Articles By Athlon Sports

Path: /mlb/worst-mlb-free-agent-signings-2013
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As baseball's spring training continues in Florida and Arizona, Athlon Sports offers its thoughts on all the offseason movement. Here are the worst offseason free agent signings in Major League Baseball for 2013:

Lance Berkman, Texas Rangers
1 year, $10,000,000
Injuries and a steady decline in bat speed, especially from the right side, have cost the Big Puma production in recent years. He can help Texas as a spot DH, but he can’t play the outfield and is limited at first base. 
 
Jonathan Broxton, Cincinnati Reds
3 years, $21,000,000
If Aroldis Chapman remains in the starting rotation, Broxton could be a bargain as the closer. But only if he can still handle the workload. If the hefty reliever returns to his set-up role, he will be overpaid, especially the third year.
 
Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays
2 years, $16,000,000
The suspension for PEDs last season probably cost Cabrera about $50 million. Of course, without the PEDs, how good a hitter would he have been? What player coming back from a PED suspension has ever been productive for an extended period of time? None.
 
Ryan Dempster, Boston Red Sox
2 years, $26,500,000
Prior to his strong first half with the Cubs last season, Dempster had three straight years of rising ERAs and WHIPs. His 5.09 ERA with Texas in 12 starts last season is not a good sign of where his career is heading. With a healthy and productive John Lackey and Clay Buchholz, Dempster will be expected to provide little more than quality innings. He’s an expensive innings-eater with negative trend.
 
Stephen Drew, Boston Red Sox
1 year, $9,500,000
Wow. Really? The A’s declined a $10,000,000 option (shocker) and paid a $1,350,000 buyout. The shortstop ended up with $10,850,000 plus $500,000 in incentives. What an agent that Scott Boras guy is.
 
Jeremy Guthrie, Kansas City Royals
3 years, $25,000,000
Guthrie has never had a winning record in a season of 27 or more starts. Probably not going to break that string in K.C.
 
Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels
5 years, $125,000,000
Having former MVPs Hamilton and Albert Pujols in the same lineup is a dream for an All-Star Game manager. Mike Scioscia will have the luxury of writing their names on the lineup card every night. Realistically, the Angels’ window of winning with this pair is about three years. After that, the club will pay Hamilton $32 million per year at ages 35 and 36. By that time, this will look like a bad deal.
 
Brandon League, Los Angeles Dodgers
3 years, $22,500,000
The Dodgers will turn the closing duties over to League this season. He was 6-for-6 in closing situations for Los Angeles last season but had only 15 saves for the season. If he succeeds, he’ll be a nice bargain for a closer. If he doesn’t get the job done as closer, he’ll be an expensive set-up man.
 
Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates
2 years, $17,000,000
The Pirates are looking for a backstop who can lead a developing pitching staff. Perhaps Martin can. But he’s merely average throwing out runners and has hit just .236 over the past four seasons with the Dodgers and Yankees. 
 
Brandon McCarthy, Arizona Diamondbacks
2 years, $15,500,000
Made $4,275,000 last year for Oakland. This is the first multi-year deal for McCarthy, who was mediocre until finding a home in Oakland over the last two years. Last season, his ERA was much better at home (2.88 to 3.66), so he may struggle in Arizona, and opponents batted .303 in the second half. We’d feel much better about $4-5 million in 2014 instead of the $9 million Arizona will pay him.
 
Carlos Peña, Houston Astros
1 year, $2,900,000
This is not a huge commitment for the team, but the Astros can lose 110 games with Nate Freiman as their DH for the league minimum.
 
Cody Ross, Arizona Diamondbacks
3 years, $26,000,000
In five seasons as a full-time player, Ross has never hit better than .270 or driven in more than 90 runs. So, we find the $8.5 million per year for 2014 and 2015 puzzling. The five mil for 2013 seems about right.
 
Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers
5 years, $80,000,000
With a lifetime record of 48–51, Sanchez has double-figure wins just twice, and only once since 2006. If you believe he’s getting better and healthier at age 29, then perhaps he’ll average better than 7–9, 3.85 and 145 innings over the next five years, which would match his recent five-year history. 
 
B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves
5 years, $75,250,000
Ever since Upton debuted for Tampa Bay in 2004, experts have agreed that his five tools warrant a big contract. But now his production should be evaluated. The Braves will wish they had Michael Bourn back by the end of this deal.
 
Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox
3 years, $39,000,000
Victorino parlayed a mediocre season in which he made just $9,500,000 from an existing three-year deal into $13 mil/year. The Flyin’ Hawaiian doesn’t run as he once did, and his defense has diminished greatly in recent years.
 
Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees
1 year, $12,000,000
A signing held in contempt by both Red Sox and Yankees fans, Youk will fill in at third base until A-Rod is healthy, which may not happen until 2014. The Yankees overpaid.
 

 

Want more baseball? Check out Athlon Sports' 2013 Baseball Annual for the most complete preview available. Order your copy now! 

Teaser:
<p> We run down the biggest financial baseball blunders</p>
Post date: Friday, March 8, 2013 - 10:59
Path: /nascar/denny-hamlin-vows-avoid-paying-fine-laments-nascar-relationship
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Five storylines for the Kobalt Tools 500 in Las Vegas

1. Hamlin draws NASCAR’s (thin-skinned) ire
NASCAR suddenly, quickly and, well, mistakenly landed a $25,000 shot to Denny Hamlin's wallet on Thursday as Sprint Cup teams set up shop in Las Vegas. And no: this wasn't a case of Brian France cleaning Hamlin's clock at a swanky blackjack table.

Hamlin is expected to pay up for doing, allegedly, at least $25,000 in damage to NASCAR's apparently fragile image for answering a completely legitimate question at Phoenix International Raceway about NASCAR's new race car. Hamlin's most grievous offense can be found in the following span of sentences:

“I don't want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our generation five cars. This is more like what the generation five was at the beginning.”

Athlon Sports regrets posting such serious and offensive comments.

Wait, what?

That was exactly Hamlin’s reaction Thursday during a break from testing and later in the night when he released a statement on Twitter. NASCAR never contacted Hamlin before the fine was issued, even though it came later than usual. Hamlin has vowed to appeal the fine and voiced even greater concern for the message it sends.

“I feel as if today NASCAR lost one of its biggest supporters vocally of where our sport is headed,” Hamlin wrote in a tweet, conscious of his 2010 “secret” fine for saying things that also crossed NASCAR. “So in the end there are no winners.”

Hamlin said the statement was “taken out of context” and that the fine isn't about money. Instead it’s about his ability to give an honest and fair assessment to reasonable questions.

“Since being fined in 2010 I have been a lot more careful about what I say to media and I felt this past weekend felt completely in my rights to give an assessment of the question asked,” Hamlin wrote.


2. Testing, testing, 1… 2… 3…
Beyond the Hamlin episode, teams got down to work earlier than usual on Thursday, as NASCAR opened the track in Las Vegas to a full day of testing.

It wasn't the first time NASCAR's new Gen-6 car has been on a 1.5-mile intermediate track, but Thursday was the first day Sprint Cup drivers got to toss the new car design around Las Vegas Motor Speedway. NASCAR opened the track a day early for two sessions of car fitness tests that, unlike a typical race weekend practice session, allowed the use of data and telemetry recording devices.

Greg Biffle's lap of 189.427 mph late in the second of two sessions put his No. 16 Ford atop the speed charts — a familiar place for Roush Fenway Racing at LVMS. Kasey Kahne set the track record a season ago in Sin City at 190.456 mph.

“It doesn’t matter how long you have practice or how much testing you have, there will be cars on the track until NASCAR throws the red and black flag,” Martin Truex Jr. said. “And even after all of that, we will always think, ‘Darn, if we only had two or three more laps.’ We are always striving for perfection so there is never enough time in my opinion to get ready for Sunday’s race.”

Indeed, many teams placed focus on race setups to start the second weekend of the early-season West Coast swing for NASCAR. Nine of the top-10 drivers in the second session’s speed charts posted their fastest lap in either the second-to-last or last run of the day, likely with qualifying setups installed.

The last major test on 1.5-mile tracks for most teams came at Charlotte Motor Speedway in January. Snow postponed part of that test conducted in extremely cold conditions — a stark contrast from Thursday’s sunny and mild weather in Las Vegas.
 

Teaser:
<p> Five storylines to follow as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Las Vegas for the Kobalt Tools 500.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 8, 2013 - 10:23
Path: /nascar/playing-nascar-odds-kobalt-tools-500-las-vegas
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As will be pointed out ad nauseam on FOX this weekend, Las Vegas is the home to gambling, betting, taking chances and all sorts of other illicit activities. So if you want to dial a cliché, cue up NASCAR’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday. To honor this yearly tradition, the Vegas odds makers have beaten everybody to the punch and are already taking bets on who will win the race this Sunday.

Below is how things are shaping up according to the LVH Superbook. If you happen to be going this weekend or have buddy at a bachelor party on site (or still have access to some clandestine off-shore gambling sites) here are the top-10 drivers who stand a shot at making you some cash. Assuming nobody’s right front tire blows out.


JIMMIE JOHNSON  5-1
So far in 2013, Johnson has finished first and second — and he was whining about the latter result — so you know he’s going to be loaded for bear. The Hendrick camp always comes correct when there’s a new car, plus his sponsor is on the walls this weekend. Remember when Charlotte was Lowe’s Motor Speedway and he’d win everything in sight? This could be the second coming of this for JJ and company this weekend at a track where they’ve won four times in only 11 starts.

KYLE BUSCH  8-1
It has been an inauspicious start to 2013 for Kyle Busch, who blew an engine at Daytona and cracked the nose at Phoenix. He dominated the Nationwide race last Saturday in his Monster Energy car, but the odds makers are only concerned about what happens on Sunday. Las Vegas is Busch’s hometown, so it is the one track on the circuit where he won’t be showered with the kind of boos that are typically reserved for third world dictators once they’ve passed. Yah, hear that Hugo?! As high as Rowdy is on the list, he may find a rough go of it this weekend. Kyle does have a pair of poles and a win here back in 2009, but his last three finishes have been 23rd, 38th and 15th.

BRAD KESELOWSKI  8-1
Brad Keselowski is making great strides to project the persona of a Sprint Cup champion. His brutal honesty has gotten him in some hot water with NASCAR, but I seem to remember The Intimidator making a few pointed comments here and there that ended up helping the sport, as well. In 2013, Keselowski has had to work with a new car, a new manufacturer, his fourth teammate in two years and a new engine shop. No matter – a pair of fourth-place finishes have been the result, with Daytona being a constant battle with garbage bag bodywork. The Keselowski/Paul Wolfe combo have once again put this team on their collective back. You saw his championship interview at Homestead, so you know he likes to party. The Blue Deuce will be ready for Vegas.

MATT KENSETH  8-1
Matt Kenseth has shown muscle early in his move from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing. Two races in, and the No. 20 is running as it did in the Tony Stewart days. Kenseth had what may have been the strongest car in Daytona (at least the strongest car left) before it fell out with engine failure. He was near the front most of the day in Phoenix, as well. He and crew chief Jason Ratcliff are still working to get on the same page as far as adjustments and late-race decisions, but that is part of a process that takes time to perfect. Kenseth has won twice at LVMS, but back in the, uh, Generation 4 cars, though he did win a pole as recently as 2011. The understated Kenseth has made his bones in recent years on superspeedways, but he’s still a 1.5-miler at heart.
 

Teaser:
<p> Examining the odds for the NASCAR Kobalt Tools 500 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 17:08
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-kobalt-tools-500-las-vegas
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The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season rolls on to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Kobalt Tools 500. To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long will be offering up his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes—A-List, B-List, C-List.

So, without further ado, Dustin's fantasy predictions for Las Vegas, ranked according to each driver's likelihood of taking the checkered flag (or at least finishing toward the front):


A-List Drivers

1.Tony Stewart
Won last year’s race after finishing second there the year before. Has led 290 of 534 laps (54.3 percent) run in the last two races at Las Vegas.

2. Jimmie Johnson
Has the highest driver rating (110.9) in the last eight races at Las Vegas. Also has the highest average finish of 9.4 during that span. Has a victory and a runner-up finish in last five starts but placed 16th or worse in the other three starts in that stretch.

3. Clint Bowyer
Has finished eight or better in three of the last four Las Vegas races. Also has qualified in the top four in three of the last four races on 1.5-mile tracks (same size as Las Vegas).

4. Jeff Gordon
Has run a series-high 84 percent of his laps in the top 15 in the last eight races at Las Vegas. Also has led the most laps (370) during that time, among current drivers.

5. Kevin Harvick
Has two top-five finishes in his last five Las Vegas races and has led 15 laps during that stretch.

6. Kasey Kahne
Has three poles in Vegas, including last year, but only finished 19th in the race.

7. Matt Kenseth
Won the pole in Vegas in 2011, but has one top-10 finish in last five starts here.

8. Denny Hamlin
Has never started better than 16th at Las Vegas. Has one top-10 in his last four starts there, a seventh in 2011. Has never led a lap in a Cup car at Vegas.

9. Brad Keselowski
Has never finished better than 26th in four career starts at Las Vegas. Best starting position in that time is a 13th in 2009. Also has led only one lap there.
 

Teaser:
<p> Dustin Long ranks each driver on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit for this weekend's Kobalt Tools 500 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 - 18:25
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/sabermetrics-baseball-what-sabermetrics-means
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The world of advanced statistics can be intimidating for the casual baseball fan. The acronyms can be confusing. The numbers lack meaning. Fans understand a .300 batting average or a 2.50 ERA or 50 saves. More esoteric are the meanings behind numbers like a .900 OPS, a 3.00 FIP or 10 wins above replacement. Once you understand the logic behind the statistics, it’s easy to see why they’re helpful in understanding the game. Here’s a guide to some of the most commonly used advanced metrics, and why they’re useful. 

1. WAR

What: Wins Above Replacement, a catch-all metric designed to quantify a player’s overall contribution to his team’s win total. The statistic measures offense, defense and baserunning for position players. There are two prominent versions: One from FanGraphs.com, the other from Baseball-Reference.com. Each uses a separate formula. 

Why: Let’s get this out of the way. Few sabermetrically inclined writers view WAR as the end-all, be-all of statistics. It’s used as the start to a conversation, not the end of it. WAR operates as a tool to add up all the disparate things a player does on the field. It also adds value based on the defensive spectrum, recognizing that positions like center field and shortstop are more difficult to play than first base or a corner outfield spot.

Example: The reason Mike Trout finished 2012 with 10 WAR, according to Fangraphs, and Miguel Cabrera finished with 7.1 WAR, is simple. Trout plays much better defense. He runs the bases much better. And their offense was also comparable, considering that Trout plays his home games in an extreme pitchers’ park, while Cabrera plays in a more neutral park. 

2. OPS

What: This statistic is a very simple way to measure a batter’s offensive output. It stands for On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage, and it means what it says. You add up a player’s OBP and his slugging. 

Why: Because there are more effective ways to measure a player’s offensive output than just batting average. OPS paints a rudimentary picture of a player’s season: How often did he get on base? How many bases did he accumulate with each at-bat? 

Example: Jose Reyes led the National League in 2011 with a .337 batting average. Ryan Braun finished second with a .332 batting average. Yet Braun was the far more accomplished hitter that season. His OPS was .994, the best in the National League and third-best in baseball. Reyes’ OPS was .877, the 26th-best in baseball. 

3. WOBA

What: Weighted On-Base Average attempts to add some nuance to OPS further, as a way to calculate a player’s overall offensive value. The numbers read like batting average: A .400 mark is considered excellent. A .300 mark is considered poor.

Why: OPS treats on-base percentage and slugging percentage as equals. They are not. Getting on base is considered a bit more valuable. wOBA reflects that. It takes the basic picture created by OPS and refines the number, placing added emphasis on the game’s most critical skill: Getting on base. 

Example: Joey Votto may be the premier on-base machine in baseball. Since 2010, only Miguel Cabrera rates higher in wOBA (.428 to .425). Cabrera also has a 1.025 OPS to Votto’s .998 OPS. Votto makes up the difference with a .434 OBP, compared to Cabrera’s .420.

4. BABIP

What: Batting Average on Balls in Play records just that: How often a player gets credited with a hit when he puts the ball in play. 

Why: Because there’s so much luck involved once a batter makes contact. He can sting a liner right at an outfielder. Or he can bloop a broken-bat double. During the course of the season, BABIP helps measure how much a player is affected by luck or defense. The average mark settles in around .300, with higher marks expected for speed-base players.  

Example: In 2008, Nick Swisher muddled through the weakest season of his career. He hit 24 homers, but still finished with a middling .743 OPS. Yet during the next four seasons, his OPS jumped back to an average of .850. The best explanation for his trying 2008 year resides in his .249 BABIP, a mark more than 50 points below his career average (.303). Once his luck evened back out, Swisher went back to being a solid corner outfielder. 

5. ISO

What: ISO measures true power. To calculate this, subtract a player’s batting average from his slugging percentage. A .200 ISO is considered very strong.  

Why: This is a simple way to measure a player’s ability to accumulate extra-base hits. Sometimes slugging percentage can be deceiving. ISO helps provide more information about the batter’s season: Is the slugging percentage a result of good BABIP luck (and a high batting average) or a series of extra-base hits?  

Example: Since 2010, Jose Bautista leads all of baseball with a freakish .322 ISO. To put that in context: Babe Ruth’s ISO was .348. So even though Bautista batted just .271 during that time period, with a mediocre .256 BABIP, when he made contact, he did serious damage. 

6. UZR 

What: Ultimate Zone Rating is probably the most popular defensive metric. The methodology is difficult to explain, but in essence, the statistic measures how many runs a defender prevents (or allows) based on range, ability to avoid errors, arm and ability to turn double plays. 

Why: There’s so much information available about offense — and comparatively so little about defense. UZR is a start. These numbers can be fickle, especially in a small sample size. But with several years of data, you get a sense of how a player handles his position.  

Example: From 2009-11, David Wright was one of the worst third basemen in the majors. He allowed about 10 runs more than the average defender. But an offseason adjustment in the winter of 2012 — a new emphasis on positioning his feet and using his whole body when throwing across the diamond — led to a remarkable change. In 2012, he was worth 15.4 more runs in the field than the average defender. 

7. FIP

What: Fielding Independent Pitching measures ERA by removing batted-ball luck from the equation. In other words, pitchers are judged on the three things they specifically can control: Strikeouts, walks and home runs.  

Why: This statistic can help predict future success — or future struggles — with a bit more nuance than ERA. In general, it is believed a pitcher cannot control what happens once a hitter makes contact. There’s so much variance involved, as we explained with BABIP. The defense might be terrible. The pitcher’s luck might be poor. FIP measures performance if all things were considered equal.  

Example: James Shields had terrible luck in 2010, despite a solid 3.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His BABIP against was a career-high .344 and more homer-prone than ever. So while his ERA was 5.18, his FIP was a more reasonable 4.24. In the past two seasons, as his luck evened out and his strikeout-to-walk ratio remained about the same, Shields’ ERA slipped back down to a cumulative 3.15.  

8. SIERA

What: SIERA takes FIP one step further. It stands for Skill-Interactive ERA, and it adds some batted-ball results into the equation. SIERA rewards pitchers for ground balls and pop-ups (because those are tougher to turn into extra-base hits).  

Why: Pitching is not simple. FIP treats it as such — which is useful for predicting what might happen in the coming years. SIERA tries to crack through the complexity of the craft by measuring batted-ball results. 

Example: Cliff Lee leads the majors in SIERA from 2010-12 with a 2.93 mark. He hits all the checkmarks: He strikes out a ton of batters (24.1 percent of the hitters he faces). He doesn’t walk anyone (3.4 percent). He gets a good deal of grounders (44.4 percent) and infield pop-ups (11 percent). 

—By Andy McCullough


 

Want more baseball? Check out Athlon Sports' 2013 Baseball Annual for the most complete preview available. Order your copy now! 

Teaser:
<p> A casual fan's guide to Sabermetrics</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 - 11:20
Path: /nascar/6-amazing-stats-las-vegas-motor-speedway
Body:

The Gen-6 car for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, after a two-race introduction, appears to be a work in progress. Passing last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway was at an all-time low for its current configuration (1,213 green-flag passes, down from 1,995 in the 2012 race) and pit stop speed decided the race for a driver who hadn’t seen Victory Lane in almost two calendar years.

This weekend’s race at speedy intermediate Las Vegas Motor Speedway is expected to provide a jump in on-track excitement. While I can’t possibly guarantee a more enticing product, there are some intriguing story lines within the numbers this week that should pique your interest and they involve a bevy of fan-favorite drivers. So that’s some excitement there, right?

For PEER and other metrics with which you may be unfamiliar, I refer you to my glossary of terms on MotorsportsAnalytics.com.


12.8 and 84.29 percent  During the Carl Edwards 70-race winless streak, the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing team averaged a 12.8-place showing and finished in the top half of fields 84.29 percent of the time.

Those numbers aren’t awful. Despite not winning, Edwards and team were, for most intents and purposes, admirable across that two-year winless stretch. The perceived slump is just that; any team in the Cup Series would welcome the finishing average and that high of a relevance mark (finishes in the top half of fields encapsulates a team’s ability to avoid mistakes). The No. 99 team was never a downtrodden unit. It just didn’t win for an extended period of time. The last place Edwards won at prior to Phoenix? Funny you should ask …


6.750  With two Vegas wins in the last five races, Edwards leads the series in track-specific PEER (Production in Equal Equipment Rating) during that time frame.

The most recent winner in the Cup Series just happens to be a stud on the Vegas 1.5-mile quad-oval track. His performance has been feast with a little bit of famine; outside of his two victories at LVMS in the CoT era, he has finished fifth (last year), 12th and 17th. His winning past doesn’t make him a lock for the victory this weekend, but with the recent headlines, he’ll be one of a handful of drivers in the spotlight.
 

Teaser:
<p> Six amazing stats for NASCAR's Kobalt Tools 500 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 15:53
Path: /nascar/nascars-gen-6-work-progress-carl-edwards-relevant-again
Body:

In the midst of a near two-year winless skid on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, Carl Edwards, perhaps more than any driver, needed a confidence boost. And after winning the Subway Fresh Fit 500 — in only his second start with crew chief Jimmy Fennig — that’s exactly what the Missouri native received at Phoenix International Raceway.

After the No. 99 team wrecked five cars during a devastating two months at Daytona — perhaps Roush Fenway Racing’s most expensive Speedweeks ever — Edwards rebounded big at Phoenix. Ending a 70-race winless streak puts him in perfect early-season position to make the Chase — a feat he failed to accomplish in 2012. But besides that stat-busting, feel-good ending, did NASCAR have anything else to hang its hat on with the Gen-6 chassis in its first competitive visit away from a plate track?

Whether they made the grade on an unrestricted track starts us “Through the Gears” on stock car competition out in the desert…


First Gear: Gen-6 + Goodyear + Phoenix = Needs Improvement
All you needed to know about the tires at Phoenix came from a mid-race pit stop. Mark Martin, who had been leading along with Tony Stewart, took four tires while most everyone else took two. That left both sitting mid-pack, hoping fresh rubber would lead to better speed in the long run.

