Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-head-coaches-who-nfcs-best
Body:

Championships. Leadership. Awards. Longevity. Statistical records. Likeability. Talent development.

An NFL head coach can be evaluated with many criteria. Generally, winning championships over a long period of time is the easiest (or not-so-easiest) way to the top of any ranking. Who does more with less? Who gets his team to the playoffs the most consistently? Who is the best motivator? Whose team is best prepared come crunch time? And who has the shiny hardware to back it up?

So as of July of 2012, Athlon Sports has magically given the reins of an NFL franchise to you the fans. And you have your pick of the 16 NFC head coaches. The question becomes:

Which NFC coach would you hire to lead your franchise?

Here is Athlon's take:

Note: Age is as of Sept. 5, 2012, the first game of the 2012 NFL season

1. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco (2011-present)
Age: 48, Overall Record: 13-3, Postseason Record: 0-1 (1 appearance)

Jim Harbaugh is inexperienced as an NFL head coach and has yet to win a Super Bowl, but this isn't your ordinary second-year head coach. His father, Jack, has been in coaching for more than four decades and his brother, John, has made a name for himself as the Baltimore Ravens head coach. He has a 14-year NFL career as a quarterback (26,288 yards, 129 TD) and has instantly been an dynamic addition at three head coaching stops. He never had a losing season at San Diego, including two Pioneer League championships, before taking over for a 1-11 Stanford. The Cardinal won 16 total games under the previous two coaches (five years) and Harbaugh quickly delivered the program's first-ever BCS bowl win in four seasons. He then took over a 49ers team that hadn't had a winning season since 2002 and promptly earned an NFC West crown and first-round bye. The "Quarterback Whisperer" also turned Alex Smith into a playoff quarterback, and if not for two special teams fumbles, who knows what his first year in the Bay would have looked like. Harbaugh's cult-of-personality leadership skills are virtually unmatched in the league and his instant impact on everything he touches is blatantly obvious. In one season, Harbaugh has one division title and an AP Coach of the Year award.

2. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay (2006-present)
Age: 48, Overall Record: 63-33, Postseason Record: 5-3 (4 appearances)

The blue collar Pittsburgh native has about as pristine a coaching resume one can have in six seasons. He has had one losing season (6-10, 2008), has made the playoffs four times, won two division championships, posted the best record in the NFL and returned the Lombardi Trophy to its rightful home in 2010 as a world champion. The offensive wizard has as much job security as a guy named Belichick and goes to battle each week with the best player in the league under center. The one big knock for McCarthy? Two of his three total loses in the postseason have come at the hands of Tom Coughlin and the NY Giants, both at home. What keeps McCarthy ahead of Coughlin? He is nearly two decades younger and has never once come close to the Hot Seat. His best years could still be ahead of him — a scary thought for the rest of the NFC.

3. Tom Coughlin, NY Giants (2004-present), Jacksonville (1995-2002)
Age: 66, Overall Record: 142-114, Postseason Record: 11-7 (9 appearances)

There is little left for the hard-nosed Coughlin to prove in this game. And at age 66, the only real question surrounding the Waterloo, N.Y., native is how much longer will he be on the sideline? He is entering his 17th season and has been to the top of the NFL mountain twice — and near the pink slip line on more than one occasion. After three straight losing seasons in Jacksonville, he was fired before landing back on hs feet in New York. His 68-60 record was excellent for an expansion team, taking the Jags to the playoffs four straight years. Coughlin has brought the Giants to the playoffs five times in eight years and he has a 7-3 mark in the postseason for the G-Men. He has been extremely close to the unemployment line on multiple times, which is likely more a function of working in the craziest city in the world, only to bring his team back from the brink. Now, after entering the rarified air of “two-time Super Bowl Champion,” one has to wonder what's left for him to prove?

4. Sean Payton, New Orleans (2006-present)
Age: 48, Overall Record: 62-34, Postseason Record: 5-3 (4 appearances)

In his six seasons at the helm of one of the NFL’s most inept franchises, Payton has been anything but. He has one losing season, three division titles, four playoff berths, one AP Coach of the Year award and one Super Bowl championship over Peyton Manning. He also is suspended for a full season after his involvement in the Saints' bounty scandal. He is still relatively young, has one of the brightest offensive minds in the game and will assuredly bounce back from this PR black eye. Yet, it is impossible to currently separate the champion from the suspension at this moment. Time will heal all wounds and Payton will be back winning games soon enough — just not in 2012.

5. Jeff Fisher, St. Louis (2012-present), Tennessee (1994-2010)
Age: 54, Overall Record: 142-120, Postseason Record: 5-6 (6 appearances)

Few have ever been as consistent over a longer period of time than Fisher. Especially, in the modern what-have-you-done-for-me-lately NFL world coaches currently operate within. Since his first full season in 1995 at age 36 (7-9), Fisher has posted only four losing seasons while moving a team from Houston to Nashville via Memphis, and is the franchise's winningest coach. He reached the playoffs six times, won four division titles and came up one famous yard short of a Super Bowl title following the 1999 season. He is a model of consistency and his hard-nosed attitude plays in any NFL city. His most impressive work might have been the reclamation project of the Titans from a paltry 9-23 in 2004 and 2005 to NFL prominence (23-9 from 2007-08) two years later.

6. Andy Reid, Philadelphia (1999-present)
Age: 54, Overall Record: 126-81-1, Postseason Record: 10-9 (9 appearances)

For a coach who is constantly on the Hot Seat while constantly defending his players, coaching staff and family, few have ever won as much as Reid. The Eagles have posted one losing season in 12 years since Reid’s first campaign, with only one 8-8 mark on the ledger (2007). He has made the playoffs nine times, has eight double-digit win seasons, went to four straight NFC title games, earned 2002 NFL Coach of the Year honors and nearly pulled-off a Super Bowl upset of the Patriots back in 2004. He has seen major roster and coaching overhaul (eight different coaches have left his staff to become NFL head coaches) and has made the playoffs through it all. While he has yet to win the big one and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008, Reid seems completely unjustly criticized for his performance as the Eagles' winningest coach.

7. Mike Smith, Atlanta (2008-present)
Age: 53, Overall Record: 43-21, Postseason Record: 0-3 (3 appearances)

A relative unknown from Daytona Beach, Fla., and Jack Del Rio’s staff in Jacksonville, Smith has done nothing but win since taking over the Falcons. He has never posted a losing record, has made the playoffs three times in four years and won the NFC South in 2010. He earned NFL AP Coach of the Year honors in his first year (2008) after taking over a 4-12 team and turning them into an 11-win playoff team. In fact, Atlanta had just two winning seasons in the nine years prior to Smith taking over. His next hurdle is winning when it counts as his 0-3 playoff record has left Falcons fans craving more. He entered his head coaching career later than many on this list (49), but still has plenty of good years left in the tank.

8. Jim Schwartz, Detroit (2009-present)
Age: 46, Overall Record: 18-30, Postseason Record: 0-1 (1 appearance) 

An eight-year Fisher henchman at Tennessee, it hasn't taken Schwartz long to instill his former boss’ toughness in the Motor City. For a franchise that is three years removed from the only 0-16 mark in NFL history and hadn’t seen a playoff berth since 1999, Schwartz has the Lions poised for their second straight postseason trip in 2012. Five separate coaches have tried to return the Lions to success and only the Baltimore native has been able to do it. His offense shattered multiple offensive team records a year ago. He is the youngest coach in the NFC by one day over Tampa Bay's Greg Schiano.

9. Mike Shanahan, Washington (2010-present), Denver (1995-2008), LA Raiders (1988-1989)
Age: 60, Overall Record: 157-119, Postseason Record: 8-5 (7 appearances)

The aging 22-year NFL vet is quite the anomaly. He has seven postseason berths, four division titles, two Super Bowl championships and has clearly proven he has staying power. Yet, he has one playoff win since John Elway retired (1998) and hasn’t had a winning season since 2006. Additionally, his ability to post six winning seasons in the eight years following Elway’s departure is a testament to his ability. He may be past his prime, but the Redskins, and more specifically Robert Griffin III, have a chance to rejuvenate the 60-year-old head coach.

10. Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona (2007-present)
Age: 50, Overall Record: 40-40, Postseason Record: 4-2 (2 appearances)

This may come as a surprise to some, but the Cardinals have had one losing season since hiring the former Pittsburgh assistant. After winning a title with the Steelers, all Whisenhunt did was get Arizona to its first-ever Super Bowl in year number two in the desert. He has two division titles in five years and is two wins away from tying Don Coryell as the franchise’s all-time winningest coach. Since 1976, the Cardinals have made the playoffs four times, twice under the direction of Whisenhunt.

11. Lovie Smith, Chicago (2004-present)
Age: 54, Overall Record: 71-57, Postseason Record: 3-3 (3 appearances)

Like Shanahan, Smith has had an interesting career in Chicago. In his first job as a head man, he got the Bears back to the Super Bowl in only three seasons. Yet, He has had two winning campaigns since and only one playoff win. He has been to the postseason only three times in his eight-year Windy City career, but appears to have one of his best defenses to date returning in 2012. He has been to the brink of the Hot Seat and returns every time intact, and if not for key injuries last fall, likely would have collected his second-straight winning season. Chicago has five playoff appearances since Mike Ditka roamed the sidelines, and Smith claims three of those. This is a key year for the Gladewater, Texas native. 

12. Jason Garrett, Dallas (2010-present)
Age: 46, Overall Record: 13-11, Postseason Record: N/A

A classic overachiever as a player, I believed that Garrett was the right man for the job when Jerry Jones made the switch mid-season two years ago. The young head coach went 5-3 in his first head coaching stint with Dallas after taking over for a 1-7 team. He delivered an 8-8 season last year but has loads of pressure to succeed entering his second full season at the helm of the most high-profile franchise in the league. Jones doesn’t settle for .500 records, and for a team with one playoff win since 1996, the onus falls squarely on one of two sets of shoulders — Garrett and Tony Romo. At 46, he is a just few months older than Schwartz, who is the youngest coach in the NFC. 

13. Pete Carroll, Seattle (2010-present), New England (1997-1999), NY Jets (1994)
Age: 60, Overall Record: 47-49, Postseason Record: 2-3 (3 appearances)

There are only four current head coaches who have won a division title in both the AFC and NFC and Carroll is one of them. His college resume is pristine, with multiple national championships and seven conference titles. Many believe his NFL tenure has been a failure to this point, yet he has three playoff trips in six seasons and has won fewer than seven games only once, six in his first professional season. While his laidback shtick played extremely well at USC, it still remains to be seen if he can succeed at an elite level in the pro ranks. He has one season of 10 wins in his career and won the NFC West with a 7-9 mark two years ago.

14. Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay (2012-present)
Age: 46, Overall Record: N/A, Postseason Record: N/A

Generally, a long track record of success in the college ranks means very little to a head coach’s pro potential. Yes, Schiano took Rutgers to unprecedented heights, won the Big East and National Coach of the Year awards in 2006 with an 11-2 mark. But he never won a conference title and never took the Scarlet Knights to the all-important BCS bowl. That said, he is and has always been a pro-style coach. He runs pro-style schemes and has a pro-style coaching mentality. With a young team loaded with upside defenders and a solid running game, Schiano has a chance to succeed despite being a complete unknown in the NFL.

15. Ron Rivera, Carolina (2011-present)
Age: 50, Overall Record: 6-10, Postseason Record: N/A

Rivera is largely unproven as a head coach but has a solid track record as a defensive coordinator. His defenses in Chicago and San Diego were, at times, dominant. His Bears units finished second and fifth in the league in total defense (2005, 2006) and No. 1 and 3 in scoring, while his 2010 Chargers unit led the NFL in total defense. He has worked for three separate head coaches and is a veteran of the league. His Panthers showed little improvement from the 2010 defensive implosion last fall and his ability to win long-term is a virtual unknown.

16. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota (2010-present)
Age: 53, Overall Record: 6-16, Postseason Record: N/A

In his first full season at the helm, Frazier did little to prove that he is an elite NFL head coach. He was 3-3 back in 2010 after he took over  for a Brad Childress-coached team that was 3-7 at the time. However, his aging defense got significantly worse last year — from eighth to 21st in total defense and from 18th to 31st  in scoring defense last fall. The Vikings' defensive coordinator from 2008-10, the unit has gotten progressively worse since he's been in charge. On a team that is in complete rebuilding mode in arguably the toughest division in the NFC, it is hard to see Frazier lasting too long unless the Vikings show marked (and shocking) improvement in 2012.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related NFL Content

2012 NFL Head Coaches: Who is the AFC's Best?
2012 NFL Training Camp Schedules and Locations

2012 NFL Quarterbacks: Ranking the Best and Worst Starters

Ranking the NFL’s Best Backup Quarterbacks

The 10 Worst NFL Teams Since Expansion

NFL Quarterbacks Rewrote Record Books in 2011

Miami Dolphins QBs Since Dan Marino: An NFL Horror Story

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers


AFC South
Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings


NFC South
Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

St. Louis Rams

Click here to order your Athlon Sports Pro Football 2012 Preview magazine

Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Head Coaches: Who's the NFC's Best?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-july-9
Body:

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (7/2-7/08):

  Name Team Pos R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 11 3 9 0 .517 1.479
2. Ian Desmond WAS SS 5 4 8 3 .409 1.390
3. Mike Trout LAA OF 6 3 7 4 .364 1.180
4. Tyler Colvin* COL 1B/OF 6 5 10 1 .308 1.280
5. Kevin Youkilis CWS 1B/3B 7 3 10 0 .478 1.484
6. Justin Ruggiano* MIA OF 5 4 8 1 .393 1.290
7. Brian McCann ATL C 5 4 11 0 .364 1.284
8. Neil Walker* PIT 2B 8 2 7 0 .481 1.474
9. Mark Teixeira NYY 1B 7 2 10 1 .348 1.247
10. Garrett Jones* PIT 1B/OF 9 2 7 0 .385 1.101
11. Miguel Carbrea DET 1B/3B 6 2 9 0 .440 1.248
12. Michael Bourn ATL OF 8 0 3 3 .423 1.199
13. Logan Morrison* MIA 1B/OF 5 3 9 0 .391 1.332
14. Alex Rios CWS OF 7 2 7 0 .435 1.328
15. Ryan Braun MIL OF 7 2 6 2 .286 .983
16. Matt Holliday STL OF 4 2 7 1 .423 1.198
17. Prince Fielder DET 1B 5 3 10 0 .292 1.122
18. Michael Brantley* CLE OF 5 2 7 1 .370 1.081
19. Delmon Young* DET OF 5 4 7 0 .308 1.090
20. Anthony Rizzo* CHC 1B 5 3 5 0 .414 1.207
21. Rickie Weeks* MIL 2B 7 2 7 0 .346 1.125
22. Mike Moustakas KC 3B 4 2 9 1 .310 .945
23. Andruw Jones* NYY OF 4 4 6 0 .333 1.238
24. Casey Kotchman* CLE 1B 5 2 6 0 .450 1.300
25. Shin-Soo Choo CLE OF 6 2 4 0 .414 1.192

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

The All-Star Break DL Update

Take a breath. Just past the half-way mark, fantasy leagues are still very much up for grabs. Names like Rickie Weeks are finally starting to come around. Drew Stubbs is next, I promise. And others are finally coming off the DL. Reports are that Carl Crawford will likely need surgery on his elbow but will forego any procedures in an effort to return to the line-up. He may never return to his Rays form (until surgery) but he can certainly help a fantasy outfield over the second half. Ryan Howard was 2-for-8 in his return to the Phillies line-up. Don't expect big numbers from Howard, as he will likely be limited in his playing time, but his power threat should help someone in need of pop. Jayson Werth is swinging a bat and will be back by August. It might be time to stash him away on the DL. The break couldn't come at a better time for guys like Dustin Pedroia and Dan Haren, as both hit the DL on Friday. Giancarlo Stanton owners awoke Monday morning to bad news as his "loose bodies" had been removed from his knee. Recovery time is listed as four-to-six weeks.

