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LSU had national title aspirations in 2012 but losses to Florida and Alabama pushed the Tigers to a 10-2 mark at the end of the regular season.

Getting LSU to a spot in the national championship will be even more challenging for Les Miles in 2013, as the Tigers lost a handful of key contributors on defense, and the offense is still a question mark.

A schedule featuring a non-conference matchup against TCU, along with SEC games against Alabama, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Georgia and Florida won’t be easy. 

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

LSU ranks as Athlon's No. 12 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

What Will LSU's SEC Record Be in 2013?

Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
LSU has the most questions of any of the big six teams in the SEC entering 2013. The offense is going through a change in coordinators, albeit a good change, and the offense’s best player in running back Jeremy Hill may not even suit up because of legal issues. And replacing six starters on defense, five of whom went in the first three rounds of the draft, will be very tough. The Tigers are still talented enough to compete for a championship, though, because Les Miles has recruited so well.

Then, we can throw in the schedule aspect: LSU has one of the toughest in-conference slates of any team. Not only do they play the yearly Alabama and Texas A&M, but when you toss in Florida and Georgia from the East, and it becomes a brutal schedule. Also, Auburn, Ole Miss and Arkansas will improve upon last year. Finishing .500 in league play isn’t out of the question, but LSU should win five SEC games.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I have major concerns about LSU being able to maintain its recent level of elite national championship contention. This roster has loads of talent on both sides of the ball but is 10-4 in it's last 14 games and just watched more than a dozen elite players depart the roster for the NFL. The game's most important position is still manned by Zach Mettenberger, who has done little to prove to me that he is capable of winning big-time football games in the nation's toughest conference. He has excellent receivers so there is no excuse for him to be so inaccurate and inefficient. And finally, this schedule is downright nasty. While LSU appears to be trending in the wrong direction, every other SEC team appears to be getting better. Road games at Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are all extremely difficult while home tilts with Florida and Texas A&M are no joke. Toss in a neutral site game with TCU in the season opener and always heated divisional rivalrly tests with Auburn and Arkansas and the Tigers have the making of a four-loss season. An 8-4 regular season may be the ceiling for a team that appears to be well past its best days.
 

Josh Ward, MrSEC.com, (@Josh_Ward)
I see three SEC losses for LSU this year. Arkansas and Auburn look to be the only sure conference wins for LSU, which faces a brutal SEC schedule.

The Tigers play Florida and Georgia, the top two teams in the SEC East last year. LSU will be fortunate to split those two games. Road games at Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State will be challenging, and Texas A&M will be looking for revenge from last year’s loss in College Station.

There’s still a lot to figure out about LSU, which has to replace seven starters on defense. While coordinator John Chavis believes his starting lineup will be as good as any in the nation, he admits there are concerns about the defense’s depth. There is optimism on the offensive side of the ball with first-year coordinator Cam Cameron, but questions still remain. Is quarterback Zach Mettenberger ready to win big in the SEC? And how will the off-field issues involving running back Jeremy Hill affect LSU’s backfield rotation?

With questions on both sides of the ball and a challenging SEC schedule, a 5-3 finish in conference play should be considered a successful season for LSU. Of course, Tiger fans probably won’t see it that way at the end of November.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
LSU has one of the toughest schedules in the nation, so reaching double-digit victories for the fourth consecutive season will be a challenge. Making matters worse was the departure of several key players to the NFL Draft, leaving only 10 starters returning to Baton Rouge for 2013. The defense was hit the hardest by departures, with defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, linebacker Kevin Minter, cornerback Tharold Simon and safety Eric Reid all leaving early for the next level. New offensive coordinator Cam Cameron could help spark a struggling passing attack, but the status of running back Jeremy Hill is a concern.

The Tigers have three guaranteed victories in non-conference play with UAB, Kent State and Furman. TCU will challenge LSU in the opener, but Les Miles’ team will eventually pull away from the Horned Frogs in the second half. While the Tigers should be 4-0 in non-conference games, there’s a good chance they go 4-4 in SEC play. Losses at Georgia and Alabama are likely, with home games against Texas A&M and Florida placed in the tossup column. The road trip to Ole Miss on Oct. 19 is another swing contest, especially after the Rebels nearly won in Baton Rouge last year.

Anything from 5-3 to 3-5 wouldn’t surprise me for LSU’s SEC record. However, I think the Tigers find a way to get to 4-4 and finish 8-4 overall this season.
 

Mark Ross
With the exception of 2008 (3-5), Les Miles has gone no worse than 5-3 in SEC play in his eight seasons with the Tigers. Ironically, that also is the only season in which Miles' Tigers finished lower than a tie for second in the SEC West. While I do think there's a good chance this year's Bayou Bengals could finish third behind Alabama and Texas A&M in their division, I don't see that happening due to a below .500 conference mark.

LSU does have Florida and Georgia from the East on its schedule, but the Gators and aforementioned Aggies will both have to venture to Death Valley. Even with the questions surrounding the offense and the seven defensive players (eight if you include Tyrann Mathieu) that were taken in April's NFL Draft, Miles always seems to find a way to win a game (or two) that he has no business doing so. "The Mad Hatter" pulls out another one of those this fall (against the Gators? Aggies?), as the Tigers finish 5-3 in the SEC.


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Teaser:
<p> What Will LSU's SEC Record Be in 2013?</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 07:19
Path: /mlb/2013-25-best-baseball-players-25-and-under
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Youth is being served in MLB. Don't believe me? Look at last year’s awards voting. Besides running away with the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year award, 21-year-old Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout finished second to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera in the AL MVP voting.

Over in the National League, 24-year-old Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel led the senior circuit in saves with 42, finished 5th in the NL Cy Young voting and also in the top 10 for NL MVP. And of course, like Trout, fellow teenaged phenom Bryce Harper won the NL Rookie of the Year award last season as a 19-year-old outfielder for the Washington Nationals.

There’s plenty of young talent to be found in the majors right now, with several more promising prospects on their way. Looking at current MLB rosters, here is a list of the top 25 players who were 25 or younger on Opening Day (April 1).

1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Trout made his MLB debut in 2011 at just 19 years old and showed a glimpse of his all-around ability (.220-5-16 with 4 SB) in his 40-game introduction. Last season he didn’t get called up until April 28, and despite a slow start, he quickly proved that he belonged.

Even though he played in just 139 games, Trout still led the American League in runs (129) and stolen bases (49) while hitting 30 home runs with 83 RBIs and a .326 average to post one of the finest rookie seasons in the history of the game. If not for Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown, Trout may have taken home AL MVP honors too.

2. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington
Harper and Trout both got recalled from the minors the same time, with Harper making his MLB debut on April 28. The then-19-year-old quickly made a name for himself not only for his production at the plate, but for his hustle and the manner in which he played the game.

Like all young players, Harper went through some tough stretches at the plate, especially against left-handed pitching, but showed more than enough to earn his first All-Star Game invite and eventually claim the NL Rookie of the Year award following his .270-22-59 (with 98 runs and 18 SB) season. In 2103, Harper has picked up where he left off, hitting two home runs on Opening Day and he entered this week with a .303 average and 10 dingers.

Related: 25 Young Athletes Most Likely to be Hall of Famers

3. Stephen Strasburg, P, Washington
Strasburg has struggled in the win column this season (1-5), but that’s been more a byproduct of a lack of support from both his offense (2.25 runs per start) and defense (8 unearned runs allowed). The flame-throwing right-hander won’t turn 25 until July and his career ERA sits at 2.96 through his first 300 innings, during which he’s also struck out 364 batters.

After bursting on the scene in 2010 (5-3, 2.91 ERA, 92 SO in 68 IP), Strasburg missed nearly all of '11 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but showed ill effects upon his return last season. Now with no innings cap to worry about, Strasburg should return to the form that saw him win 21 of his first 45 starts, provided he get a little more help from his teammates.

4. Craig Kimbrel, P, Atlanta
The Braves’ 24-year-old closer has led the National League in saves the past two seasons, posting 46 in his NL Rookie of the Year campaign in 2011 and 42 last season. He recently picked up the 100th save of his young career, needing just 114 opportunities to reach that milestone.

Kimbrel is a strikeout machine, recording 283 Ks in 160 1/3 innings entering this season. The only concern when it comes to Kimbrel is associated with overuse, but the Braves have done a good job of monitoring his workload, going from 79 appearances and 77 innings in 2011 to 63 games and 62 2/3 innings last season.

5. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami
It’s hard to ignore that the 23-year-old slugger formerly known as Mike already has 96 career home runs in less than three full seasons (393 games played). Like most power hitters, Stanton does come up empty quite a bit (458 SO in 1399 AB), but he hit .290 last season and isn’t afraid to take a walk.

If there’s any concerns with Stanton moving forward it’s durability and the sad state of affairs that is the Marlins franchise. Stanton played in only123 games last season because of different injuries and he’s been in only 20 so far this season due to a hamstring injury. His big bat can’t do any damage if it’s on the DL.

Related: 10 Young MLB Players Who Could be Hall of Famers

6. Justin Upton, OF, Atlanta
It may seem like Upton shouldn’t be on this list anymore, but he wont turn 26 until late August. He made his debut in August 2007 at 19 for Arizona, where he spent the first six seasons of his career. His best year came in 2011 when he finished fourth in the NL MVP voting after batting .289 with a career-best 31 home runs and 88 RBIs, as well as 105 runs scored and 21 stolen bases.

A wrist injury impacted his 2012 production, which somewhat led to him being traded to Atlanta earlier this year. Reunited with older brother, B.J., Justin has rediscovered his power stroke, as he currently leads the majors with 13 home runs.

7. Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs
The 23-year-old shortstop already has 575 career hits in less than 500 games played. A two-time All-Star, Castro still has plenty of room to grow, both in physical stature and as an all-round player.

A work in progress in the field (27 or more errors in each of his first three seasons), he still has the tools necessary to become a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop. At the plate, his power should continue to develop as he gets older and better plate discipline (36 BB in 646 AB last season) will only make him an even more fearsome hitter.

8. Aroldis Chapman, P, Cincinnati
The Cuban defector turned 25 in February and, after a brief experiment as a starter during spring training, returned to the closer’s role he excelled at last season. The fire-balling lefty saved 38 games in 2012 with an ERA of 1.51 and WHIP of 0.81. He recorded nearly four times as many strikeouts (122) as hits allowed (35) last season and is a perfect 8-for-8 in save opportunities so far this season. Chapman appears to have the stuff to be a successful starter in the majors, but there’s no disputing his dominance as a closer to this point.

9. Madison Bumgarner, P, San Francisco
Bumgarner made his Giants debut when he was 19 and joined the starting rotation just one season later. After going a combined 29-14 with 3.29 ERA in 2011 and ’12, the 24-year-old lefthander is now a key member of one of the best rotations in all of baseball. He’s already shown he can handle the big moment, having pitched 15 scoreless innings in two World Series starts, helping the Giants win it all in both 2010 and last season. Bumgarner is 4-1 with a 2.18 ERA so far in 2013.

10. Matt Harvey, P, New York Mets
Just how good has the 24-year-old been this season? He’s 4-0 and leads the majors with a 1.44 ERA over his first eight starts, which includes a no-decision where he gave up just one hit in nine innings. He also struck out 12 in that game, and has 62 in 56 1/3 innings so far. The Mets may not be very competitive this season, but their future looks a lot brighter with Harvey fronting the rotation.

11. Matt Moore, P, Tampa Bay
Moore will turn 24 in June and by then the Rays’ lefthander will have added many more strikeouts to his stat line. All he’s done so far this season is become the first AL pitcher to reach seven wins, while posting a 2.44 ERA and 51 whiffs in 48 innings. The swing-and-miss stuff is certainly there; it’s now just a matter of harnessing it. If Moore figures out a way to limit the walks (25 so far this season), look out.

12. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona
A somewhat unknown commodity headed into last season, Goldschmidt changed that after batting .286 with 20 home runs, 43 doubles and 18 stolen bases. The 25-year-old has started off even better this season, hitting .312 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs entering Wednesday’s action. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that Goldschmidt will win a Gold Glove or two at first before his career is done, perhaps maybe even this year.

13. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta
Freeman is just 23, but you couldn’t tell by watching him play. After finishing second to teammate Craig Kimbrel in the 2011 NL Rookie of the Year voting, Freeman battled issues with his eyes and still managed to hit 23 home runs and drive in 94 last season. An oblique injury limited him to start this season, but he’s already driven in 19 runs in his first 25 games while playing his usual solid defense at first.

14. Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta
Heyward made his major-league debut one to remember as he homered off of Cubs’ starter Carlos Zambrano in his first career at-bat on Opening Day in 2010. The then-20-year-old finished second in Rookie of the Year voting that season after posting a .277-18-72 line. He took a step back in 2011, as a shoulder issue hampered him all season and he managed to hit just .227 with 14 home runs.

Heyward came back with a vengeance last season, finishing 2012 with 27 home runs, 82 RBIs and winning his first Gold Glove. He had gotten off to a slow start at the plate this season before he went on the DL after undergoing an emergency appendectomy in late April. He could return to the Braves’ lineup as early as Friday.

15. Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore
The Orioles’ shortstop of the future, Machado was called up at the ripe age of 19 last August to play third, a position he had virtually no experience at before. That mattered little, however, as the No. 3 overall pick of the 2010 MLB Draft made him himself at home at the hot corner. He made just five errors in 51 games, helping stabilize the Orioles’ infield defense in the process. He was no slouch at the plate either, hitting .262 with seven home runs. He’s been even better to start this season, currently batting .329 with 20 extra-base hits in 39 games.

16. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
Rizzo may be with his third franchise, but the seven-year, $41 million contract he signed this week should tell you everything you need to know about what the Cubs think of him. The 23-year-old struggled mightily (.141-1-9 in 49 G) in his first taste of the big leagues with San Diego in 2011, but that didn’t prevent the Cubs from trading for him in January 2012.

After tearing up Triple-A, Rizzo was called up in late June last season and hit .285 with 15 home runs in a little more than half a season. After a slow start to his 2013 campaign, Rizzo has caught fire, currently sporting a .270-9-28 line. The future of the Cubs is in good hands with Rizzo and Castro both signed to long-term deals.

17. Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto
Lawrie made his Blue Jays debut in August 2011 and provided a glimpse of his all-around ability by hitting .293 with nine home runs and seven stolen bases in just 43 games. Unfortunately, injuries have prevented him from building off of this, as he played in just 125 games last season and started the 2013 campaign on the DL. The tools are there for a 20/20-type of season, it’s just a matter of him staying in the lineup long enough to find his rhythm at the plate.

18. Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas
Jurickson Profar is getting most of the attention these days, but that shouldn’t be viewed as a knock on Andrus. The 24-year-old shortstop is in his fifth season as one of the Rangers’ offensive catalysts, while providing solid defense up the middle. A career .275 hitter, Andrus has averaged nearly 90 runs and 30 stolen bases over the past three seasons and has driven in 60 or more runs in each of the last two campaigns.

19. Chris Sale, P, Chicago White Sox
The lanky lefthander made his debut back in 2010, but really came into his own last season. He finished sixth in the AL Cy Young voting after going 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA in 29 starts. He struck out 192 in 192 innings and has maintained this performance level through his first eight starts this season (4-2, 2.88). His delivery may be a reason for concern, but for now, there’s no denying the 24-year-old’s results.

20. Shelby Miller, P, St. Louis
The 22-year-old Texan won a spot in the Cardinals’ starting rotation in spring training and all he’s done since is proven that it was the right decision. He’s 5-2 with a sparkling 1.58 ERA in his first seven starts, highlighted by his last time out on May 10 against Colorado when he gave up a leadoff single to Eric Young and then retired the next 27 batters in a row, 13 by strikeout, in a one-hit gem in front of the home crowd.

21. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston
Altuve, 23, is the epitome of the saying “good things come in small packages,” as all the diminutive (5’5”) second baseman has done is hit since he made his MLB debut in 2011. A free agent signee of the Astros out of Venezuela, Altuve has 279 hits in his first 242 career games and was named to the NL All-Star team last season.

22. Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee
The Brewers got Segura in the trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Angels last July and the 23-year-old shortstop has really come into his own to start this season. He entered Wednesday second in the NL with a .362 average as he’s already collected 51 hits, 16 for extra bases, and stolen 13 bases. He has teamed with Norichika Aoki to serve as the perfect table-setters for Ryan Braun and the rest of the Brewers’ lineup.

23. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta
Already a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop who reminds some of a young Ozzie Smith, Simmons has shown stretches of solid production at the plate too. Making his debut last season at 22, he was off to a great start at the plate (.296) before a broken finger sidelined him for two months. This season, he’s already surpassed his 2012 home run total with four in his first 37 games, including his first career two-home run game against Cincinnati on May 6.

24. Jose Fernandez, P, Miami
There are few reasons for Marlins fans to cheer right now, but the 20-year-old righthander is a nice building block for the future. The No. 14 overall pick of the 2011 MLB Draft made just 27 starts in the minors (14-2, 2.02 ERA) before being summoned to the majors for his first career start on April 7. Through his first seven starts, Fernandez has already produced three quality starts (at least 6 IP, 3 ER or fewer) and has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all but two outings. Wins will probably be tough to come by this season for Fernandez, but that shouldn’t be the only stat by which he’s measured in 2013.

25. Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh
Marte’s plate discipline leaves plenty to be desired, as he’s currently on pace for 162 strikeouts and only 39 walks, but there’s also lots to like from both a speed and power perspective. The 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic is currently hitting .320 and already has matched his home run total from 2012 (five) and did so in 15 fewer games (45 in 2012, 30 in '13). He’s on pace for a 20/40 season with more than 200 hits and 120 runs scored, and while the chances are slim he will finish with these lofty numbers, it looks as if the Pirates outfield is in good shape moving forward with Marte and Andrew McCutchen out there.

Best of the rest (alphabetical order)
Patrick Corbin, P, Arizona
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City
Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston
Mike Minor, P, Atlanta
Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City
Sal Perez, C, Kansas City
Addison Reed, P, Chicago White Sox
Wilin Rosario, C, Colorado
Kyle Seager, 3B, Seattle

Maybe next year? (alphabetical order)
Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Minnesota
Trevor Bauer, P, Cleveland
Gerrit Cole, P, Pittsburgh (currently in AAA)
Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati (currently in AAA)
Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay (currently in AAA)
Marcell Ozuna, OF, Miami
Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas (currently in AAA)
Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington (currently in AA)
Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis (currently in AAA)
Zack Wheeler, P, New York Mets (currently in AAA)

Related Content

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10 Young MLB Players Who Could be Hall of Famers

Teaser:
<p> 25 Best Baseball Players 25 and Under</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 18:00
Path: /college-basketball/top-25-college-basketball-recruiting-classes-2000
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Even though Kentucky lost out on Andrew Wiggins on Tuesday, the Wildcats may still have a signing class for the ages.

The Wildcats bring in six McDonald’s All-Americans for 2013-14, and Wiggins, the consensus top prospect, would have added to an embarrassment of riches. Instead, Wiggins heads to Kansas where he headlines the No. 2 class -- a recruiting haul that could be No. 1 in most years.

Where those classes end up no one knows, but all signs point to these being some of the best on paper.

These are the freshman classes Kentucky’s and Kansas’ freshmen are up against -- national champions, All-Americans and NBA lottery picks.

In this ranking, we put most weight on college production, particularly for classes that had mutliple high-level contributors. We also considered longevity and pro potential in assembling this ranking.

TOP COLLEGE BASKETBALL RECRUITING CLASSES SINCE 2000

1. 2011 Kentucky
The class: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Kyle Wiltjer
John Calipari’s best recruiting class produced a dominant regular-season team (38-2, 16-0 SEC), the national champion and the top two players in the NBA Draft. Anthony Davis joined Kansas’ Danny Manning and UCLA’s Lew Alcindor as the only players to win the Naismith Award, to win Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors and to go first in the NBA Draft. Kidd-Gilchrist was a second-team All-American and the second overall pick while the point guard Teague was the No. 29 pick in 2012.

