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Path: /college-football/christian-hackenberg-penn-states-next-superstar
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Christian HackenbergIt all seems so obvious now, as if everyone could see the hand of destiny at work. But the truth is, when Christian Hackenberg showed up as a sophomore at Fork Union Military Academy, a private boarding school in Fork Union, Va., no one really knew what he could do, and no one expected him to claim the starting quarterback position in his first season.

Fork Union didn’t exactly need a savior. It already had a fine quarterback in Richard Quittenton, who had lifted the Blue Devils into the state playoffs the year before. All the coaching staff asked of Hackenberg was that he learn the offense while Quittenton — a Canadian native who is now at the University of Toronto — ran the show. They taught him to operate the hurry-up offense in the hope that he might be able to earn some playing time by focusing on a specific niche.

“It was a sped-up spread,” Fork Union coach Micky Sullivan says. “You just throw it — boom, boom, boom.”

As the season went on, those booms got bigger and more frequent. “Christian took that as his piece of the offense and got really good at it,” Sullivan says. “We realized as we progressed that maybe he gives us a better chance to win. And he grew as a leader going into the huddle as a sophomore. He accepted that mantle and grew with it.”

Fork Union went on to win the Virginia Independent Schools Division I title that year, and Hackenberg ended up growing into one of the top high school quarterbacks in the country. After throwing for 5,509 yards and 56 touchdowns, he became a consensus 5-star prospect and was ESPN.com’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2013.

When he signed with Penn State this past February after a whirlwind recruitment — the school hadn’t started seriously pursuing him until after Bill O’Brien and his staff took over in January 2012 — it was seen as a huge coup for the Nittany Lions. This is a program, after all, that is looking to remain competitive in the face of severe NCAA sanctions. Hackenberg’s signing sent a signal to other elite recruits that under O’Brien’s leadership, Penn State remains an attractive place to play football.

“I liked a lot of other schools,” Hackenberg says, “but I loved Penn State. It’s where I felt most comfortable and where I felt I could maximize my potential athletically and academically.”

Bill O'BrienBut Hackenberg’s signing was more than just a symbolic victory for the Lions. With Matt McGloin gone after leading the Big Ten in passing yardage last season, Penn State needs one of its quarterback prospects to step forward in practice. Steven Bench, the only quarterback on the roster who had taken a snap, left the program after spring practice. Junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson, who enrolled last January, doesn’t have much experience running what O’Brien has described as “not the simplest system in the world.” So with no established favorite to overcome and O’Brien harboring few if any preconceptions about what he can or can’t do, Hackenberg will have an opportunity to compete for the starting spot in preseason camp.   

“Certainly he’ll be in the mix,” O’Brien says. “At every single position, we are going to play the best players. … Christian will come in and we’ll teach him the offense and give him some reps and see how he does.”

After watching him seize the starting position at Fork Union, Sullivan expects Hackenberg to do just fine. “Knowing Christian,” he says, “I can’t imagine that he’s thinking in his head, ‘I’m gonna go to Penn State and redshirt.’ He’s thinking in his head, ‘What do I have to do? How quick can I get in there to learn as much as I can learn so that I can be ready to compete for the starting job?’”

Hackenberg, who is originally from Tamaqua, Pa., and whose father played quarterback at Division III Susquehanna about 60 miles east of University Park, committed to Penn State five months before the NCAA took action last July. He stayed committed even though the sanctions ensure that he will play in, at most, two bowl games during his career. And he continued to sit tight in January when O’Brien’s name came up in connection with NFL coaching vacancies in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

The drama surrounding Penn State made for an interesting recruitment, as Alabama, Miami and Florida, among others, were interested in seeing just how firm his verbal commitment really was. “It was a chore,” recruiting coordinator Charles London concedes. “There were some other schools coming after him. (His decision) is a testament to the relationship he built with our staff here.”

It’s also a testament to how quickly perceptions change. Under Joe Paterno, Penn State wasn’t known for developing quarterbacks. The only Nittany Lion quarterback to succeed in the NFL in the past decade has been Michael Robinson, and that’s been because Robinson was capable of playing running back when he entered the league in 2006. In seven pro seasons, he’s attempted only two passes.

The last Penn State quarterback to make it big in the NFL as a passer was Kerry Collins, who led the Lions to an undefeated season in 1994 and parlayed his success into a 17-year pro career. But after he left, the offense slipped, yielding a series of quarterbacks who never made any impact at the pro level.

Hurt by its inability to develop pro prospects at the position, Penn State struck out with coveted in-state quarterbacks like Chad Henne and Terrelle Pryor. And when it did land a blue-chipper — Anthony Morelli, Rob Bolden and Paul Jones all had either four or five stars from the recruiting services — things never seemed to work out.

Enter O’Brien. The Lions’ new coach came in with a résumé full of NFL experience and a relationship with Tom Brady that gave him instant credibility with recruits.

Once the new staff was in place, the pursuit of Hackenberg began. And now that it’s over, the Lions believe they may have found their quarterback of the future.

Is he the quarterback of the immediate future? O’Brien is leaving his options open. “When you play quarterback at Penn State, you have to really learn how to balance the classroom with being the best-prepared quarterback you can be, working in the weight room, studying the playbook, studying the game plan, your opponent, then obviously going to class, which is No. 1 and will always be No. 1 at Penn State,” he says.

“We think Christian is a guy who is going to come in here and do all those things.”

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

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Teaser:
Christian Hackenberg Could be a Program-Changer for Penn State
Post date: Monday, July 22, 2013 - 07:20
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football, News
Path: /best-and-worst-times-be-clemson-fan
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About the best and worst of Clemson fandom can be described just by recent events.

First, the Tigers are in a good spot on the football field. Dabo Swinney led the Tigers to its first ACC title in 20 years in 2011, and 2012 wrapped up the program’s first back-to-back 10-win seasons in more than two decades. The offense is one of the best in the country, leading the Tigers to a top-10 rank in the preseason.

But this is Clemson, and the Tigers can’t get out of their own way.

When Howard’s Rock was revealed to be vandalized earlier this summer, fans were aghast to find one of the nation’s most beloved college football artifacts broken. Could it have been a rival? Had Clemson found its own Harvey Updyke?

Nope, it was an 18-year-old Clemson fan who snuck into the stadium for kicks and chipped off a piece of the college football landmark.

Beyond recent years, we looked at the best and worst times to be a Clemson fan, and because Clemson football has unique ability to tantalize its own fanbase, we picked the most frustrating time to root for the Tigers.

BEST TIMES TO BE A CLEMSON FAN

1981-90
Record:
91-22-4
National championships: 1
Coach: Danny Ford, Ken Hatfield
Notable players: Terry Kinard, William Perry, Terrence Flagler, Donnell Woolford
The casual college football may forget how good the ‘80s were to Clemson. Tigers fans won’t. From 1981-90, only Nebraska, Miami and BYU won more games than Clemson. The run under Danny Ford included the improbable 1981 national championship coming off a 6-5 season a year earlier. The ’81 team defeated four top-10 teams, including a win over a Herschel Walker-led Georgia team. The Tigers capped the season by defeating No. 4 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl in a de facto national championship game. The era also feature two-time All-American defensive back Terry Kinard and fan favorite “Refrigerator” Perry. Clemson finished the era with three consecutive ACC titles from 1986-88 and four consecutive 10-win seasons from 1987-90.

1948-50
Record:
24-4-3
National championships: 0
Coach: Frank Howard
Notable players: Bobby Gage, Jackie Calvert
Clemson wouldn’t achieve national prominence until the ‘80s, leaving these three (but really two) seasons as the top mark before the 11-1 season in 1978. Clemson went 11-0 with a win over Missouri in the Gator Bowl in 1948 and 9-0-1 with a win over Miami in the Orange Bowl in 1950. Clemson fans had plenty to cheer about, but too many games against regional teams like Presbyterian, Furman and The Citadel made it tough for the nation to take Clemson’s record too seriously.

 

MOST PAINFUL TIME TO BE A CLEMSON FAN

2000-08
Record:
70-42
Coach: Tommy Bowden (right)
It’s tough to classify to the Bowden era at Clemson. The Tigers had eight consecutive winning seasons from 2000-08. They went 7-2 against South Carolina, and at one point took three of four from Florida State. Clemson recruited well and kept talent on the field. Given the program’s history — especially apart from the Danny Ford years — this was all pretty good. But Clemson always kept fans wanting more. This is when “to Clemson” became a verb, meaning raising expectations only to see them crash in spectacular fashion. The Tigers started 8-0 in 2000 only to lose three of the last four. They started 7-1 in 2006 to lose four of the last five, including a bowl game to Kentucky. The 2007 team started the season unranked but excited the Clemson faithful by beating Florida State in the opener. The 4-0 start was spoiled by back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Fittingly, the Bowden era ended when Clemson opened the season ranked ninth in the polls before starting 3-4.

WORST TIME TO BE A CLEMSON FAN

1968-76
Record:
37-57-3
Coaches: Frank Howard, Hootie Ingram, Red Parker
Clemson won five ACC titles under Howard, but his latter years were no reason to brag. The successors to Clemson’s all-time wins leader didn’t fare much better. The Tigers endured eight losing seasons in nine years. Charley Pell was hired in 1977 to fix the program, which he did. But it came at a price.

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Teaser:
From the glory years of the '80s to the agonizing Bowden era
Post date: Friday, July 19, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/kliff-kingsbury-returns-home-lead-texas-tech
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Kliff KingsburyFor all the talk about Kliff Kingsbury’s youth, wardrobe and ability to relate to players, there is one other major factor that should contribute to his success: He’s home.

Kingsbury’s birth certificate says he was born in San Antonio, but the five years he spent as a quarterback in Lubbock have made him as West Texas as the dusty wind that whips across the South Plains or the grassroots Flatlanders, who have helped bring the area to life with their songs for 40 years. His return to Texas Tech has created the kind of excitement that used to prevail when he was tossing it around 50 times per game (at least), and the Red Raiders were starting their journey to prominence under Mike Leach.

Lubbock is a different kind of place. It sits hundreds of miles away from its Big 12 Texas brethren, who are clustered — if it’s possible to be clustered in Lone Star country — on the state’s eastern half. If you’re going to win at Tech, you have to understand the culture. You have to embrace the land and the wind, especially the wind. The school doesn’t have the same pedigree as its in-state rivals, and as late as the 1960s there was a proposal to include it in the Texas A&M system. But Tech maintained its independence and moved on. By hiring five assistant coaches with direct ties to the school, Kingsbury has assured that there will be no learning curve for his staff when it comes to selling the school’s identity.

“Texas Tech fans and students have always had a chip on their shoulder, and they take pride in that,” Kingsbury says. “I hired five coaches who played here, and they bring great energy for the school.”

Tech needs that fire. Under former coach Tommy Tuberville, who surprisingly bolted in December to take the Cincinnati job, the program had drifted away from its personality.

“We have to find our identity again,” Kingsbury says. “I don’t know where it went, but it got lost. We have to establish our identity.”

Kingsbury aims to get that back — in every way possible. That he is doing it as a 33-year old head coach has brought him considerable attention. But the bigger story is that he is the absolute right man for the job, no matter what his age, or how many boosters send secret memos to school administrators suggesting marketing strategies that capitalize on his youth. A lot of people have played football at Tech. Only Kingsbury blends a true comprehension of the Tech essence with a sparkling football résumé and a rare ability to connect with college players.

“Age does not equate to experience,” says Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, for whom Kingsbury worked as offensive coordinator in 2011 at Houston and last year in College Station. “It’s the quality of experience that matters.”

Kingsbury’s 11 years after leaving Lubbock have provided a rock-solid football foundation. Although he threw a total of two passes during parts of four NFL seasons, he had the opportunity to learn from people like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in New England and Mike ­McCarthy in New Orleans. His apprenticeship under Air Raid savant Dana Holgorsen at Houston was akin to graduate work after three years with Leach in Lubbock. And all he did last year was run an offense that helped Johnny Manziel win the Heisman Trophy for the Aggies. But Kingsbury isn’t just a quarterback guy. Sumlin says he understands how to coach offense and how to direct players successfully.

“He’s got a big-picture view,” Sumlin says. “People talk about growth curves and how quickly everything happened for him, but I can tell you this, once you get to the coordinator level in the SEC, there is a lot of pressure involved. You are the head coach of the offense, and you have to be able to talk to your team in that role.”

Although Kingsbury was in College Station for just one season, he made an impact — well beyond Manziel. When he took the job at Tech, Kingsbury asked Sumlin if he could speak to the team. Kingsbury was honest and emotional, and after he finished speaking, one Aggie stood and applauded. Wide receiver Ryan Swope, who struggled to acclimate to Kingsbury’s attack — after authoring the finest pass-catching year in A&M history in 2011  — was moved. “(Swope) stood up and clapped,” Sumlin says. “Everybody did, and there were some tears shed.”

Including by Kingsbury. He isn’t just a fast-climbing coaching jet, although his trajectory is quite steep. His magic is found in his energy and ability to sell not only Lubbock but also his vision for success, in terms college kids can understand. Players are less inclined to listen to an old-schooler spout platitudes and time-tested recipes for success, even if they work. They want a modern touch — for better or worse — and Kingsbury provides that. He’s demanding and exacting in his approach, but one of the reasons Manziel was so successful last year was that Kingsbury let the quarterback freelance often within the confines of the attack. “He’s a quarterback’s quarterbacks coach,” says Case Keenum, who spent four of his six years at UH (2006-11) with Kingsbury. “He’s more inclined to check to a pass than to a run.”

It’s obvious that Kingsbury remembers well what it was like when he was a Red Raider. The whole staff, which includes only one coach older than 40, isn’t far removed from its playing days.

“Being young, we can relate to the kids, because only eight-to-10 years ago, we were doing the same things they are,” says co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, who played at Tech from 2001-04. “We relate to their struggles as student-athletes. They’re missing their moms and dads, and we can tell them how we dealt with that.”

Kingsbury is somewhat evasive about what kind of attack he’ll employ, but fans of Leach’s system will recognize plenty of similarities. The twists will come from Kingsbury’s time with the Patriots and with McCarthy, as well as his experiences with Holgorsen, a spread mad scientist in his own right. “(Kingsbury) does a pretty good job putting his own twist and slant on the offense,” Keenum says.

Mostly, Kingsbury wants to rediscover the mentality that helped Tech succeed under Leach, who wasn’t a West Texas native, but his “swing your sword” attitude played well with fans. Tuberville didn’t run from the South Plains mindset, but he didn’t embrace it, either.

Kingsbury holds tight to that personality. It doesn’t matter how old he is or what kind of clothes he wears.

“He’s up-to-date enough to wear cool brands of jeans and shoes,” co-offensive coordinator Eric Morris says.

It’s not about that, even if the alums want to market him that way. Kingsbury has returned to Lubbock, eager to rejuvenate the Texas Tech he knows and loves.

Right where he belongs.

Written by Michael Bradley for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Big 12 Preview Edition. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 Big 12 season.

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Teaser:
Kliff Kingsbury Returns Home to Lead Texas Tech
Post date: Friday, July 19, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-turns-mark-helfrich-keep-ducks-among-nations-best
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Mark HelfrichWhen Mark Helfrich was promoted to replace Chip Kelly as Oregon's head coach in January, the native Oregonian called it "the opportunity of a lifetime."

The Ducks' athletic director, Rob Mullens, was similarly effusive about the move, which makes Helfrich the third straight UO head coach to be promoted from offensive coordinator. "We gathered a lot of input," Mullens said. "And fortunately for us it all pointed to one person, and he happened to live right here in this zip code."

For as much as Helfrich's credentials — born and raised in the state, former graduate assistant with the Ducks, ready and willing ambassador for the program — differ from Kelly's, he was hired for the sake of continuity. Helfrich needs to continue Oregon's run of four straight BCS appearances to truly be deemed an instant success. It would help to get the Ducks back into the Pac-12 Championship after they failed to qualify in 2012, and there's more than enough returning talent to think Oregon should be able to reach its second BCS championship game in four years.

Lofty expectations for a first-year coach? Most certainly. But with Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota back to run one of the nation's most explosive offenses, and all but four members of the defensive two-deep returning as well, the coaching change has done nothing to temper expectations in Eugene.

Kelly was seen as something of a revolutionary in the college game during his time in Eugene. His offense played at a frenetic pace, his practices were conducted at a fever pitch, and the system of play calling he developed to accommodate that tempo was adopted by no less than the New England Patriots. But Helfrich was a trusted advisor, orchestrating details behind the scenes that made Oregon's system fit for a race track, rather than a traffic jam.

Among the biggest questions after the change was whether Helfrich, and his new offensive coordinator Scott Frost, would prove as daring as Kelly in their play calling. In the last four years, Oregon has led the nation in two-point conversions, and has been among college football's most aggressive teams on fourth down. Oregon tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Tom Osborne was on the UO staff when Helfrich was a graduate assistant in 1997, and coached with him again at Arizona State before they were reunited in Eugene in 2009. Osborne foresees little change in the Ducks' philosophy. "Aggressive play-calling?" he said. "I don't see it changing at all."

Marcus MariotaOne element that seems certain to change, if only slightly, is Oregon's run-pass balance. In 2012 the Ducks ran the ball more often, and for a higher percentage of their total offense, than they had in 30 years. With Mariota throwing to a veteran group of receivers and tight ends in 2013, that figures to change. But Helfrich's pedigree could be a factor, too. He's a former dropback passer at Southern Oregon University who was a quarterbacks coach in his four previous jobs prior to being named Oregon's head coach. The stadium record for passing yardage at the Ducks' Autzen Stadium is 536 yards by Andrew Walter of Arizona State in 2002 — with Helfrich as his position coach.

There was one noticeable change for the Ducks during Helfrich's first spring — Kelly was a yeller, while Helfrich is not. Following the first practice in April, Mariota was noticeably hoarse. "Now you don't have that extra voice," Mariota said. "I was trying to be that, and it kind of caught up with me."

Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti chose his words carefully in describing Helfrich's "softer touch," perhaps owing to the fact he's a married father of two, where as Kelly was the rare bachelor among the head coaching ranks nationally. Aliotti's called differences between the two "the one million dollar question."

"Everything's been the same," Aliotti said. "They're just two difference personalities out there. As far as how they conduct practice, as far as what we want to get done, you wouldn't even notice a change."

One area in which Mullens would probably prefer a change is in his head coach's public persona. Kelly could be outwardly antagonistic of media, and cut back dramatically on his interactions with boosters. “That’s part of the job,” Helfrich said. “We’re going to do our best to make everybody feel involved.”

And he hopes to be doing so for a long time. “Coaching at Oregon is the pinnacle for me,” Helfrich said. "This is a special place to me. We talked about a lifetime contract; was not able to get that done, but maybe we’ll earn that here down the road.”

Written by Rob Moseley for Athlon Sports. Visit our online store to order your 2013 Pac-12 preview to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 Pac-12 season.

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Teaser:
A New Era Begins at Oregon with Coach Mark Helfrich
Post date: Thursday, July 18, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-and-michigan-new-ten-year-war
Body:

Don’t wear anything red into the Michigan football building. Just don’t do it. Somebody will ask you to take it off. It doesn’t matter who you are, be it celebrity or head of state, or who they are, whether freshman or Brady Hoke himself, you will not be welcome.

They’re not too fond of blue in Columbus. In fact, in the days leading up to the game with Michigan, Ohio State hosts an event that allows people to turn in any clothing of that color in return for a free T-shirt and a discount on Buckeye apparel. They give the blue stuff to charities — as quickly as they can.

“It’s called ‘Lose the Blue,’” OSU athletic director Gene Smith says.

No one should be surprised about either of those revelations. The rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State is one of the most intense in college football — in all of American sports, for that matter. For decades, the schools have thirsted to defeat the other and have met on the last Saturday of every regular season except three since 1935. The games have decided the Big Ten championship dozens of times and from 1969-78 were dominated by the outsized personalities of OSU coach Woody Hayes and U-M boss Bo Schembechler. During that stretch — actually from 1969-81 — either the Buckeyes or Wolverines represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl every season.

Fans may be witnessing the beginning of a reprise of Bo and Woody’s “10-Year War,” thanks to Hoke and Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer. The schools may not be ushering in another decade of dominance, a la the “Big Two and Little Eight,” but it’s clear Michigan and Ohio State are setting the tone for the conference, even as it expands in today’s unpredictable climate. Their recruiting stands above that of the league’s other schools, and their performance on the field appears to be moving toward a different level. In a 12-team (soon to be 14-team) conference, it’s nearly impossible for two to dominate, ’70s style, but the Buckeyes and Wolverines could come close.

“We could be very easily at the start of another ‘10-Year War,’” says Michigan athletic director David Brandon, who played for the Wolverines from 1971-73. “There are some similarities with where we are today versus when I was part of (the rivalry).”

Yes, there are. Like Schembechler, Hoke is an Ohio native who spent some time coaching a school in the state (Toledo, 1987-89). Meyer was born in Ohio, as was Hayes. The two men went to college at schools in the state — Meyer at Cincinnati; Hayes at Denison — and both coached colleges in Ohio. Although the gregarious Hoke isn’t the same firebrand Schembechler was, he understands the high expectations at his school and realizes the importance of the rivalry. Being an Ohioan makes it easier for Meyer to appreciate the intensity of the teams’ enmity.

Related: Ranking the Big Ten Uniforms for 2013
 

“Obviously, (you see it) when you walk through the (Ohio State football) facility, and there’s all kinds of tributes to this game, but this is all I knew growing up,” Meyer said last November before the Buckeyes’ win over Michigan. “It’s all anybody knew. In the era when I grew up, there really wasn’t much other than three channels on your television, and this game.”

Hayes left Ohio State after the ’78 season, and Schembechler lasted until 1989. The ensuing two-plus decades have featured some great games, upset victories and outstanding performances, but the teams weren’t always on the same footing. When one would thrive, the other might sag a little. Now, the two schools seem to be ascending concurrently.

The primary reason is their approach to recruiting, which is more aggressive and persistent than much of the Big Ten. When Meyer took over in 2012, he did not apologize for contacting committed — but unsigned — prospects at other conference schools and hired assistants who were dedicated to pursuing recruits almost constantly. Hoke and his staff had already been recruiting with an extremely aggressive approach, but they are quite aware of the OSU style and have become even more earnest.

“On most staffs you see four good recruiters and five average ones,” says Tom Lemming, of CBS Sports Network. “At Ohio State, there are nine great recruiters. It’s the same with (Alabama’s) Nick Saban and (LSU’s) Les Miles. If you’re an assistant, your hobby has to be recruiting, not golf.

“Brady Hoke is a blue-collar, aggressive, non-stop recruiter. He realizes that if he ­doesn’t do it that way, he’s going to get steamrolled by Ohio State.”

It helps that both head coaches have personalities that can draw the attention of top recruits and convince them to attend their schools. Meyer’s track record — two national championships at Florida — and year spent as an analyst at ESPN have established him as a star in the coaching ranks. But it’s not just Meyer’s Q score. His assistants are relentless, and he is, too. Within a few hours of his taking the OSU job in late 2011, he was on the phone to Rich Hansen of St. Peter’s (N.J.) Prep to tell him he was back in business. Whereas former OSU coach Jim Tressel was able to lock down Ohio, Meyer is willing to sacrifice a few prospects in-state to attract better, faster players from all over.

Related: Best and Worst Times to be a Michigan Fan
 

“I’ll bet (Meyer) called 100 coaches the day he was hired,” Lemming says. “He goes the extra mile. Other coaches may have been partying if they got that job. He went to work immediately.”

Hoke was a member of Lloyd Carr’s staff in the late ’90s, when Michigan began to extend its recruiting reach, so he understands the need to be more than just the king of the Rust Belt. He has made strong inroads into Ohio, but he has the Wolverines looking nationally, too. And where Meyer is perpetually intense and unfailingly direct, Hoke has a more laid-back approach that works well with 18-year-olds.

“Brady really connects with people,” Brandon says. “He’s a very genuine guy, and what you see is what you get. There’s no phoniness, no fake polish and no P.R. spinning. He’s not trying to be someone he isn’t.

“He’s honest and straightforward, and he’s a likeable guy with very little ego. Michigan football isn’t about him. The players like that.”

A lot of coaches work hard on the recruiting trails, but few have the ability to sell what Michigan and Ohio State do. Each program has decades of tradition, multiple national titles, gigantic, jam-packed stadiums and facilities that are unsurpassed in the Big Ten — and surpassed by few, if any, other programs in the nation. The schools are committed to athletic success and have the ability to reach out beyond the conference’s Midwestern (and soon to be Eastern) footprint in search of elite players capable of competing against the nation’s best.

This past February, in addition to mining Michigan (eight signees) and Ohio (nine), the Wolverines brought in players from Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina and Maryland. OSU culled 11 from within the Buckeye State but also attracted talent from Texas (three players), Georgia (two), Florida, California, Missouri and North and South Carolina.

Michigan has already received commitments from players hailing from Utah, Virginia and Florida for 2014. While OSU’s class includes players from Ohio and Michigan, don’t expect Meyer and his staff to spend all of their time in the two states.

Related: Will Michigan Play in a BCS Bowl in 2013?
 

And look out for the head-to-head battle that is surely coming for Grand Rapids Christian (Mich.) High School standout Drake Harris. The 6'4", 185-pound 4-star wideout committed to Michigan in April, the day after he visited Ohio State. Don’t expect Meyer to give up on Harris until the young man signs a letter-of-intent next February. It would be great for Meyer to steal one from Michigan; more important, it would add another speedy player to the OSU roster.

“There aren’t enough fast athletes to go around in the Midwest,” says Bobby Burton, co-CEO of 247Sports.com. “You can’t exist solely on Midwest players, not at an elite level.

Urban Meyer“Meyer was a coach at Florida and an assistant at Notre Dame, so he’s been part of that. When Brady Hoke was an assistant at Michigan (from 1995-2002), they went national. These guys understand.”

The Wolverines and Buckeyes received some unexpected assistance in their move to the top of the league when the NCAA slammed Penn State with four years of probation in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Although Bill O’Brien did a fine job last year, leading the Nittany Lions to an 8–4 record, the severe recruiting restrictions placed on PSU and its four-year bowl ban won’t allow it to be an influential player on the national recruiting scene. If O’Brien takes an NFL head coaching job, as it was rumored over the winter he might, that would hurt Penn State further.

Nebraska, which was expected to be a strong counterbalance to the traditional Big Ten bullies, has yet to reach that level, although it has quite a tradition of winning. When we last saw the Cornhuskers, they were surrendering 115 points in their final two games of the 2012 season.

The arrivals of Hoke and Meyer signal a new chapter in the Michigan-Ohio State hostilities, at least on the field. As for the other parts of the rivalry, the continued reconfiguring of conferences could lead to some interesting decisions. Right now, the schools are committed to playing the game on the regular season’s last week, and in the afternoon.

“There will be a time when someone will ask about playing it in primetime, which I won’t do,” OSU athletic director Gene Smith says. “We will do everything we can to protect it.”

Smith’s stance is admirable, but schools don’t control their scheduling destinies, even those with annual nine-figure athletic revenues, like Ohio State. If the networks demand a primetime kickoff, it will be hard to refuse, especially when all of this realignment business has been fueled by TV money.

Then there is the divisional situation. Right now, the teams are separated, leading some to wonder what the response would be if the Buckeyes and Wolverines met one week on the regular-season slate and seven days later in the Big Ten title tilt.

“I’m okay with that,” Brandon says.

But when Rutgers and Maryland join up in 2014, the league will go with a more conventional, East and West configuration, rather than the current — and absurd — Legends and Leaders setup. This will put Michigan and Ohio State in the same division and end any talk of a doubleheader. Under the league’s new alignment, the contest could become a de facto conference semifinal, with the winners advancing to the Big Ten Championship Game.

The rivalry seems set for another period of high-profile, high-level play. Urban and Brady might not top Woody and Bo, but it sure looks like fun is on the horizon. And everybody seems ready for it.

“There’s a different feeling when you walk into (Ohio Stadium), especially when you’re wearing a Michigan jersey,” Michigan senior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan says. “Our coaches are big on the Navy SEALS idea of a small group going in against big numbers and getting the job done and leaving. I love it. I love feeling the hate.

“Every single game, I want the guy who lines up across from me to be hurting at the end of the game. When it comes to Michigan-Ohio State, it’s different. I want to hit the guy a little harder.”

That’s what you get for wearing red around a Wolverine.

 

Written by Michael Bradley for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Big Ten Preview Edition. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 Big 12 season.

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5 First-Year Starting QBs Who Could Win College Football's National Title

Teaser:
Ohio State and Michigan: The New Ten-Year War
Post date: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-michigan-football-fan
Body:

The first college football program to 900 wins is bound to have its share of high moments. Or an entire decade on top.

A Michigan Man, therefore, knows good football when he sees it. Any Michigan Man — or Michigan Woman — in Ann Arbor through the 1970s would have seen the best of modern Michigan. If Ohio State weren’t there to spoil otherwise undefeated seasons, Michigan would have been unstoppable.

The first generation of Michigan fans, though, knows a few things about unstoppable. As in, beating a team 128-0 unstoppable. Those were the kinds of results Michigan saw from coach Fielding Yost at the start of his 55-1-1 run at the turn of the century.

But Michigan fans, after being able to buy bowl tickets every year from 1975-2007, finally learned what it’s like to be on the other spectrum of college football when Rich Rodriguez led the Wolverines to an unthinkable 3-9 season in 2008. It got better, but not by much until recent seasons.

Picking the best times to be a Michigan fan, despite all their success, was actually pretty easy. Nearly the entire Bo Schembechler era fits, bookended by Yost’s “Point a Minute” teams and Lloyd Carr’s title-winning team in 1997.

The worst times, unfortunately for Michigan fans, are just as easy to identify.

Here are the best and worst time to root for the Maize and Blue.

BEST TIMES TO BE A MICHIGAN FAN

1969-80
Record: 114-21-3
National championships: 0
Coach: Bo Schembechler
Notable players: Dan Dierdorf, Jim Mandich, Dave Brown, Rick Leach, Reggie McKenzie, Tom Curtis, Anthony Carter, Mark Donahue
The Wolverines had been treading water before hiring the coach who would become the quintessential Michigan Man in Bo Schembechler. In 1969, Schembechler led Michigan to the Rose Bowl in his first season, setting up a string of 10 consecutive top-10 finishes in the AP poll. With a physical brand of football built up front thanks to linemen like Dierdorf, Michigan won at least a share of the Big Ten title eight times in Schembechler’s first 10 seasons, including a 41-3-1 run from 1971-74. Unfortunately for Michigan, that 0-3-1 came at the the hands of Ohio State. Despite the heartbreakers against Ohio State, By the end of the decade, Michigan finished with the fourth-most wins during the ‘70s.

1997-99
Record:
32-5
National championships: 1
Coach: Lloyd Carr
Notable players: Jon Jansen, Charles Woodson, Jarrett Irons, Brian Griese, Tom Brady, Anthony Thomas
Michigan fans soured on Carr by the end of his tenure, but Carr revived the Wolverines after the lackluster late years of Gary Moeller. The high point was the 1997 season when Michigan won its first national title since 1948. Woodson won the Heisman in ’97, but he wouldn’t become the best pro out of this group — that would be two-year starter Tom Brady in ’98-99.

1901-05
Record: 55-1-1
National championships: 4
Coach: Fielding Yost
Notable players: Willie Heston, Neil Snow
Before the turn of the century, the Ivy League ruled college football. That changed with Fielding Yost’s five-year run starting in 1901. Michigan won four consecutive pre-AP national championships from ’01-04. The “Point a Minute” Michigan teams outscored opponents 2,821-42, but no team was more impressive than the 1901 squad that defeated opponents by a combined score of 550-0.

WORST TIMES TO BE A MICHIGAN FAN

2007-10
Record: 24-26
Coach: Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez
On paper, Lloyd Carr’s final season in 2007 wasn’t bad — 9-4 and a win over Heisman winner Tim Tebow in the Capital One Bowl for a top-20 finish. But the season started with one of the most embarrassing losses in school history against Appalachian State. After Carr, Michigan attempted to shake up its approach by hiring a non-Michigan Man in Rodriguez from West Virginia. The experiment was a disaster. Rodriguez led Michigan to a 3-9 year in his first season for Michigan’s first losing season since 1967. Rodriguez modernized the offense to the spread with Denard Robinson, but by then, the defense was a sieve. Rodriguez was fired with a 15-22 mark to become the only Michigan coach with a career losing record.

1934-37
Record: 10-22
Coach: Harry Kipke
Michigan went 15-0-1 in 1932-33, but the wheels fell off in spectacular fashion. Credit Kipke with consistency, though: He went 1-7, 4-4, 1-7 and 4-4 in his final four seasons. The Ohio State rivalry was in its pre-Woody and Bo stages, but the Buckeyes defeated Michigan by a combined score of 114-0 during these four years.

1958-67
Record:
45-46-3
Coach: Bennie Oosterbaan, Bump Elliott
Michigan went 9-1 with a Rose Bowl win in 1964, but that was the outlier in this lost decade for Wolverines football. Otherwise, Michigan finished fifth or lower in the Big Ten every other season during this span, including a last-place finish in 1962.

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College Football's 2013 All-Freshman Team
2013 All-America Team 

Teaser:
Which era would a true Michigan Man pick?
Post date: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/12-steps-fix-acc-football
Body:

The good news for ACC fans is that the conference survived the most recent round of realignment shenanigans and has found its way into the big five conference alignment for the upcoming college football playoff. The bad news is that there can be little argument the league is fifth among the quintet and still susceptible to the expansion yearnings of its more prosperous brethren.

So, what is the ACC to do? Glad you asked. Here is a modest, 12-step program to security.
 

1. Conference-Wide: Be Happy With What You Have

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe laughs when asked about Louisville’s inclusion in the ACC.

“The hits just keep on coming,” he says.

Grobe isn’t thrilled at the prospect of playing the Cardinals, who will join the ACC in 2014. Not exactly delighted that Notre Dame will show up on the schedule every two or three years, either. But like the rest of the coaches in the conference, he understands that strength connotes security. There may be other leagues out there shopping, but a sturdy lineup ought to make members think a little bit before leaving town.

“If you’re a good league, you’ve got teams that are attractive to other leagues,” Grobe says. “(The ACC) may be attractive to other teams, too.”

The best thing that could have happened to football in the conference was Louisville’s resounding win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The Cardinals looked fast, nasty and athletic. In many ways, they resembled an SEC team. Although ND won’t be playing a full slate of games — the Irish are in for five a year starting in 2014 — its arrival adds gridiron cachet, especially now that Notre Dame is winning again.

Add those two teams to Florida State, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Miami, name brands all, and you have a solid top tier. If Pittsburgh and Syracuse play at levels with which we are accustomed, the ACC has all it needs — on paper at least.



2. Florida State: Develop Jameis Winston Into A Star

The last time the Seminoles had an All-ACC quarterback was in 2000, when Chris Weinke earned the honor. That’s unacceptable at a place where primo passers abounded during the ’80s and ’90s.

Winston might just change that. The 6'4", 206-pound redshirt freshman has a huge arm — YouTube him throwing the ball over a frat house — and all of the requisite athletic ability to be a star. He split time during the spring as part of the FSU baseball team, but his true home is the gridiron. Sure, Winston

will have to beat out Jacob Coker, but Noles’ fans should be rooting hard for him to prevail.

As a prep senior, Winston completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,424 yards and 28 TDs while also running for 1,065 yards and 15 scores. Sounds exactly like what FSU needs. At last.

