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Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-quarterback-rankings-week-9

Six teams are on bye, which means every team that is playing is represented in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings for Week 9. Of course, the emphasis is on the names at the top, which starts with Peyton Manning. The reigning MVP will go head-to-head with Tom Brady for the 16th time this Sunday. Manning still trails Andrew Luck in the fantasy points department, but No. 18 has 10 touchdowns and no interceptions over his last three games. Brady has been even better, leading his position in fantasy points over the last four weeks thanks to a sterling 14:0 TD:INT ratio. As well as these two future Hall of Famers have played lately, neither can top Ben Roethlisberger’s 522 yards and six touchdown passes against Indianapolis last week. Big Ben also will face a familiar foe this week when Pittsburgh and Baltimore renew their AFC North rivalry Sunday night.


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.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 9 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks


Teams on bye: Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Tennessee


1Peyton ManningDENat NE
2Andrew LuckINDat NYG (Mon.)
3Drew BreesNOat CAR (Thurs.)
4Tom BradyNEvs. DEN
5Philip RiversSDat MIA
6Russell WilsonSEAvs. OAK
7Colin KaepernickSFvs. STL
8Cam NewtonCARvs. NO (Thurs.)
9Nick FolesPHIat HOU
10Ben RoethlisbergerPITvs. BAL
11Tony RomoDALvs. ARI
12Carson PalmerARIat DAL
13Eli ManningNYGvs. IND (Mon.)
14Andy DaltonCINvs. JAC
15Ryan TannehillMIAvs. SD
16Joe FlaccoBALat PIT
17Alex SmithKCvs. NYJ
18Robert Griffin IIIWASat MIN
19Brian HoyerCLEvs. TB
20Ryan FitzpatrickHOUvs. PHI
21Mike GlennonTBat CLE
22Teddy BridgewaterMINvs. WAS
23Austin DavisSTLat SF
24Michael VickNYJat KC
25Blake BortlesJACat CIN
26Derek CarrOAKat SEA

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit

Fantasy Football 2014 Quarterback Rankings: Week 9
Post date: Thursday, October 30, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-running-back-rankings-week-9

Lots of firepower sitting on the sidelines with six teams on bye, but there are still some pretty big weapons atop Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings for Week 9. Leading off our list is Arian Foster, who led all backs in fantasy points thanks to 173 total yards (151 rushing) and three touchdowns. Foster is our No. 1 pick because DeMarco Murray, who ran his record streak to eight straight 100-yard rushing games, is set to face Arizona’s third-ranked rushing defense. While Foster and Murray have been strong all season long, Mark Ingram was the best on the ground in Week 8. Ingram gashed Green Bay for 172 yards and now gets a shot at a Carolina defense that has struggled (135.3 ypg, 28th) against the run this season. Ingram is a borderline top-10 option this week.


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.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 9 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs


Teams on bye: Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Tennessee


1Arian FosterHOUvs. PHI
2DeMarco MurrayDALvs. ARI
3Marshawn LynchSEAvs. OAK
4Jamaal CharlesKCvs. NYJ
5Le'Veon BellPITvs. BAL
6Andre EllingtonARIat DAL
7LeSean McCoyPHIat HOU
8Lamar MillerMIAvs. SD
9Ronnie HillmanDENat NE
10Giovani BernardCINvs. JAC
11Ahmad BradshawINDat NYG (Mon.)
12Mark IngramNOat CAR (Thurs.)
13Justin ForsettBALat PIT
14Alfred MorrisWASat MIN
15Jerick McKinnonMINvs. WAS
16Ben TateCLEvs. TB
17Branden OliverSDat MIA
18Frank GoreSFvs. STL
19Denard RobinsonJACat CIN
20Chris IvoryNYJat KC
21Andre WilliamsNYGvs. IND (Mon.)
22Shane VereenNEvs. DEN
23Trent RichardsonINDat NYG (Mon.)
24Darren McFaddenOAKat SEA
25Jonas GrayNEvs. DEN
26Tre MasonSTLat SF
27DeAngelo WilliamsCARvs. NO (Thurs.)
28Bobby RaineyTBat CLE
29Lorenzo TaliaferroBALat PIT
30Jeremy HillCINvs. JAC
31Jonathan StewartCARvs. NO (Thurs.)
32Knile DavisKCvs. NYJ
33Darren SprolesPHIat HOU
34Juwan ThompsonDENat NE
35Travaris CadetNOat CAR (Thurs.)
36Charles SimsTBat CLE
37Isaiah CrowellCLEvs. TB
38Ryan MathewsSDat MIA
39Carlos HydeSFvs. STL
40Benny CunninghamSTLat SF
41Zac StacySTLat SF
42Roy HeluWASat MIN
43Alfred BlueHOUvs. PHI
44Terrance WestCLEvs. TB
45Matt AsiataMINvs. WAS
46Chris JohnsonNYJat KC
47Toby GerhartJACat CIN
48LeGarrette BlountPITvs. BAL

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit

Fantasy Football 2014 Running Back Rankings: Week 9
Post date: Thursday, October 30, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-wide-receiver-rankings-week-9

Several familiar faces are missing from Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings for Week 9 because of the bye situation. Six teams are taking this week off, which means some fantasy owners may be digging a little deeper into their bench than usual. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of talent available at wide receiver, starting with leading fantasy scorer Antonio Brown. Brown caught 10 passes for 133 yards and two scores against Indianapolis, and that still was the best performance in Week 8. Jeremy Maclin led all wideouts in fantasy points after putting up 187 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona while Emmanuel Sanders was on the end of three Peyton Manning touchdown passes in the Broncos’ Thursday night win over San Diego. All three are top-six options this week, followed by A.J. Green, who is aiming to return after missing the past three games because of a toe injury.


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.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 9 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers


Teams on bye: Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Tennessee


1Antonio BrownPITvs. BAL
2Demaryius ThomasDENat NE
3Dez BryantDALvs. ARI
4Jeremy MaclinPHIat HOU
5T.Y. HiltonINDat NYG (Mon.)
6Emmanuel SandersDENat NE
7A.J. GreenCINvs. JAC
8Mike WallaceMIAvs. SD
9Kelvin BenjaminCARvs. NO (Thurs.)
10Steve SmithBALat PIT
11Andre JohnsonHOUvs. PHI
12DeSean JacksonWASat MIN
13Keenan AllenSDat MIA
14DeAndre HopkinsHOUvs. PHI
15Rueben RandleNYGvs. IND (Mon.)
16Brandon LaFellNEvs. DEN
17Odell Beckham Jr.NYGvs. IND (Mon.)
18Doug BaldwinSEAvs. OAK
19Vincent JacksonTBat CLE
20Brandin CooksNOat CAR (Thurs.)
21Larry FitzgeraldARIat DAL
22Pierre GarconWASat MIN
23Michael FloydARIat DAL
24Marques ColstonNOat CAR (Thurs.)
25Mohamed SanuCINvs. JAC
26Julian EdelmanNEvs. DEN
27Torrey SmithBALat PIT
28Terrance WilliamsDALvs. ARI
29Michael CrabtreeSFvs. STL
30Andrew HawkinsCLEvs. TB
31Cordarrelle PattersonMINvs. WAS
32Reggie WayneINDat NYG (Mon.)
33Allen RobinsonJACat CIN
34Percy HarvinNYJat KC
35Mike EvansTBat CLE
36Eric DeckerNYJat KC
37Anquan BoldinSFvs. STL
38Martavis BryantPITvs. BAL
39Andre HolmesOAKat SEA
40Wes WelkerDENat NE
41James JonesOAKat SEA
42Dwayne BoweKCvs. NYJ
43Greg JenningsMINvs. WAS
44Cecil ShortsJACat CIN
45John BrownARIat DAL
46Malcom FloydSDat MIA
47Donte MoncriefINDat NYG (Mon.)
48Markus WheatonPITvs. BAL

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit

Fantasy Football 2014 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 9
Post date: Thursday, October 30, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-tight-end-rankings-week-9

After a vintage performance last week, there’s a familiar face atop Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings for Week 9. Rob Gronkowski abused Chicago’s defense, catching nine passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns in New England’s Week 8 rout. Gronk certainly looks to be back and he’s our No. 1 TE this week. Julius Thomas and Jimmy Graham are certainly no slouches by any respect, and Graham owners in particular were no doubt thrilled to see their big man be productive (5-59-1) last week even though he’s still dealing with a sprained shoulder. For those who may be looking for a fill-in TE these next two weeks, you could certainly do worse than Heath Miller, if he’s available in your league. The veteran went for 112 yards and a touchdown last week and is a top-10 fantasy TE on the season.


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.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 9 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends


Teams on bye: Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Tennessee


1Rob GronkowskiNEvs. DEN
2Julius ThomasDENat NE
3Jimmy GrahamNOat CAR (Thurs.)
4Greg OlsenCARvs. NO (Thurs.)
5Antonio GatesSDat MIA
6Dwayne AllenINDat NYG (Mon.)
7Jordan ReedWASat MIN
8Travis KelceKCvs. NYJ
9Larry DonnellNYGvs. IND (Mon.)
10Jason WittenDALvs. ARI
11Zach ErtzPHIat HOU
12Vernon DavisSFvs. STL
13Heath MillerPITvs. BAL
14Jared CookSTLat SF
15Clay HarborJACat CIN
16Charles ClayMIAvs. SD
17Coby FleenerINDat NYG (Mon.)
18Jace AmaroNYJat KC
19Tim WrightNEvs. DEN
20Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBat CLE
21Jermaine GreshamCINvs. JAC
22Crockett GillmoreBALat PIT
23Niles PaulWASat MIN
24Mychal RiveraOAKat SEA

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit

Fantasy Football 2014 Tight End Rankings: Week 9
Post date: Thursday, October 30, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-9

Not to pick on Jacksonville, but there’s a reason its opponent leads off Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings for Week 9. To put it simply, the Jaguars are allowing an average of 17 fantasy points per game (Athlon scoring) to opposing DSTs. Last week alone, Miami returned two Blake Bortles interceptions for touchdowns. This week’s lucky DST is Cincinnati, which has rebounded somewhat after some disappointing showings. Another strong starting option this week is Kansas City, which will unleash Justin Houston (NFL-leading 10 sacks) and its other pass-rushers against Michael Vick and the turnover-prone Jets (18 giveaways) on Sunday.


