Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /nfl/super-bowl-xlviis-top-5-most-likely-mvps
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Pinpointing any big game MVP is a complete crapshoot. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways of handicapping the most likely candidates — or keeping Vegas from setting odds on favorites.

San Francisco and Baltimore will battle Sunday night in the 47th edition of the Super Bowl. As the world’s biggest sporting event each year, the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player is, in some sense, the most important athlete of each calendar year.

The quarterback position is an obvious place to start looking for MVPs. It is the most important player on any football field as 25 of the 46 Super Bowl MVPs, including the last three, have been quarterbacks. Seven MVPs were running backs, six were wide receivers, one (Desmond Howard) was technically a wide receiver but won it on special teams and seven times has a defensive player won the award.

More: The 20 Most Interesting Super Bowl Stats of All-Time

Who are the odds-on favorites to be named the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII?

1. Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco
Vegas Odds: 7/4

The odds are heavily in favor of a signal caller winning the award and CK-7 is playing for the team that is favored to win the game. However, this is only Kaepernick’s ninth career NFL start and despite his other-worldy performance against Green Bay, one has to believe that the veteran Ravens defenders will have a sound game plan for the Niners QB. While quarterbacks are the heavy favorites to win the award, generally speaking, they are established stars (Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Elway, Warner). Doug Williams in Super Bowl XXII is the last time a non-established star QB won the MVP. That said, No. 7 has the athletic ability to do things on the football field that no one else in this game is capable of.

2. Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore
Vegas Odds: 5/2

Flacco is dramatically more established player than Kaepernick and it’s why he would be my top choice for MVP. This Ravens team has some special mojo working in the locker room, but Flacco has been nearly as inspirational in the playoffs thus far. He has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions in three playoff wins and has averaged 284 yards passing per game. He also made the big plays needed to defeat the Broncos in Denver. Flacco is in the best situation to win the MVP heading into the game.

3. Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore
Vegas Odds: 6/1

Lewis is too high (or low) in the odds so it makes little sense to put anything down on the aging linebacker to win the MVP. He is a 6:1 favorite to win the MVP based on history — he won the MVP in Super Bowl XXXV — storylines and general appeal. Lewis has made plenty of tackles this postseason but hasn’t been the driving force on the field of years past. He is the most important Raven in the locker room, but he might be the third- or fourth-best Raven defender at this point of his career.

4. Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco
Vegas Odds: 17/2

This is as safe a bet as there is on Sunday due in large part to the San Francisco game plan. It is unlikely Kaepernick can carry his team to victory without the help of the 49ers' powerful running game and offensive line. Gore is the Niners' all-time leading rusher and all-time rushing touchdown leader and could get some sentimental votes should no one player stand out. If San-Fran is going to win the game, the ground game will have to be a focal point. And Frank Gore is the lead actor in that role.

5. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore
Vegas Odds: 12/1

Rice is younger, more talented, more explosive and is an overall better player than Gore. However, the emergence of Bernard Pierce has eaten into his workload and is likely why Gore is favored in the MVP race over the Ravens running back. That said, he could easily be the most important player on the field come Sunday night. He will get goal-line carries and his ability to catch passes and improvise gives him as good a chance as any to be the star of the show.

More: Athlon's sit-down with Baltimore LB Dannell Ellerbe

Long shots I’d take a chance on:

Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco
Vegas Odds: 22/1

A tight end has never won the award but there is no reason to think Davis won’t be a super star in this game. He is too big for corners to cover and too fast for safeties and his postseason resume proves that. He has shredded defenses in the playoffs to the tune of 442 yards and five touchdowns on 16 catches — for a sick 27.6 yards per catch — in four career playoff games. He is the single-most difficult matchup on either side of the ball.

Ed Reed, S, Baltimore
Vegas Odds: 33/1

Yes, Ray-Ray is the star of the show, but Reed might be the better player right now. He hasn’t won a Super Bowl and could retire after the game himself. He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and can change the game instantly with one big play. If I am betting on a defensive player from the Ravens, my money is on No. 20.

Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco
Vegas Odds: 66/1

Lewis might be the third- or fourth-best linebacker in the game, depending on what position Aldon Smith is listed, and few would disagree that Willis is tops. The former Ole Miss Rebels tackler should be the best defensive player on the field Sunday night, and at 66:1, what’s the harm in dropping a little coin on the superstar defensive leader of the 49ers?

More: Who are the greatest NFL player to never play in the Super Bowl?

Teaser:
<p> The Top 5 Most Likely Super Bowl MVPs</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/recruiting-ranking-pac-12s-best-football-rosters
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Preseason prognosticators like Athlon Sports — the most accurate college football preview magazine on newsstands — use many things to predict what the coming football season will look like. Returning starters, scheduling, historic trends, coaching, pending off-the-field issues and, of course, recruiting rankings all help Athlon editors predict the future of college football.

Recruiting rankings have their detractors. Yes, evaluating 16- and 17-year-old kids is an inexact science. No, star rankings aren’t the only thing that matters. Yes, leadership (e.g., Nick Saban) is more important than national recruiting rankings (See Auburn).

But using national team recruiting rankings to attempt to pinpoint how “talented” any given roster is an interesting and illuminating practice.

For the sake of this discussion, the 2013 conference alignment was used to calculate, rank and organize teams and leagues. Rivals.com national team rankings over a five-year span (2008-12) were used for the sake of consistency. And the 72 “BCS” conference teams as well as Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU were used to form the 75-team ranking.

So what do the team recruiting rankings teach us about the Pac-12:

The Most Top-Heavy League in America
There is a reason that Stanford in 2012 was the first outright Pac-12 champion not named USC or Oregon since 1999. The Ducks and Trojans are the two most-talented teams in the league over the last five years, ranking first (40-5) and third (30-15) in Pac-12 wins. These two powerhouses have earned at least a share of the conference crown for 12 straight seasons prior to last season. Only Stanford (34-11) and Oregon State (26-19) have winning Pac-12 records over the last five years — Utah's winning clip came mostly in the Mountain West. The rest of the league is getting better and coaching issues in both L.A. and Eugene will help close the gap, but make no mistake, this has been a two-horse conference race for over a decade.

The magical Jim Harbaugh
David Shaw is the head coach at Stanford and has done a remarkable job continuing Stanford's success over the last two seasons both on the field and on the recruiting trail. However, Jim Harbaugh deserves much of the credit for rebuilding the Cardinal program. Stanford was 16-40 the five years prior to Harbaugh taking over and he immediately raised the awareness of Palo Alto on the recruiting trail. By his second full class (2009), he had Stanford securely in the top 25 nationally in terms of talent. Shaw needs to be given loads of credit for continuing success post-Andrew Luck last fall, but there is a reason the San Francisco 49ers are in the Super Bowl and his name is Jim Harbaugh.

Mike Riley is consistently underrated
The Beavers are ranked ahead of only Washington State in terms of roster talent in the Pac-12 and are 49th nationally in recruiting over the last five years. And while Oregon State has had a down year or two here or there, Riley has this team achieving at unprecedented levels in Corvallis. The Beavers are being out-recruited by teams like Colorado, Kansas, Illinois and Minnesota but have experienced dramatically more success than all of the above. The credit has to go to Riley, one of the nicest guys in the business.

UCLA was in much better shape than their record indicated
The Bruins have always had talent. That has never been the issue in Westwood, be it under Rick Neuheisel or DeWayne Walker. Both coaches clearly recruited at an elite level, ranking the Bruins' roster third in the Pac-12 and 17th nationally in terms of talent. It was the coaching that was the issue. And it only took a small bit of energy from the new regime to kickstart the very talented UCLA roster. A 19-26 conference record is unacceptable for a team with "better" talent than Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Wisconsin and Stanford.

The middle of the league has upside
Washington, Arizona State and Cal have recruited at a top-35 level the last five years despite all being at least five games under .500 in Pac-12 play over that same span. Only Cal (32-31) has a winning overall record as well over that span. However, the Huskies were 0-12 in 2008 and are 26-25 under Steve Sarkisian. And with a potential top 10 class signing in 2013 and totally reworked facilities, Washington appears poised to return to national prominence. There also appears to be plenty of talent for Todd Graham in year two at Arizona State and Sonny Dykes in his first season at Cal for each to be much better than past regimes.

Welcome to the big leagues, Utah
Kyle Whittingham’s team is 7-11 in two seasons in the Pac-12. The Utes were 21-3 in the Mountain West the three years prior to entering one of the power conferences. Yet, their recruiting has only gotten better over the last five years going from 60th to 44th to 32nd over that span. While 37th in the nation would likely give them the top roster in the MWC, it gives them the eighth-best collection of players in the Pac-12. It indicates that sledding will be tough in the loaded and developing Pac-12 South for the newbies from Salt Lake City.

What is wrong in Pullman?
There have been some famous quotes from players — recently and historically — about how tough it is to be a Wazzu football player. But this team won at least a share of the conference championship and went to the Rose Bowl twice between 1997 and 2003. So how is it that the Cougars are only ahead of UConn and Temple in terms of talent nationally? No power conference team has won fewer conference games over the last five than the Cougars (Indiana is tied with five wins as well but in five fewer games). Mike Leach has his hands full in Pullman, but if anyone’s scheme can overcome a talent differential like the one WSU is facing, it is the crazy pirate.

More: Ranking the ACC's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the SEC's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the Big 12's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the Big East's Best Rosters

Pac-12's National Team Recruiting Rankings Breakdown:

  School Avg Nat'l Rank "BCS" Rank 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Record (Conf.)
1. USC 5.0 2nd 8th 4th 1st 4th 8th 46-18 (30-15)
2. Oregon 17.8 15th 19th 32nd 13th 9th 16th 56-10 (40-5)
3. UCLA 18.6 17th 13th 14th 8th 45th 13th 30-33 (19-26)
4. Stanford 24.6 22nd 50th 20th 26th 22nd 5th 48-17 (34-11)
5. Cal 25.4 24th 34th 42nd 11th 17th 23rd 32-31 (20-25)
6. Washington 32.8 28th 24th 68th 28th 23rd 21st 26-37 (19-26)
7. Arizona St 36.2 35th 21st 30th 35th 57th 38th 29-33 (19-26)
8. Utah 40.2 37th 60th 44th 32nd 37th 32nd 46-18 (28-14)
9. Arizona 44.4 41st 39th 45th 37th 55th 46th 35-29 (21-24)
10. Colorado 47.8 48th 15th 48th 66th 74th 36th 17-44 (9-33)
11. Oregon St 49.0 49th 52nd 54th 44th 56th 39th 34-27 (26-19)
12. Washington St 79.6 73rd 87th 92nd 92nd 72nd 55th 12-49 (5-40)

Teaser:
<p> Recruiting: Ranking the Pac-12's Best Football Rosters</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-wide-receivers
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National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?

The growth of the spread offense has created a need for more pass-catchers. This means more smallish, quicker slot receivers who can make things happen with the ball in their hands. This means more rangy, vertical threats who can stretch the defense down the field. It means more big, physical red-zone targets. And the 2013 class is loaded with all of the above.

It also appears that catching passes for Johnny Manziel is appealing to high school athletes. The Aggies have the No. 3- (Ricky Seals-Jean), No. 5- (Derrick Griffin) and No. 13-rated (Sebastian Larue) wide receivers in the nation. Seals-Jean, listed at 6-5 and 225 pounds, and Griffin, listed at 6-5 and 215 pounds, gives Kevin Sumlin two of the biggest pass-catchers in the nation. Larue, at 5-11 and 185 pounds, gives the offense another dimension in the slot. Should Manziel stick around for more than one more season, he is assured an elite collection of wideouts.

The Washington Huskies aren't too far behind the Aggies in this class as they landed three of the top 25 wideouts in the nation. Demorea Stringfellow has an elite combination of size and speed and has No. 1 wide receiver written all over him. Darrell Daniels has a similar build and will push for early playing time as well while John Ross brings speed to the slot. Both Washington and Texas A&M recruited complete starting lineups (X, Y and Z) in this class.

The Florida Gators have a chance to challenge these two, however, should they land one of the remaining targets. Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood are both ranked in the Top 12 nationally and both bring size and strength to a major position of need for the Gators. Oregon, Texas and Auburn also landed two of the nationally rated wideouts as well.

Otherwise, Ole Miss, Baylor and Louisville landed their newest superstar with Laquon Treadwell, Robbie Rhodes and James Quick respectively. All three are special talents who will immediately change the dynamics of their respective offenses. Bears fans should be daydreaming about Rhodes in Art Briles' pass-happy system.

2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Laquon Treadwell No. 14 Crete, IL 6-3 195 Ole Miss
2. Robert Foster No. 23 Monaca, PA 6-3 190 Alabama
3. Ricky Seals-Jean No. 25 Sealy, TX 6-5 225 Texas A&M
4. Robbie Rhodes No. 28 Ft. Worth, TX 6-1 190 Baylor
5. Derrick Griffin No. 40 Rosenberg, TX 6-5 215 Texas A&M
6. James Quick No. 63 Louisville, KY 6-0 180 Louisville
7. Stacy Coley No. 64 Ft. Lauderdale, FL 6-1 175 --
8. Steven Mitchell No. 67 Mission Hills, CA 5-10 180 USC
9. Demorea Stringfellow No. 79 Moreno Valley, CA 6-3 195 Washington
10. Demarcus Robinson No. 81 Ft. Valley, GA 6-2 200 Florida
11. Marquez North No. 99 Charlotte, NC 6-3 215 Tennessee
12. Ahmad Fulwood No. 126 Jacksonville, FL 6-4 200 Florida
13. Sebastian Larue No. 127 Santa Monica, CA 5-11 185 Texas A&M
14. Stanvon Taylor No. 160 Tulsa, OK 5-11 165 Oklahoma
15. Tony Stevens No. 167 Orlando, FL 6-4 185 Auburn
16. Torii Hunter Jr. No. 168 Prosper, TX 6-0 175 Notre Dame
17. Tyler Boyd No. 179 Clairton, PA 6-1 170 Pitt
18. Jason Smith No. 180 Mobile, AL 6-1 190 Auburn
19. Jordan Cunningham No. 182 Ft. Lauderdale, FL 6-1 175 --
20. John Ross No. 186 Long Beach, CA 5-9 165 Washington
21. Devon Allen No. 189 Phoenix, AZ 6-1 190 Oregon
22. Earnest Robinson No. 190 Pinson Valley, AL 6-2 200 Auburn
23. Jacorey Warrick No. 197 Houston, TX 5-10 170 Texas
24. Darrell Daniels No. 200 Oakley, CA 6-3 210 Washington
25. Shelton Gibson No. 208 Cleveland Heights, OH 5-11 175 West Virginia
26. Darren Carrington No. 210 San Diego, CA 6-3 185 Oregon
27. Jake Oliver No. 235 Dallas, TX 6-4 205 Texas

View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-defensive-backs
Body:

National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?

As passing offenses and the talent that makes those offenses run get more advanced and more talented, the need for elite defensive backs continues to rise. Lockdown cover corners who can play the run or physical high-point safeties who can man-up in coverage have become the norm. Versatility is the name of the game when defending the pass these days. This is why both safeties and corners are listed below in one list.

Florida and USC lead the way in the 2013 secondary class. The Gators claim three of the top 19 DBs in the nation including the top coverman, Vernon Hargreaves III. He is an elite talent who will continue the recent trend of young star corners (Joe Haden, Janoris Jenkins). VH-3 will be joined by a pair of big safeties in Marcell Harris (6-1, 210) and Keanu Neal (6-1, 205).

While the Gators have the top prospect in the class, the Trojans have the best overall collection. Su'a Cravens is the top safety in the nation while Jalen Ramsey offers Lane Kiffin tremendous cover-corner skills in the body of a safety. Leon McQuay III and Chris Hawkins give the Trojans four of the top 12 defensive backs. All four are ranked in the top 50 nationally.

UCLA also landed four nationally rated defensive backs with two AC100 talents leading the way, Priest Willis and Tahaan Goodman. Ohio State also landed two AC100 talents in Eli Apple and Cam Burrows, as well as nationally ranked Gareon Conley. Alabama is poised to sign three nationally ranked defensive backs too.

Georgia and LSU each landed a pair of nationally ranked DBs.  

2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Vernon Hargreaves III No. 3 Tampa, FL 5-11 185 Florida
2. Su'a Cravens No. 5 Murrieta, CA 6-1 205 USC
3. Jalen Ramsey No. 15 Nashville, TN 6-0 190 USC
4. Kendall Fuller No. 16 Olney, MD 6-0 175 Virginia Tech
5. Vonn Bell No. 26 Rossville, GA 5-11 190 --
6. Mackensie Alexander No. 30 Immokalee, FL 5-10 175 --
7. Leon McQuay III No. 31 Seffner, FL 6-2 185 USC
8. Tony Conner No. 32 Batesville, MS 6-1 205 --
9. Priest Willis No. 39 Tempe, AZ 6-2 200 UCLA
10. Tre'Davious White No. 45 Shreveport, LA 5-10 170 LSU
11. Eli Apple No. 49 Voorhees, NJ 6-1 185 Ohio St
12. Chris Hawkins No. 50 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 6-0 175 USC
13. Cameron Burrows No. 61 Trotwood, OH 6-0 195 Ohio St
14. Tahaan Goodman No. 65 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 6-1 185 UCLA
15. Marcell Harris No. 78 Orlando, FL 6-1 210 Florida
16. Tray Matthews No. 82 Newnan, GA 6-0 195 Georgia
17. Maurice Smith No. 89 Sugar Land, TX 5-11 175 Alabama
18. Artie Burns No. 98 Miami, FL 6-0 180 Miami
19. Keanu Neal No. 104 Bushnell, FL 6-1 205 Florida
20. Jourdan Lewis No. 107 Detroit, MI 5-10 160 Michigan
21. Gareon Conley No. 115 Massillon, OH 6-1 165 Ohio St
22. Shaq Wiggins No. 124 Tyrone, GA 5-10 170 Georgia
23. Cole Luke No. 133 Chandler, AZ 6-0 170 Notre Dame
24. Johnny Johnson No. 146 Fresno, CA 5-10 175 UCLA
25. Antwuan Davis No. 162 Bastrop, LA 6-0 180 Texas
26. Hatari Byrd No. 163 Fresno, CA 6-1 190 Oklahoma
27. Tyler Foreman No. 169 Encino, CA 6-2 190 UCLA
28. Ashton Shumpert No. 187 Tupelo, MS 6-1 205 Miss. St
29. Anthony Averett No. 191 Woodbury, NJ 6-1 175 Alabama
30. Brian Walker No. 193 Charlotte, NC 5-10 170 North Carolina
31. Rashard Robinson No. 194 Pompano Beach, FL 6-1 170 LSU
32. Kameron Miles No. 195 Mesquite, TX 6-2 200 Texas A&M
33. Tim Harris No. 225 Richmond, VA 6-2 190 Virginia
34. Jonathan Cook No. 229 Spanish Fort, AL 6-0 185 Alabama

View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Defensive Backs</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /nfl/20-best-nfl-teams-didnt-play-super-bowl
Body:

It seems that each year the NFL is filled with a handful of great teams that just seem to blow it when it comes to the playoffs, never realizing their full potential by making it to the Super Bowl. Teams like the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots certainly met that criteria this season. That got us to wondering which teams throughout NFL history have had the talent, but perhaps not the luck to make it to the big game. With that in mind, we examined win-loss records, overall talent, statistics, playoff performances and more in determining the best NFL teams that never reached the Super Bowl:

* - eventual Super Bowl Champion

1. San Francisco 49ers, 1992 (14-2)
Lost: 30-20 to Dallas* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7

Steve Young won the MVP and led a 49ers offense that topped the NFL in scoring (26.9 ppg) and total offense. The defense was third in the NFL in points allowed and 15th in total defense. The only losses came to the defending and would-be AFC champion Bills in Week 2 and on the road against the Cardinals in Week 9. Ricky Waters led the team in rushing while Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Brent Jones torched secondaries. This defense also was loaded with names like Dave Whitemore, Bill Romanowski, Merton Hanks, Eric Davis and sack leader Tim Harris (17.0).

2. Dallas Cowboys, 1994 (12-4)
Lost: 38-28 to San Francisco* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7

These two franchises went back and forth in the early '90s and this was the best Dallas team not to finish the deal. This was essentially the same team that won three of four Super Bowls as the triplets came up just one game short of four straight Super Sundays. This unit was second in the league in scoring (25.9 ppg) and was third in points allowed (15.5 ppg). Charles Haley led the team in sacks, Robert Jones led in tackles while Darren Woodson led in interceptions.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers, 2004 (15-1)
Lost: 41-27 to New England* in AFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 9

Tommy Maddox started three games in 2004 and was 2-1. Ben Roethlisberger started 13 games and won every start behind the best defense in the NFL. This Steelers team led the league in scoring (15.7 ppg) and total defense en route to a near-perfect record. Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis formed a one-two punch in the backfield while a loaded receiving corps gave Big Ben plenty to work with. What made this team great, however, was the nasty, Pro Bowl-laden defense. The lone regular season loss came in Week 2 against Baltimore.

4. Minnesota Vikings, 1998 (15-1)
Lost: 30-27 (OT) to Atlanta in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 10

This team scored at an alarming rate. Led by Randall Cunningham at quarterback and a trio of playmakers in Robert Smith, Cris Carter and Randy Moss, the Vikings paced the NFL at 34.8 points per game. As well as owning the top offense in the league, Minnesota boasted the No. 6-rated scoring defense and No. 13-rated total defense. One loss to Tampa Bay in the middle of the year was the only regular season blemish and these Vikings came one missed Gary Anderson field goal away from playing in the Super Bowl.

5. San Francisco 49ers, 1990 (14-2)
Lost: 15-13 to NY Giants* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 5

The defending Super Bowl champs rolled through the regular season led by NFL MVP Joe Montana. This unit was No. 2 in total offense and No. 3 in total defense while ranking No. 2 in scoring defense and No. 8 in total offense. Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley and Bill Romanowski led one of the best 49ers defenses of all-time.

6. Chicago Bears, 1986 (14-2)
Lost: 27-13 to Washington in NFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 7

Walter Payton and Jim McMahon were electric on offense, but the defending Super Bowl champs won 14 games in 1986 because of the defense. The Bears allowed an absurd 11.7 points and 258.1 yards per game on that side of the ball to lead the NFL in both categories. Wilber Marshall, Steve McMichael, Dave Duerson and Mike Singletary were Pro Bowlers while Richard Dent, William Perry and Dan Hampton did not receive invites to Hawaii. Few defenses were as talented as this version of the Monsters of the Midway.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1999 (14-2)
Lost: 33-14 to Tennessee in AFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7

The Jaguars beat Dan Marino and the Dolphins 62-7 in the Hall of Famer's final game to reach the AFC Championship game. But Jacksonville and Mark Brunell lost for a third time to the Titans after going 14-0 against every other team in the NFL. The Brunell, Jimmy Smith, Fred Taylor, James Stewart, Keenan McCardell, Tony Boselli and Leon Searcy offense was sixth in scoring and seventh in total offense, while the defense led the league in points allowed (13.6 ppg) and finished fourth in total defense.

