another great year in Fayetteville, but significant improvement from last year’s already solid numbers seems far fetched.

4. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee (JR)
The lanky junior has plenty of growing up to do — both mentally and physically — but all signs point to the 6-foot-6 gunslinger having his best season in 2012. He has one of the nastiest wide receiver duos in the nation at his disposal and a developing offensive line blocking for him. He was on pace for video game numbers after throwing for 332 yards per game and 14 touchdowns in the first four games of last year. A broken thumb forced him to miss five games and all but ended his breakout sophomore campaign. He has the best frame in the SEC at quarterback and possibly the best throwing arm in the league, so if he can stay healthy, he will post big numbers. If Tennessee wins enough, he could be in New York at season’s end.

5. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama (JR)
Mark Ingram. Trent Richardson. And, now, Mr. Lacy. Besides running behind one of the nation’s top offensive lines and playing in Tuscaloosa, what do these three have in common? They are all big, burly, powerful, bruising power backs who provide Nick Saban with exactly what he wants: A feature back. Lacy will lose touches to a plethora of talented back-ups, but Saban’s offenses have proven to be plenty lucrative for multiple runners. And with a 7.2 career yards-per-carry average, fans can bet Lacy is getting the most touches.

6. Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas (JR)
As a sophomore in 2010, Davis rolled-up 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns in basically seven games. He averaged 146.8 yards per game and scored 12 touchdowns once given the starting reins in Week 7. A season-ending ankle injury cost him the entirety of 2011 but should allowed Davis to be rested heading into his junior season. He is expected to be at full strength to start 2012 behind what should be an excellent QB-OL combination. Yet, he too will miss superstar offensive guru Bobby Petrino on the sidelines — whose high-flying passing attack was predicated first on the power running game.

7. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (SO)
The preseason first-team All-American was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2011 after completely justifying his lofty recruiting status as the nation’s top prospect. He posted 36 total tackles, 8.0 sacks and 12.0 tackles . He made big plays as his five forced fumbles indicate. There may not be a bigger impact player on defense in the entire nation as the freakish pass rusher must be accounted for on every play — whether he is lined-up at end or tackle.

8. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama (SR)
The senior from Germantown, Tenn., is the most versatile, experienced and dynamic offensive blocker in the nation. He has been an all-league performer at all three offensive line positions and claimed the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman a year ago. He has two national championship rings and will pave the way for a third Heisman contender in as many seasons. There is little left for Jones to prove.

9. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee (JR)
The only thing that was going to stop Hunter from dominating SEC opponents last year was a season-ending torn ACL in his left knee. He had posted 16 catches for 302 yards and two scores in only two games before his year was ended on his first catch in The Swamp in Week 3. All signs are pointing to his knee being fully healthy for the start of the season, but rebuilding strength and explosiveness is much easier said than done. If healthy, J-Hunt has a chance to be an All-American who will be drafted in the first round next April.

10. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU (JR)
The LSU defensive back is a really, really, really good player with a tenacious attitude. But his Heisman candidacy was built more on a popular YouTube video, creative nickname, two punt returns in blowout wins and the support of the best defensive back in the nation more than anything else. Mathieu can be a game-changer on special teams and find himself around the ball constantly, but can the 5-foot-9, 175-pounder be the top coverman now that Morris Claiborne, and leader Brandon Taylor, are gone from the secondary? That remains to be seen.

11. Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt (SR)
The senior to be is the only running back in the SEC who topped the 1,000-yard mark a year ago. His 1,193 set a new Vandy record, and now, Stacy will be the focal point of arguably the most talented Dores offense in decades.

12. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (JR)
The electric play-maker on defense was a Butkus Finalist a year ago after leading the SEC in sacks (13.5) and tackles for a loss (19.5). The USC transfer should be that much better in Year 2 in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme.

13. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia (SO)
The sophomore has an innate ability to stay upright, battle through tackles and gain positive yards. He also has proven to be immature, inconsistent and temperamental. With some seasoning (and some support along the O-Line), Crowell has a chance to be great.

14. Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M (SR)
Behind what could be an elite offensive line, Michael has an opportunity for a memorable final year. He’s scored 23 times and averaged nearly 100 yards from scrimmage for his career in 29 games. However, he has missed at least four games in each of the last two seasons.

15. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama (JR)
The BCS title game MVP led the SEC in completion percentage last year (66.8%) and will be asked be more of a play-maker this season. With an upgraded receiving corps and stellar offensive line, McCarron should have high hopes in 2012.

16. Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina (JR)
It took a while, but Shaw finally proved Steve Spurrier right with his play down the stretch. After taking for the Kentucky game, Shaw tossed 14 touchdowns (and only six INTs) and 1,419 yards while rushing for 485 yards and eight more scores on the ground. Can he take the next step?

17. Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee (JR)
Rogers has all the physical talent in the world but his dedication to his craft and team are large question marks. Should he keep his head screwed on straight, he could be a superstar in Knoxville. If not, he could be catching passes for Georgia State.

18. James Franklin, QB, Missouri (JR)
An electric dual-threat talent, Franklin produced big numbers in his first season as the starter: 2,971 yards passing, 981 yards rushing, 36 total TDs. But a spring injury to his throwing shoulder has called into question his upside in 2012.

19. Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas (SR)
Three wideouts have moved on, leaving Hamilton as the go-to target for quarterback Tyler Wilson. He has the physical tools to be a great player in the SEC, but will also suffer from Bobby Petrino’s departure.

20. Odell Beckam, WR, LSU (SO)
It didn’t take long to see the raw talents of No. 33. The freshman posted 41 catches for 475 yards last fall. Now, he will add the vertical game to his repertoire with Zach Mettenberger under center. The heady, handsy wideout is a star in the making.

21. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (JR)
The junior had eight catches in the first seven games last year. All he did over the final six games was catch 33 passes for 669 yards and four touchdowns.

22. Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU (JR)
The junior might be the most physically gifted draft-eligible defensive end in the nation. He led LSU in sacks a year ago (9.0) and posted 49 tackles and 13.5 tackles for a loss in 2011.

23. Spencer Ware/Michael Ford/Kenny Hilliard/Alfred Blue, RB, LSU
Should any one of these names get the bulk of the carries, move him into the top 15 on this list. Each of the four is extremely talented and capable of a 1,000-yard, 10-TD season. But, for now, they cancel each other out.

24. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri (FR)
The most prolific wide receiver in America prep football history will be joining the Gary Pinkel high-flying attack this summer. Expect the 6-foot-6, 220-pound wideout to make an immediate impact.

25. Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M (SR)
Even though Ryan Tannehill is gone, Swope should still be productive. He has 161 catches, 2,032 yards and 15 scores over the last two years, and now, Kevin Sumlin is his coach.

Other Names To Watch:

Malcolm Mitchell, WR/DB, Georgia
If used like Charles Woodson, he could be much higher on this list.

Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida
Someone has to produce yards for the Gators, right?

Onterio McCalebb, RB, Auburn
Solid O-Line and the ball is all his now. Can he handle the workload?

Jameill Showers, QB, Texas A&M
Should he start all year, he would easily land in Top 25.

LaDarius Perkins, RB, Mississippi State
Can he be a feature back in spread attack sans Vick Ballard?

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports SEC Predictions

Athlon's 2012 SEC Previews

East West
Florida Alabama
Georgia Arkansas
Kentucky Auburn
Missouri LSU
South Carolina Mississippi State
Tennessee Ole Miss
Vanderbilt Texas A&M

-by Braden Gall


<p> 2012 SEC Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2012-acc-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

The ACC's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech (JR)
In only his first full season as the starter, Thomas showed why he has such a high ceiling. He threw for over 3,000 yards with 19 touchdowns while rushing for 469 yards and 11 more touchdowns on the ground – which tied a school record for rushing TDs by a quarterback at a school with a long history of scamblers. His 6-foot-6, 262-pound frame has drawn Cam Newton comparisons, and while he isn’t nearly as explosive, Thomas has the capability of posting huge numbers and winning an ACC title this fall. He just needs to play better against Clemson.

2. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson (JR)
Last fall the Tigers quarterback led the ACC in total offense at 289.0 yards per game. His 3,828 ranked first in the league as did his 33 touchdown passes. He added 218 yards rushing and five more scores on the ground. With a loaded collection of receivers and running backs returning this fall, Boyd should be able to post another huge year under the tutelage of Chad Morris. A big performance on the road against Florida State would go a long way to getting Boyd to New York.

3. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (SO)
Few players have ever been ready to compete at a Heisman level right out of high school like Watkins. As a true freshman, Watkins led the ACC in all-purpose yards: 1,219 receiving, 231 rushing, 826 kick return and 12 punt return yards. He scored a total 13 touchdowns and would likely be No. 1 on the this list if his ability to contribute in all 12 Clemson games weren’t in currently in question.

4. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina (SO)
Another freshman in the ACC, Bernard burst onto the scene with four touchdowns in his frist two career games. He then rattled off five straight 100-yard efforts, to finish with 1,253 yards and 13 scores in his first year on a collegiate gridiron. With arguably the top offensive line returning in front of him and a stellar quarterback we’ll address in just a moment, the South Florida product is poised for a huge second year in Chapel Hill.

5. Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina (JR)
The strong-armed Tar Heel passer had an excellent first year as the starter in Chapel Hill. He led the ACC in completion percentage (68.3%) and topped the 3,000-yard mark to go with 26 touchdowns. Take away two tough games against Clemson and Rutgers in which he tossed three interceptions in each, Renner’s TD:INT ratio would have been an admirable 23:7. With a new up-tempo offense installed behind an awesome offensive line and running game, Renner has all the pieces in place to push for the stiff-armed trophy. His team’s bowl eligibility (or lack thereof) is what will likely keep him out of Manhattan in December.

6. Mike Glennon, QB, NC State (SR)
There was a reason Tom O’Brien let Russell Wilson walk to Wisconsin and his name is Glennon. In his first season as the starter, the lanky Glennon finished second to only Boyd with 31 touchdown passes and topped the 3,000-yard mark. He finished the year with a flurry, tossing 11 touchdowns in three straight wins over Clemson, Maryland and Louisville. He has a all the talent to be a pro passer and is playing on the sleeper team to watch in the ACC this fall.

7. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State (SR)
This will be the uber-talented Manuel’s final chance to realize his recruiting potential. His physical skill drips off his massive 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame. He has a big arm and in battled injuries during his first full season under center in 2011. Manuel still mustered 2,666 yards and 22 total touchdowns against only eight interceptions for an offense that lacked play-makers. Look for his final season to be his best in Tallahassee.

8. Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson (SR)
Finally, Ellington is a senior. The Tigers tailback enters his final year after 454 career touches in three season in Death Valley. He has scored 26 times and is coming off his first 1,000-yard season after battling injuries for the better part of his career. If he can stay healthy, and hold off talented back-ups, Ellington has a chance to be the league’s top rusher in the explosive Clemson offensive attack.

9. David Amerson, CB, NC State (JR)
It is hard to argue that Amerson isn’t the nation’s top coverman. He led the NCAA with an absurd 13 interceptions — returning them for a total of 205 yards and two for touchdowns. He totaled 59 tackles for one of the ACC’s better defensive units. He has to guard the opponents top receiving threat and will start the season checking the Tennessee Vols superstar Justin Hunter. A big game against that passing attack in primetime in the Georgia Dome could vault Amerson into the Heisman mix in short order.

10. Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State (SR)
One of the nation’s top defensive lineman was the focal point of most offensive line coaches a year ago and it hurt his statistics. Still, Jenkins finished second in the league in sacks (8.0) and led the Noles in tackles for a loss (12.0). He has posted 104 total tackles over the last three years and will lead what could be the best Florida State defense in over a decade.

11. Tevin Washington, QB, Georgia Tech (SR)
Started hot and cooled off throughout ACC play, but returns in a great offensive scheme behind a stellar offensive line and deep stable of backs. Could easily top his 987 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing in 2012.

12. Sean Renfree, QB, Duke (SR)
Underrated passer finished third in ACC in total offense per game (236.1) and 18 total touchdowns. He trailed only Renner and Manuel in completion percentage (65.0%) in the league and has a star wideout to lean on in Conner Vernon. But he still plays for Duke.

13. Orwin Smith, RB, Georgia Tech (SR)
Finished second amongst ACC running backs in TDs (11) and will be running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. Rarely will a Tech back get enough carries to reach Heisman status, but Smith has the big play ability — try 10.1 yards per carry — to star in this league.

14. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson (JR)
Despite being the No. 2 option for Boyd, Hopkins finished fifth in the ACC in catches (72) and fourth in yards (978). He has the skillset to compliment Watkins and produce big numbers in Morris’ system.

15. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State (SO)
The freshman was on the verge of a breakout campaign until an ankle injury forced him to the sideline for four games. Greene posted a huge 12-catch, 163-yard, TD performance the week earlier against Wake Forest. He should be Manuel’s top target.

16. Erik Highsmith, WR, North Carolina (SR)
Despite being the No. 2 for the Tar Heels, Highsmith posted 51 receptions, 726 yards and five scores. With a new, high-flying offense under Larry Fedora, a great running game and tremendous quarterback, Highsmith should flourish as the top target.

17. Mike James, RB, Miami (SR)
The Canes were a mess in 2011 and the running game was no exception. But Al Golden is committed to growing his rushing attack and James will get the first look. He scored four of his seven touchdowns in the final four games of the year.

18. Lamarcus Joyner, S, Florida State (JR)
In his first season as a safety (he played corner as a freshman), Joyner delivered on his lofty recruiting stature. He finished fourth in the ACC with four picks and flashed play-making skill on special teams. His leadership and athletic ability make him one of the best safety prospects in the nation.

19. Kevin Parks, RB, Virginia (SO)
The carry split in Charlottesville is tough to pinpoint but Mike London wants a power running game and Parks gives him that. The record-setting prep back scored fime times in his first two career games and is much better suited for short yardage and goalline carries than Perry Jones. These two could easily be flipped and both could get 200 touches.

20. Perry Jones, RB, Virginia (SR)
The smaller more explosive Jones compliments the (also small) stronger and more physical Parks perfectly. Jones got more carries (184 to 152) and will catch tons of passes (48 receptions for 506 yards, 3 TD last year). Both backs will get plenty of touches.

21. Conner Vernon, WR, Duke (SR)
The top target for Renfree finished with 70 receptions for 956 yards and six scores last year. He is a tremendously dependable player in a system that is very passing game friendly. But it’s still Duke.

22. Kevin Reddick, LB, North Carolina (SR)
One of the top LB prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft should have a huge senior season as the leader of the Tar Heel defense. At 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, Reddick should only build on his 71-tackle season.

23. Tanner Price, QB, Wake Forest (JR)
As only a sophomore, Price posted arguably the top TD:INT ratio with 20 scoring strikes and only six interceptions. He topped the 3,000-yard mark and led the Deacons to the postseason.

24. Tobias Palmer, WR, NC State (SR)
Entering his final season of eligibility, Palmer has a chance to explode onto the ACC scene. He showed flashes of ability with 37 receptions, 495 yards and five scores a year ago. His big-play skill plays well with star quarterback Mike Glennon.

25. Marcus Davis, WR, Virginia Tech (SR)
Few players have the raw athletic ability of the 6-foot-4, 230-pound wideout. If he can play with more consistency, he will be Thomas’ top target and will buld upon his 30-catch, 510-yard, 5-TD season of 2011.

Other Names to Watch:

Wes Brown/Stefon Diggs, RB/WR, Maryland (FR)
Burly runner could be the feature back while explosive dynamo is this year’s Watkins.

Greg Reid, CB, Florida State (SR)
Dynamic and explosive but needs to be more consistent on the outside.

Michael Holmes, RB, Virginia Tech (FR)
Could be next great Hokie back, but has rebuilt O-Line and deep backfield to hold off.

Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Dependable, consistent bookend opposite Jenkins on league’s top D-Line.

James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech
Should lead what should be one of the nation’s best defenses.