2. 2004 Florida
The class: Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford, Joakim Noah
The ‘04 class formed the core of Florida’s back-to-back national championship teams in 2006 and 2007. When they all left for the draft in 2007, Horford, Brewer and Noah were top-10 picks, and Green was a second-rounder. Noah was the only All-American in the group, earning second-team honors in 2007, but he and Brewer ended up as NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Players.

3. 2002 Syracuse
The class: Carmelo Anthony, Billy Edelin, Matt Gorman, Gerry McNamara
Before one-and-done players were commonplace, Anthony had one of the best freshman seasons in college basketball history, leading Syracuse to the national title in 2003. After averaging a double-double and earning NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors, Anthony went on to be the third overall pick in the NBA Draft after LeBron James and Darko Milicic. McNamara stayed all four years to become a beloved player for Syracuse, vociferously defended by Jim Boeheim in a famous tirade.

4. 2002 North Carolina
The class: Raymond Felton, Damion Grant, Sean May, Rashad McCants, David Noel
Signed under Matt Doherty and unleashed under Roy Williams, this trio was the nucleus of North Carolina’s 2005 national title team. Three became NBA lottery picks -- Felton at No. 5 overall, May at No. 13 overall and McCants at No. 14. May was a consensus All-American his last season, and Felton won the Bob Cousy Award for the nation’s top point guard.

5. 2006 Kansas
The class: Mario Chalmers, Micah Downs, Brandon Rush, Julian Wright
Rush and Chalmers were the keys to Kansas’ first national title in 20 years when the Jayhawks won the 2008 championship. Chalmers hit the game-tying three-pointer to send the title game against Memphis to overtime before winning NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. Rush was a three-time All-Big 12 selection. A year earlier, Wright, Chalmers and Rush won 33 games en route to the Elite Eight. Downs played one season at Kansas before finishing his career at Gonzaga.

6. 2001 Connecticut
The class: Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor
Gordon and Okafor led Connecticut to a national title as juniors in 2004 to cap a 33-6 season. A shot-blocker extraordinaire, Okafor was a consensus All-American and the second pick in the NBA Draft after Dwight Howard. Gordon followed his teammate as the third overall pick.

7. 2002 Illinois
The class: James Augustine, Dee Brown, Aaron Spears, Deron Williams
A class recruited by Bill Self enjoyed most of its success under Bruce Weber. Brown and Williams led Illinois to a 37-2 season in 2004-05, reaching the national final that year. The Illini, though, lost to the North Carolina team led by May, McCants and Felton. Brown was a consensus first-team All-American in 2005 while Williams was a second-teamer that year. Williams left for the draft where he was selected third overall, but Brown stayed for his senior season to become a second-team All-American.

8. 2006 Texas
The class: D.J. Augustin, Kevin Durant, Matt Hill, Damion James, Justin Mason, Dexter Pittman, Harrison Smith
In retrospect, Texas going 25-10 with a second-round exit with Kevin Durant in 2006-07 looks indefensible. Durant was dominant in his only season in college as one of two freshmen to win the Naismith Award (Anthony Davis was the other). The class paid off over the years with Augustin, a first-team All-American and ninth overall pick, leading Texas to a 31-7 season and the Elite Eight in 2008. James was a third-team All-American in 2010 and the No. 24 pick.

9. 2006 Ohio State
The class: Mike Conley Jr., Daequan Cook, Othello Hunter, David Lighty, Greg Oden
The “Thad Five,” Thad Matta’s first major recruiting class at Ohio State, produced two top-five picks (Oden and Conley) and the No. 21 pick (Cook). Though his NBA career has been injury plagued, Oden was a star college player, earning second-team All-America and National Defensive Player of the Year honors. Besides Oden, Conley was a second-team All-Big Ten pick, and Cook was the league’s sixth man of the year for a team that reached the NCAA final. Lighty stuck around to be a leader and key cog on the Buckeyes’ 2010-11 Big Ten title team.

10. 2010 Ohio State
The class: Aaron Craft, Jordan Siebert, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas
This star-studded class for Thad Matta had more of a lasting impact for the Buckeyes than the Thad Five. Sullinger, Thomas and Craft led Ohio State to an Elite Eight in 2011 and a Final Four in 2012. Sullinger was a two-time All-American before leaving school after two seasons. The team led by Thomas and Craft reached the Sweet 16 in 2013. This class has formed the core of teams that have won at least 30 games in each of their three seasons.

11. 2006 North Carolina
The class: Wayne Ellington, William Graves, Ty Lawson, Alex Stephenson, Deon Thompson, Brandan Wright
Along with Tyler Hansbrough from the 2005 class, the Tar Heels’ ‘06 class formed the core of a team that went to the Elite Eight in 2007 and the Final Four in 2008 before winning a national title in 2009. Wright was the highest draft pick of the group at No. 8 in 2007, but Lawson was the 2009 ACC Player of the Year and Ellington was the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. Lawson (No. 17 overall) and Ellington (No. 28) were drafted in 2009.

12. 2009 Kentucky
The class: Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton, John Wall
Calipari’s first class at Kentucky would be outdone by later classes both in the NCAA Tournament and in the NBA Draft, but this was a dominant class nonetheless. This class went 35-3 overall and 14-2 in the SEC before falling in the Elite Eight to West Virginia. All four were first round picks -- Wall at No. 1 overall, Cousins at No. 5, Bledsoe at No. 18 and Orton at No. 29.

13. 2005 North Carolina
The class: Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough
Hansbrough was one of the most accomplished four-year players in recent decades, earning first- or second-team All-America honors all four seasons. The consensus national player of the year as a junior, Hansbrough led North Carolina to a national title in 2009, his final season. Green wrapped up an underrated career in which he averaged 9.4 points on rosters never lacking for talent.

14. 2004 UCLA
The class: Arron Afflalo, Jordan Farmar, Lorenzo Mata-Real, Josh Shipp
This class set the bar for Ben Howland at UCLA as Afflalo, Farmar and Shipp were the top three scorers on the 2006 national runner-up (32-7, 14-4 Pac-10). Farmar was a first-team Pac-12 selection in 2006 while Afflalo returned in 2007 to become an All-American and the top player on another Final Four team. Shipp, who played in three consecutive Final Fours, ended up the No. 12 scorer in UCLA history, only 37 points behind Bill Walton.

15. 2007 Purdue
The class: Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, Scott Martin, E’Twaun Moore
A bad-luck recruiting class left Purdue fans wondering what could have been accomplished. Even so, this group turned out pretty good. The trio of Hummel, Johnson and Moore went 52-19 overall and 26-10 in their first two seasons, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2009. Hummel, however, endured a season-ending injury in February 2010 and missed all of 2010-11. The Boilermakers still went 28-8 in the Big Ten in that span. Johnson was a first-team All-American in 2011, Hummel a three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection and Moore was a two-time first-team all-conference pick. Martin finished his career at Notre Dame.

16. 2003 Connecticut
The class: Josh Boone, Charlie Villanueva, Marcus Williams
The class produced three first-round draft picks, but also the core of the 2004-05 team that was a No. 2 seed bounced in the second round of the NCAAs by NC State, and the 2005-06 team that was a top seed but lost to 11th-seeded George Mason in the championship game. All were role players for the 2004 title team.

17. 2010 Kentucky
The class: Terrence Jones, Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb
This haul lacked the oomph of the class that preceded it (led by Wall) and the class that came after (led by Davis), but formed the nucleus of a Final Four team even without the ineligible Kanter.

18. 2007 Kansas State
The class: Michael Beasley, Jacob Pullen, Bill Walker
Beasley broke many of Durant’s Big 12 records and, like Durant, topped out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Pullen led K-State to an Elite Eight appearance in 2010.

19. 2010 Syracuse
The class: C.J. Fair, Baye Keita, Fab Melo, Dion Waiters
Waiters (fifth overall) and Melo (22nd) were first-round picks. Fair and Keita played in the Final Four this year.

20. 2007 Syracuse
The class: Jonny Flynn, Donte Green, Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine
The class produced first-round draft picks (Flynn and Green), regular season success ... but unfulfilled promise in the NCAA Tournament, never advancing past the Sweet 16.

21. 2006 Duke
The class: Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek
Henderson was a lottery pick (No. 12), while Scheyer, Thomas and Zoubek were key players on the 2010 title team.

22. 2006 Connecticut
The class: Jerome Dyson, Curtis Kelly, Stanley Robinson, Hasheem Thabeet
Led by 2009 Big East Player of the Year Thabeet, this class produced three starters on the Huskies’ Final Four team in 2009.

23. 2008 Kansas
The class: Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Travis Releford, Tyshawn Taylor
Marcus Morris was the 2011 Big 12 Player of the Year. Markieff was selected one spot ahead of his brother at No. 13.

24. 2008 Butler
The class:
Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored, Chase Stigall
The class formed the core of the 2010 national runner-up. Hayward was the ninth overall pick in the draft.

25 or better? 2013 Kentucky
The class:
Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Dominique Hawkins, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Julius Randle, Derek Willis, James Young
Calipari may have outdone himself by landing six of the nation’s top 15 prospects.

25 or better? 2013 Kansas
The class
: Joel Embiid, Conner Frankamp, Brannen Greene, Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins’ announcement Tuesday means Kansas will be just fine despite losing five starters.

Teaser:
<p> Will Kentucky and Kansas add their 2013 hauls to the mix of top recruiting classes since 2000?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 11:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Florida Gators, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/floridas-jeff-driskel-top-five-quarterback-sec
Body:

If Florida wants to win the SEC East, its offense has to take a step forward in 2013. The Gators ranked last in the SEC in passing offense last season and averaged only 334.4 yards per game.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel was solid in his debut year as the starter, throwing for 1,646 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also rushed for 413 yards and four scores.

Although Driskel shined against Tennessee and Vanderbilt, he didn’t play well in the Sugar Bowl versus Louisville, throwing two interceptions on 29 attempts.

There’s a lot of pressure on Driskel, especially with a largely unproven receiving corps.

Can he take the next step in his development this year?

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Florida ranks as Athlon's No. 13 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

Is Florida's Jeff Driskel a Top-Five Quarterback in the SEC?

Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
Jeff Driskel really did all the Florida coaching staff asked him to do in 2012. He protected the ball (just five INTs), became the second-leading rusher with 408 yards and four touchdowns and won 11 football games as a first-year starter. But it was obvious at times that Driskel was underdeveloped as a passer and locked on to one receiver much throughout the season, often getting him and the offense into trouble.

Driskel should improve as both a passer and a runner this season, but I’m not sure he’s going to put up top-five numbers as a passer. Seven other returning quarterbacks finished with better numbers last year. So, if we’re talking numbers, Driskel will probably be on the outside of the top five looking in.

Florida should have another strong running game but still have limited playmakers at receiver. Driskel could still win 10 games and only throw for 1,700 to 1,900 yards. And who wouldn’t take that?
 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Let’s go ahead and pencil in Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray as top-five quarterbacks in the SEC. I like Jeff Driskel as a potential top-five talent, but he won’t have the receiver talent to put up the numbers of an upper-echelon SEC quarterback. And this is an offense that looks to be a ball-control attack once again. Give me Bo Wallace, Tyler Russell or Connor Shaw to maximize their opportunities this season. Driskel will be fine, especially if he gets anything out of a receiver position that’s been a mess for some years now, but other SEC quarterbacks have higher ceilings for regular-season production right now.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Top five in the SEC isn't the same today as it has been for the last few decades. In a league that has long struggled with producing elite signal callers, the nation's toughest league has begun to churn out All-Americans, Heisman Trophies and National Champions under center of late. So will Jeff Driskel be better than Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron or Aaron Murray? Certainly not, however, could he pass Connor Shaw, Tyler Russell or Bo Wallace and finish as one of the five best quarterbacks in the SEC? Absolutely. He is an extraordinary athlete who will be an upperclassman for the first time this fall. Driskel has always been able to make big plays with his legs and will continue to do so this season, but he showed flashes of brilliance as a passer and leader of the offense a year ago. He needs to be more consistent in the pocket and within the framework of the offense, but there is a reason Driskel was the No. 1 QB recruit in the nation coming out of high school. He already has an 11-1 season under his belt and I think analysts tend to forget he was just a true sophomore last year. I'm expecting big things from the burly Gators passer in 2013 and that likely makes him the fourth or fifth best QB in the SEC.


Josh Ward, MrSEC.com, (@Josh_Ward)
There are only three quarterbacks in the SEC I would take over Jeff Driskel: Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray of Georgia. Those three quarterbacks have established an elite tier for themselves in the SEC.

Driskel would be next on my list. He has enormous potential entering his second season as a full-time starter. Driskel is a big (6-4, 237) quarterback with a strong arm and great athleticism. He rushed for 408 yards last season, including a 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to help secure a win against Vanderbilt. Driskel threw for only 137.2 yards per game last season but was accurate and took care of the football, completing 63.7 percent of his passes while throwing only five interceptions.

Florida coach Will Muschamp has continued to express confidence in Driskel, who coaches believe has taken on more of a leadership role as his understanding of coordinator Brent Pease’s offense has grown. But Driskel won’t be able to carry Florida’s offense by himself. The Gators are still waiting on someone to step up at wide receiver. If Driskel gets the proper help, he should establish himself as one of the SEC’s top five quarterbacks.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Jeff Driskel’s debut season certainly wasn’t awful, but Florida needs more from him in 2013. A late-season injury slowed his progress in the final month of the year, finishing with 1,646 yards and 12 passing scores. Driskel added 413 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, which included a 177-yard rushing effort against Vanderbilt.

Although Driskel was efficient and completed 63.7 percent of his throws, the Gators averaged only 146.3 passing yards per game. And in SEC contests, Driskel threw for only 139 yards per game. It’s not out of the question for Florida to win the SEC East with a similar performance, but the defense might take a small step back with the departure of safety Matt Elam, tackle Sharrif Floyd and linebacker Jon Bostic, and the offense loses running back Mike Gillislee and first-team All-SEC tight end Jordan Reed.

Although Driskel isn’t asked to win a lot of games with his arm, he should be better by default in his second year as a starter. However, making progress as a passer also hinges on Florida developing a go-to receiver or two.

Numbers aren’t necessarily a good indicator of how to rank quarterbacks, but it does play a role in establishing a pecking order. I think Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Georgia’s Aaron Murray are clearly the top three quarterbacks in the SEC. After that, South Carolina’s Connor Shaw is probably No. 4, with Mississippi State’s Tyler Russell and Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace fighting it out for fifth place. I think it’s unlikely Driskel posts top-five numbers, but the talent is certainly there to rank among the top five in the conference. Is it possible? Yes. But I think Driskel falls just outside of the top five at the end of the season.
 

Mark Ross
I have nothing against Driskel and think he is perfectly capable of doing his part to help Florida win the SEC East in 2013. However, when it comes to the quarterback competition, Driskel is already facing an uphill battle before he even takes a snap this fall. When it comes to the likely all-conference picks at the position, it's pretty safe to assume, barring injury, the primary candidates are Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray, not necessarily in that order. This means that Driskel is already looking at no better than fourth place in this "race." And while there is quarterback uncertainty at Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, that's not the case at LSU (Zach Mettenberger), Mississippi State (Tyler Russell), Missouri (James Franklin), Ole Miss (Bo Wallace) and South Carolina (Connor Shaw). Among this group, I like Shaw and Wallace the best, although I also think Russell and Franklin are capable of staking a claim to a top-five spot as well.

There's no disputing Driskel's talent and ability, but there's also no lack of depth at the quarterback position in the SEC as evidenced by the presence of the reigning Heisman Trophy recipient, a two-time national champion and the player most likely to hold all of the conference's passing records when his career is over. In the end, Driskel's caught up in a numbers game and just misses out on being a top-five quarterback in the SEC this season.
 

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Will Tennessee Make a Bowl in 2013?

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Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches for 2013

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Teaser:
<p> Is Florida's Jeff Driskel a Top-Five Quarterback in the SEC?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 08:14
Path: /college-football/will-michigan-play-bcs-bowl-2013
Body:

After recording an 11-2 record in Brady Hoke’s first season, Michigan slid to an 8-5 mark in 2012. A challenging schedule certainly hurt the Wolverines’ win total, as they lost to Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Ohio State and South Carolina.

With a lighter slate coming for 2013, Michigan should have a chance to get back into the mix for 10 victories.

The Wolverines play only one top-25 opponent in their non-conference slate (Notre Dame) and host Nebraska and Ohio State in November. Quarterback Devin Gardner should emerge as one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks in 2013, and the defense should be steady despite the departure of a couple of a couple of starters.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Michigan ranks as Athlon's No. 14 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

Will Michigan Play in a BCS Bowl in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
More often than not, the Big Ten finds a way to produce two BCS teams. Ohio State sure looks like a favorite to lock up one of those spots, perhaps the Rose Bowl or a national title game slot. After that, there are only a handful of teams that can claim the second slot. The Legends Division is going to be a tough race with Nebraska being the main foil for Michigan this season. I’ve thought about scenarios where Michigan loses back-to-back games to Ohio State, and Nebraska swoops in to grab an at-large BCS bid. Or Michigan -- a five-loss team last year -- simply isn’t ready to contend for the Big Ten title and ends up in the Outback Bowl again. Michigan’s certainly capable of winning the Big Ten, assuming Devin Gardner settles in as starting quarterback. But the Wolverines could lose three Big Ten games and not even be a factor in the BCS.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I'd have to lean towards no. To make a BCS bowl, Michigan at minimum needs to win 10 games and the Legends Division — both of which are well within reach. And in fact, the Wolverines made a BCS bowl appearance not two years ago when it DIDN'T win the Legends Division. However, to land in a BCS bowl the Maize and Blue likely has to start the year 11-0 because back-to-back losses to Ohio State in the season finale and Big Ten title game are also well within reach. Unfortunately, the schedule looks entirely too daunting to pick the Wolverines to begin the year with 11 straight wins. If Michigan loses just one game against, say, Notre Dame, Nebraska, at Penn State, at Northwestern or at Michigan State, a three-loss season is likely. It is hard to see anyone landing an at-large BCS bowl bid with three losses.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Michigan may not be a top-10 team in terms of talent, but the Wolverines certainly have the schedule to make a run at a BCS bowl. And it may be strange to say this, but Ohio State could help Michigan’s case, especially if the Buckeyes finish No. 2 nationally and a spot in the Rose Bowl is available for the Big Ten.

Michigan’s non-conference schedule is very favorable. Central Michigan, Akron and Connecticut are all wins, with Notre Dame a key swing game. The Wolverines have three wins in a row over the Fighting Irish in Ann Arbor, including a 35-31 thriller in 2011. If Michigan knocks off Notre Dame, it should be 5-0 heading into a road trip to Penn State. Considering the Nittany Lions will have a new quarterback and need to replace a few key leaders on defense, the Oct. 12 matchup should be a win for Michigan.

The final month of the season will determine where Michigan needs to plan for its postseason destination. The Wolverines play at Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa, while hosting Nebraska and Ohio State. It’s not going to be easy, but I think Michigan can go 4-1 or 3-2 in that stretch. Even if the Wolverines finish the regular season 10-2 and lose close to Ohio State in the regular season finale and Big Ten Championship, a berth in a BCS bowl is very realistic.

Kevin McGuire, No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com(@KevinonCFB)
There is only one way Michigan gets a chance to play in a BCS bowl game this season, and it is not going to be easy. For the Wolverines to make a BCS bowl they must beat Ohio State at least once, and possibly twice. A win in the Big Ten championship game would send Michigan to the Rose Bowl of course, but I am not even sure Michigan will get a chance to play for that trip. I still give an edge to Nebraska for now out of the Big Ten Legends Division and if Michigan can't get by the Huskers in the division I do not like their chances at being eligible for an at-large BCS bid despite their high profile brand.