8. Green Bay Packers, 2007 (13-3)
Lost: 23-20 (OT) to NY Giants* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 5

Three teams finished 13-3 in 2007 (Dallas, Indianapolis) but none came as close to unseating the eventual champs than the Packers. On a frigid night at Lambeau Field, the Giants outlasted this stacked Packers team in overtime. This team was second in total offense and 11th in total defense while finishing fourth in scoring offense and sixth in scoring defense. It was the last time that Brett Favre would ever suit up for Green Bay.

9. Tennessee Titans, 2000 (13-3)
Lost: 24-10 to Baltimore* in AFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 9

Despite six Pro Bowlers on offense, it was the defense that made this team special. The defense led the NFL in total defense and was No. 2 in scoring defense. After splitting with the Ravens in the regular season, a bizarre Eddie George-Ray Lewis turnover sealed the Titans' fate. An offense that featured franchise bests at quarterback (Steve McNair), running back (George), tight end (Frank Wycheck), wide receiver (Derrick Mason) and offensive tackle (Bruce Matthews) came up just short of defending their AFC Championship.

10. Indianapolis Colts, 2005 (14-2)
Lost: 21-18 to Pittsburgh* in AFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 8

Peyton Manning’s best all-around team (that never played in a Super Bowl) wasn’t necessarily his best statistical year. But this team was No. 2 in the NFL in scoring defense (15.4 ppg) and No. 2 in scoring offense (27.4 ppg) to lead the league in scoring differential. His offense featured a 1,500-yard rusher in Edgerrin James and four elite pass catchers in Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney formed an elite pass-rush tandem that combined for 22.5 sacks while Bob Sanders and Cato June led the back seven.

Best of the Rest:

11. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1972 (11-3)
Lost: 21-17 to Miami* in AFC Championship

12. Oakland Raiders, 1974 (12-2)
Lost: 24-13 to Pittsburgh* in AFC Championship

13. Minnesota Vikings, 2009 (12-4)
Lost: 31-28 (OT) to New Orleans* in NFC Championship

14. Green Bay Packers, 2011 (15-1)
Lost: 37-20 to NY Giants* in NFC Championship

15. Indianapolis Colts, 2007 (13-3)
Lost: 28-24 to San Diego in AFC Divisional

16. Miami Dolphins, 1985 (12-4)
Lost: 31-14 to New England in AFC Championship

17. Dallas Cowboys, 1980 (12-4)
Lost: 20-7 to Philadelphia in NFC Championship

18. Pittsburgh Steelers, 2001 (13-3)
Lost: 24-17 to New England* in AFC Championship

19. LA Rams, 1976 (10-3-1)
Lost: 24-13 to Minnesota in NFC Championship

20. Cleveland Browns, 1986 (12-4) CG
Lost: 23-20 to Denver in AFC Championship

21. Dallas, 1981 (12-4)
22. Baltimore, 1967 (11-1-2)
23. Philadelphia, 2002 (12-4)
24. NY Giants, 1989 (12-4)
25. San Francisco, 1987 (13-2)
26. San Diego, 1979 (12-4)
27. New England, 2010 (14-2)
28. New England, 1976 (11-3)
29. LA Rams, 1975 (12-2)
30. San Francisco, 1997 (13-3) 

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

Teaser:
<p> How many great teams fell just shy of Super Sunday?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/recruiting-ranking-big-easts-best-football-rosters
Body:

Preseason prognosticators like Athlon Sports — the most accurate college football preview magazine on newsstands — use many things to attempt to predict what the coming football season will look like. Returning starters, scheduling, historic trends, coaching, pending off-the-field issues and, of course, recruiting rankings all help Athlon editors predict the future of college football.

Recruiting rankings have their detractors. Yes, evaluating 16- and 17-year-old kids is an inexact science. No, star rankings aren’t the only thing that matters. Yes, leadership (e.g., Nick Saban) is more important than national recruiting rankings (See Auburn).

But using national team recruiting rankings to attempt to pinpoint how “talented” any given roster is an interesting and illuminating practice.

For the sake of this discussion, the 2013 conference alignment was used to calculate, rank and organize teams and leagues. Rivals.com national team rankings over a five-year span (2008-12) were used for the sake of consistency. And the 72 “BCS” conference teams as well as Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU were used to form the 75-team ranking.

Therefore, in the Big East rankings below fans will find where new additions UCF, Memphis, Houston and SMU have been ranked in the team rankings while Pitt and Syracuse won't be included. Louisville and Rutgers are still slated to participate in the Big East in 2013 and therefore are a part of the league.

So what do the team recruiting rankings teach us about the Big East:

Three-Star conference
Rutgers has the "best" roster in the Big East and their best recruiting class in the last five years was 24th last season. In fact, the Knights' 2012 class was the Big East's only Top 25 recruiting class over the last five cycles. Only South Florida's 2009 class (29th) and Louisville's 2011 haul (29th) were even ranked in the top 30. Temple and UConn are the least talented rosters of the 75 "BCS" conference teams nationally and only Rutgers was better than 50th nationally. The Big East is widely considered the sixth-best league in the nation and the recruiting rankings only further illustrate that fact.

However, you can win with three-stars
The rankings indicate that this is clearly the least talented conference of the power leagues. However, eight of the 10 teams have an overall winning record over the last five seasons. Only Memphis has failed to win at least 30 games since 2008 and seven of the 10 have won either a share of a conference title (Cincinnati, Rutgers, Louisville, UConn, UCF) or, at least, a division championship (Houston, SMU). While none of the teams are nationally elite, all have been competitive on the field. In fact, the Big East has the best bowl record since the advent of the BCS (1998-2012) of any league in America 46-28 (61.2 percent).

Tommy Tuberville has some big shoes to fill
Mark Dantonio. Brian Kelly. Butch Jones. Cincinnati is the winningest team in the league over the last five years due in large part to those three men. They are responsible for building the Bearcats into a perennial Big East power despite ranking 57th nationally in terms of talent. Kelly won 23 games in 2008 and '09 before Jones won a share of two conference titles of his own in 2011 and '12. All three have gone on to coach bigger and better programs after producing the best win total in the league (47-18) over the last five years. Tuberville takes over as an established coach with a long track record at a school that now expects to win conference championships. And he is supposed to do it with less talent than the Kentucky Wildcats (56th).

South Florida needs a coach
The Bulls are third in the Big East in terms of talent and sit in the heart of the richest recruiting state in the nation. So there is absolutely no excuse for USF to be 10-25 in Big East play over the last five years. Ranking 54th nationally in talent doesn’t indicate that the Bulls should be competing with Florida State or Florida for national recognition, but it definitely means more than two Big East wins per year. The only team with a worse conference record over this span is Memphis.

Al Golden is legit
Temple is ranked dead last in the power conferences (75th) in terms of talent. Yet, the Owls are nine games over .500 (35-26) and have the fourth-best conference record of the bunch. Certainly, four of those years were played in the MAC, but Al Golden took a 1-11 team that hadn’t been to a bowl since 1979 and in three years built it into a division champion that won 17 games from 2009-10 and went to just the third bowl game in program history. Golden also deserves credit for building the 2011 bowl team as well as growing the program to a point where it was deemed worthy of (re-)entry into the Big East.

The newbies should be competitive
UCF is the fifth-most talented roster in the league. Houston is sixth, Houston is seventh and SMU is eighth. All four have recruited at a higher level than UConn and Temple — as well as former Big East team Syracuse and the Pac-12’s Washington State. And all but SMU rank ahead of Indiana, Northwestern and Boise State as well. This indicates that with added financial support and brand exposure the new Big East faces should be able to compete rather quickly in Big East recruiting.
 

More: Ranking the ACC's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the SEC's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the Big 12's Best Rosters

Big East's National Team Recruiting Rankings Breakdown:

  Team Avg Nat'l Rank "BCS" Rank 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Record (Conf.)
1. Rutgers 40.8 38th 46th 38th 64th 32nd 24th 39-25 (18-17)
2. Louisville 50.0 50th 55th 76th 48th 29th 42nd 34-29 (15-20)
3. South Florida 51.4 54th 54th 29th 62nd 63rd 49th 32-31 (10-25)
4. Cincinnati 57.0 57th 67th 60th 59th 49th 50th 47-18 (25-10)
5. UCF 61.4 59th 56th 66th 56th 39th 90th 38-27 (26-14)
6. Houston 67.6 66th 100th 61st 45th 73rd 59th 41-24 (28-12)
7. Memphis 69.6 67th 88th 67th 57th 65th 71st 15-46 (10-30)
8. SMU 77.0 72nd 90th 80th 76th 50th 89th 31-34 (22-18)
9. UConn 81.4 74th 71st 75th 83rd 101st 77th 34-29 (16-19)
10. Temple 90.4 75th 82nd 112th 75th 107th 76th 35-26 (23-16)

Teaser:
<p> Recruiting: Ranking the Big East's Best Football Rosters</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-athletes
Body:

National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?

The term "athlete" is used to define a player who is an elite talent but doesn't really fit into one specific position. Many cornerbacks could play wide receiver or running back. Many tight ends could play linebacker or defensive end. Many offensive linemen end up as defensive tackles. Athlon Sports tries to limit this position to just a handful of names, which is why Derrick Henry and Dontre Wilson are listed as running backs, Jalen Ramsey is listed as a defensive back and Ricky Seals-Jean is listed as a wide receiver.

The top "athlete" is Max Redfield from Mission Viejo, Calif. He is headed to Notre Dame and has the skill set to be a special hybrid safety-linebacker. Brian Kelly will have fun finding him a spot in the rotation next season. The former USC commit is one of the few bigger athletes in this year's class as most of the names appear to be headed for cornerback, running back or wide receiver.

The only other set of larger prospects are the two-sport Robinson twins from San Diego. Tyrell and Tyree are both committed to Oregon and both want to play football and basketball on the next level. Their 6-4, 190 pound frames afford college coaches plenty of versatility.

2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Max Redfield No. 29 Mission Viejo, CA 6-3 195 Notre Dame
2. Jalin Marshall No. 35 Middletown, OH 6-0 190 Ohio St
3. Dymonte Thomas No. 72 Alliance, OH 6-1 190 Michigan
4. ArDarius Stewart No. 84 Birmingham, AL 6-1 185 Alabama
5. Alvin Bailey No. 106 Seffner, FL 5-10 175 Florida
6. Tramel Terry No. 117 Goose Creek, SC 6-0 190 Georgia
7. Jeryl Brazil No. 128 Loranger, LA 5-10 180 LSU
8. Tyrell Robinson No. 131 San Diego, CA 6-4 190 Oregon
9. Levonte Whitfield No. 141 Orlando, FL 5-9 165 Florida St
10. LaQuvionte Gonzalez No. 185 Cedar Hill, TX 5-10 155 Texas A&M
11. Tyree Robinson No. 211 San Diego, CA 6-4 190 Oregon
12. Rashard Fant No. 233 Fairburn, GA 5-9 160 Indiana

View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Athletes</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-tight-ends
Body:

National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?

Only seven tight ends are ranked nationally in the top 150 by the four recruiting services. This is on par for the rankings each season as the AC100 has 3-5 tight end prospects in each class. It should come as no surprise that the major power programs are the ones landing the true tight end prospects either. Alabama, Arkansas and LSU from the SEC while Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan from the Big Ten each landed their future TE. 

O.J. Howard is the best prospect in the nation and one of the better all-around prospects at the position since Austin Seferian-Jenkins (2011). He is a polished pass catcher with electric athletic ability for his size. He also won Alabama Lineman of the Year despite missing four games. 

Adam Breneman is the prototypical Penn State Nittany Lion tight end. With Bill O'Brien showing the world how to use two tight ends at New England, Breneman should team with star quarterback prospect Christian Hackenburg to form a dynamic combination for the next four years in Happy Valley.

LSU also is getting a good one that it will be able to use in the passing game right away. DeSean Smith is a long, rangy prospect who is right at home in the slot. He will need to add size and bulk to play inline but that will come with time in Baton Rouge. Otherwise, his pass-catching ability is college ready and could serve Les Miles right away in 2013.

2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. O.J. Howard No. 19 Prattville, AL 6-5 220 Alabama
2. Adam Breneman No. 44 Camp Hill, PA 6-5 230 Penn St
3. Hunter Henry No. 85 Little Rock, AR 6-6 235 Arkansas
4. Marcus Baugh No. 91 Riverside, CA 6-4 225 Ohio St
5. DeSean Smith No. 125 Lake Charles, LA 6-4 225 LSU
6. Standish Dobard No. 218 New Orleans, LA 6-4 240 Miami
7. Jake Butt No. 221 Pickerington, OH 6-6 235 Michigan

View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Tight Ends</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /nfl/20-amazing-all-time-nfl-super-bowl-stats
Body:

NFL football is the greatest reality TV program of all time. The Giants and Colts made sure of that back in 1958. Each NFL fall is a completely new and original experience for every player, fan and coach alike. New stories, new personalities, new winners and new losers. And new statistics.

Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics to keep in mind about the 46-year history of the Super Bowl:

162,900,000: People who watched Super Bowl XLV
The Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers put together the single-most viewed television program in American history in 2011. The previous record had been the Colts-Saints Super Bowl on Feb. 7, 2010 with 153.4 million viewers. Last year's Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots was the No. 2-most viewed program with 159.2 million.

0: Time the Vikings have led in the Super Bowl
The Jaguars, Browns, Texans and Lions have never played in a Super Bowl and therefore never led in the Big Game. However, the Vikings have played in four Super Bowls and never held a lead. That's 240 minutes of gametime either tied or trailing.

414: Record passing yards for Kurt Warner
The former grocery bagger threw for an Super Bowl-record 414 yards in the win over the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. This included his 73-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce with just over two minutes remaining. Warner also owns the No. 2 passing performance (377 yards for Arizona in a loss to Pittsburgh) and the No. 3 performance (365 yards in a St. Louis loss to New England).

204: Timmy Smith Super Bowl rushing record
The Denver Broncos began Super Bowl XXII by taking a 10-0 lead into the second quarter over the Washington Redskins. But then Doug Williams and Timmy Smith happened. The record 35-point second quarter put the game all but out of reach by halftime. The game was special for a variety of reasons. First, Williams was the first black quarterback to win the Super Bowl, and Smith became the only player to top 200 yards rushing in a Super Bowl. He finished with 204 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns as the Redskins set the Super Bowl record for total offense with 602 yards. Ironically, Smith ended his entire NFL career with exactly 602 yards (21 games).

10: Largest comeback in Super Bowl history
The aforementioned Redskins set this record as well after trailing 10-0 to Denver before finishing off the Broncos 42-10. The deficit was tied in the 2009 season when Drew Brees and the Saints fell behind 10-0 before coming back to defeat the Colts 31-17.

103,985: Largest crowd to attend a Super Bowl
The 1979 season featured the largest crowd to ever attend a Super Bowl when the Steelers defeated the Rams 31-19 in Pasadena, Calif. The Rose Bowl hosted the Los Angeles Rams that year in what remains the closest thing to a home-field advantage in a Super Bowl.
 
6-10: Worst record by a Super Bowl winner the following year
John Elway won back-to-back Super Bowls for the Denver Broncos (XXXII, XXXIII) and ended his playing career in style. However, his Broncos went on to accomplish something no other Super Bowl champion had done once he retired. By losing 10 games in 1999, the Broncos posted the worst record by a Super Bowl champion the following season. Denver finished last in the AFC West.

6: Most Super Bowl appearances by any one player
Mike Lodish played 11 seasons in the NFL, and six of them ended in the Super Bowl. The defensive lineman was drafted out of UCLA in 1990 and played five years for the Buffalo Bills (1990-94) before his six-year career with the Broncos. He played in all four of the Bills' Super Bowls and won twice with the Broncos, making him the only player in NFL history to have played in six Super Bowls. Sixteen players have played in five Super Bowls.

5: Most Super Bowl starts by any one quarterback
John Elway started five Super Bowls when he won his second Lombardi Trophy in 1998 when Denver handled Atlanta with relative ease. Last season, Tom Brady matched Elway with his fifth Super Bowl start. However, neither can claim the most Super Bowl victories as Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw and San Francisco’s Joe Montana won all four of their Super Bowl starts.

7: Fewest rushing yards gained in a Super Bowl
The Monsters of the Midway were one of the most dominate defensive units in NFL history, and it led to the Chicago Bears lone Super Bowl win back in 1985. In the Louisiana Superdome, William Perry and Mike Singletary posted the best defensive performance in Super Bowl history by holding New England to just seven yards rushing. The Patriots' 123 total yards of offense is the second-lowest total in Super Bowl history.

42,000: Average cost of a 30-second commercial in Super Bowl I
The cost of a television ad in Super Bowl I was $42,000 per 30-second spot. That number reached seven figures for the first time in 1995 ($1.15 million) and has more than tripled since. This year, CBS is anticipating more than $225 million in ad revenue alone at a 30-second per unit cost of $3.8 million.

338: Media credentials issued for Super Bowl I
By 2012, the number swelled to 5,156 accredited media members to cover Super Bowl XLVI, a record for the championship game.

22.6: Lowest QB rating for a Super Bowl winner
Ben Roethlisberger completed 9-of-21 passes for 123 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl XL win over Seattle. It is the worst performance by a Super Bowl winning quarterback. At 23 years and 340 days, Big Ben was also the youngest quarterback to ever win the big game.

3: Fewest points scored in a Super Bowl
The 1971 Miami Dolphins are the only team to ever play in a Super Bowl and not reach the endzone. Their 24-3 loss to Dallas in Super Bowl VI featured the lowest scoring offense in the history of the game. The 1974 Minnesota Vikings are the only other team not to reach at least seven points on Super Sunday, but at least they reached the endzone — albeit on defense when Terry Brown recovered a Steelers’ fumble in the endzone. They missed the extra point and set the Super Bowl record for fewest total yards of offense with 119.

9: Bills’ Super Bowl record for turnovers
The Dallas Cowboys crushed the Bills 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII. This lop-sided affair was headlined by a Super Bowl-record nine turnovers lost by Buffalo. Strangely enough, Dallas also claims the No. 2-most forced turnovers with eight against Denver in the Super Bowl XII win and seven forced against Baltimore in the Super Bowl V loss. How did they lose to the Colts after forcing seven turnovers? Speaking of...

34-3: Record of team with fewer turnovers than the opponent
Turnovers are simply the name of the game and there is no more telling stat than this one. In the Super Bowl, the team with fewer turnovers is 34-3 all-time. The formula is fairly straight forward: Protect the football and become a champion. 

11: Player to have won the MVP and the Super Bowl in the same year
Bart Starr (1966), Earl Morrall (1968), Terry Bradshaw (1978), Mark Moseley (1982), Lawrence Taylor (1986), Joe Montana (1989), Emmitt Smith (1993), Steve Young (1994), Brett Favre (1996), Terrell Davis (1998) and Kurt Warner (1999) are the 11 double-dippers.

22-24: Coin toss winners record in the Super Bowl
The winner of the opening coin toss has gone on to win 22 Super Bowls while the loser has won the game more frequently. However, the last decade has indicated that teams should be rooting against the coin toss. The winner of the last nine coin tosses has gone on to win the Super Bowl just three times. Strangely, only three times has a team deferred to the second half and all three have taken place in the last four seasons. The 2010 Packers are the only team to ever defer on the coin toss and then win the Super Bowl.

1: People to win the Super Bowl as a head coach and player
Tom Flores won two Super Bowls as the head coach of the Raiders and was technically on the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs roster. However, he did not see any time on the field in Kansas City's win Minnesota in Super Bowl IV. Mike Ditka, a Hall of Fame tight end for the Bears, Eagles and Cowboys, caught two passes for two passes for 28 yards and touchdown in Super Bowl VI. He then led the Bears to the championship in 1985 to become the only Super Bowl-winning coach to have won the big game as a player as well.

0: Super Bowls without at least one field goal attempt
Four times has a Super Bowl featured one combined field goal attempt, but never has a Super Bowl lacked for at least one field goal try. Super Bowl VII, XXIV, XXXIX and XLII each featured one field goal effort.

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

Teaser:
<p> The most important, interesting, intriguing and amazing Super Bowl Stats.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/recruiting-ranking-secs-best-football-rosters
Body:

Preseason prognosticators like Athlon Sports — the most accurate college football preview magazine on newsstands — use many things to attempt to predict what the coming football season will look like. Returning starters, scheduling, historic trends, coaching, pending off-the-field issues and, of course, recruiting rankings all help Athlon editors predict the future of college football.

Recruiting rankings have their detractors. Yes, evaluating 16- and 17-year-old kids is an inexact science. No, star rankings aren’t the only thing that matters. Yes, leadership (e.g., Nick Saban) is more important than national recruiting rankings (See Auburn).

But using national team recruiting rankings to attempt to pinpoint how “talented” any given roster is can be an interesting and illuminating practice.

For the sake of this discussion, the 2013 conference alignment was used to calculate, rank and organize teams and leagues. Rivals.com national team rankings over a five-year span (2008-12) were used for the sake of consistency. And the 72 “BCS” conference teams as well as Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU were used to form the 75-team ranking.

Therefore, in the SEC rankings below, fans will find where Texas A&M and Missouri have been ranked in the team rankings.

So what do the team recruiting rankings teach us about the SEC:

He who has the best players, wins the game
In the Big 12, Kansas State overachieves while Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech do the same in the ACC. But in the SEC, the champions have the best players. Alabama tops the recruiting rankings (1.8) and has the most SEC wins (35-5). Florida is No. 2 in SEC recruiting (6.2) and is No. 2 in wins (29-11). LSU is third on the recruiting trail (8.6) and third in the SEC in wins (28-12). Finally, Georgia is fourth in recruiting rankings (9.0) and fourth in wins (27-13). In the nation’s toughest league, it couldn’t be clearer that he who has the best players wins the most games.

What happened to Auburn and Tennessee?
Since the 2008 football season, the Tigers and Vols have had a combined seven different coaches. They are two of the SEC’s biggest underachievers and one of the obvious reasons has been coaching, because both programs recruit at an elite level. Auburn has the 10th best roster in the nation just behind Ohio State and Oklahoma and just ahead of Michigan and Notre Dame. Tennessee is 14th nationally, just ahead of Oregon and Clemson and just behind Miami since 2008. Needless to say, the coaching has been the issue. Auburn is just 17-23 in league play over that span — including an 8-0 national championship season — and the Vols are even worse at 12-28. Fans have been moaning that both programs haven’t been recruiting at a level required to win in the SEC (especially in Knoxville). The facts indicate this couldn’t be further from the truth. Top 20 classes, most of which were ranked in the top half of the SEC, were not the problem, the coaching was. According to the rankings, both rosters roster are more talented than South Carolina, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Missouri.

Rich Get Richer-er
The SEC is the best conference. There is no arguing that. Commitment from boosters, fans and administrations is a big reason why. But having the best players helps, too. Of the best 25 rosters in the nation over the last five seasons, nine of them hail from the SEC. And that doesn’t include consistent bowl teams like Arkansas, Missouri and Mississippi State. Ole Miss, which has won four SEC games in the last three years, is ranked 23rd among power conference teams in terms of recruiting. This makes it all the more difficult for the lower-tier programs to develop into contenders.

