Articles By Athlon Sports

All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings-week-12
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 12 — Wide Receiver Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 12 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Calvin Johnson DET vs. GB (Thursday)
2 Steve Smith CAR at IND
3 Mike Wallace PIT at KC
4 Greg Jennings GB at DET (Thursday)
5 Larry Fitzgerald ARI at STL
6 Wes Welker NE at PHI
7 Dez Bryant DAL vs. MIA (Thursday)
8 Andre Johnson HOU at JAC
9 Hakeem Nicks NYG at NO
10 Roddy White ATL vs. MIN
11 Vincent Jackson SD vs. DEN
12 Brandon Marshall MIA at DAL (Thursday)
13 Brandon Lloyd STL vs. ARI
14 DeSean Jackson PHI at NO
15 Marques Colston NO vs. NYG
16 Jordy Nelson GB at DET (Thursday)
17 Anquan Boldin BAL vs. SF (Thursday)
18 A.J. Green CIN vs. CLE
19 Antonio Brown PIT at KC
20 Victor Cruz NYG at NO
21 Santonio Holmes NYJ vs. BUF
22 Percy Harvin MIN at ATL
23 Laurent Robinson DAL vs. MIA (Thursday)
24 Dwayne Bowe KC at NE
25 Michael Crabtree SF at BAL (Thursday)
26 Jeremy Maclin PHI vs. NE
27 Mario Manningham NYG at NO
28 Sidney Rice SEA vs. WAS
29 Denarius Moore OAK vs. CHI
30 Nate Washington TEN vs. TB
31 Mike Williams TB at TEN
32 Plaxico Burress NYJ vs. BUF
33 Steve Johnson BUF at NYJ
34 Jabar Gaffney WAS at SEA
35 Torrey Smith BAL vs. SF (Thursday)
36 Eric Decker DEN at SD
37 Pierre Garcon IND vs. CAR
38 Deion Branch NE at PHI
39 Nate Burleson DET vs. GB (Thursday)
40 Reggie Wayne IND vs. CAR
41 Earl Bennett CHI at OAK
42 Greg Little CLE at CIN
43 David Nelson BUF at NYJ
44 Lance Moore NO vs. NYG
45 Jerome Simpson CIN vs. CLE
46 Early Doucet ARI at STL
47 Harry Douglas ATL vs. MIN
48 Vincent Brown SD vs. DEN
49 Damian Williams TEN vs. TB
50 Kevin Walter HOU at JAC
51 Steve Breaston KC vs. PIT
52 Titus Young DET vs. GB (Thursday)
53 Jacoby Jones HOU at JAC
54 Jonathan Baldwin KC vs. PIT
55 Johnny Knox CHI at OAK
56 Doug Baldwin SEA vs. WAS
57 Michael Jenkins MIN at ATL
58 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK vs. CHI
59 James Jones GB at DET (Thursday)
60 Riley Cooper PHI vs. NE
61 Devin Hester CHI vs. SD
62 Robert Meachem NO vs. NYG
63 Davone Bess MIA at DAL (Thursday)
64 Arrelious Benn TB at TEN

Teaser:
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Post date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 06:55
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings-week-12
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 12 — Quarterback Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 12 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Aaron Rodgers GB at DET (Thursday)
2 Cam Newton CAR at IND
3 Drew Brees NO vs. NYG
4 Matthew Stafford DET vs. GB (Thursday)
5 Tom Brady NE at PHI
6 Eli Manning NYG at NO
7 Tony Romo DAL vs. MIA (Thursday)
8 Ben Roethlisberger PIT at KC
9 Matt Ryan ATL vs. MIN
10 Philip Rivers SD vs. DEN
11 Tim Tebow DEN at SD
12 Carson Palmer OAK vs. CHI
13 Mark Sanchez NYJ vs. BUF
14 Josh Freeman TB at TEN
15 Matt Moore MIA at DAL (Thursday)
16 Joe Flacco BAL vs. SF (Thursday)
17 Matt Hasselbeck TEN vs. TB
18 Andy Dalton CIN vs. CLE
19 Vince Young PHI vs. NE
20 Alex Smith SF at BAL (Thursday)
21 Sam Bradford STL vs. ARI
22 Tarvaris Jackson SEA vs. WAS
23 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF at NYJ
24 Rex Grossman WAS at SEA
25 Christian Ponder MIN at ATL
26 Matt Leinart HOU at JAC

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 06:47
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-great-rivalries-alabama-vs-auburn
Body:

This profile of the Alabama and Auburn college football rivalry originally appeared in Athlon's 1995 college football annuals. As the rivalry is renewed this week, we thought it was relevant to take a look back at the history of the single-most important game played in the state of Alabama each year, the "Iron Bowl."

Great Rivalries — Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Auburn Tigers

By Clyde Bolton, The Birmingham News

You're playing golf with a fellow who usually beats you. But today is your day to win.

Do you trounce him? Or would you rather slice the ball into the woods, listen as it ricochets from tree to tree, then watch in delight as it caroms onto the green and stops beside the cup, enabling you to make the deciding putt while your opponent screams about the injustice of it all?

The football equivalent of the second option happened in the 1972 Auburn-Alabama game, and Tiger fans still delight in needling their Crimson Tide friends with "Punt, Bama, Punt."

"When are you folks going to quit talking about those blocked punts?" an Alabama man demanded of Terry Henley years later. Henley, who was Auburn's tailback that day, smiled and said, "When you folks stop singing about playing in the Rose Bowl."

The Alabama-Auburn rivalry has been called everything from the nation's greatest to a sickness, but that game almost a quarter of a century ago in which an overmatched Auburn team blocked two consecutive punts in the final minutes and returned them for touchdowns to win 17-16 is indisputably its most famous edition.

Bill Cromartie, author of Braggin' Rights, the definitive history of the Auburn-Alabama series, didn't hesitate to pronounce it "the most incredible football game ever played."

Cromartie, who has written histories of Georgia-Georgia Tech, Michigan-Ohio State, Texas-Oklahoma, Notre Dame-Southern California and Duke-North Carolina, also says, "This is by far, I think, the nastiest rivalry in the country. I doubt if anything else touches it. I don't know if it's because the game of football is so intense in the state and they've both had good teams. But even when one team is real good and the other is real bad, it's still nasty."

This is what happened at Birmingham's Legion Field on Dec. 2, 1972: Alabama was undefeated, untied and ranked second in the nation. Auburn, having lost quarterback in Pat Sullivan, the 1971 Heisman Trophy winner, and consensus All-America receiver Terry Beasley to graduation, had been picked to finish in the lower reaches of the Southeastern Conference. But the Tigers had forged a surprising 8-1 record and were ranked ninth nationally. Still, a 35-7 loss to LSU marred their record, and they were 16-point underdogs to the Tide.

Auburn amassed a grand total of eight yards of offense in the first half. Largely forgotten, because it seemed of no importance at the tim, was Tiger defensive back Roger Mitchell's extra-point block after Alabama's first touchdown. And Auburn further demonstrated its inability to move the ball when coach Shug Jordan had Gardner Jett kick a 42-yard field goal with 9:15 left in the game and the Tide ahead 16-0. As Tiger fans booed Jordan's decision, he turned to trainer Kenny Howard and said, "They don't think we're going to win, do they?"

With 5:30 to play, the score 16-3 and the ball at midfield, Auburn linebacker Bill Newton rushed through unchecked and blocked Greg Grant's punt. The ball took a perfect hop into the arms of defensive back David Langner, who sped 25 yards into the end zone. Jett's extra point made it 16-10.

Then, with 1:34 remaining Grant prepared to punt again. The line of scrimmage was the Alabama 43. And again, Newton blocked Grant's punt. It bounded as if by design into Langner's arms, and he returned it 20 yards for the touchdown with 1:24 remaining. Jett's PAT gave Auburn a most improbable 17-16 victory.

Or at least I'm told Newton blocked another punt and Langner scored another touchdown. I covered the game for The Birmingham News. I was making my way to the sidelines before going to the dressing room to interview Jordan, the man I thought would be the losing coach. I didn't see the second block because my 5-7 frame was behind Auburn fans who were standing at the end-zone fence. I've always regretted that.

"What happened?" I asked when they went insane.

"The same thing that happened before," a fellow screamed. I had to work my way out of the crowd before I could deduce that I had missed one of the most amazing plays in football history.

Nobody was more amazed than Alabama's players. John Croyle, an all-star defensive end who went on to establish Big Oak Ranch for underprivileged, abused boys and girls, remembers the surreal qualities of the game.

The night before, some 20 players gathered in Croyle's room to pray.

"God, should we lose, make us men," one said.

"Should we lose?" Croyle thought. "No way."

For most of the game, nothing happened to change his mind.

"We could have given them the ball on the 10-yard line five times, and they would have never scored," Croyle recalls. "You know when you're beating somebody's eyes out, and we were beating their eyes out."

Not quite out.

"The score was 16-3 in the fourth quarter," Croyle says. "We were on the sidelines, and we knew the game was in the bag. We were so cocky we were even taking the tape off our hands. One of the guys said, 'Why don't we thank the Lord for the win?'

"It came time for me to pray, and I said, 'Lord, thank you for letting us be here, and I just want to praise your name for this ball game.'

"Thump.

"Roar.

"We jumped up, and here goes a guy running into the end zone with our ball. We all sat back down in a state of shock. I said, 'God, let's don't let this get out of hand.'"

But it did get out of hand. Jordan, who had avoided calling any victory his greatest or any team his favorite, affirmed both in the dressing room that afternoon. Alabama coach Bear Bryant, whose Tide teams won 19 of their 25 games against Auburn, never got over it.

In the late 1970s, I had fun with Bryant by asking when he was going to retire. During an Iron Bowl (Auburn vs. Alabama) week, he snapped, "When I block two punts against Auburn, I'll retire."

Doug Barfield, who would go 0-5 against Alabama and Bryant, was Auburn's coach from 1976-1980. I visited him the day after I spoke with Bryan, and he asked hopefully, "When is that old man going to retire?"

"He told me just yesterday that he'll retire when he blocks two punts against Auburn," I answered.

Barfield grinned and said, "Well, how about telling him I'll let him block two Saturday if he'll retire?"

Bryant, whose Tide was headed for a Cotton Bowl match with Texas, angered Auburn fans before the 1972 Iron Bowl when he told the Birmingham Monday Morning Quarterback Club, "I'd rather beat that cow college once than beat Texas 10 times."

The irrepressible Henley was never one to run away from a headline. In print, he said Bryant should be ashamed of himself.

After Auburn upset Alabama, Henley said, "When those cows get mad, they kick. There won't be enough people going back to Auburn to milk them tonight."

Henley, now a Birmingham insurance man, remembers a story from that game. "It was not against the rules for the players to sell tickets. I came up with the ingenious idea of buying all the other players' tickets, and I'd be the only one to have any.

"The game came around and I ended up with all the tickets in the XX, YY and ZZ temporary bleachers at the end of the field. People would call, and I'd tell them I had 50-yard-line tickets. They'd send me $100, and I'd send them a couple of end-zone tickets, I was making the money.

"We got off the bus at the stadium, and a lot of players walked around the field in their dress clothes to stretch their legs. I never cared about that. I liked to sit in the dressing room and try to find my name in the program.

"Johnny Simmons, our safety, came in the dressing room, and he said, 'Terry, there's a bunch of people out there cussing you and screaming for you.'

"I said, 'Are they Alabama fans?'

"He said, 'No, they are our fans.'

"Well, I had long hair, and I liked to lead the team out on the field with my helmet under my arm, letting my hair blow. But this time I tried to get lost in the middle of the team when we ran out. I could hear the fans yelling, 'Where is he? Where is he?' We were doing our exercises, and they were yelling, 'You scumbag, you put us in the end zone.'

"But you know where all 33 points were scored? In that end zone. After the game, people were coming up to me and saying, 'Terry, our seats were just great.' They loved me again."

The first Alabama-Auburn game was played on Feb. 22, 1893, in Birmingham. Auburn won 32-22. Disagreement between the sides dates all the way back to that day. Alabama considers it the last game of the 1982 season. Auburn considers it the first game of the 1893 season.

There's something strange about this series, though, something that sets it apart from other rivalries rooted in antiquity. After the rivals tied 6-6 in 1907, they didn't meet on the gridiron again until; 1948, when Alabama won 55-0. Talk about a timeout.

Some consider the break in relations as fascinating as the games themselves. Over the years, two myths gained currency, neither of which is true. According to one, there was a riot at the 1907 game, and that was why the schools stopped playing each other. According to the other, the state legislature forced the two teams to get back together. Cromartie was surprised to learn just how mundane were the details of the split.

"I had always heard there was a killing in the 1907 game," he told me. "I went to the Birmingham paper thinking there would be some big headlines about the killing. I was going to the courthouse to get the records.

"But there was nothing about a fight. I thought maybe it was too late to get in the Sunday paper. So I looked in Monday's paper. Nothing there, either."

Cromartie's research into the origin of the 41-year break revealed a startling truth: "It was over $34."

The teams couldn't reach an agreement on the terms of the contract for the next year, so they didn't meet. It's an instructive example of how a rift can expand to chasm, whether between spouses, nations or institutions.

Over the years, efforts were made by various parties to bring the schools together, but it didn't happen until 1948. Mike Donahue, Auburn coach from 1904 to 1922 with a year off in 1907, was director of intramurals at LSU by then. When relations were resumed, he was interviewed by The Birmingham News.

"It would be a very fine thing for football if they will accept the game like any other game," Donahue said. "I tried to bring the schools together several times after relations were broken in the spring of 1908. The game was always very cleanly played during the time I was coaching at Auburn, beginning with the 1904 game. I have heard that riots and the conduct of the players were responsible for the severance of relations. I want to tell you this is not true. Failure to agree on details, where the teams would stay, expenses, how many players each squad would be permitted to have and officials caused the break in relations."

