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Path: /college-football/las-vegas-bowl-preview-arizona-state-vs-boise-state
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By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHEN ARIZONA STATE HAS THE BALL:

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHEN BOISE STATE HAS THE BALL:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Teams

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction

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

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

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

Boise State 41, Arizona State 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaser:
<p> The Buckeyes lost nine scholarships over three years and were placed on a one-year bowl ban as a result of a NCAA investigation. What does this mean for the 2012 Big Ten title race?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 15:43
Path: /news/san-francisco-49ers-shine-despite-power-outages-candlestick-park
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Which game would you rather see televised?  The Seattle Seahawks hosting the St. Louis Rams or the Pittsburgh Steelers visiting the San Francisco 49ers?  Let me guess…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaser:
<p> The Pittsburgh Steelers were scared of the dark as the lights went out twice at Candlestick Park last night.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 13:04
Path: /college-football/greatest-non-bcs-offenses
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The BCS is wrapping up its 14th season of action and Athlon Sports is continuing its series of BCS rankings. We ranked the best performances of each BCS bowl game and we ranked the best teams of each BCS conference. Now, we break down the top offensive units of the BCS era (1998-present).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Athlon Sports Ranks the Best Teams in Every BCS League:

The Top 10 Big East Teams of the BCS Era

The Top 10 ACC Teams of the BCS Era

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

Athlon Sports Ranks the Top Performances from each BCS Bowl:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaser:
<p> The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo comes from football royalty.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 10:23
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-waiver-wire-week-16
Body:

It’s Week 16 — fantasy football championship week for most of you, fantasy semifinals for some. Needless to say, if you’ve made it this far, you are biting your nails on which players you might be able to pick up to help get you that final push and either win a title or get to the title game. Surprisingly, there are still some names, albeit not household names, that could get you there.

Here are about 2,500 words on who can help you. Good luck in the playoffs.

QUARTERBACKS
Tim Tebow, Denver
This is just a heads up that Tebow is still available in 28 percent of Yahoo leagues. If you need a starting QB that has scored no lower than 16 points in six-point TD leagues since Week 4 and is going against a Buffalo defense that’s ranked 23rd against fantasy QBs, then Tebow’s your man.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota
He’s had games of 18.2, 10.9, 29.44, 14.34 and 22.54 in his last five outings and gets a Washington Redskins team, that although it held Eli Manning and New York to no passing TDs, are still 18th against fantasy QBs over the last five weeks. Manning managed 257 yards passing with three interceptions. He was the first QB not to throw a TD pass against the Redskins since Matt Moore in Week 10. The four QBs in between Moore and Manning averaged 240 yards, 2.3 scores and .5 interceptions. It’s a deep play, but one that could pay off with Percy Harvin on the other end as a receiver, two capable tight ends and backs that score as pass catchers out of the backfield. Ponder is available in 85 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Matt Moore, Miami
Even with a concussion, Moore threw for 271 yards and two TDs en route to a 19.68-point day against Miami. This week he gets the worst pass defense in the league in the New England Patriots. With Brandon Marshall as the No. 1, Davone Bess roaming around, Anthony Fasano at TE and Reggie Bush out of the backfield, Moore has plenty of option to get to the 17.8 he’s averaged over the last seven weeks, especially against this New England defense. He’s available in 82 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Kyle Orton, Kansas City
In his first start for the Chiefs, Orton completed 23-of-31 passes (74.2 percent) for 299 yards and managed just 11.46 fantasy points. But this week, he gets an Oakland team that is third-worst against fantasy QBs over the last five weeks and has allowed Matthew Stafford (391 yards and four scores), Aaron Rodgers (281 yards and two scores), Matt Moore (162 yards and two scores), Caleb Hanie (254 yards and two scores), Christian Ponder (211 yards and three scores) and Philip Rivers (274 yards and two scores) to have success. The Raiders have also racked up eight interceptions in that time, but the yardage and TDs allowed outweighs that for a QB like Orton that could get you the 16 to 18 points you need to win a title or advance to the Week 17 finals.

John Skelton, Arizona
He’s had fantasy days of 26.78 and 17.22 in his last two weeks in replacing the injured Kevin Kolb, who is still battling his concussion injury. The Cardinals travel to Cincinnati in Week 16 and the Bengals are 20th against fantasy QBs over the last five weeks, two of them being backups in T.J. Yates (300 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) and Kellen Clemens (229 yards and 1 TD). Moral of the story: Skelton has Larry Fitzgerald and you could do worse at QB. Skelton is available in 96 percent of Yahoo leagues.

RUNNING BACKS
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo
He totaled 167 yards — 91 rushing and 76 receiving — and had two touchdowns against the Miami’s third-ranked rush defense. Now the Bills get a Broncos team that has allowed the last three “feature” backs they’ve faced to gain 336 yards rushing and 79 yards receiving on 11 catches but just one touchdown, and just allowed four New England running backs to rush for 123 yards and two score and 44 receiving yards. Spiller is available in 32 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Donald Brown, Indianapolis
Here we go again with Donald Brown. He was already having a decent day against the Titans and then busted off an 80-yard TD run to make it that much better. He finished with 16 carries for 161 yards and the score. It was Brown’s third game in double digits in the last four weeks. This Thursday night, the Colts get the Texans, who were just embarrassed by the Panthers. Houston is still No. 2 in the league against fantasy RBs, but over the last four weeks it has allowed Maurice Jones-Drew to run for 99 yards and get 67 receiving yards, Cedric Benson 91 yards rushing and DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart 104 yards rushing and one TD. Brown is available in 78 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Kahlil Bell, Chicago
In the week we were trying to determine which backup would have the best week — Ricky Williams, John Kuhn or one of the Saints’ trio — it was Bell who killed it. He had 15 carries for 65 yards and 43 yards receiving on five catches with a score. The Bears travel to Green Bay for the lone Sunday game of the week, and if Bell is going to continue to get games of 14 and 20 touches like he’s had the last two weeks then he’s a decent flex play for the second week in a row. He’s available in 92 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Toby Gerhart, Minnesota
Leslie Frazier said in advance of the Week 15 game against New Orleans that Adrian Peterson would be worked back in. His work was just 10 carries for 60 yards and a six-point fantasy day after three weeks off with a high ankle sprain. Gerhart didn’t get much of a workload either, but he scored 19.8 points thanks to two receiving scores, 46 yards on four catches and just 12 rushing yards. This is another desperate flex play for those owners that have been killed at the RB position by injuries or complete lack of performance. Gerhart is available in 55 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Lance Ball, Denver Broncos
Ball’s just a player to keep an eye on. Willis McGahee has been banged up and had to leave Sunday’s game against New England for a time. Ball had 11 caries for 64 yards and a score and added two catches for 41 yards. Keep an eye on McGahee’s status for Week 16 against Buffalo — ranked 29th against fantasy RBs. Ball is available in 88 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Christopher Ivory, New Orleans
It’s hard to know which Saints RB to trust, but in the last three weeks, Ivory has had at least 13 carries and at least 53 yards. He’s gone 15-for-67, 13-for-53 and 18-for-74 to lead the team Sunday against Minnesota. If Mark Ingram (turf toe) continues to be sidelined and you need a flex back because injuries have decimated your lineup, you could do a lot worse than Ivory. The Saints play host to a tough Falcons run defense this week, but Maurice Jones-Drew just managed 92 yards against them in a blowout. Ivory is available in 96 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Sammy Morris, Dallas
Signed off the streets after the season-ending injury to DeMarco Murray last week, Morris got more work than probably expected Saturday against the Buccaneers. He had 12 carries for 53 yards and was targeted twice out of the backfield. The Cowboys are not going to let Felix Jones be the bell cow, so there is work to be had for Morris. So again, this is another desperation play for those dying at RB, but one that could come through with 15 or so touches. He is available in 99 percent of Yahoo leagues.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Demaryius Thomas, Denver
He’s still available in 66 percent of Yahoo leagues probably because of our distrust in Tim Tebow’s arm. But he was going up against one of the worst pass defenses in recent memory in the New England Patriots and came through with seven catches for 116 yards on a team-high 13 targets. That was a week after seven catches for 78 yards and a score against Chicago and two weeks after a four-catch, 144-yard performance against Minnesota. Now the Broncos get a Buffalo team that is ranked 16th against fantasy receivers.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland
The Raider receiving corps can’t seem to all be healthy at once and Heyward-Bey is reaping the benefits. He has had fantasy days of 9.8, 11.3 and 24.5 in the last three weeks and had a four-week run in Weeks 4-7 where he scored no less than 11.2 points. That’s seven days of at least 9.8 points and six of at least 11. That’s a number I would take as a flex considering the injuries and inconsistencies at the position this season. Playing against Kansas City’s two Brandons — Carr and Flowers — and the Chiefs being fourth-best against fantasy WRs does present a problem in Week 16, however. Heyward-Bey is available in 74 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Greg Little, Cleveland
The rookie had the best day of his career in Week 15 when he caught five balls for 131 yards and a score. It was a 21.6-point day and his best by 6.1 points this season. He can thank a 76-yard TD reception in the third quarter for the bulk of his points, but he’s still the most targeted Brown by far (108) this season. The Browns travel to play a Baltimore team this week that was picked apart by Philip Rivers. It’s unlikely the Browns will do that, and a repeat of the 4.3-point performance Little had in Week 13 against the Ravens is much more likely than the 21.6-point effort from Sunday. He is available in 85 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Malcom Floyd, San Diego
A model of inconsistency throughout his career, Floyd has had two 18-point fantasy days sandwiched around a 3.9-point day over the last three weeks. This week, the Chargers travel to play a Detroit team, ranked 23rd against fantasy receivers, that Carson Palmer just threw for 365 yards and a score and overthrew two more long-ball scores against the Lions with the Raiders’ lackluster receiving corps. Floyd is available in 49 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Nate Burleson, Detroit
Here we go again. Is it going to be Burleson or Titus Young as the opposite to Calvin Johnson? It seems to be one or the other every week. Burleson has posted four double-digit days in the last six games, including 17.6 points against the Raiders in Week 15 (7-81-1). But his last four games have been 17.6, 4.1, 11.8 and 7.5. In the two down games, Young had 16.7 and 8.1. The Lions get San Diego in Detroit this week and the Chargers have been solid against receivers, ranking seventh in the league vs. the position this season. Burleson is available in 58 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Andre Roberts, Arizona
A complete reach, but Roberts has had fantasy days of 15.7, 8.8 and 14.1 in the last three weeks, grabbing 16 of 21 targets during that time. He had a season-high 10 targets, catching six balls for 60 yards and a score against a stingy Browns pass defense. Now the Cardinals travel to play a Bengals team that is ranked 15th against fantasy receivers.

