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All taxonomy terms: Eli Manning, New York Giants, Victor Cruz, News
Path: /news/victor-cruz-store-second-straight-dud-week-16
Body:

Since becoming a major player in the New York Giants offense in Week 3, receiver Victor Cruz had his second-lowest output of the season in Week 15 against the Washington Redskins. Not the best time to have a dud for fantasy owners counting on him in their semifinals. But Cruz could be 2-for-2 in coming up short when the Giants face the Jets in Week 16.

Cruz had just 44 yards on five catches and nine targets against the 13th-ranked pass defense of the Redskins. His other dud was a two-catch, 12-yard game against Buffalo in Week 6.

Now Cruz and the Giants face the Jets and their seventh-ranked pass defense.

It is a pass defense that has only allowed nine touchdowns to receivers all season. Two of those came in the Week 1 game against Dallas, three came against Buffalo in Week 12 and only Kansas City’s Jerheme Urban has scored against them in the last three weeks.

Buffalo’s Steve Johnson is the only receiver to gain 70 or more yards on New York since its Week 8 bye. Johnson caught three balls for 84 yards in the Week 9 meeting and 77 yards and a score on four catches in Week 12. Outside of Johnson, Dwayne Bowe came closest to 70 yards when he needed 10 targets to grab six balls for 69 yards in Week 14.

Just since the Jets’ Week 8 bye, here are how a few totals for standout receivers not named Steve Johnson’ totals read out: Vincent Jackson 1-for-15, Wes Welker 6-for-46, Demaryius Thomas 2-for-37, Santana Moss 5-for-42, Jeremy Maclin 3-for-57 and DeSean Jackson 2-for-28.

The Week 15 dud ended a run for Cruz where he had not dipped below double digits since the Week 6 dud. In the seven games between, he scored 124 fantasy points for a 17.7-point per game average.

It’s hard to sit a receiver that has produced 17.7-points per game for a long stretch of the season and had two games above 24 points prior to that, but lower your expectations for Cruz against a Jets team that has been extremely stingy against receivers for a long stretch of the season as well.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> The Giants wide receiver needs to rebound for his fantasy owners</p>
Post date: Saturday, December 24, 2011 - 08:35
All taxonomy terms: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/sit-titans-running-back-chris-johnson-week-16
Body:

Tired of rolling with Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson? Me too.

I’ve held out for as long as I can — you know, until there was one game left in the majority of fantasy football leagues — hoping for the big runs, the string of big games and it just has not happened. Now he’s battling an ankle injury that, while is not expected to keep him out of the Week 16 game against visiting Jacksonville, surely doesn’t give optimism to using arguably fantasy football’s biggest bust of the 2011 season.

As Johnson struggled through the first half of the season, optimists like myself kept saying “just wait until the back half of that schedule and he will go off.” The first seven games he averaged 8.5 fantasy points per game in Athlon’s half-PPR scoring format; the last seven he’s averaged 12.1. A 3.6-point improvement is not the “going off” I was anticipating.

Johnson’s had four games above 100 yards — three coming since Week 10 — but he’s also had nine games below 60 yards — three coming since Week 10.

Last week’s dud against the Indianapolis Colts’ 30th-ranked run defense was the last straw for me — even before news of the ankle injury. And now he faces a Jacksonville team, ranked 14th against the run, which he opened the season against with a nine-carry, 24-yard day. His six catches for 25 yards is the only thing that saved you from a complete bomb from your RB1 in the opening week of the season — and that’s only if you are in PPR leagues.

If you are in PPR leagues, Johnson’s pass-catching abilities have somewhat eased the pain, but not enough to justify how high a draft pick he was in most leagues. He has a career-high 53 catches for 369 yards and no scores.

The only fantasy players probably getting any bang for their draft buck are the ones that drafted early in August while Johnson was in the height of his holdout this summer. They were able to get him in the late second, early third rounds.

Here’s a look at what Johnson’s holdout for $53 million has produced for you in three types of leagues thus far:
Non-PPR: 151.9 (10.85 ppg)
Athlon’s half-PPR: 179.4 (12.8 ppg)
Full-PPR: 205.9 (14.7 ppg)

This is after two years in which he scored 254.9 (15.9 ppg) and 374.7 (23.4 ppg) fantasy points in the Athlon format — and the 254.9 was considered a down year as he was a top-three pick in 2010 drafts.

So starting Johnson against the Jaguars this week comes down to what do you want from him? He’s on a bum ankle that he reportedly is having trouble cutting on, his home field is not the best track to be playing on this time of year and he averages just 12.8 points per game in Athlon’s half-PPR format.

Jacksonville is allowing 16.1 points per game to opposing teams’ lead ball carriers since Week 8. And if it’s worth anything, the only other team Johnson’s faced twice this season is the Colts, who held him to 55 yards last week and 34 in Week 8. So seeing a team a second time didn’t work out too well the first time this season for CJ.

Start Johnson at your own risk, but I’m done waiting on him.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> Tennessee's running back should be on your bench in week 16</p>
Post date: Saturday, December 24, 2011 - 08:30
Path: /news/adrian-peterson-going-come-through-fantasy-title-games
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It’s championship week in fantasy football and we apparently have trust issues with the best back in the NFL. Well, it’s not so much trusting him as much as it is how the team uses him and what is actual health is.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson came back for the first time in three games when the Vikings played host to the New Orleans Saints in Week 15. He had been sidelined due to a high ankle sprain, and was limited to just 10 carries for 60 yards and a six-point fantasy day.

This week, Peterson travels to play a Washington team that has held the last two teams it has played in check rushing wise — New York Giants (91 yards) and New England (71) — but allowed 88 yards and three scores to Shonn Greene three weeks ago, 111 yards rushing and a receiving TD to Marshawn Lynch in Week 12, 47 yards and two scores to Reggie Bush in Week 10 and 107 yards to Frank Gore in Week 9 and 120 yards by Fred Jackson in Week 8.

So the question is two fold: What kind of run defense will the Skins provide and what kind of Peterson will we see?

There were mixed signals about how Peterson would be used heading into the Week 15 game. Coach Leslie Frazier said “we’ll have to kind of work him in there,” and “we’ll have to monitor how he’s doing.” Peterson acknowledged that he wanted to make good for fantasy players that had lost out on the game’s best back during a crucial stretch of the season, and sounded on his end like he was ready to go.

But 10 carries and six points are not going to get it done, particularly when it’s the semifinals of most fantasy football leagues. I guess it was better than the zero he gave us in Week 15 of last season when he was unexpectedly a scratch 45 minutes before kickoff of a Monday night game, leaving owners with a baron RB spot on the roster.

Last week turned out to lean more toward Frazier’s prophecy than Peterson’s assurance that he was ready for a full load. Yes, the Vikings got down early to the Saints and the team wanted to protect Peterson’s ankle, but who’s to say that won’t happen again today in Washington.

Minnesota has the third-highest scoring offense in the first quarter this season with 91 points, but it also allows the second-most first quarter points (92). And 63 of those 92 points allowed have come in the last six games, while the Vikings have mustered just 18 of their 92 first quarter points in the last six games.

That’s a troubling trend to get your running game going.

Peterson has 30 touches for 137 yards in the Vikings’ last six games. So he’s fresh, but is it healthy fresh? He reportedly didn’t look to have the same speed when he broke off a 39-yard run against New Orleans last week. He’s not on the injury report but he also hasn’t said he’s at 100 percent yet — of course no player really is after Week 1.

So last week was the “work him in there” quote about Peterson and this week came another Frazier gem that should scare fantasy owners: “We'd like to give him a few more carries for sure," Frazier said of Peterson. "But we do also want to mix Toby (Gerhart) in there. He did a good job for us. But we do want to get Adrian more carries."

We’d like to? We want to mix in Gerhart? You’re the coach. Just give Peterson the ball, please.

With the lack of conviction I’m hearing from Frazier in getting Peterson the full workload, admittedly wanting Gerhart to get more work than he had when the two backs were healthy, Minnesota possibly getting behind early again like it has in a big way the last six weeks and the Washington defense being relatively solid against fantasy RBs, particularly shared backfields. Peterson is quite a risk this week.

Like I said last week, if he’s out there and going to finish the game you can’t sit the NFL’s best at the position. But if he’s getting 10 carries and not getting into the end zone, under 10 points in the championship game from my No. 1 RB is not what I’m looking for.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> Should the Vikings running back be in your week 16 lineup?</p>
Post date: Saturday, December 24, 2011 - 08:23
Path: /nfl/if-tom-coughlin-gets-fired-year-who-will-be-giants-next-head-coach
Body:

Tom Coughlin’s seat isn’t necessarily hot. It’s more like lukewarm heading into the final two games of the NFL season. His bosses don’t want to fire him, and they might use any excuse to keep him.

It’s also possible that they’ll have no choice if he loses his last two games.

That’s the precarious position Coughlin has put himself in with two games to go in the Giants’ season gone wrong, which started at 6-2 and is now in the throes of what Justin Tuck called an “historical” collapse. They are 1-5 in the second half, coming off a hideously pathetic, 23-10 loss to the Washington Redskins. They head into their Christmas Eve showdown against the Jets, facing humiliation and possible elimination.

Coughlin can still survive. There’s a possibility he can even survive if this injury-riddled team doesn’t make the playoffs. But what he can’t survive is the spectre of his team quitting on him down the stretch, the way they did two seasons ago. When they pushed the Green Bay Packers to the final minute and followed that up with a season-saving win in Dallas, it sure didn’t look like they had any quit in them.

Now? Who knows? They’ve been a Jekyll and Hyde team all year long. They’re certainly capable of completely unraveling down the stretch.

And if they do, John Mara and Steve Tisch, the stability-loving owners of the Giants, could be forced into making the decision they don’t want to make. They love Coughlin. They admire his work ethic and preparation. They believe (correctly) the post-2006 version is respected by his players. His teams, for the most part, play the right way and stay in contention. He runs a tight, disciplined ship that rarely gets any unwanted attention.

Sometimes it’s just time for a change, though. But if Mara and Tisch do it, they better have an answer to these two questions:

Is there somebody out there who is a better coach than Coughlin? Do they really think someone could have done any better with this flawed, battered and overrated team?

If they believe the answers are yes, then the shortlist to replace Coughlin could be an incredibly short one -- and really only two or three of the potential candidates have any real appeal. They’d have to look at all the big names, of course, because it’ll be hard to fire a coach with a ring off a near-playoff season and replace him with an unknown assistant. In Pittsburgh, you can do that and cross your fingers that you’ve found Mike Tomlin. In New York you can’t take the chance that you’ve landed Ray Handley instead.

That said, here’s a look at five of the most popular names being kicked around as candidates, mostly outside of the organization. One look at this list, though, and the conclusion might be that if these are the guys on the shortlist, the Giants are better off with what they already have:

Bill Cowher
He’s No. 1 on everyone’s list outside the organization and he’s likely high on the theoretical list inside, too. He not only has a Super Bowl ring – which seems like a must when you’re replacing a Super Bowl-winning coach -- but he has a high profile and he worked for the Rooney family in Pittsburgh, which isn’t insignificant given the Rooney’s close (and family) ties to the Mara’s. He would bring instant stability, respect, credibility and he can coach, too.

Jeff Fisher
Maybe the only other candidate that fits the Giants’ profile. He coached for a long, long time in Tennessee and showed a remarkable resiliency. Whenever his teams seemed to be on a downward spiral, he found a way to turn things around. He never won a Super Bowl, but he got there (and got within a yard of winning it). Mara also knows him well from their years serving together on the NFL’s Competition Committee. The only worry is that his long term in Tennessee included a battle with a general manager and ended with him fighting with his owner over a franchise quarterback he didn’t want.

Jon Gruden
He’s the last of the Big Three on the market – the three replacement coaches the fans seem to talk about most – but he seems to be the least likely. He certainly can coach, but he brings some baggage that includes the ugly end of his tenures in both Oakland and Tampa Bay. There wasn’t a lot of winning near the end in Tampa, either. But the thing that might frighten the Giants away the most is that he’s outspoken and a bit high-octane. They prefer a more quiet, professional perception of their coach.

Steve Spagnuolo
There was a time when many people assumed he’d be the next coach of the Giants when Coughlin retired, and the Giants’ owners still like and respect “Spags.” He might even be a candidate to return as defensive coordinator if Coughlin stays and fires defensive coordinator Perry Fewell (which seems to be a longshot). The problem with Spagnuolo as head coach is the Giants can’t fire a Super Bowl-winning coach and replace him with a lesser coach who failed to win in St. Louis in the wide-open NFC West.