When Alabama and Auburn met again, it wasn't because the legislature required it but because two reasonable men, Alabama president Dr. John Galalee and Auburn president Dr. Ralph Draughon, decided it was time.

The legislature occasionally approved resolutions asking that they play each other, but they carried no official weight.

"It used to come up in the legislature, but both schools absolutely turned their backs on that," says Jeff Beard, retired Auburn athletic director.

Finally, Beard attended a get-together at which representatives of both schools reached an agreement to resume the series.

"Dr. Draughon and Dr. Galalee had been to a meeting at the old Tutwiler Hotel in Birmingham, and when it was over, they were walking to their cars," Beard recalls. "They started talking about it and decided there should be a game. The went home and talked on the phone about it some more. We met later at the Anne Jordan Farm near Sylacauga and had a nice dinner and got all the details worked out."

It has not been "like any other game," as Donahue suggested it should be. College football television analyst Beano Cook said ti well: "Alabama-Auburn is not just a rivalry. It's Gettysburg South."

Former Alabama coach Ray Perkins called it the most important football game in the world. More people in Alabama care passionately about it than about the Super Bowl, he said. He was right.

I have covered college football throughout the nation for 40 seasons, and I can say with assurance that the sport is embraced more enthusiastically in the state of Alabama than anywhere else.

I have a theory as to why college football is so important to the people of Alabama. The state traditionally has been ranked near the bottom in meaningful categories such as education and health. It is perceived by many as redneck and racist. But, by golly, we can be No.1 in football. We can be at or near the top in The Associated Press poll. Bear Bryant raised Alabama to the pinnacle in something, even if it is a game. Auburn responded to the challenge and we have a unique rivalry.

In recent years, the state's status has improved in many significant respects. It is frequently mentioned in those "best places to live" articles that appear in magazines. Meanwhile, our passion for football hasn't diminished.

A poll in 1989 asked residents of the state to name their most admired Alabamian, living or dead. Former governor George Wallace and Bryant were 1-2 in a landslide. Surely the third spot must have gone to Martin Luther King Jr. or Hugo Black or Booker T. Washington or Helen Keller or Julia Tutwiler, you say? No, it went to Bo Jackson, Auburn's 1985 Heisman Trophy winner and pro football and baseball player.

Even the color of money changes from orange and blue to crimson and white during Iron Bowl week. A scalper on a talk radio show offered two tickets for sale, adding, "Auburn fans need not call me. I don't want their money." (Scalping, incidentally, is legal in Alabama, and pairs of tickets to the 1994 Iron Bowl routinely fetched $400.)

Losers can expect to be seriously razzed for year. When fans say the game is for bragging rights, they aren't kidding.

"Talk about the Texas-Texas A&M game will start a week before the game and continue for a week after," says Alabama coach Gene Stallings, an ex-Aggie player and head coach, "but talk about the Alabama-Auburn game never stops. They're talking about it on the Fourth of July. That's what makes this one different from all others."

In one of the state's small towns, police arrested an Alabama fan and charged him with the shotgun death of an Auburn supporter a few hours after the 1994 game at Birmingham's Legion Field, won by Alabama 21-14. The Auburn fan watched the game on TV at a friend's house and returned home to find his car had been egged and his trees covered with toilet paper. Police said he apparently suspected an Alabama devotee. When the man went to the Bama fan's house trailer to confront him, he was shot.

Former Alabama coach Bill Curry said some of his players received death threats before the 1989 game with Auburn, the first to be played at Auburn. They would be protected from the time they left Tuscaloosa until they returned, he stressed. "Our players will virtually be surrounded by security," Curry said.

"It's one of the nastiest rivalries there is," says Siran Stacy, who was Alabama's star runner that year. Stacy says he received a threatening phone call.

"The caller said something about I would never set foot in Jordan-Hare Stadium. There was no name, no reason. Just a mean call. I guess the thought by threatening me I'd get all stirred up. I guess they thought it would affect me and it would hurt the team. They thought wrong."

Stallings and Auburn coach Terry Bowden appear to be making an effort to turn the rivalry into something a little less mean-spirited. Neither is likely to make a gratuitous statement such as one Perkins made about Pat Dye when they were coaching Alabama and Auburn respectively. Dye, said Perkins, couldn't have the same feelings about the rivalry that he (Perkins) had because Dye hadn't played at either school. Ridiculous, said Dye, a former Georgia All-American.

"We don't spend any more time getting ready for Auburn than we do for Chattanooga," Stallings said. "There's more pressure on me personally to play somebody you're supposed to beat than to play a good strong rival."

After Auburn lost the 1994 game, which gave the Tide a 34-24-1 series lead, Bowden said, "I guess I'll go back to being Buster Brown now," a self-deprecating reference to his lack of height.

More humor and common sense and less rancor are welcomed in the Alabama-Auburn series, but neither coach has any illusions about it being just a game.

"It's important to win," Stallings says, "and if the coach at either school can't take that, he shouldn't be working there."

Following are 11 (appropriately) memorable Auburn-Alabama games in chronological order:

*(1948) Alabama 55, Auburn 0. "They'll take the bandages off a 41-yeard-old football wound tomorrow and see if the scar is healed," Sterling Slappey wrote in The Montgomery Advertiser. The presidents of both student bodies actually buried a hatchet in a park in Birmingham, but everyone was uneasy, wondering just what would happen at the renewal. There were no unusual problems with fans, but Alabama halfback Ed Salem did lead the worst mugging Auburn had suffered since 1917.

*(1949) Auburn 14, Alabama 13. It remains the greatest upset in a series that has had precious few upsets. The 6-2-1 Tide was a 19-point favorite over the Tigers, who had won only one game. Billy Tucker, who later would be crippled by polio, kicked the winning extra point.

*(1957) Auburn 40, Alabama 0. It wasn't much of a game, which is precisely why it was notable. It was the last building block in Auburn's national championship season. The Tigers led 34-0 at intermission, Jordan called them the best team, for a half, he had ever coached.

*(1961) Alabama 34, Auburn 0. Bryant returned to his alma mater in 1958 after coaching stints at Maryland, Kentucky and Texas A&M, and Auburn's dominance in the series ended. This victory was the centerpiece in Bryant's first of six national titles. Quarterback Pat Trammell, Bryant's favorite of all the players he coached, a man who would die young, led the win.

*(1971) Alabama 31, Auburn 7. Only once have the teams met when both were undefeated and untied, and this was it. On Thursday, Sullivan was named winner of the Heisman Trophy, and the Tigers weren't down off their cloud on Saturday. Tide All-American Johnny Musso and company brought them back to earth, though.

*(1972) Punt, Bama, Punt.

*(1981) Alabama 28, Auburn 17. Bryant's 315th victory this day made him the all-time winningest coach in Division I-A college football history. He would win 323 games, lose 85 and tie 17 in 38 years as a head coach, 25 at Alabama. His Tide came from behind in the fourth period on a pass from Walter Lewis to Jesse Bendross to beat its No. 1 rival in 1981.

*(1982) Auburn 23, Alabama 22. Bo Jackson scored over the top to score the winning touchdown with 2:26 to play in Bryant's last Iron Bowl. It was the Tigers' first victory over the Tide since 1972. Dye, in his second year at the Auburn helm, became the first Bryant pupil to beat the master in 31 games over 12 years. Two months later, Bryant was dead of heart failure.

*(1985) Alabama 25, Auburn 23. This was perhaps the most breathtaking game of the series. The lead changed hands four times in the fourth period. Van Tiffin kicked a 52-yard field goal on the last play to win it.

*(1989) Auburn 30, Alabama 20. Despite protestations by Alabama that it would never happen, Auburn moved its home games with the Tide to its campus. This was the first one, and Dye likened it to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

*(1993) Auburn 22, Alabama 14. Auburn's new coach, the boyish-looking Bowden, closed an unprecedented 11-0 rookie season in Division 1-A with a victory on the Plain. Backup quarterback Patrick Nix helped him get it with a spectacular touchdown pass to Frank Sanders.

Teaser:
<p> For more than 60 years bragging rights in Alabama have been at stake in the annual "Iron Bowl"</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - 08:20
Path: /mlb/athlon-sports-2011-nl-mvp
Body:

With the World Series in the rear-view mirror and the hot stove just beginning to heat up, it's time to hand out some awards to this year's best performers on the diamond. The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) has already named its AL and NL Rookies of the Year, AL and NL Managers of the Year, AL and NL Cy Young award winners, and the AL MVP. And while no Athlon editors are members of the BBWAA, here's how four of us — Charlie Miller, Braden Gall, Patrick Snow and Mark Ross — would have voted if we did have a ballot to cast.

NL MVP

Unlike the crowded race in the AL, the NL MVP will most likely come down to one of two outfielders, either Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers or Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both posted 30-30 seasons and finished in the NL's top five in six key offensive categories — batting average, runs, RBIs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. Who ends up winning could be determined by voters' perception of "most valuable" in relation to team's success (Braun's Brewers won the NL Central, Dodgers didn't make playoffs) and/or their respective supporting cast.

To that end, Braun's teammate, Prince Fielder, will receive his share of MVP votes, as will two former winners — Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals (2005, 2008, 2009) and Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds (2010). Other legitimate contenders include NL batting champ and New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton.

Contenders' Stats:

Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: .332, 109 R, 187 H, 38 2B, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 33 SB, .397 OBP, .597 SLG, .994 OPS

Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers: .299, 95 R, 170 H, 36 2B, 38 HR, 120 RBI, .415 OBP, .566 SLG, .981 OPS

Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: .324, 115 R, 195 H, 33 2B, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 SB, .399 OBP, .586 SLG, .986 OPS

Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals: .299, 105 R, 173 H, 29 2B, 37 HR, 99 RBI, .366 OBP, .541 SLG, .906 OPS

Jose Reyes, SS, New York Mets: .337, 101 R, 181 H, 31 2B, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 39 SB, .384 OBP, .493 SLG, .877 OPS

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies: .302, 81 R, 162 H, 36 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, .372 OBP, .544 SLG, .916 OPS

Justin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: .289, 105 R, 171 H, 39 2B, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 21 SB, .369 OBP, .529 SLG, .898 OPS

Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds: .309, 101 R, 185 H, 40 2B, 29 HR, 103 RBI, .416 OBP, .531 SLG, .947 OPS

Athlon's Winner: Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Kemp beats out Braun as he receives three first-place votes to Braun's one. Pujols comes in third followed by Fielder as they split the third-place votes among them, with Tulowitzki and Votto tying for fifth. Besides Upton and Reyes, others receiving MVP consideration among the Athlon voting contingency included Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard and Hunter Pence of the Philadelphia Phillies, Yadier Molina of the Cardinals and NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers.

Here's how the Athlon editors voted

Charlie Miller's ballot:

1. Ryan Braun
Braun lost his battle for the batting title with Jose Reyes of the Mets, but he joined Matt Kemp as the only players ranked in the top 10 in all three triple crown categories in the NL. Braun edges Kemp by a whisker based on being the No. 3 hitter on a division winner and having a higher OPS.
2. Matt Kemp
The Dodgers’ centerfielder fell just short of the first triple crown in the NL in more than 70 years. And he accomplished that while playing Gold Glove caliber defense and swiping 40 bags.
3. Albert Pujols
This ranking may surprise you if you’re judging Pujols’ season based on the Pujols Scale. But if you’re evaluating his 2011 season on a reasonable scale, it is worthy of a top-3 ranking. After all, he hit 37 home runs and did the heavy lifting during the Cardinals’ late surge.
4. Troy Tulowitzki
The shortstop struggling with nagging injuries this season, but was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing season in Denver. Even with some missed time, he hit .302 with 30 bombs and more than 100 ribbies.
5. Joey Votto
The reigning MVP finished fifth in the league in average and OPS.
6. Justin Upton
7. Prince Fielder
8. Jose Reyes
9. Roy Halladay
10. Yadier Molina

Braden Gall's ballot:

1. Matt Kemp
The Dodgers had Kemp on offense and that was about it. Kemp led the league in runs (115), home runs (39) and RBI (126) while finishing third in hitting (.324), third in stolen bases (40), second in hits (195) and second in extra-base hits (76). If it wasn't for an untimely divorce, the Cy Young/MVP-led boys in Blue likely would have pushed St. Louis for the Wild Card (finished 7.5 back and three games over .500).
2. Ryan Braun
Braun is Kemp-lite with three major differences. He gets plenty of credit for getting his team to the postseason, however, he did it surrounded by elite level hitters, a lock-down bullpen and deep starting rotation. He is also an adventure in the outfield. Kemp is a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder while Braun makes the routine look difficult at times. His offensive numbers alone get him to No. 2 on my ballot.
3. Albert Pujols
Pujols had arguably the worst season of his career and he still proved to be virtually indispensable. He still finished third in the league with 37 big flies and 105 runs scored while driving in the seventh most runs (99). He finished seventh in slugging and 10th in OPS with a .299 average for the Wild Card winners. And he consistently plays one of the best first bases in the game.
4. Justin Upton
This uber-talent is only beginning to blossom into the player we all think he can become. He smacked 31 home runs, scored 105 times, stole 21 basses and unexpectedly led the Arizona Diamondbacks to an NL West title. They were picked last in the division in the preseason.
5. Prince Fielder
The big daddy first baseman finished second in the NL in home runs (38), second in RBI (126) and second in walks (107). He posted a third-best OPS of .981 and helped lead his team to the NL Central crown. Too bad he won't be in a Brewer uniform any longer.
6. Jose Reyes
Reyes captured the Mets first-ever batting title with a ridiculous .337 mark. And .877 OPS from the lead-off spot isn't bad either. Playing on a bad team hurts his value, but he is the unquestioned spark plug for the Mets and he is one of the most dynamic base runners and slickest fielding shortstops in the game.
7. Joey Votto
The reigning NL MVP posted a pretty nasty 2011 line: 101 runs, 29 homers, 103 RBI, 110 walks and a .309/.947 set of ratios. Unfortunately, the Reds couldn't carry any of that 2010 magic with them into 2011.
8. Troy Tulowitzki
Not too many shortstops hit 30 home runs, drive in 105 and top the .300 mark all while playing arguably the game’s most important position. Tulo is not only the best offensive shortstop in the game, but is argubaly the game's best defensive shortstop as well.
9. Yadier Molina
He is the best player at his position in all of baseball. And with his second ring, he is slowly working his way up the all-time ranks. He led the World Champs in hitting (.305) and molded an Adam Wainwright-less pitching staff into a playoff team.
10. Clayton Kershaw
But a pitcher can't win MVP, right?

