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Path: /nascar/nascars-new-king-road-hamlins-chase-chances-and-villeneuves-cup-return

1. NASCAR's new king of the road?
Remember back when you could basically predict a Jeff Gordon win at these road course events? Ah, those sure were easier times. But, alas, they've been gone for a long while.

Gordon hasn't won on the series’ two road courses since 2006 at Sonoma and 2001 at Watkins Glen. As a result, NASCAR has gone a while now without a resident "King of the Road."

For example, look no farther than Sonoma. Gordon's ’06 victory was the last for a driver who had previously won at the track. Since then, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer have been one-off and first-time Sonoma winners.

The story is a bit different at Sprint Cup's other road racetrack in Watkins Glen. Marcos Ambrose is a two-time defending winner there, and Tony Stewart has three wins at the New York track since 2004.

Should Ambrose win Sunday — his Richard Petty Motorsports team dedicated a test to Sonoma earlier in the season — it would mark three wins in the last four NASCAR road course races. It wouldn't quite match Gordon, but it'd put the V8 Supercars champion on a level pretty close in terms of road course dominance.

2. NASCAR finally decides to try something new in qualifying
If you've seen the attendance for NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying at mostly every track in the last few years, you've realized that, to many, the format has lost its luster. NASCAR has yet to make a substantial change to fix some of that lost excitement on ovals, but it is making a change effective for this weekend's road course events.

It's about time.

Saturday, the Sprint Cup teams will qualify for Sunday's race at Sonoma Raceway in a group format. The cars will be evenly split in the groups and placed together based on practice speeds in the final practice session held Friday. Each group will have a set amount of time to qualify, and a driver's best lap during the timed period counts as the qualifying speed.

However, we don't know quite yet how many groups will run or how long the groups will be on the track. NASCAR's April news release on the subject says the race director will make that call. The weekend schedule has roughly one hour and 40 minutes set aside for Saturday's qualifying.

The Nationwide Series will use the same setup this weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc.

<p> Geoffrey Miller highlights the five storylines to follow as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota-SaveMart 350.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 21, 2013 - 10:22
Path: /college-football/heisman-revolution

If Heisman voters were as open minded as Hugh Green’s peers in 1980, the fraternity of the award for the most outstanding college football player would be much different.

During a tour organized to promote the 1980 football season, the Pittsburgh defensive end, along with five other top players that year, made a handful of stops across the country to meet with reporters.

The tour led to plenty of down time for Green, Cal quarterback Rich Campbell, Purdue quarterback Mark Herrmann, Alabama running back Major Ogilvie, South Carolina running back George Rogers and Baylor linebacker Mike Singletary. During a stop somewhere in Indiana, Green recalls, the six conducted their own vote for who would win the Heisman in 1980.

Whether through humility or foresight, Green was the only one who ended up making the correct pick. He chose Rogers.

The other five picked Green.

Green had a fine season in 1980, wrapping up one of history’s best careers by a defensive player. He won the Maxwell Award for Player of the Year on a team that finished 11–1 and No. 2 in the country. He was a consensus All-American and the Lombardi Award winner. He stood out on a team that included quarterback Dan Marino and Outland Trophy-winning offensive tackle Mark May.

The Heisman, though, was out of reach for Green.

South Carolina’s Rogers beat Green by 267 points in the voting that year. Still, it was a victory for defensive players. In the two-platoon era, Green’s 861 points were the most for a defender until Michigan’s Charles Woodson won the Heisman in 1997. Woodson, though, returned kicks and played receiver, putting him over the top in the Heisman race.

“That’s the perspective of the best player — he has to have possession of the ball,” Green says. 

Beyond Green, the 1980 Heisman vote was also notable for the third-place finisher, Herschel Walker. The Georgia running back earned the most first-place votes (107) and total points (683) for a freshman up to that point.

So here’s the question: Had the 1980 Heisman vote been taken in 2012, would the result have been different? Would Green have won? What about Walker?

Since 2007, the Heisman has undergone a major shift.

That season brought the award’s first sophomore winner (Florida’s Tim Tebow), followed by the second in 2008 (Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford) and the third in 2009 (Alabama’s Mark Ingram). In 2012, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the award — albeit a redshirt freshman and not the youngest player to win the Heisman. That’s still Ingram, who won at age 19.

And those are just the winners who have bucked Heisman tradition. Three defensive players have been Heisman finalists since 2009, and two of those — Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o and Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh — were purely defensive players.

Related: Texas A&M team preview

“Most of the barriers have been broken down,” Manziel says. “The way the award is set up, it’s more the most outstanding player in all of college football, whatever the situation. If people think you’re the best college football player that year, you deserve to win it, whether you play defense or whatever.”

The mainstreaming of sophomores, freshmen and defensive players in the Heisman voting may have been tough to envision a decade ago.

Just 10 years before Manziel (right) won the Heisman, the balloting was typical for the award most years. USC senior quarterback Carson Palmer won in 2002, a year when all of the top 10 vote-getters were either quarterbacks or running backs, seniors or juniors, with nine of them from power conferences. The only true outlier that season was Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich, who finished sixth.

Since Palmer, only one senior — Ohio State’s Troy Smith in 2006 — has won the award. And now, the 2013 Heisman race opens with a handful of possibilities for rare and first-time achievements.

Manziel has a chance to join Ohio State’s Archie Griffin (1974-75) as the only repeat winner in history. In theory, he’ll have three chances to join Griffin in elite company. However, after this season, Manziel will be eligible to leave school early for the NFL Draft.

Manziel will be a contender in 2013, but to become a two-time winner he may have to beat out a defensive end. South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney is unquestionably the nation’s top defensive player and already appears to be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Related: South Carolina team preview

In short, this isn’t your father’s Heisman.

“There’s a clear demarcation from the Tebow point onward,” says Chris Huston, founder of “It doesn’t really matter if they are seniors or juniors or sophomores or freshmen. What wins out are these tremendous numbers.”

If a defensive player is going to win the Heisman, though, the overwhelming numbers may be tough to acquire.

Green has been beating the drum for a defensive player to win the award for several years. He begrudgingly latched onto Michigan’s Woodson, who played offense (17 total touches for 259 yards from scrimmage and three TDs) and returned punts (78-yard TD vs. Ohio State) in addition to excelling at cornerback (eight INTs).


The former Pittsburgh lineman is convinced it will take a gargantuan statistical effort to overcome an offensive skill player.

“This guy, to catch the eye of America, would have to have at least 17 or 18 sacks, five or six interceptions returned for touchdowns — something totally incredible. He’d have to totally dominate anything and everything he plays. …

“He’d have to sack the quarterback and intercept him at the same time.”

Clowney (right) would tend to agree. He was been touted as one of the best players in college football even before he landed at South Carolina. He was the consensus No. 1 recruit in the class of 2011 and earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors. As a sophomore, he was a first-team All-American and finished sixth in the Heisman voting.

But even he concedes that the quarterbacks he’s bringing down have a better chance at the most coveted award in college sports.

“That’s what the people like — touchdowns and more touchdowns,” Clowney says. “They don’t worry about the sacks and stuff. I guess they feel like offense is more of an individual side.”

Ironically, the recent batch of defensive players to become Heisman finalists were contenders in the more traditional sense.

Among Huston’s “10 Heismandments” are stipulations that an aspiring winner must put up good numbers in big games on TV, must have prior name recognition and must play for a title contender or a traditional power.

None of those stipulations require a Heisman hopeful to be the best at his position or even the best player in his locker room.

One could argue that neither Te’o nor LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu was the best defensive player on his own team the seasons they went to the Heisman ceremony. And does anyone remember that Suh was fourth in the Big 12 in sacks the year he was a finalist?

Instead, voters gravitated to Te’o’s two interceptions in the Michigan game, Mathieu’s four defensive and special teams touchdowns, and Suh’s 4.5 sacks of Texas’ Colt McCoy in a Big 12 Championship Game loss.

That’s why Clowney is the best defensive candidate for the award since Woodson.

Related: Heisman contenders, challengers and longshots for 2013

Anyone looking for a Heisman-type moment from Clowney just needs to do a quick YouTube or GIF search. Clowney’s finest play — his game-changing tackle and forced fumble of Michigan’s Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl — has been on a highlight reel since January.

Name recognition? Check. Stats? Check. Game-turning plays in big games? Check.

“He has as good as a setup for a defensive player as we’ve seen,” Huston says.

But Clowney isn’t up against the Heisman field of a decade or so ago. He’s up against some of the most prolific quarterbacks in the history of the game.

Huston, who has been studying Heisman trends since he worked in the USC athletic department when Palmer won the award, doesn’t attribute the change in voting trends to any new open-mindedness by voters. Instead, the numbers are impossible to ignore, he says. Huston describes the last six years as the rise of the Super Quarterback. The wide-spread use of spread offenses, the dual-threat quarterbacks excelling in these systems and the proof they can win at a championship level have changed voters’ ideas of the typical Heisman candidate.

In a former era, Tebow’s bruising option attack, Bradford’s Air Raid approach, the track star ability of Baylor’s Robert Griffin III or Auburn’s Cam Newton, or Manziel’s improvisation would have been derided as a “system,” unworthy of the Heisman.

But no matter the style, these offenses are run by great athletes who happen to play quarterback, and they’re the centerpieces of their offenses like never before.

Each of the last five quarterbacks to win the Heisman since and including Tebow has topped at least 500 plays of total offense (carries plus pass attempts) in the years they won the Heisman. Manziel had 635 last season.

Of the six quarterbacks to win the Heisman before 2007, only one topped 500 plays during his award-winning season.

In addition, when spread quarterbacks compete for national championships or win in major conferences — rather than putting up numbers in Conference USA or the MAC — it’s that much tougher for a voter to write off a sophomore or a freshman who happens to be a so-called “system” quarterback.

“It’s kind of overcome the usual biases that used to exist against freshmen or sophomores,” Huston says. “It was not an intentional change. It was structural. By the nature of college football, players need more time building name recognition. Now you have guys who are freshmen and sophomores doing all the things Manziel did. It’s easy to quickly gain notoriety.”

Notoriety seems to be the key to a non-traditional candidate overcoming quarterbacks or running backs.

Clowney has it. Te’o, Mathieu and Suh earned it.

But what about offensive linemen? Have Heisman voters evolved to a point where linemen could become serious candidates?

Prior to the season, a handful of columnists posed that question about Alabama’s Barrett Jones, who at the time was the most decorated offensive player for the Crimson Tide. During his career, he started at guard, tackle and center. He also followed one of Huston’s other Heismandments: He’s likable.

If there were a perfect candidate to represent the offensive line in New York, it seemed to be Jones.

Yet Jones was not one of the top 10 vote-getters in 2012.

The last offensive lineman to make a serious push for the Heisman was Ohio State’s Orlando Pace, who finished fourth in 1996. It was the best finish for an offensive lineman since Buckeyes tackle John Hicks was the runner-up to Penn State’s John Cappelletti in 1973.

Hicks, who blocked for Heisman winner Archie Griffin, says publicity will be the key for a lineman to win the award.

“With the Ohio State publicity machine, if you have a great season here, you can win the Heisman here,” Hicks says. “Can a lineman win it? Sure. But he’s going to have be in the national conscience.”

That’s a double-edged sword. Even if a lineman or a defensive player garners enough name recognition to get to New York through being on television and his highlights showing up on YouTube and social media, quarterbacks and running backs still have all those advantages, too.

Plus every play of theirs is in the camera’s eye, and every stat readily accessible in a box score.

“The problem with defensive players and linemen is the metrics,” Huston says. “The camera follows the ball. The people who argue on behalf (of linemen) tend to argue very nebulous things — they were triple-teamed half the season and things like that. If you look at a box score you don’t get tackle numbers, you don’t get pancakes.”

But that’s the conventional wisdom. And if the last six seasons have proven anything, it’s that the conventional wisdom about the Heisman does not apply.

In 2013, college football may be ready for another two-time Heisman winner. Or a full-time defensive player.

“We’ll see,” Clowney says.

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<p> College football's most prestigious award is going through a revolution.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 21, 2013 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/hugh-freeze-has-ole-miss-rebels-rise

Hugh Freeze is approachable by nature and has a disarming demeanor. On the surface, it’s hard not to like the Ole Miss football coach.

The same can be said, perhaps, for a used car salesman, and fans of opposing SEC schools were quick to cry foul — regardless of the validity of that cry — as Freeze and his staff compiled a consensus top-10 recruiting class in February.

It hadn’t been done at Ole Miss before. How could Freeze do it?

The Ole Miss class checked in at No. 6 in the Athlon recruiting rankings, but it takes more than a smile and handshake for sustained recruiting success, which is what Freeze must have to lift the Rebels from mediocre to meaningful in the SEC West, the toughest division in college football. In his mind, he has to build relationships, not only with prospects but also throughout his program. If he doesn’t, the players he’s trying to sign will discern the lack of authenticity.

The 2013 class indicates that Freeze and staff are off to a good start in all of the above.

National websites devoted to recruiting took ample notice of the 2013 class. Scout named D-line coach Chris Kiffin — Monte’s son and Lane’s younger brother — its Recruiter of the Year, while Kiffin and fellow assistants Wesley McGriff and Maurice Harris were named among the top 50 recruiters in the nation by 247Sports.

When the Rebels were first mentioned with some of the nation’s upper-tier talent, the idea of Freeze and his staff closing the deal seemed a little “far-fetched,” says Barton Simmons, who covers national recruiting for 247Sports. But there came a tipping point when those who follow the recruiting game began to think differently.

“Once it became clear that Robert Nkemdiche (the top-rated recruit nationally) was headed to Ole Miss, once it became clear that a 5-star receiver in Laquon Treadwell was joining the class, everything started to seem much more likely down that home stretch,” Simmons says. “As an industry it got to the point that nothing surprised us about that staff and what they were able to accomplish.”

Related: Freeze checks in at No. 9 in SEC coach rankings

The key? Relationships.

McGriff, who has left since Signing Day to become secondary coach with the New Orleans Saints, had a friendship with an assistant coach at Treadwell’s high school, and that gave the Rebs a shot with the No. 1 wide receiver.

Kiffin played a big role in the signing of Nkemdiche, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, and also with No. 1 offensive tackle prospect Laremy Tunsil. In addition, Nkemdiche has a brother — All-SEC linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche — already on the Ole Miss roster, while Treadwell has a friend and former high school teammate, defensive back Anthony Standifer, in Oxford. Those are examples of the “natural ins” Freeze references in how the entire 2013 class came together.

“People who criticize don’t understand that we have the brother of the No. 1 recruit in the country who just had an incredible experience at Ole Miss this year,” Freeze says.

“A lot of people talk about family, but we live it,” says offensive line coach Matt Luke, a former Ole Miss center who was also an assistant on Ed Orgeron’s staff. “People see that when they come here. They see us in person. They see that. We build relationships with our guys that are deeper than most. It’s not just, play your four years of football and get out of here.”

Related: Preview of No. 33 Ole Miss

People are attracted to that chemistry, Luke says. In a sport where vicious hits and physical play are applauded, Freeze uses respect for teammate, school and self — and often uses the word “love” — as his main motivating points.

Contact with each recruit from each assistant coach is meticulously planned, as is the Freeze in-home visit — down to what will be discussed and what assistant coaches will be with him.

The classroom discussion is always nearby. Freeze inherited an academic train wreck when he arrived at Ole Miss. Most players — not all — were able to get back on course and become eligible for 2012.

“Academics are non-negotiable in this process,” he says.

Freeze’s devout Christian faith is visible daily through his motivational phraseology and comments on Twitter. That can serve to strengthen a recruiting relationship, or in some cases have no effect.

“You get a mixture. Just like it is in society, but I’m not a guy that forces this on anyone. I tell you who I am,” he says.

The Ole Miss staff could see the momentum building for the class and could predict the reaction from so many who follow the sport of recruiting.

Allegations of cheating began to flood Freeze’s Twitter account to the point that he challenged anyone with evidence of wrongdoing to contact the school’s compliance office. Many did, and their claims were investigated. But nothing was found that raised red flags.

There was discussion with Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork and many others within the athletics department before Freeze issued his Twitter challenge.

“My whole point is, I know our coaches are doing it right,” Freeze says. “Certainly you’re going to do something where you have a secondary violation on something that is totally unintentional, but if somebody does have something that I’m unaware of, there’s too much at stake for me to sit blindly by. I’d like to know it.”

Many of the complaints came from those with ties to Georgia. Mark Richt and his staff had gotten pretty far down the road with Tunsil, and Freeze had no “natural in” with the tackle from Lake City, Fla.

“We had a plan. So we’re thrilled that it worked, but surprised is not a good word,” Luke says. “It’s like when I hit a good golf shot. That’s where I was aiming, it just ­doesn’t happen all the time. We had a lot of things fall right. We had some siblings, some teammates, some things to get the ball rolling.”