Romeo Crennel
OK, they’re probably not going to hire a 64-year-old coach to replace a 65-year-old coach. But you know why he makes sense? Because he fits the Giants’ profile. Their hires over the last 30 years have either been high-profile head coaches from elsewhere (Dan Reeves) or former Giants assistants they got to know and respect while they were in New York (Bill Parcells, Ray Handley, Jim Fassel, Tom Coughlin). Things have changed in the organization – most notably ownership, because this would be the first hire since Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch passed away – but Crennel did get an interview when the Giants hired Coughlin and could get a look again. Of course, he’d only be a short-term solution, and he might end up as the head coach of the Chiefs. But he does fit the old profile, and since John Fox and Sean Payton have jobs and will keep them, very few other candidates do.

By RALPH VACCHIANO

Teaser:
<p> The New York Giants coach could lose his job, so who would replace him?</p>
Post date: Friday, December 23, 2011 - 11:44
Path: /college-football/matt-barkleys-return-solidifies-usc-2012-national-title-contender
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and now Matt Barkley. USC’s recent tradition of quarterbacks sticking around for their senior season continued on Thursday with Matt Barkley’s announcement that he will return for one more year in Los Angeles.

After throwing for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns, there was a lot of doubt that Barkley would return for another season. However, the opportunity to contend for a national title was too much to pass up. Barkley was expected to be the No. 2 quarterback selected in the 2012 draft, but could move to the top of the wishlist for teams wishing to take a signal-caller in 2013.

Barkley’s decision to return to the Trojans is huge for their national championship hopes. USC’s two-year bowl ban is over and with most of its core returning, this may be the Trojans best shot at winning a title until the scholarship reductions are over. USC didn’t make it through the offseason without a few departures to the NFL. Two key players - offensive tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry - will enter the draft.

Although the Trojans have to replace Kalil, four starters return on the offensive line. Also, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods headline one of the nation’s top receiving corps. The defense showed big improvement in the second year under coordinator Monte Kiffin, and the back seven will remain intact. Replacing Perry and defensive tackles Christian Tupou and DaJohn Harris are going to be the biggest question marks entering the 2012 season.

In Athlon’s very early top 25 for 2012, USC checks in at No. 2. The Trojans aren’t without flaws, but considering what is coming back, they look like one of the team’s to beat next season. Could we see a Lane Kiffin vs. the SEC in the national title? It certainly isn't out of the question. Additionally, USC is the clear favorite to win the Pac-12 South.

USC’s 2012 Schedule

Non-Conference: Hawaii, Syracuse (at New Jersey) and Notre Dame

Conference Home: Arizona State, California, Colorado and Oregon

Conference Away: Arizona, Stanford, UCLA, Utah and Washington

Here’s an early outlook for the rest of the teams in the Pac-12 South for 2012:

Arizona: New coach Rich Rodriguez was a terrific hire, but it may take a year or two to get his players in place. The Wildcats will have to transition from a pass-first offense, but Matt Scott is a good building block at quarterback. Rodriguez has yet to hire a defensive coordinator, which will be the most important addition to his staff. The Wildcats ranked near the bottom of the Pac-12 in rush, total and scoring defense – something that cannot happen if they want to contend for the conference title in 2012. Considering the change in schemes, it may be difficult for Arizona to compete with USC for the Pac-12 title next year.

Arizona State: After a promising 6-2 start, the Sun Devils finished the year with a dud, which also cost coach Dennis Erickson his job. New coach Todd Graham is bringing his brand of high-octane football from Pittsburgh and there are some nice pieces in place for the offense next season. Quarterback Brock Osweiler should get better with another set of spring practices, and running back Cameron Marshall is also back for his senior year. The defense loses some key players, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict will likely declare for the NFL Draft. Just like rival Arizona, the Sun Devils may need a year or two to adjust to Graham’s schemes. However, if Osweiler and Marshall quickly pick up the offense, Arizona State should contend for a finish in the top three of the Pac-12 South.

Colorado: After a 3-10 season, coach Jon Embree has a lot of work to do in his second year in Boulder. The Buffaloes have a lot of holes to fill, starting on offense with the departure of quarterback Tyler Hansen. Running back Rodney Stewart has also finished his eligibility. Receiver Paul Richardson is a good building block on offense, but can Colorado get him the ball? The Buffaloes also need to show improvement on defense if they want to make a bowl. Although it’s very early, Colorado is likely to be picked last in the Pac-12 South next season.

UCLA: If there’s a mystery team to watch in the Pac-12 South, the Bruins would be the choice. New coach Jim Mora does not have any collegiate head coaching experience, but is putting together quite a staff. Can UCLA put everything together and contend for the conference title next season? It’s unlikely the Bruins can beat out USC, but there is talent returning. Settling on a quarterback for coordinator Noel Mazzone’s spread offense is going to be critical for UCLA next season.

Utah: The Utes’ first year in the Pac-12 wasn’t bad (7-5), but losing to Colorado in the regular season finale cost them a chance to play in the conference title game. Although the division wasn’t overwhelmingly difficult, coach Kyle Whittingham deserves a ton of credit, especially after losing starting quarterback Jordan Wynn to a shoulder injury early in the season. The Utes have some holes to fill, starting with offensive coordinator, as Norm Chow has departed to be the head coach at Hawaii. Although the quarterback position needs to be sorted out, running back John White is back after rushing for 1,404 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. The offensive line also loses both tackles. Utah led the Pac-12 in scoring defense and this unit figures to rank among the best in the conference next season.

Teaser:
<p> With Matt Barkley back under center, USC will be one of college football's best teams next year</p>
Post date: Friday, December 23, 2011 - 08:00
Path: /nfl/nfl-picks-every-game-week-16
Body:

A quick preview of every game on the NFL schedule for Week 16, along with the consensus picks of Athlon Sports editors Mitchell Light, Rob Doster, Nathan Rush, Patrick Snow and Steven Lassan:

Texans (10-4) at Colts (1-13)
In Week 1, Houston handed Indianapolis its first of 13 consecutive losses, with a 34–7 blowout. But the Colts ride into this Thursday nighter fresh off their first victory, while the Texans had their seven-game win streak snapped.
Texans by 6

Broncos (8-6) at Bills (5-9)
Tim Tebow goes on the road again, where the frequent-flying Superman is a perfect 5–0 — with eight passing TDs and zero INTs.
Broncos by 4

Dolphins (5-9) at Patriots (11-3)
Miami lost to New England, 38–24, in Week 1; this may be déja vu all over again for the Fins.
Patriots by 10

Browns (4-10) at Ravens (10-4)
Baltimore must bounce back after a 34–14 loss at San Diego on Sunday night. A visit from the Browns — a rival the Ravens beat 24–10 in Week 13 — will cure what ails Ray Lewis.
Ravens by 9

Raiders (7-7) at Chiefs (6-8)
Kansas City interim coach Romeo Crennel is 1–0 after knocking off the Packers. But the likeable defensive guru needs to win out if he hopes to remain the head Chief at Arrowhead.
Chiefs by 1

Vikings (2-12) at Redskins (5-9)
Adrian Peterson is toughing it out for his fantasy team owners; but he might want to rest his left ankle for his real team owner Zygi Wilf.
Redskins by 4

Cardinals (7-7) at Bengals (8-6)
Two top rookies — Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson and Cincy wideout A.J. Green — go toe-to-toe in a matchup of future Pro Bowlers.
Bengals by 3

Rams (2-12) at Steelers (10-4)
St. Loser aims to match its season-opening, season-long six-game losing streak this week.
Steelers by 11

Buccaneers (4-10) at Panthers (5-9)
Three weeks ago, Cam Newton marched to Tampa Bay and handed the Bucs a 38–19 loss. Get ready for the rookie’s first season sweep.
Panthers by 9

Giants (7-7) at Jets (8-6)
The battle of the Big Apple is technically an “away” game for the Giants, even though it will be played in the same stadium Big Blue plays their home games in. This is a must-win for both of East Rutherford, New Jersey’s teams.
Giants by 2

Jaguars (4-10) at Titans (7-7)
Tennessee gave Indianapolis its first win of the season; the Titans need to avenge that defeat plus their 16–14 Week 1 loss at Jacksonville.
Titans by 8

Chargers (7-7) at Lions (9-5)
The Bolts are surging in December once again, shocking the league with a three-game win streak after a six-game slide earlier this year.
Lions by 2

Eagles (6-8) at Cowboys (8-6)
Big D can win and get in (with a Giants loss). A Boys loss (and G-Men win) would result in a playoff play-in next week in the season finale.
Cowboys by 1

49ers (11-3) at Seahawks (7-7)
Before Niners boss Jim Harbaugh had his postgame handshake issues with the Lions’ Jim Schwartz, the former Stanford coach was asked “What’s your deal?” at midfield after upsetting then-USC coach Pete Carroll. These two bring a collegiate energy to an NFC West rivalry.
49ers by 5

Bears (7-7) at Packers (13-1)
The only Christmas Sunday game on the NFL schedule is the league’s oldest rivalry — but not necessarily this season’s best matchup. The 184th meeting of the Bears and Packers is a rematch of a Week 3 contest Green Bay won 27–17 against a Chicago club that had a healthy Jay Cutler. Following their first loss of the year, the Packers will be eager to Lambeau Leap as many times as possible on Xmas.
Packers by 11

Falcons (9-5) at Saints (11-3)
Atlanta coach Mike Smith was widely criticized by Monday morning, armchair quarterbacks after going for it, and subsequently failing to convert, on 4th-and-1 in overtime of a 26–23 loss to New Orleans in Week 10. Since then, the Falcons are 4–1; but the Saints are 4–0.
Saints by 7

Last week: 9-7 // Season: 151-73

Teaser:
<p> A look at every NFL game for Week 16 — including the Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants at New York Jets, Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints — with the consensus pick of Athlon Sports' editors.</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 16:18
All taxonomy terms: Funny, Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith, Overtime
Path: /overtime/stephen-smiths-faces-when-hes-talking-skip-bayless-photos
Body:

Stephen A. Smith spends a lot of time on ESPN's First Take arguing with Skip Bayless. For those of you who have seen Skip, you can see why he can try Stephen A's patience (although Stephen A. also holds his own in the patience-trying department.)

So here's a gallery of Stephen A. Smith's various faces he makes as he's trying to argue or listen to Skip Bayless. Most of these screenshots are from ESPN First Take. As you can see, his face ranges from exasperated to angry to completely perplexed at what comes out of Skip's mouth.

Stephen A. Smith should go into acting because he's got the facial expression range of a classically trained actor. I've never seen a face express so much emotion and pain, and he's only talking about sports. But I guess Skip Bayless can do that to someone.

Teaser:
<p> Stephen A. Smith makes some interesting faces when he's listening to Skip Bayless</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 10:05
Path: /college-football/bcs-greatest-defenses
Body:

-by Braden Gall (follow him @BradenGall)

The BCS is wrapping up its 14th season of action and Athlon Sports is continuing its series of BCS rankings. We ranked the best performances of each BCS bowl game and we ranked the best teams of each BCS conference. Now, we break down the top defensive units of the BCS era (1998-present).

Statistics, awards, championships and NFL talent were all considered and evaluated in order to label the Top 10 defenses of the BCS era. Teams from 2011 were not eligible, otherwise the 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide (with a win over LSU in the title game) might be the best defense of the BCS Era. They lead the nation in every major defensive team statistic — and have allowed more than 60 fewer yards per game than the outstanding LSU unit it will be facing in New Orleans. Their 8.8 points allowed per game are the best of the BCS era thus far.

Related: The Worst BCS Bowl Performances
Related: The Greatest BCS Offenses of the BCS Era
Related: The Greatest Non-BCS Offenses of the BCS Era


Others receiving votes: 1998 Ohio State, 1999 Nebraska, 2000 TCU, 2001 Texas, 2002 Kansas State, 2002 USC, 2004 USC, 2005 Virginia Tech, 2006 LSU, 2007 Virginia Tech, 2008 Florida, 2009 Texas

10. TCU Horned Frogs, 2010 (13-0)
Head Coach: Gary Patterson
Rushing Defense: 99.7 ypg (5th)
Passing Defense: 128.8 ypg (1st)
Total Defense: 228.5 ypg (1st)
Scoring Defense: 12.0 ppg (1st)
Turnovers Forced: 22 (59th)
Sacks: 2.1 spg (54th)
NFL Draft Picks: Colin Jones (6th, 2011), Malcolm Williams (7th, 2011)

You have to throw the "little guy" a bone after one of the best defensive seasons by any team ever. TCU held eight opponents to 10 points or less including four who failed to score a touchdown. Led by Rose Bowl MVP and All-America linebacker Tank Carder, the Frogs topped Big Ten champ Wisconsin in the 21-19 Granddaddy of Them All. By holding Johnny Unitas Award winner Scott Tolzien to 159 yards and no scores, TCU finished the best season in school history unbeaten and ranked first in the nation in scoring and total defense.

9. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 2009 (10-4)
Head Coach: Bo Pelini
Rushing Defense: 93. 1 ypg (9th)
Passing Defense: 178.9 ypg (18th)
Total Defense: 272.0 ypg (7th)
Scoring Defense: 10.4 ppg (1st)
Turnovers Forced: 28 (21st)
Sacks: 3.1 spg (2nd)
NFL Draft Picks: Ndamukong Suh (1st, 2010), Phillip Dillard (4th, 2010), Larry Asante (5th, 2010), Prince Amukamara (1st, 2011), Dejon Gomes (5th, 2011), Eric Hagg (7th, 2011)

You could make the case that the 1999 version of the Black Shirts could be on this list as well. But from a talent perspective, it is tough to argue with the way the 2009 group played, as they finished one second away from defeating National runner-up Texas in the Big 12 title game. The D-line included Heisman finalist Ndamukong Suh, Jared Crick, Barry Turner and Pierre Allen. The linebacking corps featured Phillip Dillard and Larry Asante, and the secondary featured Eric Hagg, Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard. This team allowed more than 20 points only one time and ten times did Nebraska hold the opposition to 13 or fewer points. Six players have already been drafted off of the 2009 defense. This team led the nation in scoring defense and finished second in sacks.

8. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2007 (11-2)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Rushing Defense: 82.9 ypg (3rd)
Passing Defense: 150.1 ypg (1st)
Total Defense: 233.0 ypg (1st)
Scoring Defense: 12.8 ppg (1st)
Turnovers Forced: 19 (93rd)
Sacks: 3.3 spg (6th)
NFL Draft Picks: Vernon Gholston (1st, 2008), Larry Grant (7th, 2008), Malcolm Jenkins (1st, 2009), James Laurinaitis (2nd, 2009), Donald Washington (4th, 2009), Marcus Freeman (5th, 2009), Thaddeus Gibson (4th, 2010), Doug Worthington (7th, 2010), Kurt Coleman (7th, 2010), Austin Spitler (7th, 2010), Cam Heyward (1st, 2011), Chimdi Chekwa (4th, 2011), Jermale Hines (5th, 2011), Brian Rolle (6th, 2011), Ross Homan (6th, 2011)

The nation's best defense was one great performance away from being immortalized in Ohio State lore. With a roster loaded with NFL talent, the Buckeyes held LSU to only 326 yards in the BCS National Championship game, but fell short 38-24. Nagurski Trophy (2006) and Butkus Award winner James Laurinaitis set a BCS bowl record with 18 tackles in the loss. Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock won the Broyles Award and corner Malcolm Jenkins went on to win the Thorpe Award the following year. This defense featured 15 draft picks, including three first-rounders.

7. Florida Gators, 2006 (13-1)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Rushing Defense: 72.5 ypg (5th)
Passing Defense: 116.3 ypg (33rd)
Total Defense: 466.9 ypg (6th)
Scoring Defense: 13.5 ppg (6th)
Turnovers Forced: 29 (17th)
Sacks: 2.4 spg (35th)
NFL Draft Picks: Reggie Nelson (1st, 2007), Jarvis Moss (1st, 2007), Ray McDonald (3rd, 2007), Marcus Thomas (4th, 2007), Joe Cohen (4th, 2007), Ryan Smith (6th, 2007), Brandon Siler (7th, 2007), Derrick Harvey (1st, 2008), Jermaine Cunningham (2nd, 2010), Brandon Spikes (2nd, 2010)

The 2006 Gators defense put together one of the greatest BCS Championship game performance against the favored Buckeyes and Heisman winner Troy Smith. Smith threw for 35 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and was sacked five times. An NFL-laden defense held the OSU rushing attack to 47 yards on 23 carries. Ohio State totaled 82 yards of offense in the 41-14 beatdown as the Gators claimed the Crystal Ball. Derrick Harvey led the way with the No. 12-rated BCS Championship Game performance with a BCS NCG record three sacks to go with his four solo stops and a forced fumble. This team featured seven defensive draft picks the following spring in 2007.

6. Tennessee Volunteers, 1998 (12-0)
Head Coach: Phil Fulmer
Rushing Defense: 93.9 ypg
Passing Defense: 209.1 ypg
Total Defense: 303.0 ypg
Scoring Defense: 15.3 ppg
Turnovers Forced: 16 INT
Sacks: N/A
NFL Draft Picks: Al Wilson (1st, 1999), Steve Johnson (6th, 1999), Corey Terry (7th, 1999), Shaun Ellis (1st, 2000), Raynoch Thompson (2nd, 2000), Dwayne Goodrich (2nd, 2000), Deon Grant (2nd, 2000), Darwin Walker (3rd, 2000), Eric Westmoreland (3rd, 2001), Will Overstreet (3rd, 2002)

Possibly the most talented Tennessee team in program history finished a dream season by winning the Fiesta Bowl 23-16 over Florida State in the first-ever BCS Championship Game. A front seven that featured eventual draft picks Shaun Ellis, Darwin Walker, Corey Terry, Billy Ratliff and Will Overstreet along the line and Al Wilson, Raynoch Thompson and Eric Westmoreland in the linebacking corps held 10 opponents to 18 points or less — including No. 2 Florida, No. 7 Georgia, No. 23 Mississippi State and No. 2 Florida State.

5. USC Trojans, 2008 (12-1)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
Rushing Defense: 87.4 ypg (5th)
Passing Defense: 134.4 ypg (1st)
Total Defense: 221.8 ypg (2nd)
Scoring Defense: 9.0 ppg (1st)
Turnovers Forced: 29 (20th)
Sacks: 2.2 spg (40th)
NFL Draft Picks: Clay Matthews (1st, 2009), Brian Cushing (1st, 2009), Rey Maualuga (2nd, 2009), Fili Moala (2nd, 2009), Kaluka Maiava (4th, 2009), Kyle Moore (4th, 2009), Cary Harris (6th, 2009), Kevin Ellison (6th, 2009), Taylor Mays (2nd, 2010), Kevin Thomas (3rd, 2010), Everson Griffin (4th, 2010), Jurrell Casey (3rd, 2011), Shareece Wright (3rd, 2011), Malcolm Smith (7th, 2011)

There were eight NFL draft picks who departed from this defense following the near national championship campaign of 2008. Fourteen total players have found their way to the NFL, and that number is only going to increase next spring. An early road upset at the hands of Oregon State kept the best linebacking corps of the BCS era from claiming a spot in the BCS NCG. This group pitched three shutouts and held the opposition to 10 points or less eight times; only three times did a team score more than 10 points. The 9.0 points per game are a current BCS era scoring record (Alabama could break that this season). Team leader Rey Maualuga claimed the Chuck Bednarik Award.

4. Oklahoma Sooners, 2000 (13-0)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
Rushing Defense: 108.2 ypg (23rd)
Passing Defense: 170.8 ypg (9th)
Total Defense: 278.9 ypg (8th)
Scoring Defense: 16.0 ppg (7th)
Turnovers Forced: 33 (5th)
Sacks: N/A
NFL Draft Picks: Torrance Marshall (3rd, 2001), Roy Williams (1st, 2002), Rocky Calmus (3rd, 2002), Andre Woolfolk (1st, 2003), Jimmy Wilkerson (6th, 2003), Teddy Lehman (2nd, 2004), Derrick Strait (3rd, 2004)

This team was not the most impressive statistically, but featured two Butkus Award winners (Rocky Calmus, Teddy Lehman), two Thorpe Award winners (Roy Williams, Derrick Strait), a Nagurski winner (Williams), and what was probably the best defensive championship performance of all time. The Sooners held the nation's No. 1 overall offense and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke to zero points and only 301 yards of offense (nearly 250 yards below their season average). Linebacker Torrance Marshall led the way with No. 4-rated BCS NCG game performance with six tackles and an interception en route to the Orange Bowl MVP trophy. Safety J.T. Thatcher and linebacker Calmus were All-Americans, while Lehman was a freshman All-American. Williams was one of the most impactful and hardest-hitting college players this writer has ever seen.

3. LSU Tigers, 2003 (13-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Rushing Defense: 67.0 ypg (3rd)
Passing Defense: 185.0 ypg (18th)
Total Defense: 252.0 ypg (1st)
Scoring Defense: 11.0 ppg (1st)
Turnovers Forced: 33 (9th)
Sacks: N/A
NFL Draft Picks: Marquise Hill (2nd, 2004), Chad Lavalais (5th, 2004), Marcus Spears (1st, 2005), Corey Webster (2nd, 2005), Travis Daniels (4th, 2005), Kyle Williams (5th, 2006), Melvin Oliver (6th, 2006), LaRon Landry (1st, 2007)

One of the nastiest defensive lines ever assembled featured NFL draft picks Marquise Hill, Chad Lavalais, Marcus Spears, Kyle Williams and Melvin Oliver. At 11.0 points per game, LSU led the nation in scoring defense, allowing only one team (Arkansas, 24) to score more than 19 points in any game. Only Florida (19) scored more than 14 points against this defensive unit. In the biggest game for the Bayou Bengals in 40 years, this defense squared off against Heisman winner Jason White of Oklahoma and flat-out dominated. White averaged 292 yards per game in '03, but mustered only 102 yards on 13-of-37 passing with no touchdowns and a pair of interceptions — one of which Spears returned for a touchdown that eventually proved to be the game-winner.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2009 (13-0)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Rushing Defense: 78.1 ypg (2nd)
Passing Defense: 166.0 ypg (10th)
Total Defense: 244.1 ypg (2nd)
Scoring Defense: 11.7 ppg (2nd)
Turnovers Forced: 31 (10th)
Sacks: 2.3 spg (40th)
NFL Draft Picks: Rolando McClain (1st, 2010), Kareem Jackson (1st, 2010), Javier Arenas (2nd, 2010), Terrence Cody (2nd, 2010), Marquis Johnson (7th, 2010), Brandon Deaderick (7th, 2010), Marcell Dareus (1st, 2011)

The undefeated national champions won big in 2009 because of a stacked NFL defense.  This outfit was led by Butkus Award winner Rolando McClain and a stellar defensive line headlined by Mount Cody and Marcell Dareus. Do-everything corner Javier Arenas not only covered the opponent's top receiver and snagged five interceptions, but he also was a dyanamic pass-rusher (five sacks) and game-changing return specialist. Despite knocking Colt McCoy out of the National Championship game and claiming the Crystal Ball, the signature performance by this unit came against an unbeaten Tim Tebow-led Florida Gators team in the SEC title game. The Tide held the Gators to only 88 yards rushing, 13 first downs and only 13 points in a title-clinching win. This defense has already seen seven players drafted, and that number will continue to rise this spring as Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron (who led the SEC in INTs in 2009), Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw could all grade out as early round picks.

1. Miami Hurricanes, 2001 (12-0)
Head Coach: Larry Coker
Rushing Defense: 132.7 ypg (40th)
Passing Defense: 138.2 ypg (2nd)
Total Defense: 270.9 ypg (6th)
Scoring Defense: 9.4 ppg (1st)
Turnovers Forced: 45 (1st)
Sacks: N/A
NFL Draft Picks: Phillip Buchanon (1st, 2002), Ed Reed (1st, 2002), Mike Rumph (1st, 2002), James Lewis (6th, 2002), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), William Joseph (1st, 2003), Andrew Williams (3rd, 2003), Jamaal Green (4th, 2003), Matt Walters (5th, 2003), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Darrell McClover (7th, 2004), Alfonso Marshall (7th, 2004), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005)

Imagine trying to design a passing attack to beat a secondary that featured Ed Reed, Sean Taylor, Phillip Buchanon, Mike Rumph, James Lewis, Alfonoso Marshall and Antrel Rolle. How about a rushing attack to penetrate a D-Line with Jerome McDougle, William Joseph, Vince Wilfork, Matt Walters, Jamaal Green and Andrew Williams? And to top it all off, the linebackering corps running around between the two boasted names like Vilma, Williams and McClover. Simply put, this team is one of the greatest groups ever assembled. They started things off by going to Happy Valley and dominating Penn State 33-7, which tied the record for the Nittany Lions’ worst home loss under Joe Paterno. Later on, the Canes defeated No. 14 Syracuse and No. 12 Washington in consecutive weeks at the Orange Bowl with a combined score of 124-7, which set the NCAA record for largest margin of victory over consecutive ranked opponents. They capped things off by dismantling the No. 4 Nebraska Cornhuskers 37-14 in the Rose Bowl, in a game where they held a 34-0 lead in the first half. Miami pitched three shutouts and held eight opponents to seven points or fewer. Later, the Canes claimed 10 first-round draft picks on defense.