 

3. Miami: Build An On-Campus Stadium

Tune in to watch the Hurricanes play anybody but FSU or a big-name non-conference opponent, and you will see tens of thousands of empty seats in Sun Life Stadium, home of the NFL’s Dolphins. The place is 21 miles from campus and offers a stale gameday experience. It was one thing when the Canes played in the old Orange Bowl. At least that place had character. Broadway Joe kicked butt there.

Miami needs an on-campus stadium. It doesn’t have to be a palace, but it should hold about 45,000 people and create a real home-field advantage for the Hurricanes. Hit up some of those wealthy former players for seed money and then start a real fundraising campaign.

Who knows — maybe Uncle Luke might start showing up again. On second thought, better not let him know.



4. Louisville: Keep Tom Jurich

 Fewer than 10 years ago, Louisville was in Conference USA, possessed a limited football profile and was known more for playing in a stadium named for a pizza parlor than winning meaningful games. Thanks in big part to AD Jurich, the Cardinals are now fully made members of the ACC and are coming off that big win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, their second BCS appearance in seven years. That isn’t all due to Jurich, but he has played a huge leadership role in the transformation.

Because of that, it is imperative that the Cards hang on to Jurich as if he were the last canister of oxygen on the moon. Few NCAA ADs have the ability to get things done like Jurich. His charisma was the main ingredient in U of L’s ability to hire Rick Pitino as its basketball coach, and his vision helped lift Louisville from the margins of I-A football to a seat at the main table. He also has some swing on the national level.

The U of L doesn’t have the same gridiron pedigree of other ACC members, so it can’t rely on tradition and historical success when things get tough. Jurich is the key to future prosperity for Louisville football, so any combination of cash and prizes necessary to keep him on board is appropriate.

 

5. Clemson: Find The Next Chad Morris

One wouldn’t imagine it would be too hard to find a quality offensive mind willing to direct the Tiger attack, since current offensive coordinator Chad Morris makes $1.3 million a year. But big money doesn’t always guarantee the best hires, so Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney better have a good short list of candidates to replace Morris, because unless the gifted coordinator screws up completely this year, he’ll be a head coach in 2014.

Morris interviewed for the vacant NC State and Texas Tech spots last year, and teams all over the country want gifted offensive minds to direct their teams, if only to create excitement that spurs ticket sales. Kliff Kingsbury may be a Red Raider alum, but his work with the Houston and Texas A&M attacks is what made him an attractive candidate in Lubbock.

Morris sure has a lot to work with at Clemson this year. Quarterback Tajh Boyd and wideout Sammy Watkins are both All-America candidates, and it will be shocking if the Tigers don’t pile up the points and yards. Clemson won the ACC in 2011 and had a big comeback triumph over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year. Momentum is building, but if Morris bolts from the fold, Swinney must be ready to reload with a similarly proficient offensive mind.
 

6. Virginia, North Carolina, NC State: Protect The Home Turf

Lately, it doesn’t matter where a school might be located; it can go shopping for talent in North Carolina and Virginia. Oh, the Tar Heels and Wahoos may get a couple of prospects to remain at home, but they haven’t been able to prevent interlopers from grabbing the top talent. A trend that has been growing hit particularly hard this past Signing Day.

Virginia running back Derrick Green is going to Michigan. Defensive end Jonathan Allen will play for Alabama. Linebacker E.J. Levenberry is headed for Florida State, and quarterback Ryan Burns signed with Stanford. Yes, running back Taquan Mizzell and linebacker Donta Wilkins are headed for Charlottesville, but the Wahoos didn’t do a very good job with the locals. Of the top 15 players on Rivals’ Virginia list, only four chose the Cavs.

The story isn’t any better next door. Only four of the 15 best prospects (according to the Charlotte Observer) will be Tar Heels — and none signed with NC State (or Wake Forest or Duke, the other two in-state ACC schools). Some of the big names that got away include wideout Marquez North (Tennessee), linebacker Peter Kalambayi (Stanford), running back Larenz Bryant (South Carolina) and defensive tackle Greg Gilmore (LSU). Sure, back T.J. Logan and corner Brian Walker are going to Chapel Hill, but they aren’t enough.

North Carolina, NC State and Virginia have plenty to sell. It’s time to start closing some deals.


7. Virginia Tech: Pay Attention To The Offense

There are three new offensive coaches at Virginia Tech this season and one old idea about how to win football games.

“I still think there is something good to be said about playing good defense and being good in the kicking game,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer says. “That affects field position. You have to take care of the ball and be efficient on offense. That starts with running the football. Think about it: Alabama has been the best team in the country the last four years, and that’s how they do it. That’s how Stanford has been successful.”

So, don’t expect air-raid sirens to be sounding around Blacksburg once new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler starts calling plays. What Virginia Tech fans do want is a return to 2011 form by quarterback Logan Thomas, who completed a mere 51.3 percent of his throws last season, threw 16 picks against only 18 TDs and was dreadful in the Hokies’ bowl win over Rutgers, completing only 38.5 percent of his passes. In 2011, Thomas completed 59.8 percent and tossed only 10 interceptions.

Although some criticized the hiring of Loeffler, who presided over Auburn’s wretched attack last year, the coach was extremely effective directing quarterbacks within a pro-style offense at Michigan for several years and could be just what the Hokies need. Being one-dimensional is no way to get back into the top five.

“Logan will be fine,” Beamer says. “We’ve got to get people around him who are fine, too. We need good running backs, and we have to be more consistent at the wide receiver position. If people around Logan are more consistent, he’ll be fine. That’s what he had two years ago.”
 

8. Pittsburgh: Get Your Act Together

Since Paul Chryst is entering his second year at the Panthers’ helm, he qualifies as an elder statesman among recent Pitt coaches. Before Chryst took over in 2012, the school had employed three coaches — Dave Wannstedt, Mike Haywood, Todd Graham — in a span of two seasons. (Haywood was only there a month.)

“Stability is a good thing,” Chryst says.

If the Panthers are going to establish themselves as contenders in the ACC, they must be more than just talented. Pitt has to deliver, and we’re not just talking about a fourth straight postseason trip to Birmingham, Ala. Chryst hopes to develop a team that will win at a high level consistently. He was part of that as an assistant at Wisconsin, and though he admits he hasn’t directed a breakthrough as a boss man, Chryst understands what it will take.

“You have to have enough talent, but you have to have guys who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” he says. “The teams that I have been a part of that have won big maybe weren’t the most talented in the league, but they had enough talent and plenty of hard work and commitment.”

It’s going to take a while for the Panthers to deliver big results every season, since Chryst is trying to re-cast the team after Graham’s one-and-done “tenure.” But if he stays around — “You understand why your name comes up, and it’s not a big deal, but it’s interesting when you know what you’re doing and hear things,” he says — Chryst has a chance.

 

9. Boston College and Syracuse: Be Eastern Powers Again

When the ACC added Boston College, there were big plans by other member schools to pillage New England for talent. Granted, there are more ice hockey standouts in that part of the country than football stars, but a new market opened up. The same sentiment was echoed when Syracuse and Pitt bolted the Big East. Imagine how Georgia Tech would be able to tell New York recruits about periodic trips north, or Miami could assuage the fears of shaky parents by promising to bring Junior home twice during his four years on campus.

That’s all nice, but even better than just supplying the rest of the league with talent is the idea that BC and Syracuse can become the kind of powerful Eastern programs they once were. Multiple bowl games, big non-conference triumphs and future NFL performers were once parts of the teams’ personalities. That must happen again.

Start with recruiting. There is no way either team should lose a player from the Northeast to any neighborhood school besides Pitt or Penn State. UConn and Temple are members of a mid-major conference, and even though Rutgers will soon be a Big Ten school, the Knights have been searching for an identity on the gridiron for decades. It won’t be easy, since there isn’t an abundance of talent in the region, but it happened before, and both teams would help the league greatly by returning to glory.
 

 

10. North Carolina: Behave!

When did the Tar Heels decide it was a good idea to act like an old Southwest Conference school? Instead of behaving like a proud institution with strong academic standards and a desire to do things the right way, UNC has become a bandit school that traffics in cash and prizes for players and no-show class grades. Come on, Carolina, you’re better than that.

Second-year head coach Larry Fedora had a solid debut, leading the Heels to an 8–4 record (North Carolina was ineligible for a bowl game), but he and the program could endure another round of punishments if the academic fraud scandal based in the school’s African and Afro-American Studies department is deemed sanction-worthy by the NCAA. It may be a while before UNC is clear of trouble, but Fedora and the rest of the school would benefit greatly from playing by the rules from here on out.



11. Duke and Wake Forest: Hold That Line

Okay, we get it. Wake has about 200 students. (Editor’s Note: He’s kidding; the school’s enrollment is 4,800.) And amidst those brick buildings and tree-lined quadrangles, real work gets done. The same thing happens at Duke, where Wallace Wade Stadium is still pretty much like the place that hosted the 1942 Rose Bowl.

But that doesn’t mean the programs have to be walkovers, especially in non-conference contests against like schools. To their credit, Wake and Duke have represented the league fairly well lately. The Blue Devils played in the Belk Bowl last year, their first postseason appearance since January 1995. And though the outcome was crushing (a late collapse led to a 14-point loss), there is no question that coach David Cutcliffe has the program going in the right direction.

Jim Grobe is doing a fine job in Winston-Salem, even though the Deacons have been to only one bowl in four seasons. Wake has a refurbished stadium and made three straight postseason appearances from 2006-08.

“It’s important for the (ACC’s) academic schools to have success,” Grobe says, referring to Wake and Duke. “But that’s tough, when you have to start with a guy who can get a degree from Wake Forest and still bump into the Noles and Canes and Hokies.”

 

12. League-Wide: Knock Off Some Quality Opponents

The ACC can crow all it wants about last year’s 4–2 bowl record, but other than the Clemson win over LSU, none was particularly impressive. Beating Rutgers, Northern Illinois and a disinterested USC team that was without quarterback Matt Barkley hardly gives the league reason to thump its chest.

If the ACC wants to be considered on a par with the other four major conferences, it has to knock off some Teams That Matter. Last year, Miami lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame by a combined score of 93–16. Clemson lost to South Carolina at home. Florida State fell to Florida in Tallahassee. Virginia Tech lost at Pitt. Louisville knocked off North Carolina, and Stanford throttled Duke. In other words, nobody hung an impressive non-con scalp on the wall.

That must change. The Hokies get a chance Aug. 31, when they play Alabama in Atlanta. That same weekend, Georgia visits Clemson, and UNC heads to Columbia to play the Gamecocks. A week later, Florida is at Miami, and Virginia hosts Oregon. There you have it; five chances to make a mark.

“Us starting out against Alabama is certainly a challenge,” Beamer says. “The odds are against us, because they’re a good team. But we’ve got a good team, too.”

Get it done, Coach.
 

BONUS: Get Notre Dame To Join As A Full Member

Come on, people. You hold all the cards in this one. Sure, it’s great to have ND around for five conference football games, but by giving the Irish a pass on full football membership, you’re allowing the school to protect its other sports at a discount. Imagine what would happen if Notre Dame had to go out and find another home. Maybe the American Athletic Conference would take it, but ND already ditched those schools back when the league was known as the Big East. And scheduling 12 football games every year when many BCS members won’t play them won’t be easy. Play some hardball with the Irish. Tell them the free lunch is over. That would sure help the conference. 

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


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Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-oklahoma-state-football-fan
Body:

There’s no better time than the present in Stillwater.

That’s our contention in our ongoing series highlighting the best and worst times to be a fan. Relative to Oklahoma State’s history, there’s no better time to root for the Pokes right now.

Our “era” we highlighted as the best spans from 2008-11, but we’d easily extend those parameters to 2013 if Oklahoma State delivers on our preseason prediction to win the Big 12.

Other eras may have produced bigger stars (Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas) or across the board athletic success (basketball, football and wrestling in the 1940s), but in terms of being in the thick of the Big 12 race and the national conversation, the Oklahoma State program from 2008-11 has given fans in Stillwater the most reasons to cheer.

BEST TIMES TO BE AN OKLAHOMA STATE FAN

2008-11
Record:
41-11
National championships: 0
Coach: Mike Gundy
Notable players: Brandon Weeden, Zac Robinson, Justin Blackmon, Russell Okung, Brandon Pettigrew, Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter
Oklahoma State is in the midst of its greatest era of sustained success with seven consecutive winning seasons. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are one of the most exciting teams to watch, at least with the no-huddle spread offense. The school’s top two career passers (Weeden and Robinson) and top career receiver (Blackmon) have played during this era as well. The best season in school history in 2011 resulted in a top-three finish and the program’s first outright conference title since 1926. Only a loss to Iowa State prevented Oklahoma State from playing for national title that season.

1984-88
Record: 44-15
National championships: 0
Coach: Pat Jones
Notable players: Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas, Mike Gundy, Hart Lee Dykes, Leslie O’Neal
Oklahoma State fans thought they had it good with Thurman Thomas, who rushed for 4,595 yards in four seasons from 1984-87. For sure, they did. But Barry Sanders in 1988 had a season for the ages with 2,628 yards and 39 touchdowns in 12 games on the way to to a lopsided victory in the Heisman race. Before 2010-11, this was the first time an Oklahoma State team won as many as 20 games in back-to-back seasons. Alas, the Cowboys remained under the thumb of rival Oklahoma. Amid a 10-2 season in 1984, then-No. 3 Oklahoma State lost 24-14 to a second-ranked Oklahoma. The future of the program, though, was under center during this era as the quarterback Gundy became the team’s career leading passer — at least until he became coach.

1944-45
Record: 17-1
National championships: 0
Coach: Jim Lookabaugh
Notable players: Bob Fenimore, Neill Armstrong, Jake Colhouer
For a stretch of three seasons, Oklahoma State (then Oklahoma A&M) was the Florida or Ohio State of its day in terms of multi-sport success. The basketball team won back-to-back national titles under Hank Iba in 1945-46. The wrestling team won its 14th championship (to this day, Oklahoma State remains one of the few major powers where wrestling is a big deal). The football team went 8-1 in 1944, defeating TCU in the Cotton Bowl, before going 9-0 and finishing fifth in the AP poll in 1945. A sign of the times: Oklahoma State went to the Sugar Bowl that year to defeat Saint Mary’s of California.

WORST TIMES TO BE AN OKLAHOMA STATE FAN

1989-94
Record: 18-45-3
Coach: Pat Jones
The excitement from the Thurman Thomas/Barry Sanders era was short-lived. Without their two star running backs, the Cowboys endured eight consecutive losing seasons, including an 0-10-1 mark in 1991.

1960-71
Record:
101-127-6
Coaches: Cliff Speegle, Phil Cutchin, Floyd Gass
Oklahoma State’s tenure in the Big Eight didn’t get off to a great start as the Cowboys finished sixth or lower seven times in the first 11 seasons. This run included 12 consecutive losing seasons, including 1-8 in 1963.

MOST UNDERRATED

2002-04
Record:
24-14
Coach: Les Miles
Les Miles’ achievements at Oklahoma State would be overshadowed by his achievements at LSU and Mike Gundy’s achievements as a successor. Oklahoma State didn’t have a great national breakout under Miles, but the Cowboys came relevant after 12 losing seasons in 13 years.

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Teaser:
Gundy's top passers or the running backs of the 80s?
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-lsu-football-fan
Body:

If we’re all being honest, the best time to be an LSU fan is a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.

But we’re going to look beyond the three or four hours of a night game in Death Valley and all the “preparation” involved to take a bigger view.

After all, for most of LSU’s history, night games at Tiger Stadium haven’t always been those of national importance. Before the 2000s, LSU football had its ups and downs, with the late ‘50s as the high water mark before Nick Saban returned the Bayou Bengals to national prominence. Les Miles continued the run with a second BCS title and six 10-win seasons in eight years.

These days are be the best times to root for LSU, but not the only time it’s been a worthy cause. Here are the highlights and lowlights for LSU fandom.

BEST TIMES TO BE AN LSU FAN

2001-07
Record: 74-18
National championships: 2
Coaches: Nick Saban/Les Miles
Notable players: Glenn Dorsey, LaRon Landry, Josh Reed, Chad Lavalais, Ben Wilkerson, Marcus Spears, Matt Mauck, Michael Clayton, Corey Webster, Matt Flynn
The two seasons before Nick Saban arrived in Baton Rouge, LSU had gone a combined 3-13 in the SEC, but LSU’s mediocrity went deeper. Before the 21st century, LSU had pockets of success, including a national championship, but few other banner seasons. All the while the Tigers had been something of a sleeping giant with an in-state talent base and rabid fan support. The underachiever label was shed by the turn of the century. In 2001, LSU won eight of its last nine games, including an upset of Tennessee in the SEC championship game followed by a win in the Sugar Bowl to announce its return to the national scene. The 2003 squad became the first LSU team since 1958 to win a national title, defeating Oklahoma for the BCS championship (USC won the AP title, to the ire of LSU fans). Saban left for the Miami Dolphins after 2004, but the Tigers kept the program momentum they have lacked throughout their history. A wild, upset-filled 2007 season ended with LSU making the title game with two losses — yet undefeated in regulation, the observation first noted by Miles’ wife. Through Saban and Miles, LSU had the fourth-most wins in the country during this span.

1958-59
Record:
20-2
National championships: 1
Coach: Paul Dietzel
Notable players: Billy Cannon (right), Bo Strange
Unorthodox thinking at LSU didn’t start with Les Miles. After a 5-5 season, Paul Dietzel utilized a three-platoon system that included two-way players (the White Team, led by Billy Cannon) and offense-only group (the Go Team) and a defense-only group (the Chinese Bandits, named after characters in a comic strip Dietzel had read).  During an 18-game win streak that extended into the 1959 season, LSU outscored opponents by a combined score of 392-62, including eight shutouts. Cannon claimed LSU’s only Heisman trophy at the end of the 1959 season.

WORST TIMES TO BE AN LSU FAN

1947-56
Record:
46-49-9
Coaches: Bernie Moore, Gus Tinsley, Paul Dietzel
LSU managed to go 8-3 and reach the Sugar Bowl in 1949, presumably raising hopes for the Gus Tinsley era. LSU won two or fewer SEC games eight times in 10 years. That includes a 9-21-4 stretch in the conference from 1952-56.

