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All taxonomy terms: College Football, Les Miles, LSU Tigers
Path: /college-football/les-miles-love-him-or-hate-him
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- by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

If you asked ten LSU fans last year their thoughts on Les Miles, five would say they love him and five would say they wouldn't be too disappointed if he took another job.

Let's get beyond the fickleness of the fans, take emotion completely out of the equation, and see what the numbers have to say about the Mad Hatter.

Before we get into the numbers on Miles, let's look at some quick numbers from LSU's football history to gather some perspective of the program's prestige.

Team Years Record WP% 10-Win Seas. SEC Champs Natl. Champs
LSU 1980-1999 124-100 55.4% 2 2 0

Over the 20 year period from 1980-1999, LSU football only won 24 more games than they lost. During this 20 year period, LSU only had two 10-win seasons and won only two SEC Championships. Nick Saban took the reigns in 2000 and here is what ensued:

Years Record WP% 10-Win Seasons Conf. WP% SEC Champs Natl. Champs CBTN Rating
2000-2004 48-16 75% 2 73.68% (56-20) 1 1

Clearly Nick Saban had a pretty large impact on LSU's program. He increased the WP% by 20 percentage points and had the same number of 10-win seasons as LSU did in the previous 20 years. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the National Championship he brought home. Given that LSU has only won seven national titles in school history, we can probably agree that this is a pretty big deal.

NOTE: LSU officially claims three national championships in 1958, 2003 & 2007, however, the school has been recognized as national champions by polling organizations on four additional occasions: 1908, 1935, 1936 and 1962.

Now, let's dive into Les Miles' numbers:

Years Record WP% 10-Win Seasons Conf. WP% SEC Champs Natl. Champs CBTN Rating
2005-2011 70-17 80.46% 4 72.22% (39-15) 1 1

Let's take a look at a few other data sets on Miles (rank below is for active and inactive coaches since 2001 with minimum of 3 years experience and only reflects their time coaching in the SEC)

School WP% in Close Games (4 pts. or less) Rank Among SEC Coaches in Close Games WP% in Blowouts (15 pts. or more) Rank Among SEC Coaches in Blowouts
LSU 68.42 (13-6) 2 (out of 18) 92.50 (37-3) 1 (out of 18)

_________________________________________________________________

School

WP% Against Teams Over .500 Rank Among SEC Coaches WP% Against Teams Under .500 Rank Among SEC Coaches
LSU 67.39% (31-15) 2 (out of 18) 93.94% (31-2) 4 (out of 18)

A huge aspect/trait that so many people value in a coach is recruiting. Let's look at how good of a job Les Miles has done in that area compared to his predecessor:

Coach Years Avg. Recruiting Rank Avg. Stars Per Recruit
Nick Saban 2002-2004 6.33 3.34
Les Miles 2005-2011 8.29 3.61

So on the recruiting trail, his classes are ranked almost the same as Saban, and his average player is actually better. From the looks of the numbers, Les Miles has done a pretty solid job of maintaining and building upon what Nick Saban built at LSU.

The "game of the century" this weekend will feature the two top defenses in the country. One stat that we track that we find interesting is the number of times a team gives up 10+, 20+, 30+, 40+, and 50+ points. You can check these numbers out on our Coach's Rankings tab.

Since Les Miles got to LSU in 2005, LSU defenses give up less than 10 pts 32.18% of the time. Even more impressive, LSU defenses under Miles give up less than 20 pts in 58.62% of their games. The game this weekend in Tuscaloosa, while only a regular season game, plays a prominent role in the BCS National Championship picture. So hopefully we have shown with our data that Les Miles is a terrific coach and has built upon what Saban left for him.

For those LSU fans that think that is an easy task, you need to look no further than LSU offensive assistant Steve Kragthorpe. Go ask him how easy it was to build upon Bobby Petrino's success at Louisville.

We look forward to tuning in along with the rest of the country to watch two great teams and two great coaches go to battle on Saturday night.

Teaser:
<p> What do the numbers say about Les Miles' tenure as head coach of the LSU Tigers?</p>
Post date: Friday, November 4, 2011 - 07:45
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-every-game-week-10
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

Here's a look at every game of the Week 10 college football schedule.

Friday

No. 20 USC at No. 94 Colorado
There are no moral victories at USC, but the Trojans played extremely well in last Saturday’s overtime loss to Stanford. Lane Kiffin’s team is tough to defend right now.
USC 41, Colorado 7

No. 112 Central Michigan at No. 115 Kent State
Kent State broke through with its first win over an FBS opponent this season, beating Bowling Green 27–15 at home. The Golden Flashes, however, still rank 120th in the nation in total offense and 119th in scoring offense (up from 120th last year).
Central Michigan 20, Kent State 10

Saturday

No. 2 LSU at No. 1 Alabama
Here’s an interesting stat. Both Alabama and LSU have played six games vs. BCS competition. In those six games Trent Richardson has outrushed Spencer Ware by almost 300 yards on only three more attempts. Richardson has 785 yards on 125 carries for a 6.3-yard average, while Ware has 492 yards on 122 carries for a 4.0-yard average. Ware is good. Richardson is better — much better.
Alabama 24, LSU 17

No. 14 Kansas State at No. 3 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State gives up plenty of yards — over 450 per game — but The Pokes are only allowing 26.2 points per game in Big 12 action. It’s tough to see K-State doing enough on offense to keep this close.
Oklahoma State 41, Kansas State 21

No. 4 Boise State at No. 108 UNLV
UNLV has scored 17 points or less in each of its five losses and 38 or more in its two wins. It won’t matter how much the Rebels’ offense scores this week. Boise State will win big.
Boise State 48, UNLV 13

No. 5 Stanford at No. 75 Oregon State
For the first time since last Nov. 13, Stanford won a game by less than 25 points. Won’t happen this week.
Stanford 41, Oregon State 13

No. 6 Oregon at No. 26 Washington
The Ducks are 5–0 in league play but are about to face their three most difficult Pac-12 opponents — Washington, Stanford and USC. The burning question in Eugene is who will be taking the snaps this week for Oregon — Darron Thomas or Bryan Bennett? The smart money is on Thomas.
Oregon 34, Washington 31

No. 24 Texas A&M at No. 7 Oklahoma
Oklahoma laid an egg two weeks ago at home to Texas Tech but bounced back in fine fashion, drilling previously undefeated Kansas State, 58–17, in Manhattan. Sooners quarterback Landry Jones has been on a tear and figures to put up big numbers on the Texas A&M defense.
Oklahoma 38, Texas A&M 24

No. 15 South Carolina at No. 8 Arkansas
South Carolina controls its own destiny in the SEC East, but the Gamecocks still have several hurdles to climb before they can plan a return visit to the Georgia Dome. This trip to Arkansas figures to be a significant challenge.
Arkansas 27, South Carolina 17

No. 55 Northwestern at No. 9 Nebraska
Northwestern should be able to score some points, but the Wildcat defense will struggle to stop the Huskers’ rushing attack.
Nebraska 41, Northwestern 23

No. 90 Minnesota at No. 12 Michigan State
Minnesota lost its first three Big Ten games by a combined 120 points but somehow, some way, beat Iowa last week, 22–21. The streak will be snapped at one.
Michigan State 37, Minnesota 13

No. 61 Purdue at No. 13 Wisconsin
The Badgers have suffered back-to-back excruciating losses on the road. They return home this week and figure to take out their frustration on Purdue.
Wisconsin 41, Purdue 17

No. 16 Arizona State at No. 51 UCLA
UCLA is 4–4 overall and has lost its last three games by an average of 30.3 points. The Bruins gave up 254 yards rushing to an Arizona team that was averaging 71.8 yards on the ground. They don’t have a win vs. a team with a winning record. Yet, UCLA finds itself still very much alive in the Pac-12 South Division.
Arizona State 27, UCLA 20

No. 110 New Mexico State at No. 17 Georgia
Georgia’s starting running back this week is sophomore Brandon Harton, who has 11 career carries, all against Coastal Carolina.
Georgia 41, New Mexico State 7

No. 18 Michigan at No. 54 Iowa
We all know the transitive property doesn’t work too well in sports, but let’s take a look at how both of these teams fared against Minnesota. Michigan beat the Gophers 58–0. Iowa lost to the Gophers 22–21. So, do we think the Wolverines are going to win by 59 points? Not likely, but Michigan should win the game — even on the road.
Michigan 27, Iowa 21

No. 35 Texas Tech at No. 22 Texas
Texas Tech was good enough to win at Oklahoma one week and lose at home, 41–7, to Iowa State the next week. Good luck trying to figure out what the Red Raiders will do this Saturday.
Texas 24, Texas Tech 17

No. 100 Indiana at No. 23 Ohio State
Last week, the Indiana defense came within one passing yard of giving up 300 yards rushing and passing to Northwestern in a 59–38 loss at home.
Ohio State 40, Indiana 10

No. 25 Houston at No. 107 UAB
Houston quarterback Case Keenum has thrown 32 touchdown passes. UAB, as a team, has scored 13.
Houston 48, UAB 17

No. 27 Notre Dame at No. 42 Wake Forest
Notre Dame bounced back from a difficult loss to USC with a very impressive 56–14 win over a Navy team that had defeated the Irish in its last two trips to South Bend. Now, ND heads to Winston-Salem for the first-ever meeting between these two schools.
Notre Dame 35, Wake Forest 22

No. 28 Cincinnati at No. 50 Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh was dealt a big blow last week when Ray Graham, who was 10th in the nation in rushing, was lost for the season with an injury. Former Wisconsin Badger Zach Brown will step in as the starting tailback for Pittsburgh, but the offense will not be the same without Graham.
Cincinnati 28, Pittsburgh 17

No. 64 Louisville at No. 29 West Virginia
Louisville is playing better of late, but the Cardinals lack the firepower on offense to beat West Virginia in Morgantown.
West Virginia 30, Louisville 17

No. 66 Duke at No. 31 Miami (Fla.)
Duke has lost two straight, at home to Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, by a combined five points. The Blue Devils now need to win three of their final four games to become bowl-eligible.
Miami (Fla.) 30, Duke 20

No. 33 Southern Miss at No. 69 East Carolina
East Carolina has taken advantage of a soft slate in recent weeks (Memphis, Navy, Tulane) to even its record at 4–4. The Pirates, however, are 0–4 vs. teams with a winning record.
Southern Miss 31, East Carolina 30

No. 34 Missouri at No. 36 Baylor
Baylor is having little trouble moving the football, but yards haven’t been translating into big numbers on the scoreboard in recent weeks. The Bears averaged only 26 points against A&M and O-State despite rolling up 1,102 total yards. This one will be highly entertaining.
Missouri 41, Baylor 38

No. 37 TCU at No. 70 Wyoming
Wyoming is very quietly 5–2 overall and 0–2 in the MWC, and is coming off an impressive 30–27 win at San Diego State. TCU, however, will be an even bigger challenge — even in Laramie.
TCU 27, Wyoming 21

No. 38 North Carolina at No. 57 NC State
There’s been a nice war of words in the media this week between UNC interim head coach Everett Withers and NC State boss Tom O’Brien. Always adds spice to an already heated rivalry.
NC State 27, North Carolina 24

No. 92 Kansas at No. 39 Iowa State
Kansas has allowed its opponents to reach the Red Zone 50 times in eight games, the worst in the nation. Alabama has allowed its opponent to reach the Red Zone nine times.
Iowa State 41, Kansas 17

No. 53 Vanderbilt at No. 40 Florida
The Commodores lead the SEC in offensive plays of 30-plus yards (22) and 40-plus yards (13). They will need this trend to continue to pull off the upset in the Swamp. This one should be tight.
Florida 27, Vanderbilt 24

No. 43 Virginia at No. 81 Maryland
Randy Edsall’s first season in College Park has been a disaster. Since beating a short-handed Miami team in Week 1, the Terps are 1–6, with the lone win coming vs. Towson.
Virginia 30, Maryland 17

Tennessee-Martin at No. 44 Mississippi State
The Bulldogs scored as many points last week in a 28–16 win over Kentucky as they had in their previous three SEC games.
Mississippi State 44, Tennessee-Martin 10

No. 114 Middle Tennessee State at No. 46 Tennessee
Tennessee has scored 12 points or less in each of its last four games. The Vols should have no problem putting points on the board this week.
Tennessee 48, Middle Tennessee 14

No. 52 South Florida at No. 47 Rutgers
South Florida was expected to contend in the Big East in 2011, but the Bulls are all alone in last place with an 0–3 record. That, however, is about to change.
South Florida 30, Rutgers 25

No. 49 Utah at No. 60 Arizona
Arizona is only 2–6 overall, but the Cats are a dangerous team. They beat UCLA, 48–12, two weeks ago and played relatively well last week in a 42–31 loss at Washington.
Arizona 33, Utah 20

No. 117 Tulane at No. 56 SMU
The Mustangs have lost two straight after their 3–0 start in league play. There is no shame in losing at Southern Miss or at Tulsa, but June Jones can’t like the fact that his team lost those games by a combined 65–10.
SMU 50, Tulane 10

No. 76 Washington State at No. 58 California
Washington State has lost four straight, but this is clearly a much-improved Cougar team. The Cougs have scored 21 points or more in six of eight games this season after hitting that mark only 10 times in the previous three seasons combined.
Washington State 30, California 27

No. 65 Syracuse at No. 79 Connecticut
Syracuse has been among the most inconsistent teams in the nation this year. Over the last three weeks, the Orange beat hapless Tulane on a field goal at the buzzer, defeated a very good West Virginia team by 26 points and then lost at Louisville by 17.
Syracuse 17, Connecticut 14

No. 67 Arkansas State at No. 118 FAU
The Owls have scored nine touchdowns in seven games. That makes it very tough to win.
Arkansas State 44, FAU 9

No. 120 New Mexico at No. 71 San Diego State
The Aztecs have lost two straight at home, by 13 to TCU and by three to Wyoming. They will not lose a third straight.
San Diego State 41, New Mexico 10