Bobby Petrino is THAT good
From 2009 to 2011, Arkansas was 29-10 overall and 15-9 in the SEC under Bobby Petrino. His recruiting classes in Fayetteville ranked no higher than seventh (2009) in the SEC recruiting rankings and cracked the top 20 nationally just once. Otherwise, Arkansas finished ninth or tenth in the SEC rankings every cycle. It proves that not only can a team win big in the SEC (10-11 wins) with a recruiting class ranked outside of the top 20 but that Petrino (aka, elite leadership) was the great equalizer. As soon as he stepped away, the 10th-best roster in the league played like it, finishing 4-8 after back-to-back 10-win seasons. Beware Sun Belt, beware.

Dan Mullen is Petrino-lite
Mississippi State ranks 12th in the SEC and last in the West in terms of talent over the last five years. Yet, the Mullen-led Bulldogs have won 24 games in the last three seasons including three bowl appearances. Hail State has also had nine players selected in the last three NFL Drafts including a first-rounder in each of the last two seasons. Breaking through against LSU or Alabama (and now Texas A&M) is a tall order, but for a team ranked last in the SEC West in terms of talent to win eight games per season is incredibly impressive.

James Franklin isn’t done yet
Vanderbilt has the “worst” roster in the SEC according to the rankings as it has had one class inside of the top 60 over the last five seasons (29th in 2012). Yet, somehow Franklin and his band of merry men got the Commodores to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. His 2013 class could be the best in the history of the program, so the sky is the limit for this coaching staff once it gets its hands on elite prospects.

Missouri is in for a tough time
The Tigers were 19-14 in Big 12 play over the four years prior to joining the SEC. That is slightly better than average in a league that is perceived to be vastly inferior. Gary Pinkel might be the Tigers' best coach ever, but his current roster ranks 11th in the SEC and it showed with a 2-6 debut performance. This coaching staff will have to consistently overachieve on the field if it expects to compete, because it doesn’t appear Mizzou will be able to attract equivalent talent — despite the once-in-a-while prospects along the lines of a Blaine Gabbert, Sheldon Richardson or Dorial Green-Beckham.

Sleeping giant awakes
Unlike Mizzou, the Texas A&M Aggies are built for long-term, big-time success in the SEC. They have a better natural recruiting base, a richer tradition of winning and dramatically better fan support. This team has recruited at an SEC level (19th nationally over the last five years) and appears to be poised to continue to blossom into a recruiting powerhouse in the Lone Star State. Of course, it takes the right coach leading the way, and in Kevin Sumlin, Aggieland feels like they have found their guy. Winning double-digit games and a Heisman Trophy right out of the gate doesn't hurt either.

What makes Hugh Freeze any different?
Ole Miss has recruited at a surprisingly high level for a team that has been the laughing stock of the league. The Rebels' average class ranked 24.8 nationally, including three straight top 20 classes from 2009-11. Yet, the Rebs went 31-32 overall and just 13-27 in the league over that span. New coach Freeze got fans excited in Oxford with the most surprising 7-6 season in recent SEC memory. And his 2013 signing class is pushing for top 10 status. The pressure will be on the new staff to prove 2012 was no fluke and that they will have a different fate than Ed Orgeron or Houston Nutt — two guys who recruited extremely well but didn’t win many games. 

More: Ranking the ACC's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the Big 12's Best Rosters

SEC's National Team Recruiting Rankings Breakdown:

Rank Team Avg Nat'l Rank "BCS" Rank 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Record (Conf.)
1. Alabama 1.8 1st 1st 1st 5th 1st 1st 61-8 (35-5)
2. Florida 6.2 4th 3rd 11th 2nd 12th 3rd 52-15 (29-11)
3. LSU 8.6 6th 11th 2nd 6th 6th 18th 51-15 (28-12)
4. Georgia 9.0 7th 7th 6th 15th 5th 12th 46-21 (27-13)
5. Auburn 12.0 10th 20th 19th 4th 7th 10th 38-26 (17-23)
6. Tennessee 16.8 14th 35th 10th 9th 13th 17th 28-34 (12-28)
7. South Carolina 19.0 18th 22nd 12th 24th 18th 19th 45-21 (24-16)
8. Texas A&M 19.4 19th 16th 22nd 17th 27th 15th 37-27 (21-20)
9. Ole Miss 24.8 23rd 29th 18th 18th 19th 40th 31-32 (13-27)
10. Arkansas 31.8 27th 36th 16th 49th 24th 34th 38-25 (19-21)
11. Missouri 33.0 31st 25th 40th 21st 48th 31st 41-23 (21-20)
12. Mississippi St 36.2 34th 44th 25th 38th 44th 30th 31-28 (15-25)
13. Kentucky 54.2 56th 57th 41st 50th 61st 62nd 27-36 (9-31)
14. Vanderbilt 64.2 63rd 90th 71st 61st 70th 29th 26-37 (12-28)

Teaser:
<p> Recruiting: Ranking the SEC's Best Football Rosters</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 09:05
Path: /college-football/recruiting-ranking-big-12s-best-football-rosters
Body:

Preseason prognosticators like Athlon Sports — the most accurate college football preview magazine on newsstands — use many things to attempt to predict what the coming football season will look like. Returning starters, scheduling, historic trends, coaching, pending off-the-field issues and, of course, recruiting rankings all help Athlon editors predict the future of college football.

Recruiting rankings have their detractors. Yes, evaluating 16- and 17-year-old kids is an inexact science. No, star rankings aren’t the only thing that matters. Yes, leadership (e.g., Nick Saban) is more important than national recruiting rankings (See Auburn).

But using national team recruiting rankings to attempt to pinpoint how “talented” any given roster is an interesting and illuminating practice.

For the sake of this discussion, the 2013 conference alignment was used to calculate, rank and organize teams and leagues. Rivals.com national team rankings over a five-year span (2008-12) were used for the sake of consistency. And the 72 “BCS” conference teams as well as Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU were used to form the 75-team ranking.

Therefore, in the Big 12 rankings below fans will find where TCU and West Virginia have been ranked in the team rankings while Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri are not included.

So what do the team recruiting rankings teach us about the Big 12:

Mack Brown is doing something wrong
There are two rosters in the nation that are better than Mack Brown’s according to the team composite recruiting rankings. Alabama and USC are the only two teams to have recruited better than Texas since 2008. Yet, the Longhorns are 26-16 in the last five years in Big 12 play, and what’s worse, are just 11-15 in the last three years (Texas went 15-1 in 2008-09). Yes, he took Texas to two BCS title games in a four-year span, but after multiple changes on his staff, Brown’s teams have massively underachieved for three straight seasons. Once again, Brown will enter this season with new coaches on his sideline, and once again, the pressure will be on his team to achieve. Especially, considering what Art Briles, Bill Snyder and Mike Gundy have done with much lesser talent.

Bill Snyder is the greatest coach on the planet
Of the 75 teams ranked in this study, the Wildcats claim the 60th best roster in the nation. Iowa State is the only team with a “worse” roster in the Big 12. Kansas State ranks well behind a number of struggling programs like Maryland (33rd) and Colorado (49th) nationally and is looking up at in-state rival Kansas (44th) in terms of overall talent. Yet, the Jayhawks have won just two of their last 32 Big 12 games while Snyder’s squad is 22-12 over that span. The ageless wonder hasn’t had a losing season in his second stint in Manhattan and is proving in remarkable — and championship — fashion why his name is atop the stadium in the Little Apple. No coach has done more with less nationally than Bill Snyder.

Oklahoma State better keep Mike Gundy happy
After Gundy flirted with the SEC this offseason, the powers that be in Stillwater locked him up for the long term. And rightly so. His team is 49-16 overall and 30-12 in the Big 12 over the last five years and Gundy has done it without one Top 25 recruiting class. His best class was 26th in 2008 and the Cowboys sit at an average national ranking of 30.6 over the last five years. Yet, he continues to produce huge numbers — Okie State had three 1,000-yard passers in 2012 — and win games. Only the Sooners (32-10) and Bob Stoops have a better Big 12 record over the last five years than Oklahoma State. There is no reason for Gundy to leave his alma mater, so imagine what he could do if he has enough time to build his brand to a point where he is landing top 10 classes?

This isn’t the Mountain West… or Big East
West Virginia was 20-8 and never lost more than two games in conference play the four years prior to joining the Big 12. TCU was 30-1 in the Mountain West over that same span. But in year one of Big 12 play, these two combined for 10 league losses in 2012 and will be facing the Big 12 big boys from now on. There is good news, however, as Gary Patterson appears to be growing the Horned Frogs’ brand on the recruiting trail, going from 96th to 26th in the recruiting rankings from 2008 to 2011. West Virginia is currently ranked fifth in the Big 12 in terms of talent, meaning, they were recruiting at a comparable level to most of the Big 12 prior to entering the league. Good things will come, but clearly an adjustment period is to be expected.

Underachieve doesn’t even begin to describe Kansas
Want some perspective on how poorly Kansas has played the last five seasons? The Jayhawks rank ahead of Wisconsin, Louisville, Boise State, Oregon State, Georgia Tech, TCU and, most importantly, Kansas State in terms of talent. But they have won a total of six league games — four of which came in 2008 — over the last five years. The Jayhawks are 2-32 in their last four Big 12 seasons and have out-recruited the likes of Baylor, TCU and Kansas State. These rankings don’t even include landing two of the best QB prospects in the nation the last few seasons in transfers Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps. Where is Mark Mangino’s tough love now?

More: Ranking the ACC's Best Rosters
More: Ranking the SEC's Best Rosters 

Big 12's National Team Recruiting Rankings Breakdown:

  Team Avg Nat'l Rank "BCS" Rank 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Record (Conf.)
1. Texas 5.4 3rd 14th 5th 3rd 3rd 2nd 47-19 (26-16)
2. Oklahoma 10.2 9th 6th 13th 7th 14th 11th 52-15 (32-10)
3. Oklahoma St 30.6 26th 26th 36th 31st 28th 32nd 49-16 (30-12)
4. Texas Tech 33.0 29th 45th 33rd 41st 20th 26th 41-23 (21-21)
5. West Virginia 38.2 36th 42nd 27th 27th 47th 48th 44-21 (24-13)
6. Kansas 46.8 44th 40th 31st 55th 34th 74th 19-42 (6-36)
7. Baylor 47.2 46th 51st 55th 39th 46th 45th 33-30 (17-25)
8. TCU 50.2 51st 96th 46th 46th 26th 37th 54-11 (34-6)
9. Kansas St 61.6 60th 27th 92nd 63rd 68th 58th 39-24 (24-18)
10. Iowa St 66.6 65th 62nd 73rd 60th 51st 87th 26-37 (12-30)

Teaser:
<p> Recruiting: Ranking the Big 12's Best Football Rosters</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/nfls-all-time-super-bowl-team
Body:

In selecting an all-time Super Bowl team, it is important to establish clear criteria. While there is nothing more subjective than all-time teams, the criteria certainly includes individual performance, but performance that leads to team success carries more weight. Multiple game appearances help, so longevity counts too.

All-time Super Bowl Team:

Joe Montana, QB, San Francisco
This is one of a couple of positions where there is no argument. With four Super Bowl wins, Montana has a career passer rating of 127.8, the best ever. Joe Cool tossed 11 touchdown passes to six different receivers with no interceptions. During his Super Bowl career, he threw 28 passes on third down, completing 19 of them for 14 first downs and one touchdown. There has been no one better in the big game.

Notables: John Elway, Denver; Tom Brady, New England; Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh; Kurt Warner, St. Louis and Arizona

Franco Harris, RB, Pittsburgh
There is no shortage of candidates at running back. Harris rushed for 354 yards in Pittsburgh’s four Super wins in the 1970s and had another 114 yards receiving. In the four games, Harris had 18 touches on third down resulting in 10 first downs and three touchdowns. And Harris is the only runner with more than 100 carries in history.

Roger Craig, RB, San Francisco
In three Super Bowls for San Francisco, all wins, Craig amassed 413 yards from scrimmage with four touchdowns, including 101 yards receiving in Super Bowl XXIII.

Notables: Larry Csonka, Miami; Emmitt Smith, Dallas; Terrell Davis, Denver; John Riggins, Washington; Marcus Allen, LA Raiders

Jerry Rice, WR, San Francisco 
Rice is another no-brainer. Let’s see: most Super Bowl receptions in a career (33), most yards receiving in a career (589) and game (215), most yards from scrimmage in a career (604), the only player to score three TDs in a game twice. Oh, and he earned an MVP. And 77 of his receiving yards and a touchdown came at age 40 for Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Lynn Swann, WR, Pittsburgh
Fans who saw him in the Super Bowl probably remember flying, acrobatic catches. But Swann meant more to the Steelers than just a couple of circus catches. He is second all-time with 364 receiving yards, all coming in three Super Bowls. In his first Super Bowl appearance with the Steelers, Swann was limited to punt return duty.

Notables: Deion Branch, New England; John Stallworth, Pittsburgh; Andre Reed, Buffalo; Isaac Bruce, St. Louis; Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona

Jay Novacek, TE, Dallas
One of quarterback Troy Aikman’s favorite clutch targets, Novacek scored the first Dallas touchdown in Super Bowls XXVII and XXX. In three wins he totaled 148 yards and two scores on 17 catches.

Notables: Shannon Sharpe, Denver and Baltimore; Marv Fleming, Green Bay and Miami

Jon Kolb, LT, Pittsburgh
The only constant along the Pittsburgh offensive line during their run of four Super Bowls in the 1970s, Kolb led the way for Franco Harris’ running and protected Terry Bradshaw in the passing game.

Notables: Mark Tuinei, Dallas; Matt Light, New England

Nate Newton, LG, Dallas
Emmitt Smith became the all-time leading NFL rusher thanks in large — and we do mean large — part to Newton. In Newton’s three Super Bowls, the Cowboys scored 52, 30 and 27 points.

Notable: Bob Kuechenberg, Miami; Russ Grimm, Washington

Jim Langer, C, Miami
Langer anchored the line during Miami’s back-to-back titles in the 1970s. In Super Bowl VIII, Miami rushed 53 times for 196 yards, most of it straight up the middle with bruiser Larry Csonka.

Notables: Ray Mansfield, Pittsburgh; Mike Webster, Pittsburgh

Joe Andruzzi, RG, New England
In three New England wins, the Patriots rushed for 372 yards, and Andruzzi helped protect MVP Tom Brady allowing him to stay comfortable in the pocket.

Notables: Jerry Kramer, Green Bay; Gerry Mullins, Pittsburgh; Larry Little, Miami

Erik Williams, RT, Dallas
The heart and soul of the Cowboys’ offensive machine was the offensive line. Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin were the beneficiaries.

Notables: Forrest Gregg, Green Bay; Norm Evans, Miami

Charles Haley, DE,  Dallas/San Francisco
Haley was more of an outside linebacker in the 3-4 with San Francisco. He is the only player to win five Super Bowls.

L.C. Greenwood, DE, Pittsburgh
An integral part of the Steel Curtain, Greenwood made gold shoes famous, and made life miserable for quarterbacks Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton and Vince Ferragamo.

Notables: Richard Seymour, New England; Reggie White, Green Bay; Dwight White, Pittsburgh, Willie Davis, Green Bay

Joe Greene, DT, Pittsburgh
As the heart of the front of the Steel Curtain, Greene intimidated quarterbacks, running backs and offensive linemen. In four Super wins, opponents averaged less than 100 yards rushing against Pittsburgh.

Russell Maryland, DT, Dallas
The offense received much of the credit, but Dallas recorded eight interceptions and held teams to less than four yards a carry in their three Super Bowl wins in the 1990s. Maryland was a load up front in all three games.

Notables: Jethro Pugh, Dallas; Manny Fernandez, Miami, Alan Page, Minnesota

Jack Lambert, MLB, Pittsburgh
Lambert was in the middle of all things defensively for the Steelers. Pittsburgh would not have been 4-0 without him.

Notables: Ray Nitschke, Green Bay; Nick Buoniconti, Miami

Jack Ham, OLB, Pittsburgh
Equally adept at covering the pass as playing the run, Ham excelled as Lambert’s wing man.

Keena Turner, OLB, San Francisco
Turner joins the Steelers’ pair as the only linebacker to claim a 4-0 record. In those four games teams rushed for less than 67 yards a game against the Niners. That made life easier for Joe Montana and company.

Notables: Tedy Bruschi, New England; Mike Vrabel, New England; Rod Martin, Oakland; James Harrison, Pittsburgh

Herb Adderley, CB, Green Bay/Dallas
Adderley was a member of Green Bay’s first two title teams, returning an interception 60 yards for a score in Super Bowl II. He played in two more for Dallas, winning one and losing one.

Mel Blount, CB, Pittsburgh
Blount played for four winners, and contributed with interceptions in both IX and XIII.

Notables: Ty Law, New England; Larry Brown, Dallas; Deion Sanders, San Francisco/Dallas; Tracy Porter, New Orleans

Jake Scott, SS, Miami
Scott intercepted Billy Kilmer twice in the Miami’s hard-fought 14-7 win in Super Bowl VII, earning MVP honors.

Notables: Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh; Charlie Waters, Dallas; Willie Wood, Green Bay; Mike Wagner, Pittsburgh

Ronnie Lott, FS, San Francisco
Instrumental in the Niners’ four Super Bowl wins, Lott played corner in the first two wins before moving to safety. None of his nine postseason interceptions came in the Super Bowl, probably because quarterbacks avoided him.

Notables: Cliff Harris, Dallas; Dick Anderson, Miami

Desmond Howard, KR/PR, Green Bay
Earned MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXI with a kick return for a touchdown, but also had two punt returns of more than 30 yards.

Devin Hester, KR/PR, Chicago
His 92-yard kick return set the tone for the Bears, but the offense couldn’t deliver a win.

Adam Vinatieri, K, New England/Indianapolis
Never has there been a more clutch kicker in the Super Bowl.

Larry Seiple, P, Miami
Always a threat to take off and run (also played some tight end), Seiple kept the Redskins and Vikings bottled up in VII and VIII.

Chuck Noll, Head Coach, Pittsburgh
An easy choice, Noll is the only coach to win four. He won with defense, running and passing. His Pittsburgh teams were complete and dominant.

Notables: Vince Lombardi, Green Bay; Bill Belichick, New England; Bill Walsh, San Francisco, Tom Coughlin, NY Giants; Jimmy Johnson, Dallas

Teaser:
<p> Athlon picks the best that have ever stepped foot on the big stage.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/11-biggest-five-star-busts-last-five-years
Body:

The top 10 players in the 2008 Athlon Consensus 100 included Julio Jones (No. 2), Da’Quan Bowers (No. 4), A.J. Green (No. 6), Arthur Brown (No. 7), Patrick Peterson (No. 9) and Terrelle Pryor (No. 1). Others like Matt Kalil, Tyron Smith, EJ Manuel, Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph and Michael Brewster were also “five-star” talents.

“Five-Star” is defined many different ways. Scout.com use to automatically give the top 50 players in every class a fifth star until it changed that approach this cycle (there are 42 for the 2013 class). Rivals and 247 Sports give roughly 30 per year — give or take a few each year based on merit. For example, Rivals’ 2013 class includes 33 five-stars, the 2012 class had 32 and the 2011 class had just 26. ESPN has recently added stars to its ranking process and is far more prudent with its five-star rankings. The 2012 and 2013 classes feature just 11 five-stars each.

That doesn't mean, however, that these five-star prospects are guaranteed success on the college level. Players transfer, are kicked out of school, can't stay eligible or simply aren't as good as anticipated. A big-time recruit can earn the "bust" label for a number of reasons. For the sake of this discussion, Athlon Sports considers the Top 30 players in the AC100 as five-star talents and only players in the last five classes (2008-12) are considered.

So who are the biggest five-star busts of the last five years?

1. Dayne Crist, QB, Notre Dame (2008)
Canoga Park (Calif.) Notre Dame
AC100 No. 20, No. 2 QB

Injuries certainly played a large role in Crist being labeled a bust, but he has had his chances and failed to even come close to his lofty recruiting status. He played in 13 games for Notre Dame in three years (2,163 yards, 16 TD, 8 INT) before transferring to Kansas to reunite with Charlie Weis. At KU, he had yet another shot at being the star, but managed to throw just four touchdowns and nine interceptions this fall (1,313 yards). He trailed only Terrelle Pryor in the '08 quarterback rankings.

2. Bryce Brown, RB, Tennessee (2009)
Wichita (Kan.) East
AC100 No. 4, No. 1 RB

The recruiting process for the top running back of the 2009 class was a circus. He eventually signed with the Vols nearly two months following National Signing Day. He showed ability, rushing for 460 yards and three scores as a freshman. But in the offseason, he left Knoxville to return home to play at Kansas State. He played two games for the Wildcats, rushing for a total of 16 yards on three carries. Regardless of what Brown does in the NFL, his college career must be considered a bust for not one but two college programs.

3. Jermie Calhoun, RB, Oklahoma (2008)
Van (Texas) High
AC100 No. 10, No. 2 RB

The Van High School running back was the highest rated running back recruit to sign with Oklahoma since Adrian Peterson. He never lived up to his lofty top ten status. He played 16 career games, rushing for 242 yards and one career touchdown. He injured his knee and missed all of 2011 before transferring to Angelo State in December 2011.

4. Blake Ayles, TE, USC (2008)
Orange (Calif.) Lutheran
AC100 No. 15, No. 1 TE

Ayles played for two seasons at USC, catching just 14 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown. He then transferred to Miami and was set to contribute in 2011 before a preseason concussion ended his college career. He never played another down and went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft. It was an unfortunate end for what appeared to be a very promising career for what was considered the best player at his position in the nation.

5. Dorian Bell, LB, Ohio State (2008)
Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway
AC100 No. 11, No. 2 LB

A freakish athlete, Bell could never get his head screwed on straight off the field. Behavior and focus were concerns long before he signed with Ohio State and they continued after he showed up in Columbus. After redshirting in 2009 and playing on special teams in 2010, he was suspended for the 2011 season as one of the 12 involved in Tatoo-Gate. He transferred to Duquesne as a result. He has posted 129 tackles in 15 games for the Dukes.

6. Tyler Love, OL, Alabama (2008)
Mountain Brook (Ala.) High
AC100 No. 23, No. 3 OL

Nick Saban has rarely missed on five-star talent but Love will end his Tide career as an afterthought on some of the most talented teams in program history. He played a total of 12 games in his four-year career (one in 2011 and six in 2009) and will earn two national championship rings. He decided to step away from football after the 2011 season with one year of eligibility remaining.

7. Russell Shepard, WR, LSU (2009)
Houston (Texas) Cypress Ridge
AC100 No. 2, No. 2 QB

Shepard did play 48 games in his LSU career and he did technically play in a national championship game (1 solo tackle). But he finished his career without making any major impact at any one position despite being ranked behind only Matt Barkley in the '09 AC100. He posted 570 yards receiving and rushed for 716 yards over the course of his career, but he never threw a pass at QB and never became a focal point of the offense. His career high in offensive touches for a single-season was 65 in 2010. To be ranked the No. 2 player in the nation, Shepard must be considered a bust.

