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Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-11-links-day-0

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for December 13.

An ex-Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader named Rachel Wray is giving MMA a try. We endorse the effort. At least, we endorse the photo at right.

• Today in year-end countdowns: The folks at Awful Announcing have culled through the worst of the worst to come up with their Bottom 10 announcer moments of 2012.

• It's been a pretty spectacular year in college football. My friends at Athlon have compiled the video evidence.

• Ah, fans. God love 'em. One Indiana fan spent $10,000 and enriched his local power company by crafting this elaborate tribute in Christmas lights to Christian Watford's 2011 buzzer-beater against top-ranked Kentucky.

• What a shocker — Johnny Football's dating a model.

• No surprise here, either: The eternally optimistic Tim Tebow is less upset about his lack of playing time than his fans are.

• Last night's atrocity of a football game featured one gem: Philly's Marvin McNutt blocked his own punter's punt, and then roughed him for good measure. The GIF is mesmerizing, as all good GIFs are.

• The vultures are picking over the carcass of the once-mighty Big East.

• They might as well go ahead and shut down boxing for good. Larry Merchant's retiring.

• I'm reluctant to wade into the Robert Griffin III-Rob Parker racial controversy, so I'll let RG3's dad speak for me. Here's what Parker had to say in the aftermath of his comments, before assuming radio silence.

• I'm late to this Hanukkah party, but in today's video, members of the Houston Rockets attempted to sing the dreidel song, with hilarious results.


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

December 13

• Today in year-end countdowns: Ask Men's Top 99 of 2013 included an impressive array of athletes and WAGs, including comely tennis player Ana Ivanovic.

• Your 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captain: Tom Watson. As Jack Nicklaus said, if they want somebody who knows how to win in Scotland, they've got their man. Watson was also the last winning U.S. Ryder Cup captain on foreign soil. In 1993.

• Kevin Youkilis is a Yankee, to the chagrin of the fans in Bah-ston. But Youk's not the first to rub salt in Red Sox Nation's wounds by joining the Evil Empire. The top 10 Yankees-turned-Red Sox.

There's a one-armed Division I basketball prospect. I'm not worthy to breathe the same air as this kid.

• From a national title to pills, paranoia and prison: The cautionary tale of Maurice Clarett.

• Mississippi State and Loyola are meeting up this weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the game that changed college basketball for the better.

• Rajon Rondo would like to have this game-winning shot attempt back. Needed a little more air under it.

• Like any good leader, Vince McMahon has evolved and grown into his job.

• I told you recently that Kim Jong Un was leading the Time Magazine readers poll for person of the year. Dude closed it out like Mariano Rivera. The people have spoken.

The 10 greatest basketball-themed ad campaigns.

• There are some great Christmas movies. And then there are these movies.

• Today's video: Even at 50, Michael Jordan is still a better player than he is an executive.

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

December 12

• Our tribute to the best team in football right now: a slideshow of lovely Patriots cheerleaders.

• In honor of today's date (12/12/12): the best athletes to wear No. 12.

• Watch out, Eric Dickerson. Adrian Peterson's coming for you and your 1984-era jheri curls.

• In other NFL news, Paul Tagliabue emerged from retirement to issue a public smackdown to Roger Goodell.

Is Eli Manning a Hall of Famer? My take: His regular season stats fall a little short, but one more Super Bowl seals the deal.

• A realization has hit the mainstream sports media: Tim Tebow is the backup quarterback on a bad football team. Nothing more.

• Today in hilariously ungraceful exits: Tommy Tuberville got up from a dinner with recruits to go to the can and never came back. The next day, he was head coach at Cincinnati.

• That didn't take long. Tennessee's Butch Jones is now the fourth-most followed college football coach on Twitter. Who's No. 1, you ask? Here's a hint: "When you're challenged, and if you enjoy challenge, well, you enjoy it."

• The football program's in decline, but the revenues aren't: Texas tops the money earners among BCS schools.

This is depressing and terrifying: A first-person account from a repeated concussion sufferer.

• This isn't sports-related, but it's personal to me. Rush is finally in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. About bleepin' time.

• Today's video: A 5-11 NAIA guard throws down a monster slam. Gotta love the reaction of the tubby assistant coach.

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

December 11

• College football's regular season is over, so it's time to turn pro. The best in NFL cheerleaders so far this season.

• Body's not even cold on the 2012 college football season, and my colleagues here at Athlon are already projecting a top 25 for 2013. They just can't help themselves.

• Speaking of top 25s, here's the current top 25, rearranged by academic performance. Nice job, Florida State.

• College football attendance dipped in 2012. This article includes attendance figures for every FBS program. Boy, those fans in San Jose are hard to please; they won 10 games, and their attendance dipped 41 percent. No wonder Mike MacIntyre got out of there.

• Attendance at Sunday's Bengals-Cowboys game at Paul Brown Stadium was 63,590, plus one sly, hungry rodent.

• "They look cute. They look like a high school swim team." Ouch. The Patriots sure enjoyed last night's statement tail-whipping.

This valet has seen "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" one too many times.

• Sports Business Journal is rolling out its 50 most influential people in sports business. Here's 11-20. My name hasn't appeared yet, so I must be in the top 10. Nice.

• Selena Robert analyzes the decline of Tiger Woods, with help from Athlon contributor Brandel Chamblee of the Golf Channel. Looks like Tiger's glory days are behind him; he might have to settle for just being insanely wealthy.

• Rob Neyer thinks the Baseball Hall of Fame could learn a thing or two from the Country Music Hall of Fame. Here in Nashville, we endorse this line of thinking.

• It's never too early to start thinking about spring. The NCAA has named its 35 greatest March Madness Moments.

• Today's video features Johnny Football doing the Letterman Top 10 list. Don't go Hollywood on us, kid.

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

December 10

• Tis the season for year-end countdowns. The folks at Mandatory bring you the year in great photos, including this one of Angelina Jolie on the red carpet at the Oscars.

• In that same vein, here's the Year in Kate Upton. 2012 will be hard for her to top.

• Hate to pile on this kid, but I have no choice. I present: The single worst free throw attempt in the history of terrible free throw attempts.

• Deadspin's weekend roundup includes a chilling GIF of Manny Pacquiao getting absolutely destroyed by a single punch.

• Sure, it's got problems, but it's still America's game, and it can still bring us enjoyment. 14 smile-inducing moments from Week 14 in the NFL.

• Social media's made for job networking. Today's Exhibit A: Vince Young took to Twitter yesterday to lobby for the Cardinals QB job. Hey, the Cards could do worse. Obviously.

• Speaking of social media, it's also useful for making idle threats that make you look thuggy and get you into trouble. Just ask Stephen Jackson.

• Last week, Roger Goodell floated the idea of eliminating kickoffs. Mike Pereira does not approve.

• The NFL may or may not have a drinking problem, but it's got a drinking and driving problem.

• I'll freely admit that I've never heard of Lions receiver Kris Durham. But his second reception of the season was one of the best catches of the year.

• Heisman voters probably got it right in giving the stiff-arm trophy to Johnny Manziel. But they haven't always gotten it right.

• In today's video, Buffalo's Lee Smith shows us that the Lambeau Leap is a maneuver that's best left to the professionals.

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

<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, December 14, 2012 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/big-east-split-what-basketball-breakup-means-football

The Big East suffered another setback in realignment, as seven basketball schools – Providence, DePaul, Marquette, Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova and Seton Hall have decided to break away from the conference. While this is a much bigger problem for the Big East’s basketball product, it could also present some issues for the football side. After losing Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC and West Virginia to the Big 12 last year, the Big East was attempting to rebrand itself as a national conference. However, Louisville accepted a spot in the ACC, and Rutgers is joining the Big Ten, likely in 2014.

Here’s the divisional format that the Big East planned to go with for 2013:

East West
UCF Boise State
South Florida Houston
Connecticut Memphis
Cincinnati San Diego State
Rutgers SMU
Louisville Temple

Navy is scheduled to join the conference in 2015, while East Carolina and Tulane are expected to become members in 2014. 

With the news that the basketball schools are breaking away from the conference, what does this do to the football product?

Although there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Big East, all of the additions seem to be on track to join in time for 2013. Boise State is the key cog in the new membership, and the Broncos, at least publically, are full steam ahead to leave the Mountain West for the Big East. Assuming Boise State does join, it would be a huge boost to the future of the conference. And as long as the Broncos are coming along, San Diego State will be joining as well. While losing the basketball schools will hurt the television contract, the Big East doesn’t seem to be in any danger of dissolving altogether.

What about the television contract?

This is the million-dollar question. The Big East is banking on landing a good television deal, which will help keep Boise State and San Diego State in the mix. If the Broncos can make more money on this television contract than in the Mountain West, it’s a good bet they remain in the Big East. There have been a handful of estimates thrown around but none have been as large as the conference was hoping for. Losing the seven basketball-only schools is going to hurt on the television contract, but football can still generate plenty of value.

Biggest winner in this move: None

The Big East as a football conference isn’t going to go away. However, the decision by the basketball schools to leave is a big setback for the Big East, especially as it appeared the conference was ready for a national rebranding and a new image. Will the basketball schools land a better television deal than the one they had in the Big East? Probably not. 

Biggest loser in this move: Connecticut and Cincinnati

Both schools lobbied hard to get into the ACC, but Louisville was chosen as the conference’s replacement for Maryland. Connecticut has a good television market and has been one of college basketball’s top 25 programs over the last 10 years. However, the Huskies are left in a watered down Big East and won’t have their usual Northeast foes on the schedule. Cincinnati should be one of the top football programs in the new format, but after missing out on the ACC, the Bearcats have to be disappointed about no longer being in a conference with Louisville and the seven basketball-only schools.

What will happen next?

Even though the Big East may not be able to land a huge television contract, there’s still an opportunity to piece together a decent football conference. Considering the Big East can earn a chunk of money by having a team make a BCS bowl in the new postseason format in 2014, there is plenty of incentive to be the “best of the rest” conference. It’s certainly a possibility that the Big East’s new football format could eventually break apart, but if Boise State, Cincinnati and Connecticut are on board, other schools will want to join.

The Big East could benefit by expanding to 14 or 16 teams, which would help soften the blow if Connecticut and Cincinnati get ACC invites. If the conference does decide to expand, Western schools such as Fresno State and Air Force will be on the radar for the conference. The Big East could also look at Tulsa from Conference USA or make another run at BYU.

The departure of the basketball-only schools is a significant setback, but the Big East as a football conference isn’t going anywhere. So while this week’s news is a blow to commissioner Mike Aresco, as long as he keeps Boise State in the mix and can prevent any other losses for now, the conference will survive to 2013 and 2014. However, if the Big East loses Boise State, the conference isn’t going to break apart, but it will lose its premier football program.

The new Big East isn’t a football juggernaut, but programs like Houston, Memphis and Temple are better off in this new format, as opposed to returning and playing in a revamped Conference USA. 

Related College Football Content

How the split affects the Big East's basketball product
A Very Early College Football Top 25 for 2013

Ranking All 35 Bowl Games: Must-See to Must-Miss

<p> Big East Split: What the Basketball Breakup Means for Football</p>
Post date: Friday, December 14, 2012 - 07:48
Path: /college-football/famous-idaho-potato-bowl-preview-and-prediction-utah-state-vs-toledo

Even though the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl doesn’t have the star power of a BCS game or the Cotton Bowl, this year’s game could be one of the best pre-New Year’s Day matchups. Utah State finished the regular season at 10-2 and unbeaten in WAC play. The Aggies were just a couple of plays away from a 12-0 record, losing to Wisconsin by two points and to BYU by a field goal. Toledo knocked off Cincinnati and fell to Arizona in overtime, while losing two games in MAC play by a touchdown.

The Aggies return to the blue turf in Boise looking for revenge. Utah State fell just short of a bowl win in this game last season, losing a 24-23 heartbreaker to Ohio in the final seconds. Toledo is making its first appearance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, but this will be the Rockets’ third consecutive postseason trip. Toledo knocked off Air Force 42-41 in the Military Bowl last year.

This will be the first meeting between these two teams, and this game also features two of the nation’s top rising stars in the coaching ranks – Toledo’s Matt Campbell and Utah State’s Gary Andersen.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – Toledo (9-3) vs. Utah State (10-2)

Date/Time: Dec. 15 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Channel: ESPN
Location: Boise, Idaho

When the Utah State Aggies have the ball:

In terms of national rankings, Utah State is as balanced as they come. The Aggies rank 37th nationally in rushing and passing offense, while averaging 34.4 points a game. The catalyst for the offense is quarterback Chuckie Keeton. The sophomore recorded 3,671 yards of total offense and 34 overall scores in 2012. Keeton finished the regular season on a high note, throwing for at least 300 yards in three out of the final four games, including a huge 340-yard performance against Louisiana Tech to decide the WAC title.

Although Keeton is one of the nation’s top non-BCS quarterbacks, he doesn't have to carry the offense just on his shoulders. Running back Kerwynn Williams averaged 163 all-purpose yards per game and led the team with 663 receiving yards. The senior averaged 6.4 yards per carry and recorded an 86-yard touchdown scamper against San Jose State.

Williams will catch his share of passes out of the backfield, but the Aggies also have dependable receivers in Chuck Jacobs, Matt Austin, Cameron Webb and tight end Kellen Bartlett. Austin is the team’s top big-play threat, averaging 15.5 yards per reception.

Stopping Utah State’s offense is going to be a big challenge for Toledo. The Rockets allowed 464.1 yards per game and ranked near the bottom of the nation in pass defense. If there is any good news in the defensive statistics, Toledo gave up a lot of yards but held opponents to just 27.3 points a game. The Rockets forced 25 turnovers this season and they will need a couple on Saturday afternoon to knock off Utah State. 

When the Toledo Rockets have the ball:

The Rockets averaged 32.9 points a game this season but will have their hands full trying to move the ball against Utah State’s defense. The Aggies ranked 15th nationally in yards allowed (322.7 ypg) and points allowed (15.4 ppg). In addition to holding opponents to less than 330 yards a contest, Utah State was active around the line of scrimmage, recording 3.3 sacks per game.

Although Utah State has been stingy on defense, Toledo is getting some reinforcements back for the bowl game. Quarterback Terrance Owens and running back David Fluellen both missed the season finale due to injuries but are expected to play on Saturday afternoon.

Fluellen was a first-team All-MAC selection in 2011 and rushed for 1,460 yards and 13 touchdowns during the regular season. The junior is expected to be close to 100 percent after suffering an ankle injury late in the year but faces a tough test against an active Utah State front seven. The Aggies allowed only six rushing scores all season and rank 12th nationally against the run.