No. 109 Army at No. 72 Air Force
Air Force ended Navy’s seven-year hold on the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy last season. The Falcons can keep it in Colorado Springs for another year with a win over the Black Knights.
Air Force 28, Army 17

No. 106 Troy at No. 73 Navy
Both teams have been a disappointment: Navy is 2–6 and will need to win its final four games to become bowl-eligible for a ninth straight season. Troy is 2–5 overall, 1–3 in the Sun Belt and about to see its run of five-straight SBC titles end.
Navy 31, Troy 27

No. 80 Ole Miss at No. 85 Kentucky
Both teams are struggling, but Ole Miss has at least shown the ability to put points on the board in league play. The Rebs are averaging 14.8 points in five SEC games, while Kentucky is at 9.0 points through four games.
Ole Miss 20, Kentucky 14

No. 93 Utah State at No. 82 Hawaii
Utah State continues to lose close games. The Aggies are 2–5 and all five losses have been decided by 10 points or less, including three by four or less.
Hawaii 31, Utah State 27

No. 105 UL-Monroe at No. 83 UL-Lafayette
UL-Lafayette has won three straight in this Bayou State rivalry, and there is no reason to believe the Ragin’ Cajuns, who are a surprising 7–2, won’t extend the streak to four.
UL-Lafayette 27, UL-Monroe 22

No. 84 FIU at No. 95 at No. 95 Western Kentucky
The Hilltoppers opened the season with four straight losses and responded with four straight wins, including two in overtime. Tailback Bobby Rainey has rushed for 100 yards or more in all but one game this season.
Western Kentucky 31, FIU 30

No. 88 Louisiana Tech at No. 86 Fresno State
The recent schedule hasn’t been too grueling, but Louisiana Tech has won three straight to even its record at 4–4. The Bulldogs are leaning heavily on tailback Lennon Creer, who rushed 31 times for 112 yards last week.
Louisiana Tech 30, Fresno State 27

No. 113 Idaho at No. 89 San Jose State
San Jose State has won three of its last five games after an 0–3 start. The Spartans are clearly on the right path with second-year coach Mike MacIntyre.
San Jose State 33, Idaho 13

No. 91 Ball State at No. 104 Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan, at 5–3, is one of the surprise teams in the nation. The Eagles are one win away from clinching their first non-losing season since 1995.
Eastern Michigan 21, Ball State 20

No. 96 UTEP at No. 98 Rice
UTEP has done a good job beating the teams it is supposed to beat (Stony Brook, New Mexico State, Tulane, Colorado State), and Rice is a team that the Miners should beat.
UTEP 31, Rice 28


Last week — 36–14
Season — 381–84

Teaser:
<p> LSU's trip to Alabama headlines the Week 10 action in college football.</p>
Post date: Friday, November 4, 2011 - 07:25
Path: /mlb/new-york-mets-mt-rushmore
Body:

MLB Mt. Rushmores

by Charlie Miller

We believe that all MLB teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. Even two guys sitting in a bar can figure that out, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

New York Mets Mt. Rushmore
A franchise seemingly known for tough times as much as good times has 23 winning seasons in its 50-year history. Of the seven times the Mets reached the postseason, two of those experiences were simply amazing. The 1969 season, in which the Mets won 100 games en route to a World Series title, came after eight seasons of futility. Prior to 1969, the Mets escaped the cellar in the 10-team National League just twice, with a high-water mark of 73 wins. Most fans remember the unbelievable fashion in which the Mets overcame desperate odds to win the 1986 World Series. A simple Mookie Wilson ground ball to first became one of the most memorable plays in baseball history. Tom Seaver is the only clear choice for the Mets’ Mt. Rushmore. The arguments — which offer the toughest decisions of any team yet — may begin right….now.

Tom Seaver
Tom Terrific was that and more for 11-plus seasons as a Met. During his first tenure, Seaver was named Rookie of the Year, won three Cy Young awards and finished second one year. He won three ERA titles, two wins titles and five strikeout titles. His 198 wins and 2.57 ERA are easily the best in Mets history.

Dwight Gooden
Doc is second to Seaver is most every significant pitching category for the Mets, buoyed by his magical 1985 season in which he posted a 24-4 record, a 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts. That was his lone Cy Young award, but he finished in the top five three other times. He finished with 157 wins, 23 shutouts and a 3.10 ERA with the Mets.

David Wright 
Currently the face of the franchise, Wright is first all-time in hits, runs, total bases, doubles, RBIs, extra-base hits and second in average. The third baseman has been a model professional, through good times and bad in New York.

Davey Johnson
New York finished last or next-to-last 15 times in the franchise’s first 22 seasons. Then manager Davey Johnson arrived and the team finished either first or second in each of his seven years at the helm. That is the only seven-year stretch of winning seasons in team history. An extremely close call with Darryl Strawberry and Mike Piazza, but years down the road — if not now — fans will be more proud to call Johnson their own.

Close Calls
The franchise leader in home runs and RBIs, Darryl Strawberry was Rookie of the Year and finished second and third in MVP voting during his eight-season tenure in Flushing. Tough to leave him off.

One of the best catchers of all-time, Mike Piazza spent seven-plus seasons in New York and hit .296 with 220 home runs in 972 games. He hit one of the most dramatic home runs in Shea Stadium history as baseball returned after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

The franchise leader in hits and games played is original Met Ed Kranepool, who played in 1962 at age 17. He became the everyday first baseman in 1965 at age 20 and made the All-Star team. The Bronx native played all of his 18 seasons for the Mets, getting a pinch-hit double off Bob Forsch in his final at-bat in 1979.

Gil Hodges was the manager who took the Amazin’ Mets to the promised land in 1969.

The architect of the great teams of the 1980s, Frank Cashen, deserves credit for making the Mets relevant again after several lackluster seasons.

John Franco is the all-time leader with 276 saves.

Best Current Player
Beyond Wright, it will most likely be a pitcher if a current player proves himself worthy of Mt. Rushmore. Matt Harvey, and perhaps Zack Wheeler, are the most promising.

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com
 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

Teaser:
<p> Tom Seaver is the only clear choice for the Mets’ Mt. Rushmore. The arguments — which offer the toughest decisions of any team yet — may begin right….now.</p>
Post date: Friday, November 4, 2011 - 03:46
All taxonomy terms: Detroit Lions, Ndamukong Suh, Roger Goodell, NFL
Path: /nfl/ndamukong-suh-not-dirty-player
Body:

Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh is not a dirty player. Don’t believe the hype.

Suh’s meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the Lions’ bye week says more about the state of the league’s inconsistent officiating, ruling and fining systems than it does about the perceived reckless play of the second-year All-Pro defensive tackle.

Suh is, by all accounts, the premier player at his position. He is reestablishing — if not redefining — what it means to be an elite interior defensive lineman. In doing so, he has clearly become the anti-Albert Haynesworth.

There should be no blurred line when making a distinction between King Ndamukong and the likes of Fat Albert, a convicted face-stomper who, although dirty, did once set a $100-million standard for 4-3 three-technique tackles — coincidentally, playing for Suh’s current coach Jim Schwartz, who was then the Titans’ defensive coordinator.

No doubt Suh has a non-stop motor and a mean streak; but if he is being labeled a “dirty” player, then there is something wrong with the NFL, not Suh. Outside of the entire Pittsburgh Steelers defense, Suh has been enemy No. 1 in Commissioner Goodell’s attempt to “clean up” pro football.

Since being selected No. 2 overall out of Nebraska in 2010, Suh has been fined a grand total of $42,500 — chunking $20,000 for giving Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton the redheaded stepchild treatment this preseason; $15,000 for a right forearm shiver on Chicago’s Jay Cutler in Week 13 last year; and $7,500 for a facemask-headlock slam of Cleveland’s overmatched old man Jake Delhomme last preseason.

Upon further review, all of those fines came on plays that were obviously aggressive and violent but certainly not “dirty” — at least by the traditional NFL definition of the word. Crotch-punching Conrad Dobler was downright below-the-belt “dirty.” Helmet-to-helmet, late-hitting, pile-spearing Rodney Harrison was notoriously “dirty.” Head-kicking, finger-snapping, face-spitting, jaw-breaking Bill Romanowski personified “dirty.” But Suh? No way.

Suh is a 6'4", 307-pound, 24-year-old physical freak ready to break the mold. As strange as it sounds, he is a man among boys even in the NFL, where the biggest, strongest, fastest and meanest reside. There has not been an athlete with the combination of size, speed, strength, technique and ferocious force that Suh possesses since the late, great Reggie White.

“I’m just a different breed. I hate to say that, but it’s kind of like, no athlete in the NFL is like any other,” explained Suh. “But there’s guidelines that everybody needs to follow.”

Suh’s timing couldn’t be worse. He walked onto the NFL gridiron just as the established rules of the sport were essentially being reinvented on the fly by Commissioner Goodell. The type of unabated physicality that made Suh a Heisman Trophy finalist with the Huskers was and is in the process of being minimized.

Protecting quarterbacks and ball-carriers is top priority; Suh will have to fall in line. And he’s trying. During his off week, Suh went to New York to watch film with Goodell, in an effort to clarify what about No. 90’s game is considered “dirty” by both the zebras who throw yellow flags between the lines and the zoot suits who levy fines with super-slow-mo, second-guessed certainty after the game is over.

Even though his meeting with Goodell went well, Suh is well aware he hasn’t written his last check to the league office. He is a target, ironically, because of his unique abilities to seek and destroy his own chosen targets. Blessed with physical capabilities matched by few humans — remember, the man ran a 4.98 in the 40-yard dash, posted 32 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and skied for a 35.5-inch vertical at the Scouting Combine — Suh knows all about playing by his own rules. And that sword cuts both ways.

“You look at Tom Brady. When he gets hit, you always wonder if there’s going to be a flag. There’s certain things that may be called for him that may not be called for other quarterbacks just because of his stature or whatever, how he is in the league,” Suh vented.

“That’s the same thing with defensive players. I think my hits may look a little different because of the type of strength and athleticism that I have, compared to some other defensive linemen. It’s just the way the world works.”

Then again, being the best has always been a “dirty” game full of name-calling from those who can’t keep up. But don’t expect Suh to slow down.

“I’m not going to change the way I play,” said Suh. “I feel that the way I’m playing and the way I have played in the past is continuing to play within the rules.”

by Nathan Rush

Teaser:
<p> Detroit Lions All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in New York but won’t change his playing style because he's not a dirty player.</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 20:55
All taxonomy terms: arrest, drug test, jail, Jeremy Mayfield, meth, NASCAR, NASCAR, News
Path: /columns/garage-talk/sordid-tale-jeremy-mayfield
Body:

by Tom Bowles

It’s been a little over 48 hours since Jeremy Mayfield’s final NASCAR chapter — filled with drugs, guns, allegedly stolen equipment — and the stench of an ugly lie has been revealed. It’s the last bit of content for what will be a 500-page, tell-all book someday, but now with the wounds still fresh I can only summarize two years of Mayfield mayhem in just one word:

Sorry.

I’m sorry for fans, hundreds of thousands who put this athlete on a pedestal he never deserved. Competing in the number one racing series in America, Mayfield drove for some of the sport’s best car owners (Roger Penske, Ray Evernham) while racking up five wins and making the Chase for the Championship twice. You don’t accomplish that without inheriting the role model tag, as kids sitting at home watched this Kentuckian muscle his way to the front and labeled him a hero. When you move Dale Earnhardt, of all people, out of the way to earn a trip to Victory Lane (see: Pocono, 2000) you’re going to earn a degree of admiration and respect. When vaulting from promising youngster to public figure, living up to lofty expectations becomes a necessity.

Instead, it’s all too often the first chapter that hooks you through admiration while the athlete starts a tragic play. Fans attached to that quirky, aggressive personality, tricked by the hallmark of Mayfield’s career on the circuit to the point they never thought it would bring him down. Yes, speaking out led to pink slips along the way for Mayfield, but to those who loved him they were battle scars for brutal honesty in an age of political correctness.

Perhaps the greatest example is his departure from Evernham’s car in 2006; as a parting shot, he blew the car owner’s cover concerning a romantic relationship with another driver within the organization, Erin Crocker. For months, the media had kept it quiet, as fear of retribution (Evernham was divorcing, Crocker was half his age) drove their silence. But Mayfield, pushed by poor performance and alleged mistreatment, had no problem blazing his own trail without fear.

So it was no wonder, then, on the heels of a positive test for methamphetamine so many bent over backwards to believe him. Since that fateful May day in 2009 when one failed urine sample led to an indefinite suspension by NASCAR, Mayfield has been trumpeting his innocence loud and clear. “It was a setup,” he claimed, accusing NASCAR chairman Brian France of being out to get him while alleging the sport’s drug handling methods were so sloppy, kindergarteners could do a better job. Claiming a combination of over-the-counter mediation, Claritin-D and an ADHD drug, Adderall, caused the mix-up, Mayfield came up with a plausible story that Joe Fan on the street could believe. It was the classic tale of the blue-collar worker trying to start his own business, but being railroaded by the big, bad, greedy white-collar men in suits.

Even when his own stepmother backed up NASCAR’s claims, Mayfield was able to turn the public court of opinion in his favor. He was the double-jeopardy victim, haunted by an unwanted family member. Hanging on every word, fans’ hearts were broken and a select few even turned their back on the sport over a punishment many felt was simply unwarranted.

How do all those people feel now? Sick to their stomach, as their loyalty was repaid by lies. It’s hard enough to handle mistrust when it happens within your day-to-day life. But when a role model breaks the code? It’s somehow harder to handle, your version of a perfect example turning forever flawed.

I’m sorry for Jeremy’s wife, Shana, who may be facing a reality check she can’t turn away from, although it’s uncertain whether she was an accomplice or unknowing victim. Even on her Twitter feed this week, Shana Mayfield was alleging a set up. But 50 guns, 1.5 grams of meth and a potential $100,000 in stolen items — all found on Mayfield’s property — don’t just magically appear. Call me crazy, but if the big, bad NASCAR men tried to haul gigantic pieces of metal onto the property and plant drugs in the house, I don’t think she and Jeremy would sleep through it.