Dez Briscoe, Tampa Bay
He got back into the starting lineup in Week 15 because of injury to Arrelious Benn — and should’ve been there all along. He’s caught 26 of 39 targets for 328 yards and four scores this season. One fear is that Carolina is ninth-best against fantasy receivers because its defense against the run is bad. So this could be a LeGarrette Blount-Kregg Lumpkin type of game, but you can’t trust them, either. And it’s not as if the Bucs’ defense will put up much of a fight; so Briscoe might have more opportunities. Briscoe did have a score against the Panthers in Week 13 as five targeted receivers combined for 188 yards and Briscoe’s score.

Jabar Gaffney, Washington
The connection with Rex Grossman continues to be there and Gaffney continues to come through as a good flex. He caught a team-high six balls for 85 yards against the Giants for a 12.5-point fantasy day in Week 15. He has had at least five catches and 72 yards in four of the last five games. This week, the Skins play host to a Vikings team that is ranked 30th against fantasy receivers. Gaffney is available in 46 percent of Yahoo leagues.

David Nelson, Buffalo
In a full-PPR he could be a good play against the Broncos in Week 16. Denver should have no trouble against the bad Buffalo defense, and Steve Johnson should draw Champ Bailey in coverage. Again, only a PPR play, but Nelson caught six balls for 60 yards against Miami in Week 15 and has always been a red zone target for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick this season. He is available in 58 percent of Yahoo leagues.

TIGHT ENDS
Brent Celek, Philadelphia
He had five catches for 156 yards, including a 73-yard catch he took to the 1-yard line. After being invisible the first five weeks, he has scored at or above nine points in six games. Celek gets a Dallas team in Week 16 that is 24th against fantasy TEs. Somehow he’s still available in 63 percent of Yahoo leagues when he should have been scooped up by midseason.

Anthony Fasano, Miami
He’s had three TDs since Week 9, including one in Week 15 against tbe Bills. It was one of just two catches for 28 yards, so the TD helped. The two weeks prior, Fasano had 56 and 66 yards receiving. The Dolphins travel to New England to take on the worst pass defense in the league in Week 16. Fasano is available in 93 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Jared Cook, Tennessee
The epitome of talent gone to waste thus far for the Titans. Cook has reached at least nine points just three times this season and Sunday was one of those games. He caught a season-high nine catches for 103 yards against the Colts. Obviously, you can’t trust him, but if Jake Locker starts for Matt Hasselbeck then there is the old “tight end’s a young QB’s best friend” theory. Tennessee plays host to Jacksonville this week, which is ranked 25th against fantasy tight ends. Cook is available in 74 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Jeremy Shockey, Carolina
Like Fasano, Shockey had just two catches and one went for a score in Week 15. That is back-to-back weeks with touchdowns for Shockey, and now the Panthers play a Tampa Bay team that is middle of the road against the tight end position, but have allowed 77 yards to the position each of the last two weeks. He splits time with Greg Olsen, but if you are desperate for a TD Shockey is available in 94 percent of Yahoo leagues.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> Tim Tebow, Kahlil Bell and Darrius Heyward-Bey lead the way for championship week</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 08:31
Path: /college-football/bcs-greatest-offenses
Body:

-by Braden Gall (follow him @BradenGall)

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

Statistics, awards, championships and NFL talent were all considered and evaluated in order to label the Top 10 offenses of the BCS era. Only teams from BCS conferences were considered and teams from 2011 were not eligible.

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

Others receiving votes: 1998 Ohio State, 1998 Wisconsin, 1999 Georgia Tech, 2000 Florida State, 2001 Florida, 2002 Iowa, 2004 Oklahoma, 2006 West Virginia, 2006 Ohio State, 2007 Florida, 2007 Texas Tech, 2008 Texas Tech, 2008 Missouri, 2010 Oklahoma State

10. Texas Tech Red Raiders, 2003 (8-5, 4-4)
Head Coach: Mike Leach
Rushing Offense: 107.5 ypg (104th)
Passing Offense: 475.3 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 582.8 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 42.5 ppg (4th)
NFL Draft Picks: Carlos Francis (4th, 2004), B.J. Symons (7th, 2004), Dylan Gandy (4th, 2005), Daniel Loper (5th, 2005), E.J. Whitley (7th, 2006), Manuel Ramirez (4th, 2007), Joel Filani (6th, 2007)

Quarterback B.J. Symons led the nation in total offense at a staggering 459.7 yards per game and set an NCAA passing record with 5,833 yards — all with a banged-up knee. And his 52 touchdown passes were second all-time to David Klingler's 54. Wideout Wes Welker (97 rec., 1,099 yards, 9 TDs) finished third in the country with 7.5 receptions per game and tied an NCAA record with a touchdown catch in 47 straight games. Four different receivers finished the year averaging more than 75 yards per game and tailback Taurean Henderson actually led the offense with 16 total touchdowns. Four offensive linemen were drafted off of this squad, along with two receivers — neither of which turned out to be the best player on the team, Mr. Welker. The 2007 edition ranked dead last in rushing while the 2008 edition had arguably the best defense under Leach. This group gets a slight edge over the '08.

9. Florida State Seminoles, 1999 (12-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Bobby Bowden
Rushing Offense: 122.8 ypg (83rd)
Passing Offense: 302.9 ypg (12th)
Total Offense: 425.7 ypg (12th)
Scoring Offense: 37.5 ppg (4th)
NFL Draft Picks: Peter Warrick (1st, 2000), Sebastian Janikowski (1st, 2000), Ron Dugans (3rd, 2000), Laveranues Coles (3rd, 2000), Marvin Minnis (3rd, 2001), Travis Minor (3rd, 2001), Chris Weinke (4th, 2001), Char-ron Dorsey (7th, 2001), Anquan Boldin (2nd, 2003), Brett Williams (4th, 2003), Montae Holland (4th, 2003)

The best team of the BCS era in the ACC gets a slight nod over the 2000 Seminoles for a couple of reasons. While the stats were better in Chris Weinke's Heisman Trophy season, the offense scored zero points in the national title game loss to Oklahoma, and two first-round picks, Peter Warrick and Sebastian Janikowski, had already moved on (not to mention a few other receivers). The undefeated national championship team that topped the dynamic Michael Vick gets the nod after 220 all-purpose yards, three touchdowns and the MVP trophy for Warrick in the 2000 Sugar Bowl. Few teams will ever match the depth and talent of a receiving corps that included Warrick, Ron Dugans, Marvin Minnis, Laveranues Coles and Anquan Boldin. For good measure, toss in Travis Minor, the best kicker in the country and three linemen eventually drafted into the NFL, and you have the No. 9 offense of the BCS era.

8. Oregon Ducks, 2010 (12-1, 9-0)
Head Coach: Chip Kelly
Rushing Offense: 286.2 ypg (4th)
Passing Offense: 244.5 ypg (39th)
Total Offense: 530.9 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 47.0 ppg (1st)
NFL Draft Picks: N/A

One of the most powerful, explosive and fast-paced offenses in league history led the nation in scoring and total offense. It was the highest-scoring team (611 pts) in school history, and it played in its first-ever BCS National Championship game. The offense was led by first-year quarterback Darron Thomas (2,881 yards, 30 TDs, 486 rush yards, 5 TDs) and the nation's leading rusher and scorer in LaMichael James (144.3 ypg, 12.0 ppg). James earned the Doak Walker as the nation's top running back. The talented offensive duo was joined by leading receiver Jeff Maehl (77 rec., 1,076 yards, 12 TDs) and star back-up Kenjon Barner (1,040 all-purpose yards, 9 total TDs). The only blemish on the '10 Ducks resume was obviously the 75 yards rushing and 19 points scored in the BCS title game loss to Auburn.

7. Auburn Tigers, 2010 (14-0, 9-0*)
Head Coach: Gene Chizik
Rushing Offense: 284.8 ypg (5th)
Passing Offense: 214.4 ypg (66th)
Total Offense: 499.2 ypg (7th)
Scoring Offense: 41.2 ppg (7th)
NFL Draft Picks: Cam Newton (1st, 2011), Lee Ziemba (7th, 2011)

Cam Newton was a one-man wrecking crew for Auburn in 2010. His 4,327 yards of total offense (2,854 pass, 1,473 rush) set an SEC single-season record. Newton led this team to a new school record for scoring and finished second in the nation in passing efficiency (180.52). His 20 rushing touchdowns were second all-time only to Tim Tebow in SEC history and his 51 total touchdowns were No. 2 to Tebow as well. The backfield included 1,000-yard rusher Michael Dyer and 800-yard rusher Onterio McCalebb, and the SEC's top blocker, Lee Ziemba, anchored a stellar, veteran offensive line. A set of veteran receivers —Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery — mixed with young talent — Emory Blake, Phlip Lutzenkirchen — gave Newton plenty of talented targets. When the Tigers needed a big play with the game on the line, few players on this list were ever more unstoppable than Cam Newton (maybe only the one near the top, actually). No Auburn team has ever won as many games (14) or scored as many points (577).

6. USC Trojans, 2004 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
Rushing Offense: 177.4 ypg (33rd)
Passing Offense: 271.7 ypg (13th)
Total Offense: 449.1 ypg (12th)
Scoring Offense: 38.2 ppg (6th)
NFL Draft Picks: Matt Cassel (7th, 2005), Matt Leinart (1st, 2006), Reggie Bush (1st, 2006), LenDale White (2nd, 2006), Winston Justice (2nd, 2006), Deuce Lutui (2nd, 2006), Dominique Bryd (4th, 2006), David Kirtman (5th, 2006), Fred Matua (7th, 2006), Dwayne Jarrett (2nd, 2007), Steve Smith (2nd, 2007), Ryan Kalil (2nd, 2007), Sam Baker (1st, 2008), Fred Davis (2nd, 2008), Chilo Rachal (2nd, 2008), John David Booty (5th, 2008), Chauncey Washington (7th, 2008)

While Pete Carroll's outright BCS Natianal Championship team was his most complete team, it was not his most dominant offense. Yet, this group returned largley intact and would be the foundation for what turned out to be his best offense one year later. Since the players were basically the same, this team marched through its schedule with ease, claimed the Heisman Trophy and eventually sent 10 players into the first or second round of the NFL Draft from the offense alone, it had to make the list. Quarterback Matt Leinart, in his second year under center and armed with an embarrasment of skill players, led the Pac-10 in passing efficiency (156.54) and finished with 3,322 yards and 36 total touchdowns (against only six interceptions). He capped his Heisman campaign with 332 yards and a BCS bowl record five touchdown passes in the destruction of unbeaten No. 2 Oklahoma. The two-headed rushing attack of LenDale White (1,108 yards, 15 TDs) and Reggie Bush (1,416 yards from scrimmage, 15 TDs) made it virtually impossible for anyone to stop the 2004 Trojans. Until 2005.