Waiver Wire Adds

Tyler Colvin is just too hot to ignore. And his situation is obvsiouly very fantasy friendly. He has been solid through most splits (righty-lefty, home-road) and should he keep getting at-bats there is no reason why the 1B/OFer can't help your line-up. Tigers' speedster Quintin Berry is worth a look if you need some speed, as is Milwuakee's Norichika Aoki. Both could provide plenty of run and stolen base support, each without hurting the other categories too much at all. I need more time before adding names like Justin Ruggiano or Alexi Amarista just yet.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Mat Latos CIN 25.0 2 28 0.72 0.56
2. Jered Weaver LAA 21.2 3 13 0.42 0.88
3. Travis Wood* CHC 20.2 3 13 0.87 0.87
4. Jason Vargas* SEA 23.2 1 22 1.52 0.85
5. Mark Buehrle* MIA 14.2 2 15 1.23 0.95
6. Felix Hernandez SEA 22.0 1 27 2.05 1.05
7. Tommy Milone* OAK 19.0 1 20 0.95 1.05
8. Kyle Lohse STL 21.2 3 13 2.49 0.97
9. Paul Maholm* CHC 15.1 2 11 0.59 1.04
10. Bronson Arroyo* CIN 22.2 1 14 1.99 0.75
11. Freddy Garcia* NYY 15.1 2 12 1.76 0.85
12. Ricky Nolasco* MIA 19.2 2 14 0.92 1.17
13. Michael Fiers* MIL 13.1 1 19 1.35 0.98
14. Max Scherzer DET 13.0 2 14 2.08 0.92
15. James McDonald PIT 19.2 3 17 3.20 1.07
16. Drew Pomeranz* COL 12.1 1 7 0.00 0.65
17. Chris Sale CWS 14.1 2 9 1.88 0.91
18. David Price TB 14.0 1 15 1.93 0.86
19. Gavin Floyd* CWS 20.0 2 15 1.80 1.20
20. Hiroki Kuroda NYY 19.2 2 21 3.20 1.12

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Top 5 Spot Starts for the Week (Tues. - Sun.):

Since this week is only three games long, I will simply toss out my favorite available SPs on my waiver wire:

1. Michael Fiers, MIL: 46.0 IP, 3 W, 50 K, 2.31 ERA, 1.07 WHIP (season)
2. Jair Jurrjens, ATL: 25.1 IP, 3 W, 10 K, 2.13 ERA, 1.14 WHIP (last month)
3. Travis Wood, CHC: 33.1 IP, 4 W, 21 K, 1.62 ERA, 1.08 WHIP (last month)
4. Ubaldo Jimanez, CLE: 39.1 IP, 2 W, 40 K, 3.20 ERA, 1.22 WHIP (last month)
5. Scott Diamond, MIN: 79.0 IP, 7 W, 45 K, 2.62 ERA, 1.18 WHIP (season)

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Craig Kimbrel ATL 11.0 0 8 20 0 0.82 0.18
2. Huston Street SD 13.1 1 9 18 0 1.35 0.75
3. Tyler Clippard WAS 12.0 1 8 14 0 0.75 0.75
4. Casey Janssen* TOR 12.2 0 7 16 0 0.71 0.55
5. Rafael Soriano NYY 13.2 0 12 15 0 1.32 1.24
6. Kenley Jansen LAD 10.2 0 6 19 0 1.69 0.38
7. Fernando Rodney TB 11.0 0 8 12 0 0.82 0.73
8. Joe Nathan TEX 12.2 1 6 17 0 1.42 1.03
9. Ryan Cook* OAK 12.1 1 8 14 0 2.92 0.97
10. Ernesto Frieri LAA 12.0 0 7 15 3 0.00 1.08
11. Charlie Furbush* SEA 16.2 2 0 23 2 1.08 0.96
12. Jim Johnson BAL 11.1 0 8 6 0 0.79 0.79
13. Jason Motte STL 13.2 0 10 15 0 3.29 1.10
14. Tom Wilhelmsen* SEA 12.1 1 4 15 0 0.00 1.14
15. Joel Hanrahan PIT 11.0 1 7 7 0 1.64 1.09
16. Darren Oliver* TOR 11.2 2 0 14 5 0.77 0.77
17. Brayan Villarreal* DET 15.2 2 0 20 4 1.72 0.96
18. Robbie Ross* TEX 17.1 1 0 9 3 0.00 0.81
19. Clay Rapada* NYY 10.0 1 0 14 3 0.00 0.60
20. Addison Reed* CWS 11.1 1 6 11 0 3.18 1.06

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Keep up to date all season long with Athlon Sports' Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: July 9</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 09:42
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-2012-all-american-team-recruits
Body:

Recruiting is the life blood of college football. And the rankings of the these prospects elicit responses both positive and negative fitting of a nickname like, say, Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. Fans either live and die by star rankings or totally disregard Top 100 lists altogether.

The truth lies somewhere in between — you will find both five-stars and walk-ons on the Athlon Sports 2012 All-American team. In fact, 11 of the 24 names listed below were ranked as Athlon Consensus 100, or Top 100, prospects in the nation.

Here is how the best players at their position nationally ranked as high school recruits:

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 All-American Team

2012 First-Team All-American Offense:

Matt Barkley, QB, USC (2009) AC100
The Golden Boy from Newport Beach (Calif.) Mater Dei has absolutely lived up to his top billing as the nation's No. 1 prospect by Athlon Sports. He sat atop the AC100 for the entire 2009 cycle and has dominated college football ever since enrolling at USC.

Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (2009)
Ball came to Wisconsin as the 5A Missouri State Player of the Year after rushing for 8,222 yards and 107 touchdowns at Wentzville (Mo.) Timberland. He was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 33 running back in the nation and was a four-star recruit. Ball was the No. 4 player in the state of Missouri by Athlon Sports and the No. 3 player in the Badgers’ 2009 class.

Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (2010) AC100
There was little doubt that Lattimore was the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation. The top player in the Palmetto State from powerhouse program Duncan-Byrnes, Lattimore was the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation by Athlon Sports. He has has proven to be the real deal with an absurd 130.5 yards from scrimmage per game average for his career.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (2011) AC100
Few players ever enter college with more hype than Watkins. He was the No. 24-rated player in the nation regardless of position, was No. 8 in the state of Florida and was the No. 4 wide receiver in the nation. The Ft. Myers (Fla.) South Ft. Myers product needed only one year to prove that the hype was warranted.

Robert Woods, WR, USC (2010) AC100
The Carson (Calif.) Junipero Serra was named the Athlon Sports High School Player of the Year when he was a senior. He finished as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation and trailed only Ronald Powell and Seantrel Henderson nationally as he finished No. 3 overall by Athlon Sports.

Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame (2009)
The Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Dwenger was listed as the No. 24 tight end prospect in the nation and the No. 10 player in the Hoosier State by Rivals. The three-star prospect also had offers from Cincinnati, Purdue, Northwestern and Vanderbilt among others. He enters his final year as the Irish’s top target.

Barrett Jones, C, Alabama (2008)
This Memphis (Tenn.) Evangelical Christian stud was the No. 1 prospect in the state of Tennessee (which included Dont’a Hightower), the No. 17 offensive lineman in the nation and the No. 146-rated player nationally regardless of position.

Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin (2008)
The hog molly from West Allis (Wisc.) Nathan Hale was walk-on back in 2008 after going unranked by all of the recruiting services. He has earned two-time consensus honorable mention All-Big Ten status after coming to Wisconsin with zero recruiting hype whatsoever.

Alex Hurst, OT, LSU (2008)
Another Volunteeer State prospect (Arlington, Tenn.), Hurst was a three-star mid-level recruit who ranked as the No. 12 player in the state and No. 59 at his position (OT) by Rivals.com.

Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas (2009)
Bailey signed with Arkansas out of Broken Arrow (Okla.) High as a three-star offensive guard prospect. Rivals ranked him 27th nationally at his position and 13th in the state of Oklahoma.

Gabe Ikard, OG, Oklahoma (2009)
This three-star recruit was the No. 15-rated tight end prospect in the nation by Rivals.com. He was the 14th best player in the state of Oklahoma (Bishop McGuinness).

De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon (2011) AC100
Football's version of the Black Mamba signed with Oregon from Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw High. Thomas was the nation's No. 1 'athlete' prospect and the No. 5-rated player in the entire nation by Athlon Sports. After 2,235 all-purpose yards and 18 total TDs, it is easy to see why Thomas was such a hot commodity all the way up to this National Signing Day switch from USC to Oregon.

Tyrann Mathieu, PR, LSU (2010)
The Honey Badger was the No. 44 defensive back in the nation and the No. 8 player in the state of Louisiana by Athlon Sports. He was the No. 13-rated cornerback in the nation by Rivals. The New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine dynamo was either firmly committed to Frank Wilson and LSU, or schools were scared off by his attitude, because his offer sheet was LSU, Southern Miss, SMU, Tulane, FIU, Miami (Ohio) and Hampton.

2012 First-Team All-American Defense:

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (2011) AC100
Clowney was the No. 1 overall player in the entire nation in last year's class. The Rock Hill prospect topped nearly every major recruiting service rankings for much of the year and spent little time proving that he could be the most dynamic defensive player in the nation. He earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors after 8.0 sacks and five forced fumbles.

Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU (2009) AC100
The Greenwood (S.C.) High defensive end was the No. 43-rated overall prospect in the nation and the No. 4-rated defensive end by Athlon Sports. Les Miles was able to snare the No. 1 player in the Palmetto State away from South Carolina, something Steve Spurrier has rectified with Lattimore and Clowney.

Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah (2007)
Originally, the Bingham, Utah prospect signed with BYU but didn't qualify. He was a three-star recruit who ranked as the No. 3 player in the state of Utah. He went to Snow College before heading to Salt Lake City.

Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland (2007)
The big nose guard from Albany (N.Y.) Christian Brother was a 6-foot-2, 245-pound three-star prospect back in 2007. He is now a 285-pound All-American. Rivals ranked Vellano as the No. 62 strongside defensive end in the nation and the No. 7-rated player in the state of New York.

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (2009) AC100
Originally signing with USC, the Columbus (Ga.) Carver was listed as the No. 6-rated linebacker in the nation, was the top prospect in the state of Georgia and was the 28th overall recruit in the country by Athlon Sports.

Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame (2008) AC100
Trailing only Barkley and Russell Shepard nationally, the No. 3 player in the nation back in 2009 signed with Notre Dame from Laie, Hawaii. He was the No. 1 linebacker in the nation, the No. 1 player from the Islands and the No. 1 defensive prospect in the country. Te’o could post his third straight 100-tackle season.

Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford (2008)
From Marietta (Ga.) Walton, Thomas was a three-star outside linebacker prospect by Rivals who ranked as the No. 26-best player in the state and the No. 27-best player at his position. Thomas led the Cardinal in tackles for a loss and sacks a year ago.

David Amerson, CB, NC State (2010)
A four-star recruit from Greensboro (N.C.) Dudley High, Amerson was a 6-foot-3, 180-pound safety prospect when he signed with NC State. He was the No. 6-rated player in the Tar Heel State, the No. 16-rated safety and the No. 206 overall prospect in the country by Rivals.

Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State (2009)
From Maben (Miss.) East Webster, Banks was listed as a three-star athlete who finished as the No. 23-rated player in the state of Mississippi by Rivals and the No. 63 overall ‘athlete’ in the nation.

T.J. McDonald, S, USC (2009) AC100
The NFL legacy from Fresno (Calif.) Edison was the No. 9-rated defensive back in the nation and the No. 76-rated overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports. He was the No. 10-rated player in the Sunshine State back in 2009.

Eric Reid, S, LSU (2010) AC100
The Geismar (La.) Dutchtown safety was Athlon Sports' No. 9-rated defensive back and No. 80-rated overall recruit in the nation two years ago. He was the No. 2 player in the Pelican State behind only Auburn’s Trovon Reed.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports 2012 All-American Team As Recruits</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 04:00
Path: /nfl/worst-10-nfl-teams-expansion
Body:

The Seattle Seahawks own the 16-game NFL record for fewest points scored with 140 in 1992. Seattle also own the all-time mark for fewest yards in a game when it totaled minus-7 yards in against the L.A. Rams in 1979. The Tampa Bay Bucs set the modern NFL mark for worst point differential by being outscored by 287 points in 1976. The Baltimore Colts allowed an NFL record 533 points back in 1981. The Houston Oilers claim the NFL mark for most interceptions thrown in a single season with 48 picks tossed in 1962. And the Philadelphia Eagles own the NFL’s single-season sacks allowed mark with 104 back in 1986.

Needless to say, there are many ways to measure NFL ineptitude. So while offensive and defensive statistical production (or lack there of) is a huge factor in mearuring pathetic-ness, wins and losses are still the most important way to evaluate any team.

Who are the worst NFL teams since expansion in 2002?