1989-94
Record:
25-41
Coaches: Mike Archer, Curley Hallman
LSU was just starting to get used to winning going from 8-3-1 in 1984 to 10-1-1 in 1987. The trend came crashing down in 1989 when the Tigers endured six consecutive losing seasons and a 14-31 stretch in SEC play.

Teaser:
Saban and Miles brought life to Death Valley
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/getting-know-secs-new-coaches-2013
Body:

So, you want to coach in the SEC, do you? Eager to test yourself in the nation’s best league? Well, first consider that the four most recently deposed coaches lasted a combined 11 years and posted an aggregate record of 65–72. Take away Auburn’s 2010 national title season, and it’s 51–72.

It’s not easy in college football’s toughest neighborhood. Four coaches were fired after last year, leaving their replacements to rebuild against the best competition around. Mark Stoops at Kentucky (replacing Joker Phillips), Gus Malzahn at Auburn (Gene Chizik), Butch Jones at Tennessee (Derek Dooley) and Bret Bielema at Arkansas (John L. Smith) are optimistic and ready to go. How far they can go remains to be seen.
 

Butch Jones, Tennessee

Someone suggested to Butch Jones that a good person to include in the Tennessee football history lesson he is providing for his players would be Herman Hickman. The big guard was named an All-American in 1931 for the Vols, and legendary coach Robert Neyland once called him “the greatest guard football has ever known.”

“I’m going to Google him right away,” Jones said, enthusiastically.

If you’re going to play for UT this season, you had better know about the people who went before you. Better have memorized the history of your number, too. That means quarterback Justin Worley better know that his number 14 was worn by the school’s most recent unanimous All-American, Eric Berry. And both Drae Bowles and Michael F. Williams have to realize that Condredge Holloway made lucky 7 a magical number for Vols fans.

Jones’ look back means more than just building team unity. He wants to make sure every player who pulls on the “power T” helmet understands that he is part of a program that belongs among the best in college football history. Tennessee isn’t some school that needs orange turf to gain attention (although those checkerboard end zones are cool) or has to play its games on Wednesday afternoons in order to get some TV time. Since 1927, UT is the winningest D-I program in America. The Vols have won or tied for 13 SEC titles. Their list of prominent football alumni is long and distinguished.

“When we go on the recruiting trail, we don’t have to sell that we are building a tradition,” Jones says. “We have tradition.”

Jones took over in December for Derek Dooley, who was fired after three straight losing seasons — his only three at the helm — leaving many wondering why the Vols had dipped down to Louisiana Tech to get Dooley in the first place. Some fans were livid that a reported four candidates to replace Dooley (Mike Gundy, Charlie Strong, Jon Gruden, Larry Fedora) turned down the position before Jones came aboard. While Jones’ head coaching pedigree — 50–27 in three seasons each at Central Michigan and Cincinnati — has no SEC hue, there can be no arguing with his results. When it comes to running a program, he knows what to do. He won two division titles at CMU and tied for two Big East titles at Cincinnati.

“It’s about having a plan and not wavering from that plan,” Jones says. “This is not the first time we’re doing this. It’s the third.”

Jones brings an infectious enthusiasm. Watch tape of him at a practice, and you see constant energy. His idea of having the UT players learn about the program plays well with his vision for them. He wants to recreate the Tennessee glory days, when double-digit win totals were de rigueur, and All-Americans dashed across the pristine Neyland Stadium turf. To do that, he has had to eliminate the torpor that characterized Dooley’s tenure, eradicate the brief (one year) memory of Lane Kiffin’s time in Knoxville and give amnesia to those who recall the last days of Phillip Fulmer, which included two losing seasons in four years.

“There is definitely a change in the culture,” senior offensive lineman Ju’wuan James says. “These (coaches) are connected to us. There are a lot of young guys who can relate to us. It’s a family-oriented atmosphere, and everything here is about tempo, especially at practice.”

Jones wants to move quickly into the future with an eye on Tennessee’s past. His offense will play fast. His defense will run swiftly. And everybody — including the head coach — will soon know who Herman Hickman was.
 

Bret Bielema, Arkansas

When Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas, he wasn’t too shy about his reasons. Sure he was making more money himself — $3.2 million per, up from $2.6 mil — but more important, he wouldn’t have to worry about losing assistants to other schools because of salary concerns.

But would that really be the case in Fayetteville? In February, Bielema found out. Another SEC school — reported to be Alabama — was after offensive line coach Sam Pittman, who had joined the Razorbacks staff after working at Tennessee. The Tide were certainly offering more than the $275,000 Pittman was scheduled to earn in 2013 and ’14.

So what would the Hogs do? As it turns out, plenty. Arkansas gave Pittman a big raise, up to $500K, making him the third-highest compensated assistant on the staff. Bielema had his answer.

“They stepped up beyond my expectations to retain (Pittman),” Bielema says.

Now that he has his people — and a commitment from the school to keep them — Bielema can focus on erasing the horrible memories of the last year-plus of Arkansas football. What was supposed to be a glorious 2012 season turned into a nightmare, thanks to Bobby Petrino’s wild ride and the team’s inability to keep it together under interim coach John L. Smith. Last season’s 4–8 record was a disaster, especially when many were pointing at 2012 as the Hogs’ best chance to win the SEC West since ’06, thanks to a load of returning talent and home games against Alabama and LSU.

“We’ve been through a lot, this team and this state,” senior center Travis Swanson says. “To get a clean slate and a fresh start is good.”

Bielema must now stabilize the program and move it forward in the toughest environment that exists in college football. He has steadfastly refused to comment “on what happened before.” Instead, he is focused on bringing his physical style of play to the conference where that is a necessary condition. He’s happy to find a group of tight ends “that can have success” and some running backs with talent. “The offensive line has to come along,” he says.

Perhaps the biggest thing that must develop is a renewed sense that Arkansas can play winning football. Although Bielema isn’t looking back, the program has been wounded. It must rediscover the ability to be consistent and formidable. Bielema and his staff have focused on that since being hired last December.

“He wants us to be 1–0 every day,” says senior defensive end Chris Smith, who had 9.5 sacks last year. “We’re taking it one day at a time, and we want to keep moving forward. The team has been through a lot. We’re ready to move on.”

While encouraging his players to win the day, Bielema has also appealed to them with a straightforward approach to conduct. Like a man who believes in a direct running game, he has one overriding maxim: “He’s got the ‘do-right rule,’” Smith says. “That’s one of the things I like about him. He treats us like men.”

And Bielema wants them to play like men. His offense may not be a perfect replica of what he did at Wisconsin, but fans can expect the Hogs to be physical. In the SEC, that’s just fine. So is the new football building opening in July. And the 20 seniors ready to put the stench of the recent past behind them. Bielema is happy to be where he feels supported, and where he believes winning can happen again.

“I told the media when I took the job on December 5th that I was excited,” he says. “Multiply that by 1,000 now.”

Related: Grading College Football's New Coach Hires for 2013
 

Gus Malzahn, Auburn Tigers

When Gus Malzahn last saw Auburn, before the 2012 debacle, the Tigers had followed up their 2010 national championship with an 8–5 season and a bowl win. It wasn’t quite up to the standards Cam Newton and Malzahn established, but it sure wasn’t 3–9 (0–8 SEC), with a 49–0 loss to Alabama, either. The last time Auburn went winless in the SEC, in 1980, Jimmy Carter hadn’t left the White House yet.

Malzahn spent 2012 helping Arkansas State to a Sun Belt title and a bowl victory. He returns to the Plains to find a program that fell apart last year and didn’t resemble its championship big brother one bit. Auburn is hurting, and Malzahn inherits some players more than ready to put the embarrassment and hurt in a sack and throw it into the Chattahoochee River.

“It was a rocky road,” says senior defensive end Nosa Eguae. “As a guy who was there for the national championship, to go where we were last year, you learn a lot. When you face adversity, that’s when you see the real person you are.

“Things didn’t go our way. We’re going to learn from that and get better.”

Because he spent three seasons coordinating the offense at Auburn, Malzahn doesn’t come to town wondering where he can get a good glass of lemonade. He knows the traditions, the expectations and the somewhat Byzantine alumni structure that characterizes the program. He even knows a lot of the players like Eguae, who came to campus when he was here. That’s all good news. “It’s very helpful to understand the dynamics and history and how things work,” Malzahn says.

That knowledge will help Malzahn understand that 3–9 seasons aren’t tolerated at Auburn. The good news is that he isn’t too fond of them, either. And given his ability to teach offense, it’s a good bet the Tiger program won’t be floundering for long. During his first year running the offense, Auburn jumped from 104th to 16th in the nation in yards per game. During the ’10 campaign, the Tigers led the SEC in just about every offensive category of note.

The beauty of it is that Malzahn’s attack isn’t just a spread-’em and shred-’em scheme. It begins with a power ground attack. Really. Last year at ASU, the Red Wolves ran the ball an average of 41.5 times, nearly 10 more than they threw it. Arkansas State averaged 206.2 yards on the ground and 260.5 through the air. That’s the kind of balance and production that wins championships.

“If you look at the last seven years I coached offense, it’s clear we’re going to run the football,” Malzahn says. “We’re committed to that, and I truly believe it’s part of being successful in this league.”

While Malzahn builds an offense physical enough to compete in the SEC, he must also restore the “edge” Auburn had when it was successful. Malzahn speaks of returning to the school’s blue-collar roots. He’ll do it with his trademark dry wit, incredible attention to detail and mandate that the players forget everything that has happened and concentrate on doing the right things to make sure wins come in the future. The year at ASU helped him learn what a head coach must do to install his plan and lead a team. Now, he must get his players to the point where they can win again.

“We’re working hard every single day,” Eguae says. “Coach Malzahn is not satisfied with a subpar day.”

And especially not a subpar year.

Related: Best and Worst Times to be an Auburn Football Fan

Mark Stoops, Kentucky Wildcats

When Kentucky’s men’s basketball team lost a first-round NIT decision to Robert Morris, there were giggles around the country. The mighty Wildcats had not only failed to defend their national championship, but they had also crapped out in the consolation tournament.

The good news for the UK football team was that the hoops squad’s ugly exit diverted people’s attention from the work that must be done to rebuild a program that was 2–10 without an SEC victory last year and came within 10 points of a conference foe only once. But make no mistake: The work is being done. And, unlike last year, it’s being done willingly and happily. Okay, so running and lifting at 6 a.m. isn’t anybody’s idea of fun, but there is no drama now that Mark Stoops has taken over the program.

“Everyone was on time for weights and training this winter,” says junior defensive end Alvin Dupree, who had 6.5 sacks among his 91 tackles in 2012. “Last year, we had conflicts, and people were doing their own things. The team mindset has changed, and we’re all buying into the new program.”

Stoops comes to Lexington after spending three seasons as defensive coordinator at Florida State, following six years at Arizona running that side of the ball. He is a decidedly no-nonsense type who believes heavily in the value of a proper mentality. In that regard, Dupree’s statements have made the new coach feel good.

But Stoops faces the toughest job of the four new coaches in the SEC. The other three are at programs that have had fairly substantial success over the past 10 years and have largely winning traditions. Although UK won eight games in both 2006 and ’07, it hasn’t been a factor in the SEC East since the conference split into divisions and hasn’t won more than four league games in a season since it went 6–0 in 1977. The program’s sole outright title came in 1950 when Bear Bryant was roaming the sidelines in Lexington. (Kentucky tied with Georgia in ’77.)

Every new coach talks about the opportunity available at the school and what it will mean when the program starts to win again, and Stoops is no different. He understands that Kentucky is a basketball school, but he also knows that the SEC is the nation’s best football conference.

“That’s a big selling point — to play and be a member of this conference,” Stoops says. “That’s definitely helped us in recruiting.”

Stoops has been a big hit with the Kentucky fans, who showed their enthusiasm for the new regime by showing up in full force (an estimated 50,000) to the annual Blue/White Spring Game.

UK fans are hoping they will have something to cheer about on Aug. 31 when the Cats battle Western Kentucky — which beat Kentucky last year in the low point of the Joker Phillips era — at LP Field in Nashville.

First, Stoops must fix a Kentucky defense that struggled in all facets in 2012.

Dupree’s efforts notwithstanding. Kentucky allowed opposing passers to complete 67.3 percent of their throws last year and gave up 25 rushing touchdowns. If UK is to compete, it must do much better than that. Stoops’ scheme will allow Wildcat defenders to play more instinctively, as opposed to last year’s more complicated approach. It’s already a big hit.

“The defense has changed entirely,” Dupree says. “We don’t have as many plays as we had. Last year, the playbook was like a dictionary. This year, it’s a coloring book. It’s easier to understand, and the easier it is, the easier it is to go out and make big plays.

“You’re not trying to learn a dictionary. You can make plays.”

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

 

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Teaser:
Getting to Know the SEC's New Coaches for 2013
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 05:55
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR News & Notes, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/daytona-presents-moving-day-nascar-drivers-chase-contention
Body:

Jimmie Johnson celebrates in Victory Lane following his win in Daytona. (ASP, Inc.)In golf, there’s a nickname for Saturday competition: Moving Day. It’s a point at which either people put themselves in position to win, shoot an ugly round that takes them off the leaderboard or top the charts to start the final 18 holes on Sunday as the one to beat.

In essence, the Chase race took on the same complexion during a night of survival in Daytona. It was a race won by the points leader with those fighting to overtake him in September split into two categories: feast or famine. There were 11 drivers, eighth through 18th in the standings entering the night, who were separated by just 42 points. Six of those men finished outside the top 30, parked inside the garage due to wrecks. Two more, hanging back in a last-lap melee, wound up 17th and 21st respectively, leaving their nights somewhat of a wash. That left a wide opening for three others, each of whom finished 10th or better to capitalize on a rare wide swing in the points.

Is it a be-all, end-all for Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, who all surged up the ladder after strong runs? Not yet. But looking at the eight races left on the regular season schedule there’s maybe one or two other opportunities, max, to collect this much on their rivals in one shot. The cookie-cutter racetracks just don’t lend themselves to wild finishes, while places like New Hampshire don’t have races long enough for mechanical problems to materialize. That means when Richmond comes and names like Kurt Busch are in contention to grab a coveted Chase spot, we’ll look back on this night as the one in which they “moved” into proper position to make it happen.

In “Through the Gears” we find out what else Daytona dealt us to talk about…


FIRST GEAR: A Sweep … Which Sweeps “Cracks in the Armor” Under the Rug
Last year, Jimmie Johnson had just eight finishes outside the top 15 — an outstanding record. Four of those occurred in plate races, a 100 percent disaster rate that included three DNFs and just one lap completed in the sport’s signature event, the Daytona 500. Rest assured the No. 48 team took that failure to heart, spending the offseason perfecting the plate-race version of the Gen-6 car so lightning wouldn’t strike twice.

Now, we’ve seen Johnson thunder through the field in a different way, leading a dominating 94 laps this Independence Day weekend in completing the first sweep of Cup Series Daytona races since Bobby Allison in 1982. How surprising was Johnson’s feat? He had only led 77 laps in his career at Daytona leading into the night — and that includes two victories at the sport’s Great American Race (2006, 2013).

For Johnson to flex his muscles in such fashion makes him the odds-on favorite to collect title No. 6 in November. But even in victory, just like several times the last six weeks, this five-time champ showcased some vulnerability. There was a perplexing late-race move, leaving teammate Kasey Kahne stranded when he was working as a virtual blocker. Moving to the top line, it eventually created an accident between Marcos Ambrose and Kahne once Johnson went to block on the backstretch. If the No. 9 car doesn’t wreck there and completes the pass, the No. 48 is sliding back through the field. (P.S. It could be the nail in the coffin for Ambrose, still winless on ovals and who has struggled on the Cup level to the point he could wind his way back to Australia in the offseason).

So there’s hope … just not much. Johnson’s four victories tie him with Matt Kenseth for most on tour, but that total could easily be seven were it not for three self-inflicted mistakes. It’s the No. 48 team’s racetrack right now. Everyone else is just playing on it.
 

Kurt Busch and Furniture Row Racing ... Chase contenders? (ASP, Inc.)SECOND GEAR: Kurt Busch’s Big-Time Comeback
Furniture Row Racing has done everything possible this season to shoot itself in the foot. There have been mechanical failures, poor pit calls, driver-induced penalties for speeding on pit road … and that’s without the assorted bad luck that finds its way into every team’s season. Employing a driver in Kurt Busch legendary for his ugly temper, there were plenty of times where a blowup, while never justified, would at least be understandable given the circumstances.

The catch, though, is that he hasn’t lost his cool — and finds himself on the brink of Chase qualification. If anything, he’s kept the team cool through a series of incidents, driving the car back into the top 5 and top 10 after digging a deep hole throughout the course of the season. Now ninth in points after a third straight top 10, it’s not a lock this team will get into the Chase. But the man behind the wheel is setting himself up for it, which is a miraculous effort considering the organization has never finished in the top 20 in points. Other drivers have received more recognition throughout the season, but Busch may be the big winner in the end, as he’s giving the best chance for a sponsor outside of FRR to take a flyer on him were he to end up in the seat of the No. 29 at Richard Childress Racing next season.


THIRD GEAR: Who’s the Big Loser?
I mentioned at the top that of 11 teams eighth through 18th in points, six finished outside the top 30 in Daytona. Certainly, wrecks were not what the doctor ordered for drivers like Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne (among others). But I’m not so worried about any of those three. Logano has momentum on his side, having posted six straight top-11 finishes before Saturday night while the other two have wins to fall back on. Chances are, Kahne will grab a second and I think Truex has put himself in position to make the postseason no matter what.

