Articles By Athlon Sports

Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-oklahoma-state-football-fan

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


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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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

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.


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.

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.


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.

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.

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

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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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

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.

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
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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

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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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

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:

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

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:

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

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)


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)

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2013 College Fantasy Running Back Rankings
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2013 College Fantasy Defense Rankings

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

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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

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)


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(


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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

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)


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)

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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

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)


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) (

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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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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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

  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
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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

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

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.


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

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.


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.

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.


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.

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.


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:
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Texas A&M

Related College Football Content

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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

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

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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<p> Mike MacIntyre Brings Hope and a New Commitment to Colorado</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 06:25
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /best-and-worst-times-be-auburn-football-fan

Auburn has had its share of dramatic ups and downs through its history. Just ask Gene Chizik.

Few may be as well versed in the highs and lows of being at Auburn. The coach presided over the school’s second national championship and third Heisman winner and two years later, he was fired after a 3-9 season.

Such is life at Auburn, where seemingly every good season or storyline is a double-edged sword. Two of Auburn’s undefeated teams (1957 and 1993) couldn’t test themselves in bowl games because of postseason bans and a third (2004) was the third wheel in the national championship race. Even the great Bo Jackson went 17-7 in SEC play, though the run included an SEC title in 1983.

But back to Chizik. Though he and quarterback Cam Newton led one of the best seasons in school history, his 2010 season doesn’t make our list of best eras for Auburn fans. Likewise, last year’s 3-9 flop doesn’t make the list of worst days to yell War Eagle.

Here are our picks for the best and worst times to be an Auburn fan.


Record: 76-19-2
National championships: 0
Coach: Pat Dye
Notable players: Bo Jackson, Steve Wallace, Bill Tamburello, Terry Beasley, Tracy Rocker, Aundray Bruce, Gregg Carr, Kevin Porter
Anytime Bo Jackson was on the Plains was a good time to root for Auburn. Beyond having a once-in-a-generation athlete on campus, Auburn became a consistent top-10 program during the '80s. Only Miami, Nebraska and Oklahoma had a better win percentage than Auburn during this time. More than that, the Tigers turned the tide, so to speak, in the Iron Bowl. Before Jackson led Auburn to back-to-back wins over Alabama in 1982-83, the Crimson Tide had won nine meetings in a row. This era started with Bo Jackson and ended in 1989 with a 30-20 win over a second-ranked Alabama team in 1989 in the first game on the Auburn campus in series history.

Record: 19-0-1
National championships: 1
Coach: Shug Jordan (pictured right)
Notable players: Zeke Smith, Red Phillips, Jackie Burkett
Ralph “Shug” Jordan brought Auburn its first national championship in 1957 and its only title before Cam Newton stepped on campus. The 10-0 championship team in 1957 was the most dominant in school history, outscoring opponents by a combined 207-28. No opponent that season scored more than a touchdown against Auburn in a season that included a 40-0 victory in the Iron Bowl. Alas, recruiting violations prevented the undefeated Tigers from going to a bowl game. Auburn went 9-0-1 the following season to extend an unbeaten streak that lasted 24 games.


Record: 12-42-4
Coaches: Carl Voyles, Earl Brown, Shug Jordan
Auburn emerged from the post-war era with a host of issues across the failed tenures of Carl Voyles and Earl Brown. The low point was the 1950 season when Auburn went 0-10 and was outscored 255-31. Auburn hired Shug Jordan the next season. The eventual Auburn legend won five of his first six games before going on a 2-12 stretch. Things would get better, though.

Record: 6-29-2
Coaches: Boozer Pitts, David Morey, George Bohler, Red Floyd, Chet Wynne
In the pre-SEC era, Auburn was a mess. The Tigers went winless in 1927 (0-7-2) and was shutout seven times in nine games in 1928. The era, however, setup a miraculous turnaround as Auburn went 9-0-1 in 1932.


Record: 134-60-1
National championships: 0
Coaches: Terry Bowden, Tommy Tuberville
Notable players: Jason Campbell, Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, Karlos Dansby, Carlos Rogers, Rudi Johnson, Stephen Davis, Takeo Spikes
We’re sure Auburn fans look back fondly at the undefeated seasons under Terry Bowden (11-0 in 1993) and Tommy Tuberville (13-0 in 2004). That is, if they’re not complaining of Auburn drawing the short straw in the BCS in 2004 (USC and Oklahoma, both undefeated, played for the national title) or NCAA sanctions, which meant Bowden’s team faced a television and bowl ban. Still, Auburn has a tendency to let a good thing go sour. Both Bowden and Tuberville were unceremoniously ushered out of town despite unbeaten seasons. In the SEC, only Florida, Tennessee and Georgia won more games during this period.