1. 2008 Detroit Lions (0-16)
Point Differential: -249 (268 PF, 517 PA)
Offense (total, scoring): 30th (268.3 ypg), 27th (16.8 ppg)
Defense (total, scoring): 32nd (404.4 ypg), 32nd (32.3 ppg)

No other team has ever gone winless in the modern NFL era (16-games), which means the Detroit Lions must be considered the worst team due in large part to the massive "0" in the win column. Winning is all that really matters in sports and the Lions failed in truly epic fashion. Top it off with the worst defense of the expansion era as this team fell just 16 points shy of setting an NFL record for points allowed (533). This team posted an NFL-worst four total interceptions on defense, was next to last in sacks allowed (52.0) and finished 14th in the NFC in turnover differential. Dan Orlovsky led a five-man QB platoon that featured 18 touchdowns and 19 interceptions and a combined 71.3 QB rating.

2. 2009 St. Louis Rams (1-15)
Point Differential: -261 (175 PF, 436 PA)
Offense: 29th (279.4 ypg), 32nd (10.9 ppg)
Defense: 29th (372.8 ypg), 31st (27.3 ppg)

This team redefined the term offensive struggles as its 175 points were only 35 away from the NFL mark set by Seattle (140) in 1992. It is the all-time low for a Rams team that played 16 games while the 261-point differential is the worst in franchise history as well. Marc Bulger was the leading passer with 1,469 yards, 5 TD and 6 INT. The team itself finished with 12 total TD passes and 21 INT and a collective passer rating of 64.0. The Rams were shutout twice and scored 10 or fewer points in nine games. St. Louis also finished 31st in the NFL in turnover margin (-13) and 30th in team sacks (25.0). Steven Jackson was the lone bright spot on a team that one only once — against Detroit. The Rams were one of only three teams since 2002 to win one or fewer games.

3. 2009 Detroit Lions (2-14)
Point Differential: -232 (262 PF, 494 PA)
Offense: 26th (299.0 ypg), 27th (16.4 ppg)
Defense: 32nd (392.1 ypg), 32nd (30.9 ppg)

While the '09 Rams set offensive football back two decades, the '09 Lions continued to show its lack of defensive prowess. While the Rams did defeat the Lions (17-10) that year, but Detroit scored nearly 100 more points over the course of the year and won twice as many games (over Washington and Cleveland). This Lions team also finished dead last in turover margin (-18) and No. 1 overall pick Matt Stafford missed the final six games of the season. The Lions went 0-6 after Stafford was lost. 

4. 2007 Miami Dolphins (1-15)
Point Differential: -170 (267 PF, 437 PA)
Offense: 28th (287.5 ypg), 26th (16.7 ppg)
Defense: 23rd (342.2 ypg), 30th (27.3 ppg)

This version of the Fish lost the first 13 games of the season before winning its only game of the year over Baltimore. Cleo Lemon was 1-6 as the starter, John Beck went 0-4 and Trent Green was 0-5. The trio combined to throw 12 touchdown passes, 16 fewer than the opposition. Ronnie Brown led the team in rushing after playing only seven games (602 yards) while Jesse Chatman actually got the most carries (128). The only shot Cam Cameron has had to be a head coach in the NFL was his one-year, one-win season at the helm of the Dolphins.

5. 2008 St. Louis Rams (2-14)
Point Differential: -233 (232 PF, 465 PA)
Offense: 27th (287.3 ypg), 31st (14.5 ppg)
Defense: 28th (371.9 ypg), 31st (29.1 ppg)

The 233-point scoring differential was a franchise record at the time and would still be the Rams worst-ever scoring season had it not been for the 2009 team that came along the next year. This team lost the final 10 games of the year and scored only 18 offensive touchdowns all season (11 pass, 8 rush). In fact, this offense was the most scored upon OFFENSE in the NFL. That is right, the Rams offense had seven turnovers returned for touchdowns, a number that tied for the league lead.

6. 2011 St. Louis Rams (2-14)
Point Differential: -214 (193, 407)
Offense: 31st, (283.6 ypg), 32nd (12.1 ppg)
Defense: 22nd (358.4 ypg), 26th (25.4 ppg)

There is a reason that Jeff Fisher is beginning his first season at the reins of the Rams organization in 2012. And again, if not for the 2008 and 2009 teams, this team would have been the most outscored Rams team in history. The 193 total points scored are the second-worst in team history that played 16 games. Losing Sam Bradford to an injury after 10 games certainly didn't help the offense as the team finished with nine touchdown passes and a paltry 53.2% completion percentage. St. Louis also led the league in sacks allowed with 55.0 while the rushing attack contributed only seven scores of its own. The 28.1% third-down rate was the worst ratio in the NFL as well.

7. 2010 Carolina Panthers (2-14)
Point Differential: -212 (196 PF, 408 PA)
Offense: 32nd (12.3 ypg), 32nd (258.4 ppg)
Defense: 18th (335.9 ypg), 26th (25.5 ppg)

The offense did little to contribute to this football team whatsoever. Not only were the 196 total points scored the worst in the 17-year history of the franchise but was also the only time the Panthers failed to reach 250 points. Jimmy Clausen (1-9), Matt Moore (1-4) and Brian St. Pierre (0-1) combined for a nasty 9:21 TD:INT ratio while finishing 30th in 3rd downs (30.4%) and 25th in turnover margin. That said, the 408 points allowed were third worst in franchise history on the defensive side of the ball as well.

8. 2011 Indianapolis Colts (2-14)
Point Differential: -212 (196 PF, 408 PA)
Offense: 32nd (12.3 ypg), 32nd (258.4 ppg)
Defense: 18th (335.9 ypg), 26th (25.5 ppg)

Obviously, without Peyton Manning, the Colts experienced its worst season since 1998, No. 18's rookie year. If not for a torrid 2-1 finish to the year, the Colts were in danger of challenging the Lions of 2008. In the first 13 losses, Indy allowed less than 23 points only one time. The total points scored, which included only 14 total touchdown passes (or 12 less than Manning's career low), and point differential were the worst numbers for the Colts since the 1993 season. The top ball carrier, Donald Brown, led the team in rushing with only two starts all year (645 yards).

9. 2004 San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
Potential Differential: -193 (259, 452)
Offense: 26th (286.6 ypg), 30th (16.2 ppg)
Defense: 24th (342.6 ypg), 32nd (28.3 ppg)
 
Two games worse than every other team in the NFL that year, and, technically, the 49ers were winless in regulation as both wins came in overtime. San Francisco was 0-14-2 in regulation. The Niners were 30th in the NFL points scored and dead last in points allowed while finishing 31st in turnover margin (-19). Tim Rattay (1-8) and Ken Dorsey (1-6) were equally ineffective, throwing for 16 touchdowns against 21 interceptions and completing only 57.9% of their passes. The ground game was led by the great Kevan Barlow, who rushed for 822 yards at 3.4 yards per clip. The Niners finished 30th in the NFL in rushing at just over 90 yards per game. The 452 points allowed were one point shy of the franchise record set in 1999 (453) and 193-point difference was a organizational record.

10. 2005 Houston Texans (2-14)
Potential Differential: -171 (260, 431)
Offense: 30th (253.3 ypg), 26th (16.3 ppg)
Defense: 31st (364.0 ypg), 32nd (26.9 ppg)

There were some bad Texans team and David Carr paid a big price. After getting sacked a league worst 76.0 times as a rookie, Houston once again led the league in sacks allowed in 2005 with 68.0. The franshise has only been around for 11 years, but this group set the benchmark for fewest wins, points allowed and point differential, all of which led to the firing of Dom Capers. Carr started every game and averaged a pathetic 155.5 yards per game, threw only 14 touchdowns to go with 11 interceptions and fumbled 17 times.

The...Worst of the Rest?

2004 Cleveland Browns (4-12)
Began 3-3 before losing nine straight in which they scored more than 15 points only one time. Trailed only the Niners for worst record. The offense was led by Jeff Garcia for 10 games, Luke McCown for four and Kelly Holcombe for two.

2002 Houston Texans (4-12)
The lowest scoring team in franchise history (213 pts) finished last in total offense as well as sacks allowed with 76.0. The first year of the Texans was salvaged by two strange wins over playoff teams (NYG, PIT) and is the only thing keeping this team out of the top ten.

2011 Tampa Bay Bucs (4-12)
The Bucs led the league in turnovers (40) and turnover margin (-16) last year. After starting 4-2, Tampa Bay crumbled down the stretch with 10 straight losses and set a franchise mark with 494 points allowed (keep in mind, that is a Buccaneers franchise record).

2008 Kansas City Chiefs (2-14)
This team couldn't get off the field in 2008 as it was the worst 3rd down team in the league (47.4%) and dead last in sacks (10.0). It finished 31st in total defense and the 440 points allowed and -149-point differential are a Chiefs single-season record.

2006 Oakland Raiders (2-14)
The Black and Silver defense was good enough to keep them out of the top ten, but the offense was nearly historic in its struggles. The 168 points scored were 28 away from the all-time NFL mark, it finished dead last in sacks allowed (72.0), turnover margin (-20) and both scoring and total offense. Oakland was also 31st in the league with 23 interceptions thrown.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related NFL Content

2012 NFL Quarterbacks: Ranking the Best and Worst Starters
Ranking the NFL’s Best Back-Up Quarterbacks

Miami Dolphins QBs Since Marino: An NFL Horror Story

Robert Griffin III Talks Heisman, Baylor and Redskins

The Year of the Quarterback: 2011?

Teaser:
<p> The Worst 10 NFL Teams Since Expansion</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-july-2
Body:

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (6/25-7/01):

  Name Pos. Team R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Alex Rios OF CHW 7 2 6 3 .467 1.234
2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B WAS 7 3 12 0 .364 1.158
3. Robinson Cano 2B NYY 5 4 10 0 .414 1.311
4. Michael Morse 1B/OF WAS 9 2 6 0 .484 1.210
5. Daniel Murphy* 1/2/3B NYM 5 3 10 0 .409 1.346
6. Ian Kinsler 2B TEX 8 2 5 2 .355 1.000
7. Hunter Pence OF PHI 6 3 7 0 .414 1.280
8. Ike Davis* 1B NYM 7 3 9 0 .320 1.188
9. Giancarlo Stanton OF MIA 6 3 6 1 .381 1.337
10. Carlos Ruiz C PHI 8 2 4 1 .234 1.175
11. Michael McKenry* C PIT 3 3 9 0 .455 1.435
12. Ian Desmond SS WAS 7 2 7 0 .414 1.383
13. Alexi Amarista* 2B SD 5 3 8 0 .412 1.412
14. Shin-Soo Choo OF CLE 7 2 6 0 .458 1.331
15. Andrew McCutchen OF PIT 8 2 6 0 .407 1.170
16. David Ortiz 1B BOS 9 3 5 0 .320 1.219
17. Edwin Encarnacion 1B/3B TOR 7 1 5 2 .391 1.113
18. Austin Jackson OF DET 10 1 5 0 .387 1.022
19. Mike Trout OF LAA 8 2 4 1 .345 .988
20. Jose Bautista 3B/OF TOR 7 3 8 0 .250 .966
21. Josh Hamilton OF TEX 5 3 9 0 .269 1.002
22. Freddie Freeman 1B ATL 6 1 6 0 .476 1.282
23. Miguel Cabrera 1B DET 5 1 6 0 .462 1.255
24. Elvis Andrus SS TEX 7 0 3 3 .357 .848
25. Tyler Moore* OF WAS 4 2 7 0 .381 1.172

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

The Waiver Wire

The Mets have been beaten and battered all season long but are starting to show signs of fantasy life. Only four players in the majors have more RBI over the last month than Ike Davis' 24. He has raised his average from .158 (June 8) to a still paltry .203 today. Yet, he has been moved to clean-up and David Wright is hitting in front of him. He should be in for a big second half. His teammate and position guru, Daniel Murphy (1B/2B/3B) is third in MLB in RBI over the last week. He finally connected on his first three dingers and can provide solid production across the board at weak positions (2B and 3B). Keep an eye on the Mets offense.

MLB Debuts

Anthony Rizzo appears to be the real deal in Chicago. He has five hits in his first 19 at-bats thus far in 2012, including four RBI and one huge home run. He may not help your team batting average much, but it looks like he can add some pop in the power cats. Trevor Bauer pitched four innings while allowing two runs with three whiffs and three walks. He gets a nice start this week against the Padres on Tuesday. Wil Myers connected on his 27th homer of the year and will be a busy man during the All-Star break. Can the Royals get this kid into the line-up please?

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. R.A. Dickey NYM 23.0 2 26 1.96 0.65
2. Travis Wood* CHC 20.2 3 15 0.44 0.82
3. Felix Hernandez SEA 16.0 2 23 0.56 0.81
4. Tommy Milone* OAK 21.0 2 13 0.86 0.81
5. Michael Fiers* MIL 14.1 1 19 0.00 0.77
6. Hirok Kuroda NYY 21.0 2 24 2.14 0.95
7. Justin Masterson* CLE 22.0 2 18 2.05 0.82
8. David Price TB 21.0 3 19 2.57 0.95
9. Johan Santana NYM 20.0 2 14 0.90 0.95
10. Mat Latos CIN 22.0 2 24 3.68 0.73
11. Yu Darvish TEX 22.0 2 29 3.68 0.95
12. Zack Greinke MIL 15.0 2 7 1.20 0.67
13. Lucas Harrell* HOU 16.0 1 16 0.56 0.94
14. Travis Blackley* OAK 22.0 1 12 1.64 0.73
15. Matt Harrison TEX 19.0 3 14 1.42 1.26
16. Jered Weaver LAA 12.2 2 9 0.71 0.87
17. Clayton Kershaw LAD 21.1 1 24 1.71 1.10
18. Aaron Cook* BOS 14.0 2 2 1.29 0.57
19. Mike Leake* CIN 24.0 1 13 1.50 0.92
20. Chris Sale CHW 15.0 1 12 1.20 0.80

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Top 5 Spot Starts for the Week (Tues. - Sun.):

1. Max Scherzer, DET: Minnesota (Tues.)
He has won two of his last three starts with 26 Ks and only 3 BBs over that span.

2. Jarrod Parker, OAK: Seattle (Sun.)
The youngster has been stellar with two earned runs and 19 Ks over last three starts.

3. Trevor Bauer, ARI: San Diego (Tues.)
He was about as good as can be expected in a shorten MLB debut. Look for more on Tuesday.