Instead, the guy I’m watching wasn’t even in that group of six. For Brad Keselowski, Daytona offered an opportunity to make a move. The team finished in the top 5 there in February with a front end that looked like a giant trash bag. Proving that strength, he was in the front row on Saturday night during a restart with less than 30 laps to go. But a series of bad-luck decisions in the draft left the No. 2 car 21st at the checkered flag, still sitting on the outside of the top 10 looking in. Now, the series heads to Loudon, Indianapolis and Pocono, all tracks where I don’t expect this team to contend for the win. And who knows what NASCAR’s penalties will be for those illegal roof flap spacers that the team — along with 15 others — was busted for in Daytona. If Keselowski hasn’t entered crisis mode behind the scenes at this point, I don’t know what it’s going to take.


FOURTH GEAR: Pondering the Future of Plate Racing
Saturday marked the third straight plate event where pack racing has returned to Cup competition, courtesy of the sport’s new Gen-6 bodies. But at times, the slow-moving lines made it feel like fans were watching two giant snarls of traffic on the highway. The sensation of “feeling the speed” wasn’t there; neither was the ability to make up three, five, even eight spots in just one lap. (Remember Dale Earnhardt’s epic charge at Talladega 13 years ago?)

That’s because the new Gen-6 car does not produce a closing rate that “pack racing” used to offer. Steve Letarte said on Monday that Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost 22 spots in one lap during one of the final restarts that pretty much eliminated him from competing for the win. In the past, with 10-20 laps to go, a driver would be able to come back from that and work his or her way back to the front. Not anymore; it’s been replaced by a game of high-speed, traffic-maneuver chess that takes all the mental strength available to get the push by one car.

I’d be shocked if we didn’t see a rule change following the 2013 season where there’s a different spoiler and air package, making it easier for drivers to pass — whether they like it or not.


OVERDRIVE
Clint Bowyer was the latest to admit after the race that he was simply riding around Daytona for the first 130 laps. If the sport has drivers staying in place for the first two-plus hours, how is it going to advertise the product effectively? That’s not going to win over many new fans. … Danica Patrick, who wound up 14th, actually deserved better than her last-lap melee. The car was a top-10 contender for most of the night. And Patrick coincidentally tangled with David Gilliland, the latest in a series of on-track incidents between the two. … J.J. Yeley has an average finish of 11.5 at Daytona this season. Everywhere else? He has yet to post a result better than 24th. Just another way in which the gap between lower- and upper-class teams has never been larger — outside of Daytona and Talladega, of course. … Thirty-one teams in Nationwide and Cup were found with improper roof flap spacer modifications at Daytona. The competitive advantage, though, is so minimal you have to wonder if NASCAR will hit that many teams with a serious point deduction. Teams shouldn’t mess with safety, of course, but when they’re working within thousandths of a second, at what point does it become nitpicking?


by Tom Bowles
Follow Tom on Twitter:
@NASCARBowles
 

Teaser:
Reaction from Jimmie Johnson's win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Post date: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 21:51
All taxonomy terms: College Football, TCU Horned Frogs, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/tcus-casey-pachall-ready-second-chance
Body:

By all accounts, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall had a great spring. The Horned Frogs’ mystery man earned praise throughout spring drills, and though the status of his competition with Trevone Boykin remains officially unresolved, Pachall’s return to the starting lineup seems inevitable. How well Pachall performs after a trying 2012 season, though, could determine whether TCU is ready to compete for the Big 12 title in only its second season in the league.

The senior, who left the team after four games in 2012 to seek treatment for substance abuse, returned to the school in January after completing a three-month program. The next question — at least from a football standpoint — is whether Pachall is ready to face LSU in Cowboys Stadium on Aug. 31.

Coach Gary Patterson dropped subtle hints during the spring that his mind was made up. “When he left last year, he was rated the No. 1 quarterback in the nation and we were 4–0,” Patterson reminded the media in March. “The other guy (Boykin) learned because he had to by fire. He did a tremendous job for what we threw him into. I’ve got until August (to choose). Casey is the older one, but both of them can do good things. (Boykin) can move around, gets himself out of trouble, (Pachall) gets himself out of trouble with his arm. In some ways, it’s hard to compare those kinds of things.

“So it’s great competition between him and Casey. They’re both taking reps with the ones. Casey is taking most of them.”

Read into that what you will.

With Pachall under center, the offense was more dynamic and dangerous. As a first-year starter in 2011, Pachall set TCU records for yards (2,921), completions (228) and completion percentage (66.5), while passing for 25 touchdowns. When he left in 2012, he was fifth nationally in pass efficiency and had thrown for 10 touchdowns and one interception.

This isn’t a question of production. Rather, the uncertainty around Pachall’s return involves his mental state and his ability to rebuild trust and team chemistry.

In October, Pachall left the team in the wake of an early-morning arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. By then, he had already admitted to police in February 2012 that he had smoked marijuana, tried cocaine and ecstasy, and failed a team drug test. Pachall’s admission came amid a campus investigation that led to the arrest of four TCU players — including Pachall’s roommate, linebacker Tanner Brock — for selling drugs on campus.

It would have been understandable had Patterson cut Pachall loose after his arrest. But that wasn’t going to happen, for a couple of reasons: Banishing Pachall sent the wrong message about second chances and young adults earning redemption, Patterson said. Plus, an outright dismissal could have opened up the school to legal issues.

Instead, Patterson left the door open for the troubled quarterback.

The week before Pachall returned to campus in January, his father Stan Pachall, a former Texas Highway Patrol officer, thanked fans for their support.

“Casey is doing well and we are very proud of the progress he has made,” he wrote in an email to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Some people are just haters and want to see people fail. To the haters, I hope that they never have anyone close to them that suffers from addiction of any substance. And to the people that support and have prayed for Casey’s recovery — THANK YOU.”

Meanwhile, TCU’s first season in the Big 12 went on with Boykin at quarterback. Before he took over, Boykin had 10 career pass attempts to his name. He went 3–6 as a starter, with all nine games coming against bowl teams (in comparison, Pachall faced one bowl team, SMU). TCU also was playing without leading rusher Waymon James, who was out with an injury for the final 11 games. Another top running back, Matthew Tucker, also was out with an injury during Boykin’s first start — an ugly, turnover-plagued loss to Iowa State.

After the game against the Cyclones, the coaching staff adjusted gameplans to fit Boykin’s skill set, which includes more running ability than Pachall possesses. And Boykin, who didn’t envision starting during 2012, grew into his new role.

In his second start, Boykin was outstanding in a 49–21 win at Baylor, passing for 261 yards and four TDs and rushing for 56 yards and a score. In a 20–13 win at Texas on Nov. 22, Boykin rushed for 77 yards and threw for 82 on an economical 7-of-9 passing.

Patterson, understandably, has several reasons for playing it close to the vest with his quarterbacks this season. For one, Boykin earned enough credibility in the final nine games to at least compete for the job.

“Both quarterbacks want to be the starting guy,” Patterson said early in March. “Everybody knows what strengths both of them have. It just makes us better because now there is competition. We’ll see how it goes.”

Meanwhile, Pachall has declined interviews since returning to the team. Patterson also limits practice access and player availability drastically during the spring, so very little about Pachall’s progress on the field is known besides what Patterson reports to the media — and that is guarded.

Before Pachall left, he got along well with his teammates and was a legitimate team leader, according to several former teammates. Patterson says nothing changed in that regard, and the team welcomed him back with open arms in public comments that are not unexpected given the circumstances.

“There hasn’t been anything said,” Patterson says. “He had a great image with those guys as far as his relationships, and I don’t think the relationship is any different.”

Now, it’s up to Pachall to make a difference on the field.

Written by Stefan Stevenson for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Big 12 Preview Edition. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 Big 12 season.

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Teaser:
Casey Pachall's Return is a Huge Boost for TCU
Post date: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 07:03
Path: /nascar/can-dale-earnhardt-jr-return-victory-lane-daytona
Body:

Dale Earnhardt Jr.1. Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. win again at Daytona?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has long played the role of favorite in most of the NASCAR races he's run at Daytona International Speedway. His emotional win in the 2001 Pepsi 400, his 2004 Daytona 500 win and his impressive streak of top-10 finishes from 2003-06 helped to cement the status.

But after his second-place run in February's Daytona 500 (his third in four years), Earnhardt has now gone 18 Sprint Cup races at Daytona since pulling into Victory Lane. What's the deal?

"I think we might need to try to be at a better position sooner, where we’re not having to have to do so much right at the end of the race and not have an opportunity to challenge for the win," Earnhardt said Thursday at Daytona.

He's right. A last-lap pass pushed him to Jimmie Johnson's bumper in February's race, and the same thing happened in 2010 when he couldn't overtake Jamie McMurray in the Daytona 500.

Earnhardt is hopeful that the 2.5-mile track looses some grip in the heat and forces car handling to take precedence. To him, that's what makes exciting racing.

"We might have a good opportunity to see a real exciting race and I think when things get more exciting at the plate tracks, I’ve got a better shot at finding my way toward the front for an easier shot at it," Earnhardt said.


2. Restrictor plate results dog Harvick's strong first half
Just twice in 2013 has Kevin Harvick finished worse than 14th. And just twice this season has Harvick finished only 47 laps in a race.

Those stats are pretty remarkable given that 2013 is Harvick's final year at Richard Childress Racing. Then consider how flat the RCR program often was in 2012 and you'll start to understand how it's surprising that both of those DNFs came at the tracks that everyone on the eve of this year's Daytona 500 figured would be most ripe for Harvick's best finishes.

The poor runs came at the series' pair of stops at the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway, where Harvick was knocked out both times by wrecks caused by Kyle Busch. He was undoubtedly going to be a factor in each — no one was stronger during Daytona's Speedweeks, as Harvick won the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race and one of the two Duel qualifying events — and you've got to think not much will have changed come Saturday night.

Harvick, now fourth in the standings, will be one to watch.


3. TNT abandons "wide open" broadcast concept
A staple of TNT's six-race coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in recent seasons has been its production of the July Daytona race. The "wide open" coverage, as the network called it, covered the screen with commercials just a handful of times for local commercial breaks. Otherwise, the national commercial breaks were run in a unique format that kept the race action on the screen while showing the spots in a side-by-side format.

Advertisers also got heavy play on the screen scoreboard and with pop-up ads.

While imperfect, the coverage style was a drastic improvement of NASCAR on television because viewers rarely missed a beat. Instead of going away, it's a style of NASCAR television that should have been expanded.

Network officials likely decided to abandon the format because advertisers just simply didn't like it and the ratings boost wasn't high enough. Personally, I'd like to see how fans would react if the wide-open coverage was a staple of NASCAR — not just a one-off deal on a summer Saturday night. TNT has promised that the race will not be interrupted by commercials during the final 30 laps.

Saturday night's coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. EST and includes an in-depth feature detailing Carl Edwards both on and off the track.


4. Nationwide drivers go for broke with no changes from February
Just in case Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers didn't want to win bad enough in Friday night's Nationwide Series race at Daytona, each has an extra $100,000 carrot dangling in front of them payable to the driver who finishes first among the four. It's all part of a Nationwide-sponsored incentive program that could see one of the four take home an extra $1 million after Indianapolis in a few weeks.

But those four drivers — plus everyone else entered in the Friday 250-miler — will fight for the win using the same rules package as the series' season-opener in February at the track. That's a bit worrisome if you remember the multi-car, last-lap wreck that sent Larson's car into the catchfence and injured more than 30 fans. Several were hospitalized.

NASCAR has been almost completely mum on the investigation underway from Larson's horrifying incident, and apparently hasn't found anything that needs to change on the competition side to prevent race cars from flying while racing at 200 mph. NASCAR did, however, announce some strengthening of the crossover gates at Daytona and Talladega, a move indicative of no real internal worries about cars getting airborne or in the fence. Officials seem to just want the fence to hold.

Judging by the gut-wrenching, ugly scene that Larson's ripped car left in row after row of Daytona's grandstand just a few months ago, that seems a bit light.


5. Testing brings new Goodyear compounds to Daytona
If you thought February's race at Daytona lacked the expected punch and wildness thanks to a lack of passing in the field, you weren't alone. Drivers were also frustrated with the advantage in that race seemingly coming from merely staying in line.

The race forced NASCAR's tire supplier Goodyear to make amends to the compounds used on the still-new Gen-6 car. To find a new sweet spot of competition and longevity, Goodyear brought nine teams to Daytona in April for a two-day test. Drivers included in the day and night sessions were Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Danica Patrick, Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Michael McDowell (driving Denny Hamlin's No. 11), Trevor Bayne, Austin Dillon and Carl Edwards.

The result was new compounds for each side of the car, and a change to the build of the left-side tires that Goodyear said is similar to tires in use at other Sprint Cup tracks. Hopefully, the new tires — both right and left side tires have never been raced — will add some energy to Saturday night's race.


by Geoffrey Miller
Follow Geoffrey on Twitter:
@GeoffreyMiller
 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 12:06
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-daytona-international-speedway
Body:

To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s nine-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned drivers strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.

And just like that, the NASCAR season has again circled back to where it all began: Daytona International Speedway. They're not racing the Independence Day anymore, but it's still 400 miles at Daytona in July. Saturday night's race marks the halfway point in the full season slate and by the time it's over, just eight races left to make the Chase. With a new tire combination, we're all hoping the action heats up alongside the Florida summer sun from the so-so February show. Who are the best picks? Find out below:


A List (Pick two, start one)
Kevin Harvick

Without a doubt, Harvick was a favorite for February's Daytona 500. But the winner of both the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race and one of the qualifying races didn't even make it a quarter of the way through the big show before a mindless wreck caused by Kyle Busch took him out on Lap 47. He was shelved from the Talladega restrictor plate race in May on the very same lap in the same manner. If nothing else, Harvick is due for a good finish — and he's got the car that can prove it, should he finish.

Matt Kenseth
Matt Kenseth has been good in 2013. In fact, Kenseth has been really good in his inaugural year at Joe Gibbs Racing. Without a bum engine in the Daytona 500, there's a strong chance that Kenseth would be a three-time Daytona 500 winner. Instead, his engine gave up that day while after leading 86 of the race's 200 laps. At Talladega in May, Kenseth led a wealthy 142 of 200 laps before he was shuffled from the lead late. That's as dominant as anyone on restrictor plate tracks this season. And this isn’t a one-year anomaly, as his finishes of first, third, third and first on the plate tracks in 2012 prove.

Also consider: Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson

 

B List (Pick four, start two)
Kyle Busch
As much as you hate to burn a Kyle Busch start at a wild card like Daytona — and as little faith as you likely have in the Toyota engines — how can you pass up a guy who's average position at the 2.5-mile legendary track is better than anyone in the last 17 races? Busch has been inside the top 15 at Daytona for 2,171 of the last 3,076 laps (a series high) and has a win from 2008.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
If it feels like a virtual eternity since Earnhardt won a Sprint Cup race at Daytona, you're not far off. His last checkered flag was the 2004 Daytona 500 — a race win that came amid a streak of six top-10 finishes at the track. While Earnhardt has led just 15 laps at Daytona since 2009, he still has four top-5 finishes in his last seven starts. Were this any other driver with that stat line, I’d be billing him as a must-start.

Kurt Busch
Kurt was six laps from the scheduled completion of the May Talladega race with a great shot at a finish near the front when his car suddenly was flipping into Turn 3. In the Daytona 500, he was caught in the early crash induced by his brother. Should Kurt keep the car straight, I like his chances of a Daytona win — especially after his poor Kentucky driving. He's a driver, much like Tony Stewart, who feeds on overcoming adversity.

Jeff Burton
If you're looking for a driver to start who you won't come close to maximizing this season, Jeff Burton is the perfect Daytona candidate. A crash wiped him out of the 500 in February, but in 2012 he landed two top-5 finishes at the grand 2.5-mile track. Richard Childress Racing's fleet has found speed (see: Harvick in February) and the heady Burton should stand to benefit.

Also consider: Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano


C List (Pick two, start one)
David Ragan

He won NASCAR's most recent restrictor plate race. He's won two of the last eight restrictor plate races. Why wouldn't you pick David Ragan for Saturday night at Daytona? Well, easy: he hasn't finished better than 26th since his 2011 Daytona win. Still, though, you've got to think Ragan is a better pick than most in the C territory.

Danica Patrick
Patrick's biggest detriment Saturday night at Daytona could be the pressure she'll feel to replicate her stellar outing there in February. Restrictor plate racing has been her strongest medium to this point in NASCAR, and she'll have a car Saturday night capable of running up front. Managing the car until the end is something she's done before. That likely means she'll be a bit more aggressive — which could lead to trouble. Still, if he works another top-10 finish like February, consider that a win for your C-List.

Also consider: Trevor Bayne, Michael Waltrip


by Geoffrey Miller
Follow Geoffrey on Twitter:
@GeoffreyMiller
 

Teaser:
Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth lead the contenders for your NASCAR Fantasy squad at the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Post date: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 07:51
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big Ten, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-top-players-big-ten-2013
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with the college fantasy football site to provide in-depth coverage for 2013. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for Big Ten in terms of fantasy options for 2013:

All draft values are based on a 12-team, 20-round draft using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)

Starters

QB—Braxton Miller, Jr. (Ohio State)

Last season:  Passing—2,039 yards, 15TD-6 INT; Rushing—1,271 yards, 13 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3-4; Buffalo, San Diego St, @ Cal, FL A&M

Fantasy Draft Value:  Miller has all the tools to finish as a top-5 fantasy quarterback in 2013 and should be a first-round selection.

 

QB—Taylor Martinez, Sr. (Nebraska)

Last season:  Passing—2,871 yards, 23 TD, 12 INT; Rushing—1,019 yards, 10TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 1-2-3-4; Wyoming, USM, UCLA, So. Dakota St

Fantasy Draft Value:  The senior quarterback’s fantasy value hinges on his ability to improve as a passer.  Even though Martinez is careless with the football at times, he is still one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, which is why we project him as a third- or fourth-round pick.

 

RB—Ameer Abdullah, Jr. (Nebraska)

Last season:  Rushing—1,137 yards, 8 TD; Receiving—24 rec. for 178 yards, 2 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 1-2-3-4; Wyoming, USM, UCLA, So. Dakota St

Fantasy Draft Value:  The junior running back is a legitimate compliment to quarterback Taylor Martinez.  Abdullah should be in line for another 200-plus carry season and will likely be gone by the end of round three.