Athlon's 2012 ACC Team Previews

Atlantic Coastal
Boston College Duke
Clemson Miami
Florida State Georgia Tech
Maryland North Carolina
NC State Virginia
Wake Forest Virginia Tech

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports ACC Predictions

-by Braden Gall


<p> 2012 ACC Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: Detroit Lions, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/detroit-lions-2012-schedule-analysis

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Detroit Lions 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: St. Louis
Week 2: at San Francisco
Week 3: at Tennessee
Week 4: Minnesota
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: at Philadelphia
Week 7: at Chicago (Mon.)
Week 8: Seattle
Week 9: at Jacksonville
Week 10: at Minnesota
Week 11: Green Bay
Week 12: Houston (Thurs.)
Week 13: Indianapolis
Week 14: at Green Bay
Week 15: at Arizona
Week 16: Atlanta (Sat.)
Week 17: Chicago

Order your 2012 Detroit Lions Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Detroit gets the NFC West and AFC South as its cross-divisional opponents in 2012. Those are two conferences that each feature one Super Bowl contender (San Francisco in the NFC West, Houston in the AFC South) and three other teams that are still a year or two, if not more, away from any title aspirations.

- The Lions open the season at home against St. Louis and then has to go out west to face San Francisco, the defending NFC West champions. After that, a visit to Tennessee and a home game against NFC North rival Minnesota is all that is between the Lions and their Week 5 bye.

- With only four games scheduled before their off-week, the Week 5 bye means the Lions will have to play 12 straight games after it. Their post-bye schedule doesn't start easily either, as Detroit has back-to-back road contests in Philadelphia and Chicago, with the latter being a Monday night showcase at Soldier Field.

- Detriot gets a break in terms of competition over its next three — versus Seattle, at Jacksonville and at Minnesota — before it has to face Green Bay and Houston in back-to-back weeks. The good news is both of these games are at home, but these are two contests against Super Bowl contenders. What's more, the Week 12 meeting with the Texans is on Thanksgiving Day, which means it's just four days after the Lions will have played the rival Packers.

- Indianapolis in Week 13 represents a third straight home game for the Lions and a chance for the team to make sure it's firing on all cylinders leading into the following week's game at Lambeau Field. It's never easy playing the Packers at home in December. After that it's a trip out to the desert to face Arizona.

- Detroit's final two games — home against Atlanta and Chicago — will more than likely have playoff implications tied to them, whether it be seeding or determining if the Lions, or either the Falcons or Bears even make the playoffs. While there's a level of comfort that comes from playing at home, the Lions also will have to deal with the pressure that comes with the increased expectations for a team that ended the franchise's 11-season playoff drought in 2011.

Fantasy Focus: Everyone is well aware of how dangerous wide receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford can be, if healthy. But while the Lions' wide receivers and quarterbacks scored the third- and fourth-most fantasy points at their respective positions last season, their running backs finished 20th. Some of this could be attributed to injury as both Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure missed either significant time (Best) or the entire season (Leshoure). If they can stay healthy this season, both running backs could provide fantasy value. Detroit plays six teams that finished in the top half of teams in 2011 in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs. Indianapolis gave up the third-most fantasy points to running backs last season, while St. Louis (5th), Tennessee (6th) and Philadelphia (9th) also ranked in the top 10 in this category. NFC North rivals Green Bay (14th) and Minnesota (15th) finished in the top half in this category, and the Lions play each team twice. On the flip side, Detroit also has San Francisco and Houston on its 2012 schedule, the two teams that gave up the fewest fantasy points to running backs last season.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 18, 2012

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

<p> Detroit Lions 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 05:58
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC South, Houston Texans, NFL
Path: /nfl/houston-texans-2012-schedule-analysis

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Houston Texans 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Miami
Week 2: at Jacksonville
Week 3: at Denver
Week 4: Tennessee
Week 5: at New York Jets (Mon.)
Week 6: Green Bay
Week 7: Baltimore
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Buffalo
Week 10: at Chicago
Week 11: Jacksonville
Week 12: at Detroit (Thurs.)
Week 13: at Tennessee
Week 14: at New England (Mon.)
Week 15: Indianapolis
Week 16: Minnesota
Week 17: at Indianapolis

Order your 2012 Houston Texans Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Houston gets to ease itself into the 2012 season as the Texans open up at home against Miami and then go to Jacksonville the first two weeks. After that, however, the breaks in the schedule in terms of level of competition are few until the last three weeks of the season.

- The Texans will play all four teams from the AFC East and NFC North this season, which means a Week 14 must-see match up against New England, along with a Week 6 visit from Green Bay and trips to both Chicago and Detroit, the latter coming on Thanksgiving Day. The game against the Patriots not only comes on the defending AFC East champions' home turf, it could go a long ways towards determing home-field advantage for the AFC playoffs. This could be crucial should these two teams meet up again in the postseason. The Texans' other AFC East road game is against the Jets in New York on Monday night. This game precedes the looming match up with Green Bay.

- There could be as many as three playoff teams coming from the NFC North, which adds to the intensity level for Houston's games against Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit. It's also possible that the Texans' Week 6 contest against the Packers ends up being a preview of Super Bowl XLVII. Houston also has the tough task of facing both the Bears and Lions on their respective home turfs.

- Besides the AFC East and NFC North, the Texans' two floating games this season are at Denver and against Baltimore. The Broncos are expected to contend in the AFC West with Peyton Manning, who went 16-2 against Houston when he was with Indianapolis, now running the offense. The Week 7 date with the Ravens follows the Texans' meeting with the Packers the previous week, and represents a rematch from last season's AFC Divisional playoff game, which Houston lost 20-13 in Baltimore.

- Houston's bye in Week 8 comes at a good time as the Texans will be coming off of consecutive games against the Packers and Ravens. Following the bye, Houston gets Buffalo at home before going to Chicago to take on the Bears.

- Starting with the Week 12 Thanksgiving Day match up with Detroit, Houston will play four of its final six games on the road. The Texans have three straight road games from Weeks 12-14 — at Detroit, Tennessee and New England. After the Monday night showdown with the Patriots, the Texans get to finish the season by facing Indianapolis twice and hosting Minnesota. If things go as expected to this point, Houston should be in prime position to make sure everyone is healthy and ready to go as the Texans set their sights on Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.

Fantasy Focus: No doubt Houston running back Arian Foster will be a first-round pick this season, if not the No. 1 overall selection, but he's not the only Texan offensive player who could pay off for fantasy owners, especially come playoff time. Houston's opponents from Weeks 14-16, which is typically when most fantasy leagues are conducting their playoffs, are New England, Minnesota and Indianapolis. These three teams ranked among the top 17 in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers last season. More specifically, the Patriots and Vikings finished first and second in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers in 2011, while the Vikings surrendered the most to quarterbacks with the Patriots ranking fourth. Indianapolis actually fared the best overall among the three in terms of these categories (14th-most to quarterbacks, 17th to wide receivers), but the Colts did allow the third-most fantasy points to running backs. The only caveat to this seemingly appetizing fantasy playoff schedule is that it's entirely possible that Houston could be resting its starters by Week 15 or 16, depending on their postseason outlook. If that is the case, backup running back Ben Tate would see his value soar with Foster on the sidelines.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 18, 2012

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
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NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

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Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 05:57
Path: /golf/webb-simpson-wins-us-open

Webb Simpson is our national champion, and contrary to the naysayers who'll claim he backed into it, a 68-68 weekend on one of the toughest golf courses in U.S. Open history is the definition of earning it. 

Simpson, who was six shots off the lead when Saturday dawned, was the only player to break par in both of the final two rounds on his way to posting a 1-over 281, although he had to sweat out a birdie putt on 18 by Graeme McDowell before claiming his third career PGA Tour win and first major championship. The 26-year-old Simpson was playing in only his second U.S. Open, and at a tournament where par is gold, it took a delicate par save on 18 to seal the win. Simpson chipped to four feet from a gnarly greenside lie, then coaxed in a ticklish slider to close his 68.

McDowell and playing partner Jim Furyk both had plenty of golf left to play when Simpson posted his number, and while McDowell was able to get close with a birdie at 17 and a makeable birdie look at 18, Furyk squandered what might prove to be his last best chance to win a second major, failing to make a birdie during his final-round 74 and bogeying three of his final six holes. 

And thus ends Northern Ireland's two-year stranglehold on America's championship; McDowell won at Pebble Beach two years ago, and Rory McIlroy dominated at Congressional in 2011.

Tiger Fade

Some proclaimed that the tournament was over after Tiger Woods' 69-70 start gave him a share of the 36-hole lead. Thankfully, I wasn't one of them — but I thought it. Unfortunately, Tiger's comeback remains a work in progress. His 75-73 weekend is one of the bitterest disappointments of his career, but Olympic Club's fearsome sextet of opening holes deserve much of the credit. Tiger bogeyed three of the first six on Saturday on his way to a crushing 75, and he played the opening six holes at 6-over on Sunday. For the tournament, the field was more than 1,000 strokes over par on holes 1-6. Brutal. 

<br />
Post date: Sunday, June 17, 2012 - 23:14
All taxonomy terms: Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Golf
Path: /golf/us-open-weekend-preview

He may be boring, but never, ever go to sleep on Jim Furyk. Especially at a U.S. Open.

Furyk put himself in great position to win his second U.S. Open championship with another steady, occasionally spectacular round at the Olympic Club. After offsetting two bogeys with two birdies during an even-par opening-round 70, Furyk did himself one better, knocking home three birdies with only two bogeys for a second-round 69 while the rest of the field was leaking oil like the Deepwater Horizon. If slow and steady win the race, consider Furyk a contender; they don't come much steadier.

Shockingly, the 2010 FedExCup champion is looking for his first top-10 finish in a major since the 2009 Masters, a string of 12 majors. Contending when the lights are brightest has historically been the norm for Furyk, who has 17 other top 10s in majors in addition to his U.S. Open win. A second Open would give him 17 career wins on the PGA Tour and likely punch his ticket for the Hall of Fame. Not bad for a guy whose swing defies convention — description, even. 

Furyk won the 2003 Open at Olympia Fields by three shots, dominating the weekend in posting 8-under. No one will approach those numbers this year at a daunting Olympic track that is chewing up the world's best players and spitting them out like sunflower shells. Among the casualties was defending champion Rory McIlroy, who looked as if his mind was somewhere else (perhaps on girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki) as he limped around Olympic with rounds of 77 and 73.

Also missing the cut: World No. 1 Luke Donald, who continues to shrink from the big moments in majors and posted a disappointing 79-72.

Here's a factoid for you: Sectional qualifier Casey Martin, he of the congenital illness, high-profile court case and cart usage, beat both the World No. 1 (Donald) and World No. 2 (McIlroy). Martin finished Friday's round at 9-over. Funny game, golf. 

Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 16:08
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day-4

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for June 15.

• The nation’s top-ranked recruit for the Class of 2013, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of Grayson High School in Loganville, Ga., has verbally committed to Clemson.

• The Heat beat the Thunder in Game 2, but fans and media are still debating the LeBron James-Kevin Durant no-call at the end.

• has some funny Dad quotes for Father’s Day.

• Bears cornerback Charles Tillman doesn’t like a math problem in a Chicago school regarding the team’s chances of beating the Packers.

• Pacers center Roy Hibbert used Twitter to invite area fans to the movies to watch Prometheus, his treat.

• Harpo’s in Columbia, Mo. already has a signature sandwich called “the SEC.”

• Check out Carlos Santana of the Indians running into a rather large Reds fan.

• Miami football may not receive a ruling in its pending NCAA case until after National Signing Day next year.

Is it college football season yet?

• CBS’ Jon Heyman has an interesting interview with former Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, whose lifestyle has changed in the minors.

• We want to say an early Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there. With that in mind, the Video of the Day had to be Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. hitting back-to-back home runs against the Angels on September 14, 1990.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

June 14

• CBS’ Scott Miller says San Francisco’s Matt Cain stepped out from behind the shadow of Tim Lincecum after tossing the first perfect game in Giants’ history.

• Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger says he doesn’t know how to avoid hits. Throw the ball?

• Who doesn’t like a good bar fight between hip-hop crews? TMZ says that the entourages for Chris Brown and Drake got into it last night at a New York City nightclub. Hopefully Brown hit men this time.

• The Interleague battle of Ohio has produced a war of word between Reds manager Dusty Baker and Indians starter Derek Lowe.

• Former Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong is facing more doping allegations.

• Sports radio shock jock Jim Rome stirred up NBA Commissioner David Stern yesterday with his implication that the league’s draft is fixed.

• North Dakota State football won the FCS Championship back in January. However, the NCAA sent the school’s championship banner to its top rival, the University of North Dakota.

• Will the Miami Heat ruin Oklahoma City’s perfect postseason home record in Game 2 tonight?

• ESPN ACC blogger Heather Dinich analyzes the schedule of Florida State, who many consider the league favorite this season.

• Gawker questions London’s ability to throw a good party for the Summer Olympics.

San Francisco’s Matt Cain tossed just the 22nd perfect game in MLB history last night. The final play was a little dicey, but the Giants got it done and the celebration ensued.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

June 13

• Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins looks at the Thunder victory in Game 1, with Kevin Durant starring as the best player on the court.

• With the BCS meetings kicking off in Chicago, ESPN’s Mark Schlabach has a good summary of each conference’s preferred format for a college football playoff.

Real-life mobster Henry Hill, who was played by Ray Liotta in the 1990 Martin Scorsese classic Goodfellas, has passed away at the age of 69. “When I was broke, I'd go out and rob some more. We ran everything. We paid off cops. We paid off lawyers. We paid off judges. Everybody had their hands out. Everything was for the taking. And now it's all over.

• Say what you want about Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, but tying MLB and New York legend Lou Gehrig’s all-time record for grand slams (23) is an amazing accomplishment.

• Nationals phenom Bryce Harper has an interesting response to a Toronto reporter’s question on how he’ll celebrate his big home run in Washington’s 4-2 win over the Blue Jays.

• Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Cribbs, a Kent State alum, is chartering a bus for fans of the Golden Flashes to go watch the school’s baseball team in its first-ever trip to the College World Series. Well done Josh.

• Arkansas has unveiled its new uniforms by Nike. The white helmet may get some reaction among Razorbacks fans.

• Check out this “GIF” based on Facebook and the movie, The Social Network.

• The Phillie Phanatic is known as one of baseball’s best mascots, but now he/it is being sued by a fan. Looks like a tough summer in Philly with the team in last place and now this.

• Will the Senior Bowl start allowing juniors to play?

• We all like when race car drivers trade some paint on the track, but you rarely see a racer cut across the infield and T-bone another car on purpose. And of course, a fistfight ensued. No word yet if a Laughing Clown Malt Liquor sponsorship was on the line.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

June 12

• breaks down the NBA Finals, which start tonight in Oklahoma City.

• ESPN Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg clarifies the league’s stance on a college football playoff.

• Joe Fortenbaugh of the National Football Post is fired up by the release of some early college football spreads.

• looks back at “the toughest John Wayne’s moments.” Love the comment, “Watch and learn, emo kids. This is how you’re supposed to do it.”

• Notre Dame and Navy play every season (including in Ireland this year), and it looks like the Fighting Irish may rekindle the Army series soon.

• United States Olympic (as well as UConn) women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma is being sued for discrimination.

• SportsGrid has the story of Temple basketball player Khalif Wyatt, who pulled an "Ed Norton in Rounders" and solicited a prostitute during his 21st birthday celebration in Atlantic City. And of course, she was an undercover cop.

• ESPN AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky has the latest on Andrew Luck’s first practice with the Indianapolis Colts.

• The Memphis Grizzlies may be sold to one of the world’s 10 youngest billionaires.

• Jay Tate of the Montgomery Advertiser has the details on the search for a third suspect in the Auburn homicides. There is also debate if federal and local law enforcement fired tear-gas into the wrong Alabama house last night as part of that search.

• The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is alive and well in early June. Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, a Michigan native, belts out “Hail to the Victors” as he’s leaving the stage from a recent concert — in Columbus, Ohio.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

June 11

• The best story of the weekend may have been the Stony Brook baseball team, who defeated SEC power LSU to advance to the College World Series.

