Articles By Braden Gall

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The running back is going the way of the dodo bird. The proliferation of the spread offense and pass-happy systems has all but eliminated the feature back from NFL game plans.

In 2003, 13 NFL players carried the ball more than 300 times and 18 rushed for more than 1,000 yards. Ten years later, only two — LeSean McCoy (314) and Marshawn Lynch (301) — carried the ball more than 300 times and just 13 players had at least 1,000 yards rushing.

This is why the 2013 NFL Draft was the first in history that didn’t feature a running back taken in the first round. And it’s why many are projecting a repeat performance from the 2014 NFL Draft.

Giovani Bernard was the first back taken a year ago. The North Carolina Tar Heel was the 37th overall pick by the Bengals. Bernard is extremely gifted and was hugely productive as just a rookie, but he is anything but a workhorse running back.

He rushed 170 times for 695 yards and caught 56 passes for 514 yards.

So who will be the top running back taken in the 2014 NFL Draft? Athlon Sports' staff made their pick of who they thought will be the best tailback in the ’14 running back class and where they expected them to be picked.

Nathan Rush: Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
Judging by the recent history of highly drafted "feature" backs — Trent Richardson (No. 3 overall pick in 2012), C.J. Spiller (No. 9, 2010), Ryan Mathews (No. 12, 2010), Knowshon Moreno (No. 12, 2009) — there may not be another running back drafted in the first-half of the first round until... next year, when Georgia's Todd Gurley and Alabama's T.J. Yeldon could steal the spotlight on Thursday night. This year, there is no complete runner, so the first back off the board will be a specialist — third-down scat-back, runner-returner or goal-line sledgehammer. Ohio State's 240-plus-pounder Carlos Hyde is a short-yardage beast with all-around upside. The Florida native found the end zone 18 times during a 1,500-yard senior season, becoming the first running back under Urban Meyer to top the 1,000-yards rushing plateau. Hyde won't be a first-rounder, but he will lower his head and bulldoze his way into the draft sometime between the mid-second and mid-third rounds.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Jeremy Hill, LSU
I am looking for the complete package at tailback. I am looking for someone like Eddie Lacy from Alabama. A burly, physical bruiser who is quick enough to catch passes and make people miss in the open field but strong and tough enough to pick up first downs and cross the goal line in short-yardage, between-the-tackles situations. Give me LSU’s Jeremy Hill. The 233-pounder rushed for 1,401 yards — second-best in school history — in the best league in the nation while averaging nearly 7.0 yards per carry (6.9). He scored 16 times and only played in 12 games. He is explosive, gets north and south quickly and isn’t scared of contact. Hill may not last very long in a league that chews up and spits out ball-carriers like sunflower seeds, but in the short term, there is no other back in this class with as little downside as the Bayou Bengal. His body should be fresher than the rest of this class as well since he only got 345 career carries in two seasons at LSU. Ka’Deem Carey, for example (who is excellent), carried 349 times in 2013 alone. Hill has a lot of tread left on the tires, has been facing NFL players for two seasons, played under a pro coordinator in Cam Cameron and is a Mack Truck with the ball in his hands. Not convinced? Just pop in the tape of the Outback Bowl a year ago.

Mark Ross: Tre Mason, Auburn
For whatever reason, running backs have quickly become somewhat devalued in the NFL, and the mindset has definitely been noticeable in the draft. For the second straight year, I anticipate no running backs will hear their name called in the first round and it wouldn’t surprise me if only a few end up being taken in the second round. That said, the first running back off of my board would be Auburn’s Tre Mason, the SEC Offensive Player of the Year who played a big role in the Tigers’ worst-to-first turnaround in the nation’s toughest conference.

Mason was Auburn’s workhorse (317 carries, 43 percent of the team’s total) last season and answered the bell to the tune of 1,816 yards (5.7 ypc) and 23 rushing touchdowns. He may not be the most polished pass-catcher out of the backfield, but he’s gifted with a nice package of strength, speed and athleticism that should translate well to the next level. Again, not a first-rounder, but I fully expect him to be taken somewhere between the middle of the second round and the early part of the third rounds.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
After back-to-back seasons of 300 carries, it’s understandable some in the NFL would have concerns about Carey’s future at the next level. However, I’d argue he’s one of the top backs in the draft. Over the last two years at Arizona, Carey rushed for 3,814 yards and averaged nearly six yards per carry. He delivered in some of the Wildcats’ biggest games in 2013, gashing Oregon for 206 yards, 149 against UCLA and 157 against Arizona State. He also showcased his versatility by catching more than 20 passes in back-to-back seasons (2012-13). Sure, Carey doesn’t have elite speed, but he has enough to be a 1,000-yard rusher in the NFL. Also, as his workload and stats indicate at Arizona, Carey is a three-down back at the next level. It seems the NFL had a similar debate with Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell last year. And didn’t that turn out alright for the Steelers? With his vision and cutback ability, combined with durability and a productive track record at Arizona, Carey should be the first running back off the board in the NFL Draft.

Teaser:
Who should be the first running back taken in the 2014 NFL Draft?
Post date: Monday, April 28, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/byu-football-2014-schedule-analysis
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Bronco Mendenhall enters his 10th season as the BYU head coach and his fourth as the head coach of an independent program. Scheduling has been more difficult for the Cougars since leaving the Mountain West both in terms of ironing out opponents and the play on the field.

It has led to 10 losses in the last two seasons after five years with at least 10 wins between 2006-11. The 2014 slate isn’t nearly as daunting as the last few seasons for BYU and, with a star returning under center, there are lots of reasons for optimism in Provo.

This offense went from 60th nationally in 2012 to 14th a year ago with Taysom Hill running the show. He gradually improved his efficiency as a passer over the course of the season and enters his junior season with Heisman potential and a schedule that should allow for big numbers offensively.

A return to double-digit wins isn’t unreasonable should things fall right for Mendenhall, Hill and the Cougars.

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 29at 
2.Sept. 6at 
3.Sept. 11
4.Sept. 20
5.Sept. 27Bye
6.Oct. 3
7.Oct. 9at 
8.Oct. 18
9.Oct. 24at 
10.Nov. 1at 
11.Nov. 8Bye
12.Nov. 15
13.Nov. 22Savannah State
14.Nov. 29at 

2014 BYU Schedule Analysis

Revenge on the mind
Opening the season with UConn  should be a celebration but the following two weeks could feature games rich with revenge. First, BYU heads down to Austin to battle new head coach Charlie Strong and the Longhorns. Mendenhall’s team can bet that the Horns remember the 550 yards rushing and 40 points it allowed in a loss in Provo a year ago. Two weeks later, BYU returns home to take on a scuffling Virginia team that somehow beat the Cougars a year ago in Charlottesville in the season-opener. A reverse of last year’s outcome might be the safest bet.

Primetime schedule
In the first nine weeks of the season, BYU will play just three games on Saturday. Games at UConn (Week 1), at home against Utah State (Week 6) and at Boise State (Week 9) will take place on Friday evening in primetime while games against Houston at home (Week 3) and at UCF (Week 7) are scheduled for Thursday evening. The schedule normalizes later in the year with four straight games on Saturday but the first two months of the season will be an unusual run of primetime, weeknight games for BYU.

The month of October
After playing two of the three “Big 5” teams on their schedule in the first month, BYU will spend most of October battling all of the best “mid-major” programs from West of the Mississippi. Boise State has long been a powerhouse out West and is breaking in a new coach. Nevada and Utah State have experienced excellent success over the last decade and, they too, are under relatively new leadership on the sidelines. Mix in a long trip to Orlando to face the defending Fiesta Bowl champions and the Cougars have a very testy month of action despite not facing any teams from power leagues.

Off Weekends
The first bye falls in Week 4 and comes at a good time before the aforementioned long run of quality mid-major opponents. After facing UConn, Texas, Houston and Virginia, the rest should be a welcomed sight. The second off weekend (Week 11) also comes at an opportune time after the tough five-game stretch in the heart of October. It gives the Cougars plenty of time to prepare for the final leg of the season — one that shouldn’t be too daunting.

The Final Leg
Should BYU be (gasp) undefeated by its second off weekend, there is a good chance it will finish that way as the final month features three extremely winnable games to end the year. The final three weeks of the season are made up of home dates with UNLV and Savannah State as well as a trip to Berkeley to face Cal in the season finale. All three should feature large point spreads in favor of the Cougars, although, the Golden Bears should be vastly improved from a year ago when they went 1-11 overall and 0-9 in the Pac-12.

Final Verdict
The schedule isn’t all that daunting for BYU. Will Texas be clicking on all cylinders with a chance at revenge at home? Likely. But other than the trip to Austin, every other game is extremely winnable. Should Hill continue to develop as a passer, his dual-threat ability could be virtually impossible to stop by most of the Cougars' opponents. Mendenhall’s squad should be in every game it plays this year and may have an outside shot at earning a College Football Playoff berth.

Teaser:
BYU Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Friday, April 25, 2014 - 09:15
Path: /nfl/2014-nfl-draft-consensus-qb-rankings
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To win a Super Bowl, a team must play defense, must be able to run the ball in short yardage situations but, above all else, must have a good quarterback.

It’s why 13 of the last 16 NFL drafts have begun with a team selecting a signal-caller with the No. 1 overall pick. Some of those have been home runs (Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Eli Manning), some have been total busts (JaMarcus Russell, David Carr) and others have yet to determine their legacy (Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford). But it’s clear what position is the most important.

NFL general managers know that the game begins and ends with a great quarterback. If your favorite team has a solid signal-caller then it has a chance to win big. If it doesn’t have a capable leader under center, well, then, it will be a long winter.

Of the 12 teams in the NFL playoffs a year ago, seven were QB-ed by a first-round pick. However, of the final four quarterbacks left standing, only one (Peyton Manning) was a first-rounder. Colin Kaepernick was a second-round pick, Russell Wilson was a third-rounder and Tom Brady was a sixth-round selection. And it was a third-round pick who is currently the defending Super Bowl champion.

Many believed that the 2014 quarterback class was going to be one of the best collections of prospects to enter the NFL Draft since the 2004 group that included the younger Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger (as well as J.P. Losman) all being selected in the first round. However, with more than a few big-time prospects — Brett Hundley, Braxton Miller, Marcus Mariota and Bryce Petty — all returning to college, the state of the 2014 QB draft class was thrown into chaos.

So when the 79th annual NFL Draft begins on May 8, there will be something for everyone when it comes to the quarterback position. There’s the short playmaker (Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray), the massive jumbo passer (Blake Bortles, Tom Savage, Logan Thomas) and the consummate game-manager (Teddy Bridgewater, AJ McCarron, Tajh Boyd).

Opinions vary greatly on who is the best of this group and when they should be selected on draft weekend. So Athlon Sports has culled the world wide web for the best and most trusted NFL Draft opinions in an effort to sort out the 2014 quarterback class.

Here are the 12 rankings used to compile Athlon Sports' consensus QB rankings:

AS: Athlon Sports
CBS: CBS Sports
NFL: NFL.com
MK: Mel Kiper
TM: Todd McShay
OL: OurLads.com
SI: SportsIllustrated
BR: Bleacher Report
SB: SBNation
SN: Sporting News
WF: WalterFootball.com
PS: Phil Savage

Consensus 2014 NFL Draft QB rankings:

 NameTeamASCBSNFLMKTMOLSIBRSBSNWFPS
1.Teddy BridgewaterLouisville132121111145
2.Blake BortlesUCF411213332212
3.Johnny ManzielTexas A&M224332243591
4.Derek CarrFresno State643474424433
5.Jimmy GaroppolloE. Illinois 65555737354
6.AJ McCarronAlabama38666766 778
7.Zach MettenbergerLSU97810106555666
8.Tom SavagePitt 51074 8 10 89
9.Aaron MurrayGeorgia59 99997910107
10.Logan ThomasVirginia Tech  788    8910
11.David FalesSan Jose State 10   101096   
12.Tajh BoydClemson7 9  8      
13.Brett SmithWyoming       1089  
14.Connor ShawSouth Carolina8           
15.Bryn RennerNorth Carolina10           

Inside Athlon’s Rankings

Collegiate success matters
The funny thing about great college players is that they are great players. There is a distinct trend with the AS rankings and that is college success. Names like Tajh Boyd, Aaron Murray and AJ McCarron are higher on our ranking than most because of success against the best competition this country has to offer. McCarron is arguably the most decorated and successful QB in SEC history while Murray is the most productive in SEC history. Both were elite recruits and played as such in the college ranks. Boyd falls into a similar category while competing against a slightly lower level of competition. That said, his height (6-1) and overall performance against Florida State and the SEC is why Murray and McCarron rank higher.

Leadership is "it"
Russell Wilson has it. Drew Brees has it. So, too, does Murray, McCarron, Boyd and South Carolina’s Connor Shaw. And none of those names were/will be first-round picks. Murray has been compared to Brees since leading his team to a state championship in Florida after breaking his leg in the same season. Shaw won’t ever be mistaken for a truly great NFL quarterback prospect due to his overall lack of size and arm polish, but most of the quarterbacks drafted this year will fizzle out of the league in short order. The key is to avoid taking one of the busts early. Shaw may not have much upside, but he has zero downside, is tough as nails and is a born leader. He is the winningest QB in the history of South Carolina football and he rarely turned the ball over. Those are two things coaches crave in a backup signal-caller.

Don’t fall for the measurables
The scouts who love Logan Thomas and Tom Savage clearly haven’t watched any college football. It’s not that these two prospects aren’t great athletes but they simply didn’t prove in college that they are pro passers. Thomas was a walking turnover and is responsible for the downturn of a program known for churning out 10 wins a season like clock work. Savage didn’t have much in the way of a supporting cast but he had plenty of chances at two schools to shine and never really developed. Don’t let their massive frames and huge arms hide the awful game tape both bring to the table. LSU’s Zach Mettenberger falls into this category somewhat as well.

The curious case of Zach Mettenberger
He’s huge, has a big arm, played against high-level competition, was an elite recruit and showed improvement in his final season. He also was consistently inaccurate, kicked out of school for multiple off-the-field incidents, never came close to winning a championship and had arguably the top WR tandem in the nation at his disposal in 2013. The risk doesn't match the reward.

Level of competition
David Fales, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppollo didn’t face anything resembling an NFL defense. These three QBs rarely faced quality defenses and when they did, it didn’t turn out well. Carr’s worst three games over the last two years came against USC, Boise State (2012) and Oregon — arguably the best three defenses he faced and Fresno went 0-3. Fales had a nice season under offensive whiz Mike MacIntyre in 2012 and then took significant steps back once his head coach moved to Colorado and San Jose State moved up in competition (WAC to MWC). Garoppollo posted huge numbers, but was in a pass-happy offense that most quarterbacks would excel within — especially, against that type of competition. Carr is easily the most talented of the lower-tiered trio but none appear worthy of a first-round grade.

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Post date: Friday, April 25, 2014 - 08:00
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The NFL has little control over the schedule.

The rotation of crossover divisional opponents is set in stone years in advance and the six divisional games won’t change unless the league expands. Really, the NFL can control two games per team in an effort to make the best team’s schedules more difficult and to give the perceived weaker teams an easier path.

The big news that comes from the annual schedule release is times, dates, locations, bye weekends and days of the week. The NFL can backload, shorten the work week, send a team to London or frontload a team’s schedule. The goal for the NFL is, with most things, to create balance among all 32 franchises.

But the fans know better and last year was a perfect example. I ranked San Diego, Indianapolis and Kansas City as the three easiest schedules in the NFL. And all three teams took major steps forward to earn a postseason berth.

The important thing to remember is ranking NFL schedules based on last year’s winning percentages is short-sighted and inaccurate. Oakland is ranked No. 1 because they played in a division with three playoff teams and there is no certainty that Kansas City or San Diego will repeat. Conversely, the AFC South appears to give the Colts and Titans the two easiest schedules in the league but no one believes the Texans will go 2-14 again (which counts as 4-28 for Indianapolis and Tennessee when it comes to opponents' record) — which obviously impacts their opponents' winning percentage from a year ago.

There will be teams that improve and teams that take steps back, so projecting the shifts in the landscape are much more important than last year’s winning percentage.

So who has the toughest NFL schedule heading into 2014?

1. St. Louis Rams
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC West, NFC East

Swing Games: Minnesota, at Tampa Bay
Opponents ’13 Record: 56.4% (3rd)

Having to play Seattle and San Francisco four times as well as two dates with a Cardinals team that won 10 games a year ago gives St. Louis the toughest six-game divisional stretch in the NFL — by a wide margin. Having to face three playoff teams from the AFC West and a balanced NFC East makes rotational play difficult as well. Swing games against Minnesota and Tampa Bay are a welcome sight but those could be the two easiest NFC games the Rams play and they happen in the first two weeks of the season. Even the bye week is poorly positioned in Week 4 with an eight-week stretch where St. Louis may not win a game against seven playoff teams and the Cardinals.

2. Oakland Raiders
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC East, NFC West
Swing Games: Houston, at Cleveland
Opponents ’13 Record: 57.8% (1st)

According to the records, Oakland has the toughest path in the NFL next year. While the slate is packed with elite teams — including six divisional games against playoff teams from last year — there are still chances for wins. Playing the AFC East gives the Raiders one nasty game (New England) and three against teams at .500 or below a year ago, while swing games with the Browns and Texans are “supposed” to be easier. That said, playing in the toughest division in its conference and having to face all four teams from the NFC West makes Oakland's slate one of the toughest in the AFC this fall.

3. Arizona Cardinals
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC West, NFC East

Swing Games: Detroit, at Atlanta
Opponents ’13 Record: 54.7% (8th)

Oddly, the Cardinals will visit San Diego in the final preseason game before hosting San Diego in Week 1 in one of the more bizarre starts to a season in ’14. The bye week is extremely early (Week 4) but is positioned between games with the 49ers and Broncos. After Denver, the slate lightens up for Arizona with only one game against a playoff team between Week 6 and Week 11 and that is the Eagles at home. The Cards better get some work done early, however, as the final six weeks will be nasty with two games against Seattle as well as dates with Atlanta, Kansas City, at St. Louis and the season finale in San Francisco.

4. Seattle Seahawks
AFC/NFC Crossover:  AFC West, NFC East

Swing Games: Green Bay, at Carolina
Opponents ’13 Record: 56.1% (6th)

First and foremost, playing the NFC West makes for the toughest divisional slate in the league, however, Seattle doesn’t have to play… Seattle twice either. The AFC West had three playoff teams last year and should once again be one of the toughest divisions in the AFC. And swing games with potential division champs Green Bay and Carolina makes for a nasty path to a repeat. Three road games from Week 13 to Week 16 — at San Francisco, Philadelphia and Arizona — with a home test against the 49ers might be the toughest stretch any team in the NFL will face all season. And the year begins with three playoff teams: Green Bay, at San Diego and a Super Bowl rematch at home against Denver.

5. Denver Broncos
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC East, NFC West
Swing Games: Indianapolis, at Cincinnati
Opponents ’13 Record: 57.0% (2nd)

Not having to face themselves twice in divisional play gives the Broncos the easiest divisional schedule in the AFC West. And facing New England, Indianapolis and Cincinnati in AFC play means that Denver will play nine games against AFC playoff teams from a year ago as well as the two teams who met in the NFC Championship Game. Sure-fire wins over Oakland and the rest of the AFC East provide breathers in what should be one of the tougher AFC slates of ’14.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC North, NFC North,
Swing Games: St. Louis, at Washington
Opponents ’13 Record: 48.4% (19th)

It’s hard to see the Bucs, under a first-year head coach, getting a single win in the first six weeks of the season before mercifully getting a week off in Week 7. A home game against the Rams might be the only game Tampa could be competitive in early in the year. The good news is the slate lightens up significantly following the bye with games against the Vikings, Browns, Falcons, Redskins and Bears in order from Weeks 8-12. Finishing with games at Carolina, Green Bay and New Orleans at home is daunting as well. There are not too many guaranteed wins on this schedule for Lovie Smith.

7. Cincinnati Bengals
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC South, NFC South
Swing Games: Denver, at New England
Opponents ’13 Record: 46.9% (23rd)

The Bengals' first seven games will be a challenge as Marvin Lewis’ squad gets road games with Baltimore, New England and Indianapolis to go with home tilts against Atlanta, Tennessee, Carolina and a rematch with the Ravens. The home games are winnable and an upset or two is needed if Cincinnati wants to take control of the AFC North early in the year. Otherwise, the pressure will be on Cincy to win key swings games late in the year (at New Orleans, at Houston, Denver and two with the Steelers). This is a nasty schedule that features the best two teams in the AFC as swing opponents and at least four very difficult divisional games. The only comfort is a bye week positioned in the middle of the early seven-game gauntlet and a soft(er) middle portion of the slate.

8. San Diego Chargers
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC East, NFC West
Swing Games: Jacksonville, at Baltimore
Opponents ’13 Record: 56.3% (4th)

Four games with the Broncos and Chiefs will be brutal but two with the Raiders are equally as easy. Crossover play also features one extremely winnable game against the Jags and one very tough game at Baltimore. Package that with four against the NFC West and the Bolts can boast one of the AFC’s toughest slates. Few teams will finish with as difficult a stretch as San Diego will with that road trip to Baltimore leading into New England and Denver at home before road trips to San Francisco and Kansas City in the final five games. Getting work done early will be key for Philip Rivers and company out on the West Coast. 

9. Kansas City Chiefs
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC East, NFC West
Swing Games: Tennessee, at Pittsburgh
Opponents ’13 Record: 55.9% (7th)

The Chiefs showed marked improvement last year based on schedule and things should swing back to the norm this fall. Crossover play with the Titans and Steelers won’t be easy but neither team made the playoffs last year. Facing the Chargers and Broncos four combined times is balanced out by two with Oakland. And all four games against the NFC West will be battles. Following the bye in Week 6 and a nasty start to the year that features games at Denver, at San Francisco and New England at home, Kansas City’s slate will lighten up. Other than Seattle and Denver (Week 11 and 13), the Chiefs could be favored in every game. Key road trips to beatable but solid opponents San Diego and Arizona could decide the Chiefs' playoff fate.

10. Washington Redskins
AFC/NFC Crossover:  AFC South, NFC West

Swing Games: Tampa Bay, at Minnesota
Opponents ’13 Record: 49.0% (17th)

Two swing games with Tampa Bay and Minnesota as well as four games with the AFC South should allow for the Skins to improve in ’14. Getting three of the last four games, including two with Philadelphia and Dallas, at home in the final four weeks should as well. That said, facing the NFC West will be nasty and a road trip to Indianapolis comes on the heels of visiting the 49ers (Week 12-13). There are plenty of chances for wins for Washington but this isn’t as easy a schedule as should be expected for a team that lost 13 games last season.

11. San Francisco 49ers
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC West, NFC East
Swing Games: Chicago, at New Orleans
Opponents ’13 Record: 56.3% (4th)

The 49ers start with some tricky games but won’t face a playoff team from a year ago until Week 4. Getting the Super Bowl champs and archrival Seahawks twice in three weeks is brutal but it’s late in the year and is sandwiched around a “road game” against Oakland. The bye week is nicely situated midway through the season in Week 8 and should help ease the Niners into a manageable month of November (STL, at NO, at NYG, WAS). This schedule could have been much harder when compared to the other teams in the NFC West.

12. Carolina Panthers
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC North, NFC North,
Swing Games: Seattle, at Philadelphia
Opponents ’13 Record: 47.3% (22nd)

Not having to face Carolina twice helps the divisional slate for the Panthers but getting Seattle and a road trip to Philadelphia in NFC swing contests will be difficult. The early part of the schedule is highlighted by a nasty three-game road swing in four weeks against the Ravens (Week 4), Bengals (Week 6) and Packers (Week 7) before welcoming the Super Bowl champs to town (Week 8). The bye week is extremely late in Week 12 but the final five games should be manageable. Road trips to division rivals New Orleans and Atlanta will be tough but the Vikings, Bucs and Browns provide some time to breathe late in the year for a team trying to repeat as division champs.

13. New Orleans Saints
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC North, NFC North,
Swing Games: San Francisco, at Dallas
Opponents ’13 Record: 46.9% (23rd)

Three road trips in the first four weeks makes for an interesting start for New Orleans as the Saints, more than most teams, love playing at home. That said, the first five weeks of the year before the off weekend should provide plenty of wins against the likes of the Browns, Vikings and Buccaneers. It’s a good thing, because following a road game against Detroit in Week 7, the Saints will face a nasty stretch of likely playoff opponents for seven straight weeks. The only good news is a three-game homestand against the 49ers, Bengals and Ravens from Nov. 9-24. The final three weeks do offer some hope with three teams that all missed the playoffs a year ago (at Chicago, Atlanta, at Tampa Bay).

14. Chicago Bears
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC East, NFC South

Swing Games: Dallas, at San Francisco
Opponents ’13 Record: 49.6% (15th)

There are a lot of winnable games on the Bears’ schedule before the Week 9 off weekend (Buffalo, at NY Jets, Miami). But there are a lot of games they may not be competitive in as well (at San Francisco, Green Bay, at Carolina, at New England). All four AFC East opponents will come before the break with five NFC North games, including all three divisional road trips, coming in the final eight weeks. This is a hit or miss schedule for the Bears with games that look like certain wins and certain losses and not too many swing games. Chicago might be “who we thought they were” — a middle-of-the-pack team who likely won’t make the playoffs.