8. B.J. Scott, ATH, Alabama (2008)
Prichard (Ala.) Vigor
AC100 No. 22, No. 2 ATH

Scott projected as an “athlete” because he had potential at both defensive back and wide receiver. It turns out that he wasn’t good enough at either. He saw time as a freshman at wide receiver catching two passes before redshirting in 2009. He then played six games as a sophomore at defensive back making six total tackles. He transferred to South Alabama and eventually landed back in FBS football when USA joined the Sun Belt in 2012. He had 84 tackles in 2012.

9. Randall Carroll, WR, UCLA (2009)
Inglewood (Calif.) Cathedral
AC100 No. 29, No. 4 WR

The speed demon had loads of ability but couldn’t ever get his game together. He played 34 games in three years before being dismissed from the team in January 2012. Carroll was involved in Twitter wars with his coaching staff, a bench-clearing brawl with Arizona and academic ineptitude during his time in Westwood. You have to produce more than 21 catches, 297 yards and two touchdowns for a program to put up with that much poor behavior.

10. Chris Martin, DL, Cal (2010)
Aurora (Colo.) Grandview
AC100 No. 19, No. 4 DE

After playing high school football for more than one program, Martin is set to play for his fourth college in 2013. He committed to Notre Dame, signed with Cal, transferred to Florida before playing a down and ultimately left Gainesville for City College of San Francisco. He then signed with Kansas in December and it turns out he actually will play for Charlie Weis — but at Kansas instead of Notre Dame. Martin could still alter his legacy, but great players don’t normally play for four different teams in four years.

Others receiving votes:

There are plenty of other names who could eventually land on the above list as well. It is simply too early to evaluate all of the 2010, '11 and '12 classes. Kyle Prater and Darius White, for example, were complete busts for USC and Texas respectively but both have second chances coming in 2013 for Northwestern and Missouri. The same could be said for Jeff Luc at Florida State, Arthur Lynch at Notre Dame or Lache Seastrunk at Oregon. The stud athletes are certainly considered busts by the fans in Tallahassee, South Bend and Eugene no matter what they do at Cincinnati, Florida or Baylor.

 

Darius Winston, DB, Arkansas (2009)
West Helena (Ark.) Central
AC100 No. 22, No. 2 CB

Winston wasn’t kicked out of school and didn’t transfer, but he also did very little of consequence while in Fayetteville. He played in 37 games and made a total of 52 tackles in four years. He had one career interception and set a career high with 23 tackles in 2010. For a school like the Hogs who don't land five-star talent very often, it hurts that much more to "miss" on a five-star.

Darrell Scott, RB, Colorado (2008)
AC100 No. 3, No. 1 RB

Garrett Gilbert, QB, Texas (2008)
AC100 No. 9, No. 3 QB

T.J. Bryant, CB, USC (2008)
AC100 No. 28, No. 2 DB

Patrick Hall, ATH, USC (2009)
AC100 No. 30, No. 1 ATH

Kyle Prater, WR, USC (2010)
AC100 No. 6, No. 2 WR

Darius White, WR, Texas (2010)
AC100 No. 12, No. 3 WR

Malcolm Jones, RB, UCLA (2010)
AC100 No. 29, No. 6 RB

Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia (2011)
AC100 No. 9, No. 2 RB

Teaser:
<p> 10 Biggest Five-Star Busts of the Last Five Years</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 06:10
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-running-backs
Body:

National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?

It's no wonder Nick Saban and Alabama can claim the best class of running backs in the nation for 2013. Saban currently has three AC100 runners committed as the nation's No. 1 (Derrick Henry), No. 10 (Altee Tenpenny) and No. 13 (Tyren Jones) are all headed to Tuscaloosa. Henry and his massive 6-3, 240-pound frame could easily end up on defense or as an H-Back, but this group ensures that the Crimson Tide's recent run of elite running backs (Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon) will continue.

Notre Dame, Oregon, Michigan and USC all landed a pair of elite prospects at the position as well. Ty Isaac and Justin Davis have big frames and offer Lane Kiffin some versatility in the backfield while Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston are smaller, speedier options that Brian Kelly can count on.

Brady Hoke has two excellent options that give his offense exactly what he has been missing in Ann Arbor: A burly, workhorse, three-down power back. Derrick Green is a superstar in the making and can carry the ball 25 times a game while DeVeon Smith brings his own 210-pound frame to the offense. With these two names, Hoke has Michigan poised to return to its I-Form roots in 2013.

Mark Helfrich will already have a loaded backfield in 2013 as he takes over for Chip Kelly with De'Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall returning. But the record-setting Thomas Tyner and speedy Dontre Wilson gives the Ducks one of the deepest and most talented backfields in the nation.

Oklahoma, Florida State, Virginia, Ohio State, Clemson, Nebraska, South Carolina, Clemson and Wisconsin all are poised to add their future workhorse in this class. Florida also landed its workhorse to replace Mike Gillislee and Gators fans know all about Kelvin Taylor. The son of Fred Taylor is an immediate impact player and has been a prep star in The Sunshine State since his eighth grade season — when he played on the high school varsity squad.

Of the top 25 running backs, all but two are committed, but those names left on the board are elite. Alex Collins and Alvin Kamara are each capable of competing for carries early in 2013. Collins is 247Sports.com's No. 1 running back and Kamara will pick between Alabama and Georgia. 

An interesting thing to note: Five of the top nine running back prospects are from the state of Florida and 16 of the top 88 players in the nation project as running backs. This appears to be a very deep and talented class of ball carriers.

2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Derrick Henry No. 12 Yulee, FL 6-3 240 Alabama
2. Thomas Tyner No. 20 Beaverton, OR 6-0 205 Oregon
3. Kelvin Taylor No. 22 Belle Glade, FL 5-10 215 Florida
4. Keith Ford No. 24 Cypress, TX 5-11 203 Oklahoma
5. Derrick Green No. 26 Richmond, VA 6-0 225 Michigan
6. Alex Collins No. 41 Ft. Lauderdale, FL 5-11 205 --
7. Alvin Kamara No. 42 Norcross, GA 5-10 195 --
8. Greg Bryant No. 46 Delray Beach, FL 5-11 195 Notre Dame
9. Ryan Green No. 50 St. Petersburg, FL 5-10 195 Florida St
10. Altee Tenpenny No. 54 North Little Rock, AR 5-11 215 Alabama
11. Ty Isaac No. 55 Joliet, IL 6-1 215 USC
12. Taquan Mizell No. 60 Virginia Beach, VA 5-10 180 Virginia
13. Tyren Jones No. 66 Marietta, GA 5-8 200 Alabama
14. Ezekiel Elliot No. 69 St. Louis, MO 6-0 195 Ohio St
15. Dontre Wilson No. 71 DeSoto, TX 5-10 170 Oregon
16. Justin Davis No. 88 Stockton, CA 6-1 195 USC
17. Tarean Folston No. 112 Cocoa, FL 5-9 185 Notre Dame
18. Terrell Newby No. 123 West Hills, CA 5-10 185 Nebraska
19. DeVeon Smith No. 134 Warren, OH 5-11 210 Michigan
20. Kailo Moore No. 138 Rosedale, MS 5-10 190 Ole Miss
21. Corey Clement No. 139 Glassboro, NJ 5-11 205 Wisconsin
22. TJ Logan No. 157 Greensboro, NC 5-11 175 North Carolina
23. Tyshon Dye No. 201 Elberton, GA 6-0 210 Clemson
24. David Williams No. 205 Philadelphia, PA 6-0 195 South Carolina
25. Mark Dodson Jr. No. 217 Memphis, TN 5-10 185 Ole Miss
26. Kyle Hicks No. 226 Arlington, TX 5-10 195 TCU

View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Running Backs</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/greatest-non-bcs-offenses-bcs-era
Body:

The BCS recently wrapped up its 15th season of action and Athlon Sports is continuing its series of BCS rankings. We ranked the best performances of each BCS bowl game and we ranked the best teams of each BCS conference. Now, we break down the top offensive units of the BCS era (1998-present).

Statistics, awards, championships and NFL talent were all considered and evaluated in order to label the Top 12 offenses of the BCS era. Only teams from "non-BCS" conferences were considered. For BCS conference offenses, check out our rankings here

1. Houston Cougars, 2011 (13-1)
Rushing Offense: 149.0 ypg (68th)
Passing Offense: 450.1 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 599.1 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 49.3 ppg (1st)

In 2011, Case Keenum led the nation in total offense (404.7 ypg) and finished fourth nationally in passing efficiency. This team topped 50 points six times and topped 70 twice en route to a 12-0 regular season. This team was fourth nationally in turnover margin due in large part to only 15 turnovers by the offense (7th nationally). Receivers Patrick Edwards and Justin Johnson finished 1-2 in receiving yards per game in C-USA and three of the top five C-USA pass-catchers (by receptions) came from Houston. Edwards also led the league in all-purpose running (140.6 ypg). Only a conference title game loss to Southern Miss cost Houston a perfect season and potential BCS bowl berth. This squad posted non-conference wins over UCLA, Penn State and Louisiana Tech.

2. Houston Cougars, 2009 (10-4)
Rushing Offense: 129.6 ypg (83rd)
Passing Offense: 433.7 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 563.4 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 42.2 ppg (1st)

In 2009, Case Keenum led the nation in total offense (416.4 ypg) and finished sixth nationally in passing efficiency. Three receivers finished in the top six in receptions in C-USA, and three of the top eight yardage totals in C-USA came from James Cleveland, Tyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards. Sprinkle in talented and versatile backs Bryce Beall and Charles Sims — who combined for 373 touches, 2,438 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns — and you have the second-best non-BCS offense in college football. This unit was surpassed only by another Keenum-led offense, the one that would come two seasons after these Cougars.

3. Louisville Cardinals, 2004 (11-1)
Rushing Offense: 250.4 ypg (8th)
Passing Offense: 288.6 ypg (9th)
Total Offense: 539.0 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 49.8 ppg (1st)

Stefan Lefors led the nation in passing efficiency at 181.74 after completing an astonishing 73.5 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Eric Shelton (146 att., 938 yards, 20 TD), Michael Bush (132 att., 734 yards, 7 TD) and Lionel Gates (76 att., 373 yards, 7 TD) led one of the most powerful rushing attacks in C-USA history. This team crushed North Carolina in Chapel Hill (34-0), topped a top 10 Boise State in the Liberty Bowl 44-40 and its only loss came against No. 3 Miami 41-38 on the road.

4. BYU Cougars, 2001 (12-2)
Rushing Offense: 217.9 ypg (13th)
Passing Offense: 325.0 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 542.9 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 46.8 ppg (1st)

This was the first team to go unbeaten in Mountain West play, led by quarterback Brandon Doman (3,542 yards, 33 TD, 8 INT, 456 rush yards, 8 TD) and running back Luke Staley (1,582 yards, 28 TD). Staley finished third in the nation in rushing and led the country in scoring. The Cougars' only two losses came after Staley broke his leg against Mississippi State.

5. Nevada Wolfpack, 2010 (13-1)
Rushing Offense: 292.2 ypg (3rd)
Passing Offense: 226.9 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 519.1 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 41.0 ppg (1st)

One of the most powerful rushing attacks ever seen featured dynamic quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who rushed for 1,206 yards (6.9 ypc) and 20 touchdowns, and tailback Vai Taua, who rushed for 1,610 yards (5.7 ypc) and 19 touchdowns. This team tied the 1986 13-1 team as the winningest Wolfpack team in program history and scored more points (574) than any other Nevada team. It also topped the 2010 Boise State Broncos (ranked No. 6 on this list) by three points in overtime.

Related: College Football's Best BCS offenses of the BCS Era

6. Boise State Broncos, 2010 (12-1)
Rushing Offense: 200.2 ypg (21st)
Passing Offense: 321.1 ypg (6th)
Total Offense: 521.3 ypg (2nd)
Scoring Offense: 45.1 ppg (2nd)

The team with the most NFL talent on this list is undoubtedly the 2010 Broncos. Kellen Moore led the nation in passing efficiency (182.63) while using a plethora of future NFL players: Titus Young, Austin Pettis, Tyler Shoemaker, Doug Martin and Jeremy Avery. And if it wasn't for one missed field goal against Nevada, this team might have played for the national championship.

7. Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 2007 (10-4)
Rushing Offense: 172.9 ypg (41st)
Passing Offense: 371.0 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 543.9 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 41.1 ppg (1st)

Paul Smith put together one of the greatest statistical seasons in NCAA history — and fantasy owners will never forget it. He threw for 5,065 yards and 47 touchdowns in the air, while rushing for 13 more touchdowns and 119 yards on the ground. Tarrion Adams, Trae Johnson, Charles Clay, Jamad Williams and Jesse Meyer join Smith to make this one of the great offenses in history.

8. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, 2012 (9-3)
Rushing Offense: 227.2 (17th)
Passing Offense: 350.8 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 577.9 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 51.5 ppg (1st)

Quarterback Colby Cameron set the NCAA record for consecutive passes (444) without an interception while leading one of the best offenses in NCAA history. Wins over Illinois and Virginia weren't as impressive as the Big Ten and ACC conference affiliations attached to them but the Bulldogs took Texas A&M to the wire, losing 59-57. If not for two late losses — in which they scored 84 points — this team could be ranked higher. Wideout Quinton Patton led the league in receptions per game (8.7 pg) and yards (116 ypg) while Cameron led the league in total offense (360.3 ypg).

9. Hawaii Warriors, 2006 (11-3)
Rushing Offense: 117.9 ypg (82nd)
Passing Offense: 441.3 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 559.2 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 46.9 ppg (1st)

One of two fantastic Hawaii teams featured the most efficient season by a quarterback in NCAA history. Colt Brennan (186.00) led the nation in total offense (422.5 ypg), throwing for 5,549 yards and an NCAA-record 58 touchdown passes. He rushed for another five scores and 366 yards. Davone Bess, Nate Ilaoa, Jason Rivers, Ryan Grice-Mullen, Ian Sample and Ross Dickerson gave him plenty of weapons — all of whom caught at least 46 passes and produced at least 690 yards receiving.

10. Boise State Broncos, 2006 (13-0)
Rushing Offense: 214.2 ypg (6th)
Passing Offense: 206.5 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 420.6 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 39.7 ppg (1st)

You could make a case for both the 2002 and '04 teams for this list as well, but the undefeated '06 Broncos will easily be the most memorable. Quarterback Jared Zabransky finished sixth nationally in passing efficiency (162.57), while tailback Ian Johnson finished second nationally in rushing (142.8 ypg), and his 12.7 points per game led the nation. Of course, the 43-42 overtime win over Oklahoma — complete with Statue of Liberty and marriage proposal — make this offense one of the greats of all-time.

Related: College Football's Best Defenses of the BCS Era

11. Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, 2003 (13-1)
Rushing Offense: 160.3 ypg (51st)
Passing Offense: 340.9 ypg (4th)
Total Offense: 501.1 ypg (2nd)
Scoring Offense: 43.0 ppg (1st)

Ben Roethlisberger's final year in Oxford, Ohio, was a magical one for Redhawks fans. Big Ben threw for 4,486 yards and 37 touchdowns (111 rush yards, 3 TDs) en route to the winningest season in program history. The 602 points the '03 outfit scored shattered the previous mark of 412 (1997).

12. Utah Utes, 2004 (12-0)
Rushing Offense: 236.1 ypg (13th)
Passing Offense: 263.7 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 499.8 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 45.3 ppg (1st)

The 2010 Ute team was a better all-around football team that defeated better competition. But the Alex Smith-led 2004 bunch was the highest-scoring team in Utah history. Smith finished No. 2 nationally in passing efficiency (176.52) and No. 5 in total offense (298.6 ypg). He was taken first overall by San Francisco and led the 49ers to a 13-3 record and the NFC Championship game in 2011. This season, he was off to a 6-2-1 start before sustaining a concussion and giving way to Colin Kaepernick.

Teaser:
<p> What are the nation's greatest non-BCS offenses of the modern era?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/recruiting-ranking-accs-best-football-rosters
Body:

Preseason prognosticators like Athlon Sports — the most accurate college football preview magazine on the stand — use many things to attempt to predict what the coming football season will look like. Returning starters, scheduling, historic trends, coaching, pending off the field issues and, of course, recruiting rankings all help Athlon editors predict the future of college football.

Recruiting rankings have their detractors. Yes, evaluating 16- and 17-year-old kids is an inexact science. No, star rankings aren’t the only thing that matters. Yes, leadership (e.g., Nick Saban) is more important than national recruiting rankings (See Auburn).

But using national team recruiting rankings to attempt to pinpoint how “talented” any given roster is can be an interesting and illuminating practice.

For the sake of this discussion, the 2013 conference alignment was used to calculate, rank and organize teams and leagues. Rivals.com national team rankings over a five-year span (2008-12) were used for the sake of consistency. And the 72 “BCS” conference teams as well as Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU were used to form the 75-team ranking.

Therefore, in the ACC rankings below, fans will find where Pitt and Syracuse have been ranked in the team rankings.

So what do the team recruiting rankings teach us about the ACC:

Has Florida State underachieved?
There is little doubt which team in the ACC has the best rosters. The Florida State Seminoles have “won” the ACC recruiting crown four straight years and were No. 2 in 2008. Their national average of 6.8 is good for fifth nationally behind only Alabama, USC, Texas and Florida. Yet FSU has just one conference title in the last seven years to show for it. Yes, this team built up to a national title run in 2012 that never came to fruition and it ended up with an Orange Bowl victory. But if this is the fifth best roster in the nation, shouldn’t the Noles be better than 27-13 in the ACC?

Frank Beamer’s system works
The Hokies have finished no higher than fourth in the ACC in recruiting and no lower than fifth since 2008. Yet, until 2012, Virginia Tech had won at least 10 games in eight straight seasons and multiple ACC titles. Their highest national class was 18th (2008) and it was the only group to be ranked in the top 20. Stability on the sidelines and in the locker room clearly indicates that the ACC can be won with slightly inferior talent. Tech has the best overall (49-19) and ACC (30-10) record in the league over the last five years. However, it remains to be seen if finishing 23.8 in the national rankings can win a national title.

Miami and Clemson just needed coaches
Because athletes aren’t the issue. Both programs have always had great athletes and plenty of success on the recruiting trail. Over the last five years, Miami is second in the ACC with an average national ranking of 16.2, which is good for 13th among power conference teams. Yet, the Canes have lost 27 games over the last five years. Al Golden appears to have righted the ship and will no longer allow all that talent to go to waste. Dabo Swinney is in a similar situation. Clemson has always had elite players but somehow underachieves consistently. From 2008 to 2010, the Tigers lost 18 games but Swinney’s squad has lost only six times in the last two seasons. Both programs appear to be headed in the right direction.

Pitt will be competitive right away
According to the national rankings, the Panthers, amidst four coaching changes, still have a solid brand on the recruiting trail. Especially, as far as the ACC goes. Pitt has done a better job recruiting over the last five years than Georgia Tech, NC State, Duke, Boston College and Wake Forest. No, it hasn’t been elite—one top-30 class over that span—but it is tied with Virginia for seventh in the ACC and sits at 40th in the national rankings overall. It means that with just a little bit of coaching from Paul Chryst, the Panthers should be contending for bowl games or more right out of the gate in the ACC.

Jim Grobe is one helluva coach
His best class over the last five years was ranked 58th nationally (2008) and he has three straight classes ranked 69th in the nation. Over that span his roster is the 13th best collection of talent in the ACC and is 64th in the overall national rankings. Yet, Grobe has led the Demon Deacons to the postseason in four of the last seven years. A 16-27 ACC record may not seem like much, but with this level of athlete, he should be given a trophy for what he has accomplished in Winston-Salem.

Maryland will be back
Many people don’t understand why a founding member of the ACC would be leaving for the Big Ten or why the Big Ten would want the Terps. Maryland wants the money of the B1G and the Big Ten wants a program with upward mobility. The Terps offer an underrated recruiting base as a team that has finished 33rd among power teams over the last five years despite a 25-37 overall record during that same span. They rank sixth in the ACC in terms of talent and with some coaching stability, the Terps have much to be excited about moving forward.

North Carolina needs to stay out of trouble
Because if they do, there is no reason they can’t win big in the ACC. They are fifth in the conference in terms of roster talent and are a top 25 (25th) team nationally in terms of recruiting ability. If this team can stay out of trouble academically, on Twitter, with the NFL and the NCAA, Larry Fedora should be able to bring in enough athletes to compete for conference crowns.

The triple option doesn't need elite recruits
Only Virginia Tech (30-10), Clemson (27-13) and Florida State (27-13) have won more ACC games over the last five years than Tech's 26-14 record. Yet, the Yellow Jackets claim the ninth-best roster in the league and are barely cracking the top 50 nationally. Paul Johnson's system has had some ups and down, but the doubts about the triple options working at a higher level haven't impacted the recruiting rankings.

The Orange are in for a rough ride
In the Big East, the 76.6-ranked national recruiting ranking could create a contender — as Doug Marrone proved. But in the ACC, it means the Orange have the worst collection of players in the league. Now, with a new coach in a new league, the Orange could be facing an uphill battle to return to the postseason. The only “BCS” teams with worse rosters than Syracuse are SMU, Washington State, UConn and Temple.

ACC's National Team Recruiting Rankings Breakdown:

Rank Team Avg Nat'l Rank "BCS" Rank 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Record (Conf.)
1. Florida St 6.8 5th 9th 7th 10th 2nd 6th 49-20 (27-13)
2. Miami 16.2 13th 5th 15th 16th 36th 9th 36-27 (22-18)
3. Clemson 18.0 16th 12th 37th 19th 8th 14th 43-24 (27-13)
4. Virginia Tech 23.8 20th 18th 23rd 23rd 33rd 22nd 49-19 (30-10)
5. North Carolina 26.0 25th 32nd 9th 29th 16th 44th 39-25 (20-20)
6. Maryland 35.6 33rd 38th 26th 36th 43rd 35th 25-37 (13-27)
7t. Virginia 42.6 39th 61st 33rd 67th 25th 27th 24-37 (13-27)
7t. Pitt 42.6 39th 28th 47th 33rd 58th 47th 39-26 (22-13)
9. Georgia Tech 47.6 47th 49th 49th 43rd 41st 56th 41-26 (26-14)
10. Boston College 50.2 52nd 33rd 70th 47th 38th 63rd 30-34 (18-22)
11. NC State 51.2 53rd 31st 52nd 34th 86th 53rd 29-22 (19-21)
12. Duke 63.2 61st 65th 51st 72nd 76th 52nd 21-40 (9-31)
13. Wake Forest 65.8 64th 58th 64th 69th 69th 69th 27-35 (16-24)
14. Syracuse 76.6 71st 48th 117th 78th 75th 65th 27-34 (12-23)

Teaser:
<p> Recruiting: Ranking the ACC's Best Football Rosters</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/top-12-best-big-ten-teams-bcs-era
Body:

The BCS just put a bow on its 15th season of action and Athlon has dissected the numbers and reviewed the tapes of all six BCS conferences in order to rank the best each league has had to offer. Which Oklahoma team was the best of the decade? Which Florida team was the toughest to stop? How do you rank the Florida State teams of the late '90s? Which Miami team was the best? How about those loaded USC teams? Alabama vs. Auburn?

