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Jalen Ramsey is off the grid. Or at least as much as an incoming college freshman can be in 2013.

Nearly seven months before the Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy cornerback signed with Florida State, Ramsey decided he had had enough input on the recruiting process from the outside world, including the faceless and anonymous masses.

 

“I am Jalen Lattrell Ramsey and college is MY choice! MY choice only! No one elses!” Ramsey tweeted on June 28, 2012. “It’s ALL on me! Y’all will hear from ME...”

 

That was less than a month before Ramsey announced a commitment to USC. And by the time he changed his mind to sign with Florida State, the coveted prospect had retired his @jr7_eagles Twitter handle.

 

For Ramsey, that may have been for the best as he navigated the final months of the recruiting process. Before he shut down, his mentions column was filled with encouragement, pleas to attend certain schools, but also posts knocking some of the schools he considered.

 

“Some things were said that were just out of line,” Ramsey says. “Rumors started. Grown men talking about 17- and 18-year-old kids, it’s unneeded. It was just, ‘I’m done with that.’”

 

That’s one extreme of the way social media has changed recruiting in college sports. Ramsey’s teammate, quarterback Max Staver, had a different experience.

 

Granted, Staver was not as high-profile a recruit. And he picked Florida in June before his senior year and never wavered. After he committed to the Gators, dozens of fans welcomed him to the roster. As he exchanged tweets and direct messages with other Gator commitments, Florida coaches asked him to be an ambassador for the program, talking to recruits in ways they couldn’t.

 

“After I committed I was talking to a bunch of guys, I was probably texting guys 10 times a day and telling them to check out Florida,” Staver says. “I wasn’t trying to get in their face or be rude about it. But there were a lot of questions. Being a quarterback in the recruiting class, they want me to reach out.”

 

Few facets of the recruiting process have remained untouched by social media in the last four years. Coaches use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with recruits and evaluate prospects both on and off the field. Recruits use social media to get to know their future coaches and teammates and, at times, bask in the adoration of fans. Fans use it to follow the process while explaining all the reasons their school would be the right choice (and, sometimes, why other schools would be the wrong choice).

 

Bottom line: It’s inescapable.

 

“It’s an unstoppable force in recruiting,” Miami recruiting coordinator Brennan Carroll says. “You don’t really have a choice. If you’re not doing it, you’re probably wrong. That’s the way we look at it here.”

 

The initial catalyst for the social media revolution in recruiting wasn’t Twitter or Facebook or even social media relic MySpace. It started with texting.

 

When Carroll coached at USC with his father Pete Carroll, Trojans coaches visited high schools to meet with recruits only to find that their targets already had relationships established with other programs. The reason was text messaging. Prospects had been texting with USC’s recruiting rivals months before the Trojans could catch up.

 

USC was behind on that trend, but by 2008 that wouldn’t matter anyway when the NCAA banned text messaging with recruits. The lesson, though, was that the recruiting through email, phone calls, official visits and coach in-home visits weren’t enough anymore.

 

According to NCAA interpretations, Twitter direct messages and Facebook private messages are legislated the same way as emails, which is to say they are an unlimited form of communication. In practice, a Twitter or Facebook private message may as well be a text.

 

And from the coaches’ perspective, this is how recruits communicate with their friends anyway.

 

“You want to meet the prospects where they’re at,” says Vanderbilt offensive line coach Herb Hand, one of the most enthusiastic coaching voices on Twitter. “You can sit here and say, ‘I’m going to communicate with this guy in my way,’ and not get anywhere. You have to meet them where they are. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are how kids communicate. That’s the world we live in now.”

 

That new world is a fish bowl.

 

James Coley was one of the first college coaches to embrace Twitter and one of the first to turn it into a recruiting tool.

 

While the tight ends coach at Florida State, Coley started a Twitter account to break the stereotype that the Seminoles’ coaching staff under Bobby Bowden was old-school and stuffy.

 

Welcome to the U!!!!

 

A few years later, and it’s almost a given that recruits will be visible on Twitter. Reporters often mention recruits’ Twitter handles in updates. Prospects tweet about the process. One network of team recruiting sites lists the Twitter handles of prospects making official visits in its weekend recruiting previews.

 

Coley’s energetic bursts, frequently in all caps with plenty of exclamation points, trended throughout the Seminoles’ fan base on Twitter. When Coley started hearing one of his top phrases — “FEAR THE SPEAR” — from high school prospects, a light bulb went off.

 

Recruits followed him, and then fans on Twitter used Coley’s list of followers to find recruits.

 

“I’d tell kids to follow me on Twitter and pretty soon you’re going to have a thousand followers,” says Coley, now the offensive coordinator at Miami.

As a result, fans are more clued into the recruiting process than ever before.

Shane Morris, a quarterback from Warren (Mich.) De La Salle, committed to Michigan in May 2011. One of the top quarterback recruits in the country, Morris also tweets like one of the biggest Michigan fans in the country. Most of his nearly 25,000 followers responded to the positivity in kind.

 

“When you have fans like Michigan, a fan base that shows them love, kids like that,” Morris says.

 

That’s the experience of a top recruit who spent his entire senior season committed to the same school.

Fans of schools who watch recruits change their minds through the process vent their frustrations on Twitter, often directly to the recruit.

 

Auburn (Ala.) linebacker Reuben Foster, a top-10 player nationally, first committed to Alabama, but changed his mind the summer before his senior season. He switched to hometown Auburn in a move that he made more official by getting a tattoo of the Tigers’ logo inside his right forearm.

 

There was no need to imagine the reaction when Foster switched back to Alabama shortly before Signing Day.

 

It was laid bare on Twitter.

 

Alabama fans welcomed him with open arms. Some Auburn fans wished him well at his new school. Others weren’t quite so charitable. Among the reactions mentioning Foster that day that we can mention: (right)

As much as navigating social media is an issue for recruits and coaches, the revelations can be a headache for administrators.

 

In a trend that’s become all too common, Laquon Treadwell, one of the nation’s top wide receiver prospects, posted a picture to Instagram of him holding $100 bills days before signing day. The Ole Miss commitment out of Crete (Ill.) Crete-Monee also posted a picture to Twitter of two women kissing him on the cheek with the caption “Oxford is the best place I’ve ever been.” Treadwell deleted the photo of cash, but not before it made the rounds through fans and media. He later told The Chicago Tribune he was goofing around and he received no money from Ole Miss to sign with the Rebels.

 

And it’s not just the recruits who lack a filter on social media. Two Florida International players tweeted in January about taking a recruit to a strip club. If any of FIU’s recruiting budget was used to take a recruit to a strip club, then it’s an NCAA violation. Even if that was not the case, the episode isn’t great publicity.

 

NCAA bylaws also prohibit representatives of the program’s athletic interests from contacting recruits. This primarily means boosters, but more broadly the definition could include many fans.

 

Anonymity and the sheer volume of social media messages directed to recruits make any sort of action on offenders near impossible. Instead, many athletic departments actively try to discourage such contact.

 

Notre Dame put out a YouTube video (below) with athletic personnel saying, “Leave the Recruiting to Us.” Texas A&M’s Brad Barnes is one of many compliance directors active and available on Twitter to clear up compliance issues for fans. Some fans respond when he asks them to steer clear of the process on social media. For those who don’t heed Barnes’ advice, there’s not much Texas A&M — or any school — can do to stop it.

 

“From a practical standpoint, you don’t see a great deal of reporting on that unless it’s a situation where they say, ‘We know who this individual is, this was brought to our attention, they are who they say they are, or we found out who they are and we know who they are,’” Barnes says. “I don’t know of a lot of institutions that go out actively looking for it.”

 

Of course, no one tells recruits they have to be on Twitter or Facebook, sharing details of their recruitment. Just don’t expect that level of openness to change.

“It’s changed the mindset of a lot of kids compared to the old days, because if a kid got offers, he’d keep it to himself,” Vanderbilt wide receivers coach and offensive recruiting coordinator Josh Gattis says. “Now kids get offers and tweet about it. They’re trying to get attention to themselves.”

 

Vanderbilt under James Franklin has been among the top staffs in the country in using social media to interact with fans, players and recruits.

 

Gattis and his receivers use the hashtag #FlyBoyz to keep up with each other. Hand, on Twitter since he was at Tulsa in 2009, is a favorite follow for media members with his sense of humor. As for recruits, Hand says he’ll send 10-15 messages to recruits each day with photos from practice or the athletic facility. Franklin tweets about building the Commodores program with his hashtag #VanderBUILD.

 

But for all its efforts, Vanderbilt isn’t Alabama, LSU, Florida or Georgia.

 

The Commodores still need to unearth prospects other teams miss to stay competitive in the SEC. Social media makes that much more difficult. Recruits tweet about the recruiting process, who’s calling, who’s been by to see them.

 

Besides highlight videos being readily available on sites that cover recruiting, prospects can upload highlight videos to YouTube and Hudl, a video service tailored exclusively to coaches.

 

“It’s very hard to keep a gem a gem,” Gattis says. “These days finding a diamond in the rough is really tough because sooner or later someone is going to be exposed to that player.”

 

Coaches also have a way to find out which recruits might not be worth the risk.

 

Many coaches admit they’ve stopped recruiting a prospect because of concerns raised by their social media accounts, whether it’s language, compromising photos, comments demeaning to women or simply tweeting at late hours on weeknights.

 

Hand says he’s talked to some recruits about changing their tones on Twitter. If they don’t, that’s another strike — they’re uncoachable.

Vanderbilt isn’t alone. After Signing Day, Tennessee coach Butch Jones remarked that the Vols had withheld scholarships because of concerns raised by Twitter and Facebook.

 

But at the same time, social media enabled the first-year coach in Knoxville to build momentum in his first recruiting cycle. When he was hired at Tennessee, Jones’ Twitter account was briefly suspended after a deluge of Volunteers fan followed the former Cincinnati coach.

 

“When we were coming in here, in a short period of time we had to develop those relationships,” Jones says. “At the end of the day, recruiting is all about relationships. That was a way to expedite getting to know these players.”

 

For example, Jones, who requires all his assistants to be on Twitter, used social media to endear himself to fans, but also to become quickly acclimated with recruits.

 

Late in the process, the Volunteers badly wanted to sign Joshua Dobbs, a quarterback out of Alpharetta, Ga. Through Twitter and Facebook, Jones and his staff learned of his favorite foods, the importance of playing baseball, his favorite classes and his focus on engineering programs. Guess what became the focus of his ultimately successful recruitment to Tennessee?

 

“You’re always looking for that information, what people are important to him, what are his hot buttons,” Jones says.

 

Whether it’s a red flag that tells coaches to stay away or a nugget that shows that a prospect will be a good student and teammate, recruiters will find it if it’s on their Twitter or Facebook accounts.

 

“It’s information they’re giving us whether they know it or not,” Brennan Carroll says. “We won’t miss a thing. … These kids are just flat-out telling you.”

 

As much as social media has sped up the recruiting process, it’s also sped up the bonding process.

 

Meeting a college roommate on the first day of class is long gone. So is exchanging emails or cell phone calls. Chemistry can be built before a freshman class steps on campus. Prospects meet at camps, all-star games or visits, and from there they exchange phone numbers and find each other on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Before he takes a snap at Michigan, Morris is already showing the characteristics of leading the Wolverines in the huddle. He’s organized unofficial visits to Michigan and kept in touch with his future teammates long before practice starts.

 

“Our recruiting class is probably the closest class in the nation,” Morris says. “Most of us have iPhones and we’re in group chats and keep up with each other. When we take visits we make sure everyone’s taking them together.”

 

But not every prospect is spending his days on Twitter talking to coaches and teammates, even though signing day has come and gone.

 

Ramsey, the Florida State-bound cornerback, stuck by his self-imposed Twitter exile.

 

“I just have Instagram. I put up pictures of my nephews and nieces and pictures of my family,” Ramsey says. “I thought about bringing (Twitter) back, but I haven’t missed it one bit. I might make a Facebook page with coaches and friends, but I’m not worrying about it, to be honest.”

 

This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Regional Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 college football season.


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Teaser:
Coaches turn to social media to recruit, evaluate future players
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 14:30
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/pga-tour-adopts-usga-anchoring-ban
Body:

The PGA Tour has acknowledged that the USGA ban on anchored putting strokes will apply to Tour events as of Jan. 1, 2016.

“In making its decision, the Policy Board recognized that there are still varying opinions among our membership, but ultimately concluded that while it is an important issue, a ban on anchored strokes would not fundamentally affect a strong presentation of our competitions or the overall success of the PGA Tour,” PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said. “The Board also was of the opinion that having a single set of rules on acceptable strokes applicable to all professional competitions worldwide was desirable and would avoid confusion."

This polarizing issue has been raging for some time, especially given the success in major championships that players employing anchored putting strokes have enjoyed of late. Athlon addressed the subject in its 2013 Golf Annual by posing the question in our anonymous player survey. Here are the responses we got at the 2012 Tour Championship:

• “I think it’s fine. I don’t think they have proven that there is a huge advantage statistically for guys who use it, so I have no problem with it. It’s just a different way for guys to do things.”

• “Let them use it. I’m fine with it. If a player needed to use it to stay on Tour, I think most would.”

• “I’m yet to find a good reason for them to ban it. The arguments so far aren’t really valid.”

But then….

• “I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s true to the original ideals of golf. I’ve used one before but just don’t think it’s right. I’d be glad to see it gone.”

• “I’m against it just because I’ve always worked so hard on my own short game without going there, and I think that’s how golf is supposed to be. I’d like to see everyone else struggle and work harder like I’ve always had to.”

• “I think it’s cheating and should be banned. It goes against the spirit and rules of golf.”

• “Anchoring has to go. Just because stats don’t say long putter users are better doesn’t make it right.”

• “I think it should be outlawed. I want guys to have to hold a putter in their hands when they have a five-footer to win, to feel those nerves, not to anchor it to their body to take that away.”

And the fence-sitters…

• “I’ve tried it, it still is something you still have to learn so I don’t really care one way or the other. I don’t need to use it so it doesn’t really affect me.”

• “I don’t really care. But I know there are more out there that don’t want it. I think if it is banned there will be guys who will be gone from the Tour, some really good guys. But banning anchoring is probably fair.”

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 13:31
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC North, Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL
Path: /pittsburgh-steelers-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

Pittsburgh went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs for just the second time in head coach Mike Tomlin's six seasons. Will the Steelers bounce back this fall? Here's our look at the Steelers' 2013 NFL schedule.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Schedule:

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

Order your 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: Pittsburgh has three "home" games in September, but it should be pointed out that one of these will be played at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The Steelers do get the luxury of opening at home against Tennessee, which should allow them the opportunity of ironing out any kinks before the Monday night showdown in Cincinnati in Week 2. Then it's back home to host Chicago before flying across the pond to play Minnesota in London. When the Steelers go on bye in Week 5 they should do so with no worse than a 2-2 record and even that would have to be considered a mild disappointment.

Toughest Stretch: For the most part, the Steelers' schedule is fairly balanced throughout the season. There is a span of five games starting in late November during which Pittsburgh will play at Cleveland and Baltimore back-to-back, the latter taking place Thanksgiving night, and also will face Cincinnati (home) and Green Bay (away). The game between these pairs isn't without its own intrigue, as Miami's trip to Heinz Field in Week 14 also will serve as a homecoming for former Steeler wideout Mike Wallace. That's three divisional games, two of them coming on the road, a trip to Lambeau Field and an emotionally charged home game crammed into a period of less than 30 days.

Swing Games:TEN (Week 1), at OAK (Week 8)
Crossover Divisions:AFC East, NFC North
Bye Week:Week 5
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.492 (T-21st)
Athlon's SOS Rank:28th

Easiest Stretch: Following its Week 5 bye, Pittsburgh will play just two teams that made the playoffs last season over its next six games. Baltimore, the defending Super Bowl champs and hated arch rival is one of the opponents during this span, but this game will be played at Heinz Field. The only other team the Steelers will face that posted a winning record last season is New England, and this trip to Foxborough, Mass., is preceded by a road game in Oakland and followed by a home date with Buffalo. The opener to this six-game stretch is a visit to the Big Apple to play the Jets and it wraps up with the Lions at home. Even with the Ravens and Patriots sprinkled in, Pittsburgh should be able to make the most of its October through mid-November slate.

Circle The Calendar: The Bears' Week 3 visit is special if for no other reason, the history surrounding two of the NFL's oldest and most successful franchises. Crossover play with the NFC North also means a Super Bowl XLV rematch with Green Bay at Lambeau Field in late December, as Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers go head-to-head. Earlier that month, a visit from Miami will serve as a homecoming for new Dolphin wide receiver Mike Wallace. And of course, let's not forget about the Steelers' annual double-header with the Ravens, which is always entertaining, not to mention typically important as it relates to the AFC North division race and overall playoff picture. Looking for something extra to add to to this season's meetings? How about the fact that Baltimore is the defending Super Bowl champions and that the second game will serve as dessert for the NFL's Thanksgiving Day triple-header.

Divisional Notes: Baltimore and Cincinnati, and not Pittsburgh, were playoff teams last season, which adds to the intrigue and competitiveness of this season's battle in the AFC North. The Steelers open divisional play at Cincinnati in Week 2, on "Monday Night Football" naturally, and will host the Ravens in Week 7. Back-to-back road games in Cleveland and Baltimore await Pittsburgh in Weeks 12 and 13, with the tilt with the Ravens taking place on Thanksgiving night. The Bengals and Browns come to Heinz Field in late December, and a road trip to Green Bay sandwiched in between only adds to the degree of difficulty there.

