Articles By Athlon Sports

All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/nascar-2013-camping-world-truck-series-preview
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Eldora. Eldora. Eldora.

This summer, those words will be chanted from NASCAR Nation far and wide as the Camping World Truck Series becomes the guinea pig for one of the sport’s most noble modern experiments: a return to dirt racing. On July 24, Tony Stewart’s short track bullring in Rossburg, Ohio, will be the site of the first major sanctioned NASCAR event on dirt since 1970. With a starting field of just 30 trucks, an entry list expected to be double that, and the added bonus of a Wednesday night showdown, it’s not hard to find this division’s biggest storyline entering 2013.

It also shouldn’t come as a surprise. Always known for a perfect mix of veterans and young drivers, this series has become the “chemistry test” as the sport looks to mold its long-term future. Last fall, NASCAR VP Steve O’Donnell suggested heat races could be introduced, along with additional short tracks by 2014, as the series looks to recapture the fan base by getting creative with the series that offers arguably NASCAR’s closest competition. Between the “old school” connection to Rockingham, whose 2012 Truck Series event was its first on the NASCAR schedule since 2004, to the “new school” of Mosport, Ontario, bringing trucks past the Canadian border for the first time in history this September (and on a road course, no less), full-time competitors will be faced with the most diverse set of challenges in the sport.

No statement of parity describes the Truck Series better than this little-known fact: In 18 years, there’s never been a repeat champ. Current titleholder James Buescher may not even get the chance, as it’s believed he’ll move up to the Nationwide Series. Even without Buescher, there’s plenty of talent on hand in a diverse set of title challengers (from rookie Jeb Burton to sophomore Ty Dillon to 12-year veteran Matt Crafton) in what’s bound to be a wide-open title chase. Younger drivers could find themselves a part of the fray, too — at least part-time — as new rules, announced late last season, allow drivers as young as 16 to compete on shorter tracks (1.1 miles or less) along with road courses.

Even the most competitive series comes with its share of concerns, though. Most events on the schedule haven’t changed, with only five races in the first three months. That means teams and fans alike will once again struggle to find momentum. As with the Nationwide Series, purse money is so low at some tracks ($6,000-plus for a finish in the 30s) that sponsorship becomes a necessity to survive.  

Still, with a healthy TV contract (FOX/SPEED has re-signed through 2022) and after another set of nailbiting finishes in 2012, this series should be thought of as healthier than its Nationwide counterpart. While the title race is undecided, one thing that can be counted on is that Trucks will once again put on the best show. Perhaps it’s race length; maybe it’s drivers looking to make an impression, trying to work their way up the ladder. It could be that truck chassis, less aerodynamic than their “car” counterparts, produce closer competition. Regardless of the cause, know that the Truck Series remains the sport’s hidden gem entering 2013.

Eldora’s about to find out.

—By Beth Lunkenheimer

2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Schedule

 

 
 
Teaser:
<p> A look at the season ahead for NASCAR's Truck Series</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-easts-college-football-coaching-jobs-2013
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We have ranked every college football program in the country, based on the attractiveness of the position from a coaching perspective. We considered many factors — tradition, facilities, location, money  — but in the end, we simply asked ourselves the following question: Where would we want to coach? Today we focus on the Big East.

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

Ranking the Coaching Jobs in the Big East for 2013

1. Louisville

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

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

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

2. Rutgers

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

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

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

3. South Florida

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

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

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

4. Cincinnati

Pros: Cincinnati is in a fertile recruiting area. Ohio produces a ton of talent, and the school is also relatively close to Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina.

Cons: Support isn’t great. The school won a share of its fourth Big East title in five years yet averaged only 29,138 fans per game to Nippert Stadium. Being stuck in the Big East for the foreseeable future.

Final Verdict: Cincinnati isn't perceived to be a top-flight program, but the school has been consistently strong in the BCS era. Since 2000, four different coaches have won at least seven games twice. That’s impressive.  
 

5. Houston

Pros: Location. Location. Location. Houston is an elite area for high school talent. And the school has decent tradition, having spent 20 years (1976-95) in the Southwest Conference. Starting in 2014, the Cougars will be playing in a new, on-campus stadium.

Cons: With Texas and Texas A&M relatively nearby — not to mention the NFL’s Houston Texans — University of Houston football will never be the No. 1 show in town.

Final Verdict: With a new stadium and great recruiting base, Houston has an opportunity to rise to the top of the reconfigured Big East. The school’s small fan base will always be an issue, but you can win a lot of games at this school. 
 

6. UCF

Pros: UCF is located in the heart of talent-rich Florida. Bright House Networks Stadium (capacity 45,323) opened in 2007 and is one of the nicest on-campus facilities in the nation.

Cons: UCF is still relatively new to the FBS ranks (1996) and has little brand recognition in the college football word. Attendance hasn’t been great, either. Last year, UCF ranked 68th in the nation with 34,608 fans per game.

Final Verdict: UCF will always have access to a ton of players, but it’s tough to envision this program taking too big of a leap forward in the next decade, even with the move to the Big East. 


7. Connecticut

Pros: The school has top-notch facilities and has proven that it can be relevant on the national landscape. The Huskies won eight games or more six times in an eight-year span, culminating with the trip to the Fiesta Bowl in 2010.

Cons: Recruiting at UConn has never been easy. Now, it’s become more difficult. The school’s chief rivals for prospects in the Northeast — Boston College, Syracuse and Rutgers — each found a home in a power conference. UConn did not.

Final Verdict: This can be a good job — there is solid support in state for the program — but the school is in a tough spot right now. The Big East is simply not where you want to be in college football heading into the mid 2010s.  
 

8. SMU

Pros: SMU’s greatest strength is its location, in the fertile Metroplex in North Texas. Yes, there is a ton of competition for the players, but there is more than enough talent to keep the Mustangs’ roster well-stocked.

Cons: Interest in SMU football is not high. The school averaged only 21,292 per game last year, which ranked 92nd in the nation. It’s tough to attract top-flight recruits to play in front of so many empty seats.

Final Verdict: SMU is similar to several schools making the move from Conference USA to the Big East. It’s in a great location but lacks the tradition and fan base to make too much of a dent on the national landscape.
 

9. Temple

Pros: Temple plays its home games at an NFL stadium and its on-campus facilities are top-notch. Being competitive in football is important to the school.

Cons: Temple lacks tradition and fan support. Philadelphia loves the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers and college basketball. College football? Not so much.

Final Verdict: Al Golden did a tremendous job transforming Temple from arguably the worst program in the nation into a reputable team that won a total of 26 games from 2009-11. The school should be able to compete in the new-look Big East, but this is not a destination job.  
 

10. Memphis

Pros: The school has made a significant financial commitment to the football program in recent years — something that previously was not the case. (Just ask Tommy West). The city of Memphis is known more for basketball, but does a solid job producing FBS-level prospects.

Cons: Basketball is the No. 1 sport at Memphis — by a wide margin. The school has struggled to compete for years, with only four winning seasons since 1994.

Final Verdict: Memphis has an SEC recruiting base with Conference-USA support. Will that change as the school makes the move to the Big East? Not likely. You can win games at Memphis, but the football program will never reach the stature of Tiger basketball.


Related College Football Content

Big East Consensus Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013
Ranking the Big East's Coaching Tandems for 2013

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

College Football's Top 15 Impact JUCO Transfers for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Big East's College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 06:45
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/ranking-best-teams-nascar-2013
Body:

As the 2013 NASCAR season prepares to get underway, Athlon Sports ranks the top teams to hit the track.

 
1. Hendrick Motorsports
 
An elephant is probably one of the few things Rick Hendrick doesn’t own. But for what the owner faces in 2013, you need look no further than the American version, otherwise known as the Republican Party.
 
Just like the presidential election, Hendrick endured a narrow loss in the championship fight with prized candidate Jimmie Johnson, who, like Mitt Romney, has been there, done that — successful many times over, but now a loser for a second straight cycle. So does HMS stick with the status quo, armed with the knowledge that without a broken rear gear (like Romney’s great swing-state disaster of Florida), Johnson may very well be your series champ? Hendrick had a hand in six straight Cup titles with Johnson and Tony Stewart, so at some point, the law of averages was going to catch up.
 
Or does the car owner think a “Republican revolution” on the inside is what’s needed? Other challengers to the throne are restless, including the Ron Paul of this group, Jeff Gordon, who’s been increasingly marginalized during J.J.’s prime. His time for a fifth title, and his patience, are running short. (See: the Clint Bowyer brawl that likely ended his ability to guest-host for “Live with Kelly & Michael.”) Kasey Kahne, the Marco Rubio of his organization, flexed some muscle last season and has time — at age 32 — plus a line of companies willing to shell out millions on his side. Heck, even Dale Earnhardt Jr., the sport’s most popular driver, can’t get big money anymore with multiple races open in late December. (It’s assumed they will be filled by Fortune 500 companies — Jeb Bush, a “supposed” early favorite for 2016, can relate.) Are we at a point with Earnhardt that, without a major change in attitude, laps led, or victory total, the men that make decisions (or in the Republicans’ case, millions of voters) are no longer willing to give this famous last name a second look?
 
All fair and good points, but the honest answer is that Hendrick Motorsports remains the most well-funded, successful and resourced team in the sport. One, if not more, of Rick’s boys will have a say in the 2013 championship. After all, the last time NASCAR changed race cars, in 2007, HMS was so far out front it was like he was given a copy of the rulebook six months in advance. Or maybe he was; after all, John Middlebrook sure came over for dinner a lot that offseason. 
 
Juuuust kidding.
 
 
2. Joe Gibbs Racing
What part hasn’t broken on a Joe Gibbs Racing car during the Chase? We don’t have the answer, but never fear — you’ll find out this September. When it comes to finding the “F” in DNF, JGR always saves the best for last, as spectacular failures derailed an otherwise strong 2012 for Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota. The problem for Hamlin, an expectant father in 2013, is the growing number of “Mark Martin” therapeutic tragedies on his résumé. They say you need to lose one before you can win one, but when you lose two, three, four, or more … then you start to believe it’ll never happen. 
 
To help get over the hump, Hamlin lobbied openly for former champ Matt Kenseth to earn Joey Logano’s former spot at the No. 20 Toyota. The tragicomedy is that through that process, he’s forgetting how easily this new hire can beat him. One other caveat: The soon-to-be 40-year-old Kenseth can’t fix a broken master switch — only the crew and head wrench can be held responsible. Kenseth’s veteran leadership should help with the chemistry, though, within an organization that hasn’t had a guiding hand since Tony Stewart left the team in 2008.
 
Notice how we haven’t mentioned Kyle Busch. J.D. Gibbs’ strategy appears to be somewhat similar, hoping that by holding a new contract up towards the ceiling, he can get Busch to jump higher, like a puppy dog learning new tricks in order to get the treat. He drove like a man possessed after missing the Chase, lending credence to the method. But know that there are plenty of opportunities elsewhere beyond 2013. Busch was burned by Hendrick for the cold, hard cash Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought in 2007 and knows that loyalty in this business is only a contract-by-contract proposition. That means that this team, more than any other, faces the widest range of possibilities: All three teams could make the Chase, all three could be chasing each other’s tails, or a few parts failures at the wrong times could lead to some internal explosions. 
 
And Kenseth was supposed to end this soap opera…
 
 
3. Penske Racing
Oddsmakers have already labeled Brad Keselowski as the underdog to win two straight titles. And that’s just fine with him. Filling the role of David is just how one of the sport’s most outspoken drivers likes to operate. Vegas has a right to be concerned, though, about the number of obstacles in the way: A switch from Dodge to Ford. Penske’s abandoning its own engine program for someone else’s. The fact only three drivers since 1990 have pulled the repeat (Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson). A new teammate, Joey Logano, who could be labeled at best a work in progress.
 
Perhaps the biggest question, though unspoken, is how much longer Mr. Penske wants to run around in circles, since he turns 76 in 2013. He’s quietly been affected by health issues — though none overly serious — in the recent past, and at some point, one has to wonder if there’s some sort of succession process in place. In some ways, he’s already stepped back, allowing Keselowski to leave his touch on the organization with important changes that clearly resulted in a championship. But the driver can’t do it all, as he’s already adding the role of “teacher” to his list in 2013 for Logano, a key cog as Shell/Pennzoil badly needs to start seeing some success. 
 
Keselowski possesses as much mental strength as anyone in the Cup Series garage, so it wouldn’t be surprising for him to will his way to another title. It’s just that the burden he has to carry in 2013 grows ever larger.
 
 
4. Stewart-Hass Racing
Most teams are spending the winter working on testing for 2013. Stewart-Haas Racing is busy working overtime in another department: building race cars. Not only does it need a third set for Danica Patrick’s full-time entry in the No. 10, but it’s also working on a fourth for when she’s done crashing that fleet. OK, so it may not be that bad, but it is the type of unrated content GoDaddy didn’t want released but becomes public knowledge weekly beginning with this year’s Daytona 500.
 
You know it’s a bad sign when people are predicting that a “best-case scenario” is simply finishing the race in one piece, right? Patrick’s push to the front will be hot and heavy, though, as the GoDaddy sponsorship will be up for renewal at season’s end. Money has been hard to come by for this organization of late, with Old Spice, Office Depot and the U.S. Army just some of the major backers jumping ship over the last two years. And that’s with Tony Stewart winning a championship! Reports are that Ryan Newman had to take a sizeable pay cut, forced back into that “other tax bracket” in order to stay employed. With patchwork deals on the No. 39, plus Kevin Harvick on the way in 2014, it’s easy to find the guy on the hot seat here.
 
That means that for Stewart, 2013 will be a real test of just how independent one car can be within a multi-car team. Brad Keselowski had that problem last year but still streaked to a title. Can Stewart, faced with Distraction Central and the monumental task of getting Eldora NASCAR ready, do the same?
 
 
5. Michael Waltrip Racing
From laughingstock to lovable to lauded, the transformation of this program is nothing short of amazing. Suddenly, fans know Martin Truex Jr. for more than an annoying commercial karaoke sequence. Sponsor 5-Hour Energy, after years of being more crumpled than an empty soda can when shown on television in the Nationwide Series, can trumpet the effects of its product through Clint Bowyer’s track and field Phoenix sprint. And then there’s the ageless Mark Martin, 54 in 2013, who can still whip a 27-year-old’s tail on the track.
 
But just like any organization that has made a worst-to-first-type ascension, the battle to shed the label of “one-year wonder” won’t be easy. The last time Truex won, Barack Obama had just started his first term — as the U.S. Senator from Illinois. Hendrick Motorsports, as payback for what Bowyer did to Gordon, let him finish second in the standings, through a parts failure at Homestead, to inherit the role of “runner-up jinx.” The last driver to finish in the top 5 in points, let alone contend for a championship the following year after winding up second? Matt Kenseth, in 2006-07. Ever since, teams have gone winless, missed Chases, flipped into the catchfence at Talladega … you know the deal.
 
Then there’s Martin, facing the inevitable transition from first-year success to second-year questions like, “When is someone else going to take over the driver’s seat?” We’ve heard this story play out before, back during the “Salute To You Tour V” days with Hendrick Motorsports, but this time there’s validity. What if super-sub Brian Vickers wins a championship with Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series and has an offer from a rival Toyota Cup team? Or worse, a rival Chevy team? Could MWR really let a man who could serve it well for 10 years get away over someone at the tail end of his career? Such are the questions facing a suddenly stout team with championship aspirations.
 
 
6. Roush Racing
So let’s get this straight. The man who won the most races at Roush Fenway, Matt Kenseth, was allowed to walk. The one with the most expensive contract, Carl Edwards, hasn’t won since March 2011 and is paired with his third crew chief in seven months. The most successful driver left, Greg Biffle, is 43 and arguably less exciting than 400 miles in Fontana. And the newcomer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., has all of five Cup Series starts to his credit.
 
All is not well in Roush-land, mirroring the decline of its co-ownership Boston Red Sox brethren. The questions for recovery are numerous, with the first being why its most veteran crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, is paired with Edwards when common sense says a rookie needs to be balanced by experience. Is RFR really that desperate to turn Cousin Carl’s performance around? And does former head wrench Bob Osborne have health-related issues or what?
 
In all seriousness, perhaps the biggest adjustment here in 2013 isn’t even Kenseth’s departure, the crew chief swaps or sponsorship issues (Stenhouse could use more). It’s that Ford now has a new kid on the block in Roger Penske after Roush spent the last three or four years as the manufacturer’s main squeeze. How will these two titans of motorsports co-exist in the same house? 
 
There are more questions than answers here. While history tells us that RFR never stays down for long, one must wonder if a turbulent year lies ahead.
 
 
7. Richard Childress Racing
Contrary to popular belief, the name on the marquee hasn’t changed to “Dillon Childress Racing.” But all signs point in that direction for 2014 and beyond, right? Owner Richard Childress, still dealing with the fact that Kevin Harvick will depart for Stewart-Haas Racing at season’s end, must right the ship after an underachieving 2012 with an eye on the suddenly foggy future.
 
RCR’s Cup Series lineup now consists of a “lame duck” in Harvick, a perplexingly underperforming Jeff Burton and daddy-supported Paul Menard. Down in Nationwide, a departing Elliott Sadler has been replaced by family-supported Brian Scott, teamed with grandson Austin Dillon, while a third car may serve as GoDaddy darling Danica Patrick’s ride in 8-to-10 races. In the Truck Series, younger grandson Ty Dillon continues his learning process while Joey Coulter leaves. Who pops in? Brendan Gaughan, known more for his father’s casinos than NASCAR success.
 
See where we’re going here? Outside funding, from family-supported drivers, helps RCR keep up with the ­Joneses, providing a place to race while eliminating the jealousy/threats that may result from a focus on the Dillon boys. Pretty smart, actually. 
 
Perhaps that’s why Harvick ran for the door — his problems with patience, combined with the difficulty of a “lame duck” status, make him unlikely to lead this team to success. Of the three drivers in Cup, Burton may have the best chance to make the Chase, handed “golden wrench” Luke Lambert, whose presence at the No. 31 car provides a spark. But when your top dog is a 45-year-old veteran, clearly past his prime … well, those Dillon boys can’t use that extra cash to conquer the minors and make it to the Cup level fast enough.
 
 
8. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing
Talk about the Odd Couple. In this corner, we have a former Daytona 500 winner who is as well liked by his peers on the track as he is personable off it. And in this corner, we have a former Indy 500 winner who continues to make waves on the track with fellow competitors and can be a bit frosty off it.
 
Such is life at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, where Goldilocks needs to show both Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya the NASCAR formula of racing “just right.” That’s something both have to relearn after running the entire schedule without a top-5 finish, virtually unheard of for a program with this kind of big-time sponsorship money (Target, McDonald’s).
 
What can make it better? Last year, Ganassi made sweeping personnel changes — though none in the driver lineup — and it made things worse. So what do you do if you’re not going to make any changes behind the wheel?
 
If you have an answer, write in, because then you could be working for Mr. Ganassi. That’s how bad the NASCAR side has gotten despite an open-wheel juggernaut on the other side of the shop that’s bound to continue for the rest of this decade.
 
 
9. Richard Petty Motorsports
It’s hard to believe it’s now been 20 years since Richard Petty last drove in the Cup Series. Turning 76 years old in 2013, NASCAR’s “King” continues to search for sustained success from the famed No. 43. Aric Almirola came close once last season, when a miracle Kansas performance was derailed by a few flat tires. Can the longtime prospect turn potential into reality? The answer may come with how much Ford, along with RPM investors, chooses to market Petty’s name rather than spend the money needed to land the company in Victory Lane. When your top driver, Marcos Ambrose, is threatening to leave the country and head back to Australia rather than re-sign, there’s a perception that the team can only go so far. When a manufacturer, in Dodge, sees the Petty name and still scoffs, then leaves the sport entirely, there’s an impression that funding is more limited than you think.
 
Something — a lucky break, a sponsor signing, expansion — has to happen here to get this train to leave the station.