Let’s hope the wife, of all people, wakes up before it’s too late. Sometimes, for drug users it’s the main enabler screaming, “Stop!” that makes the difference between abuse and recovery.

I’m sorry for many of the media, including myself, along with several garage insiders who read of Mayfield’s arrest and wondered what, if anything, we could have done differently. Journalists are taught to report without bias, but the degree of 50/50 reporting, in hindsight, showcases how many of us were sucked into this mythical web. From May 2009, when Mayfield filed a lawsuit to try and get his indefinite suspension lifted, to early July, when Judge Graham Mullen granted a temporary injunction, many in NASCAR’s garage area came out in support of the driver. Even the judge appeared sold in his initial ruling, concluding the possibility of a false positive “was quite substantial” based on the way NASCAR’s drug lab, Aegis Laboratories, handled the sample. How could you not have seeds of doubt in your head, to the point you’re asking people if the sport is ready to change their drug policy in light of a possible mistake?

Weeks later, a second positive test for meth caused Mullen to quickly reverse that ruling, but the Mayfield damage had already been done. For some, no amount of positive testing would alter his innocence, as the driver became a symbol of the one man that stepped up to fight the establishment.

And that’s where I’m sorry for NASCAR. In a two-year span, its drug policy — instituted with the best of intentions — was publicly dragged through the mud. David Black, the head of Aegis for a time, was made out to be an arrogant fool, mishandling samples while accused of ignoring others to persecute the NASCAR-selected guilty. The sport’s CEO got it worst of all; Mayfield tried to out anything and everything about France, from his divorce to financial issues to insinuating he had his own past history of drug use. As the mainstream media caught on to the madness, it was nothing less than a black eye during a time when attendance, TV ratings and a sport’s reputation were already taking punches from other sources.

It took two years for closure to come, but the knockout punch landed squarely on Mayfield himself. But who can trump victory here? Ugly wars don’t come with squeaky-clean finishes. Instead, it’s the victims who are left to clean up the mess and move forward. And while you’re sorry and I’m sorry, the only person not apologizing is the one who stirred up all these feelings in the first place.

“Mr. Mayfield has no knowledge of either stolen property or methamphetamine being present on his property,” says Daniel Marino, the latest attorney for the driver (some of his predecessors still haven’t been paid, yet another sign ignored through the strength of Mayfield’s lies). “He denies the accusation that he was in possession of methamphetamine or any illegal drug, and he denies any suggestion that he knowingly received or possessed stolen property.”

Here we go again. In the face of certain disaster, Mayfield goes back to the one tried-and-true method he feels has kept him afloat these past two years: lying, straight-faced to the public.

The problem is no one believes him anymore. That means Mayfield can no longer win … and neither can anyone else.

Agree with Tom? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him how you feel. You can also follow Tom on Twitter @NASCARBowles

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Tom Bowles examines the long, sad plight of banned NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield — and the latest twist in what seems to be a never-ending saga.</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 18:08
Path: /college-football/aggies-edge-longhorns-best-team-texas
Body:

There were major questions facing most Lone Star teams — besides conference realignment — coming into the 2011 season. Could Texas rebound from a losing campaign? Could Texas A&M continue its late 2010 momentum while being distracted with an SEC move? How was TCU going to replace the massive losses from its 13-0 squad? Could Robert Griffin III lead Baylor to another level? How would Houston’s Case Keenum bounce back from injury? The answers have been mostly positive, especially with the Cougars starting 8-0. The Longhorns and Aggies have some scars but no bad losses. Texas Tech looked solid until last week, while Baylor has faded from its exciting start.

Best team in the Lone Star State?

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
Tough call, but I will go with Texas A&M. The Aggies are 5–3 overall, with all three losses by seven points or less. And two of their losses — vs. Oklahoma State and Arkansas — have come against teams currently ranked in the top 10. Texas is 5–2, and both of the Horns' losses have come against top competition, but they weren't as competitive, losing 55–17 to Oklahoma and 38–26 to Oklahoma State. Also, Texas' best win (by far) is at UCLA. A&M, on the other hand, can claim wins at Texas Tech and vs. Baylor (by 27 points) on its resume. We could have thrown Texas Tech into the equation last week, after its shocking win at Oklahoma, but the Red Raiders lost the following week at home to Iowa State by 34 points. I haven't forgotten about Houston, which is ranked No. 25 in this week's Athlon Sports top 25. The Cougars are 8–0 and feature the nation's No. 1 offense, but their schedule has been very, very soft. They do own a win at home vs. UCLA (by four points), but they have not defeated a team with a winning record.

Nathan Rush
Mack Brown Texas Football still has the Lone Star State locked down. Granted, this year's Longhorns are a young group, but they're only getting better. Freshman Malcolm Brown (635 yards, 5 TDs), senior Fozzy Whittaker (288 yards, 4 TDs) and Texas' 17th-ranked ground game (218.9 ypg) have picked up the slack for a passing attack still under construction. Defensively, new coordinator Manny Diaz has a unit that is ranked 13th nationally (296.4 ypg), 19th against the run (104.1 ypg) and has allowed just 11.8 points per win. UT's only losses this season came in back-to-back weeks against two of the top teams in the country — Oklahoma (55–17) and Oklahoma State (38–26). Texas will have a chance to prove it is better than in-state rivals Texas Tech (Nov. 5), Texas A&M (Nov. 24) and Baylor (Dec. 3). Unfortunately, there is no showdown with Houston or TCU this season. But make no mistake, the Lone Star State is still burnt orange.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
Despite having three losses, I still like Texas A&M as the top team in the Lone Star State. The Aggies are 5-3, but have close losses to Oklahoma State (by 1), Arkansas (by 4) and Missouri (by 7 in OT). The defense has been less than stellar this season, ranking last nationally against the pass and 90th in yardage allowed. However, the offense is one of the most-balanced in college football. The rushing attack is averaging 224.5 yards a game, while the Aggies are throwing for 295.3 yards a game. Although the offense has been solid all year, turnovers have been an issue. Texas A&M ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 13 turnovers lost, while the defense has forced only six. In addition to turnovers, the Aggies have struggled in the second half, which was a big reason for the losses against Oklahoma State and Arkansas. There’s really not a team in Texas without any question marks. Yes, Houston is undefeated, but the strength of schedule just isn’t there. If the Cougars and Aggies had a regular season game this year, Case Keenum and his receivers would score, but Houston’s defense would struggle to stop Texas A&M’s ground attack of Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael. Considering the Aggies garnered preseason top 10 hype, a 5-3 record is a disappointment. However, considering the options on the table, I still think they would beat the other teams in the state if they played tomorrow.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
Case Keenum is the best player in the state of Texas. Gary Patterson is the best head coach in the state of Texas. Robert Griffin III is the most exciting person in the state of Texas. And the most talented collection of athletes is located in Austin. Honestly, this debate will be settled on Thanksgiving in College Station when the Longhorns visit Texas A&M in the Lone Star Showdown. For now, I think the Burnt Orange Longhorns are playing better football than the Aggies. Their only losses are to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (a combined 15-1), and David Ash has stabilized the quarterback position finally. TCU and Houston would play for third place honors with the Baylor/Texas Tech winner rounding out of the top five.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
I think if you had a Lone Star round-robin (JerryWorld?), the Texas A&M Aggies would prevail. Texas is close, but it may be another season before the Longhorns can keep up in a shootout. The good thing is that we’ll get the answer on Thanksgiving night in College Station, in what will be the final Big 12 game for the Aggies. Mike Sherman’s club has lost three games (all of which A&M led by double-digits at half) with the defense struggling, but I’d still take the Aggies to outpoint anyone else in Texas. The obvious omission is the 8-0 Houston Cougars, but Keenum and crew just haven’t beaten anyone of consequence. Plus, they struggled to get by UCLA, UTEP, and Louisiana Tech. Every team in Texas has some question marks, but I’ll take the SEC-bound Aggies for the time being.
 

Teaser:
<p> Aggies edge Longhorns as Best Team in Texas</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 15:57
Path: /columns/track-tap/texas-motor-speedway-1
Body:

by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush

Race: AAA Texas 500
Track: Texas Motor Speedway
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
When: Sunday, Nov. 6
TV: ESPN (3:00 p.m. EST)

Specs: 1.5-mile quad-oval; Banking/Turns: 24°; Banking/Quad-Oval: 18°; Banking/Straightaways: 5°

April Winner: Matt Kenseth
2010 Winner: Denny Hamlin won both races (April and November).

2011 Race Length: 501 miles/334 laps
Track Qualifying Record: 196.235 mph (Brian Vickers, 2006)
Race Record: 151.055 mph (Carl Edwards, 2005)


From the Spotter's Stand
It was a Ford-type of evening at Texas in April. Jack Roush's Fusions took four of the top seven positions, led by Matt Kenseth, who led a race-high 169 of 334 laps to break a 76-race winless skid.

Tony Stewart put himself in position to take the checkered flag late, but was busted for speeding on pit road, relegating him to a 12th-place finish. Kenseth took it from there, leading 32 of the final 58 laps en route to his second career win at TMS.

After perfecting the Texas two-step, Denny Hamlin joined Carl Edwards (2008) as the only drivers to sweep at Texas since the track became a biannual stop in 2005. Kenseth (2), Cousin Carl (3) and Jeff Burton (2) are the other multi-win drivers in the 21-race history of TMS.

In April 2010, Hamlin beat runner-up Jimmie Johnson to the line (.152 seconds) after pole-sitter Tony Stewart (74 laps led) lost control and started a nine-car pileup that also wrecked Jeff Gordon (124 laps led).

The other boot dropped in November, when Hamlin earned his second spurred trophy and series-best eighth win of the year — leaving Ft. Worth in first in the Chase, 33 points ahead of JJ with two races to go.


Crew Chief’s Take
“Texas is all about downforce, and generating it in race conditions — with cars all over the track — is tricky, yet paramount. Speed at Texas is important, but so is a good shock and suspension package that allows the car to handle the bumps that have formed in Turns 1, 2 and 3. The exit of two and the entrance of three are the trouble spots, both from a driver’s and a mechanic’s perspective. It’s one of those places where, in my mind, strange things happen. I’m always extra wary when we go there.”


Fantasy Stall
Looking at Checkers: It’s hard not to like the way Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth have performed on the big intermediates — particularly Texas — throughout their careers.
Pretty Solid Pick: Denny Hamlin’s track record in Texas is good and the team is looking to finish 2011 strong.
Good Sleeper Pick: Jeff Burton has two wins and nine top 10s here in 21 starts. Yippee ki-yay, cowboy!
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Brian Vickers has yet to record a top-10 finish at Texas in 13 starts.
Insider Tip: Sticking with Hamlin, Kenseth or Edwards is smart, but keep an eye on a surging Tony Stewart.


Classic Moments at Texas
Texas Motor Speedway’s first two Cup dates are brutal affairs. The 1997 Interstate Batteries 500 and ’98 Texas 500 are plagued by savage wrecks — one that nearly ends Greg Sacks’ career and another that sidelines Mike Skinner for weeks — and weepers that cancel practice and qualifying sessions. The mayhem even leads to whispers, though not verified, that Texas would have its single date stripped.

Therefore, following the ’98 race, track owner Bruton Smith purchases a share of North Wilkesboro Speedway to move one if its two dates to his track in Texas. He has the track repaved and reconfigured and installs a new drainage system. The results are immediate, as TMS stands as one of the great facilities on the circuit.
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports previews Sunday's AAA Texas 500 from Texas Motor Speedway, NASCAR's eighth race in the Chase for the Championship.</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, NBA
Path: /nba/mark-cuban-talks-family-and-championship-mum-buying-dodgers
Body:

This article originally appeared in Athlon Sports Monthly, available in newspapers around the country.

So does Mark Cuban still sleep with the NBA championship trophy? We figured there was only one way to find out. So we asked him. Along with a lot of other questions — some probing, some whimsical.

When it comes to pro sports franchise owners, there are those who are conservative, some who are outspoken and one who has shown he can detonate some atomic reactions with his opinions.

Cuban has owned the Dallas Mavericks since 2000, and his team won the first NBA championship in franchise history in June. Like everybody else, they are waiting for the labor situation to allow the 2011-12 season to begin. It’s the lockout that has helped Cuban keep a relatively low profile since the parade and post-championship glow subsided and the work stoppage began July 1.

In the meantime, Cuban has had to spend a summer without hanging around any of his players, many of whom he counts as good friends.

We caught up with the 53-year-old billionaire for a quick Q&A about what has been going on with him and how life has changed since winning the title.

How different has this summer as a champion been compared to all those summers spent tied for last, as you like to say?
I get to enjoy ending the season on a win. It’s been unbelievable. It feels great.

Anybody treat you any differently, like maybe getting free stuff at the store or different kinds of questions from folks?
I’ve walked into places around the country and people have stood up and clapped. It’s kind of bizarre, but it gets the emotions stirring in me every time. No free stuff, though. The other cool thing is that people don’t congratulate me, they thank me. That has never happened before.

How about your outlook on life? Does a championship soften the edge a little?
Not really. I love to compete.

Are your daughters now starting to understand what daddy does and grasping what a championship means?
Not fully, but they like all the Mavs outfits their mom makes for them!

Has being an NBA champion made any difference at all in your more important job, which is being a dad?
No. Basketball is a small part of my life compared to my kids.

What’s the average day like with you and the kids (even though there’s no such thing as an average day with kids)?
Get up for school, listen to them complain about something. Force them to eat. Get them to school. After school they have so many activities, I don’t see them until dinner. Fortunately this summer we took a few weeks off and went on a family trip, which was great.

Regarding Texas fans, does it humble you a little knowing that what your team does can have an impact on so many lives, and do you look at Dallas and North Texas as a really good sports area?
Yes and yes. I learned early on that I don’t really own the team; all of North Texas does. It really is a great feeling to know how much the Mavs can positively impact kids and families. North Texas is a great sports region. We love our teams. And while we make a lot of noise when we don’t win, we always end up being there to support them, win or lose.