Patrick Snow's ballot:

1. Matt Kemp
He led the National League in both home runs (39) and RBIs (126), all while batting .324, stealing 40 bases and playing center field. The Dodgers were a winning team despite missing the postseason, and Kemp was the main reason. He was a one-man show in L.A., as the next-highest Dodger in RBIs was James Loney with 65 and the second-highest home run total was 16 by Rod Barajas. Matt Kemp had an amazing year and flirted with a triple crown for most of the season.
2. Ryan Braun
3. Prince Fielder
4. Albert Pujols
5. Troy Tulowitzki
6. Joey Votto
7. Ryan Howard
8. Justin Upton 
9. Jose Reyes
10. Yadier Molina

Mark Ross' ballot:

1. Matt Kemp
The Dodgers’ center fielder just missed a 40-40 season (39 home runs, 40 stolen bases) and flirted with a Triple Crown until the very end, finishing tops in the NL in home runs and RBIs (126) and third in average (.324). With runners in scoring position, Kemp led all of baseball with 13 home runs, and led the NL with 87 RBIs while batting .335 in those situations.
2. Ryan Braun
Braun posted a 30-30 season (33 home runs, 33 stolen bases) for the NL Central champion Brewers, led the NL in both slugging percentage (.597) and OPS (.994), while finishing second in batting average at .332.
3. Prince Fielder
Fielder posted his fifth straight 30-home run season, finishing second to Kemp in both home runs (38) and RBIs (120). The Brewers’ first baseman also batted .299 on the year and finished second the NL in on-base percentage (.415), as he walked more (107) than he stuck out (106).
4. Albert Pujols
The Cardinals’ first baseman and three-time MVP got off to a slow start, but finished strong, just missing out on posting an 11th-straight .300-30-100 season as he finished with a .299 average, 37 home runs and 99 RBIs, while leading his team to the postseason and eventually the World Series title.
5. Joey Votto
Last year’s MVP didn’t quite match his numbers from last season, but had a fine season nonetheless leading the NL in doubles (40), walks (110) and on-base percentage (.416). The Reds’ first baseman also won his first Gold Glove.
6. Troy Tulowitzki
7. Jose Reyes
8. Justin Upton
9. Clayton Kershaw
10. Hunter Pence

Other Baseball awards-related content:

American League Rookie of the Year

National League Rookie of the Year

AL & NL Managers of the Year

American League Cy Young

National League Cy Young

American League MVP

Teaser:
<p> Athlon editors make their case for who they thought was the NL MVP this season.</p>
Post date: Monday, November 21, 2011 - 10:34
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-great-rivalries-ole-miss-vs-mississippi-state
Body:

This profile of the Ole Miss and Mississippi State college football rivalry originally appeared in Athlon's 2008 Southeastern college football magazine. As the two in-state rivals prepare for the 108th "Egg Bowl," we thought it would be relevant to take a look back at the history of the biggest game played every year in Mississippi.

The Egg Bowl

By Michael Bradley

Because he grew up listening to both Ole Miss and Mississippi State radio broadcasts with his daddy in tiny Drew, a rural hamlet in the northwest part of the state, Archie Manning never did develop much of a hatred for MSU, even though he ended up playing quarterback for the Rebels. The way his father figured it, the Mannings were Mississippians and therefore supported both schools.

“My daddy was a sports fan, but more than anything, he was a Mississippi sports fan,” Manning says. “He rooted for the home schools and the pro teams that had Mississippi natives on them. He liked the New York Giants because of (former Ole Miss quarterback) Charlie Connerly and the St. Louis Cardinals because of (second baseman) Don Blasingame, who was from Corinth.”

Manning’s father never had a strong rooting interest when the Rebels and Bulldogs squared off. As for Archie, he leaned toward Ole Miss, “because they won more.”

Now, during his three years as a starter for Ole Miss, Manning wanted to beat the Bulldogs. Anybody who played for John Vaught did. The venerable coach lost only twice to MSU during his 24 years in Oxford and went undefeated over the first 17 games his teams played against the people from Starkville. But Manning never felt anything “nasty” about the rivalry. OK, he did catch some grief from the MSU fans when he played baseball against the Bulldogs, but things never got too out of hand.

In 1969, however, the rivalry went to a different level for Manning. The Ole Miss junior was enjoying a great season, as were the Rebels, who came to Starkville with a 6–3 record. Vaught promised his team that a win over the Bulldogs would lead to a Sugar Bowl berth. (Back then, bowl invitations were the result of politics as much as performance.) That added some motivation for Manning, but when he came out to warm up before the game, a sign that ran the length of the wall behind the Ole Miss bench fired him up even more.

Because of his strong play, Manning had been receiving considerable attention in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and Jackson Daily News, two papers that circulated statewide and were owned by the Hederman brothers. The MSU crowd didn’t take too kindly to the publicity, which it considered excessive. Thus the sign: “Archie Hederman.”

“That inspired me,” Manning says with a laugh.

Over the past century, players on both sides of the rivalry have been similarly “inspired” to conquer the other side. Some, like Manning, have used their incentive to fashion great victories, like the 48–22 beating that he and the Rebels laid on the Bulldogs that Thanksgiving afternoon. Others have taken it a little far, like when the teams staged brawls during the first quarter of the 1990 game and prior to the ’97 meeting.

No matter whether the fighting was real or a metaphor for the effort required to earn a victory, the Ole Miss-Mississippi State Egg Bowl game is one of the nation’s finest, if somewhat underrated, rivalries. Because neither team is a perennial national powerhouse or even SEC contender (the teams have combined for only eight titles in the league’s 74 years), thanks to their modest athletic budgets, the contest doesn’t generate the same interest as Alabama-Auburn, Florida-Georgia or even Georgia-Auburn, the Deep South’s oldest rivalry. Add in the fact that the state is largely rural and has a population of only around three million, and you get the sense that the battle for the Egg Bowl is a parochial concern. Maybe, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of history and tradition behind it.

“In the state of Mississippi, people understand that for Mississippi and Mississippi State to compete against Tennessee and Florida with their large budgets is a handicap,” says MSU athletic director Larry Templeton, who grew up in Starkville, went to MSU and has been AD for 21 years. “When we stand up against each other, all things are equal.”

College football in the Deep South was 12 years old when Mississippi entertained Southwestern Baptist University (now Union University) in 1893. MSU (known then as Mississippi A&M, a land-grant school), meanwhile, didn’t begin intercollegiate football until 1895, when it broke away from its intramural roots. Once the Aggies began playing ball, it didn’t take too long for someone to decide the two schools should get together on the gridiron.

Yellow fever stopped football at both institutions in 1897, and MSU didn’t resume play until 1901. And that occasion was deemed worthy of a matchup between the two in-state rivals.

The contest was played Oct. 28 on the Oktibbeha State Fairgrounds in Starkville and featured some pregame wrangling over eligibility issues. That was hardly news, since teams from all over the country were rather elastic in their requirements for inclusion on football teams. Once the dispute was settled, the game began, and the Maroon and White prevailed, 17–0. In his fine book on the game, The Egg Bowl, William G. Barner reprints accounts of the contest from the A&M student newspaper, The College Reflector, and from the University of Mississippi Magazine about the game. It was clear that a rivalry had been born.

First, The Reflector: “The University boys…played the dirtiest game of ball that we have seen. They would do anything to put our men out so long as the referee was not looking.”

Then, The Magazine: “’To one who has never indulged in any exercise more violent than…the milking of a patient cow, football seems a brutal sport. Our bucolic friend of the Agricultural College should confine himself to mumble-peg and townball.”

That type of back-and-forth prevails today and is somewhat typical of the relationship between any state university and its land-grant counterpart. Michigan students and alums refer to Michigan State as Moo U, and a similar arrogance can be found in the relationship between Mississippi’s two largest schools.

“This is a fact: the Ole Miss people seem to think they are the upper crust of the state,” maintains Jack Cristal, who has done play-by-play of State football games for 54 years. “They look down on the Mississippi State people.

“Ole Miss people think they’re better than most.”

The Ole Miss crowd doesn’t refute that assessment. “People like to tease them about the cowbells (rung by Bulldog fans at home games), and they get real mad about that,” says Mississippi chancellor Robert Khayat, who played for the Rebels from 1957-59. “It has always been a rural-against-city rivalry. It’s funny, though. Mississippi is mostly rural. There isn’t too much that’s cosmopolitan about the state.”

The two sides do respect each other, though, even if Warner Alford, who played at Ole Miss from ’58-60, says, “We are THE university of Mississippi.” From 1911-25, the Aggies had little reason to consider the Red and Blue anything but a doormat. Mississippi State was 11–0 in the rivalry during that stretch (no games were played from 1912-14) and outscored its overmatched foe 327–33 in those games. What began as Ole Miss dominance had swung to an iron-fisted Maroon and White rule.

That changed in 1926, when Ole Miss broke through with a 7–6 win in Starkville. The win was huge, but the postgame mayhem changed the rivalry forever. The Rebel contingent celebrated the end of its heroes’ drought by storming the soggy field and deciding to take the goalposts as spoils of victory. As one might imagine, this didn’t sit too well with the Aggie students, who defended their turf vehemently. The resulting melee, which was wisely avoided by the players, surprised and upset officials from both sides. By the next year, some changes had been made.

The biggest was the introduction of a real trophy for the game’s winner. The award, a solid-gold football, was agreed upon by students from both schools and was thought to be a deterrent to future goalpost abuse and subsequent violence. What a difference a trophy could make! After Ole Miss’ 20–12 win, accomplished before an overflow crowd of 14,000 in Oxford, there was a dignified presentation of the Golden Egg and an unparalleled spirit of cooperation. There were even calls, echoed by the new governor two months later, for combining the two institutions in order to create one fine university — and a heckuva football team.

Fortunately for Egg Bowl fans, that didn’t happen, and the teams continued to play each Thanksgiving Day. Not that State (the school was renamed Mississippi State College in 1932) got too much out of it. The “Flood,” a nickname given the Mississippi team in 1929, was undefeated in the series from 1926-35, winning nine and tying one (7–7 in 1929). When the Maroons finally did break through, in 1936 with a 26–6 win in Starkville, there were no riots, just an enthusiastic celebration and the beginning of some prosperity. Over the next six years, Mississippi State won five of six, including a 6–0 decision in 1941 (eight days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor) that clinched its first SEC title.

The arrival of John Vaught in Oxford in 1947 changed everything for the Rebels, who embarked on a dominance of the Bulldogs (Mississippi State adopted the nickname in the early ’40s) over the next two-plus decades, as the Rebels became an SEC and national power. “(Vaught) always said, ‘Never forget that Mississippi State is your rival,’” Alford says. “And he wanted to beat them.”

Khayat can speak to the pressure on the Rebels when they met Mississippi State. In 1957, he was a sophomore charged with kicking the point-after that would forge a late 7–7 tie. He had tried dozens of such kicks before, but none so important. “If I had missed it, I might have been hanged,” he says.

There wasn’t too much drama during the period. There were some moments, like in 1964, when a strong MSU ended 17 years of winless desperation with a 20–17 triumph that triggered a huge celebration that included canceling of classes the following Monday and presentation of the key to the city by the Starkville mayor.

One of the more controversial aspects of the rivalry surrounded the decision in 1973 to move the games from their campus homes to Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson. The decision was made to accommodate the growing number of people who wished to watch the game live, and the first year in Jackson brought a record throng of 43,556. Over the next 17 years, upwards of 62,000 fans would pack the joint for the game. In 1991, Templeton made a decision that was unpopular in some corners but made good business sense for his school. Even though Jackson’s business community made a spirited — and lucrative — bid to keep the game, Templeton brought it home to Starkville.

“Moving the game back helped us raise the funds to build skyboxes and club seating,” Templeton says. “It’s a cornerstone game on which you can hold down your base of season ticket holders. Both schools have doubled the size of their stadiums since bringing the game back on campus.

“But when I moved it, I wasn’t very popular, because the majority of the state’s population is around Jackson.”

The following year, Ole Miss did the same thing, bringing the game to Oxford. Alford, then the Ole Miss AD, caught much of the same flak Templeton did. Not that he apologizes for the move. “We added to our stadium and renovated it because of the move,” Alford says. “We put lights in. It’s a big thing to play the (MSU) game in Oxford.”

Safely at home, the rivalry has delivered plenty of excitement over the past 10 years. The ’97 edition featured plenty of drama, from the pregame fight that brought state troopers onto the field to restore order, to the last-minute TD and two-point conversion pass from Stewart Partridge to Cory Peterson that gave Ole Miss a 15–14 win. The ’99 game was even crazier. There was no brawl but fireworks nonetheless.

The Bulldogs had staggered into the game on a two-game losing streak — after winning their first eight. Through three quarters, it appeared as if the losing streak would continue. Ole Miss held a 20–6 advantage and looked pretty safe. But a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes by Wayne Madkin, the last with 0:27 remaining, knotted the score at 20.