Considering how tough it has been to run against Utah State this year, Toledo needs a big game from its passing attack. Owens is ready to return to the lineup, but senior Austin Dantin may see some snaps in this game. Regardless of whether Owens or Dantin is under center, the Rockets’ receiving corps will test Utah State’s secondary. Bernard Reedy is the No. 1 target for Toledo, catching 82 passes for 1,051 yards and six scores this year. Freshman Alonzo Russell didn’t match Reedy’s catch total (54) but led the team with an average of 17.1 yards per reception.  

Reedy and Russell will be a good challenge for Utah State’s secondary, which features three All-WAC performers. Cornerback Will Davis was a first-team all-conference selection, picking off five passes and recording 16 pass breakups.

Final Analysis

Three out of the last four meetings in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl have been decided by a touchdown or less. Barring a complete collapse by one team, another tight game should be expected. The Aggies have already set a school record with 10 victories and expect to have a large contingent of fans make the trip from Logan. Toledo is capable of pulling off the upset, but Utah State is better on both sides of the ball and has plenty of motivation as it tries to erase last season’s disappointing loss in this bowl game.

Prediction: Utah State 34, Toledo 27

Related College Football Content

New Mexico Bowl Preview: Nevada vs. Arizona

College Football's Very Early Top 25 for 2013

College Football's Top 25 Freshmen of 2012

College Football's Top 10 Individual Performances of 2012

<p> Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Preview and Prediction: Utah State vs. Toledo</p>
Post date: Friday, December 14, 2012 - 05:22
Path: /college-football/new-mexico-bowl-preview-and-prediction-arizona-wildcats-vs-nevada-wolf-pack

College football’s bowl season kicks off in Albuquerque, N.M. with what should be a high-scoring affair between Nevada and Arizona. The Wolf Pack averaged 37 points a game this year and ranked seventh nationally in rushing offense. The Wildcats finished the regular season by scoring at least 30 or more points in seven out of their final eight games.

Although its final record was just 7-5, Arizona has to be thrilled to return to a bowl game in coach Rich Rodriguez’s first season in Tucson. The Wildcats knocked off Oklahoma State, Washington and USC this year and had narrow losses to Oregon State and Stanford. Nevada is making its eighth consecutive trip to a bowl game but is just 1-5 in the last six postseason trips. The Wolf Pack started the year with an upset win over California but finished with losses in four out of their final five games.

These two teams have not met since 1941, with the overall series tied at 1-1-1.

New Mexico Bowl – Arizona (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5)

Date and Time: Dec. 15 at 1 p.m. ET
Network: ESPN
Location: Albuquerque, N.M.

When the Nevada Wolf Pack has the ball:

The Wolf Pack quietly has one of college football’s top backfields. Quarterback Cody Fajardo threw for 2,530 yards and 17 scores, while adding 981 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Running back Stefphon Jefferson was a workhorse for the Nevada offense in 2012, recording 341 carries and rushing for 1,703 yards and 22 scores. Jefferson ranked second nationally with an average of 141.9 yards per game.

Stopping Fajardo and Jefferson won’t be an easy task for an Arizona defense that allowed 20 or more points in eight out of nine Pac-12 games. The Wildcats rank 100th nationally in scoring defense and 116th in yards allowed per contest (485.7). This unit struggled to generate pressure (1.3 sacks per game) but forced 23 turnovers this year.

Although Fajardo has nearly eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark, the Wildcats also have to respect the Nevada passing attack. Receiver Brandon Wimberly leads the team with 63 catches and 788 yards, while tight end Zach Sudfeld recorded 43 receptions for 553 yards and six scores.

In a matchup where both teams are going to score, Arizona’s best plan on defense should be a bend-but-don’t-break strategy. Nevada is going to get its yards and points, but the Wildcats need to force the Wolf Pack to kick field goals instead of touchdowns. Winning the turnover battle is crucial, which slightly favors Arizona.  

When the Arizona Wildcats have the ball:

As expected, the Wildcats emerged as one of the Pac-12’s top offenses under first-year coach Rich Rodriguez. Arizona averaged 521.8 yards per game this season and was held under 20 points only twice in 2012.

In addition to Rodriguez’s arrival, Matt Scott’s emergence helped to transition from a pass-first offense to a spread attack. Scott redshirted last season, preserving one year of eligibility for 2012. Despite missing one game due to injury, the senior recorded 3,723 yards and 29 scores this season. Turnovers were a problem for Scott at times, as he tossed three picks against Arizona State and Oregon and two in the 38-35 loss to Oregon State.

Scott isn’t a one-man show on offense, as Arizona has a strong supporting cast. Receiver Austin Hill had a breakout season, catching 73 passes for 1,189 yards and nine touchdowns. He was joined by Dan Buckner (59 receptions) and David Richards (24 catches) as other key targets in the passing game.

While Scott can do some damage on the ground, running back Ka’Deem Carey was one of the top breakout players in college football this season, rushing for 1,757 yards and 20 scores on 275 attempts. The sophomore caught 33 passes for 288 yards and one touchdown and was a first-team selection on Athlon Sports’ postseason 2012 All-America team. 

Considering Nevada never held an opponent under 20 points this season and Arizona is the best offense it will face in terms of yards per game, the Wolf Pack defense is facing an uphill battle on Saturday afternoon. Nevada is allowing 213.2 rushing yards per game, which is bad news against Carey and the Wildcats’ offensive line. 

Final Analysis

Expect bowl season to get started off on a high note when these two teams kick off on Saturday afternoon. Both offenses should have plenty of success moving the ball, with turnovers and timely stops likely to decide this game. Nevada has struggled in bowl games under Chris Ault, while the Wildcats hope to snap a two-game losing streak in postseason appearances. Considering the Wolf Pack’s struggles to stop the run, look for Carey to approach 200 rushing yards, while Matt Scott also has a big day through the air. This matchup should go back and forth, but Arizona picks up a bowl win and finishes its first season under Rich Rodriguez at 8-5.

Prediction: Arizona 41, Nevada 34

Related College Football Content

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Preview: Utah State vs. Toledo
College Football's Top 25 Freshmen from 2012

Ranking the Bowl Games 1-35: From Must-See to Must-Miss

College Football's Top 10 Surprises from 2012

<p> New Mexico Bowl Preview and Prediction: Arizona Wildcats vs. Nevada Wolf Pack</p>
Post date: Friday, December 14, 2012 - 05:18
Path: /college-basketball/early-season-conference-catchup-big-12

The first month or so of the season has been a strange one for the Big 12. Somehow, the league that boasts a solid Kansas team, a team that beat Kentucky in Lexington and a contender for freshman of the year is having an identity crisis.

Few Big 12 teams seem to be in a rhythm so far this season. Maybe that’s to be expected -- Baylor has a handful of new freshmen, Texas is missing a key player, and West Virginia and Iowa State have an influx of transfers.

As most college basketball teams are breaking for finals, the schedules are light. And with college football completing its season, this is a perfect time to play catch up with college basketball so far.

We continue our series with the key storylines in the Big 12 heading into conference play.

Other conferences: ACC | Big East

Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford

Surprise team: Oklahoma State.
The arrival of freshman guard Marcus Smart has turned things around in Stillwater. He’s improved the play of Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown around him, and the rookie still leads the Cowboys in rebounds (7.4 per game) and assists (five per game). Oklahoma State defeated Tennessee and NC State in Puerto Rico, but a 10-point loss to Virginia Tech signals there may be some more growing pains.

Disappointing team: Texas.
Baylor and West Virginia present compelling cases for being the most disappointing, but Texas sealed this spot by losing to Division II Chaminade in the Maui Invitational. Not having Myck Kabongo to start the season hurts, but should the Longhorns ever be in this position with or without Kabongo? Texas has scored more than 70 points only once all season, and that was in the 86-73 loss to Chaminade.

Where did he come from? Cory Jefferson, Baylor
Baylor has been an enigma this season, but one pleasant development for the Bears has been increased playing time for Jefferson. He was relegated to 10.5 minutes per game last season, but he’s starter on this team. The returns have been 13.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while shooting 67.2 percent from the floor.

Where did he go? Deniz Kilicli, West Virginia
Kilicli’s beard disappeared during the offseason, and so did West Virginia’s mojo, it seems. Kilicli’s numbers are down across the board as he’s battled foul trouble at times (he fouled out with five points, five rebounds and five turnovers  in the season-opening rout against Gonzaga) in addition to general ineffectiveness. Kilicli had only six points and five rebounds in 33 minutes in a 60-56 loss to Duquesne on Tuesday.

Key stat: Jeff Withey’s blocks.
Since the NCAA Tournament, the Kansas center has averaged 5.4 blocks in his last 14 games. If he keeps up his rate for this season (5.6), he’ll be the first player in two seasons to top the five blocks per game milestone. But more remarkable is how Withey stacks up with Kentucky’s Anthony Davis from last season. Davis averaged 4.65 blocks per game last season. The disparity is just as pronounced over a 40-minute average: Davis averaged 5.8 blocks per 40 minutes last season. Withey has averaged 7.5 blocks per 40 minutes since the NCAA Tournament.


Texas guard Myck Kabongo

How long will Myck Kabongo remain in limbo? The Texas guard remains in NCAA purgatory nine games into the season. The NCAA is looking into how he paid for a pro workout in May while he considered leaving early to the NBA draft and if he misled investigators. Texas’ season has been a mess without Kabongo, who started last season as a freshman, but in the meantime the long saga for Kabongo has been a lightning rod for the NCAA’s investigative process. A reminder: When Texas faced UCLA on Saturday, the Bruins’ Shabazz Muhammad, who also faced an NCAA investigation, had been playing for six games.

What is going on at Baylor? The Bears are stocked with NBA prospects, but they’re getting middling results out of this crew. The same team that handed Kentucky its first loss in Rupp Arena under John Calipari also lost to Charleston and Northwestern at home. Even a team as talented as Baylor can’t win when it plays this sloppy, though this is nothing new for the Bears under Scott Drew.

How low will the Big 12 go? Outside of three teams, the Big 12 is short on wins over top competition. That may bite the league when it reaches Selection Sunday. The Big 12 has averaged six NCAA bids from 2008-12 and has never had fewer than four. Meanwhile, the 10 Big 12 teams are 11-13 against teams from other six major conferences. Eight of those wins have come from three teams -- Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor. The league is also 2-8 against Associated Press top 25. The league may not as bad as the Pac-12 has been in recent years, but it may struggle to offer good at-large teams to the field.


Player of the year watch
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Ben McLemore, Kansas
Jeff Withey, Kansas
Freshman of the year watch
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Ben McLemore, Kansas
Isaiah Austin, Baylor
Coach of the year watch
Bill Self, Kansas
Travis Ford, Oklahoma State
Lon Kruger, Oklahoma

1. Kansas (7-1). Given the rest of the field, Kansas looks like a team that could win another Big 12 title comfortably. Ben McLemore, who sat out last season, has been worth the wait. The freshman scored 24 in a 90-54 rout of a quality Colorado team Saturday.

2. Oklahoma State (7-1). Marcus Smart has stepped in to be a glue guy on a team that went 15-18 last season. As a freshman. He’s the only player in the Big 12 in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding and assists.

3. Baylor (5-3). Perhaps Baylor shouldn’t be this high given the Bears’ volatility, but the Big 12 field isn’t that strong. And if Baylor manages to get its act together, it could be one of the Big 12’s best.

4. Oklahoma (6-2). Amath M’Baye (10.6 points, seven rebounds per game) has been every bit the difference-maker expected since his transfer from Wyoming. The Sooners were pounded by Gonzaga and put up a good fight against Arkansas. Facing Texas A&M on Saturday will be a key test.

5. Iowa State (7-3). Transfers again are huge for the Cyclones with Will Clyburn and Korie Lucious leading the way. Clyburn’s scoreless, five-rebound game against Iowa would be more of a concern if he hadn’t already scored 21 points with 15 rebounds against UNLV.

6. Kansas State (7-1). The Wildcats’ best win is by 3 over Delaware in the NIT tipoff. Up next: Gonzaga, which has defeated two Big 12 teams by a combined score of 156-97. A week later: Florida.

7. West Virginia (4-4). Bob Huggins is struggling to find the right mix with a handful of transfers, including Juwan Staten and Aaric Murray.

8. Texas (5-4). The Longhorns are loaded with freshmen and sophomores, so much so that the return of sophomore Myck Kabongo (9.6 ppg, 5.2 apg) is vital to Texas’ playing in its 15th consecutive NCAA Tournament.

9. Texas Tech (5-1). The record is nice, but the Red Raiders lost 85-57 in its only major test against Arizona. Tech is giving up 71.2 points per game.

10. TCU (6-4). Trent Johnson knew the transition from the Mountain West would be tough, but the Horned Frogs are having enough trouble with Conference USA. Three of TCU’s four losses have come to SMU, Houston and Tulsa by an average of 3.3 points.

<p> Kansas and Oklahoma State have distinguished themselves in a down year for the Big 12. Will Baylor and others find their identity?</p>
Post date: Friday, December 14, 2012 - 05:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-game-week-florida-arizona
Arizona forward Solomon Hill

The 13 remaining undefeated teams will be reduced by at least one late Saturday night.

Florida and Arizona both entered the season with fanfare -- the Wildcats picked seventh nationally in the preseason, the Gators picked 20th -- but a little more than a month into the season, both have the look of conference leaders. Part of that is the 7-0 starts for both teams, but it’s also because their main foils in the  Pac-12 (UCLA) and the SEC (Kentucky) haven’t looked spectacular.

Florida, though, has. The Gators have pounded teams by an average score of 25.3 points per game. Only Indiana and Syracuse have been more dominant in scoring margin. Arizona isn’t all that far behind, defeating teams by 20.4 points per game.

But Arizona hasn’t played the toughest schedule, though road trips to Texas Tech and Clemson are of note. While Florida has established itself as the SEC favorite and a potential Final Four contender, Arizona, with its combination of youth and one key transfer, are looking for a statement win.

Facing the Gators on Saturday night would fit the bill.

Game of the Week
Florida (7-0) at Arizona (7-0)
When: Saturday, 10 p.m. Eastern

Florida Probable Starters
G Mike Rosario (6-3/193, Sr.)
G Kenny Boynton (6-2/190, Sr.)
F Will Yeguete (6-7/240, Jr.)
F Erik Murphy (6-10/238, Sr.)
C Patric Young (6-9/249, Jr.)
Arizona Probable Starters
G Mark Lyons (6-1/200, Sr.)
G Nick Johnson (6-3/200, So.)
F Solomon Hill (6-7/200, Sr.)
F Brandon Ashley (6-8/235, Fr.)
C Kaleb Tarczewski (7-0/255, Fr.)