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.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 9 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams


Teams on bye: Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Tennessee


1Cincinnati Bengalsvs. JAC
2San Francisco 49ersvs. STL
3Kansas City Chiefsvs. NYJ
4Seattle Seahawksvs. OAK
5Cleveland Brownsvs. TB
6Philadelphia Eaglesat HOU
7Minnesota Vikingsvs. WAS
8Houston Texansvs. PHI
9Baltimore Ravensat PIT
10Miami Dolphinsvs. SD
11Indianapolis Coltsat NYG (Mon.)
12Arizona Cardinalsat DAL
13Pittsburgh Steelersvs. BAL
14Denver Broncosat NE
15New England Patriotsvs. DEN
16Washington Redskinsat MIN

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit

Fantasy Football 2014 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 9
Post date: Thursday, October 30, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-kicker-rankings-week-9

Points will probably be aplenty in New England, but Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings for Week 9 gives top billing to a guy who will be toiling in the Steel City on Sunday night. Justin Tucker, who nailed a 50- and 53-yard field goal last week, checks in at No. 1 on this week’s list because Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh matchups usually go down to the wire and touchdowns are sometimes scarce. Tucker is second to Stephen Gostkowski in fantasy points and field goals made, and the Ravens’ reliable kicker has already attempted six field goals from 50 yards and beyond, connecting on three of them.


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.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K


2014 NFL Week 9 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers


Teams on bye: Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Tennessee


1Justin TuckerBALat PIT
2Adam VinatieriINDat NYG (Mon.)
3Stephen GostkowskiNEvs. DEN
4Dan BaileyDALvs. ARI
5Steven HauschkaSEAvs. OAK
6Cody ParkeyPHIat HOU
7Chandler CatanzaroARIat DAL
8Phil DawsonSFvs. STL
9Brandon McManusDENat NE
10Nick NovakSDat MIA
11Blair WalshMINvs. WAS
12Cairo SantosKCvs. NYJ
13Shayne GrahamNOat CAR (Thurs.)
14Randy BullockHOUvs. PHI
15Shaun SuishamPITvs. BAL
16Mike NugentCINvs. JAC

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Kicker Rankings: Week 9
Post date: Thursday, October 30, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /nba/anthony-davis-begins-nba-season-incredible-performance-chandler-parsons-mavericks-goat-night

They say that playing with Team USA is a springboard, often providing the confidence and moxie needed to launch mere NBA stars into the rare air of MVP status. And while the new season is just one night old, New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis (who’s also a new FIBA gold medalist after a dominating performance in the World Cup) looks to be proving this theory as well as anyone.

Last night, Davis collected a monstrous 26 points, 17 rebounds, nine blocks and three steals. Similar stats haven’t been seen in the NBA, from anyone, since the heyday of Hakeem Olajuwon. The court is a smaller place for the gigantic, nimble, hyper-aware Davis than it is for the rest of the humans he competes with. Watch him destroy the novice Orlando Magic in service of a 101-84 Pelicans victory:


New Pelicans front court partner Omer Asik, acquired in a trade with the Houston Rockets, chipped in 14 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks — making for a combined 40, 34 and 14 from him and Davis. New Orleans’ two-headed dragon of a front line and diverse, speedy backcourt make them a scary dark horse contender in the thorny Western Conference.

Parsons' Dallas Debut

The San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks renewed their natural rivalry. Sporting new additions Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler, the Mavs looked to prove themselves worthy of the reigning league champions. They came close enough for a fright, but ultimately handed fate into Parsons’ hands, who missed an open three-pointer as the game expired, and Dallas fell 101-100.

This coming shortly after Dirk Nowitzki joked about Parsons’ exorbitant three-year, $46 million dollar deal, a contract only possible because of the huge pay cut the aging German sensation took. “I told him every dinner on the road this year is on him because it's my money anyway,” Nowitzki joshed, when about the discrepancy between his and Parsons’ pay rate. Nowitzki is on a friendly, Mavs-lifer budget, making just $25 million over the next three seasons despite remaining one of the best scorers in the game.

Aside from Parsons’ game-ending miss, his debut Mavericks performance was pitiful — he scored just five points, on 2-of-10 shooting. It’s far too early to judge the signing of Parsons now, but similar results in future showings could quickly make him his fanbase’s new whipping post.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/georgia-rb-todd-gurley-slated-return-suspension-nov-15-against-auburn

Georgia running back Todd Gurley will be eligible to return to the lineup on Nov. 15, after the NCAA handed down its ruling into his reinstatement case. Gurley was suspended from the team prior to the Oct. 11 contest against Missouri due to autographed memorabilia and has missed the Bulldogs’ last two games. In addition to a four-game suspension, Gurley was ordered to repay a portion of the received money and must complete 40 hours of community service.

The announcement from the NCAA indicated Gurley accepted more than $3,000 from multiple individuals over the last two years in exchange for autographing memorabilia.

Gurley has already missed two games due to suspension, leaving the junior with two more contests to sit out until he is eligible to return. Gurley is slated to return to the Georgia lineup on Nov. 15 against Auburn.

Until Gurley returns, the Bulldogs will rely heavily on freshman running back Nick Chubb. Over the last two games, Chubb has rushed for 345 yards and three scores and will continue to handle the bulk of the workload with Nick Marshall and Sony Michel expected to miss Saturday’s game against Florida.

Georgia ranked No. 11 in the first release of the college football playoff committee standings. If the Bulldogs win the rest of their regular season games, coach Mark Richt's team should have a shot to rank just outside of the top four before the SEC Championship. Gurley's return would be a huge boost for Georgia's SEC title hopes, and the junior would be returning at a critical time against Auburn on Nov. 15.

According to the NCAA release, Georgia plans to appeal the decision. 

Georgia RB Todd Gurley Slated to Return Nov. 15 from Autograph Suspension
Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 11:31
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-29-2014

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 29:


Model Alexis Ren has a talent for emerging from pools.


• Have to say this is cool: Texas A&M's throwback unis include "leather" helmets.


The Royals, enjoying their moment in the spotlight, want to drag this out as long as possible.


The NCAA hands down its Todd Gurley sentence, as though it's an actual court of law.


Clay Travis sticks the knife in FSU's ribs yet again.


• Presented without comment: Jose Canseco shot off his middle finger while cleaning his gun.


• That didn't take long: Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard got into it in the season opener.


Already in midseason form: Gregg Popovich's sideline interview style.


J.J. Watt: sackmaster, disruptor, pizza maker.


Carmelo Anthony had a cameo on "Sons of Anarchy" last night.


Here's video of a dog getting his owner a beer. That's a good doggie.


• Anthony Davis started the NBA season with an Olajuwon-esque statline.



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

Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 11:24
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/texas-am-unveils-throwback-uniforms-saturdays-game-against-ulm

Texas A&M hopes to rebound from a 59-0 loss to Alabama with an easy win over ULM this Saturday.

And to help the Aggies win in style, the program has unveiled throwback uniforms for Saturday’s game against the Warhawks.

These uniforms are a tribute to the 1939 Texas A&M team and feature an awesome leather-like helmet design.

Check out Texas A&M’s uniforms for this Saturday:


Texas A&M Unveils Throwback Uniforms for Saturday's Game Against ULM
Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 10:58
All taxonomy terms: Sacramento Kings, NBA
Path: /nba/vivek-ranadive-sacramento-kings-vies-title-nba%E2%80%99s-worst-owner

So long, Donald Sterling. The exiled, former Los Angeles Clippers owner has left his seat open as basketball’s worst holder of a franchise. And the Sacramento Kings’ Vivek Ranadive seems eager to claim Sterling’s old title.

Ranadive, who purchased the Kings in the spring of 2013, has quickly developed a reputation as a meddlesome owner. Recent leaks, via Grantland’s Zach Lowe, suggest he has tried to influence his team’s on-court strategy. It’s almost never a good thing when an owner tries to double down as a coach, and it’s especially bad when he wants the implementation of a zany novelty like cherry-picking. According to Lowe, “Ranadive has pitched the idea to the team’s brain trust of playing 4-on-5 defense and leaving one player to cherry-pick, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.”

It doesn’t take a roundball genius to see the flaws in this strategy. NBA teams—even the bad ones—are all capable of exploiting a literally undermanned defense, on virtually every possession. It takes only a cursory understanding of ball movement to consistently find the unaccounted-for man. And while the 2014-15 Kings don’t have a lot of promise defensively, they would end up right in the league’s basement if they went this route with any regularity.

Previously, a Grantland mini-documentary about the Kings’ war room during this past June’s NBA Draft showed Ranadive as a man with questionable ideas. In the clip below, Ranadive urges his front office to draft Nik Stauskas at No. 8 overall, not point guard Elfrid Payton. The Kings went Ranadive’s way, drafting an iffy shooting prospect for the second straight summer (after picking Ben McLemore in 2013) and passing on Payton, a passing visionary who would fit right into what’s perhaps Sacramento’s biggest hole.


As you can see, Ranadive has a way of getting what he wants. With billionaire entrepreneurs, that tends to be the case. Kings fans just better be hoping that Vivek learns the lessons of overzealous ownership fast, and enables shrewder basketball minds to do their work.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/stop-complaining-there-no-sec-bias

The initial College Football Playoff rankings were released amid a sea of anti-SEC sentiment and swirling ESPN conspiracy theories. Gasp, four of the top six teams hail from the SEC. 