5. Florida Gators, 2008 (13-1, 8-1*)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Rushing Offense: 231.1 ypg (10th)
Passing Offense: 213.9 ypg (61st)
Total Offense: 445.1 ypg (15th)
Scoring Offense: 43.6 ppg (4th)
NFL Draft Picks: Percy Harvin (1st, 2009), Louis Murphy (4th, 2009), Cornelius Ingram (5th, 2009), Tim Tebow (1st, 2010), Aaron Hernandez (3rd, 2010), Riley Cooper (5th, 2010), Maurkice Pouncey (1st, 2010), Mike Pouncey (1st, 2011), Marcus Gilbert (2nd, 2011), Maurice Hurt (7th, 2011)

Tim Tebow had his Heisman Trophy (2007) and a national championship ring (2006), but the most talented, most successful Gator offense was his 2008 squad. The Gainesville idol gave one of the most famous speeches in college football history: “You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.” The Gators then went on to crush quality opponents Arkansas, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State and Alabama by an average of 31.8 points per game. Florida led the SEC in rushing, total offense and scoring while play-maker extradanaire Percy Harvin led the SEC in scoring (8.5 ppg). Tebow led the league in passing efficiency at 172.37. The Chosen One delivered on his promise (and halftime speech) by throwing for 231 yards and two scores while rushing for 109 yards on 22 carries to outlast Oklahoma 24-14 in the BCS Championship game. The 2008 Gators tied the 1996 national champs as the highest-scoring team in school history (611 points). This offense featured five active NFL pass catchers (including undrafted David Nelson), a pair of blocking twins and speed demons Brandon James, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. This team redefined the term "SEC Speed."

4. Oklahoma Sooners, 2008 (12-2, 7-1*)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
Rushing Offense: 198.5 ypg (20th)
Passing Offense: 349.4 ypg (3rd)
Total Offense: 547.9 ypg (3rd)
Scoring Offense: 51.1 ppg (1st)
NFL Draft Picks: Phil Loadholt (1st, 2009), Juaquin Iglesias (3rd, 2009), Duke Robinson (5th, 2009), Manuel Johnson (7th, 2009), Sam Bradford (1st, 2010), Jermaine Gresham (1st, 2010),  Trent Williams (1st, 2010), Brody Eldridge (5th, 2010), DeMarco Murray (3rd, 2011)

The highest-scoring team in NCAA history (716 total points), this Oklahoma team scored no fewer than 35 points prior to the BCS National Championship game against Florida. Quarterback Sam Bradford rewrote the Oklahoma record books on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy. Bradford finished No. 1 in the nation in pass efficiency (180.84) and No. 4 in total offense (340.5 ypg). He set single-season school records for yards (4,270) and touchdown passes (50). This offense led the nation with only 11 turnovers all season and featured a pair of 1,000-yard backs in DeMarco Murray (1,397 yards from scrimmage, 18 total TDs) and Chris Brown (1,329 yards from scrimmage and 21 total TDs). Murray was eighth nationally in all-purpose yards (167.0 ypg), and tight end Jermaine Gresham was the best the country had to offer at tight end (66 rec., 950 yards, 14 TDs). Despite being arguably the most prolific offense of the modern era, the relatively pedestrian 14-point, 364-yard BCS title game performance knocks this Crimson and Cream frieght train off the top spot.

3. Miami Hurricanes, 2001 (12-0, 7-0)
Head Coach: Larry Coker
Rushing Offense: 204.6 ypg (21st)
Passing Offense: 250.2 ypg (35th)
Total Offense: 454.8 ypg (8th)
Scoring Offense: 43.2 ppg (3rd)
NFL Draft Picks: Bryant McKinnie (1st, 2002), Jeremy Shockey (1st, 2002), Clinton Portis (2nd, 2002), Najeh Davenport (4th, 2002), Martin Bibla (4th, 2002), Joaquin Gonzalez (7th, 2002), Daryl Jones (7th, 2002), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Ken Dorsey (7th, 2003), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Carlos Joseph (7th, 2004)

Simply put, this team was loaded and is viewed by many as one of the best ever in college football history. The offensive numbers may not be as staggering as 2008 Oklahoma or 2010 Oregon, for example, but from a talent perspective, it is hard to argue this isn't the most gifted offense ever assembled. Quarterback Ken Dorsey claimed co-Big East Player of the Year honors playing behind five drafted NFL linemen, a backfield featuring Clinton Portis, Frank Gore, Willis McGahee and Najeh Davenport and a receiving corps with Andre Johnson and Jeremy Shockey leading the way. They started things off by going to Happy Valley and dominating Penn State 33-7, which tied the record for the Nittany Lions’ worst home loss under Joe Paterno. Later on, the Canes defeated No. 14 Syracuse and No. 12 Washington in consecutive weeks at the Orange Bowl with a combined score of 124-7, which set the NCAA record for largest margin of victory over consecutive ranked opponents. They capped things off by dismantling the No. 4 Nebraska Cornhuskers 37-14 in the Rose Bowl, in a game in which they held a 34-0 lead in the first half. Miami's average margin of victory in 2001 was 33.2 points per game.

2. Texas Longhorns, 2005 (13-0, 8-0*)
Head Coach: Mack Brown
Rushing Offense: 274.9 ypg (2nd)
Passing Offense: 237.2 ypg (40th)
Total Offense: 512.1 ypg (3rd)
Scoring Offense: 50.2 ppg (1st)
NFL Draft Picks: Vince Young (1st, 2006), David Thomas (3rd, 2006), Jonathan Scott (5th, 2006), Justin Blalock (2nd, 2007), Kasey Studdard (6th, 2007), Limas Sweed (2nd, 2008), Jamaal Charles (3rd, 2008), Tony Hills (4th, 2008), Henry Melton (4th, 2009), Chris Ogbonnaya (7th, 2009)

This team may not be as talented as the 2005 USC team it beat in the Rose Bowl to claim the National Championship but it might have had the single most unstoppable force to ever step onto a football field. Vince Young is the most dynamic player I've ever seen on a college gridiron and the numbers prove it. To get to Pasadena, Texas steamrolled the competition, averaging more than 50 points a game and scoring 60 or more four times. In the second week of the season, Texas became the first non-conference opponent in 15 years to defeat Ohio State in Columbus, and followed that win up about a month later by dominating Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. The Longhorns destroyed Colorado 70-3 in the Big 12 Championship to set up the showdown with No. 1 USC. The Rose Bowl title tilt lived up to every bit of its billing as Vince Young put on the most impressive performance in BCS National Championship history, accounting for 84 percent of Texas’ total offense (467 out of 556 yards), and scored the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds left to capture the Longhorns’ fourth national championship in thrilling fashion. The Horns scored a school-record 50.2 points per game, set a school record for yards in a season (6,657), total yards per game and total touchdowns (55). This team had four players rush for at least 10 touchdowns and featured a backfield of Jamaal Charles, Romance Taylor, Henry Melton, Selvin Young and Chris Ogbonnaya.

1. USC Trojans, 2005 (12-1, 8-0)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
Rushing Offense: 260.0 ypg (6th)
Passing Offense: 319.8 ypg (5th)
Total Offense: 579.8 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 49.1 ppg (2nd)
NFL Draft Picks: Matt Leinart (1st, 2006), Reggie Bush (1st, 2006), LenDale White (2nd, 2006), Winston Justice (2nd, 2006), Deuce Lutui (2nd, 2006), Dominique Bryd (4th, 2006), David Kirtman (5th, 2006), Fred Matua (7th, 2006), Dwayne Jarrett (2nd, 2007), Steve Smith (2nd, 2007), Ryan Kalil (2nd, 2007), Sam Baker (1st, 2008), Fred Davis (2nd, 2008), Chilo Rachal (2nd, 2008), John David Booty (5th, 2008), Chauncey Washington (7th, 2008), Mark Sanchez (1st, 2009), Patrick Turner (3rd, 2009), Charles Brown (2nd, 2010)

The defending BCS National Champs returned largely intact for 2005 and began the season ranked No. 1 in the nation. Do-everything tailback Reggie Bush led the nation in all-purpose yards at 222.3 yards per game and claimed the Heisman Trophy — the second straight for USC (Leinart, 2004). A 513-yard performance and this touchdown run in a shootout win over a ranked Fresno State team likely clinched the stiff-arm trophy for the dynamic running back. After crushing rival UCLA, the Trojans finished the 2005 season having never left the No. 1 line in the polls. They carried a 34-game winning streak into the BCS National Championship game against Texas in what became the first time two Heisman winners ever played in the same backfield. Leinart threw for a title game record 365 yards, but the Trojans defense could not stop Vince Young in what is the greatest game ever played according to this college football writer. This team had 19 players drafted — three QBs, seven OL, four RBs, three WRs and two TEs — off of the offense and was so deep that Mark Sanchez was the third-string quarterback. This team was 19 seconds away from likely becoming the best college football team ever assembled — no matter "how" they were assembled.

2011's Top 5 Offenses:

1. Oklahoma State Cowboys (11-1, 8-1)
Rushing Offense: 170.8 ypg (43rd)
Passing Offense: 386.3 ypg (2nd)
Total Offense: 557.0 ypg (3rd)
Scoring Offense: 49.3 ppg (2nd)
Key Player: Brandon Weeden (4,328 yards, 34 TD)

2. Baylor Bears (9-3, 6-3)
Rushing Offense: 215.1 ypg (18th)
Passing Offense: 356.2 ypg (5th)
Total Offense: 571.3 ypg (2nd)
Scoring Offense: 43.5 ppg (6th)
Key Player: Robert Griffin III (led nation in points 22.8 per game and efficiency 192.3)

3. Wisconsin Badgers (11-2, 8-1*)
Rushing Offense: 237.4 ypg (10th)
Passing Offense: 229.5 ypg (64th)
Total Offense: 466.9 ypg (15th)
Scoring Offense: 44.6 ppg (4th)
Key Player: Montee Ball (led nation with 1,759 yards and 38 TD)

4. Oregon Ducks (11-2, 9-1*)
Rushing Offense: 295.7 ypg (5th)
Passing Offense: 219.5 ypg (68th)
Total Offense: 515.2 ypg (6th)
Scoring Offense: 46.2 ppg (3rd)
Key Player: LaMichael James (led nation at 149.6 ypg)

5. Houston Cougars (12-1, 8-1*)
Rushing Offense: 155.2 ypg (62nd)
Passing Offense: 443.8 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 599.0 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 50.8 ppg (1st)
Key Player: Case Keenum (led nation with 394.2 total offense per game)

Athlon Sports Ranks the Best Teams in Every BCS League:

The Top 10 Big East Teams of the BCS Era

The Top 10 ACC Teams of the BCS Era

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

Athlon Sports Ranks the Top Performances from each BCS Bowl:

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

Teaser:
<p> What are the top offensive BCS teams of the BCS era?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/poinsettia-bowl-tcu-vs-louisiana-tech
Body:

-by Braden Gall (follow at @BradenGall)

Poinsettia Bowl
TCU (10-2) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4)

Date: Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. ET
Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.