Playoff Push: The Steelers play the Ravens on Thanksgiving night, so technically they play just four games in December. Even with three of the four at home, Pittsburgh will have its work cut off for them during its final month, as Miami and former Steeler wideout Mike Wallace, along with divisional foes Cincinnati and Cleveland will be invading Heinz Field. The Bengals in particular could be battling for a playoff spot and/or positioning when they arrive in Week 15. And as far as that lone road game in December goes, it's just a trip to Green Bay to play the Packers on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field a couple of days before Christmas with, more than likely, playoff implications for both conferences on the line. What's so tough about that?

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Even with only one road game during the fantasy playoffs, don’t underestimate the Steelers’ opponents. Miami, Cincinnati and Green Bay all finished among the top 18 in terms of fantasy points allowed to QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs last season. The Bengals in particular were pretty tough on QBs (fifth) and WRs (third). Watch out Big Ben and Antonio Brown — these cats have claws.

2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston Denver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle

 

Teaser:
Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-winners-and-losers-conference-realignment
Body:

ACC member Syracuse. Sound strange, doesn’t it? About as strange as a Big East with Creighton among its members.
Try to fight it, both are true.

This is a time for college basketball fans to either celebrate or hang their heads. Most of the conference realignment moves for the upcoming season have taken effect this month.

It’s no secret football is driving all these moves, so there are a fair amount of losers on the basketball side. But a few basketball programs and leagues will be big winners.

Related: College football's Top 15 winners in realignment

COLLEGE BASKETBALL REALIGNMENT WINNERS

ACC
Adds: Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville (2014-15)
Loses: Maryland (2014-15)
The ACC loses a charter member in Maryland in 2014-15, but the league should retake the mantle of the nation’s top basketball conference by the time Louisville joins the league in 2014-15. Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino groused about the demise of the Big East, but Mike Krzyzewski said the new-look league could be the best conference in history. There’s little reason to disagree with Coach K. With Louisville and Syracuse facing Duke and North Carolina on a regular basis, the league should liven up the regular season. And those are just the powerhouse programs: Notre Dame and Pittsburgh are NCAA Tournament regulars, Florida State and Miami are new players on the scene, and NC State has expectations to be in that first tier.

Related: Tracking every change in basketball realignment

The Catholic 7
Adds: Basketball-only clout, Butler, Creighton and Xavier
Loses: Traditional rivalries with Syracuse, Connecticut; the tradtional Big East Tournament
No one wanted to see the old Big East call it a day, but the league sprouting up in its place could be one of the more top-to-bottom competitive leagues in the country. For the seven Catholic schools, they emerge out of the shadow of the FBS football schools. The assumption is that Marquette, Georgetown and Villanova will be able to maintain their current level of success, but this is also good news for Providence, Seton Hall and DePaul, who won’t be buried in a 16-team behemoth of a conference. The old Big East was built by television partnerships, and perhaps the new one will as well. The new Big East could get first-class broadcast treatment on Fox Sports 1 with Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery calling games.

Butler
Adds: Membership in the Big East
Loses: Easy path to NCAA Tournament
Just two years ago, Butler was in the Horizon League. The Bulldogs have traded Valparaiso, Cleveland State, Milwaukee and Detroit for Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, St. John’s and Xavier. The Butler of the last seven seasons should have no trouble competing on that level, but the question is if the Bulldogs will continue to commit the resources to compete long term.

Mountain West
Adds: Nevada and Fresno State (2012-13), Utah State and San Jose State (2013-14)
Loses: TCU (2012-13)
The Mountain West has been steadily rising for years now. It has arguably been the best conference out West for the last few seasons. New Mexico and UNLV continue to be the flagship programs of the league while Colorado State, San Diego State and Boise State have become factors over recent years. The depth of the league will be improved if Nevada (2012-13) and Utah State (2013-14) return to form.

West Coast
Adds: BYU (2011-12), Pacific (2013-14)
Loses: None
Saint Mary’s has been a challenger for Gonzaga for the last six years, and BYU has been in the league for two seasons. The WCC boosted its depth by adding Pacific from the Big West. Pacific won last year’s Big West Tournament and made three consecutive NCAA bids from 2004-06.

NEUTRAL

Big Ten
Adds: Maryland, Rutgers (2014-15)
Loses: None
The Big Ten was a top league and remains so. But the Big Ten could be a big winner if Maryland returns to national power status and if Rutgers finally figures out this basketball thing. The other 12 Big Ten teams could win big if expansion opens them to recruit New York and Maryland/D.C. with more regularity.

SEC
Adds: Missouri, Texas A&M (2013-14)
Loses: None
What the SEC needs more than anything is more programs to regularly challenge Kentucky and Florida. Missouri likes to think of itself that way, but the Tigers went 11-7 in their first season in the league.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL REALIGNMENT LOSERS

Atlantic 10
Adds: VCU (2012-13), George Mason (2013-14), Davidson (2014-15)
Loses: Butler, Charlotte, Temple, Xavier
The idea of George Mason and Davidson in the Atlantic 10 may bring good memories to basketball fans, but these aren't the same programs with Jim Larranaga and Stephen Curry. The A-10 loses its two flagship programs in Temple and Xavier. It needs VCU and another team — UMass? Saint Louis? La Salle? Dayton? Richmond? — to maintain more consistency.

Missouri Valley
Adds: Loyola Chicago
Loses: Creighton
The Missouri Valley will miss Creighton, a consistent program that packed its arena on a nightly basis. But let’s not go overboard with the Bluejays. Before Doug McDermott arrived, Creighton had played in the NCAA Tournament just twice in six seasons. The MVC adds Loyola just as the coach who made the program viable took the Siena job.

Colonial
Adds: Charleston (2013-14), Elon (2014-15)
Loses: VCU (2012-13), George Mason, Georgia State and Old Dominion (2013-14)
The little mid-major that could is no more. Realignment decimated the league like few others. Programs that have won six of the last seven CAA Tournaments are now gone, including two programs (VCU and George Mason) that reached the Final Four in that span. In their place are two programs that haven’t reached the NCAA Tournament this century.

Conference USA
Adds: Charlotte, FAU, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, UTSA (2013-14), Western Kentucky (2014-15)
Loses: Houston, Memphis, SMU, UCF (2013-14), East Carolina and Tulane (2014-15)
The latest round of realignment doesn’t hurt as much as the last one. The league once boasted Marquette, Louisville, Cincinnati and Memphis, but C-USA will be without a clear bell cow by 2014-15.

West Virginia
Adds: Membership in the Big 12. Trips West of the Mississippi
Loses: The Big East, short road trips
Making road trips into Texas and Oklahoma from Morgantown is a little more excusable when they’re four or five Saturdays in fall. Nine times during basketball season is a different story. Moreover, West Virginia is cut off from East Coast recruiting, important to consider when the foundation of its Final Four team in 2010 was from New York.

Connecticut, Memphis and Cincinnati
Adds: Membership in the American Athletic Conference. Road trips to SMU, Tulane, East Carolina
Loses: Top conference status
Limitations in their football programs mean these basketball powers were left behind during realignment. UConn hoped for an ACC invitation that never came, and now the Huskies are cut off from traditional rivals Syracuse and Georgetown. Memphis waited and waited to get Big East membership and when it came, the league changed its name and many of the Tigers’ old neighbors came along for the ride. At least Memphis fans get to see UConn come to town instead of Tulane. On the court, UConn’s and Memphis’ ability to maintain their recruiting might will be tested.

Atlantic Sun
Adds: Northern Kentucky (2012-13)
Loses: Belmont (2012-13), East Tennessee and Mercer (probably)
Florida Gulf Coast was the story of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, but in the long term the Atlantic Sun will miss Belmont (who left for the Ohio Valley last season) and East Tennessee (who likely leaves for the Southern) more. Either Belmont or ETSU represented the A-Sun in the NCAA Tournament every year from 2006-12.

WAC
Adds: A slew of Division I independents
Loses: Everyone
Nevada, Utah State and New Mexico State aren’t powerhouses, but they kept the WAC full of consistent mid-major programs. The 2013-14 lineup includes: Cal State Bakersfield, Chicago State, Grand Canyon, Seattle, UMKC, UT Pan American, Utah Valley.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/matt-kenseth-finds-surprising-nascar-win-kentucky
Body:

Matt Kenseth is reaching uncharted territory with Joe Gibbs Racing in just his first year driving the No. 20 Toyota. Sure, everyone knew he’d blow former driver Joey Logano’s numbers out of the water; Logano, still developing at age 23, was never consistently competitive in Cup after being brought up the ranks too quickly. But what the 2003 Cup champ is pursuing now, after a shocking late-race surge to victory at Kentucky, is a record-setting year for JGR that eclipses even the two titles won by the man who put Home Depot and this car on the map: Tony Stewart.

Check out the best stat lines with Stewart driving the car: six wins (2000), three poles (2005), and 1,845 laps led (also ’05). Kenseth? Through 17 races, this season he’s got four wins, two poles, and 960 laps out in front. Double those numbers and you’ll see a shocking truth. Even during the glory years, when Stewart and Greg Zipadelli all but added a shade of orange to every checkered flag, JGR has never seen success from the No. 20 car like it’s seeing now.

Clearly, motivation can be a powerful thing, a 41-year-old one-upping Ford and sponsors who felt he was expendable. But you’d have to think that even when Joe and J.D. Gibbs hotly pursued Kenseth, persuading him over a period of months to leave Roush Fenway Racing, they never anticipated the type of numbers he’s putting up right now — especially in Year One. With rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. still without a top-10 finish, by comparison, nearly halfway through the season at RFR you wonder if Jack Roush loses sleep at night over this one.

Speaking of losing sleep, as we go “Through the Gears” we know there’s one superstar guaranteed to do so this week. Here’s why:


FIRST GEAR: Jimmie Johnson needs to figure these restarts out
He’s a five-time champ who, 17 races through the 2013 season, has been on cruise control, leading Carl Edwards atop the standings by 38 points. He’s on pace for 1,961 laps led, his best in four years and the average finish of 9.4 would set a new career record. On paper, the No. 48 seems virtually invincible come Chase time.

The problem? That letter-sized sheet of paper with all those stats on it can’t press down the accelerator pedal. And lately, Mr. Johnson has had a huge problem figuring out exactly how to do that when the race turns green. It seems like Dover last month, when Juan Pablo Montoya slow-played a restart that got the No. 48 team penalized after a dominating day, is still stuck inside his head. It cost him at Kentucky, where a car that led 182 of 267 laps was second after pit strategy once again gave Kenseth control coming to the green. Johnson, in “follow the leader” position, had no idea when to come up to speed, lost several spots and then spun out.

“We were kind of in an awkward situation in that restart there,” he said. “The No. 20 (Matt Kenseth) broke the pace car speed, which you aren't supposed to, but, they aren't calling guys on that so I need to start trying that in the future. And then we were like three- and four-wide going in the corner, then something happened with the air and just kind of turned me around.”

Yes, the restarts at Kentucky were what second place Jamie McMurray characterized as “strange” — with added importance considering how difficult it is to pass. Sunday marked just the third year for Cup drivers at Kentucky, so many of them are also still trying to figure things out like that restart box. But no one seemed to struggle more than the No. 48, who’s now given away two victories in just one month.

For better or worse, restarts today define where you’re going to finish in NASCAR. Five laps into a green-flag run — especially at intermediate tracks — cars seem magnetically repulsed by each other, spreading out into their own personal space where passing becomes a game of chess. Johnson has to get more aggressive, realizing at Dover, if he sneaks ahead as the second-place car into Turn 1 all that’s needed is to sit back and let the leader pass back to avoid a penalty. He’s the rare guy who’s got a car fast enough to make up the ground lost.

Some might say Johnson doesn’t need these extra trophies. But the fact he’s in “testing mode,” already assured of a high seed in the postseason, is irrelevant. Practice makes perfect, and right now, this team is putting together all the best ways to lose a Chase where they should be an overwhelming favorite.


SECOND GEAR: As the Keselowski crumbles
Sunday’s big wreck involving Brad Keselowski was Kurt Busch’s fault — that much was clear after the No. 78 car tapped the No. 2 following a rough transition on the apron of the racetrack. But in a year where Kes has played innocent victim one too many times, that “bad luck moment” now puts him in position to be just the second reigning champ unable to make the Chase the following year. (Stewart, 2006).

“The one thing we do know is that we have struggled before as a team,” said crew chief Paul Wolfe, after the team tumbled to 13th in points. “And we have worked through that and put ourselves in position to be champions.”

But chemistry can only do so much with Fords that have been inconsistent in terms of speed. Daytona may be this duo’s best chance in the near future, considering the way plate races even things out. Did you know a Ford model hasn’t won at Loudon since 2008? Or at Indianapolis since 1999? Keselowski has also never won at a road course in Cup (Watkins Glen) and was uncompetitive at Pocono this June (16th). That crosses a lot of tracks off the list, and I don’t think this team can count on points to get them in with this black cloud that’s been following them.


THIRD GEAR: Toyota’s troubles solved?
Remember last month when at least one Toyota engine was almost guaranteed to go bust before the finish? They’re back to collecting trophies. Kenseth’s win was the second in a row for the Camry model, which also took three of the top-5 spots on this intermediate (Clint Bowyer was third while Kyle Busch, Kenseth’s JGR teammate, ran fifth). That gives Toyota seven victories on the season, tied with Chevrolet as it tries to overcome a decade’s worth of dominance by the Bowtie Brigade when it comes to the manufacturer’s title.

Most importantly, on a track where horsepower does play a big factor, there were zero blown engines from TRD, along with no complaints. Busch was also able to muscle his way back through the field after an early spin, showcasing the extra edge JGR has showed on 1.5-mile ovals. The jury’s still out, to a certain extent — we need to see months of this pattern before feeling safe the Chase won’t be a series of sad explosions — but it’s a huge confidence builder.


FOURTH GEAR: Bluegrass blues?
Yes, Saturday night’s race was rain-delayed, turning into the first Cup event postponed since 2012’s Daytona 500. But the number of empty seats at Kentucky was still disturbing, as tickets were available for a race that was sold out in its inaugural edition just two years ago. Traffic on that fateful weekend was horrific, as many fans were unable to make it to their seats before the start of the race and some have never forgiven the facility.

The racing, with Johnson out front and dominating most of the day, continued to be a bit of a mixed bag. Several drivers complained of ill-handling cars, with Kyle Busch also blaming a bad right-side Goodyear tire compound. But whatever the reason, this racetrack has yet to have a side-by-side, grinding battle to the finish that creates the type of memories fans will come back for. Now that the bloom is off the rose, it’s close to other historic speedways — like Bristol and Indianapolis — and has to fight for fans’ money in a tight economy. It was no accident certain questions were asked of drivers to get them praising what fans did come back after Saturday night.

The other issue concerns NASCAR’s Gen-6, still without a hang-your-hat race on this type of oval since Fontana. With these races making up half of the Chase, that’s a handling problem that needs to be fixed. Three minutes of restart action can’t be the only time fans see tough competition over a race that takes three hours — especially when it’s head-to-head with the mighty NFL.


OVERDRIVE
You had to shake your head at Clint Bowyer “moving over” for Jamie McMurray, conceding second place down the stretch at Kentucky. Afraid of being spun out? Puh-lease. Points racing or no, that’s not what the fans pay money to see, something I don’t think we’d have ever envisioned before NASCAR’s current postseason format that can sometimes encourage that type of conservatism. … While Keselowski struggles, teammate Joey Logano has six straight top-11 finishes to put himself 10th in points. Consider where he’d be without that 25-point penalty earlier this season; it’s been an impressive recovery. … The Carl Edwards to Penske Racing rumor, while strongly denied this weekend, was puzzling. New crew chief Jimmy Fennig has brought new energy to the No. 99 and they’re clearly back on the upswing. … Denny Hamlin says he’ll finish the season after a mid-race wreck left him 104 points outside the top 20 and shaken inside the Infield Care Center. Owner Joe Gibbs has Brian Vickers right on his roster, along with Cup veteran Elliott Sadler, but claims he’ll let Hamlin make the decision on staying in the car. You wonder, though if a man who’s seen football players overdo it needs to step in here, take the competitive athlete aside and warn him about short-term vs. long-term career implications.


by Tom Bowles
Follow Tom on Twitter:
 @NASCARBowles

Teaser:
Reaction from Matt Kenseth's win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 10:52
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-15-winners-conference-realignment
Body:

Realignment has dominated the college football headlines for a couple of years, resulting in a vastly different landscape across the nation.

The changes resulted in the death of one football conference (WAC), with the ACC, Big Ten and SEC inching closer to the much-discussed 16-team superconferences in the near future.

Some teams – notably Texas A&M and Louisville – finished conference realignment as a clear winner. While some other teams (UConn and Cincinnati) were on the other side of the coin.

Realignment in college football isn’t over. But with the recent changes, the landscape should remain relatively stable, at least for the next couple of seasons.

With things seemingly quiet, Athlon takes a look at the top 15 winners from college football’s most recent round of conference musical chairs.