Why did this happen? Because the SEC and ESPN have a business relationship? For the angry mob, that means ESPN is propping up a bunch of phony SEC teams with talking head rhetoric. At the same time, the Mothership undermines every other quality team in the nation with negative publicity while turning a blind eye to the SEC's problems.


There is so much wrong with these theories that it's almost difficult to pick a place to begin.


Unlike ESPN, I have zero financial ties or obligations to the Southeastern Conference.


Athlon Sports doesn't sell any more magazines if we pick the SEC to win the national title or rank their teams in our Top 25. There is no evidence to suggest we make more of a profit by picking one team or league over another.


The beauty of working for SiriusXM College Sports Nation is that there are no ratings. Not one host on our channel is beholden to any one league or another because it drives or doesn’t drive listenership.


At both companies, our conversations are driven by the love of the college game. I’ve been taught to have anything but an SEC bias.


But only the truly irrational and blindly ignorant would argue against the SEC as the best college football has to offer right now.


First, the concept that ESPN benefits somehow from more SEC teams landing in the four-team playoff is comical. Ohio State, Notre Dame and Florida State would pull bigger TV ratings than Ole Miss or Mississippi State.


In fact, the most-watched college football game of the season was the Seminoles' narrow victory over the Irish two weeks ago (8.5 overnight). As ESPN College GameDay anchor and ABC broadcaster Chris Fowler said, the entirety of the sport and its financial partners, benefit the most when more regions of the country are represented. ESPN would benefit the most from a dominant Big Ten in particular.



Maybe Ohio State is No. 16 and Notre Dame is No. 10 because they just aren’t as good. Isn't it possible that the SEC Network's ratings would actually go up if the SEC gets left out of the Playoff?


Second, ESPN carries nearly every ACC game, most Big Ten games and shares the Big 12 and Pac-12 with FOX. So ESPN is in bed with those leagues as well to varying degrees.


A direct competitor, CBS, is the top SEC broadcaster every Saturday. So we're now suggesting that ESPN is intentionally propping up a direct competitor? College GameDay has been to three Florida State games this year, more than any other team in the nation.


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Third, the idea that Florida State's current publicity nightmare has somehow been fabricated because of a media witch hunt is myopic and silly. I've just shown you how valuable Florida State to the Mothership.


No, Jameis Winston, Jimbo Fisher, Karlos Williams, the Tallahassee Police Department and the powers that be at Florida State have only themselves to blame for their current PR predicament. The New York Times and FOX Sports have done an excellent job proving this point.


Yet Seminoles fans everywhere claim that the SEC hasn't gotten the same treatment. Are you kidding? Last I checked, Johnny Manziel received comparable airtime for less significant allegations or improprieties just one season ago.


Fourth, no outside influence — not even a powerful broadcast network — should be able to sway the College Football Playoff committee in any way. If a committee member is making decisions in that Dallas hotel based on what Jesse Palmer or Danny Kanell have poured into the ether, then they have far less integrity than previously believed and should no longer be working on the panel.


Lastly, and most important, has anyone outside of the South considered that maybe four of the best six teams in the nation are from the SEC?


Kansas State had a shot at Auburn at home and lost. Wisconsin had LSU beat and couldn't finish. Clemson tried to stop Georgia but failed. West Virginia played well against Alabama and still lost by double digits. Arkansas, a team that has lost 16 consecutive SEC games, went on the road and crushed Texas Tech.


Quality lower-tiered teams like East Carolina, UCF, Utah State and Boise State had Goliath on a big stage and got beat as well. These are all good teams (well, except Texas Tech) and all of them wilted against the SEC.


Oklahoma topped a bad Tennessee team at home and Missouri inexplicably lost to Indiana. That's it.


From the most powerful booster to the guy sitting in the top row, from the athletic director to the guy who laces the cleats, the SEC is simply more committed to winning than any other league. Sometimes that means it breaks more rules and crosses more lines, but that's because the SEC wants it more.


The SEC has won all but one national title since 2006, it puts more players into the NFL than any other league and has anyone found a poll or ranking from anyone with any credibility that suggests the SEC isn't the best? In fact, the top four teams in the nation according to both Football Outsiders and Sagarin Ratings all play in the SEC.


Stop making excuses, creating confounded conspiracies and pointing fingers.


The reason four of the top six — and six of the top 19 — teams in the initial playoff rankings are from the SEC is because they deserve to be there.


It's not any more complicated than that.

Stop Complaining, There is no SEC Bias
Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 09:59
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/bucs-keep-dealing-ship-casillas-pats-0

Tampa, FL ( - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made their second trade of the day during Tuesday's deadline by sending linebacker Jonathan Casillas to the New England Patriots for an undisclosed swap of 2015 draft choices.


According to, the Patriots will give the Buccaneers their fifth-round pick in exchange for Tampa Bay's sixth rounder and Casillas, a five-year veteran who started the first three games of this season before being displaced by Danny Lansanah.


Tampa Bay also traded another defensive player on Tuesday, shipping safety and 2012 first-round pick Mark Barron to St. Louis for reported fourth and sixth- round selections in 2015.


As for the Patriots, they acquired their second linebacker through a trade in less than a week. The AFC East leaders obtained Akeem Ayers from Tennessee last Wednesday in another exchange of 2015 draft picks.


Casillas was in his second season with Tampa Bay after a three-year stint with New Orleans. The 27-year-old has recorded 138 tackles and three sacks while starting 15 out of 55 career games.

Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 09:13
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/nfl-great-champ-bailey-officially-retires

Atlanta, GA ( - Twelve-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey has decided to call an end to an illustrious 15-year playing career, his agent announced Tuesday.


Jack Reale, Bailey's longtime representative, said his client has received offers from teams following his release from the New Orleans Saints in August but has instead chosen to explore other options.


"At this time, Champ has decided not to accept on-field opportunities and pursue another career path," Reale told "To play the end of this season and maybe next season, given his opportunities, he could have done that. But he decided it was best to move on to those other areas. I think everybody on his team agreed that was a good approach."


Bailey was one of the league's most dominant defensive players of the 2000s, earning All-Pro honors for five consecutive seasons from 2003-07 and leading the NFL with 10 interceptions in 2006. His 12 Pro Bowl selections is tied with Hall of Famer Ken Houston for the most in NFL history by a defensive back.


The seventh overall pick of the 1999 NFL Draft by Washington, Bailey played five seasons with the Redskins before being sent to Denver in a blockbuster 2004 trade for running back Clinton Portis.


Bailey spent the next 10 seasons with the Broncos and finished his career among the franchise's all-time leaders in interceptions (34) and passes defensed (102). He was released by Denver shortly after Super Bowl XLVIII following an injury-plagued 2013 campaign.


"Congratulations to 12-time Pro Bowler Champ Bailey on an outstanding career," the Broncos tweeted Tuesday.

The 36-year-old had signed with the Saints in April but was released during final cuts.


Over 215 career regular season games with Denver and Washington, Bailey amassed 52 interceptions -- four of which were returned for touchdowns — and 235 pass breakups.

Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 09:08
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-2014-week-10

The original reality TV show is sports. No contrived setting where seven strangers living in a house or one bachelor searching for love can match the excitement the Iron Bowl delivered last fall.


The beauty of college football lies in its complete unpredictability and drama. Here are some outrageous predictions for Week 10.


Note: The point of this column is to have some fun and make some outlandish predictions. Please react accordingly.


Florida State will take the blame for something


That’s right, I said it. Jimbo Fisher and Florida State will have to accept responsibility for losing to Louisville on Thursday night. It won’t be the SEC’s fault. It won’t be ESPN’s fault. It won’t even be Kirk Herbstreit’s fault. No, if and when the Seminoles score fewer points than the Cardinals, Fisher will have to take the podium and acknowledge that it was his team that lost the game.


Stanford will lose to Oregon


Just picking an upset normally doesn’t warrant “outrageous” consideration. However, Stanford has dominated Oregon of late and has cost the Ducks a couple of trips to the Pac-12 title game (or more). This season will be Marcus Mariota’s breakthrough performance and his first win over archrival and two-time defending Pac-12 champ Stanford. Although, Oregon will likely lose to Utah next weekend if it beats the Cardinal this Saturday.


Trevone Boykin, Clint Trickett will throw for 1,000 yards


Trickett is sixth nationally at 345.4 passing yards per game this season. Boykin is eighth at 329.4. The Frogs defense ranks 116th nationally in passing yards allowed in conference play at 324.0 yards per game. West Virginia is 50th nationally in the same category. Look for both QBs to air it out in an old-fashioned Big (East) 12 shootout.


Will Muschamp won’t make it back to Gainesville


We all know that Muschamp isn’t likely to return as the Gators coach in 2015 but many Florida fans have pointed to the Cocktail Party matchup against rival Georgia as the last straw. A fourth consecutive loss to Mark Richt would force Jeremy Foley’s hand and would likely be the last loss for Muschamp on the Gators' sideline.


Utah will be alone in first place in the Pac-12 South


The Utes are a 5.5-point underdog to Arizona State this weekend but defensively match up very well with a team that struggled to score last weekend against Washington. A win for Utah gives ASU a second league loss and pushes the Utes to 4-1. When Arizona loses to UCLA in the Rose Bowl, Utah will find itself alone in first place of the Pac-12 South entering Week 11.

Outrageous College Football Predictions: 2014 Week 10
Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/cowboys-durant-has-torn-biceps-no-word-tony-romo

Irving, TX ( - Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett did not reveal any details regarding Tony Romo's injury in Tuesday's press conference, but he did confirm linebacker Justin Durant has a torn biceps.


Garrett hesitated to rule out Durant for the rest of the season, but said "it's a serious injury" and the team will make a decision based on "how much time is left in the season and what the options are."


Durant suffered the injury during the second half of Monday's 20-17 overtime loss to the Redskins. The weakside linebacker has emerged as a solid contributor to an already depleted defense and leads the team in tackles (49) despite missing two games.