Other best times/worst times:
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Texas A&M

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Best and Worst Times to be an Auburn Football Fan
Post date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/matt-kenseth-finds-surprising-nascar-win-kentucky

Matt Kenseth is reaching uncharted territory with Joe Gibbs Racing in just his first year driving the No. 20 Toyota. Sure, everyone knew he’d blow former driver Joey Logano’s numbers out of the water; Logano, still developing at age 23, was never consistently competitive in Cup after being brought up the ranks too quickly. But what the 2003 Cup champ is pursuing now, after a shocking late-race surge to victory at Kentucky, is a record-setting year for JGR that eclipses even the two titles won by the man who put Home Depot and this car on the map: Tony Stewart.

Check out the best stat lines with Stewart driving the car: six wins (2000), three poles (2005), and 1,845 laps led (also ’05). Kenseth? Through 17 races, this season he’s got four wins, two poles, and 960 laps out in front. Double those numbers and you’ll see a shocking truth. Even during the glory years, when Stewart and Greg Zipadelli all but added a shade of orange to every checkered flag, JGR has never seen success from the No. 20 car like it’s seeing now.

Clearly, motivation can be a powerful thing, a 41-year-old one-upping Ford and sponsors who felt he was expendable. But you’d have to think that even when Joe and J.D. Gibbs hotly pursued Kenseth, persuading him over a period of months to leave Roush Fenway Racing, they never anticipated the type of numbers he’s putting up right now — especially in Year One. With rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. still without a top-10 finish, by comparison, nearly halfway through the season at RFR you wonder if Jack Roush loses sleep at night over this one.

Speaking of losing sleep, as we go “Through the Gears” we know there’s one superstar guaranteed to do so this week. Here’s why:

FIRST GEAR: Jimmie Johnson needs to figure these restarts out
He’s a five-time champ who, 17 races through the 2013 season, has been on cruise control, leading Carl Edwards atop the standings by 38 points. He’s on pace for 1,961 laps led, his best in four years and the average finish of 9.4 would set a new career record. On paper, the No. 48 seems virtually invincible come Chase time.

The problem? That letter-sized sheet of paper with all those stats on it can’t press down the accelerator pedal. And lately, Mr. Johnson has had a huge problem figuring out exactly how to do that when the race turns green. It seems like Dover last month, when Juan Pablo Montoya slow-played a restart that got the No. 48 team penalized after a dominating day, is still stuck inside his head. It cost him at Kentucky, where a car that led 182 of 267 laps was second after pit strategy once again gave Kenseth control coming to the green. Johnson, in “follow the leader” position, had no idea when to come up to speed, lost several spots and then spun out.

“We were kind of in an awkward situation in that restart there,” he said. “The No. 20 (Matt Kenseth) broke the pace car speed, which you aren't supposed to, but, they aren't calling guys on that so I need to start trying that in the future. And then we were like three- and four-wide going in the corner, then something happened with the air and just kind of turned me around.”

Yes, the restarts at Kentucky were what second place Jamie McMurray characterized as “strange” — with added importance considering how difficult it is to pass. Sunday marked just the third year for Cup drivers at Kentucky, so many of them are also still trying to figure things out like that restart box. But no one seemed to struggle more than the No. 48, who’s now given away two victories in just one month.

For better or worse, restarts today define where you’re going to finish in NASCAR. Five laps into a green-flag run — especially at intermediate tracks — cars seem magnetically repulsed by each other, spreading out into their own personal space where passing becomes a game of chess. Johnson has to get more aggressive, realizing at Dover, if he sneaks ahead as the second-place car into Turn 1 all that’s needed is to sit back and let the leader pass back to avoid a penalty. He’s the rare guy who’s got a car fast enough to make up the ground lost.

Some might say Johnson doesn’t need these extra trophies. But the fact he’s in “testing mode,” already assured of a high seed in the postseason, is irrelevant. Practice makes perfect, and right now, this team is putting together all the best ways to lose a Chase where they should be an overwhelming favorite.

SECOND GEAR: As the Keselowski crumbles
Sunday’s big wreck involving Brad Keselowski was Kurt Busch’s fault — that much was clear after the No. 78 car tapped the No. 2 following a rough transition on the apron of the racetrack. But in a year where Kes has played innocent victim one too many times, that “bad luck moment” now puts him in position to be just the second reigning champ unable to make the Chase the following year. (Stewart, 2006).