What about your television exploits? We know about the “Dancing With the Stars” experience, but what about “Shark Tank,” where you have a recurring role fielding business proposals from aspiring entrepreneurs?
I’m a huge fan (of “Shark Tank”). I love what they do and I thought it would be a good idea to go on. I get pitched business proposals every day. I solicit ideas on my blog. That’s just part of my life. If I see a way somebody can have a successful business and create new jobs, I’ll invest.

What was more gratifying, an NBA title or selling Broadcast.com for a bajillion dollars, and why?
Broadcast.com. No question. That changed my life and the lives of future generations. With a championship, the trophy is only yours for one year and you have to do it again. That said, it was an amazing feeling that I wish would never end.

You’ve toyed with the idea of owning another sports franchise like the Los Angeles Dodgers or Chicago Cubs. Do you foresee that in your future?
Don’t know about that.

What’s the hardest part about owning a sports franchise?
Recognizing that the mood of North Texas goes up and down with the Mavs every fall.

Who do you consider your best friends among other NBA owners? Or are they all just competitors?
I get along with most of the guys. Most of the time.

What’s your favorite sport to watch, outside of the NBA?
Rugby. I played a lot in college. It’s a blast.

What do you do with the trophy? Do you keep it with you when you are driving around? Please tell me you aren’t still sleeping with it.
No. When it’s not visiting Mavs fans or customers, it’s in my office or kitchen so I can see it every day.

Now that you have a championship, are you less or more likely to be open to selling the Mavericks?
No change.
 

Teaser:
<p> The Dallas Mavericks owner talks about his family, a championship and Texas sports</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 13:10
Path: /nfl/nfl-picks-every-game-week-9
Body:

A quick preview of every game on the NFL schedule for Week 9, along with the consensus picks of Athlon Sports editors Mitchell Light, Rob Doster, Nathan Rush, Patrick Snow and Steven Lassan:

Ravens (5-2) at Steelers (6-2)
The most physical rivalry in football resumes on Sunday night. Last season, these AFC North foes played a pair of defensive battles, both of which were won by three points by the road team. Baltimore won 17–14 in Week 4, Pittsburgh won 13–10 in Week 13. This season the Ravens have struggled on the road, while the Steelers are unbeaten at home and fresh off a 25–17 statement win over the Patriots.
Steelers by 3

Jets (4-3) at Bills (5-2)
Despite being winless on the road, the Jets are just one game out of first place in the AFC East with the two teams ahead of them — the Bills and Patriots — up next on the schedule. The Bills are 4–0 at “home” this season, going 3–0 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., and 1–0 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Bills by 2

Browns (3-4) at Texans (5-3)
If this is in fact Houston’s breakout season, coach Gary Kubiak’s club must take care of its business against a scrappy Cleveland squad.
Texans by 9

Dolphins (0-7) at Chiefs (4-3)
Kansas City got lucky against San Diego on Monday night; winless Miami just wants Luck.
Chiefs by 5

Seahawks (2-5) at Cowboys (3-4)
Tony Romo has thrown seven TDs and six INTs (with one fumble at the goal line) in four losses, four TDs and one INT in three wins. The Boys go as Romo does, just like Jerry Jones promised.
Cowboys by 10

49ers (6-1) at Redskins (3-4)
No West Coast bias for Niners, who carry a 4–0 record in the Eastern Time Zone this season.
49ers by 6

Falcons (4-3) at Colts (0-8)
Indy has lost by a combined score of 78–63 in three home games. On the road, the Colts have been broken by a combined 174–58 tally.
Falcons by 11

Broncos (2-5) at Raiders (4-3)
One week after being thrown to the Lions, Tim Tebow enters the Black Hole hoping to regain the magic touch he had in his heroic comeback at Miami and his entire career at Florida.
Raiders by 7

Buccaneers (4-3) at Saints (5-3)
Drew Brees threw for 383 yards, one TD and three INTs during a 26–20 loss at Tampa Bay in Week 6. Three weeks later, Brees has a chance to redeem himself in an NFC South showdown that will determine which team takes the halftime lead in one of the league’s best divisions.
Saints by 6

Bengals (5-2) at Titans (4-3)
Cincy’s Cedric Benson will return from a one-game suspension. The real question is whether or not Tennessee’s missing runner, Chris Johnson, will return to form — or continue being serenaded with boos by the Music City crowd.
Titans by 2

Giants (5-2) at Patriots (5-2)
These two teams have met in Week 4 of the preseason every year since 2005. No one remembers those meaningless matchups. But the last two times the G-Men and Pats have played when it mattered are hard to forget. There was the 38–35 classic from Week 17 in 2007, when New England capped its perfect 16–0 regular season. And, of course, a 17–14 New York win in Super Bowl XLII shortly after.
Patriots by 7

Packers (7-0) at Chargers (4-3)
Fresh off a bye, California kid Aaron Rodgers returns to the West Coast to take on a flickering Chargers club working on short rest after a devastating Monday night loss in Kansas City. The past two seasons, Green Bay has been extremely sharp following its bye — outscoring opponents by a combined 57–3.
Packers by 7

Rams (1-6) at Cardinals (1-6)
St. Louis football migrates to the desert once again, as the franchise formerly known as the Los Angeles Rams takes on the old St. Louis Cardinals. These are decidedly different one-win teams. The Rams just won; the Cardinals are trying to stop a six-game losing streak.
Cardinals by 3

Bears (4-3) at Eagles (3-4)
Two of the league’s most unpredictable and polarizing passers — Chicago’s Jay Cutler and Philadelphia’s Mike Vick — take the field in a make-or-break game on Monday night.
Eagles by 7

Last week: 9-4 / Season: 81-35

Teaser:
<p> A preview of every NFL game for Week 9 — including the Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants at New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints — with the consensus pick of Athlon Sports' editors.</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 12:04
All taxonomy terms: nascar archive, Tony Stewart, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/tony-stewart-history-repeats-itself
Body:

Athlon Sports’ upcoming 2012 Racing annual will mark its 10th anniversary covering the sport of NASCAR. In honor of the milestone, Athlon will take the next four months to look back at memorable interviews, feature articles and driver profiles that have appeared in its Racing magazines over the years.

Up first is an exclusive Q&A with Tony Stewart done prior to the 2005 season. Stewart was coming off a sub-par campaign at Joe Gibbs Racing, but would go on to win his second Cup title later in the year.
 

Tony Stewart, the 2002 Cup champion, finished sixth in the 2004 standings after winning races at Chicagoland Speedway and Watkins Glen, bringing his career total to 19 victories in stock car racing’s top series.

Stewart was not happy with his season, however. The Chase for the Nextel Cup format, with a champion determined by the season’s final 10 races, seemed made to order for Stewart, who had a history of closing fast in his Cup career. But Stewart was never really a factor in the Chase.

Stewart returns to the No. 20 Chevrolet owned by Joe Gibbs, with Greg Zipadelli as his crew chief, for his seventh season of Cup competition in 2005. Stewart sat down with Athlon Sports to talk about where he’s been and where he hopes to go in the sport.

Athlon Sports: Look back at the 2004 season for a minute. You won two races and made the Chase for the Nextel Cup. But you got wrecked in the first Chase race at New Hampshire and then never really got untracked after that.
Tony Stewart: I don’t think there were very many highlights for us, to be honest. I think we had a very terrible season. It wasn’t our worst finish in the point standings, but we just really never had that pizzazz we’ve had in the past in the second half of the season. We didn’t have it in the first half, either. I really felt like our whole Joe Gibbs Racing organization struggled and we’ve got a lot of improving to do for 2005.

AS: What went wrong?
Stewart: Well, if we knew the reason we would have fixed it by now. I can promise you that one reason wasn’t due to a lack of determination and effort on our team’s part. Everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing has dug their heels in, but we just couldn’t find that missing piece to the equation. I can promise you that when we do, we will be back on form again, and after having a year like we had in 2004, if we can get it back on track in 2005, we’ll be tough to beat.

AS: Have you made any major changes in the team for 2005?
Stewart: Personnel-wise, we’ll be the same. That’s something I am really proud of. Our team has stayed intact through the whole time I’ve been there. We’ve only had a couple of changes. All we’ve done is add people. Everybody will have to make changes for 2005 because of the different rules package, but you just have to go out and do the work and see what you can do.

AS: What would you do to change the way the Nextel Cup champion is now determined?
Stewart: It’s not my job to do that. I’m a race car driver. It’s hard enough just trying to concentrate on doing my job each week, let alone trying to do NASCAR’s job for them. I think they do a pretty good job on their own. We don’t need to be promoters, we don’t need to be NASCAR. That’s why they pay guys like Mike Helton the big money they pay him — to worry about those problems.

AS: You won a championship under the former system and Kurt Busch won his under the Chase system. How much respect do you have for what he accomplished in 2004?
Stewart: If you look at some of the problems he had in the last 10 races, there were three or four times where he had to bounce back and overcome problems. That’s what you have to do to win any championship. He performed well when he didn’t have problems, and in the races where he did, he rebounded and performed well in some of those. You have to give him a lot of respect.

AS: Which was harder to win, the championship under the system in which you won it or under the system in 2004?
Stewart: I don’t know. Every year is so different. It’s really hard to say. If you could put back-to-back two identical years it would be easier to compare. I think the whole moral to the story is that we all know what the system is going into the season. It is what it is and we aren’t going to change it. We couldn’t if we wanted to. It’s fair for everybody. There’s nothing that’s unfair about the system. We know what it is and it’s our job to go out and do the best we can with it.

AS: You’ve had your share of disagreements with NASCAR, with fellow competitors and with members of the media over your years in the sport, and sometimes you’ve gotten in hot water over some of those. Last year, though, you had a chance to be sort of a bystander and see the controversy that followed a 25-point penalty against Dale Earnhardt Jr. for using a four-letter word in Victory Lane. What was your view of that situation? Did you have empathy for Dale Jr.?
Stewart: I think that was highly blown way out of proportion. I think we’re starting to nit-pick and scrutinize way too much in this series. Since when does something that somebody says have an effect on winning the championship? And when should it have that effect? From the time that car goes through tech, to the time that checkered flag drops — any time in that period where anything that happens can affect how the race was run — that’s when points should be taken away, not something that happens before that period and not anything that happens after that period.

The last time I checked, we had freedom of speech, correct? Since when has that changed now? I didn’t know the Constitution changed. What Dale Jr. said didn’t cheat anybody on the race track. It didn’t have any effect on how the race was run.

Where is the process going to stop? What’s going to be the next thing now? If we don’t show up to the car for practice on time are we going to lose 25 points for that next? Where is it realistically going to end?

AS: Let’s talk about some of the things you’ve faced in NASCAR. Do you feel like people already have their minds made up about you in a way that makes any incident that happens anywhere around you automatically your fault?
Stewart: I don’t think it’s me on the track that has given me two strikes (against me), I think it’s the way I’ve handled things off the track that has given me those strikes. Just like the deal at Chicago (where Kasey Kahne wrecked after contact from Stewart on a restart). If NASCAR thought I did something wrong, they would have done something obviously. I talked to NASCAR, Kasey talked to NASCAR, (and) their explanation of what happened in what they showed me backed up exactly what I said happened. I stuck to my guns saying I didn’t do anything wrong. The reason I did that was because I didn’t do anything wrong.

At the same time, if I do something off the track, I know I’ve got those two strikes on me already. This is not the deal to go through as a driver. It’s not just about driving race cars any more — that’s the way up to this point it’s always been. Now, we’re representing multi-billion dollar companies and we have a TV package. NASCAR is very image-conscious now, which they haven’t always been.

Driving the race car, which is what I got hired to do in the first place, and what I have been doing the past 25 years of my life, is only a fractional part of my overall job as a Nextel Cup driver. There’s a lot more changes that go on in your life than the media could understand in one conversation. It’s something you really have to be behind the scenes. You need to live it and breathe for more than a day or two or a week to fully understand what all is involved in it.

AS: To a degree, is it OK with you if you get a “bad boy” label hung on you?
Stewart: Look at wrestling. If you had all the popular guys, the “good” guys in the sport, and you had them wrestling each other each week, I’m not sure it would be as appealing to the fans as if you got somebody that people like and somebody that they dislike. So I think that adds flavor to the sport. I don’t really take it personal. I don’t think it’s a personal deal; it’s just a title that’s given to many of us. I guess I lead the pack of the bad boy group. I think there are fans out there that are looking for that guy. Dale Earnhardt didn’t get his reputation or popularity by being a good guy. He got it by being aggressive, and he was probably the bad boy in his era. So I don’t think it’s such a bad thing after all.

AS: At times you’ve hinted that the frustrations of dealing with the rigors of being a Cup driver might just lead you to get out of NASCAR and just go race sprint cars somewhere. Is that really something you think about doing?
Stewart: No, not necessarily. I think there are days that I’m frustrated and I feel that way, but I think there are more days that I wake up and it just doesn’t bother me anymore. We’ve been through so much controversy in my whole career in the Cup series, I’m just kind of numb to it all I guess, so to speak.
It’s not a distraction to me; it’s not an aggravation to me. I’ve found a way to simplify everything and not worry about it. Controversy is controversy; it’s just something for people to read in the paper and something for them to talk about. When I’m in the race car, I mean, my job is to go out and win the race and that’s what my passion and desire is whether it’s in a midget or in a sprint car or in the Nextel Cup car. At the end of the day I still get a paycheck and still have a job that I thoroughly enjoy.

I guess I’ve come to the realization that I’ve learned what my role is here. Every other series that I was a part of, the drivers had a lot of input and the officials really worked with them. At this level, it’s done in a totally different situation. You realize it doesn’t matter what your opinion is. They don’t care about your opinion. I think that’s why this series has been as successful as it is too, because they’ve stuck to their core organizing skills. This formula they’ve had for over 50-plus years has been pretty successful. So I guess I’m not as frustrated as I used to be because I’ve realized that’s partly why it’s gotten where it has is because they’ve done it their way and not listened to everybody else who has come and gone throughout the series.