TCU and Louisiana Tech will meet for the first time in history when they lock horns in the seventh annual Poinsettia Bowl. This will be the third Poinsettia Bowl appearance for the Horned Frogs, while Louisiana Tech is making its first trip to Qualcomm Stadium. The Mountain West has won five of the six match-ups in San Diego, including the last five —two by TCU (2006, 2008). The Horned Frogs have won five of their last six bowl games, including the 21-19 Rose Bowl Championship last season. This is only Louisiana Tech’s third bowl appearance since 1990 and the school’s sixth overall postseason trip. The Bulldogs are 2-2-1 all-time and won their last postseason appearance over Northern Illinois in the 2008 Independence Bowl.

Both TCU and Louisiana Tech enter the postseason as two of the hottest teams in the nation. Both bring a seven-game winning streak and a conference championship to America’s Finest City. And there should be plenty of fireworks as both teams averaged more than 30 points per game on offense in 2011.

WHEN TCU HAS THE BALL:

Sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall had some huge shoes to fill as the school’s greatest signal caller Andy Dalton departed Ft. Worth for the Cincinnati Bengals last spring. However, the offense barely skipped a beat as Pachall led the nation’s No. 9-rated scoring attack (41.7 ppg). And he saved his best game for the conference-deciding trip to Boise State. The super soph posted a career high 473 yards and five touchdowns in the 36-35 “Mountain West Championship Game.” He finished his first full season as the starter with a tidy 24:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio and ranked No. 7 nationally in passer efficiency (161.87).

Much of the credit for TCU’s offensive success this fall, however, also needs to go to the incredibly deep collection of skill players. The powerful Horned Frogs’ rushing attack featured a trio of 600 yards rushers: Waymon James, Matthew Tucker and Ed Wesley. Each scored at least five times and each carried the ball between 104 and 116 times. Package the talented triple-headed ground game with the emergence of sophomore wideout Josh Boyce and Louisiana Tech will have to slow one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the nation (210.2 yards rushing per game, 233.8 yards passing per game). Boyce is 68 yards shy of becoming the program’s second 1,000-yard receiver.

While the muscle of Gary Patterson’s running game will find a formidable opponent in the shape of the WAC’s top rushing defense, Pachall and the passing game should find it easier to move the ball through the air. Expect Boyce to reach his 1,000-yard plateau as Louisiana Tech has struggled against the pass this season, sporting the 96th-ranked pass defense (252.7 ypg). However, Pachall will need to be extra careful with the ball as the Bulldogs led the WAC and finished third nationally with 20 interceptions — including 11 picks in its last five games.

WHEN LOUISIANA TECH HAS THE BALL:

Through 10 games, Tech tailback Lennon Creer had rushed for 805 yards and nine touchdowns before sustaining an ankle injury in the 27-7 win over Ole Miss. If he is not at 100%, expect a heavy dose of Hunter Lee — who rushed for 26 times for 148 yards and three scores against lowly New Mexico State to cap his freshman season.

With some uncertainty in the backfield, Sonny Dykes has to be pleased with the play of quarterback Colby Cameron. Midway through the season, Dykes benched starter Nick Isham for Cameron and the junior responded with 280.6 yards passing per game, 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions in just five starts (all wins).

The reigning Rose Bowl MVP Tank Carder will be charged with stopping the Dykes offensive attack. While this is not a vintage Patterson defense, Carder and company will still pose a major threat to the Bulldogs. Baylor (aka Robert Griffin III), Boise State (aka Kellen Moore), SMU and BYU are the only teams that managed to score more than 20 points against TCU this season. Cameron will have to overcome what appears to be a sizeable talent differential.

Special Teams

TCU should be able to tip the field with a major advantage on the kickoffs while Louisiana Tech should be able to return the favor in the punting game. The Frogs lead the nation in kickoff returns (28.7 yards per) while Tech ranks 48th. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are eighth in the nation in net punting (40.2 yards per punt) while TCU struggled mightily with the 107th-rated punting game.

Prediction

While Dykes and the Bulldogs have a chance at their first nine-win season since 1997, the talent differential might be too much to overcome. The Frogs are balanced, talented and favored by 13 points for a reason. Tech is the third-largest underdog of the 35 bowl match-ups.

TCU 34, Louisiana Tech 20

Teaser:
<p> Athlon previews the 2011 Poinsettia Bowl: TCU vs. Louisiana Tech.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 06:23
Path: /nfl/tom-bradys-patriots-crush-tim-tebows-broncos
Body:

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
No amount of Tebowing could stop Brady and the Patriots during a 41–23 statement road win over the Broncos. The three-time Super Bowl champ completed 23-of-34 passes for 320 yards, two TDs and zero INTs, while doing his best Tim Tebow impression on a goal line QB sneak TD run. Following Brady’s first rushing score of the season, the Pats’ emotional leader let out a little steam with a powerful spike and primal scream to celebrate the six points.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
Megatron was in top form, with nine catches for 214 yards (23.8 ypc) and two trips to the end zone during a 28–27 victory at Oakland. Johnson’s second TD grab of the day was a six-yard strike that capped a 98-yard drive to give the Lions — who trailed by 13 points in the fourth — the lead with 39 seconds remaining. After a nail-biting finish, in which Ndamukong Suh blocked a potential 65-yard game-winning FG, Detroit earned yet another comeback win.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles
Just when it seemed as if the “Dream Team” had been put to sleep, Philly has stormed back into the playoff picture, with a mathematical shot at the NFC East title with two games left. McCoy had 18 carries for 102 yards and three TDs in a 45–19 rout of the Jets. In the process, “Shady” surpassed Hall of Fame running back Steve Van Buren for the Eagles’ single-season rushing and total TD records. McCoy now has 16 TDs on the ground and 19 total this year.

Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins
The Fins feature back had 25 carries for a career-high 203 yards and a season-long 76-yard TD sprint to paydirt — after which Bush was penalized for excessive celebration for sliding into the snow in the back of the end zone — during a 30–23 win at Buffalo. The effort was Bush’s third straight 100-yard game; the sixth-year back out of USC left New Orleans as a free-agent to sign with Miami, where he has posted a career-high 973 yards and six TDs.

John Abraham, DE, Falcons
Atlanta’s top pass rusher was at his strip-sacking best during a 41–14 blowout of Jacksonville on Thursday night. Abraham recorded five tackles, a season-high 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles of Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who appeared to be in over his head playing against the terrorizing 6'4", 263-pound 12th-year veteran sack artist with four Pro Bowl selections already under his belt.
 

Teaser:
<p> Denver Broncos' Superman Tim Tebow is 5-0 on the road, 2-2 at home and 0-1 against the New England Patriots' three-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady.</p>
Post date: Monday, December 19, 2011 - 22:07
Path: /nfl/chiefs-deny-packers-shot-perfection
Body:

Somewhere, the most annoying former champs in sports, the 1972 Dolphins, are planning their annual toast to their own perfection, their status as the NFL's lone unbeaten champions secure for another year. The latest threat to Mercury Morris' only claim to relevance was derailed by a guy who was chased out of Denver with a 1–4 record. 

That's right — Kyle Orton, the guy the Broncos jettisoned in favor of Tim Tebow, just outdueled the likely MVP. It's a funny game sometimes. 

The Chiefs' 19–14 win over the Packers in Kansas City did more than deny the Pack a shot at perfection. It may have given Romeo Crennel a full-time job. The Chiefs' interim coach brought the perfect gameplan into Arrowhead Stadium, harassing Aaron Rodgers into his first sub-50 percent passing performance in more than a year with an invigorated pass rush and an effective nickel package. How bad did it get? The Packers made only five first downs in the first half and at one point lined up in the Wildcat despite possessing the game's best quarterback. 

"Everybody had marked it off as a win for the Packers, but those guys in the locker room, they're football players," Crennel said. "They decided they were not going to lay down, they were not going to give up, so they went out and played a tremendous game."

Orton was solid in the win, completing 23-of-31 for 299 yards and helming an efficient attack that outgained the Packers 438-to-315 and didn't commit a turnover. 

Afterwards, the Packers said all the right things, talking about the big picture and the greater goals. "I personally always viewed the undefeated season as, really, just gravy," said coach Mike McCarthy. "The goal was to get home-field advantage and win the Super Bowl. That's what we discussed." 

But the game did reveal some alarming vulnerability. Rodgers looked lost at times without top target Greg Jennings, out for a few weeks with an injury. A team that had lost five of six and just fired its coach had its way at times, particularly on defense. 

The road to the Super Bowl just opened up for some grateful NFC teams. The Chiefs provided a defensive blueprint for stopping the unstoppable. 

Elsewhere…
• Yesterday, up was down, black was white, and dogs and cats were seen condo-shopping. While the Packers were losing, the Colts were winning, beating Tennessee 27–13 to improve to 1–13. Elias reports that it was only the third time in NFL history that a team as bad as 0–10 won while a team as good as 10–0 lost. The Colts' clincher came when the Titans forgot to tackle Donald Brown on an 80-yard TD jaunt. The loss was painful for the Titans, but there may be an upside for Tennessee and the rest of the AFC South: Jim Caldwell might have saved his job. To Caldwell's credit, though, his team did show up, while the Titans did not. 

• So Tim Tebow is human. I think we knew that. But some of the rejoicing today is a little unseemly. Does anyone else find it a little unfair to rip Tebow for being outplayed by Tom Brady? So the guy can't beat this generation's Joe Montana. What exactly does that prove? Timmy's detractors are so starved for a little schadenfreude that they're the ones holding him to an impossible standard. Tebow certainly wasn't bad against the Broncos, accounting for 287 total yards and two touchdowns. But Brady was brilliant — 23-of-34, 320 yards, two TD passes and a rushing TD. And the Broncos provided way too much help, turning it over three times in a disastrous second quarter after a blazing start. Here's a fun thought: The Broncos might need a win over Kyle Orton and the Chiefs to clinch the AFC West. Now that'll be must-see TV.

• One week after the world was singing Eli Manning's praises, he dropped a three-interception deuce against the Redskins in a 23–10 loss that dealt a blow to the Giants' playoff hopes. Eli lives in a knee-jerk media fishbowl, but sometimes he just doesn't help himself. The Giants now need assistance in a tight NFC East race, and they’ve let the Dream Team back into the race. That's right — the Eagles, long given up for dead, still have a shot, although it's a longshot.