2011's Top 5 Defenses:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1)
Rushing Defense: 74.9 ypg (1st)
Passing Defense: 116.3 ypg (1st)
Total Defense: 191.3 ypg (1st)
Scoring Defense: 8.8 ppg (1st)
Turnovers Forced: 18 (85th)
Sacks: 2.2 spg (36th)
Key Player: Courtney Upshaw finished second in SEC in TFL and fourth in sacks.

2. LSU Tigers (13-0, 9-0*)
Rushing Defense: 85.5 ypg (3rd)
Passing Defense: 166.6 ypg (9th)
Total Defense: 252.1 ypg (2nd)
Scoring Defense:  10.5 ppg (2nd)
Turnovers Forced: 30 (9th)
Sacks: 2.9 spg (13th)
Key Player: Morris Claiborne led the team in INTs and marked the opponents top player. 

3. Michigan State Spartans (10-3, 7-2*)
Rushing Defense: 104.3 ypg (12th)
Passing Defense: 168.4 ypg (12th)
Total Defense: 272.7 ypg (5th)
Scoring Defense: 17.5 ppg (9th)
Turnovers Forced: 22 (49th)
Sacks: 3.1 (7th)
Key Player: Jerel Worthy earned first-team All-America honors.

4. Florida State Seminoles (8-4, 5-3)
Rushing Defense: 81.8 ypg (2nd)
Passing Defense: 192.8 ypg (19th)
Total Defense: 274.6 ypg (6th)
Scoring Defense: 15.2 ppg (4th)
Turnovers Forced: 20 (65th)
Sacks: 3.0 (9th)
Key Player: Brandon Jenkins led the team in sacks and TFL.

5. Georgia Bulldogs (10-3, 7-2*)
Rushing Defense: 103.4 ypg (9th)
Passing Defense: 165.1 ypg (8th)
Total Defense: 268.5 ypg (3rd)
Scoring Defense: 19.6 ppg (17th)
Turnovers Forced: 29 (13th)
Sacks: 2.6 spg (22nd)
Key Player: Jarvis Jones led SEC in sacks and TFL.

Athlon Sports Ranks the Best Teams in Every BCS League:

The Top 10 Big East Teams of the BCS Era

The Top 10 ACC Teams of the BCS Era

The Top 10 Big Ten Teams of the BCS Era
The Top 10 Pac-12 Teams of the BSC Era
The Top 10 Big 12 Teams of the BCS Era
The Top 10 SEC Teams of the BCS Era

Athlon Sports Ranks the Top Performances from each BCS Bowl:

Top 15 BCS National Championship Performances
Top 5 Rose Bowl Performances
Top 5 Orange Bowl Performances
Top 5 Sugar Bowl Performances
Top 5 Fiesta Bowl Performances

Related: The Greatest BCS Offenses of the BCS Era
Related: The Greatest Non-BCS Offenses of the BCS Era
Related: The Worst BCS Bowl Performances

Teaser:
<p> What are the greatest defensive teams of the BCS era?</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 07:35
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-rankings-week-16
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 16 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports has all the position rankings you need to help your fantasy team unwrap a win this week</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 06:24
Path: /college-football/hawaii-bowl-preview-southern-miss-vs-nevada-0
Body:

by Nathan Rush

Hawaii Bowl
Southern Miss (11–2) vs. Nevada (7–5)

Date: Dec. 24, 2011 at 8 p.m. ET
Location: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii

How’d you like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island? Well, Southern Miss and Nevada will do just that when the Hawaii Bowl kicks off as the only game on television Christmas Eve.

This is the 10th anniversary of the Hawaii Bowl. Nevada is making its third appearance — having defeated Central Florida, 49–48 in overtime, in 2005 and lost to SMU, 45–10, in 2009. Meanwhile, this is Southern Miss’ first postseason trip to the island of Oahu.

The stars come out to shine in the Hawaii Bowl, whose past MVPs include local Hawaii record-breaking quarterbacks Timmy Chang and Colt Brennan, as well as Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate, Central Florida’s Brandon Marshall and East Carolina’s Chris Johnson, who broke the NCAA bowl record with 408 all-purpose yards in 2007.

USM coach Larry Fedora will pace the sidelines for the final time for the Golden Eagles before taking over at North Carolina. On the other side, 65-year-old Chris Ault still has a few bullets left in the old Pistol offense in his 27th non-consecutive season leading the Wolf Pack. Although Ault has a 226–102–1 record all-time — leading Nevada from Division II to I-AA to I-A in the Big Sky, Big West and WAC — he is only 2–6 in bowl games.

WHEN SOUTHERN MISS HAS THE BALL:

The Conference USA champs ran circles around the nation’s No. 1-ranked offense, Houston, winning 49–28 en route to Southern Miss’ first Conference USA title since 2003.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Austin Davis leads a balanced attack that features several athletic playmakers. Davis passed for 3,331 yards, 28 TDs and 11 INTs this season, while scrambling for another 332 yards and four scores on the ground. Davis was recently awarded the Burlsworth Trophy, which is given annually to the nation’s top player who started his career as a walk-on.

Top receiver Ryan Balentine (742 yards, 8 TDs) and leading rusher Jamal Woodyard (683 yards) are impressive, but the Golden Eagles’ top all-around threat is Tracy Lampley, who accounted for 999 total yards and six TDs this season — saving his best performance for crunch time, with six catches for 125 yards and two TDs, and 14 carries for 71 yards in the title-clinching win at Houston.

The Wolf Pack ranked 52nd in total defense and 58th in scoring defense (25.25 ppg) this season. Senior end Brett Roy has been a terror off the edge, with 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for a loss this season. But Nevada has produced little pressure (22 total sacks) outside of Roy. But corners Khalid Wooten (4 INTs) and Isaiah Frey (5 INTs) have proven capable cover men and ball-hawks.

WHEN NEVADA HAS THE BALL:

After losing all-everything quarterback Colin Kaepernick — who was a second-round selection of the San Francisco 49ers after becoming the only FBS quarterback in history to pass for over 10,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 yards — there were many question marks surrounding the Wolf Pack offense heading into this season.

But the QB combo of Cody Fajardo (1,647 passing yards, 6 TDs, 5 INTs; 680 rush yards, 11 TDs) and Tyler Lantrip (1,496 passing yards, 10 TDs, 6 INTs) proved effective. A left ankle injury kept star freshman Fajardo out of the season finale, allowing Lantrip his Senior Night start — which he made the most of, completing 24-of-31 passes for 340 yards, four TDs and zero INTs in a 56–3 win over Idaho.

Regardless of who plays quarterback, the ball is going to star wideout Rishard Matthews, who had 91 catches for 1,364 yards and eight TDs this year. On the ground, Lampford Mark (728 yards, 8 TDs) will be more of a feature back following the dismissal of Mike Ball (704 yards), the team’s second leading rusher.

As usual, Southern Miss has fringe-SEC talent and speed on defense. Sophomore cornerback Deron Wilson likely will be lined up on Matthews. Wilson has made teams pay for testing his side of the field, with four INTs for 114 return yards and two TDs — his second straight season with two defensive TDs. All of the Eagles know how to fly to the house, however, as USM has 18 total INTs for 513 return yards (28.5 ypr) and eight pick-sixes this season.

Special Teams

Southern Miss scored on a blocked punt against Houston, and notched three punt-return TDs by three different Eagles this year. Kick coverage has been an issue, as USM allowed two kick return TDs. Kicker Danny Hrapmann is inconsistent and has limited range.

For Nevada, Matthews is a dangerous punt returner, with a 13.3-yard average and one TD. Field goal kicking is a weakness for the Wolf Pack, with three kickers combining to connect on 13-of-19, while going just 2-of-7 from 30 or more yards.

Prediction

The Golden Eagles are soaring into the Hawaii Bowl as unexpected Conference USA champs. The Wolf Pack should just be happy to hang their stockings on a coconut tree while vacationing on Christmas Island. Fedora’s final game at Southern Miss will end in a Gatorade bath.

Southern Miss 38, Nevada 27

Teaser:
<p> Athlon previews the 2011 Hawaii Bowl: Nevada vs. Southern Miss.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 06:21
Path: /news/arian-foster-and-joel-dreessen-are-only-two-texans-you-can-trust
Body:

Injuries and poor play are certainly mounting for the Houston Texans. But they play the Indianapolis Colts Thursday night and there just has to be points to be had by someone out there on the Texans, right?

That someone could be tight end Joel Dreessen, and he might be the only player on the Texans you can start besides stud running back Arian Foster.

The team’s best receiver, Andre Johnson, is out. You can’t trust quarterback T.J. Yates. You can’t trust the receiving corps that’s left in Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones. Backup running back Ben Tate has been limited in practice this week with a strained hamstring and is coming off a 3.5-point day against woeful Carolina. Owen Daniels is going to try and “give it a go” against the Colts with a knee issue.

That leaves just Dreeseen, who’s also dealing with a strained knee — not as bad as Daniels’ bruised knee — and has been a proven target for Houston QBs throughout the entire season.

Foster is going to get his, of course; he always does. The Colts, ranked 30th against fantasy running backs for the entire season, are actually seventh best against fantasy running backs over the last three weeks — 252 yards rushing, 2 TDs and 120 yards receiving on 13 catches.

So if the two receivers can’t be trusted, the back up running back and the No. 1 tight end are limited, it will come down to Foster and Dreessen to help produce a majority of the numbers. Of course Jones and Walter could come out of nowhere and do just that against this Colts defense, but if we’re talking proven commodities then only Foster and Dreessen can get the nods into a starting lineup in Week 16.

The Colts are ranked 29th this season against tight ends in Athlon’s half-PPR scoring format and are tied for the third-most TDs allowed (7). In the five of the last eight games, Indianapolis has allowed Jared Cook 103 yards on nine catches, Dennis Pitta three catches, 29 yards and a touchdown, Rob Gronkowski five catches, 64 yards and a two scores, Tony Gonzalez four catches, 36 yards and a score and Jimmy Graham six catches 54 yards and two scores.

Dreessen leads the Texans’ pass catchers with six touchdowns, and until last week against Carolina he had caught a TD in three straight games. Traditionally the yardage has not been there for Dreessen and neither have the targets — although he did have a nine-target, five-catch, 112-yard, 1-TD day against Oakland in Week 5 — but if the Texans’ offense is going to be this depleted, then maybe Thursday’s a night where he repeats Week 5. Even cut Week 5 in half, and you still have a 10-point day from a tight end — numbers I would take if I were struggling at a position.

Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> The Texans offense is getting killed with injuries</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 04:17
Path: /news/will-colts-donald-brown-do-anything-thursday-night
Body:

What do you want out of Donald Brown to consider the Indianapolis Colts running back a decent flex play against the Houston Texans in Week 16?

If it’s 10 points, then Brown could get you right at that number — and you might have to wait the entire 60 minutes for it to happen. There are two problems in playing Brown Thursday night: 1.) The Texans having allowed the lead ball carrier to cross the goal line just twice since Week 4. 2.) Brown’s own teammate, Joseph Addai.

Last week against the Titans it took a late, 80-yard touchdown to get Brown into double digits for the third time in four weeks — he was at 81 yards and one catch for two yards before the late score for (8.8 fantasy points).

Over the last four weeks Houston, No. 2 against fantasy RBs this season, has allowed a decent amount of yardage to feature backs.

Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 99 yards and had 67 receiving yards in Week 12, Cedric Benson had 91 yards rushing in Week 14 and DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for 104 yards rushing and one TD. Williams last week and Jones-Drew in Week 8 are the only two lead ball carriers to get in the end zone since Week 4 against Houston.

But the larger scope, let’s say the last seven weeks, the Texans are allowing the lead back 9.01 fantasy points per game, while Brown is averaging 11.5 points per game in theat time.

Williams and Stewart are much like Brown and Addai. Williams had 15 carries to Stewart’s 11 last week and Williams posted 61 yards and a score to Stewart’s 43 rushing yards and two catches for eight yards. Last week against Tennessee, Brown had 16 carries, 161 yards and a score (80 on the one run) and one catch for two yards; Addai had 11 carries for 20 yards and two catches for seven yards. It’s the second time in three weeks that both Brown and Addai have had double-digit touches.

Obviously, Brown is the hotter hand, but with what the Texans have done in keeping opposing RBs out of the end zone for the majority of the season and Addai still chipping away at touches, I’d be hard-pressed to see the lead ball carrier for the Colts get into double digits.