Ole Miss could have played for overtime. Should have played for overtime. Didn’t play for overtime. Because he felt his team was completely gassed, coach David Cutcliffe directed quarterback Romaro Miller to throw downfield, even though the Rebels had the ball at their own 27. Miller’s first pass was deflected by MSU’s Robert Bean and collected by teammate Eugene Clinton, who returned the ball to the Rebel 26 with 0:08 left. From there, Scott Westerfield drilled a 43-yard field goal that won the game.

Last year, the Bulldogs staged similar dramatics in a contest that appeared to be lost heading into the final period. Ole Miss held a 14–0 lead and a total offensive edge of 290 yards to 144. The futility extended another few minutes before MSU awoke. The Bulldogs stuffed a 4th-and-1 run by Rebels star BenJarvus Green-Ellis with 12:44 remaining. MSU took over on the Ole Miss 46 and drove for a TD, with Wesley Carroll hitting Anthony Dixon from four yards out to make it 14–7, with 7:51 to go. Five minutes later, MSU’s Anthony Pegues scooped up a short punt and galloped 75 yards for a game-tying score. The comeback was completed with 0:12 left when Adam Carlson drilled a 48-yard field goal — the longest of his career — giving the Bulldogs a 17–14 win and their seventh win of the year, which cemented the team’s bowl résumé. A month later, the Bulldogs played in the postseason for the first time under coach Sylvester Croom.

“For what it meant to Mississippi State, it was obviously one of the more important ballgames we’ve played,” Cristal says.

Of course it was; the game was against Ole Miss. All of those games are important.

Teaser:
<p> For more than a century the "Egg Bowl" has been the most important game played in Mississippi</p>
Post date: Monday, November 21, 2011 - 10:04
All taxonomy terms: Georgia Bulldogs, Larry Munson, News
Path: /news/we-remember-legendary-georgia-broadcaster-larry-munson
Body:

Legendary Georgia play-by-play man Larry Munson was once a game-day fixture for Dawgs fans, and with the sad news of his passing, he’s left Bulldog Nation with countless memories.

Before he came to Athens, Munson called the shots for Vanderbilt football and basketball for 16 years, and he was the radio voice of the Nashville Vols of the Southern Baseball Association. He also served as play-by-play man for Wyoming Cowboys football and basketball. But his immortal calls for the Bulldogs — “Run, Lindsay!”, “We stepped on their face with a hobnail boot and broke their nose!” — are his most lasting legacy.

Munson shared his thoughts on Georgia football in the foreword he wrote in 2005 for Athlon’s book, “Game Day: Georgia Football.” As a tribute to Munson, we present it here.

FOREWORD

By Larry Munson

So, how do you introduce a book on the history of Georgia football?

Oddly enough, I’ll start in Colorado.

In the fall of 1945, I was broadcasting my first home game with the Second Air Force football team from Colorado Springs. It was a typical Service football game between two powerhouse teams that were both covered up with All-America football players who had spent their war years playing an exceptionally high brand of college football. In the very first quarter of that game, they carried a Second Air Force running back off the field on a stretcher. His name was Frank Sinkwich.

It was a bad moment for Sinkwich, because the knee injury kept him from a pro football career. But at that time, I wasn’t familiar with him and had no idea that many years later I would be working the broadcasts for Georgia, where Sinkwich had made quite a name for himself before enlisting in the Air Force.

We really shouldn’t even mention Georgia football without going back into the memory banks and finding all the names that meant so much to you and me both. From Trippi to Rauch, Butts, Tarkenton, Sapp, McClendon, Arnold, Butler, Bennett, Herschel, Zeier, Etter, Moore, Patton, Stanfill, Lawrence, Greene, Pollack, Dooley, etc. … See how easy it is to start writing about Georgia football and find yourself literally covered up with hundreds of names from the past? Some of them from the very recent past?

I grew up in a Big Ten house; everybody followed the University of Minnesota, and everybody always cursed the University of Michigan. They also threw a few words out there against Iowa, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Purdue. Never did I dream that I would wind up in the south directing my hatred against General Bob Neyland, Steve Spurrier, Pat Dye and Danny Ford — not to mention any jersey that was covered with orange. As my 40 years of working Georgia football unfolded, many of the Big Ten teams were starting to decline, while the SEC was flying high and continues to climb even higher.

I’ve had 56 years in the SEC now, and I have no way of knowing all the great teams and where they should be ranked. But I do know this: Georgia football fans are as rabid and passionate as they come. I’ve been here so long now, I can’t even remember when tailgating started! That goes back to the ’60s. I think; however, the food now is much better, and there is much more of it.

We’ve turned the century mark now, and with it all the stadiums have grown twice as big, and the press boxes are also spread out all over the place. Unfortunately, the radio booths are now seven miles from the field. At least, it seems that way.

And now, here comes my 40th year of working Georgia football; the old names and games should be distant memories, but they continue to leap to my mind. With all the major names that left us a few months ago, how are we going to remember the 2004 team, I wonder? I also can’t help but wonder if Buck and Lindsay and a fullback named Haynes are also overwhelmed by the great memories flooding their memory banks.

As we look forward to making more memories together, I have a thought: Wouldn’t it be great to play Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl? Would we all walk away satisfied then?

— Larry Munson
June 1, 2005 

Teaser:
<p> The legendary play-by-lay man passed away over the weekend.</p>
Post date: Monday, November 21, 2011 - 05:57
All taxonomy terms: Caleb Hanie, Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler, NFL, News
Path: /news/jay-cutler-breaks-his-thumb-can-caleb-hanie-produce-bears
Body:

Up until the fourth quarter of yesterday's game, the Chicago Bears were being called one of the best teams in football. Their defense was playing great. Their special teams were extra special. And their offense had developed a rhythm.

But all that is up in the air now as the Bears lost Jay Cutler for the rest of the regular season with a broken thumb, forcing them to turn to not-so-tested rookie Caleb Hanie to come in and continue the team's playoff run.

What does this mean for Bears fans?

Cutler, who always seems to be maligned, no matter what he does, had been playing very good football. He'd had time to actually drop back and go through his progressions once the Bears equally-maligned offensive line had gotten their collective act together. And Jay was making the most of it. He wasn't turning the ball over (especially in the red zone, where hed had trouble the last few years).

So what can Caleb Hanie do?

Most Bears fans remember Hanie coming in to relieve the horrific Todd Collins in last year's NFC Championship game against the Packers. And despite being the third string guy who'd had almost no reps with the first team, he actually made it a game. Well, until he tossed a pick-6 to the Packers B.J. Raji, a 300 pounder not knowing for having good hands.

But in fairness, while that's what most people will remember, Hanie actually kept the Bears in it by tossing a 35-yard touchdown to Earl Bennett. And a lot of people thought that if the Bears had put him in first and left Todd Collins on the bench, they would have possibly been able to pull it out.

Now that Hanie has a week with the first team, he should perform even better. Hanie and Cutler have a close relationship, which can also be a huge help.

To have a realistic shot at making the playoffs, the Bears are going to probably have to go 4-2 in their six remaining games.

Here's a breakdown of who they play and a prediction for each:

Nov. 27: at Oakland Raiders
This will be Hanie's first game as a starter this year. So we'll cut him some slack and assume this will be his worst game of the season. The Bears have to travel west and the Raiders have an explosive offense that's playing well right now.
Prediction: LOSS

Dec. 4: against Kansas City
The Bears need to win this game. It's at home against a team whose also lost their starting quarterback as this will be a Hanie vs Tyler Palko match-up. The Bears have better defense and special teams and should come out on top.
Prediction: WIN

December 11: at Denver Broncos
This is another game the Bears should win. Where the Jets couldn't stop Tim Tebow's fourth quarter drive, the Bears defense wouldn't let him run down the field as Urlacher and Briggs should shut Tebow down. This will most likely be a low scoring game, with the Bears turning to Robbie Gould to outkick Matt Prater.
Prediction: WIN

December 18: against Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are the B-version of the Bears. Questionable quarterback, good running back mediocre wide receivers and a good running defense. The Bears have better corners and should shut down Tarvaris Jackson enough to pull out a home victory.
Prediction: WIN

December 25: against Green Bay Packers
If the Packers are still undefeated in week 16, many pundits were pointing to this game as the one that they were most likely to lose. But that was when Cutler had two working thumbs. The way the Packers are playing right now, I don't give the Hanie-lead Bears a chance to pull this one out.
Prediction: LOSS

January 1: at Minnesota Vikings
If the Bears are still in the playoff hunt this will be one of those games where the Bears have everything to play for, while the Vikings will already have their tee times ready. The Bears could start no one at quarterback and win this game.
Prediction: WIN

So there you have it. If Caleb Hanie can manage the Bears offense, and if Matt Forte can keep moving the chains, the Bears have a strong enough defense and Devin Hester's more-than-capable special teams play to play their way into the playoffs, where anything can happen. And if he leads them to a 6-0 run, would there be a quarterback controversy? Bears fans can only hope.

As a fantasy football side note: Go pick up Hanie right now. He won't be Tom Brady, but he's a guy who will be underappreciated. He knows the offense, and he should put up more than capable points if you're struggling to find someone to slot in at QB (or if you're in a two quarterback league.) We'll have more on Caleb's fantasy predictions in our weekly waiver wire.

Teaser:
<p> Can a Caleb Hanie lead Bears team make the playoffs?</p>
Post date: Monday, November 21, 2011 - 03:53
Path: /news/aj-green-doubtful-should-be-your-bench-today
Body:

Update: A.J. Green has been ruled officially out for today's game against the Ravens. Ray Lewis has also been ruled out.

A.J. Green has been a fantasy stud all season, but he's listed as doubtful for today's game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Not only does he have a hyperextended knee, but he also has a deep bone bruise to go along with it.

Oh, and did we mention that the Bengals and Green are going up against the Baltimore Ravens monster defense?

For those reasons alone, A.J. Green should be on your bench today, as much as it probably pains you to do so. And I know your response, "Well if he does suit up, it looks like Ray Lewis won't play. So he could have success right?"

Wrong. The Ravens are a complete defense who would give Green trouble even if Ray Lewis was in a wheelchair and Green was 110%.

And with Green hurting, it looks like Andre Caldwell will get put in at flanker, with Jerome Simpson and Andre Hawkins both getting even more playing time.

But since the Ravens are currently ranked 6th in pas defense, it is going to be a long day for whoever the Bengals put in at wideout (or running back, or quarterback for that matter). If you have any Bengals, I'd keep them all on the bench today. It's not worth the headache.

Teaser:
<p> The Bengals rookie phenom has two injuries that will sideline him today</p>
Post date: Sunday, November 20, 2011 - 09:08
Path: /news/lee-corso-says-f-bomb-espns-college-gameday-then-issues-apology-video
Body:

Lee Corso, the outspoken and fun co-host of ESPN's College GameDay pre-game show accidentally (or maybe not so accidentally) dropped an F-Bomb while he was getting ready to put on the University of Houston mascot hat (one of his GameDay traditions.)

He was originally going to yell the name of the winner through one of those cheerleader cones, but when that wasn't working out as well as Corso had hoped, he clearly said "F--- It!", tossed the cone down and pulled out the Houston Cougar mascot hat. 

When the f-word came out of his mouth, each one of his ESPN co-hosts jaw's dropped. Kirk Herbstreit immediately had a look of disbelief on his face and Chris Fowler put his head on the table, and then pretended to wash the mascot's mouth out with soap and said "shame on you!" to Corso.

Meanwhile, the celebrity guest Carl Lewis (and Houston grad) just had a huge smile on his face and clapped vigorously through the whole incident. Which is really the best reaction to have in a situation like that.

This isn't the first time Corso has cursed on the air, and quite frankly, we hope it's not the last.

Moments after the show, ESPN GameDay's official site showed a 12-second video of Corso apologizing for his on-air gaffe, where he said he got a little "too excited" and used an expletive he shouldn't have.

Are we wrong for kind of liking the fact that Corso gets so riled up during these broadcasts that his emotions get the better of him. We realize that ESPN can't have their announcers dropping F-bombs all the time (that would get expensive with the FCC), but it's nice to see a little unbridled enthusiasm on the screen from time to time. Isn't that what college football is all about, anyway?

Teaser:
<p> The ESPN College GameDay host got so excited he used the f-word on live TV</p>
Post date: Saturday, November 19, 2011 - 13:46
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-great-rivalries-cal-vs-stanford
Body:

This article on the California vs. Stanford college football rivalry originally appeared in Athlon's 1993 college football annuals. As the rivalry is renewed this week, we thought it was relevant to take a look back at the history of what is commonly known as the "Big Game."

Great Rivalries — California Golden Bears vs. Stanford Cardinal

By David Bush, San Francisco Chronicle

It is simply known as the Big Game. And many times it really is.

The rivalry between the University of California and Stanford has always been one of college football’s most exciting, even when one or both suffer through a mediocre season. The best example is the unforgettable 1982 contest, won on California’s sensational five-lateral kickoff return. Kevin Moen raced through the Stanford band, which had taken the field in premature celebration, to score as time expired.

Known simply as The Play, it has superseded Roy Riegels’ wrong-way run in the 1929 Rose Bowl game as the most famous play in college football history.

The rivals were finishing so-so seasons when they met at Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium on Nov. 20. Stanford, led by senior All-America quarterback John Elway, came in with a 5-5 record and a Hall of Fame Bowl invitation resting on the outcome. California was 6-4 under first-year coach Joe Kapp, an alumnus and the only man to play in the Rose Bowl, Grey Cup game (for the Canadian Football League title) and the Super Bowl.

The amazing climax overshadows the fact that it had been a gripping game throughout.