 

RB—Venric Mark, Sr. (Northwestern)

Last season:  Rushing—1,366 yards, 12 TD; 20 rec. for 104 yards, TD; 696 return yards, 2TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4; Syracuse, W. Michigan, Maine

Fantasy Draft Value:  Mark was an unknown commodity in fantasy circles before the 2012 season, but expect the senior running back to come off the board in the third round this year.

 

RB—Carlos Hyde, Sr. (Ohio State)

Last season:  Rushed for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3-4; Buffalo, San Diego St, @ Cal, FL A&M

Fantasy Draft Value:  We are projecting the senior running back to surpass the 1,000-yard mark, but quarterback Braxton Miller is option #1 on the ground.  However, if Hyde can duplicate his 16 rushing touchdowns from 2012, he is definitely worth a third-round selection.

 

WR—Allen Robinson, Jr. (Penn State)

Last season:  77 receptions for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 10-11-12; Illinois, @ Minnesota, Purdue

Fantasy Draft Value:  Robinson was the Big Ten Receiver of the Year in 2012, but inexperience at the quarterback position means a WR2 fantasy projection worthy of a selection between rounds 7 and 8.

 

WR—Jeremy Gallon, Sr. (Michigan)

Last season:  49 receptions for 829 yards and 4 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 3-4-5-6; Akron, @ UConn, BYE, Minnesota

Fantasy Draft Value:  Gallon should benefit as the Michigan offense evolves into a pro-style attack led by quarterback Devin Gardner.  The senior receiver should improve on his 49 receptions and 4 touchdowns from 2012, which makes him valuable in rounds 7-9.

 

WR—Kenny Bell, Jr. (Nebraska)

Last season:  50 receptions for 863 yards and 8 TDs.

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 1-2-3-4; Wyoming, USM, UCLA, So. Dakota St

Fantasy Draft Value:  Bell’s fantasy value depends on quarterback Taylor Martinez’s improvement as a passer.  The Big Ten is not the best conference to look for fantasy receivers and Bell should be drafted in later rounds to add depth to your roster.

 

WR—Kevonte Martin-Manley, Jr. (Iowa)

Last season:  52 receptions for 571 yards and 2 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  1-2-3-4; No. Illinois, Missouri St, @ Iowa St, W. Michigan

Fantasy Draft Value:  The Hawkeyes should be fine running the football, but the passing game is unproven with a new signal-caller at the helm.  Like Kenny Bell, Martin-Manley should be drafted in later rounds to add depth at the receiver position.

 

FLEX—Melvin Gordon, So. (Wisconsin)

Last season:  837 all-purpose yards, 4 total TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3-4; UMass, Tennessee Tech, @ Arizona St, Purdue

Fantasy Draft Value:  Fellow running back James White has been around longer, but we feel that Gordon has more potential.  Currently, the sophomore running back is projected as a fourth-round pick, but he could climb higher as fall camp progresses.

 

K—Brendan Gibbons, Sr. (Michigan)

Last season:  16-18 FGs; 93 points scored

 

DEF—Michigan State Spartans

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; W. Michigan, South Florida, Youngstown St

Fantasy Draft Value:  Although inexperienced up front, Sparty’s ‘D’ is anchored by the linebackers and secondary.  Plus, Michigan State has a soft early-season schedule and they avoid matchups against Ohio State and Wisconsin in the conference schedule rotation.

 

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)
 

Related College Football Content

2013 College Fantasy Quarterback Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Running Back Rankings
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2013 College Fantasy Tight End Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Kicker Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Defense Rankings

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football: Examining the Top Players in the Big Ten for 2013
Post date: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 06:37
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-wisconsin-football-fan
Body:

Until the late 1990s, falls and winters in Madison were especially harsh.

Before Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema, there were precious few moments to excite the fans at Camp Randall.

Wisconsin enduring one of the great revivals in college football, giving Badgers fans two distinct eras for bragging rights -- the late ‘90s and then the early part of this decade. Wisconsin earned these Rose Bowl trips with more let downs than most.

Here are the best and worst times to be a Wisconsin fan.

BEST TIMES TO BE A WISCONSIN FAN

1998-99
Record: 21-3
National championships: 0
Coach: Barry Alvarez
Notable players: Ron Dayne, Aaron Gibson, Tom Burke, Chris McIntosh, Chris Chambers, Brooks Bollinger
Wisconsin had won just two Big Ten titles before Barry Alvarez was hired in 1990. Wisconsin won a conference title in 1993 under Alvarez, but Wisconsin’s shining moment came in 1998 and ’99 when the Badgers won back-to-back Big Ten titles and consecutive Rose Bowls. Ron Dayne became college football’s all-time leading rusher, winning the Heisman in 1999. The defense may have been overlooked in these two seasons as the Badgers held teams to 10.2 points per game. After years as a Big Ten also-ran, Wisconsin finally gave its fans a reason to Jump Around, a tradition started in 1998.

2009-11
Record: 32-8
National championships: 0
Coach: Bret Bielema
Notable players: Montee Ball, Russell Wilson, J.J. Watt, Gabe Carimi, Scott Tolzien, Lance Kendricks, Peter Konz, John Clay
Barry Alvarez handed the baton to Bret Bielema in 2006 when the Badgers went 12-1. The real payoff came four seasons later when the Badgers won the first two of three consecutive Big Ten titles (the third came in 2012 when a seven-win Wisconsin team reached the conference title game while Ohio State was banned). It wasn’t strange to see Wisconsin running backs put up good numbers, but Ball’s 2011 season stood out with a record-tying 39 touchdowns. NC State transfer Russell Wilson was in Madison for one season but made a case to be the Badgers’ best quarterback in school history.

1951-54
Record: 26-8-1
National championships: 0
Coach: Ivy Williamson
Notable players: Alan Ameche
The early ‘50s teams would be eclipsed by the the Alvarez and Bielema eras, but before then, these were the glory years for Wisconsin. The Badgers finished ranked in the top 10 each year, reached the Rose Bowl in 1952 and produced a Heisman winner in the fullback Ameche in 1954.

WORST TIMES TO BE A WISCONSIN FAN

1986-93
Record: 20-58
Coaches: Jim Hilles, Don Morton, Barry Alvarez
Making Wisconsin’s ascent to the top of the Big Ten more dramatic was the period just before. The Badgers finished eighth or worst in the Big Ten for seven consecutive years, including a 1-10 season in Alvarez’s debut season of 1990.

1967-68
Record: 0-19-1
Coach: John Coatta
The Summer of Love this was not. Wisconsin endured a 23-game non-winning streak encompassing all of the 1967 and ’68 seasons. The Badgers were outscored 100-0 during one three-game stretch in 1968.

Teaser:
Best and Worst Times to be a Wisconsin Football Fan
Post date: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-top-players-big-12-2013
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with the college fantasy football site to provide in-depth coverage for 2013. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for Big 12 in terms of fantasy options for 2013:

All draft values are based on a 12-team, 20-round draft using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)

Starters

QB—Clint Chelf, Sr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season:  Passing—1,588 yards, 15 TD-6 INT; Rushing—162 yards

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; @ UTSA, Lamar, BYE, @ West Virginia

Fantasy Draft Value:  Chelf began the 2012 season as the third-string quarterback, but by season’s end had solidified himself as the clear No. 1.  The Cowboys’ offense should be explosive once again and Chelf projects as a fourth- or fifth-round pick

 

QB—Bryce Petty, Jr. (Baylor)

Last season:  No significant playing time behind starter Nick Florence.

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 1-2-3-4-5-6; Wofford, Buffalo, BYE, LA-Monroe, BYE, West Virginia

Fantasy Draft Value:  We are buying into the system that Art Briles has established in Waco—Griffin, Florence and now Petty—and there are plenty of weapons around the junior quarterback.  We have to believe that someone in almost every league has Petty pegged as their third or fourth pick if he is still on the board.

 

RB—Lache Seastrunk, Jr. (Baylor)

Last season:  Rushing—1,012 yards, 7 TD; Receiving—9 rec. for 107 yards, TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 1-2-3-4-5-6; Wofford, Buffalo, BYE, LA-Monroe, BYE, West Virginia

Fantasy Draft Value:  We did mention that there was no shortage of weapons around quarterback Bryce Petty, right?  Seastrunk gives the offense a big-play threat on the ground and should be considered as a second-round pick.

 

RB—Jeremy Smith, Sr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season:  Rushing—Rushed for 371 yards and 8 TD behind starter Joseph Randle.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; @ UTSA, Lamar, BYE, @ West Virginia

Fantasy Draft Value:  We believe that Smith’s sample size was big enough as a compliment to the departed Joseph Randle that he will carry tremendous value as a RB2 and should be considered in rounds 4-5.

 

RB—John Hubert, Sr. (Kansas State)

Last season:  Rushing—947 yards, 15 TD; Receiving—18 rec. for 98 yards, TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; No. Dakota St, LA-Laf., UMass

Fantasy Draft Value:  Now that Colin Klein is no longer taking snaps in Manhattan, Hubert becomes the main rushing threat in an offense that returns four starters on the O-line.  Hubert is experienced and proven, so fantasy owners would be wise to scoop him up in round 5.

 

WR—Josh Stewart, Jr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season:  101 receptions for 1,210 yards and 7 TD.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; @ UTSA, Lamar, BYE, @ West Virginia

Fantasy Draft Value:  Not only do we believe that Stewart can duplicate his totals from last season for receptions (101) and yards (1,210), but we are confident he will find the end zone with greater frequency in 2013.  The junior receiver is a legitimate WR1 and would make for a solid second-round selection.

 

WR—Eric Ward, Sr. (Texas Tech)

Last season:  82 receptions for 1,053 yards and 12 TD.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3-4; @ SMU, SF Austin, TCU, Texas St

Fantasy Draft Value:  Ward should be a target early and often in new head coach Kliff Kingbury’s up-tempo offense.  We feel that Ward will be a product of the system and should be drafted in rounds 2-3.

 

WR—Antwan Goodley, Jr. (Baylor)

Last season:  17 receptions for 171 yards and 2 TD, 542 return yards. 

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 1-2-3-4-5-6; Wofford, Buffalo, BYE, LA-Monroe, BYE, West Virginia

Fantasy Draft Value:  This is the one player in our rankings that has generated the most response because we have him rated higher than teammate Tevin Reese.  Goodley established good chemistry with quarterback Bryce Petty in the spring and we expect that to carry over into the 2013 season.  Goodley may just be the hidden gem in the draft that you can snag about three rounds later than his fourth-round projection.

 

WR—Jalen Saunders, Sr. (Oklahoma)

Last season:  62 receptions for 829 yards and 3 TD; PR TD.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; LA-Monroe, West Virginia, Tulsa

Fantasy Draft Value:  Saunders returns to lead what we feel is the most dangerous group of receivers in the Big 12.  If the senior receiver can parlay his big-play ability into a few more scores this year, fantasy owners would get good value by selecting him in rounds 6-8.

 

FLEX—James Sims, Sr. (Kansas)

Last season:  Rushing—1,013 yards, 9 TD; Receiving—14 rec. for 168 yards, TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; So. Dakota, @ Rice, Louisiana Tech

Fantasy Draft Value:  Sims will be the centerpiece in a very inexperienced offense.  The Jayhawks are not even close to being a serious contender in the Big 12, but a soft non-conference schedule makes Sims valuable in rounds 6-7.

 

K—Aaron Jones Sr. (Baylor)

Last season:  16-27 FGs; 119 points scored

 

DEF—TCU Horned Frogs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; SE LA, @ Texas Tech, BYE, SMU

Fantasy Draft Value:  The Horned Frogs’ defense only allowed 323 yards per game last year—impressive considering they play in the Big 12—and they return nine starters in 2013.
 

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite(TheCFFSite.com)

 


Related College Football Content

2013 College Fantasy Quarterback Rankings
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2013 College Fantasy Tight End Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Kicker Rankings
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Teaser:
College Fantasy Football: Examining the Top Players in the Big 12 for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 20:32
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-top-players-sec-2013
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with the college fantasy football site to provide in-depth coverage for 2013. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for SEC in terms of fantasy options for 2013:

All draft values are based on a 12-team, 20-round draft using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)

Starters

QB—Johnny Manziel, So. (Texas A&M)

Last season:  Passing—3,706 yards, 26 TD-9 INT; Rushing—1,410 yards, 21 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 8-9-10; Auburn, Vanderbilt, UTEP

Fantasy Draft Value:  We don’t know how Manziel will top last year’s numbers, but his chances are good enough to make him the preseason No. 1 overall pick.

 

QB—Bo Wallace, Jr. (Ole Miss)

Last season:  Passing—2,994 yards, 22 TD-17 INT; Rushing—390 yards, 8 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 9-10-11-12; Idaho, BYE, Arkansas, Troy

Fantasy Draft Value:  It speaks highly of Wallace’s fantasy potential that we have him ranked above Georgia’s Aaron Murray, but the junior quarterback’s dual-threat ability gives him the slight edge. 

 

RB—Todd Gurley, So. (Georgia)

Last season:  Rushing—1,385 yards, 17 TD; Receiving—16 rec. for 117 yards; 243 return yards, TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 11-12-13; App. St, @ Auburn, Kentucky

Fantasy Draft Value:  Keith Marshall will get a share of carries in 2013, but another 200-plus carry season should yield similar results.  Gurley may be one of the safest first round picks, especially given the fact that the Bulldogs return five starters on the offensive line.

 

RB—T.J. Yeldon, So. (Alabama)

Last season:  Rushing—1,108 yards, 12 TD; Receiving—11 rec. for 131 yards, TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 4-5-6 Colorado St, Ole Miss, Georgia St

Fantasy Draft Value:  Yeldon did his damage on the ground last season with just 175 carries.  In 2013, expect the sophomore running back to get 200-plus carries and post numbers worthy of a first-round pick.

 

RB—Mike Davis, So. (South Carolina)

Last season:  Rushing—275 yards, 2 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 5-6-7; @ UCF, Kentucky, @ Arkansas

Fantasy Draft Value:  We believe the sophomore running back is worth a fourth-round pick over other SEC running backs like Mississippi State’s LaDarius Perkins, LSU’s Alfred Blue, and Ole Miss’ Jeff Scott.

 

WR—Jordan Matthews, Sr. (Vanderbilt)

Last season:  Receiving—94 rec. for 1,323 yards, 8 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 4-5-6; @ UMass, UAB, Missouri

Fantasy Draft Value:  Matthews led the SEC in receptions last year and is a top-10 fantasy receiver headed into the 2013 season.  The all-conference receiver is a solid WR1 and may not make it out of round 3.

 

WR—Mike Evans, So. (Texas A&M)

Last season:  82 receptions for 1,105 yards, 5 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 8-9-10; Auburn, Vanderbilt, UTEP

Fantasy Draft Value:  Evans should be even more dangerous now that he has a year of experience under his belt.  We’re hopeful that he will utilize his 6’5” frame and produce more red zone scores this season, which would make the sophomore receiver a nice fourth- or fifth-round pick.

 

WR—Amari Cooper, So. (Alabama)

Last season:  59 receptions for 1,000 yards, 11 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 4-5-6Colorado St, Ole Miss, Georgia St

Fantasy Draft Value:  Cooper had a sensational freshman season, but he wasn’t much of a fantasy factor until Week 5 last year.  Expect the sophomore receiver to start much faster in 2013 and legitimize our fourth- to fifth-round projection.

 

WR—Donte Moncrief, Jr. (Ole Miss)

Last season:  66 receptions for 979 yards, 10 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 9-10-11-12; Idaho, BYE, Arkansas, Troy

Fantasy Draft Value:  Moncrief caught at least six passes in 8-of-13 games last season, but finished five games with fewer than 40 yards receiving.  The junior receiver should be a little more consistent in 2013 and projects somewhere between rounds 6-8.

 

FLEX—Ben Malena, Sr. (Texas A&M)

Last season:  Rushing—808 yards, 8 TD; Receiving—18 rec. for 111 yards, TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 8-9-10; Auburn, Vanderbilt, UTEP

Fantasy Draft Value:  We believe that Malena may be one of the toughest players to project heading into 2013.  If the senior running back is utilized as a true RB1, he will be worth a third-round pick in that potent Aggies offense.  However, given the talent that exists at the running back position in College Station, we are not convinced Malena will earn much more than 150 carries, which makes him more of a sixth- to seventh-round selection.

 

K—Taylor Bertolet, So. (Texas A&M)

Last season:  13-22 FG; 106 points

 

DEF—Alabama Crimson Tide

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 4-5-6 Colorado St, Ole Miss, Georgia St

Fantasy Draft Value:  Eight starters return on a defense that ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense, rushing defense, and scoring defense.

 

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)
 

Related College Football Content

2013 College Fantasy Quarterback Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Running Back Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Wide Receiver Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Tight End Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Kicker Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Defense Rankings

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 20:28
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-top-players-acc-2013
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with the college fantasy football site to provide in-depth coverage for 2013. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for ACC in terms of fantasy options for 2013:

All draft values are based on a 12-team, 20-round draft using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)
 

Starters

QB—Tajh Boyd, Sr. (Clemson)

Last season:  Passing—3,896 yards, 36 TD-13 INT; Rushing—514 yards, 10 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; So.Carolina St, BYE, @ NCSt, Wake Forest

Fantasy Draft Value:  The return of four O-linemen and playmaker Sammy Watkins should ensure a first-round selection.

 

QB—Logan Thomas, Sr. (Virginia Tech)

Last season:  Passing—2,976 yards, 18 TD-16 INT; Rushing—524 yards, 9 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 2-3-4; Western Carolina @ ECU, Marshall

Fantasy Draft Value:  In his third season as the starter, we’re hopeful that Thomas will show improvement in his decision-making and accuracy, which would justify a seventh- or eighth-round selection.