15. New York Giants
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC South, NFC West
Swing Games: Atlanta, at Detroit
Opponents ’13 Record: 46.5% (26th)

Getting Atlanta at home and Detroit on the road in crossover play isn’t terribly scary and visiting Tennessee and Jacksonville in crossover play isn’t either. And the divisional slate is relatively spaced out with back-to-back NFC East games only once (Weeks 6-7). The Giants will play one playoff team before the off weekend in Week 8 and will need the extra time to prepare for one of the nastiest four-week stretches in the NFL. New York will come off of the bye and play Indianapolis, at Seattle, San Francisco and Dallas in four straight. The great news is games with the Jaguars, Titans, Redskins and Rams leading into the season finale at home against the Eagles. The Giants should be able to match or improve on their seven wins.

16. Philadelphia Eagles
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC South, NFC West
Swing Games: Carolina, at Green Bay
Opponents ’13 Record: 47.9% (20th)

Chip Kelly and the Eagles will face two playoff teams from a year ago in the first nine weeks of the season so winning games early is a must for Philadelphia. And getting road trips to Indianapolis and San Francisco out of the way in the first four weeks helps as well. A mid-season stretch against the Panthers (Week 10), Packers (Week 11), Cowboys (Week 13) and the defending champion Seahawks (Week 14) is a brutal five-week run as the calendar flips to December. NFC East games are always tough but the final three weeks of the season feature three straight divisional games against teams who were at .500 or below last year. This slate has some major speed bumps but plenty of winnable games as well.

17. New York Jets
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC West, NFC North
Swing Games: Pittsburgh, at Tennessee
Opponents ’13 Record: 52.0% (9th)

In the first seven weeks, the Jets' defense will face Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady before the slate lightens up. The brutal beginning gives way to a much more manageable second half with four games with Buffalo and Miami along with games against Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Tennessee. Facing New England twice along with the AFC West won’t be easy and the Jets could be out of playoff contention early on. Wins over the Raiders, Lions and Bears at home in the first month of the season will be paramount for this team if it wants to contend for a playoff spot.

18. Cleveland Browns
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC South, NFC South
Swing Games: Oakland, at Buffalo
Opponents ’13 Record: 46.5% (26th)

The Browns always have a tough draw in the AFC North as most teams would struggle with six games against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore. Swing games with Oakland and Buffalo are two excellent chances at wins and will be critical to evaluating the Browns' overall trajectory within the AFC. Road trips to Carolina and Atlanta as well as a home game with New Orleans — sandwiched between the Steelers and Ravens in Week 2 — doesn’t give the Browns a cold-weather advantage over the warm-weather Saints.  The middle of the schedule does provide opportunity as the Browns will face the Titans, Jaguars, Raiders and Bucs over a five-week stretch entering November. After that, there is one game (at Buffalo) where Cleveland even has a chance to be favored.

19. Atlanta Falcons
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC North, NFC North
Swing Games: Arizona, at NY Giants
Opponents ’13 Record: 51.2% (11th)

The year starts with two tough games against the Saints and Bengals but then lightens up until a road trip to Carolina in Week 10. The Falcons could win a bunch of games in the first half as only a road trip to Baltimore feels like a guaranteed loss between Week 2 and the Panthers. Two road trips to Green Bay and New Orleans as well as home games with Pittsburgh and Carolina make the final four weeks extremely difficult. However, the schedule as a whole sets up nicely for the Falcons to bounce back. The NFC North could be the worst division in the NFC and that should help all four teams from the NFC South.

20. Baltimore Ravens
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC South, NFC South
Swing Games: San Diego, at Miami
Opponents ’13 Record: 46.1% (28th)

The Ravens will start with three straight AFC North games before hosting Carolina and visiting Indianapolis. If the Ravens can survive the first month of play and pick up a few wins in the middle portion — at Tampa Bay, Atlanta, at Cincinnati, at Pittsburgh, Tennessee — then they should finish strong over the final month. Baltimore will face the Dolphins, Jaguars, Texans and Browns in the final four weeks of the season. It means the Ravens will play five of their six divisional games by Week 9.

21. Buffalo Bills
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC West, NFC North
Swing Games: Cleveland, at Houston
Opponents ’13 Record: 50.0% (14th)

Four games with the Jets and Dolphins offer plenty of chances for wins but two with New England balance that out in short order. Getting to face the NFC North is also a small blessing as only the Packers at home appear to be a certain loss. Crossover play with the AFC West will prove very difficult and swing games with Cleveland and Houston could be tricky. The first two months of the season aren’t all that daunting but the final four weeks will be nasty with road trips to Denver and New England sandwiched around a home game with Green Bay and a long journey to Oakland. If the Browns and Texans show improvement, this could be one of the more difficult AFC slates.

22. Miami Dolphins
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC West, NFC North
Swing Games: Baltimore, at Jacksonville
Opponents ’13 Record: 50.8% (12th)

Balance is the first word that comes to mind when analyzing the Dolphins' schedule in ’14. The really tough games (New England twice, Denver, Green Bay, Kansas City, Baltimore, San Diego) are spaced out and packaged around easier games with teams like Buffalo (twice), the Jets (twice), Minnesota, Detroit and Jacksonville. In fact, playing in the AFC East and rotating against the NFC North should be very appealing for anyone in the NFL. The bye week is very early but there is no “brutal stretch” for the Fish to deal with in any month of the season.

23. Dallas Cowboys
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC South, NFC West
Swing Games: New Orleans, at Chicago
Opponents ’13 Record: 48.8% (18th)

Getting the easiest division in football (AFC South) in crossover play is a big plus but having to face the toughest division (NFC West) is a huge concern. All four games against the West will take place in the first nine weeks of the year, meaning Dallas will have to make waves in the second half of the season. This includes two games with each archrival from within the division — including four of the last six games of the season. In fact, the final six weeks will be perilous for the Cowboys as a trip to Chicago and a home game with the Colts are mixed in with four divisional games following the Week 11 off week. There are a lot of chances for wins for the boys in Big D in ’14.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC South, NFC South
Swing Games: Kansas City, at NY Jets
Opponents ’13 Record: 46.9% (23rd)

The AFC North gets a nice draw with the AFC South as its crossover competition within the conference and both Houston and Indianapolis come to the Steel City. Games against Kansas City (home) and the Jets (road) are winnable swing games for a team expecting to be above .500 and in the playoff hunt as well. Having to battle Carolina and Atlanta on the road as well as New Orleans at home will prove difficult in NFC competition. And as is the case every year, games within the division against Cincinnati and Baltimore will decide the outcome of the North race. Pittsburgh will have played the Browns and Ravens twice each by Week 9 and have to play the Bengals twice in the final four weeks, including the season finale at home. In fact, the bye week falls perfectly in line with a nasty five-game stretch to end the season featuring the Saints, Bengals (twice), Falcons and Chiefs.

25. Minnesota Vikings
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC East, NFC South
Swing Games: Washington, at St. Louis
Opponents ’13 Record: 47.7% (21st)

The good news is the Vikings play in the easiest division in the NFC, will play one of the two easiest divisions in the NFL (AFC East) and get two “winnable” swing games with the Redskins and Rams. That said, the Vikings have to play Green Bay twice and don’t get the added bonus of playing themselves twice like the other three teams in the NFC North. The first five weeks of the year are brutal and the Vikes could be winless heading into what should be a much easier last 10 weeks. The Vikings will play two teams in the final 11 games (Green Bay and Carolina at home) that made the playoffs a year ago. It’s a schedule befitting a team that could be the worst in the NFC in ’14.

26. Detroit Lions
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC East, NFC South
Swing Games: NY Giants, Arizona
Opponents ’13 Record: 49.2% (16th)

Games at Carolina and with Green Bay at home in the first three weeks almost guarantee a slow start for the Lions. However, there are plenty of chances for wins against the Jets, Bills, Vikings, Falcons and Dolphins between Week 4 and Week 10 (as well as a bye week). Things pick up on the road following the off weekend as trips to Arizona, New England, Chicago and Green Bay dot the final seven weeks. There are some tough games but overall, this slate could allow for Detroit to challenge for a Wild Card position. The Lions will play four teams that made the playoffs a year ago all season long.

27. Green Bay Packers
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC East, NFC South
Swing Games: Philadelphia, at Seattle
Opponents ’13 Record: 50.4% (13th)

Returning to the scene of the crime in Week 1 against the Super Bowl champs will be fascinating and difficult. However, after that, the Packers could be favored to win at least five straight games before Carolina comes to town in Week 7 and they visit the Superdome in Week 8. The second half of the schedule, following an off weekend in Week 9, appears tame at best with home games with New England and Philadelphia as the toughest tasks for the Pack in the final eight weeks. Getting six games with the Vikings, Bears and Lions makes this one of the easier NFC schedules.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC North, NFC East
Swing Games: Miami, at San Diego
Opponents ’13 Record: 45.3% (29th)

The Jags got no favors in crossover play as they will face a developing Miami team and San Diego on the road. Not to mention playing the toughest divisional slate in the AFC South (they don’t get two automatic wins over themselves). Mix in road trips to Baltimore, Cincinnati and Philadelphia in crossover play and it seems difficult to find much improvement from this team. There are plenty of winnable home games (Tennessee, Houston, Cleveland, Miami, Pittsburgh, NY Giants) but this team will most likely be an underdog in every game it plays this fall.

29. New England Patriots
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC West, NFC North
Swing Games: Cincinnati, at Indianapolis
Opponents ’13 Record: 51.6% (10th)

As usual, not having to face New England twice makes this arguably the easiest divisional schedule of any team in the NFL. Six winnable games in the AFC East are matched by at least three games against the NFC North in which the Pats will be heavily favored. A trip to Green Bay late in the year before having to travel to San Diego could pose some problems. However, the Patriots end with three straight within the division — two of which are at home. Denver, Indianapolis and Cincinnati dot the schedule with some marquee showdowns but, overall, this isn’t an overly taxing slate for a team of New England’s caliber.

30. Tennessee Titans
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC North, NFC East
Swing Games: NY Jets, at Kansas City
Opponents ’13 Record: 43.8% (31st)

There are four really tough road trips on the Titans' schedule as they break in a new coaching staff but otherwise, there is a lot to like about Tennessee’s 2014 draw. Early trips to Cincinnati and Indianapolis might be the two toughest games of the year while mid-to-late season trips to Baltimore and Philadelphia loom large as does the season-opener in Kansas City. However, every other game is winnable for the Titans. The home slate could feature plenty of wins as Dallas, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Houston, Pittsburgh and both New York teams will visit Nashville. Couple that with visits to Washington, Jacksonville and Houston and the Titans could be looking at a playoff berth.

31. Indianapolis Colts
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC North, NFC East
Swing Games: New England, at Denver
Opponents ’13 Record: 43.0% (32nd)

Based on numbers, the Colts get the easiest schedule in 2014. Two swing games are as tough as any in the league as Indianapolis faces Peyton Manning on the road in Week 1 and Tom Brady at home in Week 11 following a bye week. A round-robin with the AFC North will be tough, as Indy faces Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in a four-week stretch early in the year. Getting six games against the Jags, Titans and Texans helps make this one of the easiest looking paths in the AFC. The key will be swing games against the NFC East. Wins over the Eagles and Redskins at home and road trips to the Giants and Cowboys could decide if this team gets a first-round bye or not.

32. Houston Texans
AFC/NFC Crossover: AFC North, NFC East
Swing Games: Buffalo, at Oakland
Opponents ’13 Record: 44.1% (30th)

The Texans will face three playoff teams (four games) all season long in 2014 and three of them will take place at home. Swing games with Buffalo and Oakland are early in the year and should be wins for Houston. Four games with Tennessee and Jacksonville offer opportunity as well. Package that with the AFC North and NFC East and Houston doesn’t have a guaranteed loss on the entire schedule. Is a road trip to Dallas the toughest game of the year? At Indianapolis? At Pittsburgh?

Teaser:
Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2014
Post date: Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 15:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-college-football-schedules-2014
Body:

Scheduling in college football is all that matters. Sure, coaching, rosters and even a little bit of luck play bigger roles in determining championships in the NCAA ranks.

But scheduling in college football plays as big a role as any of those other factors. Non-conference play varies greatly from team to team. So, too, does crossover play within the divisions of any conference. Home and road slates are important  — especially for the championship-deciding, rivalry-bragging, marquee showdowns. And the important bye weekends also play a large role in ironing out win-loss records in any given season.

So taking all of the above into account, which team has the toughest schedule in the Big Ten in 2014?

1. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Crossover: at Nebraska, Wisconsin
Non-Conference: at Washington St, Howard, at Navy, Tulane
Opponents ’13 Record: 97-58 (62.6%, 9th)

In its first year in the Big Ten, Rutgers has been handed the toughest schedule of any team in the league based on how teams fared last year (9th nationally with 97-58 opponents record). Talk about your rude welcomes. Rutgers will play two of the best teams from the West and will likely be picked to finish last in the East. A long road trip to Washington State and the short trek to Annapolis, Md., to face Navy in non-conference action means a 2-2 record could be expected before facing a Big Ten slate that has one winnable game (Indiana at home, Nov. 15). The off weekend comes between facing Michigan and Ohio State but there isn’t a lot to like about what could be a horrible first season in a new league.

2. Maryland Terrapins
Crossover: Iowa, at Wisconsin
Non-Conference: James Madison, at USF, West Virginia, at Syracuse
Opponents ’13 Record: 86-67 (56.2%, 40th)

The non-conference schedule doesn’t have a marquee game but three tough bouts with regional rivals (Cuse, WVU) along with a long road trip to USF. But the conference slate is what makes this such a touch schedule. Maryland will likely play the best six teams in the league over a six-game stretch with Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan State at home coupled with road dates at Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan. The only good news is that both bye weeks fall in the middle of that nasty six-game stretch. This doesn’t include a trek to Indiana and home game with Rutgers. And all of this while playing in the Big Ten for the first time.

3. Indiana Hoosiers
Crossover: at Iowa, Purdue
Non-Conference: Indiana St, at Bowling Green, at Missouri, N. Texas
Opponents ’13 Record: 93-64 (59.2%, 24th)

Last year’s schedule was one of the toughest (93-64) of any team in the Big Ten and, now in a tougher division, Indiana hasn’t gotten any favors for ’14 either. Road trips to Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan and Missouri are brutal and home tests with Penn State and Maryland make it very difficult to see Indiana getting to a bowl game. In particular, the non-conference slate could be one of the tougher in the league with trips to Bowling Green, Mizzou and hosting a developing North Texas squad.

4. Illinois Fighting Illini
Crossover: at Ohio State, Penn State
Non-Conference: Youngstown St, W. Kentucky, at Washington, Texas St
Opponents ’13 Record: 90-61 (59.6%, 21st)

The Illini have a nasty road trip to Seattle to face Washington and also will face two quality mid-major teams, so starting out 3-1 isn’t a lock. Then things get nasty for Illinois. Road trips to Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Northwestern are all tough and the home slate includes Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa. There is one, maybe two, winnable Big Ten games this year for Illinois — even with an improved offense. Crossover play might be the worst of any team in the league. Lastly, Illinois doesn’t get to play… Illinois.

5. Purdue Boilermakers
Crossover: Michigan State, at Indiana
Non-Conference: W. Michigan, C. Michigan, at Notre Dame, S. Illinois
Opponents ’13 Record: 84-67 (55.6%, 43rd)

Simply because Purdue doesn’t get to play Purdue, it makes the Boilermakers' schedule the toughest within the division. And with Michigan State (home) and Indiana (road) in crossover play, Purdue has one of the tougher slates in the league. A four-game stretch in the middle of the year — Michigan State, at Minnesota, at Nebraska and Wisconsin —with a bye week in the middle is one of the toughest months any team has to deal with. Iowa and Notre Dame in the first month make this schedule tough from beginning to end.

6. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Crossover: at Michigan, Ohio State
Non-Conference: E. Illinois, Middle Tennessee, at TCU, San Jose St
Opponents ’13 Record: 85-68 (55.6%, 46th)

A visit to TCU is the toughest non-conference game on the slate and that will be a challenge but what makes the Gophers' schedule so tough is its Big Ten slate. Crossover is brutal with a trip to Michigan and home date with Ohio State. And the final month of the season is ridiculously hard with a four-game stretch that includes Iowa at home, Ohio State and back-to-back visits to Nebraska and Wisconsin on the road to end things. The only good news for Jerry Kill’s bunch is at least the team gets a bye week Nov. 1 before these final four games. A repeat of eight wins would be an excellent season for Minnesota.

7. Northwestern Wildcats
Crossover: at Penn State, Michigan
Non-Conference: Cal, No. Illinois, W. Illinois, at Notre Dame
Opponents ’13 Record: 76-76 (50%, 78th)

The non-conference schedule isn’t all that easy with a Pac-12 opponent, the best program in the MAC and a road trip to Notre Dame late in the year. Toss in a nasty crossover slate with Penn State (road) and Michigan (home) and Northwestern has one of the toughest schedules in the West Division. Both Wisconsin and Nebraska have to come to Evanston, but don't overlook road trips to Minnesota and Iowa either. For a team trying to bounce back from a disappointing season due in large part to a nasty schedule, this isn’t an easy slate for the Wildcats.

8. Michigan State Spartans
Crossover: Nebraska, at Purdue
Non-Conference: Jacksonville St, at Oregon, E. Michigan, Wyoming
Opponents ’13 Record: 83-71 (53.9%, 55th)

The highlight of the first month is easily the toughest non-conference game in the league when the Spartans visit Oregon in Week 2. Then Big Ten play starts in primetime against Nebraska followed up by a trip to Purdue. It means Sparty will play six straight straight division games to end the year. The best news about the tough final six weeks is an off weekend falls directly between a home game with rival Michigan (Oct. 25) and conference frontrunner Ohio State (Nov. 8). Road trips to Maryland and Penn State in the final three weeks could be very difficult as well.

9. Ohio State Buckeyes
Crossover: Illinois, at Minnesota
Non-Conference: at Navy, Virginia Tech, Kent St, Cincinnati
Opponents ’13 Record: 87-66 (56.9%, 35th)

The Buckeyes boast one of the league’s toughest non-conference slates but have one of the easier crossover slates with the Illini and Gophers on tap. Both bye weeks take place early in the year and won’t break up any of the tough division games that seem to be backloaded in Columbus. Over the final six weeks, Ohio State will visit Penn State, Michigan State and Minnesota while hosting Indiana and Michigan. This is a tougher slate than most league favorites can boast nationally.

10. Michigan Wolverines
Crossover: Minnesota, at Northwestern
Non-Conference: App. State, at Notre Dame, Miami (Ohio), Utah
Opponents ’13 Record: 81-71 (53.3%, 59th)

The Wolverines boast some intriguing non-conference tilts with Notre Dame, a rising FBS program in AP-State and Pac-12 foe Utah, so the start to the year could be very testy for the embattled Maize and Blue coaching staff. The good news for Michigan is the bye weekends set up nicely before and after critical games. The first of which will come between two huge games with Penn State at home (Oct. 11) and a trip to defending champs Michigan State (Oct. 25). Then the second off weekend comes before the final two games with Maryland (home) and archrival Ohio State (road). Like the Buckeyes, Michigan will miss Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa in crossover play.

11. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Crossover: at Michigan State, Rutgers
Non-Conference: FAU, McNeese St, at Fresno St, Miami
Opponents ’13 Record: 90-63 (58.8%, 25th)

A tricky non-conference slate is highlighted by a long trip to Fresno and a visit from Miami. All four could be wins but at least two will be tough games. Additionally, crossover play is more difficult for Nebraska than the other contenders in the West Division (Wisconsin, Iowa). The bye weeks come at perfect times after the first five games and just before the tough final three-game stretch.

12. Penn State Nittany Lions
Crossover: Northwestern, at Illinois
Non-Conference: UCF, Akron, UMass, Temple
Opponents ’13 Record: 79-73 (51.9%, 68th)

The non-conference slate is going to be very tame for Penn State now that Blake Bortles is gone from UCF, so a 4-0 start should be expected. Then the Lions get a bye week before two of their toughest three games of the year before visiting Michigan (Oct. 11) and hosting Ohio State (Oct. 25). Then Penn State gets a November loaded with gimmies, including a bizarre late-season semi-rivalry with Temple, before hosting Michigan State at home. A win over the Spartans not only could change the complexion of the division title but could give Penn State a double-digit win season.

13. Iowa Hawkeyes
Crossover: Indiana, at Maryland
Non-Conference: No. Iowa, Ball St, Iowa St, at Pitt
Opponents ’13 Record: 68-70 (49.3%, 85th)

Iowa has an interesting non-conference slate with two in-state rivals who have played the Hawkeyes tough (Northern Iowa, Iowa State) consistently and a road trip to Pitt isn’t an easy game either. Crossover play sets up well with Indiana and Maryland posing as two winnable but tricky games. The key is missing Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State and getting both Wisconsin and Nebraska at home to end the season. A road trip to Minnesota might actually be the toughest situation the Hawkeyes face all season.

14. Wisconsin Badgers
Crossover: Maryland, at Rutgers
Non-Conference: LSU, W. Illinois, Bowling Green, USF
Opponents ’13 Record: 74-78 (48.7%, 87th)

LSU in Houston to start the year might be the toughest game Wisconsin plays all season long. Otherwise, the opening Big Ten slate is almost comically easy for the Badgers. At Northwestern, Illinois, bye week, Maryland, at Rutgers and at Purdue will all feature large point spreads in Wisconsin’s favor. Over the final three weeks, however, things get interesting with road trips to Nebraska, Iowa and a home tilt with rival Minnesota. There is no Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State or Penn State on the slate for UW. Double-digit wins doesn’t seem like an unreasonable expectation by any stretch of the imagination.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten's College Football Schedules in 2014
Post date: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/state-iron-bowl-fans-excited-malzahn-not-satisfied
Body:

AUBURN, Ala. — Abby Lemons had no idea what she was getting herself into when she decided to go to Auburn.

She came to Auburn in part because of the football atmosphere two years ago, but morale on campus was at an all-time low when she was a freshman following the first winless SEC season in school history and the tragic poisoning of the historic oak trees at Toomer’s Corner.

“Going into last year, we had lost our coach, lost our trees at Toomer’s Corner and we felt like we had nothing (else) to lose,” Lemons said. “So last season was a bizarre and eerie situation as it seemed like the trees were speaking to us. We got two miracles for each tree — the first for Georgia and the second for Alabama.”

The miracles credited to the Toomer’s oaks were Ricardo Louis’ circus catch against Georgia and Chris Davis’ 100-yard missed field goal returned for a touchdown to beat Alabama. 

The energy that courses through the Plains is now palpable after Gus Malzahn led a team that won just three games the year before on an unlikely run to the BCS National Championship game. The campus is brimming with excitement, the community is smiling again and over 70,000 people — the second time in as many years Auburn has topped 70,000 for A-Day — showed up on a chilly, overcast Saturday in April to watch a glorified practice.

Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs has witnessed those excruciating lows and the remarkable highs first hand.

“It’s been quite a ride,” Jacobs said. “We’ve had some high points, some low points and some curves but it’s been a fun ride. It’s a great time for Auburn University.”

There is no doubt Auburn is a fun place to be right now, but both Jacobs and Malzahn understand the difficulty of winning over the long haul in the SEC. They understand the pressures that come with winning the conference championship and returning a team that was seconds away from winning a second national title in four years.

“The epicenter of college football right now is right here in the state of Alabama,” Jacobs said.

The epicenter, of course, includes Iron Bowl rival Alabama. Auburn has reached the title game twice in four seasons, but along the way, the Tigers fired the coach who won a title and needed those two unlikely finishes to reach the second.

Auburn is on top of the college football world right now, but the Tigers still have work to do in order to become a machine that mirrors the one in Tuscaloosa.

“We got better in the spring, but we still have a long way to go,” Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates said. “We still have to prove a point.”

Jacobs, who has dealt with his share of adversity in his decade-long run as Auburn AD, can’t help but smile when he talks about his athletic department. Who can blame him? He watched his football team win the SEC title and play in the BCS title game with a first-year coach, and he recently hired cult-hero Bruce Pearl to lead the basketball program.

Malzahn, however, is not ready to bask in the accomplishments from last season.

Auburn honored the departing players from last year’s SEC championship team with a ring ceremony and a highlight package culminating with the “Kick Six” against Alabama.

Highlights from one game — the loss to Florida State in the championship game — were conspicuously absent from the montage but not from the mind of Malzahn, though.

“As a coach, I think about the last game a lot,” Malzahn said.

In contrast to his up-tempo offense, the Auburn coach doesn’t have time for enthusiasm or the whispers of oak trees. The deliberate second-year coach knows his team got lucky a year ago, and if it expects to repeat as SEC champs, Auburn will have to address some major concerns this summer.

Those concerns begin and end with the defense. This unit dealt with major injuries all spring camp and had to mix and match pieces during the spring finale. Voids left by Dee Ford, Jake Holland and Chris Davis remain temporarily unfilled. One of the few certainties, however, is that allowing more than 420 yards per game on defense isn’t a way to sustain success in the nation’s toughest league.