The debates will rage on for decades, but here is Athlon's two cents. Here are the Top 12 Big Ten teams of the BCS Era (1998-present):

Note: "First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks

1. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2002 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs, Fiesta Bowl, National Championship
Key Stats: Ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense (13.1 ppg) and No. 3 nationally in rushing defense (77.7 ypg), this was the first team in NCAA history to finish 14-0
Award Winners: Maurice Clarett (Big Ten Freshman of the Year), Mike Doss (Big Ten Co-Def. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Mike Doss (2nd, 2003), Will Smith (1st, 2004), Chris Gamble (1st, 2004), Michael Jenkins (1st, 2004), Mike Nugent (2nd, 2005)

The team that never gave up began the season ranked No. 13 in the nation and slowly grinded their way to the No. 1 spot in the final standings. The Buckeyes beat five ranked teams, including the Big East's No. 2 team of the BCS era, en route to the 2002 National Championship. Behind gritty play from quarterback Craig Krenzel and a freshman school rushing record from Maurice Clarett (1,237 yards), the Bucks found themselves as heavy underdogs to defending national champs Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. Yet, the staunch Buckeye defense and two key touchdowns (and one great forced fumble/recovery) from Clarett gave Ohio State its sixth consensus national championship. The much-debated passing interference penalty also will go down in history as one of the more controversial plays — even if it was the right call. This Ohio State team sent an NFL-record 14 players to the league in the 2004 draft (five were selected in 2003 and three in 2005). This is the only Big Ten team to have claimed a BCS National Championship making them the top Big Ten team of the BCS Era.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes, 1998 (11-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: John Cooper
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: The Buckeyes lost five total turnovers (four fumbles) and surrendered 19 unanswered points in home loss to Michigan State.
Award Winners: David Boston (Sugar Bowl MVP), Joe Germaine (Big Ten Co-Off. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: David Boston (1st, 1999), Antoine Winfield (1st, 1999), Andy Katzenmoyer (1st, 1999), Joe Montgomery (2nd, 1999), Ahmad Plummer (2nd, 2000), Nate Clements (1st, 2001), Ryan Pickett (1st, 2001),

The most talented team to play under John Cooper had the National Championship rings already sized in the preseason. Ohio State began the year atop the polls and rolled to an 8-0 start before giving away a late 15-point lead to Michigan State — and a chance at the national title. Despite crushing Iowa and Michigan to finish the year with one loss, Ohio State just missed a chance to face Tennessee in the BCS National Championship game. After handling Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl, the Buckeyes finished No. 2 in the polls.

3. Penn State Nittany Lions, 2005 (11-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Joe Paterno
Championships: Big Ten, Orange Bowl
Key Stats: Tamba Hali led the Big Ten in sacks (0.92 pg), PSU finished seventh nationally against the run (93.0 ypg) and never allowed a team to reach 30 points all season.
Award Winners: Michael Robinson (Big Ten Off. Player of the Year), Paul Posluszny (Bednarik Award, Butkus Award), Tamba Hali (Big Ten Def. Lineman of the Year), Joe Paterno (AP, Home Depot, Walter Camp, AFCA National Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Tamba Hali (1st, 2006), Levi Brown (1st, 2007), Paul Posluszny (2nd, 2007)

Led by star quarterback Michael Robinson and stellar defensive tandem Tamba Hali and Paul Posluszny, the Penn State Nittany Lions were one play from making quite a ruckus in the BCS standings with an undefeated season. After starting 6-0 with convincing wins over ranked Minnesota and Ohio State, the Nittany Lions allowed Chad Henne to connect with Mario Manningham on the final play of the game in Ann Arbor - costing PSU a chance to challenge USC and Texas for title game rights. Penn State rolled through the rest of its schedule, including an impressive 35-14 win over top-15 Wisconsin. The Orange Bowl win over Florida State was the school's first BCS bowl win.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2006 (12-1, 8-0)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Championships: Big Ten
Key Stats: The fourth highest scoring team in program history (450 pts), Troy Smith led the Big Ten in passer efficiency (161.91). Finished in top three in the league in 15 of 17 tracked NCAA team stats.
Award Winners: Troy Smith (Heisman Trophy, Davey O'Brien, Big Ten Off. Player of the Year), James Laurinaitis (Nagurski Trophy)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Ted Ginn Jr. (1st, 2007), Anthony Gonzalez (1st, 2007), Vernon Gholston (1st, 2008), Beanie Wells (1st, 2009), Malcolm Jenkins (1st, 2009), James Laurinaitis (2nd, 2009), Brian Robiskie (2nd, 2009)

The Ohio State Buckeyes began the 2006 season as the team to beat — and proved it by going wire-to-wire as the nation's No. 1 ranked team. Troy Smith became only the third quarterback in league history to throw for at least 30 touchdowns (Drew Brees, Kyle Orton) and claimed the Heisman Trophy as he led the Buckeyes to an undefeated regular season that was capped by a thrilling 42-39 win over No. 2 Michigan. In its third game against the No. 2-ranked team, the Buckeyes offense never knew what hit them as the Florida Gators pressured Smith all game long. Poor coaching, poor preparation and poor execution in one game cost the Buckeyes the national championship.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2012 (12-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: Big Ten Leaders
Key Stats: Led the Big Ten in scoring at 37.2 points per game, Braxton Miller was second in total offense and fifth in rushing in the Big Ten. Carlos Hyde led the league in scoring at 10.2 points per game.
Award Winners: Braxton Miller (Big Ten Off. Player of the Year), John Simon (Big Ten Def. Player of the Year)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: N/A

In Urban Meyer's first season, the Buckeyes were left to wonder "what if" after a perfect season. One year after going 6-7 and losing in the Gator Bowl to a mediocre Florida team, the Buckeyes, led by super star Heisman candidate Braxton Miller, won every game they played including road wins over Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State, and home victories over Michigan and Nebraska. Was this team an elite OSU roster that would have been able to compete against either Notre Dame or Alabama? Odds are no, however, the current BCS system is set up to put No. 1 and No. 2 into the BCS title game and if Ohio State had been eligible, there is little doubt it would have faced the Fighting Irish in Miami instead of the Crimson Tide

6. Wisconsin Badgers, 1998 (11-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Barry Alvarez
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs, Rose Bowl
Key Stats: Dayne rushed for a current BCS bowl record 246 yards and four touchdowns against UCLA.
Award Winners: Ron Dayne (Rose Bowl MVP), Barry Alvarez (Big Ten Coach of the Year), Tom Burke (Big Ten Def. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Ron Dayne (1st, 2000), Chris McIntosh (1st, 2000), Jamar Fletcher (1st, 2001), Michael Bennett (1st, 2001), Chris Chambers (2nd, 2001), Wendell Bryant (1st, 2002)

Craig James began bowl season by claiming this was "the worst team to ever play in the Rose Bowl." With five first-round picks, an extraordinary offensive line, the conference's top defensive player, an eventual Thorpe Award winner and the NCAA's all-time leading rusher/Heisman Trophy winner, it is safe to say he was sorely mistaken. Ron Dayne set BCS bowl records for yards (246) and touchdowns (4) and carries (27 - which he broke himself the next year) in the 38-31 Rose Bowl win over the favored UCLA Bruins. Wisconsin's only loss came in Ann Arbor to the 10-3 (7-1) Wolverines.

7. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2007 (11-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Championships: Big Ten
Key Stats: Led the nation in scoring defense at 12.8 ppg. Led the nation in pass defense at 150.2 ypg. Led the Big Ten in seven of 17 tracked NCAA team stats.
Award Winners: James Laurinaitis (Butkus, Big Ten Def. Player of the Year), Vernon Gholston (Big Ten Def. Lineman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Vernon Gholston (1st, 2008), Beanie Wells (1st, 2009), Malcolm Jenkins (1st, 2009), James Laurinaitis (2nd, 2009), Brian Robiskie (2nd, 2009)

With road wins over ranked opponents Michigan, Penn State and Purdue to go with a home win over ranked Wisconsin, Ohio State found itself in its second straight BCS national title game. A late home loss to eventual Rose Bowl rep Illinois and to LSU in the championship game were the only blemishes on a season that started 10-0.

8. Wisconsin Badgers, 2011 (11-3, 6-2)
Head Coach: Bret Bielema
Championships: Big Ten
Key Stats: Russell Wilson set NCAA record for single-season passing efficiency (191.78) and NCAA record for consecutive games with a TD pass. Led the Big Ten in rushing offense, scoring offense, total offense and turnover margin. Montee Ball tied Barry Sanders' all-time single-season TD record with 39.
Award Winners: Russell Wilson (Big Ten QB of the Year), Montee Ball (Big Ten Off. Player of the Year, RB of the Year), 
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Kevin Zeitler (1st, 2012), Peter Konz (2nd, 2012)

This team was literally inches away from a 12-0 regular season as the Michigan State Hail Mary barely crossed the goal line and Braxton Miller's last-minute heave was this colse to being an illegal forward pass. That said, this team still went on to win the Big Ten in dramatic fashion in the conference title game and played tooth and nail with the high-flying Oregon Ducks. Russell Wilson posted the greatest single season by a Badgers quarterback in history and was a third-round pick who led the Seahawks to the playoffs as a rookie. The records, the overall talent, the statistical production and the entertainment value makes this team one of the best Wisconsin squads of all time. 

9. Michigan Wolverines, 2006 (11-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Lloyd Carr
Championships: None
Key Stats: Led the nation in rushing defense at an astonishing 43.4 ypg, LaMarr Woodley (0.92 spg) and team (3.23 spg) led the Big Ten in sacks.
Award Winners: LaMarr Woodley (Ted Hendricks, Lombardi, Big Ten Def. Player of the Year/Lineman of the Year), Jake Long (Big Ten Off. Lineman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Leon Hall (1st, 2007), David Harris (2nd, 2007), LaMarr Woodley (2nd, 2007), Alan Branch (2nd, 2007), Jake Long (1st, 2008), Chad Henne (2nd, 2008)

This Maize and Blue team started 11-0, including a 41-17 thumping of No. 2 Notre Dame, before losing by three on the road against the nation's No. 1 team,  Ohio State, on the final weekend of play. With three consensus first-team All-Americans (Hall, Long, Woodley), this team went as high as No. 2 in the polls before losing out on a title chance to Florida. Thirteen players from this team were selected in the 2007 and 2008 NFL Drafts including the '08 No. 1 overall pick, Jake Long.

10. Iowa Hawkeyes, 2002 (11-2, 8-0)
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs
Key Stats: Marked first time in school history Iowa won 11 games. Highest scoring team in Iowa history (484 points). Brad Banks led the nation in passing efficiency (157.12).
Award Winners: Kirk Ferentz (Walter Camp Coach of the Year), Brad Banks (Davey O'Brien), Nate Kaeding (Lou Groza), Dallas Clark (John Mackey)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Dallas Clark (1st, 2003), Eric Steinbach (2nd, 2003), Bruce Nelson (2nd, 2003), Robert Gallery (1st, 2004), Bob Sanders (2nd, 2004)

Stacked with NFL talent, the Hawkeyes posted the best record in school history — including tying eventual national champ Ohio State at 8-0 for the Big Ten co-championship (they didn't play each other that year). An offense led by Heisman Trophy runner-up Brad Banks (and Fred Russell) scored more points than any team in Iowa history. Road wins at Penn State and Michigan highlighted a season that ended in defeat at the hands of Heisman winner Carson Palmer and USC in the program's first-ever BCS bowl (Orange).

11. Wisconsin Badgers, 1999 (10-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Barry Alvarez
Championships: Big Ten, Rose Bowl
Key Stats: Ron Dayne became the NCAA's all-time leading rusher at 6,397 yards (7,125 counting bowls), finished No. 3 in the nation in rushing as a team (279.5 ypg), led the league in scoring at 35.6 ppg.
Award Winners: Ron Dayne (Heisman Trophy, Doak Walker, Maxwell, Walter Camp, Rose Bowl MVP), Brooks Bollinger (Big Ten Freshman of the Year), Chris McIntosh (Big Ten Off. Lineman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Aaron Gibson (1st, 1999), Ron Dayne (1st, 2000), Chris McIntosh (1st, 2000), Jamar Fletcher (1st, 2001), Michael Bennett (1st, 2001), Chris Chambers (2nd, 2001), Wendell Bryant (1st, 2002)

Following its Rose Bowl championship the previous season, the Badgers started 2-2 thanks to a shocking loss to Cincinnati on the road and five-point home defeat to Michigan. Wisconsin never lost again, beating five ranked teams to finish as Rose Bowl champs, including a road destruction of No. 12 Ohio State and home beat down of No. 11 Michigan State. Ron Dayne became the NCAA's all-time leading rusher in late October against Iowa, and claimed the Badgers' second Heisman Trophy. Dayne set the current BCS bowl record for rushing attempts with 34 (for 200 yards) in the Rose Bowl win over Stanford.

12. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2010 (12-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: The highest scoring team in OSU history (504 pts), Led the Big Ten in rushing (96.7 ypg), passing (165.5), total (262.2) and scoring (14.3 ppg) defense while leading the conference in turnover margin (+1.15).
Award Winners: Terrelle Pryor (Sugar Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Cameron Heyward (1st, 2011), Mike Adams (2nd, 2012)

The only loss the Buckeyes experienced in 2010 was a 31-18 defeat in Camp Randall to the 11-1 co-Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers. This team was loaded with NFL talent all over the offense and topped a ranked Miami and Iowa teams along with crushing rival Michigan. Ohio State also defeated an SEC team for the first time in school history with a Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas. Obviously, this season carries with it a large asterisk, as the entire season was later vacated. (The 2009 Buckeyes just missed making this list).

Teaser:
<p> Top 10 Best Big Ten Teams of the BCS Era</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-offensive-lineman
Body:

National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?

The offensive line is where championships are won. Just look at Alabama the last few seasons. The Texas Longhorns, which have always recruited extremely well along the line, need some of those five-star names to pan out. Mack Brown is poised to land two of the top three players in the nation along the line, including what many believe is the top center in the nation—Darius James. The No. 24 offensive lineman, Jake Raulerson, is a two-way star from Celina, Texas, who could end up on either side of the ball.

Notre Dame and Michigan each have five offensive linemen in the top 30 committed. Brady Hoke wants to build his program around the running game and landing the nation's No. 1 O-Line class will go a long way towards having success in the Big Ten. Brian Kelly, meanwhile, got a quick education about SEC defensive lines and is set to land the No. 2 O-Line class this cycle

Additionally, Pitt, Maryland and LSU all kept the top blockers from their home bases in the fold with key verbal pledges

The big prize, however, is still left on the board as the nation's top lineman and No. 4-rated overall prospect Laremy Tunsil is still uncommitted. The Lake City (Fla.) Columbia blocker has Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida State and Georgia listed as his finalists.

2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Laremy Tunsil No. 4 Lake City, FL 6-6 295 --
2. Darius James No. 34 Harker Heights, TX 6-5 320 Texas
3. Kent Perkins No. 38 Dallas, TX 6-6 285 Texas
4. Dorian Johnson No. 43 Belle Vernon, PA 6-6 270 Pitt
5. Ethan Pocic No. 57 Lemont, IL 6-7 280 LSU
6. Grant Hill No. 62 Hunstville, AL 6-6 300 Alabama
7. Patrick Kugler No. 68 Wexford, PA 6-4 270 Michigan
8. Evan Lisle No. 80 Centreville, OH 6-6 265 Ohio St
9. Kyle Bosch No. 92 Wheaton, IL 6-5 305 Michigan
10. Derwin Gray No. 95 Washington, DC 6-5 295 Maryland
11. Steve Elmer No. 97 Midland, MI 6-6 305 Notre Dame
12. John Montelus No. 101 Everett, MA 6-5 305 Notre Dame
13. Hunter Bivin No. 102 Owensboro, KY 6-7 290 Notre Dame
14. Khaliel Rodgers No. 105 Elkton, MD 6-3 300 USC
15. Austin Golson No. 107 Prattville, AL 6-6 285 Florida St
16. David Dawson No. 110 Detroit, MI 6-4 280 Michigan
17. Ira Denson No. 120 Madison, FL 6-4 320 Florida St
18. Brandon Mahon No. 132 Randolph, NJ 6-5 315 Penn St
19. Tyrone Crowder No. 135 Rockingham, NC 6-1 330 --
20. Mike McGlinchey No. 140 Philadelphia, PA 6-8 280 Notre Dame
21. Josh Boutte No. 144 New Iberia, LA 6-5 305 LSU
22. Chris Fox No. 147 Parker, CO 6-6 300 Michigan
23. Logan Tuley-Tillman No. 155 Peoria, IL 6-7 305 Michigan
24. Jake Raulerson No. 161 Celina, TX 6-5 260 Texas
25. Colin McGovern No. 181 New Lenox, IL 6-5 285 Notre Dame
26. Denver Kirkland No. 183 Miami, FL 6-5 330 --
27. Christian Morris No. 207 Memphis, TN 6-6 295 UCLA
28. Shamire DeVine No. 215 Atlanta, GA 6-6 350 Georgia Tech
29. Brandon Kublanow No. 229 Marietta, GA 6-3 290 Georgia

 

View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Offensive Lineman</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/2013-football-recruiting-rankings-linebackers
Body:

National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?

The linebacker position has become one of the most difficult to pinpoint in the recruiting process. A prospect could range from 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-4 and from 200 to 260 pounds, depending on what type of scheme he will be used in. The proliferation of the hybrid 3-4 outside linebacker/defensive end has created what could be considered an entirely new position. Nick Saban calls it the "Jack Back" and has won three national titles with elite players like Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and Xzavier Dickson (who is 6-3, 265) playing the position. Still other more traditional schemes feature smaller, speedy outside linebackers who can excel at 6-foot and 210 pounds. The definition of "linebacker" has been stretched mightily in the last decade.

And Saban has the next great one in end/backer hybrid Jonathan Allen (pictured). He is a massive prospect who could easily grow into a true end, but his frame and skill set seems perfectly suited for the Jack Back. The Tide also is still in on two top 10 players nationally in Reuben Foster and Matthew Thomas. Foster, who is a true middle linebacker, has been committed to both Auburn and Alabama and will have Washington and Georgia in the mix as well when all the dust settles. Thomas is a freak athlete who will pick between Miami, Florida State, Georgia, Alabama and USC.

Should Bama land both, they would easily claim the top class in the nation — to go with four returning starters at the linebacker position. Otherwise, the Florida Gators likely can claim the best collection of tacklers with the No. 5 (Alex Anzalone), No. 6 (Daniel McMillian) and No. 19 (Matt Rolin) overall linebackers in the nation heading to Gainesville. Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers deserve a tip of the cap as well, landing three of the top 23 (No. 13, No. 18, No. 23) LBs in the nation. 

The No. 1 linebacking prospect is headed to Notre Dame, though, as Jaylon Smith showcased in the U.S. Army Bowl how talented the four-time state champion will be on the next level. He is a freakish athlete who can rush the passer, drop into coverage and block kicks on special teams. Look for Brian Kelly to have fun finding ways of getting Smith involved early in his career.

As a side note, the state of Virginia is loaded at the position in 2013 as five of the top 30 linebackers in the nation hail from The Commonwealth. However, only one is slated to stay close to home — Holland Fisher at Virginia Tech.

2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH

  Name AC100 Hometown Ht Wt Verbal
1. Jaylon Smith No. 2 Fort Wayne, IN 6-3 220 Notre Dame
2. Reuben Foster No. 6 Auburn, AL 6-1 240 --
3. Matthew Thomas No. 8 Miami, FL 6-3 210 --
4. Jonathan Allen No. 17 Ashburn, VA 6-3 250 Alabama
5. Alex Anzalone No. 53 Reading, PA 6-3 230 Florida
6. Daniel McMillian No. 56 Jacksonville, FL 6-2 220 Florida
7. Mike Mitchell No. 58 Plano, TX 6-3 220 Ohio St
8. Holland Fisher No. 59 Midlothian, VA 6-1 210 Virginia Tech
9. Isaac Savaiinaea No. 93 Honolulu, HI 6-3 230 --
10. Larenz Bryant No. 96 Charlotte, NC 6-1 210 South Carolina
11. Michael Hutchings No. 100 Concord, CA 6-2 215 USC
12. Trey Johnson No. 111 Lawrenceville, GA 6-1 220 Ohio St
13. Dorian O'Daniel No. 121 Olney, MD 6-1 205 Clemson
14. Deoundrei Davis No. 130 Cypress, TX 6-3 215 Texas
15. Myles Jack No. 137 Bellevue, WA 6-2 215 UCLA
16. Peter Kalambayi No. 145 Matthews, NC 6-3 235 Stanford
17. Mike McCray No. 147 Trotwood, OH 6-4 230 Michigan
18. Ben Boulware No. 148 Anderson, SC 6-0 220 Clemson
19. Matt Rolin No. 152 Ashburn, VA 6-3 210 Florida
20. Yannick Ngakoue No. 159 Washington, DC 6-3 235 --
21. Tim Kimbrough No. 165 Indianapolis, IN 6-1 225 Georgia
22. Quinton Powell No. 172 Daytona Beach, FL 6-2 195 --
23. Jayron Kearse No. 174 Fort Myers, FL 6-3 200 Clemson
24. Deon Hollins Jr. No. 178 Missouri City, TX 6-2 225 UCLA
25. E.J. Levenberry Jr. No. 183 Woodbridge, VA 6-3 225 Florida St
26. Doug Randolph No. 203 Richmond, VA 6-3 235 Notre Dame
27. Jermaine Grace No. 220 Miramar, FL 6-1 200 --
28. Jon Reschke No. 223 Bloomfield, MI 6-2 225 Michigan St
29. Marcus Newby No. 228 New Potomac, MD 6-1 210 Nebraska
30. Chans Cox No. 236 Lakeside, AZ 6-3 230 Arizona St


View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

Recruiting Videos:

AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey

AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic

AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes

AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall

AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson

AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows

AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson

AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I

AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I

AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II

Teaser:
<p> 2013 Football Recruiting Rankings: Linebackers</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-biggest-recruiting-surprises-2013-class
Body:

National Signing Day is just a few weeks away and six of the top 10 players in the Athlon Consensus 100 are still left uncommitted. In fact, 14 of the top 100 still have yet to make the most important decision in their life. The team, conference and national rankings will be shifting and moving all the way through National Signing Day 2013.

So needless to say, there is still much left to be determined. So teams with disappointing classes could still surge up the rankings while teams in the top 10 could find themselves dropping. But here are a few teams that have been the biggest surprises on the recruiting trail — on both sides of the ledger.