However, if Michigan can advance to the Big Ten Championship game, the odds may be pretty good they would at least be within striking distance of at-large eligibility. If they happened to lose to Ohio State in the conference championship game by a close margin, perhaps that would help them stay in the running. Getting the Buckeyes at home the previous week could play to their advantage, but the odds Ohio State loses to Michigan twice is not something I would be willing to bet on. And with that, I would consider it a surprise if the Wolverines are booking any trips to a BCS bowl game in January.
 

Mark Ross
The ironic thing here is that Ohio State, Michigan's hated rival, could play a huge role in whether the Wolverines end up in the BCS or not. Should things go according to plan, Michigan, one of the contenders in the Big Ten Legends Division, and Ohio State, the overwhelming favorite in the Leaders, could end up meeting twice in a span of two weeks. The first matchup will be the regular-season finale in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Nov. 30. The encore could come the following week in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis, provided each teams wins its respective divisions.

In most cases, an Ohio State win over Michigan would seemingly eliminate the Wolverines from the BCS picture, but not if the Buckeyes end up in the national championship game as a result. Should that happen, then the Maize and Blue could end up in the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten representative. As far as consolation prizes go, they wouldn't get much better than that for Wolverine fans. Since I have already laid out the path for Brady Hoke's team, I'll say they take care of the rest on the field this fall and do what's necessary to earn that coveted trip to Pasadena, Calif., in January.
 

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Ranking the Big Ten Head Coaches for 2013

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> Will Michigan Play in a BCS Bowl in 2013?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 07:29
Path: /nascar/nascar-numbers-game-7-key-stats-nascar-all-star-race
Body:

The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race isn’t a typical all-star event.

Unlike the stick ‘N’ ball all-star “breaks” that feature lackadaisical effort and are more celebrated for the parties that supplement the fan activities rather than the actual contests, the Sprint Cup Series version of an all-star event pits recent race winners and champions in a race comprised of dash-style formats which has a $1 million carrot dangling on the end of a stick. It’s wild, unpredictable and in no way resembles a normal NASCAR race.

It also doesn’t have much bearing on the following week’s Coca-Cola 600, which, like the All-Star Race, takes place at Charlotte Motor Speedway.


3 in 13  Dating back to 2000, a span of 13 races, the All-Star Race winner has gone on to win the next week’s Coca-Cola 600 just three times.

Though they take place at the same facility, the two races don’t actually coalesce. The 600 not only requires a car capable of thriving on extended green-flag runs, but also a team that has built a setup to survive in both day and night conditions. The All-Star Race simply requires a setup for short runs, making the drivers and teams that excel at such a thing instant favorites.


3.2  Matt Kenseth has the highest average race rank (3.2) among all drivers in speed early in green-flag runs.

Kenseth, who also ranks first in the series in speed on restarts, has been a juggernaut at the drop of the green flag and for the ensuing 25 laps. While the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 team has been stellar on intermediate tracks this season — two of its three wins came at Las Vegas and Kansas — it will be its affinity for immediate speed that separates it from the rest of the field in Saturday night’s event.


6 in 13  In the last 13 All-Star Races, six were won by drivers that had visited victory lane at an intermediate track in one of the prior races that same season.

The fact that Kenseth has captured two 1.5-mile (intermediate) track victories this season provides no guarantees for Saturday. It doesn’t take numbers — just common sense — to understand that this race is its own beast. A stout intermediate program like the one JGR is currently flaunting is always good to have, but the varying formats of the race don’t lend it to easy prognostication. If Kenseth becomes the victor, it will be because of the combination of car strength and short-run ability.
 

Teaser:
<p> David Smith crunches the numbers and finds the key NASCAR stats for the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 19:40
Path: /mlb/12-amazing-mlb-stats-week-may-6-12
Body:

Cincinnati can win only against bad teams, Dee Gordon is fast, the Texas bullpen is good and the Astros may have trouble when they play at Texas. Here are these and other amazing stats from the week of May 6-12.

27    Retired Rockies in order by Shelby Miller
The young St. Louis righthander made just one start last week, but what an outing it was. Miller allowed a leadoff single to Eric Young in the first inning, then retired the next 27 Rockies in order. Obviously, he doesn’t get credit for a perfect game, and the one-hitter was the first shutout of his career.

23-4    Giants outscored Braves by 19 over the weekend
After the Braves defeated the Giants 6-3 behind the pitching of Julio Teheran on Thursday night, the rest of the weekend series shaped up for three pitching duels. Matt Cain and Tim Hudson on Friday, Madison Bumgarner vs. Paul Maholm on Saturday with Tim Lincecum and Kris Medlen going on Sunday. However, the Giants’ pitchers were the only arms doing any dueling. San Francisco bashed Atlanta pitching as the Giants outscored the Braves 23-4 in the final three games.

1    Time this season Josh Hamilton has driven home Albert Pujols
When Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno signed former MVP Josh Hamilton last winter for $125 million over the next five seasons, just a year after signing Albert Pujols to a record deal, he probably expected a little more. Fans were excited, too about the prospects of Hamilton hitting cleanup behind Pujols. But through Sunday, Hamilton had driven in Pujols just once this season.

5-11    Atlanta Braves record in their last 16 road games
During that stretch, the Braves’ ERA has ballooned to 5.52. In the team’s first seven away games this season, the club was 7-0 with a 1.41 ERA.

11.2    Seconds it took Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon to score from first
Gordon, on first after a single to right, was off and running on a double by Nick Punto off the Diamondbacks’ Wade Miley. Gordon, whose father was known as Flash, raced around the bases in 11.2 seconds as timed by the media.

4    Fewest home losses, and road wins for any team
The Texas Rangers have lost just four games at home this season, the fewest in the majors. Their Texas brethren in Houston have won just four road games, also the fewest in the big leagues this season. The Astros have yet to visit their division rival this season with nine games to play at Texas.

6-13     Cincinnati’s record against winning teams
The Reds are feasting on the downtrodden this season. The Reds ended the week with a 16-3 record against losing teams, and just 6-13 vs. winning teams. Beginning this week, the Reds’ next 12 games are against losers.

19-3    Detroit’s record when scoring 4+ runs
When the Tigers score three runs or less, their pitchers have little hope. The team is 1-12 when scoring fewer than four runs. Strangely enough, the Tigers have yet to score exactly five runs in a game this season.

15, 10    Home runs and stolen bases by the Blue Jays
Last week the Toronto Blue Jays dominated the power/speed categories. The Jays led the majors with 15 long balls and 10 swipes.

.600        Joe Mauer’s OBP last week
The Twins’ catcher, batting in the No. 2 hole, is batting .465 in May with a .574 OBP. He has scored 13 in the last 11 games.

0    Blown saves by the Texas Rangers
The Texas bullpen has been charged with closing out 12 games and remains the only team in baseball with a perfect record. Texas relievers have been called on a combined 28 times with the game on the line, and each time the pitcher has done his job. Joe Nathan gets most of the ink with his 11 saves. Michael Kirkman has one save, Derek Lowe has one hold and Joe Ortiz has two. However, Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers have done much of the heavy lifting. Ross has stranded all 15 runners he has inherited. Scheppers has inherited just three, but left them all on base.

31    RBIs for Brandon Phillips and Troy Tulowitzki this season
The Reds’ second baseman and Rockies’ shortstop are tied atop the National League with 31 RBIs. No middle infielder has led the senior circuit in ribbies since the great Ernie Banks in 1959 when he drove home 143 during the second of his back-to-back MVP campaigns.

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Cincinnati can win only against bad teams, Dee Gordon is fast, the Texas bullpen is good and the Astros may have trouble when they play at Texas. Here are these and other amazing stats from the week of May 6-12.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 15:25
Path: /nfl/top-25-young-athletes-most-likely-be-hall-famers
Body:

To suggest that any player in any sport after just a few seasons is a lock to make the Hall of Fame is ridiculous. But it is always fun to look at athletes who have had instant success and try to extrapolate long-term potential.

Young star players give franchises hope of long-term success and, even greater still, young Olympians can give entire nation's reasons to cheer. How do you think Chinese fans felt about the remarkable performance of Tianlang Guan at Augusta National this spring? Or how proud Canadian fans are of Sydney Crosby's accomplishments in his first few seasons?

Needless to say, projecting future Hall of Famers are virtually impossible. But Athlon Sports has taken its best stab at which young professionals — ones who have debuted since 2010 — are the most likely to do so in their respective sports.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis
The Colts were 2-14 in 2011 and it landed them Mr. Luck. All the rookie QB did was win 11 games and return the franchise to the postseason. And he shattered every important rookie passing record along the way. His 4,374 yards, 627 attempts and six 300-yard passing efforts were all NFL rookie records. His 339 completions and 23 touchdown passes are second all-time for an NFL rookie. His set the single-game rookie passing record with 433 yards against Miami. He is the first QB taken No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft to make the playoffs as a rookie and his 11 wins were the most ever by a No. 1 pick as a rookie. His 54 attempts were an NFL rookie playoff record and his 268 yards passing against the eventual Super Bowl champs was second-best ever by a rookie. He was an elite top-100 recruit when he signed with Stanford. He was second in the Heisman voting two years in a row. And he just posted one of the best rookie seasons by an NFL QB ever. Canton might as well get the bust ready now.

2. Brad Keselowski, Penske Racing
At age 29, Keselowski isn't a spring chicken, however, his rookie season was just three years ago in 2010 and his instant success is impossible to ignore. The driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Penske Ford Fusion finished 25th in the points standings in his first season, fifth in his second year and became the defending Sprint Cup Champion after edging Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson for the title in just his third full season. Keselowski posted 24 top-five finishes and nine wins in just three full seasons in Sprint Cup competition. His refreshing yet old-school attitude as a driver is magnetic to the fans, media and, at times, other cars on the track. However, his raw driving talent is painfully obvious and is the reason for such lofty expectations. He is one of just three drivers to win the points championship in the last eight years. The list of potential future HOFers in NASCAR begins and ends with Brad-K, and should he continue to achieve at his current rate, an induction into the newly created NASCAR Hall of Fame is well within reach.

3. Buster Posey, C, San Francisco
There are few players who have ever had a better start to a career than Mr. Posey. He claimed NL Rookie of Year honors in 2010 and led the Giants to their first World Series championship since 1954. Then, after missing all but 162 at-bats of 2011 with an injury, he led the Giants to a second World Series title and claimed the NL MVP trophy last season. He is a career .312 hitter with an .887 OPS and just 203 strikeouts in 1,122 at-bats. He is the consummate professional and the face of a franchise that is positioned to make another run at the World Series and he was recently rewarded with a 9-year, $164 million contract.

4. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington
The only reason Harper's own rookie season gets marginalized was Mike Trout's performance in the American League. Harper, who played all of last season at the age of 19, posted one of the best inaugural seasons in recent memory as well. He was an All-Star and earned NL Rookie of Year honors. He finished with 22 home runs, 18 stolen bases, 98 runs scored, 59 RBIs and a .270/.817 split at the plate. And to start his second season, Harper went deep twice on Opening Day. He is well on his way to destroying his rookie marks in 2013 and should play in his second All-Star game still at the age of 20 years old. Harper could easily lead the majors in home runs or OPS as just a second-year player. It's Hall of Fame or bust for a player who made his Sports Illustrated cover debut at 16 and made his second appearance before turning 21.

5. Missy Franklin, US Swimming
Mark Spitz set the world record when we won seven Gold medals at the 1972 Summer Olympics. A mark he held until Michael Phelps took home eight Gold medals in the 2008 summer games in Beijing. At age 17, Franklin won four Golds and five total medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. With those four Golds, she is already tied for 50th all-time in total Gold medals won in Olympic history and a repeat performance in 2016 would make her one of just 12 athletes all-time to land eight Golds. Phelps has set himself apart from the rest of his Olympic peers with his all-time world record of 18 Golds medals. Franklin could easily make a run at that record and would finish no worse than second all-time in Gold medals earned with two more productive summer games. She will have the opportunity to compete in three more Summer Olympics before she turns 30.

6. Mike Trout, OF, LA Angels
What else is there to be said of Trout's rookie season in the majors? He was an All-Star, he won the AL Rookie of the Year award, led the league in runs (129) and stolen bases (49), earned a Silver Slugger honor and finished second in MVP voting behind the first Triple Crown winner in more than 50 years. He finished with a .326 average, .963 OPS, hit 30 home runs and drove in 83. With a 10.0 WAR, it was the greatest rookie season in the history of the sport — right ahead of Joe Jackson's 9.7 WAR in 1911. And, oh by the way, he did all of this at age 20. Yeah, his ticket might already be punched for Cooperstown.

7. Anthony Davis, PF, New Orleans
The 6-foot-10, 220-pounder entered the NBA as the consensus can’t-miss No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. After posting the No. 3-rated freshman season in the history of college basketball, Davis and his trademarked unibrow debuted for the Hornets in style. He posted 21 points and seven rebounds in his first NBA game against Sacramento. He finished his first full season starting 60 of the 64 games he played, shooting 51.6-percent from the floor and 75.1-percent from the line. His per game rookie stat line is one of the best in recent memory: 13.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.8 bpg, 1.2 spg on 10.6 shots per game. Efficiency and defense is the name of game for this potential Hall of Famer.

8. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston
From pizza boy tight end to Big Ten Rose Bowl star to first-round NFL Draft pick to NFL rookie of the year candidate to NFL Defensive Player of the Year. That is the career trajectory for the massive defensive end. The former Wisconsin Badgers end has started all but one of 32 possible career NFL games and made history by returning an interception for a touchdown in his first postseason game (which helped produce Houston’s first-ever postseason win). He led the NFL in sacks with 20.5 a year ago and made his first Pro Bowl (where he caught a touchdown as a wide receiver). Through two seasons, he has 149 total tackles, 26.0 sacks, 20 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and been a part of two division championships.

9. Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland
Coming out of St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J., the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder was one of the nation’s top five prospects. He was electric in the first eight games of his Duke career, leading the team in scoring, before hurting his right foot. Irving returned for the NCAA Tournament, scoring 28 points in his final game against Arizona. He left Duke after 11 career games to be the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft on a LeBron-less Cavaliers team. After averaging 18.5 points on 46.8 percent shooting to go with 5.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 51 games, Irving claimed 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year honors. And after an equally impressive second year, Irving appears to only be getting better. He finished this season by averaging 22.5 points on 45.9 percent shooting to go with 5.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. And he just turned 21 in March.

10. Tianlang Guan, Golf
The 14-year old phenom captured the hearts of golf fans all over the world this spring at The Masters. Guan (14 years, five months) shattered Matteo Manassero's PGA Tour record (16 years, two months) for the youngest player to ever make a cut. And he did so at the world's toughest course in Augusta National. Tiger Woods and others have praised the young golfer's poise and calm demeanor. As long as he grows out of his slow style of play, there is no reason to think Guan won't be the next young superstar on the PGA Tour.

11. AJ Green, WR, Cincinnati
Few players have ever started their career like Green. The superstar talent from Georgia was one of the most coveted pass-catchers in the nation as both a recruit and draft pick. He was one of the SEC's all-time bests and all he has done in two NFL seasons is catch 162 passes for 2,407 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Bengals have reached the postseason in each of his two seasons and Green made the Pro Bowl both times. He is an elite red zone target, can stretch the field and has tremendous open field ability as well. He is the complete package at wide receiver.

12. Damian Lillard, PG, Portland
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound floor leader from Oakland, Calif., was a proven commodity the second he stepped on a college court. He led Weber State to a conference title as a freshman before earning Big Sky Player of the Year honors twice in his career. It led to the Trail Blazers selecting him with the sixth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. He promptly posted a double-double (23 pts, 11 asts) in his rookie debut and was excellent throughout his first NBA season. Lillard was Rookie of the Month six times and was a runaway Rookie of the Year winner in 2012-13. He started all 82 games and finished with this statline: 17.8 ppg, 6.0 apg, 2.9 rpg, 0.8 spg on 42.9 percent shooting.

13. Julio Jones, WR Atlanta
Forever linked with A.J. Green as fellow 2008 five-star recruits to sign in the SEC, Jones is just as athletic and talented as the Bengals pass-catcher. He helped lead Alabama to a national championship as a sophomore in 2009 and forced the Falcons to trade away multiple picks across two drafts to trade up and get Jones with the sixth overall pick. He has caught 133 passes for 2,157 yards and 18 touchdowns in his first two seasons earning his first Pro Bowl invite in 2012. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Jones is a special talent and is poised for a long and productive career with Matt Ryan throwing him passes.

14. Matt Kalil, OT, Minnesota
The top tackle taken in the 2012 NFL Draft has played from Game 1 for the much-improved Vikings. The former USC All-American started all 16 games as a rookie and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl because of it. He paved the way for Adrian Peterson's run at Eric Dickerson's all-time rushing record and helped return the Vikings to the postseason. He was a coveted prospect in high school, had a great college career and appears to be a lockdown bookend tackle for Minnesota. Having an All-Pro older brother (Ryan) and professional football father (Frank) has certainly helped as well. According to Football Outsiders, Kalil allowed just two sacks in his first 721 NFL snaps.

15. Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta
He is the most dominant major league reliever on the planet. The flame-throwing Braves closer won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2011 and is the only player in MLB to have posted at least 40 saves in each of the last two seasons — a feat he should accomplish again in 2013. He allowed just 25 earned runs in his first two seasons as Atlanta's closer (139.2 IP, 1.61 ERA). The 25-year old (May 28) is a two-time All-Star who finished ninth and fifth respectively in the Cy Young voting the last two seasons and was eighth in the MVP race a year ago.

16. Blake Griffin, PF, LA Clippers
It took the Oklahoma Sooner an extra year to get to the NBA court after sitting out his first season with a knee injury, but he has quickly become one of the most dominant forces in the league. His athletic ability is second to none as massive dunks and demoralizing blocks are a part of his regular routine. He averaged a double-double in his first two seasons — 22.5 ppg, 12.1 rpg and 20.7 ppg, 10.9 rbg — and this season helped lead the Clippers to their first postseason berth since 2005 and only the franchise's second playoff run since 1996. His numbers dropped a touch in his third consecutive All-Star season — 18.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg — but his career stat line is still absurd. Through 228 career games Griffin is averaging 20.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists on 52.9 percent shooting.

17. Taylor Hall, LW, Edmonton
The can't-miss No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, Hall posted back-to-back 20-goal seasons in his first two years in the pros — at age 19 and 20. In his third season this year, Hall finished ninth in the league in points (50), seventh in assists (7), fifth in power play goals (15) and seventh in points per game (1.11). He has helped the Oilers improve their winning percentage in each of his three seasons (.378 to .451 to .469).

18. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington
Ever since Bob Costas called his memorable, nationally hyped debut with 14 strikeouts over seven innings against Pittsburgh, Strasburg has been a star. Despite missing all but five starts of his second season due to Tommy John surgery, Strasburg has been virtually perfect. His first three seasons featured only 45 starts but his numbers are electric: 21-10, 2.94/1.09, 251.1 IP, 313 K. He even won a Silver Slugger award during that span as well. The flame-thrower has done nothing but live up to his extremely lofty expectations as the No. 1 overall pick out of San Diego State in 2009.

19. Matt Harvey, SP, NY Mets
The only other pitcher creating as much buzz as Strasburg is the Mets' flame-throwing righty from the University of North Carolina. Through 18 career starts, Harvey has a career ERA of 2.10 and 132 strikeouts in 115.2 innings. He has an effortless motion, excellent mechanics, a great mound demeanor and a filthy four-pitch arsenal. He has 12 quality starts in 18 trips to the bump and has allowed more than three runs in a start just once in his career.

20. Gabby Douglas, Gymnastics
Much like Franklin, Douglas earned her way into the hearts and minds of the nation following her impressive performance in London's 2012 Summer Olympics. At age 16, she became the first American woman gymnast to win the Gold medal for individual all-around competition and the first woman of color from any nationality to win the all-around Gold. She also helped lead the US to a team Gold in London and has posted gold podium finishes in the 2011 Tokyo World Championships and 2012 Pacific Rim Championships as well. She is poised for two more US Olympic showings before she turns 25.