College Football's Top 15 Winners From Conference Realignment

1. Texas A&M
The move to the SEC was supposed to be difficult. After all, Texas A&M had a new coaching staff, quarterback and a conference to learn. However, the Aggies made an immediate splash, winning double-digit games for the first time since 1998 and produced a Heisman winner in Johnny Manziel. While realignment isn’t just about what happened last year, Texas A&M can win big in the SEC. The program has excellent resources and can use its SEC leverage to recruit against its in-state brethren. The Aggies will have their share of ups and downs in the SEC in the future, but with coach Kevin Sumlin on the sidelines, the program is well-positioned to succeed in the upcoming seasons.


2. Louisville
There wasn’t much that went wrong for Louisville’s football program last season. The Cardinals shared the Big East title, won the Sugar Bowl over Florida, managed to keep coach Charlie Strong in Louisville despite multiple overtures from the SEC, and were invited to join the ACC in 2014. The Cardinals have one of the best all-around athletic programs in the nation and will immediately be a factor in the ACC. And with 14 returning starters from last year’s 11-2 team, Louisville will have a chance to push for the national title in its final season in the Big East/American Athletic Conference.


3. Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights are one of the biggest winners in conference realignment. Sure, competing in the Big Ten will be a step up in competition, but Rutgers has made a significant step up on the conference hierarchy ladder. The Scarlet Knights have jumped from the sixth- or seventh-best conference in college football to arguably one of the top three. Moving to the Big Ten also will increase exposure and the ability to recruit for Rutgers, especially with the added games on the Big Ten Network.


4. TCU
The competition in the Big 12 is much tougher than what TCU faced in the Mountain West. But the Horned Frogs are positioned to remain a factor in the top half of the Big 12 on a regular basis, especially with a renovated stadium and the built-in advantage of having one of the nation’s best recruiting bases in their own backyard. Also, TCU has one of the nation’s top coaches in Gary Patterson, and it held its own in the Big 12 last year after losing starting quarterback Casey Pachall in early October. With Texas A&M, Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado leaving the Big 12, the Horned Frogs have a chance to quickly emerge as an annual contender.


5. SEC
The SEC didn’t expand just to expand. Instead, the conference landed two programs in new attractive television markets, which should help the SEC when it comes time to launch its conference network in 2014. Although realignment isn’t about success in one season, the additions of Texas A&M and Missouri will pay dividends. The Aggies bring a chunk of the Texas market – something the SEC wanted to tap into – and a program capable of consistently ranking among the top 10-15 teams in the nation. The Tigers will find life a little tougher in the SEC than the Big 12, but the program will benefit from the extra money. And once Missouri has a chance to find its footing in the SEC, the Tigers should be a consistent bowl team. In the SEC’s case, the rich are getting a little richer.


Related: College Football Conference Realignment: Tracking the Changes


6. Big 12
At one point during college football’s realignment craze, there was some thought the Big 12 would go extinct. Instead, the conference has rebounded and appears healthy for the next 10-15 years, largely thanks to the grant of rights for each team’s television deal. Losing Nebraska and Texas A&M was a tough blow to the Big 12, but the additions of West Virginia and TCU helped to soften the blow. New commissioner Bob Bowlsby seems to be doing a good job of keeping the peace within the conference, and barring any unforeseen issues arising, the Big 12 should be secure for the immediate future. The only question? 10 or 12? Will the Big 12 have to expand once again? If the conference has to add, which programs get the call to be No. 11 and No. 12?


7. Notre Dame
Much like their Independent brethren (BYU), the Fighting Irish are a winner in the latest round of expansion. There was some thought Notre Dame would be forced to join a conference, but the Fighting Irish were able to remain Independent and upgraded with a partnership with the ACC. Notre Dame also struck an agreement with the Orange Bowl, and access to other postseason games should be better in the partnership with the ACC. Who knows, in 50 years, maybe the Fighting Irish will have to join a conference. However, it’s pretty clear – for now – that Notre Dame’s place as an Independent is secure for the foreseeable future.


8. ACC
The ACC is losing Maryland to the Big Ten, but the additions of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville are enough to keep this conference in the winner category. The conference also was able to stave off any additional departures – at least for the foreseeable future – as the teams have signed a grant of rights deal, which makes it very difficult for any program to leave. The ACC is gaining one of the top college programs in the nation in Louisville, and two members to bolster its presence on the Eastern side of the United States. Pittsburgh is on the right track under second-year coach Paul Chryst, and Syracuse made strides under former coach Doug Marrone. The ACC needs both programs to continue making progress to bolster the conference’s overall depth. And of course, the ACC landed a significant partnership with Notre Dame, which will help improve each team’s non-conference schedule, along with making the conference more attractive for bowl partners.


9. Boise State
Obviously, the Broncos would like to jump into the Pac-12 or Big 12, but staying in the Mountain West – instead of joining the American Athletic Conference – is the right move. One of the driving forces behind Boise State’s decision to stay in the Mountain West was a new television contract, which will allow the program more exposure than the conference’s current television deal and bonus money with broadcast games on ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, NBC, CBS or FOX. The Broncos also remain in the conference that’s the best fit for the program in terms of geography, especially since California and Texas are two key areas for recruiting. With Louisville and Rutgers departing after 2013, the American Athletic Conference isn’t much of an increase in terms of competition anymore.


10. BYU
There was some skepticism when BYU decided to go Independent. And while the Cougars are just three years into this experiment, the results have been positive so far. BYU has secured a solid television deal with ESPN and has won 25 games over the last three years. The Cougars will play a good schedule in 2013, which features matchups against Virginia, Texas, Boise State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame and has future games scheduled with Texas, Michigan, Nebraska, USC and West Virginia. Securing solid bowl opportunities for the next 15-20 years and contending for a spot in the playoffs are the next challenges ahead, but BYU is well-positioned to succeed in college football’s new landscape.


11. Utah State/San Jose State
The Aggies and Spartans were handed a lifeline out of the sinking WAC, landing in the Mountain West, the best league outside of the six BCS conferences. Both programs have been on the rise in recent years, especially since both teams finished in the top 25 of the final BCS standings last season. As long as the new coaches (Matt Wells, Utah State and Ron Caragher, San Jose State) work out as well as Gary Andersen and Mike MacIntyre did, Utah State and San Jose State will continue to be a factor in the MWC.  


12. New American Athletic Conference Teams
Sure, the American Athletic Conference isn’t as strong with Louisville, Rutgers, West Virginia and Syracuse departing. However, for teams like Memphis, SMU, Temple, UCF, East Carolina, Tulsa, Tulane and Houston, it’s an opportunity to emerge as an annual contender in a new league. East Carolina has excellent fan support, Tulane and Houston are building new stadiums, while Temple, UCF and SMU are located in fertile recruiting areas and should be an annual factor in the new conference. And Tulsa has won 10 games in four out of the last six years. For teams like Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida, the new American Athletic Conference may be a disappointment. But for teams like East Carolina, Tulsa and the rest of the newcomers, it’s a chance to upgrade their own brands as it relates to the college football landscape.


13. UTSA
No program in college football has experienced quite the ascension that UTSA has over the last few years. The Roadrunners played 2011 as an I-AA Independent and jumped to the WAC for '12. UTSA was impressive in its first season on the FBS level, winning eight games – with victories over New Mexico State, Idaho, and Texas State. The Roadrunners are on the move once again, as Larry Coker’s team is joining Conference USA. UTSA will need time to build depth and get acquainted to its new league members, but the Roadrunners have a rich recruiting area, along with a good fan base to help ease the transition to life as a full-time FBS member.  


14. Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs were a geographic misfit in the WAC but should be a perfect fit in a revamped Conference USA. With the change in conferences, Louisiana Tech is in a much better league in terms of developing geographic rivals, which includes North Texas, Rice, UTEP, UTSA and Southern Miss. The Bulldogs should find life in Conference USA a little easier when it comes to recruiting; and with no established mid-majors like Boise State, Utah State or Fresno State to worry about in their new league, Louisiana Tech has a chance to become one of the premier programs in C-USA.


15. Mid-American Conference
What realignment? That’s what the MAC is saying after avoiding any major departures of their own members. The conference could stand to add a 14th team to balance the divisions, but avoiding a massive exodus was a huge boost for weeknight MACtion. 

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Teaser:
College Football's Top 15 Winners From Conference Realignment
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/high-expectations-have-returned-jimbo-fisher-and-florida-state-0
Body:

Brandon Jenkins scanned the media room in the bowels of Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, looking for old teammates preparing for the NFL Draft and having no problems finding them.

He realized that he could see more than a dozen reasons why Jimbo Fisher is the right coach for Florida State.

“We have 13 guys at the NFL Combine,” said the former FSU defensive tackle, one of those 13 working out for NFL teams in late February. “That says a whole lot about the coaching. Knowing Jimbo, it’s not slowing down. It’s just getting better.”

Jenkins is right about one thing — the train of talent cruising into Tallahassee isn’t slowing. FSU is losing players to the NFL, but the school will have another batch ready next year. If one ACC team is competing with the top SEC schools in recruiting, it’s FSU, and it’s probably not close (although Clemson might say otherwise).

This formula helped the Seminoles win their first ACC title since 2005, handily defeat Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl and shift national focus to Doak Campbell again.

But while FSU fans hope that Fisher is the man to package that talent into the school’s first true national title contender in more than a decade, there’s always been one thing — or one game — holding his teams back the last three years. There’s only one step left to take, and the Seminoles haven’t taken it.

When he took over for retired legend Bobby Bowden, Fisher was asked to rebuild a once-proud national power. With 31 wins in three seasons, it seems he’s on his way.

Yet, why did it feel like a 12–2 team that won a BCS bowl underachieved a bit last year?

Replay the NC State game, and you’ll understand why that question persists. The Seminoles led 16–0 at the half and 16–3 heading into the fourth quarter. They lost 17–16 — a game that basically eliminated them from the national title chase.

When discussing FSU’s season, an ACC assistant coach pointed to the “up and down” Seminoles — dominance tainted by curious lapses.

Since Fisher’s promotion in 2010, the Seminoles have defeated Miami, Florida, Notre Dame, Clemson and South Carolina — while also losing to five unranked teams, with three of those losses coming on the road.

Maybe demanding perfection is unfair. But those are the rules at Florida State, a program that enjoyed 14 consecutive 10-win seasons from 1987-2000.

 “We won the ACC championship. We went to a BCS bowl. You can’t ask for too much more,” Jenkins says. “We didn’t get to a title game, but you can’t really sit there and say we had a bad season — 12–2 is pretty good.”

Most programs would relish a 12–2 season, but the Seminoles in 2012, and other seasons, were predicted to do much more. Florida State started at No. 7 in the preseason Associated Press poll and rose to No. 3 before the loss to NC State. The Seminoles were ranked as high as No. 5 in 2011 but finished 23rd after the Champs Sports Bowl.

That’s the backdrop for Fisher’s fourth season, one that will be challenging with key veterans gone along with several members of his coaching staff.

Fisher must maximize FSU’s enormous potential while replacing 11 starters (including quarterback EJ Manuel) and breaking in six new assistant coaches this offseason.

The coordinator of last year’s stout defense, Mark Stoops, is Kentucky’s new head coach. Offensive coordinator James Coley joined Miami’s staff and should have more influence on the offense there, since Fisher calls the plays at FSU.

Fisher also lost quarterbacks coach Dameyune Craig (now Auburn’s co-offensive coordinator), defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot (Kentucky defensive coordinator), linebackers coach Greg Hudson (Purdue’s defensive coordinator) and running backs coach Eddie Gran (Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator).

Fisher is a disciple of the Nick Saban School of Intensity, and that’s not always easy to handle for assistants day-to-day. But the departures seem more about opportunity —one head coach and five coordinator jobs — than discontent.

And despite the staff turnover, there was no drop-off in recruiting, where the Seminoles ranked in the national top 15 as usual.

That recruiting won’t matter much if Fisher doesn’t follow his belief that fundamentals win championships.

“You can be talented, but how can you be productive and how do you fit into the master scheme of things?” Fisher says.

Fisher sounds like he’s willing to allow his new defensive coordinator, former Alabama secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt, to be creative. Defensive ends will move inside on passing downs. Six or even seven defensive backs will be on the field at once. And linebackers will rush the passer more.

FSU has enough depth to be multiple. New starters will be moving into their full-time positions with experience. Replacing first-round pick Bjoern Werner, for example, is Giorgio Newberry, who recorded tackles in eight games last season and has created high expectations among his coaches.

“This is still a tremendous group of players,” Fisher says. “We’re establishing ourselves as a program again, with guys who played as much ball as anybody else stepping in.”

Fisher is asking a bevy of new coaches — Pruitt, defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri, wide receivers coach Tim Brewster, running backs coach Jay Graham, linebackers/special teams coach Charles Kelly and quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders — to ease the transition.

Fourth-year junior Clint Trickett entered spring practice as the starting quarterback, but he decided to transfer when it became clear redshirt freshman Jameis Winston, the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2012 class, was on the verge of winning the job.

Between Christian Ponder and Manuel, FSU has had a steady presence at quarterback under Fisher. The hope is that Winston, also an elite baseball player, is the next star at the most important position on the field. Fisher is willing to be patient to find out.

“You can’t try to force something to happen,” Fisher says. “You have to let it play out.”

Fisher knows this all too well regarding his own job. He had chances to parlay his three successful seasons into another job. A faction of FSU boosters wondered if Fisher would look into the Auburn job that went to Gus Malzahn. There were rumors about his candidacy at Tennessee.

But FSU is arguably a top-five national job. The recruiting base is too good. The program has proven itself to be national title-worthy.

Now, Fisher needs to prove it again.
 

Written by Jeremy Fowler for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 ACC Preview Edition. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 ACC season.
 

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Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 06:45
All taxonomy terms: Funny, Stupid, Overtime
Path: /overtime/how-aaron-hernandez-may-have-committed-murder-according-taiwanese-animation
Body:

Taiwanese animators are at it again, recreating this amazingly lifelike look at how former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez may have committed several murders. We had no idea a rocket launcher and Cotton Candy Bubblicious gum were involved.

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, June 30, 2013 - 15:53
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, Oakland Raiders, NFL
Path: /oakland-raiders-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

Not much went right for Dennis Allen in his first season as Oakland's head coach. The roster went through an overhaul during the offseason, so what are the expectations this fall? Here's our look at the Raiders' 2013 NFL schedule.

Oakland Raiders 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at Indianapolis
Week 2: Jacksonville
Week 3: at Denver (Mon.)
Week 4: Washington
Week 5: San Diego
Week 6: at Kansas City
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Pittsburgh
Week 9: Philadelphia
Week 10: at New York Giants
Week 11: at Houston
Week 12: Tennessee
Week 13: at Dallas (Thurs.)
Week 14: at New York Jets
Week 15: Kansas City
Week 16: at San Diego
Week 17: Denver

Order your 2013 Oakland Raiders Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: Oakland opens the season in Indianapolis before coming home to host Jacksonville. The loser of that game becomes the early frontrunner for the No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. After the Jaguars, the Raiders go to Denver for a Monday night game before closing out the first month at home against Washington. Outside of the Broncos, the Raiders' opening slate doesn't look too daunting. A win or two in September doesn't appear to be that far-fetched of an outcome.

Toughest Stretch: Following their bye in Week 7, the Raiders will play the Steelers and Eagles at home before facing the Giants and Texans on the road in back-to-back weeks. A home game against Tennessee precedes a Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas, which is followed by an even longer road trip to the Big Apple to play the Jets in Week 14. Pittsburgh is still smarting from last season's shocking 34-31 loss in Oakland and would like nothing more than to get a little payback this season. Neither the Eagles or Titans made the playoffs in 2012, but both finished with better records than the Silver and Black. The trip to Houston won't be easy and it's hard enough to make one cross-country trip to the east coast, let alone two in a little more than a month. At least the Raiders get a week off before they embark on this seven-week stretch.

Swing Games:PIT (Week 8), at NYJ (Week 14)
Crossover Divisions:AFC South, NFC East
Bye Week:Week 7
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.469 (29th)
Athlon's SOS Rank:26th

Easiest Stretch: With the exception of the Week 2 matchup with Jacksonville and probably a few other home games, Oakland figures to be the underdog most weeks. To put it another way, the Jaguars and the Chiefs are the only teams the Raiders play that won fewer games than they did last season. That said, Oakland's slate does include one three-game span featuring teams that posted losing records in 2012. Unfortunately for the Raiders, two of these games are on the road (at NYJ, at SD) and two of them are divisional matchups. Let's face it, "easy" games are hard to find for a team that went 4-12 last season.

Circle The Calendar: Even with the Thanksgiving Day date with the Cowboys, the most important game on the Raiders' schedule this season may be their Week 2 matchup with the Jaguars. Neither team is expected to be a playoff contender, so it's not like this is a battle of heavyweights. Still, this game is important if for no other reason because of the potential draft implications it carries. Barring unforeseen turnarounds from either or both teams, Oakland and Jacksonville are expected to be among the worst teams in the league, meaning they will once again pick high in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. So the winner of this Week 2 game may actually end up being a loser in the end, as this one game alone could end up determining who picks first and who picks second next April.

Divisional Notes: Oakland's AFC West games are bunched together in two segments of its schedule. The first divisional game is a Monday night date in Denver in Week 3, followed by San Diego (home) and Kansas City (away) back-to-back prior to the Raiders' Week 7 bye. Then it's no more divisional contests until the final three weeks of the season. Home games with the Chiefs and Broncos sandwiched by a short trip south to the play the Chargers means the Raiders won't have to travel very far to finish their season.