Related: 2013 SEC Preview

Freeze expects success in spite of the disadvantages that accompany a state with one of the smallest populations in the country, one that divides its small talent pool with another SEC school (Mississippi State) and a third FBS program (Southern Miss), and must withstand talent raids from more established conference brethren (say, SEC West rivals LSU and Alabama).

Ole Miss was able to do that by landing 4-star prospects Ryan Buchanan and Kailo Moore — a quarterback and running back, respectively — and 5-star safety Tony Conner.

Memphis is a nearby population center that Ole Miss considers “home” recruiting territory. Freeze focuses on advantages like that — and what he says is the ability of Ole Miss to sell itself — as opposed to a lack of numbers inside the state and the year-long battles through recruiting and public relations with SEC rival Mississippi State.

“The same people that (talk about our disadvantages are also) writing that it’s in the top five of most beautiful campuses in the nation or that the game-day experience is among the top three in the nation or that it’s the safest campus in America,” Freeze says.

“And we have a rich tradition in football.”

That tradition is also distant. John Vaught’s best years were five decades ago, and Ole Miss hasn’t won an SEC championship since 1963.

Related: 2013 Preseason All-SEC Team

Freeze contends that recruiting isn’t easy at Ole Miss but that it’s difficult everywhere “with the exception of three or four schools in the conference” and that the past should not dictate the future.

He was a part of three Orgeron teams that never had a winning season, and his 7–6 debut was hailed as remarkable because of the depths to which the program had quickly fallen after Houston Nutt led Ole Miss to Cotton Bowls in his first two seasons.

As with any coach and staff, wins and losses will impact length of tenure. Whether through relationship building or another method, Freeze has to win at recruiting, and winning there can be defined in different ways.

Freeze says he doesn’t need to sign a top-10 class every year, that he can rebuild Ole Miss football with “high 3-stars and 4-stars.”
 Simmons agrees and uses Auburn as an example of the great misconception of recruiting.

“They’ve recruited consistently in the top 10 and top five, and that’s not translated to wins on the field,” he says.

“There’s every reason to believe that if (Ole Miss’) evaluations and developments are right, that the program is headed in the right direction.”

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

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<p> Hugh Freeze Has Ole Miss Rebels on the Rise</p>
Post date: Friday, June 21, 2013 - 07:50
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-texas-am-football-fan

Texas A&M fans are an odd bunch, even for college football and even for the SEC.

No female cheerleaders, just Yell Leaders and Yell Practice. And then there’s Reveille, the highest ranking member of the Corps of Cadets. She goes to class, she can decide with a single utterance if class is called off, and if she takes a cadet’s bed, the cadet sleeps on the floor.

Did we mention she’s a border collie?

This is also the home of the 12th Man and one of the best game-day atmospheres in college football. Texas A&M is part of what makes college football unlike any other sport — even in the way A&M’s identity is wrapped up in what rival Texas is up to.

Right now is a great time to be an A&M fan with Johnny Manziel running all over SEC defenses and the Aggies challenging for a conference and national title. Kevin Sumlin and Manziel pulled the Aggies out of mediocrity, but do these current teams already stack up to the Bear? And what of the lows under Dennis Franchione and Mike Sherman? Were they really all that low in comparison to seasons past?

Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck! Here are the best and worst times to be a Texas A&M fan.

Other best times/worst times:

Notre Dame


Record: 24-5-2
National championships: 0
Coach: Bear Bryant
Notable players: John David Crow (right), Charlie Kreuger, Gene Stallings, Jack Pardee
The Junction Boys are a part of college football lore, but it hardly started that way. Those brutal practices in 1954 yielded a 1-9 season. By 1956, the Junction Boys led one of A&M’s greatest teams when the Aggies that year went 9-0-1. The following season, Crow became the Aggies’ first Heisman winner and the only one before Manziel. The glory years under Bryant were short-lived when “Momma called” the coach back to Tuscaloosa. “And when Momma calls, you just have to come runnin’,” Bryant said.

Related: Texas A&M ranks eighth in 2013 countdown

Record: 11-2
National championships: 0
Coach: Kevin Sumlin
Notable players: Johnny Manziel, Luke Joeckel, Damontre Moore, Jake Matthews, Ryan Swope
Only one year into the SEC era for Texas A&M, and, yep, this is one of the best times to be a Texas A&M fan. The Aggies are peaking just in time to play in the best conference in the country. The Heisman-winning Manziel has reached sports celebrity status, and the top-five finish was the best since 1956. Beyond the numbers, A&M with Sumlin and Manziel is video game-quality entertainment. The Aggies’ rematch with Alabama on Sept. 14 will have College Station at a fever pitch. And beyond that, Texas is struggling. All is well in Aggieland.

Related: Texas, Texas A&M exchange pleasantries in our list of infamous pranks

Record: 95-24-2
National championships: 0
Coaches: Jackie Sherrill, R.C. Slocum
Notable players: Darren Lewis, Mike Arthur, Richmond Webb, Jerry Fontenot, Rod Bernstine, Sam Adams, Johnny Holland, Aaron Wallace, Aaron Glenn, Kevin Smith
Texas A&M’s investment in former Pittsburgh coach Jackie Sherrill in 1982 — for a then-outrageous sum of $267,000 — paid off by 1985 when the Aggies won their first of three consecutive Southwest Conference titles. Sherrill’s successor, R.C. Slocum, had similar success by going 42-5-1 over a four-year span. Overall, Texas A&M had the fourth-best win percentage (79.3 percent) in the country from 1985-94 behind only Miami, Florida State and Nebraska. Beyond that, Texas A&M went 10-1 against Texas from 1984-94, the only loss by one point in 1990. The records were great, but Texas A&M flourished only as the Southwest Conference crumbled. Led by the Wrecking Crew defense, the Aggies went 10-0-1 in 1994 despite being ineligible for the SWC title.

Related: Texas A&M has 10 selections on preseason All-SEC team

Record: 29-3
National championships: 1
Coach: Homer Norton
Notable players: John Kimbrough, Joe Boyd
This was the first taste of national success for the Aggies as Texas A&M won its only national title in 1939, going 11-0 with a win over Tulane in the Sugar Bowl. The fullback Kimbrough was the runner up for the Heisman the following season.

Related: 2013 SEC predictions


Record: 40-86-6
Coaches: Jim Myers, Hank Foldberg, Gene Stallings
The post-Bryant era brought Texas A&M to pre-Bryant depths. Foldberg was especially bad, leading Texas A&M to a 6-23-1 record in three seasons. Not even Stallings — a Junction Boy who eventually won a national title at Alabama — could win in College Station. He went 27-45-1, including 8-23 from 1968-70. Texas A&M defeated rival Texas only once from 1957-74.

Record: 4-23-1
Coaches: Homer Norton, Harry Stiteler
Norton led Texas A&M to its only national championship in 1939, but the shine wore off less than a decade later. Norton went 3-6-1 in his final season, but it only got worse from there as A&M went 1-17-2 the following two seasons. Only Bear Bryant could dig A&M out of this hole.


Record: 28-11
National championships: 0
Coach: R.C. Slocum (right)
Notable players: Dat Nguyen, Dante Hall, Seth McKinney
Slocum’s entire tenure probably went underappreciated at A&M, especially in light of the the failed tenures of Dennis Franchione and Mike Sherman. The Aggies finished in the top 25 all three seasons from ’97-99, including an 11-3 season and the Aggies’ only Big 12 title in 1998. Slocum would be fired by 2002 with a 123-47-2 record in College Station.

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<p> The times when Kyle Field was especially rowdy</p>
Post date: Friday, June 21, 2013 - 07:35
Path: /nfl/timeline-demise-new-england-patriots

This isn’t going to be pretty for the New England Patriots.

Contract disputes, broken forearms, video scandals and Super Bowl disappointments are one thing. Murder is an entirely different issue all together.

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is originally from Bristol, Conn., has been tied to the investigation of the murder of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd near the tight end’s $1.3 million Massachusetts home. Lloyd was shot and found dead Monday night about a mile from Hernandez’ North Attleborough mansion.

And it doesn’t look good for the Patriots star tight end.

Every American has the right to be “innocent until proven guilty,” but the court of public opinion has no choice but to rule on Hernandez. His track record of behavior has been well documented and in no way conjures up an image of innocence.

Hernandez is currently the subject of a civil lawsuit in which he allegedly shot a Connecticut man in February — a man who claims to have been a friend of his for many years. He also has a long history of drug issues both at Florida and throughout the NFL Draft process.

Unfortunately, for the once untouchable and revered football genius that is Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, this is simply the latest — and by far the worst — incident in a long line of questionable occurrences that have slowly destroyed this once proud football team.

New England hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 2004 and a murder investigation will be the final nail in the Pats' dynastic coffin. The franchise became the shining example for NFL success when it won three Super Bowls in four years in the early 2000s. However, for the better part of the last decade, this organization has been cannibalizing itself with more punch lines than a Jaguars home game in December.

And its demise began with a perfect season.

2007: Randy Moss and Spygate
Moss is an awesome football player. There is no doubting his ability. But there are plenty of doubts about his character, work ethic and dedication. But Belichick took a risk on the troubled wideout and it paid off in the short term with a monster '07 season. Moss helped lead the Patriots to the NFL’s second unbeaten regular season in history. That same year, however, Belichick was also hit with the largest fine ever imposed on an NFL coach during the 87-year history of the league. Busted for filming the New York Jets’ sideline signals during a game, he was fined $500,000 while the Patriots were hit with a $250,000 fine of their own and forced to forfeit their 2008 first-round pick. Moss had plenty of success for the Pats but his career in Boston came to an abrupt and controversial end three years later when he was traded four weeks into the 2010 season.

2008: Super Bowl XLII
Tom Brady was 3-0 in Super Bowls when he and Moss led the 18-0 Patriots into Super Bowl XLII against the upstart New York Giants, who won the NFC title after getting into the playoffs as a wild card team. With history within the Patriots' grasp, the highest scoring team (589 points) the NFL has ever seen was held to just 14 points by a stellar Giants defensive line. Eli Manning and David Tyree were the heroes that Super Sunday, not Brady or Moss. It was the beginning of the end.

2009: Scott Pioli Heads West
The VP of Player Personnel in New England responsible for building all but one of the Patriots' Super Bowl teams left the organization following the 2008 season to become the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. This is what Belichick had to say when he lost his long-time wingman: “To sum up in words everything Scott Pioli has meant to this organization and to me personally would be difficult, if not impossible. There is no more capable, hardworking, loyal, team-oriented person than Scott Pioli.” Needless to say, losing Pioli was a huge blow to the Patriots' long-term stability and personnel decisions have been questionable at best since his departure.

2009: Fourth and 2

With 2:23 left in the fourth quarter of a critical Week 10 showdown with archrival Peyton Manning and the Colts, Belichick’s coaching prowess was called into question for the first time. Leading by six, he elected to go for it on fourth and two from his own 28-yard line. The Patriots failed to convert and the Colts scored three plays later to win the game 35-34. It was the first crack in Belichick’s coaching armor, as he was skewered by fans and experts alike for the horrendous decision. His public whining about the spot of the ball the following Monday only stoked the media fire.

2010: The Tight End Draft
Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were elite college players, but both had major red flags on their draft resumes. This is why the Patriots were able to snag both players in the second and fourth rounds, respectively, in the 2010 NFL Draft. Hernandez has an obviously checkered past (and present) off the field and Gronkowski was a wild man with severe injury problems while at Arizona. Well, after three seasons in the league, both players’ warts have returned to haunt New England. Gronkowski can’t stay healthy or out of grainy, late-night cell phone videos while Hernandez is involved in a murder investigation. (Brandon Spikes also was part of this draft class.)

2010: Brandon Spikes Suspended
The troubled middle linebacker from Florida was a second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. The talented tackler violated the NFL’s banned substances policy, however, and was suspended for four games prior to Week 14 of his rookie year. Additionally, he was involved in a bizarre sex tape incident with Doc Rivers' daughter, Callie, and his brother is serving a life sentence in prison for first-degree murder after a drug deal went bad in 2001. Neither of these tidbits are an indictment of his character but are merely statements of fact.

2011: Albert Haynesworth Trade
The Patriots gave up a fifth-round pick in late July 2011 to acquire the troubled and self-absorbed defensive tackle. Haynesworth built a long reputation for poor work ethic and is widely considered a clubhouse cancer. He lasted six games with New England and was placed on waivers four months later after a public sideline confrontation with assistant coach Pepper Johnson.

2012: Super Bowl XLVI
The Patriots once again met the New York Giants in the biggest sporting event of the year. And once again, Brady was defeated by the younger Manning. The Patriots coughed up yet another second half lead to the G-Men as Manning led three unanswered scoring drives in the final 21 minutes of play. The Patriots were held scoreless for the final 26:20.

2012: Aqib Talib's Rap Sheet
Where to begin with the former Kansas Jayhawks star corner? At the rookie symposium, he got into a fight with fellow Bucs rookie Cory Boyd. The following year, he was arrested by Florida police after beating up a taxi driver and resisting arrest. In 2011, a felony warrant was issued for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he fired a gun at his sister’s boyfriend. And last year, the talented defensive back was suspended by the NFL for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. Belichick and the Pats re-signed Talib to a one-year deal this March.

2013: Wes Welker’s Contract Dispute
Cutting ties with veterans is a tough but necessary part of life in the NFL. Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick had to make a difficult decision on their star wide receiver this offseason, but clearly the Patriots mishandled the situation. Public comments disparaging Welker’s representation were inaccurate and the last-second offer from the Pats left little room for any negotiation. It may seem like an insignificant issue, but it became a very public divorce over a player who will go down as one of the greatest and most beloved in franchise history.

2013: Tebow-a-palooza
Is Belichick simply doing old friend Urban Meyer a favor? Is Robert Kraft simply trying to sell team merchandise during the offseason? Do the Pats think Tim Tebow can play tight end — considering the sudden lack of depth at the position? Or is Belichick simply THAT arrogant? Whatever the reason, the signing of Tebow this summer will be a major distraction with little chance of return on investment.

This, of course, brings us to Odin Lloyd’s murder.

The slow and painful demise of the once venerated franchise appears to be culminating as one of its biggest stars finds himself as the centerpiece of a murder investigation. Innocent or guilty, New England must cut ties with Hernandez immediately and suffer the consequences both from a PR and depth chart standpoint.

Tom Brady is set to enter his 14th NFL season and will turn 36 in August. How many more years does he have left? Two? Maybe three? Yes, the Patriots play in a horrendous AFC East in the much weaker American Football Conference so they should make the playoffs again this fall. But there will come a time in the very near future when Brady will have to walk away from the game. And when that happens, fans in New England better hope the Red Sox and Bruins are still winning games.

Because it sure as hell doesn't look like Belichick will give them anything to cheer about.

<p> Timeline: The Demise of the New England Patriots</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 14:15
Path: /college-football/conference-usa-football-2013-all-conference-team

The 2013 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at our first and second All-Conference USA teams for this season.

Related Content: Conference USA Predictions for 2013

First-Team Offense

QB Rakeem Cato, Marshall

RB Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech

RB Trey Watts, Tulsa

WR Justin Hardy, East Carolina

WR Tommy Shuler, Marshall

TE Gator Hoskins, Marshall

C Chris Jasperse, Marshall

OG Stetson Burnett, Tulsa

OG Will Simmons, East Carolina

OT Jake Alexander, Tulsa

OT Brander Craighead, UTEP

First-Team Defense

DE Cody Bauer, Rice

DE IK Enemkpali, Louisiana Tech

DT Brandon Sparrow, Marshall

DT Khyri Thornton, Southern Miss

LB Jeremy Grove, East Carolina

LB Shawn Jackson, Tulsa

LB Derrell Johnson, East Carolina

CB Phillip Gaines, Rice

CB Deron Wilson, Southern Miss

S Marco Nelson, Tulsa

S Richard Spencer, UTEP

First-Team Specialists

K Cairo Santos, Tulane

P Tyler Williams, Marshall

KR Trey Watts, Tulsa

PR Justin Hardy, East Carolina

The Breakdown of Athlon's 2013 All-Conference USA Team

  First Second Overall
East Carolina 5 2 7
FAU 0 1 1
FIU 0 1 1
Louisiana Tech 2 0 2
Marshall 6 2 8
MTSU 0 2 2
North Texas 0 3 3
Rice 2 4 6
Southern Miss 2 0 2
Tulane 1 2 3
Tulsa 6 1 7
UAB 0 2 2
UTEP 2 3 5
UTSA 0 3 3

Second-Team Offense

QB Shane Carden, East Carolina

RB Vintavious Cooper, East Carolina

RB Darrin Reaves, UAB

WR Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa

WR Ryan Grant, Tulane

TE Nexon Dorvilus, FAU

C Nate Richards, Rice

OG Cyril Lemon, North Texas

OG Jerel Watkins, UTEP

OT Jordan Jeffries, Marshall

OT Darius Johnson, MTSU

Related Content: Conference USA Predictions for 2013

Second-Team Defense

DE Alex Bazzie, Marshall

DE Horace Miller, UTEP

DT Isame Faciane, FIU

DT Hosam Shahin, Rice

LB Steven Kurfehs, UTSA

LB Cameron Nwosu, Rice

LB Zachary Orr, North Texas

CB Lorenzo Doss, Tulane

CB Zac Whitfield, North Texas

S Kevin Byard, MTSU

S Triston Wade, UTSA

Second-Team Specialists

K Chris Boswell, Rice

P Hunter Mullins, UAB

KR Autrey Golden, UTEP

PR Kenny Harrison, UTSA


2013 Conference USA Team Previews

East Division West Division
East Carolina Louisiana Tech
FAU North Texas
FIU Rice
Marshall Tulane
MTSU Tulsa
Southern Miss UTEP

Related College Football Content

Conference USA Predictions for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60

College Fooball Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 101-125

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era

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

<p> Conference USA Football 2013 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 12:53
All taxonomy terms: fishing, outdoors, Monthly, News
Path: /overtime/how-fish-fishing-tips-pro-fishermen

If you’re a weekend angler preparing for a day on the banks or on the water, you’ve probably got your hooks, lines, sinkers and an assortment of bait and favorite lures. But what other essentials are you carrying? We asked some of the world’s top fishermen to help fill your tackle box with their “must haves” to ensure that your next fishing experience is fun-filled, safe and rewarding.