Early season conference catchups: ACC | Big 12 | Big East


Florida guard Kenny Boynton

Florida may have a marked advantage year. Led by Kenny Boynton, the Gators like to shoot the 3-pointer, making 7.6 per game on 21.6 attempts. Meanwhile, Arizona has struggled defending 3-point line this season. Arizona coach Sean Miller has complimented sophomore guard Nick Johnson’s progress this season -- he’s improved from nine points per game to 13.6 -- but Xavier transfer Mark Lyons is still working to get into a rhythm with his new team. He’s struggled with turnovers, but so has Arizona as a team. The Wildcats turned the ball over 27 times in their last game against Southern Miss. Against Florida’s press, this could be a liability. The Gators are forcing turnovers on 28 percent of possessions, ranking sixth in the nation.

The matchup in the frontcourt may be more even. Florida’s Patric Young has had the look of an elite player since he arrived on campus, but he’s starting to play like one as a senior. His 2.3 blocks per game and 7.9 rebounds are career highs by far. Erik Murphy can shoot from outside, and Will Yeguete is a solid rebounder. Arizona counters with versatile glue guy Solomon Hill. He’s played power forward in the past, but the Wildcats have more size up front with seven-footer Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley. The latter two are freshmen going up against Florida’s veteran forwards. Still, both teams have been among the best rebounding teams in the country in the early part of the season.

Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin has been a starter twice this season, but off the bench, he’s a solid backup point guard who can defend. Forward Casey Prather and freshman guard Michael Frazier II, who scored 29 points in 39 minutes off the bench against Florida State and Marquette, gives Gators coach Billy Donovan room to tinker with his lineup. Miller has a similar bench with veteran wing Kevin Parrom, junior Jordin Mayes and 6-10 freshman Grant Jerrett.

The mid-December schedule can be a strange one in college basketball with finals and the upcoming holidays, but Florida may feel it more than Arizona in this game. The Gators have had a 10-day layoff since defeating Florida State on Dec. 5 while Arizona has been off for only a week. The late tipoff, 10 p.m. Eastern, might be in play for the Gators as well.

Even if Florida is sluggish to start in Tucson, the Gators have demolished everyone they’ve faced this season. Florida defeated Florida State by 25 on the road, Marquette by 31 and Wisconsin by 18. Arizona’s too good to lose like that at home, so this should be the first real challenge for the Gators. With a deep, veteran team, Florida still has the overall edge.
Florida 74, Arizona 68

<p> Florida has been pounding its opponents this season, but can the Gators beat the Pac-12's best on the road?</p>
Post date: Friday, December 14, 2012 - 04:59
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/10-young-nba-players-who-will-be-hall-famers

From 1980 to 1989, the average NBA rookie class produced two Hall of Famers per year. In fact, 14 future Hall of Famers entered the NBA over a four-year period (1984-87) in the mid-80s.

To suggest that any player in any sport after just a few seasons is a lock to make the Hall of Fame is ridiculous. But it is always fun to look at athletes who have had instant success and try to extrapolate long-term potential. Limiting the scope to the last three rookie classes, here are the most likely future NBA Hall of Famers:

Class of 2012:

Anthony Davis, F/C, New Orleans
The 6-foot-10, 220-pounder entered the NBA as the consensus can’t-miss No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. After posting the No. 3-rated freshman season in the history of college basketball, Davis and his trademarked unibrow debuted for the Hornets in style. He posted 21 points and seven rebounds in his rookie debut against Sacramento. Through eight career games, Davis is shooting 48.9-percent from the floor, 85.0-percent from the free throw line, averaging 15.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He has missed seven games already and his wiry frame and potential for injury might be the only thing that prevent him from putting together a Hall of Fame career.

Damian Lillard, PG, Portland
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound floor leader from Oakland, Calif., was a proven commodity the second he stepped on a college court. He led Weber State to a conference title as a freshman before earning Big Sky Player of the Year honors twice in his career. It led to the Trail Blazers selecting him with the sixth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. He promptly posted a double-double (23 pts, 11 asts) in his rookie debut and he has been excellent ever since. He is averaging 19.4 points, 6.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. Once he learns to limit his turnovers, he should become one of the league’s premiere point guards.

Other name to consider:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Charlotte
He isn’t a great shooter and he isn’t a point guard or a center. But MKG can flat out hoop. He is a tough leader who stuffs the stat sheet across the board. He has been a winner at every stop and has elite athletic talents.

Class of 2011:

Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland
Coming out of St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J., the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder was one of the nation’s top five prospects. He was electric in the first eight games of his Duke career, leading the team in scoring, before hurting his right foot. Irving returned for the NCAA Tournament, scoring 28 points in his final game against Arizona. He left Duke after 11 career games to be the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft on a LeBron-less Cavaliers team. After averaging 18.5 points on 46.8 percent shooting to go with 5.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 51 games, Irving claimed 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year honors. Irving appears to only be getting better, scoring over 20 points in seven of his first nine games this season while maintaining his efficient percentages and distributing the ball. His explosiveness, athletic ability and scoring touch have the Melbourne, Australia native poised for NBA greatness.

Ricky Rubio, PG, Minnesota
The 2011 season was the Barcelona, Spain native’s first season in the NBA, but it was far from his first professional tour. He played five years for DKV Joventut Badalona (Spain) before getting drafted fifth overall by the Timberwolves in the 2009 NBA Draft when he was only 18 years old. He then played two more seasons for FC Barcelona Basquet (Spain). His 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame and flashy passing skills have made Rubio the most heralded European prospect in the history of the game. So it should come as no surprise that he averaged 10.6 points, 8.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game in 41 games as a rookie last season. His year was cut short with an ACL tear in March but Minnesota is targeting a late December return for their star point guard.

Others names to Consider:

Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver
Few players are more difficult to box out on rebounds than the Morehead State product. He is averaging 12.4 points on 55 percent shooting and 10.0 rebounds per game in only his second year.

Kemba Walker, PG, Charlotte
This kid is a winner. He is a championship point guard on the college level who is using his quickness, basketball IQ and a killer jump shot to try and improve the Bobcats.

Class of 2010:

Blake Griffin, PF, LA Clippers
It took the Oklahoma Sooner an extra year to get to the NBA court after sitting out his first season with a knee injury, but he has quickly become one of the most dominant forces in the league. His athletic ability is second to none as massive dunks and demoralizing blocks are a part of his regular routine. He averaged a double-double in his first two seasons — 22.5 ppg, 12.1 rpg and 20.7 ppg, 10.9 rbg — and helped lead the Clippers to their first postseason berth since 2005 and only the franchise's second playoff run since 1996. As long as he stays healthy, there is little doubt Griffin will make a run at the Hall of Fame.

Greg Monroe, F/C, Detroit
The No. 1 recruit in the nation from New Orleans, La., signed with Georgetown and eventually was drafted with the seventh pick in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Pistons. Detroit has a rich history and tradition of producing elite players and the 6-foot-11, 250-pound center appears to be the next star. Though early in his third season, Monroe has increased his scoring, assists, steals and blocks per game averages every year of his professional career. He has averaged 8.6 rebounds per game and is a 51.8 percent shooter for his two-and-a-half season career.

Other name to consider:

DeMarcus Cousins, F/C, Sacramento
Elite upside and talents appear to be rounding into form. But will he stay focused and dedicated long enough to earn elite respect and credentials? Remains to be seen.

Just Missed the Cut:

John Wall, PG, Washington (2010)
Harrison Barnes, SF, Golden State (2012)
Chandler Parsons, SF, Houston (2011)
Klay Thompson, SG, Golden State (2011)
Dion Waiters, SG, Cleveland (2012)

<p> 10 Young NBA Players Who Will Be Hall of Famers</p>
Post date: Friday, December 14, 2012 - 04:50
Path: /college-football/2013-nfl-draft-rankings-defensive-ends

Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country's most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft, held April 25-27, won’t be any different.

Today, we rank college football's best defensive end prospects:

1. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M (6-4, 250, Jr.)
Versatility is the name of the game for Moore. He can play outside linebacker like a Jarvis Jones in a 3-4 scheme, can play either weakside or strongside end in a traditional 4-3 and could even slide inside on passing downs to get more pressure on the quarterback. He was moved from outside backer to true end for the 2012 season and his burst off of the edge helped him become a disruptive force. He finished with 80 total tackles, 12.5 sacks, 20.0 tackles for a loss, two blocked kicks and a forced fumble. And he did it against the SEC instead of the Big 12 this fall. Few players in this class are better pure pass rushers.

2. Sam Montgomery, LSU (6-5, 260, Jr.)
He hasn't been as flashy as some of the other names on this list but his upside is huge. He has a perfect frame and pedigree to be an elite NFL player. He has great size for a pure end and plays much tougher at the point of attack than some of his smaller counterparts at this position. He led the Tigers in sacks (7.0) in 2012 and finished with 12.0 tackles for a loss for one of the SEC's best defenses. A struggle against potential first-rounder Luke Joeckel might hurt his stock though.

3. Bjoern Werner, Florida State (6-4, 255, Jr.)
A small recruit from a small school in Connecticut, Werner developed into one of the best defensive players on a great defense. He posted 40 tackles, 18.0 tackles for a loss and led the ACC in sacks with 13.0 — three of which came against the Florida Gators. Once counterpart Brandon Jenkins was injured (Week 1), offenses began to focus on him more often, causing his production to slow a bit throughout the season (he had four sacks against Murray State in the season opener). However, his size, strength and work ethic gives him little downside when it comes to the next level.

4. Barkevious Mingo, LSU (6-5, 240, Jr.)
Comparing him to teammate Montgomery is extremely difficult. Mingo is rangier, lankier and a bit more explosive. But he isn't as fundamentally sound or as strong at the point of attack. He may be a better fit as a rush outside backer in a 3-4 whereas Montgomery could play in either scheme. His 2012 season was quieter than expected for LSU, as he finished with 33 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss and just 4.0 sacks. He did pressure the QB 12 times this season and his upside alone will make him an intriguing name to follow leading up to the draft in April.

5. Corey Lemonier, Auburn (6-4, 240, Jr.)
The talented edge rusher might be the only bright spot on an otherwise worthless 2012 Auburn squad. This is partly why he failed to build on a huge sophomore season in 2011 (47 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks). He finished with just 34 tackles, 5.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks last fall. Yet, he has 25 quarterback hurries over the last two seasons and his raw potential is still elite. He has great size and athletic ability and scouts will love what they see from him in terms of upside. He should still grade out as a first-round pick.

6. William Gholston, Michigan State (6-6, 275, Jr.)
This is the definition of risk versus reward. Gholston has elite raw talent, potential and upside. He is big, long, powerful and productive against both the run and the pass. But he also has been suspended multiple times and has a demonstrated a lack of focus on occasion. This past season, he posted 50 tackles, 12.0 for a loss and just 3.5 sacks without the help of his 2011 running mate, current Green Bay Packer Jerel Worthy. He could play anywhere along the line and in any scheme — if scouts can figure out a way to keep him focused, out of trouble and how to maximize his potential.

7. Dion Jordan, Oregon (6-6, 245, Sr.)
Jordan is a very similar prospect to that of Gholston with a few small differences. Jordan offers more versatility, at times standing up in more of an outside linebacker position. But like Gholston, he never really utilized his talents to the fullest potential. That said, 2012 was his best season as he posted 44 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks for what many believe is Oregon's best defense since Haloti Ngata was a Duck. He forced three fumbles this fall and graded out very well at the Combine thanks to his freakish natural athletic ability and raw size.

8. Ezekiel Ansah, BYU (6-5, 270, Sr.)
The Cougars' big defensive lineman boasts a unique combination of size and speed that already have scouts and other draft analysts excited. He is a raw prospect with much to learn about the end, tackle or outside backer position. He could play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme at a variety of positions. Kyle Van Noy got most of the offensive line attention for the Cougars, but Ansah showed loads of growth in 2012. He posted 57 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. In a deep end class, Ansah could very well end up as a first-round selection.

9. Tank Carradine, Florida State (6-4, 255, Sr.)
Prior to a major knee injury late in the year, Cornellius "Tank" Carradine had first round written all over him. But his injury will hurt his stock and some team could get a steal should he fall too far past the first day. He posted 80 tackles, 13.0 tackles for a loss and 11.0 sacks in 11 games this past season before the injury. 

10. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas (6-5, 245, Jr.)
His father, Jim, has had this prospect well-coached and well-prepared his entire young career. He is as fundamentally sound as someone of his age and experience can be. He knows the position and has very little downside on the NFL level. But a torn pectoral muscle ended his junior season after just five games. He had 21 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss and 4.0 sacks to start the season and his loss was a big part of Texas' struggles on defense in Big 12 play. If he can prove he's healthy, his stock should sky rocket.

11. Alex Okafor, Texas (6-5, 260, Sr.)
A slightly bigger version of Jeffcoat, Okafor is a prototypical end prospect. He posted 46 tackles, 11.5 for a loss, 8.0 sacks and three forced fumbles as a senior.

12. John Simon, Ohio State (6-2, 260, Sr.)
One of the strongest, hardest workers in this class will have to overcome his obvious lack of size and speed. He registered 44 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss and led the Big Ten in sacks with 9.0 last season.

13. Morgan Breslin, USC (6-2, 250, Jr.)
In one short season at USC, Breslin made a huge impact. He finished second in the league in sacks (12.0) and had 53 total tackles to go with 18.0 tackles for a loss.

14. Will Sutton, Arizona State (6-2, 270, Jr.)
The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year is undersized and constantly banged up, but he is a disruptive force to be reckoned with. He finished with 58 tackles, a league-leading 20.0 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Could play end or tackle.

15. Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky (6-5, 250, Sr.)
He missed two games but still led the nation in sacks per game (1.25). He had 38 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks as well as a 75-yard INT returned for a TD. The level of competition he faced as a Hilltopper will be his big question mark moving forward.

Best of the Rest:

16. Malliciah Goodman, Clemson (6-4, 280, Sr.)
17. Michael Buchanan, Illinois (6-5, 240, Sr.)
18. Scott Crichton, Oregon State (6-3, 265, rSo.)
19. Datone Jones, UCLA (6-4, 275, Sr.)
20. Devin Taylor, South Carolina (6-7, 270, Sr.)
21. Dominique Easley, Florida (6-2, 280, Jr.)
22. Kareem Martin, North Carolina (6-6, 260, Jr.)
23. Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame (6-3, 300, Sr.)
24. Stansly Maponga, TCU (6-2, 265, Jr.)
25. Brandon Jenkins, Florida State (6-3, 260, Sr.)
26. James Gayle, Virginia Tech (6-4, 270, Jr.)
27. Margus Hunt, SMU (6-7, 280, Sr.)
28. Lavar Edwards, LSU (6-4, 260, Sr.)
29. Wes Horton, USC (6-5, 260, Sr.)
30. Cameron Meredith, Nebraska (6-4, 265, Sr.)