Playoff Push: Barring one of the greatest turnarounds in NFL history, the Raiders don't figure to be in the playoff hunt by the time December rolls around. Oakland will rack up a lot of frequent-flyer miles to open the final month, with back-to-back road trips to Dallas and New York to face the Jets on tap. At least the game with the Cowboys is on a Thursday, which helps break up the travel some. After that, however, the Raiders will finish their season in California with three straight games against divisional foes Kansas City (home), San Diego (away) and Denver (home). The long road trips only add to the difficulty of its December slate, but it's not unreasonable for Oakland to finish the season with a win or two, especially if the Broncos have their playoff positioning locked in before Week 17.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Is this the season Darren McFadden finally stays healthy throughout? His track record screams otherwise, but if he’s still carrying the ball come fantasy playoffs time that high draft pick spent on him may pay off. The Jets and the Chiefs finished 26th and 27th, respectively, in rushing defense last season. The Chargers (sixth) were considerably better in this category, but that game isn’t until championship week.

2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston Denver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle

 

Teaser:
Oakland Raiders 2013 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Friday, June 28, 2013 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC West, San Francisco 49ers, NFL
Path: /nfl/san-francisco-49ers-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

Jim Harbaugh had his San Francisco 49ers less than 10 yards from a Super Bowl victory last year. With brilliant offseason moves and another great draft class, the Niners are the frontrunner to repeat as NFC champions. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

San Francisco 49ers 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: Green Bay
Week 2: at Seattle
Week 3: Indianapolis
Week 4: at St. Louis (Thurs.)
Week 5: Houston
Week 6: Arizona
Week 7: at Tennessee
Week 8: at Jacksonville
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Carolina
Week 11: at New Orleans
Week 12: at Washington (Mon.)
Week 13: St. Louis
Week 14: Seattle
Week 15: at Tampa Bay
Week 16: Atlanta (Mon.)
Week 17: at Arizona

Order your 2013 San Francisco 49ers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: The Niners will have the toughest first two games of the season of any team in the NFL. And the importance of games with Green Bay and Seattle cannot be understated, as both could determine playoff seeding. In addition, the NFC West could easily be on the line at CenturyLink Field just seven days into the season. And things don't get any easier for the 49ers either as they get a visit from Andrew Luck and the Colts in Week 3 and travel to St. Louis in Week 4. Most teams would be staring at an 0-4 start to the year but not San Francisco. It has to be bittersweet that the two toughest games in the division will be out of the way in the first month.

Toughest Stretch: The first five weeks of the season have to be considered the toughest stretch for the defending NFC champs. On top of two huge road divisional games and tests with elite signal-callers Aaron Rodgers and Luck at home comes a visit from the Houston Texans. The final seven weeks of the season won't be easy but the elite level of competition in the first five weeks makes the start to the season the most daunting stretch of the 2013 slate for San Francisco.

Swing Games:GB (Week 1), at WAS (Week 12)
Crossover Divisions:NFC South, AFC South
Bye Week:Week 9
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.520 (9th)
Athlon's SOS Rank:8th

Easiest Stretch: As the defending NFC champs, there shouldn't be any truly easy stretches. However, there is a five-week run following the Week 5 tilt against Houston that should provide some easier wins. The 49ers will face the Cardinals, Titans and Jaguars — arguably the three worst teams on their schedule this year — in three consecutive weeks. Then San Fran gets an off weekend before a visit from Carolina in Week 10. Four losing teams from a year ago and the bye week makes Weeks 6-10 the easiest stretch of games for Harbaugh and company.

Circle The Calendar: Week 2 in Seattle will be downright epic. The Link's crowd is always rowdy and both sides know full well what will be at stake in this monstrous NFC West showdown. Last year, the Niners edged past the Seahawks at home 13-6 in mid-October. However, Pete Carroll's boys put a beatdown on Harbaugh's guys 42-13 in Week 16 last year. These two coaches have had a long-standing rivalry dating back to their Pac-10 USC-Stanford days and now they may boast the two best teams in the league. This could be the biggest game of the entire NFL calendar in 2013.

Divisional Notes: This could be the toughest division in football but the Niners are luckier than the other three teams in the NFC West as they don't have to face, well, the 49ers twice. That said, road trips to both Seattle and St. Louis will be nasty in the first month. The home rematches with both will take place in back-to-back weeks to start December. With so much space between these key divisional games, it is likely that all three teams will be dramatically different in the second bouts. Arizona, which is no easy out, will be a welcome sight for San Francisco in Weeks 6 and 17.

Playoff Push: The final month won't be easy for the Niners but there is plenty to like about this end to the season. Road trips to Tampa Bay and Arizona both happen within the final three weeks and three huge NFC showdowns come in Candlestick Park. St. Louis had Harbaugh's number a year ago and will be a tough out while home-field advantage and the NFC West will hang in the balance when Seattle and Atlanta visit during December. The final home game of the year against the Falcons will come on "Monday Night Football" and should be one of the most anticipated games of the year.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Colin Kaepernick could have one of the toughest fantasy playoff schedules of any of his peers. The dual-threat has to face top-seven fantasy defenses against QBs in Seattle and Atlanta, although both of those games are at home, as well as Tampa Bay’s upgraded secondary on the road. The Seahawks (sixth against fantasy RBs) and Buccaneers (No. 1 in rushing defense last season) also weren’t that kind to RBs either.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHoustonDenver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburgh (7/1)Tennessee (7/3)San Diego (7/2)
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
Washington (7/3)MinnesotaTampa Bay (7/2)Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, June 28, 2013 - 12:31
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-nba-draft-numbers
Body:

Thursday’s NBA Draft was full of surprises from the start. The Cavaliers shocked everyone by taking UNLV’s Anthony Bennett with the first pick. The Bobcats followed by taking Cody Zeller fourth.

From the college perspective, the draft was no surprise: The bluebloods still rule the day.

Selected seventh overall, Ben McLemore gave Kansas a NBA draft lottery pick in the fourth consecutive draft. His selection means the Jayhawks have the most lottery picks since 2000 with 11.

Selected 25th, Reggie Bullock was the only North Carolina player taken, enough to keep the Tar Heels the leader in first-round picks since 2000 with 16. Kentucky, with 11 first-round picks in the last four drafts, is right behind the Tar Heels at 14.

At least on sheer numbers, the ACC may have been the biggest winner: Six players from the ACC’s 2013-14 lineup were selected in the first round Thursday, most of any conference.

We’ve crunched the numbers from the college basketball perspective and here are a few interesting nuggets we found.

BY THE NUMBERS: NOTES FROM THE 2013 NBA DRAFT

FIRST ROUND PICKS SINCE 2000
BY SCHOOL
16 North Carolina
14 Kansas, Kentucky
13 Duke
12 Connecticut
10 Texas
9 Syracuse
8 Florida, UCLA
7 Arizona, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Stanford
6 Indiana, Michigan State, Washington
5 Georgetown, Illinois, Louisville, Memphis, USC, Wake Forest
FIRST ROUND PICKS SINCE 2000
BY CONFERENCE*
70 ACC
46 Pac-12
40 SEC
36 Big 12
32 Big Ten
30 American
22 Big East
14 Mountain West
7 West Coast
6 Atlantic 10
*by 2013-14 alignment
68 International
22 High School
2 Junior College

• The Cavaliers had one of the shocks of the draft by picking UNLV’s Anthony Bennett first overall when Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel was the more popular projection. Bennett was UNLV’s first first-round pick in a decade.

• With Noel slipping to the sixth pick, coach John Calipari failed to produce a top-five pick for the first time since 2006 if you include Enes Kanter, who signed with Kentucky but was ruled ineligible. Noel and Archie Goodwin (selected 29th) gave the Wildcats 11 first-round picks since 2010. Kentucky’s total isn’t just the most since 2010, it’s the most of any school during the one-and-done era since 2007.

• Ben McLemore was Kansas’ only first-round pick — and the only one for the Big 12 as a whole — giving the Jayhawks the most lottery picks (11) since 2000.

• No. 12 overall pick Steven Adams became the first first-round pick for Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon, who is responsible for three second-round picks.

• Conference realignment has helped the ACC consolidate basketball talent, at least as far as the NBA Draft is concerned. The 2013-14 basketball lineup for the ACC has produced 70 first-round picks, not including five from Louisville, which will join in 2014-15. Conference expansion added 23 to the ACC’s haul since 2000: Nine have come from Syracuse, five from Louisville, four from Boston College, two each from Notre Dame and Miami and one from Pitt. Four of the ACC’s 70 first-round picks since 2000 were from outgoing member Maryland, including No. 5 pick Alex Len in 2013.

• From 2000-12, Indiana produced only two lottery picks (Jared Jeffries in 2002 and Eric Gordon in 2008). The Hoosiers doubled that total in the first four picks Thursday with Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. The Hoosiers duo also gave the Big Ten two picks in the first five for the first time since Ohio State in 2007 (Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr.).

• Deshaun Thomas had to wait until the second round to be selected, but he extended a streak of Ohio State players going in the NBA Draft. A Buckeye has been selected for seven seasons in a row, the longest active streak in the nation.

• Thomas, a junior, waited to hear his name called and ended up with the San Antonio Spurs. Other early entries weren’t so lucky. Among the top underclassmen who didn’t get drafted were: Marquette’s Vander Blue, Memphis’ Adonis Thomas, Texas’ Myck Kabongo, NC State’s C.J. Leslie, Oklahoma’s Amath M’Baye and Missouri’s Phil Pressey.

Related: Crunching numbers from the early entry era

• Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. became Michigan’s first first-round picks since 2000. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was Georgia’s first first-round pick since 2003.

• The Patriot League had produced one NBA Draft pick in its history before Thursday: Colgate’s Adonal Foyle, who was the No. 8 pick in 1997. Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum was selected 10th, and Bucknell’s Mike Muscala went in the second round.

2013-14 Early Rankings:
ACC
American
Big 12
Big East
Big Ten
Pac-12
SEC

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, June 28, 2013 - 12:25
Path: /college-footballs-best-coaching-trees
Body:

Hayden begat Bill who begat Bob who begat Mike, Kevin, Kevin, Mark and Mike.

Or something like that.

College football is full of borrowed ideas and philosophies, and nowhere is that more clear than looking at coaching trees. One head coaching with a staff of assistants has success and a handful of other programs are looking to get a piece of the magic.

In any other field of business, we’d just call this networking. One hiring manager (the athletic director) sees another spot having success, so he or she rings for a recommendation (the coach), and on and on we go.

In sports, we call them coaching trees. A fun exercise to see which head coaches are doing bang-up work in job placement.

Bill Snyder, a Hayden Fry disciple at Iowa, leads our list for producing Bob Stoops and others. Stoops, who played for Fry at Iowa, branched out on his own.

So why does Snyder get the credit and not Fry? Our list of the best college football coaching trees includes only head coaches who were active within the last 10 years. Otherwise, we’d spend our days tracking every coach back to Pop Warner, Walter Camp and Amos Alonzo Stagg.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S BEST COACHING TREES

1. Bill Snyder
Kansas State (1989-2005, 2009-present)
Branches:
Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Bret Bielema (Arkansas), Jim Leavitt (formerly USF), Mark Mangino (formerly Kansas)
Snyder oversaw one of sports’ greatest reclamation projects when he took Kansas State from also-ran to a factor on the national scene — twice over. His list of coaches used to be more substantial but still remains impressive. Mark Mangino and Jim Leavitt had successful runs at Kansas and USF, respectively, before player mistreatment issues sunk their tenures. Stoops, though, is the crown jewel, making Snyder a godfather of sorts in coaching trees.
Snyder’s roots: Hayden Fry, Iowa

1a. Bob Stoops
Oklahoma (1999-present)
Branches:
Mike Leach (Washington State), Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M), Kevin Wilson (Indiana), Mark Mangino (formerly Kansas), Mike Stoops (formerly Arizona)
Stoops played for Fry at Iowa before eventually becoming Snyder’s co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State. At Oklahoma, his offensive coordinator position became a stepping stone to a head coaching job from Leach to Mangino to Sumlin to Wilson.

1b. Bret Bielema
Wisconsin (2006-12), Arkansas (present)
Branches:
Dave Doeren (NC State), Paul Chryst (Pittsburgh)
Bielema perhaps belongs in the coaching tree for Fry at Iowa, where Bielema played and spent his early years as a coach. But Bielema spent two seasons as co-defensive coordinator at K-State for Snyder before becoming coach-in-waiting at Wisconsin under Barry Alvarez.

Related: Tracking the route for schools to win their first Heisman

2. Mike Leach
Texas Tech (2000-09), Washington State (2012-present)
Branches:
Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia), Sonny Dykes (Cal), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Ruffin McNeill (East Carolina), Art Briles (Baylor)
Why is Leach his own tree rather than a branch off Bob Stoops? Leach was an established Air Raid commodity while offensive coordinator for Hal Mumme at Kentucky before Stoops hired him at OU. And Leach has established a clear tree of offensive masterminds from his time at Texas Tech. Leach gave Briles his first college job after the now-Baylor coach was a legend in high school. Leach also gave Holgorsen his first Division I job and made Kingsbury his first quarterback in Lubbock. It’s almost tempting to put Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin on this list as Sumlin and Leach share similar offensive philosophies and assistants, but Sumlin never coached with Leach at Texas Tech.
Leach’s roots: Hal Mumme

3. Nick Saban
Toledo (1990), Michigan State (1995-99), LSU (2000-04), Miami Dolphins (2005-06), Alabama (2007-present)
Branches:
Jimbo Fisher (Florida State), Will Muschamp (Florida), Jim McElwain (Colorado State), Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), Tom Amtsutz (formerly Toledo), Pat Shurmur (formerly Cleveland Browns), Derek Dooley (formerly Tennessee), Kirby Smart (Alabama defensive coordinator), Todd Grantham (Georgia defensive coordinator)
Saban is part of the expansive Bill Belichick/Bill Parcells coaching tree that touches all levels of college and professional football. Saban’s biggest successes are now rivals in Florida with Jimbo Fisher at Florida State and Will Muschamp at Florida. Both programs have Saban-like qualities in terms of organization and administration. Mark Dantonio became a head coach after his stint under Jim Tressel at Ohio State, but he spent five seasons early in his career under Saban at Michigan State. Derek Dooley flamed out at Tennessee, but Kirby Smart has a head coaching job awaiting him when he wants it.
Saban’s roots: Bill Belichcik, Bill Parcells

4. Urban Meyer
Bowling Green (2001-02), Utah (2003-04), Florida (2005-10), Ohio State (2012-present)
Branches:
Dan Mullen (Mississippi State), Charlie Strong (Louisville), Steve Addazio (Boston College), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Doc Holliday (Marshall), Dan McCarney (North Texas), Tim Beckman (Illinois), Gregg Brandon (formerly Bowling Green), Mike Sanford (formerly UNLV)
Meyer is a relatively new one on the scene, but an undefeated season at Utah and two titles at Florida rose quite a few assistants to prominence. Dan Mullen and Kyle Whittigham were with Meyer from early days, but Meyer did a good job in hiring guys like Holliday (a longtime Don Nehlen assistant at West Virginia), Dan McCarney (a former Iowa State coach) and Steve Addazio (who traces his roots to Syracuse). Charlie Strong was a holdover from the Ron Zook staff (as was now-North Carolina coach Larry Fedora), but both Meyer and Strong trace their roots to Lou Holtz’s and Bob Davie’s staffs at Notre Dame.
Meyer’s roots: Earle Bruce, Lou Holtz

Related: College Football's best coaches under 40

5. Mike Bellotti
Oregon (1995-2008)
Branches:
Chris Petersen (Boise State), Chip Kelly (Philadelphia Eagles), Jeff Tedford (formerly Cal), Dirk Koetter (formerly Arizona State), Nick Aliotti (Oregon defensive coordinator)
Bellotti had a way of putting together offensive coaching staff. Jeff Tedford built his reputation as a quarterback guru in Eugene after taking over the offensive coordinator role from Dirk Koetter. For both, Chris Petersen was the wide receivers coach. Bellotti’s greatest stroke of genius, though, may have been plucking Chip Kelly off the staff at New Hampshire. One question: How deep would this coaching tree be if Bellotti didn’t have Aliotti as an defensive coordinator for all but three seasons of his tenure.
Bellotti’s roots: Rich Brooks

6. Butch Davis
Miami (1995-2000), Cleveland Browns (2001-05), North Carolina (2007-10)
Branches:
Greg Schiano (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis Colts), Rob Chudzinski (Cleveland Browns), Larry Coker (UTSA), Curtis Johnson (Tulane), Randy Shannon (formerly Miami), Mario Cristobal (formerly FIU)
Odd that a failed NFL coach has produced so many current NFL coaches. At the college level, Davis is just as known for overseeing an NCAA mess at North Carolina and rescuing Miami from one. Schiano and Coker were both coordinators for Davis with the Hurricanes before Schiano rebuilt Rutgers and Coker won a national title in Coral Gables.
Davis’ roots: Jimmy Johnson

7. Randy Walker
Miami (Ohio) (1990-98), Northwestern (1999-2005)
Branches:
Pat Fitgzerald (Northwestern), Terry Hoeppner (formerly Indiana), Kevin Wilson (Indiana), Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints), Jeff Genyk (formerly Eastern Michigan)
The late Randy Walker produced two coaches who brought energy to programs that needed to win with guile rather than talent in Pat Fitzgerald and the late Terry Hoeppner. Kevin Wilson is trying to do the same now that he’s with the Hoosiers. Sean Payton is often recognized as a Parcells disciple, but Walker gave the Saints coach his first coordinator gig.
Walker’s roots: Dick Crum

8. Fisher DeBerry
Air Force (1984-2006)
Branches:
Jim Grobe (Wake Forest), Troy Calhoun (Air Force), Tim DeRuyter (Fresno State)
Not a lot of flash in this group, but Grobe and Calhoun built successful programs and elected to stay for the long haul (a DeBerry trait). Like DeBerry, Grobe and DeRuyter win misdirection and the option while DeRuyter is set for a big season at Fresno State with a big-time quarterback in Derek Carr.
DeBerry’s roots: Ken Hatfield

9. Les Miles
Oklahoma State (2001-04), LSU (2005-present)
Branches:
Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Bo Pelini (Nebraska), Jimbo Fisher (Florida State), Larry Porter (formerly Memphis)
Bo Pelini and Jimbo Fisher were already established assistants when they were on Miles’ staff at LSU, but their time with Miles was their last stop before head coaching jobs. Miles’ most important staff decision, at least as far as folks in Stillwater are concerned, was hiring Mike Gundy as his offensive coordinator.
Miles’ roots: Bo Schembechler

9a. Mike Gundy
Oklahoma State (2005-present)
Branches:
Larry Fedora (North Carolina), Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia), Todd Monken (Southern Miss), Tim Beckman (Illinois)
Like his counterpart at Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State offensive coordinator these days is one step away from a head coaching job with Larry Fedora, Dana Holgorsen and Todd Monken all leaving the Cowboys to run their own programs.