“The one thing we do know is that we have struggled before as a team,” said crew chief Paul Wolfe, after the team tumbled to 13th in points. “And we have worked through that and put ourselves in position to be champions.”

But chemistry can only do so much with Fords that have been inconsistent in terms of speed. Daytona may be this duo’s best chance in the near future, considering the way plate races even things out. Did you know a Ford model hasn’t won at Loudon since 2008? Or at Indianapolis since 1999? Keselowski has also never won at a road course in Cup (Watkins Glen) and was uncompetitive at Pocono this June (16th). That crosses a lot of tracks off the list, and I don’t think this team can count on points to get them in with this black cloud that’s been following them.

THIRD GEAR: Toyota’s troubles solved?
Remember last month when at least one Toyota engine was almost guaranteed to go bust before the finish? They’re back to collecting trophies. Kenseth’s win was the second in a row for the Camry model, which also took three of the top-5 spots on this intermediate (Clint Bowyer was third while Kyle Busch, Kenseth’s JGR teammate, ran fifth). That gives Toyota seven victories on the season, tied with Chevrolet as it tries to overcome a decade’s worth of dominance by the Bowtie Brigade when it comes to the manufacturer’s title.

Most importantly, on a track where horsepower does play a big factor, there were zero blown engines from TRD, along with no complaints. Busch was also able to muscle his way back through the field after an early spin, showcasing the extra edge JGR has showed on 1.5-mile ovals. The jury’s still out, to a certain extent — we need to see months of this pattern before feeling safe the Chase won’t be a series of sad explosions — but it’s a huge confidence builder.

FOURTH GEAR: Bluegrass blues?
Yes, Saturday night’s race was rain-delayed, turning into the first Cup event postponed since 2012’s Daytona 500. But the number of empty seats at Kentucky was still disturbing, as tickets were available for a race that was sold out in its inaugural edition just two years ago. Traffic on that fateful weekend was horrific, as many fans were unable to make it to their seats before the start of the race and some have never forgiven the facility.

The racing, with Johnson out front and dominating most of the day, continued to be a bit of a mixed bag. Several drivers complained of ill-handling cars, with Kyle Busch also blaming a bad right-side Goodyear tire compound. But whatever the reason, this racetrack has yet to have a side-by-side, grinding battle to the finish that creates the type of memories fans will come back for. Now that the bloom is off the rose, it’s close to other historic speedways — like Bristol and Indianapolis — and has to fight for fans’ money in a tight economy. It was no accident certain questions were asked of drivers to get them praising what fans did come back after Saturday night.

The other issue concerns NASCAR’s Gen-6, still without a hang-your-hat race on this type of oval since Fontana. With these races making up half of the Chase, that’s a handling problem that needs to be fixed. Three minutes of restart action can’t be the only time fans see tough competition over a race that takes three hours — especially when it’s head-to-head with the mighty NFL.

You had to shake your head at Clint Bowyer “moving over” for Jamie McMurray, conceding second place down the stretch at Kentucky. Afraid of being spun out? Puh-lease. Points racing or no, that’s not what the fans pay money to see, something I don’t think we’d have ever envisioned before NASCAR’s current postseason format that can sometimes encourage that type of conservatism. … While Keselowski struggles, teammate Joey Logano has six straight top-11 finishes to put himself 10th in points. Consider where he’d be without that 25-point penalty earlier this season; it’s been an impressive recovery. … The Carl Edwards to Penske Racing rumor, while strongly denied this weekend, was puzzling. New crew chief Jimmy Fennig has brought new energy to the No. 99 and they’re clearly back on the upswing. … Denny Hamlin says he’ll finish the season after a mid-race wreck left him 104 points outside the top 20 and shaken inside the Infield Care Center. Owner Joe Gibbs has Brian Vickers right on his roster, along with Cup veteran Elliott Sadler, but claims he’ll let Hamlin make the decision on staying in the car. You wonder, though if a man who’s seen football players overdo it needs to step in here, take the competitive athlete aside and warn him about short-term vs. long-term career implications.

by Tom Bowles
Follow Tom on Twitter:

Reaction from Matt Kenseth's win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 10:52
Path: /college-football/high-expectations-have-returned-jimbo-fisher-and-florida-state-0

Brandon Jenkins scanned the media room in the bowels of Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, looking for old teammates preparing for the NFL Draft and having no problems finding them.

He realized that he could see more than a dozen reasons why Jimbo Fisher is the right coach for Florida State.

“We have 13 guys at the NFL Combine,” said the former FSU defensive tackle, one of those 13 working out for NFL teams in late February. “That says a whole lot about the coaching. Knowing Jimbo, it’s not slowing down. It’s just getting better.”