Related NFL Draft Rankings By Position:

2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Running Backs
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Tight Ends
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Safeties

2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Wide Receivers

2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Offensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Inside Linebackers

2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Cornerbacks

2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Guards and Centers

2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Outside Linebackers
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Quarterbacks
2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Ends

<p> 2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Ends</p>
Post date: Friday, December 14, 2012 - 04:50
All taxonomy terms: Big East, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-latest-realignment-big-east-split

With a new conference realignment announcement coming every week or two, the landscape is almost numb to the movement by now.

That is, until something happens like what's in the works in the Big East. The seven non-Football Bowl Subdivision schools likely will split from the league to form a basketball-first league, followed by more expansion.

The departure of the seven Catholic schools — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova — would be the biggest sea change in conference realignment since four teams left the Big 12 over the course of two seasons. While the Big 12 recovered as a 10-team league, the ripple effect from a split Big East will be felt a number of ways.

First, here’s what the Big East split will look like:

Basketball teams splitting

Seton Hall
St. John’s
Football/basketball programs remaining
Football-only programs
Boise State
East Carolina
Navy (2015)
San Diego State

Here are the key questions facing the latest realignment possibility:

Will this new league be successful?
As far as competition, a basketball league headlined by Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova would be a multi-bid league to the NCAA Tournament. St. John’s appears to be on the upswing under Steve Lavin, but the Red Storm have made only one appearance in the last decade. Some of the candidates for expansion (see below) will add to the depth of the league, but the top-10 programs like Syracuse, Louisville, Connecticut and Pittsburgh are out. On its face, the new format would produce a balanced league, but it would lack the powerhouse programs the ACC (Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse), Big 12 (Kansas), Pac-12 (UCLA) and SEC (Kentucky) will have. The new league could expect to be somewhere between the fourth- and seventh-best conference in a particular year. However, the basketball-first, metropolitan-based nature of the conference could serve the league well.

Basketball realignment: Tracking all changes

Do the numbers add up?
That’s going to depend on the value of the biggest wild card, the television contract. The Atlantic 10’s latest contract was surprisingly low at $40 million over eight years ($350,000 per school per year). The Big East’s new TV contract (with the seven Catholic schools) could be between $60-100 million, according to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. The basketball schools earned a substantial windfall from the football schools, but the gap between the extra revenue football provided and the headaches associated with changing membership and football-centric focus drove a rift within the league. With the Big East taking on basketball non-factors such as Houston, SMU, Tulane and UCF to replace Louisville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the basketball product eroded.

Football realignment: Tracking all changes

Who else joins up?
The seven teams that split would likely expand further to a 10-team league. Already mentioned as possible targets fitting the profile would be teams like Butler, Dayton, Saint Louis, VCU and Xavier from the Atlantic 10, Creighton from the Missouri Valley, George Mason from the Colonial and even Gonzaga from the West Coast Conference.

Big East early season conference catchup and power rankings

Who is the biggest loser in this?
One of the founding members of the Big East, Connecticut, will be the last one standing in this scenario. The Huskies have been mentioned as a candidate for the ACC since conference realignment reignited with Pittsburgh and Syracuse bolting the Big East more than a year ago. When the ACC targeted a program to replace Maryland, which left for the Big Ten, the league selected Louisville over UConn. Now, UConn could be the last giant left in the Big East basketball lineup. If an ACC invitation never comes, UConn is looking at traveling an average of 1,203 miles to play a basketball game. In the Big East’s classic alignment in the 1980s, UConn traveled an average of 188 miles to each opponent. The retirement of Jim Calhoun, the architect of the program, has only added to the uncertainty for the Huskies.

Who keeps the Big East name?
The legal wrangling is sure to extend beyond the announcement of the split within the Big East. Not least of which is which entity retains the Big East name and the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden. The seven departing teams have the majority of votes now, outnumbering Cincinnati, Connecticut and USF and allowing the Catholic schools to dissolve the league, according to ESPN’s Dana O’Neil. The incoming members from Conference USA and the Mountain West do not having voting rights within the league. The Big East name and the tournament remain valuable commodities, the ownership of which may be settled through litigation.

<p> College basketball's latest realignment: The Big East Split</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 15:09
Path: /mlb/baseballs-worst-free-agent-signings-ever

With the news that the Los Angeles Angels just signed Josh Hamilton to a five-year contract for a reported $125 million, it begs the question: Five years from now, will this be viewed as one of the worst free agent deals in history? If so, Hamilton must “outperform” these big-money free agents from the distant and recent past.

Here's our look the worst free agent signings in baseball history. 

Wayne Garland, Cleveland, 1977
The Indians were determined to make a splash in the first year of free agency. The appeal of Garland was his recent 20-7, 2.67 season in Baltimore. Perhaps they didn’t notice he had just 33 career starts. The 10-year, $2.3 million deal gave the Tribe a 13-19 record in 1977 and a 15-29 mark over the next four seasons, then retirement and five years of the contract to eat.

Dave Goltz, L.A. Dodgers, 1977    
The Dodgers thought Goltz would bolster their rotation and gave him a six-year contract worth upwards of $2.5 million. He was waived in April of 1979.

Mark Davis, Kansas City, 1990
Davis’ huge 44-save season in 1989 and Cy Young award for San Diego was just too enticing for the Royals. Never mind he had just two seasons with more than seven saves at that point. It took only 15 appearances in 1990 to lose the closer’s job for good. His tenure in K.C. began with five saves, four blown saves and a 7.24 ERA, with 11 walks in 13.2 innings.

Carl Pavano, N.Y. Yankees, 2005
Proof that the Yankees can withstand bad contracts is that Pavano made $39.9 million over four years, but made just 26 starts for the Yankees, finishing with a 9-8 record and 5.00 ERA. Adding to the pain is that in 2009, he made 33 starts for Cleveland and Minnesota combined and won 14 games, while earning just $1.5 million.

Carlos Silva, Seattle, 2008
In 2008, $12 million per season was the going rate for a No. 2 starter. Apparently that was what the Mariners thought they were getting with their four-year, $48 million investment. But in four seasons as a full-time starter with Minnesota, Silva was 47-45 while the Twins were 52 games better than .500. The M’s found out the hard way that he wasn’t a No. 2 starter after all, going 5-18 in two seasons prior to his trade to the Cubs for Milton Bradley, perhaps an even bigger problem.

Jason Schmidt, L.A. Dodgers, 2007
The Dodgers grew tired of facing the Giants’ ace for five and a half seasons, so Los Angeles signed the supposedly durable righthander for three years and $47 million. After going 78-37 for San Francisco, Schmidt mustered only 10 starts over three seasons with the Dodgers, finishing 3-6 with a 6.02 ERA.

Edgar Renteria, Boston, 2005
After making the final out of the 2004 World Series, which gave the Red Sox their first championship since 1918, Renteria inked a four-year, $36 million deal with Boston. That was the going rate for top shortstops. After a season of uninspired play, which gnawed at fans and management, the Red Sox paid the Braves to take on the final three years of his deal in exchange for Andy Marte.

Barry Zito, San Francisco, 2007
He won a Cy Young with Oakland at age 24, and signed a seven-year, $126 million deal. But in his first five seasons with San Francisco he was 43-61 with a 4.55 ERA and was left off the 2010 postseason roster. He redeemed himself to some degree in 2012 with a 15-8, 4.15 season. And the Giants won all three of his postseason starts.

Jayson Werth, Washington, 2011
His name is Werth, not worth. Prior to signing a seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals, Werth had never hit .300, nor had he ever driven in 100. This came a year after Matt Holliday signed with St. Louis for seven years and $120 million.

Chone Figgins, Seattle, 2010
The Mariners believed they were stealing the division title away from the Angels by taking their leadoff hitter Figgins. The thinking was that Figgins and Ichiro atop the Mariners’ lineup would put immense pressure on defenses. Turns out the pressure was on Figgins. He hit .259 and stole 42 bases his first season in Seattle. Since then, he’s hit .185 and been a non-factor on the bases.

Joe Rudi, California, 1977
In a five-year, $2.09 million pact, the Angels paid for a .285 average and about 80 RBIs and 70 runs. They received a .249 average, about 60 RBIs and less than 50 runs. However, the club packaged Rudi prior to the final year of his contract in a deal with the Red Sox that brought the Angels Fred Lynn.

Larry Hisle, Milwaukee, 1978
Coming off a .302 average and a AL-leading 119 RBIs as a 30-year-old in 1977, Hisle appeared to be a plum signing for the Brewers, at six years, $3.155 million. Even after his first season in Milwaukee (.290-34-115) in which he finished third in MVP voting, the Brewers were thrilled. That’s where the joy ended. For the next four seasons, he totaled 79 games, 15 home runs and 46 RBIs. He played his final game in May of 1982 with almost two full years left on his deal.

Roger Clemens, N.Y. Yankees, 2007
Hoping for one last hurrah from their former ace, the Yankees committed more than $17 million to Clemens in May, knowing they would get less than 20 starts from him. Clemens didn’t provide a boost of any kind. The Yankees lost nine of his 17 starts, and he averaged less than six innings per start, so the bullpen was not spared. In his lone postseason foray in 2007, he lasted just 2.1 innings in a loss to Cleveland.

Bob Horner, St. Louis, 1988
After a year in Japan, the Cardinals believed that the long-time Brave could rekindle his offensive prowess in the States. Injuries, sub-par hitting and horrendous defense are the lasting memories in St. Louis. He hit three homers in 60 games.

Richie Sexson, Seattle, 2005
His four-year, $50 million deal seemed a bit excessive at the time, but he provided good value in his first two seasons. Seattle released him midseason during the fourth year of the contract, eating about $8 million.

Albert Belle, Baltimore, 1999
After a season with 108 runs, 117 RBIs and 101 walks, it appeared that the Orioles’ $60 million investment might work out. Then Belle’s body began to break down, and he suited up just one more season, although he was paid for four additional years after he unofficially retired.

<p> With the news that the Los Angeles Angels just signed Josh Hamilton to a five-year contract for a reported $125 million, it begs the question: Five years from now, will this be viewed as one of the worst free agent deals in history?</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 15:06
Path: /college-basketball/early-season-conference-catchup-big-east

Aside from the turmoil caused by conference realignment, the Big East has continued some familiar trends: Syracuse continues to be among the national elite with a bench player taking his turn in the spotlight, Louisville continues to be a defensive pest, and Georgetown is at its best when no one expects big things out of the Hoyas.

But the league has its share of surprises, such as Cincinnati’s ascent and a flop of a season for Florida State.

For most college basketball teams, players are preparing for finals. For those of us watching the sport, we’re preparing for midterms, so to speak.

As the non-conference seasons start to wrap up and league play to begin around the new year, Athlon is looking back and looking ahead at each conference.

Other leagues: ACC | Big 12

Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams

Surprise team: Georgetown.
The Hoyas aren’t the most fun team to watch -- the 37-36 win over Tennessee on Nov. 30 was one of the ugliest games of the year so far -- but they’ve settled as one of the top teams in the Big East. Since an overtime loss to Indiana on Nov. 20, Georgetown has held four of the last five opponents to 50 or fewer points. The stat-sheet stuffing Otto Porter has delivered as one of the breakout players in the Big East.

Disappointing team: USF.
USF didn’t need great offense to reach the NCAA Tournament last season. Now that vulnerability is catching up with the Bulls. USF failed to score 60 points in its three losses to UCF, Western Michigan and Oklahoma State. The Bulls lead the Big East in scoring defense, but turnovers and interior play have been their doom.

Where did he come from? Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse.
The sophomore Carter-Williams didn’t come from obscurity. He was a McDonald’s All-American, after all. At 10.4 assists per gme, he’s been an assist machine on part with North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall last season. Unlike Marshall, Carter-Williams is scoring in double figures (12.4 points per game) and leading the Big East in steals (3.8 per game).

Where did he go? Luke Hancock, Louisville.
The George Mason transfer was billed as one of the top transfers in the Big East, and Rick Pitino has sung his praises in the preseason. But the junior forward has struggled so far this season. He’s averaging just 6.8 points per game and has been mired in a season-long shooting slump.

Key stat: Pittsburgh’s assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Panthers have a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season with 185 assists and 92 turnovers. That may level off as the schedule gets tougher, but it’s an encouraging sign for a Pitt team that had a rare NCAA Tournament miss last season. No team since West Virginia in 2005-06 has finished the season with twice as many assists than turnovers.

Related: Five questions on the Big East split


Louisville guard Russ Smith

Can Russ Smith make a run at an All-American season? He’s averaging better than 20 points per game for a Louisville team with only two players averaging double figures. He’s an elite scorer, but he can play out of control at times. He already has the “Russdiculous” moniker. Can he add some postseason hardware to the mix?

Can anyone break into the Big East’s top tier? Syracuse and Louisville are firmly atop the Big East this season. Both of which have the look of teams that can make NCAA Tournament runs. Veteran-laden Cincinnati and Notre Dame are nearing the league’s upper echelon. Both team’s momentum will be tested in a key game early in the conference season in South Bend on Jan. 7.

What will Connecticut do with Kevin Ollie? The Huskies coach remains in limbo on a one-season contract. UConn has been better than expected, starting the season with a win over Michigan State and losses to New Mexico and NC State on neutral courts. At least for the administration, the start hasn’t been enough to hire Ollie long term. The resolution to the UConn coaching situation looks like a season-long storyline in Storrs.


Player of the year watch
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Russ Smith, Louisville
Otto Porter, Georgetown
Freshman of the year watch
JaKarr Sampson, St. John’s
DaJuan Coleman, Syracuse
James Robinson, Pittsburgh
Coach of the year watch
John Thompson III, Georgetown
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
Mike Brey, Notre Dame

1. Syracuse (8-0). The Orange are steamrolling the competition this season, winning by an average of 28.5 points per game. Only Arkansas has played Syracuse within single digits this season, losing 91-82 at home. Temple on Dec. 22 is the biggest test Syracuse will face before a road trip to Louisville on Jan. 19.

2. Louisville (8-1). The Cardinals hope to get Gorgui Dieng back from wrist surgery within the next week, allowing the junior center to work back into game shape in time for Kentucky at the end of the month.

3. Cincinnati (9-0). Turning up the tempo has worked for guards Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright and JaQuan Parker, who have increased their scoring as a trio by 11.4 points per game.