10. George O’Leary
Georgia Tech (1994-2001), UCF (2004-present)
Branches: Ralph Friedgen (formerly Maryland), Bill O’Brien (Penn State), Doug Marrone (Buffalo Bills), Ted Roof (formerly Duke)
O’Leary’s career won’t be remembered for reasons the coach would prefer, but he has a decent track record of hiring assistants who become head coaches. Ralph Friedgen is Maryland’s all-time wins leader. Bill O’Brien worked for both O’Leary and Friedgen before landing on Belichick’s staff in New England. And Marrone earned his first FBS job under O’Leary at Georgia Tech.
O’Leary’s roots: Bobby Ross

Honorable mention: Jim Harbaugh
Stanford (2007-10)
Branches: David Shaw (Stanford), Willie Taggart (USF)
Shaw carried the legacy at Stanford while Taggart brought Western Kentucky into the FBS era. With Harbaugh’s success with the 49ers, this could be the Belichick coaching tree for the next decade.
Harbaugh's roots: Jack Harbaugh, Bo Schembechler


Related College Football Content

Athlon Sports' 2013 All-America Team
How Heisman Trophy Voting Has Changed
College Football's Top 10 Most-Improved Teams for 2013
Ranking College Football's Top 25 Uniforms
College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2013

Teaser:
Working with Bill Snyder, Mike Leach and Urban Meyer is a fast track to a big job
Post date: Friday, June 28, 2013 - 09:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /best-and-worst-times-be-oklahoma-football-fan
Body:

For many of the installments in our “best and worst times to be a fan” series, it’s been difficult to parse the high points and low points.

Oklahoma’s best time was easy: Watching a team go without a loss for 48 consecutive games may be one of the best times to be a fan of any program anywhere. The Sooners demolished opponents in the 47 wins from 1953-57, winning two national titles along the way.

The Sooners’ lows, though, were just as obvious. The end of the Barry Switzer era brought off-field controversy, both from the law and the NCAA. The next three coaches brought futility.

The rest of Oklahoma history, though, has been successful for the most part. Before his fall as OU’s coach, Switzer kept the Sooners on top with three national titles. Bob Stoops resuscitated the program for the 21st century where it remains — more often than not — the class of the Big 12.

Other best times/worst times:
Alabama
Miami
Nebraska
Notre Dame
Texas A&M


BEST TIMES TO BE AN OKLAHOMA FAN

1948-58
Record: 107-8-2
National championships: 3
Coach: Bud Wilkinson
Notable players: Billy Vessels, Jim Weatherall, J.D. Roberts, Max Boydston, Tommy McDonald, Clendon Hughes, Stan West, Tom Catlin
Hard to believe one of the best eras in college football started with a loss to Santa Clara. After that, Oklahoma embarked on a 31-game win streak, culminating in the 1950 national title. That was child’s play. Oklahoma won a record 47 consecutive games starting Oct. 10, 1953. Perhaps the era was boring, though, as the Sooners earned those wins by an average of 28.6 points per game before losing 7-0 to Notre Dame on Nov. 16, 1957. Oklahoma won the Big 8 in 11 consecutive seasons, won the national title in 1950, ’55, and ’56 and took home a Heisman in 1952 (Billy Vessels). In 1956, Oklahoma players split national player of the year awards as Tommy McDonald won the Maxwell and Jerry Tubbs won the Walter Camp. As Oklahoma won 107 games during this span, no other team won more than 87. And as the Sooners won 92.3 percent of their games over 10 years, no other team won more than 80 percent.

1984-87
Record: 42-5-1
National championships: 1
Coach: Barry Switzer
Notable players: Brian Bosworth, Keith Jackson, Rickey Dixon, Tony Casillas
Bosworth and Switzer made up a intriguing duo of college football villains during this era when OU went 11-1 in three consecutive seasons, including the ’85 championship. This last hurrah for Switzer was spoiled by Miami (led by former Oklahoma State coach Jimmy Johnson), which handed OU its only losses each season from 1986-87.

1971-80
Record: 105-11-2
National championships: 2
Coaches: Chuck Fairbanks, Barry Switzer
Notable players: Billy Sims, Lee Roy Selmon, Mike Vaughan, Greg Roberts, Tom Braheney, Rod Shoate, Randy Hughes, Greg Pruitt, Lucious Selmon, Dewey Selmon
Switzer didn’t match Wilkerson, but he came close. This era produced back-to-back national champions in 1974 and ’75, a Heisman winner (Sims) in ’78 and a legendary defensive line of brothers Lee Roy, Lucious and Dewey Selmon in 1973. Dewey and Lee Roy played on OU’s next two title teams.

2000-08
Record: 102-19
National championships: 1
Coach: Bob Stoops
Notable players: Sam Bradford, Jason White, Adrian Peterson, Josh Huepel, Tommie Harris, Rocky Calmus, Teddy Lehman, Derrick Strait, Duke Robinson
Bob Stoops led Oklahoma back to national prominence as the former Wishbone team embraced modern offenses. Startign in Stoops' second season, OU won the Big 12 championship game in six of nine years and reached the national championship game four times, while claiming the 2000 title. Bradford and White won the Heisman while Peterson made a case to be the best freshman in college football history.

WORST TIMES TO BE AN OKLAHOMA FAN

1989-98
Record: 61-50-3
Coaches: Gary Gibbs, Howard Schnellenberger, John Blake
The ‘80s ended as Oklahoma players would hit a litany of legal troubles, including starting quarterback Charles Thompson arrested for selling cocaine. NCAA sanctions also cut into the program as Switzer resigned before the 1989 season. Under Gary Gibbs, Oklahoma went 44-23-2 as the Sooners dealt with sanctions. The worst was yet to come. OU hoped the outsider Schnellenberger would return the program to prominence, but he was ushered out after a 5-5-1 season. John Blake was even worse as he went 12-22 for the lowest win percentage (35.3) by any Oklahoma coach. The ‘90s ended up the first decade since the ‘20s in which Oklahoma failed to win a conference title.

1936-37
Record: 8-5-5
Coaches: Biff Jones, Tom Stidham
Not a particularly awful stretch for the era before Bud Wilkinson, but the prospect of five ties in two seasons sounds like no fun. Before the Sooners reeled off a four-game win streak at the end of the 1937 season, Oklahoma had gone through a 1-2-2 stretch in Norman. Oklahoma made up for it by going 10-1 the following season before losing in the Orange Bowl.

IT WASN’T SO BAD WHEN...

2010-present
Record: 32-8
Coach: Bob Stoops
If 2013 is a down season for Oklahoma, the grumblings will start. Even though Oklahoma has the upper hand over Texas, a few ill-timed close losses have knocked the Sooners out of the national championship and Big 12 races. The “Big Game Bob” moniker has all but disappeared as Oklahoma has lost major bowl games to Boise State, West Virginia, Florida and Texas A&M.

Related College Football Content

2013 Big 12 Predictions
Big 12 2013 All-Conference Team
Athlon Sports' 2013 All-America Team
Big 12's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013
College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2013

Teaser:
Best and Worst Times to be an Oklahoma Football Fan
Post date: Friday, June 28, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /12-nfl-quarterbacks-hot-seat-2013
Body:

While the term "hot seat" is typically associated with head coaches and their job security, they are not the only ones who feel the heat during an NFL season. Along those lines, the official "start" to the 2013 season is less than a month away, as training camps will open and the battle for roster spots begins anew among the players.

It’s no secret that quarterback is the NFL’s glamor position. The majority of the league’s highest-paid players are quarterbacks and it’s the job that gets the most attention, notoriety and accolades. However, the good comes with the bad, which is why quarterbacks also are the most criticized, scrutinized and, when things go bad, vilified.

No position in the NFL is on the “hot seat” throughout the season more than quarterbacks. While job security may not be an issue, many signal-callers still feel the heat from fans and pundits alike depending on their team’s expectations. Here are the 12 quarterbacks we feel are under the most pressure this fall.

1. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Schaub, a two-time Pro Bowler with three 4,000-yard seasons to his credit, is firmly entrenched as the Texans’ starter. So why is he tops on our list? The two-time defending AFC South champions are considered one of the league’s top teams and Super Bowl contenders in 2013. Houston, however, has yet to advance past the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs and if it wants to reverse that trend this season, the passing game must step up.

Schaub’s career-high in touchdown passes is 29 and he tossed just 22 last season. He also has consistently come up short in the games that matter most. In the Texans’ five losses last season, including the playoff defeat in New England, Schaub threw a combined two touchdown passes and six interceptions. Houston has one of the league’s best running games led by Arian Foster, an All-Pro wide receiver in Andre Johnson, a Pro Bowl tight end in Owen Daniels and drafted Clemson wideout DeAndre Hopkins in the first round in April. Schaub has a solid offensive line protecting him and plenty of weapons at his disposal. It’s now on him to do his part and lead his team on a deep playoff run, before the Texans’ championship window closes.

2. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Romo’s inclusion high on this list shouldn’t come as a shock. For starters, there are fewer NFL jobs that have a higher profile than the starting quarterback of “America’s Team.” Then there’s the matter of the six-year, $108 million contract extension Romo signed in March, which if anything, only adds to the pressure.

The Cowboys have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. Romo, who missed 10 games because of injury in 2010, is 17-21 as the starter over this span with a 70:36 touchdown-to-interception ratio, including a league-high 19 picks last season. Everyone is feeling the heat in Big D, with head coach Jason Garrett at the top of the list. Romo’s not too far behind him, however, as the Cowboys’ faithful are fully expecting their quarterback to play like the big star on his helmet.

3. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Cutler is entering the final year of his contract and there’s a new coaching staff in charge in the Windy City. The gunslinger doesn’t have to be worry about losing his job, provided he stays healthy. That said, this is a critical season for the 30-year-old, as new Bears’ head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery have to decide whether he’s the long-term answer or not.

Cutler has won (34-22 during regular season) plenty of games for the Bears, but the 82:63 touchdown-to-interception ratio and less than 60 percent completion rate leave a lot to be desired. The team focused on addressing the offensive line (Cutler has been sacked 148 times in four seasons in Chicago) in free agency and through the draft, and also added a new weapon in tight end Martellus Bennett. There should be no more excuses as Cutler enters what’s basically an audition season for him.

4. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
In 2008, Rivers led the NFL in passer rating (105.5) and touchdown passes (34). Since then his passer rating has dropped each year, down to 88.6 last year, and he has turned the ball over 49 times over the last two seasons combined. As a result, the Chargers have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons and Mike McCoy is now in charge following the firing of Norv Turner.

Rivers is only 31 and he has a new offensive coordinator in former Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt. The hope is that Whisenhunt can do for Rivers what he did for Ben Roethlisberger when he was taken by the Steelers in the first round of the 2004 draft. Whisenhunt was the Steelers’ offensive coordinator at the time, and the duo helped bring another Super Bowl ring to Pittsburgh in Roethlisberger’s second season. Whether the Rivers-Whisenhunt union results in a Lombardi Trophy for San Diego remains to be seen, but Rivers needs to find his old form or the team will have no choice but to start looking for its next franchise quarterback.

5. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
What, you were expecting Tim Tebow? Before the Jets jettisoned Tebow, the team added to the ever-present quarterback controversy by drafting Geno Smith in the second round. It’s no secret that Sanchez’ days as the Jets’ starter are numbered. The only question that really remains is when and will Sanchez be able to show enough prior to that point to convince another team to give him a second chance?

6. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Locker did miss five games last season because of a shoulder injury, but it’s what he did in his 11 (2,176-10-11, 56.4 completion percentage) starts that have him on this list. This will be just his second season as the Titans’ starter, but it’s clear that Locker needs to show he can get the job done this fall. For one, head coach Mike Munchak is starting to feel his own seat get a little warm, and the team signed former Buffalo starter Ryan Fitzpatrick in the offseason to backup Locker, at least for now. The early success of fellow first-round picks Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, not to mention Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, only add to the pressure Locker is under this fall.

7. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Freeman bounced back from a disappointing 2011 campaign (16 TD, 22 INT) to throw for a career-high 4,065 yards and 27 touchdown passes. The 25-year-old is entering the final year of his rookie contract, so why is he feeling the heat? For starters, he completed less than 55 percent of his passes last season and has yet to put two productive seasons together. He’s also just 24-32 as a starter in Tampa and the Buccaneers drafted NC State’s Mike Glennon in third round of this year’s draft. Similar to Cutler, Freeman needs to show the league he can be a franchise quarterback, especially if Tampa Bay decides to not re-sign him after this season.

8. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s an understatement to say things haven’t worked out so far for the 10th overall pick of the 2011 draft. Gabbert has won five games in two seasons, has completed less than 54 percent of his passes, and has fewer touchdown passes (21) than games played (25). While the lack of success in Jacksonville is not solely Gabbert’s fault, he’s likely the first one on the chopping block with a new coaching staff taking over and veteran Chad Henne on the roster. It’s pretty much now or never for Gabbert, and the reality is he may not even get the chance to start in Week 1.

9. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Vick, who just turned 33, is at a career crossroads. While he is expected to get the first shot of running Chip Kelly’s highly anticipated offense with the Eagles, his one-year contract doesn’t offer much job security. Vick hasn’t played a full season since 2006 and he has a career completion rate of 56 percent. It’s pretty clear that Vick isn’t the long-term answer, so there’s no reason to think Kelly won’t turn to Nick Foles (or Matt Barkley for that matter), at the first sign of trouble, whether it’s injury-related or not.

10. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
To be fair, Weeden has just one season under his belt and it’s not like the Browns’ offense is flush with Pro Bowl-caliber pass-catchers. That said, Rob Chudzinski is now in charge with Norv Turner is calling the plays, and they need to figure out fairly quickly if Weeden is their guy or not. Having Trent Richardson in your backfield certainly helps, but unless Weeden can improve on his 57.4 completion percentage and 14:17 touchdown-to-interception ratio, not to mention in the win column, his tenure in Cleveland may be short-lived.

11. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Ponder helped lead the Vikings to a 10-6 mark and wild card spot in the playoffs last season. So what’s not to like? How about less than 3,000 yards passing and only 18 touchdowns? Granted, when you have Adrian Peterson you probably don’t need your quarterback to do much, but Ponder has to show he can do more through the air than his measly 183.4 yards per game. The Vikings traded Percy Harvin to Seattle, but signed Greg Jennings and drafted Cordarrelle Patterson to give Ponder more weapons. As long as he manages the game and doesn’t throw too many interceptions, Ponder should be fine, but the occasional 300-yard, three-TD game certainly wouldn’t hurt his long-term standing either.

12. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Smith gets a fresh start in Kansas City with Andy Reid. He’s shown what he can do when he gets the majority of the snaps, going 19-5-1 in his last two seasons in San Francisco. He also has shown, however, that he has a tendency to get hurt, which resulted in him losing the 49ers’ starting gig. Smith won’t turn 30 until next year and he has two years left on his contract. He should get plenty of chances to prove to Reid that he’s the long-term answer for the Chiefs, but Smith also needs to realize that his leash isn’t as long now as it was when he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2005.

Teaser:
12 NFL Quarterbacks on the Hot Seat in 2013
Post date: Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 15:00
Path: /college-basketball/kentuckys-calipari-rules-college-basketballs-one-and-done-era
Body:

One-and-done isn’t a one size fits all.

Colleges and coaches have had seven draft cycles to navigate the NBA’s rule that a player must be one year removed from high school to be eligible for the NBA Draft.

As the NBA sifts through the latest batch of college prospects, young and old (relatively speaking), we decided to look through how the college game has handled the so-called one-and-done phenomenon.