2013's Biggest Surprises: Three Up

Ole Miss Rebels
Team Ranks: Rivals: 11th, 247Sports: 14th, Scout: 13th

The biggest surprise on the recruiting trail in 2013 has to be the Ole Miss Rebels because whatever Huge Freeze has put in the water in Oxford is working. The Rebels are on a furious run after landing the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation Laquon Treadwell (No. 14) as well as AC100 defensive end Elijah Daniel (No. 51). The recruiting coup for Freeze, however, would be landing the nation’s No. 1 player Robert Nkemdiche. The big defensive end will pick between LSU and Ole Miss. To finish in the top 10 nationally after winning four total SEC games the last three seasons is absolutely remarkable.

Penn State Nittany Lions
Team Ranks: Rivals: 35th, 247Sports: 22nd, Scout: 35th

No head coach has more to overcome on the recruiting trail nationally than Bill O’Brien. With Christian Hackenberg, the No. 2-rated quarterback prospect in the nation, leading the way, the Nittany Lions have to be ecstatic about landing the Big Ten’s No. 3 class. Ohio State and Michigan will land first and second in the rankings this year, but the Nits have a chance finish third in the Big Ten and possibly in the Top 25 nationally. In the face of heavy-handed NCAA sanctions and the worst scandal in the history of college sports, the job O’Brien has done has been masterful.

Vanderbilt Commodores
Team Ranks: Rivals: 18th, 247Sports: 28th, Scout: 18th 

It’s one thing to get fans excited about football in Nashville with some smooth talking and entertaining personalities. It’s an entirely different thing to take the Dores to back-to-back bowl games and land a top 20 recruiting class. But that is what James Franklin is poised to do after two seasons on West End. The 2013 haul is a deep class (23 commitments) that is headlined by elite four-star skill talents like quarterback Johnathon McCrary, running back Johnathan Ford and tight end Mitchell Parsons. To finish ahead of Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas or South Carolina in recruiting is nothing short of miracle at Vanderbilt.

Others that have been impressive:

UCLA Bruins
This class could be the No. 1 class in the Pac-12 and easily end up in the top 10 nationally.

Indiana Hoosiers
A top 50 class in Bloomington has to be considered a mild upset.

Cal Golden Bears
To land a top 25 class following a coaching change and a 3-9 season is impressive.

More: View the complete Athlon Consensus 100

 

2013's Biggest Surprises: Three Down

Texas Tech Red Raiders
Team Rank: Rivals: 85th, 247Sports: 91st, Scout: 74th

The Red Raiders are ranked dead last in the Big 12 team recruiting rankings by all three recruiting websites. This is a team with one losing record since 1992 and the state of Texas to pull talent from. No, fans can’t expect Texas Tech to land Top 25 classes each year or press the Longhorns, Sooners or Aggies for talent, but it should be able to out-recruit Iowa State and Kansas with ease. Bowling Green, UAB and Tulane should not have better classes — especially, with an influx of energy surging through the program with new coach Kliff Kingsbury now leading the way.

Louisville Cardinals
Team Rank: Rivals: 62nd, 247Sports: 54th, Scout: 54th

Landing James Quick at the US Army Bowl was a big get for Charlie Strong, but this team needs to capitalize more on its 11-win season and BCS bowl victory over Florida. The Cardinals are a young team and don’t have extra room for a huge class. But Strong has only two four-star prospects in the fold thus far. Ranking fourth or fifth in the Big East means making the top 50 nationally will be virtually impossible. Strong's first two classes were ranked 34th (2011) and 38th (2012), so anything in the 60s would be a major disappointment considering the upward trajectory of the program.

Miami Hurricanes
Team Rank: Rivals: 57, 247Sports: 27, Scout: 39

Al Golden did a miraculous job landing the No. 8 class in the nation last year in the face of swirling NCAA issues. It was one of the biggest hauls in the nation. One year later, he is bringing in one of the smallest groups in the nation. Much like Louisville, the overall lack of size will have an impact on where this group will be ranked. Miami, a young team, does not have a ton of scholarships to offer. The Canes are still in the mix with some high-level prospects (Matthew Thomas, for example) so they could still move up, however, finishing ninth in the ACC or outside of the top 50 nationally would have to be considered a disappointment.

Others that have been disappointing:

USC Trojans
A great class but half a dozen defections is a concerning trend for Lane Kiffin.

Arkansas Razorbacks
Could finish strong but two coaching changes and a 4-8 season have hurt the brand.

Stanford Cardinal
After signing elite classes the last two seasons, David Shaw’s group won’t crack top 50

Teaser:
<p> College Football's Biggest Recruiting Surprises of the 2013 Class</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-best-quarterback-recruiting-classes-last-10-years
Body:

Recruiting is reaching a fever pitch as the college football machine churns toward National Signing Day 2013. The first Wednesday in February is the NCAA’s version of Christmas morning for fans and coaches alike. Great coaching is the key to winning, but so are great players. If your team has better athletes, generally speaking, it will win the game more often than not.

That doesn’t mean that every five-star is an All-American or every two-star is a Sun Belt third stringer.

Athlon Sports continues its analysis of recruiting over the last 10 years by evaluating the most important player on the field. The quarterback position has evolved dramatically over the last decade and it has made scouting the game’s most intricate position that much more difficult.

Every year isn’t created equally and the Athlon Consensus 100 proves this quite obviously. Since its inception in 2008, two quarterbacks have been ranked as the top player in the nation — Terrelle Pryor (2008) and Matt Barkley (2009). In 2010, however, Jake Heaps was considered the nation’s best quarterback, but was ranked No. 42 overall. Jeff Driskel was the top signal caller in 2011 and was No. 17 overall. Some quarterback classes are deeper and more talented than others.

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks the quarterback classes over the last 10 years:

1. Class of 2006
The Super Stars: Tim Tebow, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker, Case Keenum

The Best of the Rest: Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, Greg McElroy, Todd Reesing, Nate Davis, Juice Williams, TJ Yates, Ricky Stanzi, Thaddeus Lewis, John Skelton, Scott Tolzien, Nathan Enderle

This group features six first-round picks, including two No. 1 overall selections, and two second rounders. It registered two Heisman Trophies, three BCS National Championships and featured the most prolific passer in NCAA history. And Colin Kaepernick, who was a statistical juggernaut at Nevada, has led the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII. Additionally, Yates, Stafford and Dalton have all started NFL playoff games while Ponder led the Vikings to an improbable playoff berth this fall. This class has long been considered the best of the modern era and it appears nothing has changed.

2. Class of 2008
The Super Stars: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Collin Klein, Landry Jones, Blaine Gabbert

The Best of the Rest: EJ Manuel, Terrelle Pryor, Darron Thomas, Mike Glennon, Seth Doege, Tyler Wilson, Colby Cameron, Sean Renfree, Ryan Nassib, Matt Scott, Nick Florence, Zac Dysert, Alex Carder, Jacory Harris

When all is said and done, Luck and Griffin III might be better than anyone in the 2006 class, but the depth at the top isn’t as elite. Jones is one of the most prolific passers in history, but his legacy might be more disappointment than Hall of Fame. Klein, Thomas, and Pryor are electric athletes who used their legs but have issues with accuracy. What makes this class great is its depth in the middle as names like Nick Florence, Matt Scott, Ryan Nassib and Seth Doege are underrated nationally in terms of production. In all, this group claims three first-round picks (with a chance at a couple more), one Heisman Trophy, a handful of conference championships and one BCS title game appearance.

3. Class of 2009
The Super Stars: AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, Tajh Boyd, Taylor Martinez, Denard Robinson, Jordan Lynch

The Best of the Rest: Derek Carr, Logan Thomas, Keith Price, Bryn Renner, Tyler Russell, Brock Osweiler

There is no elite, No. 1 overall type of talent in this class but there are some huge numbers. And athletes. Martinez, Robinson, Lynch and Thomas have combined for 118 career rushing touchdowns and over 10,000 yards rushing. Boyd, Smith, Carr and Barkley have all been elite passers with huge numbers through the air. Aaron Murray has two SEC East titles and could rewrite the SEC passing record books next fall and could potentially make a run at the first round in 2014. And then there are two BCS national championship rings courtesy of McCarron (three if you count his redshirt season). The upside of this group gives it a slight nod over the established stars of the 2007 class as college football should be excited that most of the names in this class decided to return to school instead of going pro (Murray, McCarron, Boyd, Carr, Thomas, Renner).

4. Class of 2007
The Super Stars: Cam Newton, Brandon Weeden, Russell Wilson, Kellen Moore, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Mallett

The Best of the Rest: Ryan Tannehill, Chandler Harnish, Tyrod Taylor, Josh Nesbitt, Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Lindley, Dan Persa, GJ Kinne

One guy gives this class a Heisman Trophy, a BCS national title and a No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. But the rest of the group is underrated as well. Wilson and Weeden are NFL starters who broke all kinds of NCAA records while Kellen Moore is the winningest QB in history. Cousins is an extremely underrated leader and is the best QB in Michigan State history while Mallett, Lindley and Tannehill are all NFL players. Taylor and Nesbitt give this group plenty of athleticism as well.

5. Class of 2003
The Super Stars: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Chris Leak, Paul Smith, Kevin Kolb, Dennis Dixon, Brady Quinn, Andre Woodson

The Best of the Rest: John Beck, John David Booty, Kevin O'Connell, Tom Brandstater, Matt Flynn, JaMarcus Russell, Drew Tate

Ryan and Flacco are elite NFL passers but both were mid-level recruits and Flacco had to transfer to get to the first round. In all, there are four first-round picks, two BCS National Championships and a host of players who would be among their school's greatest of all-time — Woodson, Smith, Kolb and Dixon won a lot of games with big numbers. If JaMarcus Russell wasn't arguably the biggest bust (literally and figuratively) in NFL Draft history, this class could make a case for being higher on the list. 

6. Class of 2011
The Super Stars: Johnny Manziel, Braxton Miller, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Hundley

The Best of the Rest: Everett Golson, Jeff Driskel, Chuckie Keeton, Gary Nova, Trevone Boykin, David Ash, Max Wittek

In just two short seasons, it is hard to argue the upside of the 2011 group. Manziel has a Heisman Trophy while the top five names in this class will feature prominently in the chase for the 2013 stiff-armed trophy. And all five could have their teams in the BCS National Championship hunt as well. Toss in Golson, Driskel and Keeton as well as a host of other names who have yet to be discovered and this group is already well established. This might be the only class that could make a run at the 2006 class for top billing.

7. Class of 2002
The Super Stars: Vince Young, Troy Smith, Colt Brennan

The Best of the Rest: Drew Stanton, Omar Jacobs, Phil Horvath, Trent Edwards, John Stocco, Marcus Vick, Jordan Palmer, Drew Olson, Tyler Palko

At the top, this class had an elite trio. Young is the most unstoppable player I’ve ever seen on a college gridiron and he won the ultimate prize. Smith also led his team to the national title game and claimed Ohio State’s seventh Heisman Trophy. Brennan posted huge numbers at Hawaii in getting the Warriors to their one and only BCS bowl game.

8. Class of 2004
The Super Stars: Brian Brohm, Pat White, Brian Johnson, Graham Harrell, Daryll Clark

The Best of the Rest: Max Hall, Chad Henne, Curtis Painter, Stephen McGee, Brian Hoyer, John Parker Wilson, Erik Ainge, CJ Bacher, Mike Teel, Rudy Carpenter

None of these names will ever be NFL stars but there are some elite college players in this class. Clark, Brohm, White and Johnson all led their teams to historic seasons, conference crowns and BCS bowl wins. Harrell posted elite passing statistics while Hall, Henne, Painter and Parker Wilson all started for at least three seasons at four of the most historic quarterback programs in the nation (BYU, Michigan, Purdue, Alabama). The depth of this class gives it a slight edge on the 2005 group.

9. Class of 2005
The Super Stars: Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, Mark Sanchez, Zac Robinson, Dan LeFevour

The Best of the Rest: Riley Skinner, Tony Pike, Joe Webb, Sean Canfield, Mike Kafka, Levi Brown, Matt Grothe, Tim Hiller, Jarrett Brown

The top five were great players for their schools but that is about all this class has to offer. Yes, Canfield, Kafka, Webb and Pike were NFL Draft picks but all are bench players. McCoy is the real star, finishing his career with more wins than anyone in history (until Kellen Moore) and leading Texas into the championship game. Sanchez had a great team at USC and was a top pick but has very little experience. Robinson and Daniel were, at the time of graduation, likely the top quarterbacks in program history. LeFevour is a big reason why Brian Kelly and Butch Jones are coaching at Notre Dame and Tennessee respectively.

10. Class of 2010
The Super Stars: Taylor Kelly, James Franklin, Tyler Bray

The Best of the Rest: Blake Bell, Tanner Price, Cody Fajardo, Devin Gardner, Stephen Morris, Sean Mannion, David Piland, Connor Shaw, Jake Heaps, Phillip Sims

The top two recruits in this class (Heaps, Sims) have both transferred but have new opportunities to be successful. Kelly, Franklin and Bray are the only established players in this group while some others have high expectations for 2013 (Fajardo, Morris, Bell, Shaw, Gardner). This group has to be ranked last due to the lack of established super stars. However, this class should move up over the next few seasons as more names emerge and the guys above continue to develop.

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Best Quarterback Recruiting Classes of the last 10 Years</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 06:20
Path: /college-football/top-15-sec-football-teams-bcs-era
Body:

The BCS just put a bow on its 15th season of action and Athlon has dissected the numbers and reviewed the tapes of all six BCS conferences in order to rank the best each league has had to offer. Which Oklahoma team was the best of the decade? Which Florida team was the toughest to stop? How do you rank the Florida State teams of the late '90s? Which Miami team was the best? How about those loaded USC teams? Alabama vs. Auburn?

The debates will rage on for decades, but here is Athlon's two cents. Here are the Top 15 SEC teams of the BCS Era (1998-present):

Note: "First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks

1. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2009 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Finished second in the nation in total (244.1 ypg), rushing (78.1 ypg) and scoring defense (11.7 ppg).
Award Winners: Mark Ingram (Heisman Trophy), Rolando McClain (Butkus, SEC Def. Player of the Year), Javier Arenas (SEC Special Teamer of the Year), Nick Saban (SEC Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Rolando McClain (1st, 2010), Kareem Jackson (1st, 2010), Javier Arenas (2nd, 2010), Terrence Cody (2nd, 2010), Mark Ingram (1st, 2011), James Carpenter (1st, 2011), Marcell Dareus (1st, 2011), Julio Jones (1st, 2011), Trent Richardson (1st, 2012), Mark Barron (1st, 2012), Dont'a Hightower (1st, 2012), Dre Kirkpatrick (1st, 2012), Courtney Upshaw (2nd, 2012)

Led by boy genius quarterback Greg McElroy and a host of national award-winning first-round NFL Draft picks, the Alabama Crimson Tide won their first national title since 1992. Nick Saban defeated five ranked opponents before taking down No. 2 Texas in the BCS National Championship game 37-21. This was the best defense in the nation, finishing second nationally in three of the four major statistical categories. In a rematch of the 2008 SEC title game, McElroy did his best Tebow impression by completing 12-of-18 passes for 239 yards without a turnover while picking up key yards on the ground. Heisman winner Mark Ingram rushed 28 times for 113 yards and three scores in the tear-inducing 32-13 win over Florida in Atlanta. Thus far, 10 first-round picks have entered the NFL from the 2009 roster. That number could grow this April should Barrett Jones get his name called early.

2. Tennessee Volunteers, 1998 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Phillip Fulmer
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: This team put 11 players into the first or second round of the NFL Draft; Peerless Price is second all-time in BCS bowls with 242 all-purpose yards in the Fiesta Bowl, his 49.8 yards per catch is a BCS title game record.
Award Winners: Phillip Fulmer (AP National Coach of the Year), Peerless Price (Fiesta Bowl MVP), David Cutcliffe (Broyles)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Al Wilson (1st, 1999), Peerless Price (2nd, 1999), Jamal Lewis (1st, 2000), Shaun Ellis (1st, 2000), Raynoch Thompson (2nd, 2000), Chad Clifton (2nd, 2000), Dwayne Goodrich (2nd, 2000), Casey Coleman (2nd, 2000), Deon Grant (2nd, 2000), Travis Henry (2nd, 2001), John Henderson (1st, 2002)

In Year 1 A.P. (after Peyton), the Vols put together their greatest season in nearly five decades. Tee Martin stepped in at quarterback, and aided by a monster backfield that included Travis Henry, Jamal Lewis, Travis Stephens and Shawn Bryson, led the Vols past six ranked opponents for Tennessee’s sixth national championship. The defense held nine of its 13 opponents to 18 points or less. Despite a BCS record 199 yards receiving (242 all-purpose yards) and the game-winning 79-yard touchdown for game MVP Peerless Price, the most important and memorable moment from the 1998 title run involved a stumbling Razorback. Late in the Arkansas game, Tennessee was all but beaten until Billy Ratliff forced guard Brandon Burlsworth into quarterback Clint Stoerner, who gently and inexplicably “placed” the football on the ground. The Vols used a Henry touchdown run in the final seconds to seal the comeback from a 21-3 deficit and the eventual national championship.

3. Florida Gators, 2008 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Led the SEC in rushing (231.1 ypg), total offense (445.1 ypg), scoring (43.6 ppg), pass efficiency defense (96.76), scoring defense (12.9 ppg), punting (38.1 ypp), turnover margin (+1.57) and passing efficiency (170.6). Percy Harvin led the SEC in scoring at 10.2 ppg.
Award Winners: Tim Tebow (Maxwell, SEC Off. Player of the Year), Brandon James (SEC Special Teamer of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Percy Harvin (1st, 2009), Tim Tebow (1st, 2010), Joe Haden (1st, 2010), Maurkice Pouncey (1st, 2010), Carlos Dunlap (2nd, 2010), Jermaine Cunningham (2nd, 2010), Brandon Spikes (2nd, 2010), Mike Pouncey (1st, 2011), Marcus Gilbert (2nd, 2011)

Tim Tebow had his Heisman Trophy (2007) and a national championship ring (2006). But when the Florida Gators lost to the Ole Miss Rebels in The Swamp on a final drive fourth-down stop, Tebow took his legendary legacy to new heights. After fumbling, taking sacks and missing open receivers, the Gainesville idol gave one of the most famous speeches in college football history: “You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.” The Gators then went on to crush quality opponents Arkansas, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State and Alabama by an average of 31.8 points per game. The win over No. 1 and unbeaten Alabama pushed the Gators into the national title game against another No. 1. The Chosen One then delivered on his promise (and halftime speech) by throwing for 231 yards and two scores while rushing for 109 yards on 22 carries to outlast Oklahoma 24-14. He claimed his second national championship in three years before announcing he would return for his senior year. The 2008 Gators tied the 1996 national champs as the highest-scoring team in school history (611 points).

4. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2011 (12-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Set a BCS era record with 8.2 points allowed per game, led the nation in total defense (183.6 ypg), rushing defense (72.2 ypg) and passing defense (111.5 ypg). Held LSU to zero points, five first downs and 92 yards of offense in the BCS title game.
Award Winners: Trent Richardson (Doak Walker Award, SEC Off. Player of the Year), Barrett Jones (Outland Trophy, Wuerffel Trophy)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Trent Richardson (1st, 2012), Mark Barron (1st, 2012) Dre Kirkpatrick (1st, 2012), Dont'a Hightower (1st, 2012), Courtney Upshaw (2nd, 2012)

As Athlon Sports' preseason pick as the National Champion, Alabama rolled through its schedule — which included easy victories over three ranked opponents — until the "Game of the Century" on November 5 against LSU. The Tide outplayed the Tigers on offense and defense in that game, but was destroyed on special teams and it cost Saban a perfect season. After crushing rival Auburn, the Tide headed to New Orleans for a rematch with LSU. In a performance that would make the Bear weep openly, the Tide held Jordan Jefferson and the Bayou Bengals to five first downs, 92 yards of offense and no points. Alabama led the nation in every major defensive team NCAA statistic and it showed in the title game. This Crimson Tide team is the only BCS National Champion who failed to win its conference championship and the offense did not possess the same level of explosive talent on offense (and it lost a game) to be ranked ahead of the 2009 Alabama title squad.

5. LSU Tigers, 2003 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Only one time did a team score more than 14 points against LSU (Arkansas, 24). Led the nation in total defense (252.0 ypg) and scoring defense (11.0 ppg), held Heisman winner Jason White to 13-of-37 passing in title game.
Award Winners: Chad Lavalais (SEC Def. Player of the Year), Nick Saban (AP National Coach of the Year), Justin Vincent (Sugar Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Michael Clayton (1st, 2004), Devery Henderson (2nd, 2004), Marquise Hill (2nd, 2004), Marcus Spears (1st, 2005), Corey Webster (2nd, 2005), Joseph Addai (1st, 2006), Andrew Whitworth (2nd, 2006), LaRon Landry (1st, 2007), Dwayne Bowe (1st, 2007), Chris Davis (1st, 2007)

Armed with the nation’s nastiest defense, Nick Saban restored the LSU name to prominence in only his fourth year at the helm. His team led the nation in total defense at 252 yards per game and scoring defense at exactly 11.0 points per game. Arkansas was the only team to score more than 14 points against the Bayou Bengals in 2003. Quarterback Matt Mauck steered the ship, freshman Justin Vincent and sophomore Joseph Addai powered the offense and one of the deepest receiving corps in history gave LSU tremendous balance. With three one-loss teams sitting atop the standings — and USC ranked No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches Poll — the computers controversially placed the Sooners in the National Championship game against the Tigers. After the 21-14 win over an Oklahoma team boasting the Heisman, Thorpe, Lombardi and Bednarik winners, LSU claimed the BCS national title — splitting the votes with USC. It was their first national championship since 1958.

6. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2012 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championship: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Led the nation in rushing and total defense for the second straight year and was second nationally in scoring defense, AJ McCarron was second nationally in passing efficiency. 
Award Winners: Barrett Jones (Rimington)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: N/A

The 2012 Crimson Tide championship team isn't as strong defensively as the unit that dominated the college football landscape the year before, but defending a title is almost always more difficult than winning the first one. AJ McCarron had spotlight moments all season long, including 264 yards and four touchdowns against Notre Dame in the title game. Had McCarron not thrown the goal-line interception against Texas A&M, this team would have easily landed in the top five. This team rolled up 529 yards of offense in one of the more impressive title game performances in the 15-year history of the BCS. And did it against one of the best defenses in the nation.