4. Notre Dame (8-1). The 64-50 victory over Kentucky on Nov. 29 may not be as impressive as once believed, but the Irish are usually tough to defeat in South Bend.

5. Georgetown (8-1). Otto Porter, the team’s top player, is attempting the third-fewest shots on the team. Do the Hoyas need to put more in Porter’s hands to contend in the Big East?

6. Pittsburgh (9-1). The first 10 games have been an encouraging turnaround for a Pitt team that went 5-13 in the Big East last season, but the Panthers have faced a paper-thin schedule. Pitt has faced one major-conference team, Michigan, and lost 67-62.

7. Marquette (6-2). Marquette could use more of what it saw from Junior Cadougan in the final 10 minutes against Wisconsin. Cadougan scored 18 points agains the Badgers, more than he scored in the previous four games combined.

8. Connecticut (7-2). The inside game will be a problem all year for the Huskies. Can Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright lead surprising UConn through the course of the Big East season.

9. Providence (7-2). The Friars aren’t yet at full strength with Vincent Council playing one game and Kris Dunn out all year with a shoulder injury.

10. Seton Hall (7-2). Pirates squandered a 16-point lead against LSU, had to sweat against NJIT and recovered from a 13-point deficit against Wake Forest. That 7-2 record may be deceiving.

11. Rutgers (6-2). Eli Carter is shooting 49.3 percent from the field in Rutgers' wins and 12.5 percent in losses.

12. St. John’s (7-3). The Red Storm lost 81-65 on Dec. 4 to San Francisco, allowing the Dons to shoot 50 percent from the field and 9 of 15 from 3-point range. Not a good sign.

13. USF (5-3). A year ago, USF led the Big East in scoring defense and finished last in scoring offense. Trying to finish 12-6 again with an offense struggling to score 60 points again would seem to be tempting fate.

14. DePaul (7-3). Before defeating Arizona State on Wednesday, DePaul's four-game win streak came over teams that are a combined 13-25, but any progress is good for a team that lost to Gardner-Webb in the second game of the season.

15. Villanova (6-4). The Wildcats have lost four of the last seven, including losses to Columbia and La Salle, but Tuesday's win over St. Joseph's signals a bit of life in the Wildcats.

<p> Louisville and Syracuse retain their top spots atop the Big East, but programs like Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Georgetown may be closing the gap.</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 08:02
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/6-coaches-replace-kliff-kingsbury-texas-am

Texas A&M is in the market for a new offensive coordinator, as Kliff Kingsbury is leaving College Station to be the head coach at Texas Tech. Kingsbury is considered one of college football's rising stars in the coaching ranks and was a key factor in the development of quarterback Johnny Manziel. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin assembled an impressive staff last season and should have plenty of interested targets for the open position. One candidate that makes sense but probably won't happen is Chad Morris. The Clemson offensive coordinator has a huge buyout, so it's hard to envision him leaving Death Valley, even for his alma mater.

6 Coaches to replace Kliff Kingsbury as Texas A&M's Offensive Coordinator

David Beaty, wide receivers coach, Texas A&M – If Sumlin chooses to promote someone from the current staff to offensive coordinator, Beaty and running backs’ coach Clarence McKinney make the most sense. The Texas native started his coaching career at Rice in 2006, before joining the staff at Kansas in 2008. After two seasons with the Jayhawks, Beaty served as Rice’s offensive coordinator in 2010 and went back to Kansas in 2011 as the co-offensive coordinator. Beaty did a good job of developing redshirt freshman Mike Evans into a top target for quarterback Johnny Manziel this season and is regarded as an excellent recruiter.

Clarence McKinney, running backs coach, Texas A&M – Just as we mentioned with David Beaty, if Kevin Sumlin wants to promote from within, McKinney will get serious consideration. The Houston native worked with Sumlin at Houston as the running backs coach and joined the Texas A&M staff in the same role. McKinney has no play-calling experience but is familiar with the scheme and returning talent. 

Jay Norvell, co-offensive coordinator, Oklahoma – Norvell has been an assistant in the college and NFL ranks since 1986. The Wisconsin native followed Kevin Sumlin at Oklahoma in 2008 and currently serves as a co-coordinator with Josh Heupel. If Norvell wants to be a head coach, the Texas A&M offensive coordinator position would be a good stepping stone position. Although Norvell hasn’t coordinated an offense that’s identical to the one Texas A&M currently runs, he would be an ideal target for Sumlin.

Jason Phillips, co-offensive coordinator, SMU – Phillips worked with Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin at Houston and played a key role in developing the Cougars’ offenses under Kliff Kingsbury and Dana Holgorsen. Phillips left Houston after Sumlin departed and joined June Jones’ staff at SMU. Phillips needs some seasoning as a play-caller, but his experience with Sumlin would be a good fit for this staff.

Lincoln Riley, offensive coordinator, East Carolina – Riley is considered a rising star in the coaching ranks and has done an excellent job as East Carolina’s offensive coordinator. The Pirates averaged 407.5 yards per game this season and ranked fifth in Conference USA in passing offense. Riley followed Ruffin McNeill from Texas Tech and has worked as East Carolina’s play-caller for the last three years. Before coming to Greenville, Riley served as Texas Tech’s receiver coach.  

Jake Spavital, quarterbacks coach, West Virginia – Spavital worked under Kevin Sumlin at Houston in 2009 and has followed Dana Holgorsen to his last two stops (Oklahoma State and West Virginia). The Oklahoma native served as West Virginia’s quarterback coach the last two seasons but has never called plays. Spavital is a rising star in the coaching ranks and certainly has experience in running an Air Raid scheme.

Related College Football Content

College Football's Very Early Top 25 for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Freshmen of 2012

Ranking College Football's Best Individual Performances of 2012

<p> 6 Coaches to Replace Kliff Kingsbury at Texas A&amp;M</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 07:40
Path: /nfl/cincinnati-bengals-vs-philadelphia-eagles-preview-and-prediction

The Cincinnati Bengals need to bounce back from last week’s disappointing loss to stay in the thick of the race for a playoff spot in the AFC when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles tonight at 8:20 p.m. ET on the NFL Network. The Bengals (7-6) gave up a nine-point lead at home to the Cowboys last week, a defeat that snapped their four-game winning streak and has them on the outside looking in at a wild-card berth right now. The Eagles (4-9) scored two touchdowns with less than four minutes remaining to overcome an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit and beat the Buccaneers. The victory was the beleaguered team’s first since Sept. 30, snapping an eight-game slide.

When the Cincinnati Bengals have the ball:
Cincinnati’s offense ranks 15th in the NFL in yards in per game with 355.2 and 11th in scoring at 24.7 points per game. The Bengals are No. 14 in both rushing (117.5 ypg) and passing (237.8 ypg) offense, although the ground game has been more effective recently. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis is averaging more than 109 yards per game over his last four, and all three of his 100-yard games have come during this span. Green-Ellis has only five rushing scores on the season, but his lack of scoring has been offset by the production of the passing game. Quarterback Andy Dalton has already eclipsed his touchdown pass total from last year’s rookie season, as his 25 scoring strikes place him in a tie for fifth in the league. On the receiving end of 10 of these has been A.J. Green, who is tied for the league lead in touchdown catches and among the top eight in both receptions (79) and yards (1,151). Dalton also has already thrown 14 interceptions, one more than he had in all of 2011, and the Bengals as a team have fumbled the ball away seven times.

Philadelphia’s defense has been respectable in terms of yards allowed, but has still given up a fair amount of points. The Eagles are 14th in total defense (348.6 ypg), but rank 25th in scoring at 26.2 points per game. They fall in the middle of the pack in both passing (229.3 ypg, 15th) and rushing (119.3 ypg, 17th) defense, but have yielded some pretty big totals over the last month. Prior to last week’s win over Tampa Bay, the Eagles had surrendered an average of 392 total yards of offense in its previous three games, all losses. Philadelphia has given up 25 touchdown passes, tied for second-most in the NFL, while only collecting 22 sacks and seven interceptions. The lack of consistent pressure on the quarterback and inability to create turnovers (10 total takeaways, tied for fewest in the league), have also contributed to the defense’s lack of success.

When the Philadelphia Eagles have the ball:
Similar to its defense, Philadelphia’s offense has gained a fair share of yards, but hasn’t been able to translate them into points. The Eagles are 11th in the league in total offense at 362.9 yards per game, but only 27th in scoring, producing fewer than 19 points per contest. Over their last nine games, a span in which the Eagles managed just one win, they scored more than 23 points in a game a grand total of one time. The Eagles are ninth in rushing offense (125.5 ypg), as rookie Bryce Brown has done a solid job replacing an injured LeSean McCoy (concussion). Brown piled up 347 yards rushing in his first two starts, but only managed six on 12 carries last week against Tampa Bay. He also has three fumbles since taking over lead back duties, as turnovers have been an issue for the Eagles’ offense all season long. The Eagles have turned the ball over a total of 29 times, including 17 fumbles, which ranks them second in the NFL in this category. Besides, McCoy, the Eagles are also missing quarterback Michael Vick (concussion) and wide receiver DeSean Jackson (injured reserve) due to injury, and also will be without starting tight end Brent Celek (concussion) tonight. Rookie Nick Foles has been named the starting quarterback for the rest of the season, and he responded with his best game last week against the Buccaneers. Foles completed 32 passes for 381 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush) in leading the Eagles’ fourth-quarter comeback. Foles hasn’t thrown an interception in his last three games, which is impressive considering he’s a rookie and the fact that the Eagles have allowed 41 sacks, the third-most in the league.

Cincinnati’s defense has been steady and consistent throughout the season and is one of the main reasons the Bengals are in playoff contention. The Bengals are sixth in total defense, giving up 328 yards per game, and 15th in scoring defense at 21.5 points per contest. They have been equally effective against both the run (105.5 ypg, 11th) and pass (222.5 ypg, 10th) and lead the league in sacks with 42. The unit has produced a total of 21 turnovers, including 10 interceptions.

Key Factor:
Even though Cincinnati comes into this game on a losing streak, while Philadelphia won last week, there’s little question that the Bengals have been playing better football. Last week’s tough home loss to Dallas snapped the Bengals four-game winning streak. Even in defeat, however, the Bengals gave up just 20 points and over their last five games overall they have allowed just 12.2 points per contest. The Eagles on the other hand needed a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback against one of the league’s worst pass defenses to get their first win in more than two months. One week doesn’t completely reverse the direction these two teams appear to be headed. Even though Cincinnati is the road team and could be looking ahead to a crucial, potential playoff-deciding Week 16 showdown in Pittsburgh, I fully expect the Bengals to take care of business on the road and get back into the win column. For what it’s worth, the last time these two teams met nothing was decided, as they played to a 13-13 tie back on Nov. 16, 2008 in Cincinnati. I’m not expecting the same outcome tonight.

Bengals 27, Eagles 20

<p> Cincinnati Bengals vs. Philadelphia Eagles Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 05:06
Path: /college-football/college-football-2012-all-america-team-recruits

The merits of recruiting rankings are debated in every sports bar and around every water cooler in the nation. But one quick look at the 2012 Associated Press All-America team, and it is hard to argue. Six of the 23 members (kickers and punters not included) were ranked in the Athlon Consensus 100 (Athlon's top 100) while seven others were four-star — or "national" recruits. So 13 of the 23 were considered elite prospects that were coveted by every school in the nation.

Additionally, 16 of the 23 were ranked as one the top 10 recruits in their respective state while 13 of those names were ranked as one of the top five players in the state. Eight of the 23 names below were ranked as one of the 10 best players at their position nationally as well. Only three players were two-star recruits.

Clearly, recruiting rankings matter.

2012 Offensive All-Americans as Recruits:

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (2011)
The Aggies superstar wasn’t considered a can’t-miss quarterback prospect back in 2011 when he signed with Texas A&M. Other than TAMU, only Oregon, Stanford, Baylor and Iowa State offered him scholarships to major conference programs. The Kerrville (Texas) Tivy product was a three-star quarterback who was ranked as the No. 14-best dual-threat signal caller in the nation and was the No. 45-rated player in the state of Texas. After a year of learning the college game as a redshirt, Manziel proved most everyone in the recruiting business wrong by winning the Heisman Trophy.

Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (2009) National Recruit
Ball came to Wisconsin as the Class 5A Missouri State Player of the Year after rushing for 8,222 yards and 107 touchdowns at Wentzville (Mo.) Timberland. He was rated by as the No. 33 running back in the nation and was a four-star recruit. Ball was the No. 4 player in the state of Missouri by Athlon Sports and the No. 3 player in the Badgers’ 2009 class, and he picked Wisconsin over offers from Missouri, Stanford, Kansas, Northwestern, Iowa State and Indiana.

Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (2011) National Recruit
The Oro Valley (Ariz.) Canyon Del Oro sophomore was ranked by Athlon Sports as the No. 30 running back in the nation, the No. 5 player in the state of Arizona and the No. 212 overall recruit in the country. He held three Pac-12 offers to play college football from Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado. The coveted tailback was a four-star prospect by Rivals.

Marqise Lee, WR, USC (2011) AC100
The superstar wide receiver hails from California prep powerhouse Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra. He was the No. 64-rated prospect in the nation, the No. 6-rated player in the state and the No. 10-rated wide receiver in the country. His offer sheet was a who’s who of college superpowers. Lee played on the same team as AC100 wide receivers George Farmer (2011), Robert Woods (2010) and four-star Paul Richardson (2010). How did anyone stop that passing attack?

Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor (2008)
The electric playmaker hails from Dallas (Texas) W.T. White and held only one other offer to play college football aside from Baylor. Colorado State was the only other program to offer Williams an opportunity out of high school. He was a two-star athlete prospect who was unranked by any scouting service in any way, shape or form. He has clearly proven the scouts wrong as one of the top wideout prospects in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford (2009)
The heady tight end was a three-star talent from Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista back in 2009. He was the No. 10-rated tight end in the nation and the No. 46-rated prospect in the state by Rivals. He held only three, albeit quality, offers from Stanford, Cal and UCLA.

Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (2010) National Recruit
The offensive tackle from Arlington (Texas) High barely missed landing in the AC100. He was the No. 106-rated overall prospect in the nation regardless of position. He was the No. 13-rated offensive lineman in the nation and the No. 13-rated prospect in the Lone Star State. His offer sheet was incredible with names like Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Nebraska, UCLA, Arkansas and Texas A&M atop his wish list. As a draft eligible, potential first-round pick, he now becomes one of Kevin Sumlin’s top recruits once again.

Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (2009) National Recruit
Hailing all the way from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral, Lewan came to Michigan as a highly touted prospect with offers from all over the nation. He wasn’t a top 100 recruit, but was a four-star player who had his pick of schools. He was rated as the No. 194 overall player, the No. 16 offensive tackle and the No. 5 player in Arizona by Rivals.

Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama (2009)
This big blocker from Atlanta (Ga.) Westlake picked Alabama over Auburn, South Carolina and Rutgers. Warmack was ranked as the No. 29 player in the state of Georgia and the No. 20 offensive guard in the nation by He was a three-star prospect.

Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina (2008)
The Tar Heels blocker was a three-star recruit from Wilmington (N.C.) Hoggard. Rivals gave him a three-star ranking and named him the No. 21 offensive guard in the nation and the No. 8-rated player in the state. He picked North Carolina over offers from Duke, East Carolina, NC State, South Carolina and Wake Forest.

Barrett Jones, C, Alabama (2008) National Recruit
This Memphis (Tenn.) Evangelical Christian stud was the No. 1 prospect in the state of Tennessee (which included Dont’a Hightower), the No. 17 offensive lineman in the nation and the No. 146-rated player nationally regardless of position. He possessed offers from nearly everyone in the southeast but visited only Alabama, Florida and North Carolina. Jones helped Nick Saban sign the nation’s No. 1 class in 2008.

Tavon Austin, AP, West Virginia (2009) National Recruit
The dynamic athlete signed with West Virginia out of Baltimore (Md.) Dunbar and was ranked behind only Jelani Jenkins (Florida) and Darrell Givens (Penn State) in his state. He was the No. 19-rated running back prospect in the nation and the No. 164-overall player in the class. He held offers from Pitt and Rutgers from the Big East, Michigan and Illinois from the Big Ten as well as Maryland, North Carolina and Boston College in the ACC. He ended his career, ironically, in the Big 12.

Related: AC100: The Top 100 Prospects in the Class of 2013


2012 Defensive All-Americans as Recruits:

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (2011) AC100
The Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe defensive end was the unanimous No. 1-rated prospect in the nation in the Class of 2011. Obviously, this made him the top player in his state and the top player nationally at his position. He literally could have picked any of the 120 (at the time) programs in the FBS ranks to play his college ball. In two short seasons, he has established that he was ranked exactly where he should have been and appears poised for a Heisman Trophy run in 2013. He also has a good shot at being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State (2010)
There are plenty of other star recruits on the Florida State defense, but the Salisbury (Conn.) High prospect was the best this year. The three-star recruit was the No. 65-rated defensive tackle and the No. 5-rated player in the state by Rivals. His offer sheet wasn’t long but had some intriguing names: Oregon, Rutgers, Missouri, Cal, UConn and Boston College to name a few. The Noles were lucky to get this underrated prospect.

Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State (2009)
From Corona (Calif.) Centennial, Sutton came to Arizona State sporting only four BCS offers. They included Arizona, Nebraska and Boise State in addition to the Sun Devils. He was the No. 42-rated defensive tackle and the No. 40-rated player in the state of California in the ’09 class. He was a three-star prospect by Rivals.

Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah (2007)
The big fella from Bingham (Utah) High originally signed with BYU out of high school. He was the No. 57-rated defensive end and the No. 3-rated player in the state of Utah. He held offers from Utah, UNLV and Weber State as well as the Cougars. He eventually landed at Snow College for two years before heading to Salt Lake City. Miraculously, Lotulelei didn’t even play football in 2009 before signing with Utah in January 2010.

Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame (2009) AC100
The Irish middle linebacker from Laie (Hawaii) Punahou is no stranger to the spotlight. He was the No. 1-rated linebacker in the nation and No. 3 overall player in the country, trailing only Matt Barkley (USC) and Russell Shepard (LSU) in Athlon Sports' 2009 recruiting rankings. Obviously, the No. 1 player in the state, Te’o held offers from every college program in the nation and was able to write his own ticket.

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (2009) AC100
The Columbus (Ga.) Carver product was the No. 6-rated linebacker in the nation and the No. 28 overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports. He was the No. 1 player in the Peach State and signed with USC out of Carver High School. He played the first half of his freshman year before hurting his neck. Complication with the injury eventually led to him transferring back home to Georgia.

C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama (2010) National Recruit
Much like Joeckel, Mosley just missed landing in the AC100 as a linebacker from Theodore (Ala.) High. He was the No. 113-rated overall prospect in the nation. Mosley finished as the No. 9-rated linebacker in the nation and the No. 3-rated player in the state of Alabama. Every program in the Southeast as well as a few from the Big 12 (Oklahoma) and the West Coast (Stanford) wanted to ink the star tackler.

Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State (2009)
The Beavers defensive back and return man was one of the biggest steals of the ’09 class. The Astoria (Ore.) High prospect was a wildly underrated two-star recruit with two FBS offers. Portland State, Eastern Washington, Idaho and Oregon State were the only four programs interested in the two-star prospect. Rivals rated him as the No. 8-best player in the state of Oregon.

Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (2010) AC100
Only two players were ranked ahead of Mosley in the state of Alabama in 2010 and Milliner was one of them. The Millbrook (Ala.) Stanhope Elmore cornerback was the No. 1-rated player in the state and the No. 3-rated defensive back in the nation. He finished as the No. 15-rated overall prospect in the nation by Athlon Sports. His offers sheet included every major program from the Southeast.

Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State (2007)
The star safety was a 6-foot-1, 180-pound two-star prospect from Bakersfield (Calif.) High School who signed with Fresno State. He has redshirted and missed an entire year with injury but has persevered to finish his career an All-American. He was unranked by any and all scouting services and held only one FBS offer (Fresno State) to play football.

Matt Elam, S, Florida (2010) AC100
The hardest hitter in the nation hails from West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer was a star at an early age. Elam was the No. 1-rated defensive back prospect in the nation and the No. 1 player in the uber-talented Sunshine State. He was ranked as the No. 8 overall player in the entire class. Like most elite talents, he had his pick of any school in the nation.

<p> College Football 2012 All-America Team As Recruits</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 05:05
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-disappointments-2012

With college football's 2012 regular season in the books, it's time to take a look back at preseason predictions and which teams failed to meet expectations. USC was a popular pick to play for the national championship but unexpectedly finished with a 7-5 record. Virginia Tech, Texas and Arkansas were also three of the year's biggest disappointments, as the Razorbacks failed to make a bowl and the Hokies finished with a 6-6 record.

Top 10 Disappointments from 2012

1. USC
After finishing 2011 with a four-game winning streak – including an impressive 38-35 win over Oregon in Eugene – all signs seemed to point to a national title run for USC. However, the Trojans finished 2012 with a disappointing 7-5 mark, which was the program’s fewest victories since posting six in 2001. Quarterback Matt Barkley was expected to be one of the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy, but he never managed to get back into contention after a loss to Stanford. The biggest problem for USC was a defense that struggled to stop spread offenses. The Trojans were torched for 62 points against Oregon and had trouble containing UCLA and Arizona. After the 7-5 mark in 2012, coach Lane Kiffin needs to show the program is headed back in the right direction to avoid the hot seat in 2013.

2. Virginia Tech
With Miami and North Carolina in transition, the Hokies were the clear frontrunner to win the ACC Coastal and play for their third consecutive trip to the conference title game. Despite a key overtime victory over Georgia Tech in the season opener, Virginia Tech never found its championship form. Losses to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and North Carolina left the Hokies sitting at 3-3 at the halfway point of the year. And Virginia Tech needed wins over Boston College and Virginia just to get eligible to play in its 20th consecutive bowl appearance. Both sides of the ball are to blame, as the defense didn’t quite live up to preseason expectations, while the offense finished ninth in the ACC with an average of 391.8 yards per game. The Hokies have enough talent coming back to Blacksburg to contend for the ACC Coastal title next season, but the offense has to show big improvement.

3. Texas
After improving their win total by three games from 2010 to 2011, the Longhorns were expected to make another jump in the Big 12 standings this year. Instead, Texas failed to build off last season’s 8-5 mark and finished the regular season at 8-4, with losses in its final two games. Although the offense averaged 441 yards per game, the passing attack is an ongoing issue for coach Mack Brown. Quarterback David Ash was inconsistent, and the coaching staff is taking a look in the junior college ranks for upgrades for 2013. The offensive line and rushing attack is solid, but quarterback play is crucial if Texas wants to win the Big 12 next year. The defense also shares in the blame, as this unit underachieved in 2012 and loses end Alex Okafor and safety Kenny Vaccaro in 2013.

4. Arkansas
Even though losing Bobby Petrino was a huge setback, Arkansas was still expected to be a top-25 team in 2012. The season started off with a 49-24 win over Jacksonville State, but the Razorbacks lost their next four games, including a 52-0 blowout at the hands of Alabama. A two-game winning streak gave Arkansas hope of making a bowl, but losses to Ole Miss, South Carolina and Mississippi State clinched the program’s first losing season since 2008. New coach Bret Bielema has some pieces to work with next year, but the Razorbacks will be hovering right around the .500 mark in 2013.

5. Auburn
Even though the Tigers had plenty of question marks about its roster coming into the season, a 3-9 overall record just didn’t seem possible. After all, Auburn recruited among the nation’s best under Gene Chizik and were coming off an 8-5 season, which included a surprise 16-13 win over South Carolina. Instead of showing signs of improvement, everything went wrong for the Tigers. The offense lacked an identity under new coordinator Scot Loeffler and averaged only 18.7 points a game. The defense returned nine starters, yet finished 13th in the SEC in yards allowed. New coach (and former offensive coordinator) Gus Malzahn is a good fit at Auburn, but he will need some time to fix the woes on both sides of the ball and rectify the bad coaching from the last few seasons.

6. South Florida
With 13 starters back and five losses by 10 points or less in 2011, most expected USF to rebound back into a winning season in 2012. Despite opening 2-0 with a comeback win over Nevada in Week 2, the Bulls never found the right mix on either side of the ball. The offense averaged only 20.6 points a game, while the defense ranked 86th nationally against the pass. An injury to quarterback B.J. Daniels certainly didn’t help, but a lack of playmakers at running back had a lot to do with the lackluster performance of the offense. The disastrous 3-9 season cost coach Skip Holtz his job, but the Bulls landed one of the top coaching hires of 2012 in Western Kentucky’s Willie Taggart.

7. Tennessee
No one expected Tennessee to win the SEC East in 2012. However, a 5-7 final record seemed like a longshot with the returning talent on offense. The Volunteers started 3-1 but lost four consecutive games and needed a last-minute touchdown to beat Troy on Nov. 3. An overtime loss to Missouri and a blowout defeat at Vanderbilt was enough to seal Derek Dooley’s fate and clinched the Volunteers’ third consecutive losing season. The offense wasn’t the problem, averaging 475.9 yards per game. However, the defense was a total disaster under new coordinator Sal Sunseri, giving up 471.3 yards and 35.7 points per game. 

8. Washington State
The Cougars seemed to be on the right track after the 2011 season, winning two Pac-12 games and losing two others by three points. However, the rebuilding job in Pullman was bigger than most anticipated. New coach Mike Leach was expected to turn the Washington State offense into one of the nation’s best, but the Cougars averaged only 20.4 points a game and finished 95th nationally in yardage. Consistency at quarterback was an issue, but the offensive line and rushing attack were also huge problems. Washington State only beat UNLV by eight points and lost three Pac-12 games by 20 points or more. Leach will get the Cougars back in contention for a bowl game, but 2012 was a considerable disappointment with the buzz surrounding the program and the returning players from last season’s 4-8 team.

9. Iowa
The Hawkeyes weren’t expected to win the Big Ten, but it’s also hard to give a pass for finishing 4-8 in a down year in the conference. The Hawkeyes struggled to transition to new offensive coordinator Greg Davis, as quarterback James Vandenberg threw only seven touchdown passes. Injuries hampered the running backs once again, while the defense finished eighth in the Big Ten in yards allowed. Iowa scored a one-point win over Northern Illinois and beat Michigan State in overtime. However, there were plenty of lowlights on the schedule, as the Hawkeyes lost to Central Michigan and Indiana. Kirk Ferentz has a huge contract, so he’s really in no danger of losing his job. However, Iowa cannot afford to finish 4-8 overall and 2-6 in the Big Ten next season.

10. West Virginia
A 7-5 finish in its first season in the Big 12 isn’t too bad of a year for West Virginia. However, when you consider how the Mountaineers started the season, 7-5 is a disappointment. Led by a high-scoring offense and the play of quarterback Geno Smith, West Virginia started 5-0 with a huge road win over Texas. The Mountaineers tumbled after beating the Longhorns in Austin, losing their next five games and winning the final two contests to get to 7-5. West Virginia’s offense was one of the best in the nation, but the defense ranked 119th against the pass and 114th in points allowed. With Geno Smith and Tavon Austin gone to the NFL after the Pinstripe Bowl, the Mountaineers have a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball in 2013.

Related College Football Content

Ranking College Football's Bowl Games: From Must-See to Must-Miss
College Football's Very Early Top 25 for 2013

College Football's Top 25 Freshmen of 2012

Ranking College Football's Vacant Jobs

<p> College Football's Top 10 Disappointments from 2012</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 05:03
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News, Big East
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-10-worst-matchups-2012-bowl-season

With 35 bowl games, it's not easy to decide which matchups are worth your time. To help your viewing experience, Athlon has ranked all postseason games from must-see to the must-miss. After taking a look at the top 10 must-watch matchups, it's time to examine the games that you can miss. Whether these games appear to be a blowout or lack interesting storylines, here are the 10 bowl matchups that you can miss. 

College Football's Top 10 Worst Matchups of the 2012 Bowl Season

1. Armed Forces Bowl – Air Force (6-6) vs. Rice (6-6) 
Date/Time: Dec. 29 at 11:45 a.m. ET
Channel: ESPN

The Armed Forces Bowl is just one of two of postseason games with both teams sporting a 6-6 record. Air Force is making its fifth consecutive bowl trip under coach Troy Calhoun and its third game in the Armed Force Bowl in the last five years. Rice was picked by most to finish near the bottom of Conference USA’s West Division but won its final four games to get bowl eligible. The Owls are playing in a postseason game for the first time since 2008 but will have their hands full trying to stop Air Force’s offense, which averages 328.8 rushing yards per game.
Why you can miss this one: Two 6-6 teams. Is there really any other explanation needed? The last two Armed Forces Bowls have been decided by three points or less, but there's really nothing noteworthy about this matchup. Credit Air Force and Rice for making it to the postseason, but this game is one you can miss to catch up on post-Christmas chores.