And think the Texans aren’t embarrassed about seeing a seven-game win streak ended by the Panthers last week with a 1-13 Colts team on the horizon?

Let’s call it a split between what Brown is averaging and what the Texans are allowing, and if you are satisfied with 10 points from a flex, then throw Brown in your lineup.

Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> Can the Indy running back get you ten points?</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 04:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-kicker-rankings-week-16
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 16 — Kicker Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 16 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Note: Unless specified below, games will be played on Saturday, Dec. 24 this week. 

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 David Akers SF at SEA
2 Mason Crosby GB vs. CHI (Sun.)
3 Dan Bailey DAL vs. PHI
4 John Kasay NO vs. ATL (Mon.)
5 Stephen Gostkowski NE vs. MIA
6 Sebastian Janikowski OAK at KC
7 Neil Rackers HOU at IND (Thurs.)
8 Nick Novak SD at DET
9 Jason Hanson DET vs. SD
10 Matt Bryant ATL at NO (Mon.)
11 Mike Nugent CIN vs. ARI
12 Rob Bironas TEN vs. JAC
13 Graham Gano WAS vs. MIN
14 Robbie Gould CHI at GB (Sun.)
15 Matt Prater DEN at BUF
16 Dan Carpenter MIA at NE

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 15:21
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings-week-16
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 16 — Tight End Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 16 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Note: Unless specified below, games will be played on Saturday, Dec. 24 this week. 

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Rob Gronkowski NE vs. MIA
2 Jimmy Graham NO vs. ATL (Mon.)
3 Antonio Gates SD at DET
4 Tony Gonzalez ATL at NO (Mon.)
5 Jermichael Finley GB vs. CHI (Sun.)
6 Jason Witten DAL vs. PHI
7 Aaron Hernandez NE vs. MIA
8 Brandon Pettigrew DET vs. SD
9 Brent Celek PHI at DAL
10 Dustin Keller NYJ vs. NYG
11 Vernon Davis SF at SEA
12 Kellen Winslow TB at CAR
13 Jermaine Gresham CIN vs. ARI
14 Owen Daniels HOU at IND (Thurs.)
15 Greg Olsen CAR vs. TB
16 Anthony Fasano MIA at NE
17 Heath Miller PIT vs. STL
18 Ed Dickson BAL vs. CLE
19 Jared Cook TEN vs. JAC
20 Kevin Boss OAK at KC
21 Visanthe Shiancoe MIN at WAS
22 Marcedes Lewis JAC at TEN
23 Jacob Tamme IND vs. HOU (Thurs.)
24 Scott Chandler BUF vs. DEN
25 Evan Moore CLE at BAL
26 Jeremy Shockey CAR vs. TB

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 15:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings-week-16
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 16 — Quarterback Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 16 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Note: Unless specified below, games will be played on Saturday, Dec. 24 this week. 

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Aaron Rodgers GB vs. CHI (Sun.)
2 Drew Brees NO vs. ATL (Mon.)
3 Tom Brady NE vs. MIA
4 Cam Newton CAR vs. TB
5 Matthew Stafford DET vs. SD
6 Matt Ryan ATL at NO (Mon.)
7 Tim Tebow DEN at BUF
8 Michael Vick PHI at DAL
9 Tony Romo DAL vs. PHI
10 Philip Rivers SD at DET
11 Eli Manning NYG at NYJ
12 Mark Sanchez NYJ vs. NYG
13 Rex Grossman WAS vs. MIN
14 Matt Moore MIA at NE
15 Carson Palmer OAK at KC
16 Andy Dalton CIN vs. ARI
17 Joe Flacco BAL vs. CLE
18 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF vs. DEN
19 Kyle Orton KC vs. OAK
20 Josh Freeman TB at CAR
21 T.J. Yates HOU at IND (Thurs.)
22 Alex Smith SF at SEA
23 John Skelton ARI at CIN
24 Matt Hasselbeck TEN vs. JAC
25 Christian Ponder MIN at WAS
26 Tarvaris Jackson SEA vs. SF

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 14:57
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-16
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 16 — Defense/Special Teams Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 16 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

Note: Unless specified below, games will be played on Saturday, Dec. 24 this week. 

Rk Player OPPONENT
1 Baltimore Ravens vs. CLE
2 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. STL
3 San Francisco 49ers at SEA
4 Houston Texans at IND (Thurs.)
5 Green Bay Packers vs. CHI (Sun.)
6 Seattle Seahawks vs. SF
7 Cincinnati Bengals vs. ARI
8 New York Jets vs. NYG
9 Tennessee Titans vs. JAC
10 Denver Broncos at BUF
11 Chicago Bears at GB (Sun.)
12 Washington Redskins vs. MIN
13 Arizona Cardinals at CIN
14 Jacksonville Jaguars at TEN
15 Philadelphia Eagles at DAL
16 Kansas City Chiefs vs. OAK

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 13:22
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings-week-16
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 16 — Wide Receiver Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 16 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Note: Unless specified below, games will be played on Saturday, Dec. 24 this week. 

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Calvin Johnson DET vs. SD
2 Wes Welker NE vs. MIA
3 Roddy White ATL at NO (Mon.)
4 Steve Smith CAR vs. TB
5 Larry Fitzgerald ARI at CIN
6 Brandon Marshall MIA at NE
7 Vincent Jackson SD at DET
8 Mike Wallace PIT vs. STL
9 A.J. Green CIN vs. ARI
10 Jordy Nelson GB vs. CHI (Sun.)
11 Marques Colston NO vs. ATL (Mon.)
12 Hakeem Nicks NYG at NYJ
13 Miles Austin DAL vs. PHI
14 Dwayne Bowe KC vs. OAK
15 Julio Jones ATL at NO (Mon.)
16 Victor Cruz NYG at NYJ
17 Percy Harvin MIN at WAS
18 Dez Bryant DAL vs. PHI
19 Antonio Brown PIT vs. STL
20 Santana Moss WAS vs. MIN
21 Demaryius Thomas DEN at BUF
22 Santonio Holmes NYJ vs. NYG
23 Steve Johnson BUF vs. DEN
24 Laurent Robinson DAL vs. PHI
25 Jeremy Maclin PHI at DAL
26 DeSean Jackson PHI at DAL
27 Brandon Lloyd STL at PIT
28 Michael Crabtree SF at SEA
29 Jabar Gaffney WAS vs. MIN
30 Anquan Boldin BAL vs. CLE
31 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK at KC
32 Malcom Floyd SD at DET
33 Nate Washington TEN vs. JAC
34 Mike Williams TB at CAR
35 Mario Manningham NYG at NYJ
36 James Jones GB vs. CHI (Sun.)
37 Pierre Garcon IND vs. HOU (Thurs.)
38 Torrey Smith BAL vs. CLE
39 Lance Moore NO vs. ATL (Mon.)
40 Plaxico Burress NYJ vs. NYG
41 Reggie Wayne IND vs. HOU (Thurs.)
42 Nate Burleson DET vs. SD
43 Denarius Moore OAK at KC
44 Greg Little CLE at BAL
45 Eric Decker DEN at BUF
46 Doug Baldwin SEA vs. SF
47 Titus Young DET vs. SD
48 Davone Bess MIA at NE
49 Damian Williams TEN vs. JAC
50 David Nelson BUF vs. DEN
51 Early Doucet ARI at CIN
52 Kevin Walter HOU at IND (Thurs.)
53 Legedu Naane CAR vs. TB
54 Jacoby Jones HOU at IND (Thurs.)
55 Randall Cobb GB vs. CHI (Sun.)
56 Hines Ward PIT vs. STL
57 Robert Meachem NO vs. ATL (Mon.)
58 Andre Roberts ARI at CIN
59 Jerome Simpson CIN vs. ARI
60 Arrelious Benn TB at CAR
61 Vincent Brown SD at DET
62 Jonathan Baldwin KC vs. OAK
63 Earl Bennett CHI at GB (Sun.)
64 Riley Cooper PHI at DAL

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 13:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-running-back-rankings-week-16
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 16 — Running Back Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 16 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Note: Unless specified below, games will be played on Saturday, Dec. 24 this week. 

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Arian Foster HOU at IND (Thurs.)
2 Ray Rice BAL vs. CLE
3 LeSean McCoy PHI at DAL
4 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC at TEN
5 Ryan Mathews SD at DET
6 Adrian Peterson MIN at WAS
7 Reggie Bush MIA at NE
8 Michael Bush OAK at KC
9 Michael Turner ATL at NO (Mon.)
10 Rashard Mendenhall PIT vs. STL
11 Shonn Greene NYJ vs. NYG
12 Frank Gore SF at SEA
13 Chris Johnson TEN vs. JAC
14 Willis McGahee DEN at BUF
15 Cedric Benson CIN vs. ARI
16 Marshawn Lynch SEA vs. SF
17 C.J. Spiller BUF vs. DEN
18 Beanie Wells ARI at CIN
19 Steven Jackson STL at PIT
20 Darren Sproles NO vs. ATL (Mon.)
21 LeGarrette Blount TB at CAR
22 Felix Jones DAL vs. PHI
23 Roy Helu WAS vs. MIN
24 DeAngelo Williams CAR vs. TB
25 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG at NYJ
26 Jonathan Stewart CAR vs. TB
27 Kevin Smith DET vs. SD
28 BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE vs. MIA
29 Donald Brown IND vs. HOU (Thurs.)
30 Khalil Bell CHI at GB (Sun.)
31 Ben Tate HOU at IND (Thurs.)
32 Ryan Grant GB vs. CHI (Sun.)
33 Mike Tolbert SD at DET
34 Peyton Hillis CLE at BAL
35 Marion Barber CHI at GB (Sun.)
36 Brandon Jacobs NYG at NYJ
37 Pierre Thomas NO vs. ATL (Mon.)
38 Sammy Morris DAL vs. PHI
39 Chris Ivory NO vs. ATL (Mon.)
40 Lance Ball DEN at BUF
41 Jackie Battle KC vs. OAK
42 Daniel Thomas MIA at NE
43 Toby Gerhart MIN at WAS
44 LaDainian Tomlinson NYJ vs. NYG
45 Thomas Jones KC vs. OAK
46 Ricky Williams BAL vs. CLE
47 Mark Ingram NO vs. ATL (Mon.)
48 Stevan Ridley NE vs. MIA

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 13:04
All taxonomy terms: kate upton, Mark Sanchez, News
Path: /news/kate-upton-and-mark-sanchez-dating
Body:

Kate Upton, the Victoria's Secret and SI Swimsuit supermodel who's sometimes (OK, a lot of times) referred to as the hottest woman in the universe may or may not be dating New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

But all signs point to them being an item.

And even better, they seem to be trying to keep their budding romance a secret because Mark Sanchez has been making numerous late-night visits to Kate Upton's apartment building.

Maybe Mark has been moonlighting as a building super between Jets' practices. Or maybe his grandmother lives in that building and he's visiting her during the holiday season because he's such a sweet boy.

Or maybe Mark and Kate are just friends and he needs to talk to her about his struggles as leader of the Jets offense. It would make a lot of sense for him to make numerous visits to her after the Jets were destroyed by the Eagles 45-19. (Super side note: When was the last time a football team scored 19 points?)

But, if all those extremely plausible possibilities aren't actually true, I guess it could be constured that Kate Upton is dating New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. 

And since it's something involving Kate Upton, here's a few pics of her. Ya know, just so it refreshes your memory in case you forgot what she looks like:

According to reports, Snachez has been seen trying to hide his appearance under a woolly hat. And this also wouldn't be the first time the two have been linked together as Kate Upton was seen attending a Jets game in September. of this year.

Sanchez has come under fire lately for not playing up to the team's expecations. It's his third year in the NFL and rumors swirling around love life will only intensify the scrutiny that comes with being the quarterback for a New York team. 

The New York Post has already run the headline "No Wonder He Can't Complete a Pass" in their piece about the link between Sanchez and Upton.

And it's only going to be worse from here.

Teaser:
<p> Is the Victoria's Secret Supermodel dating the NY Jets quarterback?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 09:17
Path: /college-football/10-worst-bcs-bowl-performances
Body:

— by Mark Ross

With the 14th season of BCS bowl action about to take place, Athlon reviewed the tapes of the four (now five) biggest bowl games in college football. Since 1998, teams have been fighting to land a spot in the BCS and here are those teams whose performances didn’t live up to the spotlight and prestige attached to the bowl they played in.