 


 
Get all of your favorite racing stats, exclusive interviews and more in our 2013 Athlon Sports NASCAR Racing Preview Magazine, available at newsstands and online now. 

 

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Best Teams in NASCAR for 2013</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 19:26
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/nascar-2013-nationwide-series-preview
Body:

Heading into 2013, the Nationwide Series hopes to continue building momentum without some of its signature stars. Despite losing perhaps its two most notable drivers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick, to the Cup Series, a quality consolation prize for NASCAR’s second-tier division is the fact that there are new up-and-comers to market.
 
Prior to the 2011 season, the sanctioning body began requiring drivers to declare one series in which they would receive driver points. It was an effort to rein in the “Cupwhackers” from NASCAR’s top series who would drop down on Saturday to “practice” through domination. From 2005 through 2010, these moonlighters won most of the races and controlled the second series’ championship chase. 
 
Not anymore. Stenhouse Jr. won the title in 2011, with the new requirements in place, but 2012 was the season that truly saw a shift back towards series regulars. Without a single Cup driver running full-time, Stenhouse repeated the championship last year and would have done so without the new rules. More importantly, he and fellow regulars like Elliott Sadler, Austin Dillon and Justin Allgaier dominated the win column, capturing 13 victories among them. That’s the most for the full-time, Nationwide-only contingent in eight years. 
 
Without the lure of a championship and the sponsorship constraints that come with it, Cup drivers no longer overrun the series, although they still participate enough to allow NASCAR and the tracks to use their presence to promote races. Against what seemed like long odds, the Nationwide Series is getting a chance to build its own personality and stars, with ratings that held steady year-to-year despite NASCAR’s Nielsen decline in Cup.
 
Looking to 2013, the “new face” of this division is beginning to resemble the perfect mix of young and old. When Cup drivers held the majority of competitive seats, development drivers either ended up with lower-tier teams or nowhere at all. Now, drivers like Dillon, Regan Smith, Trevor Bayne and Brian Vickers find themselves as legitimate championship contenders. Others, like James Buescher, Parker Kligerman, Ryan Truex, Ryan Blaney, and Darrell Wallace Jr., have opportunities to build solid résumés in the sport. They’ll race alongside veterans like Sadler, Mike Wallace and Joe Nemechek in 2013, gaining quality experience that’ll teach the young drivers the ropes.
 
What’s encouraging is that drivers are willing to stay for longer than just one full season — and the owners are happy to keep them there. Stenhouse and Patrick just wrapped up three-year stints; Cup hopefuls Allgaier and Michael Annett are starting season five. Once again, these young talents, especially when linked to Cup owners, are spending a meaningful amount of time in the second-tier series before making the leap. And when they leave, like in the case of Stenhouse, the opportunities remain for talented replacements. Bayne will run for Roush Fenway in 2013, while Dillon’s ride will go to brother Ty when he moves up to the Cup Series in 2014.
 
But while the series may be headed in the right direction, plenty of obstacles remain. This season, 27 of the 33 NNS races will be run as companion events to the Cup Series. Only Iowa (two events), Road America and Mid-Ohio remain as venues where the “big boys” never run, with the other standalone races taking place at Cup intermediates Chicago and Kentucky.
 
Yes, companion events have benefits. They offer fans coming to the track the ability to get the most racing action out of the weekend, and the tracks can offer package deals in an effort to sell more tickets and get otherwise uninterested fans hooked on young Saturday stars. 
 
But six standalones are simply not enough for a series attempting valiantly to stand on its own. Racing “away from Cup” more would allow the series to further build its own identity and fan base. The races most fans seem to remember (and clamor for) are ones that were run at places like O’Reilly Raceway Park or South Boston — smaller, unique short tracks that provided the best action. For years, these venues were the home of what was then known as the Busch Series.
 
Since then, the conversation has centered on empty stands and switches to larger tracks, like Indianapolis Motor Speedway, that haven’t exactly attracted a larger audience. The Nationwide Series is now racing mostly at places built to seat Cup crowds. Realistically, the second series does not need to race exclusively at tracks that hold 70,000-plus fans when a sensible draw for an NNS event is less than half that number.
 
Of course, the key for an exclusive return to those quaint facilities is money. Renovations, including SAFER barriers, pit improvements and accommodations, on top of a $750,000 sanctioning fee, make staging events at smaller tracks more difficult in modern times. Perhaps NASCAR needs to take a more realistic look at the economics of attendance, ticket prices, purses, and sanctioning fees and adjust accordingly.
 
Economics remains a challenging subject for NASCAR. Purse reductions in the Nationwide Series continue to plague the smaller teams; so many of them start-and-parked in 2012 that the field size was reduced to 40 out of necessity. That will help the final payouts slightly, but the major-league expenses remain exorbitant for what is, at times, a league comparable to Triple-A baseball. The economy has still not recovered to the point that companies are clamoring to spend big bucks on team sponsorship in Cup, let alone the $6-$8 million that a top Nationwide team can command. NASCAR is fighting a two-pronged war, as attendance and ratings continue to decline, so controlling costs in its lower divisions has become a primary concern.
 
Still, the Nationwide Series offers a good option for companies looking to get exposure on a smaller budget. Cup teams have had to move to a new model of multiple primary sponsors, a strategy expected to trickle its way down. From a sponsorship standpoint, backing off the Cup drivers was a risk given their name value, but this shift in success back to the youngsters should get cash flowing again.
 
As a whole, though, the NASCAR Nationwide Series looks to be pointed in a positive direction for the future, and it’s primed for an amazing championship battle ahead. Anyone from Dillon to Sadler to Smith to Vickers could win the title. In the past, names like Kevin Harvick or Carl Edwards would dominate, and most fans could be better served falling asleep.
 
It may not show it in the stands quite yet, but that’s progress.
 
—By Toni Montgomery
 

 
Get all of your favorite racing stats, exclusive interviews and more in our 2013 Athlon Sports NASCAR Racing Preview Magazine, available at newsstands and online now. 

 

Teaser:
<p> A look ahead at the exciting NASCAR season.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 16:53
Path: /nascar/7-and-coming-drivers-every-nascar-fan-should-know
Body:

Newly crowned Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski admits that he’s caught himself admiring NASCAR’s next generation of racers.

“They’re almost as good as I am, if not better right now,” he says.

It’s not just one or two drivers catching his eye but several, ranging from teenagers to those in their early 20s. They’re winning races, capturing championships and setting records — taking advantage of opportunities previous classes did not receive.

When the economy tanked a few years ago, many teams ditched driver development programs or altered them drastically. It left young racers with few avenues to reach the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The result was a string of forgettable Sprint Cup Rookies of the Year — Stephen Leicht, Andy Lally and Kevin Conway — who combined for two top-20 finishes the past three years.

Today’s young drivers race toward the front in their divisions and show they deserve good rides. As Cup drivers age — one-third of this year’s 12-man Chase featured drivers 40 and older — these younger drivers are positioning themselves to be the sport’s future. 

“I’ve been in this sport long enough to see Lee Petty, Junior Johnson, that whole group of guys, Joe Weatherly, hand the torch over to Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson,” car owner Richard Childress says. “Now you’ve got Jeff Gordon, (Kevin) Harvick, Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. This group is getting up (in age and) some day they’ll hand it over to the Stenhouses and hopefully the Dillons and Blaneys. We’ve got a great group of young talent coming up.”

This could be the dawn of a new era. With so many to choose from, here are seven young drivers to watch in the coming years along with evaluations from David Smith, editor-in-chief of Motorsports Analytics, a site that offers analysis and commentary on drivers in numerous series.

KYLE LARSON, 20, ELK GROVE, CALIF.

Jeff Gordon is among many watching the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion — who won the title in his first full year racing stock cars.

“He’s very talented,” says Gordon, who has texted Larson after races. “To be able to win the K&N East Series against the talent that is out there with as limited amount of experience as he has in a full-bodied stock car says a lot about his talents and skill.”

The 20-year-old Larson, whose background is in sprints and midget cars, scored a 10th-place finish at Kentucky in late June in his Camping World Truck Series debut. He followed it with two more top-10 finishes and was running in the top 5 at Homestead when an aggressive move late in the race led to a crash.

Larson, a development driver for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, has run more than 200 races in various series the past two years. That experience helped him transition to stock cars. 

“I’ve been racing open-wheelers, so many different types of open-wheel cars, I think it really helped me become versatile because I jump in different cars each and every night it seems like, so I can adapt pretty quickly,” Larson says.

He notes that Earnhardt Ganassi Racing is working on plans for his 2013 schedule. Expect to see him in more Truck races and also Nationwide events.

David Smith says: “Kyle has talent in spades. This year in K&N East he ranked second in Pro Series East PEER (4.500). Usually it’s a really big hurdle going from open wheel to stock car, but he made it look easy. He’s going to start a legacy of crossover kids (from open wheel) that are going to try what he did but just won’t be able to make that transition as quick. He’s got to learn to pace himself and be patient. He has what, theoretically, you can’t teach. He’s got the aggression, natural sense of any kind of race car. He just needs to learn the strategic part of how to go about winning these races in NASCAR.”

 

RYAN BLANEY, 19, HIGH POINT, N.C.

The son of Cup driver Dave Blaney grabbed attention by finishing seventh in his Nationwide debut at Richmond in April. The focus continued throughout the summer as he scored top-10 finishes in limited series appearances. His performance earned him a ride with Brad Keselowski’s Truck Series team beginning in August. 

Blaney rewarded Keselowski by winning at Iowa in September in his third career series start. Blaney also became the youngest driver to win a Truck Series race at age 18 years, eight months and 15 days — eclipsing Kyle Busch’s record (20 years, 18 days) set in 2005 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Dave Blaney admits he wasn’t surprised his son won so quickly.

“I haven’t been surprised at anything that kid has done since he was about 14,” Dave Blaney says. “It seems like, naturally, he can pick things up and just make good decisions. And that eventually helps him be in the hunt for race wins in every series he’s been in.”

Ryan Blaney will run select Nationwide races for Penske Racing in 2013 while also running in the Truck Series for Keselowski’s team.

David Smith says: “Blaney and (Kyle) Larson are the top two prospects. They haven’t fulfilled their destiny in the Nationwide and Truck levels yet, but they could. I would place Blaney ahead of Larson just for the fact that Larson is trying to learn what Blaney already knows. Blaney has the intuition to check out the landscape of the race, understand what his equipment offers him and makes the conscious decision to say, ‘OK, maybe I don’t have the car tonight, but here’s how I’m going to win this race.’ His affinity for patience has translated to the Nationwide Series — he had a Top 15 Efficiency of plus-6.9 percent which allowed him to average finishes better than his average running positions. Based on his PEER he was a fringe contender in both Nationwide (2.038, ranked 16th and higher than Penske Racing counterpart Sam Hornish) and Trucks (2.611, ranked ninth).”

 

JAMES BUESCHER, 22, PLANO, TEXAS

Few could say they had a better year in 2012 than this 22-year-old. He married in January, won the Daytona Nationwide race in February and won four Camping World Truck Series races en route to winning the championship for Turner Motorsports.

He is the second-youngest series champion in the series’ 18-year history, behind only Austin Dillon. 

“This year has been incredible for me,” Buescher said in the offseason. “Being the champion of the Truck Series definitely trumps winning a race at Daytona, but the race at Daytona is still pretty high up there. But it’s been a phenomenal year for my racing career and for my personal life. I just feel really blessed.”

All four of his Truck wins came at 1.5-mile speedways (Kansas, Kentucky, Chicago and Kentucky), and nearly three-quarters of the laps he led (505) were on 1.5-mile speedways.

Buescher also ran 20 Nationwide races, with one win and eight top-10 finishes. He’ll return to Turner Motorsports in 2013.

David Smith says: “The reigning Truck Series titlist was a bit of a one-trick pony in 2012, scoring all four of his wins on 1.5-mile soft intermediate tracks. While worse drivers have made careers out of being adept at one specific track, Buescher, who ranked sixth in the series in PEER (2.886), still has time to improve on short tracks and the 1.5-mile quad-oval facilities that are visited more frequently in the Cup Series.”

 

DYLAN KWASNIEWSKI, 17, LAS VEGAS, NEV.

He was the youngest winner in the K&N Pro Series West in 2011 and became its youngest champion last season at age 17.

This high school senior is articulate and engaging, traits that entice sponsors along with his success on the track.

He earned the West title by winning three races and scoring 12 top-5 finishes in 15 races, never finishing outside the top 10 in a series race. In fact, he’s registered only four finishes outside of the top 10 in the West Series in 28 starts. 

His success goes back to the time he was introduced to racing before he was five years old. 

“I just had a true passion for the sport,” Kwasniewski says. “I think my parents saw that there was something. We just furthered my career and then it grew into this.”

His next step is to compete in the K&N Pro Series East division in 2013 for Turner Motorsports.

David Smith says: “Kwasniewski’s rise to the top of NASCAR’s Pro Series West division was meteoric. In 2011, his rookie campaign, he earned a serviceable 1.667 PEER through the first half of the season. In the second half he registered a 3.929 PEER, foreshadowing even more improvement in 2012. Against fields littered with veteran drivers and owners, he won last year’s title with three wins, a 3.8 average finish and a series-best 5.233 PEER. The question you ask is whether he can he come East and do the same thing against a series that is a high competitive jump. I think he can do well, but I think that question does exist. It’s time to see what he can do in a series against kids that are just as good as he is. Can he outthink them? Can he outdrive them?”

 

AUSTIN DILLON, 22, LEWISVILLE, N.C.

The 22-year-old grandson of car owner Richard Childress will attempt to make this year’s Daytona 500. He has climbed NASCAR’s ranks quickly. Dillon was Rookie of the Year in the Truck Series in 2010 and won the series title the following year. He finished third in the points last season in the Nationwide Series, earning Rookie of the Year honors.

At Phoenix in November, he led the rookie meeting for Truck Series drivers.

“It’s pretty cool to go run a rookie meeting and only be 22 years old,” he says. “It’s kind of hard thinking you’re gaining respect from them because they’re the same age. It’s cool that they listened.”

He’ll run a full season of Nationwide again this year along with as many as seven Cup races, including the Daytona 500, for Childress. Dillon is expected to move full-time to Cup in 2014 and very well could bring the No. 3 with him, marking that number’s first return to Cup since Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500.

David Smith says: “I was not a fan of him in the Truck Series just because that No. 3 team was very strong, very consistent, didn’t have many miscues or incorrect setups. This year in the Nationwide Series, now we’re starting to see what Austin has the potential to do. He’s a driver that doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes. He earned a 2.879 PEER and two wins (both at Kentucky) in a season of staggering consistency that saw no accident-related exits from races. A second go-round of a full Nationwide slate should conjure visible improvement.”

 

TY DILLON, 20, LEWISVILLE, N.C.

Austin’s younger brother, Ty has shown he is as good as his big bro. Ty, 20, won Rookie of the Year honors in the Camping World Truck Series, finishing fourth in the points with one win and 17 top-10 finishes in 22 starts in 2012. He also ran in three Nationwide races, finishing in the top 10 in each of them, including a third-place result at Indianapolis.

“I couldn’t really ask for much more besides a championship in our rookie year,” he said after the season finale at Homestead.

Just like his brother, he’s followed a path set by grandfather Richard Childress that has put him in a position to succeed. He’ll run again in the Truck Series in 2013 with plans to participate in select Nationwide races and one Cup race before a planned move full-time to the Nationwide Series in 2014.

David Smith says: “I like Ty. He didn’t come away the champion, but Dillon had an impressive rookie season in the Truck Series. A strong showing in his maiden voyage at Martinsville and beating Kyle Busch to the finish line in a spectacular mano-a-mano battle at Atlanta were two of his more brilliant flashes. There’s room for improvement in 2013 — he ranked just 15th in Trucks PEER (2.023) and was an above-average crasher (seven times in 22 races).”

 

COREY LaJOIE, 21, CONCORD, N.C.

The son of two-time Nationwide Series champion Randy LaJoie finished second in the 2012 K&N Pro Series East Series despite not having the budget of some other teams. LaJoie won a series-high five races and had 10 top-five finishes in 14 events with his smooth driving style. His results improved greatly compared to 2011 — when he went winless and collected only four top-5 finishes — as he steered clear of trouble. 

The question with LaJoie is whether the 21-year-old can find the funding for a full-time ride in a division above the East Series. If so, keep an eye on him.

David Smith says: “There’s nothing to dislike about LaJoie. Outside of the car, he’s an endearingly outspoken, Chuck Taylor-wearing blue-collar kid. In the car, he demonstrates a savant-like ability to conserve tires, methodically stage passing opportunities and close races. He scored five Pro Series East victories in 2012 and his 4.607 PEER mark bettered Joey Logano’s vaunted East division production rating of 4.462 from 2007. He’s the only full-time guy that did it on a microscopic budget (in 2012), compared to what (Joe Gibbs Racing) had and like what Darrell Wallace Jr. had and what Hendrick (Motorsports) had with Chase Elliott. So what he did was incredible. All that he’s taught himself to do is going to translate to another level.”

—By Dustin Long and David Smith


About MotorsportsAnalytics.com

David Smith is the founder and editor-in-chief of Motorsports Analytics. Smith looks past racing stats like “Wins,” “Tops 5s,” and “Top 10s” to evaluate drivers by taking advanced statistical concepts that he created. His PEER stats (Production in Equal Equipment Rating) are weighted statistics that measure the on-track production of a driver in an “all-equipment-even” scenario (i.e., the best equipment receives the highest handicap). It is constructed using data from past performances.

4.000 and Above = Historic Performance — This driver is attempting to re-write the record books in this particular series. The higher the level of racing, the more rare a 4.000 PEER becomes.

3.999 to 3.000 = Serious Title Contender — This driver is exhibiting the ability to compete for a series championship while producing higher finishes than those with a Fringe Title Contender-level PEER.

2.999 to 2.000 = Fringe Title Contender — This driver is exhibiting the ability to compete for a series championship.

1.999 to 1.000 = Serviceable — This driver can be counted on for an occasional race win in this series.

0.999 and Below = Replacement Level — This driver’s production level in this series can be easily found elsewhere.

Teaser:
<p> 7 Up-And-Coming Drivers Every NASCAR Fan Should Know</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/why-are-mlb-players-striking-out-more-ever
Body:

Brian Cashman called it a “perfect storm.” CC Sabathia said it was “embarrassing.” The New York tabloids weren’t as kind: "Dear Yankees, We don’t date losers! Signed New Yorkers" read the back of the New York Post.

Detroit’s sweep of the Yankees in the 2012 ALCS was a complete domination. The Tigers never trailed during the series, and their combined 19–6 run differential was an indication of New York’s incompetence. The Yankees batted a mere .157 in the series, and they struck out a whopping 36 times, or on one-third of their outs. At times, it appeared as if the New York hitters had never faced big-league pitching before.

“When you get into a short series, you say, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’” says Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones. “If you execute it, you win. If you don’t, and you make poor pitches, you won’t win.”

While many love to deliver swift boots to the collective posterior of the Yankees when they are laid low, their fan-tastic performance against the Tigers wasn’t so unusual in the context of the 2012 season. First off, Detroit pitchers ranked fifth among all MLB clubs in strikeouts. But more importantly, the ’12 season was historic throughout baseball for whiffing. 

Six major league clubs fanned at least 1,300 times last season. That’s three more clubs than the previous high for aggregate plate futility and one more than the total number from baseball’s beginning through the 2006 season. Another 12 teams struck out at least 1,200 times, four more than the previous record. In other words, a full 60 percent of teams whiffed 1,200 or more times last year, establishing a new high (or, if you prefer, low) for swing-and-miss futility. The Yankees’ fruitless pursuit of Tiger pitching was merely a high-profile example of the culture that has taken over major league baseball.

“There are definitely more ‘guess’ hitters in the game than there used to be,” Jones says. “You have guys looking for a certain pitch. If they don’t get it, they can look bad swinging.”