It’s why Malzahn’s mind wanders and he fidgets after sitting in the same place for more than five minutes at a time. He likes the young players he has on defense but can’t afford to let anyone know about it.

“You cannot pretend to be something you’re not because this business will eat you up if you do,” Jacobs said. “Gus runs a very tight ship and wants to keep everything very close to the vest. He’s is a dot-the-I, cross-the-T sort of guy.”

Jacobs’ job is to address the entire Auburn picture, deal with the politics of major college football and keep the rabid boosters at bay. Malzahn’s job is to find linebackers who can tackle, defensive backs who can cover and defensive ends who can pressure the quarterback. The heavy pressure to win games falls squarely on the head coach's shoulders and it all happens under the most powerful microscope in college football in the most difficult league in the nation.

Lemons recounts her first A-Day a year ago when a record 83,401 fans showed up the spring game to roll Toomer’s Corner for the last time.

“One of my favorite scenes from my first spring game was all of the older couples walking hand-in-hand, who had met at Auburn, fell in love at Auburn and had returned to Auburn to roll the trees one final time,” Lemons said. “It symbolized how important the community is and how important the trees were to the Auburn atmosphere.”

Jacobs and Lemons can afford to get caught up in the moment and enjoy the wild ride that has been Auburn football over the last 24 months. Malzahn cannot.

“Our success in football last year is because of the environment I created here,” Jacobs said.

“More than anything, however, it was Gus Malzahn and his leadership.”

Teaser:
State of the Iron Bowl: Fans Happy, Malzahn Not Satisfied
Post date: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/marshall-malzahn-shine-auburn-day-offensive-showcase
Body:

AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn is not one to waste time. His offense and track record are testaments to that.

He’s also not likely to get too wrapped up praising his first-team offense that put up 58 points in the spring game, in part on the improved passing of quarterback Nick Marshall.

Malzahn knows he's got a lot of work to do, and he's not one who wastes his breath.

Malzahn wraps up his second spring camp knowing that 2014 presents new challenges in his effort to repeat as SEC champion.

He has to replace a likely first-round pick in left tackle Greg Robinson. He needs to find a back who can attempt to match the record-setting performance of Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason. He needs to develop his elite young stars along the defensive line after sack master Dee Ford departed for the next level.

And — get this — he wants to do it all at a quicker pace than a year before. He spent all spring working on running his offense even faster than last year's breakneck speed — this from an offense that went from dead last in the SEC at 60.5 plays per game in 2012 to fifth in the league at 73.8 a year ago. With the potential starters in the lineup, Auburn ran 44 plays for 483 yards and 44 points in the first half (just 24 minutes) of the game before the running clock drained the box score in the second half.

No matter how impressive the system, Malzahn knows it all begins and ends with the return of Marshall.

Marshall drew the most buzz Saturday. The former Georgia Bulldog started the game just 3-of-8 passing for 24 yards before settling into a rhythm to earn Offensive MVP honors. The Heisman contender and potential preseason first-team All-SEC quarterback looked like the seasoned veteran Auburn needs him to be on offense. What else should fans expect from a guy who played in an SEC title game and BCS national championship before making his A-Day debut this weekend?

"What he accomplished last year not going through spring is really something," Malzahn said. "He's had a great attitude and he's had a very good spring."

With all of the potential preseason accolades and one full season of highlights under his belt, Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee know Marshall needs to improve as a passer to take the next step in his development, and that was clearly a focus on Saturday as the Auburn quarterback attempts 22 passes and ran the ball just once.

"There's no doubt that was part of our plan today," Malzahn said. "Coach Lashlee has worked him extremely hard on his footwork, his timing passing game and he's got a very good grip of our offense right now. He's starting to look very natural."

Marshall finished 13-of-22 passing for 236 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions before sitting the entire second half. Marshall led his offense to points on all seven of his series, including six touchdowns.

To address the need at left tackle, Malzahn and offensive line coach J.B. Grimes used a lot of moving pieces along the offensive front throughout the spring and that didn't change in the spring finale. Reese Dismukes is the leader at center, but he didn't play on Saturday. Chris Slade, Avery Young, Patrick Miller, Shon Coleman and Alex Kozan all played more than one position this spring. Who will fill the void left specifically left by Robinson may still be up in the air, but Coleman got the majority of the snaps at left tackle with the first unit on Saturday and the offense ran behind the big sophomore for more than one touchdown. Malzahn and Lashlee believe they have more depth, experience and versatility now despite the loss of the supremely talented Robinson.

"Our offensive line was a strength last year," Malzahn said. "We got everybody coming back but Greg, so it should be a another strength again. We are starting to get some depth which is very important. Coach Grimes has moved some people around at times just to help with the depth for next fall."

The void left by a Heisman finalist at tailback could be tough to fill. However, Corey Grant, Cameron Artis-Payne and a host of hungry young players proved on Saturday why fans shouldn't be worried about the Auburn running game.

Artis-Payne scored the game's first touchdown from 14 yards out and Grant consistently showed why he could be one of the SEC's most explosive players. The duo combined for 225 yards and two touchdowns on just 17 carries in the first half. Grant carried just five times for 128 yards and had two runs over 35 yards. The Tigers' running game — the one that became the first SEC team to lead the nation in rushing — is going to be just fine this fall without Mason.

That said, one of those young backs fans were eager to see was redshirt freshman Peyton Barber. But on his first carry of the game, Barber fumbled and injured his right ankle/knee. He was carted off and never returned. Malzahn said after the game that Barber is doing fine and won't miss any time.

While the offense looked the part of an SEC champ, the defense has much further to go if it wants to get back to Atlanta. In the nation's toughest conference, one known for its defensive play, the Tigers finished spring practice cautiously optimistic. There is a ton of talent returning, but replacing Dee Ford, Jake Holland and Chris Davis from a unit that ranked 87th nationally at more than 420 yards allowed per game a year ago means that developing the young players was a focus.

"There's no doubt we need to develop our young defensive line players," Malzahn said. "(Defensive line coach) Rodney Garner did a great job with our defensive line last year. He played a lot of people, a lot of young guys and that should help us moving forward. We do have a lot some talent up there and it seems like the guys have improved this spring."

Those guys Malzahn is referring too are, among others, rising sophomore stars Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel. Lawson, who may be the most talented of the bunch injured his knee late in camp and wasn't able to participate, and Adams played most of the day for the White team. This side of the ball was dealing with injuries all spring camp, so fans got to see a lot of new faces in new places on defense. Not surprisingly, the first-team defense held the second-team offense in check all day, allowing just 85 total yards and three total points.

Malzahn and coordinator Ellis Johnson know the defensive side of the ball, not the ballyhooed offense, holds the key to another run to Atlanta. Should the young talent develop quickly, Auburn will be as competitive as any team in the nation in '14. And what better way to prepare for football during the wide-open playoff era than practicing against Malzahn's warp-speed offense.

"Ellis Johnson likes it because it really helps our defense get lined up," Malzahn said. "It really helps our communication. It's very good. That's where college football is going and on our schedule, most teams are going to have some type of tempo."

At the end of his second camp as head coach, Malzahn showed he's going to try to take that tempo to the next level.

Teaser:
Post date: Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 18:08
Path: /college-basketball/athlon-sports-interview-auburn-basketball-coach-bruce-pearl
Body:

On Saturday, the state of Alabama will celebrate perhaps its favorite sport second only to college football — spring football. Even on A-Day at Auburn, the Tigers have reason for optimism beyond the team that reached the BCS Championship Game in January.

Auburn basketball made the biggest splash, so far, in the 2014 coaching carousel by hiring Bruce Pearl after his three-year exile from college sports. The former Tennessee coach brings to Auburn what it has lacked for a decade in college basketball — an established coach and a sorely needed injection of excitement for a program with new facilities and renewed commitment to competing in the SEC.

The hire isn’t without questions, though. Pearl was fired at Tennessee after he admitted to lying to NCAA investigators regarding recruiting violations. The penalties will continue to hamper him early in his tenure at Auburn.

Athlon Sports’ Braden Gall sat down with Pearl to discuss:

• Pearl’s return to college coaching: “It's just me being myself and not having a very high 'edit button,' if you will. We need to engage our students on a college campus.”

• His challenges at Auburn with his NCAA show-cause penalty: “Last weekend, we had an official visitor on campus. I left town just because at this time I've got to be really careful and really diligent about being compliant with my show-cause.”

• His thoughts on Cuonzo Martin’s departure from Tennessee to Cal: “I wish him nothing but success at Cal and if he wasn't happy there and he didn't feel appreciated there, then I'm glad he's not there because I want somebody there that wants to be there.”

[Disclosure: Gall hosts college basketball programming on SiriusXM where Pearl was his co-host periodically during the last three years.]

Athlon Sports: While you were out of coaching, you were an analyst for ESPN and SiriusXM. Is there anything you learned from the other side with your time in the media that can help you in coaching?

Bruce Pearl: No, because I've always been very accessible to the media, so that's not been an issue. People say when you watch practices and you watch basketball, that when you get back into coaching it helped them. But for me all I saw was everybody running the same offenses, everybody running the same defenses and everybody guarding the ball screens the exact same way, and I just know that's not how I want to coach. I've always run different systems and tried to be a little unique. That's one thing I know I won't do; Our team won't look like everybody else's.

Athlon: You are already up to your old tricks with the dunk tank, gaining publicity for your program. How does your personality and energy level set you apart from a lot of other coaches?

Pearl: When I left Dr. Tom Davis after being with him at Boston College, Stanford and Iowa, and it was time for me to go become a head coach. He told me, “Look, do what we do. This is what you know and how to teach and as long as you stay with this and make it your own, you will be successful.” And he was right. But he (also) said, "don't try to be me. Be yourself because you can duplicate that." So whether it's tricks or being out there in the community or having our student-athletes being involved in different things, being out there, truly, it's just me being myself and not having a very high “edit button” if you will. We need to engage our students on a college campus. We need to be involved in the things that they are involved in. What they are doing has got to be important to us because I need them to come to our basketball games to create a homecourt advantage where we can be be successful. And I can't ask them to serve me if I'm not willing, in some ways, to serve them.

Athlon: You were a big part of the changes that took place at Thompson-Boling Arena during your time at Tennessee, making the arena smaller and more intimate, giving the fans a better experience. What do you have to work with at Auburn?

Pearl: It's one of the nicest facilities in the country — 9,100 seats and not a bad seat in the house. The students are right down on the floor. It looks like it was built yesterday, but it's a few years old. They take unbelievable care of it, and it was done so right. The offices are all here. Two practice facilities are here. The weight room is right off the practice facility. The locker rooms are incredible. I think what Auburn understands is how to treat student-athletes. This is a college town, a college campus, and there's not a ton to do here. There's not a lot of distractions, so therefore, if you are really serious about your books and your basketball, this is a great place, and they will love you to death. That might not be for everybody. They might want a bigger city, might want more clubs and more places to go and more things to do. And that's fine. But if you want to come train and you want to become great, this is a great spot.

Athlon: You talk about the community, the student-athletes and the Auburn family. Obviously, there's a spring game coming up this weekend for the football team, do you have any special plans to get the basketball program involved in the big celebration?

Pearl: Not at the spring game. My coaching staff and our families are going to go over to Coach (Gus) Malzahn's house. He's got a gathering on Friday night and then on Saturday morning, I'm going to attempt to ride 22 miles with Bo Jackson and his crew. They bike around town, and so I'm going to get involved in that.

Athlon: Bo could probably still play, I imagine?

"I wish (Cuonzo Martin) nothing but success at Cal and if he wasn't happy there and he didn't feel appreciated there, then I'm glad he's not there because I want somebody there that wants to be there."
Pearl: I would imagine Bo can do whatever he wants to do. I guarantee it. But you know because of my show-cause that is still in effect as far as recruiting is concerned until Aug. 24 of this year, we will have prospects on campus, but I won't be anywhere near them. I won't be seeing them. I won't be able to talk with them or communicate with them. I am going to be really guarded. Last weekend, we had an official visitor on campus. I left town just because at this time you've got to be really careful and really diligent about being compliant with my show-cause. So I will be probably be a little less visible because of it.

Athlon: It certainly creates some unique challenges heading into your first season. You are here, you're the head coach, but there are certain things you cannot do.

Pearl: When you first take over a program, there are a couple of things you need to do. Number one, you got to work with the players that are returning, and hopefully the guys will look different with the way we are trying to condition them. That's the first goal. That's not a guarantee, but that's what we strive for. The second thing you have to do when you take over is re-work the roster and try to rebuild the roster a little bit. That's something I can't do from a standpoint of evaluating talent or talking to prospects and communicating with them right now. So our record has to speak for itself. This place has to sell itself. My assistant coaches have got to be the ones who are out there communicating. It will be a challenge, but when we win, it will make it all the more gratifying.

Athlon: You are a Northeast guy but you have come back to the SEC. What are some of the challenges with returning to a "football school?”

Pearl: First of all, if you don't have a product to sell you're not going sell much of that product. So right now I'm selling Auburn football. Right now, I'm selling Auburn's fast and no-huddle and everything that Coach Malzahn is doing. I'm selling the other programs, both men and women, how successful they are. But you're right. Football is the bottom line and people are excited about it. Auburn hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament in 10 years, and I've been there 17 times in the last 19 years. I don't know how quickly we will get it turned around, but we will get it turned around.

Athlon: What kind of style are we going to see from you? Similar stuff from what we've seen from you in the past or will there be some new wrinkles or tweaks you've developed?

Pearl: There are always tweaks every year based on your personnel, but we are going to play fast. We're going to attack in transition. We're going to try to turn people over with our defense. And based on our personnel, and what they're strengths and weaknesses are — something I won't know until the fall — then we will adjust accordingly. But you can't change your system. It is what it is. And we'll plug that in. How fast we make you go, how much we extend the floor will depend on the talent and the depth of the roster.

Athlon: Auburn will lose a couple of really big scorers and that has to be at the top of the list of needs that you need to address.

Pearl: Even in a public setting, when I'm talking about our players, I really can't even talk about our needs and what we need to address because it would sort of be like a form of recruiting. But, yeah, we lost three seniors who played a lot of basketball and scored a lot of points. And so obviously those guys need to be replaced, and there's opportunity. You've got to build a strong foundation, you can't be in a rush. One of the things you do is be patient. Make sure you take guys that can get you to where you need to be in order to be competitive in the upper division of the SEC. That's what our goal is.

Athlon: You've been very open in talking about your experience over the last three years from an emotional and personal level, what have you learned and how have you grown?

Pearl: First of all, the way to handle what we did is to be accountable for it. Apologize for it and ask for their forgiveness and grace but obviously to move forward as well. This isn't a story about sin, this is a story about redemption. I became the vice president of a $4 billion company, the HT Hackey Company, not many guys can say that they did that and I was able to do it. God put it in front of me and I took advantage of it, and I was blessed for that. And then to work with SiriusXM and ESPN. Just keep moving forward. And now to be back in college basketball again, understanding that I was a coach for 33 years, a head coach for 19 years and almost all of them were really good. We run clean programs and I don't mind saying that to anyone. Look them right in the eye and say we run a clean program. We made some mistakes and we paid dearly for it but it is a story about redemption and I am blessed and humbled to have the opportunity to be here at Auburn.

Athlon: I know games are a long way off and the show-cause still has some time to go, but it seems like you're having some fun.

Pearl: It's great to be back. It's a great town and I think my family is going to be really happy here. I am assembling a great staff. Tony Jones, my right-hand man, came with me. Steven Pearl, my son, who played for me, is going to be coaching with me. Todd Golden, who played for me in Israel and played at Saint Mary's for Randy Bennett, (is here). Chuck Person, the Rifleman, has returned to the Plains. I couldn't have hired a better guy to recruit this part of the country. He's been here and done that and believes in this place. He knows what Auburn basketball is supposed to look like. We are not going to settle. We are putting a great group together, and I'm pretty excited about the challenge. We got a lot a work to do now because we are way, way behind a lot of the other clubs in this league, but we will catch up.

Athlon: As far as the SEC as a whole, it took its lumps in the regular season last year, but in the NCAA Tournament things were very different with Florida and Kentucky making it to the Final Four.

Pearl: And Tennessee getting to the Sweet 16 and almost beating Michigan to get to the Elite Eight. I think that there were some definite misconceptions. The one thing the SEC has to be accountable for is we did not do our work in November and December in the nonconference. And that's been the case for the last several years, and as a result, we set ourselves behind the other conferences. I don't know with Kentucky being such a young team early in the year, you couldn't really expect them to do what they did but they had some losses — to Baylor, who actually turned out to be a pretty good team. Florida did everything they could early in the year. They were injured, and Billy Donovan did an amazing job this year and could have been national coach of the year with his injuries and suspensions and things early in the year. The only two teams they lost to were UConn and Wisconsin, two teams in the Final Four. Just an incredible job. Tennessee had a disappointing regular season, and they should have carried the banner a little bit better. Look at how they played late in the year. There are a few other clubs that were capable that didn't get enough done in the preseason. Once that happens, you’ll see way more than three teams in the NCAA Tournament from the SEC, and I think the success Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee had in the Tournament will sit on the committee's mind as related to maybe the league being better than what they got credit for.

Athlon: What were your thoughts when you saw the news that Cuonzo Martin went to Cal?

Pearl: I wasn't surprised. I wasn't. Cuonzo didn't seem to be happy there. I know they talked about the fact that he had to overcome following me, and I understand that we had success, but they still had 18,000 people come to every single game. Overcome that or not, they got great support in Knoxville, great facilities, great university. The embracing needs to work both ways, so I'm happy for Coach Martin. He maintained a level of success that we worked really hard to create. I'm grateful to Coach Martin as a former Tennessee head basketball coach, and a Vol for life, I'm grateful for the job he did because he kept it going. I wish him nothing but success at Cal, and if he wasn't happy there and he didn't feel appreciated there, then I'm glad he's not there because I want somebody there that wants to be there. So I appreciate the job he did and I'm happy for him and his family that they got a chance to move on.

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Interview: Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl
Post date: Friday, April 18, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/10-things-watch-auburns-day-spring-game-fans-guide
Body:

I’ve been to spring football games and I’ve been to an Auburn game (albeit 15 years ago).

But I’ve never been to the Auburn Spring Game, affectionately known as “A-Day” down in The Yellowhammer State.

But for a program with a BCS National Championship, an epically bad winless season, a coaching change followed by a worst-to-first season filled with fluke plays and historically ridiculous moments, I cannot wait to be in attendance for the 2014 Tigers Spring Game in Jordan-Hare Stadium this weekend.

Here are the most important, vital, interesting things, players and storylines I am looking forward to this weekend as I travel down to Auburn, Ala., to record and share the sights, sounds and stories of Auburn's spring celebration.

• The battle in the backfield to replace Tre Mason
Rising seniors Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne are the two most obvious choices to replace Mason’s prolific and record-setting 2013 season that included 1,816 yards and 23 rushing touchdowns. But Grant (647 yards, 6 TDs) and Artis-Payne (610, 6) are both fully capable of producing in Gus Malzahn’s fast-paced running attack. Each has experience and the talent to be, together, nearly as productive as Mason. Toss in others like Peyton Barber, Roc Thomas and Kamryn Pettway and the Tigers should be in great shape at tailback.

• How will the D-line develop through the offseason?
Dee Ford was the heart and soul of the defensive line as he posted 29 tackles, 14.5 for a loss and 10.5 sacks a year ago. But his loss isn’t nearly as concerning as it should be. Auburn’s defensive guru Ellis Johnson still has talented options at his disposal up front in elite 2013 recruits Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel, along with rising senior Gabe Wright. Watching these youngsters develop into All-SEC stars should be fun to watch this weekend.

Athlon Sports will be covering both Iron Bowl spring games.

Follow @DavidFox615 for updates from Alabama and @BradenGall for updates from Auburn and stay tuned for game coverage Saturday and through the week.

Also follow Athlon on Instagram for images from the Iron Bowl rivals.
• My visit to Toomer’s Corner
The last time I visited Toomer’s Corner was in 1999. I was a high school student taking visits to campus and was, like most, drawn in by the charm of the massive oak trees and colorful campus intersection. I will never forget it. However, and for all the wrong reasons, I am anxious to see what has happened to The Corner since the infamous and tragic tree-poisoning incident. No matter what has (or will) happened to Toomer’s Corner, I am excited to get back to this historic campus locale.

• Who will replace Greg Robinson?
Robinson might be the safest pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He is an elite athlete with massive upside and tremendous overall athletic ability. And he was a huge part of the vaunted Auburn zone-read option attack last season. Replacing him at the second-most important position on the team (QB) will easily be Malzahn’s tallest order this spring. Finding a suitable replacement at left tackle will go a long way in helping Auburn repeat as SEC champions this fall.

• Will Nick Marshall throw the ball?
Honestly, if I was Malzahn, I’d have Marshall doing his best Jameis Winston impersonation and have him throw it 56 times. He’s not allowed to be hit by the defense, he’s facing live competition in the secondary and likely won’t face too many blitzes. Why not have him get as many reps as a passer as possible against an SEC defense — even if it is the second-teamers? What’s the the harm? We already know what he can do with his legs, I want to see how he has developed as a passer. Unfortunately, odds are Marshall plays three series and is pulled before the end of the first quarter.

• Nova’s Jordan-Hare flyover
It is one of college football’s greatest traditions and I, for one, can’t wait for the crowd to erupt when War Eagle VIII — named Nova — takes flight around Jordan-Hare Stadium this Saturday afternoon. One of the greatest stadiums in the nation mixed with one of the nation’s top mascots taking part in one of the nation’s greatest traditions? What’s not to get excited about? (Assuming, of course, that the majestic bird will be a part of the A-Day activities.)

•  Find leadership in the back seven on defense
Ryan Smith, Ryan White, Chris Davis and Jake Holland were all senior starters (and stars) for the Auburn defense a year ago. The secondary and linebacking corps has plenty of talent returning but needs to address leadership and develop experience at these position. Sophomore linebackers Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost have all the talent to become stars in the SEC while guys like Jermaine Whitehead and Robenson Therezie could do the same in the secondary. Watching this group come together during practice will be an enjoyable process for this football junkie.

• How many plays will Auburn run?
And better yet, how many points does Malzahn want to score? This offense runs plays faster than anyone else in the conference and it was borderline unstoppable a year ago. What is Malzahn’s goal for this spring game? Florida’s new offense under Kurt Roper ran 111 plays and 16 different receivers caught passes. Malzahn should easily be able to run 120 plays on offense. And that would make for a fun afternoon in my opinion.

• Can Auburn top last year’s attendance record?
Auburn set an SEC record with over 83,000 people at last year’s spring game. And that was before Malzahn led his team to an SEC championship and a spot in the BCS National Championship Game while shattering rushing records along way. So the question is has the last 12 months only added to the raw excitement that is A-Day or will it be impossible to match the astounding mark set a year ago? Only time will tell.

• The Tailgates
There are a lot of fantastic places in this country to tailgate. Seattle, Columbus, Norman, Eugene, Madison and Blacksburg are just a few. But as an SEC alum, I am partial to the pregame festivities of the Southeastern Conference. And I can’t wait to stroll through the RV caravan, E-Z Up tents, BBQ smokers, red Solo cups, and, of course, the “gorgeous scenery” on Saturday morning. Part of what makes college football a much better gameday experience than the NFL is a beautiful Saturday morning tailgate. And Auburn does it as well as anyone in the nation.

Note: If you think your tailgate is the best, hit me up on Twitter (@BradenGall) and I will be happy to swing by and cast my vote.

Teaser:
10 Things To Watch at Auburn's A-Day Spring Game: A Fan's Guide
Post date: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 09:50
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/redrafting-first-round-2013-nfl-draft
Body:

I’m giving the entire NFL a mulligan.

With about a month left before the 2014 edition of the NFL Draft, Athlon Sports looks back at last year’s first round and tries to correct some mistakes. With a year of knowledge, game tapes, awards and injuries, what would the 30 teams (sorry Seattle and Washington) do differently if they got a second shot?

Would there still be five trades during the first round? Who would go No. 1? Who would be the biggest reach? Here is how we see the 2013 NFL Draft playing out if the teams had a do-over.

1. Kansas City: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Original Pick: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

Andy Reid might have overthought his first pick as the Chiefs' head coach, as Luke Joeckel probably should have been the pick at No. 1 a year ago. However, after one full season, a case can be made that Richardson — a five-star recruit coming out of high school — was the best player in the draft. The NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year would likely be the top pick for any team if the draft was redone today.

2. Jacksonville: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Original Pick: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

Joeckel was the safe and probably best pick for the Jaguars despite missing a huge chunk of the season with an injury. He should bounce back to have an excellent career. That said, Fluker proved his All-American pedigree was up to snuff. His upside at left tackle isn’t as high as Joeckel’s, but there is zero downside at right tackle. Fluker played more than 1,000 snaps in 15 games for a playoff team.