Related: The Greatest BCS Offenses of the BCS Era
Related: The Greatest Non-BCS Offenses of the BCS Era

Here are the 10 Worst BCS Bowl Performances (year is the date of the game):

Also receiving votes: Illinois Fighting Illini, 2008 Rose Bowl (lost to USC 49-17); Cincinnati Bearcats, 2010 Sugar Bowl; Connecticut Huskies, 2011 Fiesta Bowl (lost to Oklahoma 48-20)

10. Hawaii Warriors, 2008 Sugar Bowl
Record headed into BCS bowl: 12-0, No. 10 in AP, Coaches Polls and BCS standings, WAC Champion
BCS Bowl result: Lost 41-10 to No. 5 Georgia
Hawaii headed into this game undefeated for the first time since 1925 and the most wins in school history. The Warriors had an offense that was piling up the yards and points and, despite being a near 10-point underdog, were embracing the opportunity to face off with Georgia, one of college football’s so-called “blue bloods.” Well, if the Warriors were trying to send a message, it’s clear the Bulldogs weren’t ready to receive it.

Georgia jumped out to a 24-3 halftime lead and had stretched it to a 38-point margin before Hawaii finally got into the end zone late in the fourth quarter to make the final score 41-10. The Bulldogs pressured and pounded Hawaii record-setting quarterback Colt Brennan all night, sacking him eight times and forcing him to commit five turnovers (three interceptions, two lost fumbles), while holding him to a career-low 169 yards passing.

Prior to this game, Hawaii had amassed no less than 430 yards of offense and scored no fewer than 28 points in any game. Georgia held the Warriors to 306 yards, a measly 10 points and forced a total of six turnovers.

9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 2007 Sugar Bowl
Record headed into BCS bowl: 10-2, No. 11 in AP, Coaches Polls and BCS standings
BCS Bowl result: Lost 41-14 to No. 4 LSU
Notre Dame was around an eight-point underdog headed into this game, but after LSU had jumped out to a 14-0 lead, the Fighting Irish were able to pull even late in the second quarter and at that point it looked like this game would be a close-knit affair.

That wouldn’t be the case, however, as the Tigers scored the final 27 points and Notre Dame managed just one first down and less than 30 yards of offense in the second half of the 41-14 loss. LSU overwhelmed the Irish defense to the tune of 577 total yards, including 245 on the ground alone. Notre Dame finished with less than 300 yards of offense and posted a second-straight disappointing bowl loss under Charlie Weis.

8. Pittsburgh Panthers, 2005 Fiesta Bowl
Record headed into BCS bowl: 8-3, No. 19 in AP Poll, No. 20 in Coaches Poll and No. 21 in BCS standings, Big East Champion
BCS Bowl result: Lost 35-7 to No. 6 Utah
Utah was undefeated, the champion from the Mountain West Conference and a team that had put together an impressive regular season. The Utes earned the right and privilege of becoming the first team from a non-BCS conference in a BCS bowl. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, was a team that “earned” a BCS bid by virtue of a tiebreaker between four two-loss teams within the Big East. You get the picture.

Utah then went out and made it clear which team deserved to be in a BCS bowl and which didn’t by thumping Pittsburgh 35-7 in the Fiesta Bowl. The Utes were a 16-point favorite headed into the game and looked every bit of the part, scoring 28 points before the Panthers made it into the end zone. Utah put up 467 yards of offense on Pittsburgh, while the Panthers had just 17 yards rushing and 268 yards of total offense. You can argue all you want if you think the Utes should have gotten more consideration for at least a shot at the national title, but one thing’s clear – they definitely deserved a better opponent than Pittsburgh.

7. Virginia Tech Hokies, 2011 Orange Bowl
Record headed into BCS bowl: 11-2, No. 12 in AP Poll, No. 11 in Coaches Poll, No. 13 in BCS, ACC Champion
BCS Bowl result: Lost 40-12 to No. 4 Stanford
If this list was based on worst halves in a BCS bowl, then Virginia Tech may have been at the top. The Hokies trailed Stanford by just one point, 13-12, at halftime of the 2011 Orange Bowl. Considering that the Cardinal were a three-point favorite headed into this game, indications were that this would be a close game throughout. And then the second half started.

Stanford would score four touchdowns while Virginia Tech would enter the red zone just once in the final two quarters as the Cardinal would post a convincing 40-12 win. Led by Heisman Trophy runner-up Andrew Luck’s four touchdown passes, Stanford would pile up 534 yards of total offense on the Hokies, while Virginia Tech, who came into this game with no fewer than 106 rushing yards in any game, could only manage 66 yards on the ground. This was the second-worst loss in 18 bowl games for the Hokies under Frank Beamer.

6. Maryland Terrapins, 2002 Orange Bowl
Record headed into BCS bowl: 10-1, No. 6 in AP and Coaches Polls, No. 10 in BCS standings, ACC Champion
BCS Bowl result: Lost 56-23 to No. 5 Florida
Maryland, under first-year head coach Ralph Friedgen, was looking for the storybook ending to its 2001 season. Having already posted the most wins in a season since 1976, winning the ACC and earning their first trip to the Orange Bowl since 1956, the Terrapins were looking to cap it all off with a win over the Florida Gators, one of college football’s premiere programs. The Terps’ hopes for a happy ending ended up turning into a nightmare.

In the first half alone, Maryland surrendered 28 points and 360 yards to Florida and just weren’t able to keep up with the stronger and faster Gators. To make matters worse, Florida played most of the first half with a backup quarterback as Brock Berlin took Heisman runner-up Rex Grossman’s place in the starting line up after Grossman was benched for missing curfew. Berlin threw for one touchdown, but also tossed two interceptions helping keep Maryland in the game, trailing just 14-10. Grossman replaced Berlin with 6:03 remaining the second quarter and promptly led the Gators to six straight touchdowns, including 35 unanswered points. As a team that Gators piled up an Orange Bowl-record 659 yards of total offense. Up until that point, the most Maryland had surrendered in any game was 497.

5. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 2002 Rose Bowl
Record headed into BCS bowl: 11-1, No. 4 in AP and Coaches Polls, No. 2 in BCS standings
BCS Bowl result: Lost 37-14 to No. 1 Miami (Fla.)
Nebraska, even though it was coming off of a 62-36 thrashing by Colorado which meant the Cornhuskers didn't even play in the Big 12 Championship, finished No. 2 in the BCS standings thanks in large part to its strength of schedule component of the calculations. As a result, a one-loss, non-conference-championship-winning Nebraska team was given the opportunity to play No. 1 and undefeated Miami (Fla.) in the Rose Bowl for a chance at another national title.

The Hurricanes quickly erased any and all thoughts regarding that, however, as they jumped out to a 34-0 halftime lead and coasted to a convincing 37-14 victory. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Eric Crouch had one of the worst games of his career as the Miami defense held him to just 176 total yards.

As a team, the Cornhuskers only managed 259 yards of offense, nearly 200 less than they were averaging as a team prior to this game. On top of that, Hurricanes quarterback Ken Dorsey, who had finished third in the Heisman voting, threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns versus the vaunted Nebraska Blackshirts defense.

4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 2001 Fiesta Bowl
Record headed into BCS bowl: 9-2, No. 10 in AP Poll, No. 11 in BCS standings
BCS Bowl result: Lost 41-9 to No. 5 Oregon State
The Irish were anything but Fighting as Oregon State thoroughly outplayed Notre Dame in the 41-9 Fiesta Bowl debacle. At that time, this represented the sixth-worst loss for Notre Dame since 1946 and its worst bowl loss since a 40-6 defeat to Nebraska in the 1973 Orange Bowl.

Had it not been for Oregon State’s 18 penalties for 174 yards, it might have been much worse as the Irish didn’t score a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter against the Beaver reserves. Notre Dame came into this game averaging nearly 350 yards per game on offense, including more than 200 on the ground, but could only muster a total of 155 against Oregon State, including a meager 17 yards on the ground.

3. Oklahoma Sooners, 2005 Orange Bowl
Record headed into BCS bowl: 12-0, No. 2 in BCS standings, Big 12 Champion
BCS Bowl result: Lost 55-19 to No. 1 USC
Oklahoma rolled through the regular season pretty much unchallenged and was coming off of a 42-3 dismantling of Colorado in the Big 12 title game. All that remained was the much-anticipated match up with undefeated USC for the national title in the Orange Bowl.

Unfortunately, the No. 1 vs. No. 2 billing didn’t live up to the hype as the Trojans jumped out to a 38-10 halftime lead and added to it in the second half, cruising to a 55-19 win. Matt Leinart shredded the Sooners’ defense to the tune of 332 yards and five touchdowns, putting up the second-most impressive BCS National Championship performance in the process.

The Sooners couldn’t even get out of their own way as they turned the ball over five times, including three interceptions thrown by 2003 Heisman Trophy winner Jason White. This was the second straight loss by Oklahoma in the national championship game and the Sooners also would go on to lose in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game to Florida. Of the three losses, however, nothing compares to how poorly Oklahoma played against USC, as this 36-point loss represents the largest margin of defeat in BCS history to date. It’s probably little to no consolation to Sooner fans that USC ended up vacating this win in June 2010 as part of its punishment for committing numerous NCAA violations.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2009 Sugar Bowl
Record headed into BCS bowl: 12-1, No. 4 in BCS standings
BCS Bowl result: Lost 31-17 to No. 6 Utah
Maybe Alabama was still smarting over its 31-20 loss to Florida in the SEC title game less than a month ago, a first loss that cost the Crimson Tide a shot at the national title. Or perhaps they just didn’t take the undefeated Mountain West Conference champion Utah Utes seriously, as the Crimson Tide was a 10-point favorite headed into their match up. But one thing’s for sure, Utah clearly showed who the better team was in New Orleans on Jan. 2, 2009.

Utah jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and then withstood an Alabama comeback to earn a 31-17 victory and cap off a perfect 13-0 season. Alabama was on its heels from the start and could never quite recover, as the Crimson Tide allowed 336 yards passing, had just 31 yards rushing on offense, and turned the ball over three times. Alabama would rebound from this loss and go on to capture the national title the following season, but that doesn’t erase how the Tide ended their 2008 season.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2007 BCS National Championship Game
Record headed into BCS bowl: 12-0, No. 1 in BCS standings, Big Ten Champion
BCS Bowl result: Lost 41-14 to No. 2 Florida
Going into the 2007 BCS National Championship Game everything seemed to be in No. 1 Ohio State’s favor. Not only were the mighty Buckeyes a touchdown-favorite, many of the so-called experts weren’t even sure the second-ranked Florida Gators could stay that close. After all this Ohio State team had Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith at quarterback and boasted one of the top defenses in the country.

When they finally kicked things off in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 8, 2007, Ohio State wasted no time in showing why it was the No. 1 team in the nation, as Ted Ginn Jr. returned the opening kick off 93 yards for the score. After that, however, it was all Florida as the Gators scored the next 21 points and in total out-scored Ohio State 41-7 following Ginn’s fireworks. The Gator defense dominated the line of scrimmage and, led by Derrick Harvey’s dominating performance (No. 12 among Greatest BCS National Championship Performances), held the Buckeyes to just 82 yards of offense. Smith fared even worse as he was just 4-of-14 for 35 yards passing with an interception, had minus-29 yards rushing and was sacked five times. The Gators’ offense gashed the vaunted Buckeyes defense for 370 total yards, didn’t turn the ball over once and had possession of the football for more than 40 minutes.

For Ohio State, this would be the first of consecutive losses as the No. 1 team in the BCS National Championship Game, while Florida would return to the title game two years later and beat another No. 1 to win its second national title in three seasons.

Athlon Sports Ranks the Best Teams in Every BCS League:

The Top 10 Big East Teams of the BCS Era

The Top 10 ACC Teams of the BCS Era

The Top 10 Big Ten Teams of the BCS Era
The Top 10 Pac-12 Teams of the BSC Era
The Top 10 Big 12 Teams of the BCS Era
The Top 10 SEC Teams of the BCS Era

Athlon Sports Ranks the Top Performances from each BCS Bowl:

Top 15 BCS National Championship Performances
Top 5 Rose Bowl Performances
Top 5 Orange Bowl Performances
Top 5 Sugar Bowl Performances
Top 5 Fiesta Bowl Performances

Other BCS-related content:

The BCS' Greatest Offenses
The Greatest Non-BCS Offenses

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports ranks the teams who didn't do too well in the BCS spotlight</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 06:40
Path: /college-football/las-vegas-bowl-preview-arizona-state-vs-boise-state
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Las Vegas Bowl
Arizona State (6-6) vs. Boise State (11-1)

Date: Dec. 22 at 8 p.m. ET
Location: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev.