To give an idea of how profound this increase in useless at bats has become, consider that before 2001, no team had ever struck out 1,300 times in a single season. Before 1996, only one squad ever fanned 1,200 times. That distinction belongs to the 1968 Mets, who struck out 1,203 times. But they played 163 games that year, and after the season, Major League Baseball decided to lower the mound six inches. Back in 1978, the leader in strikeouts, Cincinnati, had only 899. Many of today’s teams have that many well before August is over. Contrast that with 1928, when the Yankees whiffed only 553 times in 154 games. 

There are plenty of reasons why K is becoming baseball’s favorite letter. Jones’ theory on hitters’ guessing makes perfect sense. So does the fact that pitchers’ velocities are increasing, as is the menagerie of “out” pitches they are learning at earlier levels of baseball. The growing specialization of staffs allows managers to create matchups that are to their teams’ advantages. And the amount of information available to teams about hitters’ tendencies allows them to create scouting reports and battle plans that are more effective. Just ask the Yankees about that. 

There’s one other, more philosophical cause at work, at least according to Padres’ hitting coach Phil Plantier. He cites what he refers to as “the live ball era” as having an impact on hitters as they grow into big-league players. That’s his euphemism for the steroid era, when homers rained down upon bleacher bums all over the game. As youngsters watched their pumped-up heroes cranking out 50 homers — and more — each season, they developed habits that might produce long balls but could also lead to high strikeout totals. For instance, in 1996, just two years after the MLB strike and the first season during which Mark McGwire hit more than 50 home runs (52), eight teams whiffed 1,100 times or more — an all-time high. From there, the strikeout totals have climbed steadily to 2012’s peak.

“The past generation of players just went through an unrealistic baseline expectation of hitters,” Plantier says. “If you look at trends of hitters prior to the ‘live ball’ era, it’s probably more indicative of where the game will go back. But it’s taking some time.”

Back in 1987, when Plantier reported to Elmira, N.Y., for his first minor league stint, he didn’t find an army of coaches ready to mold him on his first step to the majors. The club didn’t even have a weight room. 

“We had a manager, and he did everything,” Plantier says.

Today, teams have too much money invested in players to leave it all to one person. There are hitting coaches, strength coaches and pitching coaches at every stop along the developmental chain. Not everyone is going to make it to the big time, but teams aren’t taking any chances on missing a potential major leaguer. 

They also aren’t going about accumulating prospects the same way, especially on the mound. The process by which teams scout and ultimately select young pitchers has been altered since the days when Plantier was making his baseball journey.

“It all starts at the beginning,” he says. “Scouts are identifying athletes now as pitchers and have been for the last generation. Before, the majority of pitchers were non-athletes with good arms. Now, they’re getting better quality athletes on the mound.”

According to Plantier, the more athletic a pitcher is, the higher his ceiling might be. Now, no one can be certain whether Walter Johnson or Sandy Koufax would have fared well in the decathlon, but many of today’s pitchers are more accomplished athletically. They are also bigger and stronger. It’s become rare when a team spends a high draft choice — or in some cases any draft choices — on pitchers who aren’t at least 6'0". It’s hard to imagine someone like 5'11" Ron Guidry or 5'6" Bobby Shantz, who was once blown off the mound during a game, getting a second look today. When exposed to the intense training and instruction teams provide from rookie ball on up, they can develop into better pitchers — even if they don’t have the liveliest arms. 

“At the lower levels, organizations are developing pitchers better, and they are teaching them how to become strikeout pitchers,” Plantier says.

A lot of those strikeout pitchers are succeeding with fastballs that get into the 90s consistently. Brewers’ hitting coach Jerry Narron was once a special assignment scout for Texas, and he was with Josh Hamilton in 2009 when Hamilton did a rehab stint in the minors after surgery to repair an abdominal tear. He noticed right away the vast differences between the caliber of pitching at the Triple-A level and the majors, a big reason why many younger players struggle to make contact.

“It’s not only the starters but the relievers who throw hard,” Narron says. “Everybody out of the pen seems to throw in the mid-90s, and at the back end of the pen, they’re throwing in the upper 90s. The velocity across the board jumps off the page.”

Jones agrees. “It seems like every guy is throwing 95 now,” he says.

Narron says teams’ obsessions with pitch counts have contributed to rising strikeout totals as well — and not just because those hard-throwing relievers are ready to throw smoke and overpower pitchers in favorable lefty-lefty or righty-righty matchups.

“Starters can afford to be more assertive,” Narron says. “They’re only going to pitch five, six or seven innings.”

The amount of information available gives pitchers advantages, too. Most MLB clubs, including the Tigers, look at what hitters’ tendencies are in every possible count. They feed pitchers information that allows them to know who is looking for fastballs early, who is less likely to be more careful with two strikes, and of course, who struggles with breaking balls.

“When guys are aggressive early in the count, they are people you can exploit by going out of the strike zone,” Jones says. “We know how aggressive guys are late in the count and how aggressive they are with men on base.”

It’s not guaranteed that a pitcher armed with that information is going to be successful, but if he makes pitches according to the plan, it’s more likely he will have an advantage. Detroit pitcher Doug Fister is known for throwing strikes early and often — he walked only 37 batters in 161.2 innings last year. So, hitters will often go up in the first few innings of a game hoping to get something to hit right away. If they are aggressive and making outs, Fister stays with his original program. But if they are hitting him, he has to change.

“They’ve made their adjustments, so we have to adjust,” Jones says.

It’s just not fair, really. Those mean pitchers are bigger and throw faster than ever. They have all sorts of fancy information and knowledge about tendencies and hitters’ weaknesses. Lower the mound! Make it four strikes per out. 

The pitchers are better, but the hitters have a huge responsibility for the rising numbers. One All-Star starter who requested anonymity explains why it’s sometimes easy to pile up the strikeouts. “A lot of guys go up there looking for a certain pitch, and if they don’t get it, they pretty much give up the at-bat,” he says. 

According to Narron, some hitters consider a strikeout “just another out.” Of course, nobody scores from third with fewer than two outs on a K — barring a wild pitch, of course. You can’t move the runner from first to second when you fan. And hitting the ball, even if it’s right at a defender, forces him to make a play and could lead to an error. Narron sure doesn’t think that all outs are the same.

“I don’t believe that,” he says. “There’s a lot you can accomplish with two strikes on you. You want to get something out of an at-bat that’s more than just a zero. The only thing you might get out of a strikeout is pushing the pitcher to eight pitches. That’s okay.”

Hitting coaches speak constantly of having a “plan” or “approach” at the plate. That can apply to a team’s macro philosophy of being aggressive against certain pitchers and careful versus others, and it has micro applications based on various hitters’ strengths and weaknesses. It’s okay to swing at strikes early in the count, provided that’s the way to get after a pitcher. Hitters who just rip away at anything may get on base, but their ultimate success depends on being more opportunistic, especially when the count isn’t in their favor.

“The one thing I stress to hitters is that every at-bat is important,” Narron says. “You just can’t give anything away.” 

That philosophy doesn’t appeal to all hitters, especially power hitters. They believe the home run is the preferred outcome, even if dinger numbers are dropping all over baseball. Slapping a ball to the opposite field with two strikes isn’t as appealing as jacking one into the fourth deck, even if the risk associated with that approach is high. 

Plantier’s Padres were members of the 1,200-strikeout club last year, but he was much happier with his players’ performance at the plate during the season’s second half, once they approached at-bats differently and tried to be more productive each time up.

“We were as big a culprit as there was in the league,” he says of the Padres’ propensity to strike out. “But we started to have better at-bats and improved our contact rate. We made mechanical adjustments and also had better plans at the plate, according to what we needed at that moment in time.”

As 2013 dawns, pitchers have the advantage. They are throwing high-octane fuel at hitters who don’t necessarily care whether they strike out or not, so long as the possibility exists of the magic long ball that made their baseball ancestors stars. 

“You’ve got a lot of power guys who aren’t going to change their swings with two strikes,” Jones says. “They’re still trying to drive the ball to the gaps and over the fence.”

If they strike out, they strike out. For many, it’s not a problem. 

Until the League Championship Series. Then, it’s a problem.

—By Michael Bradley


 

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

Teaser:
<p> Examining baseball's growing number of swing-and-miss hitters.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-college-football-coaching-jobs-2013
Body:

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

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

Ranking the Coaching Jobs in the ACC for 2013

1. Florida State

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

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

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

2. Clemson

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

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

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

3. Virginia Tech

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

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

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

4. Miami

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

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

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

5. North Carolina

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

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

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

6. Pittsburgh

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

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

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

7. North Carolina State

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

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

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

8. Virginia

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

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

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

9. Georgia Tech

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

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

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

10. Maryland

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

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

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

11. Syracuse

Pros: As recently as the early 2000s, Syracuse was a top-25 program. The Orangemen, as they were called then, won nine games or more eight times in a 15-year span from 1987-2001. Doug Marrone had the program headed in the right direction before bolting to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Cons: The program has been an afterthought in the past decade, with only two winning seasons since 2001. Support has not been good, either. Last year, when the Orange shared the Big East title, the school ranked 61st nationally in attendance (37,853 per game).

Final Verdict: Syracuse is a tough job. It’s tough to lure recruits from the South, specifically Florida, to upstate New York, and there simply aren’t a lot of top-flight prospects in the Northeast.
 

12. Boston College

Pros: Boston College was one of the most consistent programs in the nation from the late 1990s through the late 2000s. The Eagles averaged 8.7 wins from ’99-09 and won one Big East title (2004) and two ACC Atlantic Division titles (2007, ’08). The school’s strong academic reputation will allow it to recruit top students from the Northeast who want to remain close to home.

Cons: As the Northernmost outpost in the ACC, Boston College will always have a difficult time recruiting players from outside its region.

Final Verdict: Once the model of consistency, Boston College has slipped to the bottom of the food chain in the ACC. The Eagles went 15–11 in Frank Spaziani’s first two seasons but won four games in 2011 and two in ’12. First-year coach Steve Addazio will have a tough time returning this program to the top half of the league.
 

13. Wake Forest

Pros: Jim Grobe proved it can be done at Wake Forest.  The Demon Deacons won 11 games and captured the school’s second-ever ACC title in 2006.

Cons: No one has been able to sustain success at Wake Forest. The program has enjoyed three-straight winning seasons only once (from 2006-08) since the early 1950s.

Final Verdict: The overall strength of the ACC academically doesn’t allow Wake Forest, a small private school, to differentiate itself like programs such as Vanderbilt in the SEC, Northwestern in the Big Ten and Stanford in the Pac-12. If a strong student wants to play football in the ACC, there are several attractive options — North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia Tech — that have better overall football programs.
 

14. Duke

Pros: Duke has struggled to compete in football for the majority of the past 40 years, but the schools, consistently ranked among the top-10 in the country academically,  still has a strong national brand.

Cons: The interest in the football program at Duke is not high — and that is being kind. This past season, the Blue Devils went to a bowl game for the first time since 1994 yet only averaged 28,170 fans per game, ranking 79th in the nation. Temple was the only AQ conference school lower on the list.

Final Verdict: David Cutcliffe has made Duke respectable, but it’s hard to envision this program making much of move in the ACC. The lack of tradition and lack of support make Duke football a tough sell to top recruits.   


Related College Football Content

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

10 True Freshmen Likely to Make an Impact in 2013

Grading College Football's Coaching Hires for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the ACC's College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 06:20
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, Overtime
Path: /overtime/photoshopped-reuben-foster-sleeping-pics-are-awesome
Body:

A photo of Reuben Foster, the five-star linebacker who signed with Alabama despite getting an Auburn tattoo, has been photographed sleeping (while standing up, no less) in class by Instagram user itsleeuhbae. While that alone is pretty funny, it seems that the Internet won't allow it to stop there. 
 
Members of the great LSU site Tiger Droppings have photoshopped him into all kinds of interesting scenarios. Here are some of our favorites. Check out the rest here.
 
 
 
 
 
Teaser:
<p> Photoshopped Reuben Foster Sleeping Pics Are Awesome</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 14:37
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/revisiting-mlbs-2003-draft-10-years-ago
Body:

Every fan knows that the annual MLB Draft can be an absolute crapshoot. It can be surprising when a first round produces a surfeit of big-league talent. Of the top 30 picks in the 2003 MLB Draft, 21 reached the majors, and 17 are still active big leaguers. Add four supplemental first-round picks still receiving checks for playing ball, along with late-round gems like Ian Kinsler and Jonny Venters, and you have one pretty productive draft.

 
1. Devil Rays: Delmon Young, OF 
Adolfo Camarillo (Calif.) HS
’06-07, Devil Rays; ’08-11, Twins; ’11-12 Tigers
The Rays drafted the 6'3" outfielder expecting to get a power surge, but none of the three teams for whom the now-240-pounder has played has benefitted from consistent long-ball production. While Young’s career .284 batting average demonstrates his ability to hit, he has topped the 20-homer mark only one time, and that came in 2010, when he hit 21 dingers, knocked in 112 runs and batted .298 for the Twins, easily his best year in the majors. Young has demonstrated some behavioral issues during his career, but the 2012 postseason (.313, three HRs) showed Young’s potential. 
 
2. Brewers: Rickie Weeks, 2B
Southern University
’05-12, Brewers
Weeks has been a fixture at second base for the Brewers since 2005, and though his fielding has been shaky throughout his career, Milwaukee has stuck with him, showing its faith in Weeks by signing him to a four-year, $38.5 million deal prior to the 2011 season. Weeks was voted as a starter for the 2011 All-Star Game, a nod to his solid offensive production. 
 
3. Tigers: Kyle Sleeth, RHP
Wake Forest
After a glittering collegiate career that included a 14–0 campaign in 2002, Sleeth had his career derailed by Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss the 2005 season and part of ’06. A dominating righthander in college, Sleeth never progressed beyond Double-A ball, although he did earn a spot on the Tigers’ 40-man roster at one point. He retired in March 2008.
 
4. Padres: Tim Stauffer, RHP
Richmond
’05-12 Padres
Although Stauffer spent parts of several seasons with the Padres, he was a full-time performer for only two seasons, 2010 and ’11. He split his time between the bullpen and the starting rotation and enjoyed his greatest success in 2011, when he was the Padres’ Opening Day starter. Elbow troubles in 2012 limited him to one start and forced him to undergo surgery in August. He elected to become a free agent after the 2012 campaign.
 
5. Royals: Chris Lubanski, OF
Kennedy-Kenrick (Pa.) HS
A power-hitting outfielder with good speed, Lubanski kicked around the Royals’ farm system for seven seasons before bouncing through the Blue Jays, Marlins and Phillies organizations and spending some time playing for Chico of the California League. Lubanski hit 28 homers in High-A ball in 2005 and swatted 17 for Las Vegas in Triple-A in 2010 but could never deliver consistently at the higher minors levels to warrant a call to the bigs.
 
6. Cubs: Ryan Harvey, OF
Dunedin (Fla.) HS
Possessing raw power and a big enough arm to make the Cubs toy with the idea of using him as a pitcher when his position-playing fortunes began to flag, Harvey never progressed beyond Double-A ball. Although he hit 24 homers and knocked in 100 for Class A Peoria in 2005 and slugged 20 dingers the next year for Daytona, another Class A outpost, he never hit for average and struck out too often. He played for Lancaster in the Independent ranks in 2012.
 
7. Orioles: Nick Markakis, OF
Young Harris College
’06-12 Orioles
A strong hitter with plus power, good speed and a big arm, Markakis is a fixture in the Orioles lineup, and until 2012, was an extremely durable player. Markakis has topped 100 RBIs twice and hit more than 40 doubles in a season four times. In January ’09, the Orioles signed him to a six-year extension that will keep him as a cornerstone of their improving squad through 2014.
 
8. Pirates: Paul Maholm, LHP
Mississippi State
’05-11 Pirates; ’12 Cubs/Braves
When Maholm debuted with eight shutout innings in a win over the Brewers in 2005, many thought the lefty was destined for big things. Though he has pitched for eight big-league seasons, he never developed into a top-of-the-rotation starter. Maholm was traded from Chicago to Atlanta last July and finished the season with a 13–11 mark and a 3.67 ERA with a career-high 140 strikeouts.
 
9. Rangers: John Danks LHP
Round Rock (Texas) HS
‘07-12 White Sox
The former Texas prep Player of the Year was traded by Texas to the ChiSox in 2006 and has become a stalwart in the rotation. The hard thrower with a nasty cutter had his best statistical season in 2010, when he went 15–11 with a 3.72 ERA and 162 strikeouts. Danks made only nine starts in 2012, as shoulder problems forced him first to the disabled list and later to the operating table in August. 
 
10. Rockies: Ian Stewart, 3B
LaQuinta (Calif.) HS
’07-11 Rockies; ’12 Cubs
If he manages to stay healthy, Stewart could be an extremely valuable part of the Cubs organization. When he played 147 games for Colorado in 2009, Stewart hit 25 homers and knocked in 70 runs. But he has struggled with wrist issues for almost two seasons, and in June 2012 he underwent surgery that limited him to 55 games. 
 
11. Indians: Michael Aubrey, 1B
Tulane 
’08 Indians; ’09 Orioles
A talented hitter who showed power and the ability to hit for average, as well as a solid pitching arm while in high school and college, Aubrey played parts of two seasons with a pair of MLB teams and totaled only 46 games of action. The trouble wasn’t his bat; it was his ability to stay healthy. Aubrey spent 2011 with Syracuse in the Washington organization but was out of baseball in ’12.
 
12. Mets: Lastings Milledge, OF
Lakewood Ranch (Fla.) HS
’06-07 Mets; ’08-09 Nationals; ’09-10 Pirates; ’11 White Sox
Off-field issues have dogged Milledge from his high school days through his professional career, during which he failed to establish himself as an everyday player. Milledge struggled with poor work ethic and a shaky attitude during two seasons with the Mets, but he appeared to turn things around in 2009 with the Nationals and hit .268 with 14 HRs in 138 games. Milledge bounced to a pair of other teams, was sent to the minors in ’11 by the White Sox and ended up playing the 2012 season in Japan.
 
13. Blue Jays: Aaron Hill, SS
LSU
’05-11 Blue Jays; ’11-12 Diamondbacks
In 2009, Hill hit 36 homers and knocked in 108 runs to earn the Comeback Player of the Year award with Toronto after he missed most of ’08 with concussion symptoms. The next year, he had 26 dingers and 68 RBIs. But the Blue Jays traded Hill to Arizona in August 2011 due to his struggles at the plate. Hill rebounded with a solid 2012 for the Diamondbacks, hitting .302 with 26 homers and 85 RBIs.
 
14. Reds: Ryan Wagner, RHP
Houston
’03-05 Reds; ’06-07 Nationals
Before Wagner tore his labrum in 2007, many expected him to become a significant contributor to the Nationals’ bullpen, since he had posted a 3.54 ERA in his final 24 games of the ’06 season. But the one-time Houston Cougar was unable to come back from surgery to repair the shoulder, and he retired in May 2009. 
 
15. White Sox: Brian Anderson, OF
Arizona
’05-09 White Sox; ’09 Red Sox
After spending five years in the majors trying to develop into a consistent, productive hitter, Anderson decided to become a pitcher. He bounced around four different organizations, trying to gain a hold as a reliever, and he actually looked pretty good for a while as part of the Yankees system, but he was released. In April 2012 the Rockies let him go, and Anderson was unable to hook on with another club.
 
16. Marlins: Jeff Allison, RHP
Veterans Memorial (Mass.) HS
After a remarkable prep career that included Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year award, Allison struggled to hold a position in the Marlins’ organization due to substance abuse issues. He reached as high as Double-A Jacksonville, where he posted a 9–11 record in two seasons (2010-11) as a starter. He retired from baseball in ’12, citing elbow problems.
 