• Speaking of LSU, I can’t think of many better commencement speakers than Tigers head football coach Les Miles.

• Nancy Grace’s first novel The Eleventh Victim, the Lifetime Movie Network and former Beverly Hills, 90210 star Jennie Garth in the Essential 11? Yep, especially with the casting of NBA personality Metta World Peace as a detective opposite Garth.

• Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer tries to build the perfect college football quarterback.

• Many boxing fans were upset by the decision in the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley fight. The Big Lead believes a rematch was ready to go even before the first fight began.

• Who ya got: LeBron James and the Heat or Kevin Durant and the Thunder?

• Gizmodo believes that Apple has added some cool features for sports fans to Siri.

• Did Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams give away some of the team’s defensive schemes on social media?

• The Cubs have won the bidding war for Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler. I’m sure the marketing people already have the “Soler Power” shirts ready to sell.

• On a sad note, the Auburn community is still in mourning and looking for answers after tragedy struck the weekend.

• There are many ways to celebrate a team win and your MLB-leading 20th save of the season. Apparently Indians closer Chris Perez likes to celebrate with his buddies, Ralph and Earl. Here’s our slightly disgusting Video of the Day…

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 11:55
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/qa-fred-russells-biographer

Fred Russell, one of the preeminent sportswriters of the 20th century, spent 69 years at the Nashville Banner, including 50 as the paper’s sports editor. Russell was known throughout the South as an authority on college football — his popular “Pigskin Preview” was a staple in The Saturday Evening Post from 1949-62 — but he covered all sports with a passion and thoroughness that were unmatched in the industry.

Freelance author Andrew Derr recently published the first complete biography on Russell’s career in the business — “Life of Dreams: The Good Times of Sportswriter Fred Russell.”

We sat down with Derr, who attended Vanderbilt on the Fred Russell-Grantland Rice Scholarship, in Nashville to discuss his project.

Athlon Sports: What was the inspiration to write this book?
Andrew Derr: I did an article on Mr. Russell for a Vanderbilt magazine back in the early 2000s and realized just how much of an impact he had had on so many people. There were so many writers who had either worked for him at the (Nashville) Banner or came to Vanderbilt for the (Russell-Rice) scholarship and one way or another were still active in sportswriting, whether regionally or nationally. That got me thinking that this guy really had a major impact and a sustainable legacy. And of course his impact with Vanderbilt and Nashville. He really represented Nashville well. For anybody who followed sports in the middle part of the 20th century, when you thought of Nashville, you thought of Fred Russell.

Mr. Russell was known for having great relationships with all of the subjects he covered. What do you think he would think of today’s media world, specifically the fact that it’s very, very difficult to get to know the people you are writing about?
I think he would still find a way to build the relationships, one player and one coach at a time. He would just do his thing and still use the approach that was successful back in the day. It’s certainly a different era of information gathering and accessibility with the online world, but he would still apply his basic tenets of fair reporting and informative analysis to be successful.

What was his favorite sporting even to cover?
The favorite singular events for him were The Masters and the Kentucky Derby. He loved the Derby. In his own biography, in the ‘50s, he called it the “most electric moment in sports.” He went to 40 or 50 in a row of both of those events. As far as team sports, he was a huge baseball fan. He covered spring training every year even though Nashville only had minor league teams. And then, of course, college football. That is the sport that largely put him on the national stage, when he had the opportunity to write for The Saturday Evening Post for about a dozen years.

You talked to a lot of people when you worked on the project. Who were some of the people you were surprised to get access to?
The two that stood out were George Steinbrenner and Bobby Knight. Both of those guys got back to me quickly once they found that I was doing a book on Mr. Russell, and they were excited to talk about him. He was a guy that they interacted with years ago, and they felt he did it the right way. They were very fond of him.

He was a proud Vanderbilt graduate and was probably known as a Vanderbilt homer. Was he well-liked by everyone back in the day, or did some fans of other schools not really care for him? Did you get a sense of that during your research?
Maybe it was because of the time that I was doing the biography (after his death), but everyone only had nice things to say. I talked to some people over at the University of Tennessee, and they had fond memories of Mr. Russell. They remember the battles the two schools had in the 1950s and 60s. I think the other thing to consider was that The Banner, his paper, had a heated rivalry with the other paper in town, The Tennessean. Those relationships were tense. He rubbed some people the wrong way, but there was always respect. He had so many contacts in the sports world, particularly at Vanderbilt. He had great relationships and inside access to the athletic department where the athletic department would make sure that The Banner and Fred Russell got the first word on any news, and that drove the people at The Tennessean nuts. So they did respect him, but he kept beating them on so many stories. Years later, they had great things to say about him, but if I had interviewed them back in the day, the responses might have been a bit different.

<p> Andrew Derr has written the first biography of legendary Nashville-based sportswriter Fred Russell. He talked about his project with Athlon Sports.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 09:28
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/10-greatest-father-son-duos-sports

In honor of Father’s Day this Sunday, Athlon Sports breaks down the Top 10 father-son combinations in sports history:

1. Archie Manning/Peyton Manning & Eli Manning
The patriarch of football’s first family, Archie sired two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks — not to mention No. 1 overall draft picks, multi-million-dollar pitchmen and underrated Saturday Night Live hosts — in Peyton and Eli.

And the old man was no slouch, either. The speed limit is 18 mph on the campus at Ole Miss in honor of Archie, whose number was retired after a spectacular college career that included finishing third (1970) and fourth (1969), respectively, in Heisman Trophy voting. The No. 2 overall pick of the New Orleans Saints in 1971, Archie scrambled his way around the NFL for 16 seasons.


2. Bobby Bonds/Barry Bonds
The Bonds would trump the Mannings on this list if Barry’s godfather Willie Mays were factored into the equation. But Barry’s MLB records — including seven MVP awards, 762 career HR, 73 HR in 2001 and 2,558 walks (including 688 intentional) — speak for themselves. Together, Bobby and Barry Bonds combined for 4,821 hits, 1,094 HR, 3,020 RBI, 3,485 runs, 975 stolen bases and 11 Gold Glove awards.

3. Ken Norton/Ken Norton Jr.
Ken Sr. was a WBC heavyweight champion during boxing’s heyday, famously breaking Muhammad Ali’s jaw in 1973 — joining Joe Frazier as only the second fighter to beat Ali as a professional. Ken Jr. was a hard-hitting linebacker who became the first player in NFL history to win three consecutive Super Bowls, winning his first two with the Dallas Cowboys and his third with the San Francisco 49ers.


4. Lee Petty/Richard Petty
One of the founding fathers of stock car racing, Lee took the checkers at the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959 and won three Cup championships. Following in his daddy’s burned-rubber tracks, Richard became (and remains to this day) “The King” of the sport, winning 200 races and seven Cup championships.

5. Bobby Hull/Brett Hull
“The Golden Jet” was a two-time Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) honoree, 12-time NHL All-Star, three-time scoring champ and 1961 Stanley Cup champion. “The Golden Brett” was a Hart Memorial Trophy winner, nine-time All-Star, three-time scoring champ and two-time Stanley Cup champion — scoring the series-clinching goal for the Dallas Stars in 1999 and raising the Cup again as a member of the Detroit Red Wings in 2002.


6. Dale Earnhardt/Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“The Intimidator,” Ralph Dale was a second-generation racer whose father, Ralph Lee, is a Hall of Famer in his own right. Behind his signature black shades and thick mustache, Dale Sr. scared the paint off every car on the track en route to seven Cup championships. Ralph Dale Jr. — “Little E,” “Dale Jr.” or just “Junior” — has been more sizzle than steak, but the reigning nine-time Most Popular Driver does have 18 Cup wins, two Busch Series titles, the 2004 Daytona 500 and a reported $300 million net worth to brag about.

7. Ken Griffey/Ken Griffey Jr.
In the ultimate father-son fantasy camp, Griffey and “The Kid” were teammates with the Seattle Mariners in 1990 and 1991, during George Kenneth Sr.’s 40 and 41-year-old seasons and George Kenneth Jr.’s 20 and 21-year-old campaigns, respectively. Junior embodied all that is right with baseball as a 13-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove center fielder and 1997 AL MVP — a year in which he hit a presumably clean .304 with 56 HR and 147 RBI. Now a father, Griffey Jr. has a son, Trey, playing football at Arizona.

8. Calvin Hill/Grant Hill
Calvin was a fraternity brother of George W. Bush at Yale who married a former roommate of Hillary Clinton. He also was a four-time Pro Bowl running back for the Dallas Cowboys as well as the Rookie of the Year in 1969. Meanwhile, Grant was a two-time NCAA champion at Duke before becoming NBA co-Rookie of the Year in 1995, a seven-time All-Star and a gold medalist in 1996.


9. Gordie Howe/Mark Howe
“Mr. Hockey” was a 23-time NHL All-Star, six-time Hart Memorial Trophy honoree, six-time scoring leader and four-time Stanley Cup champion. Equally impressive, he is the inspiration for the “Gordie Howe hat trick” — where a player records a goal, an assist and gets into a fight in the same game. Mark teamed with his dad as a rookie in 1973 until Gordie retired in 1980. He is a Hall of Famer who is currently the Director of Pro Scouting for the Detroit Red Wings.


10. Cecil Fielder/Prince Fielder
The only father-son duo in MLB history to each hit 50 HR in a single season. Cecil famously let preteen Prince take batting practice at Tiger Stadium, where the slugger now earns the $214 million deal he inked in the offseason.

By Nathan Rush

<p> In honor of Father’s Day, a rundown of the best ever father-son combinations.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 08:16
Path: /college-football/big-east-football-2012-predictions

Conference realignment has brought changes to the Big East in 2012 and more is coming for 2013 and beyond. West Virginia departed for the Big 12, while Syracuse and Pittsburgh will be joining the ACC (most likely before the 2013 season). Temple was brought in to replace West Virginia, which kept the conference at eight football members for the 2012 season. The Big East will get bigger next year, as UCF, Houston, SMU, Memphis, Boise State and San Diego State will join to give the conference two divisions and a title game.

Louisville got off to a slow start last season, but Charlie Strong’s team finished with a share of the Big East title. Much of the core returns intact, and big things are expected from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The sophomore should be more comfortable in his second year as the starter and will be throwing to a talented group of receivers. The Cardinals need to improve their rushing attack, and there’s no shortage of options with Jeremy Wright, Dominique Brown and Senorise Perry returning. The defense returns six starters from a unit that ranked 17th nationally in points allowed last year.

With a new coach and two new coordinators, Rutgers might be the biggest mystery team in the Big East. Greg Schiano’s departure to the NFL just before Signing Day left Rutgers in a difficult position, which promoted assistant Kyle Flood to head coach. The Scarlet Knights have the talent to win the conference title, but there’s also a lot of uncertainty with a first-year coach. Chas Dodd and Gary Nova shared the quarterback duties last season, and this battle is expected to continue into fall camp. The Scarlet Knights should have a stingy defense, led by senior linebacker Khaseem Greene. If Nova or Dodd is able to provide steady play at quarterback, the Nov. 29 showdown against Louisville in Piscataway could be a de facto Big East title game.

South Florida had an up-and-down 2011 season, starting 4-0 in non-conference play, but posting a disappointing 1-7 record in the final eight contests. Although the Bulls went 1-6 in Big East play, four of the losses were by six points or less – which gives hope for a quick turnaround in 2012. Quarterback B.J. Daniels is back after passing for a career high 2,604 yards last season and should be throwing to one of the Big East’s top receiving corps. Running back Darrell Scott is gone after rushing for 814 yards last year, but Demetris Murray and Lindsey Lamar form a capable one-two punch. The Bulls have an intriguing non-conference schedule, which features matchups at Nevada and Miami, along with a home date against Florida State. The conference slate isn’t overwhelming, but a date at Louisville on Oct. 20 could decide the Big East crown.

Pittsburgh could be the sleeper team to watch in the Big East race. Former coach Todd Graham’s schemes were a bad fit for the personnel in place, and the team was hit hard by bad luck in late October when running back Ray Graham was lost for the season with a torn ACL. New coach Paul Chryst was one of college football’s top offensive minds at Wisconsin and will adapt his scheme to fit quarterback Tino Sunseri’s strengths. There’s no question Sunseri needs to play better, but the Panthers also have to stabilize the offensive line. Defense is usually a strength in Pittsburgh, but six starters are gone, including end Brandon Lindsey, linebacker Max Gruder and defensive tackle Chas Alecxih. The Panthers have a favorable Big East schedule, catching expected frontrunners Louisville and Rutgers in Heinz Field.

Athlon's 2012 Big East Team Previews

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut South Florida
Louisville Syracuse
Pittsburgh Temple

With quarterback Zach Collaros, running back Isaiah Pead and defensive tackle Derek Wolfe departing, 2012 appears to be a rebuilding year in Cincinnati. The Bearcats bring back 11 starters, but replacing Collaros’ production and leadership won’t be an easy task. While the offense may take a step back, Cincinnati’s defense should remain solid, especially with seven starters returning. Wolfe and linebacker JK Schaffer will be missed, but ends Dan Giordano and Walter Stewart will create plenty of havoc up front.

Syracuse was one of the Big East’s biggest disappointments last season, but there’s hope for improvement in 2012. Quarterback Ryan Nassib is back after throwing for 2,685 yards and 22 touchdowns, while the receiving corps gets a boost with the return of receiver Marcus Sales from suspension. Finding a running back to replace Antwon Bailey and filling voids on the defensive line will be some of the top priorities for coach Doug Marrone.

Connecticut wasn’t able to build on its 2010 Big East title, falling to a 5-7 record and missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2006. If the Huskies want to get back to the postseason, they have to find a way to jumpstart a sluggish offense. Junior college transfer Chandler Whitmer is expected to start at quarterback, while receiver Michael Smith is back from academic issues that sidelined him all of 2011. Running back Lyle McCombs is one of the best in the conference, and the defense returns eight starters. If the offense is better, the Huskies should easily improve upon last year’s five wins.

Temple re-enters the Big East in much better shape than how it left in 2004. However, the Owls were hit hard by losses on both sides of the ball. Bernard Pierce was one of the nation’s most underrated running backs over the last three years, and his production will be missed. Although Pierce is gone, Matt Brown is back after rushing for 916 yards last season, while quarterback Chris Coyer is a dangerous runner. The offensive line is a big concern with just one starter returning. Temple will be competitive, but with only seven starters returning, it may need a year to rebuild before contending for a bowl appearance.

Related Big East Content

Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012
Athlon's College Football Rankings for 2012: No. 26-35

Athlon's College Football Rankings for 2012: No. 36-45

Athlon's College Football Rankings for 2012: No. 46-60

Athlon's College Football Rankings for 2012: No. 61-80

<p> Big East Football 2012 Predictions</p>
Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 06:52
All taxonomy terms: Minnesota Vikings, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/minnesota-vikings-2012-schedule-analysis

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Minnesota Vikings 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Jacksonville
Week 2: at Indianapolis
Week 3: San Francisco
Week 4: at Detroit
Week 5: Tennessee
Week 6: at Washington
Week 7: Arizona
Week 8: Tampa Bay (Thur.)
Week 9: at Seattle
Week 10: Detroit
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: at Chicago
Week 13: at Green Bay
Week 14: Chicago
Week 15: at St. Louis
Week 16: at Houston
Week 17: Green Bay

- Vikings fans should have plenty to cheer about in the first two weeks of the season. Opening with games against Jacksonville at home and on the road against the Colts provides Minnesota with a chance to start 2-0. The Jags defense will test Adrian Peterson’s reconstructed knee but Blaine Gabbert hardly scares anyone in purple. And rookie Andrew Luck will be making his first home start of his career while the Colts' defense won’t put up much of a fight against All-Day. Both are winnable and if the Vikes want to improve on their three wins from 2011, starting with at least one win will be key.

- Playing the NFC West is a blessing as well. With Arizona (Week 7), at Seattle (Week 9) and at St. Louis (Week 15) offering three of the few chances for the Vikings to get wins in 2012. Obviously, the home test against the Niners will be a tall order for Christian Ponder and company. The road trip to the Rams couldn’t come at a better time, either, as the last six games of the Vikings' 2012 slate is going to be downright vicious.

