Articles By Athlon Sports

Path: /college-football/college-football-2014-rankings-and-predictions-61-80

The start of the college football season is less than 100 days away, and Athlon Sports is counting down the top teams for the upcoming year.

Florida State is Athlon’s pick to win the national championship, with Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide projected to finish No. 2 nationally. Of course, there's a new element to college football's regular season with the addition of a four-team playoff, and Athlon Sports is picking Ohio State to finish No. 3 and Oklahoma to finish No. 4. The debate in the preseason is no longer about No. 1 and No. 2 and instead more about the top four teams in the nation.

While there is always plenty of intrigue in filling out the top 25, Nos. 26-40 feature a handful of teams that just missed. The No. 41-60 range features teams like Texas Tech, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arizona. The No. 61-80 projection features a few bowl teams from last season, including Syracuse, Boston College and Rutgers, along with some top teams from outside the power conferences (Northern Illinois, Ball State, Fresno State and Colorado State).

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2014, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings. You can view No. 26-40 here and No. 41-60 here.

Follow the top 25 on Twitter @AthlonSports and join the debate at #Athlon25. Follow Athlon's College Football Writers on Twitter: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and David Fox (@DavidFox615).

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2014 season

College Football 2014 Projected Rankings: 61-80

61. Syracuse
With numerous returners on each side of the ball and the momentum from the Texas Bowl win over Minnesota, Syracuse is poised to take another step in 2014. Yet the talent gap between the Orange and ACC Atlantic Division members Florida State and Clemson remains huge. Every other game will be a crapshoot, and another upper-division finish and bowl are attainable.

Read the full 2014 Syracuse Orange Team Preview

62. Fresno State
Tim DeRuyter has enjoyed a pretty good run: two seasons and two MWC titles. But the job’s about to get a lot tougher, breaking in a new quarterback against a brutal early schedule.

After tangling with USC, Utah and Nebraska, it’s possible Fresno State will be 1–3 for the conference opener. Yet there’s enough talent to hang another championship banner. It may depend on whether the Bulldogs are steeled by those early games — or battered by them.

Read the full 2014 Fresno State Bulldogs Team Preview

63. Arkansas
Arkansas should be improved on both sides of the ball, but that doesn’t mean another winless SEC season is out of the question for the Razorbacks, who are still trying to stabilize and upgrade their roster after the disruption of the Bobby Petrino affair. Qualifying for a bowl berth would be a significant step in Year 2 under Bret Bielema, as Arkansas chugs forward with a difficult rebuild.

Read the full 2014 Arkansas Razorbacks Team Preview

64. Boston College
Steve Addazio was responsible for one of the more underrated coaching jobs last year, boosting Boston College from two to seven wins in his debut season by packaging a power-run attack around Andre Williams. Addazio’s creativity could be tested even more in 2014 since nearly all of the Eagles’ all-conference performers from a year ago are gone. Boston College is counting on the young players left over from the Frank Spaziani era and Addazio’s first two recruiting classes to form the Eagles’ identity.

The running game and solid line play will always be Boston College staples, but how will the Eagles stretch the field? They’ll need at least one or two young wide receivers to grow up in a hurry. The defense has a chance to improve after last year’s unit under coordinator Don Brown was opportunistic but not overwhelming in any one area.

A return to a bowl game is a realistic expectation, but the Eagles aren’t likely to pose much of a threat to the top teams in the ACC Atlantic Division.

Read the full 2014 Boston College Eagles Team Preview

65. NC State
Little went right for Dave Doeren in his first season. The Wolfpack lost their final eight games and went winless in ACC play for the first time since 1959. But with Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett at quarterback and a staggering 51 new true or redshirt freshmen on the roster, Doeren’s hoping the only way to go is up. With a manageable schedule, especially out of the league, there might be a way to speed up the rebuilding process and get back to a bowl game.

After such a poor finish in 2013, the Wolfpack do have motivation on their side.

“We want to make people forget last year," Bryan Underwood says. “This is us now, we’re a new team.”

Read the full 2014 NC State Wolfpack Team Preview

66. Iowa State
Iowa State must improve significantly on both sides of the ball if it hopes to bounce back from last season’s disappointing three-win season. With Mark Mangino on the staff, there is legitimate hope for better production on offense. There are some nice pieces at the skill positions for the former Kansas head coach to work with. Defensively, however, there are major issues. The staff will be relying on several junior college transfers — always a dangerous proposition. If the Cyclones want to reach a bowl game in 2014, they will have to do it by simply outscoring the opposition.

Read the full 2014 Iowa State Cyclones Team Preview 

67. West Virginia
It may be summer in Morgantown, but the heat has been on Dana Holgorsen for a couple of seasons. In 2012, the Mountaineers went 2–6 after a 5–0 start that included a win at Texas. Last year, WVU finished 4–8 and out of the bowl picture. Athletic director Oliver Luck felt compelled to issue a statement after the latter “difficult and trying” season and backed the coach, if seemingly only for this season, adding he has “high expectations” for 2014. The problem for Holgorsen is that the Mountaineers might be better, but that might not translate into a sterling record. WVU opens with Alabama, visits Maryland and plays a full Big 12 schedule.

Read the full 2014 West Virginia Mountaineers Team Preview

68. Illinois
The third year has usually been the charm for Illinois head coaches. Mike White, John Mackovic, Lou Tepper, Ron Turner and Ron Zook all reached bowls in their third seasons. Now, it’s Tim Beckman’s turn to try to keep the streak going. While the school hasn’t issued an ultimatum, a bowl bid would help secure Beckman’s future. The non-conference schedule is set up for success, with winnable home games against Youngstown State, Western Kentucky and Texas State. Take those three, and the Illini are halfway to a postseason berth.

The offense should continue to pile up yards and points, and the defense can’t be much worse. If Tim Banks’ guys climb 20 spots or so in national defensive rankings, it will translate to more wins. Beckman’s short-term goal is to solidify his position as head coach. Competing for a division title is down the road.

Read the full 2014 Illinois Fighting Illini Team Preview

69. Houston
There’s a lot to like about Houston, which has acquitted itself well in the call-up from C-USA to the American. This year’s schedule is manageable, and at least eight wins should be the expectation. Houston is a proud place — two of the country’s most established coaches, Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin, were roaming UH sidelines not too long ago. This team always seems to thrive off quarterback play, so the question is whether O’Korn has peaked or is just lifting off. The latter appears to be the case. Playmaking is there on both sides of the ball. Houston should be in the conversation as preseason American favorites along with Cincinnati, East Carolina and UCF.

Read the full 2014 Houston Cougars Team Preview

70. Kentucky
Mark Stoops has done the impossible — keep fans and recruits excited after a 2–10 debut season. He signed a top-25 class and had 35,000 people show up for this year’s spring game, second-most in program history. Now he just needs to win. Although he posted exactly the same record that got Joker Phillips fired a year earlier, the Cats were more competitive in 2013, losing five games by two touchdowns or less and three by single digits. The big payoff is probably still a year away, but a four- or five-win season this fall would probably keep everyone happy.

Read the full 2014 Kentucky Wildcats Team Preview

71. Colorado
The depth and talent are improving in Boulder under Mike MacIntyre. But the program is still in rebuilding mode. The Buffaloes have won a combined four Pac-12 games in their three seasons in the league, including one win in each of the past two years. Last season, the Buffs’ average margin of defeat in their eight conference losses was 29 points. More wins would be nice, but simply being competitive on a consistent basis would show progress in the short term.

Read the full 2014 Colorado Buffaloes Team Preview

72. Virginia
For these keeping track, and everyone is, Virginia’s 2–10 finish last year represented its fewest wins since 1982. The Cavaliers were winless in the ACC for the first time since 1981.

Mike London won’t survive another campaign like that. He might not even make it to midseason. With a maturing roster and the continuity that comes with a second season in offensive and defensive systems installed last year, Virginia should be better. The question, given a challenging schedule and a culture of coming up short, is how much that improvement will be reflected in the bottom line.

Read the full 2014 Virginia Cavaliers Team Preview

73. Rutgers
Rutgers welcomes back a solid group of returning starters, but there is uncertainty at the all-important quarterback position, and the schedule is the most difficult in school history. The defense, torched by teams from the American Athletic Conference in 2013, must show significant improvement. There is a chance Rutgers will be better in 2014 but fail to reach a bowl game for the first time since 2010 and only the second time since ’04.

Read the full 2014 Rutgers Scarlet Knights Team Preview

74. Colorado State
The Rams lost some significant star power with running back Kapri Bibbs’ decision to forego his final two seasons to turn pro and the graduations of Weston Richburg, Shaquil Barrett and All-MW tight end Crockett Gillmore. But they’ve still got a lot to work with in Garrett Grayson and a talented corps of receivers, including three who redshirted last fall. They’ll have to develop enough of a running threat to keep defenses honest but should be able to move the ball effectively through the air. The secondary has to improve for the Rams to be a factor in the pass-happy MW.

A favorable schedule that does not include MW West Division powers Fresno State and San Diego State gives the Rams a legitimate chance to make back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 2002-03, when Sonny Lubick was the coach.

Read the full 2014 Colorado State Rams Team Preview

75. Toledo
Toledo has 17 starters back to work on purging the sour taste left from last season, when the Rockets went 7–5 overall and missed playing in a bowl game for the first time since 2009. The schedule is not easy; the Rockets play Missouri, Cincinnati and Iowa State in non-conference action and host Bowling Green, the defending league champs, from the MAC East.

Toledo has a wealth of experience and talent along its offensive front and at linebacker, but the Rockets will be featuring a new starter at quarterback — always a dangerous proposition. If Logan Woodside emerges as viable playmaker and the defense improves, the Rockets should be right back in the MAC East title picture.

Read the full 2014 Toledo Rockets Team Preview

76. California
The Golden Bears are starting from an unfamiliar place — the bottom. Sonny Dykes’ debut season in Berkeley was a disaster in every way, and the new regime still is looking for its first victory over an FBS team. The Bears should be deeper and more experienced, and Dykes saw a new resolve during spring ball.

“That’s been the most impressive thing, their mentality,” Dykes says. “They’ve moved on.” Adds running back Khalfani Muhammad: “A season like that, it hurts. It hurt every game. It’s a new year. We all come in here with a lot of confidence.”

Still, there are more questions than answers, and victories are hard to find on a schedule featuring the steadily improving Pac-12 and non-conference games against Northwestern and BYU. How much improvement shows in the standings remains to be seen.

Acknowledged Dykes: “We’re a work in progress.”

Read the full 2014 California Golden Bears Team Preview

77. Northern Illinois
After the best two-year run in school history, Northern Illinois faces a daunting task trying to maintain its level of excellence. There should be some early-season growing pains without Jordan Lynch’s leadership and big-time production spearheading the offense. Following the season opener, the Huskies hit the road to play at Northwestern, UNLV and Arkansas.

Although NIU is loaded at several offensive positions, most notably at tailback, offensive line and wide receiver, Lynch is tough to replace. Rod Carey is emphasizing the importance of finishing strong, with the Huskies losing their last two games last season and not winning a bowl game in the last two years. Even without Lynch, the Huskies return enough talent to contend in the tough MAC West.

Read the full 2014 Northern Illinois Huskies Team Preview

78. Kansas
During his first two years at KU, Weis was careful to not set specific win total goals for his rebuilding football team. That’s changed this season, as he enters Year 3 with the most talent he’s had and a solid base of upperclassmen.

“Before you can be a perennial winning program, the first thing you’ve got to do is get to .500,” Charlie Weis says.

Though this probably isn’t a “bowl or bust” season for the Jayhawks, Weis likely will need to improve his win total to avoid the hot seat in the third year of a five-year contract.