Jenkins is right about one thing — the train of talent cruising into Tallahassee isn’t slowing. FSU is losing players to the NFL, but the school will have another batch ready next year. If one ACC team is competing with the top SEC schools in recruiting, it’s FSU, and it’s probably not close (although Clemson might say otherwise).

This formula helped the Seminoles win their first ACC title since 2005, handily defeat Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl and shift national focus to Doak Campbell again.

But while FSU fans hope that Fisher is the man to package that talent into the school’s first true national title contender in more than a decade, there’s always been one thing — or one game — holding his teams back the last three years. There’s only one step left to take, and the Seminoles haven’t taken it.

When he took over for retired legend Bobby Bowden, Fisher was asked to rebuild a once-proud national power. With 31 wins in three seasons, it seems he’s on his way.

Yet, why did it feel like a 12–2 team that won a BCS bowl underachieved a bit last year?

Replay the NC State game, and you’ll understand why that question persists. The Seminoles led 16–0 at the half and 16–3 heading into the fourth quarter. They lost 17–16 — a game that basically eliminated them from the national title chase.

When discussing FSU’s season, an ACC assistant coach pointed to the “up and down” Seminoles — dominance tainted by curious lapses.

Since Fisher’s promotion in 2010, the Seminoles have defeated Miami, Florida, Notre Dame, Clemson and South Carolina — while also losing to five unranked teams, with three of those losses coming on the road.

Maybe demanding perfection is unfair. But those are the rules at Florida State, a program that enjoyed 14 consecutive 10-win seasons from 1987-2000.

 “We won the ACC championship. We went to a BCS bowl. You can’t ask for too much more,” Jenkins says. “We didn’t get to a title game, but you can’t really sit there and say we had a bad season — 12–2 is pretty good.”

Most programs would relish a 12–2 season, but the Seminoles in 2012, and other seasons, were predicted to do much more. Florida State started at No. 7 in the preseason Associated Press poll and rose to No. 3 before the loss to NC State. The Seminoles were ranked as high as No. 5 in 2011 but finished 23rd after the Champs Sports Bowl.

That’s the backdrop for Fisher’s fourth season, one that will be challenging with key veterans gone along with several members of his coaching staff.

Fisher must maximize FSU’s enormous potential while replacing 11 starters (including quarterback EJ Manuel) and breaking in six new assistant coaches this offseason.

The coordinator of last year’s stout defense, Mark Stoops, is Kentucky’s new head coach. Offensive coordinator James Coley joined Miami’s staff and should have more influence on the offense there, since Fisher calls the plays at FSU.

Fisher also lost quarterbacks coach Dameyune Craig (now Auburn’s co-offensive coordinator), defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot (Kentucky defensive coordinator), linebackers coach Greg Hudson (Purdue’s defensive coordinator) and running backs coach Eddie Gran (Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator).

Fisher is a disciple of the Nick Saban School of Intensity, and that’s not always easy to handle for assistants day-to-day. But the departures seem more about opportunity —one head coach and five coordinator jobs — than discontent.

And despite the staff turnover, there was no drop-off in recruiting, where the Seminoles ranked in the national top 15 as usual.

That recruiting won’t matter much if Fisher doesn’t follow his belief that fundamentals win championships.

“You can be talented, but how can you be productive and how do you fit into the master scheme of things?” Fisher says.

Fisher sounds like he’s willing to allow his new defensive coordinator, former Alabama secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt, to be creative. Defensive ends will move inside on passing downs. Six or even seven defensive backs will be on the field at once. And linebackers will rush the passer more.

FSU has enough depth to be multiple. New starters will be moving into their full-time positions with experience. Replacing first-round pick Bjoern Werner, for example, is Giorgio Newberry, who recorded tackles in eight games last season and has created high expectations among his coaches.

“This is still a tremendous group of players,” Fisher says. “We’re establishing ourselves as a program again, with guys who played as much ball as anybody else stepping in.”

Fisher is asking a bevy of new coaches — Pruitt, defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri, wide receivers coach Tim Brewster, running backs coach Jay Graham, linebackers/special teams coach Charles Kelly and quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders — to ease the transition.

Fourth-year junior Clint Trickett entered spring practice as the starting quarterback, but he decided to transfer when it became clear redshirt freshman Jameis Winston, the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2012 class, was on the verge of winning the job.

Between Christian Ponder and Manuel, FSU has had a steady presence at quarterback under Fisher. The hope is that Winston, also an elite baseball player, is the next star at the most important position on the field. Fisher is willing to be patient to find out.