4. Tommy Milone, OAK: Seattle (Fri.)
The soft-tosser has been the No. 4-rated pitcher in the league over last two weeks.

5. Edwin Jackson, WAS: San Francisco (Wed.)
Got shelled last time out (3.0, 8 ER), but posted nine straight quality starts before that.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Tom Wilhelmsen* SEA 16.2 2 6 21 0 0.00 0.72
2. Craig Kimbrel ATL 11.0 0 8 20 0 0.82 0.27
3. Tyler Clippard WAS 12.2 0 10 12 0 0.00 0.63
4. Huston Street SD 11.1 1 8 15 0 1.59 0.79
5. Joel Hanrahan PIT 11.0 1 7 11 0 1.64 0.91
6. Brayan Villarreal* DET 16.0 2 0 23 2 1.69 0.75
7. Ronald Belisario* LAD 14.0 3 0 7 2 0.64 0.64
8. Ernesto Frieri LAA 11.1 0 7 15 3 0.00 1.06
9. Jason Motte STL 15.0 0 9 16 0 3.00 0.93
10. Jim Johnson BAL 12.2 1 7 8 0 2.13 0.79
11. Rafael Soriano NYY 11.1 0 11 10 0 1.59 1.32
12. Kenley Jansen LAD 10.2 0 6 18 0 2.53 0.56
13. Joe Nathan TEX 12.0 0 7 16 0 1.50 0.92
14. Ryan Cook* OAK 11.0 1 7 16 1 3.27 1.18
15. Rex Brothers* COL 14.2 1 0 22 4 1.23 0.75
16. Casey Janssen* TOR 10.0 0 4 12 0 0.90 0.60
17. Sean Marshall* CIN 12.2 1 1 12 4 0.71 0.71
18. David Hernandez* ARI 10.2 1 1 20 1 1.69 0.75
19. Fernando Rodney TB 10.0 0 5 10 0 0.90 0.80
20. Jared Burton* MIN 13.1 1 2 13 5 0.68 0.98

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Keep up to date all season long with Athlon Sports' Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: July 2</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 10:08
Path: /college-football/college-football-history-acc-realignment
Body:

College football expansion has taken over the hearts and minds of college football junkies everywhere.

The sky is falling, rivalries are dead and the future of college football is in great peril. I am here to tell you that this just simply isn’t the case. Conference realignment has been taking place for more than a century and it won’t stop anytime soon. Teams have been switching leagues, conferences have been created out of thin air and college football has powered through all the criticism and into the playoff era.

So just in case you don’t remember the days of Georgia Tech winning SEC titles or Grinnell College's 10-year stint in the Big 8, Athlon is here to show you conference realignment isn’t a new phenomenon.

The History of Big East Conference Realignment
The History of SEC Realingment

The History of Big 12 Realignment

The History of Big Ten Conference Realignment

The History of Pac-12 Conference Realignment

The History of ACC Realignment

The ACC Commissioners:

James Weaver, 1954-70
Robert James 1971-87
Eugene Corrigan, 1987-97
John Swofford, 1997-present

The ACC Timeline:

1953: After losing a multitude of members to the SEC in 1932, the once massive (23 member) Southern Conference loses eight key members to the formation of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The SoCon had a league-wide ban on postseason play and this is why many believe the ACC got started to begin with. Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State, South Carolina and, a few months later, Virginia became the charter members.

1971: South Carolina decided to leave for independence and would later join the SEC in 1991.

1978: After only containing seven teams for most of the 70s, Georgia Tech left the Metro Conference for the greener pastures of the ACC.

1991: Also from the Metro Conference, Florida State’s decision to join the ACC might have been the most important maneuver in ACC history. The Noles went on to dominate the league for the first decade and it played in the first three BCS National Championship games (1998-2000). The 1999 title is the league’s only BCS National Championship.

2004: Miami and Virginia Tech both officially joined in the summer of 2004. Adding the two football powers gave the ACC two more viable national championship football programs to package with FSU.

2005: Boston College comes aboard the next year, giving the ACC 12 teams and the opportunity to split the conference into two divisions and host a title game. After taking the Canes, Hokies and Eagles, the Big East countered with expansion of its own and is still on life support to this day.

2011: In an effort to get out in front of the curve, John Swofford continued to stabilize his league by adding two more Big East powers, Syracuse and Pitt, to the group. The ACC technically expanded to 14 before any other major BCS league.

2014: The Panthers and Orange are slated to join the league in 2014 — the same year that the new football playoff will go into effect.

ACC BCS Bowl History

Notes: Year is representative of the fall football season, not the actual date of the bowl
(#) = final national BCS ranking

1998 Fiesta (NCG): (1) Tennessee 23, (2) Florida State 16
1999 Sugar (NCG): (1) Florida State 46, (2) Virginia Tech 29
2000 Orange (NCG): (1) Oklahoma 13, (2) Florida State 2
2001 Orange: (5) Florida 56, (10) Maryland 23
2002 Sugar: (3) Georgia 26, (14) Florida State 13
2003 Orange: (9) Miami 16, (7) Florida State 14
2004 Sugar: (3) Auburn 16, (8) Virginia Tech 13
2005 Orange: (3) Penn State 26, (22) Florida State 23 (3 OT)
2006 Orange: (6) Louisville 24, (14) Wake Forest 13
2007 Orange: (8) Kansas 24, (3) Virginia Tech 21
2008 Orange: (19) Virginia Tech 20, (12) Cincinnati 7
2009 Orange: (10) Iowa 24, (9) Georgia Tech 14
2010 Orange: (4) Stanford 40, (13) Virginia Tech 14
2011 Sugar: (13) Michigan 23, (11) Virginia Tech 20 (OT) 
2011 Orange: (23) West Virginia 70, (15) Clemson 33 

Overall Record: 2-13
National Championships: 1-2

The History of the ACC:

Special thanks to Wikipedia.com for the above image. Please help keep Wikipedia free for all by donating here.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

More Conference Alignment and Playoff Content:

College Football Playoff: Did the BCS Really Get It Wrong?
Debate: What is the Biggest Unanswered Question Left In the College Football Playoff?

Debate: Did College Football Get It Right With A Four-Team Playoff?

Debate: How Should A Selection Committee Be Used?

Teaser:
<p> College Football: The History of ACC Realignment</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 05:03
Path: /college-football/history-big-ten-conference-realignment
Body:

College football expansion has taken over the hearts and minds of college football junkies everywhere.

The sky is falling, rivalries are dead and the future of college football is in great peril. I am here to tell you that this just simply isn’t the case. Conference realignment has been taking place for more than a century and it won’t stop anytime soon. Teams have been switching leagues, conferences have been created out of thin air and college football has powered through all the criticism and into the playoff era.

So just in case you don’t remember the days of Georgia Tech winning SEC titles or Grinnell College's 10-year stint in the Big 8, Athlon is here to show you conference realignment isn’t a new phenomenon.

The History of Big East Conference Realignment
The History of SEC Realingment

The History of Big 12 Realignment

The History of Big Ten Conference Realignment

The History of Pac-12 Conference Realignment

The History of ACC Realignment

The Big Ten Conference Commissioners:

John Griffith, 1922-44 (died in office)
Kenneth “Tug” Wilson, 1945-61
William Reed, 1961-71 (died in office)
Wayne Duke, 1971-89
Jim Delany, 1989-present

The Big Ten Conference Timeline:

1896: The Big Ten is formed as the first major collegiate conference of universities. Purdue president James Smart is credited with spearheading the decision to regulate and control intercollegiate athletics. The seven founding members were the Univeristy of Chicago, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin. Lake Forest College attended the 1895 meeting that eventually spawned what was then referred to as the Western Conference, but it did not join the league.

1899: Iowa and Indiana both join the Big Ten Conference three years after it’s inception. It was then commonly called the Big Nine.

1900: Both Iowa and Indiana would begin athletic competition the following year. Interestingly enough, Nebraska petitioned to join the league the same year (and would again request an invitation in 1911 to no avail).

1908: Michigan was voted out of the conference due to rules issues. The Wolverines failed to adhere to league-wide regulations and were subsequently ruled inactive.

1912: Ohio State joins the league.

1917: When Michigan was finally allowed back into the conference after the decade-long hiatus, the term Big Ten became an instantly popular way to refer to the conference.

1946: Due to the on-going World War in Europe, the University of Chicago had de-emphasized athletics in 1939 in a severe manner by discontinuing its football program. By 1946, Chicago withdrew from the league. The Big Ten went back to being referred to as the Big Nine.

1950: Michigan State is invited to join the Big Nine and does so to return the total number of league institutions to ten. The term Big Ten was re-adopted at this point. It would begin athletic competition in 1953.

1982: Penn State, currently an independent institution, asked to join the Big East but was denied inclusion in what was considered a basketball-centric league at the time.

1987: Technically, the league had been named the “Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives.” But since ICFR doesn’t roll off the tongue, the league officially changed its name to The Big Ten when it was incorporated as a not-for-profit business entity.

1990: After remaining unchanged for nearly exactly four decades of success, the Big Ten voted to expand to 11 schools and asked Penn State to join. The Nittany Lions were happy to oblige. It would begin Big Ten athletic competition in 1993.

2010: Nebraska applies for Big Ten membership and is unanimously approved as the league’s 12th institution.

2011: Nebraska played its first Big Ten conference schedule and the league splits into two divisions to accommodate the Cornhuskers. The Big Ten plays its first league championship game in Indianapolis.
 
Big Ten Conference BCS Bowl History

Notes: Year is representative of the fall football season, not the actual date of the bowl
(#) = final national BCS ranking

1998 Sugar: (4) Ohio State 24, (6) Texas A&M 14
1998 Rose: (9) Wisconsin 38, (5) UCLA 31
1999 Orange: (8) Michigan 35, (4) Alabama 34
1999 Rose: (7) Wisconsin 17, (ur) Stanford 9
2000 Rose: (4) Washington 34, (ur) Purdue 24
2001 Sugar: (13) LSU 47, (8) Illinois 34
2002 Fiesta (NCG): (2) Ohio State 31, (1) Miami 24 (2 OT)
2002 Orange: (4) USC 38, (5) Iowa 17
2003 Fiesta: (5) Ohio State 35, (10) Kansas State 28
2003 Rose: (3) USC 28, (4) Michigan 14
2004 Rose: (4) Texas 38, (13) Michigan 37
2005 Fiesta: (4) Ohio State 34, (6) Notre Dame 20
2005 Orange: (3) Penn State 26,* (22) Florida State 23
2006 NCG: (2) Florida 41, (1) Ohio State 14
2006 Rose: (5) USC 32, (3) Michigan 18
2007 NCG: (2) LSU 38, (1) Ohio State 24
2007 Rose: (7) USC 49, (13) Illinois 17
2008 Fiesta: (3) Texas 24, (10) Ohio State 21
2008 Rose: (5) USC 38, (8) Penn State 24
2009 Rose: (8) Ohio State 26, (7) Oregon 16
2009 Orange: (10) Iowa 24, (9) Georgia Tech 14
2010 Sugar: (6) Ohio State 31,* (8) Arkansas 26
2010 Rose: (3) TCU 21, (5) Wisconsin 19
2011 Sugar: (13) Michigan 23, (11) Virginia Tech 20 (OT)
2011 Rose: (5) Oregon 45, (10) Wisconsin 38

* - later vacated

Overall Record: 12-13
National Championships: 1-2

The History of the Big Ten:

Special thanks to Wikipedia.com for the above image. Please help keep Wikipedia free for all by donating here.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

More Conference Alignment and Playoff Content:

College Football Playoff: Did the BCS Really Get It Wrong?
Debate: What is the Biggest Unanswered Question Left In the College Football Playoff?

Debate: Did College Football Get It Right With A Four-Team Playoff?

Debate: How Should A Selection Committee Be Used?

Teaser:
<p> The History of Big Ten Conference Realignment</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 05:02
Path: /college-football/history-pac-12-conference-realignment
Body:

College football expansion has taken over the hearts and minds of college football junkies everywhere.

The sky is falling, rivalries are dead and the future of college football is in great peril. I am here to tell you that this just simply isn’t the case. Conference realignment has been taking place for more than a century and it won’t stop anytime soon. Teams have been switching leagues, conferences have been created out of thin air and college football has powered through all the criticism and into the playoff era.

So just in case you don’t remember the days of Georgia Tech winning SEC titles or Grinnell College's 10-year stint in the Big 8, Athlon is here to show you conference realignment isn’t a new phenomenon.

The History of Big East Conference Realignment
The History of SEC Realingment
The History of Big 12 Realignment
The History of Big Ten Conference Realignment

The History of Pac-12 Conference Realignment
The History of ACC Realignment 

The Pac-12 Conference Commissioners:

Edwin Atherton, 1940-44
Victor Schmidt, 1944-59
Thomas Hamilton, 1959-71
Wiles Hallock, 1971-83
Thomas Hansen, 1983-2009
Larry Scott, 2009-present

The Pac-12 Conference Timeline:

1916: After a meeting at the Imperial Hotel in Portland, Ore., the previous year, the Pacific Coast Conference was founded. Cal, Washington, Oregon and Oregon Agricultural College, more commonly known as Oregon State University, were the founding members.

1917: Washington State quickly followed its in-state brethren into the PCC.

1918: Stanford then quickly followed its cross-town rival into the PCC as well.

1922: A third round of expansion took place when USC and Idaho joined the league, expanding the PCC to eight teams.

1924: Montana was added to grow the PCC to nine teams.

1928: The addition of UCLA makes the PCC a 10-member conference.

1950: Montana decided to join the Mountain States Conference and the PCC continued for nearly a decade as a nine-team league.

1959: After years of stability, the PCC was disbanded due to a massive pay-for-play scandal that involved Cal, USC, UCLA and Washington. Retired Admiral Thomas Hamilton stepped in and saved the league and the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU) was formed the same year with Cal, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington acting as charter institutions. It was commonly referred to as the Big Five. Idaho was essentially left out of the entire process.

1962: Washington State again followed its Evergreen counterpart into the new conference. The Cougars turned the Big Five into the Big Six.

1964: Two years later, Oregon and Oregon State joined the party and the league unofficially became known as the Pacific-8.

1968: The official name of the AAWU was changed to Pacific-8, or Pac-8 for short.

1978: The Pac-8 officially adds two WAC programs, Arizona and Arizona State, to return the league to 10 member institutions. The league renames itself the Pac-10.

2011: Utah and Colorado are invited formally and officially change the Pac-10 into the Pac-12. The league splits into obvious Northern and Southern Divisions and creates its first-ever Pac-12 Championship game. Unlike other leagues, however, the west coast conference decides to play the game at home sites. In fact, the Utes and Buffaloes played on the final weekend of the regular season with Utah having the chance to win the South Division in its first year. Colorado pulled-off the upset and the UCLA Bruins claimed the first-ever Pac-12 South title.