3. Miami: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Original Pick: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

Jordan was a project and all upside entering his rookie year and he played like it. He posted 19 tackles and 2.0 sacks in his first year and likely wouldn’t go in the first round based on that production. With massive OL issues swirling around South Beach all year, the Dolphins would be smart to trade up, this time to acquire Joeckel — who would be as safe a pick as there is in the 2013 NFL re-Draft.

4. Philadelphia: Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky
Original Pick: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

The Eagles needed OL help and Johnson was solid as a rookie. While he was solid in the running game, the former quarterback showed why he was considered a project in the passing game. Warford was a three-time All-SEC pick and was a stud for the Lions last season. The third-round pick would jump both Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack on most big boards at the guard position and appears to be a stalwart for the next decade in the league.

5. Detroit: Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU
Original Pick: Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU

The first pick that would be repeated after one season is the lanky talented pass rusher from Provo. He still has a ways to go in terms of development but he led all rookies with 8.0 sacks and proved he will be effective against the run as well. If the Lions return to the postseason it won’t be a result of the powerful passing game in Detroit. It will be because of the elite defensive line that is coming together in the Motor City.

6. Cleveland: Kiko Alonso, LB, Oregon
Original Pick: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU

Mingo was considered a huge risk at No. 6 and that proved to be the case after 29.0 tackles and 5.0 sacks as a rookie. He has some upside but no one delivered at outside linebacker/defensive end like Alonso. He posted an absurd 159 tackles, 2.0 sacks and four interceptions.

7. Arizona: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Original Pick: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

Cooper wasn’t/isn’t a bad selection here for Arizona. The Cardinals desperately need some OL help and unfortunately, Cooper missed the entire season with a broken leg. With that knowledge in hand, Johnson then becomes the pick with his upside, athleticism and versatility for a team that desperately needs help up front.

8. St. Louis: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
Original Pick: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

Jeff Fisher knew he needed to get Sam Bradford and his offense some playmakers and that is why he traded up to get this pick. He just took the wrong guy at No. 8. Allen was clearly the top wideout in the class (after one year, granted). The former five-star recruit is a sure-fire, top-flight talent and proved why he has been a superstar at every level of play. Allen led all rookies in catches (71), yards (1,046) and touchdowns (8).

9. NY Jets: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Original Pick: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

Milliner was a solid pick for the Jets in a class that appears to have been loaded with productive cornerbacks. The rookie from Alabama posted 56 tackles, three interceptions and 15 passes deflected in just 13 games (12 starts). He should still be the top rookie coverman off the board.

10. Tennessee: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Original Pick: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

The All-American from Utah made his living in college stuffing the run and that is exactly what he did for the Panthers a year ago. He started all 16 games, pressured the quarterback 23 times, posted 3.0 sacks and registered 48 total tackles for a team that won its division. The Titans got a good player in Warmack but Lotulelei could be a force up the gut for the next decade and they simply cannot  pass on his talent, not this time.

11. San Diego: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Original Pick: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

The Chargers got a ton of value with Fluker here but since he would go much higher, they will settle for another All-American Alabama blocker. Warmack started all 16 games for the Titans and would have been a solid upgrade for the Bolts as well. The rebuilt O-line was a huge part of San Diego’s trip to the postseason.

12. Oakland: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Original Pick: D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston

The Raiders stayed true to their Silver and Black roots by taking an over-hyped speed guy who had no business going where he did in the draft. Hayden made two starts as a rookie, posting 26 tackles and one interception. There are half-a-dozen cornerbacks not named Hayden who Oakland should have taken with the 12th pick.

13. NY Jets: Kawann Short , DT, Purdue
Original Pick: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

Since the Jets got the steal of the draft at No. 13, the odds of Richardson falling outside of the top 2-3 picks in a redraft are slim and none. And with Lotulelei already taken, Short quickly becomes the next best nose guard on the board. The 44th overall pick in the draft played in 16 games for the Panthers' much-improved defense.

14. Carolina: Eric Reid, S, LSU
Original Pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

Reid was probably the best defensive back prospect in the ’13 Draft class. He was a monster hitter and physical presence patrolling the back end for the near-NFC champion 49ers a year ago. He started all 16 games, registering 91 tackles and four interceptions for one of the best defenses in the league. The Panthers would have a star safety for the next 15 years… if Reid falls to them at 14th.

15. New Orleans: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Original Pick: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

If Reid was still on the board, most would agree he should’ve been taken ahead of the Texas safety. That said, Vaccaro posted a solid first year in NOLA. He started 14 games and collected 79 tackles with one sack and one interception. His upside isn’t as high as Reid’s, but he appears to be a dependable NFL starter for years to come.

16. Buffalo: EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
Original Pick: EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State

The only team that really had eyes on a quarterback likely wouldn’t change that game plan if it had a re-do. Mike Glennon and Geno Smith got plenty of snaps but Manuel was obviously the most game-ready and talented signal-caller in this class. He completed 58.8 percent of his passes while averaging more than 200 yards of total offense per game in 10 starts. On a bad team, Manuel appears to be the answer under center (if he can stay healthy).

17. Pittsburgh: Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
Original Pick: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

If it could do it all over again, Pittsburgh would still take a Georgia outside linebacker but it would be Ogletree instead of Jones. Ogletree started all 16 games for the Rams, making 117 total tackles, forcing six fumbles, collecting 1.5 sacks and posting one 98-yard INT returned for a touchdown. Jones has a chance to be a good player but Ogletree made a much bigger impact as a rookie.

18. Dallas: Kyle Long, OG, Oregon
Original Pick (SF): Eric Reid, S, LSU

Since Reid is already off the board, Jim Harbaugh won’t be forced to trade up to draft a safety. Instead, the Cowboys would keep this pick and even Jerry Jones would be hard-pressed to pass on the Pro Bowler Long. Dallas needed to address it O-line and did so with the 30th pick (Travis Frederick), but Long was one of the few that played as well (if not better) than the Wisconsin interior blocker.

19. NY Giants: David Bakhtiari, OT, Colorado
Original Pick: Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse

Pugh wasn’t a terrible pick at 19th overall but Bakhtiari might have been the best value at O-line in the entire ’13 Draft. All the fourth-round pick out of Colorado did was protect Aaron Rodgers' blindside, starting all 16 games at left tackle for the Packers. He appears to be the real deal at left tackle and would be a stalwart for Eli Manning and the G-Men.

20. Chicago: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Original Pick: Kyle Long, OG, Oregon

Long is already off the board so the next best option is likely Cooper. There is a reason he went with the eighth overall pick last year and his fluke injury shouldn’t impact his long-term potential much. The Bears hit a home run with Long and wouldn’t be taking a big step back with Cooper.

21. Cincinnati: Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
Original Pick: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

Many were surprised with the Eifert pick considering the Bengals took a tight end in the first round just a few years ago. So knowing what he would get from Bernard, Marvin Lewis wouldn’t pass up the chance to secure his prized, do-everything playmaker earlier. The former Tar Heels all-purpose star ran for 695 yards, caught 56 passes for 514 yards and scored eight times as a rookie.

22. Atlanta: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
Original Pick: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

The Falcons would still be in the market to trade up to get a cornerback even with Trufant already off the board. With Mathieu sitting there, the Atlanta brass still makes the flip with the Rams to get a playmaker for the secondary. Offensive line and rush end also would be a possibility with this pick.

23. Minnesota: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Original Pick: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

The Vikings still land their guy in Patterson but would have to use the first of their eventual three first-round picks to get him instead of with the 29th overall selection. The freakish athlete is as naturally gifted a playmaker as there was in the class but is still a work in progress in terms of becoming a true No. 1 target. That said, he wouldn’t make it pass the Colts with the next pick if the Vikes don’t select him here.

24. Indianapolis: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Original Pick: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

If Patterson is still on the board, the Colts wouldn’t hesitate to take the star athlete from Tennessee. However, Hopkins is the next best option after catching 52 passes for 802 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Texans a year ago. With an aging Reggie Wayne and little depth behind T.Y. Hilton, Hopkins would give Andrew Luck an elite target moving forward.

25. Minnesota: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Original Pick: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

Rhodes showed a lot of growth and development over the course of his rookie year and, with elite size and speed, should develop into one of the better cornerbacks in this class. He played in 13 games and posted 48 tackles for a defense in desperate need of depth in the secondary.

26. Green Bay: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Original Pick: Datone Jones, DL, UCLA

This one is a no-brainer as Lacy won Offensive Rookie of the Year for the Packers a year ago. Lacy probably has a short shelf life due to his physical style of play,which is why he lasts until the 26th pick. But Ted Thompson — who was supposedly targeting Lacy with this pick a year ago — wouldn’t take the huge risk of letting him slip past here again.

27. Houston: Travis Frederick, OL, Wisconsin
Original Pick: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

With Hopkins off the board already, the Texans turn to the offensive line. Dallas’ pick of Frederick at the end of the first round was heavily criticized when it happened but the Badgers' interior blocker turned into one of the best values from the ’13 Draft. The Texans' O-line needs to be rebuilt and Frederick can play multiple positions.

28. Denver: Sio Moore, OLB, UConn
Original Pick: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

Cornerback and defensive line are both areas of need for the Broncos but the issues at outside rush linebacker could be solved instantly with the physical prospect from UConn. Moore played in 15 games for Oakland with 49 tackles, 8.5 for a loss and 4.5 sacks. He would be an excellent edge rusher in the Broncos' system moving forward.

29. Minnesota: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Original Pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

With Patterson and Rhodes already in the fold, the Vikings again trade with New England to get the 29th pick to take what many people believed was a sure-fire top-10 pick in Floyd. Floyd was solid but uninspiring in his rookie year, yet he still boasts way too much upside to pass up (a knee injury early slowed him down). Even if the Patriots stayed put and picked, Floyd would be a likely selection.

30. St. Louis: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Original Pick: Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia

The Rams and Steelers swap Georgia outside linebackers in this exercise. Fisher still gets a dynamic outside tackler, although Jones has more of a pedigree as a pass rusher rather than true linebacker. Jones has the talent to be excellent and showed signs of life later in the season but adding bulk and toughness will be key for him moving forward.

31. San Francisco: Matt Elam, S, Florida
Original Pick (DAL): Travis Frederick, OL, Wisconsin

Since the 49ers don’t trade with Dallas to move up to grab Reid at No. 18, head coach Jim Harbaugh takes the next best option in Florida’s hard-hitting safety. Elam showed maturity in his first season, posting 77 tackles in 15 starts for the then-defending Super Bowl champs.

32. Baltimore: Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU
Original Pick: Matt Elam, S, Florida

With Elam snatched up one pick earlier, the Ravens “settle” for the next best option in Cyprien. The FIU playmaker was the 33rd overall pick in last year’s draft and he did nothing to disprove his ability with 102 tackles as a rookie.

2013 First-Rounders who dropped out: Eric Fisher, Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo, Tavon Austin, D.J. Hayden, Justin Pugh, Tyler Eifert, Bjoern Werner, Datone Jones, Sylvester Williams

Other potential first-rounders: Zac Stacy, Jordan Reed, Logan Ryan, Johnthan Banks, Mike Glennon, Terrance Williams, Manti Te’o, Geno Smith, Zach Ertz, Jonathan Bostic, Jamie Collins, D.J. Swearinger, Micah Hyde
 

Teaser:
Redrafting the First Round of the 2013 NFL Draft
Post date: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 11:40
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-draft-ranking-no-1-picks-expansion
Body:

The NFL Draft is an inexact science. It always has been and it always will be.

In fact, millions of dollars are poured into travel, scouting, evaluation, interviewing, discussing and debating the merits of Prospect A versus Prospect B in every NFL war room in every NFL Draft.

And still, Tony Mandarich gets picked ahead of Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.

So having the first overall pick is a huge moment for any franchise. But its also carries with it tremendous pressure not to screw it up — which, of course, still happens frequently.

Dating back to expansion in 1995 when Carolina and Jacksonville joined the NFL, Athlon Sports has ranked and evaluated every No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Some of the names listed below have become the greatest to ever play the game. And others are JaMarcus Russell.

1. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis (1998)
Not only is Manning the best No. 1 overall pick in the draft between 1995-present but he might also be the greatest No. 1 overall pick of all-time. Which, of course, is extremely interesting considering there was healthy debate between Manning and No. 2 overall pick Ryan Leaf at the time of the Colts' selection. Needless to say, Indianapolis made the right choice with the Tennessee Volunteer quarterback.

2. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis (2012)
Maybe it’s something in the water in Indy, but the Colts know what they are doing when they pick atop the draft. Luck is the best pro prospect to enter the NFL since John Elway in the early 1980s and all he has done is post the best two-year start to an NFL career of any quarterback in NFL history. He has Hall of Fame ability and the question isn’t will he win a Super Bowl it's when and how many.

3. Orlando Pace, T, St. Louis (1997)
Pace started 165 of his 169 career games during his Hall of Fame career with the Rams (12 years) and Bears (one year). He went to seven Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro five times while also leading the Rams to their one and only Super Bowl championship. Pace might be the most physically talented offensive tackle ever to play the game and is one of the league’s all-time greatest players. Kurt Warner most certainly would agree.

4. Eli Manning, QB, San Diego (2004)
Traded from the Chargers to the Giants on draft day, Peyton’s younger brother has lived up the hype of being not only a Manning but the No. 1 overall pick. He was two Super Bowl wins in which he was the driving force. Has he had some inconsistent seasons and turned the ball over a ton? Certainly — but so, too, did Brett Favre. There is little doubt that Manning deserved to be the top pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

5. Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati (2003)
He was a Heisman Trophy winner in college and Pete Carroll has long claimed that if he could construct a QB from scratch, it would be Palmer. The 2005 AFC Player of the Year has throw for nearly 34,000 yards and 213 touchdowns in his 138-game career thus far — in which he's played for three of the traditionally weaker franchises. In just his third year, Palmer took the Bengals from the basement to the playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades (1990). He has four 4,000-yard seasons, including one in each of the last two years. Constantly overlooked, Palmer has developed into one of the better No. 1 overall picks in recent memory.

6. Michael Vick, QB, Atlanta (2001)
Vick is quite the conundrum. He has unprecedented physical ability and wowed fans in ways no other player in NFL history ever has. He also spent two years in prison, has only played one full season (16 games) in his career and has constantly had turnover and health issues. His near 6,000 yards rushing makes him one of the most unique players in NFL history and certainly worthy of a No. 1 overall pick. That said, Falcons fans probably still wonder what could have been had he been able to stay focused off the field.

7. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina (2011)
Newton could fly past Vick and Palmer on this list in a very short period of time. Newton set records as a rookie and led his team to a division crown in his third season. He has proven his doubters wrong and as he begins to mature off the field and in the huddle, the sky could be the limit for a player of such substantial physical talent.

8. Keyshawn Johnson, WR, NY Jets (1996)
Throw him the damn ball. His me-first attitude and overall antics knock him down a peg or two in these rankings. But as the only wide receiver taken No. 1 overall since Irving Fryar in 1984, Johnson delivered a fine career. He only posted four 1,000-yard seasons but topped 10,000 yards and 800 receptions for his career to go with 78 total touchdowns. He also helped lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl title in 2002.

9. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit (2009)
Stafford has all of the physical tools to be one of the greats at his position and certainly justifies his No. 1 overall status. He also has a 5,000-yard season, the NFL record for attempts (727), led the Lions to the playoffs and won 2011 Comeback Player of the Year honors. Having said that, Stafford is 24-37 as a starter, has missed chunks of time due to injury and appears to be missing the “it factor” at times. He has a long way to go in his career and should have plenty of huge seasons in his future. Leading the Lions to the playoffs consistently and making a deep postseason run will go a long way towards silencing his doubters.

10. Mario Williams, DE, Houston (2006)
Houston was knocked for taking Williams over Reggie Bush or Vince Young but he has had a much better career than the common fan may realize. He is 13th among active NFL players in sacks with 76.5 and has forced 14 fumbles in 114 games. Williams has been to three Pro Bowls and has started every single game of his career with the exception of three games in 2010 and 11 in '11. Williams is an underrated No. 1 overall pick.

11. Jake Long, T, Miami (2008)
Long has missed just seven games in his six-year career and has started all 89 games he has played. He has been to four Pro Bowls and appears poised to have a solid career for the Rams after signing with them as a free agent prior to last season. Like Williams, Long doesn’t jump off the page as a starter but he has been an extremely solid, reliable and valuable player to this point in his career.

12. Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco (2005)
This one certainly started slowly. He managed just 19 touchdowns against 31 interceptions and an 11-19 starting record in his first three seasons for the 49ers. However, he persevered and has developed into a solid NFL quarterback. Over his last three seasons, Smith is 30-9-1 as a starter with 53 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, three playoff bids and over 8,000 yards passing (despite missing eight games over that span). His second career in Kansas City could eventually move him up this list.

13. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis (2010)
Plagued by major injuries for most of his collegiate and pro career, Bradford will likely never live up to the hype of being taken No. 1 overall. He won NFL Rookie of the Year in his first season but has missed a total of 15 games over the last three years. He’s had little in the way of support from his O-line and playmakers on offense, so there is still plenty of time for him to improve under trusted head coach Jeff Fisher. The final verdict on Bradford is still out.

14. Eric Fisher, T, Kansas City (2013)
By default, Fisher lands directly between the players who are deemed “good” and the players who are deemed “bad.” He started 13 of the 14 games he played as a rookie for a team that made the playoffs. He has the tools to be the Chiefs' long-term solution at left tackle but only time will tell.

15. Tim Couch, QB, Cleveland (1999)
Here is where the term bust begins to surface and Couch was the “best” of the busts. He went 22-37 as a starter in 62 career games, throwing for over 11,000 yards, 64 touchdowns and 67 interceptions. He did, however, post a winning record for the Browns in 2002 when he went 8-6 and he had one 3,000-yard season in '01 for a 7-9 squad. These are his top two pro accomplishments, which at least makes him a better pick than….

16. David Carr, QB, Houston (2002)
Carr had no help from the expansion roster around him as he was sacked 76 times as a rookie and led the league in sacks three of his first four seasons. To his credit, Carr lasted in the NFL for 11 seasons (mostly as a backup) but his 23-56 record as a starter is pretty ugly.

18. Courtney Brown, DE, Cleveland (2000)
One of only two defensive players taken No. 1 overall since expansion is one of the most forgettable. Brown played in 61 career games over six seasons. His set a career high with 69 tackles as a rookie and never topped 42 tackles after that. He set a career high with 13 starts and 6.0 sacks in 2003. He finished his career with 19.0 sacks and 196 tackles.

17. Ki-Jana Carter, RB, Cincinnati (1995)
Here is all you need to know about Carter’s NFL career: He made 14 career starts in seven NFL seasons. He never reached 500 yards rushing in any season and only topped 400 once in his career. He was out of football by 2005 and finished with 319 carries, 1,144 yards and 20 touchdowns in his NFL career. No running back has ever been taken No. 1 overall since.

19. JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland (2007)
Nine players in the NFL threw for at least 4,000 yards in 2013. Russell barely cracked 4,000 for his entire playing career (4,083). He played in 31 games, going 7-18 as a starter with 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Needless to say, Russell — both literally and figuratively — was the biggest No. 1 overall bust in the modern NFL expansion era.

Teaser:
NFL Draft: Ranking the No. 1 Picks Since Expansion
Post date: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/bcs-eras-all-american-team
Body:

All-conference and All-American teams are a great indicator as to who are the best players in the nation. Earning first-team honors more than once is a pretty good sign that you were one of the best at your position during your career. The rare three-time All-American selection makes you one of the best college football players of all-time.

As the College Football Playoff Era begins in 2014, Athlon Sports is looking back on the last 16 years of action — aka, The BCS Era. Here is the All-BCS Era All-Big-12 team. The only stipulation (unlike other folks who have done this exercise) is that you must have played at least one season from 1998-13.

First-Team Offense:

QB: Vince Young, Texas (2003-05)
Young earned Rose Bowl MVP honors following his ridiculous performance against Michigan to finish his sophomore season. It was a sign of things to come as he was named Big 12 Player of the Year in 2005. He was a consensus All-American, led the Big 12 in passing efficiency, won the Davey O'Brien, Manning and Maxwell Awards while finishing second on the Heisman ballot. His smooth running skills led to an all-time Big 12 career record 6.8 yards per carry. And no one will ever forget his second Rose Bowl MVP performance against USC in the greatest game of the BCS Era, returning the national championship to Austin.

Second-Team: Tim Tebow, Florida, Third-Team: Matt Leinart, USC

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06)
The BCS version of Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson was the three-year star from Palestine (Texas) High. A three-time, first-team All-Big 12 runner, Peterson finished No. 2 in the Heisman Trophy voting as a true freshman in 2004. His 1,925 yards were an NCAA record for a true freshman and it earned him unanimous All-American honors. Despite missing chunks of time with injuries in each of his next two seasons, “All Day” Peterson still topped 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. His natural blend of power, speed, size and balance has never been duplicated during the BCS Era. He is the Sooners' No. 3 all-time leading rusher.

Second-Team: Ron Dayne, Wisconsin Third-Team: LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1995-98)
The power back from San Diego had a two-year run as an upperclassman that may never be matched, as he posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,800 yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. Williams was a two-time consensus All-American, a two-time Doak Walker Award winner, a two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and claimed the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award and Heisman Trophy as a senior. He left school as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher (since broken) and he is one of four players to ever score at least 70 rushing touchdowns.

Second-Team: Darren McFadden, Arkansas Third-Team: Reggie Bush, USC

WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh (2002-03)
After redshirting, Fitz dominated college football for two full seasons. He became the first Pitt Panther to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, owns the school record with 34 touchdowns (in just 26 games) and owns the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown reception (18). As a sophomore in his final season at Pitt, he caught 92 passes for 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns, winning Big East Player of the Year honors and the Walter Camp and Biletnikoff awards. His second-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting is the highest by any wide receiver during the BCS era and he is the only one in to finish in the top three.

Second-Team: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech Third-Team: Percy Harvin, Florida

WR: Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech (2004-06)
Appropriately nicknamed Megatron, no player has demonstrated the combination of size and speed that Johnson brought to the Ramblin Wreck offense. The Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek prospect was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2004 before earning back-to-back All-American honors in 2005-06. He owns school records for receiving yards and touchdowns during his time at Tech and claimed the Biletnikoff Award as well as ACC Player of the Year honors in 2006.

Second-Team: Peter Warrick, Florida State Third-Team: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08)
It didn’t take long for Tigers fans to see what they had in Coffman as he earned first-team Freshman All-American honors in 2005. He then broke Mizzou tight end receiving records with 58 receptions, 638 yards and nine touchdowns as just a sophomore. After two straight All-Big 12 seasons, Coffman claimed the John Mackey Award as a senior as the nation’s top tight end after posting 90 receptions, 987 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008. Missouri went 22-6 over his final two seasons in what many believe to be the best two-year run in program history.

Second-Team: Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma Third-Team: Heath Miller, Virginia

T: Bryant McKinnie, Miami (2000-01)
He only played two seasons for Miami after beginning at Lackawanna College (Pa.) but he was downright unstoppable during his time in a Hurricanes' uniform. He was an All-American in both seasons, won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman and led Miami to a 23-1 record and the 2001 BCS National Championship. He is the only offensive lineman during the BCS era to finish in the top 10 of Heisman Trophy balloting. The Pro Bowl left tackle was the seventh overall pick by the Vikings in the 2002 NFL Draft.

Second-Team: Chris Samuels, Alabama Third-Team: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma

T: Joe Thomas, Wisconsin (2004-06)
One of the few big-time recruits from the state of Wisconsin, Thomas was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy winner for a team that went 31-7 during his three seasons as the starting left tackle. He has rare foot speed, agility and overall athletic ability — and it’s why he has been to the Pro Bowl in all seven of his NFL seasons.

Second-Team: Jake Long, Michigan Third-Team: Shawn Andrews, Arkansas

G: Steve Hutchinson, Michigan (1997-2000)
Starting for four seasons for the Wolverines, Hutchinson helped the Maize and Blue win the 1997 national championship. He capped his career with consensus All-American honors, was an Outland Trophy finalist and didn’t allow a sack in his final two seasons at Michigan.

Second-Team: Duke Robinson, Oklahoma Third-Team: David Yankey, Stanford

G: Barrett Jones, Alabama (2009-12)
No offensive lineman during the BCS Era was more decorated than the Memphis native. He started at right guard and earned freshman All-American honors for the 2009 BCS champs. He slid out to left tackle by 2011 and won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman for the 2011 BCS champs. Jones then manned the pivot and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center for the 2012 BCS champs. The two-time consensus All-American won three national titles at three different positions while graduating with a Master’s Degree and 4.0 GPA.

Second-Team: Mike Iupati, Idaho Third-Team: Eric Steinbach, Iowa

C: Greg Eslinger, Minnesota (2002-05)
Not many centers have an Outland Trophy on their mantle at home but Eslinger does. He was a freshman All-American in 2002, a third-team All-American as a sophomore, a first-teamer in '04 and earned consensus All-American honors as a senior. He won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center and earned Big Ten Lineman of the Year honors in ’05. Minnesota never had a losing record during his four-year career.