 

RB—Duke Johnson, So. (Miami)

Last season:  Rushing—947 yards, 10 TDs; Receiving—27 rec., 221 yards, Kick Returns—892 yards, 2TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 12-13-14; @ Duke, Virginia, @ Pitt

Fantasy Draft Value:  Johnson should put up big numbers as his workload increases, especially with the return of five starters on the O-line.  The sophomore running back will likely be among the first 20 overall players drafted.

 

RB—Isaac Bennett, Jr. (Pitt)

Last season:  Bennett rushed for 141 yards and 3 TDs behind Ray Graham and Rushel Shell.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 8-9-10; Old Dominion, @ Navy, @ Ga. Tech

Fantasy Draft Value:  Except for Pitt’s season-opener against Florida State, the first two months of their schedule is rather inviting to select Bennett in rounds 6-8.

 

RB—A.J. Blue, Sr. (North Carolina)

Last season:  Blue rushed for 433 yards and 9 TDs behind starter Gio Bernard.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; Mid Tennessee, BYE, @ Ga. Tech, ECU

Fantasy Draft Value:  Blue may lose a few carries to sophomore Romar Morris, but the senior running back should get most of the carries in short-yardage and goal line situations.  Blue is projected as a RB3 or FLEX in most formats and should be considered after round 6.

 

WR—Sammy Watkins, Jr. (Clemson)

Last season:  57 receptions for 708 yards, 3 TDs; 257 return yards; rushing TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; So.Carolina St, BYE, @ NCSt, Wake Forest

Fantasy Draft Value:  Watkins is a legitimate game-breaker and should be one of the top receivers in the country this season.  Top-tier receivers are hard to come by on draft day, which makes Watkins a possible first-round selection.

 

WR—Quinshad Davis, So. (North Carolina)

Last season:  61 receptions for 776 yards, 5 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; Mid Tennessee, BYE, @ Ga. Tech, ECU

Fantasy Draft Value:  Davis ended 2012 on a high note, catching 38 passes for 484 yards and three touchdowns in the final four games of the season.  We believe that four-game stretch was a preview of things to come in 2013, which makes the sophomore receiver worthy of a fifth- or sixth-round selection.

 

WR—Jamison Crowder, Jr. (Duke)

Last season:  76 receptions for 1,074 yards, 8 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 3-4-5; NC Central, Memphis, @ Wake Forest

Fantasy Draft Value:  Quarterback Anthony Boone’s mobility may end up extending plays for the Duke offense, which will create downfield opportunities for his main receiving threat.  The Blue Devils may end up in quite a few shootouts, so expect Crowder to start disappearing off draft boards in round seven.

 

WR—Stefon Diggs, So. (Maryland)

Last season:  54 receptions for 848 yards and 6 TDs; 713 KR yards, 2 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; FIU, Old Dominion, @ Connecticut

Fantasy Draft Value:  Diggs has a ton of potential, but consistent play from the quarterback position may be a bigger challenge than opposing DBs.  In league formats that include return yards, Diggs may go as early as round six, but in standard PPR leagues expect Diggs to still be available in round seven.

 

FLEX—Michael Campanaro, Sr. (Wake Forest)

Last season:  79 receptions for 763 yards, 6 TDs

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 4-5-6; Army, Duke, @ Maryland

Fantasy Draft Value:  Campanaro could very well be in line for an 80-plus catch season, but his 2012 yards per catch average is the reason we believe drafting him before round seven is a stretch.

 

K—Chandler Catanzaro, Sr. (Clemson)

Last season:  18-19 FGs; 111 points scored

 

DEF—Clemson Tigers

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 2-3-4-5; So.Carolina St, BYE, @ NCSt, Wake Forest

Fantasy Draft Value:  The Tigers are always a threat in the return game, but their high-powered offense will put a lot of pressure on opposing teams to score, which will create plenty of opportunities for their experienced defense. 


Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite) (TheCFFSite.com)


Related College Football Content

2013 College Fantasy Quarterback Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Running Back Rankings
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2013 College Fantasy Tight End Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Kicker Rankings
2013 College Fantasy Defense Rankings

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 20:21
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/five-ways-fix-texas-football
Body:

After a second straight blowout loss to Oklahoma last October, a large number of Texas fans seemed to turn on Mack Brown in a way never seen in his previous 15 years in Austin. Brown appeared to be on his way to winning some of those fans back after reeling off four straight victories following that 63–21 loss to OU. But then came a loss at home to TCU on Thanksgiving followed by a 42–24 defeat at Kansas State.

A come-from-behind victory over Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl gave Texas a hint of momentum going into 2013. But the big picture is not pretty: Texas is 22–16 overall in the past three seasons, including an unfathomable 11–15 in the Big 12.

Texas football is broken. Here are five ways to fix the Longhorns.

HOLD MACK BROWN ACCOUNTABLE

This appears to be a make-or-break year for Mack Brown at Texas in the eyes of most Texas fans. The faithful won’t tolerate another four- or five-loss season or another blowout loss to Oklahoma.

Not when Texas A&M is writing storybooks in College Station as a member of the SEC. Not when Will Muschamp, former defensive coordinator at Texas, is going 11–1 in the regular season and playing in a BCS bowl in Year 2 at Florida.

Texas has the most returning starters (18) and the most experienced quarterback (David Ash) of any team in the Big 12. Yet few are picking Texas to win the 2013 race, instead going with the likes of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or TCU.

Brown vowed two years ago that Texas would play for a national title in either 2013 or 2014. Texas has a talented junior class, and Brown is counting on this group to lead the Longhorns to big things this season. But last year’s defense was the worst in school history statistically and just lost NFL Draft picks Kenny Vaccaro (safety) and Alex Okafor (end).

Ash got off to a great start last year but then was benched in the blowout loss to OU and again against Kansas, TCU and Kansas State. Quarterback is not a position of strength at Texas.

The schedule is also tricky in 2013, with non-conference games at BYU and at home against a much-improved Ole Miss team.

With DeLoss Dodds’ contract as athletic director expiring in August 2014, this could be the last season in which Brown would have Dodds’ undying support. A new athletic director could mean big changes, especially for the football coach.
 

DEVELOP TOP RECRUITS INTO TOP DRAFT PICKS

Texas hasn’t had a single offensive lineman drafted since 2008. That’s five years and counting since tackle Tony Hills was selected by Pittsburgh in the fourth round. Texas also didn’t have a single offensive player taken in the 2011 or 2012 NFL Drafts.

Brown believes that current offensive line coach Stacy Searels is recruiting and developing the next wave of NFL talent. But it’s hard to look at the current starters and see any difference-makers who will be playing on Sundays at this point.

Texas has recruited plenty of 4- and 5-star prospects on the offensive line in recent years. But they have failed to be developed into pro-level players, and Texas has constantly struggled to run between the tackles. Considering that some of the best offensive linemen in college football are from Texas — including Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, both of whom went to Texas A&M — the Longhorns have to do better.

Texas signed 20 players in the 2009 class. Only five ended up contributing — six if you count Garrett Gilbert, who transferred to SMU after the 2011 season. This speaks to both Texas’ poor job evaluating prospects and its poor job developing them.
 

MODERNIZE PLAYER EVALUATION

When Mack Brown announced the hiring of new player personnel director Patrick Suddes, a former football operations assistant at Alabama, Texas finally added a position to its staff that Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh added in 2007 and Nick Saban added in 2009.

The hope is that Suddes can bring some of the savvy from Saban’s well-oiled football office that numbers 40 people and more closely resembles an NFL front office. Texas expects to end up with about 15 people in its new personnel department, including a handful of new quality control coaches.

All of this is aimed at tightening up some of the player evaluation mistakes of the past. In 2007, there were camps in which quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Landry Jones and Garrett Gilbert were competing head to head. Coaches from Alabama and Michigan walked away clearly giving the edge to Andrew Luck.

But Texas wasn’t in attendance. The Longhorns had already made up their mind to go with Gilbert, the local product  who had won 30 straight games and two state titles at nearby Lake Travis. Luck, of Houston Stratford, attended a junior day at Texas. Not only did Luck not get a scholarship offer, but the Texas coaches basically ignored the future No. 1 overall NFL pick. There is no rule that states you can’t recruit more than one quarterback in the same class.

And it’s well documented that Texas didn’t believe Robert Griffin III or Johnny Manziel (above) — the past two Heisman Trophy winners — could play quarterback for the Longhorns.

Mack Brown knows all too well the importance of the right quarterback. He won his only two conference titles in 28 years as a head coach with quarterbacks named Vince Young and Colt McCoy.
 

OUT-RECRUIT THE IN-STATE RIVALS

When Brown took over at Texas, Texas A&M was two years into a 15-year period of mediocrity under R.C. Slocum, Dennis Franchione and Mike Sherman. Texas won most of the head-to-head recruiting battles between the two schools and dominated the series on the field.

Now, A&M is in the SEC and fresh off a 10–2 season that featured the first freshman, Manziel, to win the Heisman Trophy. The Aggies’ coach, Kevin Sumlin, has been dominant on the recruiting trail. Two players in the Class of 2013 who had been committed to Texas ended up signing with A&M, including highly regarded receiver Ricky Seals-Jones.

Brown didn’t have to worry about Baylor and TCU in recruiting or on the field during most of his time at Texas. That has changed. Baylor’s Art Briles and TCU’s Gary Patterson have elevated the profiles of their respective programs and have claimed victories both on the field and in recruiting.

Brown has always seen himself as the pied piper of the Texas high school coaches, always showering them with praise in hopes they’ll help encourage recruits to pick the Longhorns. But Briles, a former Texas high school coach, has equally strong ties at the high school level. And Patterson has won big with Texas talent.

Brown used to watch the fish jump into the boat. Not anymore. He has been out on the road recruiting more than ever, and it will take that kind of effort for Texas to re-establish itself as the top destination in the Lone Star State.
 

LIVE A CHAMPIONSHIP MENTALITY

The championship drive of a team has to be established from the top down. And an increasing number of Texas fans are doubting that Brown has what it takes to compete with the likes of Saban at Alabama and Urban Meyer at Ohio State any longer.

Brown was either confused or deliberately trying to deceive when he made it sound like the player personnel director position that Texas created in early 2013 was the result of new recruiting rules.

That position has been around for five years. Texas just this year got around to creating it. And based on Texas’ high number of misses in recruiting recently, it’s a position Brown could have benefited from if it was filled in 2007, when Harbaugh did the same at Stanford.

The NCAA also doesn’t currently have a limit on the number of quality control coaches you can hire. Saban has at least nine. Brown had three in 2012.

And while Brown has always been credited with having a great family atmosphere that is attractive to recruits, no one uses words like “physical” to describe the Longhorns. That has to start at the top and be an everyday way of life.

While coaches such as Saban, Meyer and Muschamp are notorious for breathing fire during practices to get players on edge, Brown is often standing at practice with the boosters he courts very carefully while leaving the coaching to his assistants.

And the question has to be asked: Does Brown still have enough competitive fire to compete on the field and on the recruiting trail with the likes of Bob Stoops? The Longhorns’ Red River rivals have won three in a row against the Horns, the last two by an average of 40 points — with OU teams that weren’t close to the best Stoops has had. That’s alarming.


Written by Chip Brown for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Big 12 Preview Edition. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 Big 12 season.

 

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Teaser:
Texas football is broken. Here are five ways to fix the Longhorns.
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 19:44
Path: /nascar/nascars-greatest-throwback-paint-schemes
Body:

  12. Rusty Wallace  
1994 Miller Genuine Draft (Chicago, 2005)  
In 2005, Rusty Wallace decided it would be his final season in Cup competition and launched the “Rusty’s Last Call” tour. He received accolades and gifts at each track, including a rocking chair. He ran a throwback scheme of his 1994 car at Chicago. Between 1993-95 with these colors, Wallace won 20 races, finishing second, third and fifith in the standings. In the Chicago race, Wallace started 33rd and finished 12th, helping him get into the Chase in his final season.

11. Terry Labonte  
1984 No. 44 Piedmont Airlines Championship Colors (Charlotte, 2006)
For his final season at Hendrick Motorsports, Terry Labonte ran No. 44 and the Piedmont Airlines colors he drove to the 1984 Winston Cup championship. Labonte won a second title with HMS in 1996, and his final race in the 2003 Southern 500 at Darlington — one throwback to another.

 

  10. Darrell Waltrip  
1955 Tim Flock No. 300 (Darlington, 1998)
In 1998, NASCAR was celebrating its 50th anniversary and was busy promoting its 50 Greatest Drivers. Meanwhile, one of those 50, Tim Flock, was battling lung and liver cancer. Darrell Waltrip paid homage to Flock, running the No. 300 Flock ran for Carl Kiekhaefer in his second championship season of 1955, naming his car the “Tim Flock Special.” Sadly, Flock passed away before the car hit the track that year. Flock was elected to the Hall of Fame this year, a fitting tribute to a two-time champion with the highest winning percentage of all time.

9. Stacy Compton  
1986 Levi-Garrett Tribute (Talladega, 2001)
Not sure what was more surprising with this one — chewing tobacco still sponsoring cars or that The Intimidator didn’t see it and run it into the fence. Levi-Garrett was one of Hendrick Motorsports first full-time sponsors and was on the car that Geoff Bodine took to Victory Lane in the 1986 Daytona 500. How is this for a “twist” of coincidence: Compton’s crew chief on the No. 92 in 2001? Chad Knaus.

8. Jeff Gordon  
1983 Darrell Waltrip Pepsi Challenger (Talladega, 2009)
One of my earliest NASCAR memories was watching the 1983 Daytona 500 and seeing Darrell Waltrip’s Monte Carlo SS get airborne coming off of Turn 4, hurtling through the air, bottoms-up towards the giant dirt embankment by pit road. My other thought was, “it’s not a Challenger, that’s a Monte Carlo …” Hey, I was six and I was a Coke guy, give me a break. Jeff Gordon rolled out this throwback at Talladega for the 2008 spring race. Much like DW at Daytona, it got pretty scuffed up in a late-race wreck.

7. Brian Vickers  
1981 Darrell Waltrip Mountain Dew Scheme (Nationwide Series, Darlington, 2006)
Mountain Dew has long sponsored the Southern 500 at Darlington, and in 2006 they sponsored Brian Vickers at the Spring Darlington Busch Series race. This same scheme has been used a couple of other times, including most recently on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Cup car. So why did I pick this one? Because it happened first and this car looks better. Besides, Junior Nation…

 

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  
Budweiser Black Dale Earnhardt Sr. Tribute (Talladega, 2006)
You know the fans were about ready to tear the grandstands down when this thing hit the track at Talladega in 2006. The race was run on a Monday due to rain, and unfortunately the No. 8 was caught up in an early wreck. Regardless, it’s still one of the coolest tribute paint schemes of all time, and pretty obvious as to whom it was honoring. As much as it doesn’t seem right without a black No. 3 still out there, not seeing a Budweiser No. 8 (particularly at Talladega) is just as off-putting.

5. David Ragan  
1965 Ned Jarrett Tribute (Indianapolis, 2011)
Ned Jarrett was inducted to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, and to honor that achievement Roush Fenway Racing and Ford fielded this tribute to Gentleman Ned at the 2011 Brickyard 400. David Ragan put the car on the pole, complete with Jarrett’s instantly recognizable white wheels, reminiscent of his 1965 championship-winning Ford Fairlane.

 

  4. Bill Elliott  
1985 Daytona 500 Coors Colors (Bud Shootout, 2005)
This one just has badass written all over it. Twenty years earlier, Awesome Bill from Dawsonville made mincemeat out of the field in the 1985 Daytona 500 in an Ernie Elliott prepared 9/10 scale Thunderbird. Bill was running part-time for Evernham Motorsports at the time, so he had to make do with No. 39 as opposed to the familiar 9. Personally, I would have told Kasey Kahne to take one for the team on this one and give up the 9, but I don’t own a race team. Then again, neither does Ray Evernham. Or Dodge.

3. Mark Martin  
1990 Folgers No. 6 Throwback (Indianapolis, 2005)
In 2005, Rusty Wallace enjoyed the aforementioned “Rusty’s Last Call” tour while Mark Martin began his “Salute To You” tour. Contrary to continued media misinformation, Martin never said he was retiring, and eight years later he continues to prove it. One of the throwback schemes run that season was this one, waking up with Viagra in your cup, honoring the 1990 Folgers Thunderbird that was jobbed out of the 1990 Winston Cup championship.

  2. AJ Allmendinger  
1973 Richard Petty STP Dodge Charger (Kansas 2011)
During the course of the past few years there has been nothing worse than seeing the No. 43 of Richard Petty Motorsports running around on the track in odd colors for whatever sponsor was able to be placed on the car. The No. 43 should always be Petty Blue, and if it’s clad in STP red, then all the better. As title sponsor of the Kansas race, STP got back in the game on the 43, and all was right with the world for just a little while.

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  
1986 Dale Earnhardt Sr. Wrangler Chevrolet (Nationwide Series, Daytona, 2011)
After years of fans clamoring to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. run the No. 3 — and Junior wanting to lay it to rest once and for all —JR Motorsports and Richard Childress teamed up to roll this out to the delight of millions for the July Nationwide Series event in Daytona. Junior dominated the race and closed the door on his involvement with the No. 3 for the last time. He declared upon climbing out of the car in Victory Lane that would be the last time he would run the number, as it was his father’s car, not his.


by Vito Pugliese
Follow Vito on Twitter:
@VitoPugliese

Teaser:
From Darrell Waltrip to Dale Earnhardt Jr., Athlon Sports ranks NASCAR's greatest throwback paint schemes.
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 11:01
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR Amazing Stats, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/nascar-numbers-game-5-amazing-stats-daytona
Body:

When I was in middle school, rainy days in physical education class might elicit impromptu games of dodge ball, mindless obstacle courses or — and this is why P.E. teachers were paid the big bucks when I was an adolescent — roll out the cart of basketballs before announcing “have it” and walking over to a cafeteria chair in the corner to read a newspaper for 45 minutes.