- That is because the Purple People Eaters will have to face Chicago twice, Green Bay twice and Houston in five of their final six games (Rams). And four of those six games will come on the road. Certainly, the Vikes play much better against the NFC North at home, but it is hard to see anything but 1-5 for Minnesota over the final month and a half.

- The NFC North might be the best division in the NFL and not getting to face the Vikings — because they ARE the Vikings — makes getting wins that much more difficult. Five of the final seven games will come within the division and all six division games could come against playoff teams. At one point, the horned warriors from the Twin Cities will face four straight NFC North teams (Week 10 to Week 14), including road trips to Soldier and Lambeau Field. Finishing the season with Green Bay at home following a road trip to Houston is about as tough a finish as there is in the NFL.

- As tough as the end of the schedule looks, the heart of 2012 could offer a few chances at victory. Following two tough bouts with the 49ers and Lions in Week 3 and 4, the Vikes play five straight teams that did not make the playoff last fall. All five could be improved but if Leslie Frazier expects to show improvement, his squad will have to make waves in the middle of the year.

- Additionally, should the Vikings improve on their three-win season a year ago, it is likely to assume a win or two in the pair of floating NFC games. Minnesota will face two “last-place teams” in Washington (road) and Tampa Bay (home) this fall. These have to be looked at as opportunities. 

Fantasy Focus: All eyes will undoubtedly be on Adrian Peterson at the start of this season as the Vikings' All-Pro running back will be returning from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 16 last season. Peterson promises he will be ready to go Week 1, but even if he is able to make it back to the field, fantasy owners need to be patient with him. Besides coming back from a serious knee injury that required extensive surgery and rehabilitation, the schedule is filled with some potentially tough match ups for Peterson and his backup, Toby Gerhart. Yes, the Vikings have Tampa Bay, who gave up the most fantasy points to running backs in 2011, along with Indianapolis (3rd-most) and Tennessee (6th), among their first eight games of the season. However, they also have San Francisco, who allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs in 2011, in Week 3. Jacksonville, who Minnesota opens the 2012 season against, allowed the 10th-fewest, and Arizona (11th-fewest), Detroit (13th) and Washington (14th) also ranked among the top 16 stingiest teams in that respect.

- by Braden Gall


Order your 2012 Minnesota Vikings Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

<p> Minnesota Vikings 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC West, San Francisco 49ers, NFL
Path: /nfl/san-francisco-49ers-2012-schedule-analysis

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

San Francisco 49ers 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Green Bay
Week 2: Detroit
Week 3: at Minnesota
Week 4: at New York Jets
Week 5: Buffalo
Week 6: New York Giants
Week 7: Seattle (Thurs.)
Week 8: at Arizona (Mon.)
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: St. Louis
Week 11: Chicago (Mon.)
Week 12: at New Orleans
Week 13: at St. Louis
Week 14: Miami
Week 15: at New England
Week 16: at Seattle
Week 17: Arizona

- San Francisco is in the NFC West, but it sure won't seem like that at the start of this season. The 49ers don't play a divisional game until Week 7 as their first three games are against the NFC North, and then they have back-to-back games against the AFC East. These are the other two divisions the 49ers will face off against in 2012, which means trips to Green Bay, Minnesota, New York to face the Jets, and New England, as well as home games against Detroit and Chicago.

- Throw in the 49ers' floating games against the Giants and Saints and this means they will play four of the five other NFC teams that made the playoffs last season. The rematch with the Giants will obviously be one to watch as the defending Super Bowl champions return to San Francisco, where they upset the 49ers 20-17 in overtime on their home field in last season's NFC Championship Game. San Francisco also will travel to New Orleans, who the 49ers defeated 36-32 in the NFC Divisional Round last season, to face the Saints on their home turf.

- The defending NFC West champions won't get the chance to ease into the start of this season, as San Francisco has to make the trek to Lambeau Field to face Green Bay. Then it's back home to host Detroit. As good as San Francisco's defense was last year, it was somewhat susceptible through the air. The 49ers finished 16th in the NFL in pass defense in 2011 and gets to start 2012 by facing last season's No. 3- and 4-ranked passing offenses in the Packers and Lions. What's more, San Francisco will face the top-five aerial attacks from 2011with New Orleans (first), New England (second) and the Giants (fifth) also on the schedule.

- The 49ers finally get reacquainted with some familiar foes starting in Week 7 when they play their first divisional game, a Thursday night home game against Seattle. They take on Arizona the following week on Monday Night Football before going on bye in Week 9. Half of San Francisco's final eight games are divisional affairs, including two against the rebuilding Rams.

- San Francisco's post-bye schedule starts off with consecutive home games, first versus St. Louis and then a Monday night showdown with Chicago. The 49ers will have to rebound quickly as a Week 12 trip to New Orleans follows the Bears. After that, it's mostly divisional play other than a Week 14 visit from Miami and a Week 15 trip to the east coast to take on New England.

Fantasy Focus: Even though San Francisco went 13-3 and lost in the NFC Championship Game last season, the offense was inconsistent at best. Look no further than the fact that the 49ers finished 29th in the league in passing offense. The team overhauled its receiving corps in the offseason, adding Randy Moss and Mario Manningham through free agency,  and also taking Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins in the first round of the draft. Now it's a matter of the new acquisitions, along with last season's leading receiver, Michael Crabtree putting it together on the field with quarterback Alex Smith. If Smith can continue his development as a passer, the 49ers' receiving corps could prove valuable as fantasy contributors in 2012. This season, San Francisco will play eight of the top 10 teams that gave up the most fantasy points to wide receivers in 2011. New England gave up the most to wideouts last season, followed by Minnesota and Green Bay. The Giants came in fifth in this category, and were joined by New Orleans (6th), Detroit (7th), Arizona (8th) and Chicago (9th) in the top 10.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 15, 2012

Order your 2012 San Francisco 49ers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

<p> San Francisco 49ers 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 05:56
Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-football-behind-scenes-james-franklin-signing-day

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin recently signed what is considered to be the top recruiting class in school history. Athlon Sports spent National Signing Day in the Commodores’ War Room with Franklin and his staff.

There was no reason to worry. Andrew Jelks assured the Vanderbilt coaches that he was solid. Yes, other schools were still interested — very interested. But his mind was made up. The son of longtime Tennessee season ticket holders was sold that Vanderbilt — not Tennessee — was the best option for him. In recruiting, however, it’s never over until the fax machine rings. So while the coaches act like they aren’t really worried, they are worried.

But when Charles Huff, Vanderbilt’s offensive quality control coach, makes the short trip from the fax machine to the podium in the Commodores’ “War Room” just a few minutes before 8 a.m. on Feb. 1, and makes like NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Draft Day, it is finally over: “Lucky No. 13 — the Vanderbilt Commodores have won the in-state battle — Andrew Jelks.” Jelks has done what very few thought was possible — sign with Vanderbilt despite offers from Tennessee and Alabama. This simply doesn’t happen. But it did.

Huff’s announcement is greeted by loud cheers in the War Room. James Franklin, Vanderbilt’s head coach of just one year and the architect of the best signing class at the school in decades, yells the loudest. Offensive line coach Herb Hand, the proud “father” of the future left tackle, hugs every coach in sight.

“I am excited to coach him,” Hand says while relaxing in his office, about an hour after Jelks’ fax arrives. “The big thing with Andrew is that he saw the big picture. He took his time and did the research and visited the places numerous times before he made his decision. And for him to go anywhere but Tennessee was big. But he knew what he wanted, and he found it here. I am proud of him.”

Barton Simmons, a recruiting analyst at, calls Jelks “the most important guy on that signee list.” There were players who were more highly rated. And players with more offers. But Jelks, who played at Henry County High School about 110 miles west of Nashville, is the most significant.

“He is a kid that grew up a Tennessee fan, and Tennessee wanted him,” says Simmons. “He went to Tennessee games his whole life, and he chose Vanderbilt. That speaks volumes to the ability of the Vanderbilt staff to go out and compete with anyone.”

Jelks’ fax elicits the biggest cheer of the day, but there is also tremendous excitement in the room when Huff announces at 7:22 a.m., “With the 11th pick in the draft, the Vanderbilt Commodores have selected ‘Lightning in a Bottle,’ Brian Kimbrow.”

A 4-star running back from Memphis with offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee, USC and Notre Dame, among others, Kimbrow is the most highly regarded of the Commodores’ 21 signees. He was also among the first commitments of the class, when he, along with wide receiver Corey Batey and defensive end Caleb Azubike, pledged with Vanderbilt at a press conference on July 1 in Franklin, Tenn., that was carried live on local radio.

Kimbrow remained rock-solid throughout the seven-month courtship, but when a player in such demand commits to a school like Vanderbilt (which has averaged 1.1 SEC wins per season since 1960), there will be constant rumors that the prospect is wavering.

“He was sold on Vanderbilt,” Simmons says. “The only reason to sweat was because he had offers from virtually every school in the country. When Urban Meyer is calling and offering and wants you to come up for a visit, that is tough to turn down.”

Kimbrow texted Franklin the night before Signing Day just to let the staff know there was no cause for concern. It read, in part: “What’s good coaches? I know you won’t be able to respond, but I would like to say thanks for the opportunity and believing in me. … I know you will bring the best out of me not only as a football player, but as a student and as a person. By the way, if you don’t get anyone else’s signature, you will have mine.”

Kimbrow’s signature, of course, is not the only one that Franklin receives, but it is no doubt of paramount importance.

“The kids that committed early will always hold a special place for me because they jumped on before we had anything to show them,” says Franklin during some rare down time in the War Room. “We had a plan and a vision, but we had yet to play a game. Those guys jumped on and made it okay to commit to Vanderbilt.”

Indeed, the bulk of Vanderbilt’s class was built before the 2011 season kicked off — before the Commodores opened with a 3–0 record, before they lost their final four SEC games by an average of 4.8 points, and before they qualified for only the school’s second bowl game since 1982. “Many of these kids picked Vanderbilt before we ever played a game,” says defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, who spends the morning juggling phone calls to recently signed players in the Class of 2012 with incoming calls from high school juniors who might be part of the Vanderbilt Class of ’13. “Hopefully, with the modest success we had this year, that validated their choice for them. If you were looking at a 3–9 or 2–10 Vanderbilt, things may have been a lot different.”

Minutes after Kimbrow becomes official, the fax machine rings again. Huff smiles as he approaches the podium. “With the 12th pick,” he says, “the Vanderbilt Commodores have added another Wild Dog. From McGavock High School, Caleb Azubike.”

“That’s a big one,” Franklin belts out. “The Nigerian Nightmare. Get him on the phone.”

The Wild Dogs are Vanderbilt’s defensive linemen, tutored by Sean Spencer, or as his players call him, Coach Chaos. Azubike, who with Batey is one of two Nashville products in the class, is a Wild Dog with a very bright future. A 4-star recruit by Rivals and a 3-star by Scout and 247Sports, Azubike is a 6'4", 250-pound end who some believe could blossom into the best player in the class.

“I think Caleb is a kid that could end up being a guy we have underrated,” says Simmons. “He could end up being an NFL defensive lineman. He absolutely has a 4-star body and 4-star athleticism. He is very impressive at the camps. But he is still raw. On Friday nights, his film in pads sometimes doesn’t live up to what he has done in camps. But he is certainly a guy that can blossom into an NFL prospect.”

While Spencer and Franklin work to get Azubike on the phone, Shoop speaks to Paris Head, a defensive back from Lawrenceville, Ga., who was the third official member of the class.

“Paris, welcome to the family,” Shoop says. “Today is your day. My commitment to you is that I will work my hardest to make you a better man and a better football player. That relationship will last a lifetime. Congratulations.”

For Shoop, a veteran of more than two decades in collegiate coaching, Signing Day never gets old. “There is a feeling of closure when you finally get that letter of intent in the building,” he says. “But what I really enjoy is getting that kid on the phone. It’s his big day, more so than for us coaches. It’s his day. I want to recognize him and thank him and his family for the trust they have shown in us as his coach.”

Shoop has spent time in the ACC and Big East, as well as many years in the FCS ranks, both as a head coach (Columbia, 2003-05) and an assistant. Nothing compares to what he has experienced over the past year.

“This is my first full recruiting cycle in the SEC,” he says. “This is cutthroat, baby. This is big time. This is as competitive as you can believe. The word commitment seems to mean different things to different people. Until you get that fax, you can’t take anything for granted.”

There is one fax that Vanderbilt doesn’t receive on Signing Day. Josh Dawson, a 4-star defensive end/linebacker from Tucker, Ga., who originally committed to Vanderbilt in June, signs with Georgia at a ceremony at his high school. Dawson had informed the staff the night before that he intended to become a Bulldog, not a Commodore.

“It’s difficult,” Franklin says. “I make sure that when a player commits to us that they understand what it means. I don’t care if any other college offers them. I don’t care if the Atlanta Falcons try to draft them. We got engaged. You are not dating anymore. When we get married, we are not getting divorced. When we lose a guy it’s upsetting and frustrating, but that is part of the business. We keep working.”

Dawson’s flip to Georgia creates the need for another linebacker, a position that was alarmingly thin in 2011. At 10:30 a.m. the newest linebacker is announced to the War Room.

“The pick is in,” Huff says. “The No. 16 pick is a surprise pickup. The Vanderbilt Commodores have selected Harding Harper.”

Harper is a Montgomery, Ala., native who reportedly also had offers from Arkansas, Georgia Tech and Ole Miss. He did not take an official visit to Vanderbilt but jumps at the opportunity to join the class when a spot opens up.

“Harper,” Franklin yells. “I like it. That’s a good one right there.”

Huff, who has been ridiculed (good naturedly) by Franklin throughout the morning for his lack of creativity at the podium, is demoted. In steps Sam Williams, the defensive quality control assistant. Dressed in a suit, Williams is taking his position seriously. Perhaps an audition for first-string duties next February?

“With the 19th pick, Vanderbilt selects offensive lineman Adam Butler,” says Williams, who then dons the Mr. Commodore mascot head to celebrate.

A few minutes later, the fax machine rings. Williams has another opportunity to impress the boss.

“This young man had been committed to another school for months,” he says. “We are going to call him a Vanderbilt Commodore. His name is Ja’karri Thomas.”

Thomas, a linebacker from Tallahassee, Fla., committed to Arkansas in July, but changed his mind after making an official visit to Vanderbilt in late January.

Thomas is Vanderbilt’s 20th official signee of the day. There isn’t much suspense remaining. The Commodores are expecting only one more fax, from Kevin McCoy, an offensive lineman from the Tampa area. This is good news and bad news for Hand. McCoy, when his fax comes in, will give Hand another quality big man to work with in the coming years. But it will also cost him. Franklin is making the position coach of the final signee buy the first round of drinks when the staff heads out to celebrate later in the evening.

“Who’s buying the first round?” Franklin says. “Herb, it’s looking like it’s you. I know what you are making now. You can afford it.”

And the Vanderbilt staff can afford to celebrate. This class, ranked as high as No. 26 in the nation, is regarded by most as the best in school history. Some will point out that Vanderbilt’s recruiting haul ranks no higher than ninth in the new 14-team SEC, but that’s still a significant upgrade from every other Commodore class of the Internet recruiting era. And keep in mind that Vanderbilt’s class was rated higher (by Rivals) than all but three Big Ten teams, all but three Big 12 teams, all but five ACC teams and all but one Big East team.

“I’m just really proud of the staff,” Franklin says. “It’s like a 365-round heavyweight title fight. This coaching staff fought and competed and sold all the wonderful things Vanderbilt has to sell.”

How did he do it?

James Franklin’s sales pitch is quite simple.

“A young man doesn’t have to sacrifice,” says the Commodores’ second-year head coach. “He can have the best of everything, which is a world-class education and an opportunity to play in the best college football conference in America. After all, there are three conferences in football that matter: The NFC. The AFC. And the SEC.”