AS: Your love for sprint-car racing is well known. You own U.S. Auto Club and World of Outlaws series sprint car teams and work on - and drive - those cars whenever you can squeeze it into your schedule that’s choked with Nextel Cup commitments. And now, you’ve purchased one of the most revered dirt tracks in the United States, historic Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, from the legendary Earl Baltes, who retired. Did you do that because you want to protect the legacy of a place that is so much a part of the history in a part of racing that’s so dear to your heart?
Stewart: I think that’s why Earl and Bernice had the confidence and why Earl came to me and said he’d really like me to have that place. I think Earl knows I respect the history of the sport and the history of his speedway. I will do everything I can to take what Earl has built and not change it a lot. I don’t want to take things away to put something else in place, I just want to take what’s there and add to it. I think there’s a great foundation there, and with my popularity in NASCAR I think we can take some of that and help attract sponsors to the speedway and attract a new breed of race fans who’ve never heard or Eldora or gone to a race there. Hopefully we can take the success there and build on it.

AS: There are hundreds of race tracks around the country, many of which you’ve raced on. What makes Eldora so special?
Stewart: I have never been to a race at Eldora where people didn’t have a good time. Even if the track isn’t prepared the best as it has been or they had bad weather, everybody always found a way to have a good time. Eldora kind of allows you to let your hair down. It’s not so sponsor-driven to where you’re being force-fed from that standpoint. It’s sort of like going to the Kentucky Derby, sometimes people couldn’t tell you who won the Derby, but they can tell you how much fun they had. Eldora is like a happening. They can tell you who won the race, I can promise you that, but it’s just the atmosphere around it, an aura you don’t find at a lot of tracks across the country. It’s just a special place.
 

Teaser:
<p> Our 2005 Q&amp;A with Tony Stewart feels a little like deja vu</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 10:37
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-10-key-games-week-10
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

Here are previews and predictions for the 10 best college football games this weekend.


LSU (+5) at Alabama
It’s the most anticipated regular-season game of the BCS era. It’s LSU and Alabama — the top two teams in every poll — in prime time on Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Both teams are 8–0 overall and 5–0 in the SEC, and both teams are dominant on defense and highly efficient on offense. So who wins? Well, it likely will come down to which team makes fewer mistakes. Neither offense figures to have much success driving the length of the field, so the team that can force a turnover and create a short field will put itself in great position. LSU has been better than Alabama at both forcing turnovers (18 to 14) and not turning it over (3 to 8). The Crimson Tide, however, have been better, at least statistically, on both offense and defense. I’ll go with the home team and the (slightly) better defense.
Alabama 24, LSU 17

Missouri (+2.5) at Baylor
Missouri broke through with its first big win of the season, rallying from 11 points down in the second half to beat Texas A&M, 38–31, in overtime at Kyle Field. The Tigers feature two of the more unheralded skill position players in the nation — dual-threat quarterback James Franklin and tailback Henry Josey. This dynamic duo should put up big numbers against a Baylor defense that has given up a total of 114 points and 1,281 yards the past two weeks in losses at Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. Baylor, too, can move the football, but yards haven’t been translating into big numbers on the scoreboard in recent weeks. Baylor averaged only 26 points against A&M and O-State despite rolling up 1,102 total yards. This one will be highly entertaining.
Missouri 41, Baylor 38

Kansas State (+20) at Oklahoma State
Kansas State’s dream season hit its first speed bump — and it was quite large. The Wildcats, who were 7–0 and had climbed to No. 10 in the AP poll, dropped a 58–17 decision at home to Oklahoma. K-State’s usually stout defense gave up 690 yards to Oklahoma, dropping from 29th in the nation to 60th in just one week. The Cats are in for another huge challenge this week. Oklahoma State ranks second in the nation in scoring offense (49.8 ppg) and fourth in total offense (553.1 ypg). The Pokes give up plenty of yards — over 450 per game — but they are only allowing 26.2 points in Big 12 action. It’s tough to see K-State doing enough on offense to keep this close.
Oklahoma State 41, Kansas State 21

South Carolina (+5) at Arkansas
South Carolina controls its own destiny in the SEC East, but the Gamecocks still have several hurdles to climb before they can plan a return visit to the Georgia Dome. This trip to Arkansas figures to be a significant challenge. The Hogs have struggled in recent weeks, beating Ole Miss and Vanderbilt by a combined eight points, but this is still a very talented team that boasts one of the nation’s top passing offenses. On paper, however, this looks to be a decent matchup for South Carolina. The Gamecocks, even without Marcus Lattimore, are leaning heavily on their running attack, and Arkansas has trouble stopping the run. The Hogs gave up 222 yards on the ground last week to Vanderbilt and allowed 381 to Texas A&M and 291 to Auburn. Getting off to a quick start will once again be a focus for Arkansas; the Hogs trailed Vanderbilt 21–14 at the half last week and trailed Ole Miss 17–7 at the break the week before.
Arkansas 27, South Carolina 17

Oregon (+16.5) at Washington
The Ducks are 5–0 in league play but are about to face their three most difficult Pac-12 opponents — Washington, Stanford and USC. The burning question in Eugene is who will be taking the snaps this week for Oregon — Darron Thomas or Bryan Bennett? Chip Kelly benched Thomas in the Ducks’ win over Washington State last week and isn’t revealing the starter for the trip to Seattle. There are no such issues at quarterback for Washington, though Keith Price wasn’t at his best last week vs. Arizona. The sophomore threw only five interceptions in his first seven games but was picked off three times by the Wildcats. Still, he is clearly the man in charge of the UW attack that has scored 30 points or more in all but one game this season.
Oregon 34, Washington 31

Texas A&M (+13.5) at Oklahoma
Texas A&M has been arguably the biggest disappointment in the nation this season. The Aggies are 5–3 overall and held a double-digit lead in the second half of each loss. Scoring points hasn’t been the problem — A&M ranks 12th in the nation in scoring. Getting stops in key moments is what has plagued this team. That, obviously, will have to change if the Aggies have any hope of winning in Norman. Oklahoma laid an egg two weeks ago at home to Texas Tech but bounced back in fine fashion, drilling previously undefeated Kansas State, 58–17, in Manhattan. Sooner quarterback Landry Jones has been on a tear and figures to put up big numbers on the A&M defense.
Oklahoma 38, Texas A&M 24

Arizona State (-9) at UCLA
UCLA is 4–4 overall and has lost its last three games by an average of 30.3 points. The Bruins gave up 254 yard rushing to a team (Arizona) that was averaging 71.8 yards on the ground. They don’t have a win vs. a team with a winning record. Yet, UCLA finds itself still very much alive in the Pac-12 South Division. The Bruins, at 3–2 in the league, are tied with USC, which is ineligible for the title, and one game behind an Arizona State team that visits the Rose Bowl this weekend. How convenient: Win and the Bruins will be tied for the South lead and own the all-important tie-breaker with the Sun Devils. That, however, will be very tough to do. Arizona State is 6–2 overall, highlighted by wins over USC and Missouri. The Sun Devils are known for their defense, but the offense, at least statistically, has been better in 2011. Led by quarterback Brock Osweiler, ASU is averaging 35.9 points and 438.8 yards per game.
Arizona State 27, UCLA 20

Michigan (-4) at Iowa
We all know the transitive property doesn’t work too well in sports, but let’s take a look at how both of these teams fared against Minnesota. Michigan beat the Gophers 58–0. Iowa lost to the Gophers 22–21. So, do we think the Wolverines are going to win by 59 points? Not likely, but Michigan should win the game — even on the road. The Wolverines are 7–1 overall, with the lone loss coming at Michigan State. The schedule hasn’t been overly taxing — Nebraska and Ohio State still loom — but Michigan is improved on the defense end, ranking 35th in the nation in total defense (340.6 ypg) and seventh in scoring defense (15.3 ppg). Iowa must regroup after the stunning loss at Minnesota. The Hawkeyes got a huge game from Marcus Coker (252 yards on 32 carries), but they managed only 21 points against a Minnesota team that gave up an average of 48 points in its first three Big Ten games.
Michigan 27, Iowa 21

Cincinnati (-2.5) at Pittsburgh
Things are going much better in Year 2 for Butch Jones at Cincinnati. After winning back-to-back Big East titles under Brian Kelly, the Bearcats slumped 2–5 in the league and 4–8 overall in ’10, Jones’ first season as the head coach. Turnovers were the main issue; UC ranked 119th in the nation in turnover margin one season after ranking 13th. Well, the Bearcats are winning the turnover battle this season, currently ranking third nationally with plus-1.86 per game. Pittsburgh is 4–4 overall but just 2–4 vs. team from BCS conferences. The Panthers were dealt a big blow last week when Ray Graham, who was 10th in the nation in rushing, was lost for the season with an injury. Former Wisconsin Badger Zach Brown will step in as the starting tailback for Pittsburgh, but the offense will not be the same without Graham.
Cincinnati 28, Pittsburgh 17

Note Dame (-14) at Wake Forest
Notre Dame bounced back from a difficult loss to USC with a very impressive win (56–14) over a Navy team that had defeated the Irish in its last two trips to South Bend. Now, ND heads to Winston-Salem for the first-ever meeting between these two schools. Wake has struggled in recent weeks. After jumping out to a 4–1 record, the Deacons have lost two of three, with the only win coming by one point at Duke. Quarterback Tanner Price had his worst game of the season in last week’s 49–24 loss to North Carolina, throwing for a season-low 146 yards, with no touchdowns and three interceptions. With starting tailback Josh Harris expected to be out again (hamstring), the Deacs will need Price to be at his best.
Notre Dame 35, Wake Forest 22

Last week — 7-3 (3-6-1 vs. spread)
Season — 61-29 (46-42-2 vs. spread)

 

Teaser:
<p> Alabama-LSU highlights the weekend slate in college football.</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 08:06
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-rankings-week-9
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

Teams on bye this week: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota

2011 NFL Week 9 Fantasy Football Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 9 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports has all the position rankings you need to help set your Week 9 fantasy line up.</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 07:21
Path: /fantasy/ahmad-bradshaw-has-broken-foot-possibly-out-year
Body:

Update: When first reported, it looked like Bradshaw could be out for a significant stretch. Now reports are surfacing that his foot injury is not that serious and that he may actually play this Sunday. Stay tuned.

Ahmad Bradshaw was having a pretty good fantasy season so far. While his week-to-week numbers haven't been that stellar, he has managed to find the end zone 6 times and has offset a lack of yardage with a few catches each week, making him an RB1 in PPR leagues.

And now he may be out for the rest of the season with a broken foot, suffered in last week's come from behind win against the Dolphins.

The Giants haven't officially announced his injury, but multiple Giants beat writers and ESPN insider Adam Schefter have reported that Bradshaw is at best out "indefinitely". 

He may or may not need surgery to repair his foot which is currently swollen and sore.

So all those good little fantasy owners who drafted Ahmad Bradshaw and made sure they handcuffed him with Brandon Jacobs should be very happy as Jacobs takes the majority of carries with D.J. Ware serving as his back up.

Now is Jacob's chance to put his money where his mouth is. Earlier this year he told Men's Fitness that he didn't expect to be with the Giants next year, and complaiend that he had been underutilized as he's taken a back seat to Bradshaw this season in terms of workload.  Also in the interview, he made it clear that he was looking to get a starting job somewhere in the league next year.

OK, Brandon, here's your chance. There's no better way to show every team in the league (including the one you currently play for) that you are still worthy of being a #1 back.

And there's no better game to prove yourself than against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick's Patriots (who the Giants play this Sunday.) One thing that may be going for him, is that Belichick usually takes away what a team does best, and I'm guessing Bill doesn't think Brandon Jacobs will be a strength on the Giants offense. 

If you have the space, go ahead and pick up D.J. Ware, as you don't know how Jacobs will respond to this, and if Jacobs goes down, then Ware could be the feature back for the Giants for the remainder of the year.

Teaser:
<p> Very bad news for the New York football Giants' running game and fantasy owners</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 06:17
All taxonomy terms: NBA lockout, NBA
Path: /nba/nba-where-nothing-ever-happens
Body:

The NBA Lockout in a nutshell: my television is currently playing Major League Soccer.

This is what my life has become. A week ago, I was watching the Cards top the Rangers in The Greatest/Worst/Best/Sloppiest Baseball Game Ever. Tonight, the Seattle XBOX’s are going up against the Dudes in Red Shirts.

I’m a diehard baseball, football and basketball fan. That’s it, and in that precise order. Baseball and football are 1A and 1AA, respectively. Basketball is a distant but still beloved third. I don’t like hockey and I sure as shit don’t like soccer. I’m a marginal college football fan at best. By any measure, I currently reside on the sports fan equivalent of a desert island.

Some people have surmised that the NBA owners are stupid to risk losing the momentum of the league’s best season in over a decade. They argue the NBA doesn’t have the same luxury that the NFL did: people won’t miss it all that much. And for a while, I agreed.

The NBA season starts in a week? Who cares: I have baseball to watch. Besides, the NBA has always been the third wheel on a bicycle built for two.

Now, I’m eagerly awaiting the NBA’s return. Who gives a flying f*ck about BRI, the mid-level exception or Stern’s last stand? Five nights out of the week (usually six given MNF’s heinous 2011 schedule), there are no sports on TV. That makes for one hell of a WTF.

NOTE: Unless otherwise specified, quotes are paraphrases of idiocy.

“Chris Johnson.”

Okay, so that isn’t even a quote. But that’s the point. I recently asked a Titans fan friend what he thinks the issue with the halfback-formerly-known-as-CJ2K is.

In response, he muttered something about defenses ‘figuring him out’ and changed the subject.

No one knows what to think of this guy. Not even that many people want to talk about him. He’s hesitant. He’s slower. He’s being weighed-down by his grillz.

No one seems to know anything, except that none of it makes any fucking sense.

This isn’t a case of a holdout languishing over a lack of preseason reps. It’s not even a case of normal running back decline; Johnson is barely 26—young even by NFL standards—and a year removed from being the league’s most electrifying player.