It didn’t. With passing at a premium, Stewart claimed his car arguably handled worse as both men were stuck in neutral, near the back half of the top 20. Under the right scenarios, each would have had top-5 cars but were handicapped by the horror of the words that continue to plague NASCAR racing: track position.

Track position means you can turn off the television when Carl Edwards wins a race off pit road with 70-something laps remaining. Track position racing means you can see two cars, running nose-to-tail in a battle for position, never get side-by-side. It means a race gets won by a call a crew chief makes in his head, which is fun for engineering students but harder to translate into a three-hour, on-air television broadcast. There’s a reason they don’t televise chess on FOX, after all.

So what was the problem at Phoenix? New pavement coupled with Goodyear tires that just never seemed to wear out proved a poor combination. Indeed, it was a feast-or-famine type of day; either your tires held up, leaving you holding position or excessive brake heat, due to ill-handling equipment, melted a bead and found you in the outside wall. The Stewart-Haas Racing cars of Danica Patrick and Ryan Newman, among others, had spectacular tire failures that ended their days early.

Having little-to-no tire wear makes things tough enough — drivers are stuck at the same speed, making the old racing adage of preserving your equipment virtually meaningless. But the post-race quote that raised my eyebrows came from (who else?) reigning Cup champ Brad Keselowski, who ran fourth.

“I think these cars probably drive easier than any race car I’ve ever driven in my life by themselves,” he said. “And probably the hardest to drive of any race car I’ve ever driven in traffic.”

Uh-oh. Trouble in traffic? Isn’t that what killed the Car of Tomorrow on intermediate tracks? We better not see the same type of concern next week, at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway, or the single-file phenomenon that turned intermediate racing into a day at the library will be very much front and center.

“I don’t want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our generation five cars,” added third-place Denny Hamlin. “Right now, you just run single-file and you cannot get around the guy in front of you. You would have placed me in 20th place with 30 (laps) to go, I would have stayed there — I wouldn’t have moved up.”
 

Teaser:
<p> Through the Gears: Four things we learned in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 13:08
All taxonomy terms: Phoenix International Raceway, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/nascar-2013-phoenix-international-raceway-track-information
Body:

Phoenix International Raceway Race Stats

2013 Race Length: 312 miles/312 laps 

Track Qualifying Record: 138.766 mph (Kyle Busch, 2012) 

Race Record: 118.132 mph (Tony Stewart, 1999)

 

Anonymous Crew Chief's Take on Phoenix International Raceway

“Phoenix is a tough racetrack. The track is going to season, but we’ve tested out there a bunch between the 2013 car and racing out there. It has three unique corners, and the driver has to sign up for that track because it’s fast with a lot of gas and throttle control. I hope NASCAR doesn’t mess with the cars driving across the inside of the backstretch. I think it is fun to see the drivers try something different. They have enough other stuff to worry about without messing with where we race at Phoenix.”

 

Classic Moments at Phoenix International Raceway

The old man couldn’t be denied.

Mark Martin, back behind the wheel full-time in 2009 after two years of semi-retirement, became the third-oldest winner in NASCAR history and snapped a 97-race winless skid with a commanding victory in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Martin, 50, won for the first time in only his eighth start with Hendrick Motorsports, the organization he joined in 2009 after two partial seasons with Dale Earnhardt Inc./Ginn Racing following two decades of competition with Roush Racing.

Martin, long known as one of NASCAR’s most physically fit drivers, started from the pole and led 157 of 312 laps on the way to his first win since 2005.

Martin would use the Phoenix victory as a springboard to four more triumphs that season. For the fifth time in his lengthy career, he would finish second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings — this time as bridesmaid to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson.

 

Fantasy NASCAR Take on Phoenix International Raceway

Contenders

Denny Hamlin—His Phoenix win last February helped spark a season-long resurgence following a dismal 2011. He backed up that showing with a second-place finish in the fall race and is one of only two drivers with three top-15 finishes on the newly configured PIR.

Kevin Harvick—Harvick salvaged his 2012 with a late-season victory in the desert last fall. The win was foreshadowed by a February performance that saw him average a race-best third-place running position and finish second.

Sleeper

Ryan Newman—Ranking fourth in the MotorsportsAnalytics.com Phoenix-specific PEER rankings is Newman, who has a pair of top-5 finishes on the new track surface and led five laps last fall.

Runs on Seven Cylinders

Dale Earnhardt Jr.—A two-time winner on the old PIR surface, Earnhardt has yet to come away with an admirable finish on the new configuration, finishing 24th, 14th and 21st in the last three races.


RELATED: 8 Amazing NASCAR Stats for Phoenix International Raceway

RELATED: Fantasy NASCAR Picks for Phoenix International Raceway

Teaser:
<p> A NASCAR fan's guide to Phoenix International Raceway</p>
Post date: Sunday, March 3, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /nascar/ranking-nascar-sprint-cup-series-racetracks
Body:

The NASCAR Sprint Cup season is a long and winding road consisting of 36 points-paying races held on 23 racetracks across America. The venues are diverse, with half-mile bullrings, twisting road courses, high-speed intermediates and white-knuckle plate tracks. Some thrill, some bore, some are in steeped in history, others lack any semblance of uniqueness.

But we have them all here, ranked from best NASCAR Sprint Cup racetrack to worst, having factored in entertainment value, historical significance, location and the overall ambiance of the facility:


 

1. Talladega Superspeedway
Talladega, Al. • 2.66-mile tri-oval • 2013 dates: May 5, Oct. 20
The one track that defines speed in a sport dictated on going fast, Talladega is the be-all, end-all of superspeedway racing. The original 200 mph track that Buddy Baker christened in 1970 in a winged Dodge, Talladega is the site of the fastest qualifying lap, the fastest 500-mile NASCAR race and some of the scariest crashes in motorsports history. In 1987, Bobby Allison went airborne and tore part of the frontstretch fencing down, nearly taking out the flag stand and putting the car in the front row. Thus, restrictor plate racing was born. The National Motorsports Hall of Fame is located at Talladega as well, and the infield on race weekend is essentially Mardi Gras without the cops.

2. Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Fla. • 2.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 dates: Feb. 24, July 6
When Bill France Sr. conjured the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, he wanted it to be the fastest and most impressive track in auto racing. Mission accomplished. Thirty-two degrees of banking in the turns, wide-open throttles and host to everything from NASCAR, GRAND-AM, AMA Motorcycle, go-karts and Monster Energy Super Cross events. It has also been witnessed some of NASCAR’s most memorable finishes and wild aerial antics — as well as the sport’s darkest hour in February 2001. Two weeks of NASCAR racing, known as Speedweeks, kick off the season, with the Truck Series, Nationwide, ARCA and Sprint Cup running their premier events. Hope always springs eternal on the beach in February.

3. Martinsville Speedway
Martinsville, Va. • .526-mile oval • 2013 dates: April 7, Oct. 27
If nostalgia is your thing, look no further than Clay Earles’ gem in Martinsville, Va. At .526 miles, it’s the shortest track on the circuit, but also NASCAR’s oldest, dating to the first year of the sport in 1948. While some fans may bemoan how NASCAR has gone “too corporate” and “lost its soul,” Martinsville is viewed as a holdout, amidst pink hot dogs and the Grandfather clock that serves as racing’s coolest trophy. There is no shortage of beating, banging and retaliation – and Victory Lane is held right on the frontstretch for all the fans to experience.

4. Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol, Tenn. • .533-mile oval • 2013 dates: March 17, Aug. 24
“Racin’ the Way it Oughta Be!” the track located in what is known as Thunder Valley promotes — and with good reason. The August night race was once the hardest ticket to get in racing, but has recently become obtainable. A track repave in 2008 created two groves of racing, and therefore eliminated the wreck-fest that once was Bristol. The .533-mile oval is a bit secluded, but that is part of its allure. When you walk into the grandstands that reach over 10 stories high, you get a feel for what it must’ve been like at Roman coliseums or what Rudy’s dad felt when he saw Notre Dame Stadium for the first time: “This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen.”

5. Darlington Raceway
Darlington, S.C. • 1.336-mile oval • 2013 date: May 11
“The Track Too Tough to Tame,” introduced in 1950, was NASCAR’s first speedway longer that one mile. Though it looked like one of racing’s grandest tracks, Darlington was on its way out a few years ago. But the addition of lights around the 1.336-mile, egg-shaped oval has kept it relevant. During a time when many tracks can’t give tickets away, Darlington continues to sell. Once a Labor Day tradition, the famed Southern 500 is now Saturday Night’s Main Event in early April. While that smacks in the way of tradition, Darlington’s gritty and abrasive surface — once ground smooth following a repave — refuses to be anything but old school. What sporting facility do you know of whose shape and construction was dictated by the landowner wanting to retain his minnow pond? At least that’s the way the grand old tale is told.

6. Richmond International Raceway
Richmond, Va. • .75-mile oval • April 27, Sept. 7
Following the first race of the 1988 season, the old .542-mile Richmond Fairgrounds was reconfigured into the modern .75-mile short track gem that it is today. An hour or so outside of Washington D.C., it’s a great destination for family, friends, racing and history. Often credited as being the ideal track for stock cars, Richmond is old-school charm with new-school amenities. It also serves as the transfer race into NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff.

7. Charlotte Motor Speedway
Concord, N.C. • 1.5-mile quad-oval • 2013 date: May 18 (All Star), May 26, Oct. 12
The track that Curtis Turner built with the help of mob money and a .38 Smith, the city that serves as the heart of NASCAR is also the home to NASCAR’s crown jewel speedway. Home to the sport’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600, and the All-Star Race, Charlotte is home to some of NASCAR’s most endearing memories. The original 1.5-mile oval is no cookie cutter, though following its 2005 repave, it has lost a bit of its character. Virtually all of the NASCAR teams are located within a stone’s throw of the speedway, so shop tours are must-see attractions if you’re going to a race. Plus, Uptown Charlotte is as nice as Chicago – minus the murder and congestion. Drive 20 minutes outside of town to and you’re instantly transported back to Mayberry.

8. Watkins Glen International
Watkins Glen, N.Y. • 11-turn, 2.45-mile road course • 2013 date: Aug. 11
Fans are hot and cold on road course racing, but what’s not to like about The Glen, located in upstate New York? If you can’t get your old lady to go with you, fear not, Niagara Falls is just around the bend. This track seems to bring out the best in drivers, so there’s usually some scrapping (Boris Said vs. Greg Biffle; Kevin Harvick vs. Juan Pablo Montoya), great insults (Sterling Marlin calling Biffle a “bug-eyed dummy”; Ryan Newman saying Sterling’s hair piece fell down over his eyes), and some wild, late-race action. Last year’s tussle between Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose was easily the best finish of the season.

9. Atlanta Motor Speedway
Hampton, Ga. • 1.54-mile quad-oval • 2013 date: Sept. 1
Before Michigan went Mayfield on speed last June (and until the plates come off at Talladega and Daytona), Atlanta was pretty much the fastest ticket on the circuit. Geoff Bodine reeled off a lap of 197.478 mph – and that was in 1997, 16 years and 150 horsepower ago. It’s also played host to a couple of the closest finishes in NASCAR history (Dale Earnhardt and Bobby Labonte in 2000 and, ironically, Kevin Harvick driving what was the Intimidator’s car following his untimely passing in 2001). Although it isn’t Darlington, it honorably holds down the Southern 500’s former date on Labor Day weekend. As this list has proven, the oldest tracks produce the best racing – and Atlanta is no different.

10. Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Speedway, Ind. • 2.5-mile oval • 2013 date: July 28
When the term “hallowed ground” was coined, it likely was done so when describing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 2.5-mile oval is most famously known as the home of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the Indianapolis 500. But in 1992, when fans packed the grandstands to watch a NASCAR/Goodyear tire test, it all but sealed the deal as to what track would soon be on NASCAR’s schedule. As a “bucket list” destination for any sports fan, prime seats are not a challenging get for the Brickyard 400 — and although you can’t see the entire track from any one location, it’s kind of hard to find a bad seat.

11. Texas Motor Speedway
Fort Worth, Texas • 1.5-mile quad-oval • 2013 dates: April 13, Nov. 3
Everything’s bigger in Texas, and this is no exception. Yeah, it’s a 1.5-miler, but the speeds are crazy fast and the banking falls away exiting Turn 2. The racing has matured since it received a second date in 2005, and usually provides some big speed and late race heroics; witness last year’s door slamming battle between Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. Besides, where else do drivers get a shotgun for winning the pole and a pair of six-shooters for claiming victory in the race?

12. Sonoma Raceway
Sonoma, Calif. • 12 turn, 1.99-mile road course • 2013 date: June 23
To many fans, it’s still Sears Point because no one could figure out what an Infineon was. This used to be NASCAR’s best road course until they messed with success and installed “The Chute” rather than utilize the Sports Car carousel course. It has now devolved into a fuel mileage venue, but late-race yellows tend to spring up and foster a fight to the finish. The elevation changes and curb bouncing are a break from the left turn-only rules, and how someone hasn’t plowed into the tire barrier at Turn 3a is beyond me. Plus after the race, go get glazed on a vineyard tour if you’re in attendance. Or if you’re at home, just wait until the 3:00 pm start time while basting in Midwest midsummer humidity.

13. Michigan International Speedway
Brooklyn, Mich. • 2-mile D-shaped oval • 2013 dates: June 16, Sept. 18
The Irish Hills of Brooklyn, Mich., are home to two races a year. About an hour outside of Detroit, this is one of the races that has always been key for the manufacturers to brag about having won — which has to sting a bit with Toyota having won four of the last seven. Michigan used to pack ’em in uncomfortably close, but seating rearrangements have made it comfortable again to see a spectator-friendly 400-miler. MIS has also updated the facilities in recent years and has done a masterful job of resolving the traffic and parking issues that made getting out of the track a perfect excuse to not go at all. The middle stages of a Michigan race can get strung out, however things historically tighten up at the end for a memorable finish. They were hitting 215 mph into Turn 1 here in practice last year before a slower tire was introduced, reducing the pole speed to a pedestrian 203.241 mph. Will the new Gen-6 cars push the envelope back over 210 this year?

14. New Hampshire International Speedway
Loudon, N.H. • 1.058-mile oval • 2013 dates: July 14, Sept. 22
Kyle Petty once said they should fill NHIS up with water and make it a bass pond. Of course, everyone cites Petty as saying that about every track, so who knows at this point. Anyway, many agreed with him after the Magic Mile produced nothing but duds the first 12 years or so on the circuit. Recently, it has provided a number of memorable finishes, and in part dictated the outcome of the 2010 Chase. It produced some of the closest finishes of the CoT era, and is notable for being the track to help draw fans from the Boston market. Say what you will about the recent downturn in attendance – NHIS fans still show up, even packing the stands for the must-see Modified race.

15. Dover International Speedway
Dover, Del. • 1-mile oval • 2013 dates: June 2, Sept. 29
Dover used to be the most brutal race on the schedule. You think the races are bad at 400 laps? They used to be 500 – on asphalt. Now, with its concrete makeover, it’s basically a big Bristol, only faster. Much like in the old days, the races can get a bit strung out during the middle portion, but if somebody loses it in the tight confines, there’s really no place for others to go, making this a treacherous joint.

16. Phoenix International Raceway
Avondale, Ariz. • 1-mile, D-shaped oval • 2013 dates: March 3, Nov. 10
How have times changed in NASCAR? Phoenix is now considered a short track even though it’s one mile in length, yet measured in kilometers. Don’t ask me what the KPH is for the pole speed, because I’m not wired that way. Phoenix now hosts two dates, and by the time drivers get back in November, they’re usually pretty cranky after nine months on the road. Therefore, tempers run high, water bottles are thrown at cars, and sometimes Clint Bowyer will run through the garage to beat up Jeff Gordon after getting turned head-on into the wall.

17. Kansas Speedway
Kansas City, Kan. • 1.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 dates: April 21, Oct. 6
Bristol has Thunder Valley, Kansas has Tornado Alley. Hosting its first NASCAR race in 2001, Kansas was a welcome addition to the schedule, particularly for fans located in the Midwest, Great Plains and all points westward. Built during an era where cookie cutter, 1.5-mile tracks were being churned out with the kind of regularity seen only in a maternity ward, it’s not exactly the most unique track on the circuit. With the addition of a casino outside the track, there’s more to do than watch the race, get sunburned and corn. Lots of corn. On the downside it is Kansas, so be prepared for an onslaught of Wizard of Oz puns, costumes and innuendo.

18. Homestead Miami Speedway
Homestead, Fla. • 1.5-mile oval • 2013 date: Nov. 17
Another 1.5-mile speedway built in the late 1990s, Homestead-Miami Speedway became host to the season ending racing, replacing one of Atlanta’s dates on the schedule. Homestead-Miami was first envisioned as essential to the growing Latino market in South Florida and inclusion into another major sports market during NASCAR’s boon years. All three touring series wrap up the year here, so it’s going to be witness to some close racing for both wins and championships. It underwent a facelift in 2003, switching from a flat track format to progressive banking. Suddenly, the racing was interesting and the first Chase for the Championship in 2004 saw one of the most dramatic finishes in the sport’s history for a title go down to the last lap between five drivers. It ranks a bit low here due to it having only one date, being a long trek for many and because it’s place on the calendar falls the week before Thanksgiving. The last time I checked though, you don’t have to shovel sunshine.

19. Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nev. • 1.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 date: March 10
Las Vegas Motor Speedway — or more accurately, its owner, Bruton Smith — has been clamoring for a second date since it received its first in 1998. It’s a major market track, and unlike some venues, there is actually something to do besides going to the racetrack. The only issue is the race probably won’t be the highlight of your trip. But that’s not really a problem, as it is still a great vacation destination; LVMS is also home to the Richard Petty Driving Experience, as well as exotic car rentals. Depending on the day, you can indulge your inner Dean Martin or Mark Martin. And since its Las Vegas and in the desert, your inner Jeremy Mayfield. Or Ron Jeremy. Whatever floats your boat.

20. Pocono Raceway
Pocono, Penn. • 2.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 dates: June 9, Aug. 4
The tricky triangle in the middle of the mountains, Pocono is one of NASCAR’s oldest speedways, technically being a superspeedway, as it is 2.5-miles in length. Pocono is unique in that it’s not an oval, drives like a road course and even the Turn 4 wall has a question mark painted on it. Pocono was patterned to comprise three famous flat American racetracks: Turn 1 after the Turn 1 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway; the Tunnel Turn is an ode to the track in Trenton, N.J.; the final turn a tip of the cap to the Milwaukee Mile. Pocono has been witness to some of the most heart-wrenching and endearing moments in the sport’s history: Bobby Allison’s near-fatal accident in 1988, Davey Allison’s violent tumble in ’92 and Dale Earnhardt’s and Rusty Wallace’s emotional tribute to fallen competitors Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki in ’93. It was also the first race Tim Richmond won after being hospitalized for what later would be revealed to be AIDS. And, of course, who could forget Earnhardt flipping off Jeremy Mayfield after getting his cage rattled on the final lap in 2000?

21. Auto Club Speedway
Fontana, Calif. • 2-mile, D-shaped oval • 2013 date: March 24
The sister track to Michigan, the 2.0-mile oval in Fontana, Calif., has fallen off the map in recent years. An hour outside of Los Angeles, it was once heralded as the most important new track for NASCAR to gain ground in a major market. How far has it fallen? ACS used to have two 500-mile dates, including a Chase race, but now only hosts the fifth race on the schedule – and even that has been reduced to 400 miles. Attendance has been a major issue in recent years, with completely empty grandstands being attributed to fans shopping for souvenirs during the race. Uh, yeah. Okay. However, after dialing it down to a one-and-done locale, Auto Club has been the site to some interesting races, with Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart racing to beat the rain in 2012 and a last-lap, three-way battle between Busch, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson in 2011.

22. Kentucky Speedway
Sparta, Ky. • 1.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 date: June 29
Located in Sparta, Ky., Kentucky Speedway is probably best known for having a traffic problem. The inaugural event in 2011 didn’t go so smoothly, with a number of fans missing the first hour of the race while being stuck on the highway — and others actually being turned away completely. With all of the hoopla surrounding it “finally” getting a date, the real question should have been why it needed one at all. Last year’s event was a snoozer, with a margin of victory of 4.399 seconds. There are existing tracks with twice the character that would provide a more competitive show than this 1.5-mile oval.

23. Chicagoland Speedway
Joliet, Ill. • 1.5-mile tri-oval • Sept. 15
Chicagoland hosted its first Sprint Cup race in 2002. Since then, it has been host to 12 races – eight of which had a margin of victory less than one second. Needing a promotional kick in the fender, NASCAR awarded Chicago the first Chase date in 2011, however that’s been a bumpy ride for the facility. The first year was rained out and run on a Monday. Last season, Brad Keselowski won by over three seconds, with the final 73 laps run under green flag conditions. It seats 75,000 people, which is 25 percent less than what Wrestlemania III pulled in 1986 at the Silverdome. About an hour outside of Chicago proper, you’ll likely not find a track with less character. But if you want to visit a wayward uncle in prison, this is your ticket.


by Vito Pugliese
Follow Vito on Twitter: @VitoPugliese

Agree? Disagree? Let us know your favorite and least favorite tracks in the Comment section below.
 

Teaser:
<p> Ranking NASCAR's racetracks.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 19:07
Path: /nascar/nascars-gen-6-face-new-challenges-phoenix
Body:

1. Gen-6 downforce track debut
NASCAR's two weeks of warm sunshine in Daytona Beach provided the first on-track action of the much-acclaimed new car in the Sprint Cup Series. It proved to be amicable, handing drivers more input in restrictor plate-style car setup. In the race, it proved to be just a little too dominant as a lead car.

But for all that teams now know about how these cars race with the throttle essentially taped to the floor, none of that matters when the track opens for practice Friday at Phoenix International Raceway.

Fortunate or unfortunate as that may be depending how Daytona went for specific drivers, Phoenix invites a weekend where the Gen-6 platform will reveal quite a bit more about its racing ability and character. The proverbial NASCAR onion is destined to expose several more layers.

"This weekend will be one of the most difficult and challenging ever," said Alan Gustafson, crew chief on Jeff Gordon's No. 24. "Our new Chevy SS has significantly more downforce than last year's car. With the new Gen-6 car, the new rules, a new tire compound and new inspection process, we don't really have anything that we can base this weekend off of."

In the Toyota camp, Martin Truex Jr. predicts a weekend with "a lot of things that come up that we didn't expect" while his teammate is ready to take a swing at NASCAR's qualifying record books thanks to increased downforce from the old car.

“I think when we get in these cars at Phoenix they are going to stick like glue," Mark Martin said. "These new Gen-6 cars are going to break a lot of track records in 2013 and I think that could start as soon as Friday in Phoenix."

Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson, however, thinks the biggest leap for the new piece is still a week away. Viva, Las Vegas, he says.

"I feel when we get to Vegas, we will have a downforce track under our belts," said Johnson, "We'll have a chance to see an amazing race at Vegas — great side-by-racing that everybody will want to see."