Roughly 40 to 50 underclassmen have declared for the draft (and kept their names available to be called) each season since the rule was put in place in 2007, the season Ohio State’s Greg Oden and Texas’ Kevin Durant starred for a year in college before becoming the Nos. 1 and 2 picks in the draft.

Of the 473 Division I players to make themselves available for the NBA Draft, only 37 percent are true one-and-dones, followed by 33 percent sophomores and 29.6 percent juniors.

That breakdown may surprise casual observers who think of this period of college basketball as a glorified weigh station for freshmen before the Draft. Part of the credit (or blame) goes to John Calipari, who has operated within the new landscape like none other.

Of the 177 players to go one-and-done since 2007, a dozen played for Calipari at Memphis or Kentucky. No other coach had more than five players stay for a year and bolt for the draft.

Here are a few other things we learned in our look at the NBA Draft early entry numbers since 2007.

A few notes on how we compiled the numbers:

• For the sake of consistency, the players we counted were those who were on the NBA’s underclassman list. That includes some players who declared for the draft before electing to play overseas.

• In the conference tally, programs were counted for the conference in which they will play in 2013-14, so Syracuse and Pittsburgh count for the ACC, Memphis and Louisville count for the American and so on.

• In the coaches’ tally, the coach listed is the one who had the job full-time in the player’s final season. For example, Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie played their first season at Georgia under Dennis Felton but declared for the draft under Mark Fox. Both count toward Fox’s total.

• The “years lost” column refers to the seasons of eligibility a school, conference or coach lost when a player declared early for the draft. A freshman counts as three years lost, a sophomore two and a junior three.

 

COACHES
 UnderclassmenYears Lost UnderclassmenYears Lost
John Calipari1844Paul Hewitt511
Bill Self1017Mark Fox57
Ben Howland917John Thompson III57
Rick Barnes819Jeff Capel49
Thad Matta819Mike Krzyzewski49
Jim Boeheim814Lorenzo Romar49
Roy Williams812Jim Calhoun47
Tim Floyd713Mark Turgeon48
Billy Donovan610John Beilein46

• Calipari has owned this era, as expected. It's not even close. The 18 early entires doesn’t stand out quite so much as the 44 years of eligibility lost. Calipari’s 18 draft-bound underclassmen at Memphis and Kentucky left after playing an average of 1.5 seasons. Texas’ Rick Barnes and Ohio State’s Thad Matta were in a similar spot with 1.6 seasons on average out of their early entry candidates.

• Kansas’ Bill Self, the only coach besides Calipari with double-digit early entires, got an average of 2.3 seasons out of his underclassmen. Kansas sent only three freshmen to the draft, Darrell Arthur, Josh Selby and Ben McLemore, and McLemore was a redshirt freshman. Six of Kansas’ 10 early entries left school as juniors.

• Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has an identical early entry profile (four players gone, nine years of eligibility lost) as former Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel and Washington coach Lorenzo Romar. Fired with the Sooners, the former Blue Devil Capel is now an assistant on Krzyzewski’s staff.

• One surprising name among the "leaders" is Georgia coach Mark Fox, who had three underclassmen declare with the Bulldogs (Travis Leslie, Trey Thompkins, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) and two at Nevada (Ramon Sessions, JaVale McGee).


 

SCHOOLS 
 UnderclassmenYears Lost UnderclassmenYears Lost UnderclassmenYears Lost
Kentucky1537N. Carolina812Duke49
Kansas1017Memphis714Washington49
UCLA917Arizona612UConn47
USC915Florida610Michigan46
Ohio St.819Ga. Tech511Nevada46
Texas819Oklahoma510Louisville45
Syracuse814Georgetown57UAB45

• Duke's 2010 national championship team was the only title winner without an underclassman who left for the following NBA Draft. Michigan State's 2009 national runner-up was the only other team to play in a title game duirng the one-and-done era without an underclassman who immediately went to the draft.

• Something interesting is going on in Los Angeles. UCLA and USC each had nine players leave early for the NBA Draft, more than any school besides Kansas and Kentucky. The Bruins aren’t a surprise, but the Trojans are, even considering USC landed on probation for NCAA violations. UCLA lost four underclassmen to the draft off two Final Four teams compared to five on the since 2009. At UCLA, Howland’s replacement Steve Alford lost only two underclassmen to the draft, both juniors.

• Who is getting the least out of underclassmen going to the draft? Of the eight teams that have sent eight or more underclassmen to the NBA Draft, only USC and Texas failed to reach a Final Four since 2007. One of the Trojans' early entries was counterproductive with freshman O.J. Mayo at the center of the NCAA investigation that landed the Trojans on probation and ended up with coach Tim Floyd fired.

• Connecticut also had a surprisingly low amount of players who declared early for the draft. The Huskies lost only four early entries and one freshman (Andre Drummond). During the same amount of time, DePaul lost three early entries. Granted, in the 2006 NBA Draft, Connecticut had three underclassmen selected in the first round, plus one more senior.

• Among notable programs with just one underclassmen leaving early: UNLV (Anthony Bennett) and Marquette (Vander Blue) lost their early entry candidate after the 2012-13 season.

• Florida State and Gonzaga lost as many players and seasons of eligibility to the draft since 2007 as Florida International did in three years under Isiah Thomas.


 

CONFERENCES*
 UnderclassmenYears Lost UnderclassmenYears Lost
SEC4583Big East1727
ACC4478Mountain West1421
Pac-124172Conference USA1217
Big 123466Atlantic 1056
Big Ten1837West Coast46
American1831WAC46


*Tallied by schools in the 2013-14 conference alignment


• Take Kentucky out of the SEC tally, and the league slips behind the ACC and Pac-12 in terms of early entries. Removing Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, the SEC accounts for 31 early entries, staying for an average of 2.5 seasons.

• The Big Ten is a veteran league for a major conference. The 18 early entries are as many as the upcoming lineup in the American Athletic Conference and one more than the new Big East, alarmlingly low totals for a major conference.

• One reason the Big Ten's numbers are much lower: Three Big Ten powers were among those who haven’t produced an early entry candidate during the one-and-done period, much less a freshman: Michigan State, Wisconsin and Purdue. Other notable programs that haven’t produced an early entry candidate since at least 2007 include Oregon, Temple, Creighton and the entire Missouri Valley Conference.

• Should this be a sign the reformed Big East will have trouble attracting NBA Draft talent? Georgetown (five) is the only program in the league that has produced more than four early entries to the NBA Draft. The American Athletic Conference includes Memphis, which produced three early entries (all sophomores) under Josh Pastner plus four more from UConn. Remove ACC-bound Louisville from the American and the remaining lineup has produced 14 underclassmen heading to the draft, as many as the Mountain West.

Teaser:
A look inside the numbers of underclassmen heading to the NBA Draft
Post date: Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 12:35
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC West, St. Louis Rams, NFL
Path: /nfl/st-louis-rams-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

The St. Louis Rams will feature plenty of new faces on offense this season. Can Sam Bradford and company come close to matching the success of "The Greatest Show on Turf?" Here's our look at the Rams' 2013 NFL schedule.

St. Louis Rams 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: Arizona
Week 2: at Atlanta
Week 3: at Dallas
Week 4: San Francisco (Thurs.)
Week 5: Jacksonville
Week 6: at Houston
Week 7: at Carolina
Week 8: Seattle (Mon.)
Week 9: Tennessee
Week 10: at Indianapolis
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Chicago
Week 13: at San Francisco
Week 14: at Arizona
Week 15: New Orleans
Week 16: Tampa Bay
Week 17: at Seattle

Order your 2013 St. Louis Rams Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: St. Louis gets to open the season at home against Arizona. Even though this is a divisional game, it's by far the easiest matchup the Rams have in September. After playing the Cardinals, the Rams have to go to Atlanta and Dallas before returning home to face San Francisco for the Thursday night game in Week 4. That's two defending divisional champions (Falcons and 49ers) and a road game against "America's Team" jammed into the first four weeks.

Toughest Stretch: If the Rams can survive the first six weeks, they should have a decent chance of finishing the season at .500 or better. Before the middle of October comes around, St. Louis will have played Atlanta, Dallas and Houston on the road and San Francisco at home. None of these four teams had a losing record last season and the Falcons, Texans and 49ers all won their respective divisions and at least one playoff game. The other two games in this six-week stretch are both at home against Arizona and Jacksonville. A break-even mark entering Week 7 has to be the Rams' goal, because anything worse does not bode well for the rest of the season.

Swing Games:at DAL (Week 3), CHI (Week 12)
Crossover Divisions:NFC South, AFC South
Bye Week:Week 11
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.539 (T-2nd)
Athlon's SOS Rank:3rd

Easiest Stretch: With seven games against teams that made the playoffs last season, there are few breaks to be found on St. Louis' 2013 slate. In fact, the only time the Rams plays teams that posted losing records in 2012 in consecutive weeks is in December. And even that stretch (at ARI, NO, TB) includes two teams, the Buccaneers and Saints, that just missed the .500 mark (both went 7-9 in 2012). This St. Louis team will certainly have plenty of opportunities to show just how "Ram tough" it is in 2013.

Circle The Calendar: The Rams will play their first Monday night home game since 2006 when they host NFC West rival Seattle in Week 8. St. Louis' other prime time game also is a home divisional contest, as it will kickoff Week 4 action by playing San Francisco on Thursday night. The Week 9 matchup with Tennessee is significant in that it will be the first time Jeff Fisher goes up against the team he coached for 17 seasons. Tight end Jared Cook is probably looking forward to facing his former teammates too.

Divisional Notes: Though it mattered nothing in the end, St. Louis actually posted the best record in the NFC West last season, going 4-1-1 against Arizona, San Francisco and Seattle. The Rams open (ARI) and finish (at SEA) the season with divisional matchups, with the ones at home scattered among their first eight games. The script flips after that, however, as all three NFC West road contests fall in December. This means these three games are crammed into a five-week span at the end of the season. The schedule alone makes a repeat of last season's 4-1-1 divisional mark seem unlikely.

Playoff Push: Since the Rams are in the same division as the 49ers and Seahawks, securing a playoff berth is a lofty goal in and of itself. When you couple that fact with a final month slate that includes road games against all three divisional foes and home dates with New Orleans and Tampa Bay (both went 7-9 last season), St. Louis' path to the postseason looks to be a difficult one. The Rams went 7-8-1 in 2012 and appear to be an even better team entering this season. Still with the degree of difficulty that is evident when analyzing St. Louis' schedule, the improvement this team is able to make this fall may not be accurately represented in the win column.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Sam Bradford got some new weapons, namely Tavon Austin and Jared Cook, but few breaks when it comes to his fantasy playoff schedule. On one hand there’s the Saints, who gave up the most fantasy points to QBs last season. On the other there’s a top-four fantasy defense in Arizona and a game against a Tampa Bay secondary that now includes Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston Denver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland (6/28)
NY JetsPittsburgh (7/1)Tennessee (7/3)San Diego (7/2)
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3)MinnesotaTampa Bay (7/2)Seattle (7/1)

Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 12:08
All taxonomy terms: AFC, New York Jets, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-york-jets-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

The 2013 season feels like a transition year for the New York Jets despite the fact Rex Ryan is still leading the ship. But with lots of new faces in key positions, the Jets could be in store for a long '13 season. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

New York Jets 2013 Schedule:

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

Order your 2013 New York Jets Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: There are winnable games in the first month for Ryan and the Jets. New York will face Tampa Bay and Buffalo at home with a road trip to Nashville, Tenn., capping the first month. A road trip to New England on a short week feels like a potential bloodbath, but if the Jets can win one or two of the first four, signs would be very positive for a team in desperate need of good news.

Toughest Stretch: This one is easy. From Week 5 to Week 9, the Jets will face five teams all projected to make the playoffs this year — three of which have played in the Super Bowl within the last four seasons. The other two will involve road games with two frontrunners for this year's Super Bowl in Atlanta and Cincinnati. The Jets need to make headway in the first month because an 0-5 stretch is waiting for them in October.

Swing Games:at TEN (Week 4), OAK (Week 13)
Crossover Divisions:AFC North, NFC South
Bye Week:Week 10
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.496 (19th)
Athlon's SOS Rank:23rd

Easiest Stretch: The first month may provide some wins but the final month is the easiest. Two games with Miami, home games with the Raiders and Browns and a road trip to Carolina might be the easiest finish in the NFL this fall. These five games will feature five opponents who combined to lose 50 games a year ago and could help save Ryan's job should the Jets pull some upsets.

Circle The Calendar: What is the marquee showdown for a team expected to be one of the league's worst? A visit to the Super Bowl champs in Week 12? Two battles with former rival Tom Brady that will feature endless loops of butt fumble footage? How about a Monday night trip to Atlanta? Sure, these games feature big-time opponents but no one thinks the Jets can win a single one of them. That said, there are many swing games on this schedule and a few wins over those teams could give this team a seven-win season. So the home and season opener against Tampa Bay might be the most exciting and most watchable Jets game of the year.

Divisional Notes: The AFC East slate is pretty spread out for the J-E-T-S. Games with New England on the road and Buffalo at home will come in back-to-back weeks early in the season, but New York only has one divisional game between Week 4 and Week 10. The final three AFC East games will come in the final seven weeks and the final two be against the Dolphins. There are plenty of wins to be had in the weak AFC East, but both games with the Patriots appear to be guaranteed losses.

Playoff Push: As previously stated, the final month of the season will be the Jets' easiest stretch of games. It is hard to see this New York team making a playoff push but there are definitely wins to be had in December. Two with Miami and one each with Cleveland, Carolina and Oakland would be a cakewalk for most of the playoff contenders, but Ryan's squad will have to battle to pick up some victories. That said, a 3-2 finish could give the current coaching regime another year to rebuild.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): No current Jet finished among the top 20 at their position in fantasy last season, so chances are that many fantasy players may not rely on this roster in 2013. However, if some weapons emerge, it’s possible some Jets could pay off come playoff time. For example, Oakland, Carolina and Cleveland were all in the bottom 13 against fantasy RBs in '12, and the Raiders and Panthers were among the bottom 10 defenses against TEs.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHoustonDenver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland (6/28)
NY JetsPittsburgh (7/1)Tennessee (7/3)San Diego (7/2)
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3)MinnesotaTampa Bay (7/2)Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 11:53
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-ohio-state-football-fan
Body:

Best and Worst Times to be an Ohio State Football Fan

Pinpointing the best times to be an Ohio State fan are pretty plain: Competing for national titles, winning Rose Bowls, fielding Heisman Trophy winners and, most of all, beating Michigan.

Over the years, Ohio State fandom enjoyed great highs, from when Woody Hayes dominated the first battles of the Ten Year War with Michigan and Bo Schembechler. And though Jim Tressel’s tenure may be remembered as much for its futility against the SEC and the scandal that cost Tressel his job, rooting for the Buckeyes at the start of the 21st century was awfully fun.

The lows seem to be marked by uncertainty more than extended periods of losing. The lowest point in Ohio State fandom may have been the disappointing 1978 season that started in the top 10 and ended with the sudden demise of Ohio State’s legendary coach. Though the 2011 season didn’t make our list of the worst times to be an Ohio State fan, the 6-7 season and coaching and NCAA instability must not have been fun for the Buckeye faithful.


BEST TIMES TO BE AN OHIO STATE FAN

1968-75
Record: 73-11-1
National championships: 2
Coach: Woody Hayes
Notable players: Archie Griffin, John Hicks, Jack Tatum, Randy Grandishar, Crhis War, Tom Cousineau, Jim Stillwagon
Ohio State had already won two national championships under Woody Hayes in the 1950s, but this is when things started to get really interesting. The Buckeyes entered the ’68 season with limited expectations, but an upset of No. 1 Purdue in third game of the season changed everything. The class of “Super Sophomores” of quarterback Rex Kern, defensive back Jack Tatum and defensive lineman Jim Stillwagon led an undefeated national champion in ’68. Eleven players from that team would earn All-America honors one time or another in their careers. The following year, though, began The Ten Year War between Ohio State’s Hayes and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler. Ohio State went 5-2 in its first seven matchups including four consecutive wins from 1972-75. Ohio State went to six Rose Bowls in eight seasons during this period, and running back Archie Griffin became only player to win the Heisman Trophy twice (’74 and ’75).

2002-10
Record: 87-17
National championships: 1
Coach: Jim Tressel
Notable players: Troy Smith (left), Maurice Clarett, A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis, Chris Gamble, Ted Ginn Jr. (right), Chris Wells, Mike Doss, Quinn Pitcock, Terrelle Pryor
Ohio State rarely had long stretches of mediocre football, but the Buckeyes had tired of losing to Michigan when they hired Jim Tressel from Youngstown State. Tressel paid dividends against more than just UM in his second season when the Buckeyes won six one-score games during the regular season before upsetting a loaded Miami team in the Fiesta Bowl for the 2002 national championship. Ohio State, Tressel and the Big Ten became better known for near-misses at the hands of the SEC during this time as the Buckeyes lost back-to-back national title games to Florida and LSU in 2006 and ’07. Still, the run included eight BCS games, seven top-10 finishes and a Heisman Trophy winner (Troy Smith) in a span of nine seasons. Tressel also re-took the series against Michigan, winning nine of 10 games against the Wolverines. Moreover, the basketball program reclaimed national power status under Thad Matta reaching the Final Four in 2007.