Read the full 2014 Kansas Jayhawks Team Preview

79. Ball State
Northern Illinois is the standard-bearer in the MAC West, but nobody in the division has played the Huskies tougher than Ball State. While the Cardinals might not improve their win total for the fourth time in Pete Lembo’s four years at the helm, they appear positioned to stay in the MAC’s elite for years to come.

Read the full 2014 Ball State Cardinals Team Preview

80. Purdue
Most Purdue fans realized Darrell Hazell was inheriting a rebuilding situation, but last season still ended up being a nightmare. The lone victory was over FCS foe Indiana State, and the season ended with the Boilermakers getting thumped by archrival Indiana.

The non-conference schedule is more forgiving this year, and Purdue gets a break in conference play. It doesn’t play Michigan or Ohio State. Wisconsin and defending Big Ten champion Michigan State visit Ross-Ade Stadium. Still, it’s hard to envision this team making a move in the Big Ten in 2014. The talent level simply isn’t good enough at this point.

Read the full 2014 Purdue Boilermakers Team Preview

College Football 2014 Rankings and Predictions: #61-80
Post date: Friday, May 30, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/lance-stephenson-blowing-lebrons-ear-gives-us-great-memes

The Pacers' Lance Stephenson blew into LeBron James' ear last night in Indiana's 93-96 win in Game Six of the Eastern Conference finals.

That's right. Playoffs. Stephenson. LeBron. Blowing into his ear.


Of course, we've got jokes, everybody. Lance Stephenson, king of memes in this year's playoffs.







Lance Stephenson blowing on LeBron's Gives Us Great Memes
Post date: Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 11:07
Path: /college-football/college-football-2014-rankings-and-predictions-41-60

The start of the college football season is less than 100 days away, and Athlon Sports is counting down the top teams for the upcoming year.

Florida State is Athlon’s pick to win the national championship, with Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide projected to finish No. 2 nationally. Of course, there's a new element to college football's regular season with the addition of a four-team playoff, and Athlon Sports is picking Ohio State to finish No. 3 and Oklahoma to finish No. 4. The debate in the preseason is no longer about No. 1 and No. 2 and instead more about the top four teams in the nation.

While there is always plenty of intrigue in filling out the top 25, Nos. 26-40 feature a handful of teams that just missed. The 41-60 range features teams like Texas Tech, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arizona. All four teams have potential to finish higher, but each has question marks entering the 2014 season. This range of teams also features Athlon's projected Mountain West (Boise State), MAC (Bowling Green) and American (Cincinnati) champion. 

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2014, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings. You can view No. 26-40 here

Follow the top 25 on Twitter @AthlonSports and join the debate at #Athlon25. Follow Athlon's College Football Writers on Twitter: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and David Fox (@DavidFox615).

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2014 season

College Football 2014 Projected Rankings: 41-60

41. Texas Tech
Overall, the Red Raider offense looks to be a better unit in 2014, as quarterback Davis Webb looks much improved. The offensive line will likely be much better and deeper as well, which likely will result in improved numbers in the ground game. On defense, it’s still a bit of a mystery, as the Red Raider coaching staff will have to wait until fall camp to see the revamped defensive line — heavy with junior college transfers — in action. If these players do live up to their hype, things could be looking up on defense, and overall, for Texas Tech in 2014.

Read the full 2014 Texas Tech Red Raiders Team Preview

42. Tennessee
Even after a 5–7 debut season, coach Butch Jones has retained his relentlessly sunny attitude, and it seems to be infectious in Knoxville. But here’s the downer: While this team will eventually be better than the 2013 version, the roster turnover represented by 32 newcomers offers plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong. And this schedule (once again) offers little margin for error. Reaching six wins and a bowl game won’t be easy, but it will be a critical hurdle in keeping the Jones-fueled optimism alive and well in Knoxville.

Read the full 2014 Tennessee Volunteers Team Preview

43. Cincinnati
Much depends on the development of Gunner Kiel at quarterback. Kiel has the physical tools and has been a commanding presence at practice, but the test will be how he handles inevitable on-field adversity. UC started slowly last year (3–2) as the players adjusted to Tommy Tuberville and his staff. The coaches are entrenched now, but the lack of quarterback experience is an issue.

The non-league schedule includes trips to Ohio State and Miami (Fla.), but the Bearcats should contend for another upper-echelon finish in the AAC. With talent at the skill positions and improved speed on defense, a fourth consecutive bowl game seems reasonable.

Read the full 2014 Cincinnati Bearcats 2014 Team Preview

44. Vanderbilt
Derek Mason is in uncharted territory for a first-year football coach at Vanderbilt. Unlike the vast majority of men who have occupied his seat, Mason is not facing a massive rebuild. The former defensive coordinator at Stanford inherits a program that has won 18 games over the last two seasons and been to three straight bowl games. There is enough talent on the roster to extend the postseason streak to four, but some playmakers need to emerge on offense, and the defense must adapt to a very different style of play for this team to finish higher than sixth in the SEC East.

Read the full 2014 Vanderbilt Commodores Team Preview

45. Arizona
Rich Rodriguez has twin 8–5 seasons in two years at Arizona, and he has more Pac-12-ready players on the roster for Year 3. The uncertainty at quarterback hovers over the entire operation, but the strengths at receiver and on the offensive line create an optimistic feeling about another winning season. The Wildcats are faster and deeper on defense. The schedule — four winnable games to open the season — sets up favorably.

Read the full 2014 Arizona Wildcats Team Preview

46. Boise State
Coming off an 8–5 season — the Broncos’ worst since 1998 — there is hope for a quick turnaround with an experienced roster and a new energy created by the coaching change. The schedule sets up well with Fresno State, San Diego State and Utah State set to visit Boise, but the Broncos will count largely on the same players who failed to win the Mountain West Mountain Division last year. They need quarterback Grant Hedrick and the veteran defenders to make noticeable leaps and that young offensive line to jell quickly — particularly if they hope to impress a national audience in the made-for-TV opener against Ole Miss in Atlanta.

Read the full 2014 Boise State Broncos Team Preview

47. Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets seem stuck around the seven-win mark, almost always competitive but usually falling short against top-tier competition. If all the variables fall their way, this could be a nine-win team that contends for the Coastal Division title. But if quarterback Justin Thomas struggles and the defense takes a step back, six or seven wins could be the ceiling.

Read the full 2014 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Team Preview

48. Maryland
There’s some talent in tow as Maryland makes the big move to the Big Ten, but there are also questions. After winning seven games last season, fourth-year coach Randy Edsall is still trying to get some traction while he continues to get players out of traction. The team’s top three receivers all return from injuries, and several defensive stalwarts are coming back from offseason surgery. If everyone’s healthy, Edsall has a team that could be explosive on offense (pending the play of the team’s biggest question mark, a makeshift offensive line). And the defense, with nine starters back, should be solid.

But how will a middlin’ (7–6 overall, 3–5 in conference) ACC team fare in the Big Ten? It’s one of this season’s most intriguing questions and one that Edsall’s most veteran Terrapin team — 87 percent of last year’s late-season two-deep returns — is anxious to answer.

“We’ll be ready,” C.J. Brown says.

Read the full 2014 Maryland Terrapins Team Preview

49. Utah State
Expectations just keep growing for the Aggies. In their first year in the Mountain West, they made it to the inaugural league championship game after capturing the Mountain Division. The largest crowd to attend a spring game turned out in April, and the second-year coach received a contract extension through 2018. USU has been to three straight bowls — something never before accomplished at the school — winning the last two.

Matt Wells lost two assistants on the defensive side, but the transition with the new coaches went smoothly in the spring. There are some challenges with the schedule: The Aggies travel to Tennessee, Arkansas State and BYU in non-conference action and end the season with a trip to Boise State. Another bowl berth and 10 wins are reasonable goals in 2014.

Read the full 2014 Utah State Aggies Team Preview

50. East Carolina
Coach Ruffin McNeill has a good thing going at his alma mater, where the Pirates have had the wind at their backs since he arrived, sailing to three bowl appearances in four years. They capped a meaty 10-win season with a 37–20 victory over Ohio in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, and now they’re off to the American Athletic Conference — home to many of the Pirates’ old C-USA rivals.

East Carolina already got a big offseason win, hanging on to offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, who was pursued for the same job at some bigger programs. With the swashbuckling Shane Carden at quarterback and the NFL-ready Hardy on the other end of his passes, the Pirates are primed for another big season. That is, if the defense rebounds from heavy losses and a rebuilding offensive line can come together to give Carden time.

Read the full 2014 East Carolina Pirates Team Preview

51. Northwestern
The good vibes accompanying Northwestern for much of Pat Fitzgerald’s tenure vanished after the program’s first bowl-less season since 2007, but Northwestern returns a roster strong enough to return to the postseason and play spoiler in a wide-open Big Ten West. The offense finally has a quarterback and an identity, but questions remain up front. The defense is still reliant on takeaways but boasts good depth throughout the unit.

Northwestern plays Notre Dame, Northern Illinois and Cal in non-league play but misses both Ohio State and Michigan State in the Big Ten. The Wildcats should return to the postseason in 2014.

Read the full 2014 Northwestern Wildcats Team Preview

52. Minnesota
Coming off its best season since 2003, Minnesota has the talent to improve again this year, if the Gophers can survive a more difficult schedule. Coach Jerry Kill’s teams have gone 3–9, 6–7 and 8–5 in his first three seasons. He sees parallels to the way his programs progressed at Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois. “We built it on defense, and now you’ve got to bring the offense (along),” he says. “That’s what we’ve done everywhere we’ve been.”

Kill, who turns 53 in August, faced more questions about his health last season after an in-game seizure against Western Illinois and another that kept him from traveling to Michigan.

He was the lowest-paid coach in the Big Ten last year, at $1.1 million, but the university more than doubled his salary with a new deal that will pay him an average of $2.3 million through 2018.

“I think it shows our commitment to football,” Gophers AD Norwood Teague says. “It shows our commitment to Jerry, and it’s the right thing to do at this time.”

Now, Kill will seek to justify his big payday, as the Gophers move into the Big Ten West. They have a non-conference matchup against TCU and two tough draws from the Big Ten East — Michigan and Ohio State.

Read the full 2014 Minnesota Golden Gophers Team Preview

53. Oregon State
The Beavers return one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Sean Mannion, but he will be operating without receiver Brandin Cooks and must adapt to new offensive coordinator John Garrett, who spent the last seven seasons in the NFL. The defense, with seven returning starters, should be better under veteran coordinator Mark Banker.

The Beavers should get off to a good start with non-conference home games against Portland State and San Diego State along with a trip to Hawaii before opening Pac-12 play with back-to-back road games at USC and Colorado. This looks like another bowl team, but Oregon State doesn’t figure to pose too much of a threat to the top teams in the tough Pac-12 North.

Read the full 2014 Oregon State Beavers Team Preview

54. Utah
Kyle Whittingham believes the Utes are improving their talent level and depth in their fourth season of Pac-12 membership. They were competitive in every conference game in 2013, including an upset of eventual champion Stanford, but the Utes need to double last season’s total of two conference wins for 2014 to be judged as any kind of success.

Read the full 2014 Utah Utes Team Preview

55. UCF
UCF will have a tough task replicating its 2013 success without quarterback Blake Bortles, but they have the talent in place to put together another strong season. The Knights will rely on a stingy defense to keep them in every game and a pro-style offense that takes few risks but has playmakers at running back and wide receiver. If UCF finds an answer at quarterback, it should once again be a strong contender in the American.

Read the full 2014 UCF Knights Team Preview

56. Washington State
Mike Leach has engineered a quick turnaround in Pullman, guiding the Cougars back to a bowl game in his second season. He has eliminated the losing culture and given the program an identity. Leach’s third season figures to be similar to his second. The Cougs, with a senior quarterback and solid corps of receivers, will score a ton of points, but the defense remains an issue. Washington State can be a consistent bowl team as it’s currently constructed but will need to improve on defense to emerge as a contender in the tough Pac-12 North.