“You can’t try to force something to happen,” Fisher says. “You have to let it play out.”

Fisher knows this all too well regarding his own job. He had chances to parlay his three successful seasons into another job. A faction of FSU boosters wondered if Fisher would look into the Auburn job that went to Gus Malzahn. There were rumors about his candidacy at Tennessee.

But FSU is arguably a top-five national job. The recruiting base is too good. The program has proven itself to be national title-worthy.

Now, Fisher needs to prove it again.

Written by Jeremy Fowler 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.

Related College Football Content

ACC Predictions for 2013
ACC All-Conference Team for 2013
Florida State Team Preview for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100
College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era
College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 06:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /best-and-worst-times-be-oklahoma-football-fan

For many of the installments in our “best and worst times to be a fan” series, it’s been difficult to parse the high points and low points.

Oklahoma’s best time was easy: Watching a team go without a loss for 48 consecutive games may be one of the best times to be a fan of any program anywhere. The Sooners demolished opponents in the 47 wins from 1953-57, winning two national titles along the way.

The Sooners’ lows, though, were just as obvious. The end of the Barry Switzer era brought off-field controversy, both from the law and the NCAA. The next three coaches brought futility.

The rest of Oklahoma history, though, has been successful for the most part. Before his fall as OU’s coach, Switzer kept the Sooners on top with three national titles. Bob Stoops resuscitated the program for the 21st century where it remains — more often than not — the class of the Big 12.

Other best times/worst times:
Notre Dame
Texas A&M


Record: 107-8-2
National championships: 3
Coach: Bud Wilkinson
Notable players: Billy Vessels, Jim Weatherall, J.D. Roberts, Max Boydston, Tommy McDonald, Clendon Hughes, Stan West, Tom Catlin
Hard to believe one of the best eras in college football started with a loss to Santa Clara. After that, Oklahoma embarked on a 31-game win streak, culminating in the 1950 national title. That was child’s play. Oklahoma won a record 47 consecutive games starting Oct. 10, 1953. Perhaps the era was boring, though, as the Sooners earned those wins by an average of 28.6 points per game before losing 7-0 to Notre Dame on Nov. 16, 1957. Oklahoma won the Big 8 in 11 consecutive seasons, won the national title in 1950, ’55, and ’56 and took home a Heisman in 1952 (Billy Vessels). In 1956, Oklahoma players split national player of the year awards as Tommy McDonald won the Maxwell and Jerry Tubbs won the Walter Camp. As Oklahoma won 107 games during this span, no other team won more than 87. And as the Sooners won 92.3 percent of their games over 10 years, no other team won more than 80 percent.

Record: 42-5-1
National championships: 1
Coach: Barry Switzer
Notable players: Brian Bosworth, Keith Jackson, Rickey Dixon, Tony Casillas
Bosworth and Switzer made up a intriguing duo of college football villains during this era when OU went 11-1 in three consecutive seasons, including the ’85 championship. This last hurrah for Switzer was spoiled by Miami (led by former Oklahoma State coach Jimmy Johnson), which handed OU its only losses each season from 1986-87.

Record: 105-11-2
National championships: 2
Coaches: Chuck Fairbanks, Barry Switzer
Notable players: Billy Sims, Lee Roy Selmon, Mike Vaughan, Greg Roberts, Tom Braheney, Rod Shoate, Randy Hughes, Greg Pruitt, Lucious Selmon, Dewey Selmon
Switzer didn’t match Wilkerson, but he came close. This era produced back-to-back national champions in 1974 and ’75, a Heisman winner (Sims) in ’78 and a legendary defensive line of brothers Lee Roy, Lucious and Dewey Selmon in 1973. Dewey and Lee Roy played on OU’s next two title teams.

Record: 102-19
National championships: 1
Coach: Bob Stoops
Notable players: Sam Bradford, Jason White, Adrian Peterson, Josh Huepel, Tommie Harris, Rocky Calmus, Teddy Lehman, Derrick Strait, Duke Robinson
Bob Stoops led Oklahoma back to national prominence as the former Wishbone team embraced modern offenses. Startign in Stoops' second season, OU won the Big 12 championship game in six of nine years and reached the national championship game four times, while claiming the 2000 title. Bradford and White won the Heisman while Peterson made a case to be the best freshman in college football history.