Pac-12 Conference BCS Bowl History

Notes: Year is representative of the fall football season, not the actual date of the bowl
(#) = final national BCS ranking

1998 Rose: (9) Wisconsin 38, (5) UCLA 31
1999 Rose: (7) Wisconsin 17, (ur) Stanford 9
2000 Fiesta: (6) Oregon State 41, (11) Notre Dame 9
2000 Rose: (4) Washington 34, (ur) Purdue 24
2001 Fiesta: (4) Oregon 38, (3) Colorado 16
2002 Orange: (4) USC 38, (5) Iowa 17
2003 Rose: (3) USC 28, (4) Michigan 14*
2004 Orange (NCG): (1) USC 55, (2) Oklahoma 19
2005 Rose (NCG): (2) Texas 41, (1) USC 38
2006 Rose: (5) USC 32, (3) Michigan 18
2007 Rose: (7) USC 49, (13) Illinois 17
2008 Rose: (5) USC 38, (8) Penn State 24
2009 Rose: (8) Ohio State 26, (7) Oregon 16
2010 NCG: (1) Auburn 22, (2) Oregon 19
2010 Orange: (4) Stanford 40, (13) Virginia Tech 14
2011 Rose: (5) Oregon 45, (10) Wisconsin 38
2011 Fiesta: (3) Oklahoma State 41, (4) Stanford 38 (OT)

Overall Record: 11-6
National Championships: 1-2*

* - USC earned a share of the 2003 National Championship

The History of the Pac-12:

Special thanks to Wikipedia.com for the above image. Please help keep Wikipedia free for all by donating here.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

More Conference Alignment and Playoff Content:

College Football Playoff: Did the BCS Really Get It Wrong?
Debate: What is the Biggest Unanswered Question Left In the College Football Playoff?

Debate: Did College Football Get It Right With A Four-Team Playoff?

Debate: How Should A Selection Committee Be Used?

Teaser:
<p> The History of Pac-12 Conference Realignment</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 05:00
Path: /college-football/history-big-east-conference-realignment
Body:

College football expansion has taken over the hearts and minds of college football junkies everywhere.

The sky is falling, rivalries are dead and the future of college football is in great peril. I am here to tell you that this just simply isn’t the case. Conference realignment has been taking place for more than a century and it won’t stop anytime soon. Teams have been switching leagues, conferences have been created out of thin air and college football has powered through all the criticism and into the playoff era.

So just in case you don’t remember the days of Georgia Tech winning SEC titles or Grinnell College's 10-year stint in the Big 8, Athlon is here to show you conference realignment isn’t a new phenomenon.

The History of Big East Conference Realignment
The History of SEC Realingment

The History of Big 12 Realignment

The Big East Conference Commissioners:

Dave Gavitt, 1979-1990
Mike Tranghese, 1990-2009
John Marinatto, 2009-2012
Joseph Bailey (interim), Present

The Big East Conference Timeline:

1979: The Big East Conference was originally a league designed as a basketball conglomerate. The northeast was, and still is, a hoops hotbed for talent, fans and NCAA championships. The league started with Boston College, UConn, Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Syracuse as its members. Rutgers and Holy Cross were also invited to join but declined.

1980: Villanova accepted an invitation one year later.

1982: Pittsburgh was asked to join the Big East in its third year of existence. That same year, Penn State requested entrance to the league, but the league members voted against accepting the Nittany Lions. What do you think the Big East would look like today had PSU been allowed to join back in 1982? For the record, Penn State won two national championships in football: 1982 and 1986. The entire dynamic of this league’s existence can be traced back to that one decision made in 1982 when Penn State was denied admission.

1991: The Big East (finally) decides to embrace football and adds major football programs Miami, Rutgers, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Temple to the group and takes part in its first Big East football season. One year earlier, Penn State had joined the Big Ten and two years later their athletics programs began Big Ten competition (1993).

1995: Notre Dame’s Olymipic sports join the Big East. Irish football remains Independent.

2001: The Miami Hurricanes win the Big East's first and only BCS-era National Championship with what many believe to be the best college team ever assembled. Miami would go on to lose in the BCS title game the following year and has yet to return to the championship game since.

2004: Miami and Virginia Tech begin the demise of the Big East as a football power conference by bolting for the ACC. Temple is also kicked out of the league as well.

2005: Boston College follows the Hurricanes and the Hokies to the ACC. To combat the major losses, Mike Tranghese counters by adding Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida in all sports and DePaul and Marquette in all sports expect football.

2012: West Virginia, and what would have been TCU, both decide through a very public and ugly divorce to join the Big 12. The Big East scrambles to fill it’s schedule by re-inviting the Owls of Temple — who instantly accept the invitation for football only. TCU had previously accepted an invitation to join the Big East from the Mountain West but changed its mind when the Big 12 extended its own invitation to the Horned Frogs. TCU never played a game of any kind as a Big East institution.

2013: Houston, SMU, UCF, Memphis, Boise State and San Diego State are scheduled to join the league. Boise State and San Diego State are still waffling and may never play a game in the Big East. Fans of both the Big East and each school are still sitting on pins and needles about their respective futures. The rest of Temple’s athletic programs will also officially join the league as well.

2014: Unless legal recourse allows Pitt and Syracuse to leave earlier, the Panthers and Orange are slated to join the ACC in all sports. They would be the fourth and fifth former Big East members to join the ACC.

2015: Navy will become a football only member of the Big East.

Big East BCS Bowl History

Notes: Year is representative of the fall football season, not the actual date of the bowl
(#) = final national BCS ranking

1998 Orange: (8) Florida 31, (15) Syracuse 10
1999 Sugar (National Championship): (1) Florida State 46, (2) Virginia Tech 29
2000 Sugar: (3) Miami 37, (7) Florida 20
2001 Rose (National Championship): (1) Miami 37, (2) Nebraska 14
2002 Fiesta (National Championship): (2) Ohio State 31, (1) Miami 24 (2OT)
2003 Orange: (9) Miami 16, (7) Florida State 14
2004 Fiesta: (6) Utah 35, (21) Pitt 7
2005 Sugar: (11) West Virginia 38, (7) Georgia 35
2006 Orange: (6) Louisville 24, (14) Wake Forest 13
2007 Fiesta: (9) West Virginia 48, (4) Oklahoma 28
2008 Orange: (19) Virginia Tech 20, (12) Cincinnati 7
2009 Sugar: (5) Florida 51, (3) Cincinnati 24
2010 Fiesta: (7) Oklahoma 48, (UR) UConn 20
2011 Orange: (23) West Virginia 70, (15) Clemson 33

Overall Record: 7-7
National Championships: 1-2

The History of the Big East Conference:

Special thanks to Wikipedia.com for the above image. Please help keep Wikipedia free for all by donating here.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

More Conference Alignment and Playoff Content:

College Football Playoff: Did the BCS Really Get It Wrong?
Debate: What is the Biggest Unanswered Question Left In the College Football Playoff?

Debate: Did College Football Get It Right With A Four-Team Playoff?

Debate: How Should A Selection Committee Be Used?

Teaser:
<p> The History of Big East Conference Realignment</p>
Post date: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-history-sec-realignment
Body:

College football expansion has taken over the hearts and minds of college football junkies everywhere.

The sky is falling, rivalries are dead and the future of college football is in great peril. I am here to tell you that this just simply isn’t the case. Conference realignment has been taking place for more than a century and it won’t stop anytime soon. Teams have been switching leagues, conferences have been created out of thin air and college football has powered through all the criticism and into the playoff era.

So just in case you don’t remember the days of Georgia Tech winning SEC titles or Grinnell College's 10-year stint in the Big 8, Athlon is here to show you conference realignment isn’t a new phenomenon.

The History of Big East Conference Realignment
The History of SEC Realingment
The History of Big 12 Realignment

The SEC Commissioners:

Martin S. Conner, 1940-46
N.W. Dougherty (acting), 1947-48
Bernie Moore, 1948-66
A.M. “Tonto” Coleman, 1966-72
H. Boyd McWhorter, 1972-86
Harvey W. Schiller, 1986-89
Mark Womack (acting), 1988-89
Roy F. Kramer, 1990-2002
Mike Slive, 2002-Present

The SEC Timeline:

December 8, 1932: Thirteen universities located in and around the Southeastern United States decided to break from the Southern Conference to create the Southeastern Conference. At the time, the SoCon was a 23-team massive conglomerate that included major football powers like North Carolina, Clemson, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and NC State as well as the founding members of the SEC. The thirteen founding members of the SEC were Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tulane, and Vanderbilt.

1940: The University of the South, otherwise known as Sewanee, lost all 37 SEC games it played and the Tigers were shutout in 26 of those contests. Its overall SEC point differential was 1,163 to 84 in eight years of football. Interestingly enough, Sewanee will also change conferences this month when it leaves the D-III Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference to form the new D-III Southern Athletic Association.

1964: Georgia Tech departs from the SEC to become a founding member of the Metro Conference, a league that eventually became part of the modern Conference USA. In 1978, Tech became a founding member of the ACC. While in the SEC, the Yellow Jackets won five SEC championships (1939, 1943, 1944, 1951, 1952) and the 1952 National Championship. Tech has two more SEC titles than Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Arkansas and South Carolina combined. Its next conference title wouldn’t come until 1990.

1966: Tulane decides to leave the SEC to become a member of the Metro Conference along with Georgia Tech. While the Yellow Jackets bounced for the greener pastures of the ACC when it was founded in the late '70s, the Green Wave eventually became a founding member of C-USA when the Metro and Great Midwest Conference merged in 1995. Tulane, too, has as many SEC titles (3) as Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Arkansas and South Carolina combined.

1991: In an unprecedented move by conference commissioner Roy Kramer and the SEC, a football conference for the first time ever would play a conference championship game pitting the winner of two divisions in a neutral site showdown for supremacy. This, of course, came along with the addition of Arkansas and South Carolina to the league. Both the Razorbacks and Gamecocks instantly became the furthest outliers in the league. Geographically, Arkansas was the westernmost campus while Columbia was the easternmost. The Hogs have played in three SEC title games, losing by a combined score of 102-34. South Carolina took 19 years before it made it to its first SEC title game and it lost 56-17 to the eventual national champion Auburn Tigers in 2010.

1992: The first SEC title game occured following the 1992 season, when No. 2 Alabama defeated Florida and earned a trip to the Sugar Bowl to face an undefeated No. 1 Miami Hurricanes squad. The Crimson Tide crushed the heavily favored Canes, debunking the theory that the SEC would struggle to compete for national titles in its post-expansion two-division era.

2012: After a period of astronomical growth, and on the heels of Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC expansion, Mike Slive carefully selected Texas A&M and Missouri to expand the SEC further into the Heartland. As of July 1, 2012, both institutions are fully functioning officially members of the SEC. Both combined for one Big 12 championship in the 16-year history of the league (Texas A&M, 1998)

SEC BCS Bowl History

Notes: Year is representative of the fall football season, not the actual date of the bowl
(#) = final national BCS ranking

1998 Fiesta (National Championship): (1) Tennessee 23, (2) Florida State 16
1998 Orange: (8) Florida 31, (15) Syracuse 10
1999 Fiesta: (3) Nebraska 31, (5) Tennessee 21
1999 Orange: (8) Michigan 35, (4) Alabama 34
2000 Sugar: (3) Miami 37, (7) Florida 20
2001 Sugar: (13) LSU 47, (8) Illinois 34
2001 Orange: (5) Florida 56, (10) Maryland 23
2002 Sugar: (3) Georgia 26, (14) Florida State 13
2003 Sugar (National Championship): (2) LSU 21, (1) Oklahoma 14
2004 Sugar: (3) Auburn 16, (8) Virginia Tech 13
2005 Sugar: (11) West Virginia 28, (7) Georgia 35
2006 Sugar: (4) LSU 41, (11) Notre Dame 14
2006 NCG: (2) Florida 41, (1) Ohio State 14
2007 Sugar: (5) Georgia 41, (10) Hawaii 10
2007 NCG: (2) LSU 38, (1) Ohio State 24
2008 Sugar: (6) Utah 31, (4) Alabama 17
2008 NCG: (2) Florida 24, (1) Oklahoma 14
2009 Sugar: (5) Florida 51, (3) Cincinnati 24
2009 NCG: (1) Alabama 37, (2) Texas 21
2010 Sugar: (6) Ohio State 31, (8) Arkansas 26
2010 NCG: (1) Auburn 22, (2) Oregon 19
2011 NCG: (2) Alabama 21, (1) LSU 0

Overall Record: 16-7
National Championships: 8-1

The History of the SEC:

Special thanks to Wikipedia.com for the above image. Please help keep Wikipedia free for all by donating here.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

More Conference Alignment and Playoff Content:

College Football Playoff: Did the BCS Really Get It Wrong?
Debate: What is the Biggest Unanswered Question Left In the College Football Playoff?

Debate: Did College Football Get It Right With A Four-Team Playoff?

Debate: How Should A Selection Committee Be Used?

Teaser:
<p> The History of SEC Realignment</p>
Post date: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-history-big-12-realignment
Body:

College football expansion has taken over the hearts and minds of college football junkies everywhere.

The sky is falling, rivalries are dead and the future of college football is in great peril. I am here to tell you that this just simply isn’t the case. Conference realignment has been taking place for more than a century and it won’t stop anytime soon. Teams have been switching leagues, conferences have been created out of thin air and college football has powered through all the criticism and into the playoff era.

So just in case you don’t remember the days of Georgia Tech winning SEC titles or Grinnell College's one-year stint in the Big 8, Athlon is here to show you conference realignment isn’t a new phenomenon.

The History of Big East Conference Realignment
The History of SEC Realingment
The History of Big 12 Realignment

The Big 12 Conference Commissioners:

Charles Martin Dobbs, 1994-15 (development)
Steven J. Hatchell, 1995-98
Dave Martin (interim), 1998
Kevin Weiberg, 1998-2007
Dan Beebe, 2007-11
Chuck Neinas, 2011-12
Bob Bowlsby, Present

The Big 12 Conference Timeline:

In order to track the development and creation of the Big 12, one must understand how it was birthed in 1996. The best of the Southwest Conference (SWC) and Big 8 were essentially combined into the Big 12. That is where the story begins (try to keep up):

1907: The Big 8 is originally created using the name Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MVIAA). The founding members were Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Washington-St. Louis and Iowa.

1908: Iowa State and Drake were both added to the MVIAA.

1911: Iowa departed as it had been a joint member of both the Big Ten and MVIAA.

1913: Kansas State is invited and accepts an invitation to the MVIAA.

1915: The Southwest Conference is founded by Arkansas, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma A&M, Texas, Texas A&M, Rice and Southwestern.

1916: Southwestern drops out of the SWC after only one year.

1918: Nebraska departs the MVIAA and plays two seasons as an independent. Meanwhile, SMU joins the SWC.