2. Can Johnson re-focus after a taxing week?
Johnson may also be looking ahead to Las Vegas because of what a week's worth of responsibilities as winner of the Daytona 500 has done to him. His public relations representative Kristine Curley tweeted Wednesday night that Johnson will have made stops in eight cities for interviews, events, media appearances and more since popping the champagne corks in Daytona's Victory Lane.

"It's going to be hard to re-focus," Johnson said. "There's such a high that comes from winning the 500 — and then the type of racing that starts now is so different than what we just had. It will be a challenge."

Johnson’s first Daytona 500 win in 2006 didn’t hamper his efforts a week later, however. He finished second to Matt Kenseth at Auto Club Speedway. Still, this week Johnson is putting a bit more on the shoulders of crew chief Chad Knaus.

“I know Chad's been buttoned up and the guys have been back at the shop all week, but from my side I've been very detached from my normal routine in preparing for the race,” Johnson said, detailing how he’s missed a debrief with Knaus and the entire Hendrick team. “I'll have to play catch-up as the week goes on and we get in to the weekend.”

It shouldn’t be terribly tough for the five-time champion: Johnson has four wins at Phoenix and also owns the best average running position of any current driver at the track. He’ll also have extra seat time this weekend as he’s racing the Nationwide Series event — the first oval event in that series he’s raced since 2008. 

Teaser:
<p> Five storylines to follow as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Phoenix for the Subway Fresh Fit 500.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 18:20
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-phoenix-international-raceway
Body:

The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season rolls on to Phoenix International Raceway for the Subway Fresh Fit 500. To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports will be offering up our best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing  game is arguably the most popular, we'll break down our picks according to its NASCAR driver classes—A-List, B-List, C-List.

So, without further ado, NASCAR scribe Dustin Long's fantasy predictions for Phoenix, ranked according to each driver's likelihood of taking the checkered flag (or at least finishing toward the front):

A-List Drivers

1. Jimmie Johnson — Has the highest driver rating (115.8) in the last eight years at Phoenix. Also has the best average finish among current drivers at 6.7, scoring 12 top-five finishes in 19 starts

2. Kevin Harvick — Has three top-four finishes in his last four Phoenix starts, including a win last fall.

3. Denny Hamlin — Took second in the fall Phoenix race (46 laps led) and won the spring race last year (61 laps led).

4. Jeff Gordon — In the last three spring races at Phoenix, he’s finished eighth, first and second

5. Brad Keselowski — Finished no worse than seventh in his last five races at tracks 1.1 miles and under last season, including a sixth-place finish at Phoenix.

6. Kasey Kahne — Joined Hamlin and Kyle Busch as only drivers to run every lap of last fall’s race in the top 15, finishing fourth.

7. Tony Stewart — Has never gone more than three consecutive races without a top-10 at Phoenix. Last two finishes there are 19th and 22nd.

8. Matt Kenseth — Last four finishes at Phoenix have been 14th, 13th, 34th and 12th. He’s led 52 laps during that time, leading 49 of those laps in November 2011 race before being eliminated in a crash.

9. Clint Bowyer — Has more finishes of 20th or worse (eight) in his career at Phoenix than he has top-10 finishes (five) there.
 

Teaser:
<p> Dustin Long ranks each driver on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit for this weekend's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 17:11
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-coaching-jobs-2013
Body:

We have ranked every college football program in the country, based on the attractiveness of the position from a coaching perspective. We considered many factors — tradition, facilities, location, money  — but in the end, we simply asked ourselves the following question: Where would we want to coach? After ranking each conference, Athlon turns the page to the overall power rankings. Texas ranks as the best job in college football, with Florida, Alabama, USC and Ohio State rounding out the top five. 

College Football Job Rankings: ACC | Big East | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

(Note: Current or impending NCAA sanctions were not a factor in these rankings.)

Ranking the Coaching Jobs in College Football for 2013

1. Texas

Pros: Texas offers the complete package: Great school in a great town with great tradition. Also, it’s located in a state that treats high school football like a religion.

Cons: Texas has a ton going for it (see above), but the Longhorns are only 22–16 in the last three seasons. The program is not immune to losing. And while Texas is a recruiting power, there are three other AQ conference schools in the state, and virtually every other national power dips into Texas to recruit as well.

Final Verdict: It’s easier said than done — just ask David McWilliams and John Mackovic — but everything is in place to win big on a consistent basis at Texas.

2. Florida

Pros: Location. Location. Location. Florida is a public university in a state that produces a tremendous amount of top-flight talent. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium offers one of the best atmospheres in college football, and the fan base is as rabid as there is in the nation.

Cons: Expectations are sky-high at a school that has won two national championships in the past seven seasons. If you don’t win — and win big — things can turn ugly very quickly. Just ask Ron Zook.

Final Verdict: Florida presents one of the elite coaching opportunities in college football. You have everything at your disposal to compete for national championships on an annual basis. There is no excuse not to be good at Florida.

3. Alabama

Pros: Tradition. With the possible exception of Notre Dame, no school in the country has more tradition than Alabama. The Tide have won 23 SEC championships and (depending on who you ask) 15 national titles. The facilities are top-notch, the fans are passionate and the recruiting base is strong.

Cons: Coaching football at Alabama is arguably the most stressful job in collegiate athletics. It’s takes a certain kind of coach to deal with that type of scrutiny.

Final Verdict: Alabama is unquestionably one of the premier jobs in the nation. The coach who can deal with the demands of the job — like Nick Saban — will win at a very high level in Tuscaloosa.

4. USC

Pros: The USC coaching staff has the ability to stock its roster with elite talent without ever having to jump on a plane. The program has a rich tradition, but it doesn’t live in the past; the Trojans were dominant in the 2000s, winning seven straight Pac-10 titles (2002-08) and two national championships.

Cons: USC is the top job in L.A., but the city does have another program with tremendous potential. It doesn’t take much of a dip to lose your status as the No. 1 program in your own town.   

Final Verdict: If you’re a West Coast guy, coaching the Trojans is as good as it gets. It’s the best job in the Pac-12 and you are in the most fertile recruiting area in the country.

5. Ohio State

Pros: There are eight FBS schools in Ohio, but there is only one school named The Ohio State University. The Buckeyes have been a consistent force on the field and in recruiting since Woody Hayes took over in the early 1950s.

Cons: Expectations are extremely high in Columbus. Consider the case of John Cooper: In 13 seasons, Cooper went 111–43–4, winning 10 games or more five times. But he went 2–10–1 against Michigan and lost his job after the 2000 season.

Final Verdict: Everything is in place to win a national championship at Ohio State. The facilities are top-notch, the fans are passionate, and the recruiting base is outstanding. Just don’t lose to Michigan.

6. Oklahoma

Pros: Oklahoma has been a dominant force in college football dating back to the late 1930s. The program has consistently been able to dip into Texas and steal more than its share of elite players on an annual basis. The Big 12, with no Nebraska and no conference title game, offers an easier path to a national championship for OU.

Cons: The state does not produce enough talent to stock the Sooners’ roster with the type of players needed to compete for championship. Recruiting at a high level out of state is a must.

Final Verdict: Not every coach has won big at Oklahoma — John Blake went 8–16 in three seasons (1996-98) — but it is clearly one of the marquee jobs in the nation. Winning a national championship is well within your reach.

7. Michigan

Pros: Michigan has as much tradition as any school in the country. The Wolverines have been a national power since the 1890s and they play in one of the largest venues in the country, 109,901-seat Michigan Stadium. The program’s success and the school’s academic reputation have allowed Michigan to be a major player in recruiting both in the Midwest and nationally.

Cons: Michigan is an old-school program that is very set in its ways. A coach who comes in with a new philosophy — for example, Rich Rodriguez — will have a tough time being accepted.

Final Verdict: Michigan is no doubt an elite job, but as we saw in the Rodriguez era — he won a total of 15 games in three years — you have to be the right fit to win big in Ann Arbor.

8. Georgia

Pros: Georgia has tremendous tradition and is located in arguably the finest college town in America — Athens. The Peach State might not produce talent at the same rate as Florida, Texas or California, but metro Atlanta is always strong, and small towns such as Columbus, Valdosta and Warner Robins consistently produce elite talent.

Cons: There are really no negatives to be found at Georgia, other than the fact that you are competing in the very difficult SEC, and you have a fan base that demands you win at a high level.

Final Verdict: Georgia is a great situation, but you clearly have to have the right guy in place to win big. After Vince Dooley won the third of three straight SEC crowns in 1982, the Bulldogs went nearly two decades — and went through two more coaches — before their next league title, won by Mark Richt in 2002.

9. LSU

Pros: It’s become a bit of a cliché, but there really is nothing like being in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night in the fall. That environment is one reason the Tigers are able to recruit so well. The other? The state of Louisiana is arguably the most underrated talent producer in the nation.

Cons: LSU has so much going for it, but why have so many coaches failed to win at a high level in Baton Rouge? From 1971 though 2000, the Tigers only won one outright SEC championship, in 1986 under Bill Arnsparger.

Final Verdict: It’s hard to find a reason why LSU would not be a desirable coaching position. Sure the competition is tough and the fans are demanding, but that comes with the territory. The school has won two national titles in the past 11 seasons.

10. Notre Dame

Pros: Notre Dame has three unique advantages compared to almost every school in the country — a national following, its own television contract and an unparalleled history that includes 11 consensus national titles.

Cons: Brian Kelly has returned Notre Dame to national prominence, but there was a long stretch in which the Fighting Irish struggled to compete at an elite level. From 1998-2011, ND went 99–72 with an unthinkable six non-winning seasons. The school’s relatively high academic standards can make recruiting more challenging. Also, Notre Dame lacks the home-state recruiting territory of other national powers. Indiana is not great state for high school football.

Final Verdict: Notre Dame might not be the same job it was 20 years ago, but this is still a great situation for the right coach. You can win a national title with the Fighting Irish.

11. Florida State

Pros: You can make the argument that Florida State offers all of the positives of Florida without the brutal competition of the SEC East. Would you rather battle Clemson, NC State and Boston College or Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina every year? 

Cons: Florida State has a nice following, but its fans can be on the fickle side. Last season, when the Seminoles had legitimate national title ambitions, Doak Campbell was “only” filled to 92 percent capacity. Not bad, but not quite up to standards of most programs of similar stature. Also, the ACC has been relatively weak in recent seasons; an undefeated ACC champ might not automatically play for a national title.

Final Verdict: Florida State enjoyed an unbelievable run of success from the late 1980s through the early 2000s. But the Noles lost five games or more three times from 2006-10. Winning is no longer automatic.

12. Oregon

Pros: As long as Phil Knight and the University of Oregon remain in good graces, this program will be blessed with tremendous financial resources. The Nike founder and former Oregon track athlete has donated over $100 million to the school’s athletic department. In addition, the Ducks have a tremendous home field advantage at 54,00-seat Autzen Stadium, regarded as the most raucous atmosphere in the Pac-12.

Cons: Right now, it’s difficult to find many good reasons why the head coaching position at Oregon would not be attractive. The school does lack tradition, but the Ducks have averaged nine wins per season since 1994.

Final Verdict: Ten or 15 years ago, Oregon wouldn’t be nearly as high on this list, but Knight’s money, Mike Bellotti’s recruiting and Chip Kelly’s offensive wizardry transformed this program. It is now clearly one of the most-desirable positions in the country.

13. Texas A&M

Pros: Texas A&M’s facilities are among the very best in the nation. Kyle Field is a bit on the old side and is set to undergo a renovation, but as far as the facilities for recruiting — football complex in the south end zone, the indoor practice facility — A&M has very few rivals. The recruiting base is among the best in the country, and the Aggies, the only SEC school in the state of Texas, should be able to battle the University of Texas for the best players in the state. 

Cons: Even with so much going for it, Texas A&M has had trouble sustaining success throughout its history.   

Final Verdict: Texas A&M is a very intriguing position. It has everything you would want in a job — great facilities, strong following, tremendous recruiting base — but the competition in the SEC West is fierce. If you win at A&M, you will have earned it.

14. Penn State (Note: These rankings do not take NCAA sanctions into consideration.)

Pros: Penn State is an enormous state university in an extremely fertile recruiting area. The Nittany Lions play in the second-largest facility in the country (Beaver Stadium, capacity 107,282), and they have won two national championships in the past 30 years

Cons: Penn State recovered nicely in the latter half of the 2000s, but it’s a bit disconcerting that a program with so much going for it was capable of having four losing seasons in a five-year span like Penn State did from 2000-04. Truly elite programs should not suffer through prolonged droughts.

Final Verdict: Penn State is difficult to evaluate at this point. Sanctions are not supposed to affect these rankings, but Penn State is a unique case. This is a great job, but the program will not compete at a high level until the sanctions are over.

15. Nebraska

Pros: Strong tradition. Amazing facilities. Passionate fans. Those three things don’t guarantee success, but they are a nice place to start. The Big Ten Legends Division has some good programs — Michigan, Iowa and Michigan State — but Nebraska should be in position to compete for a division title on an annual basis.

Cons: The Huskers won three national titles in the 1990s, but the program slipped a bit over the past decade. The state of Nebraska does not produce many high-end BCS conference players each year, and the program no longer has the sex-appeal to steal elite players from the East Coast like it did in the 1970s and 80s.

Final Verdict: Nebraska is a unique coaching position. You have everything in place to win big — except a local recruiting base. How big is that hurdle? Significant but not insurmountable. The Huskers are no longer a top-10 job but still very desirable.

16. UCLA

Pros: UCLA shares the same built-in recruiting advantages as its cross-town rival USC. The 2000s were relatively lean, but UCLA won or shared three Pac-10 titles in the 1990s and four in the ‘80s.

Cons: Life can be tough when you are forced to share a city with one of the elite programs in the nation. And while the Rose Bowl is a beautiful place to play, the facility is 30 miles from campus.

Final Verdict: The Pac-12 is a very good league, but USC and Oregon are the only programs that have enjoyed sustained success in the past 15 years. The right coach can have this program in contention for conference titles on a consistent basis.

17.  Auburn

Pros: Auburn and Georgia are the only two schools in the SEC with at least five winning conference seasons in each of the past four decades. Clearly, this program can be a consistent winner in the nation’s most difficult conference.

Cons: Auburn is a state school with a great following, but it will always be No. 2 in Alabama behind the Crimson Tide from Tuscaloosa.

Final Verdict: If your ego can handle being the second most important coach in the state, then Auburn can be a destination job. The school — with its fine tradition, strong facilities and outstanding recruiting base — has proven over time that it can compete on a national level. The Tigers, after all, won the BCS crown in 2010.

18. Tennessee

Pros: Who wouldn’t want to recruit to picturesque Neyland Stadium, with its 100,000-plus orange-clad zealots cheering on the Vols each week? And while Tennessee has struggled in recent years, the program enjoyed tremendous success in the not-too-distant past. From 1989-2001, the Vols went 80–20–1 in the SEC and claimed four league titles. During that span, they were ranked in the final top 10 of the AP poll seven times.

Cons: The Vols must recruit nationally because the state of Tennessee does not produce enough BCS conference players to stock the school’s roster. This is not a concern for UT’s chief SEC rivals Florida, Georgia, LSU, Auburn and Alabama.

Final Verdict: Tennessee is a great place to coach, but the Vols have slipped down the SEC food chain over the past decade. We now have Tennessee seventh on the list in the league.

19. Clemson

Pros: Clemson is an SEC-like school that has the luxury of playing an ACC schedule. The fans are rabid, the stadium is huge (capacity 81,500), and unlike many its ACC brethren, Clemson is a football school.

Cons: Clemson seemingly has so much going for it, yet the program has only won two ACC titles in the past 24 seasons. If you are a coach interested in the job, you’d have ask yourself the following question: Why is this program a chronic underachiever?

Final Analysis: Clemson presents a great opportunity. The program is a major player in the recruiting game, and it has so many built-in advantages compared to almost every school in the league. The Tigers have the ability to compete for the ACC title on an annual basis.

20. South Carolina

Pros: South Carolina is home to arguably the most loyal fans in the nation. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Gamecock fans routinely filled 80,000-seat Williams Brice Stadium even though their team averaged only six wins per season. In addition, the facilities are great, and the recruiting base is strong.

Cons: Steve Spurrier has broken through in recent years, but South Carolina football has historically been one of the nation’s most underachieving programs.

Final Verdict: South Carolina has won 17 SEC games in the past three seasons — by far its best stretch since joining the league — but we’re still not ready to put this program on the same level as SEC royalty like Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida.  

21. Virginia Tech

Pros: Virginia Tech has a very strong (and underrated) recruiting base, most notably the Hampton Roads-Tidewater area — better known as the ‘757’ by recruiting gurus. The Hokies also have a passionate fan base that creates a tremendous environment at Lane Stadium.

Cons: The school has only been relevant on the national scene under Frank Beamer’s watch. Can another coach recreate the magic?

Final Verdict: Virginia Tech isn’t quite college football royalty, but it’s not far off. Before last season’s 7–6 hiccup, the Hokies had won at least 10 games in at least eight straight seasons. You can win a national title in Blacksburg.

22. Miami

Pros: With the possible exception of USC and UCLA, no school in the country has a better local recruiting base. And while the Canes have struggled in recent years, the program won a national championship as recently as 2001 and played for a title in ’02.

Cons: Miami has the smallest fan base of the top 25 teams on this list. Last season, the Canes ranked 44th in the nation in attendance, averaging 47,719 per game at Sun Life Stadium. The facility is 20 miles from campus and lacks the big-time college football atmosphere.

Final Verdict: Miami is an intriguing job. The recruiting base is outstanding — which gives you a great opportunity to win — but the position lacks many of the other qualities that make coaching at a big-time school so attractive.

23. Oklahoma State

Pros: T. Boone Pickens is a very wealthy man, and he’s a big fan of Oklahoma State football. As a result, the Cowboys boast some of the best facilities in the nation. And these facilities help the O-State coaches tap into a fertile recruiting ground in nearby Texas.

Cons: Since Oklahoma State joined the Big Eight in 1960, the Cowboys have finished ahead of Oklahoma five times. The school will always be the No. 2 program in the state.

Final Verdict: In a vacuum, Oklahoma State would be a wonderful place to coach, but if you have your sights set on competing for a national title on a regular basis, Stillwater might not be the place for you. There’s a reason the school has only won two conference titles since the mid-1950s.

24. Washington

Pros: This is a proud program with great tradition. The Huskies won a national title in 1991 and claimed at least a share of five Pac-10 titles from 1990-2000. UW is in a great city (Seattle) and has an SEC-like following when things are going well.

Cons: The school has addressed the program’s only significant weakness — facilities — with the $250 million renovation to Husky Stadium. Washington’s in-state recruiting base is solid but lags signficantly behind the four California teams in the Pac-12.

Final Verdict: The past decade has proven that it can be difficult to win at Washington. But this is still a very good job. Is it a great job? Not anymore. But it is still a prestigious program that can attract elite talent. You can win at UW.

25. West Virginia

Pros: West Virginia has an SEC feel to it. There are no pro sports to share the spotlight with in the Mountain State; the Mountaineers are the game in town.

Cons: West Virginia’s recruiting base isn’t as strong as many of its rivals in the Big 12. The state simply doesn’t produce many elite-level prospects.

Final Verdict: History tells us that West Virginia is a very good job. The school has won at least 10 games six times since 1988. But it’s not a job without its challenges. It’s a strange geographic fit in the Big 12, which presents some difficulties on the recruiting trail.

26. Wisconsin

Pros: Wisconsin has been transformed into a football school over the past two decades. Badger faithful pack 80,321-seat Camp Randall Stadium each week and create one the best environments in the nation. Madison also is a great place to live.

Cons: The school’s local recruiting base isn’t strong; the state has not produced a national top-100 player in the past four seasons. Also, the Badgers have only been relevant on the national scene since the early 1990s. Wisconsin lacks the tradition of many of its Big Ten rivals.

Final Verdict: Barry Alvarez turned Wisconsin from a Big Ten afterthought to a significant player in college football. But the Badgers’ place as a top program is far from secure. Wisconsin, more than most of the other schools ranked in the top 25 on this list, needs the right coach in place to remain successful.

27. North Carolina

Pros: The school is an easy sell for a recruiter: It’s is one of the premier public institutions in the nation, and its location, in picturesque Chapel Hill, is ideal. UNC has also made a huge financial commitment to football in the past decade.

Cons: North Carolina is — and always will be — a basketball school. That is something that every football coach must accept. And while the school has enjoyed pockets of success, it’s been difficult to win consistently at UNC. Since Mack Brown bolted for Texas after the 1997 season, the Tar Heels have averaged 3.5 ACC wins.

Final Verdict: North Carolina’s lack of success over the years might surprise even a knowledgeable college football fan. The Tar Heels have not won an ACC Championship since 1980 and have not strung together back-to-back winning ACC seasons since the mid-1990s. Still, this is a desirable position for a coach. It’s a great school that has made a strong commitment to the football program.

28. Arkansas

Pros: Recently renovated Reynolds Razorback Stadium — with its 76,000 seats and 30x107-foot LED video screen — is one of the most underrated venues in the nation. Arkansas is the only BCS program in the state, giving the school an advantage in recruiting homegrown talent.

Cons: The Hogs have found it tough to win consistently since bolting the Southwest Conference for the SEC in the early 1990s. Arkansas is 85-89-2 in the SEC and has only once had back-to-back winning seasons in the league.

Final Verdict: Arkansas is quite similar to several of the non-elite coaching positions in the SEC. It’s a good job, but it’s not a destination job for a coach with national title aspirations.

29. Louisville

Pros: Louisville has solid facilities and is in a good spot geographically to consistently attract top recruits. Kentucky is not a great talent producer, but Louisville can recruit Ohio and Illinois due to its proximity to those states and has always done a good job recruiting Florida. Also, the school “survived” the realignment wars, finding a home in the ACC beginning in 2014.

Cons: The school lacks football tradition and doesn’t have the fan base that most of the other schools have ranked in the top 50 of this list. When the Cards are good, they draw well. But in 2009, in the final season of the Steve Kragthrope era, they ranked 71st in the nation in attendance, averaging 32,540 per game.

Final Verdict: Like many of the schools in the Big East, Louisville is only as good as its coach. Bobby Petrino won big in his four years. Kragthorpe flopped in his three seasons. Charlie Strong has done well in his three seasons. With the right fit, Louisville competes for league titles.

30. Michigan State

Pros: Michigan State seemingly has everything in place to be a major player in the Big Ten — great fan support (averaged 75,382 per game in ’12), good facilities, strong recruiting base and decent tradition.

Cons: Despite all of the positives listed above, Michigan State has only won one Big Ten title — in 2009 — in two decades and has only averaged 6.0 wins in the 47 seasons since claiming a share of the 1966 national championship. Also, there’s the Michigan thing: No matter how much success the Spartans enjoy, they will always be the second school in the state behind Michigan.

Final Verdict: Michigan State has been an underachiever and will never be the No. 1 program in its own state. Still, it’s a good job. If you can change the culture in East Lansing —which Mark Dantonio has apparently done — there is no reason Michigan State can’t contend for Big Ten titles on a semi-regular basis.