Second-Team: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska Third-Team: Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas

First-Team Defense:

DE: David Pollack, Georgia (2001-04)
The Bulldogs' defensive end is the most decorated defensive lineman of the BCS Era. Pollack is a three-time, first-team All-SEC and All-American, twice landing consensus All-American honors. He won the SEC Player of the Year award twice (2002, '04), as well as the Bednarik, Hendricks (twice), Lombardi and Lott Awards. He and roommate David Greene helped lead Georgia to its first SEC title (2002) in two decades. His highlight-reel plays — namely against South Carolina — and UGA all-time sack record (36.0) makes him arguably the greatest SEC defensive lineman of the BCS Era.

Second-Team: Julius Peppers, North Carolina Third-Team: Chris Long, Virginia

DE: Terrell Suggs, Arizona State (2000-02)
The star pass-rusher is best known as the NCAA’s all-time single-season sack master when he totaled 24 QB takedowns in 2002. Suggs was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and the inaugural Ted Hendricks Award winner that year as well. The accolades didn’t end there, however, as he also took home the Lombardi, Nagurski and Willis trophies. He led the NCAA with 31.5 tackles for a loss (still a Pac-12 record) and forced six fumbles that year. He finished his Sun Devils career with 163 tackles, a school-record 65.5 for a loss (second all-time in league history), 44 sacks (second all-time) and 14 forced fumbles.

Second-Team: Corey Moore, Virginia Tech Third-Team: Jadeveon Cloweny, South Carolina

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09)
The star defensive tackle from Portland, Ore., won the 2009 Outland and Nagurski Trophies as well as the Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Awards. He was the first defensive player to win AP Player of the Year honors since its inception in 1998 and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in ’09. That year Suh claimed the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award and he came just seconds shy of leading the Huskers to their first conference championship since 1999. He finished his career with 215 tackles, 57.0 for a loss, 24.0 sacks and six blocked kicks.

Second-Team: John Henderson, Tennessee Third-Team: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma

DT: Glenn Dorsey, LSU (2004-07)
He helped lead LSU to an SEC and BCS National Championship in 2007 while earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also claimed the Outland, Nagurski and Lott Trophies as well as the Lombardi Award — becoming the first LSU Tiger to win any of those prestigious awards. Dorsey also was ninth in the Heisman voting in his record-setting 2007 campaign. He was a two-time All-American and finished with 179 tackles, 27.0 for a loss and 13 sacks.

Second-Team: Haloti Ngata, Oregon Third-Team: Casey Hampton, Texas

LB: LaVar Arrington, Penn State (1997-99)
Arrington was an elite leader who helped Penn State to a 28-9 record during his three-year tenure in Happy Valley. He was the Butkus and Lambert Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker and was the recipient of the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player after 72 tackles, 20 for a loss, nine sacks and two blocked kicks in 1999. He was a consensus All-American who wound up as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

Second-Team: Paul Posluszny, Penn State Third-Team: Derrick Johnson, Texas

LB: Patrick Willis, Ole Miss (2003-06)
The unheralded Tennessee native was overlooked by most of the SEC big boys and made them all pay by becoming the league’s best linebacker of the BCS Era. Rising from utter poverty to the best LB in the nation, Willis claimed the Butkus and Lambert Awards in 2006. He posted 265 tackles and 21.0 for a loss over his final two seasons, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and All-American status as a senior.

Second-Team: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame Third-Team: Luke Kuechly, Boston College

LB: James Laurinaitis, Ohio State (2005-08)
Few players in the nation were as decorated, productive, talented and successful as the Minneapolis native. Laurinaitis won the Butkus, Nagurski, two Lambert Awards and two Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year awards while being a three-time All-American. He posted three straight seasons of at least 115 tackles and helped Ohio State win a share of four Big Ten titles, including two trips to the BCS National Championship Game.

Second-Team: E.J. Henderson, Maryland Third-Team: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma

CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002)
Newman did a little bit of everything for Bill Snyder and Kansas State. He returned kicks and punts and even played some wide receiver. The lockdown cornerback was a two-time All-Big 12 pick, a unanimous All-American, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top DB and a first-round pick by the Cowboys in 2003. The 2002 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year also was a two-time Big 12 outdoor track champion in the 100 meters and the league champ in the indoor 60 meters.

Second-Team: Champ Bailey, Georgia Third-Team: Jamar Fletcher, Wisconsin

CB: Patrick Peterson, LSU (2008-10)
One of the most versatile, impactful athletes in the nation, Peterson scored on both defense and special teams throughout his career. He was a dynamic return man who brought a rare explosiveness to the game and led the SEC with 418 punt return yards. As a junior, Peterson won the Thorpe and Bednarik Awards and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year while being recognized as an All-American for a second time. He was taken fifth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft and finished his career with 135 tackles, seven interceptions, four return touchdowns and 1,356 total return yards.

Second-Team: Dre Bly, North Carolina Third-Team: Antoine Winfield, Ohio State

S: Ed Reed, Miami (1998-01)
The star safety is one of the greatest to ever put on the pads. He led the team as a freshman in interceptions and forced fumbles en route to back-to-back All-American seasons in 2000 and '01. He led the nation as a senior with nine interceptions for 209 yards and three touchdowns. His leadership helped a stacked Miami team go unbeaten and claim the BCS National Championship in 2001. He was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Reed holds the school record for career interceptions (21), return yards (389) and defensive touchdowns (5). He was a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2002. Oh by the way, Reed was a Big East track and field champ in the javelin.

Second-Team: Eric Berry, Tennessee Third-Team: Troy Polamalu, USC

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001)
He helped lead the Sooners to an unbeaten BCS National Championship in 2000 while setting the school record for tackles for a loss by a defensive back (12.0). The following year, he claimed the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back as well as the Nagurski and Jack Tatum Trophies and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was a unanimous All-American, first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2002 and will go down in Red River Shootout lore for this spectacular play in the Cotton Bowl

Second-Team: Sean Taylor, Miami Third-Team: Mark Barron, Alabama

Teaser:
The BCS Era's All-American Team
Post date: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/all-acc-team-bcs-era
Body:

All-conference teams are a great indicator as to who is the best in each league. Earning first-team honors more than once is a pretty good sign that you were one of the best at your position during your career. The rare three-time (or even four-time) all-league selection makes you one of the best college football players of all-time.

As the College Football Playoff Era begins in 2014, Athlon Sports is looking back on the last 16 years of action — aka, The BCS Era. Here is the All-BCS Era All-ACC team. The only stipulation (unlike other folks who have done this exercise) is that you must have played at least one season from 1998-13 in the ACC.

First-Team Offense:

QB: Chris Weinke, Florida State (1997-2000)
He led his stacked Florida State squad to an undefeated BCS national title in 1999 over Virginia Tech before returning to win the Heisman Trophy as well as the Sammy Baugh, Johnny Unitas and Davey O'Brien awards the next season. His team lost two games over that span and one was the 2000 BCS title game against Oklahoma. He is still the ACC's all-time leader in yards per pass attempt (8.9) and was the conference’s all-time most efficient passer with a 151.15 rating until Tajh Boyd (and possibly Jameis Winston) came along. Second-Team: Philip Rivers, NC State

RB: C.J. Spiller, Clemson (2006-09)
With elite burst and big-play ability, Clemson used Spiller in every aspect of the game to great success. He is No. 2 in ACC history in yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns and is the NCAA’s all-time leader with seven kickoff return touchdowns. His 2,680 all-purpose yards in 2009 are a single-season ACC record and his 7,588 all-purpose yards are the all-time career record in the ACC by almost 2,000 yards (Leon Johnson, 5,828). No ACC player has scored in more games (34) than Spiller did while at Clemson. Second-Team: Andre Williams, Boston College

RB: Thomas Jones, RB, Virginia (1996-99)
Until 2013, Jones boasted a long list of illustrious ACC rushing records. His 334 carries and 1,798 yards in 1999 were both single-season ACC records (Andre Williams). His six 200-yard games are an ACC record still and he is seventh all-time with 18 100-yard games. Jones is sixth all-time in the ACC in rushing, leading the league twice in 1998 and ‘99, and is tied for 12th all-time with 40 total touchdowns. Jones finished eighth in the Heisman voting in 1999 and was one of two consensus All-American ACC running backs during the BCS Era (Spiller). Second-Team: Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

WR: Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech (2004-06)
Appropriately nicknamed Megatron, no player has demonstrated the combination of size and speed that Johnson brought to the Ramblin Wreck offense. The Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek prospect was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2004 before earning back-to-back All-American honors in 2005-06. He owns school records for receiving yards and touchdowns during his time at Tech and claimed the Biletnikoff Award as well as ACC Player of the Year honors in 2006. Second-Team: Sammy Watkins, Clemson

WR: Peter Warrick, Florida State (1995-99)
The phrase all-purpose wasn’t en vogue when Warrick broke onto the scene so the Bradenton (Fla.) Southeast superstar might deserve credit for the invention. And if not for an incident at Dillard’s department store that resulted in a two-game suspension, Warrick likely would have won the Heisman Trophy. The two-time consensus All-American joystick could do it all. His Sugar Bowl MVP performance — and touchdown catch — in the 1999 national championship game (six rec., 163 yds, three total TDs) will go down as one of the greatest national title performances in NCAA history. Second-Team: Torry Holt, NC State

TE: Heath Miller, Virginia (2002-04)
Perhaps the greatest tight end in ACC history, in 2004 Miller became the first player in league history to win the John Mackey Award. He wrote his name into the school and conference record books for receiving by a tight end, setting a new benchmark in all three major receiving categories despite only playing three seasons. However, it wasn’t just his elite receiving ability that made the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder one of the game’s best. Miller relished the blocking side of the game as well. Second-Team: Dwayne Allen, Clemson

T: D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia (2002-05)
Ferguson started 49 games in his Virginia career — all at left tackle —  helping the Cavaliers make it to four straight bowl games. He was a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection and earned All-American honors in his final season in Charlottesville. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the New York Jets and has gone to three Pro Bowls. Second-Team: Brett Williams, Florida State

T: Alex Barron, Florida State (2001-04)
The 6-foot-8, 315-pounder was Florida State’s top lineman of the BCS Era. He was a consensus All-American in 2003 and a unanimous All-American in '04. Barron was an Outland Trophy finalist in his final season as well. His teams never won fewer than eight games, won two ACC titles and went 26-6 in conference play over that span. Second-Team: Branden Albert, Virginia

G: Rodney Hudson, Florida State (2007-10)
The mauler from Mobile was a three-time, first-team All-ACC selection, a two-time, first-team All-American and a two-time winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top lineman in the ACC. He is one of only two guards to ever win the award twice (Elton Brown). He helped return Florida State to the ACC Championship Game as a senior in 2010 for the first time since '05. Second-Team: Elton Brown, Virginia

G: Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (2009-12)
The massive Tar Heels blocker was a three-time All-ACC performer and an Outland Trophy finalist in 2012. The unanimous All-American won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the league’s top lineman and eventually was the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Cardinals. He paved the way for the ACC’s top running back (Giovani Bernard). Second-Team: Josh Beekman, Boston College

C: Steve Justice, Wake Forest (2004-07)
After enduring two losing seasons as an underclassman, Justice was the first-team All-ACC pivot for arguably the greatest team in school history. He led the way on the 11-win, ACC championship squad of 2006. He came back for his senior year and earned his second first-team All-ACC nod and was a consensus All-American as well. Justice was a Rimington finalist and won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top lineman in the ACC in ’07. Second-Team: Craig Page, Georgia Tech

First-Team Defense:

DE: Julius Peppers, North Carolina (1999-2001)
As a two-sport star in Chapel Hill, Peppers was a freshman All-American in 1999 before leading the nation in sacks (15.0) as a sophomore. He capped his junior season as a consensus All-American and by winning Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Trophy honors. Peppers finished 10th in the Heisman voting in 2001. He started 33 of 34 possible career games and finished with 167 tackles and 30.5 sacks, good for sixth all-time in ACC history and second during the BCS Era. His 53.0 tackles for a loss are 13th all-time in league history as well. Second-Team: DaQuan Bowers, Clemson

DE: Chris Long, Virginia (2004-07)
The son of NFL great Howie Long entered the starting lineup as a sophomore, totaling 46 tackles, 10.0 for a loss and two sacks. As a junior, Long posted 57 tackles, 12.0 for a loss and 4.0 sacks. As a senior, he claimed ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors as well as the Dudley and Hendricks Awards. He was a unanimous All-American after 79 total tackles, including an ACC-best 19.0 tackles for a loss and league-leading 14.0 sacks in his final season in which he finished 10th in the Heisman voting. He finished his career with 182 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss and 20.0 sacks. Second-Team: Mario Williams, NC State

DT: Aaron Donald, Pitt (2010-13)
Donald only played one season in the ACC but it was one of the, if not the, best by an ACC defensive lineman in league history. He swept the national awards by claiming the Outland, Nagurski, Lombardi and Bednarik as essentially the most decorated defensive player of the BCS Era not named Manti Te’o. He won ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors after posting 59 tackles, 28.5 for a loss and 11.0 sacks from his defensive tackle position. His career 29.5 sacks would be eighth in ACC history and his 66.0 tackles for a loss would be a new career ACC record had he played his entire career in the league. Second-Team: Darnell Dockett, Florida State

DT: Corey Simon, Florida State (1996-99)
A consensus All-American, Simon helped lead Florida State to back-to-back BCS championship games with a win in his final game over Virginia Tech in 1999. He left school with a then-record 44.0 tackles for a loss and was a finalist for the Lombardi and Outland Trophies as a senior. One of the most dominant interior lineman in ACC history, Simon was taken sixth overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. Second-Team: B.J. Raji, Boston College

LB: E.J. Henderson, Maryland (1999-2002)
He owns the career tackles per game record (12.5), career solo tackles per game (8.8) and the single-season unassisted tackles record with 135 in 2002. That year, Henderson won his second ACC Defensive Player of the Year award as well as the Butkus, Lambert and Bednarik Awards nationally. He was a two-time All-American, Chick-fil-A Bowl MVP, is second all-time in ACC history with 62.5 career tackles for a loss and 11th all-time with 473 tackles. Henderson was a second-round pick by the Vikings in 2003. Second-Team: Aaron Curry, Wake Forest

LB: Luke Kuechly, Boston College (2009-11)
Tackling. Machine. That is really all that needs to be said about the Boston College star defender. He was second nationally with 158 tackles as just a freshman, led the nation in tackles with 183 as a sophomore and led the world again in stops with 191 as a junior. So in just three seasons, Kuechly set the BC and ACC career tackle records en route to numerous awards. He was a two-time All-American, ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a first-round NFL Draft pick by Carolina in 2012 and won the Butkus, Lombardi, Nagurski, Lott and Lambert national trophies. Second-Team: Keith Adams, Clemson

LB: D’Qwell Jackson, Maryland (2002-05)
The undersized tackler played in all 14 games as a freshman, started all 11 games as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior and senior. He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 after 137 tackles and four sacks. Jackson finished with 447 tackles, good for fourth in school history and 19th in ACC history — seventh among all players during the BCS Era. Jackson was a second-round pick of the Browns in the 2006 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Mark Herzlich, Boston College

CB: Dre Bly, North Carolina (1996-98)
Not only one of the coolest names in college football but one of the coolest customers on an island all by himself. Bly set the ACC single-season record with 11 interceptions in 1996 and left school with an ACC record 20 INTs in his career (both since broken). He was a consensus All-American as a freshman and sophomore (one of few in NCAA history to accomplish the feat) and was a second-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest

CB: Antrel Rolle, Miami 2001-04)
He only played one season in the ACC but it was a good one. Rolle was one of just four true freshmen to play on the dominant 2001 BCS National Championship team. He was an All-Big East pick as a sophomore and a unanimous All-American in the ACC in 2004 as a senior. He played safety in the NFL after being selected eighth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, but he was an elite college cornerback, shutting down names like Larry Fitzgerald (3 rec., 26 yds) and Calvin Johnson (2 rec., 10 yds) during his career. Second-Team: David Amerson, NC State

S: Anthony Poindexter, Virginia (1995-98)
He was a leader and one of the hardest-hitting players to ever play the game — and made one of the most famous tackles in NCAA history. He set a school record with 98 tackles as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior in 1997. Despite getting injured late in the year, Poindexter earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors and became a two-time All-American. He was the only defensive back in the ACC to win conference Defensive Player of the Year honors during the BCS Era. The three-time, first-team All-ACC pick finished his career with 12 interceptions. Second-Team: Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

S: Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech (2002-05)
Playing multiple positions all over the defense, Williams entered the starting lineup as a sophomore. He was a first-team All-ACC pick as a junior while leading Tech to an ACC championship with a league-leading five interceptions and 19 passes defended. In 2005, Williams was a unanimous All-American and Jack Tatum Trophy winner as the nation’s top defensive back. He was a second-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Robert Carswell, Clemson

Teaser:
The All-ACC Team of the BCS Era
Post date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/top-10-ncaa-championship-games-modern-tournament-history
Body:

The Connecticut Huskies are champions.

Kevin Ollie, in just his first year eligible to make the tournament and just his second as a head coach, led his team to the top of the college basketball mountain. All UConn and Ollie did was become the first No. 7 seed to ever win the NCAA championship and the lowest seeded champ since Kansas (No. 6) topped Oklahoma in 1988.

Their defense was excellent and Shabazz Napier was downright brilliant once again. That said, Kentucky's fabulous freshmen should hold their collective head high after a tremendous effort on the other side of the court. It was a much better game than two teams with an NCAA record for combined total seeding in a title game (15).

But was last night's 60-54 showdown in North Texas one of the 10 best national championship games of the modern era? 

Limiting the time scope to the modern tournament era — aka, 1985, when the tournament expanded to 64 teams — here are the 10 best national championship showdowns. (And five that totally flopped.)

1. (8) Villanova 66, (1) Georgetown 64
When: 1985 Where: Lexington, Ky.

It might be the most important basketball game ever played on any level. Villanova pulled the biggest championship upset in tournament history — later broken by UConn in 1999 — when the eighth-seeded Wildcats shot 22-of-28 from the floor to topple Big East rival and Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown. Nova is still the lowest-seeded team to win the NCAA championship and helped make the first 64-team tournament a huge success — in particular for the Big East. St. John's joined Nova and G-Town in the Final Four in '85 as the only year a conference has landed three teams in the Final Four.

2. (1) Kansas 75, (1) Memphis 68 (OT)
When: 2008 Where: San Antonio, Texas

For the first time in modern tourney history, all four No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four. Both Kansas (who defeated a Roy Williams-coached North Carolina team) and Memphis (UCLA) cruised to the title game where John Calipari's Tigers overcame a five-point halftime deficit to take a nine-point lead with just over two minutes to play. Memphis, a notoriously poor free-throw shooting team, couldn't knock down freebies in the closing minutes and Kansas had a chance to tie it on the final possession. Veteran guard Mario Chalmers delivered with the game-tying three-pointer with 2.1 seconds to go. The Jayhawks cruised to the first six points in overtime and eventually won its first title in two decades.

3. (1) Indiana 74, (2) Syracuse 73
When: 1987 Where: New Orleans, La.

The last tournament in which teams were allowed to play in their home gyms also was the first in which the three-point shot was used. Bob Knight's Hoosiers topped Jim Boeheim's Orangemen on the back of a Keith Smart last-second baseline jumper. Smart was named the MOP because of his late heroics but current UCLA head coach Steve Alford actually led IU with 23 points in the game. The win gave Knight his third and final NCAA national championship and he would return to the Final Four only once more in his career after Smart's historic jump shot (1992).

4. (3) Michigan 80, (3) Seton Hall 79 (OT)
When: 1989 Where: Seattle, Wash.

Rumeal Robinson knocked down two free throws with three seconds left in overtime to give Michigan its first national title since 1963. The Wolverines outlasted a furious rally from the Cinderella Pirates and John Morton’s 35 points. Head coach Steve Fisher moved to 6-0 on the season after taking over for Bill Frieder just before the NCAA Tournament got started. Even though Robinson hit the game winners, future NBA star Glen Rice was named tourney MOP with 31 points in the title game and an NCAA-record 184 points in six games. 

5. (4) Arizona 84, (1) Kentucky 79 (OT)
When: 1997 Where: Indianapolis

Rick Pitino and his defending national champions entered the title game on a roll at 35-4 on the season. But Miles Simon scored a career-high 30 points on 14-of-17 from the free-throw line, including four in the final 41 seconds, to earn tournament MOP in a huge title game upset. The Wildcats didn’t make a field goal in overtime but outscored Kentucky 10-5. Arizona was the first team in history to defeat three No. 1 seeds in the same tournament.

6. (6) Kansas 83, (1) Oklahoma 79
When: 1988 Where: Kansas City, Mo.

Playing just 40 miles from campus, Danny (Manning) and the Miracles capped a historic season by avenging two regular season losses to the Sooners in the season’s final game. Oklahoma, a team that averaged 103.5 points per game, was held to less than 80 points and had an 11-minute drought with just two baskets late in the second half. Manning, the tourney MOP, scored 31 points and snagged 18 rebounds in the win. En route to the championship, the sixth-seeded Jayhawks beat No. 11 Xavier, No. 14 Murray State, No. 7 Vanderbilt and No. 4 Kansas State to get to the Final Four. It was just the third meeting of conference opponents in an NCAA championship game.

7. (1) Louisville 82, (4) Michigan 76
When: 2013 Where: Atlanta, Ga.

It had everything a national championship game should provide. Two historic brands coached by two of the game's greats in an epic battle with highlight-reel dunks, clutch shot-making and future NBA stars. After 39 furious minutes of end-to-end action, Russ Smith, Peyton Siva, Luke Hancock, Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng stood above National Player of the Year Trey Burke, Mitch McGary and two legacies in Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III. Rick Pitino won his second national title nearly two decades after winning his first with Kentucky. There wasn't a game-winning buzzer beater in the final seconds but, from start to finish, there have been few national title games more entertaining this one.

8. (1) Arkansas 76, (2) Duke 72
When: 1994 Where: Charlotte, N.C.

Arkansas, powered by coach Nolan Richardson's "40 minutes of hell" style of play, earned a spot in the Final Four much to the delight of No. 1 Hogs fan President Bill Clinton. The Hogs dispatched Arizona in the semi finals to meet Duke, who had won back-to-back titles in 1991-92. With the Commander-in-Chief in attendance at the Charlotte Coliseum, MOP Corliss Williamson paced Arkansas with 23 points and eight rebounds, but still needed a rainbow three by Scotty Thurman with less than a minute remaining to hold off a pesky Blue Devils team. The win gave Arkansas its first (and only) national title, a victory that certainly got the presidential seal of approval. 

9. (1) North Carolina 77, (1) Michigan 71
When: 1993 Where: New Orleans

Vacated wins or not, Michigan's Fab Five led the Wolverines all the way to the national championship game for the second straight season. Unfortunately, it ended with one of the most infamous and recognizable plays in NCAA tourney history. After racing up court down by two points, Chris Webber calls timeout with 11 seconds left in the game. However, since the Maize and Blue had no timeouts left, the play resulted in a technical foul and Webber's gaffe has gone down in history. Dean Smith claimed his second and final national championship.

10. (2) Louisville 72, (1) Duke 69
When: 1986 Where: Dallas, Texas

Duke was the No. 1 team in the nation with a sterling 37-2 record and the Naismith College Player of the Year Johnny Dawkins. And this also represented Mike Krzyzewski’s first-ever Final Four appearance. But Never Nervous Pervis Ellison played the game of his young career by scoring 36 points and grabbing 24 rebound in two Final Four games (25 and 11 against Duke) to earn Most Outstanding Player — the first freshman to do so since 1944 (Arnie Ferrin) and just the second freshman ever to win the honor. It was Denny Crum’s second national title in six seasons.

Just missed the cut:

11. (3) Syracuse 81, (2) Kansas 78
When: 2003 Where: New Orleans

Marquee stars Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade stole the hearts and minds of hoops enthusiasts en route to the Final Four. But Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim stole the headlines in the title game. Behind hot shooting from freshman guard Gerry McNamara (six three-pointers in the first half), the Orange took a lead that was sealed when Hakim Warrick blocked Michael Lee's attempt at a game-tying three-pointer to end the game. It was Cuse’s first national title as Melo, just a freshman, was named the MOP with 21 points in the win.

12. (1) Duke 61, (5) Butler 59
When: 2010 Where: Indianapolis

Butler beat No. 1 Syracuse, No. 2 Kansas State and No. 5 Michigan State en route to an improbable showdown with top-seeded Duke. Playing in its home town for the first time since 1968 UCLA and led by a rising coaching star in Brad Stevens, Butler battled the more talented and deeper Blue Devils to the wire. Gordon Heyward missed a half-court heave by inches that would have been the greatest shot in American basketball history. Coach K won his fourth NCAA championship.

13. (1) North Carolina 75, (1) Illinois 70
When: 2005 Where: St. Louis

After both teams survived unlikely scares in the Elite Eight against Wisconsin and Arizona respectively, the Tar Heels took a commanding early lead. But the Illini — led by Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head — rallied and tied the game at 70. Bruce Weber’s bunch had plenty of chances to take the lead and Raymond Felton calmly sunk free throws in the waning moments to give Roy Williams his first NCAA title.