Polarized sunglasses: preferably Jimmy Houston glasses (or Bill Dance’s if they’ve sold out of mine!) 
— Jimmy Houston, Cookson, Okla., legendary pro angler and TV celebrity
Leatherman multi-purpose tool: Think industrial-grade Swiss Army knife. Indispensable for everything from cutting line to repairing reels to an emergency tracheotomy. 
— Steve Wozniak, San Ramon, Calif., holder of 68 International Game Fish Association (IGFA) world records, including most different species caught (1,192). Has fished in 77 different countries.
More clothes than you think you’ll need: Because it never fails; the weather always changes and you don’t want to be stuck out there freezing.
— JT Kenny, Palm Bay, Fla., Straight Talk pro angler
Baby wipes: They’re a must. Nobody can fish in dirty conditions!
— Scott Suggs, Bryant, Ark., 2007 Forrest Wood Cup champion
Lighter: Use it to fix rods and start a fire if an emergency arises. 
— Jason Christie, Park Hill, Okla., FLW Tour Beaver Lake April 2013 winner, Forrest Wood Cup qualifier
Net: One that’s light and tough made by Beckman, because: 1) fish have teeth, 2) fish are slimy, and 3) fish flat out stink! 
— David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., all-time FLW leading money winner with more than $3 million; 2003 Forrest Wood Cup champion
Serious sun hat: I'm not talking baseball cap here but one of those ridiculous things that makes you look like the head of a religious cult. 
— Wozniak
Toilet Paper: I prefer camouflage-colored toilet paper, and make sure it’s scented.  By the way, it's all scented sooner or later! 
— Houston
First aid kit: If you don't know why you need this, then I'll hit you in the head with a tack hammer and you'll find out. 
— Kenny
A good rain suit: You never know when you might get wet. I prefer Gore-Tex to keep me warm and dry. 
— Suggs 
Life jacket: Always use a life jacket; you never know when something is below the water.  
— Christie
Extra drain plug: Worth the money at twice the price anytime and much easier than swimming to shore! 
— Houston 
Smartphone: If the fish aren’t 
biting, you can always watch YouTube and play games.
— Kenny
Sunscreen: 30 SPF. Apply before you make the first cast! 
— Houston
Digital camera: It’s nice to have photos to look at from previous trips when the current one is going badly. If it’s a smartphone, you can look up exactly what type of swamp minnow you just caught. 
— Wozniak 
12-pack of Keystone Light: You can either celebrate your big catch or drown your sorrows with it.  
 — Kenny
Bobber: Even though I’m a professional, I have A.D.D. and need a bobber to help tell me when I have a bite. Thill is the best bobber made. 
— Dudley
Visa card with high limit: Because after you put gas in your truck to get to the lake then put gas in your boat to fish, you're going to need a high limit! 
— Kenny
Super Glue: There is nothing that Super Glue won't fix. 
— Suggs
Jumper cables: If your battery dies, you can jump from a trolling motor
battery or have
someone jump you. 
— Christi
A good memory: Because you’re going to have the time of your life. 
— Kenny
*Photos courtesy of FLW Outdoors.
<p> 21 Fishing Tips from Pro Fishermen</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 12:50
Path: /nfl/indianapolis-colts-2013-schedule-analysis

The Indianapolis Colts were one of the NFL's surprise teams last season, winning 11 games and making it to the playoffs. What does quarterback Andrew Luck have in mind for an encore? Here's our look at the Colts' 2013 NFL schedule.

Indianapolis Colts 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: Oakland
Week 2: Miami
Week 3: at San Francisco
Week 4: at Jacksonville
Week 5: Seattle
Week 6: at San Diego (Mon.)
Week 7: Denver
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: at Houston
Week 10: St. Louis
Week 11: at Tennessee (Thurs.)
Week 12: at Arizona
Week 13: Tennessee
Week 14: at Cincinnati
Week 15: Houston
Week 16: at Kansas City
Week 17: Jacksonville

Order your 2013 Indianapolis Colts Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: Indianapolis needs to take advantage of its opening double-dip at home against Oakland and Miami, because things get a little bit tougher after that. The Raiders and Dolphins won a combined 11 games last season. San Francisco, the Colts' Week 3 opponent, won 11 in the regular season and then two more in the playoffs before losing to Baltimore in the Super Bowl. This also will be Indianapolis' first road game, meaning a long trip out west to face one of the league's best defenses on their home field. The opening month closes with another road game, but this one is in Jacksonville, which figures to be an entirely different type of challenge.

Toughest Stretch: If not for that Week 4 date with the Jaguars, the Colts could make a strong argument for one of the NFL's toughest six-game stretches. To be fair, their bye week falls within this span, but that shouldn't take away from the level of competition this young team will be facing from the end of September to the first Sunday in November. It all begins with a trip out west to face the defending NFC champion 49ers in Week 3. The Jaguars follow, but the game is in Jacksonville, and when the Colts return home that next week it's to play Seattle, another 2012 playoff team with a strong defense. Then it's another long flight to the west coast for a Monday night affair against San Diego, which precedes Peyton Manning's homecoming when Denver comes to town in Week 7. Indianapolis will need that bye the following week because awaiting them on the other side of it is defending AFC South champion Houston, who will no doubt welcome the Colts to Reliant Stadium with open arms. These six games should be an excellent litmus test to determine if Indianapolis' success last season was a fluke or if this team is a legitimate playoff contender.

Swing Games: MIA (Week 2), at CIN (Week 14)
Crossover Divisions: AFC West, NFC West
Bye Week: Week 8
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .461 (30th)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 31st

Easiest Stretch: Even though a trip to San Francisco looms large in Week 3, Indianapolis' other three games in September don't appear to be near as treacherous. The Colts get to open the season by hosting Oakland and Miami in back-to-back weeks. After the visit out west, the Colts are back on the road, but this time the destination is Jacksonville. Collectively the Raiders, Dolphins and Jaguars won 13 games last season, the same number the 49ers won between the regular season and the playoffs combined.

Circle The Calendar: It's all about family reunions for the Colts in 2013. Quarterback Andrew Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton will return to their old stomping grounds in Week 3 to face San Francisco and former coach/boss Jim Harbaugh. A Week 11 trip out to Arizona means first-year Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who led Indianapolis in Chuck Pagano's absence while he battled leukemia, will be matched up against his former players and colleagues. And there's also the matter of a certain quarterback, who also spent a fair amount of time in a Colts uniform, paying a visit to Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 7. Some guy named Peyton, I think. Perhaps you have heard of him?

Divisional Notes: Five of Indianapolis' six divisional games come after its bye in Week 8. The Colts go to Jacksonville in Week 4 and don't play another AFC South team until they go to Houston in Week 9. Both games with Tennessee come in a span of three weeks (Weeks 11-13) and this pattern repeats itself at the end of the season with the Texans and Jaguars in on tap in Weeks 15 and 17. One interesting aspect to Indianapolis' divisional slate? The first three games are on the road, while the last three are at home and fall among the final five of the regular season.

Playoff Push: Last season, the Colts won five of their final six games to finish off their improbable march to the playoffs. If this team is able to repeat that success in 2013, it's entirely possible that Indianapolis could return to the postseason, especially if the Colts take care of business at home. Their three December home games are also divisional contests, highlighted by a Week 15 visit from defending AFC South champion Houston. That game is preceded by a road game in Cincinnati, a matchup that could end up determining the playoff fates for either or both teams. The other game in the final month is a visit to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Chiefs. As bad as Kansas City was last season, this is a team with a new coaching staff and new quarterback, among several other changes. And if there's any team that's familiar with that recipe and how it can lead to success, it would be the Colts.

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Andrew Luck struggled somewhat (11 TDs, 13 INTs) in road games as a rookie, so at first glace the games at Cincinnati and Kansas City may not seem ideal. The silver lining to this, however, is that while the Bengals gave up the fifth-fewest fantasy points to QBs last season, the Chiefs came in at No. 28. Luck also gets Houston at home, where he was 7-1 last season.

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

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston Denver
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati Indianapolis Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26) Cleveland Jacksonville (6/21) Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas Chicago Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit Carolina St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay New Orleans (6/24) San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota (6/21) Tampa 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

<p> Indianapolis Colts 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 12:35
All taxonomy terms: Green Bay Packers, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-2013-schedule-analysis

The Packers have gone to the playoffs four straight seasons and in five of head coach Mike McCarthy's seven seasons. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Green Bay Packers 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at San Francisco
Week 2: Washington
Week 3: at Cincinnati
Week 4: BYE
Week 5: Detroit
Week 6: at Baltimore
Week 7: Cleveland
Week 8: at Minnesota
Week 9: Chicago (Mon.)
Week 10: Philadelphia
Week 11: at New York Giants
Week 12: Minnesota
Week 13: at Detroit (Thurs.)
Week 14: Atlanta
Week 15: at Dallas
Week 16: Pittsburgh
Week 17: at Chicago

Order your 2013 Green Bay Packers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: The start to the season won't be easy for the defending NFC North champs. Two road trips to playoff teams in San Francisco and Cincinnati are packaged around a visit from Robert Griffin III, provided he's healthy and on the field. The first month ends abruptly, however, with the earliest possible off weekend in Week 4. A winning record after the first four weeks would be considered a successful start to the year.

Toughest Stretch: Where to begin? The first three are nasty and a four-week stretch in the middle is equally tough (Weeks 8-11). But the final four games will be the toughest and likely most important. Massive NFC matchups with Atlanta and Dallas lead up to a rare visit from historic AFC power Pittsburgh in Week 16 before the season ends on a tough road trip to Chicago. The Packers' fate — and playoff seeding — won't be determined until the final four weeks of the 2013 campaign.

Swing Games: at SF (Week 1), ATL (Week 14)
Crossover Divisions: NFC East, AFC North
Bye Week: Week 4
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .533 (6th)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 5th

Easiest Stretch: From Week 4 to Week 7, the Packers will face only one tough opponent. The off weekend feeds into home games with Detroit and Cleveland as well as a road trip to Baltimore. Other than the Ravens, who are clearly not the same team that won the Super Bowl, this four-week stretch should allow for the Packers to breathe somewhat. Additionally, this stretch feeds into games with the Vikings, Bears and Eagles — all of whom are picked to miss the playoffs this year.

Circle The Calendar: There are awesome storylines all over this schedule. A trip to the Bay in a playoff rematch in Week 1, a budding rivalry game with the New York Giants and a trip south to hated rival Dallas in Cowboys Stadium are all huge playoff seeding games. But the date to circle is Week 16. A rematch of Super Bowl XL takes place when the Steel Curtain invades Lambeau Field for a rare cross-conference showdown. Arguably the top two fan bases from the top two franchises will meet in a cold late-season battle. What's not to love?

Divisional Notes: The Packers will play five of their six NFC North games in the second half of their season. Only a home game with the Lions dots the first half of the schedule. But in the middle of the year, divisional games will come hot and heavy. Over a six-week stretch from Week 8 to Week 13, Green Bay will play four divisional games. The season then ends with the oldest and best rivalry game in all of the NFL — in Soldier Field in Chicago.

Playoff Push: As mentioned, the final four weeks might be the toughest of the year, so the playoff push isn't going to be easy for the Pack. But that comes with the territory of being one of the most successful and powerful teams in the league. The real issue may be fatigue and roster depletion. The bye week comes so early that Green Bay could be limping into the final few games. Green Bay will play 13 straight games to end its season.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): The matchup against Atlanta should be equally entertaining and high scoring, as two of the NFL’s best offenses go head-to-head. The road game against Dallas (19th against the pass in 2012) should be business as usual for Aaron Rodgers and company. The same can’t be said, however, for that championship week date with Pittsburgh, which was No. 1 against the pass and No. 2 against fantasy QBs last season.

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

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston Denver
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati Indianapolis Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26) Cleveland Jacksonville (6/21) Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas Chicago Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit Carolina St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay New Orleans (6/24) San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota (6/21) Tampa 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

<p> Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2013-sec-wide-receivers

The SEC is very top-heavy when it comes to receivers in 2013. Leading the way is a cast of potential All-Americans, including Alabama’s Amari Cooper, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, Ole Miss’ Donte Moncrief and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. But Georgia’s Malcolm Mitchell and LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. aren’t far behind.

Just like the individual players, the SEC is relatively top-heavy when it comes to ranking the individual groups for 2013. Alabama ranks as Athlon’s No. 1 receiving corps in the SEC for 2013, with Georgia checking in at No. 2. 

Kickoff for the 2013 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2013 - not how it played in 2012.

Ranking the SEC WR/TE Corps for 2013

1. Alabama
Thanks to coach Nick Saban’s relentless work on the recruiting trail, the Crimson Tide’s 2013 receiving corps could be the best of his tenure in Tuscaloosa. Amari Cooper had a standout freshman season last year, catching 59 passes for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. Cooper came on strong at the end of 2012, finishing the year with four 100-yard games over the final five contests. Cooper is an Athlon Sports second-team All-American for 2013. Quarterback AJ McCarron won’t have to look Cooper’s way all of the time, as seniors Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell are reliable options, and redshirt freshman Chris Black is due for a breakout year. Adding depth will be DeAndrew White and incoming true freshmen Raheem Falkins and Robert Foster. True freshman OJ Howard could push Brian Vogler to start at tight end.

2. Georgia
Despite the departure of Tavarres King and Marlon Brown, the Bulldogs shouldn’t be concerned about their receiving corps. After spending part of last season at cornerback, junior Malcolm Mitchell will spend all of 2013 at receiver. Mitchell caught 40 passes for 572 yards and four scores last year, including nine for 103 yards in a 29-24 win over Kentucky. Michael Bennett caught 24 passes through the first five games but suffered a torn ACL in early October. Mitchell and Bennett should form one of the SEC’s top receiving duos in 2013. Senior Rantavious Wooten, junior Chris Conley and sophomore Justin Scott-Wesley will round out the top five receiver spots, but freshman Tramel Terry and junior college recruit Jonathon Rumph will push for time. Tight end Arthur Lynch averaged 18 yards per reception in 2012 and is an Athlon Sports second-team All-American for 2013.

3. Vanderbilt
The Commodores aren’t particularly flush with depth at receiver, but it’s hard to find a better one-two combination in the SEC. Jordan Matthews turned down a chance to enter the NFL for one more year at Vanderbilt. The senior enters 2013 with 150 career receptions, 2,282 yards and 17 touchdowns. Matthews led all SEC receivers with 94 catches in 2012. Chris Boyd is back after catching 50 passes for 774 yards and five scores last year. And Jonathan Krause is slated to fill the No. 3 role after recording nine receptions in 2012. Freshmen Jordan Cunningham and Carlos Burse will provide depth. Junior college transfer Brandon Vandenburg could push Kris Kentera and Steven Scheu for the starting nod at tight end.

4. LSU
With the defense returning only three starters, LSU’s offense may have to carry this team in the early going. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger returns, and the receiving corps brings back four receivers with at least 18 catches last year. Jarvis Landry led the team with 56 receptions in 2012, but Odell Beckham was the unit’s top playmaker, averaging 16.6 yards per catch. Seniors Kadron Boone and James Wright combined for 44 catches in 2012 and will anchor the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the receiving corps. However, true freshman Avery Peterson and junior college recruit Quantavius Leslie will push for snaps. LSU could feature the tight end more under new coordinator Cam Cameron, and junior college recruit Logan Stokes could step into the starting role over sophomore Dillon Gordon.