The Cowboys are already without star linebacker Sean Lee and will likely have to find a replacement for Durant given the nature of the injury.


Romo, meanwhile, suffered what the team called a back contusion on Monday and there was no additional information at the time of Garrett's presser.


"We did X-rays at the stadium (on Monday) and that allowed us to say he could go back in (Monday's game)," Garrett said. "We are doing additional scans to make sure if there's anything else going on."


Romo exited early in the third quarter after taking a knee to his surgically repaired back. He returned for the final possession of regulation and overtime but was clearly limited in his abilities.

Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 08:58
Path: /college-football/expert-poll-week-9-heisman-trophy-voting

Athlon Sports has formed a Heisman Trophy committee. Each week, we will ask 13 members of the national college football media to rank their top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.


Each voter will rank their top five candidates, with each first-place vote getting five points and each last-place vote getting one point.


The Panel:


Stewart Mandel, FOX Sports

Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network 

Adam Zucker, CBS Sports

Steven Godfrey, SBNation

Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated

Bryan Fischer,

Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network

Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio

Josh Ward,

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports

David Fox, Athlon Sports

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports, SiriusXM


The Results:


1.Marcus Mariota62103---
2.Dak Prescott5339-1-
3.Ameer Abdullah29-1542
4t.Melvin Gordon16--323
4t.Amari Cooper16--242
6.Trevone Boykin12--311
7.Everett Golson3----3
8.Jameis Winston2---1-
9t.Tevin Coleman1----1
9t.Shaq Thompson1----1

Dropped out: Kevin White, Bo Wallace


Listen to the Week 9 recap podcast:

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


The Top 3:

1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon

Late on Friday night, Marcus Mariota watched a double deflection end his interception-less streak. Otherwise, he was perfect once again in a critical road win against Cal. He became Oregon’s all-time leading passer by throwing for 326 yards and five touchdowns, passing Bill Musgrave, while adding 36 yards rushing on six carries. Mariota will face Stanford and Utah over the next two weeks.


Season Stats: 2,283 yards, 68.82%, 24 TDs, 1 INTs, 325 rush yards, 5 TDs


2. Dak Prescott, Mississippi St

With a struggling defense, Prescott is being asked to carry his team to victory each week. He got plenty of help from Josh Robinson (198 yards, 2 TD) but still delivered in a big way on the road against Kentucky. The Bulldogs' QB threw for 216 yards, one touchdown and one interception while rushing 18 times for 88 yards and two touchdowns. He is just the fifth player in the last decade to account for at least three touchdowns in each of his team’s first seven games.


Season Stats: 1,694 yards, 60.3%, 15 TDs, 5 INTs, 664 rush yards, 10 TDs


3. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

The star Huskers tailback set a school record with 341 all-purpose yards in the win over Rutgers. He rushed for 225 yards, topping 200 yards on the ground in a game for the fourth time this season. He added 26 yards receiving and 90 on kick returns while scoring three more touchdowns. His 1,249 yards are leading the nation and his 17 TDs are second.


Season Stats: 180 att., 1,249 yards, 6.9 ypc, 17 TDs, 13 rec., 169 yards, 2 TD 

Expert Poll: Week 9 Heisman Trophy Voting
Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /nascar/nascar-rookie-report-fans-guide-future-cup-series-rookies

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


Today, David looks toward the future with a menu of potential Cup Series drivers for which you may want to start rooting.



At some point, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver roster will get an infusion of young talent, drivers that aren’t rookies now and might not be in 2015. Some of those names you might already know, especially if you make NASCAR Nationwide Series races appointment viewing every Saturday. You might already have a favorite or two out of the latest litter, but in case you don’t, I’ve compiled this handy fan’s guide to the future Cup Series rookies: 


Are you a fan of nostalgia, strong family ties and easy championships? Chase Elliott is your driver.


A frustrating sight at short tracks is when a young driver fails to succeed despite having the best car and crew and deepest resources. Elliott had all of that, plus a famous dad, but capitalized on the opportunities given to him, smoking fields at hallowed grounds across the nation, collecting trophies from such notable events like the All American 400, the Snowball Derby and the Winchester 400.


Bill Elliott, the 1988 Cup Series champion and a 16-time winner of NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver award, helped make sure his son Chase, now 19, had everything at his competitive disposal. That Chase was able to take advantage was a good sign — one seen by Rick Hendrick, who signed the younger Elliott to a development contract over three years ago.


Now in the Nationwide Series, Elliott, the top-ranked Cup Series prospect per, is poised for a series title in his rookie year, having collected wins at Texas, Darlington and Chicagoland. His aggression level is high, and a weapon he used to pick off the win at Darlington, easily his year’s best highlight. He’ll fit into the system already in place at Hendrick Motorsports, which amplifies the talents of drivers who utilize intelligence and aggression. He’s the closest thing to a sure thing among a deep crop of rising talent.


Are you a motorsports snob and appreciate refined race craft? Ryan Blaney is your driver.


While Blaney was still acclimating to life in high school, he was displaying a veteran-like presence on short tracks around the Carolinas. 


Unlike his father Dave, who is a Dirt Sprint Car legend, Ryan was nurtured on pavement and learned pace and conservation early enough — my best memory of him was a conservative ride at Hickory Motor Speedway that resulted in a savvy up-front finish as other gas-happy kids wore their equipment out — to have it translate to higher-mileage contests in NASCAR. His assimilation has been quick. He has a win for each year he’s raced in a NASCAR division, none more impressive than his score this summer at Bristol when he stymied Kyle Busch on a final restart in a Nationwide Series race.


Team Penske, a ubiquitous presence in practically all forms of racing, employs Blaney and has so much belief in him that they crammed his 2014 season full of races across three divisions and are loaning him out to Wood Brothers Racing for a partial Cup Series season in 2015.


Are you a blue-collar worker with dirt under your nails and might have rooted for a black No. 3 car back in the day? Corey LaJoie is your driver.


Richard Petty Motorsports holds contractual rights to LaJoie, but didn’t bend over backwards for him until recently, placing him into four Nationwide Series races with fellow Ford team Biagi-DenBeste Racing. Up until that, LaJoie went at it alone, essentially acting as his own crew chief in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where he ran neck-and-neck with Kyle Larson in 2012, scoring more victories (five) than Larson (two), but falling short in the title battle.


LaJoie’s outspoken nature could prove polarizing in the Dale Earnhardt sense or entertaining in the Clint Bowyer sense; however, he has enough talent — he’s a bit of a chameleon, an aggressive driver with a high Race IQ while also an ace equipment and tire conservationist — to back up whatever statements he chooses to make. And despite having family ties to the sport — father Randy is a two-time Nationwide Series champion — LaJoie created much of his heightened prospect status with his work ethic, a relatable trait to even the most old-school of NASCAR fans.


Do you seldom watch racing, choosing only to watch the Daytona 500, the finale at Homestead and the occasional driver appearance on a late-night talk show? Darrell Wallace is your driver.


This isn’t a knock on Wallace, who became the first African-American winner in NASCAR’s three major divisions in 50 years with his Truck Series triumph at Martinsville last season. This season in the Truck Series, he has already tripled his 2013 win total and has an outside shot at the series title with three races remaining. He’s got driving chops.


He also oozes star power, reaching to both African Americans and millennials. To the latter group, Wallace is inherently relatable, displaying a style not familiar with the Wrangler-wearing crowd and poise beyond his years that today’s kids should aim to emulate. Already firmly entrenched at Joe Gibbs Racing and with manufacturer Toyota, Wallace’s ticket is already punched for the big time. Becoming a personality that transcends the sport of racing is only a matter of when. He’ll be playing egg roulette with Jimmy Fallon in no time.


Do you root for the Cinderella team every year during March Madness? Chris Buescher is your driver.


There isn’t a single driver among the next batch of NASCAR stars that has transformed themselves more than Buescher, a rookie for Roush Fenway Racing in the Nationwide Series. Once a wild-driving kid in Legend Cars, Buescher’s aggressiveness, once enrolled in the Roush School of Driving Like Matt Kenseth Does, balanced out and he emerged as a textbook racecar driver, one who conserves equipment yet finds unmatched speed. This resulted in an ARCA Series championship in 2012. That season he became the first driver in series history to complete every lap of competition during a calendar year while also winning four races, tying for the season’s most.


Buescher is already a Nationwide Series race winner and, with the organization promoting Trevor Bayne to the seat of its new No. 6 team in 2015, is in the on-deck circle once a Cup ride opens up at Roush Fenway. He might be an underdog, though, if he remains at Roush, which has lacked title-worthy pop the last three years. Buescher is a quiet kid, one who might not attract a large number of fans or the ritziest of sponsors. Fans that do latch on to Buescher will be a part of group cheering on something special and when one of his seasons breaks the right way, they’ll have a plum seat on the bandwagon ride to the top.



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


Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

David Smith looks at NASCAR's next great crop of rookie talent.
Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 08:25
All taxonomy terms: Pac-12, Utah Utes, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-utah-utes-team-preview

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak is not interested in celebrating any checkpoints or milestones in his rebuilding of the program. The Utes clearly are making progress as Krystkowiak enters his fourth season, but he’s not declaring the project ahead of schedule. 


“We’re in the middle of the process, showing steady improvement,” Krystkowiak says. 


That’s his only gauge of where the Utes are, having gone from 3–15 in Pac-12 play in his first season to 5–13 and then 9–9 (with a bunch of close losses) last year. The growth was sufficient for the school to award Krystkowiak a new five-year contract, and his recruiting success suggests that the upward trend will continue in 2014-15 and beyond. 


The Utah edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.




The best illustration of how far the Utes have come may be reflected in junior forward Jordan Loveridge’s role this season. After averaging 36.3 minutes in Pac-12 games last season, Loveridge will have much more help up front, which means he’s unlikely to play nearly as many minutes. 