Read the full 2014 Washington State Cougars Team Preview

57. Navy
Navy has been one of the most consistent programs in the FBS with a winning record in 10 of the last 11 years. The Midshipmen also have been the dominant service academy during that time, capturing the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy nine times since 2003. In its final season as an Independent before joining the American Athletic Conference in 2015, Navy should sustain its success on both fronts. The Midshipmen have a contract to appear in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl and should have no problem securing the six wins necessary to be eligible.

Read the full 2014 Navy Midshipmen Team Preview

58. Indiana
The Indiana football story needs to break the endless loop of great offense, awful defense. A shift should begin this season. The defense looked faster, stronger and more determined during the spring game. The offense has more questions than usual after losing three of its top four receivers. But Indiana has two quarterbacks who have played winning football, one of the Big Ten’s best runners in Tevin Coleman and IU’s best offensive line in a decade. A shift from eight home games to six will hurt. And the non-conference schedule, which includes trips to MAC-favorite Bowling Green and Missouri, is far from easy. Finding six wins will be a challenge.

Read the full 2014 Indiana Hoosiers Team Preview

59. Bowling Green
Immediately after winning its first conference championship in 21 years, Bowling Green lost coach Dave Clawson to Wake Forest. The Falcons recovered quickly, landing Dino Babers after he led Eastern Illinois to a No. 4 final ranking in the FCS — and did so with the division’s No. 1 total offense (589.5 ypg) and scoring offense (48.2 ppg). Babers and his staff — most of which followed him from EIU — changed some things that weren’t necessarily broken, and Bowling Green will be a different animal this fall as Babers unleashes his dizzying pace on offense. The defense has more holes to fill, but there is enough returning talent to make the Falcons the heavy favorite in the MAC East.

Read the full 2014 Bowling Green Falcons Team Preview

60. UL Lafayette
With a healthy Terrance Broadway at the helm, UL Lafayette won eight straight games and earned a share of the Sun Belt title for the first time since 2005. With him out of the lineup, the Cajuns lost two in a row before Broadway returned — not at a 100 percent — to lead them to a win in the bowl game. His value can’t be overstated as the triggerman of what could be the Sun Belt’s most potent offense.
There are some issues on defense, especially against the pass, but this is still the most talented team in the Sun Belt. As long as Broadway remains healthy, the Cajuns are the overwhelming favorite to win the league.

Read the full 2014 UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns Team Preview

College Football 2014 Rankings and Predictions: #41-60
Post date: Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/50-cent-throws-comedic-first-pitch-bad-puns-ensue

Rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson threw one of the all-time bad first pitches in MLB history last night against the Pirates, joining a lowlight reel that includes Carly Rae Jepsen, John Wall, Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory and Carl Lewis.

Unfortunately, writers and bloggers proved they weren't much better at making hip hop-related puns.

First, video of the failed first pitch and the puns that followed:

"There's no way 50 Cent gave it his 100%."
-USA Today

"Pitchin' ain't easy."
-New York Daily News

"50 Cent was on the mound, but not on the money."
-Associated Press

"You can find him in the clubhouse ... humiliated on a national level -- because Tuesday night 50 Cent may have thrown out the worst first pitch in MLB history."
-TMZ Sports

"He can throw beats but he can’t throw balls."
-The Sydney Morning Herald

"50 Cent certainly didn’t party like it was his birthday Tuesday night at the Mets-Pirates game."
-Fox 59 Indianapolis

"You can find 50 Cent in da club, but you can find his first pitch at Tuesday night's Mets game way outside the club somewhere."
-The Today Show

"50 Cent may be a P-I-M-P, but a major league pitcher, he is not."
-US Weekly

"If there's one thing we learned Tuesday, it's the 50 Cent should stay "In Da Club" and off the diamond."
-Newark (N.J.). Star-Ledger

"Rapper 50 Cent may have sold tons of records and been shot nine times, but his street cred veered off course Tuesday night in New York."
-Washington Times

"One of 50 Cent's "21 Questions" should have been, 'How do you throw a baseball?'"
-The Week

50 Cent Throws Comedic First Pitch, Bad Puns Ensue
Post date: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 12:59
Path: /college-football/college-football-2014-rankings-and-predictions-26-40

The start of the college football season is less than 100 days away, and Athlon Sports is counting down the top teams for the upcoming year.

Florida State is Athlon’s pick to win the national championship, with Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide projected to finish No. 2 nationally. Of course, there's a new element to college football's regular season with the addition of a four-team playoff, and Athlon Sports is picking Ohio State to finish No. 3 and Oklahoma to finish No. 4. The debate in the preseason is no longer about No. 1 and No. 2 and instead more about the top four teams in the nation.

While there is always plenty of intrigue in filling out the top 25, Nos. 26-40 feature a handful of teams that just missed. Iowa kicks off this batch of teams at No. 26, as the Hawkeyes are capable of winning the Big Ten's West Division. Virginia Tech is Athlon's projected Coastal champion and ranks No. 27. Another intriguing team this release of rankings is Marshall at No. 40 - the highest team from outside of the power conferences in 2014.

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2014, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, beginning with Nos. 26-40. 

Follow the top 25 on Twitter @AthlonSports and join the debate at #Athlon25. Follow Athlon's College Football Writers on Twitter: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and David Fox (@DavidFox615).

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2014 season

College Football 2014 Projected Rankings: 26-40

26. Iowa
Many of the pieces are in place for Iowa to continue this latest resurgence under coach Kirk Ferentz, especially on offense. Combine that with a schedule that doesn’t include Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan or Penn State, and has Iowa State, Wisconsin and Nebraska coming to Kinnick Stadium, and there is reason to believe Iowa can be a legitimate contender in the new Big Ten West Division.

Read the full 2014 Iowa Hawkeyes Team Preview

27. Virginia Tech
The offense should benefit from being in Year 2 in coordinator Scot Loeffler’s system, but Year 1 didn’t exactly set the bar high. The Hokies had the 101st-ranked offense nationally in 2013, averaging 356.0 yards per game. Fixing the lagging running game would go a long way toward making Virginia Tech more competitive, since there’s plenty of faith in Blacksburg that defensive coordinator Bud Foster will figure things out like he always does. Frank Beamer is confident that the changes he made to the offensive coaching staff prior to 2013 are taking root but knows that it will take time. Still, the Hokies should contend in a wide-open Coastal Division this year.

Read the full 2014 Virginia Tech Hokies Team Preview

28. Louisville
New quarterback, new coach, new conference (the ACC), new, more formidable schedule. There’s a lot to process for a program that won 23 games as well as the Sugar and Russell Athletic bowls the last two seasons. But Petrino has won everywhere he’s coached in college — including a 41–9 record during his first stint at Louisville. If quarterback Will Gardner stays healthy, the Cards have enough weapons to score big on everybody but Florida State, Clemson and Notre Dame. Defense will determine if Louisville can win more than eight.

Read the full 2014 Louisville Cardinals Team Preview

29. Nebraska
Bo Pelini’s record is 58–24, with at least nine victories in each of his six seasons. But he has yet to coach a conference champion. In fact, Nebraska hasn’t won a conference title since 1999, much too long for a program with three national titles in the five years prior to that.

In the aftermath of a 38–17 regular-season-ending loss to Iowa, speculation spread that Pelini’s tenure as coach might be over. But he has since received a contract extension through the 2018 season. Extension or not, however, there’s pressure to win a championship and return to national relevance. The Huskers should have the defense for that. The question is whether the offense can be balanced enough to get the job done against a schedule that sets up very well in a restructured division of the expanded Big Ten.

Read the full 2014 Nebraska Cornhuskers Team Preview

30. Miami
Ten wins were once the norm at Miami, and now it’s a place to set the bar for 2014. The last time UM reached double-digit victories was 2003, and the only way it happens this year is with an improved defense and solid quarterback play. Certainly the pieces are in place on offense for an explosive group, but new faces on both sides of the ball need to make significant impacts for Al Golden’s team to reach its goals.

Read the full 2014 Miami Hurricanes Team Preview

31. North Carolina
The Tar Heels have enough talent to challenge for first place in the ACC’s Coastal Division, which remains unpredictable and up for grabs, but their margin of error is small. In truth, UNC looks to be in better shape for 2015 than for this season. The offense has only one senior on the two-deep depth chart, and the defense would benefit from another year of experience up front and in the secondary. But the Tar Heels have to play the 2014 season first. If they perform better than expected along the offensive line and get a breakout season from someone on a defense that lacks an established star, the future could be now.

Read the full 2014 North Carolina Tar Heels Team Preview

32. Michigan
After Michigan went 8–5 and 7–6 over the past two seasons, the shine from Brady Hoke’s 11–2 debut campaign is officially gone. The 2014 season is clearly the most important of Hoke’s tenure at Michigan. This is the youngest team Hoke has had during his time in Ann Arbor, but there is plenty of talent on the roster.

Michigan’s defense should be strong enough to keep it in games early in the season, but if the offense doesn’t show significant improvement, it’s hard to envision this team posing too much of a threat in the new Big Ten East Division.

Read the full 2014 Michigan Wolverines Team Preview

33. Mississippi State
Expectations are high in Starkville. Mississippi State enters the season with one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC and a defense that has the potential to be among the best in the league. If suitable replacements are found on the offensive line and the special teams improves, the 2014 season could be the best in Dan Mullen’s six years at the school.

Read the full 2014 Mississippi State Bulldogs Team Preview

34. Texas A&M
A&M’s stadium is undergoing a $450 million redevelopment that will make Kyle Field one of the premier venues in college football when construction is done in 2015. Until that time, however, Kyle Field remains a work in progress. The same could be said for the inhabitants of the facility. With a strong offensive line, a stable of promising, young skill players on offense and a defense that should improve, the Aggies could be a factor in the SEC West. But 2015 may be the year A&M steps back into in the national spotlight.

Read the full 2014 Texas A&M Aggies Team Preview

35. BYU
A tough schedule and a bowl defeat kept BYU stuck on eight victories in 2013, but coach Bronco Mendenhall likes the trajectory of the program. “We win every year, and it’s just a matter of how much,” Mendenhall says. “I think this group wants to do even more than we’ve done before.”

Even after a Fight Hunger Bowl loss ended BYU’s streak of five bowl victories, the Cougars have “tons of momentum,” Mendenhall says. “I like our program a lot right now, and I like our players.”

In BYU’s fourth season of independence, the Cougars are positioned to make some national impact especially if the defensive front seven comes together and quarterback Taysom Hill becomes a more consistent passer.

Read the full 2014 BYU Cougars Team Preview

36. Pittsburgh
In recent vintage, Pittsburgh would best be described as unimpressive and/or average. The words are cringe-worthy for those involved with the program, but not inaccurate. The Panthers are 13–13 in two seasons under Chryst and 19–20 since 2011. The good news is that the program firmly belongs to Chryst — only 17 players remain from previous regimes — and young players are making an impact. Chryst played 12 freshmen extensively last season. Still, the Panthers should expect to experience more growing pains, given the uncertainty at quarterback, the precarious nature of the offensive line and a defense that lost the best lineman in the nation. Victories over Notre Dame, Duke and Bowling Green in ’13 can serve as building blocks, but losses to Navy, Georgia Tech and North Carolina are reminders that more work must be done.

Read the full 2014 Pittsburgh Panthers Team Preview

37. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State lost 28 seniors from a year ago; it was a special group that matched the best four-year win total of any class in program history. So while Cowboys coaches believe they’ve recruited well, so much turnover, coupled with a challenging schedule that opens with defending national champion Florida State, suggests that a step back is in order. Just how far back depends on how quickly the kids grow up.