• While Aaron Rodgers struggled, Drew Brees cruised, climbing closer to Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yardage while also inching closer to Rodgers in the MVP race thanks to a breathtaking performance in New Orleans' 42–20 win over Minnesota. After his 412-yard, five-touchdown masterpiece, Brees is 304 yards away from Marino's record of 5,084 yards, with two games to play. Here's a boutique stat for you: Brees became the first quarterback to throw for more than 400 with five TDs, and complete 80 percent of his passes with no interceptions in a game.

• If the season started in December, the Chargers would win their division every year. The Bolts are riding the crest of another late-season wave, beating the Ravens 34–14 for their third straight win. San Diego is now 20–2 under Norv Turner in December/January games. The guy's come back from the dead more than an army of zombies.

— by Rob Doster

Teaser:
<p> The Packers have only the Super Bowl to look forward to now</p>
Post date: Monday, December 19, 2011 - 11:57
Path: /college-football/noah-spence-tj-yeldon-make-big-recruiting-news
Body:

-by Braden Gall (follow on @AthlonBraden)

Urban Meyer’s impact has already sent shockwaves through the recruiting world. His biggest coup yet came this weekend when the No. 3-rated player in the Athlon Consensus 100 committed to the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt defensive end Noah Spence visited Columbus this weekend for the first time and announced he would be heading to Ohio State. Penn State had been rumored to be his top school, but the hiring of Meyer and the child-sex abuse scandal in Happy Valley pushed the 6-foot-4, 240-pound defensive end to the rival Buckeyes.

Spence had planned to announce his college of choice at the Under Armour All-American game in January. And Ohio State was not even supposed to be in the mix.

Meyer has changed all of that.

On the heels of Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft defensive end Adolphus Washington crediting Meyer directly in his announcement speech, Spence pulled a total shocker by verballing to OSU. Spence and Washington, combined with AC100 talents Canton (Ohio) McKinley end Se’Von Pittman and Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Glenbard West tackle Tommy Schutt, give Ohio State one of the best defensive line hauls in the nation. Schutt was previously committed to Penn State and switched his pledge about a week ago, while Pittman had been committed to Michigan State until last weekend.

Meyer, and Meyer alone, has to be given direct credit for Ohio State's massive surge on the recruiting trail.

Where Spence Ranks:

Rivals: No. 9 player in the nation
Scout: No. 6
ESPN: No. 4
247Sports: No. 15
O-D: No. 5
NCSA: No. 11

Speed, quickness and burst, for a player of his size, is where Spence’s advantage lies currently. He gets up the field with great burst and can get to the quarterback in a hurry. He displays tremendous closing speed and will deliver the big hit when he arrives. Spence may be the best pure pass rusher in this class. He is ideally suited for an outside rush backer in a 3-4 scheme or, with some added bulk, could succeed as a pure end in a 4-3. He has great range, lateral movements and pursuit skills for a player of his size and position. He has a solid collection of pass-rushing skills, but needs to work on refining them.

While his technique should develop, he will need to focus on maintaining his fundamentals at the point of attack against the run. He can be so quick and explosive, that he has a tendency to work around blockers instead of through them. Playing with a consistency is something most young athletes need to focus on and Spence needs to work on delivering more consistent play.

Spence's father, Gregory Spence, played college football at NC State.

T.J. Yeldon Pulls A Yellowhammer Flip-Flop

Star Daphne (Ala.) running back T.J. Yeldon has made the mother of all recruiting flip-flops. The nation’s No. 9-rated running back, and the state of Alabama’s No. 4-rated player in the Athlon Consensus 100 committed to the Auburn Tigers back in June. This weekend, Yeldon announced that he would be enrolling at the University of Alabama in January.

It was yet another huge statement for Nick Saban on the recruiting trail.

Yeldon is an elite recruit with the ability to contribute as a freshman in 2012 — a major factor considering that both Trent Richardson and possibly Michael Dyer won’t be playing in the SEC next year, leaving a large void on both rosters. Landing a star tailback is one thing, but taking him directly off the roster of your biggest rival is a totally different story all together. Next fall will be a very important season for Gene Chizik, and losing Yeldon certainly doesn’t help.

Yeldon, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound tailback, is one of the more complete overall athletes in this class. He possesses solid top end speed and adequate acceleration. He has a tall frame that has plenty of length and room to grow — particularly to add bulk/power to his lower body. He shows good vision and balance as his slashing running style allows him to slice through small creases in the defense. He has excellent hands and is such an above average receiver that he could easily end up at wideout — considering his tallish, lean frame.

His stock has been consistently rising over the last five months. Mostly due to his monster senior season in which he carried 231 times for 2,196 yards and 32 touchdowns this fall.

Rivals.com thinks the most of Yeldon, offering up the coveted fifth star for the future Crimson Tider. 247Sports seems to agree. But Offense-Defense does not have the talented tailback ranked in their Top 150.

Where Yeldon ranks:

Rivals: No. 24
Scout: No. 76
ESPN: No. 91
247Sports: No. 26
O-D: unranked
NCSA: No. 117

Teaser:
<p> Noah Spence, T.J. Yeldon Make Big Recruiting News</p>
Post date: Monday, December 19, 2011 - 10:08
All taxonomy terms: Funny, Kim Jong-Il, North Korea, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/kim-jong-ils-notable-sports-achievements
Body:

North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il died over the weekend, due to complications of a stroke he suffered back in 2008. And while he was a ruthless dictator who murdered untold numbers of people (most of whom were his own), he was also one of the greatest athletes to ever walk the face of this earth.

According to his own biography, he was such a great golfer, that he managed to get 11 holes-in-ones on his way to carding a 38-under par on the VERY FIRST round of golf he ever played. Could Tiger Woods do that? I don't think so. (His biography also said he didn't defecate, but we'll leave that tidbit of info for a later piece.) Also, he managed to bowl a perfect 300 in his very first attempt at bowling. The man was an artist in any sport he tried.

And while other news outlets can debate what his death means to North Korea, whether his son Kim Jong-Un will succeed him and whether the North Korean people can rise up and take their country back, we're going to focus on his sporting life.

So, to remember this skilled superjock, here are a few of Kim Jong Il's other notable sports feats:

--Won every gold, silver and bronze in every event of North Korean Summer and Winter Olympics (still a North Korean record.) 

--The Supreme Leader's Announcement that he was "Taking his talents to Pyongyang" still most watched show in history ot ESPNK.

--During his first-ever game of H-O-R-S-E, he dunked a basketball so hard it scared the AIDS out of Magic Johnson.

--Once hit a bunt walk-off grand slam...when he wasn't even playing baseball.

--Currently in possession of every hat in North Korea because of the one time he played hockey.

--Once gave Derek Jeter an autographed baseball after a one-night stand.

--Outdid Evel Knievel by jumping the Grand Canyon. With his legs.

--Wrote "One Shining Moment." Also with his legs.

--Scored World Cup-winning goal with an epic bicycle kick. Without his legs.

--First man to ever run the 4-second mile.

--Was the guy who drilled Santa Claus with the battery at that Eagles game a few years ago.

--Has never had to attempt a second serve.

--Body-slammed Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and King Kong Body simultaneously to win WrestleMania IV.

--The "NBA Jams" video game is a digital documentary of King Jon-Il's real life basketball skills.

--Was inspiration for Sylvester Stallone's character in "Over the Top"

--Taught Tim Tebow everything he knows

Teaser:
<p> North Korea's Supreme leader died over the weekend, and we lost one of the greatest athletes of all time</p>
Post date: Monday, December 19, 2011 - 09:16
Path: /college-football/beef-o-bradys-st-petersburg-preview-marshall-vs-fiu
Body:

by Mark Ross

Beef O’Brady’s Bowl
Florida International (8-4) vs. Marshall (6-6)
Date: Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. ET
Location: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.

So what happens when a Golden Panther meets up with a Thundering Herd? That’s what we will find out come Dec. 20 when Florida International (FIU) and Marshall meet for the first time ever on the football field in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. This is the second straight bowl appearance for Florida International, whose football program started in 2002, while it represents Marshall’s first bowl since 2009.

Fifth-year head coach Mario Cristobal has already led this Panthers team to a school-record eight wins and is looking for second straight bowl win to cap the season. On the other side, second-year head coach Doc Holliday had to rally his Herd to win their last two games just to become bowl eligible, including the crucial sixth win in overtime against East Carolina.

Both teams went 5-3 in their respective conferences, FIU in the Sun Belt and Marshall in Conference USA, so the difference in their overall record comes down to non-conference games.

FIU defeated Louisville, who is playing in the Belk Bowl, with its other non-conference opponents being UCF (win), Duke (loss) and Akron (win). Those last three combined for an overall record of 9-27.

Marshall’s non-conference slate featured four bowl teams, including two headed to BCS bowls. The Herd, like the Golden Panthers defeated Louisville, but lost to Virginia Tech (Sugar Bowl), West Virginia (Orange) and Ohio (Idaho Potato).

Taking a closer look at their games against Louisville, Marshall had more total yards of offense against the Cardinals (353 to 293) compared to the Golden Panthers and the Herd surrendered considerably less on defense (281 to 363).

The difference in FIU’s 24-17 win over Louisville was a first-quarter interception returned for a touchdown and two long touchdown passes, while Marshall scored a touchdown with less than two minutes left in the game to earn a 17-13 victory over the Cardinals. Will the Louisville game serve as a sign of what to expect on Dec. 20?

WHEN FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL HAS THE BALL:

The Golden Panthers’ offense enters the bowl game on a roll, averaging 33.3 points per game during their current three-game winning streak. Prior to that, they were averaging 23.8 points per game.

FIU runs a balanced offensive attack that’s directed by senior quarterback Wesley Carroll. Carroll has 14 touchdown passes and just four interceptions this season. He has done a much better job of taking care of the ball this season, compared to his junior year when he threw 16 interceptions.

FIU’s primary playmaker is wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. Hilton is the school’s all-time leader in receptions (221), receiving yards (3,443), touchdowns (24) and total touchdowns (36), as the senior is also a dangerous return specialist. Hilton finished second in the Sun Belt in both receiving yards (950) and all-purpose yards (145.8 ypg) this season.

On the ground, the Panthers have turned to Kedrick Rhodes as their main ball carrier. Rhodes rushed for more than 1,100 yards this season and his 93.4 yards per game ranked him third in the Sun Belt. He and Hilton were tied for the team lead with eight touchdowns.

FIU should be able to move the ball against Marshall’s defense, but needs to be wary of standout defensive lineman Vinny Curry, Conference USA’s Defensive Player of the Year. Curry was second in the nation in tackles for loss (1.8 per game) and sixth in sacks (11 in 12 games). The Panthers’ offensive line has done a good job of protecting the quarterback this season, ranking 17th in the nation in sacks allowed (1.1 per game).