Sounds convincing. But every football coach at Vanderbilt has delivered a similar message. And other than Gerry DiNardo, who signed multiple top-25 recruiting classes in the early 1990s, every other coach has failed to attract top-flight talent.

So why does Franklin’s message resonate?

Coach Franklin has unique people skills in that he can relate to people of all socio-economic backgrounds,” says Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. “He is very sincere, and he has an unbelievable work ethic. He is also very persuasive, and he won’t take no for an answer.”

Franklin’s persuasiveness was the driving force in Vanderbilt’s 2012 class, ranked as high as No. 26 in the nation. Every one of the recruits received at least a 3-star rating by Rivals, and several picked Vanderbilt over multiple offers from other SEC schools — something that rarely happened in the past.

“When I started playing high school football, when I started getting good, I didn’t think about Vanderbilt,” says defensive end Caleb Azubike, a Nashville native who chose the Commodores over Miami (Fla.) and Mississippi State. “But Coach Franklin really changed my thinking. He has his way with words. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He is just a very confident man; he believes in himself and what he is doing.”

DiNardo, who coached at LSU and Indiana after a four-year stop at Vanderbilt (1991-94), is an analyst for the Big Ten Network. He believes that now, more than ever, a head coach at a school like Vanderbilt has to be an elite recruiter.

James Franklin is absolutely a difference-maker and a game-changer at Vanderbilt,” DiNardo says. “You have to be that at Vanderbilt. There is more pressure on the head coach to be a good recruiter at schools that have struggled historically.”

DiNardo says one of the keys to recruiting success at Vanderbilt is to not worry about the players you can’t recruit for academic reasons. “We had a saying, that we stole from someone else: ‘It’s not the one that you lose who will beat you. It’s the ones you take that can’t play who will defeat you.’”

The Model Program

Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt’s baseball coach, was among the small gathering in the War Room looking on as his good friend, James Franklin, put the finishing touches on his first full recruiting class. He knew what Franklin was going through.

Corbin arrived in Nashville in 2003 to rebuild a program that had slipped to the bottom of the food chain in the highly competitive SEC.

In his first season, Vanderbilt qualified for the SEC Tournament for the first time in seven years. In his second season, the Commodores reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1980. By his fifth season, the program earned its first-ever No. 1 ranking, and in 2012, the school reached the College World Series for the first time.

Simply put, Franklin’s dreams for Vanderbilt have become a reality for Corbin.

“Our sports are very different, but he has been a great mentor to me,” Franklin says. “Tim’s a guy who gets it. He’s not just committed to his baseball program, he’s committed to this whole Vanderbilt family, which is kind of how we look at it. We just hit it off right from the beginning, and I think what he’s been able to do with his program, where it started to where it is now … there are a lot of parallels to what we’re trying to do, so he’s been a really good resource to us.”

Corbin has routinely signed recruiting classes ranked in the top five nationally, but he still marvels at what Franklin and his staff have accomplished.

“The intensity of recruiting on this level, at least on Signing Day, is greater,” he says. “Baseball gets a little more strung out over the course of time. The other thing about baseball is that if you make a verbal commitment, it’s pretty much set in stone. For someone to break that commitment is a rarity, so in football, if someone verbally commits, it just means the teams around you work a bit harder to try to get your services. So the excitement of finally getting that piece of paper is like Christmas Day for a football coach. I can only imagine the angst you go through.”

by Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)

This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 SEC Football Preview Annual. 

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<p> Vanderbilt coach James Franklin recently signed what is considered to be the top recruiting class in school history. Athlon Sports spent National Signing Day in the Commodores’ War Room with Franklin and his staff.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-mock-draft

The 2012 college football season doesn't kick off until August 30, but we at Athlon Sports and some of our friends couldn't wait, so we decided to go ahead and get an early start by doing our first mock draft.

Not surprisingly, Wisconsin's Montee Ball, a Heisman Trophy finalist who set the NCAA scoring record with 39 total touchdowns last season, was the No. 1 overall pick followed by fellow running back Robbie Rouse from Fresno State.

Ball went early in the second round of our 2011 mock draft, but zoomed to the top spot afer he announced in January he was coming back for his senior season. Ball wasn't the only player to make the jump into the first round, either, as nine of the 12 first-rounders from 2011 either graduated or left early for the NFL Draft.

Of the three holdovers, only South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore repeated as a first-round choice as Arkansas' Knile Davis went in the second round this time around and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones slipped to the fifth. Lattimore and Davis are both coming back from season-ending injuries, while Jones must show critics that last season's slip in production, especially after All-American wide receiver Ryan Broyles was lost due to injury, was the exception and not the norm.

As far as this season's first round went, three other running backs — Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle, Oregon's Kenjon Barner and Nebraska's Rex Burkhead, joined Ball, Rouse and Lattimore in the first round, along with wide receivers Sammy Watkins of Clemson, USC's Robert Woods and Marquess Wilson of Washington State.

Even though Keenum was the No. 1 overall pick last year, the first quarterback didn't come off the board until the ninth pick in our mock, in the form of Kansas State's Collin Klein. He was followed by Heisman frontrunner Matt Barkley from USC and West Virginia's Geno Smith.

All told, there were 81 running backs, 68 wide receivers, 53 quarterbacks, 14 tight ends, 14 team defenses/special teams and 10 kickers drafted in this 12-team, 20-round mock. A total of 98 different FBS schools (out of 124 overall) had at least one player taken in this mock. Oklahoma State led the way with eight players drafted, followed by Arkansas, Clemson, Houston and USC, who each had six.

Be sure to also check out and consult Athlon Sports' position rankings (below) as you prepare for the upcoming college fantasy football season.

Mock draft based upon a standard scoring system:

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
1 interception = -1 point
1 rushing/receiving/return touchdown = 6 points
25 passing yards = 1 point
10 rushing/receiving yards = 1 point
1 reception = 0.5 points

Starting lineup: 3 QB, 3 RB, 3 WR, 1 Flex (WR or RB), 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DEF, 7 bench spots

Click here to see each team's complete roster

Round 1 Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
2 Robbie Rouse, RB, Fresno State Nick Humbert CFFL
3 Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
4 Joseph Randle, RB Oklahoma State David Fox Athlon Sports
5 Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
6 Robert Woods, WR, USC Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
7 Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State Todd DeVries College Football Geek
8 Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina Braden Gall Athlon Sports
9 Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
10 Matt Barkley, QB, USC Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
11 Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia Mitch Light Athlon Sports
12 Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska Mark Ross Athlon Sports
Round 2      
13 Tyler Tettleton, QB, Ohio Mark Ross Athlon Sports
14 Branden Oliver, RB, Buffalo Mitch Light Athlon Sports
15 Zach Line, RB, SMU Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
16 De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
17 Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State Braden Gall Athlon Sports
18 Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas Todd DeVries College Football Geek
19 Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
20 Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
21 Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson David Fox Athlon Sports
22 Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
23 Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina Nick Humbert CFFL
24 Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
Round 3      
25 Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
26 Nick Harwell, WR, Miami (Ohio) Nick Humbert CFFL
27 Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
28 John White, RB, Utah David Fox Athlon Sports
29 Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
30 Charles Sims, RB, Houston Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
31 Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech Todd DeVries College Football Geek
32 Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia Braden Gall Athlon Sports
33 Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
34 Marqise Lee, WR, USC Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
35 Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma Mitch Light Athlon Sports
36 Orleans Darkwa, RB, Tulane Mark Ross Athlon Sports
Round 4      
37 Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor Mark Ross Athlon Sports
38 Silas Redd, RB, Penn State Mitch Light Athlon Sports
39 Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
40 Darius Johnson, WR, SMU Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
41 Keenan Allen, WR, California Braden Gall Athlon Sports
42 Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada Todd DeVries College Football Geek
43 Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
44 Cierre Wood, RB, Notre Dame Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
45 Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech David Fox Athlon Sports
46 Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
47 Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee Nick Humbert CFFL
48 D.J. Harper, RB, Boise State Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
Round 5      
49 Darrin Moore, WR, Texas Tech Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
50 Alex Carder, QB, Western Michigan Nick Humbert CFFL
51 Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
52 Titus Davis, WR, Central Michigan David Fox Athlon Sports
53 Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
54 Dominique Whaley, RB, Oklahoma Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
55 Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh Todd DeVries College Football Geek
56 Matt Brown, RB, Temple Braden Gall Athlon Sports
57 Jesse Callier, RB, Washington Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
58 Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
59 Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas Mitch Light Athlon Sports
60 Josh Boyce, WR, TCU Mark Ross Athlon Sports
Round 6      
61 Casey Pachall, QB, TCU Mark Ross Athlon Sports
62 Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt Mitch Light Athlon Sports
63 Stepfon Jefferson, RB, Nevada Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
64 Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
65 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech Braden Gall Athlon Sports
66 David Piland, QB, Houston Todd DeVries College Football Geek
67 James Franklin, QB, Missouri Alex Esselink CFFL
68 Keith Price, QB, Washington Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
69 Chris Nwoke, RB, Colorado State David Fox Athlon Sports
70 Curtis McNeal, RB, USC Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
71 Colby Cameron, QB, Louisiana Tech Nick Humbert CFFL
72 Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
Round 7      
73 Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
74 Kedrick Rhodes, RB, FIU Nick Humbert CFFL
75 Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
76 Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri David Fox Athlon Sports
77 Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
78 Bryan Bennett, QB, Oregon Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
79 Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State Todd DeVries College Football Geek
80 Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona Braden Gall Athlon Sports
81 Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
82 Blaine Gautier, QB, Louisiana-Lafayette Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
83 Raymond Maples, RB, Army Mitch Light Athlon Sports
84 Kerwynn Williams, RB, Utah State Mark Ross Athlon Sports
Round 8      
85 Kasen Williams, WR, Washington Mark Ross Athlon Sports
86 Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida Mitch Light Athlon Sports
87 Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
88 Zac Dysert, QB, Miami (Ohio) Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
89 Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas Braden Gall Athlon Sports
90 Isi Sofele, RB, California Todd DeVries College Football Geek
91 Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
92 Perry Jones, RB, Virginia Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
93 Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech David Fox Athlon Sports
94 Josh Jarboe, WR, Arkansas State Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
95 Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State Nick Humbert CFFL
96 Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
Round 9      
97 David Fluellen, RB, Toledo Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
98 Tracy Moore, WR, Oklahoma State Nick Humbert CFFL
99 James White, RB, Wisconsin Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
100 Corey Robinson, QB, Troy David Fox Athlon Sports
101 DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
102 Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
103 Javone Lawson, WR, Louisiana-Lafayette Todd DeVries College Football Geek
104 Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska Braden Gall Athlon Sports
105 Jawon Chisholm, RB, Akron Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
106 Lyle McCombs, RB, Connecticut Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
107 Bernard Reedy, WR, Toledo Mitch Light Athlon Sports
108 Michael Holmes, RB, Virginia Tech Mark Ross Athlon Sports
Round 10      
109 Riley Nelson, QB, BYU Mark Ross Athlon Sports
110 Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State Mitch Light Athlon Sports
111 Hunter Lee, RB, Louisiana Tech Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
112 Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
113 Jacob Pedersen, TE, Wisconsin Braden Gall Athlon Sports
114 Ryan Otten, TE, San Jose State Todd DeVries College Football Geek
115 Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
116 Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
117 Jyruss Edwards, RB, Louisiana-Monroe David Fox Athlon Sports
118 Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
119 Chris Gragg, TE, Arkansas Nick Humbert CFFL
120 Anthon Samuel, RB, Bowling Green Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
Round 11      
121 Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
122 Cody Green, QB, Tulsa Nick Humbert CFFL
123 Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
124 Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Auburn David Fox Athlon Sports
125 Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
126 Dewayne Peace, WR, Houston Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
127 Nick Florence, QB, Baylor Todd DeVries College Football Geek
128 Matt Scott, QB, Arizona Braden Gall Athlon Sports
129 Erik Highsmith, WR, North Carolina Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
130 Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
131 Jordan Rodgers, QB, Vanderbilt Mitch Light Athlon Sports
132 Ronnie Williams, WR, Houston Mark Ross Athlon Sports
Round 12      
133 Latavius Murray, RB, UCF Mark Ross Athlon Sports
134 Malcolm Agnew, RB, Oregon State Mitch Light Athlon Sports
135 Brandon Ford, TE, Clemson Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
136 Alabama DEF/ST Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
137 Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin Braden Gall Athlon Sports
138 David Graves, QB, Hawaii Todd DeVries College Football Geek
139 Clint Chelf, QB, Oklahoma State Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
140 Waymon James, RB, TCU Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
141 Joe Southwick, QB, Boise State David Fox Athlon Sports
142 Jaxon Shipley, WR, Texas Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
143 LSU DEF/ST Nick Humbert CFFL
144 Eric Thomas, WR, Troy Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
Round 13      
145 Rio Johnson, QB, East Carolina Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
146 Alonzo Harris, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette Nick Humbert CFFL
147 Storm Johnson, RB, UCF Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
148 Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall David Fox Athlon Sports
149 Florida State DEF/ST Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
150 Eric Monette, WR, Western Michigan Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
151 Daniel Spencer, WR, Houston Todd DeVries College Football Geek
152 Virginia Tech DEF/ST Braden Gall Athlon Sports
153 Alec Lemon, WR, Syracuse Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
154 Antonio Andrews, RB, Western Kentucky Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
155 Trey Watts, RB, Tulsa Mitch Light Athlon Sports
156 Matt Miller, WR, Boise State Mark Ross Athlon Sports
Round 14      
157 Conner Vernon, WR, Duke Mark Ross Athlon Sports
158 Ryan Katz, QB, San Diego State Mitch Light Athlon Sports
159 Marquel Wade, WR, Arkansas Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
160 Jonathan Perry, QB, UAB Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
161 Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA Braden Gall Athlon Sports
162 Brice Butler, WR, San Diego State Todd DeVries College Football Geek
163 Frankie Jackson, RB, Arkansas State Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
164 Tavarres King, WR, Georgia Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
165 Orwin Smith, RB, Georgia Tech David Fox Athlon Sports
166 Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
167 Emory Blake, WR, Auburn Nick Humbert CFFL
168 Brandin Byrd, RB, North Texas Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
Round 15      
169 Matt Schilz, QB, Bowling Green Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
170 Josh Schaeffer, WR, Western Michigan Nick Humbert CFFL
171 Texas DEF/ST Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
172 Georgia DEF/ST David Fox Athlon Sports
173 John Hubert, RB, Kansas State Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
174 Michigan State DEF/ST Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
175 Jawan Jamison, RB, Rutgers Todd DeVries College Football Geek
176 Stephen Houston, RB, Indiana Braden Gall Athlon Sports
177 Demetris Murray, RB, South Florida Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
178 Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
179 South Carolina DEF/ST Mitch Light Athlon Sports
180 Mike Glennon, QB, NC State Mark Ross Athlon Sports
Round 16      
181 Blake Jackson, TE, Oklahoma State Mark Ross Athlon Sports
182 Mark Harrison, WR, Rutgers Mitch Light Athlon Sports
183 Tony Jones, RB, Colorado Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
184 Jahwan Edwards, RB, Ball State Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
185 Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State Braden Gall Athlon Sports
186 Deontay Greenberry, WR, Houston Todd DeVries College Football Geek
187 Florida DEF/ST Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
188 Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
189 Spencer Ware, RB, LSU David Fox Athlon Sports
190 Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
191 T.J. Moe, WR, Missouri Nick Humbert CFFL
192 Cody Wilson, WR, Central Michigan Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
Round 17      
193 Eric Stephens, RB, Texas Tech Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
194 Chip Reeves, WR, Troy Nick Humbert CFFL
195 Joey Iosefa, RB, Hawaii Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
196 EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State David Fox Athlon Sports
197 Matthew Tucker, RB, TCU Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
198 Sadale Foster, RB, Texas Tech Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
199 Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (Fla.) Todd DeVries College Football Geek
200 DeVonte Christopher, WR, Utah Braden Gall Athlon Sports
201 Charlie Moore, WR, Oklahoma State Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
202 Boise State DEF/ST Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
203 Chris Boyd, WR, Vanderbilt Mitch Light Athlon Sports
204 Mike James, RB, Miami (Fla.) Mark Ross Athlon Sports
Round 18      
205 Ohio State DEF/ST Mark Ross Athlon Sports
206 Onterio McCalebb, RB, Auburn Mitch Light Athlon Sports
207 Quinn Sharp, K, Oklahoma State Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
208 Chandler Catanzaro, K, Clemson Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
209 Dan Buckner, WR, Arizona Braden Gall Athlon Sports
210 Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU Todd DeVries College Football Geek
211 Terrance Owens, QB, Toledo Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
212 Joel Grigsby, WR, San Jose State Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
213 Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State David Fox Athlon Sports
214 Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
215 Javonti Greene, RB, Eastern Michigan Nick Humbert CFFL
216 Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
Round 19      
217 Oklahoma DEF/ST Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
218 Keith Wenning, QB, Ball State Nick Humbert CFFL
219 USC DEF/ST Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
220 Gabriel Marks, WR, Washington State David Fox Athlon Sports
221 DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
222 Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
223 Dustin Hopkins, K, Florida State Todd DeVries College Football Geek
224 Caleb Sturgis, K, Florida Braden Gall Athlon Sports
225 Josh Harris, RB, Wake Forest Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
226 Kyle Prater, WR, Northwestern Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
227 Wes Lunt, QB, Oklahoma State Mitch Light Athlon Sports
228 Ja'Terian Douglas, RB, Tulsa Mark Ross Athlon Sports
Round 20      
229 Matt Weller, K, Ohio Mark Ross Athlon Sports
230 Drew Alleman, K, LSU Mitch Light Athlon Sports
231 Rickey Galvin, RB, Washington State Joe DiSalvo The CFF Site
232 Trayion Durham, RB, Kent State Zeke Smyczynski The CFF Site
233 Danny O'Brien, QB, Wisconsin Braden Gall Athlon Sports
234 Penn State DEF/ST Todd DeVries College Football Geek
235 Bryan Davis, K, Arkansas State Alex Esselink College Fantasy Football Insider
236 Andre Heidari, K, USC Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
237 Brett Maher, K, Nebraska David Fox Athlon Sports
238 Nick O'Leary, TE, Florida State Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
239 Akeem Shavers, RB, Purdue Nick Humbert CFFL
240 Zach Hocker, K, Arkansas Steven Lassan Athlon Sports