21. Tyler Seguin, C, Boston
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft (Taylor Hall), Seguin took little time developing into one of the game's best. The All-Star centerman helped lead the Bruins to a Stanley Cup title as just a rookie in 2010-11 and exploded for 67 points as a second-year player the following season. He played in all 48 games this season and has finished second (+34) and seventh (+23) in Plus/Minus rating the last two seasons. Seguin has never missed the playoffs in his brief three-year career.

22. Mike Iupati, OG, San Francisco
The Niners have seen a remarkable turnaround under head coach Jim Harbaugh. Much of that can be attributed to what might be the best offensive line in the league. Iupati, taken 17th overall in the 2010 draft, has started every single game of his NFL career and has watched the 49ers' rushing attack flourish. After averaging 103.6 yards per game in 2010, SanFran rushed for 127.8 yards per game in 2011 and finished No. 4 in the NFL in rushing in 2013 (155.7). The 6-foot-5, 330-pound mauler helped the 49ers return to the Super Bowl and should be a mainstay in the Bay Area for years to come.

23. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington
The biggest issue with RG3 won’t be his accuracy, ability to protect the football, win games or produce big numbers. It will be his ability to stay healthy long enough to earn Hall of Fame status. He, like Luck, is a great leader who sets an example for all of those around him. Yet, his style of play has already proven to be a concern as he takes entirely too many hits. He has already missed time due to a concussion as well as a twisted knee. Despite these injuries, he led the Skins to a 10-6 mark and postseason berth last season, breaking Cam Newton's rookie QB rushing record in the process.

24. Kyle Larson, Earnhardt-Ganassi
The 20-year old phenom won the K&N Pro Series East in just his first full year racing stock cars in 2012 after growing up in the cockpit of all things open-wheel. The EGR developmental driver has quickly moved his way up the pro ranks, leap-frogging the Camping World Truck Series, and landing directly in the Nationwide Series in 2013 for Turner Scott Motorsports. In just eight races in the No. 32 Turner Chevrolet Camaro, Larson is 12th in the points — due mostly to two crashes — has posted three top 10s and finished runner-up at hallowed Bristol Motorspeedway. His meteoric rise through the sport could land him in a full-time ride at the highest level in a matter of months rather than years.

25. Mark McMorris, Snowboarding
Throwing some love to the alternative sports, McMorris has taken the snowboarding world by storm of late. The 19-year old Canadian is the two-time reigning Winter X Games Slopestyle Gold Medalist (2012-13) and also claimed the 2012 Big Air Gold at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., last year. He has defeated Shaun White by executing unprecedented tricks and wowing fans around North America, garnering comparisons to the Hall of Fame American rider. He won the Slopestyle Silver at the 2013 FIS Snowboarding World Championships.

Best of the Rest (alphabetically):

Harrison Barnes, G, Golden State (NBA)
Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs (MLB)
Aroldis Chapman, RP, Cincinnati (MLB)
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing (NASCAR)
Ty Dillon, Richard Childress Racing (NASCAR)
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England (NFL)
Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Florida (NHL)
Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina (NFL)
Gabriel Landeskog, W, Colorado (NHL)
Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore (MLB)
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, NY Giants (NFL)
Aldon Smith, DE, San Francisco (NFL)
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis (NHL)

Related Content:

5 Young NASCAR Drivers Who Could be Hall of Famers
15 Young NFL Players Who Could be Hall of Famers

10 Young MLB Players Who Could be Hall of Famers

10 Young NBA Players Who Could be Hall of Famers

 

Teaser:
<p> Top 25 Young Athletes Most Likely to be Hall of Famers</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 14:55
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/2013-mlb-power-rankings-may-14
Body:

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best (Texas Rangers) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.

 1. Rangers Scheppers-Ross-Nathan bullpen is tough to crack.
 
 2. Giants Matt Cain with back-to-back strong starts.
 
 3. Cardinals Even with sketchy bullpen, allowed fewest runs in majors.
 
 4. Yankees Won five straight, four by two runs or less. #MoreCloseGames
 
 5. Nationals Jordan Zimmermann leads NL with six wins.
 
 6. Red Sox Lost five of seven at the hands of Twins and Blue Jays.
 
 7. Orioles Only 6-5 in one-run games this season.
 
 8. Reds Just 6-13 against teams with winning records.
 
 9. Pirates Next 13 games vs. Brewers, Astros and Cubs.
 
10. Tigers 19-3 when scoring 4+ runs; 1-12 when scoring fewer.
 
11. Braves Justin Upton hasn’t homered since April 27.
 
12. Diamondbacks Committed just eight errors this season.
 
13. Rockies Won just seven of last 20 as bullpen innings mount.
 
14. A’s Recent 3-7 road trip featured .210 batting average, 4.55 ERA.
 
15. Rays Broke out with 52 runs to lead majors last week.
 
16. Royals Alex Gordon is carrying the offense.
 
17. Mariners Bats remain silent hitting just .211 in May.
 
18. Indians Majors’ best record in May at 9-2.
 
19. Phillies Right side of infield has 46 of team’s 82 RBIs.
 
20. Twins Joe Mauer: .600 OBP, 10 runs last week.
 
21. Padres Headley and Venable hitting .344 in May, rest of team, .176.
 
22. White Sox Chris Sale toyed with history last Sunday.
 
23. Cubs Kevin Gregg, yep, that Kevin Gregg, leads team with six saves.
 
24. Mets Matt Harvey just keeps dealing.
 
25. Blue Jays Led majors in home runs (15) and steals (10) last week.
 
26. Dodgers Five of eight losses in May by one run.
 
27. Brewers Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura are 1-2 in NL batting race. 
 
28. Angels On pace to lose 100 games.
 
29. Marlins Have won just one series this season.
 
30. Astros Opponents are batting .300.
 
 
AL Player of the Week
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay
The Rays are beginning to perk up and it’s no surprise that Longoria has been carrying the offense. Last week he hit safely in all seven games, batting .464 with a 1,496 OPS. He had eight extra-base hits, three homers and drove in 11 runs.
 
AL Pitcher of the Week
Chris Sale, Chicago
The lanky lefty’s gem on Sunday night against the Angels provided the highlight, but Sale was terrific in both starts last week. In addition to the one-hitter Sunday, Sale allowed just one run in 7.1 innings for a no-decision in a win at Kansas City. In 16.1 innings, Sale had a 0.43 WHIP and 0.59 ERA.
 
 
NL Player of the Week
Jean Segura, Milwaukee
The Brewers haven’t been very good recently, but their shortstop has been outstanding in the field and at the dish. Last week he batted .500 with four multi-hit games in the Brewers’ five games. Over the weekend at Cincinnati, he was 8-for-12 with a pair of homers, two doubles and four runs.
 
 
NL Pitcher of the Week
Shelby Miller, St. Louis
The young righthander made just one start last week, but what an outing it was. Miller allowed a leadoff single to Eric Young in the first inning, then retired the next 27 in order. The one-hitter was the first shutout of his career.
Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 11:11
Path: /college-football/how-many-games-will-florida-state-win-2013
Body:

Despite a revamped coaching staff and a handful of new starters, hopes are high in Tallahassee for the Seminoles to win 10 games in 2013.

New quarterback Jameis Winston turned in a terrific performance this spring and appears to be headed for a breakout year in his first season as a starter. In addition to Winston, Florida State’s offense returns a solid one-two punch at running back with James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman. The receiving corps is also one of the nation’s best, while the defense has plenty of talent to replace the departed starters.

The schedule is favorable for Florida State to push for double-digit wins. However, with so many changes, can the Seminoles get to that mark? Or will Florida State slip to eight or nine victories this year?

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Florida State ranks as Athlon's No. 15 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

How Many Games Will Florida State Win in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Florida State has the pieces to get to 11 wins, the question is if a season like that is considered a big victory for the Seminoles or if it leaves fans in Tallahassee unfulfilled. FSU is not a national-title contending team thanks to a handful of questions on offense, and the Noles’ ACC championship hopes aren’t ironclad, either. A road trip to Clemson will make things tough in the division. But quarterback Jameis Winston could be a special player for Jimbo Fisher, but he’s a redshirt freshman who could make his first career start on the road at Pittsburgh -- a manageable game, but no guarantee. Only four starters returning to the defense is worrisome at first glance, but the group coming back played enough last season to believe FSU can field a top-20 defense or better after fielding a top-two unit a year ago. Beyond road trips to Clemson and Florida and perhaps the home date against Miami, the schedule shouldn’t be too daunting for a team with talent on both sides of the ball. But this is FSU. Nothing is easy. An inexperienced quarterback, a lack of depth on offensive line and new coaches on both sides of the ball mean an injury or a loss to NC State or Wake Forest isn’t out of the question. 
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
10. Road games against Clemson and Florida are obviously the two toughest games on the schedule and it's hard to pick a Seminoles win in either. Four other tricky "swing" games could provide an upset — Miami on Nov. 2, the season opener in Pittsburgh, at Achilles Heel Wake Forest team on Nov. 9 and an improved Maryland team on Oct. 5 in Doak Campbell. However, Florida State should be a fairly heavy favorite in all four games.  So with a manageable schedule, the Noles are almost guaranteed nine wins but should lose the nasty road trips to The Swamp and Death Valley when facing the best two opposing quarterbacks on the schedule. So a 10-win season seems all but certain — either a 10-2 regular season or a 10-3 year with a win in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even with the loss of a handful of key players from last season’s team, Florida State is in great shape to make a run at 10 victories. Opening the year at Pittsburgh on a Monday night won’t be easy, but the Seminoles should have the edge in that matchup. And after playing the Panthers, Florida State should win its next four games to get to 4-1 by the time it has to travel to Death Valley to play Clemson. The Seminoles have lost five straight at Death Valley, and considering the Tigers are a heavy favorite to win the Atlantic Division, it would be a surprise to see Florida State win that game. However, after playing at Clemson, the Seminoles should be favored in the rest of their games, with the exception of the finale at Florida. A Nov. 2 matchup against Miami could be the toughest crossover game with the Coastal Division, but Florida State should finish with 10 victories and have a chance to position itself for an at-large spot into a BCS bowl.

 
Anson Whaley, Founder and Editor of Cardiac Hill@AnsonWhaley
With games against Bethune-Cookman, Idaho, Boston College, Syracuse, and Nevada, the path to bowl eligibility should come fairly easily for Florida State. The Seminoles should also be favored in games against Pitt, Maryland, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest. Contests against Miami, Clemson, and Florida will be decidedly more difficult, but FSU should be able to compete there, too. My bet is on the Seminoles winning those first five, three of those next four, and one of the last three to get to nine victories. But with so many winnable games, ten isn't out of the question, either.
 

Mark Ross
The Seminoles had 11 players taken in this year's NFL Draft, the most of any team, but the cupboard is far from bare in Tallahassee. Jimbo Fisher's bunch should be right in the mix of things in the ACC's Atlantic Division, with the Oct. 19 showdown at Clemson potentially deciding who goes to Charlotte, N.C., in December to play for the conference title. FSU's schedule isn't that daunting with the regular-season finale at Florida and a Nov. 2 visit from fellow in-state rival Miami shaping up to be the only other tough matchups on its slate. Even with a new quarterback and seven starters on defense, this team should still find a way to reach double digits in the win column before the bowl bids are handed out.


Related Content

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Ranking the ACC Quarterbacks for 2013

Ranking the ACC Running Backs for 2013

Ranking College Football's Top 25 Dynasties of the BCS Era

Which Team is the Favorite to Win the ACC Coastal Division in 2013?

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches for 2013

Ranking the Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

Ranking the Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> How Many Games Will Florida State Win in 2013?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 06:40
Path: /mlb/clone-fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-may-13
Body:

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2013 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire report every Monday. Our fantasy junkies cover the hottest hitters, best waiver wire pick ups, top starting pitching spot starts and sift through bullpens from around the league each week.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (May 6-12):

  Name Pos. Team R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Evan Longoria 3B TB 8 3 11 0 .464 1.495
2. Paul Goldschmidt 1B ARI 5 4 9 0 .348 1.293
3. Will Venable* OF SD 5 2 4 3 .368 1.113
4. Alex Gordon OF KC 5 3 8 0 .393 1.165
5. Joe Mauer C/1B MIN 10 0 4 0 .533 1.433
6. Vernon Wells* OF NYY 4 3 7 1 .360 1.080
7. Jean Segura SS MIL 5 2 2 2 .500 1.495
8. Chris Carter* 1B/OF HOU 4 3 8 0 .375 1.438
9. Ryan Doumit* C/OF MIN 7 3 7 0 .250 .977
10. Hunter Pence OF SF 7 2 3 2 .286 .904
11. Dustin Pedroia 2B BOS 5 1 3 1 .483 1.186
12. James Loney* 1B TB 5 2 5 1 .308 .994
13. Jhonny Peralta* SS DET 8 1 1 1 .438 1.300
14. Justin Morneau* 1B MIN 5 0 9 0 .407 .905
15. Jose Bautista OF TOR 4 2 7 0 .360 1.158
16. Marco Scutaro* 2/3/SS SF 4 1 5 0 .467 1.234
17. Ian Desmond SS WAS 4 2 6 0 .389 1.283
18. Jose Altuve 2B HOU 4 1 3 2 .364 .920
19. Dan Uggla* 2B ATL 9 2 3 0 .240 .905
20. Shane Victorino OF BOS 6 2 2 0 .393 1.076
21. Adrian Beltre 3B TEX 4 2 7 0 .308 .948
22. Matt Dominguez* 3B HOU 4 2 6 0 .333 1.000
23. Nick Swisher 1B/OF CLE 6 2 4 0 .308 1.071
24. Edwin Encarnacion 1B TOR 3 2 6 1 .269 .875
25. Manny Machado 3B BAL 5 0 3 1 .444 .983

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Weekly Waiver Wire:

Justin Morneau, 1B, MIN (57% owned in Yahoo! leagues)
I have been going to the Twins waiver wire well for a couple of weeks now and Morneau is the next name to add — as could Ryan Doumit and his "C" eligibility. The former MVP is on a eight-game hitting streak that raised his average from .250 to .285. He won't ever return to big-bopper, MVP form, but he is very serviceable in more than one category on a team that seems to be improving.

James Loney, 1B, TB (27%)
I told fantasy GMs to add the light-hitting first baseman two weeks ago and Loney has delivered in a big way. He has five three-hit games and eight multi-hit performances in his last 14 starts, raising his average to .376. He won't hit for power but he should hit for average and drive in runs. If you need help at the corner spot, there is plenty to like on the wire this week.

Chris Carter, 1B, HOU (21%)
Carter too is appearing for the second time on this list. He must always be mentioned with a warning label for a low average and no speed. But he simply keeps producing this year. He is a last-resort option but if you need power, Carter is worth a look after three dingers last week. That's 25 HRs in his last 104 games.

Jhonny Peralta, SS, DET (48%)
The aging middle infielder makes the list due to his position alone. He won't maintain his .315 average as a career .266 hitter with three of his four seasons producing sub-.255 rates. However, his .299 in 2011 was extremely useful. He will help most rosters at his position and plays for one of the best offenses in the league. Don't expect too much but Peralta can be a stopgap until, say, Jose Reyes or Hanley Ramirez return.

Last Week:

Yonder Alonso, 1B, SD: 5/20, R, 3 RBI, SB
Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL: 3/20, R, 2B
Ryan Raburn, 2B/OF, CLE: 4/16, 1 R, 2 2B, RBI
A.J. Pollock, OF, ARI: 6/19, 2 R, 4 2B, 2 RBI

 

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Chris Sale CWS 23.1 2 19 1.16 0.64
2. Scott Feldman* CHC 22.0 2 21 1.23 0.68
3. Max Scherzer DET 23.1 3 25 3.09 0.69
4. Ubaldo Jimanez* CLE 18.2 3 20 1.45 0.86
5. Shelby Miller STL 15.0 2 18 0.60 0.60
6. Jordan Zimmerman WAS 15.0 2 15 0.60 0.73
7. James Shields KC 23.0 1 21 1.57 0.78
8. Felix Hernandez SEA 16.0 2 21 0.56 0.75
9. Matt Harvey NYM 21.1 0 23 1.27 0.80
10. Justin Verlander DET 19.0 2 24 1.89 1.16
11. Derek Holland TEX 15.0 2 15 0.60 1.13
12. Hisashi Iwakuma SEA 14.0 2 14 1.93 0.86
13. Scott Kazmir* CLE 12.0 2 17 2.25 0.92
14. Hector Santiago* CWS 12.1 1 14 0.73 0.81
15. Jose Fernandez* MIA 17.0 2 20 2.65 1.06
16. A.J. Burnett PIT 14.0 1 18 1.93 0.86
17. Hiroki Kuroda NYY 21.2 2 12 1.66 1.06
18. Jeremy Guthrie* KC 15.0 2 6 0.60 1.00
19. Patrick Corbin ARI 13.1 2 11 1.35 1.05
20. Kyle Kendrick* PHI 21.0 2 15 2.57 1.00

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Top 5 Spot Starts for the Week (Mon. - Sun.):

1. Tony Cingrani, CIN: (Thur.) at Miami (73% owned)
He hasn't been elite in his last two starts, but he still boasts a pretty tasty line: 28.0 IP, 2-0, 2.89/1.00, 37 K, 7 BB. And the Miami Marlins should pose little to no threat for a surging team (7-2). Look for the rook to get back on track this week.

2. Wade Miley, ARI: (Sun.) at Miami (72%)
The young lefty had two rough starts in a row (9.1 IP, 0-1, 4 ER, 10 BB) before bouncing back last time out. He tossed 7.2 innings against the Dodgers, allowing two earned runs while striking out four with no walks. Against the Marlins, Miley is all systems go.

3. Jose Fernandez, MIA: (Thur.) Cincinnati (44%)
The extremely talented rookie is owned in less than half of Yahoo! leagues and I have no idea why. The elite prospect will have his rough outings but has way too much natural ability. Over his last two starts, The Cuban defector is 2-0 with three earned runs allowed and 16 strikeouts in 13.0 innings.

4. Travis Wood, CHC: (Sun.) NY Mets (52%)
Wood has been the Cubs team MVP to this point, posting awesome 2.33/0.93 ratios over 46.1 innings and is 7-for-7 in quality starts. Against the Mets this weekend, that streak should continue. 

5. Trevor Cahill, ARI: (Fri.) Philadelphia (59%)
The Reds and D-Backs — who each face Miami this week — are a good place to look for pitching. Cahill hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in four straight starts with two wins. He isn't great in K:BB leagues but should be on target against the lowly Marlins this weekend.
 

Closing Morsels:

Joel Hanrahan will soon undergo flexor tendon surgery, ending his 2013 season while Andrew Bailey is targeting a late-week return. In the mean time, stay away from Boston's pen. Koji Uehara has allowed four baserunners and two runs in his last three innings while Junichi Tazawa has given up at least two hits and one run in each of his last two outings. Bailey can't return fast enough ... Cleveland closer Chris Perez has been excellent in his few chances this year. However, he complained of shoulder soreness this weekend and was held out of the save chance in the ninth on Sunday. Monitor ... I don't like the idea, but Heath Bell might need to be added. If desperate, the current D-Backs closer is a worth a look. As expected, he has three saves and two blown saves in his eight outings. But he's got the ninth for now. Keep David Hernandez close by... Brandon League has allowed 10 ER in his last 11.1 IP. Is it time for Kenley Jansen in the ninth? It worked well last year ... The Royals went 1-6 last week and didn't have many chances but Greg Holland only pitched one inning after his blow-up last Monday. It was spotless and featured two Ks so it looks like owners will keep getting saves — but at what price? Aaron Crow's line: 9.1 IP, ER, SV, 6 HLD, 7 K, 0.96/0.86 ... Toronto's Sergio Santos and Los Angeles' Ryan Madson are scheduled to return in the next week. Keep an eye on both as they could be primary setup men and potential stopgap closers in case of injury.