The underdog Golden Bears dominated the first half and led 10-0 before Stanford came back to take a 14-10 lead. A field goal and a sensational touchdown catch by receiver Wes Howell put California up 19-14 midway in the fourth quarter. A field goal pulled the Cardinal within two points, and on a fantastic Elway-led drive, Stanford rallied to take the lead. Faced with a fourth-and-17 situation on his own 13-yard line with 53 seconds remaining, Elway completed a 29-yard pass to Emile Harry. Three plays later, after the Cardinal advanced to the 18, Mark Harmon kicked a 35-yard field goal. Stanford led 20-19. Four seconds remained.

From the Stanford sideline, several players raced onto the field to celebrate their apparent victory. The Cardinal was penalized 15 yards and now had to kick off from the 25-yard line. About the same time, Richard Rodgers, California’s special teams captain, huddled with the kickoff lineup and told the men: “If you get the ball and you’re gonna be tackled, pitch it. Don’t fall with the ball.”

“I was thinking, ‘This guy’s crazy,’” recalls Dwight Garner, a freshman running back that year. He soon learned otherwise.

Seniors Moen and Mariet Ford, the other two players who would handle the ball on the kickoff, did not hear Rodgers. Moen was already on the field, and Ford was looking on the sideline for his shoes, which he had taken off because of cramps in his legs.

It was Moen who scooped up Harmon’s squib kick at the Golden Bears’ 43 and advanced 5 yards before being confronted by several Stanford players. “I saw Richard open on the sideline and yelled, ‘Here you go,’” remembers Moen, who tossed the ball overhanded to Rodgers. Rodgers ran a few yards, lateraled to Garner, then got behind him. As Garner was going down, wrapped up by a bevy of tacklers, he pitched back to Rodgers. Many, including the Stanford band, thought that Garner’s knees touched the turf, and the game was over. Some Stanford partisans still believe it.

At this point, California had managed to keep the ball alive but had not made much progress toward the goal line. As the band was streaming onto the field from Stanford’s end zone, Rodgers broke into the open and crossed the 50-yard line before shoveling the ball back to Ford at the Stanford 47.

“Once I got it, I just took off,” says Ford. “I saw the band in front of me, and I’m confused. I’m thinking about not getting put down by band members.”

With his leg cramping and Stanford defenders looming from the left, Ford knew he couldn’t reach the goal line. In desperation at the 25, he tossed the ball blindly over his right shoulder.

Ford: “I knew I was in front of Kevin but I never saw him.”

Moen: “I grabbed the ball but didn’t really see the goal line. All I saw was the band. As far as I was concerned, they were all Stanford players, and I just busted through them.”

Referee Charles Moffett conferred with the other officials for 43 seconds. None, he said, “thought anybody was down at any time. We could have called a penalty on the Stanford band. But we called one on the Stanford bench.”

Finally, Moffett gave the raised-arms touchdown signal. Thousands outside the stadium had left immediately after Harmon’s field goal and were on their way to their cars. They heard a mighty roar from inside. All they had missed was The Play of the Century.

“It was the right combination of guys and being lucky,” Moen says. “If you were going to try and script that kind of play, it never would have worked. To complete one lateral is hard enough. But four different guys and five different laterals along with everything else that was involved, well, that was unique.”

“Just a typical Cal-Stanford game,” Kapp deadpanned after his team’s 25-20 victory.

As incredible as that ending was, it wasn’t the only sensational windup of recent Big Game vintage. Since 1970, five of the 12 games at Berkeley have been decided on the last play and three others in the last two minutes. Another was in doubt until the final gun.

Stanford is a private school located outside the affluent suburban town of Palo Alto on the San Francisco peninsula. California is a public institution carved out of the cosmopolitan city of Berkeley on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay.

What the schools have in common besides geographical proximity are high academic standards, a good-natured dislike for each other in athletics and a particularly intense rivalry in football.

The first of the 95 football games between the northern California schools was played in March 19, 1892 — in San Francisco. According to the off-told story, the game was delayed because the Stanford student manager, a chap named Herbert Hoover, forgot the ball. Actually, according to John T. Sullivan’s 1981 book, The Big Game, Hoover, who in 1929 would become the 31st president of the United States, was only partially to blame. He was just one of several responsible parties who forgot about bringing the ball. The game was finally played, Stanford won 14-10 and the series was launched.

The era between World Wars was the football zenith for both schools. Nicknames fit their success. California had its Wonder Teams (1920-24) and Thunder Team (1937). Stanford had the Vow Boys (1933-35) and the Wow Boys (1940).

Perhaps the greatest Big Game in those years was played in 1924 between Andy Smith’s Wonder Team and Glenn S. “Pop” Warner’s undefeated Stanford squad. Both coaches are in the Hall of Fame. Stanford took a 6-0 lead at halftime, but the Golden Bears came back to go ahead 20-6 in the final quarter. Stanford, however, rallied and scored two touchdowns, the second with less than a minute left, and a dramatic 20-20 tie was in the books. Stanford then went to the Rose Bowl, losing 27-10 to Notre Dame and the Four Horsemen.

The series was discontinued from 1943-45 during World War II because Stanford did not field teams. When the rivalry resumed, it did not take legendary coach Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf long to build another dynasty at California. Between 1947-50 the Bears were 38-4-1, and played in three Rose Bowl games (losing all) and a memorable Big Game.

Down 18-14 with three minutes left in 1947 at Palo Alto, heavily favored California scored on a stunning 80-yard pass from fullback Jackie Jensen (who went on to hit 199 home runs as an outfielder for the New York Yankees, Washington and the Boston Red Sox) to Paul Keckley. In a series of events a screenwriter would reject as improbable, Keckley, who had injured a shoulder two weeks earlier, pleaded with Waldorf to go into the game. At first reluctant, Waldorf relented and sent in Keckley. Two plays later, he gathered in the toss from Jensen on the Cal 35, got the block he needed at the Stanford 40 and sailed across the goal line. Final score: California 21, Stanford 18.

In 1948 at Berkeley, California tackle Jim “Truck” Cullom kicked an extra point and blocked Stanford’s conversion attempt. The Bears won 7-6.

Fortunes at both schools were on the decline in the 1950s. In 1956 Waldorf ended his coaching career with a victory as sophomore quarterback Kapp led California to a 20-18 upset over Stanford and John Brodie, it’s All-America quarterback.

Kapp would lead the Bears into their last Rose Bowl appearance after the 1958 season, but he had to beat Stanford 16-15 in a controversial Big Game to do it. California took full advantage of the new two-point conversion option. The Bears’ two touchdowns followed by two-point conversions beat two touchdowns and a field goal. Arguments still rage over whether Stanford receiver Irv Nikolai really caught the first conversion out of bounds, as an official ruled.

A year later, the schools staged another hair-raiser. Stanford quarterback Dick Norman completed 34 of 39 passes for 401 yards, rallying his team from a 14-0 deficit to a 17-14 lead. California scored a go-ahead touchdown (20-17) with four minutes remaining and then had to hold off Norman’s last furious rally. Unable to find an open receiver on the game’s final play, Norman was tackled on the Cal 5-yard line, trying in vain to get out of bounds. A field-goal tee to be used for the tying attempt was tucked into the belt of his pants.

The following decade produced few notable games in the 101-year-old series, but the fun resumed in earnest in 1969. An underdog California team fell behind 17-0 midway in the first period. “At that point, I was wondering if I could make it to Rickey’s bar (in Palo Alto) have a drink and get back before the final gun,” says Bob Steiner, California’s Sports Information Director at the time.

The Bears rallied behind Dave Penhall, who had begun the season as third-string quarterback, to go in front 28-23 in the last period. But Stanford moved on the ground for the touchdown that won the game, 29-28.

The next year, the Bears, with Penhall again leading the offense, upset Rose Bowl-bound Stanford with Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett 22-14.

California freshman quarterback Vince Ferragamo drilled a 7-yard touchdown pass to Steve Sweeney on the final play of the 1972 game to defeat the Stanford Cardinal (the nickname Indians was dropped that year) 24-21. Ferragamo completed only eight passes, but four were in the drive that covered 62 yards in 73 seconds. Sweeney lined up at tight end just once: on the last play. It was the only pass he caught as a tight end that year.

All-American Steve Bartkowski passed California to a 10-3 lead after three quarters of the 1974 renewal. Stanford, behind reserve quarterback Guy Benjamin, led 19-13 before Bartkowski brought the Bears back. After Steve Rivera’s one-handed catch on fourth and 10 resulted in a 23-yard gain, the Bears had a first down at the Cardinal 13 in the closing moments. With 23 seconds to play, Bartkowski connected with Rivera for a touchdown that, with Jim Breech’s extra point, put California up by one. But it wasn’t over.

Starting from his own 19, Benjamin completed two long aerials. On the second pass, Brad Williams dragged two defenders out of bounds at the California 33 with two seconds left. The image of Mike Langford’s 50-yard field goal sailing between the uprights on the last play is still remembered by legions of California and Stanford followers.

Two years afterwards, Stanford won the first of three straight games, scoring with 1:13 left to win 27-24 after recovering a fumble on the Bears’ 2-yard line. California won both in 1979 and 1980, but both times Stanford had to be stopped inside the 10-yard line in the final minutes.

In 1982 The Play ended a great game but not the great finishes. The Bears rallied from a 24-0 third-quarter deficit to nearly pull off an upset in 1985 at Stanford. A late-game-field-goal attempt fell short, preserving Stanford’s 24-22 triumph.

The Bears sent Kapp out a winner 17-11 in 1986. A tie, 11th in the series, resulted in 1988 when Stanford’s Tuan Van Le blocked a 20-yard field-goal try as time expired.

And the thrills continued into the 1990s. Three seasons ago, Stanford scored nine points in the final 12 seconds to win 27-25 on John Hopkins’ 39-yard field goal at the final gun.

Each year when the Big Game is played in late November, alumni share memories. The Play is, of course, the hands-down favorite of Golden Bear fans. And of the California players who brought it off.

“Once your football career is over, it’s over,” says Mariet Ford. “But not for me.”

Teaser:
<p> The history of the "Big Game" goes well beyond 1982's "The Play"</p>
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 17:14
Path: /nfl/chicago-bears-new-york-jets-oakland-raider-and-dallas-cowboys-are-overrated
Body:

There are contenders and there are pretenders, and sometimes this late in the season it’s impossible to separate the two. One moment a team like the Buffalo Bills can look like the best team in the AFC East. The next their fast start can fall like a house of cards.

Fortunes can change in reverse that quickly, too. Just ask the Green Bay Packers, who at this point last season were in a dogfight for the sixth and final NFC playoff seed which they didn’t lock up until the final week of the season. Then they went on a run for the ages to the Super Bowl championship, and judging by their 9-0 start this year they’ve never looked back.

So we may not know who the frauds and the hidden gems really are until the final chapter of this season has finally been completed. But if you’re looking for teams not to believe in, here are five that seem clearly overrated even though they’re teetering on the brink of contention.

In other words, these are four bandwagons you can avoid riding down the stretch …

Dallas Cowboys (5-4)
They may win the NFC East before this is over, but don’t get excited. If they win it, it’ll only because of a Giants collapse and the complete and utter failure that is the Philadelphia Eagles. This division, which once was an NFL powerhouse, is beginning to look mediocre at best.

This is what you need to know about the Cowboys, though: Tony Romo is good, but prone to bad mistakes and he usually makes them at terrible times. He’s always been on the verge of becoming a top quarterback, but then he finds a way to shoot himself in the foot.

So do you trust him? I don’t. Not this year. Not now. And I’m not impressed by the fact that they’ve won three of their last four games to salvage a 2-3 start either. They beat the Rams, Seahawks and fading Bills – all at home. The one loss was a 34-7 smackdown in Philadelphia against an Eagles team that’s been the biggest disappointment in the league.

Chicago Bears (6-3)
Four straight wins by Da Bears has everyone remembering that they were in the NFC championship game last season and even nearly won it. And that’s true.

The problem is they were a different team last year with a better defense. This year’s Bears defense ranks 25th in the league – 29th against the pass. They’ve won with thanks to turnovers (they are plus-9), great special teams play, and the MVP-like performance of Matt Forte.

Jay Cutler, meanwhile, is running a shockingly low-powered offense. He has 11 touchdown passes through nine games and his leading receiver is Forte, his running back. That’s usually a bad sign. If the defense isn’t strong and the quarterback isn’t strong, how can this team be trusted in a big spot down the stretch?

New York Jets (5-5)
All you needed to see from the Jets was their horrendous loss to Denver on Thursday night, where the two teams turned the NFL’s offensive clock back to the ‘50s and ‘60s. The Broncos ran the wishbone, for crying out loud, and they still had a more explosive offense than the Jets.

The Jets made the AFC championship game the last two seasons thanks mostly to their defense, which is a shell of its former self. Worse, quarterback Mark Sanchez looks like he’s taken a big step back in Year 3. He’s inaccurate, he’s making bad decisions, and it sure looks like his diva receivers (Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress) are getting frustrated.

Add in Rex Ryan’s mouth and the New York media and this could be a disaster in the making.

Oakland Raiders (5-4)
They looked for a while like one of the best stories in the NFL, the revival of a proud franchise that had been a joke for years. But there are few teams that could survive the loss of their starting quarterback (Jason Campbell) and starting running back (Darren McFadden) and continue to thrive.

Surviving the loss of McFadden will be easier, because of Michael Bush (not to mention the fact that McFadden will be back). The loss of Campbell, though, is huge. Yes, they made a bold move for Carson Palmer, but some thought he was on the decline when he last played for Cincinnati. Now, miracles are expected of him despite sitting out half a season and having to pick up a new offense on the fly?

This is a good team that will be a popular pick of many to do some playoff damage in 2012. But Palmer has thrown 7 interceptions in his first 76 attempted passes. That’s not good, and it’s only going to get worse.