— Published on June 15, 2012

Related College Fantasy Football Content

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Top 200
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Quarterback Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Wide Receiver Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Tight End Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Kicker Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Team Defense Rankings

<p> College Fantasy Football: 2012 Mock Draft</p>
Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 04:06
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-top-200

Fall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2012. Rankings will be updated right up until kickoff and expect plenty of tweaks to over the next couple of months.

Scoring system rankings based upon -

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
Rushing/receiving = 6 points
25 passing yards = 1 point
10 rushing/receiving yards = 1 point
1 reception = 0.5 points
1 fumble = -1 point
1 interception = - 1 point

Updated: August 12

Related College Fantasy Football Content

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Quarterback Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Running Back Rankings

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Wide Receiver Rankings

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Tight End Rankings

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Kicker Rankings

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Team Defense Rankings

Rank Player Position Team
1 Montee Ball RB Wisconsin
2 Joseph Randle RB Oklahoma State
3 Robbie Rouse RB Fresno State
4 Robert Woods WR USC
5 Marquess Wilson WR Washington St.
6 Sammy Watkins WR Clemson
7 Kenjon Barner RB Oregon
8 Marcus Lattimore RB South Carolina
9 Branden Oliver RB Buffalo
10 De\'Anthony Thomas RB Oregon
11 Rex Burkhead RB Nebraska
12 Ryan Aplin QB Arkansas State
13 Tyler Tettleton QB Ohio
14 Geno Smith QB West Virginia
15 Matt Barkley QB USC
16 Giovani Bernard RB North Carolina
17 Collin Klein QB Kansas State
18 Denard Robinson QB Michigan
19 Zach Line RB SMU
20 Knile Davis RB Arkansas
21 Nick Harwell WR Miami (Ohio)
22 Tavon Austin WR West Virginia
23 Stedman Bailey WR West Virginia
24 Tajh Boyd QB Clemson
25 Marqise Lee WR USC
26 Le'Veon Bell RB Michigan State
27 Eddie Lacy RB Alabama
28 D.J. Harper RB Boise State
29 Charles Sims RB Houston
30 Quinton Patton WR Louisiana Tech
31 Jeff Tuel QB Washington State
32 Stepfan Taylor RB Stanford
33 Ray Graham RB Pittsburgh
34 John White RB Utah
35 Keenan Allen WR California
36 Cody Fajardo QB Nevada
37 David Piland QB Houston
38 Andre Ellington RB Clemson
39 Orleans Darkwa RB Tulane
40 Alex Carder QB Western Michigan
41 Kenny Stills WR Oklahoma
42 Terrance Williams WR Baylor
43 Zac Stacy RB Vanderbilt
44 Cameron Marshall RB Arizona State
45 Chris Nwoke RB Colorado State
46 Cierre Wood RB Notre Dame
47 Seth Doege QB Texas Tech
48 Ryan Swope WR Texas A&M
49 Da'Rick Rogers WR Tennessee
50 Darius Johnson WR SMU
51 David Fluellen RB Toledo
52 James Franklin QB Missouri
53 Silas Redd RB USC
54 Isi Sofele RB California
55 Cody Hoffman WR BYU
56 Brett Smith QB Wyoming
57 Keith Price QB Washington
58 Tyler Eifert TE Notre Dame
59 Lyle McCombs RB Connecticut
60 Cobi Hamilton WR Arkansas
61 Josh Boyce WR TCU
62 Darrin Moore WR Texas Tech
63 Justin Hardy WR East Carolina
64 Michael Holmes RB Virginia Tech
65 Rashad Greene WR Florida State
66 Bernard Reedy WR Toledo
67 Logan Thomas QB Virginia Tech
68 Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE Washington
69 Perry Jones RB Virginia
70 Ka'Deem Carey RB Arizona
71 Kedrick Rhodes RB FIU
72 Javone Lawson WR UL-Lafayette
73 Tevin Reese WR Baylor
74 Kasen Williams WR Washington
75 Landry Jones QB Oklahoma
76 Braxton Miller QB Ohio State
77 Fitzgerald Toussaint RB Michigan
78 Onterio McCalebb RB Auburn
79 Kerwynn Williams RB Utah State
80 Stefphon Jefferson RB Nevada
81 Marcus Mariota QB Oregon
82 Christine Michael RB Texas A&M
83 Matt Miller WR Boise State
84 Markus Wheaton WR Oregon State
85 Chris Gragg TE Arkansas
86 Blaine Gautier QB UL-Lafayette
87 Jawon Chisholm RB Akron
88 Aaron Murray QB Georgia
89 Tyler Wilson QB Arkansas
90 Riley Nelson QB BYU
91 Tracy Moore WR Oklahoma State
92 Malcolm Brown RB Texas
93 Kain Colter QB Northwestern
94 Derek Carr QB Fresno State
95 Gavin Escobar TE San Diego State
96 Zac Dysert QB Miami (Ohio)
97 Dewayne Peace WR Houston
98 Eric Ward WR Texas Tech
99 Eric Thomas WR Troy
100 Jawan Jamison RB Rutgers
101 Ronnie Williams WR Houston
102 Ryan Otten TE San Jose State
103 Jacob Pedersen TE Wisconsin
104 Johnathan Franklin RB UCLA
105 Hunter Lee RB Louisiana Tech
106 Dominique Whaley RB Oklahoma
107 Lache Seastrunk RB Baylor
108 Jordan Lynch QB Northern Illinois
109 Taylor Martinez QB Nebraska
110 Casey Pachall QB TCU
111 Erik Highsmith WR North Carolina
112 Trey Metoyer WR Oklahoma
113 Justin Hunter WR Tennessee
114 Joseph Fauria TE UCLA
115 Andrei Lintz TE Washington State
116 DeAndre Hopkins WR Clemson
117 LSU DEF/SPT    
118 Alabama DEF/SPT    
119 Jyruss Edwards RB UL-Monroe
120 Jahwan Edwards RB Ball State
121 Montel Harris RB Temple
122 Matt Brown RB Temple
123 Colby Cameron QB Louisiana Tech
124 Tavarres King WR Georgia
125 Nick Florence QB Baylor
126 Matt Scott QB Arizona
127 Jack Doyle TE Western Kentucky
128 Carlos Hyde RB Ball State
129 Tyler Bray QB Tennessee
130 Jordan Matthews WR Vanderbilt
131 Luke Willson TE Rice
132 Crockett Gillmore TE Colorado State
133 Florida State DEF/SPT    
134 Virginia Tech DEF/SPT    
135 Blake Jackson TE Oklahoma State
136 Jake Stoneburner TE Ohio State
137 Alonzo Harris RB UL-Lafayette
138 Jesse Callier RB Washington
139 Mike James RB Miami
140 Georgia DEF/SPT    
141 Brandin Byrd RB North Texas
142 Aaron Dobson WR Marshall
143 Mike Glennon QB NC State
144 Titus Davis WR Central Michigan
145 Alec Lemon WR Syracuse
146 Levine Toiolo TE Stanford
147 Orwin Smith RB Georgia Tech
148 Antonio Andrews RB Western Kentucky
149 Noel Grigsby WR San Jose State
150 Jackie Williams WR UAB
151 Keenan Davis WR Iowa
152 Tevin Washington QB Georgia Tech
153 South Carolina DEF/SPT    
154 Ohio State DEF/SPT    
155 Emory Blake WR Auburn
156 Marquel Wade WR Arkansas
157 Ja'Terian Douglas RB Tulsa
158 Wes Lunt QB Oklahoma State
159 Rio Johnson QB East Carolina
160 Texas DEF/SPT    
161 Josh Stewart WR Oklahoma State
162 Josh Schaffer WR Western Michigan
163 Devonta Freeman RB Florida State
164 Matt Schilz QB Bowling Green
165 Joe Southwick QB Boise State
166 Anthon Samuel RB Bowling Green
167 Michael Campanaro WR Wake Forest
168 Philip Lutzenkirchen TE Auburn
169 Zach Ertz TE Stanford
170 Spencer Ware RB LSU
171 Michael Ford RB LSU
172 Waymon James RB TCU
173 Bryan Burnham WR Tulsa
174 Cody Green QB Tulsa
175 Demetris Murray RB South Florida
176 Kevin Parks RB Virginia
177 Keith Marshall RB Georgia
178 David Oku RB Arkansas State
179 Bryn Renner QB North Carolina
180 B.J. Daniels QB South Florida
181 Oregon DEF/SPT    
182 Jared Abbrederis WR Wisconsin
184 John Hubert RB Kansas State
185 Latavius Murray RB UCF
185 Shaun Joplin WR Bowling Green
186 Cody Wilson WR Central Michigan
187 Jaxon Shipley WR Texas
188 Florida DEF/SPT    
189 EJ Manuel QB Florida State
190 Jonathan Perry QB UAB
191 Malcolm Agnew RB Oregon State
192 Curtis McNeal RB USC
193 Jarred Salubi RB Baylor
194 Eric Monette WR Western Michigan
195 Michigan State DEF/SPT    
196 Boise State DEF/SPT    
197 Corey Robinson QB Troy
198 Kristoff Williams WR Washington St.
199 James Washington RB NC State
200 Odell Beckham WR LSU

— Published on August 12, 2012


Want to win weekly cash prizes playing college fantasy football? Check out Prime Time College Fantasy Football.


Related College Fantasy Football Content

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Mock Draft
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Quarterback Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Wide Receiver Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Tight End Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Kicker Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Team Defense Rankings

<p> College Fantasy Football: 2012 Top 200</p>
Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 04:04
Path: /college-football/wac-football-2012-predictions

WAC football is officially on life support. The defections of Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii over the last two years have left the conference with just seven members for the 2012 season. With Louisiana Tech and UTSA joining Conference USA for the 2013 season, Texas State moving to the Sun Belt and San Jose State and Utah State moving to the Mountain West, New Mexico State and Idaho are the only remaining members of the WAC. The Aggies and Vandals are searching for a new conference but may have to play as an Independent in 2013.

While the future of the conference is gloomy, Louisiana Tech has a chance to make some national noise this season. The Bulldogs won seven out of their last eight games last year and return several key players. Quarterback Colby Cameron was solid in the second half of the season, while the receiving corps will be among the best in the WAC. The defense must replace seven starters, but there’s plenty of experience returning. Louisiana Tech has a challenging non-conference slate (Texas A&M, at Illinois and at Virginia) but could spring an upset in any of those games.

Gary Andersen has Utah State headed in the right direction, but the Aggies must replace the WAC’s 2011 Offensive Player of the Year – running back Robert Turbin. Quarterback play is a strength with Chuckie Keeton and Adam Kennedy returning, while the defense could be the best in the WAC with seven starters coming back.

While Louisiana Tech and Utah State are clearly the conference’s best teams, the rest of the WAC is up for grabs. San Jose State is a team on the rise, but must replace quarterback Matt Faulkner and safety Duke Ihenacho. However, the Spartans return first-team All-WAC receiver Noel Grigsby and gain the services of Minnesota transfer DeLeon Eskridge at running back.

New Mexico State is making progress under DeWayne Walker, but the Aggies return only four starters. Quarterback Andrew Manley is back from a torn ACL, but he will have a new coordinator and there’s no proven go-to running back. The defense is a major concern with 10 starters departing.

Idaho is coming off a disappointing 2-10 season but there’s hope this team could improve upon that total in 2012. Quarterback play is an issue, but the Vandals are hoping junior college recruit Dominique Blackman can provide a spark. The return of linebacker Robert Siavii should bolster the defense.

Texas State and UTSA enter the first season of FBS play and it will be an uphill battle to reach a winning record. The Bobcats could have a dangerous offense, but lost three starters on the offensive line. UTSA is only in its second season of fielding a team, but there’s certainly no shortage of talent to recruit in Texas. Quarterback Eric Soza posted solid numbers last year (2,148 yards and 14 touchdowns), but depth could be an issue for the Roadrunners in their debut (and only) season in the WAC.

Athlon's 2012 WAC Team Previews

Idaho Texas State
Louisiana Tech UTSA
New Mexico State Utah State
San Jose State  

<p> WAC football 2012 predictions.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 03:55
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL
Path: /college-football/god-tells-kevin-ellison-set-bed-fire-joint

Former San Diego Chargers defender and current Spokane Shock arena football player Kevin Ellison was arrested Thursday after jumping out of his third-floor apartment in the Spokane, Wash., area. The dwelling was on fire, a blaze that Ellison said he started with a marijuana cigar because “God told him to set the bed on fire.”

Firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze before the fire spread, but two neighboring units sustained smoke damage, according to authorities.

The former USC player will have to face an arson charge in federal court, and he should have a hearing within the week to determine his next legal step.

According to Shock majority owner Brady Nelson, Ellison has been suspended by the league.

<p> God tells Kevin Ellison to set fire with a joint</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 23:06
All taxonomy terms: hockey, NHL, Stanley Cup, Monthly
Path: /monthly/storied-history-stanley-cup

It’s considered the toughest trophy to win in professional sports. It’s made of silver and nickel alloy, weighs 34.5 pounds and measures 35 ¼ inches. It’s the Stanley Cup. Unlike other trophies in North American pro sports, the Cup isn’t remade every year, which makes it more special and creates a kind of folklore surrounding it. Each year, after the playoffs, stories about the Cup come to fruition after team members spend their designated day with the Cup. Here are some of the more popular stories surrounding teams and their experiences with the trophy.

It was designed to be a neat and original Cup photo op. Blackhawks forward, and Buffalo native, Patrick Kane decided to take the Cup to Niagara Falls. But this proved a side-story to what happened after Kane left the falls. That afternoon, Kane took the Cup in a fire engine and was lifted in a ladder over Buffalo. Then the ladder wouldn’t go down and Kane was stranded with the Cup about 70 feet above ground for 20 minutes. “It was a little scary, but anything with this (the Cup) is unexpected,” a visibly shaken Kane told “I’m just happy to be out.”