31. Pittsburgh

Pros: Pittsburgh is located in the heart of Western Pennsylvania, which gives the Panthers a solid recruiting base. The school also shares its football facility with the Pittsburgh Steelers — which can be a positive (NFL influence) or negative (no on-campus stadium).

Cons: It’s been tough to win consistently at Pitt over the past three decades. The Panthers have only had a winning record in 14 of the 29 seasons since Jackie Sherrill bolted.

Final Verdict: Former coach Dave Wannstedt proved that you can attract talent to play at Pittsburgh. But it’s a school with a ceiling. The Panthers should consistently win seven or eight games per season, but can you win a national title? Not likely.

32. TCU

Pros: TCU is located in the heart of the most fertile recruiting area in the country. The Horned Frogs have vastly improved their facilities over the past five years and now are a member of one of the nation’s top conferences.

Cons: TCU is now back in a power conference, but it’s still a small private school (8,000-plus undergrads) in league comprised mostly of massive state schools. The fan base will never be as large as many of its rivals.

Final Verdict: Perhaps no school other than Boise State has improved its national profile in the past 5-10 years as much as TCU. The school is back in a power conference after bouncing around for 16 years in the mid-major ranks (WAC to C-USA to MWC). This is not an elite job — TCU will always take a back seat to Texas, Texas A&M and even Texas Tech in its own state — but it’s a much better opportunity for a coach than it was 10 years ago.

33. Ole Miss

Pros: Historically, Mississippi produces as many Division I prospects per capita as any state in the nation. There is plenty of competition for these recruits (Mississippi State, Alabama, LSU, etc.), but a good coach will be able to keep the Rebels stocked with solid talent. Support for Rebel football is also very strong; the Rebs averaged 57,066 per game in 2012. Also, Ole Miss’ facilities have improved tremendously in the past five years.

Cons: You have to go back to the early 1960s to find a time in which Ole Miss was a major player in the SEC. The Rebels haven’t won a league title since 1963, and they are only team in the West (outside of SEC West newcomer Texas A&M) that has not played in an SEC Championship Game.

Final Verdict: Ole Miss has made the commitment to its football program, but it takes more than a commitment — and more than one top-10 recruiting class — to beat the elite SEC programs on a consistent basis. This job has great potential, but Ole Miss hasn’t “arrived” yet.

34. Iowa

Pros: Three key elements make Iowa an attractive job — it’s the top school in the state (sorry, Iowa State), it has a strong tradition of excellence (five Big Ten titles since 1981, two BCS bowls since ‘03) and it has great fan support (70,474 per game in ’12).

Cons: Iowa might be the top dog in the state, but the hunting grounds aren’t very fertile. To remain competitive, the Hawkeyes’ staff will always have to go into other teams’ home states to recruit.

Final Verdict: It’s difficult for a school that doesn’t have a strong local recruiting base to compete for national title. It can be done — Nebraska won three titles in the 1990s — but that is a very big hurdle to climb.

35. California

Pros: Cal is one of the premier public institutions in the nation located in a great area, giving the Bears a recruiting edge against most of the other schools in the Pac-12. The school is also located in the fertile recruiting area of Northern California. And the facilities, long time an issue at the school, have recently received a major upgrade.

Cons: Bears have had trouble winning consistently; they have two Pac-12 titles (none outright) since 1958.

Final Verdict: Cal is an intriguing job. There is a lot to like, but there are certain drawbacks. You can win in Berkeley, but the culture of the university will likely prevent the football program from ever reaching elite status.

36. Missouri

Pros: Missouri has an underrated recruiting base. There is a solid crop of instate talent every year, and Mizzou does a decent job landing players from Texas and Illinois.

Cons: It’s been tough to win consistently at Missouri. Dating back to the days of the Big Eight, the Tigers have only had seven winning seasons in league play since 1983. The SEC East presents several huge challenges on an annual basis.

Final Verdict: Missouri is a good job — but not a great job. You can average eight wins per season and go to decent bowl games, but the Tigers aren’t much of a threat to contend for SEC titles.

37. BYU

Pros: BYU has been one of the most consistent winners in college football over the past four decades. Since 1973, the Cougars have only had three losing seasons — all in the 2000s under Gary Crowton — and they have a national title (1984) on their resume. The school’s LDS Church affiliation gives it an inside track to land the elite Mormon recruits from all over the country.

Cons: The recruiting pool, while national to some degree, is somewhat limited at BYU; the school has trouble attracting black players. BYU’s decision to bolt the Mountain West and become an Independent was a bit risky.

Final Verdict: BYU is a unique position. For the right coach, it’s a great job. You can win a bunch of games in Provo, but it remains to be seen if the Cougars can become a national player as one of only four FBS independent schools.

38. Boise State

Pros: Boise State has dominated its league like no other school in the nation over the past decade. The Broncos won at least a share of the WAC eight times in the their final 10 years in the league, and they are 13–2 in their first two seasons in the Mountain West. The school has also been able to crash the BCS party two times in the past seven seasons.

Cons: The move from the WAC to the Mountain West is a plus, but the Broncos’ schedule strength — or lack thereof — will continue to be an issue as it fights for respect in the polls.

Final Verdict: With its blue turf and its deep bag of trick plays, Boise State has created a brand for itself on the college football landscape. This is a cozy job for someone not interested in all of the perks that come with coaching at a school with an SEC-type fan base.

39. Arizona State

Pros: The Sun Devils have made a significant investment in their facilities in recent years, with an indoor practice bubble and new weight and locker rooms. And recently, plans were announced to upgrade Sun Devil Stadium. Arizona State has won three Pac-12 titles in its 30-plus years in the league (1986, ’96 and ’07). Oh, we can’t forget about the weather.

Cons: While the school has experienced pockets of success (three league titles), the Devils have strung together back-to-back winning Pac-10 seasons only once since John Cooper bolted in 1987.

Final Verdict: Arizona State offers a pretty good situation for a school without a strong local recruiting base. The weather is great and the tradition is good enough. USC, Oregon and UCLA will always the top jobs in the league, but with the right coach in place, ASU can be a consistent force in the Pac-12.

40. Arizona

Pros: Arizona has never been a Pac-10 power, but the school has more than held its own for much of its 32 years in the league. The Wildcats had 11 winning Pac-10 seasons in a 13-year stretch from 1982-94. Good coaches have shown the ability to attract talent to Tucson.

Cons: Since 1994, Arizona has only had a winning Pac-12 record twice — 1998 and 2009.

Final Verdict: Being a good recruiter is obviously important at every school, but it is of paramount importance at Arizona. The school is without many of the built-in advantages (tradition, top facilities, etc.) that exist at some of the Pac-12 programs, so you have to convince players to come to Arizona for reasons other than the weather.

41. Texas Tech

Pros: Texas Tech has proven it can win consistently. Prior to 2010, the Red Raiders had been .500 or better in league play — SWC and Big 12 — 22 times in the previous 25 seasons. The school has recently invested in the program with an $84 million renovation to Jones AT&T Stadium.

Cons: While the program has managed to remain competitive, winning titles has been very difficult in Lubbock. The school has not won an outright conference title since 1955, when it claimed its third straight Border Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship. Also, recruiting to Lubbock — the outpost of the Big 12 — can be a bit difficult.

Final Verdict: Texas Tech might be the fourth most attractive job in its own state, but it’s still a very good program that has proven it can’t remain relevant in the Big 12.

42. North Carolina State

Pros: The facilities at NC State are among the finest in the ACC. The spectacular Murphy Center, a football-only building, houses coaches’ offices, the weight room and dining area for the players, among other things. The school’s recruiting base, the Carolinas and Virginia, is strong.

Cons: The school doesn’t have a strong record of success. NC State hasn’t won an ACC title since 1979 and has had only seven winning league seasons since 1990.

Final Verdict: This program has underachieved over the past decade. Everything is in place — facilities, fan support, recruiting base — to be a consistent winner in the ACC.

43. Rutgers

Pros: Rutgers’ location affords the coaching staff the opportunity to stock its entire roster with local talent. The facilities have been upgraded in recent years, most notably the $102 million expansion to Rutgers Stadium. Also, being just over 30 miles from New York City — the media capital of the world — can’t hurt.

Cons: The school has almost no tradition; prior to the mid-2000s, the program was irrelevant. And while support for Rutgers football has grown in recent years, pro sports will always be No. 1 in the metropolitan area.

Final Verdict: Long considered the sleeping giant on the East Coast, Rutgers has emerged as a consistent winner in the Big East. Whether or not this is a true destination job is up for debate, but it’s clear that you can win a bunch of games and go to bowl games at Rutgers.

44. Virginia

Pros: Virginia is great school in a great college town, and the state consistently produces a high number of BCS level recruits.

Cons: The school has a surprisingly bad track record in football. George Welsh had a nice run in the 1980s and 90s, but other than that, the Cavaliers have had a tough time fielding a consistently competitive program. UVa has won a total of two championships (both shared) in its 56 years in the ACC. Recruiting can also be tough at Virginia, based on the school’s relatively tough academic standards.

Final Verdict: This school should be able to be consistently competitive in the ACC. Other than its lack of tradition, everything is seemingly in place to elevate the profile of this program.

45. Georgia Tech

Pros: Georgia is annually one of the top talent-producing states in the nation, giving the Yellow Jackets’ staff an opportunity to land quality recruiting classes despite the fact that the University of Georgia is the top Dawg in the state. Tech has also proven over time that it can win consistently in the ACC; the Jackets have been .500 or better in league play in 19 straight seasons.

Cons: Georgia Tech will always be the second most popular program in its own city, which is probably more of a problem for the school’s fans than its players and coaches. The male-to-female ratio (about 2-to-1) at the school can’t help recruiting, either.

Final Verdict: Georgia Tech might not come to mind when you think about some of the top programs in the nation, but this is a solid football school with underrated tradition. It’s been proven that you can win titles — both ACC (2009, 1998, 1990) and national (1990).

46. Maryland

Pros: Maryland has enjoyed pockets of success over the last three decades. Bobby Ross won three straight ACC titles from 1983-85 and Ralph Friedgen went a combined 31–8 from 2001-03, and won eight-plus games in 2008 and 2010. And while it isn’t to the Oregon/Nike level, the school’s close ties with UnderArmour is a positive.

Cons: The impending move to the Big Ten will help the school in many ways, but it might have a negative impact on the football program’s recruiting. Maryland isn’t going to beat out many Big Ten schools for prospects from the Midwest, and the school won’t have the same appeal for many players in the Mid-Atlantic Region and Southeast now that the Terps won’t be playing an ACC schedule.

Final Verdict: Maryland is a lower-tier job in the ACC. And it will be a lower-tier job in the Big Ten. You can win games, but it will be very difficult for any coach to compete for championships in the current landscape.

47. Stanford

Pros: Stanford offers the best combination of elite academics (top 5 in U.S. News & World Report) and big-time college football. The school’s outstanding reputation allows the staff to recruit nationally.

Cons: Until recently, sustained success had been tough to achieve on The Farm. From the late 1970s through the late 2000s, Stanford was unable to string together more than two straight wining seasons. The school’s strict academic standards — even for athletes — shrinks the recruiting pool considerably.

Final Verdict: Stanford is not for everybody, but it is a great job for a coach who embraces the school’s mission. The Cardinal struggled for much of the 2000s, but this is a program that has emerged as a national power in recent years.

48. South Florida

Pros: South Florida has a tremendous local recruiting base and is a member of the conference with the least resistance to a BCS bowl (for now). The Bulls proved they can be a consistent winner in the FBS ranks, averaging 8.4 wins from 2006-10.

Cons: South Florida lacks tradition and does not have an on-campus stadium. The Bulls play their home games 15 miles from campus. And while the recruiting base is strong, South Florida will always have a tough time beating out the Big Three — Florida, Florida State and Miami — for top prospects.

Final Verdict: Many view South Florida as an emerging national power. The school does have a ton of potential, but it is difficult to get overly excited about a program that is the fourth-most relevant program in its own state — even if that state is Florida.

49. Illinois

Pros: Illinois’ local recruiting base — from Chicago down into St. Louis — is among the best in the Big Ten. The facilities (weight room, practice facility, locker rooms, etc.) are strong, and the stadium recently received a $200 million upgrade.

Cons: Basketball is — and will always be — the top sport at Illinois. Football, for whatever reason, has never been much of a threat to break into the upper echelon of the league. Also, the fan support at Illinois isn’t as strong as the top programs in the Big Ten. Last year, the Illini averaged only 45,564 fans per game.

Final Verdict: Despite being the fifth most populous state, Illinois checks in No. 8 in our list of the Big Ten’s most attractive coaching positions. There is a lot to like about the job, but there are also reasons why the school has only won three Big Ten titles (two outright) since the early 1960s.

50. Colorado

Pros: Colorado lacks the tradition of some of the Pac-12 powers, but this program has enjoyed strong pockets of success over the past 25 years. The Buffs won three Big Eight championships in a row from 1989-91 (along with a national title in ’90), and they won four Big 12 North titles in the 2000s. With the right coach in place, this is a school that will attract quality players.

Cons: The facilities at Colorado lag behind most BCS conference schools, and the school’s commitment to athletics has been questioned in recent years. The Buffaloes recently announced a $170 million facility upgrade proposal, which is a step in the right direction. Also, the CU fans can be fickle; Folsom Field (53,750) has rarely been filled to capacity over the past few seasons.

Final Analysis: Three different coaches have won 10 games in a season since 1990, so it’s possible to win big at Colorado. But until the school makes a significant commitment to the program — which it claims to be doing now — CU cannot be considered an elite job.

51. Baylor

Baylor’s recruiting base has always made it an intriguing job. There is more than enough talent in the state to stock a talented roster, even with Texas and Texas A&M grabbing most of the elite players. The school also will open a new, 45,000-seat Stadium on Brazos River in 2014. However, Baylor will always be down low on the food chain among the FBS schools in the state of Texas. As a small, private school, support will always be an issue. Art Briles is proving that Baylor can compete in the Big 12, as he has led the Bears to their best three-year stretch (25 wins) in program history. The new stadium and the university’s commitment to the program should allow Baylor to remain relevant if Briles ever bolts for greener pastures.

52. Kentucky

Kentucky has announced desperately needed facilities upgrades, while the pay scale for new head coach Mark Stoops' staff is significantly higher. So on the surface it appears the school is finally making a commitment to the football program. That said, pigskin will always take a backseat to basketball at UK and unilke other SEC members, the Bluegrass State doesn't boast near the quantity of elite high school prospects. Those two disadvantages alone make winning consistently difficult at Kentucky, especially considering it's in the nation's toughest and most cut-throat conference.

53. Purdue

Purdue is a program that has experienced consistent success in the Big Ten during the BCS era. The Boilermakers went 48–32 in league play during the first 10 years of the Joe Tiller era. Support is solid when the program is winning. This is not easy, however, because the Boilermakers have to compete with two other BCS programs for the top talent within its own borders to begin with. Purdue also doesn't have much margin for error when it comes to sustained success, as evidenced by the difference between the tenure of Tiller and the man who succeeded him, Danny Hope (22-27, 13-19 in Big Ten from 2009-12).

54. Cincinnati

Cincinnati is in a prime location when it comes to recruiting, being in Ohio and relativel close to Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. Despite the program's recent success, fan support has remained tepid at best and despite the school's best efforts, the Bearcats appear stuck in the Big East for the forseeable future. Still, this is a place where the right man can win, as four different coaches have won at least seven games twice since 2000.

55. Mississippi State

Mississippi State has shown an ability to field a competitive team on a semi-regular basis in the past two decades. The Bulldogs have had a winning overall record in 11 of the 22 seasons since the first wave of SEC expansion in 1991. Support for Mississippi State football is at an all-time high; the Bulldogs averaged 55,648 (100.99 percent of capacity) at Davis Wade Stadium last season. Starkville, however, isn't necessarily viewed as a prime desination for the top prospects, especially with SEC West foes Alabama, Auburn and LSU, not to mention in-state rival Ole Miss, always lurking nearby. One could argue that this is the toughest job in the SEC West, if not the entire SEC.

56. Minnesota

The Gophers have a relatively new stadium that provided a significant upgrade from the outdated Metrodome. As the only Division I (FBS or FCS) program in the state, Minnesota should land its fare share of in-state recruits. On the other hand, the school's location and climate make it a tough sell for out-of-state prospects. The Gophers also don't have much of an established football tradition and seems to be one of the few Big Ten schools with a clearly defined ceiling when it comes to success. Think five-to-eight wins, and not division or conference championships.

57. Oregon State

Thanks in large part to Mike Riley, Oregon State has shown that it can compete and remain relvelant in the Pac-12 for an extended period of time. That does not change the fact, however, that it's a distant second within its own state, as Oregon holds every advantage, most notably attractiveness to highly rated recruits and facilities. The Beavers simply can't compete on these levels with the Nike-funded Ducks, which also puts them behind the pecking order in the Pac-12.

58. Utah

Prior to its move to the Pac-12, Utah had emerged as one of the few non-BCS conference teams that was able to compete on the national scene. Now, as a member of the Pac-12 South — along with USC and UCLA —  the Utes should enjoy success recruiting in Southern California. Utah still has to compete with BYU for their state's top high school talent, and while the Utes changed their profile with the move to the Pac-12, it's tough to envision this program being a more desirable destination than USC, UCLA and both of the Arizona schools.

59. Syracuse

As recently as the early 2000s, Syracuse was a top-25 program. The Orangemen, as they were called then, won nine games or more eight times in a 15-year span from 1987-2001. Since that span, however, the program has gone the other direction, managing just two winning seasons in the past 11. Support has dwindled as well, and even though Syracuse will be moving into the ACC this fall, a new conference home doesn't "fix" the Orange's other primary disadvantages — location and its home recruiting base.

60. Kansas State

Kansas State has averaged 8.5 wins over the past 20 years and been ranked in the final AP poll 12 times over that span. Support for K-State football is very strong, especially when the team is winning. The only problem is that one man — Bill Snyder — has been able to win at Kansas State. Over two different tenures, Snyder has been able to overcome a bunch of hurdles  — poor recruiting base, remote location, lack of tradition prior to the 1990s — to win at a high level on a consistent basis. Can another coach succeed in Manhattan? We’ll find out soon enough. Snyder turns 74 this fall.

61. Kansas

While it’s difficult to win at Kansas, it can be done. The school has invested in facilities over the past decade. If only the fan base could get a little more behind the football team, as the crowd and atmosphere at Phog Allen Fieldhouse doesn't carry over to Memorial Stadium. That's the downside of being at a basketball school and i doesn't help that the Jayhawks usually come up second to in-state rival Kansas State when it comes to local high-level recruits. These are the main reasons why no coach since the 1950s has enjoyed sustained success in Lawrence.

62. Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt is an elite academic institution located in a great city. The school is spending more money than ever on athletics, from salaries for the coaching staff to the new indoor practice facility. Even though Vanderiblt is in the SEC, the pressure to win isn't near as great as elsewhere in the conference. Because of its academic reputation and the fact it is a private school, the Commodores will remain low on the totem pole in the SEC in terms of fan base and overall support. The good news is that James Franklin is proving that a recruit can have the best of both worlds — get a Vanderbilt education and win games in the nation’s best conference. Still, this is a very difficult job, maybe the toughest of any school in an AQ conference.

63. Northwestern

As the only private school in the Big Ten, Northwestern can be an attractive option for a top-flight recruit from the Midwest who is looking for an elite academic institution. The university has recently approved a $225-250 million facilities overhaul for all of the athletic programs. Football will no doubt be a huge beneficiary. However, no matter how much money is pumped into the program, Northwestern will always struggle to keep up with the elite programs in the Big Ten, from a recruiting and facilities standpoint. You can win at Northwestern, but it will always be a challenge.

64. Iowa State

Cyclone fans sure love Iowa State football. Last season, the school averaged 55,274 fans per game (100.5 percent of capacity) at Jack Trice Stadium. Not bad for a school that has had one winning season since 2005. It still trails in-state rival Iowa when it comes to attracting the Hawkeye State's top recruits. Competing in the Big 12, both on the field and off of it, with the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and others, doesn't help matters. There’s a reason the school has not won more than seven games in consecutive seasons since the late 1970s.

65. Washington State

The fact that the Cougars won 10 games in three straight seasons (2001-03) and played in the Rose Bowl in 2002 proves that you can win games in Pullman. It does not change, however, the fact that Pullman is the most remote outpost in the Pac-12. It can be difficult to attract prospects from California to play collegiately in Eastern Washington. The school also has upgraded facilities in recent years, but it still lags behind most schools in the conference on this front.

66. Houston
Houston is an elite area for high school talent, as is the whole state of Texas, but there also are plenty of mouths to feed and the Cougars are near the back of the line.

67. UCF
UCF is located in the heart of the talent-rich Sunshine State and near the bottom of the pecking order after Florida, Florida State, Miami and South Florida.

68. Boston College
Boston College was one of the most consistent programs in the nation from the late 1990s through the late 2000s, but times have changed and the schoool's northern location hinders its chances of a turnaround.

69. Fresno State
Prime location makes it the second-best job in the Mountain West.

70. Indiana
Whether it's basketball, the recruiting base or the conference, it's  tough to win in Bloomington.

71. Wake Forest
Jim Grobe has been the only one to win consistently at the academic-minded, small private school since the early 1950s.

72. Duke
Basketball, academics and a lack of support are the main obstacles to sustained success on the gridiron in Durham, N.C.

73. Connecticut
Conference realignment has not helped the Huskies when it comes to attracting the Northeast's top recruits.

74. SMU
SMU's location and recruiting base are the only reasons why the Mustangs aren't lower as brand recognition, tradition and fan base support are basically non-existent.

75. San Diego State
Sleeping giant has shown signs of life in recent years.

76. Southern Miss
No member of the reconfigured C-USA has a stronger tradition of winning.

77. Northern Illinois
Recruiting base will ensure that you will always have a talented roster at NIU.

78. East Carolina
Solid program with good support, recruiting base and tradition.

79. Temple
Back in the Big East, but this program has a long ways to go in terms of tradition, fan support and national perception.