17. Red Sox: David Murphy, OF
Baylor 
’06-07 Red Sox; ’07-12 Rangers
Murphy never got the chance to see much time while with the Red Sox, but he has blossomed into a productive corner outfielder during his tenure with the Rangers, displaying the ability to hit for average and just enough power. The big lefty’s best season may well have been 2012, when he played a career-high 147 games and hit .304 with 15 homers, 61 RBIs and a career-best 29 doubles. 
 
18. Indians (via Phillies): Brad Snyder, OF
Ball State
’10-11 Cubs
A first-team All-American at Ball State, Snyder hit for power and average as a college player but has appeared in only 20 big-league games. The Cubs claimed him off waivers in late 2009 and sent him to Triple-A Iowa City. Snyder enjoyed a strong year — hitting .308 with 25 HRs and 106 RBIs — and was a late-season call-up, playing in 12 games, hitting .185 in 27 at-bats. He saw action in eight contests in 2011 but spent the ’12 season in the Astros farm system. He signed a minor league deal with Arizona after the 2012 season.
 
19. Diamondbacks: Conor Jackson, 1B
California
’05-10, Diamondbacks; ’10-11, Athletics; ’11 Red Sox
Jackson moved quickly through the Arizona minor league ranks and made his debut in ’05. The next three seasons were prosperous, as he hit for average (.300 in ’08) although not for power. But Jackson contracted Valley Fever in 2009 and played only 30 games that year. The D-backs shipped him to Oakland the following season, and though Jackson played 102 games for the A’s in 2011, they traded him to Boston later that year. He spent 2012 in the White Sox’ minor league system.
 
20. Expos: Chad Cordero, RHP
Cal State Fullerton
’03-08 Expos/Nationals; ’10 Mariners
For three years, Cordero was one of the top closers in the game, but he never recovered from a torn labrum and retired from baseball in 2011. Cordero was a top reliever in college and made his MLB debut the same year he was drafted. He appeared in 69 games for the Expos in 2004, mostly as a set-up man, although he did register 14 saves. In ’05, he was statistically the best closer in baseball — leading all relievers with 47 saves. 
 
21. Twins: Matt Moses, 3B
Mills Goodwin (Va.) HS
Minnesota thought it had a fixture in the hot corner when it drafted Moses, but he never developed into a consistent hitter at the minor league level and couldn’t reach the majors. Moses played seven years and hit .249 with 47 homers and 310 RBIs but spent only 48 games beyond the Double-A level (in 2007) and retired from baseball after the ’09 campaign.
 
22. Giants (via Astros): David Aardsma, RHP
Rice
’04 Giants; ’06 Cubs; ’07 White Sox; ’08 Red Sox; ’09-10 Mariners; ’12 Yankees
Although Aardsma has bounced around six different organizations, he has had some success as a reliever at the big-league level. His best seasons came with Seattle, where he saved 38 games in 2009 and 31 the next year. His progress was short-circuited by a blown elbow tendon that forced him to miss all of 2011 and ’12. Aardsma pitched one game for the Yankees in 2012 and will return to the team in ’13 on an incentive-laden contract.
 
23. Angels: Brandon Wood, SS
Horizon (Ariz.) HS
’07-11 Angels; ’11 Pirates
Wood has struggled to turn his minor league power (144 HRs from 2005-09) into major league production. His top batting average with the Angels came in 2008, when he hit a mere .200 in 150 at-bats. Now attempting to make it as a utility infielder, Wood signed a minor league deal with Kansas City this past offseason.
 
24. Dodgers: Chad Billingsley, RHP
Defiance (Ohio) HS
’06-12 Dodgers
Billingsley has been a stalwart in the Dodgers’ rotation for nearly seven years. His finest statistical season came in 2008, when he was 16–10 with a 3.14 ERA and 201 strikeouts. He was shut down in September 2012 with elbow problems that some feared might force him to undergo Tommy John surgery, but Billingsley rehabbed and is expected to pitch in ’13.
 
25. Athletics: Brad Sullivan, RHP
Houston
In college, Sullivan was an overpowering pitcher who set the University of Houston record for strikeouts in a season. But he couldn’t gain any momentum in the professional ranks and never climbed above Class A ball for the A’s. He was out of baseball following the 2007 campaign.
 
26. Athletics (via Giants): Brian Snyder, 3B
Stetson 
In 2004, Snyder gave the A’s a glimpse of his considerable potential, hitting .311 with 13 HRs and 61 RBIs in Class A ball. But he suffered a serious groin and hip injury during spring training the following year and missed all of 2005. He recovered to play three more seasons (2006-08) in the A’s and Padres systems but never displayed the same kind of hitting ability and couldn’t climb out of the Double-A ranks. 
 
27. Yankees: Eric Duncan, 3B
Seton Hall (N.J.) Prep
Duncan made an immediate impression on the Yankees organization in 2003, hitting well at two Class A stops. Although he climbed through the club’s minor league system to reach Triple-A ball, Duncan struggled to make the switch from third base to first and never established himself as a consistent hitter. He lasted in the Yanks system until after the ’09 campaign, when he was released. He spent time in the Braves, Reds, Cardinals and Royals systems before retiring in 2012.
 
28. Cardinals: Daric Barton, C
Marina (Calif.) HS
’07-12 Athletics
Barton was off to a strong start with the Cards but was part of the ’04 deal that sent Dan Haren to Oakland and Mark Mulder to St. Louis. An extremely patient hitter who led the AL in walks (110) in 2010, Barton was Oakland’s regular first baseman in ’08 and ’10 but has spent the last two seasons bouncing between the majors and Triple-A ball while struggling to find his hitting stroke. 
 
29. Diamondbacks: Carlos Quentin, OF
Stanford 
’06-07 Diamondbacks; ’08-11 White Sox; ’12 Padres
Although Quentin has struggled to overcome injuries throughout his career, he has proven himself to be a quality power producer. That much was evident in 2008, when he hit 36 homers and knocked in 100 runs for the White Sox. A two-time All-Star, Quentin slugged 26 homers with the Sox in 2010 and 24 in ’11. Before the 2012 season, he was traded to the Padres.
 
30. Royals (via Braves): Mitch Maier, C
Toledo 
’06-12 Royals
Maier began life in the Royals system as a catcher but was soon switched to third base and eventually the outfield. He made his debut in 2006, playing in five games for the big club. Maier’s best years with Kansas City were 2009 (.243) and ’10 (.263). He was not a regular in ’11, and after a shaky first half of 2012, he was designated for assignment. In November, he signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox.
 
31. Indians: Adam Miller, RHP  
McKinney (Texas) HS 
A hard thrower, Miller has been unable to gain momentum due to multiple injuries to his right arm and hand, and has never reached the majors.
 
32. Red Sox: Matt Murton, OF  Georgia Tech 
’05-08 Cubs; ’08 Athletics; ’09 Rockies
A journeyman who showed hitting prowess early but fizzled, Murton is now a star in the Japanese league and broke Ichiro’s single-season record for hits in 2010.
 
33. Athletics: Omar Quintanilla, SS  Texas
’05-09 Rockies; ’11 Rangers; ’12 Mets/Orioles
A backup infielder, Quintanilla has bounced from team-to-team and between the big leagues and minors. In 2010, he was suspended 50 games for PED use.
 
34. Giants: Craig Whitaker, RHP  
Lufkin ( Texas) HS
The one-time starter has played throughout the Giants farm system, as he tries to develop into a reliable reliever and escape the Triple-A ranks.
 
35. Braves: Luis Atilano, RHP  
Gabriela Mistral (P.R.) HS
’10 Nationals
Atilano has battled injuries and inconsistency, but he did start 16 games for the Nationals in 2010, posting a 6–7 record with a 5.15 ERA. He spent last season in the Reds organization.
 
36. Braves: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Royal Palm Beach (Fla.) HS 
’07 Braves; ’07-10 Rangers; ’10-12 Red Sox
The man with the longest last name in MLB history was a big part of the Mark Teixeira trade that also sent Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz from Atlanta to Texas. Salty did hit 25 HRs for Boston in 2012.
 
37. Mariners: Adam Jones, SS  Morse (Calif.) HS
’06-07 Mariners; ’08-12 Orioles
A two-time All-Star, Jones had his finest year in 2012, hitting .287 with 32 HRs and 82 RBIs, a performance that earned him a six-year contract extension for $85.5 million.
 
—By Michael Bradley

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

Teaser:
<p> Examining how the first-round picks in the 2003 baseball draft fared</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /nascar/25-funny-fantasy-nascar-team-names
Body:

The NASCAR Sprint Cup season is getting closer by the day, which means it’s time to plan your spring and summer road trips and to name your 2014 Fantasy NASCAR team. While it may be tough to win your league each season, it’s not as difficult to have the best team name. Here’s our list for 2014, in no particular order of awesomeness:


‘MERICA/’MURICA/’MURICAH
Cloyd Rivers would be proud. Might not want to use the “Team America” distress signal during the race if something goes awry, though, I think Danica does when the car gets out of shape.

FREE JEREMY MAYFIELD
Clearly he was being railroaded and was innocent of all charges, right? After all, most people usually have a tenth of a million dollars in stolen guns, gear and tools at their crib, and have been seen sneaking around semi-truck garages in the wee hours of the morning. Kind of sad when you think about it. If he had just went AJ and said, “I dunno what it was … I thought it was a vitamin,” he’d probably have been back in the sport and sponsored by Octane 93. Oh yeah.

SKIDMARK CENTRAL
Sounds like somebody was having a $hitty day. Pretty sure that’s what they could have called most of the drivers’ shorts at Michigan last summer when they were barreling into Turn 1 at 220 mph.

LOSING MAKES MY DICK TRICKLE
And there it is. The requisite homage to the late legend of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc. What’s cooler than a 48-year-old Rookie of the Year who burned heaters under caution and is recognized as the all-time leader in short track wins in North America? Keep in mind that while it may have been Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt who helped bring NASCAR into the national consciousness, it was Dan Patrick on Sportscenter updating the casual fan as to where Dick Trickle finished each week. RIP, DT.

BALLS TO THE WALL ALL THE TIME
I’m going to be honest here: I don’t think this one is funny. I think it’s awesome. Reminds me of the classic, “I’m droppin’ the hammer, Harry!” line from everyone’s favorite racing movie.

THE SUM OF ALL MEARS
That would be a pretty easy one. One. As in, the number of races he’s won (Charlotte, 2007). Kyle Petty finished third in that race. No, it was not 1987. 2007.

THE BIG KESELOWSKI
The Brad Abides – that Sprint Cup really ties the room together. It would be funny if he starts addressing Joey Logano as “Donny.”

BAYNE CAPITAL
Not sure how Trevor would take being tied to a Mormon, which in itself probably conjures up unwholesome imagery. Mitt Romney and Trevor both have something in common: genuinely decent guys who have achieved, yet still haven’t quite got that dream day job.

GREEN EGGS AND HAMLIN
I will not win one with Mike Ford, I will not drive a Honda Accord;
A black Camry will bring me luck, a bottle of Dasani you’ll see me chuck;
Sometimes my back hurts me bad, if only I had a crew chief named Chad!
Okay, some of the content is dated and the rhymn is annoying. The name, however, is clever.

WISE JOHNSONS FEAR BURNING BUSCH
Unless they have a topical ointment. Or penicillin. And by the way, I don’t think this head game is going to work, either.

GAS HOLES
I may have to join the “Gas Holes” league on principle, as it is both irrelevant and ironic. Or coincidental. Either way, these guys most certainly know their heads from their gas … and know well enough to never trust a road course ringer at Watkins Glen or Sonoma. And no, Marcos is not a road course ringer just because he excels there. He’s a full-time driver in the series and Richard Petty Motorsports’ most prolific wheelman since Kasey Kahne bailed after his brakes failed in Charlotte. Speaking of which …

AMBROSE BEFORE HO
If only all guys followed this advice. Though we’d understand if Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rejected this notion, as he has done quite nicely for himself of late. Not that DP is of questionable morals. Ugh, we’re already getting sidetracked here and in a topsy-turvy world — which would make sense since Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere. Or is it Tasmania that Marcos is from? Hold on, can hemispheres go north and south, too, or just east and west? Because road courses go left and right … right? I smell waffles.

A COUNTRY GAL KAHNE SURVIVE
The shear number of Fantasy NASCAR team names devoted to the boyish good looks of one Kasey Kenneth Kahne only reaffirms the volume of anonymous cougars lurking on the ‘net.

UPS = UGLY PAINT SCHEME
This had to have been created in the Dale Jarrett days. Why on earth did UPS wait until the very end of its run to paint the cars totally brown — particularly during its “Big Brown Truck” marketing campaign? UPS may run the tightest ship in the shipping business, but its car’s paint job was so uninspired that they should have just colored it beige. When it finally did go brown, UPS saw fit to throw yellow on it, too … and that didn’t help matters. So sad that the once-iconic No. 6 car — which had some of the best paint schemes ever during the Valvoline/Mark Martin era — went into mothballs clad in doo doo brown.

A LITTLE ON THE HIGH SIDE
Another classic double entendre that, at its core, was created by a couple guys sitting on the couch saying, “Dude, don’t bogart those Dale Jr. Carolina Barbeque chips.”

THE NEED FOR SCOTT SPEED
Combining “Top Gun” and NASCAR?! Why didn’t anyone think of this before? Oh wait …

BLANEY’S GOT A GUN
So long as Steven Tyler isn’t asked to perform the National Anthem prior to a race, we're OK with the Aerosmith/NASCAR cross-reference — although it couldn’t get any worse than Scott Stapp or Brett Michaels. That said, Joe ’Effin’ Perry going Hendrix on the Anthem? There’s potential there.

2 LBS IN THE REAR GOT HER LOOSE
Hey ohh!!! Now it’s a party! What, “Slipping In a Rubber” didn’t want any of that? We should probably just quit while we’re ahead on this one.

TOMMY BOWYER
“Mikey, you may have been the worst driver in NASCAR, but you were the best brake pad salesman in Sandusky!”

TEAM MOTORBOATERS
“Are they built for speed or comfort? What'd you do with them? Motorboat? You play the motorboat? Blrlrlrlbbb … You motorboatin' son of a bitch. You old sailor, you!” I’d bet $20 this guy isn’t really into Unlimited Hydroplane, and would be disappointed to find out who Miss Budweiser really is.

DOG THE LABONTE HUNTER
This might be my favorite name on the list from the Big Island … or anywhere else, Brah. The name is appropriate on many levels. I think Dog, Leland and Bobby Brown stopped being relevant about the same time Bobby Labonte exited the No. 18 car. At least we don’t have to worry about Texas Terry or BLab sprouting an Aqua-Net saturated pompadour of feathered magnificence. Or exposing taco meat from his firesuit following a race. Labonte’s coming stint in the No. 52 car will be about as dangerous to Victory Lane as Dog and Beth are to armed felons with their array of paintball guns, pepper spray and Beth’s fingerless Lady Classics. That said, they are some of the last ties to NASCAR’s past. Best of luck this season, guys. Go with Christ, Brah.

SKOALIOSIS
This one is definitely an old school NASCAR fan well-versed in the Gospel according to Gant and his Skoal Bandit. Harry Gant’s No. 33 was as iconic of a machine during the mid- ’80s as the Coors Thunderbird or that yellow and blue Wrangler Monte. Mr. September rewrote the record books when he reeled off a record-tying four in a row at the tender age of 51. It’s doubtful that Handsome Harry would ever suffer such a condition, though. After all, what other driver do you know that keeps in shape by running bundles up a ladder all day in the Carolina summer heat?

2 GIRLS 1 SPRINT CUP
Wow. Way to keep it classy, although expertly executed at staying timely and relevant. I’m 99 percent sure that isn’t a girls’ team, despite the obvious attempt at subterfuge. Hopefully they’ll be going up against “Stew(art) Let The Dogs Out” during the Chase later this year.

15BLOWSBIGDONKEYD
Oh hi, Ingrid.

ME SO HORNISH
This one is fantastic. It was created nearly five years ago, but stands the test of time — a true testament to its subtle genius and nod to Kubrick’s Vietnam War classic. Or 2 Live Crew. Either way, by the time you have finished reading this, “Oh me so Hoooornish, Oh-oh me so Hornish …” will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.


by Vito Pugliese and Matt Taliaferro
Follow the guys on Twitter: @VitoPugliese and @MattTaliaferro
 

RELATED: 50 Funny Fantasy Football Team Names

Teaser:
<p> Twenty-five of the funniest Fantasy NASCAR team names you're likely to find.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 11:23
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/college-baseballs-preseason-top-25-teams-2013
Body:

The 2013 college baseball season will soon be underway. To prep readers, Athlon Sports looks at college baseball's preseason Top 25. 

 
1. North Carolina (46–16 overall, 22–8 ACC)The talent is always there, but this time the Tar Heels will get the breaks, too. Coach Mike Fox has lots of star power in his roster, including All-Americans in beast-like 3B Colin Moran (.365-3-35) and Friday ace Kent Emanuel (8–4, 1.96), who is part of an intact weekend rotation. The No. 8-ranked recruiting class will keep things rolling, led by aptly named OF Skye Bolt.
 
2. Oregon State (40–20, 18–12 Pac-12) The term “embarrassment of riches” best describes the Beavers pitching corps. LHP Jace Fry (5–3, 2.45), LHP Ben Wetzler (8–2, 3.10) and RHP Dan Child (6–4, 2.95) combined for 45 starts, and relievers Matt Boyd (4–0, 3.41) and Tony Bryant (6–2, 3.82, 9 saves) have All-America potential. Sophomore Michael Conforto hit .349-13-76 as a freshman, and he leads seven returning field starters, three of whom hit .300-plus.
 
3. Vanderbilt (35–28, 16–14 SEC) Only Vanderbilt can boast having 18 MLB draftees on its roster. Plus, there are still 2011 CWS holdovers in 2B Tony Kemp (.261, 21 SBs), OF Connor Harrell (.241, 7 HRs), OF Mike Yastrzemski (.286, 14 SBs) and 1B Conrad Gregor (.328, 10 SBs). Pitchers Tyler Beede (1–5, 4.52), Kevin Ziomek (5–6, 5.22) and T.J. Pecoraro (2–4, 3.40) should improve their numbers, and the No. 1-ranked recruiting class will fill in the blanks.
 
4. Arkansas (46–22, 16–14 SEC) All you have to do is look at the numbers that potential All-America righties Ryne Stanek (8–4, 2.82), Colby Suggs (7–1, 1.38) and Barrett Astin (3–5, 1.99, 11 saves) posted to know the Razorbacks could be dominant. Add freshman LHP Colin Poche, a fifth-round draft pick last June, and the staff’s upside is scary. But offensively, Arkansas must improve a .271 team batting average. The Hogs will lean on SS Dominic Ficcocielo (.290-6-41).
 
5. NC State (43–20, 19–11 ACC) The high-ceiling talent of RHP Carlos Rodon (9–0, 1.57), C/OF Brett Austin (.284, 17 doubles) and 3B Trea Turner (.336-5-43, Division I-best 57 SBs), all sophomores, could have this program Omaha-bound soon. Ten of the 11 pitchers used last year come back, including senior weekend starters Ethan Ogburn (5–4, 3.38) and Anthony Tzamtzis (5–5, 4.38). Combative head coach Elliott Avent will have the best team of his tenure.
 
6. UCLA (48–16, 20–10 Pac-12) Like 2011, when the Bruins were pitching-heavy with Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole, UCLA is well-armed in 2013 with Friday ace Adam Plutko (12–3, 2.48), Saturday stud Nick Vander Tuig (10–4, 4.43) and closer extraordinaire David Berg (5–3, 1.46, 50 appearances). All four infielders return, led by 2B Kevin Williams (.302) and SS Pat Valaika (.266), and the incoming freshman class was ranked second nationally.
 