14. (1) UConn 77, (1) Duke 74
When: 1999 Where: St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Blue Devils stormed through the tourney to reach the finals against a UConn team that was a then-record 9.5-point underdog. Clutch shooter Richard Hamilton won Most Outstanding Player with 27 points and Khalid Al-Amin ran the show with four assists. It was the biggest upset in a national title game in the history of the tournament.

15. (3) Duke 72, (2) Kansas 65
When: 1991 Where: Indianapolis

Duke’s win over unbeaten UNLV in the Final Four gets all of the headlines but the seven-point win over Kansas was a doozy as well. Christian Laettner was named MOP with 18 points, 10 rebounds on the strength of 12-of-12 shooting from the free-throw line. After nine Final Four trips and five national title game appearances, Duke wins its first national title.

The Final Flops:

(1) UNLV 103, (3) Duke 73
When: 1991 Where: Denver

(1) North Carolina 89, (2) Michigan State 72
When: 2009 Where: Detroit

(3) UConn 53, (8) Butler 41
When: 2011 Where: Houston

(3) Florida 73, (2) UCLA 57
When: 2006 Where: Indianapolis

(1) Duke 71, (6) Michigan 51
When: 1992 Where: Minneapolis

Teaser:
The Top 10 NCAA Championship Games in Modern Tournament History
Post date: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/all-pac-12-team-bcs-era
Body:

All-conference teams are a great indicator as to who is the best in each league. Earning first-team honors more than once is a pretty good sign that you were one of the best at your position during your career. The rare three-time (or even four-time) all-league selection makes you one of the best college football players of all-time.

As the College Football Playoff Era begins in 2014, Athlon Sports is looking back on the last 16 years of action — aka, The BCS Era. Here is the All-BCS Era All-Pac-12 team. The only stipulation (unlike other folks who have done this exercise) is that you must have played at least one season from 1998-13 in the Pac-12.

First-Team Offense:

QB: Matt Leinart, USC (2003-05)
Leinart won two national titles and played for a third in three years starting at powerhouse USC under Pete Carroll. He finished in the top six of Heisman voting in all three seasons, winning the award in 2004. He also earned AP Player of the Year, Manning, Walter Camp, Unitas and consensus All-American honors during his remarkable Heisman campaign. Leinart owns the career conference record with 36 consecutive games with a touchdown pass and his 99 TD passes were a league record until Matt Barkley came along. He also is just one of three players in league history to throw for 3,000 yards in three seasons (Derek Anderson, Andrew Walter). Second-Team: Andrew Luck, Stanford

RB: Reggie Bush, USC (2003-05)
Sort of a first of his kind, the all-purpose talent was unstoppable with the ball in his hands. He played a prominent role on the 2003 national championship team before providing 908 yards rushing, 509 yards receiving, nearly 1,000 return yards and 15 total touchdowns during USC’s 2004 romp to a second national title. He exploded as a junior, rushing for 1,740 yards on a ridiculous 8.7 yards per carry and scoring 19 total touchdowns, coming up just short of his third national title. He earned his second consecutive Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award as well as the Doak Walker, Walter Camp and Heisman Trophy. Second-Team: Steven Jackson, Oregon State

RB: LaMichael James, Oregon (2009-11)
Few players accomplished more in three seasons than James. Three straight 1,500-yard campaigns, a Doak Walker Award, consensus All-American honors and a trip to the BCS title game make the speedy and elusive back one of the BCS Era’s greatest tailbacks. His 53 touchdowns and 5,082 yards on the ground are both second all-time in Pac-12 history. The Texarkana, Texas, native finished third in the Heisman voting in 2010 and 10th in '11 and led an Oregon team that went 34-6 and won three straight Pac-12 titles. Second-Team: Toby Gerhart, Stanford

WR: Mike Williams, USC (2002-03)
In his two underclass seasons for USC, Williams was extraordinary. As a true freshman, the massive 6-foot-5, 240-pounder caught 81 passes for 1,265 yards and 14 TDs. He returned to top those numbers as a sophomore with 95 receptions (third in league history at the time), 1,314 yards and 16 scores in 2003 (still third in league history). He was a consensus All-American and finished eighth in the Heisman voting. Williams declared for the draft following his sophomore season, but was ultimately ruled ineligible and couldn't return to USC. Second-Team: Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

WR: Marqise Lee, USC (2011-13)
As just a sophomore, Lee won the Biletnikoff Award, was a consensus All-American, was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and broke multiple USC and Pac-12 receiving records. He is one of just two wideouts in BCS history to finish in the top four of the Heisman voting. Lee owns the single-game Pac-12 record with 345 yards against Arizona in 2012 and is third all-time with 16 catches in that game. His 118 catches and 1,721 yards were both Pac-12 records that stood for one year until Brandin Cooks showed up in 2013. He is fourth all-time in career receptions and yards in league history and ninth in TD catches. Second-Team: Dwayne Jarrett, USC

TE: Marcedes Lewis, UCLA (2002-05)
The red-zone touchdown machine improved his production each of his four seasons at UCLA, culminating with All-American and John Mackey honors as a senior in 2005. He set school records in all three major categories for a tight end that year and helped UCLA to its best record (10-2) since 1998. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound consensus All-American was a matchup nightmare for defenses and was the Pac-10’s best player at his position during the BCS Era in a league known for its great tight ends. Second-Team: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

T: Sam Baker, USC (2004-07)
The stud left tackle charged with protecting Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush was a three-time, first-team All-American and three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection. Baker helped lead the way on teams that played in back-to-back national championship games and won four straight Pac-10 titles. USC was 47-5 during his time and he went on to be a first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Matt Kalil, USC

T: Kris Farris, UCLA (1995-98)
The 1998 Outland Trophy winner was a consensus All-American for the Bruins in 1998. In fact, Farris was one of only two players from the Pac-12 to win the Outland (Rien Long) and was the only offensive lineman to do so during the BCS Era. He helped lead UCLA to back-to-back 10-2 seasons and a Rose Bowl berth in his final season before being selected in the third round by the Bills in 1999. Second-Team: Jacob Rogers, USC

G: David Yankey, Stanford (2011-13)
In three short years, Yankey is likely the school’s most decorated offensive lineman. He earned consensus All-American honors as a sophomore for the Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champs while also claiming the Morris Trophy as the league’s top OL. He returned as a junior and earned unanimous All-American honors en route to a second consecutive Pac-12 championship. He led Stanford to three straight BCS bowls and a 34-7 overall record over that span. Second-Team: Jonathan Martin, Stanford

G: David DeCastro, Stanford (2009-11)
As a freshman in 2009, he started all 13 games for the 8-5 Cardinal and was a freshman All-American. He started all 13 games as a sophomore for the 12-1 Cardinal, helping to win the program’s first BCS bowl game (Orange Bowl). He capped his career with a consensus All-American season for the 11-2 Cardinal. He left school early and was the 24th overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Steelers. Second-Team: Adam Snyder, Oregon

C: Alex Mack, Cal (2005-08)
The star center started 39 consecutive games for the Golden Bears. He won the “Academic Heisman” as the recipient of the Draddy Trophy in 2008 and was a two-time Rimington finalist. Mack was the only Pac-12 player to win the Morris Trophy (Offensive) as the league’s top lineman twice during the BCS Era and was a three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection. He also was a rare first-round pick as a center by the Browns in 2009 and has earned three Pro Bowl invites in his career. Second-Team: Ryan Kalil, USC

First-Team Defense:

DL: Terrell Suggs, Arizona State (2000-02)
The star pass-rusher is best known as the NCAA’s all-time single-season sack master when he totaled 24 QB takedowns in 2002. Suggs was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and the inaugural Ted Hendricks Award winner that year as well. The accolades didn’t end there, however, as he also took home the Lombardi, Nagurski and Willis trophies. He led the NCAA with 31.5 tackles for a loss (still a Pac-12 record) and forced six fumbles that year. He finished his Sun Devils career with 163 tackles, a school-record 65.5 for a loss (second all-time in league history), 44 sacks (second all-time) and 14 forced fumbles. Second-Team: Stephen Paea, Oregon State

DL: Haloti Ngata, Oregon (2003-05)
Arguably the best NFL defensive tackle of his generation, Ngata had to overcome a torn ACL in college. Once he recovered, the big interior stuffer posted 107 tackles, 17.5 for a loss and 6.5 sacks over his final two seasons in Eugene. He was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, a consensus All-American and the Morris Trophy winner before being selected 12th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. He blocked seven kicks and led Oregon to a 10-win season in 2005 — just the school’s third such campaign in school history at the time. Second-Team: Shaun Cody, USC

DL: Will Sutton, Arizona State (2009-13)
There are only two players in the history of the Pac-12 to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards and Sutton is one of them (Washington’s Steve Emtman is the other) as he claimed both the 2012 and '13 honor. Sutton was an All-American after a huge junior season in 2012 before returning to help lead Arizona State to the best record in the Pac-12 and a South Division title. He won back-to-back Morris Trophies as well as the league’s best D-liner in both seasons. From his tackle spot, he finished with 19.5 career sacks and 45.5 tackles for a loss. Second-Team: Rien Long, Washington State

DL: Sedrick Ellis, USC (2004-07)
Ellis was one of the big fellas up the middle who helped the Trojans win four straight conference titles and earn two BCS championship appearances (2004-05). He was one of three players to ever win the Morris Trophy twice during the BCS Era, was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and was a unanimous All-American in '07. Ellis finished with 144 total tackles, 28.5 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks in 48 career games for the Men of Troy. USC was 47-5 during his four years. Second-Team: Dave Ball, UCLA

LB: Rey Maualuga, USC (2005-08)
The hard-hitting tackler was a freshman All-American on the 2005 USC team that barely lost to Texas in the national title game. He then started the next three seasons for the Trojans, earning consensus All-American honors, the Chuck Bednarik Award and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2008. The Men of Troy went 46-6 during his time on campus and few players were as feared nationally as Maualuga. He posted 272 career tackles, 22.5 for a  loss, 9.0 sacks and five interceptions. Second-Team: Shayne Skov, Stanford

LB: Chris Claiborne, USC (1995-98)
The three-year star for the Trojans was the first and only Butkus Award winner in USC history when he was named the nation’s top linebacker in 1998 — the same year both Al Wilson and Andy Katzenmoyer were seniors. He also is the only Pac-12 player to win the Butkus in the three-decade history of the award. He was a consensus All-American and the No. 9 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Nick Barnett, Oregon State

LB: Adam Archuleta, Arizona State (1997-2000)
The West Coast’s favorite walk-on became a three-year starter for the Sun Devils. He earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors twice and was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2000. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award and finished with 330 tackles, 54.0 tackles for a loss and 14.0 sacks. The star tackler was a first-round pick of the Rams in the 2001 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Lofa Tatupu, USC

CB: Antoine Cason, Arizona (2004-07)
The California native was a four-year contributor for Arizona, playing in 46 career games in Tucson. He went on to win Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year, was named first-team all-league twice as an upperclassman and is the only player from the Pac-12 to win the Thorpe Award during the BCS Era (2007). He scored four times (two INTs, two punt returns), intercepted five passes and made 71 tackles as a senior. He finished with 253 tackles, 14.0 for a loss, 15 interceptions and five total touchdowns. Second-Team: Daymeion Hughes, Cal

CB: Deltha O’Neal, Cal (1996-99)
He is one of just two defensive backs to win conference Defensive Player of the Year during the BCS Era when he set an NCAA record by returning four interceptions for touchdowns in his senior year. He also won the Mosi Tatupu Award as the nation’s top special teamer and the Pop Warner Award as the most valuable player on the West Coast —  one of only six Pac-12 players to do so and one of only two Pac-12 defensive players. He was a consensus All-American and first-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Chris McAlister, Arizona

S: Troy Polamalu, USC (1999-2002)
The big-play machine was a three-year starter for the West Coast powerhouse. He was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection, a consensus All-American and stuffed the stat sheet his entire career. The big hitter finished with 278 tackles, 29.0 for a loss, six interceptions and four blocked punts in 36 career starts for the Men of Troy. Polamalu led USC back to prominence with a league title and trip to the Orange Bowl before being taken in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Ed Reynolds, Stanford

S: Taylor Mays, USC (2006-09)
A five-star recruit coming into college, Mays helped lead USC to three consecutive conference championships and a 34-5 record in his first three seasons. He was a rare, three-time All-American from 2007-09 and was a freshman All-American in '06. Mays finished his career with 276 tackles, 21 pass breakups and five interceptions. Second-Team: Lamont Thompson, Washington State

Teaser:
The All-Pac-12 Team of the BCS Era
Post date: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/all-sec-team-bcs-era
Body:

All-conference teams are a great indicator as to who is the best in each league. Earning first-team honors more than once is a pretty good sign that you were one of the best at your position during your career. The rare three-time (or even four-time) all-league selection makes you one of the best college football players of all-time.

As the College Football Playoff Era begins in 2014, Athlon Sports is looking back on the last 16 years of action — aka, The BCS Era. Here is the All-BCS Era All-SEC team. The only stipulation (unlike other folks who have done this exercise) is that you must have played at least one season from 1998-13 in the SEC.

First-Team Offense:

QB: Tim Tebow, Florida (2006-09)
Four years of huge statistics makes him the all-time SEC leader in total yards, total touchdowns (145), rushing touchdowns and passing efficiency (170.8). He won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 as well as the Davey O'Brien and Maxwell Awards when he set NCAA records with 55 total touchdowns and 4,181 yards of total offense (since broken). He won the SEC Player of the Year, Manning and Maxwell Awards the following year when he led Florida to its second national championship in three years. Tebow fell one game shy in 2009 of playing in — and likely winning — three national titles in four years. Second-Team: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

RB: Darren McFadden, Arkansas (2005-07)
When it comes to pure breakaway speed and big-play ability, few can match Run-DMC’s talent. The North Little Rock prospect finished second in Heisman balloting in back-to-back seasons, coming up just short to Troy Smith and Tim Tebow in 2006 and '07 respectively. McFadden won the Doak Walker and SEC Offensive Player of the Year awards in both consensus All-American seasons. His 4,590 yards is No. 2 all-time in SEC history to only the great Herschel Walker. Second-Team: Mark Ingram

RB: Trent Richardson, Alabama (2009-11)
The Pensacola product only started for one season but became the only SEC running back to rush for 20 touchdowns in a season until Tre Mason. Richardson won two national titles and is one of the rarest combinations of size, speed and agility. His 1,679 yards in the 2011 national title season are second to only McFadden (1,830) among all SEC backs during the BCS Era and is an Alabama single-season record. He finished his collegiate career by earning consensus All-American recognition, winning the Doak Walker Award and SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors and finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting in '11. Second-Team: Shaun Alexander, Alabama

WR: Percy Harvin, Florida (2006-08)
If Peter Warrick invented the all-purpose position in the late '90s, Harvin glorified it in the mid-2000s. A true dual-threat offensive talent, Harvin burst onto the scene as the SEC Freshman of the Year. He played a key role in the Gators' 2006 BCS National Championship run, totaling 82 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown against Ohio State. He capped his college career with 14 touches for 171 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game against Oklahoma. Few have combined speed, strength, production and winning like Harvin did. Second-Team: A.J. Green, Georgia

WR: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt (2010-13)
No player in the history of the SEC has had a more productive career or single season than Matthews. Matthews has caught more passes (262) for more yards (3,759) than anyone in SEC history and it’s not really even close. No player in the SEC has ever caught 100 passes and Matthews posted 112 receptions as a senior with mediocre quarterback play. He helped the Dores to three straight bowl games and was the singular focus of every defense he faced yet still managed to destroy every major SEC receiving record. Second-Team: Josh Reed, LSU

TE: D.J. Williams, Arkansas (2007-10)
The star Razorback never had an 800-yard season, never caught more than 61 passes and never scored more than four times in a year, but Williams is one of the best of the BCS Era. His career numbers are excellent and he was extremely dependable for three full seasons for the Hogs. His career culminated in a John Mackey Award in 2010 and he helped lead Arkansas to 10 wins and a Sugar Bowl berth. Second-Team: Jason Witten, Tennessee

T: Chris Samuels, Alabama (1996-99)
The massive 'Bama blocker earned every award possible for an offensive tackle. Samuels claimed the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy and earned the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman in 1999 as a senior. He helped Alabama to its first SEC championship since 1992 and was a consensus All-American. He entered the starting lineup during his freshman season and proceeded to start 42 straight games — without allowing a sack. Samuels was picked third overall by the Redskins in the 2000 NFL Draft and went to six Pro Bowls. Second-Team: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

T: Shawn Andrews, Arkansas (2001-03)
A two-time consensus All-American, Andrews was an Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award finalist in 2003. He earned back-to-back Jacobs Blocking Awards as the SEC’s top lineman in 2002-03 — the only SEC player to win the award twice during the BCS Era and the first since Florida’s Jason Odom in 1994-95. Andrews was the No. 16 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Eagles and was invited to three Pro Bowls during his seven years in the NFL. Second-Team: Andre Smith, Alabama

G: Barrett Jones, Alabama (2009-12)
No offensive lineman during the BCS Era was more decorated than the Memphis native. He started at right guard and earned freshman All-American honors for the 2009 BCS champs. He slid out to left tackle by 2011 and won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman for the 2011 BCS champs. Jones then manned the pivot and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center for the 2012 BCS champs. The two-time consensus All-American won three national titles at three different positions while graduating with a Master’s Degree and 4.0 GPA. Second-Team: Kendall Simmons, Auburn

G: Chance Warmack, Alabama (2009-12)
Warmack has three BCS National Championship rings from his four-year career at Alabama — two of them as a starting blocker in 2011-12. He was a unanimous All-American as a senior, an Outland Trophy finalist and first-round pick of the Titans in the 2013 NFL Draft. He started 39 games over his final three years paving the way for Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. Second-Team: Max Jean-Gilles, Georgia

C: Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas (2005-08)
The Razorbacks’ pivot for Darren McFadden, Peyton Hillis and Felix Jones was a three-time, first-team All-SEC performer. Luigs was a two-time Rimington finalist, winning the award given to the nation’s top center in 2007. He also was a consensus All-American in '07 and a fourth-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He ended his collegiate career with 49 consecutive starts and was a major part of one of the only two Arkansas teams to be ranked in the top five of the AP poll during the BCS Era (2006, '11). Second-Team: Ben Wilkerson, LSU

First-Team Defense:

DE: David Pollack, Georgia (2001-04)
The Bulldogs' defensive end is the most decorated defensive lineman of the BCS Era. Pollack is a three-time, first-team All-SEC and All-American, twice landing consensus All-American honors. He won the SEC Player of the Year award twice (2002, '04), as well as the Bednarik, Hendricks (twice), Lombardi and Lott Awards. He and roommate David Greene helped lead Georgia to its first SEC title (2002) in two decades. His highlight-reel plays — namely against South Carolina — and UGA all-time sack record (36.0) makes him arguably the greatest SEC defensive lineman of the BCS Era. Second-Team: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

DE: Alex Brown, Florida (1998-2001)
The two-time, first-team All-American set the Gators' school record for sacks when he left school in 2001. Brown won the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2001 and helped lead Florida to the 2000 SEC title. He was a three-time, first-team All-SEC player and finished his career with 161 tackles, 47.0 for a loss and a school-record 33.0 sacks before getting taken in the fourth round of the 2002 NFL Draft. Second-Team: John Abraham, South Carolina

DT: Glenn Dorsey, LSU (2004-07)
He helped lead LSU to an SEC and BCS National Championship in 2007 while earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also claimed the Outland, Nagurski and Lott Trophies as well as the Lombardi Award — becoming the first LSU Tiger to win any of those prestigious awards. Dorsey also was ninth in the Heisman voting in his record-setting 2007 campaign. He was a two-time All-American and finished with 179 tackles, 27.0 for a loss and 13 sacks. Second-Team: Terrence Cody, Alabama

DT: John Henderson, Tennessee (1998-01)
As a freshman, Henderson helped the Vols capture the 1998 BCS National Championship. By the time he had reached the end of his senior season, Henderson had posted 165 tackles, 38.5 tackles for a loss and 20.5 sacks in two first-team All-American seasons. The monstrosity of a man is one of just five defensive players during the BCS Era to claim the historic Outland Trophy. Second-Team: Chad Lavalais, LSU

LB: Patrick Willis, Ole Miss (2003-06)
The unheralded Tennessee native was overlooked by most of the SEC big boys and made them all pay by becoming the league’s best linebacker of the BCS Era. Rising from utter poverty to the best LB in the nation, Willis claimed the Butkus and Lambert Awards in 2006. He posted 265 tackles and 21.0 for a loss over his final two seasons, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and All-American status as a senior. Second-Team: C.J. Mosley, Alabama

LB: Al Wilson, Tennessee (1995-98)
Wilson isn’t as decorated as some of his BCS brethren but few players had as big an impact on their team as the Vols middle linebacker. He helped lead Tennessee to two SEC championships and the historic, unblemished 1998 national title. He was a consensus All-American, a consummate teammate on and off the field and was the 31st overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. Second-Team: DeMeco Ryans, Alabama

LB: Rolando McClain, Alabama (2007-09)
He started eight games and posted 75 tackles as a freshman before earning some All-American honors as a sophomore (95 tackles). As the unquestioned heartbeat of the Alabama defense, McClain led the Crimson Tide back to the BCS promised land with a perfect senior season. He posted 105 tackles, 14.5 for a loss, four sacks and two interceptions. He earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors, was a unanimous All-American and won both the Butkus and Lambert Awards. He was the eighth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Jarvis Jones, Georgia

CB: Patrick Peterson, LSU (2008-10)
One of the most versatile, impactful athletes in the nation, Peterson scored on both defense and special teams throughout his career. He was a dynamic return man who brought a rare explosiveness to the game and led the SEC with 418 punt return yards. As a junior, Peterson won the Thorpe and Bednarik Awards and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year while being recognized as an All-American for a second time. He was taken fifth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft and finished his career with 135 tackles, seven interceptions, four return touchdowns and 1,356 total return yards. Second-Team: Morris Claiborne, LSU

CB: Champ Bailey, Georgia (1996-98)
From a versatility standpoint, few have ever been as explosive and dynamic as Bailey. He was a lockdown cornerback, an elite return man and a dangerous wide receiver. His senior season — the only year he played during the BCS Era — Bailey posted 52 tackles and three interceptions on defense and caught 47 passes for 744 yards and five scores on offense. He was a two-time, first-team All-SEC pick, a consensus All-American and won the Nagurski Trophy in 1998 as the nation’s top defensive player. Second-Team: Carlos Rogers, Auburn

S: Eric Berry, Tennessee (2007-09)
In 2007, he set a school record with 222 INT return yards on five picks, led all SEC freshmen with 86 tackles and was named SEC Freshman of the Year. He then returned seven interceptions for 265 yards as a sophomore en route to his first of two unanimous All-American seasons. He also was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year that year. As a junior, Berry returned to win the Thorpe and Jack Tatum Awards and ended his collegiate career with the the most interception return yards in SEC history. For his career, Berry finished with 245 tackles, 17.5 for loss and 14 interceptions. Second-Team: LaRon Landry, LSU

S: Mark Barron, Alabama (2008-11)
The superstar safety was a three-time All-SEC pick, two-time All-American and helped the Crimson Tide win two BCS national championships. (2009, '11). After three straight seasons with at least 68 tackles, Barron finished his career with 235 tackles, 13.0 for a loss, 5.0 sacks, 12 interceptions and 34 passes defended. Many coaches called him the best player in the SEC in 2011 on what many consider the best defense of the BCS Era. Second-Team: Reggie Nelson, Florida

Teaser:
The All-SEC Team of the BCS Era
Post date: Monday, April 7, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/kansas-state-wildcats-2014-spring-football-preview
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No one really knows how Bill Snyder does it but he continues to churn out bowl appearances and 1,000-yard rushers the way (some) other teams in the Big 12 only dream about.

After a slow start to the 2013 season that included four losses in the first six weeks, Snyder’s bunch turned the year around and won six of their last seven. The surge was capped by a convincing bowl win over Michigan and it gave Snyder a third straight season with at least eight wins.

And no other team can replace six defensive starters like Kansas State. The Wildcats have to replace Ty Zimmerman, Blake Slaughter, both cornerbacks and two defensive linemen on defense. Meanwhile, the offense returns six starters but the offensive line and backfield need to be reworked this spring.

But fans in Manhattan aren’t likely worried, as Snyder will have a plan in place to overachieve once again in ’14. Settling his backfield, filling holes along the O-line and replacing leadership on defense this spring would go a long way to setting the table for another excellent season of pigskin in The Little Apple.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30Stephen F. Austin
Sept. 6at 
Sept. 13Bye Week
Sept. 18
Sept. 27
Oct. 4
Oct. 11Bye Week
Oct. 18at 
Oct. 25
Nov. 1
Nov. 8at 
Nov. 15Bye Week
Nov. 20at 
Nov. 29
Dec. 6at 

Kansas State Wildcats 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 8-5 (5-4 Big 12)

Spring Practice Opens: April 2

Spring Game: April 26

Returning Starters

Offense: 6

Defense: 5

Three Things to Watch in Kansas State's 2014 Spring Practice

Organize the backfield
Daniel Sams played in all 13 games a year ago at quarterback, rushing for over 800 yards and completing 71.7 percent of his passes. Yet, he saw his snaps decrease as the season went along — nine carries and one pass attempt in the final three games — and Snyder is toying with playing Sams at either running back or wide receiver. The main reason behind the move is the emergence of Jake Waters at quarterback. Additionally, John Hubert (1,048 yards, 10 TDs) has to be replaced as the primary ball carrier as well. This may open the gate for Sams to get snaps all over the offense. As far as true running backs go, Demarcus Robinson is the first name who will get a chance to replace the three-year starter at tailback with guys like Jarvis Leverett stepping into bigger roles. It is important for Snyder to organize his backfield this spring.