5. Ole Miss
Feed Moncrief became the mantra for the Ole Miss offense last season, which showed marked improvement from the 2011 squad. Sophomore Donte Moncrief emerged as one of the SEC’s top receivers last year, nabbing 66 receptions for 979 yards and 10 touchdowns. He finished 2012 on a tear, catching at least six passes in five out of the last six contests, which included back-to-back 100-yard performances against LSU and Mississippi State. Junior Vince Sanders and senior Ja-Mes Logan combined for 82 receptions last season and will flank Moncrief as the No. 2 and No. 3 options. The receiving corps got deeper over the offseason, as freshman Laquon Treadwell could earn some playing time this fall too. Treadwell ranked as the No. 1 receiver in the nation by in the 2013 signing class. Freshman A.J. Jackson may start over senior Jack Nuismer at tight end in 2013.

6. Texas A&M
Mike Evans broke onto the scene as a redshirt freshman last year, catching 82 passes for 1,105 yards and five scores. The Texas native caught at least four passes in every game in 2012 and is a second-team All-SEC selection by Athlon Sports for 2013. Having Evans back in the lineup is huge for Texas A&M, especially since Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu have expired their eligibility. Swope is the biggest loss for the receiving corps, as he made several tough catches in key moments throughout his career. But the cupboard is far from bare for coach Kevin Sumlin. Juniors LeKendrick Williams and Malcome Kennedy and senior Derel Walker provide quarterback Johnny Manziel with plenty of experience in the receiving corps. However, freshmen Ja’Quay Williams and Ricky Seals-Jones will be two players to watch this fall. The wild card at tight end to watch is former Tennessee Volunteer Cameron Clear, who spent last season at Arizona Western College.

7. Missouri
Much of Missouri’s ranking in this article hinges on the development of sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham. The No. 1 overall prospect in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100, Green-Beckham caught 28 passes for 395 yards last season, with four of his five touchdowns coming over the final three games. With quarterback James Franklin a year removed from his shoulder surgery, Green-Beckham should be poised to easily outperform his 2012 totals. T.J. Moe will be missed, but Missouri has seniors Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington slated to anchor the other two starting spots in the receiving corps. Lucas led the team with 46 receptions for 509 yards last year.

8. South Carolina
The Gamecocks will miss the playmaking ability of Ace Sanders, but the unit has some steady weapons to lean on, including Bruce Ellington. The junior caught 40 passes for 600 yards and seven scores last year, including the game-winning 32-yard pass from Dylan Thompson in the Outback Bowl. But Ellington needs help if the Gamecocks are to reach the SEC championship game. Junior Damiere Byrd and sophomore Shaq Roland will be charged with taking a bigger role in the passing game this year. Junior Nick Jones and sophomore Shamier Jeffery are also expected to see more targets this year. Junior Rory Anderson and sophomore Jerell Adams will battle to replace Justice Cunningham as the team’s top tight end.

9. Florida
Considering the receivers that came through Gainesville in the 1990s under Steve Spurrier and the success of Percy Harvin under Urban Meyer, it’s a surprise to see the Gators struggle to develop a No. 1 option over the last few seasons. No Florida wide receiver has caught more than 40 passes since 2009, and the cupboard is relatively bare entering 2013. Quinton Dunbar is the team’s top returning receiver, but he averaged only 10.6 yards per catch last year. Andre Debose is still looking for his breakout season in his final year on campus. And the coaching staff hopes sophomore Latroy Pittman or true freshman Demarcus Robinson can give quarterback Jeff Driskel a go-to weapon on the outside. If the receiving corps struggles once again, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy may be spending a good chunk of snaps on offense too.

10. Arkansas
Cobi Hamilton has expired his eligibility after capping off a solid career in the SEC with 90 receptions for 1,335 yards and five scores last year. With Hamilton gone, the Razorbacks will be looking for a new go-to target. Sophomore Mekale McKay showed promise by averaging 15.1 yards per reception in 2012. But McKay should have plenty of help from seniors Julian Horton, Demetrius Wilson and Javontee Herndon. Sophomore Keon Hatcher and true freshman tight end Hunter Henry are two names to watch this fall.

11. Auburn
There’s potential surrounding this group, but Auburn must settle its quarterback situation for this offense to improve from a disappointing 2012 season. But with Gus Malzahn returning to call the plays, the Tigers should have one of the most-improved offenses in the SEC. Quan Bray is the team’s top returning receiver with just 14 receptions, but the unit has interesting options in juniors Trovon Reed and Jaylon Denson, along with sophomore Ricardo Louis. Tight end C.J. Uzomah should surpass his 2012 totals: seven receptions for 136 yards and one score.

Related Content: College Football's Most-Improved Teams for 2013

12. Tennessee
With quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson departing for the NFL, the Volunteers are essentially starting over in the passing attack. New coach Butch Jones has one of the best offensive lines in the nation to build around, but Tennessee’s offense will be a work in progress. Devrin Young, Jacob Carter, Vincent Dallas and Pig Howard are the unit’s most experienced players, but none have played in a No. 1 or No. 2 role. True freshmen MarQuez North and Paul Harris, along with redshirt freshman Jason Croom are promising options and could be Tennessee’s starting trio by the end of 2013. 

13. Mississippi State
Much like Tennessee, the Bulldogs are essentially starting over at receiver. The top four pass-catchers from last year are gone, including Chad Bumphis and tight end Marcus Green. Junior Jameon Lewis will assume a bigger role in the passing attack after catching 10 passes last year. The 5-foot-9 receiver has excellent speed and 17 receptions through his first two years on campus. Junior Robert Johnson and sophomore Joe Morrow will likely round out the starting trio, but junior college recruit Jeremey Chappelle caught eight passes for 114 yards and one score in the Spring Game and should be a key part of the Mississippi State receiving corps this season.

14. Kentucky
New coordinator Neal Brown wants to implement a pass-first offense, but Kentucky is thin on proven weapons in the receiving corps. La’Rod King led the team with 48 catches last season but expired his eligibility at the end of 2012. Junior Demarco Robinson and sophomores A.J. Legree and Daryl Collins appear to have the inside track for starting spots, especially after DeMarcus Sweat left the team in June. Expect the Wildcats to give an extended look to freshmen Jeff Badet and Ryan Timmons, along with junior college recruit Javess Blue this fall. 


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<p> Unit Rankings: 2013 SEC Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 10:23
Path: /college-football/american-athletic-football-all-conference-team-2013

The 2013 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at our first, second and third All-American Athletic teams for this season.

Related Content: American Athletic Conference Predictions for 2013

2013 American Athletic All-Conference Team

First-Team Offense

QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

RB Savon Huggins, Rutgers

RB Lyle McCombs, Connecticut

WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers

WR DeVante Parker, Louisville

TE Alan Cross, Memphis

C Austin Reiter, South Florida

OG Austen Bujnoch, Cincinnati

OG Antwan Lowery, Rutgers

OT Kaleb Johnson, Rutgers

OT Eric Lefeld, Cincinnati

First-Team Defense

DE Aaron Lynch, South Florida

DE Jamil Merrell, Rutgers

DT Brandon Dunn, Louisville

DT Jordan Stepp, Cincinnati

LB Greg Blair, Cincinnati

LB Preston Brown, Louisville

LB Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut

CB Kenneth Acker, SMU

CB Deven Drane, Cincinnati

S Calvin Pryor, Louisville

S Hakeem Smith, Louisville

First-Team Specialists

K Tony Miliano, Cincinnati

P Richie Leone, Houston

KR Ralph David Abernathy IV, Cincinnati

PR J.J. Worton, UCF

The Breakdown of Athlon's 2013 American Athletic All-Conference Team

  First Second Third Overall
Cincinnati 7 0 5 12
Connecticut 2 2 2 6
Houston 1 4 1 6
Louisville 6 4 4 14
Memphis 1 3 3 7
Rutgers 5 4 1 10
SMU 1 0 3 4
South Florida 2 2 4 8
Temple 0 1 1 2
UCF 1 6 2 9

Second-Team Offense

QB Blake Bortles, UCF

RB Storm Johnson, UCF

RB Dominique Brown, Louisville

WR Deontay Greenberry, Houston

WR Breshad Perriman, UCF

TE Sean Price, South Florida

C Betim Bujari, Rutgers

OG Jordan McCray, UCF

OG Jake Smith, Louisville

OT Rowdy Harper, Houston

OT Torrian Wilson, UCF

Second-Team Defense

DE Martin Ifedi, Memphis

DE Marcus Smith, Louisville

DT Darius Hamilton, Rutgers

DT Shamar Stephen, Connecticut

LB DeDe Lattimore, South Florida

LB Tyler Matakevich, Temple

LB Derrick Mathews, Houston

CB Byron Jones, Connecticut

CB Zach McMillian, Houston

S Clayton Geathers, UCF

S Lorenzo Waters, Rutgers

Related Content: American Athletic Conference Predictions for 2013

Second-Team Specialists

K John Wallace, Louisville

P Tom Hornsey, Memphis

KR Jeremy Deering, Rutgers

PR Keiwone Malone, Memphis


Third-Team Offense

QB Brendon Kay, Cincinnati                                  

RB Senorise Perry, Louisville

RB Traylon Shead, SMU

WR Damian Copeland, Louisville

WR Andre Davis, South Florida
WR Jeremy Johnson, SMU                                                             
C Dan Sprague, Cincinnati                                              
OG Sam Longo, Cincinnati

OG John Miller, Louisville

OT Al Bond, Memphis

OT Quinterrius Eatmon, South Florida

Third-Team Defense

DE Ryne Giddins, South Florida          

DE Deion Green, UCF          

DT E.J. Dunston, UCF

DT Johnnie Farms, Memphis          

LB Randall Joyner, SMU          

LB Jeff Luc, Cincinnati          

LB Jamal Merrell, Rutgers                                              

CB Terell Floyd, Louisville          

CB Anthony Robey, Temple          

S Mark Joyce, South Florida          

S Trevon Stewart, Houston


Third-Team Specialists

K Chad Christen, Connecticut            

P Cole Wagner, Connecticut          

KR Bobby McCain, Memphis          

PR Anthony McClung, Cincinnati

2013 American Athletic Conference Team Previews

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut SMU
Houston South Florida
Louisville Temple
Memphis UCF

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<p> American Athletic Football All-Conference Team for 2013</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 07:31
Path: /college-football/virginia-techs-struggling-offense-gets-makeover

Within the first minute after taking the dais to introduce Virginia Tech’s new offensive coaches in January, Frank Beamer made clear his distaste for change, even a change that Hokies fans have requested for years.

In 27 years at his alma mater, Beamer has carved out a legacy in college football, one he’s attributed to the consistency of his coaching staff at Virginia Tech.

But after the Hokies bottomed out in 2012, barely making a bowl game and finishing 7–6, their worst record in 20 years, even he admitted it was time for an overhaul.

Enter offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and receivers coach Aaron Moorehead, a trio tasked with fixing what for years has been an underachieving Virginia Tech offense.

“Change is not easy for me. I don’t like change,” Beamer said upon introducing the three. “But at the same time, you’ve got to do what you think is right for your overall organization, and that’s what I’ve done in this case.”

With Bud Foster’s defense having been among the nation’s best for the better part of nearly two decades, critics of Beamer have long held the belief that the offense’s production, particularly in the post-Michael Vick era, has held the Hokies back from becoming an elite college football program.

Tech’s offense under long-time Beamer ally Bryan Stinespring, who remains on the staff as a tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator, could never match the production of Foster’s defense.

In the 11 years after Stinespring was elevated to the coordinator position, the Hokies finished in the bottom half of the FBS in total offense six times. Only once in the last six years has Virginia Tech finished in the top four in the ACC in total offense, despite having either current pro Tyrod Taylor or future pro Logan Thomas at quarterback.

Nevertheless, the wins masked the issue. Eight straight 10-win seasons from 2004-11 and four ACC titles were all the justification Beamer needed for keeping things the same. When that wall came crumbling down in 2012, though, change was inevitable.

But it won’t be radical. In Loeffler, who cut his teeth at Michigan under Lloyd Carr, the Hokies have someone who Beamer believes is aligned philosophically with the style that has worked at Virginia Tech for years — control the line of scrimmage, run the football and pass off play-action. It’s an unsexy yet effective game plan.

“I think the marriage between what they’ve done in the past and what we want to do is excellent,” Loeffler says.

Still, Loeffler’s No. 1 task will be to fix Thomas, who is back for his senior season after a disappointing junior campaign that saw his draft stock drop from potential top-five pick to out of the first round.

Hardly a lost cause, Thomas still broke his own school record for total yardage in 2012, throwing for 2,976 yards and running for a team-high 524 yards. He accounted for 27 touchdowns, only three off his 2011 figure, but his efficiency numbers dropped significantly. His completion percentage fell from 59.8 to 51.3, and he threw 16 interceptions, tied for fourth-most nationally.

But Loeffler, who coached Tom Brady, Brian Griese, Drew Henson, John Navarre and Chad Henne at Michigan and Tim Tebow at Florida, might be the right guy to get Thomas on track in his quarterback-dependent offensive system.

“Some of the things that he does that are really, really difficult, he does them easy,” Loeffler says. “And you can’t coach that. I don’t care. There are some things that he does that are really, really hard. I watched him chin-over-toe escape to his left and make this freaky throw that not too many guys could do. So some things like that that are easy, I think we can make them a little easier for him to be more productive.”

Like Thomas, Loeffler had his own problems in 2012. After a successful season at Temple in his first year as a coordinator on any level, Loeffler was hired to replace Gus Malzahn at Auburn, where he was asked to install a pro-style attack with spread personnel. It didn’t go well. The Tigers finished 115th nationally in total offense en route to an 0–8 record in the SEC. Gene Chizik and his entire staff were fired.

Loeffler, a coaching itinerant who has made four stops in the last five years, remains unscarred by the experience, though.

“You’ve got to learn real quick that in this business — there’s going to be ups, there’s going to be downs,” he says. “There’s going to be times when you play really well. There’s going to be times when you don’t. There’s going to be times when you coach really well and there’s going to be times that you don’t. Obviously, one little setback is not going to define who I am or what I believe in. I’m good.”

For his part, Beamer looked past those struggles at Auburn, hiring Loeffler, in part, because of a recommendation from Carr.

Loeffler doesn’t come alone. He has a kindred spirit in Grimes, with whom he worked at Auburn. The baritone-voiced offensive line coach earned points with the Hokies faithful by declaring upon his arrival that his goal was for his group to be “the toughest line in the ACC.”

“I believe we’re the tip of the spear, so to speak, the first in to fight,” Grimes says. “And if we do our job with the right approach and the right mindset, then I think the other guys will follow.”

It was music to the ears of a fan base that identifies with Foster’s Lunch Pail defense and watched in disbelief last year as the Hokies’ offensive line struggled to run-block. J.C. Coleman led the running backs with 492 yards, the lowest rushing total for Virginia Tech’s leading back since 1967.

In Moorehead, plucked from the Stanford staff, Tech hired an energetic receivers coach who at 32 years old is among the youngest assistants Beamer has ever hired.

It’s part of an overall youth movement in Blacksburg. Including the post-2010 shakeup that saw Shane Beamer and Cornell Brown replace long-time Beamer assistants Billy Hite and Jim Cavanaugh, the average age of the Hokies’ coaches has dropped from 50 to 42.

At age 66, Beamer is nearing the finish line of his Hall of Fame career. Before the Russell Athletic Bowl against Rutgers, he admitted how much the 2012 season wore on him. He said he stopped eating and lost weight, looking gaunt and exhausted by the end of the season.

But in the spring, he looked re-energized, confident in what could be the last major shakeup to a coaching staff he’ll ever make, even if it went against his nature.

“The bottom line is that we weren’t as efficient as we needed to be,” Beamer says. “I feel like when things are not working as well as they need to, you need to change it around.”

Story written by Andy Bitter 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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<p> Virginia Tech's Struggling Offense Gets a Makeover</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 07:20
All taxonomy terms: Ask Athlon, Monthly
Path: /monthly/do-golfers-pga-tour-pay-their-own-travel-expenses

Do golfers on the PGA Tour pay their own travel expenses to and from Tour events? And what about rooming costs and meals?

— Larry Freeze, Topeka, Kan.
Yes, they do. And it can be pretty expensive. Some estimates place the annual expenditures on travel (including room and board) at upwards of $200,000 for a golfer who plays in events worldwide. In addition, pro golfers also have to pay their caddies each week. Not every deal is the same, but most caddies earn at least $1,200 per event, plus up to 10 percent of the weekly earnings. There is one caveat: Many of the top pros have their travel costs covered by their sponsors. But this is a perk enjoyed by only the best of the best. For some, playing on the PGA Tour can be an expensive endeavor. 
<p> Go on, ask us anything.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 17:38
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Monthly, Overtime, News
Path: /mlb/major-league-baseball-players-poll-revealing-results-about-gay-teammates-peds-and-more

We asked, they answered. Athlon Sports set out to gauge the opinions, tastes and preferences of major league baseball players, circa 2013. More than a fifth of all MLB players responded to our survey, sharing their opinions on fellow players, teams, managers, PEDs, women and more. Read on. 