Out of all the pictures taken of the Cup, few match the high wire act Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer performed in 2000. Nidermayer had a helicopter take him to the top of Fisher Peak in British Columbia, close to Niedermayer’s childhood home of Cranbrook, BC. When he won the Stanley Cup again in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks, Niedermayer, and his brother Rob went to the top of the 9,336-foot mountain for a re-do of the photo. “The heli had to hover about three feet up and we jumped out,” Scott Niedermayer told Skiing Magazine in 2009. “The photos tied the Stanley Cup to the mountains and my home.”

Curses have been born in the Cup most notably the New York Rangers’ Cup hex of 1940. That year, after New York won the Stanley Cup, its owners burned Madison Square Garden’s mortgage in the chalice. The $3 million pricetag had just been paid, and the pyrotechnics were considered more of a celebration. The hockey gods took note. The Rangers wouldn’t win another Cup until 1994.

Ray Bourque waited 22 years to win the Stanley Cup. When Colorado won it in 2001, captain Joe Sakic didn’t even hold it over his head before passing it to the grizzled veteran. "I couldn't breathe, and it wasn't because I was tired," Bourque said after the game. "It was just too much. I was trying to hold off the tears." How did Bourque celebrate that night? He didn’t go to Disneyland. Instead, he hosted a street hockey game in his suburban Denver neighborhood with the Cup close by.

Detroit Coach Mike Babcock is considered an avid water skier. So it made perfect sense for Babcock to strap the Cup to his boat at Emma Lake in Saskatchewan for his day with it in 2008 and then ride behind it.

With all its travels and history, it’s fascinating to think that the Cup never made it to Russia, until 1997. That year the Detroit Red Wings won their first Stanley Cup and three of their five Russian players took it to their homeland. The Cup went to Red Square, an exhibition soccer game, and met Russian President Boris Yeltsin. “If every one of them (the fans) smiles, then I know why we came here,” defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov was quoted in a 1997 article in The New York Times.

The 1994 New York Rangers Stanley Cup win brought all sorts of interesting stories and photo ops. Brian Leetch and Mark Messier took the Cup on David Letterman’s show. They also brought it to McSorley’s Old Ale House in Greenwich Village. But no photo was more interesting – or bizarre – then Ed Olczyk taking it to Belmont Park and allowing Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin to feed out of it.

Messier liked to bring the Cup to his favorite, um, establishments. These included two of the more noted gentlemen’s clubs in two countries. In 1987 after Edmonton’s 7-game victory over Philadelphia, Messier brought the Cup to the Forum Inn, a strip club near Northlands Coliseum. He duplicated this act in 1994 with the Rangers. Messier brought the Cup to Scores in Manhattan.

The most famous Stanley Cup story involves Mario Lemieux’s swimming pool – twice. When the Pittsburgh Penguins won their second Stanley Cup, Lemieux had a party at his house. In order to get the party jumping, defenseman Phil Bourque decided to throw the Cup into the pool to see if it floated. Bourque quickly came to a realization, however. “It doesn’t float,” Bourque said in an interview in 2008. “We put it in Mario’s pool and it sinks in a matter of 10 seconds. We didn’t want to hurt it because you got to respect the Cup, but you want to have some fun with it too.” Photos of the Cup in Lemieux’s pool following the Penguins’ 2009 championship surfaced that summer. In those photos, the Cup appeared to be floating.

Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 18:21
Path: /mlb/ra-dickey-no-hitter-or-bj-upton-hit

Was B.J. Upton’s chopper off R.A. Dickey down the third-base line a hit or an error? By my standards, it was an error. By most official scorer’s decisions on a nightly basis, it was a hit.

It doesn’t carry the same weight as a block/charge in basketball or pass interference/no call in football — those decisions affect the outcome of the game — but every night in every baseball game the official scorer decides hit or error at least once. And while it doesn’t affect the outcome, it does play havoc with batting averages, ERAs and, as we saw last night, even history.

Wednesday night in St. Pete, this is not just your garden variety hit/error decision where the Mets' Dickey might call the press box during the game to have the scorer make a change, only to have Upton make a subsequent call to have it changed back. No. There’s much more import here.

You see, this was the only play in which the scorer ruled a hit for the Rays.

Dickey faced just two batters over the minimum during his sterling effort. Third baseman David Wright made an error on a ground ball by Elliot Johnson leading off the ninth inning. Had the no-hitter still been in effect, this would have been a defining moment. Instead, it was just another error.

The deeper issue I have is that official scorers have become much too hitter-friendly over the years. A quick glance at error totals through the years supports this. I understand that fielders are better, gloves are better, fields are immaculate eliminating most weird bounces, but it seems that in order to be charged with an error these days, the ball must bounce out of a glove, a throw sail wide or a ground ball must squirt through a fielder’s legs.

Wright should have made that play on Upton, in my opinion. From a pitcher’s perspective, an out should have been recorded. It wasn’t, so charge an error. However, by most scoring standards, this was a hit.

Last night, as the Cardinals were nursing a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning, a ground ball up the middle just eludes shortstop Rafael Furcal, allowing a runner to reach. My call: Error, no question. Official Scorer: Hit. In this instance, other than Alejandro De Aza of the White Sox having another hit in his column this morning, there was no impact whatsoever. No ERA effect, no game-changer, no history re-writing.

Questionable scoring decisions occur every night in every game. Most have no lasting effect, and most even would be considered “correct” by experts. And there are review processes in place under certain circumstances. But let’s not start changing calls just because a no-hitter is in play.

Upton was the third batter Dickey faced in the first inning, so no one is thinking no-hitter at that time. And with a 1 in the column under H on the scoreboard, no one is thinking no-hitter for the remainder of the game. So the suspense, the tension, the superstitions, the excitement of watching history unfold — all of that is gone.

The Mets are appealing to MLB to have the scoring changed to an error, giving Dickey a no-hitter. I’m sure the Mets would love to celebrate two no-hitters in one season after playing 50 years without one, but the moment is gone.

- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

<p> Was B.J. Upton’s chopper off R.A. Dickey down the third-base line a hit or an error? By my standards, it was an error. By most official scorer’s decisions on a nightly basis, it was a hit.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 14:17
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-michigan

From the mountains of Pennsylvania to the rolling hills of Michigan, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400.

Racing on yet another repaved track, teams have two test sessions throughout the day on Thursday as they attempt to get acclimated with the new track surface, the higher speeds and how tires will react.

This is another great opportunity for NASCAR fantasy racers, as drivers will be in and out of the media center throughout the day providing insight that could go a long way when making your final lineup decisions.

While all teams will have the opportunity to hit the track for an extra day of testing, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya conducted a two-day tire test in April. Each of the drivers complimented the new surface's grip and indicated speeds were among the fastest they have experienced.

“This place is fast. I mean fast, fast,” Montoya said following the test session. “Our minimum speed this morning was over 180 mph through the corner when you think about it. We are doing easily over 210 mph at the end of the straight.”

Teams have backed that up as of mid-morning on Thursday, as drivers were clicking off average lap times of 200-plus mph. For perspective, Martin Truex Jr. was recorded at 218 mph going into Turn 1.

Already in the backyard of team owner Jack Roush and Ford Motor Company, the additional test in April should pay huge dividends for the current points leader, Kenseth.

Kenseth calls Michigan one of his “favorite tracks throughout the season,” and has two wins, 11 top 5s and 16 top 10s in 25 starts there. Veteran crew chief Jimmy Fennig admits he has little use of the mountains of notes compiled prior to the April test session — instead, he will fall back on what they learned over that two-day period.

“There was a ton of grip, and I assume it would be a little faster as the track gets dusted off and rubbered in, so speeds should pick up a bit,” Kenseth said. “When we were in race trim, we were almost four seconds faster than we were racing last year, which is quite a difference.”

Taking the points lead for the first time since winning the season-opening Daytona 500, Kenseth enters this weekend with a 10-point advantage of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

For Earnhardt, the arduous task of ending his 143-winless streak returns to the site of his last victory. Coming off one of his strongest performances to date in Hendrick equipment at Pocono last week, Earnhardt and the No. 88 team head to Michigan with Victory Lane at their fingertips.

After leading 36 laps and finishing eighth last week, the frustration was clear on Earnhardt's face after he climbed from the car. Do not mistake this frustration as that of years past, though. Earnhardt and his Steve Letarte-led team are one of the most consistent teams in the series right now — with a circuit-best 11 top 10s this season — yet the one thing eluding them is a win.

Since his ’08 win, Earnhardt has only one top 5 and two top 10s on the two-mile D-shaped oval, with three consecutive finishes of 14th or worse. However, with the new racing surface, teams have thrown out their notes from previous years. While the No. 88 team did not take part in the April tire test, Hendrick’s No. 24 did, which may pay dividends.

That fact might have been evident in Thursday's test session, as Earnhardt was one of the fastest cars of the day, topping 200 mph (more than six mph faster than Ryan Newman's qualifying record set in 2005).

Other drivers to consider as favorites this weekend are Keselowski, the hometown hero, two-time Michigan winner Gordon, and Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards.

Five Favorites: Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards

The last time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was in Michigan, it was Kyle Busch that survived a green-white-checker finish to score the win. Busch has suffered from inconsistency over the years at MIS, but finished third and first in both races last year, leading a combined 81 laps.

Coming off consecutive engine failures at Dover and Pocono, Busch fell three spots to 12th in the series standings. While it is certainly not time to panic, Busch and the No. 18 team would be a lot more comfortable racing through the summer stretch inside the top 10 in points. Busch was also among the fastest cars in Thursday's test session.

Michigan has been known to be tough on engines, so be mindful of Joe Gibbs Racing's powerplant issues of late and chose carefully.

After slipping up in the final laps last week in Pocono, veteran Mark Martin heads to Michigan looking for another solid run. With 52 starts at MIS, Martin should be a threat again this weekend as he has five wins, 18 top 5s and 31 top 10s, giving him the seventh-best average finish among active drivers. And he — like many — was fast on Thursday, being the first to break the 201 mph barrier.

Much like Busch, however, Martin and his Toyota engines have suffered from issues throughout the year. In his 11 starts this season, Martin has had two engine failures, at Kansas and Charlotte.

It is hard to imagine five-time champion Jimmie Johnson could be an undervalued pick in any sense of the imagination. However, Michigan is one of only five tracks the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet has yet to win. Despite having the 10th-best average finish, Johnson has come up short in each of his 20 starts here — and on a couple of occasions, coming up short has meant running out of fuel on the final lap.

Last June, Johnson struggled here, starting 21st, failing to lead a lap and coming home 27th. When the series returned in August, though, Johnson drove from a 19th starting spot up to a second-place finish, leading 18 laps in the process. Over the course of his last seven Michigan starts, Johnson has only two top-10 finishes, but has led an impressive 323 laps.

Kevin Harvick also enters this weekend's race as an undervalued pick. The Richard Childress Racing driver has the ninth-best average finish at Michigan, but was fast in Thursday's morning test session, breaking the 200 mph barrier.

Five Undervalued Picks: Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman

<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 13:46
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-june-14

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

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise
We are less than a month away from the All-Star game, which will be held July 10 in Kansas City. While the majority of this year’s top fantasy producers will find themselves in KC for the mid-summer classic, we thought we would take a look at some of the current (entering Thursday’s games) category leaders. You may be surprised at more than one of these.

Batting Average: It may be a little surprising to find that Paul Konerko is leading the American League with a .376 average, but he is a five-time All-Star who’s hit over .300 in four other seasons and carried a .282 career batting average into this season. What is definitely surprising, however, is who is currently third in the AL, Mark Trumbo. Last season Trumbo finished second in the voting for AL Rookie of the Year after posting a .254-29-87 line for the Angels.

This season, Trumbo is off to an even better start, fueled largely by a .328 batting average, which is more than 70 points higher than his 2011 mark, and improved plate discipline. He’s already walked 18 times in 201 at-bats this season, compared to 25 in 539 in ‘11. Trumbo’s fantasy value is only enhanced by the fact he’s eligible at three different positions – 1B, 3B and OF — and he’s a top-15 player at all of them currently.

Runs: Carlos Gonzalez leads the majors and National League with 48 runs scored and Ian Kinsler leads the AL with 47. But can you guess who’s tied for fifth in all of baseball with 44 runs? That would be Alejandro De Aza. The young White Sox outfielder has settled in nicely in the leadoff spot and has been a valuable all-around fantasy contributor this season. Besides the runs, De Aza is batting .308 with four home runs, 27 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. Not bad for someone who’s currently owned in less than 80 percent of Yahoo! leagues, especially considering he’s a top-10 outfielder.

Home Runs: Josh Hamilton, who is this season’s fantasy MVP so far with a ridiculous .335-22-62 line, leads baseball with his 22 bombs. Currently in second place you ask? None other than Adam Dunn, who hit his 21st home run on Tuesday. Remember, Dunn is the same guy everyone thought was done after hitting just 11 home runs in 2011, along with driving in only 42 hitting a pitiful .159. Just 62 games into this season, he’s almost doubled his home run total from last season and already has more RBIs (47). The batting average (.226) is still a problem, as are the strikeouts (leads the majors with 98), but an OPS of .928, along with the power and run production certainly make Dunn more appealing, at least this season.

Stolen Bases: Emilio Bonifacio went on the disabled list on May 20 with a thumb injury. At the time, the Marlins’ speedy utility man was running away from the rest of the league with 20 stolen bases. Since he’s been on the shelf for more than three weeks, it’s not surprising we have a new clubhouse leader. The new front-runner, however, is not Michael Bourn (he has 17) or Jose Reyes (16) nor is it Dodgers’ burner Dee Gordon (20). No, the current top base-stealer is none other than Tony Campana. The Cubs’ outfielder has swiped 21 bases in just 123 at-bats. Campana, who is owned in just 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues, doesn’t offer any other fantasy value other than his speed, but if you have room for him on your roster and have patience, he could prove to be a difference-maker when it comes to stolen bases.

There’s also Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis who has 15 stolen bases to go along with his 10 home runs, 40 RBIs, 44 runs scored and a .283 batting average. Put it all together and you have the top second baseman in all of fantasy baseball right now. Another pleasant surprise at second has been Houston’s Jose Altuve, all 65 inches of him. Altuve, who stands a mere 5’5”, leads all second basemen with a .321 average, and his 11 stolen bases are second only to Kipnis. He’s also scored 40 runs, hit four home runs and driven in 22. Altuve is proof that good things, even when it comes to fantasy baseball, do indeed come in small packages.

Wins: The current major-league leaders in wins are the Mets’ R.A. Dickey and Cardinals’ Lance Lynn, two guys who have 10 wins each and probably went undrafted in virtually every league. Besides them, the Rangers’ Matt Harrison has just as many wins (8) as David Price and CC Sabathia have. Also, a Dodgers’ left-hander has eight wins, only it’s Chris Capuano and not Clayton Kershaw, last season’s NL Cy Young winner who has five victories so far in 2012.

ERA: Atlanta’s Brandon Beachy is the only qualified starter with an ERA of less than 2.00 (1.98) at this point in the season. As good as Beachy’s been, White Sox left-hander Chris Sale has been better. Sale leads the AL with a 2.05 ERA and is arguably one the top fantasy pitchers to this point as he has eight wins, 76 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings pitched, and a WHIP of 0.92.

Pittsburgh’s James McDonald (5-2, 2.39 ERA, 73 Ks in 75 1/3 IP) and Arizona’s Wade Miley (7-3, 2.39 ERA) also have been pleasant surprises and valuable SPs. There’s also Capuano, who’s putting up career-best numbers (8-2, 2.87 ERA) in a Dodgers’ uniform.

WHIP: He doesn’t “qualify” in terms of innings pitched, but the numbers that Cincinnati reliever Aroldis Chapman has put up so far deserve recognition. Chapman, the Reds’ seventh-inning guy turned setup man turned closer has allowed just 12 hits and four earned runs in 32 innings so far, while striking out 56. That’s right, he currently maintains a nearly 5:1 strikeout-to-hits allowed ratio and has a 0.69 WHIP and 1.13 ERA, in addition to the the four wins, six holds and seven saves he has registered so far. He had value before he became the Reds’ closer, and now you could make the argument that he’s the most valuable relief pitcher in all of fantasy baseball.