Rebuild the O-Line
Left tackle Cornelius Lucas and right tackle Tavon Brooks both earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 recognition a year ago. Both also have moved on from the KSU program. Right guard Keenan Taylor started nine games and is gone too. Plugging these three holes will be imperative if the Wildcats want to compete for a Big 12 championship this fall. B.J. Finney returns to the pivot as one of the best centers in the nation while Cody Whitehair, an All-Big 12 pick himself, is back at guard. Snyder will need to develop some bodies after those two in a hurry this spring. Boston Stiverson, Aderius Epps, Drew Liddle and Kason Hostrup should all scrap and claw for starting snaps over the next few months.

Fill holes in the back seven on defense
Even though Alauna Finau and Chaquil Reed departed the defensive line, the Cats could boast one of the top D-lines in the Big 12 in ’14, thanks to Ryan Mueller and Travis Britz. But plugging the gaps left by both starting cornerbacks (Kip Daily, Dorrian Roberts), a defensive stalwart in Zimmerman at safety and All-Big 12 pick in linebacker Blake Slaughter will be critical this spring. Randall Evans got loads of starting experience at nickel back a year ago and should slide nicely into a starting spot on the outside. Safety Dante Barnett and linebacker Jonathan Truman, who combined for 164 tackles a year ago, will be asked to take over leadership roles as well. After those three, the rest of the back seven needs to be developed and organized. Dylan Schellenberg, Weston Hiebert, Morgan Burns and Travis Green will compete for time in the secondary while Colborn Couchman, Dakorey Johnson, Mike Moore, Will Davis and Charmeachealle Moore will attempt to earn a starting spot at linebacker. Snyder always figures out a way to replace key departures on the defensive side of the ball but he has his work cut out for himself this spring.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 8-10

The Wildcats are always impossible to pinpoint in the offseason as well as the preseason. It’s a team that constantly figures out a way to replace key starters seamlessly and deftly. The 2014 season won’t be any different either, as KSU has big holes to fill on both sides of the ball but is still viewed as a Big 12 title contender. The schedule isn’t easy — with visits from Auburn, Texas Tech, Texas and Oklahoma State before Nov. 2 — and road trips to TCU, West Virginia and Baylor in the final four games. But KSU gets three off weekends and each is perfectly spaced out, giving the Cats only one stretch of four straight games in ’14. This team is fully capable of competing for another Big 12 title but will need to iron out some kinks this spring before it can be considered the frontrunner.

Teaser:
Kansas State Wildcats 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Friday, April 4, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/all-big-12-team-bcs-era
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All-conference teams are a great indicator as to who is the best in each league. Earning first-team honors more than once is a pretty good sign that you were one of the best at your position during your career. The rare three-time (or even four-time) all-league selection makes you one of the best college football players of all-time.

As the College Football Playoff Era begins in 2014, Athlon Sports is looking back on the last 16 years of action — aka, The BCS Era. Here is the All-BCS Era All-Big-12 team. The only stipulation (unlike other folks who have done this exercise) is that you must have played at least one season from 1998-13 in the Big 12.

First-Team Offense:

QB: Vince Young, Texas (2003-05)
Young earned Rose Bowl MVP honors following his ridiculous performance against Michigan to finish his sophomore season. It was a sign of things to come as he was named Big 12 Player of the Year in 2005. He was a consensus All-American, led the Big 12 in passing efficiency, won the Davey O'Brien, Manning and Maxwell Awards while finishing second on the Heisman ballot. His smooth running skills led to an all-time Big 12 career record 6.8 yards per carry. And no one will ever forget his second Rose Bowl MVP performance against USC in the greatest game of the BCS Era, returning the national championship to Austin. Second-Team: Robert Griffin III, Baylor

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06)
The BCS version of Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson was the three-year star from Palestine (Texas) High. A three-time, first-team All-Big 12 runner, Peterson finished No. 2 in the Heisman Trophy voting as a true freshman in 2004. His 1,925 yards were an NCAA record for a true freshman and it earned him unanimous All-American honors. Despite missing chunks of time with injuries in each of his next two seasons, “All Day” Peterson still topped 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. His natural blend of power, speed, size and balance has never been duplicated during the BCS Era. He is the Sooners' No. 3 all-time leading rusher. Second-Team: Darren Sproles, Kansas State

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1995-98)
The power back from San Diego had a two-year run as an upperclassman that may never be matched, as he posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,800 yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. Williams was a two-time consensus All-American, a two-time Doak Walker Award winner, a two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and claimed the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award and Heisman Trophy as a senior. He left school as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher (since broken) and he is one of four players to ever score at least 70 rushing touchdowns. Second-Team: Cedric Benson, Texas

WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08)
No player has been as productive in just two seasons as the Dallas native. As a redshirt freshman, Crabtree set NCAA records for receptions (134), yards (1,962) and touchdowns (22) and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wideout. He also won Big 12 Newcomer and Offensive Player of the Year honors and still owns the single-season league record for receptions and yards, which he set as just a freshman. He became the first player in NCAA history to win a second Biletnikoff Award when he caught 97 passes for 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns for the 11-2 Red Raiders the next year. He finished fifth in the Heisman balloting in ’08 — one of just four wide receivers to finish in the top five during the BCS Era. Second-Team: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11)
He posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns, earning consensus All-American honors twice. The Ardmore (Okla.) Plainview product also became just the second player in NCAA history to claim two Biletnikoff Awards. Blackmon won Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2010 and capped his illustrious career with a Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl MVP performance against Stanford. He is one of just four wide receivers to finish in the top five for the Heisman Trophy (5th, 2010) during the BCS Era. Second-Team: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08)
It didn’t take long for Tigers fans to see what they had in Coffman as he earned first-team Freshman All-American honors in 2005. He then broke Mizzou tight end receiving records with 58 receptions, 638 yards and nine touchdowns as just a sophomore. After two straight All-Big 12 seasons, Coffman claimed the John Mackey Award as a senior as the nation’s top tight end after posting 90 receptions, 987 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008. Missouri went 22-6 over his final two seasons in what many believe to be the best two-year run in program history. Second-Team: Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma

T: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma (2001-04)
Starting his career as a defensive tackle, Brown exploded onto the national scene as a blocker as a sophomore. He helped lead the Sooners to the BCS National Championship Game twice and was recognized as the nation’s top offensive lineman in 2004 when he was awarded the Outland Trophy. The consensus All-American paved the way for Adrian Peterson’s NCAA record-setting freshman season. Brown was the 13th overall pick by the Saints in the 2005 NFL Draft and also was awarded the Jim Parker Trophy as the nation’s top offensive lineman before he left college. Second-Team: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

T: Justin Blalock, Texas (2003-06)
The star blocker for the Horns helped return Texas to the promised land by paving the way for Vince Young on the 2005 BCS title team. He was an absurd four-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and earned Big 12 Lineman of the Year honors in 2006 as a senior. He was a consensus All-American that year and was a second-round pick of the Falcons in 2007. He led the way for some of the greatest offenses in Texas and Big 12 history. Second-Team: Trent Williams, Oklahoma

G: Cyril Richardson, Baylor (2010-13)
Few players have meant as much to their school’s success as Richardson has to Baylor. He led the charge on the first Big 12 championship team in school history as well as the program’s first BCS bowl appearance. He was named a two-time (2012, '13) recipient of the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year award and also was a consensus All-American and given the Jim Parker Trophy as the nation’s top offensive lineman his senior season. Baylor went 36-16 during his four-year career and he never experienced a losing record while in Waco. Second-Team: Toniu Fonoti, Nebraska

G: Duke Robinson, Oklahoma (2005-08)
The guard from Atlanta was one of Bob Stoops' greatest players. He was a two-time consensus All-American in 2007 and '08 and helped lead Oklahoma to the BCS title game against Florida as a senior. Robinson was an Outland Trophy finalist that year and was a fifth-round draft pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Oklahoma went 34-8 during Robinson’s final three seasons, including three straight Big 12 championships. Second-Team: Louis Vasquez, Texas Tech

C: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000)
At a school known for its big uglies, Raiola is the Huskers’ best of the BCS Era. He was the first freshman O-lineman to start since 1991 when he took the field in '98. The following two seasons he set school records for knockdowns. As a junior, Raiola was the Rimington Trophy winner as the nation’s top center, was an Outland Finalist and earned consensus All-American honors before leaving school early for the NFL. The Huskers were 31-7 during his three seasons and won their last conference championship with Raiola leading the way in ‘99. Second-Team: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma

First-Team Defense:

DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08)
The trophy case for the former Longhorn defensive end is packed with a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year one, as well as a Nagurski, Lombardi, and Hendricks. He was an All-American who played in 47 career games in Austin, posting 132 tackles, 38.0 tackles for a loss, 22.0 sacks and six forced fumbles in his tenure. He was a contributing member in all 13 games of the 2005 BCS national championship run and was taken 13th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma

DE: Justin Smith, Missouri (1998-2000)
The Mizzou standout has developed into one of the NFL’s most consistent and productive players for two teams. He left Columbia after a huge junior season that featured 97 total tackles, 24 tackles for a loss — good for eighth all-time in Big 12 history — and 11 sacks. He was an All-American that year and also was a two-time All-Big 12 selection. His 53 career tackles for a loss in just three seasons ranks seventh all-time in league history as well. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Bengals. Second-Team: Dan Cody, Oklahoma

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09)
The star defensive tackle from Portland, Ore., won the 2009 Outland and Nagurski Trophies as well as the Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Awards. He was the first defensive player to win AP Player of the Year honors since its inception in 1998 and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in ’09. That year Suh claimed the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award and he came just seconds shy of leading the Huskers to their first conference championship since 1999. He finished his career with 215 tackles, 57.0 for a loss, 24.0 sacks and six blocked kicks. Second-Team: Casey Hampton, Texas

DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03)
Harris was a dominant interior lineman for three of the better Sooners teams of the BCS Era. He helped lead his team to the BCS championship game in 2003 while claiming the Lombardi and Willis Trophies. He was a two-time consensus All-American selection as the Sooners went 35-6 during his three-year tenure. Oklahoma won the Cotton and Rose Bowls before losing in the Sugar Bowl in his final season. Harris was downright unblockable in Norman and was the 14th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma

LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas (2002-04)
He finished his career with 458 tackles, 65.0 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, nine interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. Johnson was a three-time All-Big 12 selection and a two-time All-American. He capped his career with the Butkus, Lambert and Nagurski national awards as well as Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors before being taken 15th overall by the Chiefs in the 2005 NFL Draft. He helped build a team that went on to win the national title the year after he departed and was a part of a Cotton and Rose Bowl championship teams. Second-Team: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma

LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma (1998-2001)
A three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a two-time All-American, Calmus is one of the most important Sooners of all-time. As a senior in 2001 he won the Butkus and Lambert Awards for the nation's top linebacker, but his play in '00 will go down in Oklahoma history. He led the vaunted Sooners defense to a perfect record and spearheaded arguably the greatest defensive performance of the BCS Era by holding Florida State to zero offensive points in the BCS National Championship Game. Calmus was a third-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Von Miller, Texas A&M

LB: Dat Nguyen, Texas A&M (1995-98)
Arguably the most decorated Texas A&M defender, Nguyen was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and his 517 career tackles are an Aggies record. His career in College Station culminated in 1998 with a historic and adorned senior season. Nguyen was named the Bednarik, Lombardi and Lambert trophy winner and earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors as well. He led Texas A&M to the only Big 12 championship it would ever win that year as well — its last conference crown of any kind. Second-Team: Mark Simoneau, Kansas State

CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002)
Newman did a little bit of everything for Bill Snyder and Kansas State. He returned kicks and punts and even played some wide receiver. The lockdown cornerback was a two-time All-Big 12 pick, a unanimous All-American, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top DB and a first-round pick by the Cowboys in 2003. The 2002 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year also was a two-time Big 12 outdoor track champion in the 100 meters and the league champ in the indoor 60 meters. Second-Team: Aaron Ross, Texas

CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03)
As the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, Strait helped lead an undefeated (13-0) Sooners team to the BCS National Championship as a freshman. By his senior season, Strait had led Oklahoma back to the BCS national title game and was recognized nationally with the Thorpe and Nagurski Trophies. Strait also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2003 and finished his career with 14 interceptions returned for a Big 12-record 417 yards and three touchdowns. Strait was selected in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Aqib Talib, Kansas

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001)
He helped lead the Sooners to an unbeaten BCS National Championship in 2000 while setting the school record for tackles for a loss by a defensive back (12.0). The following year, he claimed the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back as well as the Nagurski and Jack Tatum Trophies and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was a unanimous All-American, first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2002 and will go down in Red River Shootout lore for this spectacular play in the Cotton Bowl. Second-Team: Earl Thomas, Texas

S: Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05)
The superstar safety from Texas was a Freshman All-American in 2002 before earning back-to-back first-team All-Big 12 honors as a junior and senior. Huff was a unanimous All-American on the 2005 BCS national championship team and was named the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top defensive back. He posted 87 tackles, 9.0 for a loss, two sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles on the historic ’05 squad. Second-Team: Mike Brown, Nebraska

Teaser:
The All-Big-12 Team of the BCS Era
Post date: Friday, April 4, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/all-big-ten-team-bcs-era
Body:

All-conference teams are a great indicator as to who is the best in each league. Earning first-team honors more than once is a pretty good sign that you were one of the best at your position during your career. The rare three-time (or even four-time) all-league selection makes you one of the best college football players of all-time.

As the College Football Playoff Era begins in 2014, Athlon Sports is looking back on the last 16 years of action — aka, The BCS Era. Here is the All-BCS Era All-Big Ten team. The only stipulation (unlike other folks who have done this exercise) is that you must have played at least one season from 1998-13 in the Big Ten.

First-Team Offense:

QB: Drew Brees, Purdue (1997-2000)
The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year led Purdue back to the Rose Bowl and finished among the top four in Heisman voting twice (1999, 2000). He is the Big Ten's all-time leader in completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, total offense (12,692) and total touchdowns (104). Second Team: Russell Wilson, Wisconsin

RB: Ron Dayne, Wisconsin (1996-99)
Dayne is the only player in history with 7,000 yards rushing and is one of four players to score at least 70 rushing touchdowns. He carried the ball more than any player in NCAA history (1,220) and he owns multiple BCS bowl rushing records with his two Rose Bowl MVP performances. He capped his illustrious career with a magical 2,000-yard Heisman Trophy and Big Ten championship season. Second Team: Larry Johnson, Penn State

RB: Montee Ball, Wisconsin (2009-12)
Few have been as successful and productive as Ball. No player in the history of the sport has scored as many touchdowns (77 rushing, 83 total) as the Missouri native. He also finished fourth in the Heisman balloting as a junior and won the Doak Walker Award as a senior while leading the Badgers to three straight Big Ten championships. The two-time consensus All-American’s 39 touchdowns in 2011 tied Barry Sanders for the all-time single-season record. Second Team: Anthony Thomas, Michigan

WR: Braylon Edwards, Michigan (2001-04)
Not many players have three consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns but that is what the Detroit native did at Michigan. He was uncoverable during his time at Ann Arbor, setting school records in every major receiving category. His 39 career touchdowns remain a Big Ten record. Edwards claimed Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and the Biletnikoff Award as a senior in 2004. Second Team: Lee Evans, Wisconsin

WR: Charles Rogers, Michigan State (2001-02)
The in-state product from Saginaw played just two seasons for the Spartans but was an All-Big Ten performer both years. He posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning consensus All-American and Biletnikoff honors in 2002. He set an NCAA record with 13 straight games with a TD catch (since broken) and owns just about every Michigan State receiving record. Second Team: David Boston, Ohio State

TE: Dallas Clark, Iowa (2000-02)
The walk-on began his career as a linebacker but quickly developed into a star at tight end. He earned All-Big Ten recognition as a sophomore and then became the nation’s top tight end as a junior in 2002. The John Mackey Award winner caught 43 passes for 742 yards and four touchdowns while helping Iowa (11-2) to a Big Ten co-championship and Orange Bowl berth. Second Team: Travis Beckum, Wisconsin

T: Joe Thomas, Wisconsin (2004-06)
One of the few big-time recruits from the state of Wisconsin, Thomas was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy winner for a team that went 31-7 during his three seasons as the starting left tackle. He has rare foot speed, agility and overall athletic ability — and it’s why he has been to the Pro Bowl in all seven of his NFL seasons. Second Team: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin

T: Jake Long, Michigan (2004-07)
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy finalist. He was a Freshman All-American in his first year and was named Big Ten Lineman of the Year twice (junior and senior seasons) — one of just two players to accomplish this feat during the BCS Era. Second Team: Chris McIntosh, Wisconsin

G: Steve Hutchinson, Michigan (1997-2000)
Starting for four seasons for the Wolverines, Hutchinson helped the Maize and Blue win the 1997 national championship. He capped his career with consensus All-American honors, was an Outland Trophy finalist and didn’t allow a sack in his final two seasons at Michigan. Second Team: David Baas, Michigan

G: Eric Steinbach, Iowa (1999-2002)
In a league dominated by tackles, Steinbach was one of the top interior blockers. He was a two-time All-Big Ten pick, a consensus All-American and the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2002 — the same year he led Iowa to its first BCS Bowl bid. He was a second-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. Second Team: John Moffit, Wisconsin

C: Greg Eslinger, Minnesota (2002-05)
Not many centers have an Outland Trophy on their mantle at home but Eslinger does. He was a freshman All-American in 2002, a third-team All-American as a sophomore, a first-teamer in '04 and earned consensus All-American honors as a senior. He won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center and earned Big Ten Lineman of the Year honors in ’05. Minnesota never had a losing record during his four-year career. Second Team: LeCharles Bentley, Ohio State

First-Team Defense:

DE: LaMarr Woodley, Michigan (2003-06)
The Wolverines' terror off of the edge posted 12 sacks as a senior en route to the Lombardi and Hendricks Awards as the nation’s best lineman and defensive end respectively. He was a unanimous All-American and his 10 career forced fumbles are seventh all-time in Big Ten history and he earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors in '06. Second Team: J.J. Watt, Wisconsin

DE: Tamba Hali, Penn State (2002-05)
A unanimous All-American and Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, Hali pushed Penn State to its last Big Ten championship as well as a win in the Orange Bowl following the 2005 season. He led the Big Ten with 17.0 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks and added 65 total tackles for a team that lost just once (in the final second) all season. Second Team: Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

DT: Devon Still, Penn State (2009-11)
Still became one of just two defensive tackles to ever win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors when he dominated the league in 2011. He posted 55 tackles, 17.0 for a loss and 4.5 sacks during his junior season, earning consensus All-American honors in the process. Still was a finalist for the Outland and Bednarik awards and became a second-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2012 NFL Draft. Second Team: Jared Odrick, Penn State

DT: Michael Haynes, Penn State (1999-2002)
Haynes was named the 2002 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year after posting 15 sacks and seven forced fumbles as a senior. Those numbers were good for ninth and third all-time in league history. He was an All-American and taken in the first round by the Chicago Bears. Second Team: Jerel Worthy, Michigan State

LB: LaVar Arrington, Penn State (1997-99)
Arrington was an elite leader who helped Penn State to a 28-9 record during his three-year tenure in Happy Valley. He was the Butkus and Lambert Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker and was the recipient of the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player after 72 tackles, 20 for a loss, nine sacks and two blocked kicks in 1999. He was a consensus All-American who wound up as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. Second Team: Andy Katzenmoyer, Ohio State

LB: James Laurinaitis, Ohio State (2005-08)
Few players in the nation were as decorated, productive, talented and successful as the Minneapolis native. Laurinaitis won the Butkus, Nagurski, two Lambert Awards and two Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year awards while being a three-time All-American. He posted three straight seasons of at least 115 tackles and helped Ohio State win a share of four Big Ten titles, including two trips to the BCS National Championship Game. Second Team: A.J. Hawk, Ohio State

LB: Paul Posluszny, Penn State (2003-06)
As a junior, the Nittany Lions tackler was recognized as the nation’s top LB when he posted 116 tackles (11.0 TFL) en route to a Big Ten championship, consensus All-American honors and both the Butkus and Bednarik Awards. He followed that up as a senior with a second Bednarik Award and second consensus All-American nod. The in-state Aliquippa (Pa.) Hopewell product left school as Penn State's all-time leading tackler with 372 total stops. Second Team: Greg Jones, Michigan State

CB: Antoine Winfield, Ohio State (1995-98)
The consensus All-American helped Ohio State win 43 games in four years and nearly (or should have) played in the first BCS National Championship Game in 1998. He was given the Thorpe and Tatum honors as a senior as the nation’s top defensive back before being selected 23rd overall in the 1999 NFL Draft. Second Team: Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State

CB: Jamar Fletcher, Wisconsin (1998-2000)
He was a two-time, first-team All-American and three-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection. He helped Wisconsin to back-to-back Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships and was the only Big Ten defensive back of the BCS Era to be named the outright Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He holds UW’s all-time record with 21 interceptions and was named the nation’s top defensive back with the Thorpe and Tatum Trophies as a senior in 2000. Second Team: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

S: Mike Doss, Ohio State (1999-2002)
The Buckeyes safety was a rare three-time All-American, three-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick and was named co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2002 for the BCS national champions. Doss started 40 of 50 possible career games and was named the 2002 Fiesta Bowl MVP. He finished his career with 331 career tackles, eight interceptions, eight fumbles recovered and 6.0 sacks. Second Team: Tyrone Carter, Minnesota

S: Bob Sanders, Iowa (2000-03)
One of the hardest hitting players to ever suit up, Sanders made big plays all over the field during his time in Iowa City. He helped lead Iowa to the Orange Bowl in 2002 and was an All-American as a senior in '03. He finished his career with 348 tackles, 16.0 for a loss, four sacks, seven interceptions and 13 forced fumbles (he led the nation in FF with six as a senior). Second Team: Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin

Teaser:
The All-Big Ten Team of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, UCLA Bruins, Pac 12, News
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There is a lot of mojo in Westwood right now.

And it has nothing to do with the basketball team’s recent run into the Sweet 16. No, it’s UCLA football that is turning heads in Los Angeles and it could be poised to steal headlines this fall.

After a few offseason flirtations, quarterback Brett Hundley and head coach Jim Mora return for their third season together at UCLA. Hundley is among the nation’s best and has led his team to a 19-8 record in his two seasons under center. Now, he is an upperclassman with three full Mora recruiting classes at his disposal.

It means expectations are sky high entering spring camp. A division title, Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl berth might be the starting point for UCLA fans this summer as the Playoff Era begins. It also means Mora has his work cut out for him this spring.

UCLA must replace a star in Xavier Su’a-Filo but the O-line is in great shape. As is the secondary and quarterback position. The front seven and offensive skill players might be the area of focus but, really, this spring is about fine-tuning for Mora and company out West.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30at
Sept. 6
Sept. 13 (Arlington)
Sept. 20Bye Week
Sept. 25at 
Oct. 4
Oct. 11
Oct. 18at 
Oct. 25at 
Nov. 1
Nov. 8at 
Nov. 15Bye Week
Nov. 22
Nov. 28

UCLA Bruins 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 10-3 (6-3 Pac-12)

Spring Practice Opens: April 1

Spring Game: April 26

Returning Starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 8

Three Things to Watch in UCLA's 2014 Spring Practice

Fill some holes at linebacker
Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt have moved on to the NFL after a combined 158 tackles and countless big plays a year ago. Eric Kendricks is back but had surgery to fix his ankle in late December. Myles Jack is a star in the making but finding depth and developing a replacement for Barr will be key this spring. Kenny Orjioke, Aaron Wallace and Deon Hollins figure to compete for time on the outside where Barr was such a force the last two seasons, while Isaac Savaiinaea is poised to step into Zumwalt’s shoes on the inside. Cameron Judge, Taylor Lagace and early enrollee Zach Whitley should all be competing for snaps this spring as well. This group has loads of potential but leadership, maturity and production all must develop for a team that plays in arguably the best offensive league in the nation.

Find a best supporting actor
Brett Hundley is as good as it gets under center, but even the best of the best need a great supporting character to win a championship — be it at running back or wide receiver. Jim Mora has an entire cast of weapons returning to the offense despite the loss of leading receiver Shaq Evans. Devin Fuller, Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien all return among the receiving corps bringing unique abilities and loads of upside with them while Jordon James and Paul Perkins return to the backfield. Ideally, Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will find a go-to target in the passing game and a go-to ball carrier in the running game this spring. James, if he stay healthy, and Fuller, should he continue to develop, appear to have all the necessary tools to become elite playmakers in this offense.  But be sure to keep an eye on Lucien as well. If he can stay focused and iron out some inconsistencies, he may develop into a special athlete in Westwood.