By RALPH VACCHIANO
 

Teaser:
<p> Some of these NFL Super Bowl contenders are pretenders</p>
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 13:12
Path: /mlb/athlon-sports-2011-al-mvp
Body:

With the World Series in the rear-view mirror and the hot stove just beginning to heat up, it's time to hand out some awards to this year's best performers on the diamond. The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) has already named its AL and NL Rookies of the Year, AL and NL Managers of the Year, and AL and NL Cy Young award winners. And while no Athlon editors are members of the BBWAA, here's how four of us — Charlie Miller, Braden Gall, Patrick Snow and Mark Ross — would have voted if we did have a ballot to cast.

AL MVP

There's no lack of quality candidates for AL MVP, so this could come down to the closest vote of all the major awards, if anything due to the number of names that will receive consideration. In addition, four different teams have multiple MVP candidates, so in some cases voters will be pitting teammate against teammate when it comes to filling out their ballot.

The Boston Red Sox have center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the Detroit Tigers have first baseman Miguel Cabrera and AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, the New York Yankees have second baseman Robinson Cano and center fielder Curtis Granderson, and the Texas Rangers have third baseman Adrian Beltre, second baseman Ian Kinsler and designated hitter/infielder Michael Young. And that's not to forget Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball this season.

Contenders' Stats:

Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: .302, 105 R, 155 H, 24 2B, 43 HR, 132 RBI, .447 OBP, .608 SLG, 1.056 OPS

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers: .296, 82 R, 144 H, 33 2B, 32 HR, 105 RBI, .331 OBP, .561 SLG, .892 OPS

Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers: .344, 111 R, 197 H, 48 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, .448 OBP, .586 SLG, 1.033 OPS

Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees: .302, 104 R, 188 H, 46 2B, 28 HR, 118 RBI, .349 OBP, .533 SLG, .882 OPS

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox: .321, 119 R, 212 H, 46 2B, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 39 SB, .376 OBP, .552 SLG, .928 OPS

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Boston Red Sox: .338, 108 R, 213 H, 45 2B, 27 HR, 117 RBI, .410 OBP, .548 SLG, .957 OPS

Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees: .262, 136 R, 153 H, 26 2B, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 25 SB, .364 OBP, .552 SLG, .916 OPS

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers: .255, 121 R, 158 H, 34 2B, 32 HR, 77 RBI, 30 SB, .335 OBP, .477 SLG, .832 OPS

Justin Verlander, P, Detroit Tigers: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 251 IP, 57 BB, 250 K, 0.92 WHIP, 34 GS

Michael Young, DH/IF, Texas Rangers: .338, 88 R, 213 H, 41 2B, 11 HR, 106 RBI, .380 OBP, .474 SLG, .854 OPS

Athlon's Winner: Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees

Granderson got two of the four first-place votes and beat out Ellsbury by one lone point, perhaps a indication of how the BBWAA's vote will pan out? Ellsbury got one first-place and two second-place votes to finish second. Tiger teammates Cabrera and Verlander tied for third with Verlander getting the remaning first-place vote, but also finishing seventh on one ballot. It's that sort of discrepancy which could play a significant role in the BBWAA vote in determining this year's AL MVP. Bautista rounded out the top five.

Here's how the Athlon editors voted

Charlie Miller's ballot:

1. Curtis Granderson
Granderson is the Yankees’ catalyst and led the AL in both runs and RBIs while adding strong defense in centerfield. Granderson, a career .215 hitter vs. lefties with a .346 slugging percentage, batted .273, slugged .604 and swatted 16 of his 41 homers off lefties.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury
Over the last month of the season as the Red Sox watched their lead evaporate, Ellsbury was solid, hitting .362 with a .693 slugging percentage since Aug. 26. Coming into 2011 the fleet centerfielder had just 20 career homers. He hit 32 this season.
3. Justin Verlander
For about four months the Tigers were rather ordinary when Verlander wasn’t on the mound. That changed over the last two months of the season as the Tigers played well enough when he wasn’t pitching to win the AL Central.
4. Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera was a hitting machine for the Tigers. He scored 111 runs, drove in 105 and won his first batting title.
5. Jose Bautista
Bautista was the most feared hitter in the Toronto lineup. So much so, that in 181 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Bautista walked 64 times, 22 of those intentional.
6. Adrian Gonzalez
7. Robinson Cano
8. Michael Young
9. Alex Avila
10. Adrian Beltre

Braden Gall's ballot:

1. Justin Verlander
Without a clear hitter standing above the rest, the best pitching season in 20 years for the AL Central Champs absolutely makes Verlander the most indispensable piece of any team.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury
Had Boston made the playoffs this stat line, combined with his defensive value at one of the three key positions on the field, would have been good enough to win the MVP: Fifth in AL in hitting (.321), fourth in stolen bases (39), fifth in home runs (32), sixth in RBI (105), third in doubles (46) and third in runs scored (119). All from the lead-off spot.
3. Curtis Granderson
A 40-20 season while leading the league in runs scored and RBIs from the two-hole of the AL East champs while playing one of the premiere defensive positions? That is tough to beat, however, the Grandy-Man will lose votes because of the stout protection around him in the order.
4. Miguel Cabrera
Led the AL in batting and was key cog in heart of AL Central Champs line-up. But trails Ellsbury and Granderson in nearly every category — including the oft-overlooked defensive side of the ball. His ratios, particularly on-base percentage, makes him an easy top-five choice, but his overall game isn’t as dynamic as the two ahead of him on my ballot.
5. Jose Bautista
The power numbers are off the charts — at least for the modern era of baseball — but he did it on a team that finished 16 games out of first place and at .500 for the season. Without the home run champ, the Blue Jays are 20 games out of first? 22? Ricky Romero was the most valuable Blue Jay in 2011.
6. Michael Young
7. Adrian Gonzalez
8. Robinson Cano
9. Adrian Beltre
10. Asdrubal Cabrera

Patrick Snow's ballot:

1. Curtis Granderson
One of my favorite statistics when comparing hitters in runs scored plus RBIs. Guess who led the league in both, compiling 136 runs and 119 RBIs? Granderson was a Yankees’ catalyst, leading the AL East champs in runs, RBIs, home runs (41) and triples (10). He also added 25 steals and played a solid center field. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera had another great season, but Granderson’s was better.
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Jacoby Ellsbury
4. Jose Bautista
5. Adrian Gonzalez
6. Robinson Cano
7. Justin Verlander
8. Ian Kinsler
9. Michael Young
10. Victor Martinez

Mark Ross' ballot:

1. Jacoby Ellsbury
Boston’s center fielder bounced back from an injury-plagued 2010 to post a 30-30 campaign and finished in the top six in the AL in average, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, on-base and slugging percentage, as the Red Sox lead-off hitter. He also didn’t make an error in 154 games in center.
2. Curtis Granderson
The Yankees’ center fielder led the AL in runs (136) and RBI (119) and finished second in home runs (41) and triples (10), while also stealing 25 bases.
3. Justin Verlander
Named the AL Cy Young winner by an unanimous vote, Verlander went 20-2 in his last 24 starts with one of the two losses being a 1-0 decision. During that same span, Detroit went from a game above .500 and seven games behind first place, to finishing the season at 95-67 and winning the AL Central by 15 games.
4. Miguel Cabrera
The linchpin of the Tigers’ offense, Cabrera finished with the highest batting average (.344) and on-base percentage (.448) in all of baseball and also led the majors in doubles (48). With runners in scoring position, Cabrera hit .388 for the year with 10 home runs and 75 RBIs.
5. Jose Bautista
The clear-cut MVP of the first half (.334, 73 R, 31 HR, 65 RBI), the Blue Jays' slugger still posted impressive numbers (.302, 105 R, 43 HR, 103 RBI) for the season, and led all of baseball in slugging percentage (.608) and OPS (1.056) despite being pitched around so much (ML-best 132 BB, including 24 intentional passes).
6. Adrian Gonzalez
7. Michael Young
8. Robinson Cano
9. Adrian Beltre
10. James Shields

Other Baseball awards-related content:

American League Rookie of the Year

National League Rookie of the Year

AL & NL Managers of the Year

American League Cy Young

National League Cy Young

National League MVP

Teaser:
<p> Athlon editors comb through the crowded field of contenders and cast their vote for this year's AL MVP</p>
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 12:24
Path: /news/tim-tebow-keeps-winning-heres-attempt-explain-how-and-why
Body:

Tim Tebow is a football player. That's the only explanation I can give after last night's unexplainable win against the New York Jets.

I'm not sure if I would call him a "quarterback." Sure, he starts each play under center and calls out the formation and takes the hike. And that's about as far as the quarterback moniker gets you, because once the ball is hiked, Tebow morphs into a fullback who sometimes mistakenly heaves the ball into the air in the direction of other players (I refuse to call what Tebow does a "pass").

But it works, because the Broncos quarterback is 4-1 in his starts this year, despite an extremely poor arm that can neither fire a pass into a small window, or even find it's target when a player is wide open.

And when you listen to sports pundits try to analyze and give reasons for how and why Tebow keeps winning, they're at a loss for words. The term "winner" is usually the fallback explanation. "He just knows how to win." Or, "He was a winner in college and...uhh, he's a leader...and he wins!"

But I don't think that's it. The explanation is much more simple than that. The football community is a copycat community. Whenever someone comes into the league and throws a wrinkle in the conventional thinking (Mike Martz in the early 2000s, Parcells' use of the wildcat a few years ago etc) there are always varying degrees of success. Sometimes it can take a team to a Super Bowl or two (like Martz) and others it's good for a few flukey wins (like the wildcat.)

And you can see how this is playing out with John Fox and Tim Tebow right now because the pundits (most of whom are ex-football players and coaches) are a good barometer for the current roster of players and coaches. If the pundits don't know how to explain this Tebow thing, then the current coaches probably can't either. And if they can't explain it, then they can't properly defend it.

Because almost every other team out there has a quarterback who is capable of throwing a pass (although last night Mark Sanchez made a strong case against that.) Team defenses know how to defend a quarterback who plays like a quarterback. But since they've never seen or played against a quarterback who runs (and throws) like a fullback, they're unsure how to create a package to properly defend him.

On last night's game-winning 20-yard touchdown run against the Jets, Eric Smith took the worst angle he could have and Tebow was free to take off. Because his instinct was he wanted to make Tebow throw the ball quickly.

But Tebow's not your typical quarterback who will heave the ball up under pressure. Tebow doesn't want to throw the ball. Tebow isn't good at throwing the ball (which is like saying a running back isn't fast, or a coernerback isn't good at covering guys). If Eric Smith makes that play against "Tim Tebow" and not a classic "quarterback" the Jets probably win the game.

But since no one's really ever seen a quarterback like this before, players revert to what they're used to. And that's why Tebow is winning. For now.

The Broncos should have lost that game last night. But everything fell perfectly for them to win it. From Sanchez's pick 6, to the Jets inability to run the ball and control any clock, to their poor defensive performance with 5 minutes to go in the game.

Is Tebow a long-term answer for the Broncos? No. Tebow will get figured out, just like all the flukey plays and players before him. But, man, he sure makes for amazing television, doesn't he? 

Teaser:
<p> The Broncos quarterback can turn losses into wins</p>
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 10:00
Path: /news/michael-vick-no-go-against-giants-should-he-play-again-year
Body:

Michael Vick's broken ribs have ruled him out of Sunday's game against the Giants. Vick will be replaced at quarterback with Vince Young.

And if the Eagles lose this Sunday, should the oft-injured and fragile Vick play another down this year? Philadelphia's record currently stands at a meager 3-6. Their playoff hopes are already extremely dim. But another loss seals their fate and all but mathmatically eliminates them from any hope of making the postseason.

So why play Vick another down? He'll be a game-time decision for next week's game against the Patriots. And even if he plays, he'll be even more fragile than he is now because his ribs still won't be 100% by then.

With Vince Young serving as a well-paid back-up, it makes sense that the Eagles should keep their most valuable commodity on the shelf, away from the possibility of concussions, broken bones and sprained MCLs, and let VY take the reigns--and the beatings--of the Eagles' quarterback position.

What good does it do to put Vick back out on the field? If you concede that Vick is the most important player on Philly's team, (and only LeSean McCoy could be in that conversation) the upside just isn't there. 

The best that could happen, is Vick comes back and leads the Eagles to a string of late-season wins and Philadelphia finishes somewhere around the .500 mark.

But they still miss the playoffs. That might mean something to the Cleveland Browns. But the Eagles set the bar a bit higher and the only thing you win with that plan is an even worse pick int he NFL draft.

The downside is that Vick, given the way he throws his body around, refuses to go down, and takes a beating on seemingly every play, gets seriously injured. A torn MCL takes a long time to heal, and an injury like that would affect his game even more than the classic pocket passers. 

It goes against the mentality of football players, but football player's don't always use logic and reasoning. 

If you're an Eagles fan who's more interested in the big picture then you realize that this is a lost season. The Dream Team didn't work. It happens. Chalk it up to a learning experience and call it a day. But putting Vick back on the field for meaningless games can only make this bad season worse.

What's more important to Eagles fans? Winning nothing now, or still having a chance to win it all next year?

Teaser:
<p> The Eagles quarterback misses the game everyone expected him to miss</p>
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 04:40
All taxonomy terms: classic movie posters, Funny, sports, Overtime
Path: /overtime/sports-celebrities-movie-classic-80s-movie-posters
Body:

Earlier this week, New England Patriots wide receiver and world-renowned Twitter addict Chad Ochocinco posted a new avatar featuring himself, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick photoshopped onto the movie poster for Lethal Weapon 3. As you can see, the results were spectacular. Ochocinco has already dropped the avatar, but in honor of his work, we decided to update some other classic movie posters with the biggest stars in sports. 