Marshall, coming from Conference USA, is no stranger to defending potent offensives, having already faced the likes of Houston, Southern Miss and Tulsa, all ranked in the top 25 in the country in total offense, this season. FIU’s offensive capability simply doesn’t match up with these teams, so it will be interesting to see if the Golden Panthers can take advantage of a defense that has allowed more than 400 yards and 30 points per game on the season.

WHEN MARSHALL HAS THE BALL:

Unlike FIU, Marshall is considerably less experienced under center with freshman quarterback Rakeem Cato running the offense. Cato has started a total of eight games this season, including the last two that Marshall won to become bowl eligible.

Cato resumed the starting role after sophomore A.J. Graham went down with a season-ending shoulder injury. On top of that, current back up freshman Blake Frohnapfel underwent a procedure on his shoulder in late November, putting his status for this game up in the air. With Graham done for the season and Frohnhapfel questionable, Marshall’s quarterback depth pretty much starts and ends with Cato.

Cato is coming off his best game of the season, completing 23 of 29 passes for 341 yards and two touchdowns in the overtime win over East Carolina. For the season, Cato has completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,833 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Marshall’s top rushers, Tron Martinez and Travon Van, are also young, with Martinez a sophomore and Van a redshirt freshman. The duo has basically split the carries and combined have rushed for 1,120 yards on 276 carries (4.1 ypc) with six touchdowns.

As a team, Marshall gained an average of 123.1 yards per game on the ground, whereas FIU surrendered 120.9, which ranked them 23rd in the nation in rushing defense. If the Herd can’t run the ball against the Panthers defense, it will put even more pressure on Cato and the passing game. 

Marshall’s top threat in the passing game is junior wide receiver Aaron Dobson, whose 10 touchdown receptions put him third in Conference USA. In order for Dobson to have a chance to add to his touchdown total Marshall’s offensive line will need to protect Cato from FIU’s pass rush, which ranks 14th in the nation in sacks with 34 (2.8 per game) coming into the bowl game.

Special Teams

The Golden Panthers have a significant advantage when it comes to special teams thanks to the aforementioned Hilton, who is third in the nation in kickoff returns with 32.0 yard per return average. He’s also returned a punt for a touchdown and as team, FIU ranks first in the nation in punt returns (15.9 yards per return) and sixth in kickoff returns (26.3 ypr). Contrast that to Marshall, which comes into this game ranked 64 in the nation in punt return yardage defense and 82nd in kickoff returns.

Both kickers are fairly accurate with FIU’s Jack Griffin having almost twice as many field goal attempts (21 of 25) compared to his counterpart, Marshall’s Tyler Warner (10 of 13).

Prediction

Although they are from the Sun Belt, FIU should not be taken lightly. The Golden Panthers’ three losses in conference were all to winning teams, two of which earned bowl bids, and outside of an 18-point loss to Sun Belt champion Arkansas State, their other three total losses were by a combined nine points.

FIU’s defense comes into the game ranked 33rd in the nation in total defense, giving up 347.6 yards and allowing less than 20 points per game, and also does a good job of getting pressure on the quarterback. The Panthers’ offense is balanced and their return units are among the best in nation.

Marshall’s offense is among the least productive in the nation, averaging 335.3 yards per game and 22 points per game. The defense is steady against the run, but susceptible to the pass and needs the offense to sustain drives so it can stay fresh.

Marshall needs to keep this game close, as that has been its winning formula this season. Five of its six wins have been by seven points or less, while the Herd’s average margin of defeat in their six losses has been 27.5 points per game.

On paper, it looks like Marshall will have trouble moving the ball against FIU’s defense and the Panthers’ offense should be able to chip away and at some point take advantage of a defensive breakdown by the Herd. The Panthers’ special teams prowess will put even more pressure on the Herd and a big kick return will help FIU pull away in the second half.

Florida International 27, Marshall 17

Teaser:
<p> Athlon previews the 2011 St. Petersburg Bowl: Marshall vs. FIU</p>
Post date: Monday, December 19, 2011 - 06:40
Path: /news/jonathan-joseph-means-bad-news-panthers-steve-smith-week-15
Body:

It’s the semifinals of most fantasy football leagues and you have a dynamic receiver in the Carolina Panthers’ Steve Smith going against the Houston Texans in Week 15. But he and you could not have drawn a worse matchup.

Smith will likely draw Johnathan Joseph in coverage. One of the league’s top corners, Joseph hasn’t allowed a TD since Week 9 and has allowed just two all year, according to Pro Football Focus. He has only given up 34 yards or more once since Week 6 and that came last week against the Bengals and 6-4 rookie A.J. Green who had five catches for 59 yards— 36 yards coming on one play. The 36-yarder is the longest play Joseph has allowed since Week 6.

So in starting Smith you have to hope the Panthers will be moving him all over the field, letting him find seams and empty pockets with which to catch the ball and go to work. But just two TDs allowed by Joseph all season and just one game above 67 yards allowed by Joseph all season certainly has to be a scary proposition to think about when you shift Smith into your starting lineup.

Smith, who was quiet last year with the terrible QB play the Panthers had, came out like gangbusters in 2011. He had a 33.8-point game right out of the gate and followed with 16.2 before a 2.5 dud in Week 3. He bounced back in Week 4 with 22.10 points, followed by 15.4, 9.1 18.4 and 20.7 by Week 8. Seven of his first eight games he scored at least 9.1 points and six of his first eight he scored at least 15.4 — you couldn’t ask for much more from a mid-to-late-round pick by most drafters.

But then the inconsistent fantasy days followed more often than not. Week10, coming off a bye, was 5.8 points, followed by 15.1, 9.2, 4.2 and last week’s 15.5.

In the last two wins, Smith has not been a good play; in the last two losses he has scored at least 15 points. Herein lies the problem. It’s safe to say the visiting Panthers are going to get gashed by Houston RBs Arian Foster and Ben Tate and be down in this game from the jump. So the trend of Smith scoring well when the team is losing could continue.

However, the Texans have won seven in a row by an average of 15 points per game and the hopes of Smith racking up points as part of a trailing team could be shutdown by Joseph, who over those last seven games has allowed 17 catches, for 192 yards and one TD — 2.4 catches, 27.4 yards and .14 TDs per game for an average of 4.78 fantasy points in Athlon’s half-PPR format.

So you take Smith’s inconsistencies versus Joesph’s consistency and I’m shying away from the veteran receiver in Week 15.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> Carolina's top receiver has a tough match up in Jonathan Joseph</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 09:37
Path: /news/if-lions-rb-kevin-smith-active-hell-run-through-raiders
Body:

If Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith is active, you play him against the Oakland Raiders in Week 15.

It’s as simple as this. You saw what Ryan Grant did last week against the Raiders right? He came out of nowhere, and busted off a 47-yard TD run in the first three minutes that no one thought he could still do and finished with 85 yards and two scores on the day.

Smith aggravated a high ankle sprain in Week 13 and had an exit that frustrated many owners in what would have been a good matchup against the New Orleans Saints. He sat out last week’s game against Minnesota and has been limited in practice this week while he deals with the injury.

The running back situation is such that it’s hard to be wrong because there aren’t that many healthy ones left to have to make a decision. But in weeks like this where Rashard Mendenhall, Frank Gore have matchups that barely make them worth plays; Adrian Peterson is coming back from a three-game layoff due to a high ankle injury of his own and Michael Turner, Maurice Jones-Drew, LeGarrette Blount and Felix Jones have already played, with a matchup that’s easy on paper, it would certainly be nice to have Smith in the fold.

The Raiders are ranked 28th this season against fantasy running backs and are 21st the last three weeks. Since Week 9, Oakland has allowed Willis McGahee to run for 163 yards and two scores on 20 carries, Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews to combine for 130 total yards, Matt Forte and Matt Forte and Marion to combine for 147 total yards, Reggie Bush 100 yards rushing and a score and Ryan Grant and John Kuhn 144 total yards and two scores. They were also the benefactors of Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte having to exit early due to injuries against them.

Detroit hasn’t been the model team when it comes to running the ball this season — it ranks 24th in rushing at 100.5 per game and is ranked 21st with just eight rushing TDs from its running backs — but if Smith is active he will be a good workhorse to help control a game the Lions should be in control of as the Raiders are reeling as of late.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> Detroit's running back has a nice match up, if he can get on the field</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 09:34
Path: /news/continue-ride-hot-redskins-rookie-rb-roy-helu
Body:

He continues to get it done since coach Mike Shanahan made the correct call and decided to let the rookie be the main ball carrier in Washington. Now he gets a Giants defense that has been more than friendly over the past few weeks to not only running backs but wide receivers as well.

Good news for Helu owners, he can be both for you.

Helu has 73 carries for 334 yards and 13 receptions and 102 yards over the last three weeks. That’s an average of 24.3 carries for 111.3 yards to go with 4.3 catches for 34.0 yards and two TD in just the last three weeks.

Yes, please.

And that’s before you’ve seen the numbers the Gitans have allowed the last five weeks.

The Giants have allowed Felix Jones to come off the bench and get 106 yards rushing on 16 carries and 31 yards on six catches last week. They allowed Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles to combine for 163 yards rushing on 29 carries and seven catches for 89 yards and two scores in Week 12; they allowed LeSean McCoy to rush for 113 yards on 23 carries and add a non-McCoy like two yards on three catches in Week 11.

All told, since Week 10, the Giants have allowed 558 yards rushing on 115 carries (4.9 YPC) and 25 catches for 196 yards and three total touchdowns. They aren’t giving up much via the end zone, but they sure are letting backs run up and down the field en route to the goal line.

In addition to the terrible run defense, the Giants pass defense is ranked 29th and has allowed more TDs and less interceptions than the Patriots (24-15 to 21-18). So the Redskins might actually be able to stay in this one to keep Helu relevant as a pure runner.

The hope of course is that Shanahan does not come and screw us Helu owners in our semifinal weeks, but this looks to be showcase time for the 4-9 Redskins and there’s no better player on the team to showcase right now than Roy Helu.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> Helu should continue to put up big fantasy numbers in Week 15</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 09:28
All taxonomy terms: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, News
Path: /news/chargers-philip-rivers-just-edge-qb1-status-against-ravens
Body:

Numbers can certainly be skewed when it comes to who has done what against whom in recent weeks in the NFL. Safe to say this is what we are dealing with when it comes to looking at San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers as QB1 against Baltimore in Week 15.

The Ravens No. 1 against fantasy QBs this season and are ranked third against them over the last five weeks, but have faced the likes of Dan Orlovsky, Colt McCoy, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton and Tarvaris Jackson.

However, it is not just the below-average QBs the Ravens have been able to give trouble.

They have had five games against veteran, fantasy-start worthy QBs this season — Ben Roethlisberger twice, Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Sanchez and Matt Schaub — and those five averaged 261.4 yards per game with four total TDs and six interceptions for an average of just 12.9 fantasy points per game amongst them.