7. Stanford (41–18, 18–12 Pac-12) The Cardinal got a pleasant surprise when first-round draftee Mark Appel (10–2, 2.56) — picked No. 8 overall by the Pirates — didn’t sign, assuring Stanford of another stout pitching corps. Monstrous OF Austin Wilson (.285-10-54), stealth 1B Brian Ragira (.329-6-50) and smooth SS Lonnie Kauppila (.280) all return. Also keep an eye on Freshman All-America 3B Alex Blandino, who hit .294 with eight home runs in 29 starts last season.
 
8. TCU (40–22, 18–6 MWC) The Frogs finally get their wish to play in the Big 12, and they’re loaded for the challenge. Plenty of young talent returns. Sophomores 1B Kevin Cron (.338–6-34), RHP Preston Morrison (9–2, 2.08), 2B Derek Odell (.276-4-26) and OF Jerrick Suiter (.310) can play with anyone in the country. All three weekend starters — Morrison, Stefan Crichton (9–2, 3.41) and Andrew Mitchell (5–3, 3.74) — return as well.
 
9. LSU (47–18, 19–11 SEC) You going to let losing to Stony Brook last June in the Super Regionals sway you? Pshaw! The Tigers will be fine with new ace Aaron Nola (7–4, 3.61) and seven other pitchers with 25-plus innings coming back. And get this — national batting leader Raph Rhymes (.431) and the top returning SEC home run hitter, Mason Katz (.320-13-52), also return to haunt the conference. 
 
10. Kentucky (45–18, 18–12 SEC) The Wildcat coaching staff believes they’ve got a national contender on their hands for 2013. Not a lot to argue about, as 15 former MLB draftees dot the Kentucky roster. Two big difference-makers are CF Austin Cousino (.319-9-41) and dual-threat LHP/1B A.J. Reed, an intimidator at the dish or on the mound. RHP Trevor Gott recorded a school-record nine saves last season and struck out 38 batters in 25.0 innings. 
 
11. Florida State (50-17, 24-6 ACC) Let's quit doubting the Seminoles, especially since last year's "rebuilding season" ended in Omaha. Freshmen All American LHP Brandon Leibrandt (8-3, 2.82) pitched beyond his years in 2012 and senior Scott Sitz (4-3, 3.72) rejoins the rotation, along with six of the top eight relievers as well. But the offense was decimated as OF Josh Delph's .267 and SS Justin Gonzalez's .256 are the best returning averages.
 
12. South Carolina (49–20, 18–11 SEC) For those looking for a huge dip after South Carolina lost the core of a team that played in three straight national title series — as well as coach Ray Tanner — prepare to be disappointed. There’s lots of talent still at hand. Sophomores OF Tanner English (.298), SS Joey Pankake (.264), C Grayson Greiner (.222-6-32), LHP Jordan Montgomery (6–1, 3.62) and RHP Evan Beal (4–4, 3.81, 5 saves) are all primed for big things, as is the 10th-ranked recruiting class.
 
13. Oregon (46–19, 19–11 Pac-12) The George Horton Factor is beginning to take full effect, as the Ducks narrowly missed a trip to Omaha in 2012. Six starters and six of the top eight pitchers return from the best fielding and pitching team in the conference. Eight-game winners Jake Reed and Jeff Gold have All-Pac-12 ability, and reliever Jimmie Sherfy (5–3, 2.20) saved 19 games last year.
 
14. Arizona (48–17, 20–10 Pac-12) The defending national champs return seven of the top eight pitchers from 2012, including starters Konner Wade (11–3, 3.96) and James Farris (7–3, 3.97), as well as Mathew Troupe (6–1, 3.47, 6 saves), who closed down the title game in Omaha. But five of the top nine sticks are gone, so OF Johnny Field (.370) and C Riley Moore (.301) will have to step into leadership roles.
 
15. Louisville (41–22,18–9 Big East) A disappointing 10–9 finish should light a fire under these guys for 2013, especially with a chock-full cupboard. RHPs Jeff Thompson (9–4, 4.00) and Jared Ruxer (8–3, 3.38) are big time, as is 100 mph hurler Nick Burdi (1–2, 5.56), who could be a difference-maker. Eight of nine starters return to the order, led by sonic speedsters Adam Engel (.308, 37 SBs) and Ty Young (.344, 15 SBs).
 
16. Coastal Carolina (42–19, 18–5 Big South) The new perennial mid-major monsters, the Chanticleers are always ready to knock off the big boys. Most of what was an elite pitching staff returns, led by 17-game starter Tyler Herb (9–2, 2.98) and a pair of intriguing seniors in Aaron Burke and Ryan Connolly, who had 70 appearances, 15 wins, 18 saves but no starts between them. CCU stole 91 bases last year.
 
17. Cal State Fullerton (36–21, 17–7 Big West) Last year, the Titans had almost no pitching back, yet still finished with a stellar 3.18 team ERA using mostly freshmen. This year, All-America dual-threat Michael Lorenzen (.297/2–0, 1.23, 16 saves) leads a potentially intimidating murderers’ row with J.D. Davis (.229) and Carlos Lopez (.317). Defense is always a Titan staple and will feature SS Richy Pedroza (.324) and 3B Matt Chapman (.286).
 
18. San Diego (40–17, 15–9 West Coast) Rich Hill’s 2013 Toreros will go as far as his three-pronged trio of stars take them in RHP Michael Wagner (19 saves), 3B Kris Bryant (best power hitter in Division I) and RHP Dylan Covey (former first-round draftee). The remainder of the pitching staff will be young, but seven field starters return, including Bryant’s partners-in-crime OF/LHP Louie Lechich (.311) and C Dillon Haupt (.279-5-31).
 
19. Arizona State (36–20, 18–12 Pac-12) The dark skies have parted. Sun Devils baseball is free from sanctions. Opponents have been warned. Coach Tim Esmay will have the battery of Team USA member Trevor Williams (12–2, 2.05) and C Max Rossiter (.326), plus six incoming freshmen who were MLB draftees — including Canadian LHP Ryan Kellogg (12th round) and LHP Brett Lilek (37th round), who threw the best of any pitcher in fall camp.
 
20. Georgia Tech (38–26, 12–18 ACC) The Georgia Tech campus must have some kind of centrifugal force to it, because three MLB draftees turned down big pro money — RHP Buck Farmer (8–4, 3.54, 115 Ks), OF Kyle Wren (.256, 16 SBs) and OF Brandon Thomas (.360-5-44), who was a fourth-round pick. All three weekend starting pitchers return, as do seven starters in the field, including C/RHP Zane Evans, who had seven saves in relief.
 
21. UC Irvine (31–25, 13–11 Big West) If the injury-riddled Anteaters stay healthy, this could be a top-10 team. Opponents hit just .235 against 2012’s patchwork staff, which gets Matt Whitehouse (4–0, 2.12 in 2011) back, along with RHP Andrew Thurman (8–3, 2.66) and RHP Kyle Hooper (3-1, 1.30). 3B Taylor Sparks (.202) needs to reach his high-round potential, and newcomer Dominique Taylor is an absolute blur in center field.
 
22. Florida (47–20, 18–12 SEC) Possibly the most interesting team to keep an eye on, the Gators were ravaged by the draft, losing a ton of MLB talent. But this program is used to reloading. RHPs Jonathon Crawford (6–2, 3.13) and former first-round draft pick Karsten Whitson (4–0, 3.51) are in their draft-eligible years and will be building blocks for the pitching staff. Three-fourths of the infield is back, led by 2B Casey Turgeon (.281-4-30).
 
23. Rice (41–19, 17–7 Conference USA) Yep, we’re not used to seeing the Owls this far from the top 10, so there’s plenty of work ahead. For now veteran coach Wayne Graham will lean on returning starters in 2B Christian Stringer (.343), SS Ford Stainback (.289) and 3B Shane Hoelscher (.244-4-30). RHP Austin Kubitza (6–5, 2.69) has All-America potential, and freshman RHP Kevin McCanna should make a big impact right away.
 
24. New Mexico (37–24, 18–6 Mountain West) Energetic head coach Ray Birmingham has a trio of legit All-America candidates in 3B DJ Peterson (.419-17-78), who finished fifth nationally in hitting, OF Ryan Padilla (.353-5-49), a Freshman All-American in 2012, and C Mitch Garver (.377-10-57), a Johnny Bench Award finalist. RHP Josh Walker (8–3, 4.19) leads a re-worked pitching staff that will feature some stout transfers from the junior college ranks, headed by mid-90s hurler Tyler Spencer.
 
25. UCF (45–17, 16–8 Conference USA) Coach Terry Rooney has built a monster next to Disney World as the Knights continue to climb. Staff horse Ben Lively (9–2, 3.00) has a brigade of lefties with him, including starters Chris Matulis (7–0, 3.68) and Brian Adkins (3–6, 4.78). Though big sticks D.J. Hicks and Ronnie Richardson are gone, senior Chris Taladay (.298-5-49) and OF Eric Hempe (.307-7-29 in 2011) are good building blocks.
 
By Eric Sorenson, founder of www.CollegeBaseballToday.com and contributor to ESPN.com.
Teaser:
<p> College Baseball's Preseason Top 25 Teams for 2013</p>
Post date: Monday, February 11, 2013 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/five-star-coach-cliches-national-signing-day
Body:

Fax machines aren’t the only thing dusted off and put to use on national signing day.

After the letters had been signed and the faxes sent, 125 FBS coaches headed to their press conferences and all were in agreement: This year’s class is great, it fills needs, and it will be best judged later, and not by star rankings.

"Every coach around the country says they like their class, but I really do like our class,” East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeil said.

Or was it Nick Saban? Or Lane Kiffin? Or Charlie Weis? Or Chris Petersen?

“This is always like Christmas to me,” new Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said.

Yep, a Christmas with no coal, neckties or socks. We’re all getting that video game system or drum kit or bicycle we wanted.

Here, we've compiled a sampling of the signing day coaching cliches from yesterday’s press conferences. A few caveats, though: We didn’t count coaches thanking assistants and support staff (really, you’d have to kinda be a jerk not to). We also didn’t count coaches who talked about “filling needs.”

Also, many coaches used multiple signing day cliches, sometime within the same sentence. We applaud their efficiency, but we’re only taking one cliche per coach.

BEST CLASS EVER
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss: “I think today has the possibility of being a program changer.”

James Franklin, Vanderbilt: “This is our best class.”

Doc Holliday, Marshall: “There’s no doubt we’re better personnel-wise than we’ve been since I’ve been here.”

June Jones, SMU: "We think as coaches this is our best-looking class physically, along with our best athletically at all positions, since coming to SMU.”

Curtis Johnson, Tulane: "This is a special class, a dream class for us."

Bob Davie, New Mexico: “I think the word is out. You go around and it's kind of amazing ... that New Mexico and Albuquerque are kind of hidden gems.”

Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette: “It will grade out as the most-talented class in school history, but the true test of their quality will be determined on the field in two or three years.”

Dennis Franchionie, Texas State: “This is the best class that we have been able to sign here.”

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Lane Kiffin, USC: “This is certainly a class of quality over quantity.”

Larry Fedora, North Carolina: “Quality over quantity is the way I like to talk about it.”

JUDGE THIS CLASS LATER
Nick Saban, Alabama: “We had a good recruiting year, but again I think it's hard to make predictions about the guys you recruited today, and where they are going to be two or three years from now.”

Will Muschamp, Florida: You can pull out your tape recorders from the previous two years and we will know about this class in two or three years.”

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: “It's not really where you come in at, it's where you finish.”

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech: “I think this will go down as an outstanding recruiting class. Time will tell, but I really like the athletic ability in this class and the size in our linemen.”

Tony Levine, Houston: “We redshirted about 20 freshmen last season and when you speculate a recruiting class, you can't fairly answer who I going to stand out until a few years down the road. You need to let the class play out.”

Bill Snyder, Kansas State: “As we've always maintained, it takes several years to accurately assess the quality of a recruiting class and the young men who represent it.”

Mack Brown, Texas: “We need to evaluate this class four or five years from now and see who is playing. A lot of times perception is not reality with these guys.”

Norm Chow, Hawaii: “We need to temper our enthusiasm and reserve judgment on this class until 2-3 years from now.”

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona: “You definitely need to wait a few years before you can evaluate a recruiting class.”

REFERENCES TO THE STAR RANKINGS
Brian Polian, Nevada: “These guys are what we are looking for here. The star system and the rankings mean nothing to us.”

Todd Graham, Arizona State: “A team is not just about talent. It's not just about how many stars a person has and what you see out there.”

Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky: “We don’t go out placing an emphasis on rankings or stars, but we go out trying to find the right guys that will fit our system, and I believe that we were able to do that.”

P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan: “I think all of these kids are football players, period.  You take all of the rankings and the ‘stars’ out of it and you look at the tape and we needed to find football players. That is what we found.”

PLAYERS WHO FIT OUR PROGRAM
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa: “I think for the most part we fit most of the needs that we felt were important. And most importantly I think we found players that we feel are going to fit our program.”

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern: "We as a staff are confident we've signed a group of young men who are tremendous fits for our program athletically, academically and socially.”

Jim Grobe, Wake Forest: “Lots of guys who love to play football and are really good football players who fit at Wake Forest.”

Justin Fuente, Memphis: “I think it's another step in the right direction to building our football program.”

Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut: “What we're trying to do in building the program, and it's hard to do it overnight, we're trying to recruit pro-type size guys.”

Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky: “These coaches wanted to be here and these players wanted to be here. That's what it's going to take to build this program - a bunch of guys that want to chase greatness."

Paul Haynes, Kent State: “We wanted to get our kind of guys.  And that's what we got."

Sonny Dykes, Cal: "We made a concerted and successful effort to sign both the best players we could and also the student-athletes that we thought would be the best fits at Cal.”

KIDS WITH CHARACTER
Les Miles, LSU: "I think it has quality and players with good character and integrity.”

Tim Beckman, Illinois: “We were able to add quality depth at several positions and upgraded the total athleticism of the team across the board.”

Bo Pelini, Nebraska: “I’m excited about this class, I think it adds a lot to our football team, not only with talented football players but tremendous young men, a lot of character type of kids that I want to coach, and kids we want to represent our university, the state and our fans.”

Bill O’Brien, Penn State: “This is a group of high character kids who are tough, go to class and do things the right way.”

Sean Kugler, UTEP: “We feel like we not only added some outstanding football players, but some outstanding student-athletes with strong character.”

Charlie Strong, Louisville: “It is key that we recruit character – young men that want to be a part of something special – height, speed, football awareness, toughness – that’s what’s critical when we go out to recruit.”

Scott Shafer, Syracuse: "I'm really excited about this class because it represents high character men who really love that game of football and treat it with respect.”

Pete Lembo, Ball State: ”We have added a lot of talent to our roster with this class, but perhaps more importantly, we are surrounding ourselves with some terrific leaders and charismatic personalities.”

Jeff Quinn, Buffalo: “What stood out most to me with the entire signing class of 2013, was the fact that these are tremendous leaders and winners.”

Dan Enos, Central Michigan: “It is a group of gifted, high character, and hard-working individuals that will contribute to our program on the football field.”

Matt Campbell, Toledo: “From top to bottom, this is a class of high-caliber players who have high-caliber character.”

GETTING MORE ATHLETIC, FASTER, BIGGER, STRONGER
David Shaw, Stanford: “When you look at our 2013 class, you will see size. You will see athleticism. You will see toughness.”

Kyle Whittingham, Utah: “We definitely feel we became a bigger, faster football team with this recruiting class.”

Bill Blankenship, Tulsa: “With this class, we are excited about getting more athletic and just recruiting really good football players. Overall, we felt like we needed to continue to get bigger and faster, and when I say bigger, I really mean taller and longer. Those athletes with length have an opportunity to grow into being much bigger players."

George O’Leary, UCF: “The three key elements that we looked for was obviously range, speed and versatility”

Rod Carey, Northern Illinois: "Overall, when you look at this class, it's dominated by skill, which it should be. The skill has power and speed and that's what I love about it. Every guy that's fast is powerful and every guy that's powerful has good speed."

WHA?
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: “Without everyone pulling together and without the use of airplanes it would be difficult to put a class like this together.”

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: “We really addressed some of the major needs that we needed.”

Garrick McGee, UAB: “They were recruiting guys that were very highly recruited. There were teams in our area that were after these players and our coaching staff had to stay firm on the things that we believe in. There was a lot of negative recruiting going on, and I want to give our coaching staff credit for sticking to our principles.”

MOMENTS OF CANDOR
Urban Meyer, Ohio State: “Our first year together as a coaching staff last year did not count because that was not a coaching staff. That was a bunch of guys coming together like a bunch of gypsies trying to find players anywhere we could find them. We did pretty good.”

Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: “The only thing I know, back in 2008, I think Florida had the No. 1 class, and two years later that No. 1 class drove Urban Meyer to retirement. Of course, he came back a year later and he's an excellent coach, but I know later there were comments that that No. 1 class just didn't pan out. Of course, it usually pans out at Alabama every year. But, again, recruiting is extremely important, but after they get there is really what's most important.

Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati: “I’m going to start teaching a class on how to sign a recruiting class in 30 days. I think I’ve done it three or four times now, but it doesn’t get any easier.”

Teaser:
<p> Five-star coach cliches from National Signing Day</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 14:12
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/2013-nascar-camping-world-truck-series-schedule
Body:

The 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be revving up soon, beginning with Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 22 and ending Nov. 15 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Of note in 2013, the trucks will make their dirt debut on July 24 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, the .5-mile track owned by three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart. This event will be the first of two Wednesday night races for the series, joining Bristol Motor Speedway’s popular mid-week race on Aug. 21.
 
In addition, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, a 2.459-mile, 10-turn road course in Bowmanville, Ont., will host its inaugural truck event on Sept. 1, becoming the first road-course track for the series since 2000, and ensuring a NASCAR national series presence in Canada for a seventh-consecutive season.
 
Get all of your favorite racing stats, exclusive interviews and more in our 2013 Athlon Sports NASCAR Racing Preview Magazine, available at newsstands and online now. 
 
2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Schedule
 
 
 
Teaser:
<p> 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Schedule</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/super-bowl-xlvii-bonuses-what-players-earn-big-game
Body:

Players who make it to the Super Bowl in 2013 can expect a super-sized bonus. The winning players—from either the San Francisco 49ers or Baltimore Ravens—in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on Feb. 3, 2013, will each receive a massive paycheck to the tune of $88,000, while each member of the losing team will earn $44,000. How does that compare to Super Bowls of the past? Here's a look at the winners' and losers' share from every Super Bowl in the past 46 years.