Organize the defensive line
Much like the wide receivers, running backs and linebackers, the Bruins' defensive line has plenty of talented upside. But this group is somewhat in a state of disarray currently due to graduation (Cassius Marsh, Keenan Graham), injuries (Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Eddie Vanderdoes) and youth (Ellis McCarthy, Kyle Fitts). Tackle Kenny Clark is really the only guarantee this spring up front on defense. Odighizuwa has long been thought of as a potential All-American but needs to prove it after missing all of last year. Vanderdoes is out for the spring after his freshman All-American season a year ago. This means gifted youngsters McCarthy and Fitts should see plenty of snaps this spring. With the loss of Barr at linebacker and both Marsh and Graham up front — who combined for 21.0 sacks a year ago — Mora is having to replace his top three sack masters. He and new defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich need to find some edge pass-rushers who can get after the QB this offseason.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 9-11
UCLA has massive expectations heading into the College Football Playoff Era with a superstar quarterback returning and stability on the sidelines for what feels like the first time in more than a decade. The talent is obvious as every position on the roster appears to be stacked with upside prospects and breakout candidates. That said, Mora is breaking in a new defensive coordinator (Ulbrich) and will have to fill voids among his front seven on defense. The schedule isn’t easy either, as UCLA has to face Oregon, Stanford and Washington in crossover play once again. The good news is the Ducks and Cardinal, as well as Arizona, USC and Utah, will have to come to Pasadena to face the Bruins. Should things fall right, Mora and company could be smelling Roses at season’s end.

Teaser:
UCLA Bruins 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
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The first eight games of the Mark Helfrich era were nearly perfect. Oregon was undefeated, ranked in the top five of the polls and had scored at least 50 points six times. Marcus Mariota was the leading Heisman Trophy candidate and was on the verge of setting a Pac-12 record for consecutive passes without an interception.

Then Oregon went to Stanford and completely melted down — due in large part to a mysterious injury to Mariota’s knee. Two weeks later, with control of its own Pac-12 championship destiny, in Tucson against Arizona, Mariota threw an interception for the first time in over a year and the Ducks got run out of the building in hideous fashion against a team that finished with a losing record in league play.

Needless to say, Helfrich took over a Rolls Royce program with massive expectations and had chances to deliver. But he didn't.

With Mariota back and, more importantly, healthy, expectations for Oregon are sky high (no pun intended) once again in Eugene. Nine starters are back on offense and five return on defense while the most critical game of the year (Stanford) will take place in the not-so-friendly confines of Autzen Stadium.

Before all of that can happen, however, Helfrich needs to execute the second spring camp of his tenure.  Replacing key departures at defensive tackle, safety and wide receiver as well as all-purpose weapon De’Anthony Thomas must be addressed this spring.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 28South Dakota
Sept. 6
Sept. 13
Sept. 20at 
Sept. 27Bye Week
Oct. 2
Oct. 11at 
Oct. 18
Oct. 24at 
Nov. 1
Nov. 8at 
Nov. 15Bye Week
Nov. 22
Nov. 29at 

Oregon Ducks 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 11-2 (7-2 Pac-12)

Spring Practice Opens: April 1

Spring Game: May 3

Returning Starters

Offense: 9

Defense: 5

Three Things to Watch in Oregon's 2014 Spring Practice

Life without Nick Aliotti
On a team loaded with elite offensive weapons at quarterback and running back, not to mention the entire offensive line returning, spring practice should be focused on the defense. First and foremost, the team must get acclimated to Don Pellum now running the defense after spending the last 15 years under the guidance of Nick Aliotti. Pellum has been with Oregon since 1988 in some capacity and has been the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator since 2000. He will need to fill voids at defensive tackle and safety in particular while trying to work in a host of extremely young, highly touted prospects. Additionally, Pellum needs to establish himself as the leader in an effort to make the transition a smooth one.
Plug up the middle of the D-line
Taylor Hart was a second-team All-Pac-12 pick, Wade Keliikipi was honorable mention All-Pac-12 and Ricky Havili-Heimuli played critical minutes in 12 games. All three defensive tackles have moved on from this roster and Pellum's first order of business is to find some run stuffers up front. Arik Armstead was a five-star prospect who has shown loads of potential while getting snaps in 13 out of 14 games a year ago. It is time for him to make his mark along the D-line. The same goes for Alex Balducci and Sam Kamp, both of whom should figure heavily in the rotation in the trenches.

Build around IEO
The good news in the secondary is that All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu decided to come back to Eugene and that means Pellum can largely ignore one half of the field. And it should make replacing both Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson at safety and Terrance Mitchell at corner a little bit easier. The safety duo combined for 151 tackles a year ago and both Patterson and Mitchell constantly found himself around the ball. Much like Armstead, safety Erick Dargan and cornerback Dior Mathis have loads of talent and will be asked to step into starring roles. Others like Issac Dixon and Reggie Daniels will have an opportunity to prove their mettle this spring as well. In a league stacked with elite signal-callers and relentless offensive coaches, stabilizing the back end of the Ducks' defense around one of the best corners in the nation should be a key this offseason.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 10-12
The Ducks have one of the best rosters in the nation and arguably the best quarterback in college football. The backfield is stacked, the offensive line is loaded and the young talent on defense should develop quickly despite the loss of Aliotti. So targeting a Pac-12 title, Rose Bowl and/or a playoff spot should be the expectation level for Oregon. The schedule is fascinating, however, as the Ducks will host one of the most intriguing non-conference games when Big Ten and Rose Bowl champ Michigan State comes to town early in the year. The Ducks ease their way into conference play and, frankly, get a nice crossover draw from the South. A trip to UCLA on Oct. 11 is tough but both Arizona State and USC are noticeably absent from the slate. Additionally, getting both Stanford and Washington at home could be the difference between another Alamo Bowl berth or a trip to the national championship game. 

Teaser:
Oregon Ducks 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/top-10-arena-nicknames-college-basketball
Body:

Madison Square Garden is hosting the East Regional Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games in this NCAA Tournament.

But most everyone knows exactly what you mean when you say “The Garden.” Mark Messier, Willis Reed and Kemba Walker have helped make MSG the most famous arena in all of sports and why we all affectionately call it “The Garden.”

Now, a nickname like The Garden isn’t all that creative or unique or funny or interesting since the actual name of the building is… the Garden. So the home of the St. John's Red Storm doesn’t exactly have one of the greatest nicknames, per se, but there other college basketball arenas and stadiums that have some of the best and most beloved nicknames in all of sports.

Since this is a totally subjective exercise, here are Athlon Sports' favorite college hoops arena nicknames from 2014:

1. The Pit, New Mexico (University Arena)
New Mexico’s famous basketball-only arena opened in 1966 as University Arena and was renamed officially as “The Pit” in 2009. It got its nickname from how the building was constructed, as the floor of the arena is 37 feet below “ground level,” meaning the court is actually built inside of a pit. Because it was built into such a small space with steep grading and relatively tight quarters for 15,411 capacity seating, the Lobos have enjoyed one of the loudest home quarter settings in all of college hoops. It cost a relatively affordable $1.4 million to build and the building itself reminds fans and opposing players that it sits a mile above sea level as well.

2. The Phog, Kansas (Allen Fieldhouse)
Named in honor of former head coach Dr. Forrest C. Allen, who led the Jayhawks program for 39 years and was nicknamed “Phog” for his distinct booming fog-horn voice. Allen Fieldhouse was opened in 1955 following four years of construction, the building currently seats 16,300 and originally cost just $2.5 million to build. The Phog is widely regarded as one of the loudest building in college basketball, and thanks to decades of great teams, is arguably the toughest place to win in all of sports. At home, Kansas is 123-3 since 2007, 279-15 since 1994 (the last renovation) and 715-109 all-time, so all who enter clearly must “Pay Heed.”

3. The Barn, Minnesota (Williams Arena)
One of the older buildings in the nation, Williams Arena was opened in 1928 and cost just $650,000 to build. Its 14,625 rowdy Golden Gophers fans and rounded ceiling shape give it a raucous barnyard feel — which is how the student section (The Barnyard) and building got their of their nicknames. The most unusual characteristic of the building, however, might be the raised floor design. The court is roughly two feet above player benches, press row and the first rows of seats. The Barn has hosted both The NCAA basketball finals (1951) and a pair of Frozen Fours (1958, 1966).

4. The Kennel, Gonzaga (McCarthey Athletic Center)
McCarthey Athletic Center was opened in 2004 and goes by The New Kennel or K2 to fans in the know, however, The Kennel is the best and most fitting. The nickname has carried over from the previous facility in Spokane, the Charlotte Y. Martin Center, and couldn’t be more appropriately named. The Bulldogs play extremely well at home and the boisterous fans pack the tight 6,000-person arena each and every home game. The Kennel cost Gonzaga $25 million to build.

5. The RAC, Rutgers (Louis Brown Athletic Center)
Rutgers’ basketball arena was originally titled the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) when it opened in 1977. It was renamed in 1986 as the Louis Brown Athletic Center but the nickname stuck through the name change. The 8,000-seat building hosted the New Jersey Nets from 1977-81 as well as the Scarlet Knights basketball and volleyball teams. The home team hasn’t been a championship contender, but Rutgers plays great at home and the fans are intimidating close to the action. The RAC just sounds like a great place to play hoops.

6. The Slim Gym, San Diego (Jenny Craig Pavilion)
Jenny Craig Pavilion, or the JCP, was opened in 2000 on the beautiful Toreros campus in San Diego, Calif. Named after famous weight loss guru Jenny Craig, the building quickly became known as the Slim Gym for obvious reasons. The punny nickname is one of the most creative and original nicknames in college hoops. JCP seats 5,100 patrons and cost $17.5 million to build.

7. Octagon of Doom, Kansas State (Bramlage Coliseum)
Kansas State plays all of its men’s and women’s basketball games in a place known as The Octagon of Doom. It seats 12,528, was opened in 1988 and cost $17.5 million to build. The nickname comes from the building’s eight-sided shape and was started by fans who would bring octagonal shaped signs with “Doom” written them due to reputation of tenacious defense. The Manhattan arena’s nickname has quickly (2007) become one of the best pseudonyms in college sports.

8. The Tad Pad, Ole Miss (C. M. Smith Coliseum)
The Ole Miss Rebels have called C. M. Smith Coliseum home since 1965-66 when the building was originally called Rebel Coliseum. Smith was a three-sport star at Ole Miss, a coach and eventually became the Athletic Director in Oxford. The important Mississippi personality went by “Tad” and so the 9,061-seat building is now referred to as The Tad Pad.

9. Dome of Doom, Wyoming (Arena-Auditorium)
With a formal name like Arena-Auditorium, its no wonder the fans in Laramie came up with a nickname for their basketball arena. The 15,028-seat building was built in 1982 for $15 million and is officially the highest arena in NCAA Division I basketball. Situated at 7,220 feet above sea level, the Dome of Doom, or “Double-A,” literally causes headaches to opposing teams and fans.

10. The Rock, Seton Hall/NJIT (Prudential Center)
165 Mulberry Street in Newark, N.J., is home to one of the most well-used buildings in college sports. Named affectionately for the Rock of Gibraltar corporate logo of Prudential Financial, The Rock is home to three different hockey teams, namely the New Jersey Devils, and has hosted both the New Jersey Nets and New York Liberty of the professional basketball ranks in the past. But why it makes this list is famed Seton Hall basketball — as well as NJIT — calls The PC home. The 18,711-seat building (for basketball) cost an astronomical $375 million to build back in 2007. 

The Best of the Rest:

11. The Thriller Dome, Georgia Tech (Alexander Memorial Coliseum)
12. Dean Dome, North Carolina (Dean Smith Center)
13. The Hump, Mississippi State (Humphrey Coliseum)
14. The Dunk, Providence (Dunkin Donuts Arena)
15. The O-Dome, Florida (Stephen O’Connell Center)
16. The Pete, Pitt (Petersen Events Center)

Old-School Honorable Mention:

Big Brown Box that Rocks, Loyola-Chicago (Alumni Gym) 
From 1924 to 1996, Loyola-Chicago called Alumni Gym home. The 2,000-seat building was known for its crazy fans and eventually became known as the Big Brown Box That Rocks.

Chamber of Horrors, New Orleans (Human Performance Center)
New Orleans began playing Division I basketball in 1969 and called the Human Performance Center home until 1983 and then again following Hurricane Katrina from 2005-08. It seated just 1,200 fans was known as The Chamber of Horrors.

 

Teaser:
The Top 10 Arena Nicknames in College Basketball
Post date: Saturday, March 29, 2014 - 14:30
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Brian Kelly is entering his fifth season as the Notre Dame head coach after winning 21 games over the last two years.

His fifth season will be a fascinating tour de force for a variety of reasons. First, he had to rebuild his staff after both coordinators left to take head coaching jobs. Mike Denbrock takes over as offensive coordinator after Chuck Martin left for Miami (Ohio) and Brian VanGorder is calling the shots on defense as Bob Diaco accepted the UConn head coaching gig.

And quarterback Everett Golson is back under center. Four other starters return on offense and five return to the defense with a host of elite youngsters ready to step into bigger roles. On a team one year removed from playing in the national championship game, Kelly knows that expectations are sky high at a program that demands excellence.

Just like 2012, should the Irish return to the national championship picture in ‘14, they will have earned it. Notre Dame’s schedule is once again one of the toughest in the nation and will feature marquee national showdowns against bowl teams nearly every weekend.

Buckle up, South Bend.

WkDateOpp.Location
1.Aug. 30South Bend, IN
2.Sept. 6South Bend, IN
3.Sept. 13Indianapolis, IN
4.Sept. 20Bye 
5.Sept. 27East Rutherford, NJ
6.Oct. 4South Bend, IN
7.Oct. 11South Bend, IN
8.Oct. 18atTallahassee, FL
9.Oct. 25Bye 
10.Nov. 1Landover, MD
11.Nov. 8atTempe, AZ
12.Nov. 15South Bend, IN
13.Nov. 22South Bend, IN
14.Nov. 29atLos Angeles, CA

2014 Notre Dame Schedule Analysis


Home away from home
One of the most noticeable aspects to the Fighting Irish's ’14 slate is where the games will be played. Notre Dame has only three true road games all season but all three will be absolute battles. The Irish visit Florida State on Oct. 18, Arizona State on Nov. 8 and USC in the season finale. Otherwise, the Irish will play Purdue in Indianapolis (Lucas Oil Stadium), Syracuse in New Jersey (MetLife Stadium) and Navy in Maryland (FedEx Field). That leaves six true home games for Brian Kelly’s bunch — all of which are winnable and should feature a point spread in the Irish’s favor with the possible exception of Stanford.

Get work done early
The great news for the Irish is that the first four games of the year appear to be very manageable. In fact, the first month of the season will feature three of the easiest games on the slate, a home date with Michigan and a bye weekend. All of this should help ease Golson, a potentially reworked offensive line and a new D-line into the starting lineup. Kelly and his team need to make headway in the first month of the season because once Stanford comes to town on Oct. 4, there isn’t really a break to be had with the exception of the off weekend at the end of October.

First romp through the ACC
Gone are traditional rivals Michigan State, Army and Pitt form the schedule. While the Panthers will eventually return to the slate through the ACC rotation, the Spartans (and soon the Wolverines as well) had to take a back seat to the Notre Dame's new conference partnership. Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida State and Louisville will be the first four ACC bouts this fall and commissioner John Swofford didn’t do the Irish any favors. A visit to the defending champs comes on the (ahem) Heels of playing North Carolina at home and will be as high profile and difficult a game the Irish have had since facing Alabama for the national title. Louisville welcomes back head coach  Bobby Petrino and could be the top challenger to FSU in the ACC Atlantic Division. It will be an interesting first trip through ACC country this fall for the Irish.

Pac-12 round robin
The Fighting Irish will play three of the top five teams from the Pac-12. Notre Dame has long played West Coast rivals USC and Stanford. But Stanford is better today than it has ever been in program history and the Trojans are welcoming a new head coach in Steve Sarkisian. In addition to two of the best programs from the Pac-12, Notre Dame also will have to play Arizona State, the defending South Division champs, in Tempe. Two of those — Arizona State and USC — will take place on the road. When projecting win totals for the Irish, it is likely Notre Dame will lose two of three in the three-game set with the Pac-12. Should Notre Dame win two of those, a “BCS” bowl or playoff spot may be an outside possibility.

Enjoy the down time
The off weekends come at solid times. The first comes two weeks before Stanford and the week before Notre Dame has to leave the state of Indiana for the time. The first off weekend will be critical as the Irish will play four straight following the extra week, including the defending ACC and Pac-12 champions. The second off weekend comes right after a brutal road trip to Tallahassee. Having two weeks to lick their potential wounds after facing the Seminoles and to prepare for the always difficult Navy triple option could be a huge benefit for Kelly’s squad. Especially, considering the final month of the season is loaded with elite coaches and talented offenses.

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It only took two seasons for Mike Leach to turn a perennial Pac-12 doormat into a bowl team.

The Cougars went to three straight bowls from 2001-03 but hadn’t been back to the postseason since. Leach capped his first season with a remarkable comeback win over archrival Washington and that catapulted Washington State to its best record in a decade.

And, of course, he did it with a record-setting quarterback.

Connor Halliday returns under center in 2014 — now with expectations to not only reach the postseason but to win a bowl game and post a winning record. Halliday should have loads of weapons to work with in terms of pass-catchers and ball-carriers, as the top 13 receivers on the roster a year ago will be back this fall — 10 of which caught at least 25 passes. It’s protecting Halliday with three new linemen and establishing a running game that should be the focus of Leach and company this spring.

Improving the 102nd-ranked defense in the nation would help Washington State’s chances at making the postseason as well.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 28
Sept. 6at
Sept. 13Portland State
Sept. 20
Sept. 27at 
Oct. 4
Oct. 11at 
Oct. 18Bye Week
Oct. 25
Nov. 1
Nov. 8at 
Nov. 15Bye Week
Nov. 22at 
Nov. 29

Washington State 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 6-7 (4-5 Pac-12)

Spring Practice Opens: March 27

Spring Game: April 29

Returning Starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 6

Three Things to Watch in Washington State's 2014 Spring Practice

Replace three O-line starters
Leach will never build an offense that focuses on the running game but developing some sort of balance on offense would go a long way in helping Wazzu compete for Pac-12 titles. Not to mention, it would likely help keep his quarterback upright and healthy. And with four guys who started along the O-line departing the offense, this is a major area of concern this spring. Elliott Bosch is gone from the center position after receiving All-Pac-12 honors a year ago and guards John Fullington and Matt Goetz have moved on as well. Filling the void up the middle of the offensive line will be critical for the Cougars this spring. Joe Dahl got 13 starts a year ago and is expected to slide from guard to tackle in 2014. Gunnar Eklund was the team's left tackle in 2013, but he is taking Dahl's spot on the interior. Having Eklund and Dahl back this spring should help ease the transition there. Filling the voids around these two big bodies is really the only offensive question marks on this team.

Find leadership on defense
First-team All-Pac-12 safety Deone Bucannon led the Cougars in tackles (114) and was one of the best players in the nation at his position. Linebacker Justin Sagote was No. 2 on the team in tackles with 106 stops a year ago. Both are gone from a defense that wasn’t all that great a year ago. Leach’s teams have never been elite on this side of the ball but in the Pac-12, where quarterbacks and offensive playmakers reign supreme, some semblance of defensive fortitude would go a long way to make Washington State a contender. Names like defensive end Xavier Cooper (who led the team in sacks a year ago), linebackers Darryl Monroe and Cyrus Coen (the top two returning tacklers) and safety Taylor Taliulu will need to step into leadership roles this spring. Finding a voice in the defensive huddle that can lead and motivate is critical for a defense that needs improvement across the board.

Rebuild the secondary
There is good news and bad news with the Cougars' secondary. Three of the team’s top four cornerbacks have moved on, including all-league coverman Damante Horton. Two of the top three safeties are gone as well, with the loss of Bucannon being the biggest blow to the defense. That’s the bad news. The good, however, is that the WSU secondary was one of the worst in the nation a year ago, ranking 112th in passing defense and 89th in pass efficiency defense. Daquawn Brown and Taliulu return with some experience but this unit needs to be addressed this spring in a league with elite quarterback play. Mitchell Peterson, Isaac Dotson and Tracy Clark need to take the next step in their development process during spring camp.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 5-7
Leach is an excellent coach and a proven offensive commodity. In just two short seasons the Cougars have returned to West Coast relevance and are competing for postseason berths already. What’s more exciting is the amount of overall production returning to what was the fourth-best passing attack in the nation last year. The schedule offers plenty of opportunities to steal wins but the Cougars will play three of the top four teams from the South with the exception of UCLA. The out-of-conference slate could provide three wins if WSU can start hot and the Cougs should be more than capable of snagging three league wins. A second straight trip to the postseason should be the expectation in Pullman this spring.

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The College Football Playoff Era doesn’t just ring in a new era of postseason football for Rutgers. It’s a complete overhaul.

The Scarlet Knights will play in their third different conference in three years after the defunct Big East gave birth to the American Athletic Conference. Life in the Big Ten will be an entirely different beast, however, as Rutgers has never faced the level of competition it will now be seeing week in and week out in the B1G.

Landing in the same division as Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State doesn’t help either. It means that Kyle Flood and his staff will have their work cut for themselves this spring as they prepare for the much deeper and more treacherous waters of the most lucrative league in the nation.

Getting nine starters back on offense is a big positive and there are a lot of developing names on defense, but this team will have to improve significantly across the board if it wants to return to the postseason as a Big Ten representative. Flood is hoping that a reworked coaching staff will provide the spark needed to compete at a higher level in '14.

2014 Schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 30at 
Sept. 6Howard
Sept. 13
Sept. 20at 
Sept. 27
Oct. 4
Oct. 11Bye Week
Oct. 18at 
Oct. 25at 
Nov. 1
Nov. 8Bye Week
Nov. 15
Nov. 22at 
Nov. 29at 

Rutgers Scarlet Knight 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 6-7 (3-5 AAC)

Spring Practice Opens: March 1

Spring Game: April 11

Returning Starters

Offense: 9

Defense: 5

Three Things to Watch in Rutgers' 2014 Spring Practice

Find consistency under center
Kyle Flood totally overhauled his coaching staff this offseason, bringing in offensive guru Ralph Friedgen to run the offense. His first order of business is to find a stabilizing force under center for the Knights after a season in which Rutgers quarterbacks threw 22 interceptions and just 22 touchdowns. This is why Flood has opened up the position battle this spring despite Gary Nova (2,159 yds, 18 TDs, 14 INTs) returning after starting most of last year (until the final three games). He will have to battle redshirt junior Mike Bimonte, redshirt sophomore Blake Rankin, and redshirt freshman Chris Laviano. Rankin is the most dynamic athlete of the bunch but Laviano might be the one to watch. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound pocket passer has impressed during his short time in Piscataway and could press Nova for starting duties should he develop quickly and take to the new offense this spring. Nova has a major experience edge but has been entirely too inconsistent. This position must improve if the Knights want to compete in the Big Ten.

Get back to pounding the football
Friedgen is known for his ability to develop a passer but that would be so much easier if this team could get back to running the football like it did under Greg Schiano. Rutgers ranked 100th in rushing offense nationally a year ago and was 106th in sacks allowed. So while all five starters return along the offensive line and three very capable backs return as well, this team must be more productive on the ground. Especially in a league known for pounding the rock on offense. The O-line needs to develop a killer instinct and the backs need to stay healthy. Should these two things happen in spring ball, it would allow time and creativity for both the quarterback and play-caller.

Shore up the secondary
The entire defense needs to continue to develop after a host of talented recruits got their feet wet a year ago. But this team was still 120th nationally in pass defense and 100th in pass efficiency defense last fall and something has to change in that department (especially, with Christian Hackenberg, Braxton Miller, Connor Cook and Connor Halliday on the schedule). Lorenzo Waters is the lone returning starter at strong safety and the rest of the starting spots will be up for grabs this spring. Gareef Glashen, Nadir Barnwell and Anthony Cioffi may be the leaders heading into spring at cornerback while new defensive coordinator Joe Rossi will need to find some complementary pieces at safety. This unit was filled with inexperience last year and ideally that youth will develop during the offseason. At least, that is what Rossi and Flood are hoping anyway.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 4-6
Under Schiano, Rutgers blossomed from perennial bottom feeder to conference contender. That is a tough act to follow for anyone let alone for someone who hadn’t ever been a head coach in college — or a head coach of any kind since coaching high school ball in 1994. Flood has reeled in some good talent on the recruiting trail and has ushered in a totally new era of Rutgers football. However, if this team doesn’t show marked improvement in ’14 and continues its downward trajectory, he may not be around to bask in the glory of all that Big Ten money. And the schedule offers little breaks. The division slate is impossible and crossover play features arguably the top two teams from the West. Baring some minor miracles from Friedgen (which is totally possible), the first year of the playoff era could be a forgettable one for the State school of New Jersey.

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