7. Auburn Tigers, 2004 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Tommy Tuberville
Championships: SEC, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: The Tigers finished the regular season No. 3 in the BCS standings, led the nation in scoring defense (11.3 ppg), led the SEC in scoring offense (32.1 ppg); Jason Campbell led the league in passing efficiency (172.89).
Award Winners: Carlos Rogers (Thorpe), Jason Campbell (SEC Off. Player of the Year), Carnell Williams (SEC Special Teamer of the Year), Tommy Tuberville (AP National, SEC Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Ronnie Brown (1st, 2005), Carnell Williams (1st, 2005), Carlos Rogers (1st, 2005), Jason Campbell (1st, 2005), Marcus McNeill (2nd, 2006), Ben Grubbs (1st, 2007)

The 2004 Auburn Tigers backfield might be one of the most talented in college football history. Ronnie Brown, Carnell Williams (Kenny Irons was redshirting) and Jason Campbell led the Tigers to an unblemished record. Only two teams stayed within 10 points of Auburn during the regular season (LSU 10-9, Alabama 21-13) while the three-headed backfield pounded opposing defenses. While Auburn beat four ranked teams, it missed out on the BCS national title game to an undefeated Oklahoma team. The Sooners got crushed by USC while Auburn snuck past Virginia Tech to win the Sugar Bowl. To this day, Tigers fan rue the missed opportunity of 2004. Auburn would have been a heavy underdog to USC and was defeated by what was largely the same team at home the year before 23-0. But it would have been fun to watch the two teams square off.

8. Florida Gators, 2009 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: SEC East, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: Tim Tebow led the nation in passing efficiency (164.17), set the SEC all-time total offense record (12,232 yards), and the SEC’s all-time touchdowns responsible for record (145).
Award Winners: Aaron Hernandez (John Mackey), Maurkice Pouncey (Rimington), Tim Tebow (SEC Off. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Tim Tebow (1st, 2010), Joe Haden (1st, 2010), Maurkice Pouncey (1st, 2010), Carlos Dunlap (2nd, 2010), Jermaine Cunningham (2nd, 2010), Brandon Spikes (2nd, 2010), Mike Pouncey (1st, 2011), Marcus Gilbert (2nd, 2011)

After the Gators claimed the 2008 BCS National Championship, Tim Tebow decided to return to Gainesville for his senior season. He led the Gators to an undefeated regular season mark and berth in the SEC Championship game against No. 2 Alabama. The rematch of the 2008 SEC title game went the way of the Tide 32-13, as Greg McElroy outplayed Tebow. While it was not the third national title he wanted, Tebow finished his career by setting a BCS bowl record for total yards with 533 and passing yards with 482 in the 51-24 win over Cincinnati. It was only the Gators' second win over a ranked opponent all season.

9. Auburn Tigers, 2010 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Gene Chizik
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Cam Newton's 4,327 yards of total offense set a single-season SEC record; Tigers set a school record with 41.2 points per game, led the nation in passing efficiency 180.52, won seven games by one score or less.
Award Winners: Cam Newton (Heisman Trophy, Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, SEC Off. Player of Year), Nick Fairley (Lombardi), Lee Ziemba (SEC Top Blocker)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Cam Newton (1st, 2011), Nick Fairley (1st, 2011)

One-year wonders Cam Newton and Nick Fairley gave Auburn arguably its most important recruiting haul in history when they both chose the Loveliest Village on the Plains. The Heisman Trophy winner willed his team to victory against Mississippi State, Clemson, Kentucky, Alabama, Oregon and defined his legacy with an incredible 49-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of a tied game with LSU. His 217 rushing yards in the 24-17 win over the Tigers broke a single-game SEC rushing record for a quarterback. Newton finished with 2,854 yards passing, 1,473 yards rushing and an SEC second-best 51 total touchdowns. This is the only 14-win team in school history and was the highest-scoring Tigers team in program history by a wide margin — their 577 points topped Terry Bowden’s 1995 team by 139 points (41.2 ppg against 36.5 ppg).

10. Florida Gators, 2006 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Florida held Heisman winner Troy Smith to four completions in the title game and the Buckeyes to 82 total yards.
Award Winners: Percy Harvin (SEC Freshman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Reggie Nelson (1st, 2007), Jarvis Moss (1st, 2007), Derrick Harvey (1st, 2008), Percy Harvin (1st, 2009), Tim Tebow (1st, 2010), Jermaine Cunningham (2nd, 2010), Brandon Spikes (2nd, 2010)

After defeating a ranked Tennessee, LSU, Georgia and Arkansas, the Florida Gators entered the 2006 BCS national title game as a big underdog to Ohio State. But an NFL-heavy defense delivered one of the greatest defensive performances in championship game history. Jarvis Moss, Reggie Nelson, Derrick Harvey and company harassed Heisman winner Troy Smith all day. Smith threw for 35 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and was sacked five times. They held the OSU rushing attack to 47 yards on 23 carries. Ohio State totaled 82 yards of offense in the 41-14 beatdown. Cult hero Tim Tebow touched the ball 11 times and scored twice to begin his eternal legacy at Florida. This team produced nine 2007 NFL Draft picks alone. The only loss came at the hands of No. 11 Auburn 27-17 in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

11. LSU Tigers, 2007 (12-2, 6-2)
Head Coach: Les Miles
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: LSU beat seven ranked teams; the only BCS champion with two losses.
Award Winners: Glenn Dorsey (Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski, Lott, SEC Def. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Glenn Dorsey (1st, 2008), Tyson Jackson (1st, 2009)

By definition only, this is the “worst” BCS national champion due to its two losses. However, wins over ranked Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee (with back-up quarterback Ryan Perrilloux) and Ohio State gave the Bayou Bengals the crystal football nonetheless. The Tigers were undefeated in regulation, however, as both Kentucky and Arkansas needed overtime to top them. Despite the two losses and the 83 combined points allowed, the LSU Tigers defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes in relatively easy fashion 38-24. Matt Flynn threw four touchdown passes, and the defense, led by an 8-tackle, 1.5-sack, forced fumble performance by Ali Highsmith, kept the Bucks at arm’s length the entire game. It was the Tigers' second national title in five years.

12. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2008 (12-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: SEC West
Key Stats: Finished No. 2 nationally against the run (74.1 ypg) and third nationally in total defense (263.5 ypg); John Parker Wilson’s 7,924 yards are an all-time Alabama record.
Award Winners: Andre Smith (Outland), Nick Saban (SEC Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Andre Smith (1st, 2009), Rolando McClain (1st, 2010), Kareem Jackson (1st, 2010), Mark Ingram (1st, 2011), James Carpenter (1st, 2011), Marcell Dareus (1st, 2011), Julio Jones (1st, 2011)

In Nick Saban’s second season at The Capstone, the Tide was quickly back in the national title picture. The Tide boasted a senior-laden offense, beat three ranked teams for an 8-0 SEC record and were the No. 1 team in the land when they headed to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game with the No. 2-ranked Florida Gators. The Gators' defense foiled the Tide’s hopes for a national title by holding quarterback John Parker Wilson to 12-of-25 passing, no touchdowns and one key interception. The loss to Florida sent Alabama to the Sugar Bowl against an unbeaten Utah team. Without Andre Smith — or a chance at the crystal football — the Tide failed to play motivated football and fell 31-17 to what might be considered the best Ute team in program history.

13. LSU Tigers, 2011 (13-1, 8-0)
Head Coach: Les Miles
Championships: SEC
Key Stats: No. 2 nationally in total and scoring defense, No. 2 nationally in turnover margin
Award Winners: Morris Claiborne (Thorpe Award)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Morris Claiborne (1st, 2012), Michael Brockers (1st, 2012), Reuben Randle (2nd, 2012)

This team was nearly as dominant on defense as the eventual national champion Crimson Tide, but its offense paled in comparison. A perfect regular season was tainted with arguably the worst performance in the BCS National Championship in the 15-year history of the game. Certainly, Alabama deserves credit for why LSU struggled so mightily in New Orleans last year. But 92 total yards of offense and five first downs indicated the 13-0 record was not nearly as pretty as previously assumed. This is the only team to be shutout in the BCS title game and is the only SEC team to ever lose the BCS title game.

14. Georgia Bulldogs, 2002 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Mark Richt
Championships: SEC, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: Finished fourth in the nation in scoring defense (15.1 ppg) and led the SEC in scoring (32.1); no Georgia team has scored more than 2002’s 450 points.
Award Winners: David Pollack (SEC Player of the Year), Mark Richt (SEC Coach of the Year), Musa Smith (Sugar Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Jonathan Sullivan (1st, 2003), George Foster (1st, 2003), Boss Bailey (2nd, 2003), Jon Stinchcomb (2nd, 2003), Ben Watson (1st, 2004), Sean Jones (2nd, 2004), David Pollack (1st, 2005), Thomas Davis (1st, 2005), Reggie Brown (2nd, 2005), Tim Jennings (2nd, 2006)

No Georgia team has ever won more games or scored more points in a single season than the 2002 edition. And other than the 1980 Vince Dooley team and the 1945 Wallace Butts team, no Dawgs squad has had a better record than the 13-1 mark. Led by David Greene at quarterback and a stacked defense (Pollack, Davis, Jones, Jennings), Georgia rolled to an 8-0 mark before losing in the Cocktail Party 20-13 to Florida. After being knocked out of the national title hunt, Georgia crushed Ole Miss, topped Auburn, pummeled rival Georgia Tech before destroying Arkansas in the SEC title game. They capped the season with a Sugar Bowl title over Florida State.

15. Georgia Bulldogs, 2007 (11-2, 6-2)
Head Coach: Mark Richt
Championships: Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: This team led the SEC in sacks (3.23 pg) and was eighth nationally; Georgia’s 42-30 win over Florida was only the second win over the Gators in 10 tries; this was the second-highest scoring team in school history at 32.6 points per game.
Award Winners: Knowshon Moreno (SEC Freshman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Matthew Stafford (1st, 2009), Knowshon Moreno (1st, 2009), Mohamed Massaquoi (2nd, 2009)

The most talented quarterback in school history, Matthew Stafford came close to leading Georgia back to the national title game. An early loss to South Carolina did not end the Dawgs' title hopes, however, an inexplicable 35-14 road loss to underdog Tennessee did cost Mark Richt a chance at playing a two-loss LSU in the SEC title game. The Tigers defeated the Volunteers, who won the SEC East crown via a tie-breaker, and went on to beat Ohio State in the BCS national championship game, while Georgia was left to face an undefeated Hawaii team in the Sugar Bowl — in the same building as LSU. Georgia forced six turnovers and held the Warriors to minus-5 yards rushing in the 41-10 victory. Stafford was the first overall pick in the draft one year later.

Teaser:
<p> Top 15 SEC Football Teams of the BCS Era</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 06:10
Path: /nfl/15-greatest-plays-super-bowl-history
Body:

What defines a great play?

Degree of difficulty? Gravity of the moment? The greatness of the players involved and their place in NFL history? Entertainment factor? How about all of the above.

Game-winning touchdowns, heroic out-of-body experiences, historic moments and even some hilarious gaffes — looking at you Garo Yepremian — all make the Super Bowl the greatest sporting event of the calendar year. Hall of Fame careers are made and broken in the final football game of the season and trying to narrow down half-a-century of action to the 10 best individual plays is virtually impossible.

1. Super Bowl XXXIV: One Yard Short
The Titans and Rams put on a second-half show for the fans in Atlanta. Kurt Warner hit Isaac Bruce on a 73-yard touchdown pass with just over two minutes to go in a tie game to take the lead. Steve McNair then whirled his way down the field to the St. Louis 10-yard line to set up the final play of the game. Mike Jones then made the play of his career by tackling Kevin Dyson just 12 inches shy of the game-tying touchdown. It would have been the first and only overtime game in Super Bowl history.

2. Super Bowl XXXII: John Elway’s helicopter run
It was the defining moment of what many believe is the best Super Bowl ever played. It was third-and-six from the Packers 12-yard line with the game tied 17-17 in the second half. One of the game’s greatest players drops back to pass, scrambles right and then dives into the air in the face of three Green Bay defenders. Elway gives up all regard for his body and wills himself to a first down. Terrell Davis scored the go-ahead touchdown two plays later and Elway wins his first Super Bowl.

3. Super Bowl XXV: Scott Norwood’s wide right
There have been many game-winning field goals in Super Bowl history — but none on the final snap with one team trailing and the chance to win the game. Adam Vinatieri’s kicks were clutch but those games would have gone into overtime had he missed. No, Scott Norwood became the only true goat of a Super Bowl when his 47-yard field goal sailed just inches wide right. The miss capped an extraordinary drive that capped an extraordinary game stacked with Hall of Fame players and coaches.

4. Super Bowl XXIII: Joe Montana to John Taylor
The 10-yard pass to John Taylor with 39 seconds left wasn’t in and of itself a miraculous play. It wasn’t all that difficult and it wasn’t all that remarkable. But it represents all that Joe Montana was as an NFL Hall of Famer. He got the ball with 3:10 left on the clock down 16-13 on his own eight-yard line and all he can think about is John Candy. It is the latest game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl history.

5. Super Bowl XLII: Eli Manning to David Tyree (and Plaxico Burress)
In terms of degree of difficulty, few plays in any game much less the Super Bowl can match this one. Eli Manning's Houdini act in the pocket to avoid getting sacked is nearly as impressive as David Tyree’s duct tape and chicken wire helmet catch in traffic 32 yards down the field. Four plays later, Manning floated a 13-yard game-winning touchdown to a wide open Plaxico Burress to give the Patriots their one and only loss of the season. After three extremely slow quarters, Super Bowl XLII ended in extraordinary fashion.

6. Super Bowl XLIII: Big Ben to Santonio Holmes
The Cardinals entered the fourth quarter trailing the Steelers 20-7. Kurt Warner then proceeded to score 16 straight points to take a three-point lead over Pittsburgh with just over two minutes to play. Ben Roethlisberger then marched his team to the Arizona six-yard line where, with unbelievable accuracy and some magic toes at his disposal, he somehow connects with Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left to play.

7. Super Bowl XVIII: Marcus Allen 74-yard run
It is likely the most impressive run in Super Bowl history. After twisting and changing directions in the backfield, Marcus Allen split the heart of the Washington Redskins defense for the longest run in Super Bowl history (later broken by Willie Parker). The play capped the third quarter and put a fork in the ‘Skins hopes. Allen finished with 191 yards rushing and was named the MVP.

8. Super Bowl XVII: The Diesel’s fourth-and-one gallop
The Redskins were trailing 17-13 with 10 minutes to go in the game facing a fourth-and-one on the Miami 43-yard line. Joe Gibbs leaves his offense on the field and calls ’70 chip’ for his star running back John Riggins. The burly runner, nicknamed The Diesel, breaks a tackle, bounces the play off tackle and races 43 yards for the game-winning touchdown. The play epitomized who Riggins was as a ball carrier.

9. Super Bowl X: Lynn Swann’s Magical Reception
When it comes to acrobatic, spectacular catches, Tyree might not even be able top the grace of Lynn Swann. From deep in his own territory, the eventual game MVP reeled in a 53-yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw that changed the game. Mark Washington is in perfect position to make a play on the ball for the Cowboys, but somehow Swann out leaps the defender, bobbles the ball and hauls in the pass as he is falling to the ground. Swann finished with four receptions for 161 yards and the game-winning 64-yard touchdown catch as well. This clash of the titans was won with style and grace.

10. Super Bowl III: Joe Namath’s Called Shot/Finger Wag
It wasn’t technically one play, but Joe Namath’s guarantee and subsequent history finger wag will go down in Super Bowl lore. It was likely the most important Super Bowl ever played. It was the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. And the moment could have only been made possible by a brash personality like Namath.

11. Super Bowl XLIV: Saints onside kick to start second half
Possibly the ballsiest call in Super Bowl history, Sean Payton converts on an onside kick to start the second half and it sets the tone for the Saints' storied Super Bowl championship.

12. Super Bowl XXXVI: Adam Vinatieri Part I
Vinatieri Part I capped Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s coming out party as they upset the heavily favored Rams with a 48-yard game winner.

13. Super Bowl XXXVIII: Adam Vinatieri Part II
An underrated Super Bowl ended with Vinatieri Part II when he broke the 29-29 tie as time expired against the Panthers.

14. Super Bowl XXVII: Leon Lett chased down by Don Beebe
The game wasn’t close and the play didn’t really matter, but no one will ever forget little Don Beebe embarrassing big Leon Lett at the goalline.

15. Super Bowl I: Max McGee one-hander
A hungover, second-string Max McGee makes a spectacular one-handed catch to score the first touchdown in Super Bowl history.

Best of the Rest:

16. Super Bowl XIV: Bradshaw to Stallworth for 73-yard game winner
17. Super Bowl XX: William Perry steals Sweetness’ touchdown
18. Super Bowl XLVI: Manning to Manningham Sideline Fade
19. Super Bowl XIII: Jackie Smith is sickest man in America
20. Super Bowl XXXI: Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return TD

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

Teaser:
<p> Top 15 Greatest Plays in Super Bowl History</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/ac100-finalized-top-25-recruits-2013
Body:

After over a year of evaluation that includes underclassman combines, spring and summer camps, the fall high school season and winter All-Star events, the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 is finalized.

Names like Mississippi State’s Chris Jones, Alabama’s Derrick Henry and Oregon’s Thomas Tyner saw their stock sky-rocket in the final rankings while others like Michigan’s Shane Morris watched their names fall precipitously in the AC100.

Every prospect in the AC100 is an elite talent who is highly coveted by essentially every program in the nation. But only the best of the best earn “five-star” status by landing in the Top 25.

1. Robert Nkemdiche, DE (6-4, 285)
Loganville (Ga.) Grayson
Finalists: LSU, Ole Miss

From start to finish, the big defensive end from Georgia was the consensus No. 1 overall player in the nation by all four recruiting websites — Rivals, Scout, ESPN and 247Sports. He has an elite combination of size and speed to go with a motor that rarely slows down. He has offers from every major school in the nation and had previously been committed to Clemson. However, his older brother, Denzel, was a redshirt freshman at Ole Miss in 2012 and the Rebels have been arguably the hottest team in recruiting the last few months. It should come down to LSU and Ole Miss for Nkemdiche (pronounced Kem-dee-chee).

2. Jaylon Smith, LB (6-3, 220)
Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers
Committed: Notre Dame

After a great showing in the US Army Bowl, Smith jumped to the No. 2 slot in the nation. He has an elite hybrid frame to play outside linebacker and defensive end on the next level. He led his team to four consecutive state championships for Luers High School playing both offense (150 yards rushing and 3 TDs in the title game) and defense. He is a hard worker, an excellent leader and a perfect fit at Notre Dame.

3. Vernon Hargreaves III, DB (5-11, 185)
Tampa (Fla.) Wharton
Committed: Florida

Much like Smith, Hargreaves III performed at an elite level in a national all-star event this winter. He posted five tackles, two pass breakups and an interception to earn MVP honors of the Under Armour All-America Game. He is the top coverman in the nation and is headed to Florida to continue the recent trend of outstanding young cornerbacks (Joe Haden, Janoris Jenkins, etc.). He is strong, fast, savvy and a near lock to contribute right away in 2013.

4. Laremy Tunsil, OL (6-6, 295)
Lake City (Fla.) Columbia
Finalists: Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida State

The No. 1 offensive lineman in the nation is a highly coveted youngster from The Sunshine State. The massive Tunsil has all the necessary tools — size, power, strength, agility, killer instinct — to be a bookend left tackle at the next level. He will spend the final two months of the recruiting process visiting his finalists: Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgia and Florida State.

5. Su’a Cravens, DB (6-1, 205)
Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta
Committed: USC

If fans are looking for the next great USC safety, Cravens is the guy. In the T.J. McDonald-Taylor Mays mold, Cravens has a big frame and speed to match. He can play all over the secondary giving him the chance to contribute early in nickel and dime situations. He is a hard worker and has been well coached by Vista head man and former star Trojans linebacker Chris Claiborne.

Related: Watch Athlon's interview with Su'a Cravens

6. Eddie Vanderdoes, DT (6-3, 300)
Placer (Calif.) High
Finalists: USC, Notre Dame, Washington, UCLA, Alabama

A long-time USC commitment, Vanderdoes reopened his recruitment late in December. The massive defensive tackle is the best player at his position nationally and has the ability to be a three-down interior lineman. He wanted to revisit some of his other options and it appears Notre Dame, Alabama, Washington and UCLA are now all in the mix for the D-lineman. Rumors are swirling that USC is still the team to beat when Vanderdoes makes his official announcement on National Signing Day (Feb. 6) at Placer High School.

7. Reuben Foster, LB (6-1, 250)
Auburn (Ala.) High
Finalists: Alabama, Auburn, Washington, Georgia

A burly linebacker, Foster is physically prepared to contribute right away on the college level. There is no doubting his rare athletic talents as a true interior thumper at middle linebacker. And following his recruitment has been equally as compelling as his tackling ability. He first committed to Alabama before switching to Auburn (and getting an AU tattoo to prove it). He then decommitted a second time from the Tigers and the race to the finish should be exciting. Both the Tide and the Tigers are still in the mix as Washington and Georgia will figure prominently as well. Stay tuned!

8. Matthew Thomas, LB (6-3, 210)
Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington
Finalists: Miami, Florida State, Georgia, Alabama, USC

A Miami area Defensive Player of the Year as a junior, Thomas developed into one of the best tacklers in the nation this fall. With added bulk and power, he should be a versatile weapon in any defensive front. It appears five schools will be in the mix for Thomas’ services: Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Miami and USC. It may be hard to beat the state of Florida in this one.

9. Kenny Bigelow, DT (6-3, 300)
Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian
Committed: USC

Despite his excellent frame and overall size, Bigelow was athletic enough to excel at linebacker and tight end at Eastern Christian. This gives him the feet and quickness to be a disruptive force against the heart of the offensive line. He should be able to play all three downs at tackle and will be joined at USC by high school teammate and fellow AC100 prospect Khaliel Rodgers.

10. Montravius Adams, DT (6-4, 300)
Vienna (Ga.) Dooly County
Finalists: Georgia, Clemson, Alabama, Florida, Auburn

The No. 2 Peach State prospect is the third defensive tackle in the 2013 Top 10 making this a deep class at the nose guard position. Adams appears like an intense battle between Georgia and Clemson that will go down to the wire but Alabama, Auburn and Florida might be in the mix as well. He is an explosive player who posted 25 sacks over a two-year span at Dooly County (2010-11).

11. Max Browne, QB (6-5, 210)
Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline
Committed: USC

The No. 1 quarterback in the nation hails from the same high school as the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the 2010 class, Jake Heaps. USC fans are hoping Browne pans out better than Heaps did for BYU. Browne is a poised, polished, mature leader and appears ready to challenge for early playing time in SoCal. He capped his high school career with an unbeaten 4A state championship by throwing for 4,526 yards, 49 touchdowns and just five interceptions on 73.5-percent passing. He finished with an Evergreen State record 12,947 yards passing and 882 completions. His performance earned him the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year award.

12. Derrick Henry, RB (6-3, 245)
Yulee (Fla.) High
Committed: Alabama

A late riser in the recruiting rankings, Henry jumped Kelvin Taylor as the No. 1 running back recruit in the nation. The massive talent might not end his Alabama Crimson Tide career at running back, but he will go down as one of the best prep runners in history. He set the 59-year-old national high school rushing record with 11,610 yards in his YHS career (Ken Hall, 11,232 yards). Henry excelled in San Antonio at the US Army Bowl as a running back, but as his size, Nick Saban has to consider him an option at a variety of positions.