1919: Oklahoma and Saint Louis University both apply for membership in the league but are denied admission “due to deficient management of their athletic programs.” Instead, Grinnell College is used to replace the Cornhuskers.

1920: After one year, the MVIAA decides that maybe Oklahoma is a good fit and allows the Sooners to join the conference, leaving the Southwest Conference behind. Phillips University decides to join the Southwestern Conference — which lasted only one year.

1921: Nebraska comes back to the league after a two-year hiatus.

1923: TCU joins the SWC.

1925: Oklahoma State, then called Oklahoma A&M, switches from the SWC to the MVIAA

1928: A pivotal break amongst the bigger and smaller schools leads to the origins of the Big 8. Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas State and Iowa State depart the MVIAA to form what was then commonly referred to as the Big 6 Conference. Meanwhile, Drake, Grinnell, Oklahoma A&M and Washington (STL) left to form the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC).

1947: After 20 years of relative stability (and arguing with the MVC), Colorado is added to the Big 6 Conference — which informally becomes the Big 7 Conference.

1957: Oklahoma A&M, now named the more recognizable Oklahoma State, rejoins its larger brethren and the MVIAA becomes known as the Big Eight.

1958: Texas Technological College, better know today as Texas Tech University, officially starts competing in SWC athletics having been admitted to the league two years earlier.

1964: The Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association officially changes its name to the Big Eight Confernece. Four years later it will enter into an agreement with the Orange Bowl.

1976: The Houston Couagars football team, having being admitted to the league in 1971, begins competition in the Southwestern Conference. It wins the SWC championship in its first year.

1991: Arkansas leaves for the SEC after seeing the writing on the wall concerning the creation of a Texas-centered power conference in which the Razorbacks might have been left out (a la TCU, SMU, Houston, Rice, etc).

1996: The Big 12 is formed when the best of the SWC (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor) and is joined with the Big 8. The nation’s second power conference championship game is formed four years after the SEC’s experiment was a huge success.

2011: Nebraska leaves for the Big Ten while Colorado leaves for the Pac-12 as all parties in the Big 12 (minus Texas and Oklahoma) are upset with the revenue sharing model.

2012: Missouri and Texas A&M leave for the SEC while TCU and West Virginia leave the Big East for the Big 12.

Big 12 Conference BCS Bowl History

Notes: Year is representative of the fall football season, not the actual date of the bowl
(#) = final national BCS ranking

1998 Sugar: (4) Ohio State 24, (6) Texas A&M 14
1999 Fiesta: (3) Nebraska 31, (5) Tennessee 21
2000 Orange (NCG): (1) Oklahoma 13, (2) Florida State 2
2001 Fiesta: (4) Oregon 38, (3) Colorado 16
2001 Rose (NCG): (1) Miami 37, (2) Nebraska 14
2002 Rose: (7) Oklahoma 34, (6) Washington State 14
2003 Sugar (NCG): (2) LSU 21, (1) Oklahoma 14
2003 Fiesta: (5) Ohio State 35, (10) Kansas State 28
2004 Orange (NCG): (1) USC 55, (2) Oklahoma 19
2004 Rose: (4) Texas 38, (13) Michigan 37
2005 Rose (NCG): (2) Texas 41, (1) USC 38
2006 Fiesta: (8) Boise State 43, (10) Oklahoma 42 (OT)
2007 Fiesta: (9) West Virginia 48, (4) Oklahoma 28
2007 Orange: (8) Kansas 24, (3) Virginia Tech 21
2008 Fiesta: (3) Texas 24, (10) Ohio State 21
2008 NCG: (2) Florida 24, (1) Oklahoma 14
2009 NCG: (1) Alabama 37, (2) Texas 21
2010 Fiesta: (7) Oklahoma 48, (UR) UConn 20
2011 Fiesta: (3) Oklahoma State 41, (4) Stanford 38 (OT)

Overall Record: 9-10
National Championships: 2-5

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

More Conference Alignment and Playoff Content:

College Football Playoff: Did the BCS Really Get It Wrong?
Debate: What is the Biggest Unanswered Question Left In the College Football Playoff?

Debate: Did College Football Get It Right With A Four-Team Playoff?

Debate: How Should A Selection Committee Be Used?

Teaser:
<p> College Football: The History of Big 12 Realignment</p>
Post date: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/ranking-nfls-best-back-quarterbacks
Body:

Having a quality, dependable back-up quarterback is a must for any NFL team. Last year was a perfect example as Chicago, Houston and Oakland each lost their starters at key junctures of the season, while a back-up took over the reins in Denver and led the Broncos to the second round of the playoffs. 

Ranking them can be just as difficult as finding a good one. There are many different ways to look at the back-up. First, raw upside and talent. Names like Tannehill, Locker and Kaepernick have starting potential but are inexperienced. Second, consistent and dependable veteran leadership. This generally comes behind an established star as simply a back-up plan for an injury-prone vet — e.g., Tony Romo, Jay Cutler or Matt Hasselbeck. Finally, the change of pace player who can bring a totally different game plan to an offense — aka Tim Tebow.

Those with the best combination of the three are truly the best clipboard holders in the NFL:

1. Jake Locker, Tennessee (Games Started: 0, Games Played: 5)
The first-round pick’s natural ability won’t keep him on the bench too long. He is extremely talented and will be ready to take over for Matt Hasselbeck in short order — whether the veteran struggles or not. He has a big arm, is a pure competitor and natural leader with above average athletic ability. The big knock has always been accuracy with Locker (53.9 percent passer at Washington), but the flashes of talent he showed against the Falcons last fall has Titans fans excited about the future. There are not too many better options to learn from than the consummate professional Hasselbeck.

2. T.J. Yates, Houston (GS: 5, GP: 6)
The North Carolina product showed in just a handful of games that he likely has what it takes to one day start in the NFL. While Yates is never likely to become a star, he did post a tidy 80.7 QB rating by completing 61.2 percent of his passes and going 2-3 as the starter in place of an injured Matt Schaub. Additionally, he completed 55.0 percent of his passes against the Bengals in the Texans' first-ever playoff win without tossing an interception. How many names on this list won a playoff game as a rookie starter?

3. Shaun Hill, Detroit (GS: 26, GP: 32)
While Hill has no long-term upside like a Locker or Yates, the Maryland product has six years of NFL experience on his resume. This, of course, includes an effective 10-game run in place of Matthew Stafford in 2010. He threw for 244.2 yards per game with 16 TD and 12 INT. He is 13-13 all-time as an NFL starter for bad 49ers and Lions teams. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder is as safe and steady a back-up as there is in the NFL today.

4. Jason Campbell, Chicago (GS: 70, GP: 71)
Few players have as much upside and starting experience on this list as Campbell. He was a first round pick and led an unbeaten Auburn team back in 2004. Yet, he has dealt with new coordinator after new coordinator for much of his career. He has a career TD:INT ratio of 74:50 and is 31-39 as a starter for putrid NFL teams in Washington and Oakland. He will never live up to his draft status, but at age 30, all Campbell needs is a chance and some stability.

5. Kyle Orton, Dallas (GS: 69, GP: 71)
As only a rookie, Orton led the Bears to a 10-5 record before not playing a game on the 2006 Super Bowl team. He then got another chance to start in 2008, where he went 9-6. He finished with an admirable 21-12 record as the Bears' signal caller. He then played three years in Denver and had better numbers across the board as a Bronco than anywhere else. Yet, he lost games at a much higher rate, going 12-21 in an Orange Crush uniform. He is 35-34 all-time and has a career passer rating of 79.4. Dallas could do much worse than the 29-year old Neck Beard.

6. Chad Henne, Jacksonville (GS: 31, GP: 36)
The strong-armed former Dolphin has as much upside as any name on this list. He showed marked improvement from year one as the starter in 2009 (2,878 yards, 12 TD, 60.8 percent) to his second year under center (3,301 yards, 15 TD, 61.4 percent). And, in fact, was passing at his highest career rating (79.0) last year through four games when a non-throwing shoulder separation effectively ended his Dolphins career. But he is only 26 years old, has a huge arm and could easily take over for Blaine Gabbert should the second-year player struggle early on.

7. Tim Tebow, NY Jets (GS: 14, GP: 23)
Tebow’s value to a football team lies much more in his leadership and work ethic than ever throwing a football. He is a consummate professional who will be as prepared as he possibly can be for anything his coach asks him to do. However, his ability to accurately complete passes down the field against NFL defenses on a regular basis is highly questionable. You simply cannot complete 46.5 percent of passes and keep the starting job. He is a great change of pace player and is a tremendous member of any locker room. His value may end there however.

8. John Skelton, Arizona (GS: 11, GP: 13)
Stepping in for Kevin Kolb a year ago, the 24-year-old passer went 5-2 as the starter. The Fordham grad has a huge frame (6-5, 244) and averaged nearly 240 yards per game as the starter last year. He needs to work on being more efficient and protecting the football, but at his age and skillset, Skelton still has plenty of potential.

9. Vince Young, Buffalo (GS: 50, GP: 61)
Young has never been committed to being a professional athlete. He has loads of ability and has proven to be a winner, as his 31-19 starting record would indicate. And it is virtually impossible to get images of the greatest college football player I’ve ever seen out of my mind. Yet, there are plenty of other not-so-flattering off the field images too. Until Young can prove he is willing to dedicate himself to his craft, he will be relegated to the bench.

10. Ryan Mallett, New England (GP: 0, GS: 0)
Just because he has never taken a snap in the NFL doesn’t mean that the mammoth quarterback won’t be a big success. He has a massive frame, an arm that compares to Matthew Stafford’s and is learning under the most successful QB-Head Coach duo of this generation. He may be behind Brian Hoyer on the 2012 depth chart, but he could easily find himself as trade bait and/or the heir apparent in a couple of years.

11. Rex Grossman, Washington
Not an NFL starter but showed flashes with 3,151 yards and 16 TDs last year.

12. David Garrard, Miami
Has started 76 games and compiled more than 16,000 yards passing while accounting for 106 total TDs.

13. Brian Hoyer, New England
Is technically No. 2 behind Brady and has never started. Dependable but limited upside.

14. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco
Extremely productive athlete in college but attempted only five passes in his rookie year.

15. Ryan Tannehill, Miami
Loads of athleticism and upside but is a rookie who was a wide receiver two years ago.

16. Chris Redman, Atlanta
Only has 12 career starts but has been in Falcons system for four full seasons.

17. Drew Stanton, Indianapolis
Has some upside and he should get some looks with a rookie starter ahead of him.

18. Trent Edwards, Philadelphia
Has started 33 games at the NFL level (14-19). No replacement for experience.

19. Derek Anderson, Carolina
Has 43 career starts but is inaccurate and turns the ball over too much to start.

20. Colt McCoy, Cleveland
Has starting experience and is a hard-working and mature member of the team.

21. Byron Leftwich, Pittsburgh
22. Bruce Gradkowski, Cincinnati
23. Chase Daniel, New Orleans
24. Brock Osweiler, Denver
25. Tyrod Taylor, Baltimore
26. Tavaris Jackson, Seattle
27. Joe Webb, Minnesota
28. Charlie Whitehurst, San Diego
29. Graham Harrell, Green Bay
30. Kellen Clemens, St. Louis
31. Matt Leinart, Oakland
32. Brady Quinn, Kansas City


- By Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related: Ranking the NFL's 2012 Starting Quarterbacks

Teaser:
<p> Ranking The NFL's Best Back-Up Quarterbacks</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-playoff-did-the-bcs-get-it-wrong
Body:

College football fans finally have what they — we — have all been craving for decades. The playoff era of the greatest sport on the planet is upon us.

And fans are already concerned with selection committees, bowl sites, future playoff expansion and TV revenue. But don’t miss the forest for the trees. Take a second to sit back and truly embrace the fact that we now have a playoff system in college football. And while an eight-team playoff could certainly be coming down the pike soon, the four-team bracket is the only way a champion should be crowned.

Yet, the BCS, for all of its criticism, was a dramatic improvement on the previous system. And in reality, few times did the BCS get it wrong.

Where Did The BCS Get It Wrong?

Ideally, a selection committee will be allowed to use the eyeball test to overcome some obvious discrepancies. In the 14-year history of the BCS, only three times did the BCS get it wrong. Although Michigan fans in 2006 and Oklahoma State/Stanford fans last year have plenty to scream about, most would agree that the BCS got the correct match-up in the national championship game in those two seasons. So the BCS went 11-3 in 14 years. Again, it wasn’t perfect, but it was better than the three split national titles and controversial unbeaten 1994 Penn State team that college football fans experienced the eight years prior to the advent of the Bowl Championship Series.

2004 Auburn Tigers (13-0)
This team was loaded with NFL talent and absolutely deserved a chance to compete for the national title. War Eagle beat five top-15 teams, including four in the top 10 en route to an unbeaten season. We don’t know that Auburn would have beaten Oklahoma or USC, but I know how I would have picked those games. I got the Tigers over the Sooners and the Trojans over the Tigers. The right match-up, in hindsight, would have been USC-Auburn. The 55-19 drubbing of the Sooners has since been vacated by the Men of Troy, only furthering the idea that Auburn should have been involved somehow. A playoff would have fixed this entire quagmire.

2003 USC Trojans (12-1)
Oklahoma played only three ranked opponents in 2003 but defeated all comers in impressive fashion. But a 35-7 destruction at the hands of Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game makes it hard to think that the No. 1 team in both polls, USC, shouldn’t have gotten a shot at the eventual one-loss champion LSU Tigers. Who knows which one-loss team was the best? The result was the last split national title in the college game. A playoff would have obviously fixed this situation as well.

1998 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)
The Buckeyes were the No. 1 team in the nation for the first nine weeks of the year before a turnover-filled four-point loss to Michigan State derailed the OSU national title train. This team was as talented as Tennessee and was clearly a better football team than Florida State — who faced the Vols in the first-ever BCS title game. This Buckeyes team pounded five ranked opponents and finished fourth in the final BCS standings. An Ohio State-Tennessee match-up would have been a much more fitting way to end the season instead of Marcus Outzen flailing against a stacked Vols defense.

Certainly, the 2001 championship game that featured a Nebraska team that allowed 62 points to No. 3 Colorado in the season-ending loss gets plenty of scrutiny. However, who deserved to be in that game over Nebraska? Tennessee should have played in the game but was beaten in the SEC championship game by LSU. Oregon, Colorado and Florida could make cases, albeit very weak ones, for a bid. The truth of the matter was that the Miami Hurricanes were going to slaughter anyone it played. It might have been the greatest football team ever assembled. And frankly, no team had a strong case to be on the same field as Miami that night in Pasadena.