By Saul Hutson

Teaser:
<p> Ever wonder what it would look like if sports stars starred in classic 80s movies? Wonder no more</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 16:35
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-great-rivalries-texas-vs-texas-am
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This profile of the Texas and Texas A&M college football rivalry originally appeared in Athlon's 1986 college football annuals. With Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 for the SEC next season, this year's Thanksgiving Day showdown could be the last game between the in-state rivals in their series that dates back to 1894.

The Great Rivalries — Texas vs. Texas A&M

By Galyn Wilkins

It has lasted longer than the Wars of the Roses, longer than the Hatfields and McCoys, and sometimes it seems as fiercely fought as the Normans vs. the Saxons.

We’re talking Rivalry here, with a capital R. Rivalry as in the Unversity of Texas vs. Texas A&M. Ninety-one years of air raids — real air raids — cattle rustling, pregame conflagrations that make the Chicago Fire look like a patio barbecue, close games, blowout games, games resembling a concerto with four perfect movements and games with no rhyme or reason.

Just to say they take it seriously is an understatement. They take it personally. They take it as one of life’s larger responsibilities. Just last year, for example, A&M Coach Jackie Sherrill was watching from his office window as students piled up logs for the annual pre-Texas game bonfire.

“Doesn’t look like a Boy Scout campfire,” thought Sherrill as the logs were hoisted by crane and guided by nervous but steady hands into place 100 feet above the ground.

Responding to an inner trumpet call to action, Sherrill bolted out of his office, climbed the stack of logs and joined the bonfire engineers. The idea, see, is that anyone in Aggieland or Longhornland is willing to risk his neck the week of the game.

In recent years, frankly, some of the creativity has been extinguished in this great bonfire of a football series. Some of it has been legislated out, of course, because the kids were getting a little too creative.

In the 1950s, for example, the Aggies were working on plans for stealing the Texas mascot, a 1,500-pound steer named Bevo. One of them probably said, “We’ve done that before. Let’s try something different.”

So, in the space of eight hours one night, they traveled the state in commando groups and stole every mascot in the Southwest Conference, including the Arkansas razorback and the Texas longhorn.

The last theft occurred in 1972, when Texas’ Bevo made yet another trip to College Station in a U-Haul trailer. After that, conference rules were passed prohibiting such pranks. Bevo the steer and Reveille the collie have slept peacefully ever since.

The series has been anything but peaceful, though. It continues to burn as bright as the Aggie bonfire. Their match three years ago was one of the biggest double-barreled surprises in the history of Kyle Field in College Station, one of those games so shattered by unreal events that it can’t be put back together in a logical explanation.

Texas was unbeaten and rolling toward an almost certain national championship. The Aggies were 5-4-1 and hoping to fire one last shocking shot at the end of the season.

They almost did, taking a 13-0 lead in the second period. That was hard enough to believe. Much harder to comprehend was the Longhorns’ comeback. Riding the arm of quarterback Rick McIvor, they scored 45 points in a 15-minute blitzkrieg and won 45-13. The Aggies, however, not only had the last laugh that season, as Texas lost its national championship bid on a upset by Georgia in the Cotton Bowl, but have won the last two games in convincing fashion 37-12 and 42-10.

It’s about time, the Aggies say. For reasons not revealed by musty archives, they got off to a terrible start, losing the first seven matches with Texas, starting in 1894, all shutouts.

And then Charley Moran arrived in College Station. We can picture him riding onto the Aggie campus astride a white horse, six-shooters strapped to his waist, “Beat Texas” buttons pinned to his tunic.

This was 1909 and Moran was the Aggies’ 10th football coach. Thus, their impatience with coaches was established early. Moran’s first words were, “I didn’t come here to lose.”

He didn’t. He is the only Aggie coach whose teams defeated Texas twice in one year. By the middle of 1910, his second season, the Aggies had a 10-game winning streak. Moran had lit the fire.

Texas authorities suspected a rat in the woodpile and, sure enough, one of Moran’s stars admitted later that “from time to time we used boys of questionable academic pedigree.”

Texas broke off relations, diplomatic and otherwise, with the Aggies after the 1911 game. A verse chanted in the saloons of Austin shows what Texas students and fans thought of Moran:

To hell, to hell with Charley Moran
And all his dirty crew,
And if you don’t like the words of this song,
To hell, to hell with you

When the schools decided to resume combat in 1915, Moran was fired, probably in a concession to the powerful politicos at Texas — but the Longhorns had not heard the last of Charley Moran.

From exile in Kentucky, Moran wrote each Aggie player, urging him to “beat those people from Austin, if you still love me and think anything of me.”

There must have been something of a mystic hangover from the Moran years, because in the first game after his departure, the Longhorns fumbled 12 times and A&M won 13-0.

A&M students carried their heroes off the field, then helped Longhorn rooters carry their warriors to the dressing room. It was a peace that couldn’t last, and didn’t.

The next year, Texas avenged that 13-0 loss 21-7 and celebrated by acquiring a mascot, a cantankerous Longhorn steer. In 1917, Texas students planned to parade the steer at the Aggie game in College Station with 21-7 branded into his flank.

In the dead of night before the game, a Model T-Ford chugged off toward Austin, loaded with Aggies and branding irons. The next morning, the student wranglers at Texas were appalled to discover that their prize mascot had been branded with the 13-0 score of the 1915 game.

Oddly enough, a billboard proclaiming the quenching delights of Bevo Beer solved the problem. An enterprising student took a branding iron and changed the 13-0 to B E V O. Bevo Beer didn’t survive, but Texas mascots have been called Bevo ever since.

If the Aggies’ favorite target has been Bevo, the Longhorns have long been dedicated to watering down the A&M bonfire. In 1915, due to incendiary causes still unknown, the bonfire exploded. A witness, C.E. Griesser, who still lives near the campus, recalled that incident recently. “It scattered Aggies and wood from hell to breakfast and left a hole 10 feet deep,” he said.

In 1948, a Texas student was buzzing the bonfire in an airplane when he ran out of gas. After a forced landing, Aggie students removed the wings and threw them into the bonfire. Following a lengthy discussion, they set the nervous pilot free.

By 1920 the game had become an annual crusade for players, students and fans of both schools. A paragraph in the 1920 Texas student newspaper says it all: “The A&M game is at hand and classes and quizzes are mere details.”

A&M had hired Dana X. Bible, who later would “jump ship” and, after eight years at Nebraska, become a legend at Texas, where he coached 10 years.

The Aggies knew Bible had built something in 1920 when his team wiped out Daniel Baker 110-0 in the season opener. By the time the Aggies arrived in Ausitn for the last game of the year, they hadn’t yielded a single point.

Though 1920 is beyond the memory and hindsight of most fans, and beyond videotape of course, it must have been one of the greatest games in the history of the series. Maybe it was even, as the Austin American-Statesmen declared, “the greatest athletic contest ever played in Texas.”

You can imagine the players bashing noses, denting leather helmets, wiping the blood off their knuckles on moleskin pants.

What the Aggies couldn’t imagine was Texas scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter for a 7-3 victory, winding up a perfect 9-0 season. In a sneak preview of things to come much later, the Longhorns, exasperated after hammering at the Aggie defense all afternoon, pulled a trick pass play. They made tackle Tom Dennis eligible with a quick shift, and he caught a long pass at the A&M 3. Texas scored on the next play, bringing the first of 22 Southwest Conference titles to Austin.

Two years later, Bible used a shift of his own — to the history books. At halftime in Austin, where the Aggies had never won, Bible reminded his squad of the Alamo legend where Colonel William B. Travis supposedly drew a line in the dirt floor and invited all who wanted to stay and fight the huge Mexican force to step across the line and join him.

“Now men,” Bible said, screeching a chalk line across the locker room floor, “those who want to become known as the first A&M team to defeat Texas in Austin, step over the line.”

Bible was almost trampled in the rush, and the Aggies broke the 7-7 halftime tie and won 14-7.

Among the heroes illuminated by the rivalry, none symbolized its spirit more than Ed Bluestein, captain of the 1923 Longhorns.

After A&M’s 14-7 upset in 1922, Bluestein, a senior, got up in the depressed Texas locker room and said, “I want another crack at the Aggies and I’m going to do something about it.”

The next day he asked his calculus professor to flunk him so he could come back for another crack. The crack was hardly what he had in mind, however. He broke his leg on the Monday before the annual Thanksgiving Day bash.

Nevertheless, the Longhorns scored on a fumble recovery in the first quarter and held on for a 6-0 victory. Bluestein lived happily ever after, first as a Texas assistant coach and then as a highway patrolman stationed near the A&M campus.

Eventually, after Bear Bryant left A&M and Darrell Royal arrived at Texas with the makings of a dynasty, the Longhorns began to take charge of the series. They reeled off 10 straight wins, until in 1967 Edd Hargett threw an 80-yard missile to Bob Long that propelled the Aggies to a 10-7 victory and the conference title.

“There were several years when we didn’t have the manpower to keep up with Texas,” remembers Gene Stallings, then the Aggies’ coach. “That’s why we came up with those plays we called Texas Specials.”

Stallings pulled the chair from under the Longhorns in 1965 and 1966. In the first game, he had quarterback Harry Ledbetter throw what looked like a misdirected pass toward Jim Kauffman in the flat.

“We rehearsed every bit of it,” Stallings says. “Ledbetter had to throw the ball into the ground and turn around disgusted. Kauffman had to angrily kick the ground and start back toward the huddle.”

Suddenly, Kauffman picked up the ball and threw it downfield to Dude McLean. Bang! A 91-yard exploding cigar. See, it wasn’t an incomplete pass Ledbetter threw to Kauffman, but a lateral. Live ball. Ha-ha.

The trick not only astounded the Kyle Field crowd, but sent the giggling Aggies into a 17-0 lead. But, as Stallings would discover in the second half and in the rematch in Austin the next year, tricks are only fleeting, rickety glimpses of success. Texas came back from that 17-0 surprise to win 21-17.

Stallings pulled the Texas Special II the next year. Long, the kickoff receiver, faked a handoff to Lloyd Curington, ran toward the sideline, stopped at his 15 and threw a long lateral back to Curington, who ran 74 yards before he was apprehended for the fraud. The Aggies scored and crept to within 7-6, but Texas went on to a 22-14 victory.

“Those plays were fun,” Kauffman said not long ago, “and we realized they weren’t good, sound football. But when you’re out-manned, as we were, you have to get any edge you can.”

Field Scovell, now a Cotton Bowl impresario, was involved in a classic backfire as an Aggie guard in 1928. The Aggies had a play where the ball was hidden behind the flexed knee of a guard, there to be picked up by a furtive runner.

A Texas player, however, spotted it, grabbed it and headed toward the goal line. Scovell, the guard on the opposite side, chased the thief and caught him a few yards short of a touchdown.

“A lot of good that did,” Scovell says now. “We lost anyway 19-0.”

Hargett’s classy game in A&M’s 1967 triumph erased the nightmares of the backfires and the long Texas winning streaks.

But he soon discovered that in this rivalry a man can be standing with his cleats on the other team’s neck on year and have them shoved down his throat the next year.

When Hargett met the Longhorns at the end of the 1968 season, he had thrown 176 passes without an interception. They intercepted him five times en route to a 35-14 victory.

In 1975, the Longhorns took the nation’s top offense into Kyle Field – and lost 20-10. The Texas quarterback, Marty Akins, was on the sidelines most of the afternoon, sitting out an injury. It was a lifeboat of an explanation the Longhorns quickly jumped in after the game.

“If they say that was the reason they lost,” barked Aggie linebacker Ed Simonini, “well, they’re sick. I don’t like ‘em anyway.”

The feeling has always been mutual. Always will be.

See what you started, Charley Moran?

Teaser:
<p> Changing conference landscapes signal the end of this long-standing, heated in-state rivalry</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 12:54
Path: /news/joe-paterno-2007-game-day-profile
Body:

This profile originally appeared in Athlon's 2007 Penn State Game Day booklet.

Joe Paterno

1966-present

Where to begin? Paterno is synonymous with Penn State football in much the same way that Bear Bryant is linked forever to Alabama, John Wooden to UCLA and Vince Lombardi to the Green Bay Packers. He ranks second in all-time Division I-A coaching victories and is within reach of the leader, Florida State’s Bobby Bowden. He has enjoyed five unbeaten seasons and won two national championships. He’s coached 71 first-team All-Americans, seven College Hall of Famers and 30 first-round NFL draft picks. Three of his former players—Jack Ham, Mike Munchak and Franco Harris—are enshrined in Canton. He’s a Hall of Famer himself, having been inducted into the college hall in December 2006. People like to think the Nittany Lions don’t have an emblem, but the truth is they do. It’s Paterno. Just try to imagine this program without visions of JoePa’s wavy pompadour or rolled-up trouser legs creeping into your subconscious. Go ahead, try. Not so easy, is it?

The on-field highlights of Paterno’s career are so familiar they hardly bear repeating. There’s the breakthrough 1968 season, in which the Lions went 11–0 and emerged as something more than just another regional power; the marvelous 1969 encore in which they matched their previous record by going unbeaten and defeating Missouri, 10–3, in the Orange Bowl; the national championship seasons of 1982 and ’86; the unbeaten 1994 season in which the Lions fielded what some regard as the best offense in college football history yet finished second to Nebraska in both polls; and, of course, the magical 29–27 victory over Ohio State in 2001, which gave Paterno his 324th career win, one more than Bryant amassed with the Crimson Tide.

What makes Paterno’s career so interesting is that none of those triumphs ever seemed preordained. The very idea that this lawyer’s son would become a football coach was absurd on its face. And not just to friends and family, but to Paterno himself. He was planning on attending law school.