Read the full 2014 Oklahoma State Cowboys Team Preview

38. Duke
The Coastal Division race should be wide open again this season, and Duke should be in the thick of it. Thanks to a pillow-soft non-conference schedule, and the absence of Clemson, Florida State and Louisville among Atlantic Division crossover opponents (the Devils get Syracuse and Wake instead), a third straight bowl game seems highly likely for the Blue Devils. A repeat trip to the ACC title game? Duke seemed to catch just about every late-game break in 2013 (for a change). It’s hard to envision a repeat of that level of magic again this fall. And the Blue Devils certainly won’t be sneaking up on anyone this time around.

Read the full 2014 Duke Blue Devils Team Preview

39. TCU
It became clear to coach Gary Patterson during the Horned Frogs’ second year in the Big 12 that major changes were in order on the offensive side of the ball. His defense, long a program hallmark, was maintaining its success in the new league. But the Frogs missed the postseason for the first time since 2004 largely because the offense — which had moved the ball with ease in the Frogs’ final years in the Mountain West — failed to produce.

If the offense, under new leadership, can make modest gains, the Frogs could emerge as a surprise contender in the Big 12. TCU went 4–8 in 2013, but the Frogs lost four games by a combined 11 points, including one in overtime. In two other 10-point losses, TCU had a chance to win late in the game.

With better play at quarterback and along the offensive line — two areas that underperformed in 2013 — TCU will be in position to win a few more of those close games and put itself back into postseason play.

Read the full 2014 TCU Horned Frogs Team Preview

40. Marshall
Could Marshall go undefeated? When Louisville had to postpone its 2014 date with the Herd due to an ACC-obligated matchup with Notre Dame, Rhode Island became Marshall’s final non-conference opponent. The Herd certainly should be favored each week as long as Cato remains healthy (backup QB is a big concern heading into the fall). The three teams that beat Marshall last year that are on the schedule this year all must visit Huntington, where Marshall has won eight straight. A highly productive offense led by an elite quarterback and solid, veteran defense could lift the Herd to a historic season.

Read the full 2014 Marshall Thundering Herd Team Preview

College Football 2014 Rankings and Predictions: #26-40
Post date: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /overtime/21-unintentionally-dirty-sports-photos-web

Ahh, photography. It can catch a split-second moment in time and turn it into a hilarious photo that can be interpreted the completely wrong way. And sports provides more of these moments than most other subjects--usually because there's a lot of sweaty dudes rolling around with each other and celebrating as only sweaty dudes know how. Here are 21 unintentionally funny sports photos that are hilarious even if you don't like sports.

<p> These photos caught athletes doing things we only see in the movies (dirty movies.)</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 12:42
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Monthly
Path: /timhoward

If Team USA feels good about its chances at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, it's in no small part due to a 6'3", tattooed brick wall named Tim Howard.

Since 2010, the New Jersey native has been Team USA’s starting goalkeeper, compiling a .500 winning percentage in four World Cup games. He is, quite literally, one of the only things standing between failure and the first men's World Cup title for America. Fortunately, the 35-year-old Howard isn't new to the game. He grew up as a soccer prodigy, battling through the uncontrollable muscle twitches caused by Tourette's syndrome, to play his first professional game at age 17. His career has included stops in the MLS with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, as well the English club Manchester United and his current team, Everton.

Ironically, his greatest career achievement might not be saving a goal, but scoring one. In an English Premiere League game, he became only the fourth goalie in league history to achieve the rare feat.

As the men’s national team faces off against powerhouses Germany, Portugal and Ghana in group play beginning June 16, we caught up with Howard to ask about his battle with Tourette's, his miraculous goal, and Team USA’s chances.

Pundits have described Team USA’s draw as the “group of death.” Is that a fair assessment?

If you go to the World Cup and expect to get an easy draw, then I think you’re under some sort of illusion. Also, because of how the seeds were weighted, we were always going to get tough teams. It wasn’t a surprise to the players. We need to play at our best over the course of three games and that won’t change no matter what group we’re in.

The U.S. has fielded arguably its strongest team ever. What’s contributed to the development of American soccer players in recent years?

Our players have gotten better because a lot of them have gone over to play abroad at a young age. Competing against the best competition hardens you as a player, so when we come together, our group is stronger.

How do you decide which way to dive during a penalty kick?

Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s instinct, but strikers today are so clever most of the time goalies don’t get it right. I used to think there were telltale giveaways, but it’s really a chess match. A lot of times strikers go on a hard run up, then slow down or lean one way and shoot the other. It’s a crapshoot.

You’ve been known to play through broken bones. (Late in a 2013 Everton match, he broke two non-weight-bearing bones in his back and finished the game.) Care to explain? 

It’s either toughness or stupidity—I haven’t quite figured it out. Adrenaline is the best pain reliever and often that’s what helped get me through. I’m also of the school of thought that if you can play on, you should. You should never take yourself off the field if you don’t have to. Again, that might be stupid. 

In sixth grade you were diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome. What impact has that had on you?

It has had a huge positive impact on my life. There are all sorts of challenges with Tourette’s because it’s such a noticeable condition. You can’t hide it. Its challenges made me resilient and pushed me beyond whatever barriers were in front of me. I can get knocked down and continue to get back up.

As a member of the Everton team, you live in England most of the year. What aspects of European culture have you embraced?

I drink espresso after every meal. And driving on the opposite side of the road. You have to embrace that or else you won’t last very long.

Tell us how you scored a goal (in 2012).

It was a pass back that set up just right, and I cleared it as hard as I could. It was a blustery night and the ball caught the wind and, as it bounced, the other team’s forward chased it. He threw his goalie off, and the ball skipped and went in. It was crazy, but, unfortunately, we lost the game 2-1.

You’ve got a lot of body art. What is the newest tattoo you’ve had inked?

It was by Cally-Jo who works at Bang Bang studio in New York and is a superstar. I told her I wanted an original piece, and she did an old Victorian-style sacred heart. 

What’s on your training table?

I follow the Paleo Diet pretty religiously—high proteins and fats. Most stuff is off limits, but my cheat meal is usually pizza and Ben & Jerry’s.

You’re 6-foot-3. Can you dunk?

Dunking a basketball has always been a way to measure my athletic ability, going all the way back to high school. I used to be able to dunk it on the first try, but these days I need to warm up first.

What was it like to play your first professional soccer game before you had graduated from high school?

It was tough at the time, but, when I look back on it, I think all of those games paid so many dividends. Those games allowed me to make mistakes, to see things differently, and, as the games got faster at every level, they forced me to get faster in order to move up and climb the ladder professionally.

You can spend large parts of the game not directly involved in the action. What are you thinking about during those lulls?

My mind is very clear. I’m in the moment. I’m doing a lot of talking. Even when people can’t hear me, I’m managing the game. I react more than I think. I don’t think much, to be honest.

As a member of the Everton team, you live in Europe most of the year. What one thing do you miss most from the U.S.?

The weather. The weather over here (in England) sucks. And the American culture. I appreciate European culture, but I also like being home (in North Brunswick, N.J.) and flying under the radar and not being noticed.

Tell us something few people know about you.

I’m very much Jekyll & Hyde on (and off) the field. I’m zoned in, passionate about winning and very demanding of myself and my teammates. And I show that. People see it and say that I yell and scream. Off the field, I’m private and quiet until I warm up to people. I like to keep to myself, but I think sometimes that comes off as arrogance. I’ve got two different sides to me.

—By Matt McCue

Post date: Monday, May 19, 2014 - 14:38
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/video-jameis-winston-crab-leg-surveillance-released

Surveillance video of FSU QB Jameis Winston was released by the Leon County Sheriff's Office yesterday. The video shows the Heisman winner walking into a Publix and then leaving without paying for crab legs on April 29. Winston claims that he simply forgot to pay. You be the judge.

What did we learn?
1. Winston didn't conceal the crab legs.
2. He likes to walk around Publix a lot. We mean A LOT.
3. Despite the fact that your phone can shoot in HD, surveillance cameras apperently are built on technology from the mid-'80s.
Post date: Friday, May 16, 2014 - 08:23
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/hernandez-indicted-2012-double-murder
Former New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez was indicted today for the murder of two men in July 2012, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.
The indictment stems from the alleged murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. Authorities say the pair were killed shortly after they left a nightclub with three of their friends on July 16, 2012.
Hernandez is currently in jail awaiting trial in the 2013 killing of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. Hernandez pleaded not guilty to that murder charge. 
Post date: Thursday, May 15, 2014 - 12:26
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/analyzing-top-positional-players-2014-nfl-draft

The NFL Draft started back in 1936, a time when there was no media coverage and nine rounds of selections.  That year, only 24 of the 81 drafted players opted to sign contracts and play in the National Football League.  The draft has changed dramatically over the past 70-odd years.  Last year, the 1st overall pick, Eric Fisher, signed a five-year contract worth more than $22 million dollars.  He’d have been crazy to turn that down.  Today, the draft is a 3-day event that consists of seven rounds with 32 picks in each.  As significant as the draft’s evolution has been, similar players pop up each and every year.  The top prospects of the 2014 NFL Draft are no different, and we can look to history to show us how they may perform over the rest of their careers.

My No. 1 QB – Blake Bortles (UCF)

What the experts are saying:
The 6’5”, 230-pound quarterback out of the Sunshine State has all of the physical tools that teams look for in a franchise pocket passer.  He’s big, has good mechanics, and is exceptional at evading rushers and extending plays.  He’s also a winner, going 22-5 at UCF and defeating Baylor in the school’s first ever BCS bowl appearance.  But Bortles played in the weak American Athletic Conference and operated largely out of the shotgun.  Stronger competition and more snaps under center may make his transition difficult.  Being an underclassman, he will need some time to develop and would benefit greatly from sitting for a few years behind an experienced quarterback.  If we were evaluating prospects based on the attractiveness of their girlfriends, Bortles may still rank No. 1 (see: Lindsey Duke).

Best Case Scenario:
Jon Gruden sees a little bit of Ben Roethlisberger in Blake Bortles.  Both are big-bodied field commanders who played at mid-majors in the collegiate ranks.  Roethlisberger was drafted 11th overall in 2004, won the award for offensive rookie of the year and became the youngest quarterback ever (at the time) to win a championship at the age of 23.  Roethlisberger currently owns 2 Super Bowl rings and is likely to end up in the NFL Hall of Fame after he retires.  The quarterbacks' size, accuracy, and origin mirror each other closely, but Bortles will need an elite coach and scheme to rival Big Ben’s success.

Worst Case Scenario:
I see a little more of Daunte Culpepper in Bortles.  Culpepper who also played at UCF was the 11th pick in the NFL Draft just like Big Ben.  At 6’4”, 265-pounds, the former Knight shares comparable physical attributes with Bortles.  Unlike Roethlisberger, Culpepper never won a championship and is now unemployed after bouncing around a bunch of teams throughout his career.  He wasn’t necessarily a bust, but without Randy Moss by his side and after a devastating knee injury, Culpepper’s career was largely uneventful.  Christian Ponder is a more recent example that fits Bortles’ mold.  Though not as big in stature as Blake, Ponder has wheels too, rushing adequately throughout his collegiate career.  He was drafted 12th overall, but is widely considered a bust, accounting for more turnovers than touchdowns since he was thrust into the starting lineup for the Vikings in 2011.  Scouts think Bortles has a high ceiling, but if he follows Ponder’s path, that ceiling may come crashing down very quickly. 

My No. 1 RB – Andre Williams (Boston College)

What the experts are saying:
In a draft class that is weak on running backs, Andre Williams might just be the best rusher.  As a senior at Boston College, Williams rushed for 2,177 yards, 18 TDs and finished 4th in Heisman voting.  Among backs, the BC grad had the combine’s best numbers in the areas of broad jump, 20-yard shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle.  Williams was not much of a receiver in college, but he is a workhorse on the ground.  However, many scouts are concerned that Andre is the product of a dominant offensive line.  Williams is a projected 3rd round pick.