Who was your sports hero growing up?
Ken Griffey Jr. (13.7%)
Derek Jeter (5.5%)
Michael Jordan (5.5%)
Cal Ripken (5.5%)
Nolan Ryan (4.8%)
Don Mattingly (4.1%)
Dale Murphy (3.4%)
Will Clark (3.4%)
Roger Clemens (2.8%)
Rickey Henderson (2.8%)
Barry Bonds (2.8%)
Who is the best manager in baseball?
Joe Maddon, Rays (14.3%)
Terry Francona, Indians (10.2%)
Jim Leyland, Tigers (8.8%)
Bruce Bochy, Giants (8.2%)
Buck Showalter, Orioles (8.2%)
Bud Black, Padres (6.8%)
Ron Gardenhire, Twins (5.4%)
Dusty Baker, Reds (4.1%)
John Farrell, Red Sox (3.4%)
Mike Scioscia, Angels (3.4%)
What percent of players are using PEDs?
No Idea (2.2%)
0 (6.0%)
1-5 (53.0%)
6-10 (15.9%)
11-20 (5.3%)
21-30 (2.2%)
31-40 (1.5%)
41+ (0.7%)
What was your BIG purchase after signing your contract?
Car or truck (67.6%)
House (12.6%)
Big dinner (3.5%)
Watch (3.5%)
TV (2.1%)
Engagement Ring (2.1%)
NOTE: Some interesting responses that only got one vote: Japanese Fighting Fish, microwave oven, and a zoom lens for a camera.
Who is the best general manager in baseball?
Andrew Friedman, Rays (15.4%)
Billy Beane, A’s (8.4%)
Theo Epstein, Cubs (8.4%)
John Mozeliak, Cardinals (8.4%)
Terry Ryan, Twins (8.4%)
Brian Sabean, Giants (8.4%)
Jerry Dipoto, Angels (4.2%)
Dave Dombrowksi, Tigers (4.2%)
Kevin Towers, Giants (3.5%)
Jon Daniels, Rangers (3.5%)
What team would you take less money to play for?
Yankees (11.3%)
Braves (10.6%)
Rangers (7.0%)
Giants  (6.3%)
None (6.3%)
Dodgers (6.3%)
Red Sox (5.6%)
Angels (4.9%)
Padres (4.3%)
Cardinals (4.3%)
Twins (3.8%)
Diamondbacks (3.8%)
Rays (3.8%)
Cubs  (3.1%)
What team would you never play for?
None, would play for any team (30.5%)
Yankees (13.5%)
Marlins (13.5%)
Blue Jays (6.4%)
Pirates (5.0%)
Astros  (4.3%)
Indians (2.8%)
Mariners (2.8%)
Cubs  (2.8%)
Who is the best pure hitter?
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (61.0%)
Robinson Cano, Yankees (6.2%)
Joe Votto, Reds (5.5%)
Joe Mauer, Twins (4.8%)
Mike Trout, Angels (4.1%)
Ryan Braun, Brewers (4.1%)
Albert Pujols, Angels (3.4%)
Who is the best defender?
Yadier Molina, Cardinals (13.5%)
Mike Trout, Angels (10.6%)
Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians (9.2%)
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (5.7%)
Brendan Ryan, Mariners (5.0%)
Adrian Beltre, Rangers (4.3%)
Brandon Phillips, Reds (4.3%)
Andrew McCutchen, Pirates (3.6%)
Percent of MLB players who are faithful to their spouses?
40 (2.6%)
50 (9.5%)
60 (11.3%)
70 (16.5%)
80 (31.3%)
90 (19.1%)
100 (7.8%)
Which city should have a team?
Las Vegas (15.3%)
Nashville (15.3%)
Portland (6.9%)
Indianapolis (6.1%)
San Antonio (5.3%)
Charlotte (4.5%)
Oklahoma City (3.7%)
Salt Lake City (2.9%)
Columbus (2.9%)
Charlotte (2.1%)
Montreal (2.1%)
San Jose (2.1%)
Vancouver (2.1%)
Austin (1.3%)
Birmingham (1.3%)
New Orleans (1.3%)
Which city should be replaced?
Oakland (31%)
Tampa Bay (27%)
Miami (14%)
Cleveland (8%)
Toronto (7%)
Houston (6%)
Milwaukee (3%)
What player would you take less money to have as a teammate?
Mike Trout, Angels (15.2%)
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (13.8%)
Derek Jeter, Yankees (6.5%)
Justin Verlander, Tigers (5.8%)
David Price, Rays (2.9%)
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (2.9%)
Buster Posey, Giants (2.9%)
No one (2.2%)
Yadier Molina, Cardinals (2.2%)
Bryce Harper, Nationals (2.2%)
Robinson Cano, Yankees (2.2%)
Which player would I want my daughter to marry?
None (23.5%)
Derek Jeter, Yankees (6.5%)
Joe Mauer, Twins (3.3%)
Mike Trout, Angels (3.3%)
David Wright, Mets (2.4%)
Which player would I NEVER want my daughter to marry?
Any player (26.4%)
A.J. Pierzynski, Rangers (7.5%)
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (5.7%)
Jason Giambi, Indians (2.8%)
Nick Swisher, Indians (2.8%)
Would you have a problem with a gay teammate?
No Problem (69.8%)
Problem (28.7%)
Big Problem (1.5%)
Who is the hottest woman alive?
My wife (9.2%)
Kate Upton (7.1%)
Beyoncé (3.6%)
Jessica Biel (3.6%)
Rihanna (3.6%)
Jessica Alba (2.9%)
Halle Berry (2.9%)
Kate Beckinsale (2.9%)
Scarlett Johansson (2.9%)
Mila Kunis (2.9%)
Faith Hill (2.2%)
Jennifer Lawrence (2.2%)
Taylor Swift (2.2%)
NOTE: There were 63 different women who received votes, including “wife” as just one. One Kansas City outfielder said, “that new next queen of England.”
<p> Our off-the-record baseball player survey about managers, teams and more</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 12:20
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC South, Houston Texans, NFL
Path: /nfl/houston-texans-2013-schedule-analysis

The Houston Texans have won two straight division titles, but have yet to advance beyond the divisional round of the playoffs. Can this team be a Super Bowl contender this season? Here's our look at the Texans' 2013 NFL schedule.

Houston Texans 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at San Diego (Mon.)
Week 2: Tennessee
Week 3: at Baltimore
Week 4: Seattle
Week 5: at San Francisco
Week 6: St. Louis
Week 7: at Kansas City
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Indianapolis
Week 10: at Arizona
Week 11: Oakland
Week 12: Jacksonville
Week 13: New England
Week 14: at Jacksonville (Thurs.)
Week 15: at Indianapolis
Week 16: Denver
Week 17: at Tennessee

Order your 2013 Houston Texans Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: It's a tale of two halves to Houston's opening month. The Texans first two games are at San Diego and home to Tennessee, two teams that finished below .500 last season. The last two games, however, are at Baltimore, the defending Super Bowl champions, and home against Seattle, a team that won 11 games in 2012. The Texans should be able to use the first two weeks of the season to work out the kinks in hopes of being at the top of their game by Week 3.

Toughest Stretch: After getting the opportunity to somewhat ease into the season, the Texans face one of the most difficult three-game stretches of any team in the NFL starting in Week 3. Not only does Houston have to go to opposite coasts to play both Super Bowl teams (Baltimore and San Francisco) on their home turfs, the Texans also have Seattle, another playoff team last season, sandwiched in between at home. That's 32 regular-season wins, seven more victories in the playoffs, two conference titles and a Vince Lombardi Trophy accumulated by these three teams last season. Many expect Houston to contend to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVIII. This three-game gauntlet will be as good a barometer as there is to test this theory.

Swing Games: at BAL (Week 3), NE (Week 13)
Crossover Divisions: AFC West, NFC West
Bye Week: Week 8
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .473 (T-26th)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 29th

Easiest Stretch: Coming out of its bye in Week 8, Houston gets four winnable games to prepare them for the big showdown versus New England. First, it's home against Indianapolis, followed by a road game at Arizona. Then its back-to-back home games against Oakland and Jacksonville, two teams that combined for six victories last season and don't figure to be that much better this fall. The Texans shouldn't be tested all that much in these four games, giving them ample time to get ready for the Patriots' trip to Reliant Stadium in Week 13.

Circle The Calendar: It's three straight weeks of must-see matchups for the Texans starting with a trip to Baltimore in Week 3. Not only would the defending Super Bowl champions like to exact some revenge for last season's 43-13 loss to Houston, former Raven Ed Reed will be on the opposite sideline of M&T Bank Stadium for the first time in his career. After that it's home against Seattle followed by a trip to San Francisco. These two defenses will offer good tests against Houston's offense and potentially could end up being a preview of Super Bowl XLVIII. Of course, New England and Denver could have something to say about which team wins the AFC crown, and it just so happens that the Texans get both on their home turf. The Patriots beat the Texans by a combined score of 83-42 in two meetings last season, both of these in Foxborough, Mass., while Houston was the only team in the regular season to beat Denver at home (31-25 in Week 3).

Divisional Notes: Houston plays just one AFC South opponent (Tennessee in Week 2) prior to its Week 8 bye, meaning the Texans will get a double-dose of the Colts and Jaguars in the second half of their schedule. Indianapolis is on the docket first, in Week 9, with three of Houston's final four games being divisional games, and all of them on the road. The beginning of this stretch is a trip to Jacksonville, which may not seem that daunting. However, it is worth noting that this game is on Thursday night and the Texans will be coming off of their battle with New England that prior Sunday.

Playoff Push: This is how the Texans' December slate looks: New England and Denver at home coupled with road games against all three AFC South foes. The Patriots come calling the first Sunday in December, with Houston looking to finally flip the scoreboard on Bill Belichick's team. Then it's at Jacksonville the following Thursday and a trip to Indianapolis before coming back home for the Broncos in Week 16. The two home contests more than likely will have some say in playoff seeding, but the Texans can ill afford any slip ups on the road in their division either. A seemingly harmless Week 17 loss to the Colts last season ended up costing the Texans a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the AFC Divisional round. That meant the Texans first had to beat Cincinnati in the Wild Card game, which they did, but then they had to play the Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., instead of getting them at Reliant Stadium. And everyone remembers what happened in that game, especially Houston.

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): That sound you hear is Arian Foster owners salivating over the Texans’ first two playoff opponents. Jacksonville and Indianapolis finished 29th and 25th in fantasy points allowed to RBs last season, respectively. Granted, things get much tougher with a championship week matchup against Denver (3rd against the run in 2012) looming, but did we mention the first two games are versus the Jaguars and Colts?

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

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston Denver
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati Indianapolis (6/20) Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26) Cleveland Jacksonville (6/21) Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas Chicago Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit Carolina St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay (6/20) New Orleans (6/24) San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota (6/21) Tampa 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

<p> Houston Texans 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: Detroit Lions, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/detroit-lions-2013-schedule-analysis

Jim Schwartz is entering a critical season in Detroit. A good season is likely needed to keep his job as the Lions' head coach. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Detroit Lions 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: Minnesota
Week 2: at Arizona
Week 3: at Washington
Week 4: Chicago
Week 5: at Green Bay
Week 6: at Cleveland
Week 7: Cincinnati
Week 8: Dallas
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: at Chicago
Week 11: at Pittsburgh
Week 12: Tampa Bay
Week 13: Green Bay (Thurs.)
Week 14: at Philadelphia
Week 15: Baltimore (Mon.)
Week 16: New York Giants
Week 17: at Minnesota

Order your 2013 Detroit Lions Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: The first month isn't all that daunting (relatively speaking, of course) to start the season. None of the four teams to start the Lions' season are predicted to go to the postseason and this group combined for an 0-2 playoffs mark a year ago. With two divisional games coming at home and a winnable trip to the desert, the Lions could easily begin the season with two or even three wins in the first month. A slow start could spell doom for this coaching regime.

Toughest Stretch: Three of the final five games will feature playoff teams from a year ago and it means the toughest portion of the Lions' slate will come in December. Detroit will face the last three Super Bowl champions before capping the season with a visit to the Twin Cities to take on Adrian Peterson — who could be charging for an NFL rushing record in the season finale. And mixed in is a trip to Philly to take on Chip Kelly and what should be a much-improved Eagles team.

Swing Games: at ARI (Week 2, TB( Week 12 )
Crossover Divisions: NFC East, AFC North
Bye Week: Week 9
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .539 (T-2nd)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 16th

Easiest Stretch: There is no easy stretch for the Lions as this team plays seven games against playoff teams from last year. The good news is the schedule features just five games with predicted playoff teams this year. The first month could provide some victories, and Detroit also will have two winnable games against Tampa Bay and Philadelphia over a three-week stretch (Week 12-14) later in the season.

Circle The Calendar: There are loads of historic NFC rivalry games on the schedule this year as the Lions will play the NFC East in crossover play. But a home game against the Bears in Week 4 might be the most important game of the year. A win could cap a successful first month and would give the Lions some momentum in the division heading into back-to-back road games. A loss could send the Lions spiraling into a new coaching staff. A potential record-setting performance from Adrian Peterson in the season finale will also be must-see TV.

Divisional Notes: The worst part of the Lions' NFC schedule is that they don't get to face the Lions twice. The Packers, Bears and Vikings combined for 31 wins a year ago and all three have eyes on the postseason again this year. Detroit will face all three in the first five weeks of the season and wrap up with a road trip to Minnesota. The Bears may be heading in the wrong direction and Green Bay is still the kings of the NFC North, so back-to-back games in Week 4 and 5 against those two rivals could determine the Lions' divisional fate early in the year. Games with the Vikings bookend the 2013 campaign.

Playoff Push: The month of December will likely be the toughest five-week stretch for the Lions in '13. It means they will have to get work done before the calendar flips. The Packers and Giants are picked to win their divisions this year and the Ravens are the defending champs. If Schwartz wants to keep his job, he better have plenty of wins before he enters the final month of the season.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Matthew Stafford will be more than happy to see just how far Philadelphia’s defense, which allowed the second-most fantasy points to QBs last season, has come. At first glance the Ravens and Giants may look scary, but the Lions get both at home, inside on the turf, and both defenses, especially the defending Super Bowl champs, have seen a lot of changes on their respective depth charts.

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

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston Denver
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati Indianapolis (6/20) Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26) Cleveland Jacksonville (6/21) Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas Chicago Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit Carolina St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay (6/20) New Orleans (6/24) San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota (6/21) Tampa 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

<p> Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-sonoma-raceway-0

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.

The NASCAR road course races have become some of the best on the circuit each season thanks to the absurdity of NASCAR's heavy, over-powered cars trying to work delicately around tight, left and right turns. Road course racer Andy Lally recently said on Twitter that NASCAR is his favorite road course vehicle because it “handles like a school bus with the power of the space shuttle.” This week at Sonoma Raceway sounds fun!

Jump in, make your picks and, hopefully, make us look like we know what we’re talking about … if you took advantage of the free advice last week, you’ve got a race-win under your belt.

A-List (Pick two, start one)
Tony Stewart
Just when we were ready to write off Tony Stewart and his Stewart-Haas Racing bunch, he’s reeled off four top-10 finishes (a win included) in the last four races. He’s now leaped to 10th in points and figures to pile on this weekend at the Sonoma road course. Stewart leads all A-List drivers in the last eight years at Sonoma with an average running position of 10th.

Although he hasn’t won there since 2005, he’s picked up four top-5 finishes in the last five races and would've had a fifth in 2011, but wound up stuck on top of a tire barrier, courtesy of Brian Vickers. Obligatory note: Vickers is racing this weekend, too.

Jeff Gordon
Anyone who has paid attention to NASCAR’s road races in the last several years knows Jeff Gordon’s status as “King of the Road” has long since faded. However, banking on Gordon as a smart fantasy pick for Sunday is the intelligent play.

Gordon’s last road course win was in Sonoma in 2006, and since then he’s recorded a top 10 in every trip to Napa Valley. He led 13 laps a year ago — his first laps led at Sonoma since the win — and finished sixth. Don’t be concerned if things aren’t looking great for the No. 24 at halfway, either. In the last eight Sonoma races, he’s averaged 17th at the cross flags only to wind up with a series-best average finish of 8.3.

Also consider: Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson

<p> Fantasy NASCAR tips for the Toyota-Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 10:56
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-most-improved-teams-2013

Every college football season brings a few surprises. Whether it’s a team finishing in the top 10 that no one expected in the preseason or another program struggling to reach .500 after a successful stretch, each year presents many different case studies when trying to project teams for the upcoming season. And some teams are quick to rebound after a disappointing year to contend for a conference title or crack the top 25 once again.

Projecting which teams will fill those categories and show significant improvement is no easy task.

When it comes to judging improvement in college football, it doesn’t always come in the form of wins and losses. Improvement can simply come as a result of a team being more competitive within its conference and reducing the margin of defeat.

Kickoff for college football’s 2013 season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which teams will be some of the most improved in the nation.

Auburn had a disastrous 2012 season under Gene Chizik, but new coach Gus Malzahn should have the Tigers back in a bowl game. Another team that should see an improvement in its win total is Maryland. The Terrapins bring back only eight starters, but improved health at quarterback should help Randy Edsall’s team return to the postseason.