Leading up to this weekend’s race at Daytona, one poised to make statistical prognostication seemingly irrelevant, I feel like the P.E. teachers of yesteryear. I yearn to slap the latest restrictor plate track PEER rankings in front of you and retreat back to someplace comfy to read the latest Chuck Klosterman book.

But I’m not going to do that. I like you too much to leave you a disheveled mess of numbers before what could potentially be a disheveled mess of a race.

It’s true that the frantic nature of restrictor plate racing makes a lot of pre-race statistical analysis look futile, but at the same time, it can help push observers in the direction of what to anticipate. At the very least, we can understand the potential story of the race leading up to the point where hell breaks loose and it’s all for naught.

Which drivers will matter in Daytona? Perhaps more intriguingly, which drivers won’t matter at Daytona? This week’s numbers pave the way to those answers.


29  Dating back to this year’s Daytona Speedweeks, 29 different drivers have led at least one lap at Daytona or Talladega in the Gen-6 racecar.

This means that there is a precedent of variety. You will see your favorite driver near the front of the field at some point in Saturday night’s 400-miler, though that won’t be indicative of his or her eventual landing spot. It’s a good rule of thumb to not get too consumed with the amount of laps a specific driver leads in a NASCAR race — after all, there is more than one way to come home the victor — but it is doubly true at restrictor plate racetracks. David Ragan is the most recent plate-track winner and he won at Talladega despite his 20th-place average running position that day.


6.250 and 5.167  This year’s Daytona 500 pitted a final restart consisting of last year’s top title contenders, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, whose plate track-specific PEERs of 6.250 and 5.167 are two of the top three production ratings in the series.

The 500 victory was secured by Johnson and contested for by Keselowski because both teams coveted track position, essentially making Daytona a pseudo intermediate track. Similarly, Danica Patrick netted the day’s second-best average running position (5.23) en route to her eighth-place finish. Could other teams also emulate this strategy? There is certainly reason to believe that Matt Kenseth and his No. 20 team could get out front and attempt to stay there, based on their attempt to do so at Talladega where he earned a 2.5 average position before finishing eighth.


55%  Keselowski topped this year’s Daytona 500 in pass efficiency with 55 percent effectiveness on 442 encounters.

Passing on plate tracks in general is the Wild West, but when a traditionally good passer — Keselowski’s season-long pass efficiency of 53.27 percent currently is the fifth-best mark among full-time Cup drivers — is able to employ one of his best traits as a racer to successful results, life is pretty dandy. Just in case the bottom groove doesn’t emerge from its February hibernation, a potent passer like Keselowski might have an advantage in a race where overtaking is a serious undertaking.

 

14.8  Carl Edwards is one of the most inconsistent plate track racers, sporting an erratic 14.8 finish deviation across his last 10 points-paying races. Do not misconstrue this as Edwards being a bad Daytona driver, though.

Edwards gets a knock for his ability to produce at Daytona and Talladega, which in a way is true — his plate track-specific PEER of 0.250 ranks 42nd out of 42 drivers going into the weekend — but his good days happen to be pretty swell. In that 10-race span, he finished 31st or worse four times due to various maladies. In the other six races, his average finish is sixth-place. He isn’t as bad as his record indicates; the opposite is true for a fellow Ford driver.


28.6  In the nine points-paying plate track races since his 2011 Daytona 500 triumph, Trevor Bayne has averaged a finish of 28.6.

So you like Bayne for your fantasy team, huh? A steal, you think? Not only is Bayne sneakily one of the most frequent crashers of the last three years in Cup Series competition, but he also does some of his best damage at the plate tracks; he has crashed out of three plate track races since his win in the 500. In the Gen-6, he is a replacement-level driver (0.917 PEER) on plate tracks. Keep in mind: if he is caught in a crash, anything beyond minimal damage might as well be irreparable considering his Wood Brothers Racing team isn’t contending for points. Sure the lights of Daytona could once again shine on Bayne, but beyond that one bright day, the high banks of NASCAR’s mightiest tracks haven’t been kind to him. Tread carefully, Bayne fans.

 

 

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

David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projections, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA.

 

Teaser:
David Smith crunches the numbers and finds the key NASCAR stats for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 10:42
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-georgia-football-fan
Body:

Georgia has spent many times in its history in the shadow of other SEC programs: During Vince Dooley’s early run, Alabama was on top of the SEC. During the last decade, Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU have all won SEC titles.

But Georgia remains one of college football’s most storied programs, becoming the first Southern school to win the Heisman and fielding perhaps the greatest running back in college football history four decades later.

The Bulldogs have been on the right side of history, but a few times stand out as the best to watch the program Between the Hedges.

Here are the best and worst times to root for Georgia.

BEST TIMES TO BE A GEORGIA FAN

1980-83
Record: 43-4-1
National championships: 1
Coach: Vince Dooley
Notable players: Herschel Walker, Terry Hoage, Buck Belue, Scott Woerner
Georgia won the national title in 1980 and three consecutive SEC titles from ’80-’82, but this era can be summed up by one word: Herschel. Herschel Walker is widely considered the SEC’s greatest player after rushing for 1,616 yards as a freshman and making a run at the Heisman, an unheard of feat for a freshman at the time. Walker eventually won the award in 1982 as a junior, rushing for 5,259 yards in his career. In the first season without their legend in 1983, Georgia went 10-1-1, defeating an unbeaten Texas team 10-9 in the Cotton Bowl.

1941-46
Record: 53-11-1
National championships: 0
Coach: Wally Butts
Notable players: Frank Sinkwich, Charlie Trippi
Sinkwich gave Georgia a dose of Southern Pride, becoming the first player from a Southern school to win the Heisman in 1942. He’d remain the only one until LSU’s Billy Cannon in 1959. Georgia continued to build national credibility by defeating UCLA in the Rose Bowl after the ’42 season in which Trippi earned the game’s MVP. After his career was interrupted by World War II, Trippi returned to win the Maxwell Award in 1946 as Georgia went 11-0, defeating North Carolina in the Sugar Bowl. Alas, Georgia finished third in the AP poll that year behind No. 1 Notre Dame and a No. 2 Army team led by Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis.

WORST TIMES TO BE A GEORGIA FAN

1993-96
Record: 22-22-1
Coaches: Ray Goff/Jim Donnan
Replacing the legend (and now his athletic director) Vince Dooley proved to be impossible for Ray Goff. Georgia had one losing season in 24 years under Dooley, but two in Goff’s first five seasons (4-7 in 1990 and 5-6 in ’94). This began a stretch of futility against Florida, as the Bulldogs lost 52-17 in 1995 under Goff and 47-7 in 1996, the first season under Donnan.

1953-58
Record: 23-38-2
Coach: Wally Butts
Georgia finished ninth or lower in the SEC five times in six seasons. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were in the midst of a nine-game losing streak to Georgia Tech, an SEC foe at the time. Fran Tarkenton burst on the scene in 1959, but Tarkenton’s boost of energy was good for just one 10-1 season. Georgia went 6-4 his senior year in 1960 and then endured three consecutive losing seasons.

IT WASN’T SO BAD WHEN...

2002-07
Record: 74-18
National championships: 0
Coach: Mark Richt
Notable players: David Greene, David Pollack, Thomas Davis, Boss Bailey, Terrence Edwards, Matthew Stafford, A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, Rennie Curran
Georgia fans are hungry for the Bulldogs to take the next step to the national championship game as their rivals Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU and Tennessee all have during the BCS era. Keeping up with the Joneses may cause Georgia to lose a bit of perspective. Compared to Georgia’s history, this era is pretty darn good. The Dawgs won the SEC in 2002 and 2005, their first SEC titles since 1982, and finished as high as No. 2 in the country in 2007.

Other best times/worst times:
Alabama
Auburn
Miami
Nebraska
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Oklahoma
Texas A&M


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Teaser:
Best and Worst Times to be a Georgia Football Fan
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 05:00
Path: /college-football/does-nebraska-still-believe-bo-pelini
Body:

The Osborne Athletic Facility is a double shot of nostalgia. Red remnants of those back-to-back titles from 1994 and ’95 are unmistakable from the lobby.

Inside this impressive place, gifted athletes dead-lift hundreds of pounds, sprint on turf and occupy cold tubs on a frosty Monday in March.

Bo Pelini oversees all of this. He’s not prominently displayed on these walls. There are no gaudy collages to honor Pelini’s 48 wins in five seasons.

This is Nebraska. Win titles, get on the wall.

Pelini is working on that.

“I think an overwhelming majority appreciates what he’s done here,” says Tom Osborne, the architect of those title teams and now athletic director emeritus, soon to retire. “I think the fans and Bo are hungry for a conference championship and a BCS game.”

These are the achievements that have eluded Pelini. And to some die-hard Nebraska faithful, they are still expected, even after the Frank Solich and Bill Callahan eras humbled the program.

Nebraska is like Notre Dame in that, to be elite, it must recruit nationally. Pelini is a solid recruiter who has the Huskers linked to the top-25 recruiting rankings the last four years despite the fact that his average signee lives nearly 1,000 miles away.

He’s also won at least nine games in all five seasons, a feat accomplished by 11 coaches in college football history among BCS automatic qualifying schools, according to a Nebraska spokesman. Eight head coaches have more wins than Pelini the last five years.

But the combined 3–6 record in the last three games of the last three seasons, punctuated by a curious 70–31 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, has cast a pall over Lincoln that only late-season wins will erase.

Pelini hasn’t hid from Nebraska’s lofty expectations, and he isn’t about to start.

“You’d want it no other way,” Pelini says. “You grow in a job and understand what the challenges are.

I believe I’m a better coach now than five years ago.”

He can use that coaching growth to improve a defense that allowed 115 points and more than 1,200 yards in the final two games last season.

For a guy who bolstered his reputation as the coordinator of LSU’s vaunted defense from 2005-07, last year’s performance has to chafe Pelini.

Nebraska replaces several defensive starters, which might not be such a bad thing. The theme of spring practices was competition — seniors, freshmen, anyone can start if you’re ready to maximize your potential.

Pelini came out of spring firing, saying his team was “mentally weak” after a mid-week session.

Nebraska’s fourth-year starting quarterback, Taylor Martinez, has helped the Cornhuskers win 29 games with a dazzling array of 50-yard rushing touchdowns while setting a school record with 9,449 total offensive yards. But he has been erratic late in seasons (six touchdowns, six interceptions in the last three games of the last three years). The Nebraska legacies of Pelini and Martinez are intertwined, at least for now.

That won’t matter much if the defense keeps flailing. As a result, Pelini isn’t overreacting with a scheme change — he stays committed to a 4-3 while mixing in the occasional 3-4 packages at different points of a game — but he is jumping into the fundamental-teaching pool with both feet.

NU signed seven defensive linemen in 2013 who will compete for spots.

“I have a pretty good idea of what we have to do,” Pelini says. “I like the potential of this group defensively. I think we’ll have some guys coming in this class that have a chance to help us. I think we’ll be very athletic and deep. Sometimes the youth aspect is a good thing.”

In an environment where losing is unacceptable, Pelini hasn’t wavered in his approach to the job that mixes hard-nosed teaching with an open-door office policy for players.

The way the staff sees it, this consistency will eventually pay off late in a season. Take the Wisconsin game. There was devastation all around, yet Pelini immediately dove into the game film, addressed the concerns (outmuscled up front, bad tackling) and struck a positive note in the following weeks.

“It’s tough to come back in and say, ‘All right, guys, it’s going to be OK,’” offensive coordinator Tim Beck says. “To his credit, he always talks about maintaining the process. Make sure you’re doing the right things. He’s very approachable for our staff and players. They feel a lot of love from him. There’s a lot of respect. They don’t want to let him down. If they have problems, they can talk to him. We have fun as coaches and players. It doesn’t become such a grind.”

Pelini wasn’t having much fun when chewing out Martinez on the sidelines against Texas A&M in 2010 or being hospitalized in September after falling ill during the first half of the Arkansas State game.

Coaching often demands intensity by the truckload, and Pelini knows that well. But entering his sixth year, Pelini sounds like a man in a relaxed, optimistic state.

He takes his kids to school every day. If he can’t do that anymore, he says he’s getting out of the business.

The losses he takes personally — the Wisconsin game is no exception. They stay with you, he says. But he cares more about a complete body of work at Nebraska than hallway adoration.

“I don’t care about the recognition,” Pelini says. “It’s about the kids you’re coaching. I like to compete. I want to win. Most importantly, I want these kids to grow and win.” 


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


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Teaser:
Does Nebraska Still Believe in Bo Pelini?
Post date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 06:33
Path: /college-football/mike-macintyre-creates-hope-colorado
Body:

In the days after Jon Embree was fired as head coach at Colorado last fall, the angry and frustrated former Buffaloes tight end went public with complaints about what he perceived was the school’s lack of commitment to winning.

Embree said that during his brief two-year tenure, he was forced to pay out of his own pocket for some of the travel costs of his assistant coaches to attend a summer camp in California where they could see potential recruits. He said he routinely paid for bottled water in the football offices because the school would supply only a few weeks’ worth each month. Embree said there weren’t enough chairs in the offensive line meeting room, and he couldn’t get more. He brought his own desk from home when CU balked at replacing the one left behind by his predecessor.

Colorado fans reacted with frustration of their own, believing Embree was blaming his inability to win games or field a competitive team on trivial issues. The Buffs went 4–21 in Embree’s two seasons, including a 1–11 mark in 2012 — the worst season in the modern history of the program.

Embree probably picked the wrong time to bring those issues to light, but some onlookers completely missed or ignored the underlying message he was trying to convey. Embree’s point was that while his bosses talked publicly about wanting a first-class football program, they weren’t always acting like it behind the scenes.

Even Embree’s former boss acknowledged at the time he fired the coach that the school needed to invest more in football to achieve better results, especially in light of the Buffaloes’ move to the Pac-12, which had six teams ranked in the top 25 late last season. Colorado has produced seven consecutive losing seasons and hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2007.

“We were exposed in this league,” former athletic director Mike Bohn said at the press conference announcing Embree’s dismissal. “So did we give Jon a big enough shovel? We tried to provide additional enhancements to that shovel. But is it enough? The answer is no. I think that’s the challenge that we have, and I think that’s why you hear the chancellor and the president saying that we will continue to try and add to that shovel to help.”

The school left no doubt about its commitment to improve its flagship program when it hired Mike MacIntyre away from San Jose State in December. Colorado made MacIntyre the highest-paid coach in its history with a salary of more than $2 million per year. No previous CU coach had made even $1.5 million a year. It also nearly doubled the total salary pool for the entire coaching staff by committing $5 million annually to MacIntyre and his nine assistants.

Colorado also agreed to a clause in MacIntyre’s contract requiring the school to complete certain steps toward major facilities upgrades over the next two years. If it fails to meet those deadlines, MacIntyre could leave for another job without having to pay a buyout.

“We’re going to give everything we have on the field, and we’re going to improve and we’re going to keep getting better, but to do what we want to do ... all of this has to start moving forward, and to be frank with you, it has to start moving forward pretty fast,” MacIntyre told the Colorado Board of Regents in February.

The school took the first step toward making good on those promised upgrades when it announced details of a plan to spend $170 million on a permanent indoor practice facility, a new academic center, weight room, coaches offices and closing in the north end of Folsom Field. CU is now in the early stages of raising the money but ­hasn’t committed to a start date.

This is a school playing catch-up in a conference in which its competitors have combined to spend more than a $1 billion on facilities improvements — most related to football — in the past three years.

“The university is definitely standing behind the athletic department,” says Frances Draper, Colorado’s vice chancellor for strategic relations. “We’ve had our ups and downs, and we really feel like we have them worked through to the point where we have a good system and we’ve brought in a great new coach and we’ve got very strong academic support. So we’ve got all the pieces to build this going forward.”

Dramatically increasing coaching salaries and committing to facilities improvements is no small undertaking at Colorado right now because the athletic department is $22 million in debt to the school.

Most of that debt — about $16 million — was caused by the move from the Big 12 to the Pac-12. CU forfeited approximately $7 million in Big 12 distributions when it left that league two years ago, and it did not receive a full share of Pac-12 revenue during its first year in the conference in 2011. The rest of the debt comes from paying buyouts to three former coaches — Gary Barnett, Dan Hawkins and Embree — in just seven years.

“This was a long-term commitment with long-term rewards that we’re anticipating being a big part of our resurgence,” Bohn says of switching conferences and having to bite the financial bullet to make it happen.

Colorado has a long and proud history on the football field. Only 12 FBS programs have played more seasons than Colorado’s 123. The Buffs are 23rd in the nation in wins and are one of only 25 schools since 1936 to win a national championship and have a Heisman Trophy winner.

It is no wonder Buffs fans are frustrated. They grew accustomed to winning and being a part of the national conversation every week throughout the 1990s and early 2000s before nosediving late in the 2005 season.

Colorado is modeling its plans to rebuild its football program on what it has done in basketball.

CU began investing more heavily in its basketball program with incremental improvements starting six years ago. The biggest piece of that investment was spending more than $12 million on a practice facility and other additions at the Coors Events Center.

Those additions have been in place for two years, and the basketball program is in the midst of a historic run of success with three consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in school history and two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Next year’s team could be the best in the modern history of the program. That success has made coach Tad Boyle the most popular guy in a town and state traditionally dominated by football.

“We made a commitment to the facility. We made a commitment to the young men. We made a commitment to the coach. We made a commitment to our fans, and everyone rallied around that,” Bohn says. “That intensity of interest is a combination of all the key elements that are vital for a team to be productive and be competitive and to represent us at the level we are at.  I know that conviction was extremely strong for basketball.

“...As we look around the Pac-12 Conference, everywhere we go, we see the commitment. We see what we are up against. The bar is raised high. It’s higher than it’s ever been. This is a monumental challenge for everyone.”
 

Wrote by Kyle Ringo for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Pac-12 Preview Edition. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 Pac-12 season.


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Teaser:
<p> Mike MacIntyre Brings Hope and a New Commitment to Colorado</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 06:25

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