2. Little Caesars – Western Kentucky (7-5) vs. Central Michigan (6-6)
Date/Time: Dec. 26 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Channel: ESPN

This matchup in Detroit might not be one of the most intriguing games, but there are some interesting aspects surrounding both teams. After getting passed in the bowl selection process last year, Western Kentucky is making its first trip to a postseason game. The Hilltoppers feature running back Antonio Andrews, who leads the nation with 248.1 all-purpose yards per game. Central Michigan returns to the postseason after a two-year absence and had a road win over Iowa this year but failed to beat a team with a winning record. 
Why you can miss this one: Considering this matchup falls on the day after Christmas, it's easy for this one to get lost in the shuffle. And who knows, maybe there's a gift you need to return or getting a jumpstart on your 2013 Christmas shopping. Western Kentucky lost head coach Willie Taggart to South Florida, but interim coach Lance Guidry led Miami (Ohio) to a win in the 2011 Bowl. Central Michigan might be the worst team in bowl season, beating Akron, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and UMass - a combined 8-40 in 2012.

3. Hawaii Bowl – SMU (6-6) vs. Fresno State (9-3) 
Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. ET
Channel: ESPN

Former Hawaii coach June Jones makes his first appearance in Aloha Stadium since a 35-28 victory over Washington in Dec. 1, 2007. Despite leaving Hawaii after the 2007 season, Jones is still a popular figure and should help build the local interest in this game. SMU has made four consecutive bowl games but needed a victory over Tulsa in its final game just to get eligible this year. Former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert threw for 2,720 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first season with the Mustangs. New coach Tim DeRuyter led the Bulldogs to a share of the Mountain West title in his first season and brings a high-powered offense to Hawaii. Quarterback Derek Carr threw for 3,742 yards and 36 touchdowns this year, while running back Robbie Rouse topped 1,000 yards for the third consecutive season. These two teams were once conference mates in the WAC, and Fresno State holds a 5-1 edge over SMU in the all-time series.
Why you can miss this one: Just as we mentioned with the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, this game is a tough draw on Dec. 24. Yes, it's the only college game on, but there's also a lot going on with Christmas parties and gatherings. Of course, it's a nice getaway if the in-laws are bothering you. It's hard to see this game being close, especially considering the firepower on the Fresno State sideline. If Derek Carr and Robbie Rouse get on track early, SMU will have a lot of trouble keeping this one close in the fourth quarter.

4. Meineke Car Care – Minnesota (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (7-5) 
Date/Time: Dec. 28 at 9 p.m. ET
Channel: ESPN 

Considering Minnesota lost six out of its last eight games, this game has potential to be a blowout victory by Texas Tech. The Red Raiders didn’t exactly close out the year on a high note either, losing four out of their final five games. However, the Golden Gophers will need a huge effort on defense to stop Texas Tech’s passing attack (No. 2 nationally). Minnesota’s offense never managed more than 17 points in each of its final four contests, which won’t be good enough against the high-scoring Red Raider attack. 
Why you can miss this one: On paper, this is a huge mismatch. Minnesota struggled to generate anything on offense in the second half of the season, while Texas Tech averages 37.8 points a game. Even though the Red Raiders lost coach Tommy Tuberville to Cincinnati, it's hard to see the Golden Gophers being able to score enough points to pull off the victory.

5. Heart of Dallas Bowl – Oklahoma State (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6) 
Jan. 1 at 12 p.m. ET
Channel: ESPNU

In a bit of a surprise, Oklahoma State ended up in the final allotted Big 12 bowl. The Cowboys were 7-5 but lost three games by a touchdown or less and were forced to start three quarterbacks due to injuries this year. Despite making back-to-back bowl games, Purdue fired coach Danny Hope after the season finale. The Boilermakers found a spark on offense from quarterback Robert Marve late in the year but will have a tough time keeping pace with the Cowboys on Jan. 1.
Why you can miss this one: It's easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of bowl games on Jan. 1. The Heart of Dallas Bowl kicks off at the same time as the Gator Bowl and just an hour before the Capital One and Outback bowls begin. Considering the amount of games on New Year's Day, this matchup will get lost in the mix. And there's a strong possibility this game turns into a blowout. Oklahoma State's offense averaged 44.7 points a game, which is bad news for a Purdue team that ranked seventh in the Big Ten in scoring. 

6. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl – UCF (9-4) vs. Ball State (9-3)
Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Channel: ESPN

Looking for something to do on the Friday before Christmas? How about this MAC vs. C-USA matchup? These two teams have met three times, with Ball State owning a 2-1 edge. The Cardinals finished the regular season with six consecutive victories but head into the bowl game with some uncertainty surrounding their quarterback Keith Wenning, who suffered an ankle injury against Ohio. UCF fell just short of a Conference USA title and three of its losses came by five points or less, with its only other loss coming to Ohio State in Week 2. Ball State’s rush defense has struggled this year, which is bad news against a UCF team with running backs Latavius Murray and Miami transfer Storm Johnson. 
Why you can miss this one: Considering this game falls on the Friday before Christmas, last-minute shopping might have to take precedence. Ball State's quarterback situation is a huge question mark, and if starter Keith Wenning or backup Kelly Page can't go, the Cardinals will have to turn to walk-on Kyle Kamman. If Ball State has Wenning under center, this matchup should be an entertaining affair. However, there's also potential for this one to be a real dud.

7. Sun Bowl – USC (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7) 
Dec. 31 at 2 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS

From preseason No. 1 to the Sun Bowl. That’s the kind of year it has been for USC. The Trojans lost four out of their final five games to slip out of contention in the Pac-12 South, while quarterback Matt Barkley suffered a shoulder injury in the loss to UCLA. The good news for USC is Barkley is expected to play against Georgia Tech, who limps into the bowl season as the only team with a losing record. The Yellow Jackets lost in the Sun Bowl against Utah last season and will give the Trojans’ defense a challenge with its option attack. If Barkley and a deep USC receiving corps get on track early, it could be an uphill battle for Georgia Tech to keep this one close. 
Why you can miss this one: Considering the preseason expectations surrounding USC, there has to be a sense of disappointment for the Trojans to be playing in a game outside of the BCS. Assuming Matt Barkley is able to return from a shoulder injury, USC should be able to have its way against Georgia Tech's defense. The Yellow Jackets have to find a way to control the clock and keep the Trojans' high-powered passing attack on the sidelines. Georgia Tech will have some success on offense, but USC simply has too much firepower and this one could get out of hand in the second half.  

8. Belk Bowl – Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Duke (6-6)
Dec. 27 at 6:30 p.m. ET
Channel: ESPN

The last three matchups in the Belk Bowl have each been decided by seven points or less. And this season’s game should be just as competitive, especially after Cincinnati found its rhythm on offense with the switch to Brendon Kay at quarterback. Kay replaced Munchie Legaux as the team’s No. 1 passer and finished with six touchdowns over the final four games. The Bearcats allow 373.8 yards per game on defense but are holding opponents to 17.2 points a contest. Duke is making its first bowl appearance since 1994 but closed out the year by losing its final four games. The Blue Devils have made solid progress under coach David Cutcliffe and will test Cincinnati’s secondary with quarterback Sean Renfree and record-setting receiver Conner Vernon.
Why you can miss this one: Motivation will be a key factor to watch in this bowl. There's no question Duke is excited to be in a bowl game, while Cincinnati is dealing with the departure of coach Butch Jones to Tennessee. The Blue Devils cooled off in the second half of the year but still finished with a 6-6 mark. The Bearcats are the better team, but how will they respond without their head coach? Both offenses average over 30 points a game, so there could be plenty of fireworks. However, it's hard to get excited about a 6-6 team playing against a squad that lost its head coach. 

9. New Orleans – Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4) vs. East Carolina (8-4)
Dec. 22 at 12 p.m. ET
Channel: ESPN

There should be no shortage of points when the Pirates and Ragin’ Cajuns meet in New Orleans on Dec. 22. Both teams are averaging over 30 points a game and each finished the year with a three-game winning streak. Louisiana-Lafayette won a 32-30 thriller over San Diego State in last season’s New Orleans Bowl and with its campus less than 200 miles away from the Superdome, should have a significant homefield advantage over East Carolina. Pirates quarterback Shane Carden finished the year by throwing nine touchdowns over his last three games and should be able to take advantage of a Ragin’ Cajuns’ secondary that ranked near the bottom of the Sun Belt.
Why you can miss this one: It's probably unfair to put this game in the must-miss category, but most of the college football world will probably skip this matchup. East Carolina didn't beat a team with a winning record, while Louisiana-Lafayette used wins in four out of its final five games to get bowl eligible. Both offenses are potent, so the scoreboard operator could be busy. This matchup has potential, but there are few reasons for the average college football fan to be interested. 

10. Independence Bowl – Ohio (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (8-4)
Dec. 28 at 2 p.m. ET
Channel: ESPN

With not enough ACC or SEC teams bowl eligible, the Independence Bowl landed an intriguing matchup between two non-BCS teams. Ohio started the year with a bang, winning on the road at Penn State and opened 7-0 before a loss to Miami (Ohio). The Bobcats suffered a handful of season-ending injuries, which played a key role in the team’s struggles in the second half of the year. Louisiana-Monroe is making its first bowl appearance in program history and it also started the year off with a huge upset, beating Arkansas 34-31 in Week 2. Warhawks’ quarterback Kolton Browning had an outstanding season, throwing for 2,830 yards and 27 touchdowns on 389 attempts. Both teams average over 30 points a game, so expect plenty of fireworks on Dec. 28 in Shreveport, La. 
Why you can miss this one: The Independence Bowl kicks off a trio of bowl games on Dec. 28, but none are particularly exciting. If you like offense, there should be plenty of points scored between these two teams, especially with the talent at quarterback - Kolton Browning, ULM and Tyler Tettleton, Ohio. The Bobcats closed out 2012 by losing four out of their final five games, and both teams experienced bad luck with injuries. This game has some potential, but it's probably better to set the DVR and watch later that night.

Related College Football Content

Ranking College Football's Bowl Matchups From Must-See to Must-Miss
College Football's Top 25 Freshmen of 2012

College Football's Very Early Top 25 for 2013

College Football's 10 Best Individual Performances of 2012

<p> College Football's 10 Worst Matchups of the 2012 Bowl Season</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 05:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-positional-rankings-week-15

Each week during the NFL season, we will 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.

2012 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

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

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

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Week 15</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 05:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings-week-15

Each week during the NFL season, we will 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 Web site can give you.

2012 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Drew Brees NO vs. TB
2 Cam Newton CAR at SD
3 Peyton Manning DEN at BAL
4 Tom Brady NE vs. SF
5 Robert Griffin III WAS at CLE
6 Aaron Rodgers GB at CHI
7 Josh Freeman TB at NO
8 Matt Ryan ATL vs. NYG
9 Matthew Stafford DET at ARI
10 Eli Manning NYG at ATL
11 Andy Dalton CIN at PHI (Thurs.)
12 Andrew Luck IND at HOU
13 Colin Kaepernick SF at NE
14 Matt Schaub HOU vs. IND
15 Ben Roethlisberger PIT at DAL
16 Tony Romo DAL vs. PIT
17 Carson Palmer OAK vs. KC
18 Russell Wilson SEA at BUF
19 Philip Rivers SD vs. CAR
20 Joe Flacco BAL vs. DEN
21 Sam Bradford STL vs. MIN
22 Brandon Weeden CLE vs. WAS
23 Jay Cutler CHI vs. GB
24 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF vs. SEA
25 Nick Foles PHI vs. CIN (Thurs.)
26 Jake Locker TEN vs. NYJ (Mon.)

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 15 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings: Week 15</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 04:59
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-running-back-rankings-week-15

Each week during the NFL season, we will 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 Web site can give you.

2012 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Arian Foster HOU vs. IND
2 Adrian Peterson MIN at STL
3 Doug Martin TB at NO
4 Marshawn Lynch SEA at BUF
5 Jamaal Charles KC at OAK
6 Ray Rice BAL vs. DEN
7 Trent Richardson CLE vs. WAS
8 Alfred Morris WAS at CLE
9 Chris Johnson TEN vs. NYJ (Mon.)
10 C.J. Spiller BUF vs. SEA
11 Frank Gore SF at NE
12 Matt Forte CHI vs. GB
13 Bryce Brown PHI vs. CIN (Thurs.)
14 Knowshon Moreno DEN at BAL
15 BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN at PHI (Thurs.)
16 Darren McFadden OAK vs. KC
17 Steven Jackson STL vs. MIN
18 Stevan Ridley NE vs. SF
19 DeMarco Murray DAL vs. PIT
20 Reggie Bush MIA vs. JAC
21 Shonn Greene NYJ at TEN (Mon.)
22 Ryan Mathews SD vs. CAR
23 Darren Sproles NO vs. TB
24 Jonathan Dwyer PIT at DAL
25 Michael Turner ATL vs. NYG
26 Mikel Leshoure DET at ARI
27 DeAngelo Williams CAR at SD
28 David Wilson NYG at ATL
29 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG at ATL
30 Vick Ballard IND at HOU
31 Montell Owens JAC at MIA
32 Bilal Powell NYJ at TEN (Mon.)
33 Alex Green GB at CHI
34 Jacquizz Rodgers ATL vs. NYG
35 Joique Bell DET at ARI
36 Beanie Wells ARI vs. DET
37 Daniel Thomas MIA vs. JAC
38 Pierre Thomas NO vs. TB
39 Marcel Reece OAK vs. KC
40 Ben Tate HOU vs. IND
41 Mark Ingram NO vs. TB
42 Robert Turbin SEA at BUF
43 Isaac Redman PIT at DAL
44 Ronnie Hillman DEN at BAL
45 Danny Woodhead NE vs. SF
46 Justin Forsett HOU vs. IND
47 Felix Jones DAL vs. PIT
48 Bernard Pierce BAL vs. DEN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 15 Positional Rankings

Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings: Week 15</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 04:58
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings-week-15

Each week during the NFL season, we will 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 Web site can give you.