Another season, another near miss for Boise State. The Broncos will be making their second consecutive bowl trip to Las Vegas, while certainly wondering what might have been. A missed game-winning field goal against Nevada last season and TCU this year likely have cost Boise State two BCS appearances.

While the Broncos come into this game hoping to send a prolific senior class out on a high note, Arizona State enters with a four-game losing streak. The Sun Devils appeared to be in full control of the Pac-12 South before the November slide, which cost coach Dennis Erickson his job. He will coach the bowl game, and Todd Graham (from Pittsburgh) will be taking over in Tempe after this matchup.

Boise State has won its last two postseason games, including a decisive 26-3 victory over Utah in this bowl last season.

Arizona State has never played in the Las Vegas Bowl and it is riding a two-game losing streak in bowl games.

These two teams have only met one time, with Arizona State winning 56-7 in 1996.

WHEN ARIZONA STATE HAS THE BALL:

While the 2011 season was a major disappointment for Arizona State, scoring points certainly wasn’t a problem. The Sun Devils ranked 25th nationally in scoring, averaging 33.9 points a game, along with recording 450.9 total yards per contest.

Quarterback Brock Osweiler was solid in his first full season as the starter, throwing for 3,641 yards and 24 touchdowns, while tossing 12 picks. Osweiler likes to spread the ball around, as four Sun Devils had at least 36 receptions. Gerell Robinson led the team with 64 catches for 1,156 yards, while Aaron Pflugrad and Mike Willie will figure into the gameplan. Jamal Miles was a big part of the receiving corps in the regular season, but won't play on Thursday night.

Although the Sun Devils averaged 310.2 passing yards a game, the rushing attack shouldn’t be overlooked. Cameron Marshall led the way with 1,038 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns, while also catching 23 passes for 192 yards. He has scored at least one rushing touchdown in nine consecutive games.

Arizona State runs a lot of quick passes, which should be a good gameplan against Boise State’s defense. The Broncos are rock solid up front, led by three all-conference linemen – tackle Billy Winn and ends Shea McClellin and Tyrone Crawford. Boise State is allowing only 18.3 points a game and led the Mountain West in rush defense.

Although the Broncos are strong up front, the secondary has been a weak link most of the year. The pass defense ranks 25th nationally, but that number is a bit deceiving. TCU gashed the Broncos for 473 yards and five touchdowns through the air, while San Diego State threw for 350 yards and three scores in mid-November. Injuries have played a large role in the struggles of the defensive backfield, which will be tested once again by Arizona State.

With the struggles in the secondary, Boise State needs to get pressure on Osweiler and not allow him to get comfortable in the pocket. If the Broncos get to Osweiler, the Sun Devils will have trouble getting their offense on track.

WHEN BOISE STATE HAS THE BALL:

This is the final game at Boise State in a prolific career for quarterback Kellen Moore. The senior has thrown 140 touchdown passes and 14,374 yards in his career, while also setting a NCAA record with 49 career wins.

Moore should star in his final collegiate game, especially against an Arizona State secondary that ranks 107th nationally against in the pass. The Sun Devils have allowed only 18 passing scores this year, but opposing quarterbacks are completing 64.9 percent of their throws against this defense.

The Broncos entered the year with a glaring question mark at receiver, but this group has emerged as a strength. Tyler Shoemaker leads the team with 59 receptions for 959 yards and 15 scores this year. Matt Miller has also been another favorite target for Moore, catching 58 balls for 647 yards and eight touchdowns. Mitch Burroughs, Geraldo Boldewijn and Kirby Moore round out the receiving corps, while tight ends Gabe Linehan and Kyle Efaw combined for 49 receptions this year.

Running back Doug Martin is often overshadowed by Moore’s accomplishments, but he is quietly one of the top running backs in college football. The senior finished the regular season with 1,148 yards and 15 scores and caught 25 receptions for 229 yards and two touchdowns.

Arizona State’s defense has struggled throughout the team’s four-game losing streak, as it has allowed 29 or more points in each matchup. The Sun Devils rank 59th nationally in rush defense and that will be tested against Martin and one of the best offensive lines in college football.

If the Sun Devils want to knock off Boise State, getting pressure on Moore is going to be priority No. 1. Arizona State cannot allow Moore to have a clean pocket all night or he will pick apart the secondary. The Sun Devils have done a good job of winning the turnover battle this year, and they will have to force a few turnovers to win this game.

Special Teams

Field goals have been a headache for Boise State all season. Dan Goodale has connected on three of five attempts, while Michael Frisina has hit on three of four. Neither player has made an attempt longer than 32 yards, and coach Chris Peterson probably doesn't have a lot of trust in going for field goals.

While field goals have been an adventure, the rest of the groups on special teams have been solid for Boise State. Punter Brad Elkin is averaging 41.8 yards per punt and has placed 24 inside of the 20. Mitch Burroughs is averaging 13.3 yards per punt return, while Doug Martin is averaging 26.8 yards per kick return.

Arizona State hasn’t been much more reliable than Boise State on field goals this season, as kicker Alex Garoutte has hit on 14 of 21 attempts.

Sun Devils’ punter Josh Hubner is averaging 41.8 yards per punt, while placing 23 inside of the 20.

Jamal Miles earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors for his work on returns, averaging 16.6 yards per return on punts and 26.3 on kickoffs. Miles has taken three returns for a score this year. However, he won't play against the Broncos, leaving Arizona State with a significant void on returns. 

Prediction

Arizona State certainly has the firepower to hang around in this game. However, does it have any motivation after losing its final four games?

While Boise State probably deserved a better bowl, there is no question the motivation is clearly on its side. Kellen Moore and this senior class have a chance to close out a special tenure in Boise by earning their 50th career win.

The Sun Devils passing attack could give the Broncos’ secondary trouble early. However, Boise State’s defensive line will eventually win the battle in the trenches, and the Broncos will assume control of this game late in the third quarter.

Boise State 41, Arizona State 24

Teaser:
<p> Athlon previews the 2011 Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Arizona State.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 06:29
All taxonomy terms: Ohio State Buckeyes, Big Ten, News
Path: /news/ohio-state-sanctions-big-ten-title-race-2012
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Ohio State’s football program has been under investigation since last December, and the NCAA finally announced its penalties on Tuesday. And the news is not good for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State was hit with a one-year bowl ban and must vacate nine scholarships over the next three seasons. The Buckeyes will serve their bowl ban in 2012 and won’t be eligible to play for the Big Ten title next season.

Losing scholarships is never a good thing, but vacating nine shouldn’t drastically impact Ohio State’s roster. The biggest loss is easily the bowl ban, which also takes away Ohio State’s opportunity to play for a national title next year.

Former coach Jim Tressel was also hit with a show-cause penalty. Although Tressel was facing an uphill battle to get another head coaching job, this penalty likely ends any hope he had of returning to the sidelines in college.

The investigation centered on players exchanging memorabilia for tattoos and cash. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Daniel Herron, receiver DeVier Posey and tackle Mike Adams were the key players in the scandal, with each getting suspended for several games in 2011. Pryor decided to leave Ohio State before the season began, but Herron, Adams and Posey eventually played this year.

The NCAA does not follow precedent in future cases, but Ohio State’s penalties cannot be good news for North Carolina, Oregon and Miami.

What does this mean for the Big Ten race in 2012?

Ohio State was expected to be the Leaders Division frontrunner in 2012, especially with new coach Urban Meyer taking over.

However, the Buckeyes will have to wait another year to play in the Big Ten title game. And the race to win the Leaders Division is now wide open.

Ohio State was predicted as the No. 6 team in Athlon’s very early top 25 for 2012. With a young team coming back next season, the Buckeyes were expected to contend for a 10-2 or 11-1 record. Although Ohio State could still achieve that next season, one has to wonder about the motivation, especially with nothing to play for.

Wisconsin arguably benefits the most from Ohio State’s bowl ban next year. The Badgers already capitalized off Ohio State’s scandal by winning the Big Ten title this season. And they should have a good chance to repeat as the division champs in 2012.

Replacing quarterback Russell Wilson is going to be crucial to Wisconsin’s success, but is there another challenger in the Leaders Division? Penn State is still in disarray and has yet to name a head coach for 2012. The Nittany Lions certainly have some talent, but considering all that has transpired this year and the uncertainty facing the team, it’s hard to envision Penn State as division champs in 2012.

Outside of Wisconsin and Penn State, is there another threat to win the division? Illinois has some talent returning, but it will also be coach Tim Beckman’s first in Champaign. The Fighting Illini could also lose defensive end Whitney Mercilus to the NFL Draft.

Purdue and Indiana figure to be picked at the bottom of the division next year. The Boilermakers showed some progress in 2011, but are unlikely to jump from 6-6 to division champ. After a 1-11 finish this year, Indiana is considered a longshot just to get bowl eligible next year.

Wisconsin isn’t the only team that will benefit from Ohio State’s bowl and conference title ban next year. Michigan should enter the year as the favorite in the Legends Division, and with the Badgers expected to take a step back in the win column, the Wolverines would figure to have a favorable path to the conference title. Michigan has be a heavy favorite to play in the Rose Bowl next year. 

There’s no question the bowl ban is a huge blow to the Buckeyes next season. Considering the excitement surrounding Meyer’s arrival and a young team expected to be better, 2012 had the chance to be a Big Ten title season in Columbus. However, those celebration plans will have to wait until 2013 – but don’t expect that to slow down Ohio State’s momentum on the recruiting trail. 

Teaser:
<p> The Buckeyes lost nine scholarships over three years and were placed on a one-year bowl ban as a result of a NCAA investigation. What does this mean for the 2012 Big Ten title race?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 15:43
Path: /news/san-francisco-49ers-shine-despite-power-outages-candlestick-park
Body:

Which game would you rather see televised?  The Seattle Seahawks hosting the St. Louis Rams or the Pittsburgh Steelers visiting the San Francisco 49ers?  Let me guess…

In a battle of 10-3 teams, Monday Night Football regained the drama it lacked in previous weeks.  Finally, we were going to see a game that mattered; at least we hoped.

I turned on the TV around 8:40pm last night, thinking I had already missed the opening kickoff and the majority of the opening drive.  To my surprise, I didn’t miss anything.  It’s unsure whether fate intended the pun or not; the lights went out at Candlestick Park.

Before the first whistle sounded, the sold out stadium of 69,732 went dark.  The start of the game was delayed 15 minutes because of “transformer malfunctions.”  While many might believe it was simply an act of chance, I maintain a much different theory.

Steelers LB James Harrison was serving his one-game suspension Monday night for his vicious helmet-to-helmet blow on Browns’ rookie QB Colt McCoy in Week 14.  Last night, almost immediately after the power outage, Harrison tweeted, “If I can’t play then can’t nobody play…Lights out!”  I can still hear his evil laugh echoing the tunnels of Candlestick.  Touché, Mr. Harrison. Touché.

Finally, the switch was flipped.  Lights, Camera, Football!

Ben Roethlisberger took center stage first.  Roethlisberger was doubtful to play all week with a bad left ankle.  But once you question his toughness, you might as well assume he will play.  He hobbled out to his team’s huddle (seriously, he could hardly walk on that left leg), and marched the offense down the field.  One pass after another, he proved the ankle would hardly be a factor.  Amazing, considering he was hardly putting any weight on the bum ankle, so vital to supporting the motion of his follow through.  But just as you wanted to tap your foot to the beat of Big Ben’s rhythm, he missed a note.  49ers’ cornerback Carlos Rodgers picked off a poorly thrown ball for his 6th interception of the year.  The lights were starting to dim (not just on the Steelers’ offense, but Candlestick Park).

A second power outrage?  You can’t be serious.  Enough is enough James Harrison.  After a second 15-minute delay, the lights came back on and the game resumed. 

The Steelers’ offense, however, was still in need of a night-light. Roethlisberger turned the ball over three more times--twice on interceptions, and once on a fumble.  “It’s very frustrating to feel like you let down your team and your fans and your coaches,” Roethlisberger said.  “I’m not going to make excuses.  I played a bad football game, I turned the ball over and that one’s on me.”  His performance begs the question of whether or not he should have played in the first place.  Big Ben practiced with the team just twice all week.  But regardless, you have to figure he gives you a better shot at winning than backup Charlie Batch.

It’s not like the running game gave him much help either. All night long, the Steelers seemed afraid of the dark. Pittsburgh couldn’t find any success against San Francisco’s D, unable to ever cross the goal-line of the end zone.  Check out this stat: San Francisco has not allowed a rushing touchdown all year long.  In 14 straight games, they are the only team in NFL history to do so.