Ernesto Frieri has taken a similar path to Chapman as he’s gone from a bullpen arm in San Diego to the closer in Anaheim, while producing similar numbers in the process. Frieri is 1-0 with five holds and six saves on the season, with a 0.90 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP and 52 strikeouts in only 30 innings pitched.

Saves: It, along with wins, may be one of the more despised categories in fantasy baseball, but regardless, in the vast majority of leagues saves still count. To that end, Cleveland’s Chris Perez currently leads the way with 20, followed by Baltimore’s Jim Johnson’s 19.

Also among the leaders are Tampa Bay’s Fernando Rodney and San Francisco’s Santiago Casilla, two guys who weren’t the closer for their respective teams when the season started. Rodney took the job for the Rays when incumbent Kyle Farnsworth went down and he hasn’t looked back, collecting 18 saves along with two wins while posting a 0.94 ERA and 0.77 WHIP. Casilla got the Giants’ closing gig after they lost Brian Wilson to a season-ending elbow injury, and he’s since posted 17 saves with a 1.42 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.

Alfredo Aceves also has made the most of an unexpected situation, taking over for an injured Andrew Bailey as Boston’s closer. Aceves has racked up 15 saves while striking out more batters (35) than innings pitched (31 2/3), despite having a pretty high ERA (4.83), most of which is the result of a few rough appearances earlier in the season.

DL Watch and Other Injury News

*Oakland A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (.273-6-26) aggravated his left hamstring injury on Wednesday, leaving the game in Colorado in the second inning. He was returning to action after missing the previous four games because of the hamstring issue and after re-injuring it last night, a trip to the DL seems likely. He’s already spent time on the DL, having missed three weeks of action in May because of an injured wrist.

*Oakland A’s right-hander Brandon McCarthy was scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday due to shoulder soreness. McCarthy (5-3, 2.79 ERA) has already spent time on the DL this season for the same issue and it looks like he could be sidelined once again.

*Toronto right-hander Brandon Morrow (7-4, 3.01 ERA) was placed on the DL on Wednesday with a strained left oblique. Morrow, who was leading the AL in complete games with 3 at the time of his injury, left his start against Washington on Monday after throwing just nine pitches. It is not known how long he will be out at this point.

*Texas placed right-hander Alexi Ogando on the 15-day DL on Tuesday with a strained right groin. Ogando had been moved back to the rotation because of injuries to two of the Rangers’ other starters — Derek Holland (fatigued shoulder) and Neftali Feliz (strained elbow ligament). Ogando is expected to be out for at least a month and the Rangers will more than likely utilize multiple spot starters in his place until Roy Oswalt is ready to make his 2012 season debut.

*Jered Weaver threw bullpen sessions on Monday and Tuesday as the Los Angeles Angels’ ace starts his return from a lower back injury that resulted in him going on the DL on May 29. Weaver is scheduled to throw a simulated game before the end of the week and if there are no setbacks he could return to the mound for the Angels’ home series against San Francisco, which starts on Monday.

*Carlos Zambrano is expected to make his next scheduled start on Friday against Tampa Bay after leaving his last start with back stiffness. The Marlins’ pitcher lasted just 2 1/3 innings on Saturday against the Rays and gave up seven runs before departing. That was by far Big Z’s worst outing of the season, as the enigmatic right-hander has been solid for Miami in his first season, going 4-4 with a 3.55 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 12 starts so far, nine of them quality starts.

— By Mark Ross, published on June 14, 2012

<p> Fantasy Baseball Weekend Rundown: June 14</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 10:53
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/us-open-tv-schedule

U.S. Open Television Coverage

Thursday — ESPN Noon-3 p.m; 5-10 p.m.; NBC 3-5 p.m. 

Friday — ESPN Noon-3 p.m; 5-10 p.m.; NBC 3-5 p.m. 

Saturday — NBC 4-10 p.m. 

Sunday — NBC 4-10 p.m. 


Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 09:25
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC East, Washington Redskins, NFL
Path: /nfl/washington-redskins-2012-schedule-analysis

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Washington Redskins 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at New Orleans
Week 2: at St. Louis
Week 3: Cincinnati
Week 4: at Tampa Bay
Week 5: Atlanta
Week 6: Minnesota
Week 7: at New York Giants
Week 8: at Pittsburgh
Week 9: Carolina
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Philadelphia
Week 12: at Dallas (Thur.)
Week 13: New York Giants (Mon.)
Week 14: Baltimore
Week 15: at Cleveland
Week 16: at Philadelphia
Week 17: Dallas

- Starting the season on the road against (what should be) Drew Brees and the Saints will be tough for the rebuilding, rookie-led Redskins. But a closer look at the defenses reveals the first six contests could be manageable for Robert Griffin III. No, I am not calling for wins, but only the Bengals should provide any sort of defensive resistance in the first six weeks.

- Hopefully those first six games will get RG3 enough experience, because Week 6 and 7 provide two of the nastiest road trips in football. Back-to-back visits to the defending champs and Pittsburgh will make for a rude awakening.

- Following the bye week (Week 10), the Skins will enter the toughest four-game stretch of the year. This is good news because of the timing of the off-week. However, facing the Eagles then Dallas four days later on the road before hosting the Giants and Ravens in consecutive weeks is about as brutal a run as there is in the league. Both the rival Cowboys and Giants will come on primetime slots on Thursday and Monday respectively.

- Playing in the East was going to be tough for Washington regardless of how the opponents are scheduled. But the NFL did them no favors as five of the final seven games will come within the NFC East. Aside from the trip north to face the defending Super Bow Champs in Week 7, most of the East will be determined in the final month and a half. Three straight divisional games (Week 11 to Week 13) will be tough enough with the regional rival Ravens looming in Week 14. Then the season wraps-up with back-to-back divisional games: at Phily and Dallas at home.

- Facing the AFC North this year will hurt the Skins' case for improvement as it could be the toughest division in the AFC this season. A road trip to the Steel City will be nasty and a late season trip to Cleveland is winnable but could be filled with weather concerns (in Week 15). Hosting Baltimore on the Parkway will be fun for fans — until they look at the scoreboard. Hosting Cincinnati in Week 3 will be a huge indicator of Mike Shanahan’s current level of development. Should they beat the Bengals, a playoff team from last year, fans will have a reason to be optimistic in 2012.

- Within the NFC, Washington will face the NFC South, all of which will take place before the bye week on Week 10. The season opens with a trip to NOLA before a Week 4 visit to the New Sombrero in Tampa. A tough match-up with Matt Ryan and Atlanta in Week 5 and an equally intriguing Cam Newton-Robert Griffin III showdown against Carolina (Week 9) gives the Redskins four NFC South games in their first nine contests.

- The two floating games for 2012 will be a blessing for Hog Heads everywhere. A road trip to St. Louis in Week 2 and a home game against Minnesota in Week 6 offer up two great chances for wins this fall. If the Skins want to improve in 2012, wins over the Vikes and Rams will be imperative.

Fantasy Focus: Despite the difficulty of predicting Shanahan’s workload tendencies, Redskins’ offensive players should face few speed bumps in the first six weeks of the season. The Bengals offer the toughest defense over that span, so sell your Skins high before they hit the Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, Ravens run of mid-to-late season. 

- by Braden Gall


Order your 2012 Washington Redskins Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

<p> Washington Redskins 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/big-12-football-2012-predictions

Landry Jones might have been a first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft. Instead, he’s still a Sooner, giving Oklahoma an elite quarterback and the inside track to the Big 12 title. Jones already owns 13 school passing records and must be considered a Heisman candidate. The Sooners will be looking for playmakers to go with him, which proved difficult a year ago once Ryan Broyles went down with an injury. And new/old defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has some shoring up to do on his side of the ball. Still, the pieces appear to be in place.

Texas possesses no such comfort or certainty at quarterback, a condition that has plagued it during a two-year slump that seemed impossible in Austin. Still, the Horns are otherwise well-stocked on offense and can count on the league’s top defense to put them back in the mix.

How will West Virginia’s act play in the Big 12? Don’t discount the former Big East beasts from the title chase — Big 12 and nationally. League defensive coordinators are more than familiar with Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen from his days at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. And they’re dreading facing him, with quarterback Geno Smith and a slew of offensive weapons ready to take off in Year 2 of Holgorsen’s madcap system.

After winning their first Big 12 championship and downing Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl, it looks like a rebuild at Oklahoma State, where Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and more must be replaced. Or, with stacked years of better recruiting classes, the Cowboys could just reload. A heavy burden falls on new quarterback Wes Lunt, yet skill players are present. This could be the year the Pokes lean on a stout defense — yes, defense.

TCU finally got the invitation to the big time it so sorely craved. Now the Horned Frogs will have to show they can play with the big boys week-in and week-out. Maybe it’s time to quit counting Kansas State — and Bill Snyder — out. The magic show continues in Manhattan, where Snyder does more with less, although quarterback Collin Klein is the real deal at quarterback. Robert Griffin III took his Heisman and face-of-the-program status to the NFL, leaving many to wonder if the clock has struck midnight on Baylor. The sense is that Art Briles has built a program, not a one-man gang.

Aside from a stunning upset of Oklahoma, Texas Tech’s 2011 season was a disaster, and there’s little reason to believe the Red Raiders are upwardly mobile. Not only is Iowa State in rebuilding mode, but the Cyclones are also looking for a quarterback to build behind. Charlie Weis is trying to pump life and hope into the program at Kansas. It will take time.

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Previews

Baylor Oklahoma State
Iowa State TCU
Kansas Texas
Kansas State Texas Tech
Oklahoma West Virginia

Take Me Home, West Virginia

For most West Virginia players and fans, their maiden season in the Big 12 will be a journey into the unknown. But they have their coaches to lead the way. At least partly by design, Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen has assembled a staff loaded with knowledge and insight into the Big 12.

Of course, it starts with Holgorsen himself, a former assistant at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. And it extends to five staff members, including co-defensive coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson. DeForest, a dynamic recruiter in the Houston area, joined Holgorsen from OSU one year after coaching alongside him with the Cowboys. Patterson is a former Tulsa aide who recruited the area and prepared game plans against several Big 12 squads. Cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts is a Texas alum, while running backs coach Robert Gillespie left OSU with Holgorsen. Quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital has been with Holgorsen at Houston, OSU and West Virginia.

“We probably know a lot more about the Big 12 than the Big 12 knows about us,” Holgorsen said. “We know a bunch about it. We’re not going to go into a hornet’s nest without knowing about it. Now, that in itself isn’t going to win you any games, but I do think it will be beneficial in the long run.”

QB Comings, Goings

The league lost marquee quarterbacks with Heisman winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor and Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State off to the NFL. Still, quarterback remains a position of strength league wide, thanks in part to the latest round of conference realignment. The Big 12 already had Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Kansas State’s Collin Klein coming back. The addition of West Virginia’s Geno Smith and TCU’s Casey Pachall provides four legitimate all-conference candidates.

Gundy On The Climb

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is on the rise. Entering this season, Gundy sits just four wins shy of becoming the school’s all-time winningest coach. With 59 wins through seven seasons, Gundy trails his former coach, Pat Jones, who is the leader with 62 career victories.

The 2011 season provided a major checkpoint for Gundy, who led the Cowboys to a school-record 12 wins, a first Big 12 championship and a first BCS bowl berth, won over Stanford. Gundy won both the Bear Bryant Award and Eddie Robinson Award as national Coach of the Year.

All that success earned Gundy a contract extension to the tune of eight years, $30.3 million. The deal is frontloaded, featuring a salary of $3.275 million this season, putting him third in the Big 12 behind only Mack Brown and Bob Stoops.

“I am humbled and appreciative for the new extension,” Gundy says. “Oklahoma State means a lot to me and my family. My duty is to continue building on the success we have enjoyed the past few years and make sure our program complements the academic mission of OSU.”

Giving Back, Big

Adrian Peterson had been thinking about doing something for his alma mater, Oklahoma. And just like he did during his playing career at OU, Peterson produced a record, pledging a $1 million donation to the athletics department. The funds will support the construction of Headington Hall, the school’s new student housing facility, as well as establish the Adrian Peterson Football Scholarship Endowment. The gift is the largest single donation ever from a former Sooners player. “I always hoped to be in a position to be able to donate back to the University of Oklahoma and make it an even better place — do whatever I could to help the university that did so much for me,” Peterson says.

Longhorn Running Mates

Heisman Trophy winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams were decades apart at Texas, but they now stand together outside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Bronzed.

Before the Longhorns’ Spring Game, the school unveiled a statue of Williams near the one of Campbell that has greeted visitors to the stadium since 2006. The Texas stars have previously been linked by their rushing prowess and their Heismans. Now they’re linked permanently.

The Williams statue is an 8-foot, 1,000-pound piece commissioned in honor of his outstanding years as a Longhorn from 1995-98. At UT, Williams produced a then-NCAA record 6,279 rushing yards, highlighted by a 2,124 total his senior year. As for the likeness?“Close enough,” Williams said.

“Words can’t describe how honored I am. Having a statue at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium is something I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams when I came here from San Diego.”

<p> 2012 Big 12 Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, Kansas City Chiefs, NFL
Path: /nfl/kansas-city-chiefs-2012-schedule-analysis

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Kansas City Chiefs 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Atlanta
Week 2: at Buffalo
Week 3: at New Orleans
Week 4: San Diego
Week 5: Baltimore
Week 6: at Tampa Bay
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Oakland
Week 9: at San Diego (Thurs.)
Week 10: at Pittsburgh (Mon.)
Week 11: Cincinnati
Week 12: Denver
Week 13: Carolina
Week 14: at Cleveland
Week 15: at Oakland
Week 16: Indianapolis
Week 17: at Denver

Order your 2012 Kansas City Chiefs Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Kansas City opens its 2012 season in Arrowhead Stadium against Atlanta. Then its back-to-back road games in Buffalo and New Orleans before opening divisional play against San Diego at home.

- The Chiefs play both the NFC South and AFC North as its cross-divisonal opponents in 2012. They will play three of their four NFC games in the first six weeks, while three of their four against the AFC North will come in a five-week span from Weeks 10-14. Kansas City's Week 3 trip to New Orleans is the opener of a difficult three-game stretch that also includes consecutive home games against San Diego and Baltimore. The Chiefs also will play the Steelers on Monday night in Week 10 coming off of a Thursday night road game the preceding week in San Diego.

- Kansas City plays San Diego in Week 4 and then doesn't play another AFC West game until Week 8 as Oakland comes to town. Three of the Chargers' final four divisional games are road contests, including trips to Oakland and Denver in Weeks 15 and 17.

- The Chiefs are on bye in Week 7, meaning they will play 10 straight games when they return to the field. Half of the Chiefs' 10 games after the bye are divisional match ups with their AFC West rivals, starting with back-to-back games against Oakland and at San Diego in Weeks 8 and 9.

- Kansas City's floating games are at Buffalo in Week 2 and against Indianapolis in Week 16. The home date against the Colts comes at a good time, as it will break up the Chiefs' final two divisional games —at Oakland and at Denver.

Fantasy Focus: Jamaal Charles finished second in the NFL in rushing in 2010 with 1,467 yards and was third in fantasy points among running backs. Charles tore his ACL in the first game of the 2011 season, but is expected to be healthy and ready to go in Week 1 of this season. Kansas City also added former Cleveland Brown running back Peyton Hillis, who was second in fantasy points among running backs in 2011, to its backfield during the offseason. Whether it's Charles or Hillis, whoever emerges as the primary ball-carrier for the Chiefs could be in line for a big season, and it's possible both will be a reliable fantasy option in 2012. Eight of Kansas City's 13 opponents in 2012 ranked among the teams who gave up the most fantasy points to running backs in 2011. Tampa Bay, Carolina, Indianapolis and Buffalo led the way in this category, with Cleveland (7th-most), New Orleans (8th) and AFC West foes Oakland (11th) and Denver (16th) also finishing among the top 16 teams.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 14, 2012

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

<p> Kansas City Chiefs 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 06:00