80. Tulsa  
It’s the third best job in a decent state for high school talent.

81. Nevada  
Move to the Mountain West has made it harder to win in Reno.

82. Toledo  
Each of the last nine coaches have won at least eight games in a season at Toledo.

83. Navy  
The Midshipmen have emerged as the best option of the Military Academies.

84. Utah State  
Aggies are a distant third in their own state, but Gary Andersen proved you can win in Logan.

85. Colorado State  
There is plenty of tradition, but the Rams have had one winning season since 2003.

86. Air Force  
The Falcons are always good but never great. 

87. New Mexico  
Great location — unless you have to recruit.

88. Memphis
Move the to the Big East should make Tigers even more attractive... to basketball recruits.

89. Wyoming
Pokes have few built-in advantages, which makes it hard to sustain success.

90. Marshall  
Herd should be able to stock roster with players from Ohio and Pennsylvania.

91. Louisiana Tech  
Great talent base, but facilities are an issue.

92. Miami (Ohio)  
The Cradle of Coaches has lost its luster.

93. Troy  
It’s the top job in the Sun Belt — for whatever that’s worth.

94. UTEP  
Still in Texas, but El Paso is a long way from everything.

95. North Texas  
There are plenty of players, but it’s the ninth-best job in the state.

96. San Jose State  
Great location — if you a realtor.

97. Hawaii  
It’s tougher to recruit at Hawaii than most would imagine.

98. UNLV   
Getting players never seems to be an issue. Winning is.

99. Army  
Kids would rather play for Navy and Air Force.

100. Central Michigan  
Good coaches have proven they can win big at CMU.

101. Ohio  
Frank Solich is the first coach to win consistently since the 1930s.

102. FAU  
Strong recruiting base and a new stadium have raised FAU’s profile.

103. Middle Tennessee  
Decent location, but fan support has been low despite strong success.

104. Arkansas State  
Red Wolves have been able to hire good coaches. Retaining them is next step.

105. Western Kentucky  
Hilltoppers have made a steady climb since joining the FBS ranks.

106. FIU  
Great location. Little tradition.

107. UAB  
Have you seen Legion Field in the past 10 years?

108. Bowling Green  
Urban Meyer isn’t walking through that door.

109. Western Michigan  
It’s No. 4 in its own state and No. 4 in the MAC West.

110. UL-Lafayette  
Ragin’ Cajuns should be able to compete for Sun Belt titles.

111. Akron  
Zips have one league title in school history.

112. Kent State  
Only two winning seasons since 1987.

113. Rice  
It’s one of the toughest jobs in an elite state for talent.

114. ULM  
2012 was the school’s first with a winning record since joining FBS ranks.

115. Ball State  
It’s the fifth-best job in its own division.

116. Tulane  
Move to Big East, new stadium will raise Tulane’s profile.

117. Georgia State  
Panthers will move up the food chain if they can recruit well locally.

118. UTSA   
The Roadrunners are in a better league (C-USA) than Texas State (Sun Belt).

119. Texas State  
It’s got the potential to be one of the best jobs in the Sun Belt.

120. Buffalo  
Turner Gill proved winning is possible at Buffalo.

121. South Alabama  
Jaguars will have to start stealing some recruits from in-state Sun Belt rival Troy.

122. New Mexico State  
At least Las Cruces is a nice place to live.

123. UMass  
Minutemen need to build on-campus stadium to become relevant in the MAC.

124. Eastern Michigan  
The locals don’t exactly flock to watch the Eagles play on Saturday.

125. Idaho  
No league + Bad location = Very, very difficult job.


Related College Football Content

ACC College Football Job Rankings for 2013
Big East College Football Job Rankings for 2013

Big 12 College Football Job Rankings for 2013

Big Ten College Football Job Rankings for 2013

Pac-12 College Football Job Rankings for 2013

SEC College Football Job Rankings for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Ranking College Football's Coaching Jobs for 2013</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 09:35
Path: /nascar/8-amazing-stats-phoenix-international-raceway
Body:

After a Daytona 500 that catered to the more intelligent teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage — track position and strategy reigned supreme — one of the two duels this season in the Arizona desert greets America’s best drivers on Sunday.

There are a lot of unknowns with the Gen-6 car taking to a surface and configuration at Phoenix International Raceway that is just three races old. What we do know, and what we could anticipate, is revealed in the numbers.

For PEER and other metrics with which you may be unfamiliar, I refer you to my glossary of terms on MotorsportsAnalytics.com.


78.8% Following his win in the Daytona 500, Jimmie Johnson currently has a 78.8 percent chance of making the Chase, the highest percentage in the series through one race.

And that’s a conservative figure based on past averages. If Johnson and the No. 48 team out-performs their past selves at a few tracks during the 26-race “regular season,” then they are even more of a lock to clinch a playoff berth for the 10th time in 10 years. One such track is Phoenix, where, when we last saw Johnson, he crashed in the penultimate race of last year’s Chase that served as the first blow of the self inflicted 1-2 punch that knocked him out of contention for the championship. He is followed by Brad Keselowski (68.7 percent) and Greg Biffle (53.1 percent) in the current race to the Chase.


7.500 According to PEER (Production in Equal Equipment Rating), Denny Hamlin, the winner of last year’s race, is the most productive driver at Phoenix, heading into the weekend with a 7.500.

Hamlin and crew chief Darian Grubb scored a win in their second race together as a driver-crew chief combination, leading the last 59 laps en route to the win in 2012. Additionally, he finished second there last fall after leading 46 laps and averaging a third-place running position.
 

Teaser:
<p> NASCAR Numbers Game: Phoenix</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 18:04
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Overtime
Path: /mlb/weirdest-things-happen-baseball-2012
Body:

Baseball is filled with amazing statistics, bizarre coincidences and lots of oddball occurrences. Last season was no exception, so we pulled together the best of the best and put them into this handy Calendar of MLB Weirdness. Enjoy!

APRIL

April 6 Carlos Pena, who was a combined 4-for-46 off CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera, belts a grand slam off the former and the game-ending hit against the latter.

April 7 Prince Fielder hits his 232nd home run in his 1,000th game — exactly the same number poppa Cecil had in his first 1,000 games.

April 7 Ronny Paulino goes 4-for-4 in his Orioles debut, making him 13-for-17 in his initial starts with his four teams.

April 7 Jordan Schafer, who wasn’t yet born when Jamie Moyer allowed his first leadoff home run, tags Moyer for a leadoff home run.

April 8 For the first time in 46 years, the Yankees and Red Sox both start 0–3.

April 10 Yu Darvish is the first pitcher since 1910 to win a major league debut despite allowing at least four first-inning runs.

April 11 Jonny Gomes absorbs a walk-off hit-by-pitch in extra innings for the second season in a row.

April 13 The White Sox remain unbeaten in eight tries at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday the 13ths.

April 17 The Cardinals manufacture a walk-off run in the 10th against the Reds without an official at-bat (walk, sac bunt, intentional walk, walk sac fly).

April 18 Bartolo Colon throws 38 straight strikes during his eight shutout innings of the Angels.

April 19 Six batters into their game, the Astros already have lashed three triples in the same inning for the first time in their history.

April 20 The Blue Jays (who hadn’t turned one in 33 years) turn a triple play against the Royals (who hadn’t hit into one in 33 years).

April 20 Two of the four Red Sox pitchers (Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett) ever to allow five home runs in a game do so in a span of 12 days.

April 26 The Mets beat the Marlins in walk-off fashion after fielding a starting lineup consisting entirely of homegrown talent for the first time in 40 years.

MAY

May 2 Two 40-year-olds — Chipper Jones and Jason Giambi — stroke walk-off home runs on the same day.

May 5 Twenty-eight games into their season, the Angels finally get a home run from a first baseman — Mark Trumbo, not Albert Pujols.

May 8 A foul ball bounces into the cup of a Padres fan, who chugs his beer before removing it.

May 8 After not stealing a base in his first 219 major league games, catcher John Baker swipes one in the seventh and eighth innings.

May 8 Rod Barajas (hitting .127) and Brandon Inge (.128) rise up for walk-off home runs.

May 11 Brandon Inge (recently claimed off waivers by Oakland after starting 2-for-20 in Detroit) drives in exactly four runs for the fourth time in five games, giving him 16 RBIs on five hits.

May 18 The Elias Sports Bureau points out that Kevin Millwood is the third pitcher this season (following Barry Zito and Jerome Williams) to throw a shutout at least eight years after his previous one — something that had happened only once in the previous half-century.

May 20 All 15 of Max Scherzer’s strikeouts in seven innings against the Pirates are swinging.

May 21 Jamie Moyer pitches in his 50th different ballpark.

May 24 Michael Bourn’s three home runs in his last 11 at-bats are one more than he’d hit in his previous 925.

May 27 For the second time this month, a team’s only five hits are solo home runs.

May 28 For just the fifth time in history (but the second time in nine days), a pitcher (Chris Sale, duplicating Max Scherzer’s feat) strikes out 15 batters and allows as few as five base runners in a start of 7.1 innings or less.

May 29 Reds third baseman Todd Frazier saves the life of a restaurant patron with the Heimlich maneuver, then hacks up a double and a triple in a win over the Pirates.

JUNE

June 6 On a day they play each other, the Brewers and Cubs each draft their manager’s son.

June 12 The Giants’ 16-game streak without a home run at home — the longest in baseball since 1983 — is ended by a pitcher, Madison Bumgarner.

June 13 Of the night’s four shutouts, three are by a 1–0 score and the other is Matt Cain’s perfect game.

June 13 Bryce Harper’s camp applies for a patent on the phrase, “That’s a clown question, bro.”

June 15 Drew Hutchison is the third pitcher in the same turn through the Toronto rotation to land on the DL after a mid-game injury, two of which are season-ending.

June 17 Two games last 15 innings just one day after two had extended to 14, marking the first time in history there were a pair of at least that length on successive days.

June 24 Waiver claim Brooks Conrad collects as many hits (three) and just one fewer RBIs (five) in his first 10 innings as a Ray as he did in 25 games as a Brewer.

June 24 The White Sox must remove Brent Lillibridge in the 10th inning because he’s just been traded to Boston, and the player who replaces him (Eduardo Escobar) lines a walk-off single. 

June 27 Daniel Murphy, after not homering in 103 games over nearly 50 weeks, takes Cubs pitchers deep in consecutive innings.

June 27 The Yankees put 428 career pitching victories (Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia) on the DL on the same day.

June 27 The Dodgers are shut out by the Giants for the third straight day, making it the first time in the 129-year history of the franchise they failed to score in a three-game series.

June 27 The Diamondbacks suspend TV play-by-play man Deron Sutton, reportedly for refusing to wear the team’s logo shirt instead of a suit on air.

JULY

July 1 The Dodgers end a streak of 66 innings in which they never lead.

July 2 Two consecutive Pirates clank home runs off the right field foul pole at PNC Park.

July 9 Home Run Derby captains Matt Kemp and Robinson Cano combine to clear the fence one time in the annual competition.

July 13 Zack Greinke is the first pitcher since 1917 to start three consecutive games for his team, yet he pitches a total of only eight innings while allowing 10 runs. (Later, he misses his next start due to fatigue.)

July 21 On the same day the Cardinals score all 12 of their runs against the Cubs in one inning, the Pirates become the first team in 14 years to tally four times in an inning without a hit.

July 21 Starting pitchers Matt Cain and Cole Hamels take each other deep in the same inning.

July 22 The A’s make it eight walk-off wins in their last 16 home games.

July 23 One day after losing by five runs in extra innings, the Mets lose by six runs in extra innings.

July 24 Cliff Lee, a former AL leader in lowest home run frequency, becomes the first starter in 24 years to serve up four in one game after the sixth inning.

July 25 Tommy Hanson, who throws 108 pitches in five innings against the Marlins, allows three hits (all doubles — two of them leadoff), seven walks, seven stolen bases — and one run.

July 25 The Phillies complete a three-game sweep of the Brewers, with each victory by a 7–6 score.

July 30 On their 17th try, the Braves finally win a game on a Monday, ending a streak that had lasted nearly a full year.

AUGUST

Aug. 1 The Mets fail to score during an inning in which they draw three walks, get hit by a pitch and steal three bases.

Aug. 1 A Daytona Cubs intern is ejected from the game for playing “Three Blind Mice” over the PA system after a questionable call.

Aug. 2 Padres catcher Eddy Rodriguez, who was hitting .223 with 100 strikeouts in 87 Class-A games, not only homers in his first big-league at-bat, but also does it against Johnny Cueto, who had not allowed one to a right-handed hitter in 169 innings.

Aug. 3 The brothers Upton, B.J. and Justin, hit their 100th home runs within less than an hour of each other.

Aug. 5 On the day Oakland’s streak of 10 straight one-run wins concludes, the Orioles extend theirs to 10.

Aug. 6 Ichiro hits safely in his first dozen games as a Yankee, with exactly one knock in each contest.

Aug. 9 Joaquin Benoit surrenders his ninth hit since the All-Star break, seven of which are home runs.

Aug. 10 The same fan — a 15-year-old who lives in the United Arab Emirates — catches both of Manny Machado’s first two major league home runs.

Aug. 11 After not having a walk-off win all year, with 131 of them by other teams in the interim, the Astros celebrate one for the second straight day.

Aug. 15 Houston’s Jose Altuve singles three times, each followed by a Marwin Gonzalez double play.

Aug. 17 The Seattle pitching staff’s streak of 42 consecutive retired batters — the game’s longest in 38 years — concludes.

Aug. 19 Immediately after being “perfect gamed” by Felix Hernandez, the Rays set a team record for a four-game series by scoring 37 runs against the Angels.

Aug. 25 Carlos Quentin sets the single-season hit-by-pitch record for a second franchise in back-to-back years.

Aug. 29 Shelley Duncan ends his career in Cleveland having posted exactly 11 home runs and 29 runs scored in each of his three seasons there.

Aug. 31 The Rays conclude August having lost 12 of 14 one-run games since Friday the 13th in July, and as the first AL team since 1955 to drop four 1–0 contests in a calendar month.

SEPTEMBER

Sept. 1 After no game in more than a year had ended with an outfielder gunning down the tying run at the plate, Toronto and Tampa Bay do it to each other on back-to-back nights.

Sept. 1 Adrian Beltre is now batting .500 over his last 10 games, four of which have been hitless.

Sept. 4 White Sox outfielder Dewayne Wise enters a game in the fifth inning of an eventual 18–9 loss to the Twins. Before he’s through, he not only cracks the sixth and franchise-record 10th doubles of the game, but also pitches scoreless relief for his second different team this season.

Sept. 6 The Elias Sports Bureau reports that the Braves are the first team since 1984 to win 1–0 games on successive days in which the only run is unearned.

Sept. 11 Tampa Bay loses a game by more than two runs for the first time in 38 days.

Sept. 15 Both Anibal Sanchez and Francisco Liriano — each of whom has pitched a no-hitter before — lose their chance for another with two outs in the seventh inning, but win by a score of 5–3.

Sept. 16 Chris Young of the Mets gives up back-to-back home runs in the very inning that earns him $250,000 for fulfilling his 100-inning incentive clause.

Sept. 18 Miguel Olivo, who had drawn four unintentional walks in his previous 384 plate appearances dating to August 2011, is free-passed three times in Seattle’s 18-inning loss.

Sept. 20 The Mets fail to score four runs for the 16th consecutive home game — the longest streak of futility by an NL team since 1908.

Sept. 22 The A’s lose to the Yankees despite going deep three times in the 13th inning.

Sept. 25 The Mariners get themselves off a 1-for-47 schneid with runners in scoring position.

OCTOBER

Oct. 2 Six days after Felix Hernandez becomes the first pitcher ever to fan Albert Pujols three times in the same game, teammate Hisashi Iwakuma replicates the feat.

Oct. 3 Despite not hitting a triple for the third season out of the last four, Miguel Cabrera wins the “Triple” Crown.

Oct. 10 Raul Ibanez of the Yankees becomes the first player in major league history to hit two home runs in a postseason game in which he did not start. 

Oct. 12 A Washington-based team plays a winner-take-all postseason game for the first time since 1925 and, just as it did 87 years ago, blows a 6–3 lead and loses 9–7.


 

Want more baseball? Check out Athlon Sports' 2013 Baseball Annual for the most complete preview available. Order your copy now! 

Teaser:
<p> An MLB calendar of oddball occurrences</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/acc-football-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

With the release of the 2013 ACC schedules, the countdown for the upcoming college football season has officially started. The ACC has expanded by two teams since last season, as Pittsburgh and Syracuse will join the conference from the Big East. And the conference will undergo another change next year, with Louisville replacing Maryland (leaving for the Big Ten) in 2014.

The ACC is currently only the second BCS league to play with more than 12 teams and as conferences expand, it certainly creates some quirks in the scheduling. No team from the Coastal Division will play both Florida State and Clemson in 2013, while NC State catches a huge break in crossover play, missing Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami. The Wolfpack also only have to leave the state of North Carolina twice in 2013. 

Athlon has combed through the ACC schedule to point out the most interesting tidbits and notes of information to know before making your 2013 predictions and travel plans. 

ACC Football Schedule Analysis for 2013

Atlantic Division Analysis

Boston College

Aug. 31 Villanova
Sept. 6 Wake Forest (Friday)
Sept. 14 at USC
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 Florida State
Oct. 5 Army
Oct. 12 at Clemson
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 26 at North Carolina
Nov. 2 Virginia Tech
Nov. 9 at New Mexico State
Nov. 16 NC State
Nov. 23 Maryland
Nov. 30 at Syracuse

* Thanks to some late movement on the schedule, Boston College will meet Villanova for the first time since 1980. The Eagles own a 29-15-1 series edge over the FCS Wildcats.

* If the Eagles want to make a bowl game, beating Wake Forest on Friday, Sept. 6 is a must. Both teams will likely be fighting just to get to six wins, and this game could be just enough for one team to reach that mark. The Eagles have lost their last two meetings to the Demon Deacons.

* Boston College travels to Los Angeles to play USC on the road for the first time since 1987. The Eagles last played the Trojans in the 2009 Emerald Bowl and have lost all three previous matchups to USC. Needless to say, this is a difficult road trip for new coach Steve Addazio’s team.

* After winning five straight games over Army, the Black Knights shocked Boston College 34-31 last season. As mentioned previously, getting to a bowl game will be no easy task in 2013. Consider Army a must-win game for the Eagles in 2013.

* Boston College has one of the most bizarre road trips in all of college football next season. The Eagles travel to New Mexico State on Nov. 9. Really? Shouldn’t Boston College play the Aggies in Chestnut Hill? This is the first meeting between these two schools.

* The Eagles drew one of the toughest crossover schedules in the ACC. Boston College travels to North Carolina on Oct. 26 and hosts Virginia Tech on Nov. 2.

* With Boston College and Syracuse back in the same conference, these two teams will restart their annual rivalry game. The Eagles and Orange played every year from 1971-2004 but stopped once Boston College left for the ACC. These two programs met in 2010, with the Eagles winning 16-7 in Syracuse.


Clemson

Aug. 31 Georgia
Sept. 7 South Carolina State
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 19 at NC State (Thursday)
Sept. 28 Wake Forest
Oct. 5 at Syracuse
Oct. 12 Boston College
Oct. 19 Florida State
Oct. 26 at Maryland
Nov. 2 at Virginia
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 14 Georgia Tech (Thursday)
Nov. 23 The Citadel
Nov. 30 at South Carolina

* Clemson opens 2013 with an opportunity to make a huge statement. The Tigers take on Georgia, which is a chance to pickup a victory against a top-10 team, and it's also a win that could help propel Clemson into the national title discussion. These two schools are separated by less than 100 miles but have not played since 2003. The Tigers have lost five straight to the Bulldogs and trail 41-17-4 in the overall series.

* Considering the magnitude of the Week 1 matchup, it’s a good idea Clemson scheduled South Carolina State in Week 2 and has a bye in Week 3. This will allow the Tigers plenty of time to put the game with Georgia in the rearview mirror before ACC play starts.

* The Tigers open ACC play with a game at NC State on Sept. 19. This will be the second consecutive season Clemson has a matchup on Thursday night. The Wolfpack lost a handful of key players from last year, including quarterback Mike Glennon and two All-ACC selections in the secondary. NC State won the last matchup against Clemson in Raleigh in 2011 but has lost eight out of the last nine in the series.

* Clemson takes on Syracuse on Oct. 5, which is the first meeting between these two schools as ACC opponents. The Tigers and Orange have met one time, with Syracuse winning 41-0 in the 1996 Gator Bowl.

* ACC Atlantic title? Florida State and Clemson will meet on Oct. 19 in Death Valley, which will likely decide the ACC Atlantic title. The Tigers have defeated the Seminoles five consecutive times at home but trail 18-8 in the overall series. The midseason matchup is better news for Florida State, especially with a handful of new starters breaking into the lineup on defense.

* The Nov. 9 bye week comes at a perfect time for Clemson. The Tigers have back-to-back road dates against Maryland and Virginia, before playing Georgia Tech on Nov. 14. Having an off date to prepare for the Yellow Jackets is crucial, while the bye also allows Clemson a late-season chance to get healthy.

* If Clemson starts 11-0, in-state rival South Carolina will be all that stands in the way from an unbeaten regular season. The Tigers have lost the last four matchups in the series with the Gamecocks and has not won in Columbia since 2007. Clemson is a legitimate national title contender but beating South Carolina could be a major roadblock in 2013.
 

Florida State

Sept. 2 at Pittsburgh (Monday)
Sept. 7 Bye Week
Sept. 14 Nevada
Sept. 21 Bethune-Cookman
Sept. 28 at Boston College
Oct. 5 Maryland
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 at Clemson
Oct. 26 NC State
Nov. 2 Miami
Nov. 9 at Wake Forest
Nov. 16 Syracuse
Nov. 23 Idaho
Nov. 30 at Florida

* Florida State will open ACC play with a Labor Day matchup at Pittsburgh. This will be the first meeting between these two teams as conference members and only the ninth overall matchup. The Panthers have a 5-3 series edge over the Seminoles, with the last game between these two programs coming on Oct. 8, 1983. Florida State’s last game on Labor Day was on Sept. 7, 2009, when it lost 38-34 to Miami.

* In order to play Pittsburgh in the season opener, Florida State was forced to shuffle its schedule. The Seminoles replaced Wofford with Bethune-Cookman, which went 9-3 in 2012.

* Florida State’s Sept. 14 meeting with Nevada will be the first matchup between these two programs. The Wolf Pack has been one of the most successful WAC/Mountain West teams in recent years, but legendary coach Chris Ault stepped down at the end of the year, and running back Stefphon Jefferson departed early to the NFL.

* ACC Atlantic on the line? Florida State and Clemson finished tied atop the division with a 7-1 record last season and another tight battle should be expected once again in 2013. The Seminoles knocked off the Tigers in Tallahassee last season but has not won in Death Valley since 2001. And we can’t forget about the bye week. Florida State catches a huge break in scheduling, as it has a bye just before playing its biggest conference game of 2013.

* Can Florida State continue its in-state dominance over Miami? The Seminoles have won four out of the last five matchups, including four in a row in Miami.

* The Seminoles catch a break in crossover scheduling, as they miss North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech from the Coastal Division.

* Taking a page from the SEC? With a key matchup against in-state rival Florida on Nov. 30, the Seminoles smartly scheduled Idaho for Nov. 23. The game against the Vandals is a guaranteed win and allows Florida State to rest some of its key players for the huge game against the Gators the following Saturday. 
 

Maryland

Aug. 31 FIU
Sept. 7 Old Dominion
Sept. 14 at Connecticut
Sept. 21 West Virginia (Baltimore)
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 at Florida State
Oct. 12 Virginia
Oct. 19 at Wake Forest
Oct. 26 Clemson
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 Syracuse
Nov. 16 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 23 Boston College
Nov. 30 at NC State

* In order for Maryland to get bowl eligible, it needs to sweep all four games in its non-conference schedule. The Terrapins have a good chance to accomplish that, especially with West Virginia rebuilding and Connecticut losing some key contributors from its defense.