Record: 61-50-3
Coaches: Gary Gibbs, Howard Schnellenberger, John Blake
The ‘80s ended as Oklahoma players would hit a litany of legal troubles, including starting quarterback Charles Thompson arrested for selling cocaine. NCAA sanctions also cut into the program as Switzer resigned before the 1989 season. Under Gary Gibbs, Oklahoma went 44-23-2 as the Sooners dealt with sanctions. The worst was yet to come. OU hoped the outsider Schnellenberger would return the program to prominence, but he was ushered out after a 5-5-1 season. John Blake was even worse as he went 12-22 for the lowest win percentage (35.3) by any Oklahoma coach. The ‘90s ended up the first decade since the ‘20s in which Oklahoma failed to win a conference title.

Record: 8-5-5
Coaches: Biff Jones, Tom Stidham
Not a particularly awful stretch for the era before Bud Wilkinson, but the prospect of five ties in two seasons sounds like no fun. Before the Sooners reeled off a four-game win streak at the end of the 1937 season, Oklahoma had gone through a 1-2-2 stretch in Norman. Oklahoma made up for it by going 10-1 the following season before losing in the Orange Bowl.


Record: 32-8
Coach: Bob Stoops
If 2013 is a down season for Oklahoma, the grumblings will start. Even though Oklahoma has the upper hand over Texas, a few ill-timed close losses have knocked the Sooners out of the national championship and Big 12 races. The “Big Game Bob” moniker has all but disappeared as Oklahoma has lost major bowl games to Boise State, West Virginia, Florida and Texas A&M.

Related College Football Content

2013 Big 12 Predictions
Big 12 2013 All-Conference Team
Athlon Sports' 2013 All-America Team
Big 12's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013
College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2013

Best and Worst Times to be an Oklahoma Football Fan
Post date: Friday, June 28, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-ohio-state-football-fan

Best and Worst Times to be an Ohio State Football Fan

Pinpointing the best times to be an Ohio State fan are pretty plain: Competing for national titles, winning Rose Bowls, fielding Heisman Trophy winners and, most of all, beating Michigan.

Over the years, Ohio State fandom enjoyed great highs, from when Woody Hayes dominated the first battles of the Ten Year War with Michigan and Bo Schembechler. And though Jim Tressel’s tenure may be remembered as much for its futility against the SEC and the scandal that cost Tressel his job, rooting for the Buckeyes at the start of the 21st century was awfully fun.

The lows seem to be marked by uncertainty more than extended periods of losing. The lowest point in Ohio State fandom may have been the disappointing 1978 season that started in the top 10 and ended with the sudden demise of Ohio State’s legendary coach. Though the 2011 season didn’t make our list of the worst times to be an Ohio State fan, the 6-7 season and coaching and NCAA instability must not have been fun for the Buckeye faithful.


Record: 73-11-1
National championships: 2
Coach: Woody Hayes
Notable players: Archie Griffin, John Hicks, Jack Tatum, Randy Grandishar, Crhis War, Tom Cousineau, Jim Stillwagon
Ohio State had already won two national championships under Woody Hayes in the 1950s, but this is when things started to get really interesting. The Buckeyes entered the ’68 season with limited expectations, but an upset of No. 1 Purdue in third game of the season changed everything. The class of “Super Sophomores” of quarterback Rex Kern, defensive back Jack Tatum and defensive lineman Jim Stillwagon led an undefeated national champion in ’68. Eleven players from that team would earn All-America honors one time or another in their careers. The following year, though, began The Ten Year War between Ohio State’s Hayes and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler. Ohio State went 5-2 in its first seven matchups including four consecutive wins from 1972-75. Ohio State went to six Rose Bowls in eight seasons during this period, and running back Archie Griffin became only player to win the Heisman Trophy twice (’74 and ’75).

Record: 87-17
National championships: 1
Coach: Jim Tressel
Notable players: Troy Smith (left), Maurice Clarett, A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis, Chris Gamble, Ted Ginn Jr. (right), Chris Wells, Mike Doss, Quinn Pitcock, Terrelle Pryor
Ohio State rarely had long stretches of mediocre football, but the Buckeyes had tired of losing to Michigan when they hired Jim Tressel from Youngstown State. Tressel paid dividends against more than just UM in his second season when the Buckeyes won six one-score games during the regular season before upsetting a loaded Miami team in the Fiesta Bowl for the 2002 national championship. Ohio State, Tressel and the Big Ten became better known for near-misses at the hands of the SEC during this time as the Buckeyes lost back-to-back national title games to Florida and LSU in 2006 and ’07. Still, the run included eight BCS games, seven top-10 finishes and a Heisman Trophy winner (Troy Smith) in a span of nine seasons. Tressel also re-took the series against Michigan, winning nine of 10 games against the Wolverines. Moreover, the basketball program reclaimed national power status under Thad Matta reaching the Final Four in 2007.