Super Bowl Date Winner (Share) Loser (Share)

XLVI 2-5-12  New York Giants ($88,000) New England ($44,000)
XLV 2-6-11  Green Bay ($83,000) Pittsburgh ($42,000)
XLIV 2-7-10  New Orleans ($83,000) Indianapolis ($42,000)
XLIII 2-1-09 Pittsburgh ($78,000) Arizona ($40,000)
XLII 2-3-08 N.Y. Giants ($78,000) New England ($40,000)
XLI 2-4-07 Indianapolis ($73,000) Chicago ($38,000)
XL 2-5-06 Pittsburgh ($73,000) Seattle ($38,000)
XXXIX 2-6-05 New England ($68,000) Philadelphia ($36,500)
XXXVIII 2-1-04 New England ($68,000) Carolina (36,500)
XXXVII 1-26-03 Tampa Bay ($63,000) Oakland ($35,000)
XXXVI 2-3-02 New England ($63,000) St. Louis ($34,500)
XXXV 1-28-01 Baltimore ($58,000) N.Y. Giants ($34,500)
XXXIV 1-30-00 St. Louis ($58,000) Tennessee ($33,000)
XXXIII 1-31-99 Denver ($53,000) Atlanta ($32,500)
XXXII 1-25-98 Denver ($48,000) Green Bay ($29,000)
XXXI 1-26-97 Green Bay ($48,000) New England ($29,000)
XXX 1-28-96 Dallas ($42,000) Pittsburgh ($27,000)
XXIX 1-29-95 San Francisco ($42,000) San Diego ($26,000)
XXVIII 1-30-94 Dallas ($38,000) Buffalo ($23,500)
XXVII 1-31-93 Dallas ($36,000) Buffalo ($18,000)
XXVI 1-26-92 Washington ($36,000) Buffalo ($18,000)
XXV 1-27-91 N.Y. Giants ($36,000) Buffalo ($18,000)
XXIV 1-28-90 San Francisco ($36,000) Denver ($18,000)
XXIII 1-22-89 San Francisco ($36,000) Cincinnati ($18,000)
XXII 1-31-88 Washington ($36,000) Denver ($18,000)
XXI 1-25-87 N.Y. Giants ($36,000) Denver ($18,000)
XX 1-26-86 Chicago ($36,000) New England ($18,000)
XIX 1-20-85 San Francisco ($36,000) Miami ($18,000)
XVIII 1-22-84 L.A. Raiders ($36,000) Washington ($18,000)
XVII 1-30-83 Washington ($36,000) Miami ($18,000)
XVI 1-24-82 San Francisco ($18,000) Cincinnati ($9,000)
XV 1-25-81 Oakland ($18,000) Philadelphia ($9,000)
XIV 1-20-80 Pittsburgh ($18,000) Los Angeles ($9,000)
XIII 1-21-79 Pittsburgh ($18,000) Dallas ($9,000)
XII 1-15-78 Dallas ($18,000) Denver ($9,000)
XI 1-9-77 Oakland ($15,000) Minnesota ($7,500)
X 1-18-76 Pittsburgh ($15,000) Dallas ($7,500)
IX 1-12-75 Pittsburgh ($15,000) Minnesota ($7,500)
VIII 1-13-74 Miami ($15,000) Minnesota ($7,500)
VII 1-14-73 Miami ($15,000) Washington ($7,500)
VI 1-16-72 Dallas ($15,000) Miami ($7,500)
V 1-17-71 Baltimore ($15,000) Dallas ($7,500)
IV 1-11-70 Kansas City ($15,000) Minnesota ($7,500)
III 1-12-69 N.Y. Jets ($15,000) Baltimore ($7,500)
II 1-14-68 Green Bay ($15,000) Oakland ($7,500)
I 1-15-67 Green Bay ($15,000) Kansas City ($7,500) 

Teaser:
<p> Super Bowl 2013 Bonuses: What Players Earn at the Big Game</p>
Post date: Sunday, February 3, 2013 - 19:45
Path: /nfl/super-bowl-2013-kickoff-time-tv-channel-halftime-performer-team-history
Body:
They say knowledge is power. And we believe that. That's why we're going to make you the most powerful person at this year's Super Bowl XLVII party. Here is everything you need to know about the Big Game (and probably some stuff you don't) to wow your friends and random strangers as they destroy your living room. 
 

Super Bowl XLVII Facts

Where? Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
TV: CBS
 
The NFC is the designated home team and will have choice of jersey.
 
The winning team receives the Lombardi Trophy, produced by Tiffany is 20.75 inches tall and weighs 107.3 ounces (6.7 pounds)
 
The Teams of Super Bowl XLVII
• Baltimore Ravens
How they got to Super Bowl XLVII: Champions of AFC North (10-6), defeated Indianapolis 24-9 in AFC Wild Card round, defeated Denver 38-35 in double OT in AFC Divisional round, defeated New England 28-13 in AFC Championship Game
Founded: In November 1995, Art Modell, then-owner of the Cleveland Browns announced his intentions to relocate his franchise to Baltimore. The NFL approved the move in February 1996. The relocated Baltimore franchise was named the Ravens after a Baltimore Sun telephone poll received a record number of calls supporting the name. The name was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem from 1845, “The Raven.”
 
Super Bowl Championships (1)
Conference Championships (7)
Division Championships (4)
Playoff appearances (9)
 
Head-to-head vs. San Francisco 49ers: 3-1 (.750), last meeting taking place Nov. 24, 2011 Baltimore 16, San Francisco 6 at Baltimore.  
 
• San Francisco 49ers
How they got to Super Bowl XLVII: Champions of NFC West (11-4-1), defeated Green Bay 45-31 in NFC Divisional round, defeated Atlanta 28-24 in NFC Championship Game
Founded: Originated in 1946 as a charter member of the All-American Football Conference (AAFC). Joined the NFL in December 1949 when the AAFC and NFL merged. The name “49ers” comes from the name given to the gold prospectors who arrived in Northern California around 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It is the only name the team has ever had. The 49ers are the oldest major professional sports team in California.
 
Super Bowl Championships (5)
Conference Championships (5)
Division Championships (19)
Playoff appearances (25)
 
Head-to-Head vs. Baltimore Ravens: 1-3 (.250), last meeting taking place Nov. 24, 2011 Baltimore 16, San Francisco 6 at Baltimore. 
 
Halftime Hottie
Beyonce will take the stage at halftime for a reunion with Destiny's Child and possibly even a duet with her husband, Jay-Z. This isn't Beyonce's first Super Bowl, however; she sang the national anthem prior to kickoff of Super Bowl XXXVIII in her hometown of Houston. 
 
Super Bonuses
How much extra money does a player in the Super Bowl get?
Super Bowl I
Winner’s Share: $15,000
Loser’s Share: $7,500
Super Bowl XLVII
Winner’s Share: $88,000
Loser’s Share: $44,000
 
Galloping Tosser
Prior to Super Bowl XII, Red Grange was the first celebrity coin tosser. For the first 11 games, officials flipped the coin.
 
Must-See TV
• The last four Super Bowls have topped 150,000,000 viewers, according to Nielson Ratings.
• During Super Bowl XLIII, NBC used 52 hi-def cameras, 450 crew members and 50 miles of camera and microphone cables needing 45 vehicles for the big production.
• Based on the average audience, according to Nielsen, Super Bowls account for eight of the top 15 most-watched television programs ever.
• First “Million-Dollar Minute” was during Super Bowl XIX when 30-second spots topped $500,000.
• On the Sunday of Super Bowl XL, traffic to GoDaddy.com increased 1,564% over the average of the four previous Sundays.
 
Price for 30-second commercial
I $42,000
V $72,000
X $110,000
XV $275,000
XX $550,000
XXX $1,085,000
XL $2,400,000
XLVII $3,800,000
 
Playing the Market
While there’s no reason to believe that a professional football game should have any connection to the stock market, few indicators are better known on Wall Street than the Super Bowl Theory. The Super Bowl indicator holds that a victory by an NFC team or an original (pre-1970 merger) NFL team—the Browns, Colts, and Steelers — point to a bullish market the following year. An AFC victory signals a bearish drop in the market. The Super Bowl Theory has been an accurate indicator 38 times in 46 seasons.
 
QB Numbers
Twenty-six of the 92 starting quarterbacks have worn No. 12. Three times two No. 12s have met in the game. Roger Staubach faced Bob Griese once and Terry Bradshaw twice.
 
W-L Records for QB numbers:
No. 12 is 14-12
No. 7 is 5-8
No. 16 is 7-2
No. 8 is 5-2
 
• No. 19 is the only undefeated QB jersey number at 1-0.
 
• No QB has ever worn No. 1, 2 or 6. Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton could be the first.
 
Names and Numerals
Tickets for the matchup between the New York Jets of the AFL and the Baltimore Colts of the NFL in January 1969 referred to the event as the Third World Championship Game. But the Super Bowl name was beginning to stick and became official with Super Bowl III. Lamar Hunt, fascinated with the name and liveliness of a Super Ball that was a favorite toy of his children, was the original advocate of the name.
The Roman Numeral designation began with Super Bowl V. They were adopted to clarify confusion that could result because the game is actually played in the calendar year following the regular season. Numerals I through IV were added later.
 
Figures Don’t Lie 
• Super Bowl teams with fewer turnovers than their opponents are 34-3 (.919).
• Super Bowl teams with the time of possession advantage are 34-12 (.739).
• Super Bowl teams with the most time-consuming scoring drive during the game are 36-10 (.783).
 
By the Numbers
3,581,385: Fans have walked through the turnstiles to watch Super Bowl games. The largest crowd was 103,985 at Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
 
2: Networks (CBS and NBC) that televised Super Bowl I. The two networks alternated televising the game until ABC joined the fray for Super Bowl XIX. NBC and CBS have each televised 17, ABC seven and Fox six.
 
49.1: Highest rating from Nielsen for any Super Bowl (XVI).
 
15: Super Bowls in which Pat Summerall was behind the mic, both as an analyst and play-by-play voice. John Madden is second with 11, Al Michaels and Dick Enberg have eight, Curt Gowdy (7), Phil Simms and Frank Gifford (6).
 
14: Super Bowl winners that have failed to make the playoffs the following season. Eight have repeated as Super Bowl champs. The last was New England in Super Bowl XXXIX.
 
6: Super Bowl wins for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the most for any franchise. San Francisco and Dallas are tied with five.
 
6: Super Bowls in which Mike Lodish played, the most for any player. (Buffalo and Denver)
 
2: Players — Preston Pearson and Bill Romanowski — to have appeared in the Super Bowl with three different teams. 
 
5: Super Bowl wins for Charles Haley, the most by any player.
 
4: Super Bowls won by coach Chuck Noll of Pittsburgh, the most of any coach. 
 
54: Yards of the longest field goal in Super Bowl history. Steve Christie of Buffalo kicked a 54-yarder in XXVII.
 
414: Passing yards in Super Bowl XXXIV for Kurt Warner of the St. Louis Rams, the most in history. Warner also holds the second- and third-most yards in Super Bowl history with 377 in XLIII and 365 in XXXVI.
 
122: Passes attempted by Joe Montana in four Super Bowls without throwing an interception.
 
0: Punts returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl history.
 
8: Kickoffs returned for touchdowns in Super Bowl history.
 
0: Shutouts in Super Bowls history.
 
5: Safeties in Super Bowls history.
 
602: Yards gained by Washington in Super Bowl XXII vs. Denver, the most yards in history.
 
119: Yards gained by the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX vs. Pittsburgh, the fewest yards gained in any Super Bowl.
 
18: Passes attempted by Miami total in its back-to-back Super Bowl wins in VII and VIII over Washington and Minnesota.
 
2: Games played without any turnovers. (Buffalo-New York Giants, XXV and Tennessee-St. Louis, XXXIV)
 
2: Times a team has punted just once in a Super Bowl. Ironically, both teams accomplished it in the same game (Atlanta-Denver, XXXIII)
 
1: Game in which both teams returned a kickoff for a touchdown. (Baltimore-New York Giants, XXXV)
 
4: Teams that have managed to get through a game without being flagged. (Miami VI, Pittsburgh X, Denver XXIV, Atlanta XXXIII)
 
-10: Largest deficit ever overcome to win a Super Bowl.
 
3: Griffin brothers (Archie, Ray and Keith) to appear in a Super Bowl.
 
$12: Most expensive ticket for Super Bowl I between Green Bay and Kansas City in Los Angeles. 
 
$600: Least expensive ticket for Super Bowl XLVI.
 
338: Media credentials issued for Super Bowl I in Los Angeles.
 
5,156: Media credentials issued for Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
 
10: Super Bowls held in NOLA, tied with South Florida for the most of any metropolitan area.
 
5Coaches to take two different teams to the Super Bowl. (Don Shula, Dick Vermeil, Dan Reeves, Bill Parcells and Mike Holmgren)
 
22-24: Record of the team that sins the coin toss.
 
Youngest QBs to Win a Super Bowl
1. Ben Roethlisberger, 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers (23 years, 340 days)
2. Tom Brady, 2001 New England Patriots (24 years, 184 days)
3. Joe Namath, 1968 New York Jets (25 years, 226 days)
4. Joe Montana, 1981 San Francisco 49ers (25 years, 227 days)
 
Super Logistics
• There were 15 buses used for special groups at Super Bowl I; 150 buses at Super Bowl VII; and 1,100 buses and 500 limousines at Super Bowl XXI.
• The Miami International Airport added 100 extra commercial flights to the schedule for Super Bowl XXIX. 
• There were 400 helicopter landings at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium for XXII.
 
Super Demographics
According to the Associated Press, 80 percent of Super Bowl ticket holders are in executive, management, professional, or sales positions; 35 percent attend the game on corporate expense accounts; 27 percent own their own companies; 25 percent are corporate officers; and 22 percent are on boards of directors.
 
Party On
• There are 7.5 million parties on Super Bowl Sunday, with 43.9 million party-goers (National Retail Federation)
• 1.5 million TV sets will be sold the week leading up to Super Bowl (National Retail Federation)
• Super Bowl is the top at-home party event of year, ahead of New Year’s Eve (Hallmark Cards, Inc.) 
• Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest day of food consumption behind Thanksgiving (American Institute of Food Distribution) 
• Antacid sales increase 20 percent the day after Super Bowl (7-11 stores) 
• Super Bowl weekend is the slowest weekend for weddings (NFL)
 
Stop the World…I Want to Watch Football
• Long-distance telephone calls decrease 50 percent during a Super Bowl, but rise at halftime.
• San Francisco police reported arrests for minor crimes dropped from an average of 360 daily to 96 on the day of Super Bowl XVI between the 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals.
• Dallas water department officials reported water pressure dipped by five pounds during television commercials carried on the telecast of Super Bowl VI, in which the Cowboys defeated the Dolphins 24-3.
 
Roadies Take the Stage
• Time to set up the stage and sound and lighting for a rock concert at Qualcomm Stadium: 2-3 days
• Time to set up and break down the stage for the Super Bowl XXXVII halftime show, including the 12-minute show itself: 27 minutes
• Number of crew members needed to accomplish this: 2,500
 
No Vacancy?
For Super Bowl XXXIX, the city of Jacksonville docked five cruise ships along the St. John’s River, adding the equivalent of 3,667 hotel rooms, housing 6,400 people.—Florida Times-Union
 
New Year, New Party
Typically, on Super Bowl Sunday, Americans will eat 30 million pounds of snacks including:
• 11.2 million pounds of potato chips 
• 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips 
• 4.3 million pounds of pretzels 
• 3.8 million pounds of popcorn
• 2.5 million pounds of nuts 
Potato chip intake alone will account for 27 billion calories and 4 million pounds of fat—the weight of 13,000 NFL offensive linemen.
—Calorie Control Council and Snack Food Association
 
Replace the chips with veggie trays and fruit bowls. Instead of soda and beer, serve natural fruit juices, tea and water. Your waist line will love you for it.
 
Chick Magnet
A 35-year-old man with two tickets to Super Bowl XXXVII posted an ad on a Bay Area website seeking a “gorgeous young date” to go to the game with him. Within two hours, the man received five offers.
—San Francisco Chronicle
 
All-Lost-Madden Team
When John Madden was coaching the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XI at the Rose Bowl, he was so wound up on game day he forgot something: a half-dozen of his players.
“I’d changed the itinerary, the time we were supposed to leave, and I just told the buses to leave,” Madden said. “I got so excited, I just got on the bus and said, ‘Take off.’ We got to the stadium, and I couldn’t find the players. They were afraid because they thought they were late and missed the bus. But I knew I lost them. As a head coach, you can’t go around and say, ‘Hey, I lost six players!’ One of them was John Matuszak, and he was like 6-8, 310 pounds. How the hell do you lose him? You can’t admit it if you’re the head coach. But here I am playing hide-and-go-seek before the damn Super Bowl.”
—New Orleans Times-Picayune
 
Super Bowl MVP Imports
Hines Ward, born in South Korea, and Mark Rypien (Canada) are the only Super Bowl MVPs born outside of the United States.

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> Super Bowl 2013: Kickoff Time, Channel, Halftime Performer and Team History</p>
Post date: Sunday, February 3, 2013 - 10:50
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/what-time-super-bowl-super-bowl-47s-start-time-and-more
Body:

It's nearly time for Super Bowl XLVII—aka Super Bowl 2013, Super Bowl 47, and the big game—between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. So what time does the Super Bowl start? Well, we have that and more for you: 

Super Bowl XLVII Facts

When is it? Feb. 3, 2013, Kickoff at 6:30 pm ET
Where? Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
TV: CBS
 
The NFC is the designated home team and will have choice of jersey.
 
The winning team receives the Lombardi Trophy, produced by Tiffany is 20.75 inches tall and weighs 107.3 ounces (6.7 pounds)
 
The Teams of Super Bowl XLVII
How they got to Super Bowl XLVII: Champions of AFC North (10-6), defeated Indianapolis 24-9 in AFC Wild Card round, defeated Denver 38-35 in double OT in AFC Divisional round, defeated New England 28-13 in AFC Championship Game
Founded: In November 1995, Art Modell, then-owner of the Cleveland Browns announced his intentions to relocate his franchise to Baltimore. The NFL approved the move in February 1996. The relocated Baltimore franchise was named the Ravens after a Baltimore Sun telephone poll received a record number of calls supporting the name. The name was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem from 1845, “The Raven.”
 
Super Bowl Championships (1)
Conference Championships (1)
Division Championships (4)
Playoff appearances (9)
 
Head-to-head vs. San Francisco 49ers: 3-1 (.750), last meeting taking place Nov. 24, 2011 Baltimore 16, San Francisco 6 at Baltimore.  
 
How they got to Super Bowl XLVII: Champions of NFC West (11-4-1), defeated Green Bay 45-31 in NFC Divisional round, defeated Atlanta 28-24 in NFC Championship Game
Founded: Originated in 1946 as a charter member of the All-American Football Conference (AAFC). Joined the NFL in December 1949 when the AAFC and NFL merged. The name “49ers” comes from the name given to the gold prospectors who arrived in Northern California around 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It is the only name the team has ever had. The 49ers are the oldest major professional sports team in California.
 
Super Bowl Championships (5)
Conference Championships (5)
Division Championships (19)
Playoff appearances (25)
 
Head-to-Head vs. Baltimore Ravens: 1-3 (.250), last meeting taking place Nov. 24, 2011 Baltimore 16, San Francisco 6 at Baltimore. 
 

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> It's nearly time for Super Bowl XLVII—aka Super Bowl 2013, Super Bowl 47, and the big game—between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. So what time does the Super Bowl start? Well, we have that and more for you.</p>
Post date: Sunday, February 3, 2013 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/behind-scenes-super-bowl-xlvii-things-are-about-get-weird
Body:

NEW ORLEANS—I am at the Super Bowl — No. XV for me — and I’m pretty sure I have seen it all. Well, maybe not “all” but over the years I’ve seen Gilbert Gottfried shouting at Bill Belichick, a Brazilian woman in a wedding dress proposing to Tom Brady, Michael Strahan singing, and this guy (pictured right) who defies description.

I’m not sure what else there really is.
 
It’s funny. When people ask me about my Super Bowl experience, it rarely has anything to do with the game, which might just be the least important part of any Super Bowl week. This is all about hyperventilating over hype and an excess of access, and it only seems to grow bigger every year. There were more than 5,200 “journalists” at Media Day on Tuesday, for example, even though it’s fair to say that less than half of them actually knew what the word “journalist” really means.
 
For a writer during Super Bowl week, though, journalism doesn’t define the experience. It’s about surviving the noise, marveling at the spectacle and trying hard not to be annoyed. Yes, the games have been great over the last decade, for the most part. And yes, it is a special thing having a seat inside a party that more than 100 million people around the world would love to attend.
 
But what is it really like to be a writer during Super Bowl week? It’s aggravating and exhilarating, all at the same time. To survive it, though, here are eight “truths” that everyone really needs to know:
 

1. Real journalists don’t wear beads – They also don’t wear clown costumes, Superhero outfits, masks, wedding dresses, football uniforms, big wooly hats, crowns and robes, or anything else that would be considered a costume. OK, sportswriters don’t always dress nicely (or, in some cases, even appropriately). You’ll find many of them at fancy restaurants in ripped sweatshirts and the same jeans they wore the day before. But the idiots you see walking around Super Bowl Media Day in costumes aren't real media members. They are, in fact, idiots.
 