With one touchdown, a 2.8 YPC average and just one 60-yard game (he picked up 101 yards on 23 carries in a week 4 matchup against the Browns) Johnson’s decline hasn’t just been precipitous—it’s been WTF-worthy. Sure, Tennessee’s offensive line isn’t great, but fantasy handcuff Javon Ringer has still been able to find success at times. As opposed to years past, the Titans actually have a viable passing attack. If anything, putting eight men in the box against CJ should be riskier than ever.

The worst part? Tennessee just paid the man, so they have no choice but to stick by their $30 million dollar headache. Johnson is in the first year of a four year deal. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon, and the Titans have to believe that the superduperstar that torched NFL defenses for three seasons will resurface at some point.

“FRANK MCCOURT IS GONE! CELEBRATE! THE DODGERS ARE BACK!”

Not an incorrect sentiment, but certainly a premature one. The much-maligned LA owner may have finally given in and put his team up for auction, but Dodger fans aren’t out of the Redwood forest just yet.

First, there’s the obvious bidding process, which could end up lasting throughout the 2012 season. When that wraps up, MLB will need to approve the new ownership (in the unlikely scenario that ownership is led by Mark Cuban, that might take awhile). Then, it will probably take some time to put the right people in place to make people forget about the old guy.
In other words, it’s going to be a while.

“Albert Pujols won’t be back in St. Louis next year.”

A week after losing their hall-of-fame manager three days after winning the World Series, one of baseball’s most storied franchises is going to let the GOAT walk over a few million dollars? Riiiiiight.
“Are you kidding me? Theo’s not going to give the managerial job to Ryne Sandberg?”

No, I’m not, and he’s not.

Yes, Ryne is a Windy City legend who is just as marginalized in Wrigleyville as he is in Cooperstown. But he also has zero major league coaching experience, something that might come in handy when trying to turn around a franchise that hasn’t won anything in, ya know, awhile.

“The Bulls are the consensus favorites for the 2011-2012 NBA Championship…if it happens.”

If it happens, the Bulls should be considered among the favorites for this year’s O’Brien Trophy.

Chicago has one of the league’s three best players, the league’s best defense and one of the league’s best coaches. They have a well-rounded bench that is as formidable on the boards as it on the perimeter. Outside of Carlos Boozer, there’s only one reason not to be jumping on the Bulls bandwagon:
Actually, not just one reason. Not even two. Not three, not four, not five…

Miami’s Game Six Finals loss was taken as a validation of all their perceived faults. And why wouldn’t it be? Everyone had been looking for a reason why the Heat would fall flat from the moment “South Beach” escaped LeBron’s lips. The critics had been vindicated.

The thing is, the critics weren’t wrong. The Heat had a terrible bench and no viable center or point guard. Meanwhile, Chris Bosh was doing his best to turn the Big Three into the Big Two-Point-Five.

Yet, despite all of their faults—real, perceived, or somewhere in between—two men came within two games of taking home an NBA title and silencing the doubters. Without any significant assistance, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade almost did what everyone expected (but certainly didn’t want) them to do in the first place.

They’ll do it eventually. They might not win seven titles, but Miami still has a bright future. LeBron is still just 26; Wade is just 29. Reinforcements will come at some point, whether through the draft, free agency or trade. Soon enough, the Big Two will have a better-than-terrible supporting cast. And the rest of the league will cower in the corner.

For the time being, this is still the same team. But that’s the same team that almost already did it.

So why can’t they do it this year? Because the NBA is where nothing happens. And that’s not just a problem for the Heat—it’s a problem for every non-hockey loving sports fan out there.

Jesse Golomb is the creator and lead writer of TheFanManifesto. Follow him on twitter at @TheFanManifesto or drop him a line at JesseGolomb@TheFanManifesto.com 

Teaser:
<p> The NBA Lockout in a nutshell: my television is currently playing Major League Soccer.</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 03:55
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-9
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 9 — Defense/Special Teams Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 9 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

Teams on bye this week: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota

Rk Player OPPONENT
1 San Francisco 49ers at WAS
2 Houston Texans vs. CLE
3 Cincinnati Bengals at TEN
4 Baltimore Ravens at PIT
5 Dallas Cowboys vs. SEA
6 Green Bay Packers at SD
7 New York Jets at BUF
8 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. BAL
9 New Orleans Saints vs. TB
10 Kansas City Chiefs vs. MIA
11 Oakland Raiders vs. DEN
12 Philadelphia Eagles vs. CHI
13 Atlanta Falcons at IND
14 Buffalo Bills vs. NYJ
15 Chicago Bears at PHI
16 New York Giants at NE

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 16:21
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-kicker-rankings-week-9
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 9 — Kicker Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 9 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Teams on bye this week: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Mason Crosby GB at SD
2 John Kasay NO vs. TB
3 Dan Bailey DAL vs. SEA
4 David Akers SF at WAS
5 Sebastian Janikowski OAK vs. DEN
6 Nick Novak SD vs. GB
7 Billy Cundiff BAL at PIT
8 Matt Bryant ATL at IND
9 Neil Rackers HOU vs. CLE
10 Stephen Gostkowski NE vs. NYG
11 Mike Nugent CIN at TEN
12 Robbie Gould CHI at PHI
13 Alex Henery PHI vs. CHI
14 Shaun Suisham PIT vs. BAL
15 Ryan Succop KC vs. MIA
16 Rian Lindell BUF vs. NYJ

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 16:08
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings-week-9
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 9 — Tight End Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 9 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Teams on bye this week: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Jimmy Graham NO vs. TB
2 Jason Witten DAL vs. SEA
3 Jermichael Finley GB at SD
4 Owen Daniels HOU vs. CLE
5 Antonio Gates SD vs. GB
6 Aaron Hernandez NE vs. NYG
7 Fred Davis WAS vs. SF
8 Rob Gronkowski NE vs. NYG
9 Tony Gonzalez ATL at IND
10 Vernon Davis SF at WAS
11 Dustin Keller NYJ at BUF
12 Kellen Winslow TB at NO
13 Dallas Clark IND vs. ATL
14 Heath Miller PIT vs. BAL
15 Jake Ballard NYG at NE
16 Jermaine Gresham CIN at TEN
17 Brent Celek PHI vs. CHI
18 Jared Cook TEN vs. CIN
19 Benjamin Watson CLE at HOU
20 Scott Chandler BUF vs. NYJ
21 Ed Dickson BAL at PIT
22 Daniel Fells DEN at OAK
23 Kevin Boss OAK vs. DEN
24 Todd Heap ARI vs. STL
25 Anthony Fasano MIA at KC
26 Zach Miller SEA at DAL

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 15:54
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-will-edge-penn-state-and-ohio-state-leaders
Body:

There were many jokes over the summer about who would be the ‘leader’ in the Big Ten’s Leaders, but the on-the-field answer should provide one of college football’s best divisional races down the stretch. Wisconsin looked like the prohibitive favorite through the first half of the season, but the Badgers have lost two in a row in heartbreaking fashion. Penn State is the current Leaders’ leader by two games, going 5-0 in league play. However, JoePa’s bunch has its three toughest conference games — Nebraska, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin — still remaining. The Buckeyes seemed like they could miss a bowl game a few weeks ago, but Luke Fickell’s crew is back in the divisional chase after its upset over Wisconsin.

Who wins the Big Ten’s Leaders Division?

Nathan Rush
Wisconsin will win the Big Ten's Leaders division. Although the Badgers' season has been in a free fall — first losing their BCS national title hopes with a last-second loss at Michigan State and then watching the Rose Bowl slip away on another late defeat at Ohio State the following week — the division is still within reach. UW should take care of Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois before what could be a winner-take-all Leaders showdown with Penn State in the season finale. JoePa's Nittany Lions — currently undefeated in-conference, with only a loss to Alabama on their slate — will likely have two more losses (Nebraska, at Ohio State) heading into Camp Randall Stadium. In the end, however, Russell Wilson, Montee Ball and the Badgers will prevail as the Leaders' representative in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
Even though Wisconsin has lost its last two games, I still like the Badgers to win the Leaders Division. Looking at the schedules, Wisconsin has a favorable road to finishing 10-2. The Badgers play Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois and then the season finale in Madison at Penn State. The Nittany Lions figure to be the biggest challenger to Wisconsin’s claim at the Leaders Division. The Badgers need Penn State to lose twice, which seems likely considering it still has to play Nebraska, Ohio State and then the Badgers in the finale. The Buckeyes also need to lose once, which could happen in the annual battle with Michigan. Considering Wisconsin-Penn State and Ohio State-Michigan play on the final Saturday of the regular season, the Big Ten Leaders Division probably won’t be decided until Nov. 26. However, I still think Wisconsin is the team to beat.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
This might sound crazy but I am going with the true freshman-led Ohio State Buckeyes. This young and very talented defense has proven its worth over the last few weeks, shutting down the Wisconsin rushing attack. The Badgers will beat Purdue this weekend and Penn State in the season finale at Camp Randall and likely finish 6-2 in Big Ten play. Penn State will lose two of its last three (Nebraska, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin) and finish 6-2. If OSU is one of the two teams to beat PSU (to go with Wisconsin), then the three-way 6-2 tie will go the way of the Scarlet and Gray. Luke Fickell will pull a Ralph Friedgen and win Coach of the Year honors before getting shown the door.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
Despite losing two heartbreakers in a row, I think Wisconsin will lead the Leaders at season’s end. The Badgers have looked vulnerable on defense the last two weeks, but they have a pretty good shot at running the table and finishing with two league losses. Penn State has surprisingly managed to go unscathed through the Big Ten so far. However, the Nittany Lions have played mediocre competition for over a month now and could easily lose two (if not all three) of their three remaining games. The Buckeyes have looked much better lately with the development of Braxton Miller and the return of Boom Herron, but I believe OSU loses one of its last two games. It should be a great November in the Leaders race, and I’ll take Russell Wilson and Montee Ball to rally the Badgers and play in Indianapolis.
 

Teaser:
<p> Wisconsin will edge Penn State and Ohio State in Big Ten's Leaders Division.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings-week-9
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 9 — Wide Receiver Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 9 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Teams on bye this week: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Greg Jennings GB at SD
2 Wes Welker NE vs. NYG
3 Mike Wallace PIT vs. BAL
4 Marques Colston NO vs. TB
5 Roddy White ATL at IND
6 Larry Fitzgerald ARI vs. STL
7 Dwayne Bowe KC vs. MIA
8 A.J. Green CIN at TEN
9 Vincent Jackson SD vs. GB
10 Brandon Lloyd STL at ARI
11 Miles Austin DAL vs. SEA
12 DeSean Jackson PHI vs. CHI
13 Dez Bryant DAL vs. SEA
14 Jeremy Maclin PHI vs. CHI
15 Mario Manningham NYG at NE
16 Brandon Marshall MIA at KC
17 Julio Jones ATL at IND
18 Anquan Boldin BAL at PIT
19 Sidney Rice SEA at DAL
20 Pierre Garcon IND vs. ATL
21 Hakeem Nicks NYG at NE
22 Victor Cruz NYG at NE
23 Jordy Nelson GB at SD
24 Steve Johnson BUF vs. NYJ
25 Santonio Holmes NYJ at BUF
26 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK vs. DEN
27 Mike Williams TB at NO
28 Michael Crabtree SF at WAS
29 Greg Little CLE at HOU
30 Deion Branch NE vs. NYG
31 Nate Washington TEN vs. CIN
32 Reggie Wayne IND vs. ATL
33 Antonio Brown PIT vs. BAL
34 Plaxico Burress NYJ at BUF
35 Malcom Floyd SD vs. GB
36 James Jones GB at SD
37 Lance Moore NO vs. TB
38 Jabar Gaffney WAS vs. SF
39 Eric Decker DEN at OAK
40 Kevin Walter HOU vs. CLE
41 Davone Bess MIA at KC
42 Jonathan Baldwin KC vs. MIA
43 Doug Baldwin SEA at DAL
44 Jerome Simpson CIN at TEN
45 Johnny Knox CHI at PHI
46 David Nelson BUF vs. NYJ
47 Braylon Edwards SF at WAS
48 Steve Breaston KC vs. MIA
49 Jacoby Jones HOU vs. CLE
50 Early Doucet ARI vs. STL
51 Denarius Moore OAK vs. DEN
52 Torrey Smith BAL at PIT
53 Arrelious Benn TB at NO
54 Devin Hester CHI at PHI
55 Jason Avant PHI vs. CHI
56 Jacoby Ford OAK vs. DEN
57 Robert Meachem NO vs. TB
58 Hines Ward PIT vs. BAL
59 Ben Obomanu SEA at DAL
60 Devery Henderson NO vs. TB
61 Dane Sanzenbacher CHI at PHI
62 Anthony Armstrong WAS vs. SF
63 Damian Williams TEN vs. CIN
64 Demaryius Thomas DEN at OAK

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 15:26
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-running-back-rankings-week-9
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 9 — Running Back Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 9 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Teams on bye this week: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Arian Foster HOU vs. CLE
2 LeSean McCoy PHI vs. CHI
3 Matt Forte CHI at PHI
4 Fred Jackson BUF vs. NYJ
5 Michael Turner ATL at IND
6 Frank Gore SF at WAS
7 Ray Rice BAL at PIT
8 Steven Jackson STL at ARI
9 Beanie Wells ARI vs. STL
10 LeGarrette Blount TB at NO
11 Shonn Greene NYJ at BUF
12 Cedric Benson CIN at TEN
13 Rashard Mendenhall PIT vs. BAL
14 DeMarco Murray DAL vs. SEA
15 Mike Tolbert SD vs. GB
16 Darren Sproles NO vs. TB
17 Chris Johnson TEN vs. CIN
18 Jackie Battle KC vs. MIA
19 Brandon Jacobs NYG at NE
20 James Starks GB at SD
21 BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE vs. NYG
22 Michael Bush OAK vs. DEN
23 Pierre Thomas NO vs. TB
24 Knowshon Moreno DEN at OAK
25 Marshawn Lynch SEA at DAL
26 Reggie Bush MIA at KC
27 Chris Ogbonnaya CLE at HOU
28 Ryan Torain WAS vs. SF
29 Willis McGahee DEN at OAK
30 Delone Carter IND vs. ATL
31 Daniel Thomas MIA at KC
32 Javon Ringer TEN vs. CIN
33 Ben Tate HOU vs. CLE
34 Ryan Grant GB at SD
35 Roy Helu WAS vs. SF
36 Joseph Addai IND vs. ATL
37 LaDainian Tomlinson NYJ at BUF
38 Donald Brown IND at ATL
39 Kendall Hunter SF at WAS
40 Marion Barber CHI at PHI
41 Bernard Scott CIN at TEN
42 Kregg Lumpkin TB at NO
43 Isaac Redman PIT vs. BAL
44 Ricky Williams BAL at PIT
45 Lance Ball DEN at OAK
46 Taiwan Jones OAK vs. DEN
47 Thomas Jones KC vs. MIA
48 Stevan Ridley NE vs. NYG
Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 14:50
Path: /college-football/4-things-alabama-needs-do-beat-lsu
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)

Saturday's LSU-Alabama matchup is one of the most-anticipated games in recent memory. Athlon Sports breaks down a few keys for each team and its chances at victory.