Best Case Scenario:
Speed is the biggest question for Andre Williams. Sound familiar?  Earl Campbell lacked the same attribute, running a 4.6 40-yard dash back in 1978.  After winning the Heisman in college, Campbell immediately thrived in the NFL.  In his first year as a pro, Campbell led the league in rushing, was dubbed Rookie of the Year, and also won Offensive Player of the Year.  Earl was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame and is considered one of the best backs of all time.  Allegedly, when the two met at the Heisman award ceremony in 2013, Campbell gave Williams the title of “Little Earl”.  If his efforts take him anywhere near the level of this legend, Williams could be one of the NFL’s most productive backs in no time.

Worst Case Scenario:
Williams is 1 of 16 players to rush for over 2,000 yards in a single collegiate season.  After his senior year, the BC back joined Barry Sanders, Matt Forte, LaDainian Tomlinson, and many other greats in the prestigious 2,000-yard club.  However, Andre is probably closer in skill level to a Kevin Smith (2,567 yards) than he is to Sanders.  Like Smith, Williams will likely fall into the middle rounds because of some understandable doubts about his ability.  Though Smith is a different type of back than Williams, they face similar challenges transitioning to the NFL.  Scouts had doubts about Smith’s involvement in the pass game.  His speed was questioned, though he ran in the 4.4’s consistently at the combine and his pro day.  After playing only 5 years in the NFL, Smith accumulated less yardage (2,338) than he did during his entire junior season at UCF.  Williams would like to last longer than half a decade in the league, but considering the lowering shelf life of NFL running backs nobody would be too surprised if he was a free agent in 2020.

My No. 1 WR – Sammy Watkins (Clemson)

What the experts are saying:
Watkins was the fourth true freshman 1st team All-American in college history, along with Herschel Walker, Marshall Faulk, and Adrian Peterson.  Barring injury, Watkins is the biggest sure thing in this draft.  He has world-class speed and is a natural receiver.  Watkins makes the most out of nothing with an incredible ability to make defenders miss after the catch.  He is also explosive in the return game, which is just an added bonus to already solid skill-set.  The only doubts about Sammy are his durability and the possibility that his production may have been a result of Clemson’s pass-heavy system.

Best Case Scenario:
Sammy Watkins could end up being a much better Percy Harvin.  Both players are speed demons that got a good amount of touches behind the line of scrimmage.  Both are incredibly dangerous returners that strike fear in opposing special teams units.  Both are highly susceptible to injury, sitting out many games during their college years because of ankle issues.  Both receivers left college early.  But, where the two differ is in the area of size.  Harvin never really ran over defenders at Florida, something Watkins loves to do.  Watkins is a few inches taller and about 30 pounds heavier than Harvin, which leads one to believe that the Clemson Tiger will be more productive and more durable as a pro.  Harvin’s career is young, but he has fared well in his few years as a professional decoy.  In any type of offense, Watkins has the potential to burn lots of NFL defenses very early in his career.

Worst Case Scenario:
Watkins has drawn comparisons to Donté Stallworth, who last played in the NFL for one game of the 2012 season with the New England Patriots.  Stallworth’s best year was with the New Orleans Saints, when he caught 8 TD’s.  At first glance, the receivers seem identical, with a slight advantage being given to Stallworth. Stallworth ran a 4.22 40, Watkins a 4.43.  Stallworth had a 39-inch vertical, Watkins 34 inches.  But Watkins is an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than Stallworth was coming out of college.  This could be the determining factor in differentiating the two receivers.  Although, if Watkins turns out to be a Stallworth clone, there will be one unbelievably upset general manager out there.

My No. 1 TE – Eric Ebron (North Carolina)

What the experts are saying:
The tight end needs to develop his blocking skills, but he is exceptionally talented as a receiver.  In 2013, Ebron set the ACC single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 973.  At the college level, Ebron got away with his poor blocking ability.  In order to be an every down tight end at the next level he must get bigger and stronger.  6’4”, 250 might not cut it against the toughest defenders in the NFL.  Recent reports call him inconsistent and an egomaniac.  Still, Ebron runs the fastest 40-yard dash out of all tight ends and is universally regarded as the best athlete at his position.

Best Case Scenario:
Todd McShay believes that Eric Ebron is exactly like Antonio Gates when he was coming out of college.  In fact, he sees Ebron as more polished entering the NFL Draft.  Like Gates, Ebron played basketball in high school and scouts drool over his ability to emulate small forwards athletically.   Gates is 10 pounds heavier but both players stand at 6’4”.  Built primarily as a receiver, Gates has caught 87 touchdowns in his career and was selected as 1st team All-Pro twice.  At 33 years old, Gates is still playing in the NFL and is the 7th tight end in NFL history with more than 500 catches.  In today’s offensive league, Eric Ebron could end up being a lethal pass catcher that brings an immediate impact to any team.

Worst Case Scenario:
Ebron also looks like Kellen Winslow Jr. out of the University of Miami.  Winslow measured close to Ebron, at 6’4”, 251 pounds coming out of school.  The Hurricane was an All-American, a winner of the Mackey Award, and his dad was a former Hall of Fame tight end for the San Diego Chargers.  His draft analysis was essentially the same as Ebron: a “tremendous athlete” lacking “functional football strength” seeing “average results blocking”, and having a reputation as a “high maintenance” prospect (Sports Illustrated).  In 2013, Winslow was arrested for using synthetic marijuana while masturbating in his car in the parking lot of a Target in New Jersey.  Let’s hope Ebron’s career never reaches that low of a point.

My No. 1 OL – Greg Robinson (Auburn)

What the experts are saying:
Robinson is a physically impressive offensive tackle who led the way for Tre Mason and Auburn’s rushing attack this past year.  He is a great run blocker, has extremely long arms, and is very balanced and athletic in passing sets.  Robinson is the consensus No. 1 tackle in the draft; scouts’ biggest concern is his raw technique.  Having faced off each game against the best defenders in the nation from the SEC, Robinson has played at the highest competitive level to this point.  With his unique blend of size and strength, he has the potential to become a franchise left tackle protecting some lucky quarterback’s blind side for years.

Best Case Scenario:
Some scouts think Greg Robinson is a spitting image of Hall of Famer Larry Allen.  In 12 seasons, Allen was a six-time All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl 10 times.  At 6’5, 332 pounds, Robinson actually trumps the Sonoma State graduate (I verified that this school does in fact exist) in terms of size.  More than anything, the tackles are similar in the sense that they both grew up in a very challenging environment.  Robinson’s mother is a widow who struggles to make enough money to support her kids, two of which are currently in jail on drug related charges.  Allen’s story is eerily similar.  He grew up in Compton, being raised by a single mother, and was surrounded by drugs and violence, even being stabbed 12 times in the head as a 9-year-old child.  If their past similarities are any indication, Robinson and Allen may share a future in Canton before we know it.

Worst Case Scenario:
Tony Mandarich serves as a perfect example of an offensive lineman with unreal hype that ended up becoming a bust at the next level.  Although he was aided by steroid usage, Mandarich’s numbers looked very close to Robinson’s.  Both players were hailed as supreme athletes, and both tackles were featured in run-heavy college offenses.  Mandarich was supposed to be the most powerful professional of all time, but he failed to play more than 10 years in the NFL.  Being so big and supporting so much weight has its prices.  Robinson has no links to performance enhancing drugs, but he could easily become one of many forgotten big men whose potential never panned out.

My No. 1 DL – Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina)

What the experts are saying:
Clowney was the No. 1 prospect leaving high school, and he has maintained that ranking after a short three-year college career.  At 6’6”, 265 pounds, Clowney is an athletic freak, even amongst the ultra-gifted SEC football players.  However, his athleticism hasn’t translated into much production over his collegiate career.  As a junior, Clowney registered only three sacks and has missed some games in college due to minor foot injuries.  He definitely passes the eye-test, but many scouts have questioned his on-field effort and his off-the-field conduct.

Best Case Scenario:
Clowney is a once-in-a-lifetime talent, which is precisely how scouts regarded Julius Peppers entering the 2002 NFL Draft.  Similarly, this defensive end’s work ethic was seen as shaky at best.  As Pat Kirwin wrote in the wake of the 2002 draft, “There are some questions about Peppers' motor and his ability to play hard all the time”. Both players had weaker junior campaigns than the strong numbers that were seen in their sophomore years.  However, a year after choosing Peppers, the Carolina Panthers found themselves in the Super Bowl.  Overall, Clowney looks to be a slightly smaller, more athletic version of Julius Peppers.  If Clowney can learn under a good defensive coordinator in a consistent scheme, watch out NFL, we may have a new sack leader on our hands.

Worst Case Scenario:
In 2000, the Browns drafted Courtney Brown out of Penn State with the No. 1 overall pick.  Brown was supposed to be the cornerstone of their defense after he had earned All-America honors and set numerous team records in Happy Valley.  Raised in South Carolina just like Clowney, Courtney Brown excelled on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball in high school and performed at a very high level before he entered the league.  At his Penn State pro day, Brown measured at 6’5”, 270 pounds, ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and generally amazed scouts with his athleticism.  There was no doubt that he was talented, but Brown left the league abruptly after six seasons tallying only 19 sacks.  Like Clowney, Brown sat out numerous games due to injury.  Coaches must be wary of issues such as injury and run-in’s with the law (if Clowney has any going forward), problems that can bring even the most accomplished athletes back down to earth.

My No. 1 ILB – Shayne Skov (Stanford)

What the experts are saying:
Skov has had a remarkable career at Stanford.  Shayne led a strong defense in tackles three years in a row on his way to becoming a Butkus Award finalist.  Measuring at 6’2”, 245 pounds, Skov is a good enough size to compete on a down-to-down basis in the middle of the field at the next level. On the field, he is an emotional and vocal leader, as well as a sure tackler.  Scouts love his instincts and relentless effort. Skov has had his fair share of troubles though, tearing multiple ligaments in his left knee in 2011 and being arrested for a DUI early in 2012.  Major doubts arise with his durability and his overall athletic ability.  Skov is projected as a 4th-5th round pick. 

Best Case Scenario:
Remember Zach Thomas?  Zach was another undersized inside linebacker picked in the 5th round.  Thomas clogged the gaps during his years at Texas Tech, but scouts weren’t impressed by his atypical size and speed.  The tremendous linebacker made up for his shortcomings with unparalleled tenacity and instinct.  With the Miami Dolphins, Thomas was a team captain who ranked as one of the NFL’s leading tacklers year after year.  Thomas earned seven trips to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in 1998, despite lacking the “physical ability” to succeed in the NFL.  Shayne Skov looks to prove everyone wrong for all of the same reasons as Zach Thomas.  He may never be a Hall of Famer, but letting Skov drop too far in the draft could be a big mistake.

Worst Case Scenario:
In 2006, with the 18th overall pick, the Dallas Cowboys drafted Bobby Carpenter out of Ohio State.  Carpenter is slightly bigger than Skov but he too was heralded for his terrific instincts, work ethic, and aggressive play.  Scouts hesitated in declaring Carpenter pro-ready, citing his below average explosiveness and quickness.  The Ohio State linebacker also had a college ankle injury that threatened to contain his professional productivity.  Ultimately, scouts were right.  Carpenter is no longer in the league and he started only 3 games with Dallas in his few years with the team.  If Skov’s intensity and willpower aren’t enough to propel his NFL career, he and Carpenter may end up in the same boat.

My No. 1 OLB – Khalil Mack

What the experts are saying:
Khalil Mack had only one FBS offer in high school, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the premiere prospects in this class.  Weighing in at 6’3”, 250 pounds, Mack is a load coming off the edge to rush the passer.  Many teams consider Mack the best player entering the NFL Draft this year because of his versatility, supreme athleticism, and collegiate production despite being game-planned against week after week.  However, Khalil played in the MAC, one of the weakest conferences in the nation.  Other than that minor discrepancy, scouts see Mack as a guy who should be able to do great things on defense at the next level.