Keep up to date all season long with Athlon Sports' Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: May 13</p>
Post date: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 12:45
Path: /nascar/matt-kenseth-joe-gibbs-racing-riding-high-after-darlington-win
Body:

The Southern 500, while no longer held on Labor Day is still looked at as one of NASCAR’s biggest races. Darlington remains the place where, in 1950, an egg-shaped, awkward-looking asphalt track gave birth to superspeedway competition. Thirty-five years later, a million-dollar Chase by a man named Awesome Bill was another notch in the sport’s belt that wrapped the racetrack into our national consciousness. Like golf’s Masters, purists regard it as one of the sport’s crown jewels.

“I don’t know that I’ve had a win that feels bigger than this at this moment,” said Matt Kenseth on Saturday night. Keep in mind, the former Sprint Cup champ has had plenty of ‘em; well over two dozen, including two of the last five Daytona 500s. “There’s a lot of tradition here. This is one of the most storied and historic races anywhere, not just in NASCAR.”

To those Kenseth’s age and older, that will always ring true. The key is getting a new generation to embrace it. Overnight ratings at Darlington, for the 18-to-49 crowd according to zap2it.com lost out to the NBA Playoffs on ABC. “The Lady In Black” can tear a Chevrolet apart, but the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony? He slam dunks right in her face.

It’s a shame, as an initial marketing push for Darlington’s May date designed to keep the seats filled has faded through the years, leaving the “Track Too Tough To Tame” a “Track Too Easy To Forget.” For one of the most important races on the schedule, getting tucked into Mother’s Day weekend on a Saturday night makes the race now seem lost, not loved. The importance of the Chase has diminished its overall worth on the schedule; right now, it’s just another event, with no Winston Millions or even an extra $100 bill attached to the trophy. Having a track-position yawner of a race Saturday didn’t help, either, as Goodyear seems like it’s missing the mark here more often than not.

People say NASCAR has been losing its place on the national sports landscape for several years. Perhaps it’s because of simple decisions like this one, making a race its most dedicated supporters love just another notch on a long, monotonous conveyor belt. While Kasey Kahne feels like he deserves an apology this Monday, Darlington is looking for something much more simple: attention.


FIRST GEAR: Gibbs vs. Hendrick, anyone?
The brief moment sparks flew at Darlington between Hendrick’s Kahne and Gibbs’ Kyle Busch could be a sign of things to come down the road. In virtually every category you could come up with, their two organizations — totaling seven cars — have put a whooping on the 2013 Sprint Cup field. Kenseth’s win, earned when Busch had a right-rear tire go bad down the stretch, was his third in 11 races, a series high. Busch has tacked on two additional victories for JGR, as the teammates have combined for a series-leading 1,521 laps led – more than the next eight drivers on the list combined. Kenseth has been especially impressive, seizing opportunities (Las Vegas, Darlington) late in the race where others have dominated. And he did it this time with a temporary crew chief in Wally Brown, as Jason Ratcliff serves out a downgraded NASCAR penalty after an appeals court turned his Kansas engine issue into a blip on the radar screen.

Hendrick has countered with Jimmie Johnson, fourth on Saturday night and on virtual cruise control on top of the point standings. Winning twice, Johnson has just one result outside the top 20, remains a contender at every type of track and, this season, has avoided the sting of NASCAR’s inspection process. Teammates Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon all look strong enough to make the Chase on points meaning 50 percent of the postseason field, at minimum, will be comprised of these two multi-car giants.

How dominant have these teams been? Just three of 11 races this season have been won by other organizations, and each can easily be explained away. Carl Edwards took Phoenix for Roush Fenway Racing in the second Gen-6 race, where rock hard tires meant no passing and track position roulette. Kevin Harvick captured Richmond for Richard Childress Racing, but he led just three laps in a bizarre, roll-the-dice green-white-checker ending. And David Ragan’s Talladega triumph last week? We know how much that race acts like your state’s lottery number machine.

So it’s clear that on the Chase tracks where handling, horsepower and head wrenches actually make the difference, HMS and JGR stand head and shoulders above the rest. With the season nearly halfway complete, it’s time for everyone else to start stepping up.
 

Teaser:
<p> Reaction from NASCAR's weekend at Darlington Raceway for the Southern 500.</p>
Post date: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 12:23
All taxonomy terms: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Golf
Path: /golf/tiger-vs-jack-tale-tape
Body:

Through last month's Masters, the 37-year-old Tiger Woods has 14 wins in 63 major championship starts as a professional; through the 1977 Masters, the 37-year-old Nicklaus had 14 wins in 61 major championship starts as a professional.

That's some amazing career symmetry right there, but it seems appropriate, given that Tiger came out of the gate with Nicklaus' major championship record as his ultimate target.

For a long time, Woods was well ahead of Nicklaus' career pace, but a drought that is nearing five years in duration has put a serious dent in Tiger's major aspirations. Of course, Nicklaus won his last major at age 46, giving Woods nine more years of viability on the major championship scene, a reasonable assumption considering the similarity of their career trajectories.

Here are the final four majors of Nicklaus' career, all of which came at age 38 and beyond:
1978 British Open (age 38)
1980 U.S. Open (age 40)
1980 PGA Championship (age 40)
1986 Masters (age 46)

Woods turns 46 in December 2021. Between now and then, there will be 36 major championships contested; Woods needs to win five of them to reach his career Holy Grail of 19 major championships.

Of course, Tiger has already moved well past Nicklaus into second on the Tour's all-time wins ledger. Tiger trails only Sam Snead, who won 82 times over a 30-year span; Woods has crammed his 78 wins into 17-plus stellar, occasionally storm-tossed seasons on Tour.

Jack thinks he'll do it. "I still think he'll break my record," Nicklaus said during the Honda Classic. "Tiger's talent, at 37 ... it's not that old. I won four after that. They were spread out. It wasn't that difficult. I don't think for Tiger to get four or five more — or six or seven — is that big a stretch.
"But that said, he has still got to do it. He hasn't won one in five years. He had better get with it if he's going to."

So let's look at the two legends — Tiger today, and Nicklaus at a similar point in his career.
Bottom line from the data presented here: Tiger's building the better overall career, but Jack remains the greatest performer in major championship history. That's the carrot that Tiger is still chasing, and he has time to get there.

 

                                                                                  Tiger Woods            Jack Nicklaus
Tournaments won (through 300 starts)                77                                 54
Tournament winning % (300 starts)                   26.0                              18.0
Majors won (first 63 starts)                                 14                                 14
Major winning %                                                      22.2                              22.2
Major top 5s                                                               31                                 41
Major top 10s                                                             37                                 48
Longest streak of top-5 in majors                        6                                   7
Longest streak of top-10 in majors                      8                                  13
Lowest scoring avg.                                          8 times                         8 times
Money leader                                                    9 times                         8 times

Teaser:
<p> A Comparison of Woods and Nicklaus through 300 starts</p>
Post date: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 11:18
All taxonomy terms: Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods, Golf
Path: /golf/10-amazing-stats-players-championship
Body:

Some Twitter comedian observed that Tiger Woods apparently retained ownership of Sergio Garcia in his pre-nup with Elin. That's harsh, but this much remains clear: Even after his perceived struggles of the last few major-less seasons, Tiger is far more prepared for the big moment than Garcia.

Fourteen years after their memorable duel at the 1999 PGA Championship, their respective careers have taken wildly divergent paths. After yesterday's win at The Players Championship, Woods now has 78 career PGA Tour wins. Sergio has had his moments — eight Tour wins, 10 Euro wins, various Ryder Cup heroics — but did anyone really think that Sergio would survive the 17-18 gauntlet yesterday? The golf gods simple weren't going to allow it, especially after Garcia's Saturday whining about Tiger distracting him.

The amazing numbers from the weekend's festivities:

4 With the win, Tiger Woods is only four wins behind all-time PGA Tour wins leader Sam Snead, who won his final Tour event at age 52. Tiger is 37. I think he has time to get there.

13 Garcia required 13 shots to navigate the final two holes at TPC Sawgrass, following up his quad at 17 with a double-bogey 6 at 18, where he rinsed another ball.

12 The win was Woods' fourth of the 2013 season, marking the 12th season of his career with four wins or more. Think about that: For most players, four wins denotes a career-making year. Tiger's had 12 of them.

53-4 Woods ran his career record to 53-4 when holding at least a share of the 54-hole lead. He's the Mariano Rivera of golfers; give him the lead, and it's Enter Sandman.

300 Woods won the 300th start of his career. He also won the 100th and 200th starts of his career. Tiger apparently likes round numbers.

26 Tiger has now won 26 percent of his career PGA Tour starts. More than a quarter of the time he's teed it up, he's won. For reference, after his 300th start, Jack Nicklaus had 54 wins, a winning percentage of .180.

+13 The day was not without drama, thanks largely to Woods' double bogey at 14. For his career, Woods is 13-over par on that hole.

10 TPC Sawgrass has historically not been terribly friendly to Tiger. This year marked the first time in 10 years that Woods completed four par-or-better rounds in one Players.

4 Woods has his fourth victory, and it's only May 13. It's the earliest in a season that Woods has ever earned his fourth win.

3.25 Yesterday, the infamous par-3 17th claimed its share of victims. Players navigated the 137-yard hole in an average of 3.25 strokes on Sunday, the highest of the week. On Thursday, the average was 3.08; on Friday, 2.97; and on Saturday, 3.03. Of course, Sergio's 7 at the hole skews the Sunday average slightly.

Teaser:
<p> Tiger Woods Wins, Sergio Gags, and All Is Well on Tour</p>
Post date: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/texas-am-or-lsu-which-team-finishes-higher-sec-west-2013
Body:

With Alabama expected to be the No. 1 team in most preseason polls in 2013, combined with potential top-10 teams in LSU and Texas A&M, the SEC West should be one of the deepest divisions in college football. That also doesn’t include an improving Ole Miss squad, and Arkansas and Auburn – two teams that should also get better under the direction of new head coaches.

Texas A&M took the SEC by storm last season, winning 11 games and upsetting Alabama 29-24 in Tuscaloosa. The Aggies return a good chunk of personnel from last year, but the defense is a question mark.

LSU was predicted by most to be a top-five team in 2012 and may have underachieved with a 10-3 record. The Tigers have some key personnel losses on defense and need more from quarterback Zach Mettenberger. 

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Texas A&M or LSU: Which Team Finishes Higher in the SEC West in 2013?

Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
Texas A&M and LSU open in 2013 with the same goal: dethrone the Crimson Tide. The Tigers are the prom queen who has been around for a few years and will always be a contender, while Texas A&M is the sexy new transfer who’s getting the most attention.

LSU just presents more questions. The offense is going through a transition in coordinators, the defense lost six starters and arguably the SEC’s best back in Jeremy Hill may not even play in 2013 because of legal issues. And we haven’t even started talking about LSU’s hellacious schedule, which features five preseason ranked teams and includes road trips to Alabama and Georgia.

Texas A&M should finish first or second in the West, depending largely on the outcome of the Alabama game. The Aggies should score 40 points or more per game, and the schedule sets up nearly perfect, with just two preseason ranked teams. Obviously losing five front seven starters on defense is a major concern, but anytime teams score the way Texas A&M does, they will always be in the game. The weak schedule alone screams more wins, and add in Johnny Manziel and an electrifying offense, and it makes it even tougher to bet against the Aggies.
 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Texas A&M has a much greater chance of matching last season’s 6-2 record in the SEC while I would be surprised to see LSU match last year’s performance in the conference. The Aggies are hoping for a national title run, a prospect that may be too optimistic without a playmaker on defense like Damontre Moore. But the Aggies still have Johnny Manziel, who again will be a great equalizer in the league. LSU just has too much rebuilding to do to expect six SEC wins against a schedule that includes road trips to Alabama and Georgia, plus Florida and Texas A&M at home. LSU reloads every year on defense, but have really seen the Tigers need to replace this much muscle on that side of the ball? Kevin Minter, Eric Reid, Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, plus the ace special teams duo of Brad Wing and Drew Alleman, are all gone. Even Alabama would have trouble recruiting well enough to make a seamless transition with that many losses. 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I don’t think this debate is even close. Texas A&M will finish ahead of LSU and could challenge for an SEC West title while the Bayou Bengals could lose as many as four games. Every team in the SEC could be as good or better in 2013 than it was in 2012 with the exception of LSU. A massive exodus of talent, a mediocre starting quarterback and improving SEC schedule leads me to believe that the Tigers will once again underachieve. The Aggies, too, must replace some big names — Joeckel, Swope, Moore, Porter — but have the core of their 10-win team back, including a superstar quarterback. Many around the league are concerned about the overall direction of the LSU program since the national title loss to Alabama and the rest of the SEC has gained significant ground on the Tigers. Games at Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama are nasty while home games with Florida, Texas A&M, Auburn and Arkansas provide plenty of challenges as well. And if TCU catches Les Miles’ bunch napping in Week 1, things could unravel quickly in Louisiana. Gig ‘Em.
 

Josh Ward, MrSEC.com, (@Josh_Ward)
LSU will have home-field advantage when the two teams play in Baton Rouge on Nov. 23, but Texas A&M will face a more favorable schedule in league play. LSU has the misfortune of having to play Florida and Georgia, the top two teams in the Eastern Division in 2012. Texas A&M will play Missouri and Vanderbilt from the East, a pair of opponents much easier to handle. Texas A&M also gets Alabama at home while LSU has to travel to Tuscaloosa.

LSU and Texas A&M both have to replace several key starters on defense. The advantage for Texas A&M lies on offense, starting at quarterback. Johnny Manziel returns from his Heisman season with more offensive weapons around him. The addition of transfer running back Brandon Williams and wide receiver signee Ja’Quay Williams (no relation) will make Manziel’s job even easier. LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger returns with a year of experience, but he doesn’t present the same kind of threat to opposing defenses as Manziel.

Texas A&M’s depth of talent on offense and less-challenging conference schedule should help the Aggies finish higher than LSU in the SEC West.


Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Despite question marks about the defense and the loss of left tackle Luke Joeckel to the NFL Draft, I like Texas A&M to finish ahead of LSU in the SEC West. Quarterback Johnny Manziel may not have the monster season that he had in 2012, but the sophomore is still the SEC’s No. 1 quarterback and will be a handful for opposing defenses. The backfield is one of the deepest in the nation, and the offensive line should be solid with the return of Jake Matthews, Jarvis Harrison and Cedric Ogbuehi.

The biggest concern for Texas A&M is a defense that ranked ninth in the SEC in yards allowed and loses end Damontre Moore and linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart. However, the Aggies have a favorable schedule, as they miss Georgia, Florida and South Carolina in crossover play, and Alabama visits College Station on Sept. 14.

While the Aggies have some fairly significant personnel issues on defense, the Tigers could be without running back Jeremy Hill for an extended period of time, quarterback Zach Mettenberger is a question mark, and the defense returns only three starters. LSU has a challenging schedule, including a non-conference game against TCU and crossover SEC matchups against Georgia and Florida.

LSU will reload and should end up with eight or nine wins by the end of 2013. However, the Tigers will finish behind Texas A&M and could be pushed by Ole Miss for third place in the SEC West. 
 

Mark Ross
Texas A&M will have to venture into Tiger Stadium for the first time since 1994 to play LSU, but the Bayou Bengals have both Georgia (road) and Florida (home) as their crossover games in conference play. The Aggies' East opponents this season are Vanderbilt (home) and Missouri (road). The Bulldogs and Gators went a combined 23-4 overall and 14-2 in the SEC last season and will enter this fall as preseason top 10 teams. The Commodores and Tigers from the SEC East went a combined 14-11 overall and 7-9 in conference play in 2012 and only Vandy will receive any top-25 preseason consideration. Who do you think has the advantage here when it comes to schedule?

If that's not enough, Texas A&M gets Alabama at home, while LSU will travel to Tuscaloosa to face the two-time defending national champions. Yes, the Tigers were victorious the last time they played in Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2011, but don't forget the Aggies won there last season too. Last I checked, the man largely responsible for that impressive victory is still playing quarterback for A&M. Johnny Football may not win the Heisman again, but I expect him to lead the charge as the Aggies show for a second straight season they belong in the SEC by finishing ahead of the Tigers.


Related College Football Content

Georgia, Florida or South Carolina: Who Will Win the SEC East in 2013?
Will Missouri Make a Bowl Game in 2013?
Ranking the SEC Running Backs for 2013

Ranking the SEC Quarterbacks for 2013

Will Tennessee Make a Bowl in 2013?

Ole Miss or Mississippi State: Who Wins More SEC Games in 2013?

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches for 2013

Ranking the SEC Head Coaches for 2013

College Football's Top 10 Assistant Coaches on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 10 Defensive Players on the Rise for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Texas A&amp;M or LSU: Which Team Finishes Higher in the SEC West in 2013?</p>
Post date: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 08:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-25-greatest-dynasties-ap-era
Body:

Dynasty is a word that gets tossed around all too liberally by fans and media members alike. However, there are periods of time in sports where the term is not only applicable but completely accurate. The NFL had the Packers of the '60s, the Steelers of the '70s, the 49ers of the '80s, the Cowboys of the '90s and the Patriots of the '00s. The NBA has the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls and soon-to-be Heat dynasties. Baseball has the Yankees and… the Yankees. And John Wooden and the UCLA Bruins basketball program might be the greatest sports dynasty of all-time.

Defining a "dynasty" can be done many different ways and, for the most part, lies in the eye of the beholder. Generally speaking, elite level dominance over a period of time — ideally, the longer the better with championships to show for it — is how "dynasty" is defined. Awards, NFL talent, championships and statistical records are all considered as well. 

College football fans around the nation are just a few months away from the final season of the BCS era. When the season kicks off August 28 in Nashville, Tenn., the University of Alabama will be attempting the first-ever three-peat in BCS history and is looking for its unprecedented fourth national championship in five years.

The 2013 season aside, Nick Saban’s recent run with the Crimson Tide must be considered one college football’s greatest dynasties. But it is No. 1?

Athlon Sports ranks the Top 25 greatest college football dynasties since the AP Poll debuted in 1934:

1. Oklahoma Sooners (1948-58): 107-8
Legendary head coach Charles “Bud” Wilkinson began a miraculous run in his second season at Norman. Over this 11-year span, Oklahoma had four undefeated seasons, six with just one loss and only one year (1951, 8-2) in which it lost more than one game. The Sooners claimed three national championship (1950, '55, '56), all 11 conference championships and one Heisman Trophy winner (Billy Vessels, 1952). The most impressive aspect of this dynasty? Two of the top 10 longest winning streaks in NCAA history, including the the all-time mark of 47 straight victories from 1953-57. Oklahoma also won 31 straight from 1948-50, which ranks 10th all-time in the record books. Oklahoma's historic run in the 1950s was the most dominant dynasty in college football history.

2. Nebraska Cornhuskers (1993-97): 60-3
Is winning more than 95 percent of your games a good thing? That is what Tom Osborne did at Nebraska over his final five seasons. Led by arguably the greatest college quarterback of all-time in Tommie Frazier, the Big Red posted four unbeaten regular seasons, all of which culminated in a trip to the national championship game. One loss to Florida State in the ’93 Orange Bowl is the only thing that kept the Huskers from four national championships in five seasons. A huge upset in the inaugural Big 12 title game to Texas was one of just three losses during this stretch. This Nebraska run produced the 19th longest winning streak in NCAA history with 26 straight wins from 1994-96.

3. Miami Hurricanes (1986-92): 78-6
On the heels of Howard Schnellenberger’s 1983 championship, Miami returned to the promised land under Jimmy Johnson in 1987 and Dennis Erickson in 1989 and '91. Over this seven-year span, the Canes lost less than one game per season, moved into the Big East and won two Heisman Trophies with Vinny Testaverde (1986) and Gino Torretta (1992). The 29-game winning streak that was snapped by Alabama in what was Miami’s fifth national title game appearance in seven years is the 13th longest streak in NCAA history. From 1983-92, Miami posted a record of 107-14.