13. Christian Hackenberg, QB (6-4, 210)
Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy
Committed: Penn State

The race to be recognized as the nation’s No. 1 quarterback prospect ended up being much closer than anticipated. Hackenberg was clearly the best passer at the Under Armour Game and might have more upside than Browne. He has a big frame with room to grow, a powerful arm and is accurate with the football. His skill set is exactly what head coach Bill O’Brien is looking for at Penn State and having a talent like Hackenberg poised to step on campus had to be a big part of why the head coach stayed in Happy Valley.

14. Laquon Treadwell, WR (6-3, 195)
Crete (Ill.) Crete-Monee
Committed: Ole Miss

The No. 1 wide receiver in the nation is heading into the deep South to play his college football. The Chicago area talent recently committed to Ole Miss over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The surging Rebels are getting an electric prospect who is widely considered one of the most physically advanced and college-ready players in the class. Many also believe Treadwell is the best receiver to come out of the Chicagoland area in the modern recruiting era — which includes Kyle Prater, the No. 1 WR in the 2010 class.

15. Jalen Ramsey, DB (6-0, 190)
Nashville (Tenn.) Brentwood Academy
Committed: USC

A unique and interesting personality, Ramsey has the size, speed, intelligence and work ethic to play all over the field in college. He projects as a cornerback currently but has the length and frame to grow into an elite safety should his coaching staff decide that is where he fits best. He is committed to USC but the Trojans will have to fight Vanderbilt, Alabama, Florida and others to keep the talented defensive back in the fold down the stretch.

Related: Watch Athlon's interview with Jalen Ramsey

16. Kendall Fuller, DB (6-0, 175)
Olney (Md.) Good Counsel
Committed: Virginia Tech

There was little doubt where this elite talent would be playing his college football. With three older brothers, Kyle, Corey and Vincent, making names for themselves in Blacksburg, Va., it came as no surprise that Kendall picked Virginia Tech over Clemson. The youngest Fuller is similar to current Hokie star Kyle in his ability to lock down receivers and play a physical brand of football.

17. Jonathan Allen, LB (6-3, 255)
Ashburn (Va.) Stone Bridge
Committed: Alabama

If SEC fans are looking for the next Jarvis Jones, Allen might be the guy. He is an explosive up the field player who will terrorize opposing quarterbacks as well as ball carriers. He is one of the most decorated players in Virginia prep football and will undoubtedly be a star in Nick Saban’s linebacker-friendly system in Tuscaloosa.

18. Chris Jones, DE (6-5, 250)
Houston (Miss.) High
Committed: Mississippi State

The fastest riser in the nation this cycle is the big defensive end from The Magnolia State. He committed to Mississippi State back in the summer when he was listed as a three-star recruit by most services. After a stellar senior year and strong showing in the Under Armour Game, he has sky-rocketed to five-star status. He posted 160 tackles, 45 tackles for loss and 14 sacks as a senior and made it all the way to No. 2 in the nation by Scout.com. Either way, the talent evaluators are smitten with Mr. Jones.

19. O.J. Howard, TE (6-5, 220)
Prattville (Ala.) Autauga
Committed: Alabama

The No. 1 tight end in the nation is headed to Alabama with an impressive resume. He was named AISA Lineman of the Year in The Yellowhammer State this fall after finishing with 12 touchdowns on offense and 57 tackles on defense. All of this while missing four games. He is already enrolled in classes at Alabama, and, with his impressive athletic frame, should provide instant help for Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron.

20. Thomas Tyner, RB (6-0, 205)
Beaverton (Ore.) Aloha
Committed: Oregon

The big-time running back is a two-time 6A Offensive Player of the Year in the state of Oregon and set the single-season state rushing record with 3,415 yards this fall. He set two other state records by rushing for 643 yards and 10 scores in one game this season as well. To top it all off, Tyner holds the state 100m track record as well. He is currently committed to Oregon where he would have a chance to play in arguably the best offensive system in the nation — with or without Chip Kelly. His skills are a perfect fit for Mark Helfrich’s speed-based rushing attack.

Related: The Top 10 Best Two-Star Recruits of the Modern Era

21. Carl Lawson, DE (6-3, 245)
Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton
Committed: Auburn

The big-time defensive lineman is currently committed to Auburn, although the coaching change on the Plains has created rumors that a host of other programs are making a charge. Ole Miss, Tennessee, North Carolina and Clemson could find themselves in the mix for Lawson should he look elsewhere. No matter where he signs, he brings prototypical size and skills to the defensive end position and should help a defense right away.

22. Kelvin Taylor, RB (5-10, 215)
Bell Glade (Fla.) Glades Day
Committed: Florida

If the last name is familiar for Gators fans, it should be. The son of Florida legend Fred Taylor, Kelvin has been a Sunshine State prep star for years. He rushed for 103 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries in his first high school game — as an 8th grader. He has prototypical running back size, power and speed and will try to follow in his father’s footsteps in Gainesville. He finished his career with 10,688 yards and won two 2A state championships.

23. Robert Foster, WR (6-3, 190)
Monaca (Pa.) Central Valley
Committed: Alabama

Nick Saban continues to recruit the Northeast heavily and with success. Foster is the No. 2 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 1 player in the state of Pennsylvania and he is headed to the two-time defending champs. A mature athlete, academics and competing for championships were atop Foster’s wish list. He has a big frame, can play inside or outside on offense and will be an option in the return game as well.

24. Keith Ford, RB (5-11, 203)
Cypress (Texas) Cypress Ranch
Committed: Oklahoma

In a game filled with miscues and defensive dominance, Ford might have been the most productive offensive player in the Under Armour game. An electric kickoff return provided one of the few big plays of the game. It displayed all that Ford will be for the Oklahoma Sooners. He has wiggle in the open field, the speed to get to the edge and will develop plenty of power and strength to move the chains inside. The top player in the state of Texas totaled 2,368 yards from scrimmage and scored 28 total touchdowns as a senior.

25. Ricky Seals-Jean, ATH (6-5, 230)
Sealy (Texas) High
Committed: Texas A&M

Versatility is the name of the game for RSJ. The jumbo athlete projects as a wide receiver, tight end or at a variety of spots on defense. That said, his recent verbal commitment to Texas A&M has to indicate his desire to play offense. The former Texas Longhorn commitment tore up his knee early in his senior season, resulting in Mack Brown backing off. However, Seals-Jean recovered nicely to play well in the US Army Bowl and will now be a dangerous down the field target for reigning Heisman Trophy recipient Johnny Manziel.

View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100

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Teaser:
<p> AC100 Finalized: The Top 25 Recruits of 2013</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/top-10-pac-12-teams-bcs-era
Body:

The BCS just put a bow on its 15th season of action and Athlon has dissected the numbers and reviewed the tapes of all six BCS conferences in order to rank the best each league has had to offer. Which Oklahoma team was the best of the decade? Which Florida team was the toughest to stop? How do you rank the Florida State teams of the late '90s? Which Miami team was the best? How about those loaded USC teams? Alabama vs. Auburn?

The debates will rage on for decades, but here is Athlon's two cents. Here are the Top 10 Pac-12 teams of the BCS Era (1998-present):

Note: "First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks

1. USC Trojans, 2004 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
Championships: Pac-12, Orange Bowl, National Championship
Key Stats: Led the nation in rushing defense (79.4 ypg) and turnover margin (+1.46), led the Pac-10 in scoring (38.2 ppg) and finished No. 3 nationally in scoring defense (13.0 ppg), USC did not rank below third in the Pac-10 in any of the 14 tracked team stats.
Award Winners: Matt Leinart (Heisman Trophy, Walter Camp, Pac-10 Co-Off. Player of the Year), Reggie Bush (Pac-10 Co-Off. Player of the Year), Shaun Cody (Pac-10 Co-Def. Player of the Year),
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Shaun Cody (2nd, 2005), Lofa Tatupu (2nd, 2005), Matt Leinart (1st, 2006), Reggie Bush (1st, 2006), LenDale White (2nd, 2006), Winston Justice (2nd, 2006), Deuce Lutui (2nd, 2006), Steve Smith (2nd, 2007), Ryan Kalil (2nd, 2007), Lawrence Jackson (1st, 2008), Sam Baker (1st, 2008), Sedrick Ellis (1st, 2008), Keith Rivers (1st, 2008), Fred Davis (2nd, 2008), Chilo Rachal (2nd, 2008), Terrell Thomas (2nd, 2008), Clay Matthews (1st, 2009), Fili Moala (2nd, 2009)

The best team in the Pac-10 since the BCS began might have been the best team in any league during the BCS era. After a split national title in 2003 with LSU, the Trojans entered 2004 as the No. 1 team in the nation. An opening weekend win over ACC champ Virginia Tech in Landover started what would become a magical ride to a BCS National Championship. The Trojans went wire to wire as the No. 1 team in the nation, claimed the Heisman Trophy and put together the most impressive national championship game in the brief history of the BCS. Quarterback Matt Leinart, in his second year under center and armed with an NFL roster full of skill players, led the Pac-10 in passing efficiency (156.54) and finished with 3,322 yards and 36 total touchdowns (against only six interceptions). He capped his Heisman campaign with 332 yards and a BCS bowl record five touchdown passes in the destruction of unbeaten No. 2 Oklahoma. The two-headed rushing attack of LenDale White (1,108 yards, 15 TDs) and Reggie Bush (1,416 yards from scrimmage, 15 TDs) made it virtually impossible for anyone to stop the 2004 Trojans. Eighteen different Trojans from the 2004 BCS National Championship team were selected in the first or second rounds of the NFL Draft. This team had the stats, the resume, the undefeated title season, the NFL talent, a superstar coach and is the best Pac-10 team of the BCS era because of it.

2. USC Trojans, 2005 (12-1, 8-0)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
Championships: Pac-10
Key Stats: Led the nation in total offense (579.8 ypg) and second in the country in scoring (49.1 ppg), Reggie Bush led the nation in all-purpose yards (222.3), allowed 467 yards of total offense to Vince Young in the BCS NCG
Award Winners: Reggie Bush (Heisman Trophy, Doak Walker, Walter Camp, Pac-10 Player of the Year), Pete Carroll (Pac-10 Co-Coach of the Year), Matt Leinart (Johnny Unitas)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Matt Leinart (1st, 2006), Reggie Bush (1st, 2006), LenDale White (2nd, 2006), Winston Justice (2nd, 2006), Deuce Lutui (2nd, 2006), Steve Smith (2nd, 2007), Ryan Kalil (2nd, 2007), Lawrence Jackson (1st, 2008), Sam Baker (1st, 2008), Sedrick Ellis (1st, 2008), Keith Rivers (1st, 2008), Fred Davis (2nd, 2008), Chilo Rachal (2nd, 2008), Terrell Thomas (2nd, 2008), Clay Matthews (1st, 2009), Mark Sanchez (1st, 2009), Brian Cushing (1st, 2009), Rey Maualuga (2nd, 2009), Fili Moala (2nd, 2009), Charles Brown (2nd, 2010)

The defending BCS National Champs returned largely intact for 2005 and began the season ranked No. 1 in the nation. After beating five ranked teams — three of which came on the road — the Men of Troy claimed their fourth straight Pac-10 championship. Do-everything tailback Reggie Bush led the nation in all-purpose yards at 222.3 yards per game and claimed the Heisman Trophy — the second straight for USC (Leinart, 2004). A 513-yard performance and this touchdown run in a shootout win over a ranked Fresno State team likely clinched the stiff-arm trophy for the dynamic running back. After crushing rival UCLA, the Trojans finished the 2005 season having never left the No. 1 line in the polls. They carried a 34-game winning streak into the BCS National Championship game against Texas in what became the first time two Heisman winners ever played in the same backfield. Leinart threw for a title game record 365 yards, but the Trojans defense could not stop Vince Young in what is the greatest game ever played according to this college football writer. This team had 20 first or second round draft picks on the roster and were 19 seconds away from claiming their third straight national title.

3. USC Trojans, 2003 (12-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
Championships: Pac-10, Rose Bowl, AP National Championship
Key Stats: Led the nation in rushing defense (60.2 ypg) and punting (43.7 ypp) and finished second nationally in turnover margin (+1.54), finished first or second in the league in 10 of 14 tracked team stats
Award Winners: Matt Leinart (Pac-10 Off. Player of the Year), Pete Carroll (Home Depot Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Kenechi Udeze (1st, 2004), Jacob Rogers (2nd, 2004), Keary Colbert (2nd, 2004), Mike Williams (1st, 2005), Shaun Cody (2nd, 2005), Lofa Tatupu (2nd, 2005), Matt Leinart (1st, 2006), Reggie Bush (1st, 2006), LenDale White (2nd, 2006), Winston Justice (2nd, 2006), Steve Smith (2nd, 2007), Ryan Kalil (2nd, 2007), Lawrence Jackson (1st, 2008), Sam Baker (1st, 2007), Sedrick Ellis (1st, 2007), Terrell Thomas (2nd, 2007)

After starting the year by crushing No. 6 Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium, USC reached No. 3 in the polls before a thrilling triple-overtime loss to Cal 34-31. USC dropped to 10th in the polls and never lost again. Led by first-year starter Matt Leinart, USC crushed Arizona State, Notre Dame, Washington and Arizona on the road and destroyed No. 6 Washington State at home by 27 points. The Trojans finished No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches' Poll at the end of the regular season, but was left out of the BCS championship game for Oklahoma (who got crushed by Kansas State 35-7 in the Big 12 title game). LSU went on to beat the Sooners and USC handled Michigan in the Rose Bowl with relative ease. The AP awarded the Men of Troy the National Championship while the BCS title went to the Bayou Bengals. It was the last split National Championship in college football. This team featured two Heisman Trophy winners and 16 "First Day" draft picks.

4. Oregon Ducks, 2010 (12-1, 9-0)
Head Coach: Chip Kelly
Championships: Pac-10
Key Stats: LaMichael James led the nation in yards rushing per game (144.3) and scoring (12.0 ppg); team led the nation in scoring offense (47.0 ppg) and total offense (530.7 ypg), Darron Thomas threw two key interceptions and the Ducks rushed for 75 yards in the BCS NCG.
Award Winners: LaMichael James (Doak Walker), Chip Kelly (Eddie Robinson, Pac-10 Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: N/A

One of the most powerful, explosive and fast-paced offenses in league history led the nation in scoring and total offense at 530.7 yards per game and 47.0 points per game. The Ducks' run at their first BCS title game began with a 35-point second half in Neyland Stadium against the Tennessee Vols. They scored at least 50 points in the next seven games until Chip Kelly led his team into Berkeley. The only test of the regular season came in the form of a sloppy 15-13 win over Cal that featured a defensive and special teams touchdown. After easy wins over Arizona and Oregon State, the Ducks squared off with Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers. The highest-scoring, most powerful team in school history (school-record 611 points) was held to 75 yards rushing on 32 carries while Auburn rolled up 254 yards on 50 attempts. Kelly came up three points short as the Tigers kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired.

5. USC Trojans, 2008 (12-1, 8-1)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
Championships: Pac-10, Rose Bowl
Key Stats: Led the nation in scoring defense at 9.0 points allowed per game, also led the nation in pass defense (134.4 ypg) and pass efficiency defense as well. Finished No. 2 in total defense nationally (221.7 ypg).
Award Winners: Rey Maualuga (Bednarik, Pac-10 Def. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Clay Matthews (1st, 2009), Mark Sanchez (1st, 2009), Brian Cushing (1st, 2009), Rey Maualuga (2nd, 2009), Fili Moala (2nd, 2009), Charles Brown (2nd, 2010), Taylor Mays (2nd, 2010), Tyron Smith (1st, 2011)

After starting the season 2-0 and reaching No. 1 status, first-year starter Mark Sanchez and the Men of Troy got upset on a Thursday night in primetime by true freshman dynamo Jacquizz Rodgers and the Oregon State Beaver. Rodgers ran for 186 yards and the Trojans dropped to No. 9 in the polls. They wouldn't lose again. USC punished ranked opponents Oregon and Cal and crushed rivals Notre Dame and UCLA en route to yet another Rose Bowl appearance. Penn State was no match for USC, losing 38-24. The offense was outstanding with Sanchez utilizing names like Damian Williams, Ronald Johnson, Joe McKnight and Patrick Turner. But the defense was downright unbeatable. One of the greatest linebacking corps in NCAA history — Rey Maualuga, Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing — helped USC lead the nation in scoring defense. Eight teams failed to score more than seven points on the trio in 2008.

6. Oregon Ducks, 2012 (12-1, 8-1)
Head Coach: Chip Kelly
Championships: Fiesta Bowl
Key Stats: Marcus Mariota led the nation in road passing efficiency
Award Winners: Marcus Mariota (Pac-12 Off. Freshman of the Year), 
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: N/A

Like many teams of late — Oklahoma State in 2011 or Boise State in 2010 — the 2012 Ducks were one field goal away from playing for the BCS National Championship. One overtime home loss to an elite Stanford team cost Chip Kelly another shot at the Crystal Ball. This was likely the best defense in Eugene since at least Haloti Ngata's tenure and the backfield was downright unstoppable. Marcus Mariota was the best road passer in the nation, Kenjon Barner shredded defenses and De'Anthony Thomas continues to prove he may be the most explosive player in the country. This team's resume is better than many think as it posted blowout wins over bowls teams Kansas State, Oregon State, Arizona, Washington, Arizona State and USC. 

7. Washington Huskies, 2000 (11-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Rick Neuheisel
Championships: Pac-10, Rose Bowl
Key Stats: Led the Pac-10 in rushing (211.7 ypg), topped an 11-1 Miami team 34-29
Award Winners: Marques Tuiasosopo (Pac-10 Off. Player of the Year, Rose Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Marques Tuiasosopo (2nd, 2001), Jerramy Stevens (1st, 2002), Larry Tripplett (2nd, 2002), Tank Johnson (2nd, 2004)

In what might have been the most exciting and competitive season in modern Pac-10 football, a three way round robin tie between a 7-1 Oregon (who beat Washington 23-16 in Autzen Stadium) and a 7-1 Oregon State led to the Huskies earning the trip to Pasadena. Marques Tuiasosopo led Washington past a brutal non-conference slate that included one-loss Miami and head coach Rick Neuheisel's former employer Colorado. A 33-30 win over Oregon State — and an Oregon loss to the Beavers in the Civil War due to five Joey Harrington interceptions — helped U of W return to its first Rose Bowl since 1993. This embattled team and program was willing to do whatever it took to win — and win it did. Capped by a 34-24 win over Drew Brees' Purdue in the Rose Bowl, the Huskies won 11 games for the first time since Don James' national title team of 1991, and they haven't come close to touching 10 wins ever since.

8. Oregon State Beavers, 2000 (11-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Dennis Erickson
Championships: Pac-10, Fiesta Bowl
Key Stats: Ken Simonton led the Pac-10 in rushing (134.0 ypg), OSU led the conference in total defense (314.4 ypg) and scoring defense (18.5 ppg).
Award Winners: Dennis Erickson (Pac-10 Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Chad Johnson (2nd, 2001), Nick Barnett (1st, 2003), Dwan Edwards (2nd, 2004)

In what has to be considered the best Beavers team in program history, Dennis Erickson used a plethora of junior college talent to lead Oregon State to its first 10+ win season ever. The 11 wins are still a school record, and the conference co-championship was the first league title for the school since 1964. While the defense, led by NFL future star Nick Barnett, was the Pac-10's best, it was the offense that impressed the most. Quarterback Jonathan Smith was the league's No. 2 passer. Running back Ken Simonton led the league in rushing at 134 yards per game. And a pair of future NFL stars, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, keep defenses honest on the outside. The team's only loss came at the hands of eventual Rose Bowl champion Washington in Husky Stadium 33-30. Erickson's bunch wrapped up the magical year by crushing Notre Dame 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl.

9. Stanford Cardinal, 2011 (11-2, 8-1)
Head Coach: David Shaw
Championships: None
Key Stats: Led the Pac-12 and was third nationally in rushing defense, Andrew Luck led the Pac-12 in passing efficiency
Award Winners: Andrew Luck (Pac-12 Off. Player of the Year), David Shaw (Pac-12 Coach of the Year)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Andrew Luck (1st, 2012), David DeCastro (1st, 2012), Coby Fleener (2nd, 2011), Jonathan Martin (2011)

It is extremely difficult to separate the last three Cardinal teams and decide which one was the best. All three played in BCS bowls with two wins in the Orange Bowl (2010) and Rose Bowl (2012). The 2011 team lost to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl and it didn't win the Pac-12 crown, however, it was likely the most talented and complete roster of the group. The foursome that was drafted in the first two rounds are as talented a group as any school ever has watched depart in one offseason. Add to the entire collection of defensive stars that made the 2012 team so talented and Cardinal fans will likely look back on their 2011 team as the best of the BCS era.

10. USC Trojans, 2002 (11-2, 7-1) 
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
Championships: Pac-10, Orange Bowl
Key Stats: Led the Pac-10 in total offense (449.2 ypg), scoring offense (35.7 ppg), rushing defense (83.2 ypg), total defense (284.9 ypg), scoring defense (18.5 ppg) and passing efficiency (149.21).
Award Winners: Carson Palmer (Heisman Trophy, Johnny Unitas), Mike Williams (Pac-10 Freshman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Carson Palmer (1st, 2003), Troy Polamalu (1st, 2003), Kenechi Udeze (1st, 2004), Jacob Rogers (2nd, 2004), Keary Colbert (2nd, 2004), Mike Williams (1st, 2005), Shaun Cody (2nd, 2005), Matt Leinart (1st, 2006), Winston Justice (2nd, 2006)

The beginning of the Trojan-Pete Carroll reign over the West Coast could be marked by the 2002 Men of Troy. Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer finally lived up to his recruiting hype with 3,942 yards and 37 total touchdowns. And he did it against nine different ranked opponents. Early season losses on the road against a ranked Kansas State team by seven and a ranked Washington State team by three cost the Trojans a shot at the national title game. The Cougars actually played in the Rose Bowl (a 34-14 loss to Oklahoma), but USC finished as the highest-rated team in the league (#5) after a convincing 38-17 win over No. 3 Iowa in the Orange Bowl. This team sent 46 different players into the NFL and was obviously led on defense by huge names like Polamalu, Cody, Patterson and Udeze. Carroll won a share of his first national title the following season, but this '02 edition of Fight On started it all.

Best of the Rest:

Stanford Cardinal, 2012 (12-2, 9-0) Pac-12 Champions
Stanford Cardinal, 2010 (12-1, 8-1)
Oregon Ducks, 2001 (11-1, 7-1) Pac-10 Champions
UCLA Bruins, 1998 (10-2, 8-0) Pac-10 Champions
Oregon Ducks, 2011 (12-2, 9-1) Pac-12 Champions
USC Trojans, 2006 (11-2, 7-2) Pac-10 Champions
Oregon Ducks, 2009 (10-3, 8-1) Pac-10 Champions
USC Trojans, 2007 (11-2, 7-2) Pac-10 Champions
Cal Golden Bears, 2006 (10-3, 7-2) Pac-10 Champions

Teaser:
<p> Top 10 Pac-12 Teams of the BCS Era</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 06:40

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