Much is expected from Kyle Kuzma, who should create matchup issues. Another freshman, Brekkott Chapman, also is multidimensional, and junior college transfer Chris Reyes also should help.


Loveridge led the Utes with 7.0 rebounds per game, and Krystkowiak is seeking a better effort on the boards from his entire team. In conference games, the Utes ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in defensive rebounding, grabbing only 68.4 percent of their opponents’ misses. That deficiency hurt them at the end of some tight games, but it could fixed by the Utes having bigger players at every position in 2014-15.


During a summer workout, Krystkowiak was thrilled to look at one end of the court and see six quality big men doing drills, a sign that Utah would have much more depth up front. 


Dallin Bachynski and Jeremy Olsen are steady, solid players who complement one another at center. Olsen joined Loveridge on the Pac-12 all-star team, coached by Krystkowiak, that toured China. The Utes continued to upgrade their athletic ability by signing Austrian 7-footer Jakob Poeltl. 


When he arrived at Utah, Krystkowiak’s recruiting was designed mainly to fill the roster. His staff now can be much more selective in targeting players, and the results are impressive. The Utes will be able to put different lineups on the court and take advantage of certain matchups.


Utah Utes Facts & Figures

Last season: 21-12, 9-9 Pac-12

Postseason: NIT

Last NCAA Tournament: 2009

Coach: Larry Krystkowiak (42-55 at Utah, 17-36 Pac-12)

Pac-12 Projection: Fifth

Postseason Projection: NCAA Round of 32




Delon Wright was a great discovery for Utah as a junior college transfer, and his decision to stay in school for his senior season rather than enter the NBA was a big boost to the Utes. Wright took over at point guard and finished second in the Pac-12 in steals (2.5 spg), third in field-goal shooting (.561) and fourth in assists (5.3 apg), while leading the Utes in scoring (15.5 ppg) and ranking second in rebounding (6.8 rpg). 


Wright and his teammates must perform better in the clutch. Dakarai Tucker took a pass from Loveridge and hit a clinching 3-pointer against Washington in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament, but strong finishes were rare for the Utes. They had fewer turnovers than their opponents, but the Utes’ mistakes seem to come at the worst times. 


Some combination of Brandon Taylor, Kenneth Ogbe and Tucker will fill the other backcourt roles, while freshman Isaiah Wright also may provide some relief for Delon Wright, who averaged 36.4 minutes per game. 


Final Analysis

Utah’s 21–12 overall record in 2013-14 was deceiving, and so were some of their statistics, because of a very weak non-conference schedule that included only one road game. The level of competition will be upgraded considerably, with a home game vs. Wichita State, plus matchups against Kansas (in Kansas City) and UNLV on a “neutral court” in Las Vegas. 

Krystkowiak hopes that those games will serve as good preparation for Pac-12 play, and that the experience of having competed in so many close battles last year will translate to greater success in pressure situations.


Too many times in 2013-14, the Utes came down the stretch “and were kind of looking over our shoulder, wondering if it’s going to happen again,” Krystkowiak says.


Judging strictly by conference play, the Utes statistically performed better than a .500 team in the Pac-12. With some better finishes, the Utes should be able to continue their climb in the Pac-12 and contend for an NCAA Tournament bid. 




Freshman forwards Kyle Kuzma and Brekkott Chapman bring versatility to the frontcourt. Kuzma can execute low-post moves, handle the ball and rebound at both ends of the court. Forward Chris Reyes, a junior college transfer who started his college career at Saint Mary’s, should help with his rebounding ability. Austrian center Jakob Poeltl is a skilled 7-footer with good fundamentals. 

College Basketball 2014-15: Utah Utes Team Preview
Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Pac-12, UCLA Bruins, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-ucla-bruins-team-preview

When Steve Alford was chosen to replace longtime coach Ben Howland in April 2013, the hire didn’t exactly have UCLA fans jumping for joy. Howland, after all, had taken the Bruins to three straight Final Fours in the past decade and was fresh off a Pac-12 regular-season title. Alford, meanwhile, had reached the Sweet 16 just once as a coach — 14 years prior, with upstart Southwest Missouri State.


But when the dust had settled somewhat and Alford’s first UCLA team actually took the court, winning soothed most of those concerns. His players quickly bought in, and despite a rather uninspiring run through a less-than-intimidating non-conference schedule, the Bruins’ up-tempo, high-powered offense quickly became a force to be reckoned with in March, when it mattered most. 


After dropping its worst game of the season to Washington State in the regular-season finale, UCLA burned through the Pac-12 Tournament like it had something to prove, pulling off a fantastic, last-minute victory over Arizona in the title game. That momentum carried the Bruins all the way to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008.


Alford will have to do some serious remodeling to repeat those results during the 2014-15 season, with four of five starters and his top bench option gone. But with a top-flight recruiting class coming in and some talent already in place, Alford might be in position to prove his doubters wrong again in Year 2.


The UCLA edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.




Twins Travis and David Wear never quite provided the post presence that UCLA needed to be taken seriously down low, and despite high expectations, one-time top recruit Tony Parker has yet to pan out as the Bruins might’ve hoped.


But after a year of dealing with a paper-thin frontcourt, Alford and his staff made it a point to get bigger and stronger down low. UCLA added four frontcourt players in this year’s recruiting class, highlighted by five-star forward Kevon Looney, and should finally have the versatility to play inside and out.


“You’ve got to be able to adjust to what you have,” Alford says. “Now, we have a lot more size. Going into this year, our hope is that we can play out of the post and still play at a high tempo.”


That should mean a very different-looking offense and, likely, an increased role for Parker, whom Alford says he’s counting on to make the most significant improvement of any player on the roster. 


Whoever it is filling the void, though, UCLA will have to find some way to replace the rebounding prowess of point forward Kyle Anderson and wing Jordan Adams, who combined for almost half the Bruins’ rebounding output last season.


UCLA Bruins Facts & Figures

Last season: 28-9, 12-6 Pac-12

Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16

Consecutive NCAAs: 2

Coach: Steve Alford (28-9 at UCLA, 12-6 Pac-12

Pac-12 Projection: Fourth

Postseason Projection: NCAA Round of 32




Losing Anderson, Adams, and enigmatic one-and-done Zach LaVine — all three of whom were first-round NBA Draft picks — could make for an insurmountable blow to UCLA’s backcourt, especially after Alford and his staff missed out on getting guard help in this year’s recruiting class.


But Alford has the utmost confidence in his son, Bryce, to take over Anderson’s spot at point guard, repeatedly referring to him “a coach on the floor” this offseason. And in redshirt freshman Isaac Hamilton, who sat out last season, UCLA will have a consummate five-star talent to play next to him and take on some of the scoring load.


The pair of young guards will have Norman Powell to lean on, at least. The senior guard exploded offensively toward the end of last season, averaging 14 points per game during the postseason. 


Final Analysis


Losing its talented core from last season will probably hurt UCLA early on in 2014-15, as it tries to find the same rhythm it harnessed during last year’s postseason run. The Bruins will also have a tougher road to travel, with a beefed-up non-conference schedule that includes Kentucky and Gonzaga. But assuming Alford follows through on his promise to adjust to a very different roster, UCLA should have the talent to be a player in the Pac-12 again this season. Unseating a top contender like Arizona might be too much to ask, but if Hamilton and Looney come through on their five-star potential, and the younger Alford can keep UCLA’s up-tempo offense on track, then the Bruins could make a splash come March.




Without much size last season, Steve Alford made it a point to shore up the frontcourt with his first full recruiting haul, adding an impressive four-man class, all of whom stand 6-9 or taller. The gem among them should be Kevon Looney, a five-star talent who dominates the boards. Seven-footer Thomas Welsh and versatile forward Jonah Bolden should help bolster depth, while Gyorgy Goloman will take time to develop.

College Basketball 2014-15: UCLA Bruins Team Preview
Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Pac-12, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-pac-12-predictions-and-awards

The Pac-12 hierarchy can be somewhat predictable. Arizona and UCLA usually find their way at or near the top. Washington State and Oregon State generally land at or near the bottom. 


Those trends figure to continue in 2014-15 with Arizona challenging to end the league’s Final Four drought dating back to UCLA in 2008. The Bruins are rebuilding, but they’re rarely without the talent to challenge for an NCAA Tournament bid.


Shakeups have occurred in this league in recent seasons, but perhaps one of the most surprising developments has been the rise of the two newest members.


Colorado and Utah figured to contribute little to the basketball product of the Pac-12 when they joined in 2011. This season, they could be two of the league's better teams.


Instead, Colorado under Tad Boyle is enjoying its most successful period in program history. Utah has reached the Final Four in its past but has been an afterthought for most of the last decade or so. After winning six total games as recently 2011-12, the Utes are poised to complete a quick rise that could end in the NCAA Tournament this season.


Arizona’s place as the league’s prohibitive favorite along with the emerging programs at Colorado, Utah and Stanford may be the top storylines in a league in a state of flux. Cal, Washington State and Oregon State have new coaches. Oregon and Arizona State have personnel losses that will make returns to the NCAA Tournament difficult.


Previews of every Pac-12 team and more are available in the 2014-15 Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview.


Pac-12 2014-15 Preseason Picks


1. Arizona (team preview

Postseason projection: NCAA Final Four

Sean Miller has his usual surplus of talent. He might get an upgrade going from Nick Johnson to Stanley Johnson. 


2. Colorado (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA round of 32

Always-underrated Buffs return four starters, including one of league’s better big men in Josh Scott.


3. Stanford (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA round of 32

Johnny Dawkins got the Cardinal back in the NCAAs. He has enough talent to go again.


4. UCLA (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA round of 32

NBA early exits cost the Bruins three players and knocked them down a few rungs, but they won’t fall far.


5. Utah (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA round of 32

Larry Krystkowiak can coach, and he welcomes back four starters to what could be the league’s most improved team.