2. TV Azteca is real, but not spectacular – They get a lot of attention because they send scantily clad women to the Super Bowl so they can pretend to be reporters. There may even be a few of them who are serious about it too, but dancing with athletes and shaking their assets for the cameras probably isn’t the best way to prove it. Perhaps viewers of TV Azteca love it, but most of the media in the United States find it offensive and degrading to women, and most – not all, but most – of the athletes are uncomfortable with the spectacle, too. The NFL actually should be embarrassed by their presence. Sadly we know they’re not.
 
3.  All Super Bowl bus drivers are from out of town – They must be, because none of them know where they are going. I can only vouch for the media buses, but I’ve heard the same horror stories from fans trying to 
get to and from games. In Jacksonville, my bus driver was actually from Detroit and took us on a 10-mile ride to go one actual mile. In New Orleans last week, a ride from the Superdome to the Media Center a mere half-mile away, took nearly a half hour. The NFL is a $9 billion industry, but it apparently can’t afford maps.
 
4. The Media Party is all about free food (and it certainly isn’t about the media) – The NFL every year hosts a “Media Party” that is attended by several thousand people who definitely are not part of the media. It’s usually at an interesting venue and involves interesting things, such as the gymnasts suspended from the ceiling doing routines while hanging onto curtains on Tuesday night. I’m sure the NFL spends a lot of money on it, but the only reason any writer goes there is because the food and drinks are free. An open bar in the Marriott lobby would be cheaper and would definitely suffice. Maybe throw in the gymnasts on the ceiling, too.
 
5. The Commissioner’s Party was a monument to excess – It doesn’t exist anymore, at least in its old form, but back in “the day” it was held in every Super Bowl city, usually in a unique local venue and redefined the word “overdone.” For example, when the Super Bowl was in Houston, the party was in the Astrodome. The whole Astrodome. The entire field was covered by a floor and big black curtains separated the dome into five separate rooms. Each room had a band and mounds and mounds of food. Oh, and there were living statues everywhere. People who were paid to be painted like statues and stand there, on a podium, not moving at all. And all that was only in the part of the party that media types were invited to. I have no doubt that somewhere there was an “A list” room. It was probably solid gold.
 
6. Actual writers hate Media Day. Hate it. Hate. It. – Did I mention we hate it? It’s not just the clowns and comedians, it’s Deion Sanders and other former NFL players walking around and hijacking interviews. It’s the fact that it’s so crowded that you’re basically left to shout questions at players from afar, and you can forget about following up. Now the NFL has allowed fans to watch – why you’d pay money to do that, I’ll never know – which has only added to the chaos. When the clock on the scoreboard at Media Day reads “0:00”, writers on the field celebrate like they just won the Super Bowl themselves.
 
7. By Thursday, most writers are bored – Seriously, we’re just killing time during the Thursday interview sessions. Think about this: The 49ers arrived on Sunday night and we talked to about a half dozen of them. Then on Monday, we talked to another half dozen. Then on Tuesday we got the full team and all the coaches. Then on Wednesday we got the full team and all the coaches. And then – and only then – did they head out for their first practice. By the time they did, most of the assembled media had enough to write books on both teams. Yet on Thursday, another hour of full team access was scheduled. With both teams.
 
8. The game is not the thing – For anyone. At least not anyone who is actually in the Super Bowl city. It’s all about the hype, the event, the corporate sponsorships, being seen, seeing people, a week’s worth of interviews, hype and total craziness. Yeah, for the players the game seems to matter, but they revel in the experience too. It’s why most of them are constantly holding video cameras taking video of people who are probably taking pictures of them.
 
It’s the same for the members of the media, although no one is taking pictures of us – unless we’re wearing wedding dresses or clown makeup. Maybe more of us should, though, since most of the coverage is about the circus anyway. The game is just the thing at the end of the week.
 
—By RALPH VACCHIANO
 
Teaser:
<p> 8 truths that everyone really needs to know</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 12:45
Path: /nfl/super-bowl-xlvii-one-one-baltimore-ravens-linebacker-dannell-ellerbe
Body:

Unless a nagging ankle injury sidelines him, Baltimore linebacker Dannell Ellerbe should line up next to Ray Lewis when the Ravens’ defense takes the field in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday. An undrafted free agent out of Georgia who signed with the Ravens following the 2009 NFL Draft, Ellerbe has asserted and established himself in his fourth pro season.

Besides working his way into the starting lineup, Ellerbe posted a career-high 92 tackles during the regular season, finishing second on the team in that category, to go along with 4.5 sacks (tied for third). Even though Ellerbe’s been dealing with an ankle injury and a back issue, he hasn’t let either malady take him off of the field during the playoffs. He collected nine tackles in Baltimore’s wins over Indianapolis and Denver, and picked up his first interception of the season against New England quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game.

With the biggest game of his NFL career set to kick off on Sunday, Ellerbe sat down with Athlon Sports earlier this week to talk about the Ravens’ remarkable postseason run, playing alongside a Hall of Fame linebacker, his impressions of his own quarterback, the Super Bowl matchup with San Francisco and more.

What has the past week been like for you and your teammates?
“It’s crazy man, at the beginning of the week you have to put in for rooms and get tickets in line for everyone. It’s a headache getting all of that in line, but this is my first Super Bowl so I want my family to come, and I want them to come and want to get them down there. As far as practice goes, I haven’t been practicing this week because of injuries, but you want to get most of your work done here, before you get down there and give away what you are practicing, and getting most of our work in now so when we get down there we can polish up what we have don. Going forward, this week I’m gonna be in my playbook studying up, but now I’ve just been getting my family straight and all the tickets and rooms in line and rehabbing a lot. It’s busy.”

Is the preparation for this game any different?
“It hasn’t been really different, I wanna treat this like a regular game, I don’t want to be like ‘Oh man, it’s the Super Bowl’ and freak out. I’m just staying lighthearted about it and going about it like a regular season game, and don’t wanna get caught up in the superstitions, and just go out there and have fun like I have been doing all year.”

What has the atmosphere been like in Baltimore this past month on the path to the Super Bowl?
“Oh man, I saw a picture after we beat Denver and there were so many people downtown, it was crazy. At the radio show the fans come out and fans are calling in and the fans are outstanding. It’s just a great time to be in Baltimore right now.”

How much of a challenge will it be facing a guy like Colin Kaepernick, and his unique skill set on Sunday?
“It’s always difficult when you face a dual-threat quarterback. Not only do you have to worry about him throwing the ball, you have to worry about him taking off and running it, or vice versa. I would rather face a pocket passer, because that’s a headache in itself. When you have everyone covered a pocket passer will throw it out of bounds, but a guy that is fast and can take off and run makes it hard. You can’t run too much man defense and you have to spy. It’s tough, but we faced some guys this year like RGIII and Andrew Luck, and Mike Vick, so we know about them.”

Your quarterback isn't mentioned with the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys of the world, but Joe Flacco has an impressive resume in his time in the league. What makes him so good under pressure?
“The more experience he has been getting the better he has been doing, and the offensive line is doing a hell of a job blocking for him. You can tell he is comfortable in the pocket right now and he’s not looking to scramble. You can tell when the timer goes off in his head. I mean its just ‘Joe Cool.’ That’s his nickname around here, because you can never tell if he is flustered or not, he just has that nonchalant attitude, but is cool under pressure.”

You've played with Ray Lewis now for four years. Has his approach changed since coming back from injury and announcing his retirement?
“His approach has been a little more intense, if that’s possible, but I mean he has pretty much stayed the same. I feel like he is upping it a little bit more, because this is his last ride, so you know this is it for him. But he is staying true to his self and bringing the same work ethic. He always puts his all into it, but he is definitely putting everything he has into it now.”

What has he taught you about being an NFL linebacker? And how is it playing alongside a Hall of Famer like Ray?
“I just want to start off saying that it’s a blessing to play beside a guy like Ray Lewis, arguably the best inside linebacker to ever play the game. A guy that’s gonna be a Hall of Famer no doubt about it, great character, Christian guy. As far as what I have learned from him, I have just learned how to watch film a certain way and look for certain things when watching film. The first thing he told me when I got here was treat football like a business, come to work do your job, go home and just do your job, because it is a business, and keep my body fresh and how to take care of my body. There’s just so much I have learned from him, always take notes and learn all the little tools, so you can be a step ahead of everyone else.”

Has it sunk in that you are a part of the defense that beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road to get to the Super Bowl?
“I’m not sure, because of everything I’m going through with these tickets and rehab. I am definitely aware that these two quarterbacks are going to be Hall of Famers, and with how our defense played earlier in the year and with all the scrutiny our defense we went through a lot. So for us to come back at the end when it really mattered and play great, and to hold them [Patriots] to 13 points is just crazy. It’s awesome.”

Is there one specific play or moment that you will forever remember from this run through the playoffs?
“Definitely my interception against the Broncos, it basically sealed the game. You know what I’m saying, they were driving to get some points, and I will always remember because I had the cast on my hand and the ball got tipped at the line and it looked like a punt and I felt like I was in a movie. The ball was coming down so slow man, it was crazy, it was a play I will never forget, plus I will never forget any of my picks. I remember all of them like it was yesterday. I’m gonna try and get me one in this Super Bowl hopefully.”

—by Blake Southerland

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> Super Bowl XLVII: One on One With Ravens Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, MLB, Monthly
Path: /mlb/should-steroids-forever-keep-barry-bonds-and-roger-clemens-out-baseballs-hall-fame
Body:

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the greatest hitter and pitcher of the “Steroid Era,” headlined a group of 37 players eligible for the Class of 2013 in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But for the first time since 1996, zero players were immortalized by baseball writers in the museum at Cooperstown, N.Y.

 
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America made a collective statement. Needing 75 percent of the BBWAA vote for enshrinement, Clemens (37.6) and Bonds (36.2) — undeniably the faces of the PED generation — finished eighth and ninth, despite being two of the most dominant players in history.
 
Both men have gone to trial for obstruction of justice and perjury charges stemming from testimony regarding alleged steroid use. Using the established legal timelines, we attempt to break down the career numbers of Bonds and Clemens — from the clean years to the potentially juiced seasons.
 
Reportedly jealous of the attention received by both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa during the home run race that “saved baseball” in 1998, Bonds allegedly turned to PEDs. Evidence points to 1999 as his first tainted season; he posted the lowest AB-per-HR total of his career (10.4 in 1999, 16.1 from 1986-98) and played a career-low 102 games due to an elbow injury that is speculated to have been a result of steroid overuse.
 

From there, Bonds’ hat size and stat size grew to otherworldly levels — as he hit 73 HRs in 2001 and batted .370 in 2002. It’s hard to deny Bonds’ résumé prior to 1999. The son former All-Star Bobby Bonds and godson of Hall of Famer Willie Mays was already a one-man member of the 400-400 HR-SB club.
 
After posting a 4.00 ERA or higher in two of his last four seasons in Boston, “Rocket” found new fuel after going to Toronto in 1997 — with back-to-back Cy Young seasons. He then went on to post two more Cy Young years, as a 38-year-old 20-game winner with the Yankees in 2001 and a 41-year-old 18-game winner with the Astros in 2004.
­But prior to going north of the border, Clemens was one of only five three-time Cy Young winners — along with Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver. Of those, only Koufax could match Clemens with one MVP Award to go along with his three Cy Youngs.
 
Teaser:
<p> Should steroids Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens out of Baseball's Hall of Fame?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Atlanta Braves, Chipper Jones, MLB, Monthly
Path: /mlb/baseball-great-chipper-jones-finds-sanctuary-hunting
Body:

Hunting is a way of life for future baseball Hall of Famer Chipper Jones. He’s as comfortable sitting with his bow 25 feet up an oak tree as he was standing in a batter’s box fighting off 95-mph fastballs with a piece of white ash wood.
 
Jones, the recently retired Atlanta Brave who gets his given name (Larry Wayne Jr.) from his dad, bagged his first buck on his own about the same time be began switch-hitting in youth baseball — when he was 12 years old. Catching his father in the midst of a Sunday afternoon nap following a morning hunt, young Chipper asked his dad if he could take the truck down to the hunting camp just a mile or so from their Pierson, Fla., home. Dad, in obvious deep sleep, gave his approval.
 
A short time later, Chipper returned with the first buck he ever harvested on his own. 
 
“It was kind of weird, a little scary, being out there for the first time (on my own), and I just remember pulling up to the house with that deer in the back of the truck, and knowing how proud — and shocked — that dad was going to be,” Chipper recalls with a smile some 28 years later.

Baseball wasn’t the only bond between Chipper and his dad, Larry Wayne Sr. (pictured right). Hunting had such a grip on the father and son that they always dreamed of operating a hunting business together.
 
Chipper’s success in baseball, and the wealth that came along with it, allowed that dream to become reality more than a decade ago with the founding of Double Dime Ranch, a 10,000-plus acre property where trophy whitetail can be found along with bobcat, javelina, Rio Grande turkey and an array of birds native to Southwest Texas. The property is about 14 miles long and 11 miles wide.
 
“That’s probably my favorite place on the planet,” says Jones, who is spending more time there now after retiring from baseball. “It’s the most therapeutic place for me because nobody can get in, and we’re out in the middle of God’s nowhere.”
 
Athletes like Jones, an eight-time all-star third baseman and former National League MVP, find hunting offers a refuge from the public spotlight.
 
“It gets my mind off things. It relaxes me. It excites me,” says one of the best switch-hitters in baseball history. “I love nothing more than climbing a tree and getting most of my tough thinking done. A lot of decisions have been made 20, 25 feet up an oak tree.
 
“The actual harvesting of an animal is secondary. I’ve spent so much of my life in or around a spotlight that being up a tree is my one sanctuary.”
 
While hunting brings this self-described country boy back to his roots, he’s just as competitive in this sport as he was in his baseball career. Jones uses video taken at his ranch to determine which deer can be hunted and which deer to leave alone.
 
Visiting hunters will get a detailed scouting report from Jones or his father. The trophies he has mounted in his hunting lodge are proof of the big bucks at Double Dime.
 
“My first bow buck out here was a 182-inch deer,’’ says Jones, who is strictly a bow hunter now. “He was just a stud. I hunted him for the better part of two years before I got a chance to take him with a bow, and I finally did.”
 
Jones also hunts in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and other parts of the Midwest. Some of it is recorded for “Major League Bowhunter,” a TV show on the Sportsman Channel that features Matt Duff, a former pitcher who reached the big leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals, and Jeff Danker. While viewers see a 30-minute edited version of various hunts, Jones says folks don’t really know what goes on behind-the-scenes.
 
“My cameraman and I sat for 12 hours in a tree from daylight to dark (in Nebraska),” he says with a laugh. “It was 17 degrees when we got in the tree, and the wind blew 15 to 20 miles per hour all day. It was one of the coldest days I ever spent in the woods.”
 
That leads to the one piece of advice Jones offers for hunters.
 
“You have to put your time in and log those hours in the tree, because they’re not going to fall into your lap sitting on the couch,” he said.
 
—by Sean Kernan
Teaser:
<p> Baseball Great Chipper Jones Finds Sanctuary in Hunting</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 15:00
Path: /nfl/20-things-every-fan-should-know-about-super-bowl
Body:
They say knowledge is power. And we believe that. That's why we're going to make you the most powerful person at this year's Super Bowl XLVII party. Here is everything you need to know about the Big Game (and probably some stuff you don't) to wow your friends and random strangers as they destroy your living room. 
 

Super Bowl XLVII Facts

Where? Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
TV: CBS
 
The NFC is the designated home team and will have choice of jersey.
 
The winning team receives the Lombardi Trophy, produced by Tiffany is 20.75 inches tall and weighs 107.3 ounces (6.7 pounds)
 
The Teams of Super Bowl XLVII
• Baltimore Ravens
How they got to Super Bowl XLVII: Champions of AFC North (10-6), defeated Indianapolis 24-9 in AFC Wild Card round, defeated Denver 38-35 in double OT in AFC Divisional round, defeated New England 28-13 in AFC Championship Game
Founded: In November 1995, Art Modell, then-owner of the Cleveland Browns announced his intentions to relocate his franchise to Baltimore. The NFL approved the move in February 1996. The relocated Baltimore franchise was named the Ravens after a Baltimore Sun telephone poll received a record number of calls supporting the name. The name was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem from 1845, “The Raven.”
 
Super Bowl Championships (1)
Conference Championships (7)
Division Championships (4)
Playoff appearances (9)
 
Head-to-head vs. San Francisco 49ers: 3-1 (.750), last meeting taking place Nov. 24, 2011 Baltimore 16, San Francisco 6 at Baltimore.  
 
• San Francisco 49ers
How they got to Super Bowl XLVII: Champions of NFC West (11-4-1), defeated Green Bay 45-31 in NFC Divisional round, defeated Atlanta 28-24 in NFC Championship Game
Founded: Originated in 1946 as a charter member of the All-American Football Conference (AAFC). Joined the NFL in December 1949 when the AAFC and NFL merged. The name “49ers” comes from the name given to the gold prospectors who arrived in Northern California around 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It is the only name the team has ever had. The 49ers are the oldest major professional sports team in California.
 
Super Bowl Championships (5)
Conference Championships (5)
Division Championships (19)
Playoff appearances (25)
 
Head-to-Head vs. Baltimore Ravens: 1-3 (.250), last meeting taking place Nov. 24, 2011 Baltimore 16, San Francisco 6 at Baltimore. 
 
Halftime Hottie
Beyonce will take the stage at halftime for a reunion with Destiny's Child and possibly even a duet with her husband, Jay-Z. This isn't Beyonce's first Super Bowl, however; she sang the national anthem prior to kickoff of Super Bowl XXXVIII in her hometown of Houston. 
 
Super Bonuses
How much extra money does a player in the Super Bowl get?
Super Bowl I
Winner’s Share: $15,000
Loser’s Share: $7,500
Super Bowl XLVII
Winner’s Share: $88,000
Loser’s Share: $44,000
 
Galloping Tosser
Prior to Super Bowl XII, Red Grange was the first celebrity coin tosser. For the first 11 games, officials flipped the coin.
 
Must-See TV
• The last four Super Bowls have topped 150,000,000 viewers, according to Nielson Ratings.
• During Super Bowl XLIII, NBC used 52 hi-def cameras, 450 crew members and 50 miles of camera and microphone cables needing 45 vehicles for the big production.
• Based on the average audience, according to Nielsen, Super Bowls account for eight of the top 15 most-watched television programs ever.
• First “Million-Dollar Minute” was during Super Bowl XIX when 30-second spots topped $500,000.
• On the Sunday of Super Bowl XL, traffic to GoDaddy.com increased 1,564% over the average of the four previous Sundays.
 
Price for 30-second commercial
I $42,000
V $72,000
X $110,000
XV $275,000
XX $550,000
XXX $1,085,000
XL $2,400,000
XLVII $3,800,000
 
Playing the Market
While there’s no reason to believe that a professional football game should have any connection to the stock market, few indicators are better known on Wall Street than the Super Bowl Theory. The Super Bowl indicator holds that a victory by an NFC team or an original (pre-1970 merger) NFL team—the Browns, Colts, and Steelers — point to a bullish market the following year. An AFC victory signals a bearish drop in the market. The Super Bowl Theory has been an accurate indicator 38 times in 46 seasons.
 
QB Numbers
Twenty-six of the 92 starting quarterbacks have worn No. 12. Three times two No. 12s have met in the game. Roger Staubach faced Bob Griese once and Terry Bradshaw twice.
 
W-L Records for QB numbers:
No. 12 is 14-12
No. 7 is 5-8
No. 16 is 7-2
No. 8 is 5-2
 
• No. 19 is the only undefeated QB jersey number at 1-0.
 
• No QB has ever worn No. 1, 2 or 6. Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton could be the first.
 