4. Alabama Crimson Tide (2008-present): 61-7
There is more than one dynasty in Crimson Tide history, but it’s tough to argue that Saban’s run isn’t the most impressive. After nearly 20 years without a title and against the most ruthless conference ever built, Alabama claimed the national championship and the school’s first-ever Heisman Trophy in 2009. The undefeated ’09 team is arguably the most talented Alabama team ever constructed. Then, after a 10-3 year in 2010, the defense and quarterback A.J. McCarron have dominated college football’s biggest stage with a combined 63-14 drubbing of LSU and Notre Dame in the past two BCS National Championship Games. A narrow loss in the 2008 SEC title game to Tim Tebow and Florida after a 12-0 regular season is the only thing keeping Alabama from going for its fifth title in six years. The most interesting tidbit about this five-year dynasty? Alabama has won more national championships (3) than SEC titles (2).

5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1941-49): 75-7-6
Led by the great Frank Leahy — who took a two-year leave to serve in the U.S. military — Notre Dame won four national championships (1943, '46, '47, '49) and posted five unbeaten seasons during this remarkable nine-year window. From 1946-49, Notre Dame didn’t lose a game and only tied twice — costing the Irish a fifth national title in 1948. Leahy coached three Heisman Trophy winners in Angelo Bertelli, Johnny Lujack and Leon Hart during this dynasty.

6. USC Trojans (2002-08): 82-9
Led by Pete Carroll, the USC Trojans won seven straight Pac-10 conference championships, won two national championships (2003, '04), claimed three Heisman Trophy winners (Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush), put countless players into the NFL Draft and tied Miami for the longest modern winning streak. The 34-game run from 2003-05 is sixth all-time and ended when Vince Young scampered around the right end in the greatest game ever played. The Men of Troy never won fewer than 11 games for seven straight years. Was this team tainted by an NFL agent wannabe scandal well after the fact? To some degree, however, it wasn't a recruiting violation that impacted a competitive advantage. No matter how you view the Reggie Bush issues, this USC dynasty was one of the best in college football history. 

7. Miami Hurricanes (2000-03): 46-4
Butch Davis built it and Larry Coker finished it off. On what many believe to be the best team ever assembled — as its 17 first-round picks indicate — Miami won four straight Big East championships and one unbeaten national title in 2000. This team came up one pass interference call against Ohio State from back-to-back national crowns, and, at one point, rattled-off 34 straight wins. The winning streak was the longest since Wilkinson’s 47-gamer in the late '50s and is still tied for the sixth-best in NCAA history.

8. Alabama Crimson Tide (1961-66): 60-5-1
In Bear Bryant’s fourth season (1961), the historic coach returned Alabama to the top of college football’s hierarchy with an 11-0 national title. He went on to lose just five games over the next five seasons, including two more national championships (1964, '65) and another unbeaten season (1966). Hall of Famer Joe Namath, the “greatest player [Bear Bryant] ever coach,” spearheaded this team for three years (1962-64) to a 29-4 record as a starter. This remarkable six-year run — with three national and four SEC crowns — built the foundation for legend that is Bear Bryant.

9. Army Black Knights (1944-49): 49-2-4
Under historic head coach Earl “Red” Blaik, the U.S. Army dominated college football for the better part of the decade. While the nation was captivated by the ongoing World War in Europe, the Knights steamrolled college football. This team won three consecutive national titles (1944-46) led by an All-Heisman backfield of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis. Blaik posted five unbeaten seasons in six years.

10. Florida State Seminoles (1992-2000): 99-11-1
Few teams have ever dominated a conference like the Seminoles did in the ACC during the 1990s. Bobby Bowden’s team never finished outside of the AP top four and won all nine ACC championships during this span. His team played in five national titles games, winning the whole thing in 1993 and '99 behind eventual Heisman winners Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke respectively.

11. Oklahoma Sooners (1973-80): 73-7
The Sooners' second dynasty took place just a decade later when Barry Switzer took over in 1973 as head coach. He began his tenure with eight consecutive conference titles, two national championships (1974, '75) and a Billy Sims Heisman Trophy (1978). During this span, OU never lost more than two games in a season and posted a 28-game winning streak, which ranks 15th all-time in NCAA history.

12. Alabama Crimson Tide (1971-79): 97-11
Bear Bryant’s second dynasty began seven years after his last one ended. Alabama won eight SEC titles in nine years and claimed the 1973, '78 and '79 national championships. Alabama’s school-record 28-game winning streak began in ’78 and ended three seasons later in 1980 — most of which took place during this dynasty. The 1979 championship featured the best record in school history (at that time) at 12-0 and gave Bryant his third and final unblemished campaign.

13. USC Trojans (1967-79): 122-23-7
One of the longer dynasties on this list, these Trojans were led first by John McKay (1967-75) and then John Robinson (1976-79). The tandem won four national championships (1967, '72, '74, '78), nine conference crowns and two Heisman Trophies (O.J. Simpson, Charles White) over the 13-year period of time.

14. Florida Gators (2006-09): 48-7
Urban Meyer posted three 13-1 records in a four-year span and the only time he didn’t win 13 games, Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy (2007). This dynasty featured two national titles in 2006 and '08 and came up one game shy in 2009 of what would assuredly have been a third championship.

15. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1964-73): 69-15-4
The Ara Parseghian era got started with a bang when the first-year coach won the 1964 national championship as John Huarte won the Heisman. The Irish would go on to win two more titles (1966, '73) before the legendary coach would step down following the 1974 season.

16. Texas Longhorns (1961-70): 89-17-2
The Longhorns won three national championships and six conference titles under Darrell K. Royal during the '60s. This team also won 30 straight games, good for 12th all-time in NCAA history. Royal had seven seasons of one loss or less during this span.

17. Minnesota Golden Gophers (1934-41): 54-9-1
Starting right when the AP Poll debuted, the Golden Gophers were one of the first true dynasties in college football. Hallowed coach Bernie Bierman won five national championships and lost just nine games during the eight-year span. Minnesota won all but one Big Ten crown from 1934-41.

18. Oklahoma Sooners (2000-08): 102-19
Head coach Bob Stoops led the Sooners back to the promised land in just his second season by claiming the 2000 BCS national title. During this nine-year run, Oklahoma played in four national title games, won five conference championships and claimed two Heisman Trophies.

19. Ohio State Buckeyes (2002-10): 99-17
Jim Tressell returned Ohio State to the pinnacle of college football with an unbeaten 2002 team. He then won six more Big Ten titles and a Heisman Trophy (Troy Smith) over the next seven years while playing in two more BCS title games.

20. Michigan Wolverines (1940-48): 68-13-2
Coached mostly by Herbert “Fritz” Crisler, Michigan won four Big Ten championships and two national titles during the 1940s. This team rattled off 25 straight wins from 1946-49 and posted two unbeaten seasons — coached by Crisler and Beenie Oosterbaan (1948).

21. Texas Longhorns (2004-09): 69-9
Over this six-year span, Texas averaged more than 11 wins per year and played in two national championship games — including winning the greatest game ever played in 2005. Mack Brown lost one bowl game during this span.

22. Ohio State Buckeyes (1954-70): 118-34-5
Woody Hayes had two five-loss seasons during this span but few coaches can claim five national championships in any amount of time much less 17 seasons.

23. Nebraska Cornhuskers (1969-72): 42-4-2
Head coach Bob Devaney won two national titles, posted a 23-game winning streak and lost just four games in his last four years in Lincoln.

24. Georgia Bulldogs (1980-83): 43-4-1
Vince Dooley had one of the best four-year runs in SEC history when he lost just four games, won three SEC championships and claimed the 1980 national title.

25. BYU Cougars (1979-85): 77-12
LaVell Edward’s high-flying, revolutionary offense rolled through opponents until the pollsters finally awarded BYU with the 1984 national championship.

Best of the Rest:

Clemson Tigers (1981-91): 100-24-5
Danny Ford and Ken Hatfield combined for a national title and six ACC crowns.

Tennessee Volunteers (1949-52): 36-4-2
General Robert Neyland led the Vols to two national titles and just four losses in four years.

LSU Tigers (2003-07): 56-10
Nick Saban and Les Miles combined for two national championships, returning LSU to prominence.

Michigan State Spartans (1950-53): 35-2
Head man Biggie Munn led the Spartans to two titles and just two losses in four seasons.

Boise State Broncos (2006-11): 73-6
Constantly beat the big boys — Okla., Oregon (twice), Georgia, Virginia Tech, Utah (twice), Oregon St (twice) and TCU. Won four WAC titles with two unbeaten seasons.

Virginia Tech Hokies (1999-2011): 132-39
Posted 11 10-win seasons, won five conference titles and played in the BCS title game in '99.

TCU Horned Frogs (2008-11): 47-5
Claimed three MWC championships while also beating Stanford, Wisconsin and Boise State (twice).

 

RELATED LINKS:

Ranking All 125 College Football Head Coaches for 2013

Ranking the Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> College Football's Top 25 Greatest Dynasties of the AP Era</p>
Post date: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-states-clint-chelf-big-12s-best-quarterback-2013
Body:

The Big 12 should have one of the most wide-open battles at quarterback for first-team all-conference honors in 2013.

TCU’s Casey Pachall is back after a suspension, but he isn’t guaranteed the starting job. Oklahoma’s Blake Bell has a lot of talent and should thrive in his first year as the No. 1 quarterback. However, he has yet to prove he can consistently beat defenses with his arm.

Texas Tech’s Michael Brewer is another intriguing name to watch. But just like Bell, Brewer does not have a start under his belt.

With the uncertainty surrounding the other options, is Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf poised to become the top quarterback in the Big 12? 

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Oklahoma State ranks as the No. 16 team in Athlon's Top 25 Countdown for 2013.

Is Oklahoma State's Clint Chelf the Big 12's Best Quarterback for 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Chelf is going to have to put more distance between himself and J.W. Walsh before becoming the Big 12’s top quarterback. Walsh, a more credible running threat, had better efficiency numbers in his stint as the starter, but Chelf drew the tougher starting assignments against Kansas State and Oklahoma. Chelf -- or Walsh, for that matter -- will play in a proven system, but another QB in the league could just as easily take first-team all-conference honors. TCU’s Casey Pachall has much to prove. First, he’ll have to prove he can quarterback his team after leaving midseason to deal with substance abuse. Second, he’ll have to prove he can beat Big 12 teams. He’s 16-2 as a starter with a 35-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but he hasn’t faced a Big 12 defense tougher than Kansas in 2012 or Baylor in 2011. Texas’ David Ash started last season on a hot streak. If he can carry the same over the course of a full season, he could be the top QB in this league. And I’m not ready to write off new quarterbacks at Oklahoma, Texas Tech or Baylor. Chelf may be the clubhouse leader in May, but there will be plenty of competition by November and December. I’m just not sure where it comes from.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Since he may not even be the best quarterback on his own team, I have to say no. Oklahoma State's system is the real star as it produces numbers no matter who is under center. For me, this battle comes down to Casey Pachall at TCU and Blake Bell at Oklahoma. Bell is a monster who will wow scouts with his size, mobility and arm. He has 24 career rushing touchdowns before even starting one game and has arguably the best supporting cast in the league. Two years ago, Pachall made fans in Ft. Worth nearly forget about Andy Dalton by taking over and producing from the word go. He was second in the Mountain West (Kellen Moore) in passing efficiency as just a sophomore. Pachall was off to an elite start last year — two 300-yard games in his first four — before getting suspended indefinitely for off-the-field issues. If he can stay the course off the field, he might be the Big 12's most talented quarterback — and could be a Big 12 champion by season's end. 
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Projecting who will be the Big 12’s No. 1 quarterback at the end of 2013 is no easy task. With Collin Klein, Geno Smith, Landry Jones, Seth Doege and Nick Florence all departing, there’s no clear top signal-caller returning to the conference.

Although Clint Chelf has yet to start a full season, he is my pick to be the No. 1 quarterback in the Big 12. Outside of Chelf, TCU’s Casey Pachall, Oklahoma’s Blake Bell or Texas Tech’s Michael Brewer are in consideration for first-team honors. However, Pachall is locked into a tight battle with Trevone Boykin for the starting nod, while Brewer and Bell have yet to make a start. Bell is an intriguing option, but he has yet to prove he can be a consistent passer.

With Wes Lunt transferring, Chelf is clearly the No. 1 quarterback in Stillwater. After taking over the job late in the season, the senior averaged 256.1 yards per game and tossed 14 touchdowns over the final six contests. Chelf had a good performance against Baylor (333 yards) and threw for 253 yards and one score against Oklahoma.

There’s no sure-fire candidate to be the No. 1 quarterback in the Big 12 or the preseason favorite to be picked as first-team all-conference. However, with one of the nation’s top receiving corps returning and a solid offensive line, Chelf should post huge numbers in 2013, along with leading Oklahoma State to a Big 12 title.
 

Mark Ross
Even though Chelf should be able to put up big numbers leading a Cowboys offense that led the Big 12 in scoring and finished second in total yards last season, I am going to take TCU's Casey Pachall as the conference's top quarterback this season. Pachall is hoping to write a fairy-tale ending to what started out as a tragedy when he left school last October following some off-the-field issues related to substance abuse. Fortunately for Pachall, he got the treatment he needed and has worked hard to his earn second chance.


Related College Football Content

2013 Team Preview: No. 16 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma or Texas: Who Will Have More Wins in 2013?

College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013: No. 20 TCU
College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013: No. 18 Texas

Which Team Will Win the Big 12 in 2013?

Ranking the Big 12 Running Backs for 2013
Ranking the Big 12 Quarterbacks for 2013

Will West Virginia Make a Bowl Game in 2013?

Ranking the Big 12 Coaches for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Head Coaches for 2013

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

Big 12 2013 Schedule Analysis

 

Teaser:
<p> Is Oklahoma State's Clint Chelf the Best Quarterback in the Big 12 for 2013?</p>
Post date: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 07:30
Path: /nascar/denny-hamlin-makes-nascar-return-darlington-raceway
Body:

1. Darlington celebrates a pair of 10-year milestones, good and bad
Darlington Raceway is the first place NASCAR ever raced on pavement, all the way back on Sept. 4, 1950. That event, the first Labor Day Weekend Southern 500, saw Johnny Mantz win his only NASCAR race as he beat Fireball Roberts and 73 other competitors by at least nine laps.

Saturday night's race will also be known as the Southern 500, but it'll mark the 10th season of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing at Darlington without the race being held on the traditional end of summer weekend. NASCAR's shift of that race initially to a November date in 2004 and then completely off the schedule in favor of a second Auto Club Speedway race in 2005 remains one of its most controversial decisions of the past decade.

The race name returned to Darlington for the now-annual Mother's Day weekend race, but much of a the tradition hasn't. The Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend carried a certain swagger thanks to its holiday weekend placement and typically unforgiving daytime temperatures. It was a race every driver wanted to win thanks mostly to the cachet it awarded.

Saturday night's race also marks the 10th season since Darlington produced arguably the most riveting finish in the last decade, if not further. During the 400-mile 2003 spring race, Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven bounced off one another for much of the final three laps. Their tires worn and their cars growing ever more damaged, the pair came together for a final time exiting Turn 4 on the final lap.

Craven nipped Busch at the line by .002 seconds — a mark tied for the closest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finish in history.


2. Denny Hamlin’s big return
Denny Hamlin's return to the driver's seat of his No. 11 a week ago at Talladega Superspeedway was short-lived, a bit contrived and ultimately unsuccessful in helping him claw back toward Chase for the Sprint Cup competition. Friday at Darlington, however, should mark the return of a full-time Hamlin to the series following his back injury at Auto Club Speedway on March 24.

He couldn't return to a better track, personally. Hamlin has a sterling average finish of 5.9 on the egg-shaped oval, and has led more than 50 laps in three of his seven Darlington starts. To follow up his career-worst 13th-place Darlington finish in 2009, Hamlin responded with his only win there in 2010.

Last year, Hamlin led 56 laps before falling to Jimmie Johnson by .781 seconds.

Saturday night's start marks the beginning of a critical stretch for Hamlin if he wants to bounce back from missing four starts so far in 2013 and qualify for the season's title fight. He's now 31st in points, 76 points behind 20th place and a possible wild card birth.

Should Hamlin nab a couple of wins and get inside the top 20 by Richmond in September, he'd be in excellent position to continue his seven-year streak of Chase qualifications.

"There is a formula," Hamlin said. "When this happened and we started figuring things out of missing races, if we just did what we did last year we would make it. But nothing is a given."
 

Teaser:
<p> Five storylines to follow as the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit heads to Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles' Southern 500.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 10, 2013 - 10:50
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL, NBA
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-11-links-day-may-6
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for May 10.

• Leading off today's Essential 11: They're triplets, former South Alabama cheerleaders, now bikini models. You're welcome. 

Turns out the Heat fan who enthusiastically gave Joakim Noah the finger has an interesting back story.

• Maxim put out its Hot 100 list. It's kind of a strange ranking. No. 1 (Miley Cyrus) is highly debatable. No. 69 (Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend) doesn't even exist.

• They rule the SEC West. So how does Alabama's 2013 schedule compare to Texas A&M's? Bad news: They're both easy.

• Speaking of Alabama, Nick Saban doesn't have time for Bob Stoops' anti-SEC blathering. He's too busy dominating.

• Speaking of Texas A&M, they're planning to make Kyle Field pants-wettingly loud.

• I'm old, so a list of the greatest old athletes is a must-link.

• Earlier in the week, Steeler Ryan Clark said that Tom Brady "sees ghosts" under pressure. Apparently Clark woke up with a horse head in his bed, because now he says that Brady is "the greatest living American."

• Frivolous lawsuit of the day: Dr. Phil is suing Deadspin for spoiling part 2 of his interview with the Manti Te'o hoaxer. If spoilers are a sue-able offense, they'll have to shut down the internet.

That Thunder dancer accused by a blogger of being chunky could remain silent no longer.

• Is this Japanese kid the next Usain Bolt? That's kooky talk, but 10.01 is impressive for a 17-year-old.

 

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


May 9

Angels pitcher CJ Wilson has reportedly snagged himself some weapons-grade WAG, supermodel Lisalla Montenegro. Nothing eases the sting of a crappy start like getting engaged to a supermodel. I assume.

A Blues fan supports the team in a unique way. I would prefer face-painting.

This Miami Heat fan tells Joakim Noah that her team is No. 1.

• Don't know if they planned it, but this digital Tim Duncan photobomb is tremendous.

• Everything's coming up Pitino. Now he's reeled in a huge marlin.

• There's an art to flopping. These 20 floppers haven't mastered it.

• Who says Michael Bay is a lousy director? It was his idea to put Megan Fox on a trampoline. That's genius at work.

Vijay Singh vs. the PGA Tour: Who ya got?

• I make fun of women's basketball as much as the next jerk, but this is some pretty sick shooting.

The umps botched a home-run call in last night's Indians-A's game. All this needed was George Brett going nuts and threatening the ump with bodily harm.

Coming out of spring practice, the SEC's top two teams are in the West.

• Today's video features a Peyton Manning-directed pie in the face on live TV.

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


May 8

• They make those annoying stoppages in play a little more enjoyable: Coed presents the dancers of the NBA Conference semifinals.

• Lots of people love "Bull Durham." I'm not one of them, but if you are, you might be interested to learn 10 things you probably didn't know about the movie, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

So Tiger Woods got hammered at the Met Gala after-party at New York's Boom Boom Room and embarrassed his new girlfriend Lindsey Vonn. She's probably embarrassed that her new arm candy can't hold his liquor. The photos of a leering, bleary-eyed Tiger are priceless. 

A stupid NFL rule will prohibit the Bears' top pick, Kyle Long, from participating in OTAs. Apparently the NFL's been taking notes from the NCAA.

• The league that gave us Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson and Marcus Lattimore has more to offer this season at the running back position.