A surprise phone call from Engle changed Paterno’s life. But even after taking up coaching at Penn State—the only postgraduate employer he has ever known—his ascent to the top of the profession was fraught with road blocks and detours. In 1967, his second season, Penn State lost its opener to Navy, 23–22, on a freak play. Coming on the heels of a 5–5 debut season, the loss shook the faith of some early Paterno backers. All of a sudden, Rip’s boy wonder didn’t seem so smart. “I thought I was going to get fired,” Paterno recalled recently. “A kid by the name of John Sladki from Johnstown … they threw a pass on the last play of the game, he deflected it and the guy caught it and ran. I go to bed sometimes thinking about Sladki, poor guy.” School officials stuck by their young coach. He justified their faith by guiding Penn State to victories in 31 of its next 33 games.

But there were more difficulties to come. An Alabama goal-line stand in the Sugar Bowl cost top-ranked Penn State the 1978 national championship and gave rise to talk that Paterno couldn’t win the big one. It remains the most haunting loss of the Paterno era. And while Paterno did finally get even with the Bear—more than even, actually—his triumph had a bittersweet aftertaste. Even as he was eclipsing Bryant’s career victories record in October 2001, the Lions were in the midst of their second consecutive losing season. From 2000 to 2004, Penn State would suffer four losing seasons. It was the school’s longest period of sustained mediocrity since the 1930s.

Still, Paterno avoided some other trap doors. He resisted the urge to leave for the NFL, spurning an offer from the Patriots in the early 1970s. He didn’t venture into politics as some other legendary sports figures have done, nor did he fall victim to health problems typically associated with high-pressure jobs. Even after suffering a broken leg last November when a player ran into him on the sideline at Wisconsin, he tried to talk his doctor into letting him coach the team’s next game a week later against Temple. The doctor refused, but the incident said volumes about Paterno’s determination. Said defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, “He’s a wily old rascal. He’s not going anywhere.”

Paterno’s only real indulgence—if that’s what it is—is his desire to keep on working. With the losing seasons a not-so-distant memory, some would like to see him step away. Forty-one years, they say, should be enough for anyone.

But that wily old rascal has built up an enormous reservoir of goodwill in his tenure as head coach. He may not be the saintly figure the national media makes him out to be. He may be cranky and stubborn, and he may scapegoat officials from time to time in a way that some find unseemly. But he graduates his players, he gives back to the university (more than $4 million in philanthropic contributions as of this writing) and he lends the football program an iconic dimension it might otherwise lack.

Oh, and he still wins games in bunches from time to time. In 2005, the Nittany Lions went 11–1 and defeated Florida State, 26–23, in a triple-overtime Orange Bowl marathon. After the game, senior quarterback Michael Robinson took a seat in the interview room and addressed Paterno’s critics. He was speaking specifically about the recent attacks on the coach’s fitness for command, but he could just as well have been addressing an earlier generation of skeptics, one that thought Paterno was too stogy or archaic or conservative to succeed.

“To think that people actually wanted him to give this game up, to call it quits, when we knew what type of team we could have, I mean, I’m at a loss for words,” Robinson said. “What could these people have been thinking?”

QUOTES:

“I don’t think our uniforms look that bad. I think they say something to kids about team-oriented play and an austere approach to life.” —Paterno on Penn State’s conservative look—dark jerseys without player names, plain white helmets, black shoes.

“I consider myself, and I know my teammates and Penn State players past and present feel likewise, a better person for having played for Joe Paterno.” —Former quarterback and current television analyst Todd Blackledge

“One of the greatest things Coach Paterno has said, when asked about his greatest team, is ‘I don’t know. I’ll tell you in 20 years.’ He really believes his greatest team isn’t which one had the fewest losses. His greatest team is what becomes of the men he coached. That’s a rarity in collegiate and professional sports, but that just epitomizes the class and values of Coach Paterno.” —Steve Wisniewski, guard, 1985-88

“I think everyone on the team not only wanted to win the Big Ten but to show the nation that the program was back and that Coach Paterno still had it, that he’s able to do things the right way with the right guys and not bend or break any rules. To get back in the spotlight, I think all of the players just wanted that for Coach.” —Linebacker Paul Posluszny, on the 2005 season 

Teaser:
<p> A look at Joe Pa's 2007 Penn State profile</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 11:44
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-rankings-week-11
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

Teams on bye this week: Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh

2011 NFL Week 11 Fantasy Football Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 11 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports has all the position rankings to get your fantasy football line up ready</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 06:17
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-11
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 11 — Defense/Special Teams Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 11 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

Teams on bye this week: Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh

Rk Player OPPONENT
1 San Francisco 49ers vs. ARI
2 Green Bay Packers vs. TB
3 Dallas Cowboys at WAS
4 Chicago Bears vs. SD
5 New York Jets at DEN (Thursday)
6 Baltimore Ravens vs. CIN
7 Jacksonville Jaguars at CLE
8 New York Giants vs. PHI
9 Cincinnati Bengals at BAL
10 Detroit Lions vs. CAR
11 New England Patriots vs. KC
12 Cleveland Browns vs. JAC
13 Philadelphia Eagles at NYG
14 St. Louis Rams vs. SEA
15 Seattle Seahawks at STL
16 Oakland Raiders at MIN

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 16:24
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-kicker-rankings-week-11
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 11 — Kicker Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 11 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Teams on bye this week: Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 David Akers SF vs. ARI
2 Dan Bailey DAL at WAS
3 Jason Hanson DET vs. CAR
4 Mason Crosby GB vs. TB
5 Stephen Gostkowski NE vs. KC
6 Sebastian Janikowski OAK at MIN
7 Robbie Gould CHI vs. SD
8 Billy Cundiff BAL vs. CIN
9 Matt Bryant ATL vs. TEN
10 Nick Folk NYJ at DEN (Thursday)
11 Nick Novak SD at CHI
12 Mike Nugent CIN at BAL
13 Rob Bironas TEN at ATL
14 Josh Scobee JAC at CLE
15 Alex Henery PHI at NYG
16 Dan Carpenter MIA vs. BUF

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 16:13
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings-week-11
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 11 — Tight End Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 11 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Teams on bye this week: Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Jason Witten DAL at WAS
2 Rob Gronkowski NE vs. KC
3 Antonio Gates SD at CHI
4 Jermichael Finley GB vs. TB
5 Aaron Hernandez NE vs. KC
6 Tony Gonzalez ATL vs. TEN
7 Fred Davis WAS vs. DAL
8 Brandon Pettigrew DET vs. CAR
9 Vernon Davis SF vs. ARI
10 Greg Olsen CAR at DET
11 Jake Ballard NYG vs. PHI
12 Dustin Keller NYJ at DEN (Thursday)
13 Kellen Winslow TB vs. GB
14 Benjamin Watson CLE vs. JAC
15 Brent Celek PHI vs. ARI
16 Ed Dickson BAL vs. CIN
17 Jermaine Gresham CIN at BAL
18 Scott Chandler BUF at MIA
19 Visanthe Shiancoe MIN vs. OAK
20 Daniel Fells DEN vs. NYJ (Thursday)
21 Jared Cook TEN at ATL
22 Anthony Fasano MIA vs. BUF
23 Kevin Boss OAK at MIN
24 Jeremy Shockey CAR at DET
25 Tony Scheffler DET vs. CAR
26 Marcedes Lewis JAC at CLE

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 15:55
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/why-running-shoes-do-more-harm-good-infographic
Body:

Free Your Feet
Created by: X Ray Technician Schools

You thought you were doing your body good by getting up, lacing up your running shoes and hitting the pavement. Well, according to this infograhic, you can see that what seemed like a healthy thing to do, can cause more harm than good. And, as always, the numbers don't lie.

Teaser:
<p> You thought running shoes were good for your feet, didn't you. Think again</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 15:32
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings-week-11
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 11 — Wide Receiver Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 11 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Teams on bye this week: Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Calvin Johnson DET vs. CAR
2 Greg Jennings GB vs. TB
3 Wes Welker NE vs. KC
4 Dez Bryant DAL at WAS
5 Larry Fitzgerald ARI at SF
6 Steve Smith CAR at DET
7 Brandon Marshall MIA vs. BUF
8 Hakeem Nicks NYG vs. PHI
9 Roddy White ATL vs. TEN
10 Brandon Lloyd STL vs. SEA
11 Vincent Jackson SD at CHI
12 Dwayne Bowe KC at NE
13 Anquan Boldin BAL vs. CIN
14 Jordy Nelson GB vs. TB
15 DeSean Jackson PHI at NYG
16 A.J. Green CIN at BAL
17 Santonio Holmes NYJ at DEN (Thursday)
18 Mario Manningham NYG vs. PHI
19 Steve Johnson BUF at MIA
20 Denarius Moore OAK at MIN
21 Victor Cruz NYG vs. PHI
22 Percy Harvin MIN vs. OAK
23 Plaxico Burress NYJ at DEN (Thursday)
24 Laurent Robinson DAL at WAS
25 Michael Crabtree SF vs. ARI
26 Deion Branch NE vs. KC
27 Mike Williams TB at GB
28 Earl Bennett CHI vs. SD
29 Damian Williams TEN at ATL
30 Greg Little CLE vs. JAC
31 Steve Breaston KC at NE
32 Jabar Gaffney WAS vs. DAL
33 Sidney Rice SEA at STL
34 Eric Decker DEN vs. NYJ (Thursday)
35 Early Doucet ARI at SF
36 Nate Washington TEN at ATL
37 Vincent Brown SD at CHI
38 Torrey Smith BAL vs. CIN
39 David Nelson BUF at MIA
40 Harry Douglas ATL vs. TEN
41 Michael Jenkins MIN vs. OAK
42 Jonathan Baldwin KC at NE
43 James Jones GB vs. TB
44 Doug Baldwin SEA at STL
45 Steve Smith PHI at NYG
46 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK at MIN
47 Jerome Simpson CIN at BAL
48 Devin Hester CHI vs. SD
49 Nate Burleson DET vs. CAR
50 Titus Young DET vs. CAR
51 Donald Jones BUF at MIA
52 Davone Bess MIA vs. BUF
53 Preston Parker TB at GB
54 Johnny Knox CHI vs. SD
55 Arrelious Benn TB at GB
56 Jason Avant PHI at NYG
57 Patrick Crayton SD at CHI
58 Mike Thomas JAC at CLE
59 Ben Obomanu SEA at STL
60 Braylon Edwards SF vs. ARI
61 Brandon LaFell CAR at DET
62 Dane Sanzenbacher CHI vs. SD
63 Legedu Naanee CAR at DET
64 Jason Hill JAC at CLE
Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 15:18
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-running-back-rankings-week-11
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 11 — Running Back Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 11 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Teams on bye this week: Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Adrian Peterson MIN vs. OAK
2 Matt Forte CHI vs. SD
3 LeSean McCoy PHI at NYG
4 Ray Rice BAL vs. CIN
5 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC at CLE
6 Fred Jackson BUF at MIA
7 DeMarco Murray DAL at WAS
8 Steven Jackson STL vs. SEA
9 Michael Turner ATL vs. TEN
10 Michael Bush OAK at MIN
11 Frank Gore SF vs. ARI
12 Chris Johnson TEN at ATL
13 Marshawn Lynch SEA at STL
14 Shonn Greene NYJ at DEN (Thursday)
15 Ryan Mathews SD at CHI
16 Brandon Jacobs NYG vs. PHI
17 Willis McGahee DEN vs. NYJ (Thursday)
18 Reggie Bush MIA vs. BUF
19 Jonathan Stewart CAR at DET
20 Cedric Benson CIN at BAL
21 James Starks GB vs. TB
22 Beanie Wells ARI at SF
23 LeGarrette Blount TB at GB
24 Mike Tolbert SD at CHI
25 Lance Ball DEN vs. NYJ (Thursday)
26 BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE vs. KC
27 Jackie Battle KC at NE
28 Maurice Morris DET vs. CAR
29 Chris Ogbonnaya CLE vs. JAC
30 Roy Helu WAS vs. DAL
31 DeAngelo Williams CAR at DET
32 Kendall Hunter SF vs. ARI
33 Daniel Thomas MIA vs. BUF
34 Felix Jones DAL at WAS
35 Marion Barber CHI vs. SD
36 Ryan Grant GB vs. TB
37 Danny Woodhead NE vs. KC
38 Dexter McCluster KC at NE
39 Ricky Williams BAL vs. CIN
40 Jacquizz Rodgers ATL vs. TEN
41 Javon Ringer TEN at ATL
42 Joe McKnight NYJ at DEN (Thursday)
43 Bernard Scott CIN at BAL
44 Kevin Smith DET vs. CAR
45 Ryan Torain WAS vs. DAL
46 John Kuhn GB vs. TB
47 D.J. Ware NYG vs. PHI
48 Kregg Lumpkin TB at GB
Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 14:52
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings-week-11
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 11 — Quarterback Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 11 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Teams on bye this week: Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Aaron Rodgers GB vs. TB
2 Tom Brady NE vs. KC
3 Tony Romo DAL at WAS
4 Eli Manning NYG vs. PHI
5 Cam Newton CAR at DET
6 Matthew Stafford DET vs. CAR
7 Matt Ryan ATL vs. TEN
8 Philip Rivers SD at CHI
9 Carson Palmer OAK at MIN
10 Michael Vick PHI at NYG
11 Mark Sanchez NYJ at DEN (Thursday)
12 Jay Cutler CHI vs. SD
13 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF at MIA
14 Tim Tebow DEN vs. NYJ (Thursday)
15 Josh Freeman TB at GB
26 Matt Hasselbeck TEN at ATL
17 Joe Flacco BAL vs. CIN
18 Sam Bradford STL vs. SEA
19 Alex Smith SF vs. ARI
20 Tarvaris Jackson SEA at STL
21 Andy Dalton CIN at BAL
22 John Skelton ARI at SF
23 Matt Moore MIA vs. BUF
24 Christian Ponder MIN vs. OAK
25 Rex Grossman WAS vs. DAL
26 Colt McCoy CLE vs. JAC

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 14:27

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