* Maryland’s October slate isn’t easy, as the Terrapins have a road trip to Florida State, a home date against Clemson and swing games against Virginia and Wake Forest. Maryland should be favored to beat the Cavaliers and Demon Deacons, but both matchups have to be considered tossups for now.

* Part II of the Randy Edsall Bowl will take place on Sept. 14, as Maryland travels to Storrs to take on his old team (Connecticut). Edsall spent 12 years with the Huskies and led the program to one BCS bowl during that stretch. Connecticut defeated Maryland 24-21 last season, and this year’s matchup will be huge for both teams in terms of bowl eligibility.

* Maryland caught a break in crossover conference scheduling, missing Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami in 2013. The Terrapins do have to play at Virginia Tech but catching Virginia over Miami or North Carolina is a plus.

* Maryland’s meeting with Syracuse on Nov. 9 is the first between these two programs since 1994. The Orange own an 18-14-2 series edge over the Terrapins.

* Unless Maryland makes the conference championship, the Nov. 30 meeting with NC State will be the final ACC game for the Terrapins. Maryland trails NC State by one game in the overall series (33-32-4).
 

NC State

Aug. 31 Louisiana Tech
Sept. 7 Richmond
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 19 Clemson (Thursday)
Sept. 28 Central Michigan
Oct. 5 at Wake Forest
Oct. 12 Syracuse
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 26 at Florida State
Nov. 2 North Carolina
Nov. 9 at Duke
Nov. 16 at Boston College
Nov. 23 East Carolina
Nov. 30 Maryland

* For a program with a first-year coach and just eight returning starters, NC State has to be thrilled with its 2013 schedule. The Wolfpack leave North Carolina just two times – at Florida State and at Boston College – and plays a very favorable non-conference schedule. NC State catches a rebuilding Louisiana Tech team in the opener and catches a dangerous East Carolina squad late in the year, allowing Doeren and his staff plenty of time to find replacements for the departed starters.

* The Sept. 19 matchup against Clemson will be a huge test for NC State. The Tigers are expected to be a heavy favorite to win the ACC and could get in the mix for a national title. The Wolfpack aren’t expected to win that game, but a good showing as an underdog would be a nice boost for Doeren and this team in 2013.

* Considering how tight the ACC standings will likely be after the top two teams in the Atlantic Division, beating Wake Forest on Oct. 5 and Duke on Nov. 9 is crucial to NC State’s hopes of getting bowl eligible.

* The Wolfpack welcome ACC newcomer Syracuse to Raleigh on Oct. 12. NC State and the Orange have played six times, with the Wolfpack taking a 6-0 series edge. However, these two teams have not played since 1998.

* New life in the North Carolina-NC State rivalry? With two young coaches, the annual rivalry between the Tar Heels and Wolfpack should have some new energy. Larry Fedora led North Carolina to a 43-35 victory over NC State last season, while Doeren hopes to get revenge with a home victory over the Tar Heels in early November.

* ACC finale. Unless Maryland makes the conference championship, the Nov. 30 meeting with NC State will be the final ACC game for the Terrapins. Interestingly enough, the Wolfpack hold a 33-32-4 series edge over Maryland.
 

Syracuse

Aug. 31 Penn State (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Sept. 7 at Northwestern
Sept. 14 Wagner
Sept. 21 Tulane
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 Clemson
Oct. 12 at NC State
Oct. 19 at Georgia Tech
Oct. 26 Bye Week
Nov. 2 Wake Forest
Nov. 9 at Maryland
Nov. 16 at Florida State
Nov. 23 Pittsburgh
Nov. 30 Boston College

* Syracuse and Penn State will meet for the first time since 2009 in East Rutherford, N.J. on Aug. 31. These two teams have a storied rivalry, as they played virtually every year from 1922-1990 and met in 2008 and 2009. The Orange has lost the last four matchups in this series and trail the Nittany Lions 42-23-5 in the overall series.

* Getting to a bowl game is going to be quite a challenge for Syracuse in 2013. The Orange should beat Wagner and Tulane and could be favored against Wake Forest and Boston College but there are few guaranteed victories after that. Even road games against NC State and Maryland will be tough, and Syracuse catches Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh in crossover matchups with the Coastal Division.

* Syracuse has two back-to-back road trips on their schedule. The Orange play at NC State on Oct. 19 and then travel to Georgia Tech on Oct. 19. In November, Syracuse travels to Maryland on Nov. 9 and to Florida State on Nov. 16. Ouch.

* Syracuse and Northwestern meet on Sept. 7 for the fourth time in six seasons. The Orange are 1-2 in their last three meetings against the Wildcats, which includes a 42-41 shootout defeat in last season.

* How’s this for a welcome to the ACC? Syracuse hosts Clemson – the favorite to win the ACC – in its conference opener. The Tigers and Orange have played only once, with Syracuse winning 41-0.

* Syracuse will meet Florida State for the first time since 2005 on Nov. 16. The Orange has lost their last five meetings against the Seminoles, including a 38-14 blowout in Tallahassee in 2005. This will be the first meeting between Syracuse and Florida State as ACC members.

* From 1971-2004, Boston College and Syracuse met every season. Since the Eagles departed to the ACC, these two teams have met only once as non-conference foes (2010). With both teams back in the same conference, expect this Northeast rivalry to get some traction once again.
 

Wake Forest

Aug. 29 Presbyterian (Thursday)
Sept. 6 at Boston College
Sept. 14 Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 21 at Army
Sept. 28 at Clemson
Oct. 5 NC State
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 19 Maryland
Oct. 26 at Miami
Nov. 2 at Syracuse
Nov. 9 Florida State
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 Duke
Nov. 30 at Vanderbilt

* This is the second time in four years that the Demon Deacons have opened with Presbyterian. Wake Forest won 53-13 in 2010, which was the first meeting between these two teams since 1945. The Demon Deacons should have little trouble with the Blue Hose on Aug. 29.

* Wake Forest’s Week 2 matchup at Boston College could be a huge game in terms of bowl eligibility. The Demon Deacons don’t have a bevy of guaranteed wins, so beating a Boston College team coming off a 2-10 record is a must. Wake Forest has won the last two games against the Eagles, including a 28-14 victory in 2012.

* Upset alert? The Demon Deacons shouldn’t overlook their Sept. 14 contest against Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks knocked off Arkansas last season, took Auburn to overtime and lost to Baylor by just five points. This is a dangerous team and is capable of pulling off an upset in Winston-Salem.

* The Sept. 28 matchup against Clemson should be a good barometer test for Wake Forest. The Tigers handily won last year’s game 42-13 and should be picked to win the ACC in 2013. If Wake Forest keeps things closer, it’s a good sign this team is showing signs of improvement from 2012.

* The home team in the NC State-Wake Forest series has won the last six matchups. If that trend holds true in 2013, the Demon Deacons should beat the Wolfpack in Winston-Salem.

* With Maryland headed to the Big Ten in 2014, the Oct. 19 meeting between Wake Forest and the Terrapins will likely be the last for the foreseeable future. Maryland owns a 43-17-1 series edge over the Demon Deacons.

* Wake Forest meets Syracuse on Nov. 2, which is the first meeting between these schools as conference foes. These two teams have played twice, with each program winning once.

* The Demon Deacons Oct. 26 road game against Miami is the first away game against the Hurricanes since 2008.

* For the sixth time in seven seasons, Wake Forest will close its regular season against Vanderbilt. The Commodores have a 3-2 edge in the last five games in this series.   


Coastal Division Analysis

Duke

Aug. 31 North Carolina Central
Sept. 7 at Memphis
Sept. 14 Georgia Tech
Sept. 21 Pittsburgh
Sept. 28 Troy
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 12 Navy
Oct. 19 at Virginia
Oct. 26 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 NC State
Nov. 16 Miami
Nov. 23 at Wake Forest
Nov. 30 at North Carolina

* David Cutcliffe has a manageable start to his sixth season as the Duke head coach. Two winnable non-conference games get the season started before three straight home games with a trio of teams that lost a combined 21 games. So with four of the first five at home, Duke needs to make hay in the first month if it expects to return to a bowl game.

* The first bye week comes in the first week of October. Regardless of how the first month of the season goes, the off week comes at a great time. Should Duke struggle, it gives Cutcliffe a chance to adjust. Should the Blue Devils start well, it gives this team a break to prepare for the brutal second half of the season. More importantly, it gives the defense two weeks to prepare for the triple option (Navy on Oct 12).

* Between the bye weeks in Week 6 and Week 10, the Blue Devils will be tested in a big way. The triple option of Navy is no easy task to slow considering what they have returning at quarterback in sophomore Keenan Reynolds. Packaged with back-to-back road trips to the Commonwealth of Virginia, this middle trio of games could determine the overall direction of the 2013 season.

* Following the second bye, four straight ACC games will finish the 2013 schedule for Duke. A pair of tricky in-state road trips will be a very difficult way to end the season. Of the four finishing games, only Wake Forest missed getting enough wins to be bowl eligible a season ago.
 

Georgia Tech

Aug. 31 Elon
Sept. 7 Bye Week
Sept. 14 at Duke
Sept. 21 North Carolina
Sept. 26 Virginia Tech (Thursday)
Oct. 5 at Miami
Oct. 12 at BYU
Oct. 19 Syracuse
Oct. 26 at Virginia
Nov. 2 Pittsburgh
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 14 at Clemson (Thursday)
Nov. 23 Alabama A&M
Nov. 30 Georgia

* Is having an open date in Week 2 a good thing for Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech? A layup in Week 1 against Elon gives this bye week a wasted feel. However, a trip to Durham to play a pesky Duke team in Week 3 might say otherwise. Anytime a coach can take two weeks to prepare for a conference opponent it’s a good thing. 

* And since the Yellow Jackets will play four straight brutal ACC games following the off week, Johnson is likely pleased with the timing of his first open date. Following the trip to Duke, a three-game stretch with North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Miami could set the entire tone for the season. It is very likely that these four teams are the top four teams picked in the division and any struggles early from Tech could be crushing in their quest to repeat as Coastal champs.

* The Tech-on-Tech battle has long been the most important game in the division and it should once again carry significant weight in the league. But just in case anyone overlooks this game in the summer, it has been placed in primetime on Thursday night. It means Frank Beamer has just five days to prepare for Johnson’s triple option attack.

* A long road trip to BYU comes at a horrible time for the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech will have just worked its way through a brutal first month in league play before taking the long trip out West to Provo.

* With Syracuse and Pitt on the schedule, Tech is the only Coastal team that will play both new additions to the league.

* Should Tech make it through to the second bye week in contention, an ACC Championship game preview could take place in primetime in Death Valley. Georgia Tech will travel to Clemson on Thursday night to wrap-up ACC play on Nov. 14.

* The season culminates with Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate once again. Johnson needs to make a statement in the one-sided rivalry with Georgia. The Bulldogs have won four straight and 11 of the last 12. And Georgia has averaged 36.3 points per game over the last six meetings.


Miami

Aug. 30 Florida Atlantic (Friday)
Sept. 7 Florida
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 Savannah State
Sept. 28 at USF
Oct. 5 Georgia Tech
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 17 at North Carolina (Thursday)
Oct. 26 Wake Forest
Nov. 2 at Florida State
Nov. 9 Virginia Tech
Nov. 16 at Duke
Nov. 23 Virginia
Nov. 29 at Pittsburgh (Friday)

* All eyes in South Florida should be on Week 2 when the Florida Gators come to town in a big intrastate battle. Conference and state bragging rights are certainly on the line, but much more could be on the line. Florida always has national title aspirations but Miami could send a shot across the bow of the ACC with a huge non-conference win over an SEC power. All hands should be on deck for the Florida game with a bye week and then Savannah State following the showdown with the Gators.

* Fans of football and The Sunshine State alike should appreciate when the big boys get together and Miami will play three BCS Florida teams in 2013. In fact, three of the four non-conference games on the Canes schedule will take place against teams from the state of Florida.

* A big home game with Georgia Tech leads Miami into its second bye week. Al Golden better have his team rested and healthy following the second off week because there are no breaks after Week 7. Seven straight ACC games will end the season for Miami, as both open dates are in the first half of the year. Especially, considering how the second half begins...

* Miami will begin the second half of the season with a brutal four-game stretch that will likely determine where the Canes finish in 2013. A primetime road trip to North Carolina begins the stretch that also features a trip to Florida State and a pair of home games with Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.

* Should Miami make it through that four-week span, the final three games are extremely winnable. Duke, Virginia and Pittsburgh combined for 22 losses a year ago and only Pittsburgh appears to have any upside in 2013. The season finale against the Panthers will be a primetime showcase the day after Thanksgiving.


North Carolina

Aug. 29 at South Carolina (Thursday)
Sept. 7 Middle Tennessee
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 at Georgia Tech
Sept. 28 East Carolina
Oct. 5 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 12 Bye Week
Oct. 17 Miami (Thursday)
Oct. 26 Boston College
Nov. 2 at NC State
Nov. 9 Virginia
Nov. 16 at Pittsburgh
Nov. 23 Old Dominion
Nov. 30 Duke

* Larry Fedora has a tall order facing him in Week 1. Jadeveon Clowney can literally block the sun, and Fedora has to figure out a way to block him with a rebuilt offensive line. Williams-Brice Stadium will be rocking in Columbia, as ESPN will feature this game on Thursday night to kickoff the season. Best of luck, Tar Heels.

* Following the first bye week in Week 3, the Tar Heels will have to play their first two ACC games on the road against quality opponents. At both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech will be brutal tests for the Heels. North Carolina was 2-3 on the road last year and allowed a total of 102 points to the Tech schools.

* Following those two road tests, the Heels will get another bye week before a primetime showdown with Miami on Thursday night. These two were the best teams in the division a year ago and could be the same again in 2013. This one is must-see TV on a weeknight.

* Watch out fans in Chapel Hill following the home game with Miami, because the rest of schedule is surprisingly manageable. The Tar Heels figure to be big favorites in home games with Boston College, Virginia, Old Dominion and Duke. Two road trips to NC State and Pittsburgh might be tricky but aren’t all that intimidating as the Wolfpack breaks in a new coach and Pitt will be near the end of its first ACC season.

* In perhaps one of the biggest scheduling breaks in the ACC, North Carolina won’t face either Clemson or Florida State from the Atlantic Division. Additionally, the Heels will face just three teams that won bowl games a year ago in South Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Fedora will face one team that won more than eight games a year ago (South Carolina).
 

Pittsburgh

Sept. 2 Florida State (Monday)
Sept. 7 Bye Week
Sept. 14 New Mexico
Sept. 21 at Duke
Sept. 28 Virginia
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 12 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 19 Old Dominion
Oct. 26 at Navy
Nov. 2 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 9 Notre Dame
Nov. 16 North Carolina
Nov. 23 at Syracuse
Nov. 29 Miami (Friday)

* Welcome to the ACC, Pittsburgh. The Panthers will have to face the defending ACC champs on Labor Day night in not only their first ACC league game, but also as their first football game as an ACC team. Paul Chryst will have his work cut out for him in the debut of his second season.

* The good news is Pittsburgh gets a bye week to lick its wounds following the game against Florida State before a fairly easy three-week stretch featuring New Mexico, Duke and Virginia. This will end the Panthers’ first month of play with three ACC games and two bye weeks under their belt before Week 7.

* Mid-to-late season non-conference games are oddly located. Old Dominion (Week 8), Navy (Week 9) and Notre Dame (Week 11) gives the Panthers three non-conference games in a four-week period deep into November. Not only could playing non-conference games halt any ACC momentum, but it features a test against the defending national championship runner-up.

* Few teams in the nation will finish with a harder stretch than the Panthers' final five games. Heinz Field will be the place to be over the final month in the ACC as North Carolina and Miami will come to town as well as the Fighting Irish. Mixed in are road trips to Georgia Tech and Syracuse, two teams that played in a bowl game last season.
 

Virginia

Aug. 31 BYU
Sept. 7 Oregon
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 VMI
Sept. 28 at Pittsburgh
Oct. 5 Ball State
Oct. 12 at Maryland
Oct. 19 Duke
Oct. 26 Georgia Tech
Nov. 2 Clemson
Nov. 9 at North Carolina
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 at Miami
Nov. 30 Virginia Tech

* If fans in Charlottesville want fireworks, they won’t have to wait long. Two brutal non-conference games with BYU and Oregon might be the toughest two-week start for any ACC team in 2013. The odds of winning both are slim and none so a 1-1 split would be considered a great start to the year. And at least Mike London’s team gets a bye week and VMI after the Ducks come to town.

* The Cavaliers will begin conference play in unfamiliar territory. Virginia has played at Pittsburgh twice all-time and only once since 1955 — a 38-13 loss in 2006. It will actually be the third ACC game for Pittsburgh but the first for Virginia in 2013.

* October offers some chances for London to get wins. Three of four will be at home and all four are winnable. Georgia Tech might be the only opponent that is favored over the Wahoos during the month.

* Virginia better win games in October because November is nasty. Road trips to North Carolina and Miami are going to be brutal while home tests against Clemson and Virginia Tech will likely feature large point-spreads. The good news is a bye week sandwiched directly in the middle of the five-week stretch. A small consolation.
 

Virginia Tech

Aug. 31 Alabama (Atlanta)
Sept. 7 Western Carolina
Sept. 14 at East Carolina
Sept. 21 Marshall
Sept. 26 at Georgia Tech (Thursday)
Oct. 5 North Carolina
Oct. 12 Pittsburgh
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 26 Duke
Nov. 2 at Boston College
Nov. 9 at Miami
Nov. 16 Maryland
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 30 at Virginia

* The ACC will get yet another chance at the SEC in the kickoff classic. While Clemson won twice against the SEC a year ago, the rest of the league failed epically against the best league in America. This does not bode well for a rebuilt Hokies offensive staff against the back-to-back defending BCS national champions. Needless to say, Virginia Tech will be a huge underdog. The season might as well start in Week 2 for Frank Beamer. Two easy non-conference games should allow for plenty of wound-licking before ACC play because…

* Conference play gets started right away for the Hokies. A road trip to Georgia Tech followed by two key home tests against North Carolina and Pitt could have Virginia Tech in control of the division after just three games – or teetering on the brink of missing a bowl — much like the first half of the 2012 season. The bye week will be a welcome sight after the first six games of the season.

* Of the final five games, only one appears to be difficult. Duke and Maryland at home should be wins. Road trips to Boston College and Virginia should be victories as well. So the trip to South Beach to face Miami in Week 10 is the only marquee matchup on the schedule following the first bye week.

* Virginia Tech misses both Florida State and Clemson this year.

* The second open date comes in Week 13 on the penultimate week of the year. It isn’t the most useful location for an extra week of preparation. However, the off week means Virginia Tech could be a heavy favorite in the Commonwealth Cup. 

* Hokies Athletic Director Jim Weaver requested that Virginia Tech not play a home game on Thursday night this year — something that has happened for 11 straight seasons in Blacksburg. The ACC and ESPN agreed.


by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
 

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<p> ACC Football 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 06:16
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We have ranked every college football program in the country, based on the attractiveness of the position from a coaching perspective. We considered many factors — tradition, facilities, location, money  — but in the end, we simply asked ourselves the following question: Where would we want to coach? Today we focus on the Big Ten.

(Note: Current or impending NCAA sanctions were not a factor in these rankings.)

Ranking the Coaching Jobs in the Big Ten for 2013

1. Ohio State

Pros: There are eight FBS schools in Ohio, but there is only one school named The Ohio State University. The Buckeyes have been a consistent force on the field and in recruiting since Woody Hayes took over in the early 1950s.

Cons: Expectations are extremely high in Columbus. Consider the case of John Cooper: In 13 seasons, Cooper went 111–43–4, winning 10 games or more five times. But he went 2–10–1 against Michigan and lost his job after the 2000 season.

Final Verdict: Everything is in place to win a national championship at Ohio State. The facilities are top-notch, the fans are passionate, and the recruiting base is outstanding. Just don’t lose to Michigan.
 

2. Michigan

Pros: Michigan has as much tradition as any school in the country. The Wolverines have been a national power since the 1890s and they play in one of the largest venues in the country, 109,901-seat Michigan Stadium. The program’s success and the school’s academic reputation have allowed Michigan to be a major player in recruiting both in the Midwest and nationally.

Cons: Michigan is an old-school program that is very set in its ways. A coach who comes in with a new philosophy — for example, Rich Rodriguez — will have a tough time being accepted.

Final Verdict: Michigan is no doubt an elite job, but as we saw in the Rodriguez era — he won a total of 15 games in three years — you have to be the right fit to win big in Ann Arbor.
 

3. Penn State (Note: These rankings do not take NCAA sanctions into consideration.)

Pros: Penn State is an enormous state university in an extremely fertile recruiting area. The Nittany Lions play in the second-largest facility in the country (Beaver Stadium, capacity 107,282), and they have won two national championships in the past 30 years

Cons: Penn State recovered nicely in the latter half of the 2000s, but it’s a bit disconcerting that a program with so much going for it was capable of having four losing seasons in a five-year span like Penn State did from 2000-04. Truly elite programs should not suffer through prolonged droughts.

Final Verdict: Penn State is difficult to evaluate at this point. Sanctions are not supposed to affect these rankings, but Penn State is a unique case. This is a great job, but the program will not compete at a high level until the sanctions are over.
 

4. Nebraska

Pros: Strong tradition. Amazing facilities. Passionate fans. Those three things don’t guarantee success, but they are a nice place to start. The Big Ten Legends Division has some good programs — Michigan, Iowa and Michigan State — but Nebraska should be in position to compete for a division title on an annual basis.

Cons: The Huskers won three national titles in the 1990s, but the program slipped a bit over the past decade. The state of Nebraska does not produce many high-end BCS conference players each year, and the program no longer has the sex-appeal to steal elite players from the East Coast like it did in the 1970s and '80s.

Final Verdict: Nebraska is a unique coaching position. You have everything in place to win big — except a local recruiting base. How big is that hurdle? Significant but not insurmountable. The Huskers are no longer a top-10 job nationally but still very desirable.
 

5. Wisconsin

Pros: Wisconsin has been transformed into a football school over the past two decades. Badger faithful pack 80,321-seat Camp Randall Stadium each week and create one the best environments in the nation. Madison also is a great place to live.

Cons: The school’s local recruiting base isn’t strong; the state has not produced a national top-100 player in the past four seasons. Also, the Badgers have only been relevant on the national scene since the early 1990s. Wisconsin lacks the tradition of many of its Big Ten rivals.

Final Verdict: Barry Alvarez turned Wisconsin from a Big Ten afterthought to a significant player in college football. But the Badgers’ place as a top program is far from secure. Wisconsin, more than most of the other schools ranked in the top 25 on this list, needs the right coach in place to remain successful.
 

6. Michigan State

Pros: Michigan State seemingly has everything in place to be a major player in the Big Ten — great fan support (averaged 75,382 per game in ’12), good facilities, strong recruiting base and decent tradition.