Record: 21-5-1
National championships: 1
Coach: Woody Hayes
Notable players: Bob Ferguson
Ohio State won a share of the national title in 1961, but we picked this time because of the two-sport exploits in Columbus during this time. As the football team fared well, the men’s basketball program won the 1960 title and reached the NCAA championship game in ’61 and ’62 with future Basketball Hall of Famers Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek on campus.

Record: 32-6
National championships: 2
Coach: Woody Hayes
Notable players: Howard “Hopalong” Cassady, Jim Parker
Hayes put his stamp on the program by leading Ohio State to a 10-0 season and national title in 1954, its first national championship since 1942 under Paul Brown. Hopalong Cassady also became Ohio State’s third Heisman winner in 1955. For the second (but not the last) time under Hayes, the Buckeyes won the UPI national championship and the Rose Bowl in 1957.



Record: 7-4-1
Coach: Woody Hayes
Ohio State started the season in the preseason top 10 before a 19-0 loss to Penn State to open the season. Things would be downhill from there. Ohio State finished the regular season 7-3-1 with a 14-3 loss to Michigan. But the season would be infamous after a 17-15 loss to Clemson in the Gator Bowl. After Clemson’s Charlie Baumon intercepted the Buckeyes, Hayes punched Bauman and one of his own players who was trying to restrain the coach. Ohio State fired the best coach in school history the next day. Hayes was fourth all-time in career wins when he was fired. Earle Bruce went 11-1 with a Big Ten title in his first season replacing Hayes, but Ohio State fans were understandably shaken.


Record: 43-7
National championships: 0
Coach: John Cooper
Notable players: Eddie George, Orlando Pace, Mike Vrabel, Joe Germaine, Terry Glenn, Korey Stringer, David Boston
Cooper’s tenure will be remembered partly for the coach’s futility against Michigan (he went 2-10-1 overall and 1-3 against the Wolverines from ’95-’98). But look at the star power from this era. George won the Heisman, and Pace was one of the best offensive linemen of all time. During Cooper’s best days with Ohio State, the Buckeyes won the Rose Bowl in 1995, twice reached the Sugar Bowl.

Which era under Woody Hayes was the best?
Post date: Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 10:36
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-kentucky-speedway

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.

It's back to the status quo this weekend at Kentucky Speedway. The third-year Saturday night 400-miler is the newest addition to NASCAR's top circuit schedule, though the racing is rarely much different than we'll expect at any other 1.5-mile venue. Kyle Busch won the inaugural race in 2011, and Brad Keselowski took race No. 2 last season.

A-List (pick two, start one)
Brad Keselowski
Last year's winner at Kentucky, Keselowski led 68 laps in the race that really set the stage for his surge to the Sprint Cup title. Coming in to the 2012 race, he had four consecutive finishes of 12th or worse. After the win, he reeled off six straight top 10s. Keselowski is on a current streak of three finishes of 12th or worse; will Kentucky mark his fourth top 10 on 1.5-mile tracks this year?

Kevin Harvick
The most recent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner on a 1.5-mile track (Harvick beat Kasey Kahne late to win the Coca-Cola 600), Harvick also holds the interesting distinction of finishing every non-restrictor plate race 14th or better this year. Harvick doesn't yet have a Kentucky top 10, but he did test there with Richard Childress Racing after the 600 win.

Also consider: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon

B-List (pick four, start two)
Kyle Busch
There are just four Sprint Cup drivers who have scored top-10 finishes in the first two races at Kentucky for the series, and Kyle Busch is the only one in the B-list. Busch has led nearly half of all the laps contested at Kentucky (243 of 534) and has a sterling average running position there of 3.6.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt isn't a Kentucky pick because of how well he's run there in the past (the No. 88 has the 11th-best average running position in the two Cup races), but more because of how good that team's intermediate program has been despite some poor finishes. Earnhardt had a top-5 car at Texas before a battery issue, seemed to have righted the ship in the Coca-Cola 600 before his engine failed and then had a dominant car at Michigan before the engine again cracked. That's three poor finishes, but three races where a team didn't tear up the car.

Joey Logano
Logano is another driver without terrific success in the two Sprint Cup races at Kentucky, but he's been riding a very hot streak since a poor outing at Darlington. For context on how good Logano has been, his 11th-place finish at Sonoma was his worst in five races. In Kentucky, he'll have access to Keselowski's notes from last year, and the confidence of three Nationwide Series wins at the track.