Or maybe it was the big bad monster underneath the bed. Aldon Smith, a rookie linebacker out of Missouri, is making his case for Defensive Rookie of the Year.  Last night, he added 2.5 sacks to his season total (12.5), ranking him third in NFL in the category.  Smith, along with the rest of the Niners’ pass rush, hurried or sacked Roethlisberger 11 times in the ball game.  Even on two good legs, I doubt Big Ben could’ve done much damage.

The San Francisco offense, on the other hand, seemed ready for anything Pittsburgh would bring at them.  The Steelers defense, ranked 1st in total yards allowed, was simply ineffective. 

After allowing 18 sacks in the last 3 games, the 49ers offensive line was in need of an impact performance this week; which is exactly what happened.  Quarterback Alex Smith was never sacked in the entirety of the game.

With a force field around him, Smith was able to take his time, and continue his theme for the year, minimizing turnovers.  He was 18/31 passing for 187 yards and a touchdown.  Hardly ideal numbers for a fantasy quarterback, but they are all that is necessary in coach Jim Harbaugh’s west coast offense.  “A tremendous job by Alex Smith,” Harbaugh said after the game.  “He was just on the money all night long.”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin also had nothing but good things to say about Harbaugh and his team.  “I think we need to acknowledge that was 49er football tonight.  We played the game on their terms.” 

With the impressive victory on a national stage, it seems that many more teams will be playing on 49ers’ terms in the future.

Teaser:
<p> The Pittsburgh Steelers were scared of the dark as the lights went out twice at Candlestick Park last night.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 13:04
Path: /college-football/greatest-non-bcs-offenses
Body:

The BCS is wrapping up its 14th season of action and Athlon Sports is continuing its series of BCS rankings. We ranked the best performances of each BCS bowl game and we ranked the best teams of each BCS conference. Now, we break down the top offensive units of the BCS era (1998-present).

Statistics, awards, championships and NFL talent were all considered and evaluated in order to label the Top 10 offenses of the BCS era. Only teams from "non-BCS" conferences were considered and teams from 2011 were not eligbile. (If you want BCS-only offenses, click below.)

Related: The 10 Greatest BCS Offenses of the BCS Era
Related: The BCS' Greatest Defenses

10. Utah Utes, 2004 (12-0)
Rushing Offense: 236.1 ypg (13th)
Passing Offense: 263.7 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 499.8 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 45.3 ppg (1st)

The 2010 Ute team was a better all-around football that defeated better competition. But the Alex Smith-led 2004 bunch was the highest-scoring team in Utah history. Smith finished No. 2 nationally in passing efficiency (176.52) and No. 5 in total offense (298.6 ypg). He was taken first overall and is leading an 11-3 49ers team today.

9. Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, 2003 (13-1)
Rushing Offense: 160.3 ypg (51st)
Passing Offense: 340.9 ypg (4th)
Total Offense: 501.1 ypg (2nd)
Scoring Offense: 43.0 ppg (1st)

Ben Roethlisberger's final year in Oxford, Ohio, was a magical one for Redhawks fans. Big Ben threw for 4,486 yards and 37 touchdowns (111 rush yards, 3 TD) en route to the winningest season in program history. The 602 points the '03 outfit scored shattered the previous mark of 412 (1997).

8. Boise State Broncos, 2006 (13-0)
Rushing Offense: 214.2 ypg (6th)
Passing Offense: 206.5 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 420.6 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 39.7 ppg (1st)

You could make a case for both the 2002 and 2004 teams for this list as well, but the undefeated '06 Broncos will easily be the most memorable. Quarterback Jared Zabransky finished sixth nationally in efficiency (162.57), while tailback Ian Johnson finished second nationally in rushing (142.8 ypg), and his 12.7 points per game led the nation. Of course, the 43-42 overtime win over Oklahoma — complete with Statue of Liberty and marriage proposal — make this offense one of the greats of all-time.

7. Nevada Wolfpack, 2010 (13-1)
Rushing Offense: 292.2 ypg (3rd)
Passing Offense: 226.9 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 519.1 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 41.0 ppg (1st)

One of the most powerful rushing attacks ever seen featured dynamic quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who rushed for 1,206 yards (6.9 ypc) and 20 touchdowns, and tailback Vai Taua, who rushed for 1,610 yards (5.7 ypc) and 19 touchdowns. This team tied the 1986 13-1 team as the winningest Wolfpack team in program history and scored more points (574) than any other Nevada team.

6. Hawaii Warriors, 2006 (11-3)
Rushing Offense: 117.9 ypg (82nd)
Passing Offense: 441.3 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 559.2 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 46.9 ppg (1st)

One of two fantastic Hawaii teams featured the most efficient season by a quarterback in NCAA history. Colt Brennan (186.00) led the nation in total offense (422.5 ypg), throwing for 5,549 yards and an NCAA-record 58 touchdown passes. He rushed for another five scores and 366 yards. Davone Bess, Nate Ilaoa, Jason Rivers, Ryan Grice-Mullen, Ian Sample and Ross Dickerson gave him plenty of weapons — all of whom caught at least 46 passes and at least 690 yards.

5. Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 2007 (10-4)
Rushing Offense: 172.9 ypg (41st)
Passing Offense: 371.0 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 543.9 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 41.1 ppg (1st)

Paul Smith put together one of the greatest statistical seasons in NCAA history — and fantasy owners will never forget it. He threw for 5,065 yards and 47 touchdowns in the air, while rushing for 13 more touchdowns and 119 yards on the ground. Tarrion Adams, Trae Johnson, Charles Clay, Jamad Williams and Jesse Meyer join Smith to make this one of the great offenses in history.

4. Louisville Cardinals, 2004 (11-1)
Rushing Offense: 250.4 ypg (8th)
Passing Offense: 288.6 ypg (9th)
Total Offense: 539.0 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 49.8 ppg (1st)

Stefan Lefors led the nation in passing efficiency at 181.74 after completing an astonishing 73.5% of his passes with 20 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Eric Shelton (146 att., 938 yards, 20 TD), Michael Bush (132 att., 734 yards, 7 TD) and Lionel Gates (76 att., 373 yards, 7 TD) led one of the most powerful rushing attacks in C-USA history.

3. Boise State Broncos, 2010 (12-1)
Rushing Offense: 200.2 ypg (21st)
Passing Offense: 321.1 ypg (6th)
Total Offense: 521.3 ypg (2nd)
Scoring Offense: 45.1 ppg (2nd)

The team with most NFL talent on this list is undoubtedly the 2010 Broncos. Kellen Moore led the nation in passing efficiency (182.63) while using a plethora of future NFL players: Titus Young, Austin Pettis, Tyler Shoemaker, Doug Martin and Jeremy Avery. And if it wasn't for one missed field goal against Nevada, this team might have played for the national championship.

2. BYU Cougars, 2001 (12-2)
Rushing Offense: 217.9 ypg (13th)
Passing Offense: 325.0 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 542.9 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 46.8 ppg (1st)

This was the first team to go unbeaten in Mountain West play, led by quarterback Brandon Doman (3,542 yards, 33 TD, 8 INT, 456 rush yards, 8 TD) and running back Luke Staley (1,582 yards, 28 TD). Staley finished third in the nation in rushing and led the country in scoring. The Cougars' only two losses came after Staley broke his leg against Mississippi State.

1. Houston Cougars, 2009 (10-4)
Rushing Offense: 129.6 ypg (83rd)
Passing Offense: 433.7 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 563.4 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 42.2 ppg (1st)

In 2009, Case Keenum led the nation in total offense (416.4 ypg) and finished sixth nationally in efficiency. Three receivers finished in the top six in receptions in C-USA, and three of the top eight yardage totals in C-USA came from James Cleveland, Tyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards. Sprinkle in talented and versatile backs Bryce Beall and Charles Sims — who combined for 373 touches, 2,438 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns — and you have the best non-BCS offense in college football, although if I were to put this list together after the bowl games, the 2011 edition might give this group a run for its money. 


Athlon Sports Ranks the Best Teams in Every BCS League:

The Top 10 Big East Teams of the BCS Era

The Top 10 ACC Teams of the BCS Era

The Top 10 Big Ten Teams of the BCS Era
The Top 10 Pac-12 Teams of the BSC Era
The Top 10 Big 12 Teams of the BCS Era
The Top 10 SEC Teams of the BCS Era

Athlon Sports Ranks the Top Performances from each BCS Bowl:

Top 15 BCS National Championship Performances
Top 5 Rose Bowl Performances
Top 5 Orange Bowl Performances
Top 5 Sugar Bowl Performances
Top 5 Fiesta Bowl Performances

Teaser:
<p> What are the nation's greatest non-BCS offenses of the modern era?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 10:36
Path: /overtime/rooney-mara-nfl-princess-who-can-kick-your-ass
Body:

By Phil Sweetland

Few who saw “The Social Network” realized that the actress whose character breaks the heart of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in the film’s famous opening scene is part of an NFL royal family. She’s Rooney Mara, the great-granddaughter and proud Irish namesake of Art Rooney Sr. and Tim Mara, respectively the founders of the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants.

Rooney, the daughter of Kathleen Rooney Mara and longtime Giants VP of Player Evaluation Chris Mara, next plays the title character in the high-profile thriller “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” which hits theaters Dec. 21. John Lee Hancock, who likewise has major credentials both in sports and movies as the writer/director of the Academy Award-winning “The Blind Side,” tells us from Hollywood: “The reason for Rooney’s success is that she’s talented. In her young career, she has taken on a variety of roles and disappeared into every one, which is rare. You never see Rooney, you see her character and that is a wonderful thing.”

The young actress also clearly inherited her family’s incredible work ethic, never flinching during the whopping 99 takes director David Fincher shot on the opening scene of “The Social Network.”

“You’re like, ‘Well, God, like after 10 times, how is it possible you’re gonna feel spontaneous?’” Mara told the studio, Columbia Pictures. “But even after Take 99, we were like, ‘Let’s do one more.’”

Columbia is billing “Dragon Tattoo” as “THE FEEL BAD MOVIE OF CHRISTMAS.” It’s a dark and moody version of the Stieg Larsson bestseller, and once again, Fincher is at the helm. Mara’s title character features a Goth, tattooed and pierced look and persona, a gigantic contrast to her Boston University student role in “The Social Network.”

Fincher auditioned many of Hollywood’s top actresses for the part, but told USA Today: “I wanted her from the beginning. Rooney may be a trust-fund baby from football royalty, but she’s level-headed and hard working.”

One of Mara’s top boosters in the business is the casting director Laray Mayfield, who has worked with Fincher on both “Dragon Tattoo” and “The Social Network,” and on earlier hits including “Fight Club” and “Zodiac.” Mayfield is good friends with both Rooney and her older sister Kate Mara, who played the dark-haired waitress whose beloved boyfriend is killed with his Marshall University football teammates early in 2006’s “We Are Marshall.”

“They’re both wonderful, down-to-earth people. There’s no sense of entitlement. You’d never know where Rooney and Kate came from,” Mayfield says in a phone conversation. “The thing with Rooney for me is that is that she is tough, but she is also very feminine.”

New York Giants fans are likely more familiar with Kate, who has performed the national anthem at Giants Stadium more than half a dozen times since 2000. Kate thus became part of the fourth generation of Maras to contribute to the fabled team since her great-grandfather Tim Mara and Billy Gibson were awarded the New York Giants franchise by the nascent NFL in 1925 for $500.

“Tim Mara was a legal bookmaker. This was before parimutuel betting,” says Dave Anderson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times.

Art Rooney Sr., who founded the Steelers in 1933, named Rooney Mara’s maternal grandfather Tim Rooney in honor of her paternal great-grandfather Tim Mara, because of a timely wager.

“The reason he’s named Tim,” Art Rooney told Anderson in a 1981 Times story on the occasion of the marriage of Rooney Mara’s mother and father, “is that the time I had my big score at Empire City in Saratoga before parimutuel betting, one of the bookmakers I was betting with was Tim Mara.”

Anderson wrote that Art Rooney never revealed how much that wager had earned him, but that “estimates range as high as $380,000.” During the Depression, that was a small fortune.

Now, all those years and all those generations later, Rooney Mara is proudly carrying on the legacy of achievement of both sides of her family, in a very different arena from the NFL stadiums where the Rooneys and Maras first found fame. And after using the screen names Patricia Mara or Tricia Mara in her early roles — her birth name is Patricia Rooney Mara — since 2008 she’s gone by the professional name Rooney Mara, which embraces both family trees.

And after “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” hits theaters, this unassuming NFL princess might just be nominated for one honor that neither the Maras nor Rooneys have ever earned — an Academy Award.

This piece originally appeared in the December issue of Athlon Sports' monthly newspaper insert.
 

Teaser:
<p> The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo comes from football royalty.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 10:23

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