Cons: Despite all of the positives listed above, Michigan State has only won one Big Ten title — in 2009 — in two decades and has only averaged 6.0 wins in the 47 seasons since claiming a share of the 1966 national championship. Also, there’s the Michigan thing: No matter how much success the Spartans enjoy, they will always be the second school in the state behind Michigan.

Final Verdict: Michigan State has been an underachiever and will never be the No. 1 program in its own state. Still, it’s a good job. If you can change the culture in East Lansing —which Mark Dantonio has apparently done — there is no reason Michigan State can’t contend for Big Ten titles on a semi-regular basis.
 

7. Iowa

Pros: Three key elements make Iowa an attractive job — it’s the top school in the state (sorry, Iowa State), it has a strong tradition of excellence (five Big Ten titles since 1981, two BCS bowls since ‘03) and it has great fan support (70,474 per game in ’12).

Cons: Iowa might be the top dog in the state, but the hunting grounds aren’t very fertile. To remain competitive, the Hawkeyes’ staff will always have to go into other teams’ home states to recruit.

Final Verdict: It’s difficult for a school that doesn’t have a strong local recruiting base to compete for national title. It can be done — Nebraska won three titles in the 1990s — but that is a very big hurdle to climb.
 

8. Illinois

Pros: Illinois’ local recruiting base — from Chicago down into St. Louis — is among the best in the Big Ten. The facilities (weight room, practice facility, locker rooms, etc.) are strong, and the stadium recently received a $200 million upgrade.

Cons: Basketball is — and will always be — the top sport at Illinois. Football, for whatever reason, has never been much of a threat to break into the upper echelon of the league. Also, the fan support at Illinois isn’t as strong as the top programs in the Big Ten. Last year, the Illini averaged only 45,564 fans per game.

Final Verdict: Despite being the fifth most populous state, Illinois checks in No. 8 in our list of the Big Ten’s most attractive coaching positions. There is a lot to like about the job, but there are also reasons why the school has only won three Big Ten titles (two outright) since the early 1960s.
 

9. Purdue

Pros: Purdue is a program that has experienced consistent success in the Big Ten during the BCS era. The Boilermakers went 48–32 in league play during the first 10 years of the Joe Tiller era. Support is solid when the program is winning.

Cons: Purdue is one of three BCS programs in a state that does not produce a high volume of elite recruits.

Final Verdict: Coaching is important at every school, but Purdue is the type of school that can win consistently with the right man in place (Joe Tiller) but will struggle with the wrong man (Danny Hope).
 

10. Minnesota

Pros: The Gophers have a relatively new stadium that provided a significant upgrade from the outdated Metrodome. As the only Division I (FBS or FCS) program in the state, Minnesota should land its fare share of in-state recruits.

Cons: Minnesota is a tough sell for out-of-state recruits. The weather is bad and the program lacks tradition. 

Final Verdict: Minnesota is a program with a ceiling — and Glen Mason hit that ceiling (winning five to eight games in most seasons with an occasional 10-win breakthrough).
 

11. Northwestern

Pros: As the only private school in the Big Ten, Northwestern can be an attractive option for a top-flight recruit from the Midwest who is looking for an elite academic institution. The university has recently approved a $225-250 million facilities overhaul for all of the athletic programs. Football will no doubt be a huge beneficiary.

Cons: It will always be a struggle to keep up with the elite programs in the Big Ten, from a recruiting and facilities standpoint.

Final Verdict: You can win at Northwestern, but it will always be a challenge.
 

12. Indiana

Pros: The school has increased its commitment to the football program in recent years, most notably an upgrade in facilities that includes a new weight room, a new scoreboard and an academic center, among other things.

Cons: Basketball is king at Indiana University and in the state of Indiana. The school’s recruiting base is weak, and there are two other BCS programs in the state.

Final Verdict: There’s a reason Indiana hasn’t had back-to-back winning seasons 1993 and ’94 and hasn’t won a Big Ten title since 1967. It’s tough to win in Bloomington.


Related College Football Content

Big Ten 2013 Team Consensus Recruiting Rankings
College Football's Top 15 Impact JUCO Transfers for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Early Top 25 for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Big Ten's College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 06:15
Path: /nascar/danica-patrick-impresses-daytona-nascars-gen-6-does-not
Body:

The Great American Race, for the first 180 laps, looked more like the Great American Parade. Cars ran single-file for much of the Daytona 500, content to ride in packs for fear that pulling out for a pass would leave them slower than the street cars the new Gen-6 models are supposed to resemble.

Just don’t expect Jimmie Johnson to complain. “Five-Time” saved his best for last, when the field bunched up inside the last 20 laps and the racing finally resembled some semblance of Sprint Cup competition. Out in front on the white-flag lap, he slammed on the gas pedal when cars wrecked behind him, easily outlasting teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the second Daytona 500 of his one-day Hall of Fame career.

This day, however, will never come close to those lofty standards, a disappointment for NASCAR during a time where plenty of extra eyes were paying attention. Their missed opportunity leads off this week’s “Through The Gears,” bringing you up to speed on the storylines that simmer following the 55th running of the Daytona 500.

First Gear: The Gen-6 needs work at Daytona. Serious, serious work
Daytona is NASCAR’s Super Bowl; but Sunday, the challenge for fans was nothing more than staying awake. That’s problematic. NASCAR’s Gen-6 model, while expected to improve the competition on intermediate tracks, sterilized it on a plate track. Strategy and track position — the latter an ugly word that’s castrated competition elsewhere — made its way into the restrictor plate world most thought it could never touch again. Whether or not NASCAR should be using the plates as a form of parity is a separate discussion. The fact this package caused cars to run single-file, repeatedly, with only 19 lead changes in the first 172 laps (mostly during cautions, restarts and green-flag stops) is a fact not easily ignored.

Some of that, whether NASCAR likes it or not, can be attributed to the plate package it built for the Gen-6 chassis. Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin tweeted the single-file racing was “frustrating,” attributed to the weakness of the inside line. Meanwhile, winner Johnson had another take – that the drivers themselves, sick of wrecking out of so many Russian Roulette, keep-the-pack-together-like superglue races had grown tired of actually trying to compete until the end.

“When we’re running single-file, we’re just trying to get to the finish,” Johnson said. “We’ve all crashed so many times and have torn up so much stuff … I feel for NASCAR, they’re trying to create a very competitive car.”

There’s a point to be made here, along with Saturday’s carnage that left 28 fans injured and many drivers clearly shaken. After 25 years, no matter the rules, these drivers know the name of the game. Did you know there has not been a plate race without a yellow (or several) within the last 20 laps since Daytona’s July 2004 Pepsi 400? Some of the drivers today hadn’t earned their high school diploma when that happened. That means the same type of pattern has been repeated, over and over; no matter what you do, no matter where you are on the track, as long as you stay on the lead lap a caution will bunch up the field with 20 to go (or less). After that … the real racing starts.

Competitors are smart and they adapt. So NASCAR needs to come up with a way where there’s a clear reason to race hard, from start to finish even in the sport’s Super Bowl, otherwise, drivers will just do it when it counts. NASCAR also needs to take a hard look at Johnson’s other point, how side-drafting permanently disabled the inside line Sunday. By all accounts, drivers pulled out of line and got railroaded because the Gen-6 car is so sensitive to that method of manipulation. Perhaps adjusting the spoiler will help? If NASCAR does that, it’s believed some form of tandem drafting would be the result. But as the Nationwide race showed us — before all hell broke loose — some hybrid version of that format isn’t all bad.

What NASCAR can’t have, whether the drivers like it or not, is a parade the likes of which was seen on Sunday — especially when the fan base is used to the heart attack that is Daytona’s last 20 laps. They say people are enthused about a style of racing that closely matches the early 1990s? Check the ratings: 1990 and ’91 were the two lowest-rated 500s since the race received full-time coverage in 1979.


Second Gear: Danica is the real deal … sort of
OK, raise your hand if you thought Danica would be a flop. She wasn’t. In truth, Patrick’s day surpassed most peoples’ expectations, becoming the first woman to lead a lap in the Great American Race and following it up with the best ever finish (eighth).

More importantly, Patrick remained consistent, running in the top 10 for the duration in a performance that she described perfectly: “steady.” If not for making a rookie mistake, in failing to follow Earnhardt with one lap left, she may have been on the podium.

“I definitely was a little uncertain how I was going to be able to do it pass for the win),” she said. “I think Dale did a nice job and I think he taught me something.”

What she needs to learn — much quicker — is how to get off pit road. At tracks where she won’t make track position back, like the intermediates, those mistakes could destroy a solid run. I do expect more Danica-mania to develop now, as the momentum train heads to Phoenix, where she was in position for a top-15 performance last November before a late wreck.


Third Gear: Johnson sets another milestone … to the detriment of Earnhardt Jr.
Johnson, taking advantage of track position opportunities, ran a smart, clean race. That’s expected when crew chief Chad Knaus can take center stage. He successfully kept the No. 48 out of drafting practice, gambling that this race was about who could stay in line, use pit strategy to stay up front and then make a calculated move when it counted.

The victory gives Johnson a victory in his 400th career start. In a weird quirk, five others have accomplished the feat, including Hall of Famers Lee Petty, Richard Petty, David Pearson and Dale Earnhardt. As if Johnson needing another notch on a resume that may see him reach 100 career wins (he’s at 61 now) before his career is complete.

You can’t say the same for Earnhardt, runner-up in this race for the third time in the last four years. It’s a huge win for Hendrick Motorsports, which runs the 48 and 88 out of the same shop. But you’ve got to wonder if the restrictor plate drought, now at eight-plus years, has Earnhardt wondering when it’ll finally be his turn again.

“Running second over and over is great and all for our team,” Earnhardt said. “But it’s been too long. I would love (to win), even having to go through all that (media) hassle that Jimmie is about to go through this week. It’s worth it.”
 

Teaser:
<p> Through the Gears: Five things we learned in the Daytona 500</p>
Post date: Monday, February 25, 2013 - 15:17
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-college-football-coaching-jobs-2013
Body:

We have ranked every college football program in the country, based on the attractiveness of the position from a coaching perspective. We considered many factors — tradition, facilities, location, money  — but in the end, we simply asked ourselves the following question: Where would we want to coach? Today we focus on the SEC.

(Note: Current or impending NCAA sanctions were not a factor in these rankings.)

Ranking the Coaching Jobs in the SEC for 2013

1. Florida

Pros: Location. Location. Location. Florida is a public university in a state that produces a tremendous amount of top-flight talent. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium offers one of the best atmospheres in college football, and the fan base is as rabid as there is in the nation.

Cons: Expectations are sky-high at a school that has won two national championships in the past four seasons. If you don’t win — and win big — things can turn ugly very quickly. Just ask Ron Zook.

Final Verdict: Florida presents one of the elite coaching opportunities in college football. You have everything at your disposal to compete for national championships on an annual basis. There is no excuse not to be good at Florida.


2. Alabama

Pros: Tradition. With the possible exception of Notre Dame, no school in the country has more tradition than Alabama. The Tide have won 23 SEC championships and (depending on who you ask) 15 national titles. The facilities are top-notch, the fans are passionate and the recruiting base is strong.

Cons: Coaching football at Alabama is arguably the most stressful job in collegiate athletics. It’s takes a certain kind of coach to deal with that type of scrutiny.

Final Verdict: Alabama is unquestionably one of the premier jobs in the nation. The coach who can deal with the demands of the job — like Nick Saban — will win at a very high level in Tuscaloosa.
 

3. Georgia

Pros: Georgia has tremendous tradition and is located in arguably the finest college town in America — Athens. The Peach State might not produce talent at the same rate as Florida, Texas or California, but metro Atlanta is always strong, and small towns such as Columbus, Valdosta and Warner Robins consistently produce elite talent.

Cons: There are really no negatives to be found at Georgia, other than the fact that you are competing in the very difficult SEC, and you have a fan base that demands you win at a high level.

Final Verdict: Georgia is a great situation, but you clearly have to have the right guy in place to win big. After Vince Dooley won the third of three straight SEC crowns in 1982, the Bulldogs went nearly two decades — and went through two more coaches — before their next league title, won by Mark Richt in 2002.
 

4. LSU

Pros: It’s become a bit of a cliché, but there really is nothing like being in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night in the fall. That environment is one reason the Tigers are able to recruit so well. The other? The state of Louisiana is arguably the most underrated talent producer in the nation.

Cons: LSU has so much going for it, but why have so many coaches failed to win at a high level in Baton Rouge? From 1971 though 2000, the Tigers only won one outright SEC championship, in 1986 under Bill Arnsparger.

Final Verdict: It’s hard to find a reason why LSU would not be a desirable coaching position. Sure the competition is tough and the fans are demanding, but that comes with the territory. The school has won two national titles in the past 11 seasons.
 

5. Texas A&M

Pros: Texas A&M’s facilities are among the very best in the nation. Kyle Field is a bit on the old side and is set to undergo a renovation, but as far as the facilities for recruiting — football complex in the south end zone, the indoor practice facility — A&M has very few rivals. The recruiting base is among the best in the country, and the Aggies, the only SEC school in the state of Texas, should be able to battle the University of Texas for the best players in the state. 

Cons: Even with so much going for it, Texas A&M has had trouble sustaining success throughout its history.   

Final Verdict: Texas A&M is a very intriguing position. It has everything you would want in a job — great facilities, strong following, tremendous recruiting base — but the competition in the SEC West is fierce. If you win at A&M, you will have earned it.
 

6.  Auburn

Pros: Auburn and Georgia are the only two schools in the SEC with at least five winning conference seasons in each of the past four decades. Clearly, this program can be a consistent winner in the nation’s most difficult conference.

Cons: Auburn is a state school with a great following, but it will always be No. 2 in Alabama behind the Crimson Tide from Tuscaloosa.

Final Verdict: If your ego can handle being the second most important coach in the state, then Auburn can be a destination job. The school — with its fine tradition, strong facilities and outstanding recruiting base — has proven over time that it can compete on a national level. The Tigers, after all, won the BCS crown in 2010.
 

7. Tennessee

Pros: Who wouldn’t want to recruit to picturesque Neyland Stadium, with its 100,000-plus orange-clad zealots cheering on the Vols each week? And while Tennessee has struggled in recent years, the program enjoyed tremendous success in the not-too-distant past. From 1989-2001, the Vols went 80–20–1 in the SEC and claimed four league titles. During that span, they were ranked in the final top 10 of the AP poll seven times.

Cons: The Vols must recruit nationally because the state of Tennessee does not produce enough BCS conference players to stock the school’s roster. This is not a concern for UT’s chief SEC rivals Florida, Georgia, LSU, Auburn and Alabama.

Final Verdict: Tennessee is a great place to coach, but the Vols have slipped down the SEC food chain over the past decade. We now have Tennessee seventh on the list in the league.
 

8. South Carolina

Pros: South Carolina is home to arguably the most loyal fans in the nation. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Gamecock fans routinely filled 80,000-seat Williams Brice Stadium even though their team averaged only six wins per season. In addition, the facilities are great, and the recruiting base is strong.

Cons: Steve Spurrier has broken through in recent years, but South Carolina football has historically been one of the nation’s most underachieving programs.

Final Verdict: South Carolina has won 17 SEC games in the past three seasons — by far its best stretch since joining the league — but we’re still not ready to put this program on the same level as SEC royalty like Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida.  


9. Arkansas

Pros: Recently renovated Reynolds Razorback Stadium — with its 76,000 seats and 30x107-foot LED video screen — is one of the most underrated venues in the nation. Arkansas is the only BCS program in the state, giving the school an advantage in recruiting homegrown talent.

Cons: The Hogs have found it tough to win consistently since bolting the Southwest Conference for the SEC in the early 1990s. Arkansas is 85-89-2 in the SEC and has only once had back-to-back winning seasons in the league.

Final Verdict: Arkansas is quite similar to several of the non-elite coaching positions in the SEC. It’s a good job, but it’s not a destination job for a coach with national title aspirations.
 

10. Ole Miss

Pros: Historically, Mississippi produces as many Division I prospects per capita as any state in the nation. There is plenty of competition for these recruits (Mississippi State, Alabama, LSU, etc.), but a good coach will be able to keep the Rebels stocked with solid talent. Support for Rebel football is also very strong; the Rebs averaged 57,066 per game in 2012. Also, Ole Miss’ facilities have improved tremendously in the past five years.

Cons: You have to go back to the early 1960s to find a time in which Ole Miss was a major player in the SEC. The Rebels haven’t won a league title since 1963, and they are only team in the West (outside of SEC West newcomer Texas A&M) that has not played in an SEC Championship Game.

Final Verdict: Ole Miss has made the commitment to its football program, but it takes more than a commitment — and more than one top-10 recruiting class — to beat the elite SEC programs on a consistent basis. This job has great potential, but Ole Miss hasn’t “arrived” yet.
 

11. Missouri

Pros: Missouri has an underrated recruiting base. There is a solid crop of instate talent every year, and Mizzou does a decent job landing players from Texas and Illinois.

Cons: It’s been tough to win consistently at Missouri. Dating back to the days of the Big Eight, the Tigers have only had seven winning seasons in league play since 1983. The SEC East presents several huge challenges on an annual basis.

Final Verdict: Missouri is a good job — but not a great job. You can average eight wins per season and go to decent bowl games, but the Tigers aren’t much of a threat to contend for SEC titles.
 

12. Kentucky

Pros: Kentucky, after firing Joker Phillips, has made a commitment to football. The school has announced facilities upgrades, and the pay scale for the new staff is significantly higher. And while the state of Kentucky doesn’t produce many SEC-level players, Kentucky should be able to recruit nearby Ohio and still can dip into Georgia and Florida because of the school’s membership in the SEC.

Cons: Football, while important, will always be the No. 2 sport at Kentucky. And even though the school has some recruiting advantages — see above — it’s tough to win at a high level in the SEC when you can’t depend on stocking your roster with in-state talent.

Final Verdict: The level of competition in the SEC is better than ever. For example, Vanderbilt has climbed ahead of UK — for now — on the food chain. Mark Stoops is off to a great start, but it will difficult to win consistently at Kentucky.
 

13. Mississippi State

Pros: Mississippi State has shown an ability to field a competitive team on a semi-regular basis in the past two decades. The Bulldogs have had a winning overall record in 11 of the 22 seasons since the first wave of SEC expansion in 1991. That’s not great, but it’s better than most college football fans might expect. Support for Mississippi State football is at an all-time high; the Bulldogs averaged 55,648 (100.99 percent of capacity) at Davis Wade Stadium last season.

Cons: Recruiting top players to Starkville can be difficult. Not only does MSU have to battle Ole Miss for the best of the best in the state, but Alabama, Auburn and LSU are almost always in play for Mississippi’s top players.

Final Verdict: This is the toughest job in the SEC West — and maybe the entire league. Good coaches have shown the ability to remain relevant in the league, but it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which Mississippi State can win a division that includes Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn. 
 

14. Vanderbilt

Pros: Vanderbilt is an elite academic institution located in a great city. The school is spending more money than ever on athletics, from salaries for the coaching staff to the new indoor practice facility. While there is pressure to win at every school, expectations — even now after a nine-win season — will never be as great as other programs in the league. You aren’t going to get fired at Vanderbilt after one bad season.

Cons: Even with the recent upgrades, Vanderbilt trails the rest of the SEC in the facilities arms race. As the only private school in the SEC, the Commodores have the smallest fan base in the league — by far. Also, the academic requirements make recruiting that much more difficult for a staff that already has to overcome many hurdles. There is a reason that Vanderbilt went 29 years (from 1983 through 2011) without enjoying a single winning record in the SEC.

Final Verdict: James Franklin is proving that a recruit can have the best of both worlds — get a Vanderbilt education and win games in the nation’s best conference. Still, this is a very difficult job, maybe the toughest of any school in an AQ conference.


Related College Football Content

SEC Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013
Ranking the SEC's College Football-Basketball Coaching Tandems for 2013

College Football's Top 5 QBs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 RBs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 Impact JUCO Transfers for 2013

Grading College Football's New Head Coach Hires for 2013

Ranking the SEC Early Enrollees for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the SEC's College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013</p>
Post date: Monday, February 25, 2013 - 06:40
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/daytona-500-start-time-tv-schedule-lineup-track-info
Body:
The Daytona 500 revs up today at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway for its 55th running. To help you prepare for the legendary NASCAR race, here's a look at everything (When does the race start? What's the starting lineup? Who's likely to win?) you need to know. 
 
Start Time: 1 p.m. ET today (Feb. 24)
 
Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.
 
Watch: FOX; RaceView (Live Stream) 
 
Listen: Motor Racing Network

The 2013 Starting Lineup for the Daytona 500
 
1. Danica Patrick, No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
2. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
3. Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
4. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
5. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
6. Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
7. Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
8. Austin Dillon, No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
9. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
10. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
11. Kurt Busch, No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
12. Matt Kenseth, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
13. Tony Stewart, No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
14. Mark Martin, No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
15. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Penske Racing Ford
16. Paul Menard, No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
17. Casey Mears, No. 13 Germain Racing Ford
18. Jeff Burton, No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
19. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
20. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
21. Joey Logano, No. 22 Penske Racing Ford
22. David Ragan, No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford
23. Bobby Labonte, No. 47 JTG Daugherty Motorsports Toyota
24. Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
25. David Gilliland, No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford
26. Aric Almirola, No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
27. Joe Nemechek, No. 87 Nemco-JRR Toyota
28. Ricky Stenhouse, No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
29. Michael Waltrip, No. 26 Swan Racing Toyota
30. Dave Blaney, No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
31. Scott Speed, No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Ford
32. Josh Wise, No. 35 Front Row Motorsports Ford
33. Trevor Bayne, No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford
34. Ryan Newman, No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
35. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
36. Carl Edwards, No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
37. Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
38. Michael McDowell, No. 98 Phil Parsons Racing Ford
39. Terry Labonte, No. 32 FASLane Racing Ford
40. Regan Smith, No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet
41. J.J. Yeley, No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
42. David Reutimann, No. 83 BK Racing Toyota
43. Travis Kvapil, No. 93 BK Racing Toyota
 
Failed to qualifying: Brian Keselowski, Mike Bliss
 

DAYTONA TRACK INFORMATION

Daytona International Speedway Race Stats

2013 Race Length: 500 miles/200 laps; 400 miles/160 laps

Track Qualifying Record: 210.364 mph (Bill Elliott, 1987)

Race Record: 500 - 177.602 mph (Buddy Baker, 1980); 400 - 173.473 mph (Bobby Allison, 1980)

 

Anonymous Crew Chief's Take on Daytona International Speedway:

“Whatever. It’s a superspeedway. Daytona used to be good when it had character and the cars had to handle. That made speedway racing a little bit of fun. You could take the frustration away from qualifying and actually had to go race and make the car drive good. It’s the hub of our sport; it’s where we start our season, and there is a ton of history there. And it’s a great place and a great racetrack, but now that it’s been repaved, it just doesn’t have any luster. That said, the January test sessions will be huge for everyone with the new bodies.”

 

Classic Daytona Moments:

Suffice it to say that, coming into the 2002 Daytona 500, Ward Burton wasn’t on many prognosticators’ short list of potential winners.