• Sports has its own version of one-hit wonders: athletes who are defined by one play. Hey, one is better than none. Just ask the Macarena guys.

• A waterskiing baby? A waterskiing baby.

• One of Jalen Rose's keys to playoff success: Make sure your wife and your girlfriends don't cross paths.

A fan blew off some steam at a snooker match.

• This is always a fun genre: First-pitch fails, this one courtesy of some international pop star I've never heard of.

• Marcell Ozuna lost a fly ball in the lights. Fortunately for him, it landed several rows into the outfield bleachers.

• Kevin Durant should be outlawed. No one should be able to do things like this.

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


May 7

• Looks like Carrie Underwood (pictured) is replacing Faith Hill as the voice of the Sunday Night Football intro. Makes sense.

Last night, basketball, hockey and baseball happened. Guess I shouldn't have watched Real Housewives with the wife.

• A couple weeks after asking everyone to honor their privacy, Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn hit the red carpet last night.

Five former SEC players are already impressing their new bosses in rookie camp.

One NFL scout calls Johnny Manziel a "marginal pro." He probably said the same thing about Russell Wilson.

A generous fan put on a show for the refs at the Red Wings game last night.

• Wow. Looks like TBS is horning in on future Final Four coverage.

20 game endings that made you say, WTF just happened?

One of Joel Hanrahan's offerings last night was juuust a bit outside.

Forbes released its list of Most Influential Athletes. No. 1 is currently unemployed. Good news, everybody — you don't need a job to be influential.

Today's lesson: Know your urine donor.

• It was 24 years ago today. The legend of Michael Jordan took a quantum leap with The Shot, when he proved that, unlike Craig Ehlo, the laws of gravity didn't apply to him.

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


May 6

FHM's list of the sexiest women in the world included several athletes, WAGs and sports announcers. Fortunately, Kate Upton once dated Justin Verlander, so she continually pops up on lists like this one.

• Here's something nice and depressing for a Monday morning: 20 athletes who made boatloads of cash while doing nothing.

• This is some sort of weird cannibalistic imagery: A dog dressed as a hot dog, eating a hot dog.

Jaguars fans have gone straight to the top in their efforts to get Tim Tebow on their team. In related news, if only Mike Ditka still coached a team, Tebow would have a job today.

• It's a Brave New World out there: The SEC Network has ushered in a new era of college sports.

• Talk about big shoes to fill: The top 20 SEC draft picks, and who has to replace them.

• This stuff has been around awhile, but it's still funny: Legendary outdoorsman Bill Dance's blooper reel.

A 39-year-old grandma tried out for the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. She made it to the final cuts.

• Gregg Popovich compared Steph Curry to Michael Jordan. Curry wondered about Pop's sobriety level.

• It wasn't quite Hendrix at Woodstock, but Metallica performed the national anthem before a Giants game.

• Today's video is for all you fans who watch NASCAR just for the wrecks. Kurt Busch got airborne this weekend.

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

Teaser:
<p> Rounding up the web's best sports links so you don't have to.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 10, 2013 - 10:42
Path: /college-football/georgia-south-carolina-or-florida-who-wins-sec-east-2013
Body:

With three likely top-10 teams in 2013, the battle to win the SEC East is going to be one of the most heated conference battles in college football.

Georgia is the defending East Division champ, but South Carolina and Florida each have a strong case to be picked as the division favorite.

The Gamecocks return the best player in college football in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and manhandled Georgia 35-7 in Columbia last year.

Florida finished 11-2 last season, and Will Muschamp seems to have the Gators moving in the right direction. However, the defense lost a few key performers, and the offense still has no proven playmakers at receiver.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Georgia, South Carolina or Florida: Who Wins the SEC East in 2013?

Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
What a loaded question to speculate on in May, but I’ll bite. The schedule screams South Carolina; the eye test yells Georgia, and Florida says don’t count me out, either.

But ever since Aaron Murray announced he was returning for his senior season, I’ve contested that Georgia should be the favorite. After all, they host South Carolina the second week, and the winner will immediately become the in-season favorite. The offense will be loaded again with the return of Murray, Todd Gurley and eight other starters, including all five offensive linemen.

I know what you’re thinking – how can Georgia be the favorite with losing so many NFL defensive stars? Well, they didn’t exactly play like NFL studs in 2012. In fact, they weren’t even a top-five overall defense, nor were they ranked even a top-ten rushing defense in the SEC. Egos, missed assignments and NFL dreams clouded the ‘12 Dawgs. A younger, inexperienced defense is an exciting new challenge, and overall, even though I’m in the minority, I think the defense will improve upon last season.

Georgia is my May favorite!


David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Florida’s offense is still too one-dimensional, and the Gators flirted with disaster too many times during an 11-2 season for me to feel to comfortable picking Will Muschamp’s team. South Carolina finally got the edge from the schedule-makers in 2013, facing Mississippi State and Arkansas from the West while Georgia plays LSU on the road and Auburn. Still, I’m going with Georgia to win the East again. The offense should be the best in the SEC other than Texas A&M. Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and five offensive line starters are back on a team that led the nation in yards per play at 7.09 (Texas A&M was No. 2 by a hundredth of a yard). The defense is young and underachieved last season despite plenty of high draft picks. That needs to change for Georgia to be a title-contending team, but Florida and South Carolina have more flaws to overcome. Besides, Georgia already has proven it can win the SEC East despite problems on defense.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
All three teams are excellent and will be within one or two games of each other, but I am taking the South Carolina Gamecocks to break through in 2013. The defensive line is the best in the nation, quarterback Connor Shaw is wildly underrated and, packaged with Dylan Thompson, will provide plenty of spark on offense. Finally, the schedule finally sets up for Steve Spurrier. There is no LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M or Ole Miss — the best four teams in the West. Meanwhile, games with Florida and Mississippi State come at home in Williams-Brice Stadium. It likely means that the division crown will be decided on the trip to Georgia in Week 2. However, Carolina has owned the Dawgs of late, winning three straight over UGA by a combined score of 97-55. The Cocks have scored 80 points in the last two against what was considered one of the best defenses in the nation. A win Between the Hedges and Carolina finally has an inside track on a legitimate shot at its first SEC Championship. 
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
All three teams – Georgia, South Carolina and Florida – could be ranked in the top 10 of most preseason polls. And the winner of this race should be in the mix to play for the national title, provided it beats the champion of the SEC West in Atlanta.

Although a strong argument could be made for each team, I have to go with Georgia as my favorite to win the SEC East. The Bulldogs return one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Aaron Murray, and the one-two punch of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall may be the best running back tandem in college football. There’s plenty of talent in the receiving corps, while the offensive line should be better with everyone coming back for 2013.

The biggest question mark for Georgia is a defense that must replace eight starters. Linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree were the biggest losses, but don’t overlook the absence of linemen John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers, as both were key cogs in the line last season. Despite having only three starters back, I think Georgia’s defense will be fine this year, especially if linebacker Jordan Jenkins, cornerback Damian Swann and safety Tray Matthews continue their development from spring practice.

Another reason to like Georgia: The Bulldogs host South Carolina in the SEC opener for both teams.

Mark Ross
Both divisional races in the SEC should be fairly entertaining, but the East may offer the most intrigue and potentially play the biggest role in determining the national title outcome. If things go according to plan, Alabama will hold off Texas A&M and other challengers in the West division to advance to the SEC championship game in Atlanta yet again. There it will be up to whichever team ends up representing the East to put an end to any three-peat talk as a loss by the Crimson Tide would, in all likelihood, keep them out of the BCS title game.

To that end, who will emerge from the East with a chance to potentially dethrone mighty Alabama? I'll go with Georgia and its experienced quarterback, Aaron Murray, who has an opportunity to make his last season in a Bulldog uniform special. The knock on Murray during his career has been his inability to win the "big one," despite the fact he will more than likely own the majority of the SEC's passing records when he's done. The defense lost a lot of NFL talent, but the cupboard is far from bare and maybe a perceived lack of star power, if you will, is just what this unit needs to perform on a consistent level throughout the season.

Florida and South Carolina have some pretty stout defenses of their own, but I'll take Murray, and the Bulldogs' running game for that matter, over what the Gators and Gamecocks have at their disposal on offense. One thing's clear, though, should Georgia make me look good and make it to the SEC title game, Mark Richt's crew will have earned it. The Bulldogs open the season at ACC favorite and possible national title contender Clemson followed by a visit from South Carolina, a game on the first Saturday of September that could very well end up determining who wins the East. LSU also is on the conference slate as well as the always-anticipated Cocktail Party showdown with Florida in Jacksonville on Nov. 2. The road won't be easy, but I like the Bulldogs' chances of making this season one for the memory and record books.

Related College Football Content

Will Missouri Make a Bowl Game in 2013?
Ranking the SEC Running Backs for 2013
Ranking the SEC Quarterbacks for 2013

Will Tennessee Make a Bowl in 2013?

Ole Miss or Mississippi State: Who Wins More SEC Games in 2013?

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches for 2013

Ranking the SEC Head Coaches for 2013

College Football's Top 10 Assistant Coaches on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 10 Defensive Players on the Rise for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Georgia, South Carolina or Florida: Who Wins the SEC East in 2013?</p>
Post date: Friday, May 10, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-or-texas-which-team-will-have-more-wins-2013
Body:

With uncertainty looming over the top of the Big 12 in 2013, should Texas and Oklahoma still be considered the favorites? Or is it Oklahoma State or TCU? What about Kansas State or Baylor?

All six teams should be in the middle of the Big 12 title picture, but Texas is the biggest wildcard. The Longhorns have the talent to win the league but underachieved last year.

The Sooners lost a handful of key players, including quarterback Landry Jones, receiver Kenny Stills, left tackle Lane Johnson and safety Tony Jefferson. Despite the personnel losses, Oklahoma still remains one of the top teams in the Big 12.

Is Texas ready to reclaim the top spot in the Big 12? Or is Oklahoma still a safer pick to have more wins in 2013?

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Texas ranks No. 18 in Athlon's Top 25 poll for 2013. Oklahoma checks in at No. 17.

Oklahoma or Texas: Which Team Will Have More Wins in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The 2013 season looks like the point where Texas and Oklahoma will trade fortunes. Texas’ defense can’t be as bad as it was a year ago, especially with Jordan Hicks, Dalton Santos and Peter Jinkens stabilizing the linebacker group. That’s going to improve the run defense, and the dearth of experienced quarterbacks in the Big 12 will make it a little bit easier than it was a year ago. No more Landry Jones, Geno Smith, Seth Doege or even Nick Florence. That makes David Ash a grizzled veteran by comparison. Now, he just needs to play with more consistency. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has a tough schedule with Notre Dame in South Bend early (Texas gets a more manageable matchup against BYU on the road). The Sooners also catch Baylor and Kansas State on the road in November, which will be tough matchups at that point in the year, to say nothing of a trip to Stillwater.


Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Give me the Horns. And, as usual, it will likely come down to the Red River Shootout — as well as one nasty non-conference game. Road trips to Notre Dame, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State are brutal for the Sooners and will likely provide two losses. Meanwhile, Texas visits BYU, TCU, Iowa State, West Virginia and Baylor. Both are difficult schedules, but I will give Texas a slight edge in this department. They will win their tough non-con road game (BYU) while Oklahoma will lose (Notre Dame). So the question becomes has the Burnt Orange closed the 63-21 gap on the Crimson and Cream from a year ago? With most of the key players returning to Austin and most of the key players departing Norman, I will take the Horns both to finish 9-3 as Texas wins the tie-breaker by winning Shootout at The Texas State fair.
 

Allen Kenney, @BlatantHomerismBlatantHomerism.com
Let's set aside the actual Red River Shootout for a second and look at all the other games that these two rivals play.

Oklahoma will need to replace some key contributors from recent teams -- most notably quarterback Landry Jones and defensive stalwart Tony Jefferson -- and do so while facing a flat-out nasty schedule. OU's slate includes road trips to Notre Dame, Baylor, Kansas State and a season finale in Stillwater against Oklahoma State, which seems to be emerging as the consensus favorite to win the conference. The Sooners also catch what should be a dangerous TCU team the week after the game in South Bend. Even the supposed cupcakes on the schedule, Louisiana-Monroe and Tulsa, aren't exactly gimmes.

On the other hand, if Mack Brown can't get Texas back on track this year, he never will. The Longhorns return a ton of experience at all the key positions. More importantly, the schedule sets up awfully well for UT. A road game at BYU should provide a decent early test. There are also trips to TCU and Baylor on the docket. All in all, Texas has a pretty friendly road to travel, most of which will be paved through Darrell K. Royal Stadium.

Call the Red River Shootout a toss-up. I think that probably caps OU's possible win total at 10. Texas would actually have a decent shot at winning all 12 regular season games. As such, I'd bet the Longhorns end up with more wins this fall.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Can I say a tie? I wouldn’t be surprised to see both teams finish with the same amount of wins (9 or 10), but I have to give Oklahoma a slight edge over Texas.

The Longhorns have a slightly more favorable non-conference schedule, especially since Oklahoma has to play at Notre Dame, while Texas’ toughest game outside of the Big 12 is at BYU.

In conference play, the Longhorns might have a slight edge, as Texas has to play at TCU and Baylor, while Oklahoma has to play at Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State.

While I’m giving Texas a slight edge in the conference and non-conference schedule portions, I still think the Sooners end up with more victories. Oklahoma should go 3-1 in non-conference play, with wins in Big 12 action against TCU, West Virginia, Texas, Kansas, Texas Tech, Iowa State and either Kansas State or Baylor. Although Texas has a favorable path in Big 12 contests, I think the Longhorns could lose at TCU, at Baylor, home against Oklahoma State and the Red River Rivalry matchup against Oklahoma.
 

Mark Ross
Texas' non-conference slate, which is highlighted by a road game at BYU and a visit from Ole Miss, appears to be a little tougher than Oklahoma's. The Sooners go to South Bend, Ind., to play Notre Dame in late September, but they can't afford to overlook Tulsa at home two weeks earlier either. Both teams play the same conference schedule, with OU having road games against Kansas State and in-state rival Oklahoma State to close out the regular season, while the Longhorns will have to go to Forth Worth to play TCU and Morgantown, W.Va., to take on the Mountaineers.

It wouldn't surprise me one bit if this two-team race ends up getting decided by the Red River Rivalry matchup, which will take place on Oct. 12, but don't lose sight that both the Sooners and Longhorns will have to go to Waco, Texas, to play Baylor this season. The Bears should be fairly dangerous once again on offense, and always seem to play at their best at home. In the end, I think Oklahoma finishes one or two wins ahead of Texas, thanks in large part to a fourth straight Red River Rivalry victory.

Related Content

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College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013: No. 18 Texas

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Ranking the Big 12 Quarterbacks for 2013

Will West Virginia Make a Bowl Game in 2013?

Ranking the Big 12 Coaches for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Head Coaches for 2013

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

Big 12 2013 Schedule Analysis

College Football's Pre-Spring Top Heisman Contenders

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College Football's Top 10 Head Coaches on the Rise for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma or Texas: Which Team Will Have More Wins in 2013?</p>
Post date: Friday, May 10, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /college-football/top-25-national-broadcasting-jobs-sports
Body:

If you could have any national sports broadcasting job in sports, what would it be? Do you want to be at the games and travel all over the country? Do you want to be a studio host with a more stable work schedule? Do you want to become extremely popular in one niche field or cover a wide range of all sports? Are ratings more important than content?

There are many different ways to value sports broadcasting jobs, but Athlon Sports has tried to rank the best national sports broadcasting jobs in the industry today.

1. Sunday Night Football (NBC)
Who: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya

Preceded by “Football Night in America” with Bob Costas and Dan Patrick, NBC is home to the best broadcast job in sports. The NFL is the biggest dog on the block and Sunday night is the biggest night in television viewing. Put them together and you get the best gig in sports broadcasting — both as a studio show and play-by-play booth.

2. PGA Tour on CBS
Who: Jim Nantz, Nick Faldo, David Feherty, Gary McCord, Peter Kostis

There are plenty more names who broadcast the PGA Tour for both CBS and others like ESPN. But CBS gets two of the four Majors — namely Sunday at The Masters — as well as more than a dozen other key tournaments. Doing play-by-play for one or two holes each year at Augusta alone makes this job one of the best in the business.

3. Monday Night Football (ESPN)
Who: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters

“MNF” used to be the top job in the business. However, Sunday Night viewing has taken over and the inability of flex scheduling has taken the edge off of the final broadcast of any NFL weekend. It is still clearly one of the most highly sought after jobs in the business — just look at Gruden’s contract with ESPN.

4. ESPN’s College Gameday
Who: Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit

The best college football show in the business began as a small studio show in 1987 and has blossomed into the weekly traveling circus that it is today. There is no preview show for any sport that comes close to the pageantry, fan interaction, entertainment value and insightful commentary that "College Gameday" can deliver. And its why Corso (1987), Fowler (1990) and Herbstreit (1996) have been together for more than 15 years.

5. SEC Game of the Week (CBS)
Who: Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson, Holly Rowe

The biggest sport in this country outside of the NFL is college football. And the best conference in college football is clearly the best in the nation. So when CBS plucks the best game each weekend for its 3:30 PM ET Saturday afternoon game, the entire nation tunes in. This is arguably the most high-profile non-NFL booth in sports.

6. NFL on FOX
Who: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver

Generally speaking, the best non-primetime game in the NFC is reserved for FOX’s top broadcast trio. This normally involved the Dallas Cowboys. That said, even the second, third and fourth NFL on FOX games are elite broadcasting positions. Other greats like Thom Brennaman, Dick Stockton, Chris Myers and Gus Johnson are assigned to call lower-tier games.

7. NFL on CBS
Who: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Steve Tasker

This is identical to the NFL on FOX across the board with one possible exception. The NFC is loaded and FOX gets most of those games while the AFC is much weaker and CBS gets most of their games. The NFL TV ratings dwarf all other sports and even lower-tiered games from the weaker conference still pull huge audiences. Greg Gumbel, Marv Albert, Ian Eagle and Kevin Harlan join Nantz and Simms on CBS.

8. Saturday Night Football (ABC)
Who: Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Lisa Salters

The second-biggest non-NFL booth would be the ABC Saturday Night Football team. This spot on the TV dial was largely ignored due to low ratings but ABC/ESPN jumped in with two feet as the college game continued to grow and has been home to one of the top college games each Saturday evening since 2006.

9. Fox Sports Radio
Who: Dan Patrick, Jay Mohr, JT The Brick, etc

The first non-TV entry on the list begins with the international sports radio network from FOX and Premiere Radio Network. With over 400 affiliates and simulcasts on satellite radio and DirecTV (owned by FOX), few radio teams put as many resources into their product. Founded in 2000, huge industry names like Dan Patrick, JT The Brick, Petros & Money as well as comedian Jay Mohr have built FSR into a media goliath with coveted broadcasting positions.

10. NCAA Tournament (CBS)
Who: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr

CBS purchased the NCAA Tournament in 1982 and has never relinquished control over the massive month-long ratings bonanza. And it’s why the great Jim Nantz has broadcast 23 straight Final Fours. The addition of extra channels from Turner Broadcasting System have only added to the viewership and profile of CBS’ March Madness.

11. ESPN Radio
Who: Mike Greenberg, Colin Cowherd, Scott Van Pelt

Launched back in 1992, ESPN realized the power of nationally syndicated sports talk radio quickly. Some of the industries biggest names have been discovered because of ESPN Radio — many of whom began on the TV screen. The list of powerhouse radio personalities that used the power of ESPN Radio to launch their careers is long and distinguished.

12. The Morning Drive (Golf Channel)
Who: Gary Williams, Damon Hack, Kelly Tilghman, Ahmad Rashad, Holly Sonders

Available in over 100 million households worldwide, anything on the Golf Channel has sneaky upside. Since launching in 1995, The NBC-owned Golf Channel has been home to a dedicated and extremely affluent audience. And the launch of the daily morning show has given this team of broadcasters an elite time slot. You've seen the women who work on this channel, right?