While Auburn and Maryland are two teams that should showcase their improvement in the win column, Colorado’s will come in a different form. For the Buffaloes, two victories in 2013 will represent improvement from last season. More importantly, this team under first-year head coach Mike MacIntyre should be considerably more competitive in Pac-12 play this fall.

College Football's Top 10 Most-Improved Teams for 2013


2012 Record: 3-9 (0-8 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 9

What Went Wrong Last Year: Everything. After Gus Malzahn left to be the head coach at Arkansas State, Gene Chizik hired Scot Loeffler to coordinate the offense. The results were disastrous. Largely due to being miscast in a pro-style offense with spread personnel, the Tigers ranked last in the SEC by averaging 305 yards per game. The offense wasn’t solely to blame, as the defense ranked 13th in the SEC in yards allowed.

Why the Tigers Will Be Better: There’s talent in the program. Over the last eight years, Auburn has an average rank of 12th nationally in Athlon’s team recruiting rankings. Malzahn’s return should help spark an offense that was among the worst in the nation last year, especially as the Tigers return to a spread attack. Quarterback is still a question mark, but the offense has a capable one-two punch at running back with Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne, and the offensive line returns four starters. New defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson was one of the offseason’s top assistant hires and three talented incoming freshmen will bolster the defensive line.

Athlon’s 2013 Projection for Auburn: 6-6, 2-6 SEC
With home games against Washington State, Arkansas State, Western Carolina and FAU, Auburn should be 4-0 in non-conference play. Games at LSU and Texas A&M, along with home dates against Georgia and Alabama, are likely losses. However, matchups with Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Tennessee are winnable.



2012 Record: 1-11 (1-8 Pac-12)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 7

What Went Wrong Last Year: Colorado’s struggles started in spring practice, losing receiver Paul Richardson to a torn ACL. Without Richardson, the passing attack lacked its best playmaker and one of the Pac-12’s top receivers. The Buffaloes never found any consistency at quarterback, and the offensive line allowed 4.2 sacks a game. The defense was a disaster, allowing 46 points a game – the worst FBS performance in scoring defense since 2008. Due to injuries and overall struggles, Colorado was forced to play a handful of young players last season, but the experienced gained through the struggles should help this team in 2013 and beyond.

Why the Buffaloes Will Be Better: Simply, it’s hard for Colorado to be any worse. But there are signs the Buffaloes are moving in the right direction. New coach Mike MacIntyre was one of the top 10 hires of the offseason and should eventually return the Buffaloes to the postseason. Quarterback play is a question mark, but MacIntyre and offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren played a key role in David Fales’ development at San Jose State. Running back Christian Powell had a solid freshman year, rushing for 691 yards and seven touchdowns. His return, along with Paul Richardson’s recovery from a torn ACL, should give the winner of the quarterback battle more weapons to work with in 2013. And while the defense could rank near the bottom of the Pac-12 again, it can’t be as bad as it was in 2012.

Athlon’s 2013 Projection for Colorado: 3-9, 1-8 Pac-12
The win total may not increase by much, but the Buffaloes will be a better team in 2013. Colorado State and Central Arkansas are must-wins to start the season, with a home game against California and a date at Utah representing possible upsets in Pac-12 play. Colorado isn’t likely to make a huge jump in wins, but the Buffaloes should be more competitive and will get better as the year progresses. If Connor Wood struggles early, how quickly will MacIntyre turn to incoming freshman Sefo Liufau at quarterback?


2012 Record: 4-8 (3-5 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 10, Defense – 7

What Went Wrong Last Year: Considering Indiana improved its win total by three games from 2011 to '12, it’s hard to say things went drastically wrong. Instead, the Hoosiers showed signs of progress, leading the Big Ten in passing offense (311.2 yards per game) and coming within a couple of plays of making a bowl game (lost four games by four points or fewer). While the offense averaged 30.8 points a game, the defense was the team’s Achilles' heel. The Hoosiers allowed 463.5 yards a game and ranked last in the conference in points allowed.

Why the Hoosiers Will Be Better: Indiana’s performance on offense is even more impressive when you consider starting quarterback Tre Roberson was lost in the second game of the season with a leg injury. With Roberson back in the mix, the Hoosiers could be even more deadly on offense, especially with one of the Big Ten’s top receiving corps and an improving offensive line. While the defense won’t take a huge step forward in 2013, seven starters are back, and this unit has more upperclassmen with game experience than it did in 2012.    

Athlon’s 2013 Projection for Indiana: 6-6, 3-5 Big Ten
Kevin Wilson certainly has Indiana moving in the right direction. After some close calls last year, the Hoosiers should be able to get over the hump and make a bowl game in 2013. The offense will be one of the most explosive in the Big Ten, and slight improvement should be expected on defense. The non-conference schedule isn’t easy, but Navy, Bowling Green and Indiana State should be victories, with Missouri visiting Bloomington in a key swing game. The Hoosiers have tough crossover games in Big Ten play with road trips to Michigan and Michigan State. However, Indiana hosts Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue, which should be three opportunities for wins in conference games.



2012 Record: 5-7 (4-4 C-USA)

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 7

What Went Wrong Last Year: Defense. The Thundering Herd averaged 40.9 points a game, yet failed to make a bowl game in Doc Holliday’s third season. The defense was one of the worst in the nation, allowing 43.1 points a game and ranking 101st nationally in yards allowed. Marshall struggled in close games, losing four games by a touchdown or less.

Why the Thundering Herd Will Be Better: Considering Marshall outgained its opponents in Conference USA play by 72.2 yards a game last year and was a minus-2 in turnover margin, the Thundering Herd were a little unlucky in 2012. Assuming the offense performs at a high level once again, Marshall should contend for the C-USA East title. Quarterback Rakeem Cato returns, and the receiving corps is bolstered by the addition of Penn State transfers Devon Smith and Shawney Kersey. New coordinator Chuck Heater should be a good addition for the defense, and that unit returns seven starters. With a new and improved scheme and most of the core returning for 2013, Marshall won’t be as bad on defense this fall. 

Athlon’s 2013 Projection for Marshall: 8-5, 6-2 C-USA
With UCF, SMU, Memphis and Houston leaving for the American Athletic Conference, Marshall’s path to the C-USA title got a little easier. MTSU, FAU and FIU will join the Thundering Herd in the East Division, with FAU and FIU ranking near the bottom of Athlon’s rankings for 2013. Another scheduling factor working in Marshall’s favor: East Carolina visits Huntington on Nov. 29. 


2012 Record: 4-8 (2-6 ACC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 4

What Went Wrong Last Year: Injuries. The Terrapins lost four quarterbacks to injury last season and were forced to finish the year with converted linebacker Shawn Petty as their signal-caller. Not having a consistent passing attack hindered Maryland in close games, as it lost four contests by a touchdown or less and finished last in the ACC in total offense.

Why the Terrapins Will Be Better: Randy Edsall’s first season was a disaster. But despite the injuries at quarterback, the second year brought a two-game improvement in the win column and a handful of close losses. The Terrapins are in better shape at quarterback for 2013, as C.J. Brown is back from a torn ACL, and Ricardo Young is eligible after transferring from New Mexico. Stefon Diggs is one of the nation’s best all-around threats, and the offense features some promising playmakers at running back in Wes Brown and Brandon Ross. The defense finished third in the ACC and 21st nationally in yards allowed but must replace seven starters in 2013.

Athlon’s 2013 Projection for Maryland: 7-5, 4-4 ACC
The defense needs to be rebuilt, but Maryland has a favorable schedule and should return to a bowl game for the first time since 2010. The Terrapins should start the year 3-0 with matchups against FIU, Old Dominion and Connecticut, with West Virginia the swing game of their non-conference slate. Road games against Florida State and Virginia Tech are likely losses, but Maryland doesn’t play North Carolina, Georgia Tech or Miami in crossover play and hosts Boston College, Syracuse and Virginia – three crucial swing games – in College Park. 


2012 Record: 7-5 (5-3 ACC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 4

What Went Wrong: Off-the-field distractions and NCAA investigations aside, Miami’s biggest issue last year was on defense. And frankly, it wasn’t pretty. The Hurricanes ranked last in the ACC against the run, as well as both yards and points allowed. Miami gave up 366 points last year, which was the most in school history.

Why the Hurricanes Will Be Better: With eight starters back, the Hurricanes should have one of the best offenses in the ACC. Adapting to new coordinator James Coley will be a challenge for quarterback Stephen Morris, but running back Duke Johnson should be in the mix for All-American honors, and the offensive line is solid with all five starters returning. The defense still has issues, but there’s no way this unit can be as bad as it was last year.

Athlon’s 2013 Projection for Miami: 9-4, 6-2 ACC
Miami hasn’t had a double-digit win season since 2003 and is just 20-17 over the last three years. There’s no question the program has slipped recently, but the Hurricanes seem to be trending up entering 2013. Assuming there’s a seamless transition from Jedd Fisch to James Coley at offensive coordinator, Miami’s offense should exceed last year’s totals. The defense is in need of major repair, but there are pieces to build around, including end Anthony Chickillo, linebacker Denzel Perryman and safety Deon Bush.  The schedule is more favorable in 2013, especially since Notre Dame and Kansas State are gone from the non-conference slate. With Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech traveling to Miami this year, the ACC Coastal title will likely run through Sun Life Stadium.

South Florida

2012 Record: 3-9 (1-6 Big East)

Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense – 7

What Went Wrong Last Year: Just like Auburn: Everything. Despite successful stints at Connecticut and East Carolina, Skip Holtz was never able to push the right buttons at South Florida. The Bulls lost five games by a touchdown or less in 2011 and never seemed to recover for '12. South Florida won its first two games and then lost six consecutive matchups before a win over Connecticut in early November. An injury to quarterback B.J. Daniels slowed the offense, and despite having seven starters back on defense, the Bulls finished seventh in the Big East in yards and points allowed last season. 

Why the Bulls Will Be Better: South Florida’s decision to hire Willie Taggart from Western Kentucky was one of the best coaching moves of the offseason. Taggart helped to turn the Hilltoppers from a struggling FBS program to a bowl team in 2012. It will take some time for Taggart to rebuild the depth on the Bulls' roster, but he has some pieces to work with in 2013. The offense received a boost with the transfer of Penn State quarterback Steven Bench, and the defense will be bolstered by former Notre Dame defensive end Aaron Lynch, who is eligible after sitting out last season as a result of transfer rules. South Florida will also have help from a weaker schedule, which replaces Florida State, Syracuse and Pittsburgh – three losses last year – with FAU, SMU and Memphis – three very winnable games.

Athlon’s 2013 Projection for South Florida: 7-5, 5-3 American
Taggart’s arrival is just what South Florida needs. The Bradenton, Fla., native will bring some much-needed energy and toughness to the program. The Bulls have a ways to go in order to move to the top of the American Athletic Conference. However, the pieces are in place to make a trip to a bowl game, especially with a more favorable conference slate, as well as two non-conference wins against McNeese State and FAU. 


2012 Record: 7-6 (4-5 Big 12)

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 9

What Went Wrong Last Year: Considering all that transpired for TCU, it’s hard to say anything went wrong. The Horned Frogs made a successful transition from a non-BCS league to one of the toughest conferences in college football. And despite the loss of quarterback Casey Pachall before midseason, TCU went 7-6 and won at Texas for the first time since 1967. There were a couple of areas of concern for the Horned Frogs, as the rushing attack ranked eighth in the Big 12, and the offensive line allowed 2.2 sacks a game. 

Why the Horned Frogs Will Be Better: Now that TCU has a year under its belt in the Big 12, it should be more familiar with its opponents and tendencies. Add the fact coach Gary Patterson is one of the best in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs will be a tougher out for the rest of the conference. Pachall is back under center and should help to bolster TCU’s passing attack. Although the rushing attack was a concern last year, B.J. Catalon turned in a solid freshman campaign, Waymon James is back from injury, and Nebraska transfer Aaron Green is eligible after sitting out a year due to NCAA rules. The defense must replace end Stansly Maponga, but nine starters are back, including likely All-American end Devonte Fields.

Athlon’s 2013 Projection for TCU: 8-4, 6-3 Big 12
It’s possible TCU will be a better team, but it could still struggle to improve its win total. The Horned Frogs have a challenging schedule, which features a non-conference game against LSU, along with road trips to Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Assuming Pachall quickly recaptures the form that watched him throw for 2,921 yards in 2011, TCU’s offense should easily improve on last year’s numbers. Even though Fields will miss the first two games of the year due to a suspension, he should be one of the Big 12’s top defenders. A difficult schedule presents a challenge for TCU. But Patterson and his staff have proven over and over again they are up to the task.


2012 Record: 7-6 (5-4 Pac-12)

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

What Went Wrong Last Year: The Trojans were widely considered one of the top five teams in the nation last preseason. Yet, USC finished with a disappointing 7-6 mark, which included a 1-5 stretch to close the season. An injury to starting quarterback Matt Barkley slowed the offense late in the year, but the Trojans’ biggest problem was a defense that ranked eighth in the Pac-12 against the run and allowed 394 yards per game.

Why the Trojans Will Be Better: Despite the loss of Barkley and center Khaled Holmes, USC should be solid on offense. Whether it's Max Wittek, Cody Kessler or Max Browne starting at quarterback, the passing attack will be fine, largely due to the return of junior receiver Marqise Lee and tight ends Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble. And there’s depth at running back with Silas Redd, Justin Davis and Ty Isaac competing for carries. New coordinator Clancy Pendergast should be a good fit for a defense that returns seven starters. Pendergast plans on implementing a 5-2 scheme, which will take advantage of USC’s talent on the defensive line.

Athlon’s 2013 Projection for USC: 9-4, 6-3 Pac-12
Could this be it for coach Lane Kiffin? If USC goes 7-5 again, the calls for a coaching change will only get louder. However, there’s reason for optimism in 2013. The Trojans outgained their opponents by 69.7 yards per game last year but struggled in the turnover department. The schedule is more favorable this season, as USC misses Oregon and hosts UCLA and Stanford. Winning a division title is certainly within reach. But USC needs to settle on a quarterback, as well as continue to improve its offensive line and secondary as the year progresses. 

Washington State

2012 Record: 3-9 (1-8 Pac-12)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 8

What Went Wrong Last Year: The transition from Paul Wulff to Mike Leach didn’t go exactly as planned. The Cougars scored two surprisingly close non-conference wins against UNLV and Eastern Washington and upset rival Washington in the season finale to finish 3-9. Leach was supposed to inject some life into the offense, but the Cougars finished 94th nationally in yards per game and 106th in points. The defense shared in the struggles, allowing 425.9 yards per contest. The problems for Washington State were even deeper than the stats on offense and defense showed, as the offensive line allowed 4.8 sacks a game, and the Cougars ranked 101st nationally in turnover margin.

Why the Cougars Will Be Better: As with any coach entering his second season, you expect to see some type of uptick in production with more familiarity when it comes to schemes. That should hold true for Washington State, especially with Leach calling the plays. The Cougars have one of the nation’s worst rushing attacks, but having another offseason to allow quarterback Connor Halliday to work as the No. 1 passer should help this offense. Halliday will also have plenty of options to choose from a stocked receiving corps. With eight starters back on defense, Washington State should be able push for a finish in the top six of the Pac-12 in total and scoring defense. Although the Cougars lost nine games last year, three of those – including matchups against Stanford and UCLA – came by eight points or less.

Athlon’s 2013 Projection for Washington State: 4-8, 2-7 Pac-12
Just like last season, Washington State should go 2-1 in non-conference play. However, Wazzu's Pac-12 schedule sets up more favorably. The Cougars do have to travel to California, but the Golden Bears – much like Washington State – are rebuilding. With home games against Oregon State and Utah visiting Pullman, Mike Leach’s team will have a chance to pull an upset or two. Progress and winning games may take a little longer than most expected for Leach. However, Washington State seems to be on the right track and should be more competitive in the Pac-12 this year.

Related College Football Content

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 1-125
ACC Predictions for 2013
American Athletic Predictions for 2013
Big Ten Predictions for 2013
Big 12 Predictions for 2013
Conference USA Predictions for 2013
MAC Predictions for 2013
Mountain West Predictions for 2013
Pac-12 Predictions for 2013
SEC Predictions for 2013
Sun Belt Predictions for 2013

<p> College Football's Top 10 Most-Improved Teams for 2013</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 08:10
Path: /college-football/big-12-football-2013-all-conference-team

The 2013 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at our first, second and third All-Big 12 teams for this season.