1960-62
Record: 21-5-1
National championships: 1
Coach: Woody Hayes
Notable players: Bob Ferguson
Ohio State won a share of the national title in 1961, but we picked this time because of the two-sport exploits in Columbus during this time. As the football team fared well, the men’s basketball program won the 1960 title and reached the NCAA championship game in ’61 and ’62 with future Basketball Hall of Famers Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek on campus.

1954-57
Record: 32-6
National championships: 2
Coach: Woody Hayes
Notable players: Howard “Hopalong” Cassady, Jim Parker
Hayes put his stamp on the program by leading Ohio State to a 10-0 season and national title in 1954, its first national championship since 1942 under Paul Brown. Hopalong Cassady also became Ohio State’s third Heisman winner in 1955. For the second (but not the last) time under Hayes, the Buckeyes won the UPI national championship and the Rose Bowl in 1957.

WORST TIMES TO BE AN OHIO STATE FAN

 

1978
Record: 7-4-1
Coach: Woody Hayes
Ohio State started the season in the preseason top 10 before a 19-0 loss to Penn State to open the season. Things would be downhill from there. Ohio State finished the regular season 7-3-1 with a 14-3 loss to Michigan. But the season would be infamous after a 17-15 loss to Clemson in the Gator Bowl. After Clemson’s Charlie Baumon intercepted the Buckeyes, Hayes punched Bauman and one of his own players who was trying to restrain the coach. Ohio State fired the best coach in school history the next day. Hayes was fourth all-time in career wins when he was fired. Earle Bruce went 11-1 with a Big Ten title in his first season replacing Hayes, but Ohio State fans were understandably shaken.

IT WASN’T SO BAD WHEN...

1995-98
Record: 43-7
National championships: 0
Coach: John Cooper
Notable players: Eddie George, Orlando Pace, Mike Vrabel, Joe Germaine, Terry Glenn, Korey Stringer, David Boston
Cooper’s tenure will be remembered partly for the coach’s futility against Michigan (he went 2-10-1 overall and 1-3 against the Wolverines from ’95-’98). But look at the star power from this era. George won the Heisman, and Pace was one of the best offensive linemen of all time. During Cooper’s best days with Ohio State, the Buckeyes won the Rose Bowl in 1995, twice reached the Sugar Bowl.

Teaser:
Which era under Woody Hayes was the best?
Post date: Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 10:36
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-best-coaches-under-40
Body:

The top two coaches from last year’s list of college coaches under 40 remain our top two here.

That’s fitting because Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart show no signs of going anywhere.

The two 30-something coaches have stuck with Butler and VCU, respectively, despite overtures from programs like UCLA and Illinois. True, those programs bring more notoriety and resources, but Stevens and Smart have proven they can win just as much where they are right now. And with both coaches easily crossing the $1 million mark, they don’t need to jump jobs for salary.

Stevens and Smart are no-brainers for our list of best college basketball coaches under 40, but the rest of the list may contain surprises. With Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg and Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie departing the under-40 club for the 2013-14 season, we dipped into the mid-major ranks to find our young coaches on the rise.

*All ages as of Nov. 1, 2013

COLLEGE BASKETBALL’S BEST COACHES UNDER 40

1. Brad Stevens, Butler
Record: 166-49, 12-5 NCAA Tournament
Age: 37
No coach has won more games in his first six seasons as a head coach than Stevens. That almost seems like a footnote in the Butler coach’s career. He took over successful mid-major and by staying in Indianapolis turned Butler into a national brand. The Bulldogs have twice reached the national championship game under Stevens, reached the NCAA Tournament in five of six years and moved up from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 to the reformed Big East. With few exceptions, the calm and collected Stevens seems to have done this without raising his heart rate.

2. Shaka Smart, VCU
Record: 111-37, 7-3 NCAA Tournament
Age: 36
Like Butler, VCU was up to the challenge by moving up from the Colonial to the Atlantic 10. The Rams have not won fewer than 27 games in four years under Smart and have proven to be a superb postseason team (one Final Four, two rounds of 32 and a CBI championship). Smart’s program has become synonymous with the havoc defense that forces turnovers better than just about any team in the country. With Butler, Xavier and Temple leaving the Atlantic 10, VCU is poised to become the top program in the A-10 as long as Smart is in Richmond.

3. Josh Pastner, Memphis
Record: 106-34
Age: 36
The energetic Pastner achieved an important milestone in 2013 with Memphis’ first NCAA Tournament win of his tenure thanks to a narrow win over 11th-seeded Saint Mary’s. Signature wins have been lacking under Pastner, but that’s about to change. Memphis trades lackluster Conference USA for Louisville (at least for a year), Connecticut, Cincinnati and Temple in 2013-14. Pastner has kept a string of McDonald’s All-Americans coming to Memphis, so there won't be a talent deficit in the new league. He’ll soon find out if they can keep up with better competition on a more consistent basis after breezing through C-USA last season.

4. Steve Prohm, Murray State
Record: 52-12, 1-1 NCAA Tournament
Age: 39
The Racers’ second season under Prohm wasn’t quite as magical as the first when Isaiah Canaan led Murray to a 31-2 season. Murray State still won 21 games and the West Division of the expanded Ohio Valley. Now it’s time to see what Prohm can do without Canaan.

5. Bryce Drew, Valparaiso
Record: 48-20, 0-1 NCAA Tournament
Age: 39
The most famous basketball player in Valpo history has turned out to be a pretty good coach. The son of longtime Crusaders coach Homer Drew took over his father’s program two seasons ago and brought Valpo back to the postseason contention with back-to-back Horizon League regular-season titles. The NCAA bid in 2013 was Valpo’s first since 2004, and the 26 wins were a school record.

6. Richard Pitino, Minnesota
Record: 18-14
Age: 31
FIU’s second attempt to hire a coach with name recognition fared much better than the first. Isiah Thomas won 14 Sun Belt games in three season at FIU. Pitino went 11-9 in the league in his lone season in Miami. FIU was on the brink of its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1995 before losing 65-63 to Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt title game. Minnesota took note and made him the youngest coach in the Big Ten. He has the family name, but his old bosses — Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan — have a good success rate with assistants-turned-head coaches.

7. Mitch Henderson, Princeton
Record: 37-23
Age: 38
Harvard has won the Ivy League the last two seasons, but Princeton has been right on the Crimson’s heels. The Tigers have finished one game back of Harvard in the Ivy the last two seasons. Like Bryce Drew at Valpo, Henderson is a hometown hero at Princeton who played on the 1996 Tigers team that upset UCLA in the NCAA Tournament. Henderson spent more than a decade on Northwetsern’s coaching staff, Big Ten experience that could become relevant.

8. Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
Record: 94-98
Age: 38
Though Seton Hall took a major step back last season — from 21 wins and an NIT appearance to 3-15 in the Big East — Willard has a good overall resume. Willard took over an Iona team that went 2-28 the year before he arrived. By the time Willard left, Iona won 21 games in 2010. A Rick Pitino assistant with Celtics and at Louisville, Willard will look to rebound in the new Big East.

9. Andy Toole, Robert Morris
Record: 68-36
Age: 31
Promoted to head coach before his 30th birthday, Toole delivered the biggest win in Robert Morris history when the Colonials defeated Kentucky in the NIT on their home court in March. That shouldn’t obscure what else he’s accomplished in Moon Township: 50 wins in the last two seasons, an NEC regular season title in 2013 and a 39-15 overall record in the league. A former Mike Rice assistant at Robert Morris before his promotion, Toole might be under the microscope as he’s a candidate for another job.

10. Michael White, Louisiana Tech
Record: 45-23
Age: 36
The WAC was watered down last season and the schedule was paper thin, but it’s tough to ignore Louisiana Tech’s progress in White’s second season. The Bulldogs improved from 6-8 in conference in his first season to 16-2 in the second. The former Ole Miss assistant led Louisiana Tech to its second-highest win total of 27 victories, second only to Karl Malone’s 29-win team in 1984-85. White is poised to build on last season in Conference USA in 2013-14.

Teaser:
<p> Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart are the best, but they're not alone.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /node/23321
Body:

The Pac-12 Conference doesn’t win a lot of Heisman Trophies, but when it does, it dominates.

Over the last 30 years, the league has just three such stiff-armed awards, but USC won those three Heisman in a four-year span from 2002-05: Carson Palmer (2002), Matt Leinart (’04) and Reggie Bush (’05). That said, the Pac-12 has been close recently with Heisman finalists LaMichael James, Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart coming extremely close to winning the trophy.

On top of that, recent trends are pointing toward another potential Heisman run for the Pac-12. An influx of elite offensive coaches and a dearth of electric underclassmen gives this conference as good a chance as any to win sports most prestigious award.

Here are the Pac-12’s top Heisman contenders for 2013 (complete with updated Vegas odds):

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (16/1)
Manziel gets most of the love as a redshirt freshman, but Mariota wasn’t far behind. Thanks to big leads by Oregon, he didn't see a ton of action deep into most second halves and still led the nation in road passing efficiency. Overall, he led the Pac-12 in passer rating and scored 37 total touchdowns. He plays with poise and confidence well beyond his years. The big question mark will be the loss of head coach Chip Kelly. The last time Oregon switched head coaches internally, there was little drop off, but one has to think this offense will take a small step back. Yet, as the leader of Oregon's offense, the supremely gifted 6-foot-4, 200-pound second-year starter should be destined for at least one trip to NYC in his career.

2. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (40/1)
Carey was the most underrated player in the nation last fall. He led the nation in rushing (148.4 ypg, 1,929 yards), set the Arizona single-season rushing record and the Pac-12 single-game rushing record (366 yards). He scored 24 times and helped turn the Wildcats from a four-win team in 2011 to an eight-win, zone-read monster. And he did all of this as a sophomore. With spread guru Rich Rodriguez calling the shots, the tough-nosed workhorse has a chance to post huge numbers once again in 2013. Charges were recently dropped concerning Carey’s domestic dispute and he has been punished internally by RichRod, so all signs are go for a huge 2013 campaign… as long as he walks the straight and narrow.

3. De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon (14/1)
An elite big-play machine, Thomas’ biggest weakness is actually one of his biggest strengths. The Oregon scheme lends itself to huge numbers but it also distributes the football. Simply, he needs more than 137 touches on offense to get to New York. The change in head coach will also play a role with Thomas' campaign like it will Mariota's. That said, few players in the nation are as captivating and explosive as Thomas. His 18 rushing touchdowns, 14 receiving touchdowns and four return touchdowns in just two seasons prove that pretty clearly.

4. Marqise Lee, WR, USC (14/1)
With a proven commodity at quarterback coming back, Lee might be a Heisman frontrunner nationally. But with Matt Barkley — and counterpart Robert Woods who drew plenty of defensive attention — leaving for the NFL, Lee’s numbers will almost assuredly go down. Those numbers, however, were extraordinary a year ago as he was No. 2 in the nation in receptions per game (9.1) and yards per game (132.4) and he scored 15 times. He is an elite player who may not have the supporting cast to get to Radio City Music Hall.

5. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA (25/1)
The Bruins finally found a quarterback. The redshirt sophomore-to-be threw for three 300-yard efforts in his first four career games. He then led his team to the Pac-12 title game, scored 38 total touchdowns and produced nearly 4,100 yards of total offense in just his first year under center. The show will be all his in Westwood now that Johnathan Franklin is gone.

6. Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
In just his first year under center, Kelly finished No. 2 in passing efficiency in the Pac-12 and averaged more than 273 yards of total offense per game. He also threw at least four touchdowns in a game four times in the final eight contests. With a host of talented surrounding cast, the efficient Sun Devils passer could easily push for Pac-12 Player of the Year honors.

7. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
The Huskies tailback and his 1,439-yard, 16-TD sophomore season flew well under the national radar a year ago. But with four starters back along the offensive line and his quarterback entering his third season as the starter, Sankey has a great chance to earn national acclaim as a junior. Even just a slight increase in production would place Sankey among the nation’s best.

8. Silas Redd, RB, USC
Redd scored in seven of his first nine games as a Trojan and posted three 100-yard efforts in his first five. But he slowed over the course of the year and dealt with small injuries late in the year. Still, he posted 1,018 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns in his first season in L.A. With a new quarterback, he should now be the focal point of the offense.

9. Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford
It took eight games but David Shaw found his replacement for Andrew Luck when he inserted the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder into the lineup a few plays into the Colorado game. Hogan proceeded to lead the Cardinal to a 6-0 record to end the season — including the school’s first Rose Bowl win since 1972 — with efficient and dynamic play under center. He passed for 1,096 yards (71.7%) with nine touchdowns while providing a spark on the ground with 263 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns. Look for much bigger things in ’13 from the Cardinal signal caller. 

10. Brendan Bigelow, RB, California
Now that C.J. Anderson and Isi Sofele have departed the backfield and Keenan Allen is in the NFL, Bigelow becomes the main offensive weapon in Berkeley. And few players nationally have as much upside as the electric tailback (see Ohio State game). He has big-play ability and will be right at home in Sonny Dykes high-octane offense.

11. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The next dynamic, versatile all-purpose type for Mike Riley. Extremely explosive.

12. Keith Price, QB, Washington
Look for the Husky's QB to return to his record-setting form in 2013.

13. Storm Woods, RB, Oregon State
Should build on solid freshman season: 940 yards and 13 TDs.

14. Arizona’s Quarterback
Anu Solomon would post much bigger dual-threat numbers while Jesse Scoggins might win the most games. But both players are chasing B.J. Denker entering fall practice. 

15. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
The nation's top tight end is in store for a huge (and final) year in Seattle.

16. USC’s Quarterback
Cody Kessler and Max Wittek will battle for one of the most Heisman-worthy positions in the nation.

17. Byron Marshall, RB, Oregon
Marshall will fill the Kenjon Barner role and could see more touches than DAT.

18. UCLA’s Running Back
Jordan James and Paul Perkins will battle for touches in void left by Franklin.

19. Connor Halliday, QB, Washington State
Year No. 2 under Mike Leach has to better than Year No. 1, right?

20. Anthony Wilkerson, RB, Stanford
Will get the first crack at taking over for Stepfan Taylor. Tyler Gaffney and Barry Sanders will play too.

2013 Pac-12 Team Previews

NorthSouth
CaliforniaArizona
OregonArizona State
Oregon StateColorado
StanfordUCLA
WashingtonUSC
Washington StateUtah

Best of the Rest:

21. Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State
22. DJ Foster, RB, Arizona State
23. Christian Powell, RB, Colorado
24. Zach Kline, QB, California
25. Travis Wilson, QB, Utah
26. Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon
27. Kasen Williams, WR, Washington
28. Shaquelle Evans, WR, UCLA
29. Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
30. Nelson Agholor, WR, USC 

10 Defensive Players to Watch:

Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
Dion Bailey, S, USC
Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
Morgan Breslin, DE, USC

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College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
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Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 07:24
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-conferences-2013
Body:

After seven consecutive national championships, the SEC is reigns supreme as college football’s premier conference for 2013. The bottom of the conference isn’t its strength this year, but Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Florida are all national title contenders for 2013.

The SEC is clearly ahead of the rest of the conferences, but the Pac-12 boasts two top-10 teams in Oregon and Stanford. The South Division is a wide-open battle between Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and USC. Helping the Pac-12’s case as the No. 2 conference should be the bottom of the league, as Colorado, Washington State, Utah and California should continue to improve as the season progresses.

The Big Ten and Big 12 round out the top four conferences, with the ACC and Mountain West running just behind. The Big 12 doesn’t have a clear frontrunner in 2013, but the league has solid depth. 

Ranking College Football's Conferences for 2013

1. SEC

Athlon's 2013 Favorite: Alabama

The SEC increased its run of national championships to seven straight thanks to Alabama’s dominating win over Notre Dame in the BCS title game. The Crimson Tide are our pick to win it all again, but Texas A&M, Georgia, South Carolina, LSU and Florida could all play their way into the national title discussion. Texas A&M is loaded once again, but the Aggies will have to deal with huge expectations. LSU lost a ton of key personnel on defense but still has one of the most talented rosters in the nation. Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, two up-and-coming programs, are just outside the top 25.

2013 SEC Predictions
 

2. Pac-12

Athlon's 2013 Favorite: Oregon

Oregon lost its leader — head coach Chip Kelly — but the Ducks have enough pieces in place to win the Pac-12 title for the fourth time in the past five seasons. New coach Mark Helfrich will lean on sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota and a talented corps of skill players. Stanford will remain among the elite in the Pac-12 thanks to an outstanding defense and one of the nation’s top offensive lines. The South Division race should be intriguing. Our pick is Arizona State — which returns quarterback Taylor Kelly and eight starters on defense — but you could make a case for USC, UCLA or Arizona.

2013 Pac-12 Predictions
 

3. Big Ten

Athlon's 2013 Favorite: Ohio State

The Big Ten boasts a legitimate national title contender in Ohio State, which returns 13 starters from a team that went 12–0 in Urban Meyer’s inaugural season in Columbus. Wisconsin, under new leadership with Gary Andersen, and Penn State should both be solid, but neither figures to pose too much of a threat to Ohio State in the Leaders Division. The Legends race, however, should be tight. Our pick is Michigan to edge Nebraska, but always-underrated Northwestern will be a factor.