13. NASCAR on FOX
Who: Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds

Debuting at Daytona in 2001 — may he rest in peace — the Emmy-award winning NASCAR on FOX has been a staple for race fans. Roughly the first half of each season is on FOX and their deep and talented team of broadcasters has made it one of the best in programs in sports. The play-by-play booth, the Hollywood Hotel and the Pit Reporters offer a variety of great broadcasting jobs.

14. CBS Sports Radio
Who: Doug Gottleib, Jim Rome, John Feinstein

Along with ESPN Radio and FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio offers 24/7 nationally syndicated sports talk. Think the money isn’t good in this field? Jim Rome’s radio show alone nets him $30 million in earnings each year. Simply because it launched just a few months ago (Sept. 2012), CBS Sports radio checks in slightly behind ESPN and FSR among the radio entities.

15. Baseball on FOX
Who: Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, Ken Rosenthal

This team traditionally only has to work one game per week (Saturdays) before the postseason starts. For broadcasting purists, baseball calls are the some of the sports world’s best as historic names have filled the airwaves with ageless memories (Vin Scully, Jack Buck). When October rolls around, there are few places broadcasters would rather be than in the booth during the World Series.

16. WGN-TV Cubs
Who: Len Kasper, Jim Deshaies, Keith Moreland

There aren’t many local or regional teams who get national broadcasts but the Cubs are one of them. Do you think walking to Wrigley Field to broadcast baseball games from the friendly confines 81 times per year sounds like fun?

17. SportsCenter (ESPN)
Who: John Anderson, Lindsay Czarniak, John Buccigross, Steve Levy, et al

This program has lost most of its luster as over-produced, sponsor-heavy broadcasts have diminished the product since its heyday in the late '90s. Still, many a sports broadcasting career has begun on the primetime (6 PM ET, 11 PM ET) slot of nightly sports highlights.

18. YES Network Yankees
Who: Michael Kay, Bob Lorenz, Ken Singleton

Much like the Cubs on WGN or to a much lesser extent the Braves on TBS, the Yankees broadcast nationally on the YES Network. With supporting programming and the world’s biggest TV market part of the package, calling Yankee games 162 times a year has to be considered one of the industry’s best gigs.

19. Inside the NBA (TNT)
Who: Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal

Few studio shows outweigh the actual in-game broadcast but TNT’s Emmy Award-winning pre- and post-game show is just that. Airing since 1988, Inside the NBA is one of the longest running studio programs in all of sports. I would rather watch this show than the game itself any day.

20. Pardon The Interruption
Who: Michael Wilbon, Tony Kornheiser

The time slot isn’t elite and it lasts for just 30 minutes but the format is brilliant and the show has staying power. For any broadcaster who is opinionated, passionate and likes to argue, few jobs would be more fun and offer more breadth of subjects than PTI.

21. NFL Total Access
Who: Rich Eisen, Fran Charles, Andrew Siciliano

When the NFL Network launched in 2003, it hired the face of the brand by luring Rich Eisen from ESPN. He hasn’t given up the lead anchor job on the channel’s flagship program because it has extreme staying power and stability is valued in this business. Powered by huge NFL dollars, the NFL Network has little chance of ever being kicked off the air.

22. NHL on NBC
Who: Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Pierre McGuire

If this was a ranking of the best broadcasters in sports, Mike “Doc” Emrick might be No. 1. Since partnering with NBC, the NHL has been making a slow and steady return to American living rooms. This is the top broadcasting position for anyone in the hockey realm and its why Emrick is the voice fans hear nearly every night of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

23. NFL Countdown (ESPN)
Who: Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, et al

A long standard in the industry, NFL Countdown has been a big part of Sunday morning since 1985. It has seen better days but still claims seven Sports Emmys and five CableACE Awards. It’s such a great gig, stalwart broadcast personality Chris Berman may never quit.

24. SiriusXM Radio
Who: Tim Brando, Pat Kirwen, Chris Russo, Pete Pistone, Casey Stern, et al

It’s a late bloomer and it has taken time to grow (and one massive merger) but national satellite radio is here to stay. Huge signings like Tim Brando prove the medium is viable and offers fans niche programming for every major sport. If you are an MLB expert there is no better place to work than MLB Radio. If you are a college sports expert, there is no better place to work in radio than College Sports Nation.

25. MLB Tonight
Who: Brian Kenny, Matt Vasgersian, et al

MLB Network’s nightly program is one of the more unique broadcasts in all of sports. It acts as a pre- and post-game studio show as well as a “Live Look-in” show that gives viewers the chance to listen in on local broadcasts they may not normally get to hear.

Best of the Rest:

26. FOX NFL Sunday: Curt Menefee
27. The NFL Today (CBS): James Brown
27. ProFootballTalk (NBC): Erik Kuselias, Mike Florio
28. NFL Redzone (DirecTV): Andew Siciliano
29. NFL/College Football Live (ESPN): Trey Wingo, Rece Davis
30. Sunday Night Baseball (ESPN): Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser, John Kruk, Buster Olney

Teaser:
<p> Top 25 National Broadcasting Jobs in Sports</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 14:00
Path: /mlb/blown-home-run-call-exposes-flaw-mlb-replay-system
Body:

Last night, Adam Rosales of Oakland launched an apparent game-tying home run in the ninth inning at Cleveland only to have it ruled a double by the umpiring crew. After reviewing the call via replay, the umpiring crew, led by Angel Hernandez, emerged and held Rosales at second base.

MLB, slow to enter the digital age and catch up to the wonders of instant replay with the ability to right wrongs called on the field, still has much work to do to with its replay system.

It’s pretty clear that the three umpires reviewing the play were the only people who believe the ball hit the outfield wall. I’ve watched replays of the Oakland broadcast, the Cleveland broadcast and heard replays of both teams’ radio calls, and every announcer involved felt it was clearly a home run. In every replay I saw it appeared the ball hit the dark railing beyond the wall, clearly above the yellow line marking the top of the outfield fence. I’ve yet to see or hear any reports of anyone saying, “Good call, that ball hit the wall.” And I’m sure we won’t.

So how did Hernandez and his crew miss that? Good question. If you want to give the umpires the benefit of a doubt, there have been complaints from the arbiters in the past that they don’t have access to all the angles that fans see at home. Why that might be the case is unclear, unacceptable and certainly something that should be rectified immediately. But in this case, I’m not sure what angles might be inconclusive. The ball hit the railing. It changed direction above the wall. Unless the umpires were viewing replays on a black and white, 14-inch, non-HD monitor, I don’t understand how they could reach their conclusion.

Now we don’t know that the outcome would have been different. Had the home run counted, the game would have been tied with the A’s batting in the ninth inning. At any rate, this was a pivotal call. And MLB must get these calls right.

MLB’s replay system failed. The system didn’t just fail the A’s, but all of baseball. If the system in place can’t guarantee the right call in this situation, then how do we expect any calls to be right?

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Adam Rosales launched an apparent game-tying home run...or did he?</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 11:14
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/top-10-clemson-tigers-football-teams-all-time
Body:

The Clemson Tigers are a proud program that has had some excellent decades — see the 1980s — as well as some times of struggle (1992-2010). But this is a program with loads of potential, committed fans, a great gameday atmosphere and has tasted the top of the mountain once upon a time. Unlike many programs the Tigers have one team that stands above the rest. However, Clemson has recruited elite athletes of late. So does the evolution of the modern athlete level the playing field? Or would the old guard still reign supreme?

Could Jeff Davis stop C.J. Spiller? Could Terry Kinard cover Sammy Watkins or DeAndre Hopkins? How would Danny Ford gameplan against Chad Morris and Tajh Boyd? Clemson has won 16 conference titles since the AP era began in 1934 but only one of those also produced a national championship. Trying to rank the best teams in Clemson history is virtually impossible, but the historic 1981 squad seems like the right place to begin.

1. 1981 (12-0, 6-0)
Head Coach: Danny Ford

There is little doubt which team is the greatest, most heralded group in Clemson history. The undefeated Tigers romped through the regular season, including three wins over top 10 opponents Georgia (4), at North Carolina (8) and Nebraska (4) in the Orange Bowl, for the school’s lone national championship. First-team All-ACC quarterback Homer Jordan and record-setting first-team All-American wideout Perry Tuttle led an offense that averaged nearly 30 points per game. ACC MVP and two-time All-American linebacker Jeff Davis and all-everything corner Terry Kinard spearheaded a defense that led the nation in scoring (8.8 ppg). Ford won National Coach of the Year honors and became the youngest coach (33) to ever win the national title. No other team in Tigers lore can compare to the ’81 champs.

2. 1978 (11-1, 6-0)
Head Coach: Charley Pell

Charley Pell didn’t coach very long at Clemson and his “influence” was felt for years following his departure, but his teams won a lot of games (18-4-1). His 1978 ACC championship team was the highest-scoring team in Clemson history until the 2001 squad came along. Dual-threat quarterback Steve Fuller and the running back tandem of Lester Brown and Marvin Sims spearheaded a dynamic rushing attack that helped the Tigers win the ACC. The only loss came in Week 2 against SEC power Georgia, and, after a Gator Bowl win over No. 20 Ohio State, Clemson posted its second-best final AP poll finish in school history with a No. 6 ranking. Pell left before the bowl game to take the Florida job and Clemson was eventually hit with NCAA sanctions stemming from his coaching tenure, but the ’78 squad was one of the program’s best.

3. 2012 (11-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Dabo Swinney

From a talent perspective, few teams in program history can compare to the 2012 squad led by Tajh Boyd, Andre Ellington, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Dalton Freeman on offense. This is the only team in school history to top 500 points (533) and its No. 11 final AP ranking was the best since 1990 (No. 9). This team lost just one game on the road against No. 4 Florida State, who won the ACC crown. The Tigers were one of the few ACC teams to hold its own against the vaunted SEC, by defeating LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and Auburn in the Kickoff Classic. This team wasn’t decorated like other championship-winning teams, but this might be the most talented roster ever assembled in Death Valley and is why the Tigers are the 2013 frontrunner in the ACC.

4. 1950 (9-0-1, 3-0-1)
Head Coach: Frank Howard

One of just three Clemson teams of the AP era to go unbeaten, the Tigers played only four conference games and therefore didn’t win the Southern Conference title despite not losing a game and finishing as the highest rated SoCon team in the polls. This team outscored its opponents 344-76 and was the first team in history to top 300 points. The ’50 unbeaten team is one of just six Clemson groups to finish in the top 10 of the AP poll (No. 10).

5. 1948 (11-0, 5-0)
Head Coach: Frank Howard

Playing in the much weaker Southern Conference at the time, legendary coach Frank Howard posted one of just three perfect records during the AP era (1934). The defense allowed an astonishing 6.9 points per game, leading to a 274-76 scoring margin for the year. It topped just one ranked opponent (Wake Forest) as the schedule was dotted by Presbyterian, Duquesne, Alabama Polytechnic and conference foes Furman and The Citadel. This lack of competition is what led the unbeaten Tigers to just an 11th place finish in the polls. The Tigers did not play No. 3-ranked and unbeaten conference rival North Carolina that year.

6. 1982 (9-1-1, 6-0)
Head Coach: Danny Ford

Following Clemson’s first and only national championship, Clemson was not eligible to play in the postseason due to probation stemming from former head coach Charley Pell’s tenure. That didn’t keep the Tigers from defending their ACC championship with a perfect record in the league. The season began with a loss to No. 7 Georgia and a tie with Boston College but ended with nine straight wins and No. 8 postseason ranking — good for third-best in school history. Quarterback and national title winner Homer Jordan was flanked by Cliff Austin, Chuck McSwain and Jeff McCall in a loaded Tigers backfield.

7. 1988 (10-2, 6-1)
Head Coach: Danny Ford

No team in Clemson history started higher in the AP poll than the 1988 team beginning the year as the No. 4-ranked team in the nation. With a No. 9 final ranking following a Citrus Bowl win over Oklahoma, it is one of just six teams to finish in the top 10 as well. Rodney Williams paced the passing attack while Terry Allen rushed for 1,192 yards and 10 touchdowns for the ACC champions. This team played one of the school’s toughest schedules, beating three ranked opponents and losing to two others. In an age of offense, this team was fourth in the nation in scoring defense and is one of the best Clemson teams ever assembled. This was the second of four straight 10-2 Tigers teams.

8. 1959 (9-2, 6-1)
Head Coach: Frank Howard

In his 19th season, famed head coach Frank Howard won his fifth conference title and third in the ACC. He lost to a ranked SEC team in Georgia Tech as well as Maryland to give this team a final AP ranking of 11th. This team allowed just 9.4 points per game on defense while pitching five shutouts through the season. Wins over a ranked No. 12 North Carolina and No. 7 TCU in the Bluebonnet Bowl capped the ACC championship season. Six different players rushed at least 40 times while Harvey White led both the passing and rushing attack from under center.

9. 1987 (10-2, 6-1)
Head Coach: Danny Ford

Ford began a magical run of ACC championships in 1986 but started a four-year streak of 10-2 records in 1987. This team was ranked in the AP top 10 for all but three weeks of the season, as it capped the ACC championship season with a win over a ranked Joe Paterno Penn State team in the Citrus Bowl. Losses to NC State by two points and at No. 12 South Carolina kept the Tigers from competing for a second national title. The backfield tandem of Rodney Williams and Terry Allen gave fans a glimpse of what was to come the following year.

10. 2011 (10-4, 6-2)
Head Coach: Dabo Swinney

If the 2012 team is the most talented ever assembled in school history, the 2011 ACC championship team can’t be too far behind. Tajh Boyd and company were are all in the starting lineup except Sammy Watkins was the National Freshman of the Year instead of a No. 2 WR and Dwayne Allen starred at tight end. The defense wasn’t up to snuff, allowing nearly 30 points per game, but wins over four ranked opponents (Auburn, Florida State, Virginia Tech twice) and the school’s first ACC title in two decades make it one of the greatest Clemson Tigers teams.

Related: Top 10 Notre Dame Fighting Football Teams of All-Time
Related: Top 15 Alabama Crimson Tide Football Teams of All-Time

The best of the rest:

11. 1990 (10-2, 5-2) Ken Hatfield
12. 1989 (10-2, 5-2) Danny Ford
13. 1991 (9-2-1, 6-0-1) Ken Hatfield
14. 2009 (9-5, 6-2) Dabo Swinney
15. 1986 (8-2-2, 5-1-1) Danny Ford 

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Teaser:
<p> Top 10 Clemson Tigers Football Teams of All-Time</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/who-should-start-quarterback-wisconsin-2013
Body:

Wisconsin had three different quarterbacks make a start last season.

Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien was thought to be the answer, but he struggled early in the year, which prompted the coaching staff to turn to Joel Stave. The former walk-on was solid in his performances, until suffering a broken collarbone against Michigan State.

With Stave sidelined, Curt Phillips was pushed into the starting lineup. Phillips was steady in his stint as the No. 1 quarterback, but Stave or incoming junior college transfer Tanner McEvoy could win surpass him on the depth chart this fall.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. Wisconsin checks in as the No. 19 team for 2013

Who Should Start at Quarterback for Wisconsin in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
This is going to be a tough decision, but Joel Stave seemed to be the quarterback coaches trusted the most last season. Granted, that’s a different coaching staff. Gary Andersen may see something he likes in Danny O’Brien, who struggled the most of Wisconsin’s three starters. Curt Phillips was the best of the three starters in terms of third down efficiency (45 percent in his five starts) and red zone efficiency (85 percent touchdowns in his starts), but that was when Montee Ball and the Wisconsin run game finally regained form. The Badgers rushed for 200 yards four times in Phillips’ starts including twice running for 500. Stave’s numbers tell a different story. Stave averaged 9.3 yards per pass attempt and 14.9 passes per game, both way ahead of the numbers for O’Brien and Phillips. Simply put, Wisconsin’s last staff thought Stave gave the Badgers a better chance to run a more effective balanced offense. While handing the offense to Ball and James White was enough to beat Penn State and Nebraska, I don’t think that’s going to be enough for Wisconsin to stay competitive over the course of the season, especially with Ball gone.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I would be shocked if anyone other than Joel Stave was the starter in Madison. The walk-on redshirt sophomore was the only player on the roster last season who gave the Badgers offense any balance whatsoever. He was leading the Big Ten in efficiency before getting hurt against both Nebraska and Michigan State — the only two games UW lost when Stave started. Curt Phillips has some nice athletic ability and proved he could lead clutch drives but is one cut away from a fourth knee injury. And he was very Tebow-ish in that he struggled for the first 59 minutes of the game before leading game-tying drives (Penn State, Ohio State). Does Stave, and his lack of mobility, fit into Gary Andersen's offensive scheme perfectly? No, but he is the most polished passer and gives Wisconsin the ability to accurately go down the field more so than any other option on the roster. Look for Stave to take most of the snaps with Phillips' legs earning him a few snaps from time to time. There are worse problems to have than multiple quarterbacks with starting experience.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Although Curt Phillips was steady in his late-season stint as the starting quarterback, I think Joel Stave is the answer for Wisconsin. New coordinator Andy Ludwig and coach Gary Andersen want a little mobility from their passer, but Stave gives this team the best chance to win. In eight games last season, the former walk-on threw for 1,104 yards and six touchdowns, while completing 58.8 percent of his throws. The Wisconsin native had three consecutive games of 200 or more passing yards (UTEP, Nebraska and Illinois) and threw for 127 yards on 9 of 11 passes before suffering an injury that kept him out of game action until the Rose Bowl.

Junior college recruit Tanner McEvoy was recruited by Andersen to add to the competition right away, and he seems to be the best fit for the offense. However, McEvoy has no experience on the FBS level, and junior college recruits usually have an adjustment period to the increased competition.

Stave might not be perfect for what the coaching staff wants to do. But with one of the nation’s top backfields returning and a solid defense, having a quarterback that is capable of being efficient and steady in the pocket is a huge plus for new coach Gary Andersen. 
 

Kevin McGuire, No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com(@KevinonCFB)
It's that time of the year again when the Wisconsin quarterback question tends to yield no answers. I have joked about this topic with a few people already but it is really anybody's guess who will be leading the offense when the season kicks off in Madison. I think the competition between Joel Stave and Curt Phillips is a draw, with each having certain qualities the other doesn't that would lead to a potential dual-QB offense if nothing is figured out before the start of the year.

It sounds as though JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy is going to get every opportunity to compete for the starting job, and with neither Phillips or Stave making it an obvious choice to go with them, that would lead me to consider McEvoy will be Gary Andersen's guy at some point. Part of me also wants to think Danny O'Brien somehow rebounds but until he does anything to prove he is worthy of the starting job I'll have to wait and see.

So we have a situation where Wisconsin is looking to pick a name out of a hat, and that's generally not a great sign. When push comes to shove, I'll go with the guy who got the most out of the offense last season and that is Stave.
 

Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
So we're absolutely sure that Russell Wilson is out of eligibility? What about Scott Tolzien? In that case, I'll have to go with the guy who made the most starts under center for the Badgers last season - Joel Stave. The sophomore was doing just fine before breaking his clavicle against Michigan State, becoming the first freshman quarterback at Wisconsin since Jim Sorgi (2000) to start a game.

Not only did Stave win his first start against UTEP, he led the Badgers to a 4-1 record in the five games he completed (which included three conference victories) and was leading the Big Ten in passer efficiency rating (149.6) at the time of his injury. He also became the eighth QB in school history to throw for more than 200 yards in three consecutive games and the first to do so in his first three starts since Tyler Donovan (2006, '07).

Stave may not be as athletic as senior Curt Phillips or the ideal fit for new head coach Gary Andersen's system like redshirt freshman Bart Houston is reported to be, but he has shown that he's more than capable of leading the team to victory when he's on the field. He didn't do anything performance-wise to lose the job last season, so I see no reason to make a change on the depth chart to start off 2013 either.
 

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Teaser:
<p> Who Should Start at Quarterback for Wisconsin in 2013?</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 06:33

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