Best Case Scenario:
He finished college at a small school with 27 sacks and 55.5 tackles for loss.  Nope, I’m not talking about Khalil Mack.  Those are the numbers for DeMarcus Ware, 4-time All-Pro, who attended Troy University in 2005.  Mack leaves Buffalo with 28.5 sacks and 75 tackles for loss, so in a perfect world he would go on to have a more decorated career than the eventual Hall of Famer Ware.  Both players went to mid-majors where they terrorized defensive coordinators with their pass rushing abilities.  Their combine results only differ slightly in each category.   DeMarcus Ware may be nearing the end of his esteemed career, but Mack could replace him as the NFL’s scariest man off the edge of the line of scrimmage.

Worst Case Scenario:
Scouts talk about Mack like he has already been inducted into Canton.  The same comments were made about another linebacker in 2006 out of Wake Forest: Aaron Curry.  They aren’t cut from the same cloth (Mack is a rusher, Curry more of a run stopper).  But Curry serves as a reminder that not all highly touted prospects, namely big time linebackers from unproven colleges, succeed in the NFL.  Curry was drafted 4th overall, signed a 6-year, $60 million dollar contract, and shortly thereafter retired in 2012.

My No. 1 CB – Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State)

What the experts are saying:
Unless you’re a huge college football fan, you’ve probably never heard of Darqueze Dennard.  He wants to keep it that way.  That means he’s doing a good job.  Dennard is a lockdown corner and is coming off a career year in which he won the Jim Thorpe Award, annually presented to the nation’s best defensive back.  He led the Spartans’ top defense as a captain and is very experienced playing in man coverage. Dennard could use some work defending the run and because of his team’s defensive scheme, he has not truly shown his ability in zone coverage.  In addition to these negatives, the outstanding corner has had some trouble with injuries throughout his career (hernia, ankle, knee).  An injury to his left hamstring held him out of the NFL combine. 

Best Case Scenario:
Through 13 games during Dennard’s senior season, he was thrown at 111 times.  Just 17 of those passes were completed for a total of 91 yards.  These numbers equate to 0.8198 yards per attempt against Dennard. This number is the lowest ever since statistics started being recorded for corners about 50 years ago.  Who was the last cornerback to allow less than a yard per attempt?  Deion Sanders in 1988.  Sanders ended up winning the Jim Thorpe Award that year and now Dennard shares his place in the history books with the all-time great.  That’s a tough comparison to live up to but if Dennard comes anywhere near Primetime, he’ll be a mainstay in the NFL for years to come.

Worst Case Scenario:
The Arizona Cardinals selected Tom Knight, a cornerback out of the University of Iowa, No. 7 overall in the 1997 draft.  Dennard will likely fall past the No. 7 spot, due to team needs.  Both men played in the Big Ten and were big time playmakers for their respective schools.  Michigan’s Charles Woodson overshadowed the Iowa product in ‘97, but that didn’t stop teams from dreaming about Knight’s shutdown ability.  The corner lasted six lackluster seasons in the NFL recording just three interceptions over that span.  Dennard’s statistics would lead one to believe that he will be a star at the next level, but Knight shows that all of these players are busts until they prove something of themselves.

My No. 1 S – Deone Bucannon (Washington State)

What the experts are saying:
Bucannon is a 6’1”, 210-pound prospect who is known for his jarring hits across the middle of the field.  Notably, Bucannon was suspended for half of a game during the 2012 season for leading with his head against a defenseless receiver.  Nonetheless, he led Washington State in tackles that year.  The next year, he led the Pac-12 in tackles and tied for the lead in interceptions.  He is a four-year starter with an old school mentality who also contributed on special teams.  The safety impressed at the combine, topping his position in every area but the 20-yard shuttle.  Scouts dislike his tendency to play too aggressively and out of control.

Best Case Scenario:
Bucannon is a dangerous pick because of his mean streak and his gambling style of play.  Darren Woodson, who also played out west at Arizona State, had similar question marks entering the NFL Draft.  He was a ferocious hitter and was actually such a skilled tackler that he played linebacker in college.  Drafted in the second round by the Dallas Cowboys, Woodson started his career on special teams.  By the time of his retirement, Woodson had been invited to five Pro Bowls, won three Super Bowls and was a part of three All-Pro teams.  The former college walk-on now holds the record for career tackles for Dallas.  Both players measured in at 6’1” and about 215 pounds.  The similarities between the two are evident but Bucannon must prove his worth at the next level before he can be mentioned in the same breath as the Cowboys great.

Worst Case Scenario:
Roy Williams, another Dallas Cowboy, was billed as the next Ronnie Lott when leaving the Oklahoma Sooners.  He was praised for his athleticism, hard-hitting ability, and his size.  But in the league, Roy struggled mightily in coverage.  This lack of balance in defending the run and the pass is what worries some scouts about Bucannon.  Roy was built somewhat differently than Bucannon, at 6’0”, 225 pounds.  Regardless, their pre-draft analyses coincide in ways that signal comparable career paths.  Roy played for nine years in the league and while he didn’t put up the worst numbers, he didn’t live up to the hype either.  If Deone Bucannon can’t adjust to cover the NFL’s elite receivers, he may face the same fate as Roy.

By Evan Buhler

Analyzing Top Positional Players in the 2014 NFL Draft
Post date: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 - 11:27
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/why-johnny-manziel-will-be-johnny-franchise

The Houston Texans hold the No. 1 pick and need a quarterback. A billboard in Houston — “Keep Johnny Football in Texas” — makes it clear which quarterback Texans fans want.

Johnny Manziel played his college ball only 98 miles from Reliant Stadium, making his name just down Highway 6 at Texas A&M. But he stands only 5' 11"and carries some baggage with him.

The Texans face a tough decision.

Or do they?

“The Texans are crazy if they don’t draft Johnny Manziel,” a scout from an AFC team said during Manziel’s pro day.

Manziel, 21, dazzled college football for two years. He also dazzled NFL scouts, many of whom are big fans of his game.

“He has magic,” former Colts general manager Bill Polian says. “There’s no two ways about it. And it’s hard to find players who have magic. They win games.”

Some compare Manziel to Fran Tarkenton. Former 49ers receiver Jerry Rice sees Steve Young when he watches Manziel. 

But Manziel brings more pizzazz, and he’s already a bona fide star. He has established friendships with LeBron James and rapper Drake, received an unsolicited text from Katie Perry, dates a model and attracted former President George H.W. and Barbara Bush to his pro day.

Manziel selected Maverick Carter’s LRMR management firm to represent his marketing interests, which are expected to be significant. He hasn’t played a down in the NFL, yet Nike already sells the Johnny Manziel Pro Day Collection, and McDonald’s released a commercial with Manziel as James’ sidekick.

“He’s special. I’m not saying he’ll become a Hall of Famer, but I’m telling you right now, he could change the game.”
Manziel, who has warned the Texans that passing on him would be the “worst decision they’ve ever made,” evokes memories of Joe Namath with his superstar aura.

“He’s a colorful, confident guy,” Texans general manager Rick Smith says of Manziel. “You’ve got to appreciate that about him.”

Love him or not, Manziel is a draw.

His catchy nickname — Johnny Football, which his corporation, JMAN2 Enterprises LLC, seeks to trademark — has become his identity.  

“I’ve been at this a long time, and I’ve never seen anyone like him,” an assistant coach for an AFC team says. “He’s special. I’m not saying he’ll become a Hall of Famer, but I’m telling you right now, he could change the game.” 

Manziel will have to win, though, to sustain the momentum at the next level. He went 20–6 at A&M, passing for 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns while running for 2,169 yards and 30 touchdowns in becoming perhaps the most entertaining, if not the best, player in college football history. 

“He’s been a great player for a long time,” Bucs coach Lovie Smith says. “The guy’s a football player. He can do it all. … There are a lot of things to like about him.”

Not everyone is on Manziel’s bandwagon. Critics bring up his arm strength, his durability, his off-field distractions. But he has plenty of believers among NFL executives. Scouts, for the most part, love his competitiveness, his passion and his play-making abilities.

That’s the reason Manziel expects to become only the third quarterback standing 6'1" or shorter drafted in the first round in the modern era, joining Rex Grossman and Michael Vick.

“He’s a fantastic playmaker,” Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson says. “You can tell the charisma that he has with the interaction with his own guys. He’s got a very infectious personality as well.”

The only question remaining is: Where will Manziel go?

—by Charean Williams

The Houston Texans hold the No. 1 pick and need a quarterback. A billboard in Houston — “Keep Johnny Football in Texas” — makes it clear which quarterback Texans fans want.
Post date: Friday, May 2, 2014 - 08:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Funny
Path: /college-football/funniest-jameis-winston-crab-leg-photos-and-memes

Since news broke that FSU quarterback Jameis Winston was cited for allegedly shoplifting crab legs at a Publix near campus, the Internet has been having fun with the incident. We rounded up our favorite photoshopped images and memes to share. Enjoy.









Post date: Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 09:12
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /chicken
No one will ever know which came first, the chicken or the egg. But one thing we do know: Before the Phillie Phanatic and the Suns Gorilla and Bernie Brewer, there was the San Diego Chicken. In 1974, when Ted Giannoulas first crawled into that fowl costume of his, no one ever imagined that a 5'4" kid from Ontario, Canada, would change the way we like to be amused between plays forever. “I’ve been telling people for years to stop laughing — it just encourages me,” says Giannoulas. Forty years after he hatched, we asked the Chicken to come out of his shell, so to speak.
San Diego ChickenSo were feathers and a beak a lifelong dream?
In 1974, radio station KGB in San Diego sent a rep over to my college station at San Diego State. I was hanging out with friends and this guy walked in and said, “We need somebody to hand out Easter eggs this Sunday at the zoo. Any volunteers?” We all raised our hands. Then he said, “Oh, and you need to wear a chicken costume.” We all still kept our hands in the air. He looked around the room, saw me and said, “You, short guy, you’ll fit the costume best. I’ll see you at the zoo tomorrow.” The whole thing took less than 60 seconds.
Why a chicken? Why not a monkey or a turkey or a goat?
I asked my boss at the station the exact same question. He just said, “I don’t know, there’s something inherently funny about a chicken.” The irony is, this was supposed to be a one-time thing at the zoo. Then right after Easter, I knew Opening Day for the Padres was coming up and I figured it might be a way to get in for free. So I asked the station management about me going to the game as the Chicken. I literally went to the stadium in the costume and bought a ticket. I sat there as a fan, did a couple of silly things — a soft shoe dance, a little voodoo on the other team. It created some great chaos, and I was on the front page of the newspaper the next day. The station loved it, obviously, because ostensibly, I was a walking billboard. The Padres loved it, too. Ray Kroc, the team owner, had a great sense of humor, and he was delighted because the fans loved it.
How many times have you put the costume on?
At least 10,000 times. At least. It wasn’t uncommon for me to make six to eight appearances a day, especially during ratings cycles for the station. 
So are you inherently a comedian?
I always wanted to be a comedy writer. I wrote and produced plays in school — it was always a part of me. I was never the class clown, but I always sat next to them.
What’s your favorite baseball play?
As a fan, I love watching a long throw from right field to third. There’s nothing more majestic than that. As a chicken, my favorite play is the balk, obviously. Balk. Balk. Balk.