Related Content: Big 12 Predictions for 2013

2013 All-Big 12 Team

First-Team Offense

QB Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State

RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor

RB James Sims, Kansas

FB Trey Millard, Oklahoma

WR Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State

WR Eric Ward, Texas Tech

C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma

OG Trey Hopkins, Texas

OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor

OT Cornelius Lucas, Kansas State

OT Daryl Williams, Oklahoma

First-Team Defense

DE Devonte Fields, TCU

DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas

DT Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State

DT Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech

LB Bryce Hager, Baylor

LB Ben Heeney, Kansas

LB Jordan Hicks, Texas

CB Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma

CB Jason Verrett, TCU

S Sam Carter, TCU

S Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State

First-Team Specialists

K Jaden Oberkrom, TCU

P Kirby Van Der Kamp, Iowa State

KR Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

PR Tramaine Thompson, Kansas State

The Breakdown of Athlon's 2013 All-Big 12 Team

  First Second Third Overall
Baylor 3 5 3 11
Iowa State 1 0 2 3
Kansas 2 0 0 2
Kansas State 3 2 3 8
Oklahoma 4 2 6 12
Oklahoma State 4 5 2 11
TCU 4 3 3 10
Texas 3 5 1 9
Texas Tech 2 3 3 8
West Virginia 0 1 3 4

Second-Team Offense

QB Casey Pachall, TCU

RB Johnathan Gray, Texas

RB Jeremy Smith, Oklahoma State

WR Mike Davis, Texas

WR Tevin Reese, Baylor

TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech

C BJ Finney, Kansas State

OG Parker Graham, Oklahoma State

OG Mason Walters, Texas

OT Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech

OT Spencer Drango, Baylor

Related Content: Big 12 Predictions for 2013

Second-Team Defense

DE Dartwan Bush, Texas Tech

DE Chris McAllister, Baylor

DT James Castleman, Oklahoma State

DT Chucky Hunter, TCU

LB Eddie Lackey, Baylor

LB Caleb Lavey, Oklahoma State

LB Shaun Lewis, Oklahoma State

CB Carrington Byndom, Texas

CB Quandre Diggs, Texas

S Ahmad Dixon, Baylor

S Karl Joseph, West Virginia

Second-Team Specialists

K Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

P Ethan Perry, TCU

KR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

PR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma

Third-Team Offense

QB Blake Bell, Oklahoma

RB John Hubert, Kansas State

RB Damien Williams, Oklahoma

WR Brandon Carter, TCU

WR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma

WR Jaxon Shipley, Texas

C Tom Farniok, Iowa State

OG Adam Shead, Oklahoma

OG Keenan Taylor, Kansas State

OT Quinton Spain, West Virginia

OT Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

Third-Team Defense

DE Will Clarke, West Virginia

DE Terrance Lloyd, Baylor

DT Chuka Ndulue, Oklahoma

DT Davion Pierson, TCU

LB Isaiah Bruce, West Virginia

LB Jeremiah George, Iowa State

LB Corey Nelson, Oklahoma

CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

CB Joe Williams, Baylor

S Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State

S Elisha Olabode, TCU

Third-Team Specialists

K Ryan Bustin, Texas Tech

P Ryan Erxleben, Texas Tech

KR Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech

PR Levi Norwood, Baylor

2013 Big 12 Team Previews

Baylor Oklahoma State
Iowa State TCU
Kansas Texas
Kansas State Texas Tech
Oklahoma West Virginia


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<p> Big 12 Football 2013 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 07:45
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-miami-football-fan

Believe it or not, there actually was a bad time to be a Miami fan before the decline in the last decade. And we’re not talking about the brief time on probation in the mid-90s.

We’re talking about the 1970s. It’s tough to remember a time when Miami was a non-factor in college football, but before the Hurricanes became the dominant program of the 1980s, they were on nobody's radar, let alone anyone's pick to become the first team from the state of Florida to win a national title.

Related: 2013 Miami preview

Enough about that bad times. Being a Miami fan during the Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson days was fun — as long as those fans didn’t mind rooting for college football renegades. And let’s face it, winning five national championships in less than 20 years makes it a little easier to root for any team.

Miami football fandom ebbs and flows just like any program. The Hurricanes may be on the rise under Al Golden right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy to get up for Hurricanes games over the last seven years (and judging by those crowd shots, it’s been quite tough).

Our series looking at the best and worst eras for college football fans continues with Miami. From the lean years of the 1970s to dominance on the field and draft day in the 80s, 90s and 2000s, here are the highs and lows for the faithful in Coral Gables.

Other best times/worst times:

Notre Dame


Record: 78-6
National championships: 3
Coaches: Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson
Notable players: Vinny Testaverde, Bennie Blades, Gino Torretta, Steve Walsh, Russell Maryland, Micheal Barrow, Michael Irvin (right)
This is when Miami became “The U” and one of the transformative programs in college football history. Johnson and Erickson built upon Schnellenberger’s groundwork to establish the preeminent football program of the 80s and early 90s. The Hurricanes earned all the confidence they exuded with three national titles in five seasons (’87, ’89 and ’91). The ’87 team was the first unblemished team in school history, defeating an unbeaten Oklahoma team in the Orange Bowl. Overall, the Hurricanes went 56-4 from 1987-91 and added Heisman winners in 1986 (Testaverde) and ’92 (Torretta). But this was also a time of near misses. In a No. 1 vs. No. 2 game to end the 1986 season, Miami lost 14-10 to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl, a game preceded by Miami players showing up for dinner with the Nittany Lions in fatigues. Then, in the “Catholics vs. Convicts” game in 1988, Miami lost 31-30 to Notre Dame for its only loss of the year. Miami became the villains of college football, but the Hurricanes’ players and fans soaked up the image.

Related: Miami picked to win division in 2013

Record: 46-4
National championships: 1
Coaches: Butch Davis, Larry Coker
Notable players: Ed Reed, Bryant McKinnie, Willis McGahee, Ken Dorsey, Santana Moss, Clinton Portis, Sean Taylor, Kellen Winslow, Dan Morgan
Miami escaped NCAA probation as dominant as ever, thanks to Butch Davis’ ability to stockpile talent in Coral Gables. Miami lost 34-29 to Washington on Sept. 9, 2000 and wouldn’t lose again until the national title game in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State after the 2002 season (cue the groans about the pass interference call that aided the Buckeyes’ victory). The 2001 team was one of the best teams in college football history, defeating opponents by an average of 33 points per game on the way to a Rose Bowl rout of Nebraska for the national title in Coker’s first season. The program was awash in NFL draft picks during this era, including 19 first-round selections in the 2001-04 drafts.

Related: Bryant McKinnie tops list of best OL of the BCS era

Record: 36-11
National championships: 1
Coach: Howard Schnellenberger
Notable players: Bernie Kosar, Fred Marion, Jim Kelly
Other coaches would have better records and more top-five finishes. Other teams would be more dominant. But no coach and no era meant more to Miami than Schnellenberger in the early 1980s. Miami’s program was hanging by a thread in the 70s when the former Bear Bryant assistant Schnellenberger came up with a recruiting plan to build a wall around South Florida for what he called the “State of Miami.” The ‘Canes went 9-2 in 1981 with Kelly at quarterback for Miami’s first bowl game in 13 years. Then, Miami upset Nebraska in the Orange Bowl in 1983 to become the first of 10 national-title winning teams from the state of Florida.

Related: Schnellenberger among notable Hall of Fame snubs


Record: 48-40
Coaches: Larry Coker, Randy Shannon, Al Golden
Miami appears to be on the right track, as Athlon projected the Hurricanes to reach their first ACC title game this season. Still, the last seven seasons have been lackluster by the standards Miami set since 1983. The Hurricanes have been mediocre on the field, finishing only one of the last seven seasons with more than seven wins and a top-25 ranking. Off the field, Miami has been embroiled in scandal with the Nevin Shapiro case -- even if the NCAA comes out of the whole affair looking even worse. In the stands, attendance has sunk to embarrassing levels. And in the NFL Draft, Miami’s presence has faded with no first-round picks since 2008. The biggest indignity was a 48-0 loss to Virginia in the final game at the storied Orange Bowl.

Related: 2013 Preseason All-ACC team

Record: 46-72
Coaches: Charlie Tate, Walter Kichefski, Fran Curci, Pete Elliott, Carl Selmer, Lou Saban
Those born after 1980 or so have no recollection of how irrelevant Miami football once was. The Hurricanes went through six coaches over the course of the decade including the Selmer (5-15 overall) and Saban (8-13). The 1970 team under Tate and Kichefski was outscored by a total of 144 points in 11 games while the 1977 team under Saban was outscored by 120 points. Against Florida — Miami’s primary rival at the time — the Hurricanes went 2-9, including the infamous Florida Flop in 1971. Florida quarterback John Reaves was attempting to break Jim Plunkett’s career passing record in that game. With Reaves 10 yards short of the record and Florida up 45-8 late, the Gators’ defense flopped to the ground at the 8-yard line to allow Miami to score. Reaves broke Plunkett’s record as time expired.


Record: 41-30-3
Coaches: Andy Gustafson, Charlie Tate
Notable players: Ted Hendricks, George Mira
Miami’s high and low points are so obvious it’s tough to pinpoint an underappreciated time in the Hurricanes’ history. Going 41-30-3 with four bowl games in seven seasons would get a Miami coach fired in 2013, but this was the high point of the pre-Schnellenberger era. The Hurricanes had two star players in quarterback George Mira and defensive end Ted Hendricks, the name of the latter now sits on a trophy presented to the nation’s top defensive end. Miami went 5-2 against Florida in this span, including a pair of wins against 1966 Heisman winner Steve Spurrier. Honorable mention for this category: Miami went 22-5-1 from 1954-56.

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<p> Fans went along for the ride as Miami went from doormat to dominant</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: Monthly, News
Path: /monthly/whats-greatest-sports-themed-advertising-campaign-all-time

In your opinion, what is the greatest sports-themed advertising campaign of all time? I like ESPN’s “This is SportsCenter” spots.

— Sarah Crawley, Fairfax, Va.
Those SportsCenter ads, with their creative use of easily recognizable athletes, are pure genius. But for the best of all time, we have to go with Nike’s “Bo Knows” series featuring multi-sport legend Bo Jackson. Every now and then a product, a pitch man and an era come together in perfect harmony, and that is what happened when Nike was looking to promote its new cross-training product. Who better than a crossover superstar like Bo? The campaign blossomed into baseball cards, t-shirts, shoes and a permanent spot in the public consciousness. This might be one of the greatest marketing/advertising campaigns in the history of capitalism.
<p> <span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Helvetica, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.727272033691406px; line-height: 17.99715805053711px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Go on, ask us anything.</span></p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /mlb/21-amazing-mlb-stats-week-june-10-16

The A’s are hot, the Yankees and Rangers’ bats are not. Competition in the NL West is getting tight and Dustin Pedroia is tough with two. These and more amazing MLB stats are here from the week of June 10-16.

22-7    Oakland A’s record since May 15
The A’s have been smoking hot since the middle of May. With a 22-7 mark from May 16-June 16, the A’s own the best record in the majors during that time, three games better than the next-best mark of the Braves.

.000    Opponents batting average off of Johnny Cueto with the bases loaded
This isn’t that small of a sample. It’s over the past three seasons. Batters are 0-for-29 with three walks against the Reds’ righthander with the bases full.

8-2-3    W-L-T in road series for St. Louis this season
The Cardinals finally lost a road series for the first time since the opening set at Arizona. And it wasn’t to the division rival Reds, or the NL East-leading Braves, or even one of the contenders in the West. The Redbirds’ road series loss came at the hand of the worst team in baseball, the Miami Marlins.

.333    Dustin Pedroia’s batting average with an 0-2 count
That number includes the past two seasons. Not surprisingly, it is the highest among all players with as many as 50 plate appearances down 0-2.

24    Runs scored by the Yankees in their last nine games
Maybe the New Yorkers are missing Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter and — dare we say — Alex Rodriguez — a little bit.

8    Runs scored by the Rangers over six games
Not to be outdone by the Yankees’ pathetic offense, the Rangers hitters took a vacation as well. During a recent six-game skid, Texas was outscored 34-8.

2    Games separating four teams in the NL West
After a few hiccups by division leader Arizona, and a torrid streak by the Padres, the NL West has become a cluster of four contenders. With Colorado losing Troy Tulowitzki for a significant period, the Rockies may struggle to stay in the hunt. With Yasiel Puig doing his thing and Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp set to rejoin the Dodgers’ lineup soon, it may be too early to count the Dodgers out, making this a five team free-for-all in September.

5    San Diego pitchers with saves over a 10-day period
From June 6-15, the Padres won seven games, using five pitchers to get six saves. Lefty Eric Stults didn’t need relief help in a two-hit, 2-1 win over Arizona. But the other wins required bullpen assistance as Brad Boxberger, Dale Thayer and Nick Vincent each notched their first saves of the season. The saves were the first in the careers of both Boxberger and Vincent. Long-time setup man Luke Gregerson notched a pair of saves over this stretch before closer Huston Street returned from the DL to his familiar role and adding a save.

.444    Anthony Rendon’s June batting average
The Washington Nationals’ highly touted prospect has been swinging a hot bat this month. Too bad his teammates haven’t joined the hit parade. They have combined to hit just .216 in June.

5.54    First-inning ERA for Shelby Miller
If hitters are going to get to the Cardinals’ young righthander, they better erupt early. Miller’s ERA is a robust 5.54 in the first inning, then drops to a miniscule 1.58 afterwards. Opponents are batting .357 in the first frame, then just .175 after he settles in.

30    Games since San Francisco has won three in a row (and counting)
You have to flip the calendar all the way back to May 12 to find the last three-game winning streak by the Giants. That was 30 games ago. Since then, the defending champs are 12-18.

.211    Aggregate batting average of White Sox 4-5-6 hitters
Typically, the heart of the batting order is expected to produce runs and set the tone for a team’s offensive punch. Guess this is why the Sox have dropped to last place.

0-for-3    Mets bullpen in save opps in June
I’m not sure what is more startling about this. The fact that the Mets are 0-for save opportunities, or that they have just three chances this month.

1    Games in June in which the Royals have allowed more than three runs
The Kansas City pitching staff has buckled down and been downright nasty this month. Only once in their first 15 games have the Royals allowed more than three runs. That is the definition of keeping your team in the game and giving yourself a chance to win. The Royals are 11-4 in those games.  

.500    OBP of Yasiel Puig through his first 13 games
The rookie outfielder continues to provide amazing stats with each game. Once Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez join the youngster in the lineup regularly, the Dodgers just may battle back into contention.

2.91    Astros ERA in June
Sure, we’re only half way through the month, but after a 5.55 ERA in April followed by a 5.06 number in May, Houston fans should celebrate any ERA under 4.00 at this point.

.389    Adam Dunn’s batting average last week
With that huge week, the Big Donkey raised his season average from .165 to .189, or still about 96 points below his weight.

11-15    Record for the Texas Rangers without Ian Kinsler
The Rangers’ second baseman returned last week after being out of the starting lineup for 26 games. Kinsler made his last start on May 16, before returning over the weekend. The Rangers were 27-14 prior to his injury.

5    Key number of runs for the Pirates
In June, when the Bucs plate five runs or more, they are 5-0. If the pitching staff coughs up five or more, not good. The Pirates are 0-6 when giving up five or more runs in June.

3-9    New York Mets record in June, worst in the majors

4-11    Texas Rangers record in June, worst in the AL

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

<p> The A’s are hot, the Yankees and Rangers’ bats are not. Competition in the NL West is getting tight and Dustin Pedroia is tough with two. These and more amazing MLB stats are here from the week of June 10-16.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 16:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-all-sophomore-team-2013

Projecting the all-conference and All-America teams is a staple of any college football preseason preview. And after projecting those teams for 2013, it’s clear college football has a stockpile of talent in its sophomore ranks.

Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel stole the spotlight by winning the Heisman Trophy last year, but Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and UCLA’s Brett Hundley also had outstanding years as redshirt freshmen.

Quarterback is not the only position with young talent, however. When it comes to running back, look no further than likely All-America selections Todd Gurley and T.J. Yeldon, who are set to lead the ground attack for two of college football’s top teams.

Projecting an all-conference, all-sophomore or all-freshman team is never easy. In order to compile this team, some projection was used for how the players would play in 2013, their stats from 2012, recruiting ranks and projection for the NFL. To put it another way, this is not a list just based on last year’s stats. 