So the numbers say the yards are there to be had for veteran QBs, but the TDs will be limited to one per game and all of the veterans were intercepted at least once.

This is where the problem lies when it comes to starting Rivers. After a struggling start to the season — 11 TDs, 14 interceptions and three lost fumbles over the first nine games — he is now more protective of the ball in the air. He has thrown 11 TDs to three INTs over the last five games and no picks in the last three games; he does have two lost fumbles in the last five games.

The yardage has always been there for Rivers this season. Only twice has he dipped below 240 yards. He has five games above 16 points in his last six outings. But can he survive behind his offensive line’s struggles going against this defense for long enough to have the good outweigh the bad?

It is unlikely the Chargers’ ground game will get going against the No. 2-ranked rush defense. So Rivers will have to have success through the air. Rivers has Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and rookie Vincent Brown at his disposal. The only troublesome trio Baltimore has had to face this season is that of the Steelers twice (280 and 330 yards in the two meetings). Rivers also has tight end Antonio Gates, who is unlike any other the Ravens have had to face this year, and he gives the Chargers four targets with which to work in addition to Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews as pass catchers out of the backfield.

In three games vs. Baltimore, Rivers averages 276.7 yards passing with six TDs and three interceptions. The Week 15 game is in San Diego, on national television and Rivers is throwing for 285 yards per game with 13 TDs and eight interceptions in seven home games this season — six of which came in the first nine weeks of the season.

And there’s Rivers’ December numbers over his career — 25 games, 22 wins, 5,754 yards, 46 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for a 102.0 QB rating.

Rivers is not a top-12 QB for me this week, because I don’t trust his offensive line to keep him upright, but I would still start him ahead of his opponent Joe Flacco as well as Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> Rivers needs to shake off his rust against the top-flight Ravens</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 09:28
All taxonomy terms: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers, News
Path: /news/antonio-brown-will-shine-steelers-49ers-defensive-struggle
Body:

Something’s got to give when the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to San Francisco for a Week 15 Monday night game. And Antonio Brown might be the one to help blow it open for the Steelers.

The San Francisco 49ers have the No. 1 rushing defense in the league at 70.5 yards allowed per game and no touchdowns surrendered. No back has eclipsed 64 yards rushing this season. But they also bring just the 19th-ranked passing defense that allows 234.5 yards per game with 18 touchdowns allowed and 18 interceptions. The Steelers are ranked sixth against the run (97.0 YPG) with six TDs allowed and No. 1 against the pass (179.1 YPG).

San Francisco brings the seventh-ranked rushing offense (126.9 YPG) and 29th-ranked passing offense (182.1 YPG). Pittsburgh brings the ninth-ranked passing offense (257.1 YPG) with 21 TDs and 11 interceptions and the 17th-ranked rushing offense (114.5 YPG).

Advantage: Steelers passing game.

However there are two BIG question marks heading into the game. First, whether Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) will start and secondly, whether he will have enough time to be productive behind a beat up offensive line. Center Maurkice Pouncey has already been declared out. The 49ers are ranked 14th in the league with 32 sacks.

So let’s assume the 17th-ranked run game of the Steelers is shut down by the top-ranked run defense of the 49ers as we all expect and Pittsburgh will be able to have success through the air. If it’s Roethlisberger, the deep ball can still be there, if it’s Charlie Batch in for Big Ben, then Brown can still be productive as the receiver that can catch passes all over the field.

In PPR leagues, Brown should thrive. And in non-PPR leagues, he showed that if you wait he will pay off — see his 79-yard TD catch in the closing minutes to help the Steelers beat the Browns two Thursdays ago.

Brown has been targeted 24 times in the last four weeks for 16 catches, 385 yards and one score. That’s just the last month, In the three games before that, Brown was targeted 35 times — 35 TIMES — for 21 catches, 278 yards and a score.

Since Week 10, the 49ers have allowed four receivers to eclipsed 60 yards — Mario Manningham (6-77-1), Victor Cruz (6-84-0), Anquan Boldin (4-63-0) and Larry Fitzgerald (7-149-1) and have given up six total touchdowns to receivers in those five weeks.

You hope that Big Ben can play and be mobile enough to keep his solid connection going with Brown, but even if it’s Batch it is hard to sit a top-12 fantasy receiver over the last four weeks, on a team that is ninth in passing, going against a 49ers team that gives up the pass and will struggle to find any offense — ground or air.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> The emerging Steelers wide receiver should break through against San Fran</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 09:24
Path: /news/you-have-sit-ben-roethlisberger-against-49ers-monday-night
Body:

First off, this is written Sunday morning before the Week 15 early games kick off. With that in mind, and knowing you have to set your lineup here in the next couple of hours, can you honestly take the chance that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may not play Monday night in San Francisco?

This is the semifinals. This is the quarterback position we are talking about. That’s a big position to leave up to hope for more than 24 hours after the rest of your lineup has finished their games.

Roethlisberger suffered a high ankle sprain against the Cleveland Browns two Thursdays ago but managed to get himself back in the game after halftime, limp around in the pocket and be productive. Eventually, he found Antonio Brown for the game-winning 79-yard touchdown pass down the sidelines in the closing minutes.

Eleven days removed from that injury and one cross-country flight later, we are all hoping that Roethlisberger can play because we know the Steelers aren’t going to be able to run against the 49ers’ top-ranked rushing defense (70.5 yards per game) that has allowed no rushing touchdowns. So we would like to feel confident that Big Ben will be out there to make other fantasy stars we count on valuable in the semifinals — namely receivers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown.

I think the 49ers’ 19th-ranked pass defense that allows 234.5 yards per game will still be vulnerable with Charlie Batch as the Steelers’ signal caller, so Wallace and Brown should be safe starts. Pittsburgh has the ninth-ranked passing offense in the league at 257.1 yards per game with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The 49ers, in addition to being ranked 19th against the pass have allowed 18 TDs with 18 interceptions.

But it all seems tied in to the health of Roethlisberger.

He sat out three practices before participating Friday, something the coaches said they wanted to see him do before they made a decision on his status. Roethlisberger has certainly proven his toughness over the years, even in coming back into the Cleveland game in which he suffered the latest injury. Can he backpedal enough to get out of the way of the pass rush that is certain to come from the 49ers’ defensive line — one that won’t have to deal with center Maurkice Pouncey now that he’s already been declared out? Can he step into his throws to make accurate connections with Wallace and Brown?

There are just too many question marks surrounding Roethlisberger for me to wait until Monday night to see if he can go. And if he does go, will he be able to make it through the entire game as an effective QB?

Unless you want to pick up San Francisco’s Alex Smith now and wait if you have no other options, then might I suggest Christian Ponder, Rex Grossman, Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton or even Kyle Orton to get garbage-time production against the Packers.

And if you do go the Smith route, keep in mind he faces the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense and its sixth-ranked rush defense. Good luck.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> You can't take a chance that the Steelers quarterback will sit out</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 09:10
All taxonomy terms: New York Jets, Shonn Greene, News
Path: /news/can-shonn-greene-keep-it-going-against-eagles
Body:

Oh, Shonn Greene are you teasing us or is this for real?

The New York Jets’ running back has certainly paid off for those of us who waited all season for him to do just that. He has three straight double-digit weeks for the first time this season and now faces a Philadephia Eagles defense that is ranked 18th against the run at 115.1 yards per game. However, the Eagles have given up the eighth-most rushing yards to RBs the last three weeks (355).

Greene had 10.5 points against Buffalo in Week 12, busted off his season high of 30.9 points in Week 13 against Washington and came back with 26.2 points against Kansas City last week. And this is with QB Mark Sanchez having three rushing touchdowns the last five weeks. It has helped that Greene has added nine catches for 96 yards — 14.1 points in Athlon’s half-PPR scoring fotmat — to help counter Sanchez vulturing those scores.

But is this a mirage or can we start Greene in the semifinals of our fantasy football playoffs?

Well, the Jets are facing Michael Vick and a still high-powered yet inefficient Eagles offense, Run the ball, control the clock and keep Vick off the field. Greene can certainly help the Jets do that.

New York allowed Reggie Bush to run for 103 yards n 14 carries and get five catches for 27 yards last week in Miami. A week earlier, Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch gashed the Jets for 148 yards and two scores on 22 carries. Lynch and Bush are two of six runners to gain over 100 yards against the Jets and two of eight to get at least 86.

Greene needs to get in the end zone to make it a successful day, and he has done that four times in the last three games after having done it just twice in the previous 11 games. He has games of 78, 88 and 129 yards rushing the last three games after having just two games above 78 in the previous 11. He has three games of three catches in a row after having just one game of over three catches in the previous 11.

So it has either clicked for Greene or he is peaking at just the right time. Whatever it is, the combination of his recent performances and that of the Eagles against opposing running backs makes Greene a solid start in Week 15.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> The Jets running back might finally be living up to expectations</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 09:09
Path: /news/rashard-mendenhall-not-even-flex-play-against-49ers
Body:

This is not what you like to write about a player you helped project as a top-10 fantasy pick in Athlon Sports’ 2011 fantasy football magazine, but Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall can’t even be considered a Flex1 against the San Francisco 49ers Monday night.

I’d love to say the factors are the beat up offensive line, or that Charlie Batch may have to start in place of Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback or it’s just because the San Francisco rush defense is just too good to waste your time. All those are certainly factor, but in regards to how a true first-round back should perform, Mendenhall hasn’t really been worth an RB1 or RB2 slot all season — and he’s one of the few workhorse backs left.

Mendenhall has had just one game over 100 yards — a 23-for-146 effort against Jacksonville in Week 6 — and all the other games have been 76 yards or less, including eight at 60 or less. He has banged out the occasional two-TD game — Weeks 10 and 13 to help offset rushing days of 60 and 44 yards in those two contests — but otherwise has gone six games without a score. And as a pass-catcher, forget it. He had at least had 23 or more catches the last two years; this year he has just 13.

So that’s just the 13 games leading up to the matchup against the 49ers. The resurgent team from San Francisco is tops in the league in rushing defense and have basically made starting a player against it a waste of a roster spot.

The 49ers allow just 70.5 yards per game and have not surrendered a touchdown. No back has eclipsed 64 yards rushing this season; so at least Mendenhall will feel comfortable that he’s right at home with these numbers.

Like Frank Gore on the 49ers’ side, who also is just barely a flex going against the Steelers’ sixth-ranked rushing defense (97.0 YPG) that has allowed just six TDs this season and only two to running backs since Week 5, Mendenhall would probably need a turnover deep in San Francisco territory or a trip inside the 5 to have a legitimate chance at scoring a TD.

One thing going for Mendenhall is that he has five scores in the last five games — none coming beyond 10 yards. So he is clearly the go-to guy around the goal line. The Steelers can get down there with their passing offense going against the 49ers’ 19th-ranked passing defense that allows 234.5 yards per game.