6. Cal

Postseason projection: NIT

To really flourish, new coach Cuonzo Martin needs to get more out of guard Jabari Bird than his predecessor. 


7. Oregon

Postseason projection: NIT

The Ducks were gutted by scandal, transfers and graduation. Just four players return. Who are these guys?  


8. USC 

Postseason projection: NIT

Andy Enfield has recruited well with his two classes, but he’s a year away from noticeable results.


9. Washington 

The talent is down. Attendance is down. The unthinkable is happening: Lorenzo Romar is on the hot seat. 


10. Arizona State

The Sun Devils had four players transfer out and another leave early for the NBA. That’s not the look of a winner.


11. Oregon State

New coach Wayne Tinkle doesn’t have any presidential connections. He’ll need help from someone.


12. Washington State

Ernie Kent takes on the toughest job in the Pac-12. He may wonder why he left the broadcast booth.


2014-15 Pac-12 Superlatives


Player of the Year: Stanley Johnson, Arizona 

The five-star swingman can score from anywhere on the court. His arrival at Arizona further solidifies the Wildcats’ trend as a recruiting powerhouse.


Best Defensive Player: David Kravish, Cal

Cal is hoping Kravish becomes a more well-rounded offensive threat, but for now, he’s a standout interior defender. He averaged 7.7 rebounds a year ago.


Most Underrated Player: DaVonte Lacy, Washington State

Who finished second in the Pac-12 in scoring last season? Unless you were following closely, you may have missed that it was Lacy, who averaged 19.4 points.


Newcomer of the Year: Stanley Johnson, Arizona

Johnson follows Aaron Gordon as a star California prospect to head to Arizona — and probably go one-and-done.


Top coach: Sean Miller, Arizona (full Pac-12 coach rankings)


First-Team All-Pac-12

G Delon Wright, Utah

G Chasson Randle, Stanford

F Brandon Ashley, Arizona

F Stanley Johnson, Arizona 

F Josh Scott, Colorado


Second-Team All-Pac-12

G Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington

G Askia Booker, Colorado

G Joseph Young, Oregon

F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson , Arizona

F Anthony Brown, Stanford


Third-Team All-Pac-12

G T.J. McConnell, Arizona

G DaVonté Lacy, Washington State

G Norman Powell, UCLA

F Kevon Looney, UCLA

F David Kravish, Cal

College Basketball 2014-15: Pac-12 Predictions and Awards
Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-playoff-rankings-week-10

The first rankings by the College Football Playoff selection committee followed the mainstream sentiment with three SEC West teams in the top four.


The only mild surprise was the three teams included. Auburn debuted at No. 3 despite a single loss to Mississippi State on the road on Oct. 18. Ole Miss landed at No. 4 on the strength of a win over Alabama on Oct. 4.


Here’s how the first top 25 shook out, followed by our observations.


College Football Playoff Rankings: Oct. 28
1. Mississippi State10. Notre Dame18. Oklahoma
2. Florida State11. Georgia19. LSU
3. Auburn12. Arizona20. West Virginia
4. Ole Miss13. Baylor21. Clemson
5. Oregon14. Arizona State22. UCLA
6. Alabama15. Nebraska23. East Carolina
7. TCU16. Ohio State24. Duke
8. Michigan State17. Utah25. Louisville
9. Kansas State  



Auburn at No. 3.

The Tigers ended up as the highest-ranked one-loss team ahead of Alabama, Ole Miss and Oregon. The selection committee put significant weight on the Tigers’ 20-14 road win over Kansas State, a team the selection committee ranked ninth. Auburn’s only loss is on the road to No. 1 Mississippi State 38-23


Ole Miss at No. 4

The selection committee showed it wouldn’t follow the lead of the polls by ranking Ole Miss at No. 4, two spots ahead of Alabama. Both polls, which have no role in the playoff process, ranked Alabama No. 3. The AP had Ole Miss at No. 7, the coaches had the Rebels even lower at No. 9. Ole Miss defeated Alabama 23-17 on Oct. 4.


Who Shouldn’t Worry:



The committee placed Oregon at No. 5 despite a loss to Arizona, a team ranked 12th. Committee chair Jeff Long cited a win over Michigan State at home and UCLA on the road as contributing to a strong “body of work” in his interview on ESPN. In interviews with reporters, Long also noted the injury to starting left tackle Jake Fisher in the loss to Arizona. Fisher is now healthy. The Ducks control their own path to the Playoff as the three SEC teams start to weed themselves out.



No reason for the Crimson Tide to worry about being No. 6. The Tide still have two of the top three teams on their schedule, both at home. If the committee liked the head-to-head win for Ole Miss over Alabama, it will love a Tide team with wins over Mississippi State and Auburn.


Who Should be Pleasantly Surprised


TCU and Kansas State

The pair of Big 12 teams that were nowhere to be found in preseason top 15, but both landed in the top 10. The Horned Frogs and Wildcats have wins over Oklahoma and narrow losses to fellow one loss teams (Baylor for TCU, Auburn for Kansas State).


Who Should Worry:


Ohio State

We don’t know what would be considered a major climb from the first playoff poll to the final one, but Ohio State could present an interesting test. The Buckeyes, who lost at home to 4-4 Virginia Tech, started at No. 16. Entering Tuesday, Ohio State knew it needed to beat No. 8 Michigan State for a shot at the playoff. Now, the Buckeyes have to wonder if even that will be enough.


Notre Dame

The Irish were ranked sixth in the AP poll but 10th in the playoff poll due to the lack of significant wins. A good showing in a loss in Tallahassee wasn’t enough to move up any further.



East Carolina and Marshall appeared to be the clubhouse leaders for the Group of 5 spot in the New Year’s bowls, but Marshall probably needs one-loss East Carolina to lose again ... at least. Marshall was unranked while ECU landed at No. 23. The Thundering Herd has one of the weakest schedules in the country while East Carolina beat Virginia Tech and North Carolina and lost to South Carolina.


If the Season Ended Today:


National Semifinals:

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Mississippi State vs. No. 4 Ole Miss

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Auburn


Other bowls (projected)

Cotton: No. 7 TCU vs. No. 10 Notre Dame

Fiesta: No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 9 Kansas State

Orange: No. 21 Clemson^ vs. No. 6 Alabama

Peach: No. 23 East Carolina* vs. No. 8 Michigan State

*automatic Group of 5 bid

^automatic ACC bid to Orange Bowl

College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 10
Post date: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 20:26
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-one-loss-teams-after-week-9-2014

The race to claim one of college football’s four playoff spots is officially in the home stretch. Week 10 is the first Saturday in November, leaving little time for teams to solidify their case as a playoff contender.

The playoff committee releases its first set of rankings on Tuesday, Oct. 28, but there will be plenty of changes over the next month.

Consider this: There are 16 one-loss teams from the Power 5 conferences. Over the next six weeks, 11 games are scheduled where both teams currently have one loss. And that doesn’t count showdowns between Mississippi State and Alabama and Ole Miss versus Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.

Needless to say, much of college football’s rankings and playoff picture is going to be shaped by what happens in November.

With nine weeks in the books, let’s rank the top 15 one-loss teams heading into the first weekend in November. Keep in mind: These rankings reflect what has happened on the field so far and no projection into future weeks.

Ranking College Football’s One-Loss Teams

1. Ole Miss

Pick a team from the SEC as the No. 1 spot in this list. The case for Alabama is strong, as the Crimson Tide may end up as the best team in the SEC by the end of the year. But that’s a month away, and Ole Miss defeated Alabama 23-17 in Oxford on Oct. 4. The strength of coach Hugh Freeze’s team is a defense allowing just 4.4 yards per play. Linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche was lost for the year due to an ankle injury, but the defense should remain one of the best in the SEC. With an elite defense, Ole Miss doesn’t necessarily need an explosive offense. However, the Rebels need better production from their ground attack (3.9 ypc) and turnover-free play from quarterback Bo Wallace.

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: Auburn (Nov. 1)
Games Remaining Against Undefeated Teams: Mississippi State (Nov. 29)

2. Alabama

As mentioned above, a compelling case can be made the Crimson Tide is college football’s best one-loss team. The Rebels get the nod over Alabama – for now - since they won the head-to-head matchup. Since losing 23-17 to Ole Miss, Alabama has rebounded by winning three games in a row, including a 59-0 blowout over Texas A&M. The Crimson Tide average 218.6 rushing yards per game, and receiver Amari Cooper has grabbed 71 catches for 1,132 yards. And here’s an interesting stat in Lane Kiffin’s first season calling the plays in Tuscaloosa: Alabama’s offense leads the SEC by averaging 6.96 yards per play. As usual in Tuscaloosa, the defense is strong. Alabama is holding opponents to 4.5 yards per play and 14 points per game. Pass defense is the Crimson Tide’s biggest concern, but this team will have a chance to climb in the playoff poll with remaining matchups against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn.

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: Auburn (Nov. 29)
Games Remaining Against Undefeated Teams: Mississippi State (Nov. 15

3. Auburn

Auburn’s ranking here demonstrates just how crowded the SEC West is in 2014. The Tigers rank No. 4 in the latest Associated Press poll, yet rank as the third-best one-loss team. Similar to last season, Auburn is winning games with its offense. The Tigers average 6.91 yards per play and 39.3 points per game. The defense has improved since last year, but there’s plenty of work to do on this side of the ball. Auburn needs better play from its secondary (eight touchdowns allowed in SEC play) and a better pass rush (12 sacks). A daunting schedule is still ahead for the Tigers over the next few weeks, starting with a road trip to Ole Miss this Saturday, followed by a home date against Texas A&M and then road dates at Georgia and Alabama to finish SEC play.