Click here to read LSU's keys to beat Alabama.

1. Make sure the best offensive player on the field gets a chance to win the game. 
Both teams feature outstanding rushing attacks, but Alabama boasts the best running back in the game, junior Trent Richardson. Both Richardson and Spencer Ware, LSU’s No. 1 tailback, have played six games vs. BCS competition (I am not including LSU’s game vs. Northwestern State or Alabama’s games vs. Kent State or North Texas). In those six games Richardson has outrushed Ware by almost 300 yards on only three more attempts. Richardson has 785 yards on 125 carries for a 6.3-yard average, while Ware has 492 yards on 122 carries for a 4.0-yard average. Ware is good. Richardson is better — much better. Alabama needs to be sure he gets the ball at least 25 times.

2. Don’t give up the big play on defense.
Alabama is in the top five in the nation in preventing plays of 10-plus yards (50, No. 1 in the nation), 20-plus yards (14, No. 1 in the nation), 30-plus yards (6, tied No. 4 in the nation) and 40-plus yards (2, tied for No. 4 in the nation). The Crimson Tide must make LSU drive the ball the down the field and not allow the Tigers to pick big chunks of yards.

3. Don’t let Jarrett Lee beat you.
That’s right. The same quarterback who threw 16 interceptions and 14 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman has emerged as one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the game as a senior. Stopping the run is no doubt important, but the Tigers have been very good throwing the ball due to Lee’s ability to make plays. He leads the SEC in passer rating due to a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 13-to-1. He has been solid in all situations, as well — third in the league in passer rating on third down; first in passer rating in the fourth quarter; first in passer rating in road games; third in passer rating vs. ranked teams. You get the point: Lee is very good — good enough to beat Alabama if given the opportunity.

4. Get the tight ends involved in the passing game.
LSU features one of the elite secondaries in the nation, and Alabama’s wide receivers — not exactly a team strength — might not have a ton of room to operate. But Alabama does have two solid pass-catching tight ends in Brad Smelley (16 catches for 165 yards) and Michael Williams (10 catches for a league-high 15.2-yards per catch). Don’t be surprised Smelley or Williams lead the Tide in receptions on Saturday night.

Teaser:
<p> Alabama-LSU is one of the most-anticipated games in recent years. Athlon breaks down Alabama's keys to a victory on Saturday night.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 14:19
Path: /college-football/4-things-lsu-needs-to-do-beat-alabama
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Saturday's LSU-Alabama matchup is one of the most-anticipated games in recent memory. Athlon Sports breaks down a few keys for each team and its chances at victory.

Click here to read Alabama's keys to beat LSU.

1. Stop Trent Richardson and force AJ McCarron to win the game.
Sure, it’s easier said than done, but this is the way LSU will have to attack Alabama. McCarron hasn’t had to do much in his first year as the starter, completing 67 percent of his throws for 1,664 yards and 10 scores. Richardson has at least 100 yards in six games this season, and LSU’s goal should be to keep him under the century mark. Although McCarron has been solid through the first eight games, this will be his toughest test. Despite giving up 463 yards to West Virginia, LSU’s secondary ranks 10th nationally in pass defense. And cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne are dangerous on returns if they are able to force a turnover. The Tigers need to make McCarron prove he can make key throws with the game on the line – something the Crimson Tide haven’t had to do so far in 2011.

2. Unleash Russell Shepard?
An early suspension seems to have knocked Shepard out of sync with the LSU offense. Through five games, he has caught only nine passes for 116 yards and two scores. The Tigers know what Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham can bring to the table this year, but Shepard has been quiet. Is this the game he breaks out? The Alabama secondary will likely match up Dre Kirkpatrick against Randle, which makes the play of Beckham and Shepard even more important. The junior rushed for 47 yards in last year’s win over Alabama, but caught only one pass. Shepard’s all-around ability could be a valuable commodity for LSU on Saturday night. Although he’s been silent for most of this season, the junior could emerge as a key player in LSU’s offensive attack.

3. Give Jordan Jefferson more time under center.
While Jarrett Lee has been solid all year, this game is where a two-quarterback system makes sense. Jefferson has been mostly kept under wraps since his return from suspension, rushing for 111 yards and two touchdowns. The senior has also completed 6 of 10 passes for 123 yards and two scores. It’s always dangerous to break up an offense’s rhythm if Lee is playing well. However, if the Tigers are struggling to move the ball, Jefferson would give them a different dimension. Running in the traditional sets figures to be difficult against a very good Alabama defense. Getting Jefferson an opportunity to run out of the shotgun with a blocker or two leading the way could work in favor of the Tigers’ offense. And who knows, maybe LSU has a few trick plays getting Jefferson and Lee on the field at the same time.

4. Stick with the rushing attack and avoid long-yardage situations.
LSU’s rushing game might not have the big-play capability that Alabama brings to the table, but it is averaging 4.3 yards per carry. The Tigers have done a good job of keeping defenses off balance this year, and that has to continue on Saturday. Although quarterback play from Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee has been solid, LSU does not want to be placed in obvious passing situations. If the Tigers can muster three or four yards a carry, they should be able to keep Alabama’s defense honest. If LSU can’t get Spencer Ware or any of the running backs on track, the Crimson Tide defense will easily keep the Tigers in check. The best way to beat Alabama seems to be scoring early. The Crimson Tide have not allowed a score in the second half in its last four SEC games. Once Nick Saban and his coaching staff have a chance to make halftime adjustments, moving the ball in the second half is very difficult. The Tigers might have to test the Alabama secondary deep early on, especially to keep the safeties from trying to camp out along the line of scrimmage. It’s not the most glamorous offense, but LSU needs to be patient, and stick to its run-first approach throughout the game.

Teaser:
<p> Alabama-LSU is one of the most-anticipated games in recent years. Athlon breaks down LSU's keys to a victory on Saturday night.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/ucla-still-alive-pac-12-south-race
Body:

By Mitch Light

They’ve lost four games, the last three by an average of 30.3 points. They gave up 254 yard rushing to a team (Arizona) that was averaging 71.8 yards on the ground. They don’t have a win vs. a team with a winning record.

Yet, UCLA finds itself still very much alive in the Pac-12 South Division. The Bruins, at 3–2 in the league, are tied with USC, which is ineligible for the title, and one game behind an Arizona State team that visits the Rose Bowl this weekend. How convenient: Win and the Bruins will be tied for the South lead and own the all-important tie-breaker with the Sun Devils.

First things first: Winning this week will be very difficult. Arizona State is 6–2 overall, highlighted by wins over Missouri and USC. The Sun Devils are known for their defense, but the offense, at least statistically, has been better in 2011. Led by quarterback Brock Osweiler, ASU is averaging 35.9 points and 438.8 yards per game.

“We realize it is a tremendous challenge trying to contain their offense and score points against a vaunted defense,” says UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel. “It will take focus and resolve.”

The key for UCLA will be finding a way to play well for a second-straight week. The Bruins are coming off their finest effort of the season, a 31–14 win over California. But they have followed up their previous three wins with lopsided losses — 49–20 at Texas, 45–19 at Stanford and 48–12 at Arizona.

“We are 0-for-3 in terms of following up a victory with that kind of effort that we need,” Nueheisel says. “Not we have our fourth chance, and shouldn’t squander it.”

UCLA is at its best when it is running the ball effectively. The Bruins are averaging 236.8 yards rushing in their four wins and 137.8 yards in their four losses. Last week against Cal, they ran for 294 yards and four touchdowns on 52 attempts. Quarterback Kevin Prince was responsible for much of the damage, with a 163 yards (almost double his previous career high) on 19 carries.

“I thought Kevin did a very good job, and he got better as the game went along,” Nueheisel said. “He is 230 pounds. He is a load to bring down.”

Prince, who has been in and out of the lineup due to injuries (and poor play) in his three years at UCLA, caught the attention of Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson.

“Prince is playing extremely well right now,” Erickson said earlier this week. “If they can run the football, they can create a lot of problems for you. They’re sitting there in a situation, like us, where they have a chance to win our division. They have to beat us to do it. On the road, it’s a real important game for all of us.”

It’s more important for UCLA, though. The Bruins have to win this game to remain in contention in the South. Arizona State, even with a loss, will be in good shape because the Sun Devils have a much kinder schedule to end the season. ASU will be favored in its remaining three games (at Washington State, vs. Arizona, vs. Cal), while UCLA must end the season with two of its final three games on the road, most notably the finale at USC.

The road might be tough for UCLA, but it’s amazing that this team, with all of its issues, is even talking about a championship this late in the season.

AROUND THE PAC-12

• Cal is 4–11 in its last 15 Pac-12 games dating back to the end of the 2009 season.

• Washington State is averaging 33.3 points per game, good for 33rd in the nation. The Cougars ranked 118th, 119th and 106th in scoring in Paul Wulff’s first three seasons.

• Oregon has scored 52 touchdowns in eight games. Colorado has scored 20 touchdowns in nine games.

• Oregon State true freshman Malcolm Agnew has converted all five of his rushing attempts on third down and three yards or less into first downs.

• Andrew Luck is converting 79.5 percent of his passes in the fourth quarter.

• Coby Fleener of Stanford leads the Pac-10 in with 22.5 yards per receptions — a very high number for a tight end. Fleener is the only tight end in the top 50 in this category nationally.

• Arizona State leads the Pac-12 in both fumbles gained (12) and interceptions gained (13).

• Oregon has scored 40 points or more in 17 of its last 20 league games.

Teaser:
<p> UCLA is Still Alive in the Pac-12 South Race</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 10:43
Path: /overtime/awesome-mike-singletary-magazine-error
Body:

Magazine editors make mistakes all the time. We're all human, but we found this error from the September 2011 issue of Texas Monthly to be especially enjoyable.

According to their "Regret The Error" page:

Our college football package also contained a mistake. The item regarding throwback jerseys erroneously stated that Baylor University linebacker Mike Singletary once made 79 tackles in a single game. That is pretty much impossible--even for Mike Singletary. In fact, the most tackles the two-time All-American ever had in a game at Baylor was 33. We regret these errors.

So there you have it. I think it should be pointed out that 33 tackles in a game is still pretty damn awesome. Even if it's nowhere close to 79.

Teaser:
<p> Magazine editors make mistakes, even when it comes to the great Mike Singletary</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 08:32
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, Big East
Path: /college-football/breakdown-conference-races-and-national-title-game
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The 2011 college football season is winding down. With just five weeks of full action left, it's time to take a look at how the BCS conferences and national title picture is shaping up. There's a lot of key games remaining, but let's take a look at what teams need to do in order to seal its division.

ACC

Atlantic Division

Clemson
The Tigers have one loss in conference play, giving them an edge over Wake Forest.

What Needs to Happen: The mission for Clemson is simple. Beat the Demon Deacons on Nov. 12, and the Tigers are ACC Atlantic champs. If the Tigers stumble, they will have to hope for a conference loss by Wake Forest against Maryland. Losing to Georgia Tech knocked Clemson out of the mix for a spot in the national title game. However, the Tigers can finish with a solid 11-1 regular season record and a chance to play for a conference championship.

Florida State
The Seminoles have two conference losses, so they need a lot of help to win the Atlantic.

What Needs to Happen: A lot. Florida State needs a Wake Forest win on Nov. 12 against Clemson. If that happens, the Seminoles need the Demon Deacons to lose to Maryland on Nov. 19, and the Tigers to lose to NC State the same weekend.

Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons trail Clemson by one game in the Atlantic. And these two teams meet on Nov. 12 in Death Valley.

What Needs to Happen: For Wake Forest to have any shot at winning the Atlantic, it has to beat Clemson. If the Demon Deacons upset the Tigers, they need to beat Maryland on Nov. 19 to clinch the division title.

Coastal Division

Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets upset win over Clemson bolstered their ACC Coastal title hopes. Had Georgia Tech lost to the Tigers, its division championship hopes were likely over.

What Needs to Happen: The Yellow Jackets are a game behind Virginia Tech in the standings. These two teams will meet on Nov. 10 in Atlanta, which will likely determine the Coastal champ. If Georgia Tech wins, it needs to beat Duke the following week to clinch a spot in the ACC title game. If the Yellow Jackets lose to Virginia Tech, it’s unlikely they could win the Coastal with three conference losses.

Virginia
This might be a surprise to some, but take a look at the ACC standings. The Cavaliers are just a game behind Virginia Tech for the lead and already own a victory over Georgia Tech.

What Needs to Happen: The Cavaliers are a longshot, but they are definitely in the mix. Virginia has to win out to claim the Coastal title, starting on Saturday at Maryland. Virginia also plays Duke and Florida State, before the season finale against Virginia Tech. If the Cavaliers can navigate a difficult remaining schedule and beat the Hokies in the finale, they will make their first appearance in the ACC title game.

Virginia Tech
With a 4-1 record in ACC play, the Hokies control their destiny in the Coastal.