2013 Big Ten Predictions
 

4. Big 12

Athlon's 2013 Favorite: Oklahoma State

The Big 12 features quality depth but lacks star power at the top. Oklahoma State is ranked No. 16 in our preseason top 25 — the lowest spot for the preseason favorite in the 18-year history of the league. There was heavy debate for the next three spots. Oklahoma, despite its concerns at the quarterback position — Can the Belldozer be a weapon in the passing game? — got the nod over Texas and TCU. The Longhorns have plenty of talent, but they must show significant improvement on defense. TCU will be a legitimate title threat if quarterback Casey Pachall returns to form.

2013 Big 12 Predictions
 

5. ACC

Athlon's 2013 Favorite: Clemson

Led by quarterback Tajh Boyd and wideout Sammy Watkins, Clemson is the favorite to win its second ACC title in the past three seasons. The Tigers have won 21 games over the last two years and are in the midst of shedding their label as chronic underachievers. Florida State appears to be the only worthy challenger to Clemson in the Atlantic Division. There are four teams capable of winning the Coastal Division. Miami is our pick, followed by Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and North Carolina.

2013 ACC Predictions


6. Mountain West

Athlon's 2013 Favorite: Boise State

The Mountain West, now up to 12 teams and two divisions, is stronger than ever. Boise State is the team to beat in the Mountain Division, though league newcomer Utah State, which went 6–0 in the WAC in 2012, should be a factor in the division race. The return of quarterback Derek Carr makes Fresno State the easy choice in the West Division. The Bulldogs should score a ton of points. The West has solid depth, with San Jose State, San Diego State and Nevada each likely to play in a bowl game.

2013 Mountain West Predictions
 

7. American Athletic

Favorite: Louisville

The league formerly known as the Big East continues its descent down the college football food chain, but that doesn’t mean the league is without quality teams. Louisville, fresh off its BCS bowl win over Florida, is capable of running the table in the regular season. Cincinnati, now under Tommy Tuberville’s watch, returns 13 starters (including all five O-linemen) from a 10-win team. Rutgers will have to fight off  league newcomer UCF for third.

2013 American Athletic Predictions
 

8. MAC

Athlon's 2013 Favorite: Northern Illinois

Last season, the MAC sent its first team to a BCS bowl (Northern Illinois) and had four different schools ranked nationally at some point. This year, the power remains in the West, where NIU has the edge over Ball State and Toledo. Bowling Green is the pick in the East, but it’s not wise to count out Ohio and coach Frank Solich. The Bobcats have won three division titles under Solich but have not won the outright MAC title since 1968.

2013 MAC Predictions
 

9. Conference USA

Athlon's 2013 Favorite: Tulsa

Conference USA is up to 14 teams, but the league is weaker in 2013 due to the loss of UCF, Houston and SMU (among others) to the American Athletic Conference. Tulsa, which will make the move to the American in 2014, is a strong favorite to win its second straight C-USA crown. The race in the East should be intriguing. Our pick is Marshall over East Carolina.

2013 Conference USA Predictions
 

10. Sun Belt

Athlon's 2013 Favorite: UL Lafayette

The Sun Belt lost four teams to Conference USA but did retain the defending league champ (Arkansas State) and two of the three teams (UL Lafayette and ULM) that tied for second place. Moving forward, ULL has a great opportunity to claim its first outright league title since winning the Gulf States Conference in 1970. 

2013 Sun Belt Predictions


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College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 06:12
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, New England Patriots, NFL
Path: /new-england-patriots-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

It's been quite an offseason for the New England Patriots. But even murder scandals and public contract disputes won't keep Tom Brady and the Pats from being the clear-cut AFC East frontrunner. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

New England Patriots 2013 Schedule:

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

Order your 2013 New England Patriots Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: There should be little doubt that the Patriots will start the 2013 season 3-0. But a 4-0 first month will be difficult as New England will visit one of the NFC's best in Week 4 when it heads south to Atlanta. A 3-1 start looks like the worst possible scenario while a 4-0 first month wouldn't be far fetched at all.

Toughest Stretch: Tom Brady and his squad will face the other three projected AFC division winners over a four-game stretch. Games with Pittsburgh, Denver and at Houston will be tell-all tests in the conference that could have huge seeding implications. A road trip to take on Cam Newton mixed in makes the heart of the Pats' schedule the toughest of the year. There is good news, however, as the off weekend falls right in the middle of this run (Week 10).

Swing Games:DEN (Week 12), at HOU (Week 13)
Crossover Divisions:AFC North, NFC South
Bye Week:Week 6
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.508 (14th)
Athlon's SOS Rank:9th

Easiest Stretch: The final four weeks provide some easier games but the first three weeks of the '13 slate look about as "easy" as an NFL schedule can get. Home games with the Jets and Bucs could get ugly quickly while a road test in Buffalo could feature the NFL debuts for both the head coach (Doug Marrone) and quarterback (EJ Manuel).

Circle The Calendar: Huge AFC tests with Pittsburgh, Houston, Denver, Cincinnati and Baltimore will all carry playoff seeding import. But the date to circle will be the visit from New Orleans and Drew Brees in Week 6. Should Brady throw a touchdown in each of the first five games, he will be attempting to tie Brees' NFL record for consecutive games with a TD pass at 54... against Brees himself. Coincidence? Hard to believe.

Divisional Notes: No team in the NFL may have an easier divisional slate than the Patriots. A pair of games each with Buffalo, Miami and the New York Jets mean no team has a better shot at 6-0 in their division than New England. Two of those will come right out of the gate to start the year before back-to-back AFC East games in Weeks 7 and 8. The next two come in the final three weeks with a home game against Buffalo capping the year.

Playoff Push: The Patriots have two huge road games in December with Houston and Baltimore. But Belichick's team also will have three games in which they are likely to be heavy favorites. And since the Houston game comes in Week 13, the Pats will finish with an extremely manageable final four weeks. If a 3-1 finish is the worst possible scenario, the Pats could have a big leg up in the race for the all-important first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): The wide receivers have changed in New England, but they still have Tom Brady throwing to them and a fantasy playoff schedule that opens against Cleveland. The Browns were the 30th-ranked fantasy defense against WRs last season. Miami (15th) and Baltimore (17th) fared better, but Brady has impressive career statistics against the Dolphins, and the Ravens have several new faces in their secondary and, more important, no more Ed Reed.

2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston Denver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle

 

Teaser:
Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season.
Post date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC East, Philadelphia Eagles, NFL
Path: /philadelphia-eagles-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

The Andy Reid era in Philadelphia has come to an end as Chip Kelly makes the jump from college to the pros. Can he lead the Eagles to the playoffs in his first season? Here's our look at the Eagles' 2013 NFL schedule.

Philadelphia Eagles 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at Washington (Mon.)
Week 2: San Diego
Week 3: Kansas City (Thurs.)
Week 4: at Denver
Week 5: at New York Giants
Week 6: at Tampa Bay
Week 7: Dallas
Week 8: New York Giants
Week 9: at Oakland
Week 10: at Green Bay
Week 11: Washington
Week 12: BYE
Week 13: Arizona
Week 14: Detroit
Week 15: at Minnesota
Week 16: Chicago
Week 17: at Dallas

Order your 2013 Philadelphia Eagles Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: It's somewhat ironic that Chip Kelly's first game as an NFL head coach will be in Washington. Not only is that a divisional contest on the road, but Kelly will be tasked with slowing down Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, provided he's healthy. RGIII fits the mold of the dynamic, dual-threat signal-callers Kelly churned out while at Oregon and undoubtedly would like do the same with the Eagles. After that, it's back-to-back home games, including Andy Reid's return when Kansas City comes to town in Week 3. Kelly's first month ends the same way it started, on the road. This time the destination is Denver, where a completely different mold of quarterback awaits him – the future Hall of Fame type – in Peyton Manning.

Toughest Stretch: Starting with its Week 4 date in Denver, Philadelphia plays three straight games on the road. This span includes a trip to New York to play the Giants, who will then come to Lincoln Financial Field less than a month later. In between the Broncos and those two games with the G-Men, the Eagles will go to Tampa Bay and also play the Cowboys at home. There's only one playoff team (Denver) from last season among those five games, but that doesn't make this stretch any less difficult for Kelly's charges.

Swing Games:at TB (Week 6), ARI (Week 13)
Crossover Divisions:NFC North, AFC West
Bye Week:Week 12
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.496 (T-19h)
Athlon's SOS Rank:7th

Easiest Stretch: Coming out of their Week 12 bye, the Eagles play three of their next four at home. Those games are with Arizona, Detroit and Chicago, three teams that didn't make the playoffs last season. The lone road contest during this four-game span is at Minnesota, who did play in the postseason in 2012. It's no secret that the key to beating the Vikings is containing Adrian Peterson. If the Eagles' rebuilt defense can do just that and the offense can generate some home cooking, the Eagles could put together a strong finish to Kelly's first season in the NFL.

Circle The Calendar: It's only fitting that this is the season Philadelphia gets the AFC West in crossover play. Otherwise, we wouldn't get to watch Andy Reid return to the City of Brotherly Love in his first month as Kansas City's coach. Week 3 figures to be an emotional one for Reid, regardless of whether he gets a warm welcome or a greeting more in line with the well-earned reputation of the Eagles' home crowd. The six NFC East matchups should be just as entertaining, but nothing tops the league-wide interest surrounding Reid's homecoming in September.

Divisional Notes: The Eagles open (Washington) and end (Dallas) the season with divisional road games, while their two matchups with the Giants fall within a span of four weeks. The NFC East has been one of the more interesting and entertaining divisions to follow throughout the years, and this season should be no different with no lack of storylines to follow in Dallas (pressure on Jason Garrett and Tony Romo), New York (can the Giants get back to the playoffs and make one last run?) and Washington (RGIII's health), in addition to all eyes being on Kelly in his first NFL season.

Playoff Push: Philadelphia's bye is in Week 12, which means the Eagles get a break before heading into the final month of the season. December is mostly about the NFC North, as Philadelphia will face Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago in a row. The matchup with the Vikings is the only road contest of the three, and these crossover games are bookended by a home date with Arizona and the regular-season finale in Dallas. If Kelly has his Eagles in contention for a playoff spot by this point, then it's already been a successful season. Everything after that, especially if it comes at the expense of the hated Cowboys, is just icing on the cake.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Chip Kelly will get his fill of the NFC North in December and LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown probably aren’t looking forward to that part of their schedule, either. Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago were all in the top nine fantasy defenses against RBs last season. This task doesn’t appear as daunting for whoever is at quarterback by this point, however, as the Lions were 20th against QBs with the Vikings near the bottom at No. 29.

2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston Denver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle

 

Teaser:
Philadelphia Eagles 2013 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 14:00
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-kentucky-speedway
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To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s nine-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned drivers strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.

It's back to the status quo this weekend at Kentucky Speedway. The third-year Saturday night 400-miler is the newest addition to NASCAR's top circuit schedule, though the racing is rarely much different than we'll expect at any other 1.5-mile venue. Kyle Busch won the inaugural race in 2011, and Brad Keselowski took race No. 2 last season.


A-List (pick two, start one)
Brad Keselowski
Last year's winner at Kentucky, Keselowski led 68 laps in the race that really set the stage for his surge to the Sprint Cup title. Coming in to the 2012 race, he had four consecutive finishes of 12th or worse. After the win, he reeled off six straight top 10s. Keselowski is on a current streak of three finishes of 12th or worse; will Kentucky mark his fourth top 10 on 1.5-mile tracks this year?

Kevin Harvick
The most recent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner on a 1.5-mile track (Harvick beat Kasey Kahne late to win the Coca-Cola 600), Harvick also holds the interesting distinction of finishing every non-restrictor plate race 14th or better this year. Harvick doesn't yet have a Kentucky top 10, but he did test there with Richard Childress Racing after the 600 win.

Also consider: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon


B-List (pick four, start two)
Kyle Busch
There are just four Sprint Cup drivers who have scored top-10 finishes in the first two races at Kentucky for the series, and Kyle Busch is the only one in the B-list. Busch has led nearly half of all the laps contested at Kentucky (243 of 534) and has a sterling average running position there of 3.6.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt isn't a Kentucky pick because of how well he's run there in the past (the No. 88 has the 11th-best average running position in the two Cup races), but more because of how good that team's intermediate program has been despite some poor finishes. Earnhardt had a top-5 car at Texas before a battery issue, seemed to have righted the ship in the Coca-Cola 600 before his engine failed and then had a dominant car at Michigan before the engine again cracked. That's three poor finishes, but three races where a team didn't tear up the car.

Joey Logano
Logano is another driver without terrific success in the two Sprint Cup races at Kentucky, but he's been riding a very hot streak since a poor outing at Darlington. For context on how good Logano has been, his 11th-place finish at Sonoma was his worst in five races. In Kentucky, he'll have access to Keselowski's notes from last year, and the confidence of three Nationwide Series wins at the track.

Martin Truex Jr.
I'm not sold on Truex's line of thinking that a single race win will suddenly change his ability to win races, but I do think that No. 56 is in for another good run at Kentucky thanks to its strength on similar tracks this year. Truex has a top 10 in every race at a 1.5-mile track this year, and should have won at Texas until a shock broke on the car late in the going.

Also consider: Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Brian Vickers
 

C-List (pick two, start one)
AJ Allmendinger
Allmendinger returns to JTG-Daughtery Racing's No. 47 Saturday night for his second start of the season for that team in place of Bobby Labonte. His part-time C-List status makes him a good choice, especially if he can duplicate the top-20 run he had in the No. 47 at Michigan.

Casey Mears
Mears, if nothing else, has been remarkably consistent of late in the No. 13. Since a crash at Darlington, he's finished between 16th and 23rd in all five races. Charlotte and Michigan are the most comparable tracks of those five races to Kentucky, and he took 23rd and 21st, respectively. Expect another top 25 from Mears — a better day than most in the C-List world.

Also consider: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., David Ragan, Travis Kvapil


by Geoffrey Miller
Follow Geoffrey on Twitter:
@GeoffreyMiller

Teaser:
Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch lead the way in tips for your NASCAR Fantasy squad at the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
Post date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 11:08
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-football-wins-big-minimal-ncaa-sanctions
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"Win the Day" is a phrase associated with Oregon’s football program in recent years. And with Wednesday’s announcement of penalties from a recent NCAA investigation into the program, there’s no question the Ducks came out a winner.

After a lengthy investigation and attempt at a summary judgment with Oregon, the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions finally announced its findings from an investigation into the football program and former head coach Chip Kelly.

And for Oregon and new coach Mark Helfrich, the news wasn’t as bad as some initially feared when this investigation began in 2011.

Most importantly, the Ducks avoided a bowl ban and will be eligible to compete for the national championship this season.

Here’s the rundown on the other penalties:

• Oregon was hit with a loss of one scholarship for three seasons (2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16).

• Former coach Chip Kelly was hit with an 18-month show-cause penalty.

• A former assistant director of operations received a one-year show-cause penalty.

• Oregon was placed on three years probation, starting on June 26, 2013 and ending on June 25, 2016.

• Oregon’s football evaluation days have been reduced from 42 to 36 in the fall of 2013, '14 and '15. And the permissible football evaluation days have dropped from 168 to 144 for the spring of 2014, '15 and '16.

• The Ducks are also not allowed to have a subscription to a recruiting service during the three-year probation period.
 

What’s the Biggest Takeaway from Wednesday’s Announcement?

The easiest way to characterize Oregon’s punishment: It’s hardly anything to be worried about. The Ducks certainly won’t be affected by the loss of a couple of scholarships and not having a bowl ban keeps the program alive for the national title in 2013.

Losing the evaluation days is a big deal, but nothing that should derail the program from continuing to win at a high level. The Ducks have an established brand on the recruiting, as evidenced by the program finishing inside of the top 20 in Athlon’s recruiting ranks in each of the last four seasons.

In Oregon’s case, the Committee on Infractions placed a heavy emphasis on the violator (Chip Kelly), rather than punishing the players currently on the roster. And the program’s cooperation with the NCAA significantly helped to prevent the penalties and infractions from being worse.

Overall, this is the best-case outcome for Oregon. The probation period and scholarship reductions are manageable, and there’s no long-term damage to the program through an extended bowl ban.
 

What does it mean for the Pac-12 and National Title Race for 2013?

With Oregon eligible for postseason play, the Pac-12 has two of college football’s top-10 national title contenders. The coaching transition from Kelly to Helfrich will be a challenge, but the Ducks still have some of the nation’s best personnel.

Even if Oregon does not make the national championship, having the Ducks eligible to play in a bowl game is huge for the Pac-12. Oregon, along with Stanford, should be in the mix for a BCS bowl. Having the Ducks eligible to compete for a BCS bowl is potentially a huge boost to the Pac-12 in terms of postseason revenue, especially if Oregon and Stanford both qualify for BCS games.

Oregon will have a chance to appeal its penalties. However, considering the committee’s ruling was in their favor, the school probably won’t appeal.

Oregon reportedly paid the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King at least $208,991 over the last 19 months, as the program was dealing with the ongoing NCAA investigation.

No program wants to appear in front of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions. However, thanks to its full cooperation, Oregon has avoided any major penalties and can breathe a sigh of relief knowing this chapter from the Chip Kelly era has closed.

Related College Football Content

Oregon Ducks 2013 Team Preview
Pac-12 Predictions for 2013
Pac-12 2013 All-Conference Team
Athlon Sports' 2013 All-America Team
College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2013
College Football's Top-10 Most-Improved Teams for 2013

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 10:30

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