When did you know you truly made it?
The 1978 All Star game in San Diego really put me on the map nationally. But the moment I really knew it was bigger than I ever imagined happened in 1979. I was sitting at home watching the seventh game of the World Series and a commercial promoting Major League baseball came on. Instead of showing some great plays, the entire commercial was me being hatched out of a giant Styrofoam egg. I sat there and thought, “Holy cow, I’ve arrived.”
How did you tell your parents donning a chicken costume was going to be your career path?
Honestly, my dad was really upset. He wanted me to be a doctor, engineer. Something. He was a hard-working Greek immigrant. Old school. He didn’t want me to wear a chicken suit — he was embarrassed. My mom loved it and even made my costumes. He never even saw me do my thing until about three months before he passed away; he finally came to see me at a Clippers game. He was taken aback at how much people were entertained. It was really a moving moment. 
What are your thoughts on today’s mascots?
I think they’re all designed by corporate committees. They obviously don’t have the leeway I did. I tried to fashion it as a comic, and to me, today’s mascots are more benign corporate symbols.
Your favorite mascots of all time, present company excluded?
I love the Florida Gator — those kids do good stuff and have a lot of fun. And the Kansas City Royals used to have a mascot called Slugger. He was a mountain lion. Very fun and creative.
What’s your favorite kind of chicken?
Chicken wings. Hot and zesty. Buffalo style. Eating chicken wings also helps me eliminate the competition. If you can’t beat 'em, eat 'em.
What's your all time favorite non-sports experience?
I was at an Elvis concert for the station in 1976. It was the year before he died, so y’know, it was Fat Elvis. Anyway, I wanted to do something fun but I was a little nervous, the audience was a little older and well, it was Elvis. All of a sudden he broke into Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin Goin’ On”, and there’s a lyric in the song about “a chicken in the barn.” I knew this was my chance. I walked down the concourse, right in front of the stage and started dancing like a nut. He saw me, he dropped to one knee, and then he stopped singing because he was laughing so hard. The next thing I know, the band started playing softly and his doctor ran out on stage--they thought he was having a stroke. He finally regained his composure, finished the song and said, “I want to apologize for that, folks. There was a chicken dancing in front of me.” Everybody laughed and then he delivered a great line. He said, “I hope that chicken realizes my manager is the Colonel.” I turned around and starting sprinting out of the arena. It was great fun.
Did you ever lose your costume?
One time I lost it going to a minor league hockey game in Wichita. My head and tail were with me, though. So I went out on the ice with my head and my tail and promised I’d be back the next week. And I was.
Your three favorite players ever?
Oh jeez, I could name a ton. Bert Blyleven had a great sense of humor. Pete Rose was always great with me, too — he was fan of the Chicken before it was cool to be a fan of the Chicken. Johnny Bench was terrific, too. I did a TV show with him for a few years. David Wells. Don Sutton. There are literally hundreds of players throughout the years who have been fabulous, including umpires and NBA refs. 
What's your funniest interaction with a player?
One time Ron Guidry of the Yankees asked me to do something with him because his wife loved me, so we set this whole shtick up. Right before we were ready to do our thing, Lou Piniella struck out to end the inning—and he wasn’t very happy. As we all know, Lou had a bit of a temper. Of course I’m not paying attention, so I jumped off the dugout and started goofing around with Guidry for a few seconds on the mound. Next thing I know, a glove comes whistling by my ear. It’s Piniella. He’s screaming at me. “Get away from my guy!” Then he started chasing me. The fans were cracking up thinking it’s an act and it’s totally real. 
Do you lose weight during a game?
I lose a little and it definitely keeps me in shape. I did a game in Texas once and Bobby Valentine did a team pool to see how much I’d lose. It was about 105 degrees, and I lost seven pounds. Not a whole lot of chicken meat that night.
So when will the Chicken rest?
I’m 60 years old. I didn’t think I’d be doing this for 40 days, let alone 40 years. To quote Satchel Paige: “If you didn’t know how old you are, how old would you be?” I’m just going to keep going until it’s not fun anymore.
Do you belong in the Hall of Fame?
One of my costumes is in the Hall, and I’m thrilled about that. But to me, the Hall of Fame is about stats, not lore. My Hall of Fame is when I’m out there performing and people are laughing — I’m in the Hall of Fame of their memory. For me, crowd response is what makes this matter. Having said that, Cooperstown has a players’ wing and a broadcasters’ wing. Maybe one day they’ll have a chicken wing.
No one will ever know which came first, the chicken or the egg. But one thing we do know: Before the Phillie Phanatic and the Suns Gorilla and Bernie Brewer, there was the San Diego Chicken. In 1974, when Ted Giannoulas first crawled into that fowl costume of his, no one ever imagined that a 5'4" kid from Ontario, Canada, would change the way we like to be amused between plays forever. “I’ve been telling people for years to stop laughing — it just encourages me,” says Giannoulas. Forty years after he hatched, we asked the Chicken to come out of his shell, so to speak.
Post date: Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 16:15
Path: /college-basketball/potential-candidates-replace-cuonzo-martin-tennessee

Stop if you’ve heard this before: Tennessee is looking for a high-profile coach. Since 2008, the Volunteers have needed to hire seven football and men’s basketball coaches.

And that doesn’t count the retirement of legendary women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt. Bruce Pearl, now the head coach at Auburn, is the only men’s coach since 1989 to last more than five seasons.

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart will have his work cut out for him on a number of fronts. The departure of Cuonzo Martin to Cal in mid-April is one of the latest hires in the coaching carousel. With the deadline for players to pull out of the NBA Draft approaching and recruiting for 2014-15 nearing an end, many coaches are already preparing for next season.

And then there’s the nature of Martin’s departure. Many Tennessee players congratulated Martin on leaving for Cal as the Volunteers never embraced the coach who led UT to the Sweet 16 in his third season.

So Tennessee — again — will be hiring a coach under less than ideal circumstances. Here’s a look at potential contenders:

Tad Boyle, Colorado
Boyle has led Colorado to three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, the first time the Buffaloes have done so in school history. Last year’s team may have been his best before point guard Spencer Dinwiddie was lost for the remainder of the season.

Rick Byrd, Belmont
The Knoxville native was a contender for the job when Martin was hired. Byrd will be 61 by the time the 2014-15 season starts, and he’s never coached above the Ohio Valley level. Still, Byrd is nearing the 700-career win mark and is considered one of the nation’s top coaching minds at any level of college basketball.

Ben Howland, formerly UCLA
Tennessee could find few coaches with the ledger of Howland, who took UCLA to three Final Fours. His name has surfaced in coaching searches in the year since he’s been out, including the Marquette position this offseason. With his resume, Holland may demand more than Tennessee is willing to spend.

Chris Mack, Xavier
Mack took a phone call for the Cal job that eventually went to Martin. The Xavier coach reiterated his commitment to the Musketeers, but his willingness to listen was nonetheless eye-opening for a coach with such deep ties to Xavier. Mack has reached the NCAA Tournament four times in five seasons at Xavier, but the last two seasons included a First Four loss and no postseason appearance altogether.

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
Tennessee has looked his way twice already. Clearly, Marshall’s situation is different than it was years earlier, thanks to a trip to the Final Four and a 35-1 season. Marshall’s salary is approaching $2 million whereas Martin was paid $1.35 million at Tennessee. Wichita State also has plenty of fan and administrative support to be a national power. This may be too close to a lateral move, or worse, from Marshall’s point of view.

Archie Miller, Dayton
Miller watched his brother jump from Xavier to Arizona, and now Archie may be poised for a similar leap after reaching the Elite Eight in 2014. With the fan support and recruiting base for Dayton, Miller could build a successful program with the Flyers for several years. As with Marshall, there may be little incentive for Miller to jump to a second-tier SEC job.

Donnie Tyndall, Southern Miss
Tyndall picked up where Larry Eustachy left off at Southern Miss, leading the Eagles to back-to-back NIT appearances. Southern Miss is 25-7 in Conference USA the last two seasons, both years making a push for an at-large NCAA bid. Before Southern Miss, Tyndall twice led Morehead State to the NCAA Tournament, including an upset of fourth-seeded Louisville in 2011.

Mike White, Louisiana Tech
White is only 37, but he has plenty of SEC experience as an assistant at Ole Miss. He’s spent three seasons at Louisiana Tech, leading the Bulldogs to two NIT appearances in the last two. Louisiana Tech is 56-15 in the last two seasons.

A few names from deep range:

Tommy Amaker, Harvard
His name has appeared on coaching candidate lists before and will continue to appear as long as Harvard is rolling.

Derek Kellogg, UMass
The John Calipari disciple broke through after six seasons on the job at UMass. He also lost to Martin and Tennessee in the round of 64.

Greg Lansing, Indiana State
If not for Wichita State, Lansing’s record in the Missouri Valley would be more impressive. Even while battling the Shockers, Lansing has four postseason appearances in four seasons, including the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Eric Musselman, former Arizona State assistant
Three sub-.500 years as an NBA head coach is still NBA experience. The ex-Sun Devils assistant was in the mix for the Cal job.

Richard Pitino, Minnesota
The 31-year-old son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino is a rising star in the business after one season at FIU and one at Minnesota, the latter resulting in an NIT championship. He’s also a former Florida assistant.

Steve Prohm, Murray State
Prohm hasn’t come close to matching his 31-2 campaign in his debut season, but the Racers have won 46 combined games the last two years.

Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin
The former Frank Martin assistant at Kansas State and South Carolina went 32-3 and reached the round of 32 in his first season as a head coach.

Potential candidates to replace Cuonzo Martin at Tennessee
Post date: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 15:40
All taxonomy terms: Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Golf
Path: /golf/bubba-watson-wins-masters

Bubba is no longer a curiosity. Rather, Bubba Watson has proven he’s one of the game’s great players. Bubba won his second green jacket in three years with an impressive all-around performance at The Masters. He launched one epic drive after another, bending a final-round tee shot 366 yards around the corner of the 13th hole to leave the par-5 powerless to combat another birdie. He putted with a deft touch. He manufactured iron shots, again turning them left or right depending on what the approach and green required.

If Augusta National is the ultimate shot-maker’s course, maybe it’s time we call Bubba “Mr. Augusta.” Maybe now, instead of proclaiming Tiger and Phil the perennial favorites, this has really become Bubba’s tournament to lose. He’s one of only 17 players with multiple green jackets.

Watson’s game seemed to disappear after his 2012 Masters win — he didn’t make the 2013 President’s Cup team — but he’s back.

“Learning to be a dad and then learning to have a green jacket with you is two big things to adjust to. So it just took me a little time,” he said. “ … It took me a year or so to get adjusted (to the fact) that I'm not really that good. I've got to keep practicing.  Finally I got adjusted to it and here we are, another green jacket.”

Watson’s two wins this season have locked him into the Ryder Cup in Scotland in September. Bubba — being Bubba from tiny Bagdad, Fla. — still can’t believe where golf has taken him.

“I'm not trying to play golf for everybody to tell me how great I am or I'm one of the greats of the game,” he said. “I play golf because I love it. I love the game. I want to grow the game. The game has brought me everything that I've ever owned in my life.”

America’s next superstar
He didn’t win. He didn’t have to. Jordan Spieth is ready to take the throne from Tiger and Phil as America’s next great superstar.

Spieth battled for a green jacket like a veteran in his first appearance at The Masters, finishing in a tie for second with Jonas Blixt, three shots behind winner Bubba Watson.

Spieth generally kept his emotions under control. The TV crew referred to the talented 20-year-old as “an old soul.” His game is mature beyond his years.

“Oh, it was so much fun. It really was.  Even if I didn't show it there on the back nine, it was,” Spieth said. “I took it all in, standing ovations for both of us to each green. It was a dream come true. Although it sits a little hard right now, I'll be back and I can't wait to be back.”

Spieth has risen to ninth in the world rankings, sandwiched between No. 8 Phil Mickelson and No. 9 Rory McIlroy. The taste of a near-victory should only fuel him further.