As it turned out, he didn’t let that stop him. Burton, an underdog driver competing for an underdog Bill Davis Racing organization, beat the odds and a star-studded field to capture the 44th annual Daytona 500, in the process scoring one of the biggest upsets in the history of The Great American Race.

Burton’s path to Victory Lane was hardly conventional, however, as the slow-talking Virginia native benefited from the oddest of circumstances to take over the top spot in the final laps.

Burton, who inherited the lead when NASCAR penalized leader Sterling Marlin for hopping out of his car under a red-flag period and attempting to repair damage to his front fender, held off fellow Virginian Elliott Sadler in a three-lap dash to the checkers.

Marlin, forced to restart at the tail end of the longest line, finished eighth and was denied a third victory in the most prestigious of all stock-car races.

 

Fantasy NASCAR Take on Daytona International Speedway:

Contenders

Matt Kenseth—Kenseth was a cool customer amid a firestorm at restrictor plate tracks in 2012. In addition to winning his Duel qualifying race and the Daytona 500, he was also strong in the summer’s 400-miler, leading 89 laps en route to a third-place finish.

Jeff Burton—The Richard Childress Racing driver outlasted the mid-race drama at Daytona in 2012, finishing fifth and second, respectively, in the season’s two points-paying races.

Kyle Busch—His showings in last year’s 500 (17th) and 400 (24th) weren’t all that impressive, but he averaged running positions of 14th and eighth, respectively, in the two races and provided sparks in the season-opening Shootout, driving a damaged race car to an exciting victory.

Sleeper

Jamie McMurray—The 2010 Daytona 500 winner ranked 16th out of 50 drivers on MotorsportsAnalytic.com’s plate track PEER rankings in 2012; however, in a season in which passing at Daytona came at a premium, McMurray registered 359 passes for positions within the top 15.

Runs on Seven Cylinders

Jimmie Johnson—Johnson suffered only three terminal crashes in 2012, and two of them came at Daytona. The five-time champion seems snakebitten on plate tracks as of late, but his equipment is always capable of excelling within the draft.


RELATED: NASCAR 2013: Camping World Truck Series Preview

 
 
Teaser:
<p> Daytona 500 Start Time, TV Schedule, Lineup, Track Info</p>
Post date: Sunday, February 24, 2013 - 08:45
Path: /nascar/nascar-2013-starting-lineup-daytona-500
Body:
The Daytona 500 revs up today at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway for its 55th running. The legendary NASCAR race airs today on Fox at 1 p.m. (ET).
 
 
The 2013 Starting Lineup for the Daytona 500
 
1. Danica Patrick, No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
2. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
3. Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
4. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
5. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
6. Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
7. Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
8. Austin Dillon, No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
9. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
10. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
11. Kurt Busch, No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
12. Matt Kenseth, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
13. Tony Stewart, No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
14. Mark Martin, No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
15. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Penske Racing Ford
16. Paul Menard, No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
17. Casey Mears, No. 13 Germain Racing Ford
18. Jeff Burton, No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
19. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
20. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
21. Joey Logano, No. 22 Penske Racing Ford
22. David Ragan, No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford
23. Bobby Labonte, No. 47 JTG Daugherty Motorsports Toyota
24. Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
25. David Gilliland, No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford
26. Aric Almirola, No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
27. Joe Nemechek, No. 87 Nemco-JRR Toyota
28. Ricky Stenhouse, No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
29. Michael Waltrip, No. 26 Swan Racing Toyota
30. Dave Blaney, No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
31. Scott Speed, No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Ford
32. Josh Wise, No. 35 Front Row Motorsports Ford
33. Trevor Bayne, No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford
34. Ryan Newman, No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
35. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
36. Carl Edwards, No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
37. Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
38. Michael McDowell, No. 98 Phil Parsons Racing Ford
39. Terry Labonte, No. 32 FASLane Racing Ford
40. Regan Smith, No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet
41. J.J. Yeley, No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
42. David Reutimann, No. 83 BK Racing Toyota
43. Travis Kvapil, No. 93 BK Racing Toyota
 
Failed to qualifying: Brian Keselowski, Mike Bliss
 
Teaser:
<p> NASCAR 2013: Starting Lineup for the Daytona 500</p>
Post date: Sunday, February 24, 2013 - 08:24
All taxonomy terms: Monthly, News
Path: /monthly/why-can%E2%80%99t-ncaa-be-more-consistent-penalties-they-hand-out
Body:

Why can’t the NCAA be more consistent? It seems like there is no rhyme or reason to the penalties handed out.

— James B. Anderson, Apopka, Fla.
 
James, one of the biggest complaints about the NCAA is inconsistency in the enforcement process, with good reason. Some schools, players and coaches have the book thrown at them, while others seem to skate by. From an organizational standpoint, there’s not much the NCAA can do. The NCAA can only compel people who want to be involved — and want to stay involved — with college athletics to work with the enforcement process. This is the root of the inconsistencies: Unless former players and coaches or outside influences want to work with the NCAA or provide testimony in a legal setting, the NCAA is out of luck. If the NCAA can’t investigate a case, it can’t punish a school. It’s that simple. If there’s one spot where the NCAA has been consistent, however, it has been punishing those who lie to or mislead NCAA investigators. This has been the downfall for coaches (Bruce Pearl) and players (Dez Bryant). If NCAA penalties are going to be more consistent, something structurally will have to change.
— David Fox, Senior Editor
Teaser:
<p> Go on, ask us anything.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 22, 2013 - 14:49
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/will-ncaa-revisit-penalties-handed-down-penn-state-and-usc
Body:

 

With the NCAA’s recent admission about botching the investigation at Miami, is it possible that they will revisit the penalties handed down to Penn State and USC?
— Nick Harrison, Pittsburgh, Pa.
 
Nick, that’s a good question, but it’s highly unlikely the NCAA will revisit any of its past decisions, specifically the high-profile cases at USC and Penn State. The Miami case was unique; the NCAA specifically admitted to a “severe case of improper conduct” while investigating allegations of wrongdoing involving the school’s football and men’s basketball programs. There was no specific admission of improper investigative techniques at USC (though there is an ongoing lawsuit about the case), and there was no actual NCAA investigation at Penn State. The NCAA used the findings of the independent Freeh Report to determine the sanctions at Penn State. So while it’s likely there will be significant changes to the methodology employed by the NCAA in the future, there is no evidence to suggest the organization will retroactively change any of its previous decisions. 
— Mitchell Light, Managing Editor
Teaser:
<p> Will the NCAA revisit penalties handed down to Penn State and USC?</p>
Post date: Friday, February 22, 2013 - 14:43
Path: /nascar/daytona-international-speedway-track-information
Body:

Daytona International Speedway Race Stats

2013 Race Length: 500 miles/200 laps; 400 miles/160 laps

Track Qualifying Record: 210.364 mph (Bill Elliott, 1987)

Race Record: 500 - 177.602 mph (Buddy Baker, 1980); 400 - 173.473 mph (Bobby Allison, 1980)

 

Anonymous Crew Chief's Take on Daytona International Speedway:

“Whatever. It’s a superspeedway. Daytona used to be good when it had character and the cars had to handle. That made speedway racing a little bit of fun. You could take the frustration away from qualifying and actually had to go race and make the car drive good. It’s the hub of our sport; it’s where we start our season, and there is a ton of history there. And it’s a great place and a great racetrack, but now that it’s been repaved, it just doesn’t have any luster. That said, the January test sessions will be huge for everyone with the new bodies.”

 

Classic Daytona Moments:

Suffice it to say that, coming into the 2002 Daytona 500, Ward Burton wasn’t on many prognosticators’ short list of potential winners.

As it turned out, he didn’t let that stop him. Burton, an underdog driver competing for an underdog Bill Davis Racing organization, beat the odds and a star-studded field to capture the 44th annual Daytona 500, in the process scoring one of the biggest upsets in the history of The Great American Race.

Burton’s path to Victory Lane was hardly conventional, however, as the slow-talking Virginia native benefited from the oddest of circumstances to take over the top spot in the final laps.

Burton, who inherited the lead when NASCAR penalized leader Sterling Marlin for hopping out of his car under a red-flag period and attempting to repair damage to his front fender, held off fellow Virginian Elliott Sadler in a three-lap dash to the checkers.

Marlin, forced to restart at the tail end of the longest line, finished eighth and was denied a third victory in the most prestigious of all stock-car races.

 

Fantasy NASCAR Take on Daytona International Speedway:

Contenders

Matt Kenseth—Kenseth was a cool customer amid a firestorm at restrictor plate tracks in 2012. In addition to winning his Duel qualifying race and the Daytona 500, he was also strong in the summer’s 400-miler, leading 89 laps en route to a third-place finish.

Jeff Burton—The Richard Childress Racing driver outlasted the mid-race drama at Daytona in 2012, finishing fifth and second, respectively, in the season’s two points-paying races.

Kyle Busch—His showings in last year’s 500 (17th) and 400 (24th) weren’t all that impressive, but he averaged running positions of 14th and eighth, respectively, in the two races and provided sparks in the season-opening Shootout, driving a damaged race car to an exciting victory.

Sleeper

Jamie McMurray—The 2010 Daytona 500 winner ranked 16th out of 50 drivers on MotorsportsAnalytic.com’s plate track PEER rankings in 2012; however, in a season in which passing at Daytona came at a premium, McMurray registered 359 passes for positions within the top 15.

Runs on Seven Cylinders

Jimmie Johnson—Johnson suffered only three terminal crashes in 2012, and two of them came at Daytona. The five-time champion seems snakebitten on plate tracks as of late, but his equipment is always capable of excelling within the draft.


RELATED: NASCAR 2013: Camping World Truck Series Preview

 
 
Teaser:
<p> A NASCAR fan's guide to Daytona International Speedway</p>
Post date: Friday, February 22, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /nascar/harvick-favorite-danica-point-daytona-500
Body:

Sunday's Daytona 500, the 55th in the long, storied history of The Great American Race, officially has the field set. There are endless stories emanating from NASCAR's biggest event, but here are the five that will most impact Sunday's race.


No horsing around: Harvick is the favorite
There's just one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver batting 1.000 with trophies on the line in 2013: Kevin Harvick. Both of those trophies, of course, have come in the last week at Daytona where NASCAR's resident "lame duck" has scored impressive wins in the last Saturday's Sprint Unlimited and the first race of Thursday's Budweiser Duel at Daytona.

But statistics aren't the only thing supporting Harvick's case as the head-turning favorite before Sunday's race. Instead, it's the manner in which Harvick has taken control at the end of both races and held on with the grip of a vice.

In the Sprint Unlimited, Harvick first moved to the lead on lap 34 of the 75-lap, three-segment race. Just twice, and for two total laps, did the No. 29 not cross the start-finish as the designated leader. And when the heat turned up on the final lap, Harvick was able to play both lanes and make a bold, sweeping block of Greg Biffle on the backstretch of the money lap. He wasn't pressured again before the checkered flag.

Thursday was much the same in his 150-mile qualifying race, except Harvick was better. A savvy move exiting pit road pinned Trevor Bayne — the only other driver to lead Duel No. 1 — against the infield grass and then behind him as the two rushed through the gears to get up to speed. Bayne never recovered and eventually ended up in a crash while Harvick maintained his position. Even the restart wasn't a hassle for the No. 29, as Harvick managed the high then low line to keep competitors at bay and the Budweiser victory lane bath in sight.

Afterward, many of his competitors noted handling played a huge role in their ability to challenge. Harvick seemed almost incredulous at the thought.

"We never experienced any of that," Harvick said. "I think it's a matter of how you came down here with the balance of your race car."

Translation: the No. 29 is good. You can bet the field has taken notice.


Follow the leader
One factor playing into Harvick's hand as he has dominated so far is the apparent advantage held by the leader in the Gen-6 chassis when drivers form the long, snake-like lines of cars. Just seven different drivers led in the qualifying races Thursday, with just four of them leading for more than one lap.

"It's hard to pass the leader," Kyle Busch said after winning the second Duel race. "Just stay out front when you can get out front and you can run pretty good and just try to hold everybody off behind you."

That showed on the final lap of Busch's race when Kasey Kahne, with a push from Austin Dillon, edged under Matt Kenseth in second but couldn't punch past Busch. Kahne never even got alongside Busch.

"It's really tough to pass. When another car gets near your rear tire, it's like you threw the parachute out," Jimmie Johnson said.

Harvick and Jeff Gordon said Daytona now requires more planning to make a pass for position — not just finding someone to push like the recent years of tandem racing at restrictor plate tracks. The consequences can be dire.

"You've just got be precise in your moves," Harvick said. "If you get yourself in the wrong spot like we did at the beginning of the race in the middle, you just can't go anywhere. The only place you're going is backwards. It's hard to get yourself into the hole that you need when you make a mistake."

Gordon agreed, saying Daytona in 2013 feels like the Daytona of old.

"This is a real thinking race now. It comes down to the way it used to," Gordon said. "You get yourself in position. Everybody kind of rides, and thinks about what they have. You have to have your car handling pretty good, which is tough to do further back in traffic."

But Gordon, a three-time Daytona 500 winner, doesn't think passing the leader will be completely impossible come Sunday”

"You have got to have somebody go with you; you can't do it by yourself. But you can get a run, definitely. No doubt about it.”


Handling the unexpected
In order to get the kind of run Gordon is talking about, and to time it at the point where it'll put a driver in prime position to walk away with that coveted Harley J. Earl trophy, a driver has to first be in the position to make that move. In a 500-mile race, that's no easy feat.

No, the Daytona 500 isn't the same test of attrition that it once was. Parts last longer. Teams hit setups with more regularity. Drivers, typically, are smarter.

But 500 miles is still 500 miles — especially with a new car putting drivers more on the edge than they were with the stuck-to-the-track Car of Tomorrow chassis. Ryan Newman found that out during Wednesday's practice, and Denny Hamlin found it out late in the first qualifying race Thursday. Both suddenly lost control of race cars that weren't handling particularly poorly before they encountered a set of aerodynamic variables strong enough to send the car into a spin quicker than a blink of an eye. That will happen again Sunday and a driver (or drivers) in contention will pay the price.

It's a measure of the new car that has several, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., searching for answers in the two days of practice left before the 500.

"I didn't anticipate really the balance being a big deal because the car does have a good downforce package; we thought the balance would be pretty close," Earnhardt Jr. said. "(I) figured we would be fighting loose a little bit. We have to work on it."

Should drivers withstand that challenge, they'll have to be ready to execute flawless pit stops, too. Kyle Busch took the lead in the second qualifying race thanks to a call for no tires during his pit stop. Trevor Bayne lost his lead in the first race partially because he locked up his tires coming to pit road under green, necessitating a change. Busch wound up winning his qualifying race; Bayne wrecked.

"Pit crews are going to make a huge difference on Sunday," said Tony Stewart. "That's going to be the difference between which pack you come out in. You're going to have to have good stops to stay up there all day."

Like Gordon said, Sunday will feel more like Daytona of old. Carl Edwards, despite wrecking four times at Daytona, is looking forward to that.

"There will be groups of cars that separate themselves, some pit strategy and some guys that slide around and can't keep up," Edwards said. "I think it will make it a really dynamite, fun race."


Manufacturer parity
Not everyone will leave Daytona Sunday night using the words Edwards did, but you can bet one of NASCAR's three competing manufacturers will be celebrating well into the night.

For the first time since the 1990s, cars in the Sprint Cup Series actually resemble their showroom counterparts. It's been a concerted effort by NASCAR, after pressure from those manufacturers, to make those comparisons easier.

It also introduces the realistic potential of Chevrolet, Ford or Toyota having a slight advantage come race day thanks to their body design. NASCAR has worked to prevent the issues, but competitors are competitors, and competitors like to complain.

Just look at the starting lineup for Sunday's race: seven of the top-10 are Chevrolets. If the finishing order resembles that, Jack Roush's comments won't be far behind.
 

Teaser:
<p> Five things to watch for in the Daytona 500.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 22, 2013 - 09:57
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-college-football-coaching-jobs-2013
Body:

We have ranked every college football program in the country, based on the attractiveness of the position from a coaching perspective. We considered many factors — tradition, facilities, location, money  — but in the end, we simply asked ourselves the following question: Where would we want to coach? Today we focus on the Big 12.

(Note: Current or impending NCAA sanctions were not a factor in these rankings.)

Ranking the Coaching Jobs in the Big 12 for 2013

1. Texas

Pros: Texas offers the complete package: Great school in a great town with great tradition. Also, it’s located in a state that treats high school football like a religion.

Cons: Texas has a ton going for it (see above), but the Longhorns are only 22–16 in the last three seasons. The program is not immune to losing. And while Texas is a recruiting power, there are three other AQ conference schools in the state, and virtually every other national power dips into Texas to recruit as well.

Final Verdict: It’s easier said than done — just ask David McWilliams and John Mackovic — but everything is in place to win big on a consistent basis at Texas.
 

2. Oklahoma

Pros: Oklahoma has been a dominant force in college football dating back to the late 1930s. The program has consistently been able to dip into Texas and steal more than its share of elite players on an annual basis. The Big 12, with no Nebraska and no conference title game, offers an easier path to a national championship for OU.

Cons: The state does not produce enough talent to stock the Sooners’ roster with the type of players needed to compete for championship. Recruiting at a high level out of state is a must.

Final Verdict: Not every coach has won big at Oklahoma — John Blake went 8–16 in three seasons (1996-98) — but it is clearly one of the marquee jobs in the nation. Winning a national championship is well within your reach.
 

3. Oklahoma State

Pros: T. Boone Pickens is a very wealthy man, and he’s a big fan of Oklahoma State football. As a result, the Cowboys boast some of the best facilities in the nation. And these facilities help the O-State coaches tap into a fertile recruiting ground in nearby Texas.

Cons: Since Oklahoma State joined the Big Eight in 1960, the Cowboys have finished ahead of Oklahoma five times. The school will always be the No. 2 program in the state.

Final Verdict: In a vacuum, Oklahoma State would be a wonderful place to coach, but if you have your sights set on competing for a national title on a regular basis, Stillwater might not be the place for you. There’s a reason the school has only won two conference titles since the mid-1950s.
 

4. West Virginia

Pros: West Virginia has an SEC feel to it. There are no pro sports to share the spotlight with in the Mountain State; the Mountaineers are the game in town.

Cons: West Virginia’s recruiting base isn’t as strong as many of its rivals in the Big 12. The state simply doesn’t produce many elite-level prospects.

Final Verdict: History tells us that West Virginia is a very good job. The school has won at least 10 games six times since 1988. But it’s not a job without its challenges. It’s a strange geographic fit in the Big 12, which presents some difficulties on the recruiting trail.  
 

5. TCU

Pros: TCU is located in the heart of the most fertile recruiting area in the country. The Horned Frogs have vastly improved their facilities over the past five years and now are a member of one of the nation’s top conferences.

Cons: TCU is now back in a power conference, but it’s still a small private school (8,000-plus undergrads) in league comprised mostly of massive state schools. The fan base will never be as large as many of its rivals.

Final Verdict: Perhaps no school other than Boise State has improved its national profile in the past 5-10 years as much as TCU. The school is back in a power conference after bouncing around for 16 years in the mid-major ranks (WAC to C-USA to MWC). This is not an elite job — TCU will always take a back seat to Texas, Texas A&M and even Texas Tech in its own state — but it’s a much better opportunity for a coach than it was 10 years ago.
 

6. Texas Tech

Pros: Texas Tech has proven it can win consistently. Prior to 2010, the Red Raiders had been .500 or better in league play — SWC and Big 12 — 22 times in the previous 25 seasons. The school has recently invested in the program with an $84 million renovation to Jones AT&T Stadium.

Cons: While the program has managed to remain competitive, winning titles has been very difficult in Lubbock. The school has not won an outright conference title since 1955, when it claimed its third straight Border Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship. Also, recruiting to Lubbock — the outpost of the Big 12 — can be a bit difficult.

Final Verdict: Texas Tech might be the fourth most attractive job in its own state, but it’s still a very good program that has proven it can’t remain relevant in the Big 12.
 

7. Baylor

Pros: Baylor’s recruiting base has always made it an intriguing job. There is more than enough talent in the state to stock a talented roster, even with Texas and Texas A&M grabbing most of the elite players. The school will open a new, 45,000-seat Stadium on Brazos River in 2014. It will be among the nicest facilities in the nation.

Cons: Baylor will always be down low on the food chain among the FBS schools in the state of Texas. As a small, private school, support will always be an issue. In 2012, on the heels of a 10-win season that produced a Heisman Trophy winner, Baylor only averaged 41,194 per game to rank last in the Big 12.

Final Analysis: Art Briles is proving that Baylor can compete in the Big 12. The Bears have won 25 games in the past three season — the best three-year stretch in school history. The new stadium and the university’s commitment to the program should allow Baylor to remain relevant if Briles ever bolts for greener pastures.
 

8. Kansas State

Pros: Kansas State has averaged 8.5 wins over the past 20 years and been ranked in the final AP poll 12 times over that span. Support for K-State football is very strong, especially when the team is winning.

Cons: Only one man has been able to win at Kansas State. This might be more of an indictment of Ron Prince than the program, but the Wildcats went a combined 9–15 in the Big 12 in the three seasons between Bill Snyder’s two tenures.

Final Analysis: It’s tough to evaluate this coaching position. There are seemingly a bunch of hurdles — poor recruiting base, remote location, lack of tradition prior to the 1990s — but Snyder has managed to win at a high level on a consistent basis. Can another coach succeed in Manhattan? We’ll find out soon enough.
 

9. Kansas

Pros: While it’s difficult to win at Kansas, it can be done. Glen Mason won 10 games in 1995, and Mark Mangino won 12 — and played in a BCS bowl — in 2007. The school has invested in facilities over the past decade. The weight room is top notch.

Cons: Crowds at Phog Allen Fieldhouse are arguably the best in college basketball, but support for Kansas football is not nearly as strong. Last season, the Jayhawks ranked 59th in the nation in attendance with 41,329 per game at Memorial Stadium. Also, KU is second on the food chain in a state that doesn’t produce many high-level recruits.

Final Analysis: Kansas is one of the toughest AQ conference jobs in the nation when you factor in the recruiting base, lukewarm support and the fact that no coach since the 1950s has enjoyed sustained success in Lawrence.
 

10. Iowa State

Pros: Cyclone fans sure love Iowa State football. Last season, the school averaged 55,274 fans per game (100.5 percent of capacity) at Jack Trice Stadium. Not bad for a school that has had one winning season since 2005.

Cons: The school is second on the food chain in a state that does not produce many FBS-caliber recruits. Dan McCarney enjoyed a nice run in the early 2000s, but it’s been very difficult to sustain success in Ames.

Final Analysis: Outside of the strong support for a passionate fan base — though that does carry significant weight — it’s difficult to find too many positives about the coaching position at Iowa State. There’s a reason the school has not won more than seven games in consecutive seasons since the late 1970s.

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Grading College Football's New Coach Hires for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013</p>
Post date: Friday, February 22, 2013 - 06:45

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