2012 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Calvin Johnson DET at ARI
2 A.J. Green CIN at PHI (Thurs.)
3 Vincent Jackson TB at NO
4 Brandon Marshall CHI vs. GB
5 Demaryius Thomas DEN at BAL
6 Andre Johnson HOU vs. IND
7 Roddy White ATL vs. NYG
8 Marques Colston NO vs. TB
9 Victor Cruz NYG at ATL
10 Wes Welker NE vs. SF
11 Julio Jones ATL vs. NYG
12 Reggie Wayne IND at HOU
13 Danario Alexander SD vs. CAR
14 Steve Smith CAR at SD
15 Randall Cobb GB at CHI
16 Mike Wallace PIT at DAL
17 Dez Bryant DAL vs. PIT
18 Pierre Garcon WAS at CLE
19 Lance Moore NO vs. TB
20 Hakeem Nicks NYG at ATL
21 Miles Austin DAL vs. PIT
22 Eric Decker DEN at BAL
23 Mike Williams TB at NO
24 Josh Gordon CLE vs. WAS
25 Michael Crabtree SF at NE
26 Stevie Johnson BUF vs. SEA
27 Torrey Smith BAL vs. DEN
28 Sidney Rice SEA at BUF
29 Kenny Britt TEN vs. NYJ (Mon.)
30 Greg Jennings GB at CHI
31 Jeremy Maclin PHI vs. CIN (Thurs.)
32 Denarius Moore OAK vs. KC
33 T.Y. Hilton IND at HOU
34 Justin Blackmon JAC at MIA
35 Larry Fitzgerald ARI vs. DET
36 Antonio Brown PIT at DAL
37 Jordy Nelson GB at CHI
38 Brandon Lloyd NE vs. SF
39 Malcom Floyd SD vs. CAR
40 James Jones GB at CHI
41 Chris Givens STL vs. MIN
42 Danny Amendola STL vs. MIN
43 Anquan Boldin BAL vs. DEN
44 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK vs. KC
45 Golden Tate SEA at BUF
46 Cecil Shorts JAC at MIA
47 Brian Hartline MIA vs. JAC
48 Andrew Hawkins CIN at PHI (Thurs.)
49 Jeremy Kerley NYJ at TEN (Mon.)
50 Jason Avant PHI vs. CIN (Thurs.)
51 Kendall Wright TEN vs. NYJ (Mon.)
52 Jerome Simpson MIN at STL
53 Davone Bess MIA vs. JAC
54 Andre Roberts ARI vs. DET
55 Alshon Jeffery CHI vs. GB
56 Brandon Gibson STL vs. MIN
57 Donnie Avery IND at HOU
58 Nate Washington TEN vs. NYJ (Mon.)
59 Jon Baldwin KC at OAK
60 Brandon LaFell CAR at SD
61 Santana Moss WAS at CLE
62 Donald Jones BUF vs. SEA
63 Greg Little CLE vs. WAS
64 Leonard Hankerson WAS at CLE

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 15 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 15</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 04:57
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings-week-15

Each week during the NFL season, we will 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 Web site can give you.

2012 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Jimmy Graham NO vs. TB
2 Tony Gonzalez ATL vs. NYG
3 Aaron Hernandez NE vs. SF
4 Jason Witten DAL vs. PIT
5 Owen Daniels HOU vs. IND
6 Heath Miller PIT at DAL
7 Brandon Myers OAK vs. KC
8 Greg Olsen CAR at SD
9 Martellus Bennett NYG at ATL
10 Jermaine Gresham CIN at PHI (Thurs.)
11 Kyle Rudolph MIN at STL
12 Vernon Davis SF at NE
13 Antonio Gates SD vs. CAR
14 Dennis Pitta BAL vs. DEN
15 Jermichael Finley GB at CHI
16 Dallas Clark TB at NO
17 Brandon Pettigrew DET at ARI
18 Scott Chandler BUF vs. SEA
19 Jacob Tamme DEN at BAL
20 Marcedes Lewis JAC at MIA
21 Benjamin Watson CLE vs. WAS
22 Tony Scheffler DET at ARI
23 Dwayne Allen IND at HOU
24 Coby Fleener IND at HOU
25 Rob Housler ARI vs. DET
26 Lance Kendricks STL vs. MIN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 14 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings: Week 15</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 04:56
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-kicker-rankings-week-15

Each week during the NFL season, we will 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 Web site can give you.

2012 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Lawrence Tynes NYG at ATL
2 Matt Bryant ATL vs. NYG
3 Stephen Gostkowski NE vs. SF
4 Sebastian Janikowski OAK vs. KC
5 Jason Hanson DET at ARI
6 Justin Tucker BAL vs. DEN
7 Phil Dawson CLE vs. WAS
8 Connor Barth TB at NO
9 Matt Prater DEN at BAL
10 Shayne Graham HOU vs. IND
11 Blair Walsh MIN at STL
12 Shaun Suisham PIT at DAL
13 Dan Bailey DAL vs. PIT
14 Kai Forbath WAS at CLE
15 David Akers SF at NE
16 Mason Crosby GB at CHI

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 15 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings: Week 15</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 04:55
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-15

Each week during the NFL season, we will 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 Web site can give you.

2012 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

1 Seattle Seahawks at BUF
2 Cincinnati Bengals at PHI (Thurs.)
3 Denver Broncos at BAL
4 New York Jets at TEN (Mon.)
5 Chicago Bears vs. GB
6 St. Louis Rams vs. MIN
7 Houston Texans vs. IND
8 San Francisco 49ers at NE
9 New England Patriots vs. SF
10 Pittsburgh Steelers at DAL
11 Detroit Lions at ARI
12 Green Bay Packers at CHI
13 San Diego Chargers vs. CAR
14 Miami Dolphins vs. JAC
15 Arizona Cardinals vs. DET
16 Cleveland Browns vs. WAS

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 15 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 15</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 04:54
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NBA, News
Path: /nfl/121212

As we celebrate 12/12/12 today, the number 12 has been associated with many aspects of our everyday lives — and in sports. We enjoyed “The Dirty Dozen.” We buy eggs by the dozen. We’re familiar with “Cheaper By the Dozen,” and we have a song about “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

But today we recognize the 12 Best Athletes to have worn the No. 12.

1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
The New England quarterback entered the league as a sixth-round draft pick in 2000 and saw action in just one game his rookie season. He took over the starting job after Drew Bledsoe was injured in Week 2 of 2001 and led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title. He will leave the game as arguably the best ever at his position.

2. Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers
The No. 1 overall draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1970 didn’t wow with stats, but his teams won — and won big. He led the Steelers to four Super Bowl wins in the 1970s, earning league MVP honors in 1978 and was the Super Bowl MVP twice.

3. John Stockton, Utah Jazz
It’s rare to hear the name Stockton without “and Malone” following, as Stockton and Karl Malone formed one of the greatest tandems in NBA history. The crafty point led the Utah Jazz to 19 consecutive playoff appearances. Stockton started 1,300 games for the Jazz and led the NBA in assists for nine straight seasons, a span that included a time when Magic Johnson was at the top of his game with the Showtime Lakers.

4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
The 2011 NFL MVP as well as the Super Bowl MVP after that season is quickly moving up the list of the greatest signal-callers in NFL history.

5. Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys drafted the 1963 Heisman Trophy winner in the 10th round in 1964, but due to his commitments to the Navy, Staubach didn’t appear in a Dallas uniform until 1969 at the age of 27. He led the Cowboys to four Super Bowls, winning two, one as MVP.

6. Dickie Moore, Montreal Canadiens
The Hall of Famer led the NHL in goals once and assists once. But he was an impact player with the Habs on six championship teams, including five consecutive Stanley Cups from 1956-60.

7. Yvan Cournoyer, Montreal Canadiens
Cournoyer took over from Moore and continued the legacy of No. 12 in Montreal. The Hall of Famer was part of eight championships with the Canadiens.

8. Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills
Kelly started 160 games for the Buffalo Bills over an 11-year career in which he led the Bills to the playoffs eight times, including four consecutive Super Bowls.

9. Joe Namath, New York Jets
Broadway Joe learned the game from Bear Bryant at Alabama, and sports fans learned of the AFL from Joe Willie Namath. His brash Super Bowl prediction prior to Super Bowl III remains one of the signature moments in NFL history.

10. Bobby Allison, NASCAR
The racing legend drove car No. 12 to Victory Lane 25 times.

11. Roberto Alomar, Toronto Blue Jays/Cleveland Indians (primarily)
The Hall of Fame second baseman was a 12-time All-Star, won 10 Gold Gloves and finished in the top six in MVP voting five times.

12. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
The man who made the No. 23 famous wore No. 12 for one game in 1990. On Valentine’s night at Orlando, Jersey donned No. 12 after his jersey had been stolen prior to the game. He put up 49 on the Magic in 47 minutes, but the Bulls lost 135-129.

A Dozen More
Dick Barnett, NBA
Wade Boggs, MLB (Yankees and Rays)
John Brodie, NFL
Lauren Cheney, USA Soccer
Bob Griese, NFL
Thierry Henry, France Soccer
Dwight Howard, NBA
Andrew Luck, NFL
Ryan Newman, NASCAR
A.J. Pierzynski, MLB
Alfonso Soriano, MLB
Ken Stabler, NFL

<p> Celebrating 12/12/12 by looking at the athletes who made 12 awesome</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 10:00
Path: /college-basketball/early-season-conference-catchup-acc

For most college basketball teams, players are preparing for finals. For those of us watching the sport, we’re preparing for midterms, so to speak.

As the non-conference seasons start to wrap up and league play to begin around the new year, Athlon is looking back and looking ahead at each conference.

We’ll start with the ACC where Duke has pulled off the impossible and managed to surprise people.

Other conferences: Big 12 | Big East

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton

Surprise team: Duke.
Virginia Tech and Maryland may be the true sleepers in the ACC, but few picked Duke to be the class of the ACC (ahem, Athlon was one of the exceptions). Everything that needed to happen for Duke to take charge in the ACC did happen: Mason Plumlee has improved across the board, Rasheed Suliamon has given the Blue Devils scoring and defense on the perimeter, Ryan Kelly has been healthy, and Quinn Cook has exceeded all expectations as point guard.

Disappointing team: Florida State.
The Seminoles figured to take a step back after major personnel losses following last year’s ACC tournament title, but no one expected this slide. The ‘Noles lost to South Alabama to open the season and have lost three of their last four including Minnesota, Mercer and by 25 to Florida. Michael Snaer has been streaky and the defense has been lackluster. The normally stingy Seminoles are allowing opponents to score 68.4 points per game and shoot 41.1 percent from the floor.

Where did he come from? Erick Green, Virginia Tech.
New coach James Johnson has turned up the tempo at Virginia Tech. No player has benefitted more than Erick Green, who is among the nation’s leading scorers at 24.6 points per game. That’s nearly 10 points per game more than he averaged a year ago. With a thin roster, the Hokies need everything they can get from Green.

Where did he go? Ian Miller, Florida State.
A foot injury has hobbled Miller so far this season, so he should probably get a pass in his struggles to transition from sixth man to starter. Miller’s output has dropped from 10.3 points to 6.7 despite playing similar minutes per game. His assist output, however, has doubled.

Key stat: North Carolina’s free throw shooting.
The Tar Heels are last in the ACC in free throw shooting (61.7 percent) and last in the nation in percentage of points scored off free throws (11.6 percent). A year ago, North Carolina scored more than 20 percent of its points off free throws.


Duke guard Seth Curry

How will Seth Curry’s leg injury play out? The Duke senior is battling persistent leg pain, but it hasn’t hindered his play so far. He’s second to Mason Plumlee on the team at 16.1 points per game, but he’s taken the most 3-point shots for a squad that leads the ACC in that category.

Will NC State put it together? The Wolfpack have lost two games this season to to teams with one loss between them in Oklahoma State and Michigan, though the loss to the Cowboys was by 20 in Puerto Rico. NC State entered the season with momentum as a heralded freshman class joined the veteran core that reached the Sweet 16 last season, yet the Wolfpack hasn’t jelled as a potential ACC contender would. The top three scorers from last season -- C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown and Scott Wood -- rank third through fifth in scoring this year.

Are either of the Virginia schools for real? Not much was expected from the Cavaliers and Hokies to start the season, as Virginia lost Mike Scott and Virginia Tech began a rebuilding process with a new coach. Yet both teams have picked up impressive wins in late November and into December with wildly different styles. Virginia has held five teams to fewer than 50 points, including Tennessee. The Cavs also defeated Wisconsin 60-54 in Madison, one of the toughest road trips in basketball. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is running up and down the court at 82.2 points per game.


Player of the year watch
Mason Plumlee, Duke
Erick Green, Virginia Tech
Alex Len, Maryland
Freshman of the year watch
Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
T.J. Warren, NC State
Seth Allen, Maryland
Coach of the year watch
Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
James Johnson, Virginia Tech
Mark Turgeon, Maryland

1. Duke (9-0). The early win over Kentucky is probably less impressive than in once seemed, but the Blue Devils defeated three opponents in the Battle 4 Atlantis (Minnesota, VCU and Louisville) who have gone a combined 24-5 this season. Duke followed that up with a win over Ohio State (6-1).

2. NC State (6-2). The Wolfpack’s 69-65 win over surprising Connecticut in Madison Square Garden was an encouraging sign as was a close call with Michigan. Richard Howell is already one of the best rebounders in the league. Now he leads the team in scoring.

3. North Carolina (7-2). Like NC State, North Carolina is searching for answers before the ACC season starts. Point guard and post play haven’t been as steady as they’ve been in recent years in Chapel Hill, and the Tar Heels are getting torched from the 3-point line.

4. Maryland (8-1). Seven-foot-1 sophomore Alex Len (13.9 points, 8.7 rebounds) has been a revelation, and Dez Wells has had the impact expected. The Terrapins are nearly halfway to last year’s win total (17).

5. Virginia Tech (8-1). Since Thanksgiving, the Hokies have defeated Iowa and Oklahoma State by double figures and lost at West Virginia by 1, signs the hot start may not be a fluke.

6. Virginia (8-2). Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins are among the most improved players in the ACC on both sides of the court. Will the defensive prowess continue into the conference season?

7. Miami (5-1): The Hurricanes lost to Florida Gulf Coast without Durand Scott. They’ve gone 3-0 with Scott, including a win over Michigan State.

8. Georgia Tech (6-2). Freshmen Marcus Georges-Hunt and Robert Carter have helped make the Yellow Jackets more competitive in Brian Gregory’s second season. Balance double-digit losses to Cal and Illinois with wins over Saint Mary’s and Georgia.

9. Clemson (5-3). Milton Jennings was suspended for a Nov. 28 loss to Purdue following an arrest. He’ll be the Tigers’ top players, so his status with coach Brad Brownell will determine if Clemson is competitive in the ACC.

10. Florida State (5-4). The Seminoles need to get their act together quickly. That will be tough with five road games in the first seven games of January.

11. Boston College (4-5). The Eagles are still rebuilding as the top six scorers are sophomores and freshmen. That’s not a bad thing at some places. It is at Boston College.

12. Wake Forest (4-5). The Demon Deacons picked up where they left off last season, and that’s not a good thing. Losses to Iona (94-68), Nebraska (79-63), Richmond and Seton Hall (in which Wake squandered a big second-half league) signal this is going to be another long year in Winston-Salem.

<p> Duke a surprise team in the ACC? Athlon says yes. Blue Devils the clear top team as NC State, North Carolina find footing.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 07:48