Martin Truex Jr.
I'm not sold on Truex's line of thinking that a single race win will suddenly change his ability to win races, but I do think that No. 56 is in for another good run at Kentucky thanks to its strength on similar tracks this year. Truex has a top 10 in every race at a 1.5-mile track this year, and should have won at Texas until a shock broke on the car late in the going.

Also consider: Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Brian Vickers

C-List (pick two, start one)
AJ Allmendinger
Allmendinger returns to JTG-Daughtery Racing's No. 47 Saturday night for his second start of the season for that team in place of Bobby Labonte. His part-time C-List status makes him a good choice, especially if he can duplicate the top-20 run he had in the No. 47 at Michigan.

Casey Mears
Mears, if nothing else, has been remarkably consistent of late in the No. 13. Since a crash at Darlington, he's finished between 16th and 23rd in all five races. Charlotte and Michigan are the most comparable tracks of those five races to Kentucky, and he took 23rd and 21st, respectively. Expect another top 25 from Mears — a better day than most in the C-List world.

Also consider: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., David Ragan, Travis Kvapil

by Geoffrey Miller
Follow Geoffrey on Twitter:

Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch lead the way in tips for your NASCAR Fantasy squad at the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
Post date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 11:08
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2013-quarterback-rankings

Fall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2013. Athlon Sports has teamed with Joe DiSalvo of to provide the latest rankings for the upcoming year.

Rankings will be updated right up until kickoff and expect plenty of tweaks to over the next couple of months.

Scoring system rankings based upon:

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)

2013 College Fantasy Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Team Defenses

Updated: August 22, by Joe DiSalvo (@theCFFsite)

Note: This is not a list of the best players in college football. This is a ranking of the best players in terms of fantasy value (players who will have the best numbers in college football for 2013.)

College Fantasy Football 2013 Rankings: Quarterbacks

1Jordan LynchNorthern Illinois
2Braxton MillerOhio State
3Tajh BoydClemson
4Johnny ManzielTexas A&M
5Marcus MariotaOregon
6Brett HundleyUCLA
7Brett SmithWyoming
8Kolton BrowningUL-Monroe
9Rakeem CatoMarshall
10Derek CarrFresno State
11Shane CardenEast Carolina
12Bryce PettyBaylor
13Taylor MartinezNebraska
14Terrance BroadwayUL-Lafayette
15Cody FajardoNevada
16Chuckie KeetonUtah State
17David FalesSan Jose State
18Bo WallaceOle Miss
19Logan ThomasVirginia Tech
20Aaron MurrayGeorgia
21Clint ChelfOklahoma State
22Jameis WinstonFlorida State
23Teddy BridgewaterLouisville
24Clint TrickettWest Virginia
25Blake BellOklahoma
26Bryn RennerNorth Carolina
27Devin GardnerMichigan
28Vad LeeGeorgia Tech
29Tyler TettletonOhio
30Taylor KellyArizona State
31Taylor McHargueRice
32Casey PachallTCU
33Keenan ReynoldsNavy
34Garrett GilbertSMU
35Blake BortlesUCF
36Connor HallidayWashington State
37B.J. DenkerArizona
38Stephen MorrisMiami
39Keith WenningBall State
40Daniel SamsKansas State
41Michael BrewerTexas Tech
42Cody KesslerUSC
43Terrance OwensToledo
44Taysom HillBYU
45James FranklinMissouri
46Jared GoffCalifornia
47David PilandHouston
48Kain ColterNorthwestern
49AJ McCarronAlabama
50Sam RichardsonIowa State
51Matt SchilzBowling Green
52Anthony BooneDuke
53Keith PriceWashington
54Tyler RussellMississippi State
55Austin BoucherMiami (OH)
56A.J. SchurrArmy
57Joe SouthwickBoise State
58Cody GreenTulsa
59C.J. BrownMaryland
60Chase RettigBoston College
61Kale PearsonAir Force
62Kevin HoganStanford
63Corey RobinsonTroy
64Nick MarshallAuburn
65Tre RobersonIndiana
66Connor ShawSouth Carolina
67Tyler Van TubbergenWestern Michigan
68Eric SozaUTSA
69Austyn Carta-SamuelsVanderbilt
70Brandon AllenArkansas
71Logan KilgoreMiddle Tennessee
72Sean MannionOregon State
73Tyler BenzEastern Michigan
74Nick SherryUNLV
75Brendon KayCincinnati
76Jameill ShowersUTEP


<p> College Fantasy Football: 2013 Quarterback Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, June 24, 2013 - 11:11