First-Team Offense

QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
RB Todd Gurley, Georgia
RB T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
All-Purpose Duke Johnson, Miami
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
TE Kyle Carter, Penn State
C Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State
G Dan Feeney, Indiana
G Max Tuerk, USC
T Tyler Johnstone, Oregon
T John Theus, Georgia

First-Team Defense

DE Devonte Fields, TCU
DE Aaron Lynch, South Florida
DT Issac Gross, Ole Miss
DT Leonard Williams, USC
LB Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
LB Denzel Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
LB Shaq Thompson, Washington
CB Jalen Mills, LSU
CB KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame
S Josh Harvey-Clemons, Georgia
S Karl Joseph, West Virgin

First-Team Specialists

K Ross Martin, Duke
P Ethan Perry, TCU

Related Content: College Football's 2013 All-America Team

Second-Team Offense

QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
RB Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech
RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
All-Purpose DJ Foster, Arizona State
WR Davante Adams, Fresno State
WR Stefon Diggs, Maryland
TE Devin Funchess, Michigan
C Jake Brendel, UCLA
G Jordan Rigsbee, California
G Trai Turner, LSU
T Andrus Peat, Stanford
T Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

Second-Team Defense

DE Deion Barnes, Penn State
DE Noah Spence, Ohio State
DT Jaxon Hood, Arizona State
DT Davion Pierson, TCU
LB Isaiah Bruce, West Virginia
LB Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
LB Antonio Morrison, Florida
CB Alex Carter, Stanford
CB Nick VanHoose, Northwestern
S Landon Collins, Alabama
S Chris Hackett, TCU

Second-Team Specialists

K Austin Lopez, San Jose State
P Tyler Williams, Marshall

Related Content: College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 1-125

Third-Team Offense

QB Brett Hundley, UCLA
RB Johnathan Gray, Texas
RB Jeremy Hill, LSU
RB Keith Marshall, Georgia
WR Quinshad Davis, North Carolina
WR J.D. McKissic, Arkansas State
C Ryan Kelly, Alabama
G Jack Allen, Michigan State
G Ted Karras, Illinois
T Spencer Drango, Baylor
T Jeremiah Poutasi, Utah

Third-Team Defense

DE Mario Edwards Jr., Florida State
DE Adolphus Washington, Ohio State
DT Arik Armstead, Oregon
DT Xavier Cooper, Washington State
LB Kyler Fackrell, Utah State
LB Jabari Hunt-Days, Georgia Tech
LB James Ross III, Michigan
CB Blake Countess, Michigan
CB Ronald Darby, Florida State
S Travis Blanks, Clemson
S Deon Bush, Miami


Third-Team Specialists

K Jared Oberkrom, TCU
P Will Monday, Duke


Honorable Mention

Quarterbacks: Michael Brewer, Texas Tech; Tre Roberson, Indiana; Daniel Sams, Kansas State; Travis Wilson, Utah

Running Backs: Byron Marshall, Oregon; Matt Jones, Florida; Brandon Williams, Oklahoma; Trey Williams, Oklahoma, Storm Woods, Oregon State

Wide Receivers: Bralon Addison, Oregon; Nelson Agholor, USC; Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri; Deontay Greenberry, Houston; Chris Harper, California; Gabe Marks, Washington State; Alonzo Russell, Toledo; Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma; Jaime Wilson, Western Michigan

Tight Ends: Pharoh Brown, Oregon; Alan Cross, Memphis; Jake Phillips, UNLV; Sean Price, USF, Kent Taylor, Florida

Offensive Tackle: Vadal Alexander, LSU; Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech; Aviante Collins, TCU; Parker Ehinger, Cincinnati; Ereck Flowers, Miami; Simon Goines, UCLA; D.J. Humphries, Florida; Ryker Mathews, BYU; Kyle Murphy, Stanford; Brandon Shell, South Carolina; Jason Spriggs, Indiana; Donovan Smith, Penn State; Torian White, UCLA

Offensive Guard: Zach West, Kentucky

Center: Austin Blythe, Iowa; Evan Boehm, Missouri; Dillon Day, Mississippi State; Robert Kugler, Purdue; Mike Matthews, Texas A&M

Defensive End: DeForest Buckner, Oregon; Jonathan Bullard, Florida; Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State; Dante Fowler, Florida; Eli Harold, Virginia; Julien Obioha, Texas A&M; John Taylor, Georgia

Defensive Tackle: Malcom Brown, Texas; Darian Cooper, Iowa; Christian Covington, Rice; Eddie Goldman, Florida State; Darius Hamilton, Rutgers; Javonte Magee, Baylor; Ellis McCarthy, UCLA; Ondre Pipkins, Michigan

Linebackers: Kwon Alexander, LSU; Denzel Devall, Alabama; Travis Feeney, Washington; Cory James, Colorado State; Peter Jinkens, Texas; Raphael Kirby, Miami, Tyler Matakevich, Temple; Mason Monheim, Illinois; Darryl Monroe, Washington State; Otha Peters, Arkansas; Dalton Santos, Texas; David Santos, Nebraska

Cornerbacks: Kenneth Crawley, Colorado; Ronald Darby, Florida State; Sheldon Dawson, Georgia; Lorenzo Doss, Tulane; De’Vante Harris, Texas A&M; Tracy Howard, Miami; Stefan McClure, California; Lafayette Pitts, Pittsburgh; Darion Monroe, Tulane; Geno Smith, Alabama; Kevon Seymour, USC; Trae Waynes, Michigan State; Zac Whitfield, North Texas

Safety: Dante Barnett, Kansas State; Kevin Byard, MTSU; Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires, Army; D.J. Hunter, Marshall; Justin Simmons, Boston College; Trevon Stewart, Houston

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<p> College Football's All-Sophomore Team for 2013</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 15:51
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/greatest-and-most-bizarre-athlete-name-changes-all-time

What’s in a name? Much more than a few letters, that is for sure.

Teams change their nicknames all the time. Some organizations refuse to change their name despite odd arithmetic — looking at you, Big Ten. Everything from branding to religion has been cited as a reason to change a name. Some have done it simply to gain exposure and command headlines while others have been forced to change due to societal pressures and sensitivities.

However, this list doesn't apply to the men-less Syracuse Orange or 10-team Big 12 Conference. This one is dedicated just to the greatest and most bizarre athlete name changes of all-time. Here are some of our favorites:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Born: Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr.

Growing up in Harlem, Alcindor was quickly discovered as one of the greatest basketball prospects in the history of the sport. He led Power Memorial Academy to three straight New York City Catholic titles before signing with UCLA and leading the Bruins to three straight national championships. He was raised Roman Catholic, however, before his final season at UCLA he joined the Nation of Islam and converted to Sunni Islam in the summer of 1968. The move prompted a name change to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which means "generous servant of the mighty one." At an official press conference in June 1971, the reigning NBA MVP told the world he wanted to go by his Islamic name instead of his given name.

Muhammad Ali
Born: Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.

Named after his father and raised a Baptist by his mother in Louisville, Ky., Ali won a pair of national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union National Championship and a Light Heavyweight Gold Medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics as Cassius Clay. Clay won his first World Heavyweight Championship against Sonny Liston in 1964 — the same year he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Eleven years later, Ali officially converted to Sunni Islam. He likely didn't have to change his already intimidating name to become arguably "The Greatest" in American sports history.

Metta World Peace
Born: Ronald Williams Artest, Jr.

Not only is this name change one of the most bizarre, it’s also the most ironic. From the Queensbridge projects in Queens, New York, Artest had a hardened edge from his childhood — one story has him witnessing a murder on the court of a YMCA hoops tournament. After three years at St. John’s, the troubled Artest was a first-round pick by the Bulls. In 2004, Artest sprinted into the stands to attack a fan and was given the longest suspension in NBA history. Artest has gained a reputation for being a great defender on the basketball court, but he also never lost his troubled edge. However, in 2011 in a bizarre effort to change his entrenched image and “inspire and bring youth together all around the world,” he officially changed his first name to “Metta” and his surname to “World Peace.”

Sugar Ray Robinson
Born: Walker Smith, Jr.

Many believe the welterweight and middleweight champion was the best pound-for-pound fighter of all time. But many don’t know his birth certificate from Ailey, Ga., read Walker Smith, Jr. After moving to Harlem, and at 14 years old, he attempted to enter his first boxing tournament. But since AAU had a 16-year-old age minimum, Smith had to borrow his friend’s membership card in order to compete. His friend’s name was Ray Robinson. His manager George Gainford added “Sugar” a few years later because his boxing style was a “sweet as sugar.” The rest is history.

Chad Ochocinco
Born: Chad Javon Johnson

The brash wide receiver has made a lot of bizarre — and questionable — decisions in his time as an athlete. Through social media and savvy business moves, Johnson grew his brand both on and off the field until his absurd 2008 name change. Interestingly enough, his official name to change to Chad Ochocinco — which doesn’t even mean eighty-five — coincided with his worst season in the NFL to date. He was never the same player again, has since changed his name back to Chad Johnson and was released from the Dolphins in 2012 due to domestic abuse issues.

Ahmad Rashad
Born: Robert Earle Moore

A College Football Hall of Famer, Moore starred at Oregon as both a wide receiver and running back. He was drafted in 1972 in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals and converted to Islam the same year. Bobby Moore became Ahmad Rashad — meaning "Admirable One Led to Truth" in Arabic — after his mentor Rashad Khalifa. He played for 11 seasons in the NFL and has built a remarkable career as one of sports top broadcasters.

The other Karim Abdul-Jabbar
Born: Sharmon Shah

Shah was a standout running back for the UCLA Bruins in 1995 and was already a member of the Muslim faith when his Imam gave him a new name. The newly minted Karim Abdul-Jabbar quickly gained national notoriety due to its similarities to famed Bruins great hoops star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The basketball Abdul-Jabbar filed a lawsuit in 1998 against the football Abdul-Jabbar, feeling the then Dolphins running back was profiting from the hoops Hall of Famer’s name. Thus, Shah changed his name a third time and is now known as Abdul-Karim al-Jabbar.

Fausto Carmona
Born: Roberto Heredia Hernandez

This story is a long and circuitous one for the current Tampa Bay Rays pitcher. In order to play professional baseball in America, the Dominican native had to obtain an illegal visa under the name Fausto Carmona. He debuted for the Cleveland Indians in 2006 and went 19-8 in his second season, as he helped the Indians to the playoffs in 2007. However, in January 2012, Dominican police arrested Hernandez after leaving the U.S. Consulate, accusing him of using a false identity. When the Indians found out that not only was their starting pitcher not named Fausto Carmona but was also three years older than reported, they placed him on the restricted list. He signed with the Rays 12 months later and is now a member of their starting rotation.

World B. Free
Born: Lloyd Bernard Free

A former NAIA star at Guildford College, Free landed in the NBA as a second-round pick of the Philadelphia 76ers. But in 1981, on his third NBA team, Free legally changed his first name from Lloyd to World. His nickname “All-World” was the inspiration. He played for five different NBA teams over a 12-year NBA career. He was an All-Star as a Golden State Warrior, was honored by Cleveland as a “Cavaliers Legend” and is currently a Director of Player Development and Community Ambassador for the 76ers.

Bison Dele
Born: Brian Carson Williams

Dele’s story is a tragic and bizarre one that involves a famous musician father (Eugene Williams of The Platters), a nine-year NBA career, a post-career name change honoring his Native American and African ancestry and a terrible South Pacific disappearance. A catamaran trip with Captain Bertrand Saldo, girlfriend Serena Karlan and brother Miles Dabord (born Kevin Williams) ended when Dabord brought the boat into port in Tahiti by himself. No one has ever heard from anyone else aboard the ship since and Dabord eventually overdosed on insulin months after the fatal voyage while reportedly under police suspicion, only adding to the mysterious circumstances.

Born: Edison Arantes do Nascimento

Born in Brazil and named after Thomas Edison, Pele’s name doesn’t come from a religious belief, bizarre self-image or important family heritage. The greatest soccer player the world has ever seen is named Pele because he couldn’t say his favorite player’s name correctly when growing up. Local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bile was young Nasciemento’s favorite player but he couldn’t say the name correctly and it stuck — despite years of trying to rid himself of the nickname. Now, his one-word name is the most recognized in all of soccer history worldwide.

Leo Nunez
Born: Juan Carlos Oviedo

At age 17, the Dominican pitcher started using the name Leo Nunez — his 16-year-old best friend at the time. The former Royals and Marlins relief pitcher was simply trying to gain an extra year to sell to MLB clubs. He signed with the Pirates before being traded to the Royals for catcher Benito Santiago. After four uneventful years in Kansas City and four similar ones in Miami, Nunez was placed on the restricted list in September 2011 in order to return to the Dominican. He signed a statement saying he used fake identification and was allowed to re-sign in the majors (Tampa Bay). He is currently on the 60-day disabled list.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Born: Chris Wayne Jackson

One of the SEC’s best players, Jackson excelled as a guard at LSU. He was the third overall pick by the Denver Nuggets in 1990 and went on to a 11-year NBA career with three franchises. He converted to Islam in 1991 and officially changed his name in 1993 — the same year he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. He is best known for not standing for the National Anthem and calling the U.S. flag a symbol of oppression. He played in Turkey, Russia, Italy, Greece, Saudi Arabia and Japan after his NBA career ended.

He Hate Me
Born: Torrold Deshaun Smart

With a first name like Torrold, it is easy to see why Smart wanted to change his name and went by Rod most of his life. However, the former Western Kentucky running back took it to another level when he put “He Hate Me” on the back of his XFL jersey in 2001. Technically, it was short for his nickname “They Hate Me” but it didn’t fit on his Las Vegas Outlaws jersey. While he clearly wasn’t as committed to his nickname as Ochocinco or World Peace because it was just a nickname and not legally changed, Smart’s “He Hate Me” was the XFL’s top selling jersey. After one year in the XFL and one cup of coffee with the Edmonton Eskimos, Smart actually had a brief NFL career with the Eagles (2001) and Panthers (2002-05). Had he legally changed his name, he might be up there with Ron Artest and Chad Johnson.

Hulk Hogan
Born: Terry Eugene Bollea

This might be a reach because the name Hulk Hogan is simply a character created out of thin air. However, Bollea has built a career as a wrestler, actor, TV personality and entrepreneur due to his brand as Hulk Hogan. No actor has ever absorbed a character like Bollea’s permanent transformation and has turned it into a multimillion dollar brand for himself. Why would he ever go back to being called Terry or Gene?

<p> The Greatest and Most Bizarre Athlete Name Changes of All-Time</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 15:30
Path: /mlb/2013-mlb-power-rankings-june-18

Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (St. Louis Cardinals) and worst (Miami Marlins) baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
 1. Cardinals Lost first road series since first of season — at Miami.
 2. Red Sox Rays at home, Tigers on the road this week.
 3. A’s Oakland is smoking hot since middle of May (22-7).
 4. Braves B.J. actually outproduced brother Justin last week.
5. Reds Four-game set with Pittsburgh before a trip west.
 6. Pirates In June, when Bucs score five or more: 5-0, give up five: 0-6.
 7. Orioles Took three of four from Red Sox over the weekend.
 8. Tigers Won 11 of last 15 vs. AL Central.
 9. Yankees Scored a scant 24 runs in last nine games.
10. Rangers Offense produced just eight runs during recent six-game skid.
11. Diamondbacks Swept at San Diego, now four teams within two games in West.
12. Rays Led the majors with 16 homers last week.
13. Rockies Can potent offense continue without Troy Tulowitzki?
14. Padres Five different pitchers have shared last seven saves.
15. Giants June: Lost 2, won 2, lost 2, won 2, lost 2, won 2, lost 2.
16. Nationals Anthony Rendon hitting .444 in June; rest of team .216.
17. Indians Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana combined .500 vs. K.C.
18. Royals Given up more than three runs just once in June (11-4).
19. Blue Jays Enjoyed four-game sweep at Texas.
20. Phillies Opponents hit .305 last week as Phils dropped five of seven.
21. Twins With bases empty, Joe Mauer batting .340; rest of team, .228.
22. Mariners Desperately seeking starting pitching from Nos. 3, 4 and 5.
23. Angels Team ERA leader? Jerome Williams. Enough said.
24. Dodgers Yasiel Puig has .500 OBP in first 13 games.
25. Brewers June ERA about a run and half better than May. 
26. White Sox Nos. 4, 5 and 6 hitters are combined .211 this season.
27. Cubs Cubs pitchers holding opponents to a .210 average on the road.
28. Mets 0-for-3 in save opportunities this month.
29. Astros Monthly ERAs: April, 5.55, May 5.06, June 2.91.
30. Marlins Calmly took two of three from best team in majors.
NL Player of the Week
Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado
Without running buddy Troy Tulowitzki for the next month or so, it may be difficult for CarGo to maintain his strong season. Last week, he batted .476 with a 1.617 OPS, three home runs, eight RBIs and six runs. His six extra-base hits led the senior circuit.
NL Pitcher of the Week
Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee
After giving up multiple runs in each of his last nine starts, Gallardo found some magic last week. In road starts at Miami and Cincinnati, the righthander didn’t allow a run over 14 innings. He gave up seven hits, walked three and struck out nine.
AL Player of the Week
Adam Dunn, Chicago
Very little has gone right for Dunn this season, and the White Sox have struggled of late. But last week, the Big Donkey socked four home runs and drove home eight. He began the week with a four-hit game, and by hitting .389 he raised his season average from .165 to .183.
AL Pitcher of the Week
Corey Kluber, Cleveland
The Indians are struggling to stay around .500 and Kluber played a huge role last week. He allowed just one run over eight innings in a win at Texas, then shut down Washington over eight frames in a 2-0 win over the Nats. In 16 innings, he gave up 13 hits, three walks and only one run.
<p> <span style="font-family: Arial, Verdana, Helvetica, Tahoma, 'DejaVu Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 11.818181991577148px; line-height: 17.99715805053711px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (St. Louis Cardinals) and worst (Miami Marlins) baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.</span></p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 14:04