But at what cost do you play a RB like Mendenhall who will go up against a team that gives up the pass but still has not allowed a single rushing TD this season?

Injuries might have killed you this season and you are forced to start Mendenhall, and I am sorry for that. But if you also have players like Willis McGahee, Cedric Benson, Pierre Thomas, Brandon Jacobs, Ben Tate, Marion Barber, Donald Brown, I would pop them in before the Pittsburgh back if for nothing but the upside.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> The Steelers running back is in the worst fantasy spot against San Francisco</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 08:53
All taxonomy terms: Arizona Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald, News
Path: /news/larry-fitzgerald-has-brutal-match-do-you-have-guts-sit-him
Body:

The long ball will need to be Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s friend in Week 15 if he plans on having success against Cleveland Browns standout corner Joe Haden.

Haden got burned two Thursdays ago on a late pass to Antonio Brown, who turned it up field for a 79-yard touchdown to help win the game for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Prior to that catch, Haden had limited receivers to two catches for 21 yards on two targets.

A week earlier, Haden was targeted four times against Baltimore and allowed no catches. In Week 12, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green caught three balls for 110 yards, Haden giving up a long of 51 to Green during the final minute of the game. Green also had gains of 35 and 24 yards against the Browns.

So the moral of the story: You better hope Fitzgerald breaks a big one to be a decent producer for you in fantasy football.

Outside of the 51-yarder to Green and the 79-yarder to Brown, Haden had not given up a pass longer than 41 yards this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Green was also on the receiving end of that play, his only catch of their Week 1 game that went for one of the three scores Haden’s allowed this season.

As for consistent production, receivers have pretty much just been able to get long-ball bulk over the last five weeks. Haden gave up 79 of his 94 yards on the catch to Brown last week. He gave up no yards in Week 13. He gave up 125 yards in Week 12 against Cincinnati with the late 51-yard play and another 35-yard catch. He allowed 73 yards against Jacksonville with a long of 28 and 48 yards against St. Louis with a long of 24. In that time, Haden’s been targeted 31 times and given up 17 catches.

Fitzgerald’s 6-3 frame and ability to go up and grab any ball certainly puts him in the category to be able to get a long ball from QB John Skelton. And having Skelton, who’s willing to push the ball down field more than Kevin Kolb, will be a benefit for Fitzgerald today. But the numbers do say that Fitzgerald’s likely success will come from a long ball as opposed to consistent production.

The Browns do have the second-ranked pass defense thanks to being thrown on a league-low 27.6 times per game thanks to their 31st-ranked rush defense (150.9 yards per game). So this could be a game where Beanie Wells gets going again.

You would hope the run game would open up room for Fitzgerald, but Haden knows he is taking on one of the game’s best for the first time in the NFL, and for the most part of 60 minutes per game this season he has not backed down from his responsibilities.

Fitzgerald is coming off a 7-for-149-1 TD game with a long of 53 in there against the 49ers. His other longs of the season include 73, 47, 66, 42 and 41. You have to lower your expectations against Haden, but you can’t sit a receiver like Fitzgerald.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> The Arizona Cardinals wide receiver could be held in check, but what can you do</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 08:53
Path: /news/if-james-starks-and-brandon-saine-are-out-play-ryan-grant-if-two-are-active-sit-both
Body:

Green Bay Packers running backs James Starks (ankle) and Brandon Saine (concussion) are game-time decisions in Week 15 against the Kansas City Chiefs. And this makes the status of the aforementioned as well as Ryan Grant completely up in the air in regards to their use in fantasy football.

It’s the semifinals of the fantasy football playoffs for most, and game-time decision is not something we like hearing this time of year. We are already biting our nails with every decision we make anyway, and having already had two games in the books on Thursday and Saturday that we may or may have not chosen wisely makes setting your rosters in the next few hours even more crucial.

I was completely off about Ryan Grant as the lead back last week against Oakland. Saine’s concussion certainly helped Grant get more looks, but he hadn’t done anything all season, the Packers’ backs hadn’t done anything all season and Grant busts off a 47-yard TD run in the first three minutes and then scores on a 6-yarder in the middle of the second quarter.

Grant finished with two scores and 85 yards on 10 carries. Starks’ one TD in Week 1 was the only other TD a Green Bay feature back had scored this season, and the Packers, despite beating teams by an average of 13.2 points per game coming into the Oakland beatdown, were 22nd in rushing attempts per game at 25.7 and 29th in rushing yards per game (96.5). Guess that philosophy changed against the 28th-ranked Raiders.

If Grant is the only back available in Week 15, you might as well roll with him again.

The Packers will be without No. 1 receiver Greg Jennings but have plenty of other targets for Aaron Rodgers to find and keep the offense moving just as efficiently as they have all season. And they should be up again on a Chiefs team that allows 23.5 points per game (23rd), 341.8 yards per game (15th), 209.3 yards per game in the air (10th) and 132.5 yards per game on the ground (26th).

The Chiefs are seventh worst against fantasy running backs this season and have allowed 133.4 yards rushing per game and 41 yards receiving per game with three scores to the position over the last five weeks.

But if Saine can return, he steals looks from Grant and has better hands out of the backfield. If Starks returns, we already know how that worked with Grant and Starks together — Grant was practically invisible.

Starks reportedly had trouble getting his ankle to respond this week and did not practice. Saine did not practice this week, either. If the 13-0 Packers feel they can get it done against the 5-8 Chiefs with Grant and fullback John Kuhn alone, and they should be able too, then there would be no reason for a playoff team to risk the health of their two younger backs.

This is one of those games where if all three are active I avoid all three as you did all season prior to Starks’ injury, but if Grant is the only one then he’s a must play as a flex at worst.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> The Green Bay Packers running back situation is tricky this week</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 08:48
Path: /news/joe-flacco-wont-score-over-16-fantasy-points-against-chargers
Body:

What do we do with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in Week 15 at San Diego?

A week after scoring 4.2 fantasy points against Cleveland, thanks to RB Ray Rice running wild, Flacco bounced back with 16.08 points against Indianapolis.

We could look at trends, if you put any stock in them, and how Flacco has done this season after scoring at least 16 points.

In four-point passing TD leagues, he scored 20.96 in Week 1 and followed with 9.88 at Tennessee. He scored 28.26 the next week at St. Louis and followed with 3.22. It then took until Week 11 for Flacco to reach at least 16 points, scoring 17.6 against Cincinnati, which he followed with 10.64 against San Francisco.

So the trend is three games above 16 fantasy points prior to last week and drop offs of 11.08, 25.04 and 6.96 the following weeks for an average drop of 14.36 points after 16-point performance.

Now he gets the Chargers, who are favorable to running backs over the last five weeks and ho-hum against quarterbacks.

Baltimore brings a hot RB in Ray Rice — 497 yards rushing, 177 yards receiving, 24 catches and four TDs in the last five weeks — and an average QB in Flacco that you never know what you’re going to get.

In the past five weeks against RBs, San Diego has faced C.J. Spiller (56 total yards), Maurice Jones-Drew (188 total yards and 1 TD), Willis McGahee (117 rushing yards), Matt Forte (85 total yards) and Michael Bush (242 total yards and 1 TD) for an average of 17.76 fantasy points in Athlon’s half-PPR scoring format. All told, the Chargers are 18th against fantasy RBs over the last five weeks.

In the last five weeks against QBs, the Chargers have faced Ryan Fitzpatrick (176 yards, 2 INTs), Blaine Gabbert (195 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT), Tim Tebow (143 yards, 1 TD), Jay Cutler (286 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 1 rushing TD) and Carson Palmer (299 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT). All told, the Chargers are 20th against fantasy QBs over the last five weeks.

So, again, what do we do with Flacco this week? Trends say he won’t produce. The Chargers defense is averaging right around, oddly enough, 16 points per game allowed to QBs the last five weeks.

There’s more upside to starting Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Rex Grossman and Andy Dalton over Flacco because I think the chance of being guaranteed the 16 from these four is greater than hoping Flacco will be consistent enough to get there. Plus, the success Rice has had this season on the ground scares me away from the Raven QB.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> The Ravens quarterback should struggle against San Diego</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 07:35
All taxonomy terms: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings, News
Path: /news/can-you-trust-adrian-peterson-play-60-minutes-against-saints
Body:

Here we go again with Adrian Peterson, Week 15 and an injury in the fantasy football playoffs.

The Minnesota Vikings’ running back has missed the last three games with a high ankle sprain, and is expected to return today against the visiting New Orleans Saints.

Let’s not forget when we all thought Peterson would start in the fantasy playoffs in Week 15 of last season on a 5-9 Vikings team. He didn’t. We were left scrambling. And many a fantasy players’ season was abruptly ended as the Peterson-less Vikings fell 40-14 to the Chicago Bears.

That was a Monday night game against and we found out 45 minutes before kickoff that Peterson was a no-go. He practiced on the Saturday before the Monday night game but was a late scratch, and too late for many owners to try and slide Toby Gerhart into their starting lineups.

At least this week it is an early game and we will have enough time to make the adjustments if any news comes down.

Peterson was a full participant at practice but when you hear coach Leslie Frazier say “we’ll have to kind of work him in there,” and “we’ll have to monitor how he’s doing,” that doesn’t necessarily exude confidence in starting perhaps the best back in the NFL.

Frazier has said he is certain Peterson will start and his No. 1 back came out of a week of practices without soreness. But that is practice.

This is going up against a Saints defense that, is ranked 15th against the run and coming off a game in which they held Chris Johnson to 23 yards on 11 carries — and that’s a game the Titans were in until the last seconds. The Saints defense is also giving up the 30th most passing yards per game (268.0) on the fourth most attempts per game (39.1). So it could be the Vikings trying to go to the air to either stay in the game or try to get back into the game, because on the defensive side, Minnesota is 18th in yards per game allowed (350.2) and 30th in points allowed per game (28).

Peterson himself estimated on Friday that he was at 85 percent and everything looks like it’s a go for Sunday’s game against New Orleans. But this is Week 15. This is the semifinals for most. This is the time when we scrutinize every little thing in order to get your lineup just right in order to advance. And when you have a stud back returning from injury to play for a 2-11 team as big underdogs against a 10-3 New Orleans team it makes you wonder: Will he stay in the whole time? Will the Vikings be in the game long enough to keep the run game relevant?

My dilemma, in a non-PPR league with no flex, is Shonn Greene and Roy Helu on hot streaks, having already decided to start Felix Jones on Saturday night because the matchup was too enticing and now what to do with Adrian Peterson returning from injury.

I’ve never been a fan of “if you drafted them high then you start them,” but if Peterson says he is good to go then he’s good to go. And I will start him along side Felix Jones and hope to see them both in Week 16.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> The Vikings running back has a lot of fantasy owners worried in week 15</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 07:19

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