Names and Numerals
Tickets for the matchup between the New York Jets of the AFL and the Baltimore Colts of the NFL in January 1969 referred to the event as the Third World Championship Game. But the Super Bowl name was beginning to stick and became official with Super Bowl III. Lamar Hunt, fascinated with the name and liveliness of a Super Ball that was a favorite toy of his children, was the original advocate of the name.
The Roman Numeral designation began with Super Bowl V. They were adopted to clarify confusion that could result because the game is actually played in the calendar year following the regular season. Numerals I through IV were added later.
 
Figures Don’t Lie 
• Super Bowl teams with fewer turnovers than their opponents are 34-3 (.919).
• Super Bowl teams with the time of possession advantage are 34-12 (.739).
• Super Bowl teams with the most time-consuming scoring drive during the game are 36-10 (.783).
 
By the Numbers
3,581,385: Fans have walked through the turnstiles to watch Super Bowl games. The largest crowd was 103,985 at Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
 
2: Networks (CBS and NBC) that televised Super Bowl I. The two networks alternated televising the game until ABC joined the fray for Super Bowl XIX. NBC and CBS have each televised 17, ABC seven and Fox six.
 
49.1: Highest rating from Nielsen for any Super Bowl (XVI).
 
15: Super Bowls in which Pat Summerall was behind the mic, both as an analyst and play-by-play voice. John Madden is second with 11, Al Michaels and Dick Enberg have eight, Curt Gowdy (7), Phil Simms and Frank Gifford (6).
 
14: Super Bowl winners that have failed to make the playoffs the following season. Eight have repeated as Super Bowl champs. The last was New England in Super Bowl XXXIX.
 
6: Super Bowl wins for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the most for any franchise. San Francisco and Dallas are tied with five.
 
6: Super Bowls in which Mike Lodish played, the most for any player. (Buffalo and Denver)
 
2: Players — Preston Pearson and Bill Romanowski — to have appeared in the Super Bowl with three different teams. 
 
5: Super Bowl wins for Charles Haley, the most by any player.
 
4: Super Bowls won by coach Chuck Noll of Pittsburgh, the most of any coach. 
 
54: Yards of the longest field goal in Super Bowl history. Steve Christie of Buffalo kicked a 54-yarder in XXVII.
 
414: Passing yards in Super Bowl XXXIV for Kurt Warner of the St. Louis Rams, the most in history. Warner also holds the second- and third-most yards in Super Bowl history with 377 in XLIII and 365 in XXXVI.
 
122: Passes attempted by Joe Montana in four Super Bowls without throwing an interception.
 
0: Punts returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl history.
 
8: Kickoffs returned for touchdowns in Super Bowl history.
 
0: Shutouts in Super Bowls history.
 
5: Safeties in Super Bowls history.
 
602: Yards gained by Washington in Super Bowl XXII vs. Denver, the most yards in history.
 
119: Yards gained by the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX vs. Pittsburgh, the fewest yards gained in any Super Bowl.
 
18: Passes attempted by Miami total in its back-to-back Super Bowl wins in VII and VIII over Washington and Minnesota.
 
2: Games played without any turnovers. (Buffalo-New York Giants, XXV and Tennessee-St. Louis, XXXIV)
 
2: Times a team has punted just once in a Super Bowl. Ironically, both teams accomplished it in the same game (Atlanta-Denver, XXXIII)
 
1: Game in which both teams returned a kickoff for a touchdown. (Baltimore-New York Giants, XXXV)
 
4: Teams that have managed to get through a game without being flagged. (Miami VI, Pittsburgh X, Denver XXIV, Atlanta XXXIII)
 
-10: Largest deficit ever overcome to win a Super Bowl.
 
3: Griffin brothers (Archie, Ray and Keith) to appear in a Super Bowl.
 
$12: Most expensive ticket for Super Bowl I between Green Bay and Kansas City in Los Angeles. 
 
$600: Least expensive ticket for Super Bowl XLVI.
 
338: Media credentials issued for Super Bowl I in Los Angeles.
 
5,156: Media credentials issued for Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
 
10: Super Bowls held in NOLA, tied with South Florida for the most of any metropolitan area.
 
5Coaches to take two different teams to the Super Bowl. (Don Shula, Dick Vermeil, Dan Reeves, Bill Parcells and Mike Holmgren)
 
22-24: Record of the team that sins the coin toss.
 
Youngest QBs to Win a Super Bowl
1. Ben Roethlisberger, 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers (23 years, 340 days)
2. Tom Brady, 2001 New England Patriots (24 years, 184 days)
3. Joe Namath, 1968 New York Jets (25 years, 226 days)
4. Joe Montana, 1981 San Francisco 49ers (25 years, 227 days)
 
Super Logistics
• There were 15 buses used for special groups at Super Bowl I; 150 buses at Super Bowl VII; and 1,100 buses and 500 limousines at Super Bowl XXI.
• The Miami International Airport added 100 extra commercial flights to the schedule for Super Bowl XXIX. 
• There were 400 helicopter landings at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium for XXII.
 
Super Demographics
According to the Associated Press, 80 percent of Super Bowl ticket holders are in executive, management, professional, or sales positions; 35 percent attend the game on corporate expense accounts; 27 percent own their own companies; 25 percent are corporate officers; and 22 percent are on boards of directors.
 
Party On
• There are 7.5 million parties on Super Bowl Sunday, with 43.9 million party-goers (National Retail Federation)
• 1.5 million TV sets will be sold the week leading up to Super Bowl (National Retail Federation)
• Super Bowl is the top at-home party event of year, ahead of New Year’s Eve (Hallmark Cards, Inc.) 
• Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest day of food consumption behind Thanksgiving (American Institute of Food Distribution) 
• Antacid sales increase 20 percent the day after Super Bowl (7-11 stores) 
• Super Bowl weekend is the slowest weekend for weddings (NFL)
 
Stop the World…I Want to Watch Football
• Long-distance telephone calls decrease 50 percent during a Super Bowl, but rise at halftime.
• San Francisco police reported arrests for minor crimes dropped from an average of 360 daily to 96 on the day of Super Bowl XVI between the 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals.
• Dallas water department officials reported water pressure dipped by five pounds during television commercials carried on the telecast of Super Bowl VI, in which the Cowboys defeated the Dolphins 24-3.
 
Roadies Take the Stage
• Time to set up the stage and sound and lighting for a rock concert at Qualcomm Stadium: 2-3 days
• Time to set up and break down the stage for the Super Bowl XXXVII halftime show, including the 12-minute show itself: 27 minutes
• Number of crew members needed to accomplish this: 2,500
 
No Vacancy?
For Super Bowl XXXIX, the city of Jacksonville docked five cruise ships along the St. John’s River, adding the equivalent of 3,667 hotel rooms, housing 6,400 people.—Florida Times-Union
 
New Year, New Party
Typically, on Super Bowl Sunday, Americans will eat 30 million pounds of snacks including:
• 11.2 million pounds of potato chips 
• 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips 
• 4.3 million pounds of pretzels 
• 3.8 million pounds of popcorn
• 2.5 million pounds of nuts 
Potato chip intake alone will account for 27 billion calories and 4 million pounds of fat—the weight of 13,000 NFL offensive linemen.
—Calorie Control Council and Snack Food Association
 
Replace the chips with veggie trays and fruit bowls. Instead of soda and beer, serve natural fruit juices, tea and water. Your waist line will love you for it.
 
Chick Magnet
A 35-year-old man with two tickets to Super Bowl XXXVII posted an ad on a Bay Area website seeking a “gorgeous young date” to go to the game with him. Within two hours, the man received five offers.
—San Francisco Chronicle
 
All-Lost-Madden Team
When John Madden was coaching the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XI at the Rose Bowl, he was so wound up on game day he forgot something: a half-dozen of his players.
“I’d changed the itinerary, the time we were supposed to leave, and I just told the buses to leave,” Madden said. “I got so excited, I just got on the bus and said, ‘Take off.’ We got to the stadium, and I couldn’t find the players. They were afraid because they thought they were late and missed the bus. But I knew I lost them. As a head coach, you can’t go around and say, ‘Hey, I lost six players!’ One of them was John Matuszak, and he was like 6-8, 310 pounds. How the hell do you lose him? You can’t admit it if you’re the head coach. But here I am playing hide-and-go-seek before the damn Super Bowl.”
—New Orleans Times-Picayune
 
Super Bowl MVP Imports
Hines Ward, born in South Korea, and Mark Rypien (Canada) are the only Super Bowl MVPs born outside of the United States.

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> See how much you know about the Big Game</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /nfl/5-under-radar-players-who-could-help-their-team-win-super-bowl-xlvii
Body:

Super Bowl XLVIIThe stars of Super Bowl XLVII are easy to pick out. Joe Flacco, the Ravens quarterback, has been playing out of his mind. Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback, has played like he’s been around for a decade. Ray Lewis is the emotional center of the Ravens, just like Patrick Willis is for the 49ers. Frank Gore and Ray Rice, the running backs are the engines that make their offenses go.

It’s a good bet that one of those six will be the star of the Super Bowl when the Baltimore Ravens play the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday night. And it’s a good bet that all of them will make a big play somewhere in the game. But the harder bet is to find the unsung hero. Who will be the guy, like Mario Manningham a year ago, to step out of the shadows and make the play of the game?

The beauty of it is it could be anybody. But here are six guys – three for each team — that may be flying under your radar, but that should have the opportunity to make a big difference at some point in the game:

Anquan BoldinRavens receiver Anquan Boldin
Torrey Smith is the No. 1 receiver on this team, but Boldin hasn’t exactly faded into aging, possession receiver territory. He may be 32, but he’s taken advantage of some open space and single coverage in the playoffs by catching 16 passes in three games for 276 yards and three touchdowns. By far the team’s leading receiver, he had two touchdowns in the AFC championship game and he’s not likely to get any extra attention as long as Smith is on the other side.

Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta

He doesn’t fit into the Ravens’ offense the way Todd Heap used to fit, and his numbers are decent, but not great in an era of explosive tight ends. But he’s a sneaky weapon, way down the list behind Smith, Boldin, Rice and probably one or two others. Witness his 7 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 15 game against Denver for proof of what he can do. He also has two touchdowns in the playoffs. Lose track of him, and he can make a defense pay.

49ers running back LaMichael James
The emergence of Colin Kaepernick and his ability to run has really diminished the need for a second running back and LaMichael James is an extreme situational player. But he had five runs for 34 yards in the NFC championship game and his 15-yard touchdown run was an incredible combination of burst and speed. When he gets going, he’s like a cannonball, which makes him always one broken tackle away from a game-changing play.

 

49ers receiver Randy Moss
There was a time not that long ago that Moss was still the most dangerous player on most fields he was on. Now, he’s a bit player in the 49ers offense. The bigger threats are Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Gore. But the Ravens will overlook Moss at their own peril. He has five catches for 71 yards in two playoff games, but he’s still got the size, skill and hands to make big plays. Maybe the consistent speed isn’t there, but all it takes is one big catch to change a game.

Ravens running back Bernard Pierce
This running game belongs to Rice, but the speed and shiftiness of the Ravens’ starter puts the defense on its heels and allows the 6-foot, 218-pound Pierce to come in and knock them over. A very effective 2 in the 1-2 punch, the rookie has only had 27 carries through three playoff games, but he’s rushed for 169 yards – or 6.3 yards per carry. He’s a threat to break a big run if the defense isn’t on its toes, and he can wear them down while Rice gets a breather on the sidelines.

49ers return man Ted Ginn Jr.
He has been solid but unspectacular in the playoffs, until a 20-yard return to the Atlanta 38 put the 49ers in position for the game-winning touchdown last week. He still has the skills and speed to break a big return and he needs to be contained by the Ravens. And if you doubt his importance, just remember what happened in the NFC championship game last season, when Ginn was injured and his replacement, Kyle Williams, literally fumbled away a trip to Super Bowl XLVI.

By RALPH VACCHIANO

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> Who will be the unsung heroes of the big game?</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 11:31
All taxonomy terms: Media day, super bowl, NFL, Overtime
Path: /nfl/10-best-media-day-moments-super-bowl-history-0
Body:

Super Bowl media day is usually pretty boring. It's full of pat answers and tired cliches. But every once in a while, someone breaks the monotony and actually says or does something interesting. Here are ten of the best (or at least most notable) media day moments in Super Bowl history.

1967
This one barely squeaks in, because there was no media day back then, and the game wasn't even called the Super Bowl yet. But Fred "The Hammer" Williamson set the bar for subsequent game-week trash talk, vowing to inflict harm on Packer receivers Boyd Dowler and Carroll Dale. "Two hammers to Dowler, one to Dale should be enough," he said. Sadly, Fred was on the business end of a hammer himself: He got knocked cold by the knee of Packers guard Gale Gillingham.

1973
Cowboys running back Duane Thomas was a man of so few words that he was known as the Sphinx. Prior to Super Bowl VI, he sat silently through media day, never uttering a single word, part of a year-long media boycott. The previous year, though, Thomas had made a pertinent observation about the Super Bowl: "If it's the ultimate game, why are they playing it again next year?"

1979
Dallas linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson offered up a memorable assessment of Terry Bradshaw's mental acuity, or lack thereof: "He couldn't spell cat if you spotted him the c and the a." Bradshaw proved he could spell TD, or at least toss them - four of them, in fact, in Pittsburgh's 35-31 win. "I didn't say he couldn't play," Henderson said afterwards. "Just that he couldn't spell."

1980
Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett grew up in a household with blind parents, one of whom died when Plunkett was at Stanford. On Media Day, one intrepid reporter wanted to make sure he had his facts straight. He shouted: "Jimmy, Jimmy, I want to make sure I have this right. Was it dead mother, blind father or blind mother, dead father?"

1988
The Super Bowl media day that produced an urban legend — the Doug Williams "How long have you been a black quarterback" myth — did have an entertaining moment when notoriously under-educated Redskins defensive lineman Dexter Manley vowed to "catch the quarterback and hit him from behind, in between his two numbers, and cut his lights out." Reporters took the opportunity to remind him that John Elway wore No. 7.

1989
The international nature of the Super Bowl, and the lack of football savvy among some of its international followers, was driven home at media day prior to the Niners-Bengals matchup when a Japanese reporter asked Joe Montana, "Why do they call you Boomer?"

1999
Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan was so intent on proving that his Falcons didn't mind being underdogs to the Broncos that he wore a dog collar to media day, where he ripped Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe for being "an ugly dude" who looked like Mr. Ed (I think he was mixing him up with John Elway).

All this led to a hilarious back-and-forth between the two.

"Is he my friend? No," Sharpe said. "Did I ever view him as a friend? No. Did I ever view him as an acquaintance? No. Do I like him? No. If I see him in a snowstorm, his truck is broke down, mine is going perfectly, do I pick him up? No."

Buchanan's reply: "Shannon just runs his mouth saying anything, so we don't need to pay attention to him. He'd better watch out for himself, because he might get knocked out like he did that last game. We're not a team that's going to go out on the field and pull up our skirts and show our panties. I'm not saying we wear panties, but I'm saying we can't go out there and play like females and win the game."

Over to you, Shannon: "Tell Ray to put the eyeliner, the lipstick and the high heels away. I'm not saying he's a cross-dresser, but that's just what I heard."

2006
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu took the opportunity of media day to thank "Entertainment Tonight" for giving him a "Best Hair" award, adding, "I'd like to thank Pantene Pro V, or anyone else who wants to send me free shampoo and conditioner."

2008
TV Azteca's Ines Gomez Mont showed up at media day in a wedding gown and asked several players to marry her, including Tom Brady. During Brady's press conference, she shouted out, "I'm the real Miss Brady." Brady, who was busy juggling Gisele Bundchen and Bridget Moynihan, replied, "I've got a few Miss Bradys in my life."

2001
A year after being involved in an incident at a Super Bowl party that resulted in two stabbing deaths, Ray Lewis showed up for Super Bowl XXXV and addressed the inevitable questions about the incident. "Yes I got money. Yes, I'm black and yes, I'm blessed," Lewis told the crowd. "But at the same time, let's find out the real truth. The real truth is [this] was never about those two kids that's dead in the street. This is about Ray Lewis." Okay then. 

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> Sometimes someone says something that's not a cliche.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 06:03
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/what-major-league-pitcher-hit-most-home-runs
Body:

What major league pitcher hit the most home runs? 

— Larry Luttrell, Lubbock, Texas
 
Wes Farrell, who played primarily for the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox during his 15-year career, which began in 1927, hit 38 career home runs, two of them as a pinch-hitter. Farrell clubbed walk-off home runs on consecutive days in 1935, one of which was a three-run bomb as a pinch-hitter that gave Lefy Grove a 7-6 win. Bob Lemon (37), Red Ruffing (36), and Earl Wilson and Warren Spahn with 35 apiece follow Farrell on the all-time list. You can tell from the decades-long span since those players played that pitchers don’t hit ’em like they used to. Bob Gibson of the Cardinals is the only pitcher who played past 1970 who had as many as 20 career clouts (he hit 24).
— Charlie Miller, Editorial Director
Teaser:
<p> What major league pitcher hit the most home runs?&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 17:00
All taxonomy terms: super bowl, NFL, Monthly
Path: /nfl/super-bowl-blowouts-era-best-forgotten
Body:

It wasn’t so long ago that the star of Super Bowl Sunday was a talking frog. Or a dancing monkey. Or Cindy Crawford enjoying a refreshing cola.

For a stretch of time that lasted more than a decade, the only suspense after kickoff of the Super Bowl came from anticipating the next clever commercial. More often than not, the actual game was over before it even started.

From 1984-97, in particular, the Super Bowl morphed into a near-annual blowout—anything but a battle between the NFL’s two best teams. During that period of time, the average margin of victory was an obscene 21.4 points and nine of the 14 games were decided by more than two touchdowns.

But a funny thing has happened this millennium. The focus has shifted back to football thanks to a series of tight contests, each more compelling than the next. Since 2000, only two Super Bowls have been decided by more than 14 points, while eight games have ended with a one-score differential. Three others—Super Bowl XL (Steelers-Seahawks), XLI (Colts-Bears) and XLIV (Saints-Colts)—also featured one-score margins at some point in the fourth quarter.

Clearly, it seems, something has changed in a drastic way to make the NFL’s title game far more competitive. Except that’s not actually the case.

A common refrain is that the tighter Super Bowl scores are a byproduct of the NFL’s salary cap. The timing makes sense—the cap came into place in 1994, which was the tail end of the blowout era. And the cap’s reason for existence is tied largely to ensuring competitive balance, so a closer Super Bowl would appear to be the perfect manifestation of that goal.

But that’s not consistent with the way the NFL has changed since ’94. Instead, according to Aaron Schatz, who runs Football Outsiders, a popular advanced metrics website, parity has actually declined in the salary cap era. “In general, the best teams have been coming in stronger each year, while the worst teams have been worse and worse, using our advanced stats,” Schatz says.

So how, then, do we explain the Super Bowl shift? It’s actually the product of two factors. First and foremost, time has allowed us to see the 1984-97 period as a statistical outlier. It’s abnormal for any team to beat another by 20-plus points in any game, let alone when two top teams spar in the Super Bowl. The string of blowouts, not the recent stretch of close games, is the real story, because Super Bowls prior to 1984 also tended to be more competitive. What happened in the ’80s and ’90s was unnatural. 

The blowouts weren’t all the product of random chance, though. “We all know the NFC was much better than the AFC throughout the ’80s,” Schatz says. Indeed, the dominant teams of that era were the 49ers, Giants and Redskins, with the Cowboys joining the mix in the ’90s. Facing the AFC champion (often the Broncos or Bills) often turned out to be a breeze compared to surviving the NFC gauntlet. But that still doesn’t mean the outcomes should have been so one-sided.

This year, though, appears headed in the other direction. According to Schatz, this season featured more close games than any in NFL history. Sure, in time we will probably see that as nothing more than a statistical outlier, too. But if you’re into omens, it bodes well for Feb. 3.

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> Super Bowl Blowouts: An Era Best Forgotten</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 06:00

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