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: at Ole Miss (Nov. 1), at Georgia (Nov. 15), at Alabama (Nov. 29)

4. Oregon

If Oregon is going to reach college football’s playoff, it will have to do so on the strength of its offense. The Ducks lead all Power 5 teams by averaging 7.5 yards per play and average 45.5 points per game. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman, and he’s surrounded by a talented group of weapons, along with an offensive line that has benefitted from the return of tackle Jake Fisher. Defensively, Oregon is allowing 5.7 yards per play and ranks last in the Pac-12 in opponent third-down conversions. The Ducks also rank 10th in the Pac-12 against the run, and opposing quarterbacks are completing 62.8 percent of their passes. The remaining schedule for Oregon features a home date against Stanford this Saturday, followed by a road trip against a dangerous Utah team on Nov. 8.

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: at Utah (Nov. 8)

5. Michigan State

The Spartans are the favorite to win the Big Ten, but their position within the rankings could be determined on where Oregon falls at the end of the year. If the Ducks make the playoff, a one-loss Big Ten champion would have to be in the conversation for a spot among the top four. However, if Oregon stumbles to 9-3 and doesn’t win the North, how would the committee view Michigan State? The Spartans have won six in a row and are on bye before a huge showdown against Ohio State on Nov. 8. Pat Narduzzi’s defense isn’t as dominant as it was in 2013, but Michigan State is averaging 40.8 points per game in Big Ten play.

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: Ohio State (Nov. 8)

6. Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish came up just short in their upset bid against Florida State, but an 11-1 final record would give Brian Kelly’s team a chance to make the four-team playoff. Notre Dame has played six Power 5 opponents this season and still has games remaining against Navy, Arizona State, Northwestern, Louisville and USC. Quarterback Everett Golson’s return has been huge for the offense, and the Fighting Irish are holding opponents to just 19.1 points a game.

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: at Arizona State (Nov. 8)

7. Georgia

The Bulldogs are quietly flying under the radar at 6-1, and coach Mark Richt’s team has the inside track to win the SEC East. Georgia has won its last two games (Arkansas and Missouri) without running back Todd Gurley, but true freshman Nick Chubb has 345 yards and three touchdowns in his absence. Quarterback Hutson Mason has tossed only three picks in SEC play and has been efficient in his last two games (32 of 45). The defense seems to be improving with each snap under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, limiting opponents to 20 points a game and just 4.7 yards per play. Georgia plays rival Florida in Jacksonville this Saturday, with a Nov. 15 home date against Auburn its toughest remaining game this year.

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: Auburn (Nov. 15)

8. Kansas State

The only blemish on K-State’s resume so far this year is a 20-14 loss to Auburn. The Wildcats knocked off Oklahoma in Norman on Oct. 18 and will have a chance to play their way into the playoff conversation with remaining games - all on the road - against TCU, West Virginia and Baylor. Coach Bill Snyder’s team is holding opponents to 19.3 points a game, while the offense is tied for seventh nationally in third-down conversions and has lost only six turnovers. Quarterback Jake Waters has not thrown an interception since Sept. 18.

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: at TCU (Nov. 8), at Baylor (Dec. 6)

9. Baylor

The Bears’ playoff hopes took a hit in Morgantown with a 41-27 loss to West Virginia. But with only one defeat so far, Baylor still has time to play its way back into the playoff discussion. The Bears play at Oklahoma on Nov. 8 and host Kansas State on Dec. 6. The offense is averaging 49 points a game, but the primary concern for coach Art Briles is the line, which has recently lost two starters to season-ending injuries. Baylor also ranks last in the Big 12 in red zone defense.

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: Kansas State (Dec. 6)

10. TCU

Much like the Ole Miss-Alabama debate, we have to give the nod to Baylor over TCU since the Bears won on Oct. 11. However, the Horned Frogs are one of the nation’s most-improved teams and can take a step forward in the Big 12 title hunt with a win over West Virginia this Saturday. Quarterback Trevone Boykin has thrived under first-year coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham, throwing for 21 touchdowns to only three interceptions. As expected under coach Gary Patterson, TCU is strong on defense. The Horned Frogs are allowing only 4.9 yards per play and lead the Big 12 in third-down defense.

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: Kansas State (Nov. 8)

11. Ohio State

Urban Meyer’s team was dealt a significant setback in August, as quarterback Braxton Miller was lost for the year due to a shoulder injury. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett has filled in admirably for Miller, throwing for 1,689 yards and 21 scores while rushing for 458 yards and six touchdowns. Considering Barrett’s development over the last few weeks, the outcome of the Ohio State-Virginia Tech game would likely be much different if it was played in Week 10. Through seven games, the Buckeyes have showed slight improvement on defense, holding opponents to 20.7 points a game and 4.6 yards per play. While there is plenty of optimism about Ohio State, strength of schedule isn’t on its side. The Buckeyes have wins over Navy, Kent State, Cincinnati, Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State – a combined 23-23.

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: at Michigan State (Nov. 8)

12. Arizona

Arizona probably has the best conference win of any Pac-12 team, defeating Oregon 31-24 in Eugene on Oct. 2. But outside of that win, the Wildcats have played a relatively soft schedule and will be tested by a November schedule with trips to UCLA and Utah, along with home games against Washington and Arizona State. Arizona’s offense averages 40.6 points per game behind redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon, but the defense ranks near the bottom of the Pac-12 (No. 8) in points allowed per game in conference play (33.5).

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: at Utah (Nov. 22), Arizona State (Nov. 28)

13. Arizona State

Arizona State has won five of its six games by at least 14 points, with its only loss coming to UCLA (62-27) without quarterback Taylor Kelly. The senior is back in the lineup, and led the Sun Devils to a win over Washington last Saturday, but backup Mike Bercovici is a capable option if Kelly is sidelined again this year. A rebuilt defense was coach Todd Graham’s biggest concern this season. So far, Arizona State's defense has been inconsistent, allowing 62 points to UCLA and 34 to USC but holding Stanford and Washington to just 20 combined points.

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: Utah (Nov. 1), Notre Dame (Nov. 8), at Arizona (Nov. 28)

14. Utah

The Utes are quietly one of the nation’s most-impressive teams through Week 9. Utah’s only loss was a one-point decision to Washington State, and coach Kyle Whittingham’s team is coming off a huge win over USC. The identity of Whittingham’s team is clear this season, as the rushing attack – led by Devontae Booker – ranks third in the Pac-12. The defense ranks second in the Pac-12 by holding opponents to 21.6 points per game and is first in sacks (35).

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: at Arizona State (Nov. 1), Oregon (Nov. 8), Arizona (Nov. 22)

15. Nebraska

The November slate will determine whether or not Nebraska wins the Big Ten West or loses four games for the sixth consecutive season. The Cornhuskers travel to Wisconsin and Iowa - arguably their biggest competition in the West Division - and host Minnesota. Running back Ameer Abdullah is one of the nation’s best, but quarterback Tommy Armstrong is still developing in his first full season as the starter. Nebraska is holding opponents to 20.5 points per game in Big Ten play.

Games Remaining Against One-Loss Teams: None

Ranking College Football's One-Loss Teams After Week 9
Post date: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 15:59
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, SEC, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/can-bruce-pearl-revive-auburn-basketball

Years before Bruce Pearl took the Auburn job, the coach had already secured the approval of the most important face of Tigers basketball.


Pearl was midway through his tenure at Tennessee, and he had the Volunteers humming. The program's return to relevance in the SEC and the national stage was enough to draw the attention of Charles Barkley.


The Hall of Famer and Auburn legend reached out to Pearl and left the coach a voicemail.


“You don’t need to call me back,” Pearl recalls Barkley saying. “I know you don’t know me, but I’ve watched you coach. I like how hard your kids play. I like the swagger. It seems like you’re passionate. I just want to let you know I’m a fan.”


Pearl took this as the ultimate compliment. At the time, when he had Tennessee in the same stratosphere as Florida and Kentucky, Pearl had no way of knowing that this was a sign of his future in coaching.


Still, he followed Barkley’s request and went about his day.


“I did not call him back,” Pearl says. “I saved the message. It was special.”

Pearl and Barkley have crossed paths more often in recent months, since Pearl began a twofold resurrection process — that of his coaching career and that of Barkley’s alma mater.


Three years after he was fired at Tennessee and slapped with an NCAA penalty that essentially made him unhirable in the college ranks, Pearl has returned to the SEC, where he’ll try to accomplish what no one has been able to do for more than a decade. He’s looking to make Auburn relevant in basketball, not just in wins and losses but also to the school’s fan base.


“If anyone can do it, he has what it takes to do it,” says Tom Davis, the former Iowa coach who was the first to give Pearl a job in basketball at Boston College.


Indeed, Auburn has good reason to believe it scored a coup by hiring a coach with Pearl’s track record. Tennessee reached the NCAA Tournament all six seasons under Pearl, three times won at least a share of the SEC title, and advanced to the Elite Eight in 2010. He had opportunities to make the jump to higher-profile programs — Indiana was reportedly interested before hiring Kelvin Sampson — but he found a home in Knoxville. He had no plans to leave Tennessee.


What happened next is well documented. A cookout at his home with high school junior recruits led to a lie to the NCAA, which eventually led to his dismissal at Tennessee. Slapped with a three-year show-cause — which among other things bans a coach from recruiting — Pearl was basically unemployable by any other college.  


Pearl embarked on a broadcasting career at ESPN and SiriusXM and served as a vice president for marketing for a wholesale grocery distribution company in Knoxville. He knew he wanted back on the sidelines but figured his next job would have to wait until the ’15-16 season at the earliest since his show-cause wasn’t scheduled to expire until Aug. 23. What school would hire a coach who couldn’t recruit for the first five months on the job?


How about a school that averaged 4.8 SEC wins in the previous five seasons and hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2003?


Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs fired Tony Barbee, the coach he hired in 2010, hours after the Tigers bowed out of the 2014 SEC Tournament with an 18-point loss to South Carolina. Shortly after, Jacobs began his pursuit of the popular, but potentially toxic, former Tennessee head coach. 


Jacobs admits he had reservations about Pearl before speaking with former Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton among other references. Jacobs then met with Pearl in Bristol, Conn., where Pearl was serving as a college basketball analyst for ESPN.