What Needs to Happen: If Virginia Tech wins out, it will win the division title. However, there are two major hurdles that have to be cleared. The Hokies play at Georgia Tech on Nov. 10 and face rival Virginia in the season finale.

Big East

Outside of the Big Ten, the Big East is probably the conference with the most uncertainty surrounding its champion. Cincinnati is the only team with an undefeated conference record (2-0). The Bearcats and West Virginia are the favorites entering Week 10, but Pittsburgh, Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse can’t be counted out of the picture. Cincinnati and West Virginia meet on Nov. 12, which should help provide some clarity to the title race. The Mountaineers were the preseason favorite, but a loss to Syracuse has them just behind the Bearcats in the standings.

Considering Cincinnati still has five conference games remaining, it’s too early to break down the scenarios for each team. There's a lot that could change in the next week or two, but the Bearcats, and the Mountaineers should be considered the favorites.

Big 12

Oklahoma
After losing to Texas Tech, the Sooners are on the outside looking in. However, all is not lost. Oklahoma has jumped to No. 6 in the BCS standings and still has a shot to win the Big 12 title.

What Needs to Happen: Barring another upset, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State’s season will ride on the season finale. The Cowboys host the Sooners in Stillwater, and the winner will not only likely claim the conference title, but a spot in the national championship could be on the line. As long as the Sooners win out, they should be in good shape for the Big 12 crown.

Oklahoma State
With four games remaining, the Cowboys are in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 title.

What Needs to Happen: As long as Oklahoma State wins out, it will win the Big 12 crown. And there could be a bigger prize with an undefeated season. If the Cowboys win their final four games, a berth in the national title is very likely. The biggest obstacle to Oklahoma State’s season will be the Dec. 3 date against Oklahoma.

Big Ten

Leaders Division

Ohio State
The Buckeyes have surprisingly climbed back into the Leaders race, thanks to wins over Illinois and Wisconsin.

What Needs to Happen: The Buckeyes have two Big Ten losses, but have a very manageable schedule the rest of the way. Ohio State should beat Indiana and Purdue, with Michigan and Penn State serving as swing games. The Buckeyes need the Nittany Lions to lose twice and beating them once in Columbus would certainly help. Ohio State needs a lot to bounce its way with two conference losses. However, the Buckeyes are still very much in the mix.

Penn State
The Nittany Lions aren’t getting a lot of national attention, but they have quietly posted a solid 8-1 record. Penn State’s only loss was to Alabama and it is 5-0 in Big Ten play.

What Needs to Happen: Although the Nittany Lions have cruised to an 8-1 record, the schedule is going to get tougher over the next few weeks with games against Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin. If Penn State wants to play in the Big Ten title game, beating Wisconsin and Ohio State are musts. The Nittany Lions are in the driver’s seat, but they can’t feel too comfortable with the upcoming schedule.

Wisconsin
The Badgers appeared to be the frontrunner to win the Big Ten, but back-to-back losses have knocked them out of the race for now.

What Needs to Happen: Wisconsin has a lot of work to do. The Badgers are two games behind Penn State in the conference race, but have a very manageable schedule in November. With Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois and Penn State upcoming, a 4-0 finish is likely. Assuming Wisconsin beats Penn State, the Badgers need the Nittany Lions and Ohio State to each lose another game. The bottom line for Wisconsin to play for the Big Ten title: Penn State needs two losses (with one coming against the Badgers) and Ohio State to lose to Michigan or Penn State.

Legends Division

Iowa
Despite a head-scratching loss to Minnesota, don’t count out the Hawkeyes. Iowa is 2-2 in Big Ten play, with losses to the Golden Gophers and Penn State.

What Needs to Happen: Last week’s loss was damaging, but maybe not as much as some may think. Iowa still has to play Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska in the final month of the season. Win all of those games, and the Hawkeyes will win the division crown. It’s unlikely, but you never know what can happen.

Michigan
Brady Hoke’s first season at Michigan has been a success. The Wolverines are 7-1 and locked into a three-way tie for the Legends Division title.

What Needs to Happen: Michigan’s road to finishing 11-1 won’t be easy. The Wolverines take on Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State over the final four games. In order for Michigan to claim the outright division title (assuming it wins out), it needs to hope for a Michigan State loss in the final four weeks. However, the schedule is in favor of the Spartans, with Iowa and Northwestern being the toughest games. The scenarios can get confusing if three teams tie, but the Big Ten would look at the record within the Legends Division. If Michigan State, Michigan and Nebraska all finish 6-2, it could work in the Wolverines favor – if they beat Nebraska and lose to Ohio State or Illinois. Why? Michigan’s record within Legends Division play could be better than the Spartans and Cornhuskers.

Michigan State
The Spartans missed a prime opportunity to seize a commanding lead in the Legends Division with last week’s loss to Nebraska. Michigan State is tied with Michigan and the Cornhuskers with one loss in conference play.

What Needs to Happen: As we mentioned with Michigan, there’s the possibility of a three-way tie at the end of the year. It’s confusing to sort out, so let’s focus on how the Spartans can win the division outright. Michigan State owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Michigan, but needs Nebraska to lose once in its final four. The Cornhuskers schedule has some potential landmines – Northwestern, at Penn State, at Michigan and Iowa. So there’s no guarantee Nebraska finishes unbeaten the rest of the way. The Spartans have a very favorable remaining schedule, getting Minnesota and Indiana at home and Iowa and Northwestern on the road. If the Spartans finish with just one loss in conference play, the focus to win the division outright shifts to Nebraska and its record in the next four games.

Nebraska
The win over Michigan State put the Cornhuskers in control of their destiny in the Big Ten Legends Division. Nebraska has only one loss in conference play: Oct. 1 at Wisconsin.

What Needs to Happen: Just like we mentioned with Michigan and Michigan State, the possibility exists for a three-way tie atop the division. However, let’s look at what Nebraska needs to win it outright. The Cornhuskers own a valuable head-to-head win over Michigan State and still have to play Michigan (Nov. 19). Assuming Nebraska sweeps the rest of its games, it will play for the conference title in Indianapolis. That’s not a given, however, as road trips to Penn State and Michigan won’t be easy.

Pac-12

North Division

Oregon
The Ducks’ only loss came in Week 1 to LSU, and they’ve rolled through Pac-12 play with a 5-0 record.

What Needs to Happen: Just win out. If Oregon takes care of business in the final four Pac-12 games, it will represent the North Division in the title game. However, it’s not an easy road with Washington, Stanford and USC remaining. The Ducks’ biggest obstacle figures to be a Nov. 12 date against the Cardinal. If Oregon slips once (outside of Stanford), its hopes of winning the conference aren’t dead. However, losing to Stanford would require two losses by the Cardinal.

Stanford
With a 6-0 conference record, the Cardinal is one win ahead of Oregon in the North standings.

What Needs to Happen: Just like Oregon, if Stanford wins out, it will play for the Pac-12 title. The Nov. 12 date against the Ducks is the biggest obstacle to an undefeated season and will likely decide the winner of the North Division. If the Cardinal loses to Oregon, they need to hope for two losses by the Ducks. Although there’s a possibility both teams could get upset, it’s safe to say the Nov. 12 showdown on the Farm will crown the winner of the North – and where the first Pac-12 Championship will be held.

Washington
The North Division is probably a two-team race, but don’t count out the Huskies just yet.

What Needs to Happen: The Huskies have one loss in conference play (Stanford), and have remaining games against Oregon and USC. If the Cardinal somehow lose twice, and the Huskies win out (which includes a win against the Ducks), Washington would win the North. It’s a longshot, but the Huskies still have a chance. 

South Division

Editor’s Note: USC was not listed due to being ruled ineligible for the Pac-12 South title.

Arizona State
Barring a complete collapse, the Sun Devils should win the South.

What Needs to Happen: Arizona State has only one loss in conference play (Oregon), and the rest of the schedule is very favorable. The Sun Devils have road trips to UCLA and Washington State, before closing the season with games in Tempe against Arizona and California. The Sun Devils play UCLA this week, which would seem to be the final hurdle to clinching the South. If Arizona State loses this Saturday, it would need a loss by UCLA in one of its final three games.

UCLA
It may be a surprise to some, but the Bruins are very much alive in the South title picture.

What Needs to Happen: At 3-2 in the conference, UCLA is just a game behind Arizona State in the standings. And the Bruins host the Sun Devils this Saturday. If UCLA upsets Arizona State, it would move the Bruins into the lead for the division title. However, UCLA would still have to navigate its final stretch – at Utah, Colorado and at USC – in order to win the division. It’s a longshot considering how the Bruins have played this year. However, the matchup with Arizona State this Saturday will be a key factor in determining whether or not the Bruins can legitimately make a run for the conference championship game.

SEC

East Division

Georgia
The Bulldogs are riding a six-game winning streak and a key victory over Florida last Saturday. However, Georgia is still a game behind South Carolina in the East standings.

What Needs to Happen: The Bulldogs have two conference games remaining (Auburn and Kentucky), but needs a loss by the Gamecocks to go to Atlanta. South Carolina isn’t a lock to win its final two SEC games, especially this Saturday’s matchup against Arkansas. If Georgia wins out and the Gamecocks lose once, the Bulldogs will represent the East in the SEC title game.

South Carolina
Thanks to a 45-42 win over Georgia in Week 2, the Gamecocks own the top spot in the SEC East.

What Needs to Happen: If the Gamecocks beat Arkansas and Florida, they will win the SEC East. However, with running back Marcus Lattimore sidelined for the rest of the year, it could be difficult. If South Carolina loses once, Georgia will go to the SEC Championship.

West Division

Alabama
The winner of Saturday’s Alabama-LSU game is going to take a major step towards winning the SEC West. The Crimson Tide is tied with LSU at 5-0 in the West.

What Needs to Happen: Keep winning. If Alabama beats LSU on Saturday and takes care of Mississippi State and Auburn, it will play for the SEC title. If the Crimson Tide lose to the Tigers, then they will need two losses by LSU in its final two SEC games.

Arkansas
Although Alabama and LSU are the overwhelming favorites to win the West, the Razorbacks are still clinging to slim division title hopes. Arkansas lost to Alabama in Week 4, which was its only defeat in SEC play this season.

What Needs to Happen: The Razorbacks need a lot of help. Alabama needs to lose twice. And Arkansas needs to beat LSU in the season finale. The latter part of that scenario would seem to be more likely. This scenario also assumes Arkansas beats South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi State. Getting to Atlanta seems like a longshot, but the Razorbacks need to keep winning and let things fall into place over the next few weeks.

LSU
Determining the winner of the SEC West race will become clearer with LSU’s game against Alabama. The Tigers are undefeated in conference play, winning all five games by more than 13 points.

What Needs to Happen: Beating Alabama on Saturday is step No. 1 to a SEC title. If the Tigers knock off the Crimson Tide, they will jump into the driver’s seat for a spot in the national title. LSU still has games remaining against Ole Miss and Arkansas, but it will be heavily favored in both matchups.

National Title Picture

Alabama – The road to the national title is simple for Alabama. Most importantly, the Crimson Tide need to beat LSU on Saturday and finish the season undefeated. If Alabama loses to LSU, it would need two losses by the Tigers to win the SEC West. Even if the Crimson Tide loses to LSU on Saturday, there’s the possibility of a rematch in the national title game. It’s a slim chance, but something that will hang in the balance over the next few weeks.

LSU – Just like Alabama, the Tigers just need to win out and they will play for the national title. However, LSU’s biggest obstacle just happens to be Alabama – ranked No. 1 in Athlon’s 120. If the Tigers lose to the Crimson Tide, their national title hopes aren’t over. The possibility exists for a rematch, but will largely depend on how Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oklahoma and Boise State perform over the next month.

Oklahoma State – Mike Gundy has done a good job of elevating this program, and it’s on the doorstep of playing for a national championship. If the Cowboys win out, it’s very likely they will play the winner of Alabama/LSU for the national title. Oklahoma State still has one very large hurdle to overcome: a date with rival Oklahoma in the season finale.

Stanford – The Cardinal survived one major hurdle to an undefeated season, beating USC in triple overtime last Saturday. However, there’s still a date looming against Oregon on Nov. 12 that will likely decide the Pac-12 North title. Stanford has a lot of ground to make up in the BCS standings to catch Oklahoma State at No. 3, but the numbers gap may not matter. The Cowboys still have to play Oklahoma, which is no guaranteed win. Stanford’s best shot at playing for a national title rests with finishing undefeated, along with an Oklahoma win in Bedlam on Dec. 3.

Boise State – The Broncos are facing an uphill battle in order to play for the national title. Although Boise State is likely to finish undefeated, its best chance to play in the championship game starts with losses by Stanford and Oklahoma State. Considering the Cardinal still has to play Oregon, and the Cowboys have to take on Oklahoma, there’s a strong possibility that will happen. There are two wildcard possibilities that could hurt Boise State’s title hopes. What if LSU-Alabama is a close game? Would the loser stay ahead of the Broncos? Also, Oklahoma is just behind Boise State in the BCS rankings. If the Sooners beat Oklahoma State, it’s likely they will jump the Broncos. Bottom line: Boise State needs a lot of help in order to play for the national title.

Oklahoma – Most wrote off the Sooners’ national title hopes after a loss to Texas Tech. Not so fast. Oklahoma is very much alive in the title picture, but it has to win out, including a Dec. 3 date at rival Oklahoma State. If the Sooners can knock off the Cowboys, that should provide a boost in the BCS rankings. Will it be enough? Take out Oklahoma State as an unbeaten, which leaves Boise State and Stanford. The Broncos are unlikely to lose the rest of the way, but the Cardinal are no lock to finish unbeaten. If the Sooners get a loss by Stanford, combined with a win over Oklahoma State, it may be just enough to move back into the top two. Depending on how Saturday’s Alabama-LSU game plays out, the loser may not fall far in the BCS. The guess here is the Sooners would get the nod over the loser of that game, largely to prevent a rematch.

Teaser:
<p> The 2011 college football season is winding down. With just five weeks of full action left, it's time to take a look at how the BCS conferences and national title picture is shaping up.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 08:03

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