“I'm hungry. … I could take a lot of positives away, felt very comfortable out there,” he said. “My game felt like it will hold up and I think I'm going to go forward from here. That's a great feeling.”

Post date: Monday, April 14, 2014 - 08:27
All taxonomy terms: girls, videos, NFL
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-cheerleaders-release-new-fantasy-video

The Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders created their third video lip dub. This time the ladies are splashing around at the beach to a mash up by DJ Earworm, based around Mariah Carey's "Fantasy." And yes, it's as awesome as you think it is.

The Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders created their third video lip dub. This time the ladies are splashing around at the beach to a mash up by DJ Earworm, based around Mariah Carey's "Fantasy." And yes, it's as awesome as you think it is.
Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 15:22
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/aaron-harrison-hits-game-winner-kentucky-again-video

For the second consecutive game in the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison hit a game-winning 3-point shot. This time, Harrison's shot against Wisconsin will send the Wildcats to the national championship game following a 74-73 win.

Harrison also converted a game-winning 3-pointer against Michigan in the regional final to send the Wildcats to the Final Four.

Again, the still is almost as impressive as the highlight:


Post date: Saturday, April 5, 2014 - 23:44
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/pick-athlons-2014-alabama-college-football-preview-magazine-cover
For the first time ever, Athlon Sports is letting fans choose the Alabama cover of our 2014 SEC College Football Preview magazine.
Fans can vote once a day through April 22, with the winning cover hitting newsstands at the end of May.
Pick Athlon's 2014 Alabama College Football Preview magazine cover.
Post date: Friday, April 4, 2014 - 11:21
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/pick-athlons-2014-lsu-college-football-preview-magazine-cover
For the first time ever, Athlon Sports is letting fans choose the LSU Tigers cover of our 2014 SEC College Football Preview magazine.
Fans can vote once a day through April 22, with the winning cover hitting newsstands at the end of May.
Pick Athlon's 2014 LSU College Football Preview magazine cover.
Post date: Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/pick-athlons-2014-ohio-state-college-football-preview-magazine-cover
For the second year, Athlon Sports is letting fans choose the Ohio State cover of our 2014 Big Ten College Football Preview magazine.
Fans can vote once a day through April 22, with the winning cover hitting newsstands at the end of May.
Pick Athlon's 2014 Ohio State College Football Preview magazine cover
Post date: Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 06:20
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/pick-athlons-2014-georgia-college-football-preview-magazine-cover
For the second year, Athlon Sports is letting fans choose the Georgia Bulldogs cover of our 2014 SEC College Football Preview magazine.
Fans can vote once a day through April 22, with the winning cover hitting newsstands at the end of May.
Pick Athlon's 2014 Georgia College Football Preview magazine cover.
Post date: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/pick-athlons-2014-nebraska-college-football-preview-magazine-cover
For the second year, Athlon Sports is letting fans choose the Nebraska Cornhuskers cover of our 2014 Big Ten College Football Preview magazine.
Fans can vote once a day through April 22, with the winning cover hitting newsstands in early June.
Pick Athlon's 2014 Nebraska College Football Preview magazine cover
Post date: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 07:01
Path: /mlb/2014-al-predictions

AL East
1. Tampa Bay
2. Boston*
3. New York
4. Baltimore
5. Toronto

It has been traditionally baseball’s toughest division, but the AL East appears to have weakened heading into 2014. Still, it may be the deepest of the six divisions, with at least four of the teams capable of winning the crown. The defending World Series champs from Boston may take a step back with the loss of center fielder and offensive catalyst Jacoby Ellsbury. And with all the dollars spent by the Yankees, their infield could be atrocious. With ace David Price still on the roster and Evan Longoria anchoring the lineup, the Rays can beat anyone. And we believe the Rays will win a tight, dramatic race. Baltimore landed outfielder/DH Nelson Cruz and starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez late in free agency to add to a talented core. But pitching will likely be the Orioles’ downfall. Toronto looks like the odd team out in this race.

AL Central
1. Detroit
2. Kansas City
3. Cleveland
4. Chicago
5. Minnesota

The Tigers appeared to be sleepwalking through much of last season, winning the division by a game over Cleveland. The Tigers tinkered with their lineup, trading Prince Fielder to Texas and moving two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera back to first. Rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos will be under the gun to produce. Detroit’s starting rotation and bullpen, featuring new closer Joe Nathan, should be enough to win another AL Central title. While Cleveland remains a threat, the stiffest competition for the Tigers will come from Kansas City. The Royals will finally see the fruits of a long, tedious rebuilding process. Ace James Shields and closer Greg Holland lead a young and talented staff. The Indians closed 2013 with a 10-game winning streak to earn the first wild card spot.  It may take another similar streak to repeat. Chicago and Minnesota are still in the also-ran category.

AL West
1. Texas
2. Oakland*
3. Seattle
4. Los Angeles
5. Houston

Much like the East this season, there are four teams capable of winning the West. The Rangers have deep pitching and added Prince Fielder to the middle of an already talented lineup anchored by third baseman Adrian Beltre. Newcomer Shin-Soo Choo gives Texas one of the best leadoff men in the game. But a troublesome back ailment of ace Yu Darvish could derail the season. A quick study of Oakland’s everyday lineup doesn’t exactly scare anyone. But somehow the group manages to score, and more importantly, win with back-to-back division titles. This season, the A’s will lean on rookie Sonny Gray to lead the rotation. Seattle invested heavily in prized free agent Robinson Cano. The Mariners have the pitching to compete with any team. The Angels still have a star-studded lineup, but pitching could prevent a serious run.


*Wild card teams

Detroit over Tampa Bay

World Series
St. Louis over Detroit

1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles
We know it’s bound to happen soon. There’s been a strong contingent of Trout supporters who believe he should have already won an MVP. The scary thought for AL West rivals is that the fleet outfielder continues to improve. The MVP runner-up the past two seasons will likely see better pitches to hit with the expectation that teammate Albert Pujols should have a bounce-back season.
2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
3. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay
4. Prince Fielder, Texas
5. Dustin Pedroia, Boston

AL Cy Young
1. Justin Verlander, Detroit
The Tigers’ ace is not exactly an automatic choice for AL Cy Young, although it seems that way. David Price of the Rays, pitching in a contract year, and Yu Darvish of Texas, if back problems don’t delay his season too long, are equally viable candidates. But Verlander may be as healthy and strong as we’ve seen him.
2. Yu Darvish, Texas
3. James Shields, Kansas City
4. David Price, Tampa Bay
5. Felix Hernandez, Seattle

Rookies to Watch
Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
The Cuban import had dominated in his homeland and turned heads at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. At age 27, he should be in his prime.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston
The shortstop became the youngest postseason starter in Red Sox history last fall when he played his way onto the postseason roster.
Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit
The Tigers’ willingness to part with first baseman Prince Fielder to open a spot for Castellanos speaks volumes as to his potential.
George Springer, OF, Houston
At age 23 he posted 37 homers, 45 steals, 106 runs and 108 RBIs in 135 games across Single-A and Double-A. The Astros believe he’s ready.
Taijuan Walker, SP, Seattle
The athletic Walker is still learning to pitch. He held big league hitters to a .204 average in three starts last season.

Rays, Rangers and Tigers are favorites in the American League. Who will reign victorious?
Post date: Sunday, March 30, 2014 - 16:45
Path: /mlb/2014-nl-predictons

NL East
1. Washington
2. Atlanta
3. Philadelphia
4. New York
5. Miami

Heading into spring training this looked like a two-team race. But a couple of key injuries to Atlanta starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy handed the advantage to Washington. The Nationals have a tremendous rotation, deep bullpen and talented lineup. Keeping outfielders Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth healthy for a full season is key. They are the anchors of the batting order. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann form a tough 1-2-3 combo. Already suffering the loss of catcher Brian McCann to free agency, Atlanta acted quickly to sign starter Ervin Santana in the wake of the pitchers’ injuries. Philadelphia is another year older and this surely is the final run for Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard et al. The Mets are an up-and-coming team. Miami has some enviable talent that is not quite ready for prime time.

NL Central
1. St. Louis
2. Pittsburgh*
3. Cincinnati
4. Milwaukee
5. Chicago

The strongest division in the National League had three playoff teams last season and could again in 2014. The defending NL champion Cardinals added speed and athleticism to their lineup without sacrificing any pitching. There are five dependable starters in St. Louis led by Adam Wainwright, NLCS MVP Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller. Outfielders Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and catcher Yadier Molina could be in the MVP discussion. The Pirates are out to prove that 2013 wasn’t a one-year wonder. The talent is still developing, an indication that the club will be in the hunt for years to come. Cincinnati did very little to strengthen its lineup, and with the loss of leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo, the Reds may struggle to score. Rookie Billy Hamilton will be fun to watch on the bases. Milwaukee has a respectable rotation and could have a potent lineup if the embattled Ryan Braun can return to form. The Cubs appear headed in the right direction, but the destination is still in the distance.

NL West
1. Los Angeles
2. San Francisco*
3. Arizona
4. Colorado
5. San Diego

The Los Angeles Dodgers have officially become the West Coast version of the so-called evil empire once known as the New York Yankees. No contract is beyond the Dodgers’ reach. Money alone can’t win division titles, but Los Angeles has put together a talented roster, especially the pitching staff. Ace Clayton Kershaw is the best in the game right now. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke could be No. 1 starters for most teams. The Giants have assembled a pretty good staff as well, but the G-Men may have trouble producing runs at the same clip as the Dodgers. Arizona has MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt in the heart of the batting order, but he may be pitched around. A season-ending injury to ace Patrick Corbin was a huge blow to the D-backs. Colorado and San Diego will once again sit this race out.

*Wild card teams

St. Louis over Washington

World Series
St. Louis over Detroit

1. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado
There isn’t a shortage of MVP candidates in the National League. Gonzalez won a batting title and led the NL in total bases back in 2010. He was on a similar pace last season when injuries limited him to 110 games. If he stays on the field for 145 starts, he’ll win this award. We believe he’s in for a healthy season.
2. Bryce Harper, Washington
3. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
4. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
5. Allen Craig, St. Louis

NL Cy Young
1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
Forget about the back stiffness that has knocked the Dodgers’ lefthander out of the club’s second Opening Day. He will be fine now that the team isn’t flying all over the world, interrupting his training routine. Kershaw is the best pitcher in the game with the added benefit of pitching in a friendly ballpark for a winning team.
2. Jordan Zimmermann, Washington
3. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis
4. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco
5. Jose Fernandez, Miami

Rookies to Watch
Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets
Traded for multiple Cy Young winners while still in the minors, the Mets believe injuries are behind him and he’s ready to blossom.
Alex Guerrero, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
It may take him a few months to acclimate himself with the American game, but the Dodgers believe they have another Cuban star.
Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati
Much has been made over his base-stealing prowess — and rightfully so — but will a .350 career OBP in minors translate to majors?

Cardinals, Nationals and Dodgers will rise above the rest of the National League in 2014.
Post date: Sunday, March 30, 2014 - 16:30
Path: /college-basketball/harrison-3-pointer-dawson-dunk-send-kentucky-michigan-state-elite-eight

You may exhale now.

In a wild night of Sweet 16 games, Kentucky and Michigan State advanced to the regional finals when both games came down to the final possessions and final possessions.

First, Kentucky defeated rival Louisville 74-69 on a go-ahead basket by guard Aaron Harrison with 40 seconds remaining. Kentucky made its last four free throws to seal the win. Kentucky led 2-0 and never again until Harrison’s basket.

Here’s a look at Harrison’s big-time corner 3:

Meanwhile, Michigan State weathered a Virginia comeback to win 61-59. Branden Dawson had the dunk that turned out to be the difference in the final minute.


Harrison 3-pointer, Dawson dunk send Kentucky, Michigan State to Elite Eight
Post date: Saturday, March 29, 2014 - 00:51