“He was remorseful and repentant (about his NCAA transgressions),” Jacobs says. “I was as thorough as I had been with anyone because of the history. I was convinced he was the right guy at the right time for Auburn.”


The timing, though, wasn’t perfect.


Rather than using energy to fight and appeal the show-cause, Auburn and Pearl devised plans to navigate the sanctions for the first five months of his tenure as required by the show-cause order. When recruits visited Auburn on official or unofficial visits, Pearl left campus or left town altogether to avoid any possibility of violating his show-cause. Instead of meeting with Pearl, recruits met football coach Gus Malzahn in addition to the Tigers’ assistant basketball coaches.


When Pearl hit the road for speaking or booster engagements, a compliance officer accompanied him in case a prospect would be present. Although he was barred from any contact with recruits or in-person evaluation or prospects, Pearl was not barred from evaluating prospects on film or keeping in contact with his assistants on the recruiting trail. 


When his staff was on the road evaluating prospects, Pearl kept in touch every few days for updates. Pearl brought in Tony Jones, who coached with him dating back to his Milwaukee days, and former Auburn great Chuck Person. Jones served his own show-cause for a year before coaching two seasons at Alcoa (Tenn.) High School outside of Knoxville.


Pearl’s son, Steven, also was listed as a full-time assistant to help in recruiting before moving into an off-court role after the show-cause expired. In other words, Pearl has filled his staff with people who know him and know the terrain of the SEC.


Recruiting limitations, though, didn’t mean Pearl could take the summer off. The NCAA now allows basketball coaches to work with players up to two hours a day and eight hours a week during the summer. Pearl took full advantage of this time.


“Him not being able to recruit doesn’t necessarily lessen his workload,” Jones says. “He’s got a head start on Xs and Os.”


The time away from recruiting also gave Pearl time to do what he does best (aside from coaching) — build enthusiasm for a program.


For all of Auburn’s passion for football, Tiger fans have good reason to be apathetic about the basketball product. Auburn has had nine losing seasons in the last 11 years — quite the feat considering how light non-conference schedules can make even a .500 record attainable for a major-conference program.


Barbee was not able to capitalize on the opening of a new $92 million arena and was fired after an 18–50 SEC record in four seasons.


Attendance dropped nearly seven percent during Barbee’s final season at Auburn, according to Auburn’s average home crowd of 5,823 ranked 13th in the SEC and was the worst since Auburn’s new arena opened in 2010.


“Auburn wanted more than just a guy that blows a whistle in a gym,” Pearl says. “They wanted somebody who would reenergize and educate a fan base about what college basketball can look like.”


Pearl sets lofty goals. He wants to have more home sellouts than 75 percent of the teams in the SEC. Auburn didn’t sell out a home game all of last year and may not be improved on the court in terms of wins and losses. Pearl returns only two players who averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season. He is filling the gaps with two graduate transfers (guards K.C. Ross-Miller from New Mexico State and Antoine Mason from Niagara) and the top junior college prospect in the country (forward Cinmeon Bowers).


The 2015 class, though, is where Pearl will make a major impact. He has four four-star commitments, according to the 247 Composite. The class is ranked 10th nationally and second in the SEC, behind only Texas A&M.


Pearl is essentially selling an experience, selling the up-tempo style of play and aggressive defense, selling the future and selling himself until tangible progress can be made. Jacobs has called him a “one-man marketing machine.” Pearl has visited students on campus, visited classrooms, visited dining halls and assisted with fundraisers.


“I try not to say no,” Pearl says. “I’d say five nights out of seven I’m somewhere visiting.”


That’s what the dean of admissions at Boston College saw when he recommended Pearl to then-coach Tom Davis in the late 1970s for a similar role — drumming up interest in a program.


“It was his ability to coordinate and get people to join him,” Davis says. “He had students painting signs and posters, knocking on dorm room doors, getting fans to dress up in costumes.”


But it’s another trait that may help Pearl rebuild at Auburn. Davis gave Pearl his first full-time coaching job and brought his protege to Iowa as an assistant in the late '80s. After a heated recruiting battle over Deon Thomas, Pearl reported Illinois to the NCAA for violations in 1989. The incident and the stigma of reporting another program likely cost Pearl a shot at more high-profile jobs. He settled for a head-coaching gig at Division II Southern Indiana, where he went 231–46 and won one national title in nine seasons.


“He’s a tough-minded guy,” Davis says. “He’s got mental toughness, which you need to bounce back.”


The reclamation project Pearl is now singularly focused on is the one at Auburn, where he says all the resources are in place for a turnaround.


The arena is new. The facilities are on par with other programs in the league. And while the SEC produced three teams in the Sweet 16 in 2014, the league’s pecking order after Kentucky and Florida is wide open.


“If I don’t get this done, it’s on me,” Pearl says. “It’s not on Auburn.”

Can Bruce Pearl Revive Auburn Basketball?
Post date: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 12:33
All taxonomy terms: SEC, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-sec-predictions-and-awards

Depth is considered the strength of SEC football. Not so in SEC basketball.


Kentucky and Florida are the clear giants in this league while everyone else is just trying to claw their way into that second tier. The Wildcats and Gators finished last season in the Final Four, but Kentucky didn’t look the part of a title contender until the SEC Tournament.


There were signs of the rest of the SEC pulling out of its doldrums, though. Tennessee went 11-7 in the league but advanced from the First Four to the Sweet 16. Arkansas swept the season series with Kentucky, LSU and South Carolina both defeated the Wildcats at home, and Georgia finished 12-6 in the league.


The question is if any of those programs can maintain that momentum. LSU and Arkansas are under pressure to end NCAA Tournament droughts while Tennessee will be in a rebuilding year under first-year coach Donnie Tyndall.


Aside from Kentucky and Florida, though, the main storyline in the SEC may be the return of Bruce Pearl. He’s taking over one of the toughest jobs in the conference at Auburn, and progress is sure to be slow in Year One. But he’s a proven winner in this league. Sooner rather than later, he could have the Tigers in rare position to challenge for an NCAA bid.


Previews of every SEC team and more are available in the 2014-15 Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview.


SEC 2014-15 Preseason Picks


1. Kentucky (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA champion

The return of the Harrison twins and the arrival of another elite recruiting class makes Kentucky the easy choice in the SEC.


2. Florida (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA Elite Eight

Michael Frazier II, Kasey Hill and Chris Walker are the next wave of Gator stars.


3. Arkansas (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA round of 32

There’s no excuse for this Arkansas team not to make the NCAA Tournament. Mike Anderson has the right pieces in place. 


4. LSU (team preview)

Postseason projection: NCAA round of 64

Johnny Jones has stocked his roster with high-level talent; it’s now time to breakthrough with an NCAA Tournament bid.


5. Georgia

Postseason projection: NIT

The Dawgs boast one of the league’s top backcourts but remain very thin on the front line.


6. Texas A&M

Postseason projection: NIT

The Billy Kennedy era has not gone as planned, but the Aggies have a roster that’s could enough to flirt with an NCAA Tournament bid.


7. Ole Miss

Postseason projection: NIT

Sideshow Marshall has moved on — which might not be a bad thing. The Rebels will lean on Jarvis Summers and some quality young bigs.


8. Alabama

Postseason projection: NIT

Guards Levi Randolph and Ricky Tarrant (transfer from Tulane) and forward Shannon Hale form a solid nucleus in Tuscaloosa. 


9. Missouri

Frank Haith bolted for the more secure waters of Tulsa — and left new Mizzou boss Kim Anderson with a rebuilding project.


10. Vanderbilt

Kevin Stallings will surround talented big man Damian Jones with three freshmen on the perimeter. 


11. Tennessee

Donnie Tyndall’s rebuilt roster will be strong on the perimeter but woefully thin in the paint.


12. Auburn

Bruce Pearl’s first Auburn team will feature two of the league’s best scorers — KT Harrell and Niagara transfer Antoine Mason.


13. South Carolina

Sindarius Thornwell is a top-level talent, but the Gamecocks still lack the talent to make a big move in the SEC.


14. Mississippi State

Rick Ray continues to recruit well, but this program is at least a year way from thinking about the postseason. 


2014 SEC Superlatives


Player of the Year: Jordan Mickey, LSU

LSU expects Mickey to take a more active role in the offense with Johnny O’Bryant III gone. He’s already a defensive force, joining Shaquille O’Neal as the only players in LSU’s 100-block club.


Best Defensive Player: Josh Richardson, Tennessee

Richardson will go from being a lockdown defender on a Sweet 16 team to the focal point of the team. He’s the Vols’ only returning starter and the only player who has scored more than 10 points in a league game.


Most Underrated Player: Josh Gray, LSU

Gray won’t be the most highly touted new face in the league or even the most highly touted transfer. But he will be the point guard of a potential NCAA Tournament team. Arriving from Texas Tech via junior college, Gray takes over for Anthony Hickey after averaging 33.8 points per game in JUCO.


Newcomer of the Year: Karl Towns, Kentucky

Kentucky will have a crowd in the frontcourt, but Towns is a likely pick to be a regular. The 6-11 forward is a potential top-five draft pick who can do a little bit of everything.


Top Coach: John Calipari (full SEC coach rankings)


First-Team All-SEC

G Michael Frazier II, Florida

G Charles Mann, Georgia

G Andrew Harrison, Kentucky

F Jordan Mickey, LSU

F Bobby Portis, Arkansas


Second-Team All-SEC

G Aaron Harrison, Kentucky

F Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida

F Chris Walker, Florida

C Karl Towns, Kentucky

C Damian Jones, Vanderbilt


Third-Team All-SEC

G Jarvis Summers, Ole Miss

G Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina

G Josh Richardson, Tennessee

F Jarell Martin, LSU

F Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky

College Basketball 2014-15: SEC Predictions and Awards
Post date: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 11:58