Did the BCS really squeeze out the Mid-Majors?

The little guy has been screaming about being left out of the national title picture for decades and many pointed fingers at the BCS system. Thirteen teams have gone undefeated in the BCS era and didn’t play for the BCS National Championship game. So the ill-suited BCS completely failed on 13 different occasions to acknowledge the tremendous accomplishments of a few, right? Not so. Of those 13 undefeated teams, only four landed in the top four of the BCS standings at the year’s end. I’ve documented the 2004 Auburn Tigers, but only Cincinnati (2009), TCU (2009) and TCU again (2010) would have landed in a "Football Four" playoff system.

Both the 2009 teams went on to lose in BCS bowl games, and in the Bearcats case, were demolished. That leaves TCU in 2010, who finished unbeaten after defeating a powerful Wisconsin Badgers team in the Rose Bowl, and Auburn in 2004 who had a rightful claim to some piece of the national championship. So twice, not 13 times, did the BCS “screw a team out of a chance at a title.” Strangely enough, Boise State has gone undefeated four times since 2004 and the highest it has ever finished in the BCS standings was sixth in 2009.

So the argument that the new playoff format will allow for the little guy to compete for a title is technically true — but only twice would a "mid-major" have landed in the top four. That means 54 of the potential 56 playoff teams during the BCS era would have been the “big boys” of college football.

Teams that finished the regular season unbeaten and did not play for the national title:

  • Tulane, 1998 (Final BCS Standing: 10th)
  • Marshall, 1999 (12th)
  • Auburn, 2004 (3rd)
  • Utah, 2004 (6th)
  • Boise State, 2004 (9th)
  • Boise State, 2006 (8th)
  • Hawaii, 2007 (10th)
  • Utah, 2008 (6th)
  • Boise State, 2008 (9th)
  • Cincinnati, 2009 (3rd)
  • TCU, 2009 (4th)
  • Boise State, 2009 (6th)
  • TCU, 2010 (3rd)

The Separation of Haves and Have-Nots

Initially, the BCS only released a 15-team ranking (until 2003). In the 14-year history of the series, only nine different mid-major programs finished in the Top 15 of the BCS. Even worse, only five mid-major programs have ever finished in the Top 10 of the final BCS standings: Boise State, TCU, Utah, Tulane and Hawaii. The other four top-15 finishes were Marshall (12th, 1999), Miami-Ohio (11th, 2003), BYU (14th, 2009) and Nevada (15th, 2010). Only twice, TCU in '09 and '10, did a mid-major finish in the top four. Clearly, the BCS wasn’t looking out for the little guy.

Meanwhile, 14 current “BCS conference” teams, not counting Temple, have failed to finish in the top 15 of the BCS. The SEC and Big East lead the way with four programs each who have never sniffed an elite final ranking. Some names are obvious — Vanderbilt, Indiana, Duke — and some are downright startling — North Carolina, Pitt, NC State. Interestingly, Iowa State has never been ranked at any point of any season in the BCS and the Pac-12 is the only league to have gotten every member into the Top 15 at season's end.

BCS Conference Teams That Have Never Finished in the BCS Top 15:

SEC (4): Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
Big East (4): UConn, Pitt, Rutgers, South Florida
ACC (3): Duke, North Carolina, NC State
Big Ten (2): Indiana, Northwestern
Big 12 (1): Iowa State
Pac-12: None

Of the possible 210 slots available in the top 15 of the BCS’ history, 192 of them were filled by power conference teams while only 18 times has a mid-major team landed in that final top 15. In fact, the NC States and Pitts of the world are the type of programs that will be the real winners in the new playoff scheme. The bottom halves of the power leagues are the schools who now have an open door to the national title party. Not the New Mexico or Southern Miss.

The BCS certainly wasn’t perfect but it was a vast improvement on the previous system, and frankly, got it right most of the time. That said, a playoff system is a vast improvement on the BCS and won’t be allowed to get it wrong. Yes, the fifth team will complain about being left out. No, the selection committee isn’t perfect. Yes, it could expand to eight teams in the future due to greedy TV executives. No, the bowls shouldn’t be shoe-horned into the playoff structure. Yes, the little guy has a marginally better shot at a title. No, it won’t win one.

But let’s not forget the key to this whole BCS mess: Four teams are now playing for the national championship on the field.

And the most important piece of the college football machine is the biggest winner of all.

The fans.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related: Key Questions For College Football's New Playoff
Related: What Should the Selection Committee Look Like?
Related: Athlon's Conference Realignment Draft

Teaser:
<p> College Football Playoff: Did The BCS Really Get It Wrong</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 05:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/ranking-nfls-starting-quarterbacks-2012
Body:

Ranking NFL quarterbacks is difficult and the criterion endless.

Montana versus Johnny-U versus Elway versus Favre? Is winning championships all that matters? What about statistical production and re-writing the record books? What about pure, raw, God-given athletic ability (looking at you Elway)? Or are intangibles and leadership ability more important?

To truly and objectively rank quarterbacks all of the above must be used to evaluate a player. I have attempted to rank all 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL season for the 2012 year. This means, I don’t get a 22-year-old Peyton Manning or a 32-year-old Cam Newton.

So I put my general manager's hat on and asked this question:

If my goal is to win the Lombardi Trophy in 2012, who do I want running my offense?

Note: Age is at time of start of 2012 season

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (Age: 28, Record: 41-21)
2011 Stats: 4,643 yards, 45 TD, 6 INT, 257 rush yards, 3 TD

There is little debate on who is the best quarterback on the planet right now. Rodgers came close to multiple single-season NFL records in 2011 until sitting out the final game of the year. Nevertheless, his 122.5 QB rating broke an NFL record and his career 104.1 QB rating is the highest in the history of the sport. He has the arm strength, the athleticism, the leadership, the championship ring and is only 28 years old.

2. Tom Brady, New England (Age: 35, Record: 124-35)
2011 Stats: 5,235 yards, 39 TD, 12 INT, 109 rush yards, 3 TD

The starting record is staggering as Mr. GQ enters his 13th NFL season. He has led the Patriots to five Super Bowls, an undefeated regular season and has turned plenty of also-ran wide receivers into Super Bowl MVPs. He would have shattered Dan Marino’s single-season passing yards record last fall had it not been for Drew Brees, and is the only QB to ever throw 50 touchdowns in a season (2007). Needless to say, Brady still has what it takes to be the best despite turning 35 in August.

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans (Age: 33, Record: 92-61)
2011 Stats: 5,476 yards, 46 TD, 14 INT, 86 rush yards, TD

His yardage total from last year speaks for itself. The Austin (Texas) Westlake product has led the NFL in completion percentage three years running and the has led the league in yards and touchdowns three times each. He has the championship ring and leadership skills to overcome his overall lack of raw physical skills (he is listed generously at 6-foot).

4. Eli Manning, New York Giants (Age: 31, Record: 69-50)
2011 Stats: 4,933 yards, 29 TD, 16 INT, 15 rush yards, TD

He has not been doing it as long or at high a level as his older brother, but Eli is the defending Super Bowl champion – for a second time. He set a career high in yards last fall by nearly 1,000 yards and has proven to be as clutch as any player in the playoffs. When he finally learns to cut down on his interceptions, he could easily find himself atop this list. Additionally, he hasn’t missed a start since taking over as the Giants starter in Week 10 of 2004 — that is 119 straight regular-season starts if you are counting at home.

5. Peyton Manning, Denver (Age: 36, Record: 141-67)
2011 Stats: None

If not for four (that we know of) neck surgeries and a new area code, the elder Manning would be no lower than No. 2 on this list. But there are still question marks surrounding No. 18’s ability to return to his Hall of Fame effectiveness. If he returns to full health, even at 36 years old, he is securely in the Top 3.

6. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (Age: 30, Record: 80-33)
2011 Stats: 4,077 yards, 21 TD, 14 INT, 70 rush yards

Big Ben is an interesting case study as there feels like a clear drop-off after the Top 5. Statistically, he has never been one of the league’s elite passers, topping 20 touchdowns only three times with only one season of at least 30 scoring strikes. He has also missed five games over the last three years and has only started all 16 games in a year one time (2008). That said, he also is as tough a customer as there is in the game today and has two World Championships to prove it. Oh yeah, he also has won more than 70 percent of his games to this point.

7. Matthew Stafford, Detroit (Age: 24, Record: 13-16)
2011 Stats: 5,038 yards, 41 TD, 16 INT, 78 rush yards

The word projection comes to mind when trying to place Stafford. There are few quarterbacks with as much physical talent as the former Georgia Bulldog and he likely has the biggest arm in the game today. He also has played one full season as a starter — one that saw the Lions make the playoffs for the first time since 1999 and was littered with passing and receiving team records. Health is really the only issue surrounding the Lions passer, as he played only 13 of his first 32 possible games before last year's breakout performance.

8. Tony Romo, Dallas (Age: 32, Record: 47-30)
2011 Stats: 4,184 yards, 31 TD, 10 INT, 46 rush yards, TD

Few players are more scrutinized in football than Romo. But after missing most of the 2010 season, he did his best to lead a team that lacked depth and had changed coaches to within one win of the NFC East crown. He posted his best statistical year last fall and feels like a young 32 — having begun his starting career at age 26 back in 2006. He is a classic overachiever, but is as tough as they come and is a quality leader. He needs to add to his one career playoff win to move up this list, however.

9. Philip Rivers, San Diego (Age: 30, Record: 63-33)
2011 Stats: 4,624 yards, 27 TD, 20 INT, 36 rush yards, TD

The word knucklehead quickly crops up when talking about Mr. Rivers. He constantly runs his mouth and sometimes his temper can get the best of him. But he also produces big numbers — four straight seasons above 4,000 yards — and wins a lot of games — he made the playoffs in each of his first four seasons as the starter. Yet, he has never been able to get his very talented teams into the big game and turned the ball over 25 times last fall. A return to the postseason this fall cements Rivers as one of the league’s top 10 signal callers.

10. Matt Ryan, Atlanta (Age: 27, Record: 43-19)
2011 Stats: 4,177 yards, 29 TD, 12 INT, 84 rush yards, 2 TD

When it comes to the NFL’s best it feels like Ryan is consistently overlooked. But his numbers play on any roster and his win-loss record is pristine. He has never had a losing season and has only missed the postseason once (at 10-6 nonetheless). He has improved his touchdown total four straight seasons (16, 22, 28, 29) and has increased his yards three straight years. He is a consummate professional who quietly accounted for 31 total touchdowns a year ago. Ryan has missed two games in his career and is about to enter his prime.

11. Joe Flacco, Baltimore (Age: 27, Record: 44-20)
2011 Stats: 3,610 yards, 20 TD, 12 INT, 88 rush yards, TD

Indelibly linked with Ryan forever as fellow first-rounders back in 2008, Flacco, too, has been the consummate professional. He has never missed a start in four seasons in the league and is the only quarterback in the NFL to have won a playoff game in each of the last four seasons. He has a huge frame, strong arm and put together one of the league’s best performances a year ago in the memorable 23-20 road win over the Steelers (300 yards, TD, 0 INT). He may never be considered one of the league’s elite, but he is much better than given credit for from the national media and is entering only his fifth season.

12. Matt Schaub, Houston (Age: 32, Record: 32-34)
2011 Stats: 2,479 yards, 15 TD, 6 INT, 9 rush yards, 2 TD (10 games)

When healthy, Schaub has proven to be one of the league’s best, but he has missed at least five games in three of the last five seasons. Unfortunately, he had his team poised for its best showing in franchise history before getting hurt in Week 10 last fall. Schaub should post his third career 4,000-yard season this fall and could get his first-ever postseason start, provided the savvy 6-5, 235-pounder can stay on the field.

13. Jay Cutler, Chicago (Age: 29, Record: 41-37)
2011 Stats: 2,319 yards, 13 TD, 7 INT, 55 rush yards, TD (10 games)

The Vanderbilt grad has taken his share of criticism for his mental maturity and on-the-field decisions. And rightly so. He has never been an extremely efficient player — a career 61.1 percent passer — and tends to turn the ball over — 42 interceptions in his first two years in Chicago. But he also has plenty of raw talent, and, aside from one weird NFC Championship game incident, has proven he can take a beating. Still under 30, Cutler’s legacy hasn’t been written in stone yet, but the next few years will decide where he ranks amongst this generation’s best passers.

14. Michael Vick, Philadelphia (Age: 32, Record: 53-37-1)
2011 Stats: 3,303 yards, 18 TD, 14 INT, 589 rush yards, TD

No one doubts the raw physical talents of Michael Vick. He is the most explosive athlete to ever play the position at the NFL level. And that is what gets him into the most trouble. Vick has played one full season (2006) and has missed seven games over the last two years. He is a career 56.0 percent passer and has topped 20 touchdown passes one time in his career (21, 2010). Overcoming his off-the-field issues is a credit to his work ethic while simultaneously staining his lasting legacy. The next few seasons will determine where Vick ranks in the annals of NFL quarterbacking.

15. Carson Palmer, Oakland (Age: 32, Record: 50-56)
2011 Stats: 2,753 yards, 13 TD, 16 INT, 20 rush yards, TD (9 games)

Not just anyone could walk into Cincinnati and turn the Bengals into a perennial playoff contender but that is essentially what the No. 1 overall pick did in 2003. Cincy lost at least 10 games in five straight seasons before drafting Palmer. By 2005, the Bengals had their first winning season since 1988. In fact, Cincy has three postseason appearances since 1990 and two have come on the strong right arm of Palmer. After a brief six-game hiatus, all he did last year in Oakland (for a lame duck coach) was post his highest yards-per-game total of his career (275.3 ypg). At 32 years old, he still has plenty left in the 6-foot-5, 235-pound tank.

16. Cam Newton, Carolina (Age: 23, Record: 6-10)
2011 Stats: 4,051 yards, 21 TD, 17 INT, 706 rush yards, 14 TD

Newton has a chance to be a special talent long-term. He was a five-star recruit at Florida, a NJCAA Player of the Year and national champ at Blinn College before winning the Heisman Trophy and national championship at Auburn. Clearly, he has been successful at every level. But even a talent like Vick, for example, went from 676 yards and 9 TD in 2010 to 589 yards and one TD rushing in 2011. And the NFL tends to catch-up very quickly with new ideas, talents and skillsets. Newton could be a great player long-term, but he is almost guaranteed to have growing pains in his sophomore campaign.

17. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (Age: 22, Record: None)
2011 Stats: 3,517 yards, 37 TD, 10 INT, 150 rush yards, 2 TD (Stanford)

The best prospect since John Elway has the unenviable task of replacing a legend in Indy. But Luck has what it takes to be an All-Pro quarterback at this level. He is incredibly intelligent, hard-working, athletic and has a huge, accurate arm. In fact, he is nearly a carbon copy of the last great quarterback to come to the NFL from the Bay Area (see No. 1 on this list). If he comes close to the 3,739 yards, 26 TD and 28 INT rookie season line of the last No. 1 overall pick in Indy, Colts fans will be ecstatic.

18. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (Age: 24, Record: 9-7)
2011 Stats: 3,398 yards, 20 TD, 13 INT, 152 rush yards, TD

College football experts have known about how good Dalton has been for years. What he lacks in arm strength he makes up for in pure leadership and will to win. He has adequate size and above average athletic ability, but it is his natural intangibles that make him such a sound signal caller. The arm strength could be an issue in the AFC North come December and January, but Bengals fans will take their chances if it means playoff games — something Dalton delivered for his team for only the third time since 1990.

19. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (Age: 29, Record: 17-31)
2011 Stats: 3,832 yards, 24 TD, 23 INT, 215 rush yards

The Harvard grad set career highs last year in completion percentage, yards, touchdowns, attempts and completions. But the positive growth and development that led to the Bills' 5-2 start last fall crumbled down the stretch. Fitz averaged 248.4 yards per game, threw 14 touchdowns, seven picks and completed at least 68 percent of his passes in five games over that span. His yardage totals dropped and he threw 16 interceptions and only 10 touchdowns in the final nine games of the year. Most importantly, the Bills finished 1-8.

20. Sam Bradford, St. Louis (Age: 24, Record: 8-18)
2011 Stats: 2,164 yards, 6 TD, 6 INT, 26 rush yards (10 games)

It isn’t difficult to see the raw talent Bradford brings to the field. But he also brings a long history of injury concens. The question becomes, is this more of a function of the horrific supporting cast he has had in St. Louis or a brittle frame that has dealt with multiple major surgeries? Only time will tell, but the upside of Bradford is still extremely high. Stafford was hurt more in his first two seasons and produced one of the Lions’ finest passing years in history in Year 3. Will the former Sooner turn into Kurt Warner this fall? Of course not, but he should be dramatically improved in 2012.

21. Robert Griffin III, Washington (Age: 22, Record: None)
2011 Stats: 4,293 yards, 37 TD, 6 INT, 699 rush yards, 10 TD (Baylor)

Griffin III is a special player who is very well suited to be an NFL star. But the comparisons to Cam Newton have to stop. RG3 is much more of a pocket passer who will run a pro-style attack for Mike Shanahan. And his running style is dramatically different as he is four inches shorter, 20 pounds lighter and more explosive than Newton. He is not a bulldozer who will pile up short yardage and goalline carries. I fully expect Griffin III to be in the Top 15 by next year, but not in Year 1.

22. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets (Age: 25, Record: 27-20)
2011 Stats: 3,474 yards, 26 TD, 18 INT, 103 rush yards, 6 TD

Sanchez is one of the most intriguing stories in all of football. He has never had a losing record. He has led his team to two AFC Championship games. He is one of only three quarterbacks who have won a playoff game in at least two of the last three years. He has done something most only dream of when he outplayed Tom Brady on the road in a playoff win over the Patriots. He finished second to only Cam Newton in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback last year. He set career highs in yards, touchdowns, completions and attempts last fall. And he is still only 25. Yet, he might be the most scrutinized signal caller in the league and takes entirely too much blame for a roster loaded with knuckleheads and egomaniacs.

23. Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee (Age: 36, Record: 78-69)
2011 Stats: 3,571 yards, 18 TD, 14 INT, 52 rush yards

The Titans' current starter is about as safe a bet as there is in the league. There is little upside with the aging vet, but he is a dependable leader who makes few mistakes and gives his team a chance to win. He has Super Bowl experience and nearly got the Titans to the playoffs last year. Jake Locker is breathing down his neck and could take the job early in 2012, but Hasselbeck likely gives Tennessee the best chance to win now.

24. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay (Age: 24, Record: 17-23)
2011 Stats: 3,592 yards, 16 TD, 22 INT, 238 rush yards, 4 TD

The massive signal caller regressed as a third-year player and reverted back into the turnover machine he was in college. He threw 34 interceptions and only 44 touchdowns at Kansas State and was even worse last season. Some of that is due to his supporting cast, but Freeman has never protected the football — try 80 INTs over last six years of football and 26 fumbles in three pro seasons — and has never been an overly efficient passer (59.1 percent in college, 60.5 percent in the NFL). He is what he is.

25. Alex Smith, San Francisco (Age: 28, Record: 32-34)
2011 Stats: 3,144 yards, 17 TD, 5 INT, 179 rush yards, 2 TD

Under quarterback whisperer Jim Harbaugh, Smith finally showed something that resembles No. 1 overall talent. While he will obviously never be an NFL star, he was perfectly capable of managing the offense a year ago by protecting the football. It was only his second season of 16 games and he is entering his prime at age 28. Smith could move up this list with another solid campaign in 2012.

26. Matt Flynn, Seattle (Age: 27, Record: 1-1)
2011 Stats: 518 yards, 6 TD, 2 INT, rush TD

The major question marks at starting quarterback begin with Flynn. No player has ever turned one game into more earning potential than Flynn’s 480-yard, 6-TD performance in Week 16 against the Lions last fall. He went toe-to-toe with Stafford and won 45-41. He was a championship quarterback in college and has a Super Bowl ring as well, but his ability to lead a franchise is still relatively unknown.

27. Christian Ponder, Minnesota (Age: 24, Record: 2-8)
2011 Stats: 1,853 yards, 13 TD, 13 INT, 219 rush yards (10 games)

I had my doubts about Ponder’s NFL ability but he was a pleasant surprise last fall for the Vikings. He obviously has much to learn and needs to prove he can stay healthy, but he showed flashes of ability against Carolina, Green Bay and Denver. His upside isn’t as high as Dalton’s or Newton’s, but Ponder could work his way up this list in 2012.

28. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland (Age: 28, Record: None)
2011 Stats: 4,727 yards, 37 TD, 13 INT, rush TD (Oklahoma State)

Few players will ever enter the NFL better prepared to be a professional than Mr. Weeden. He has the frame, the arm strength, the maturity and leadership skills to be successful. And for now, his age (he will turn 29 in October), works in his favor. Should he stick in Cleveland, his age won’t be a factor for another seven or eight years. And Browns fans will take it if it means playoff appearances.

29. Matt Moore, Miami (Age: 28, Record: 13-12)
2011 Stats: 2,497 yards, 16 TD, 9 INT, 65 rush yards, 2 TD

Moore is merely a stop-gap until Ryan Tannehill is ready to enter the starting line-up, but Miami fans could do much worse. One of the more impressive numbers in all of the NFL last year was Moore’s 6-6 record as the starter for Miami. The Fish were 0-4 (and 0-7) before finishing 6-3 down the stretch. There is a chance this stop-gap lasts the entire year and lands a starting spot elsewhere.

30. Kevin Kolb, Arizona (Age: 28, Record: 6-10)
2011 Stats: 1,955 yards, 9 TD, 8 INT, 65 rush yards (9 games)

The injury-prone quarterback from Houston has never started more than nine games in any season as a professional. He is a career 59.4 percent passer and has more career interceptions (22) than touchdowns (20). He has some nasty weapons to use in Arizona, but still has to prove he is an NFL starting quarterback.

31. Matt Cassel, Kansas City (Age: 30, Record: 28-26)
2011 Stats: 1,713 yards, 10 TD, 9 INT, 99 rush yards (9 games)

The story is well-known: Cassel didn’t start a game at USC, sat behind Brady, went 10-5 when called upon in New England and parlayed one year into a big contract. Yet, he is a career 59.0 percent passer, is 18-21 as the Chiefs' starter with 32 interceptions and 22 fumbles over that span and has had major injury issues. Cassel has one more year to prove he is the franchise quarterback in KC

32. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville (Age: 22, Record: 4-10)
2011 Stats: 2,214 yards, 12 TD, 11 INT, 98 rush yards

The former Mizzou star certainly didn’t have much to work with in Jacksonville, but it was hard to watch him compete a year ago. He never truly had the look of an NFL quarterback and the numbers play that out. He completed a staggeringly low 50.8 percent of his passes with less than one touchdown pass per game (he had five games in which he failed to throw a scoring strike). Until he shows dramatic improvement, and gets some help, Gabbert will continue to look like a deer in the NFL headlights.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related: 2012 NFL Training Camp: Quarterback Battles to Watch

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the NFL's Starting Quarterbacks in 2012</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/athlon-sports-mlb-fantasy-closer-grid
Body:

Athlon keeps fantasy GMs up to date with a complete look at MLB's bullpen situations.

Updated June 26, 2012 at 11:30 a.m. CT

Team Closer Setup Watch List
Arizona J.J. Putz David Hernandez Bryan Shaw, Craig Breslow, Brad Zeigler
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Jonny Venters Eric O'Flaherty, Christian Martinez
Baltimore Jim Johnson Pedro Strop Luis Ayala, Kevin Gregg
Boston Alfredo Aceves Vincente Padilla Matt Albers, Mark Melancon, Andrew Bailey (DL)
Chicago (NL) Carlos Marmol Shawn Camp James Russell, Manny Corpas
Chicago (AL) Addison Reed Matt Thornton Jesse Crain, Hector Santiago
Cincinnati Aroldis Chapman Sean Marshall Jose Arredondo, Logan Ondrusek, Nick Masset (DL)
Cleveland Chris Perez Vinnie Pestano Nick Hagadone, Tony Sipp, Rafael Perez (DL)
Colorado Rafael Betancourt Matt Belisle Rex Brothers, Josh Roenicke
Detroit Jose Valverde Joaquin Benoit Phil Coke, Brayan Villareal, Octavio Dotel (DL)
Houston Brett Myers Brandon Lyon David Carpenter, Wilton Lopez (DL)
Kansas City Jonathan Broxton Greg Holland Tim Collins, Aaron Crow
LA Angles Ernesto Frieri Scott Downs Jordan Walden, Jason Isringhausen
LA Dodgers Kenley Jansen Josh Lindblom Ronald Belisario, Javy Guerra (DL)
Miami Heath Bell Steve Cishek Edward Mujica, Randy Choate
Milwaukee John Axford F. Rodriguez Jose Veras, Kameron Loe
Minnesota Glen Perkins* Jared Burton* Alex Burnett, Matt Capps (DL)
New York (NL) Bobby Parnell Jon Rauch Tim Brydak, Miguel Batista, Frank Francisco (DL)
New York (AL) Rafael Soriano David Robertson Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Mariano Rivera (DL)
Oakland Ryan Cook Grant Balfour Brian Fuentes, Jerry Blevins
Philadelphia Jonathan Papelbon Antonio Bastardo Chad Qualls
Pittsburgh Joel Hanrahan Juan Cruz Jason Grilli, Chris Resop
St. Louis Jason Motte Mitchell Boggs Marc Rzepczynski, Fernando Salas
San Diego Huston Street Dale Thayer Luke Gregerson, Brad Boxberger
San Francisco Santiago Casilla Sergio Romo Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez
Seattle Tom Wilhelmsen Brandon League Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor (DL)
Tampa Bay Fernando Rodney  Jake McGee Joel Peralta, Kyle Farnsworth (DL)
Texas Joe Nathan Mike Adams Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers, Koji Uehara (DL)
Toronto Casey Janssen Francisco Cordero Luis Perez, Jason Frasor, Sergio Santos (DL)
Washington Tyler Clippard Sean Burnett Craig Stammen, Henry Rodriguez, Drew Storen (DL)

Players currently on the DL are noted above

* - will share the role of closer for the time being. Look for game-by-game situations to dictact who is used in the ninth inning.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports MLB Fantasy Closer Grid</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: waiver wire, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-june-25
Body:

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (6/18-6/24):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Will Middlebrooks BOS 3B 6 3 10 0 .625 2.007
2. Mike Trout LAA OF 8 1 2 5 .440 1.157
3. Jason Heyward ATL OF 9 3 5 0 .522 1.672
4. Aaron Hill* ARI 2B 7 3 8 0 .462 1.483
5. Justin Upton ARI OF 7 2 11 0 .391 1.119
6. Jason Kubel ARI OF 9 3 7 0 .348 1.233
7. Jose Bautista TOR 3B/OF 7 4 8 0 .318 1.328
8. Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 8 2 6 1 .421 1.478
9. Jimmy Rollins PHI SS 7 3 5 1 .391 1.332
10. Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 4 2 8 1 .500 1.515
11. Brett Lawrie TOR 3B 10 2 3 2 .320 1.134
12. Edwin Encarnacion TOR 1B/3B 7 4 6 0 .333 1.262
13. Cody Ross* BOS OF 5 3 10 0 .318 1.212
14. Aramis Ramirez MIL 3B 5 2 7 0 .500 1.577
15. Adrian Beltre TEX 3B 6 2 5 0 .500 1.410
16. Nelson Cruz TEX OF 5 2 8 1 .333 1.154
17. Colby Rasmus* TOR OF 5 3 8 0 .320 1.134
18. Robinson Cano NYY 2B 6 4 4 0 .286 1.232
19. Matt Holliday STL OF 6 0 6 1 .478 1.169
20. Miguel Montero ARI C 3 1 10 0 .455 1.182
21. Coco Crisp* OAK OF 6 0 0 5 .350 .930
22. Josh Reddick OAK OF 4 2 5 2 .316 1.067
23. Ryan Braun MIL OF 5 1 5 2 .348 .966
24. Chris Nelson* COL 2B/3B 4 2 6 0 .429 1.239
25. Gordon Beckham* CHW 2B 3 1 5 2 .409 1.071

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

The Waiver Wire

The middle infield has been a serious point of contention for one of my teams this fall. Names like Weeks, Kendricks and even Brian Roberts were got a shot to hold down my "MI" spot. But Aaron Hill was the add this weekend. His complete roto line plays in any format (35-10-32-6, .291/853). Don't expect his average to stay that high as he is a career .268 hitter, but he has always had pop in his bat. With the way Justin Upton and the rest of D-Backs appear to be playing, Hill could easily get to 20/20 this year. Don't be scared to snag this Rattler.

Chris Nelson needs regular playing time before I add him to my contending roster but Gordan Beckham is making a huge push to be owned. He is the classic post-hype prospect. He has gotten a hit in 24 of his last 28 games and has raised his average from .204 to .249 over that span. And over the last month, only four other two-sackers have more RBI than his 18.  

MiLB Debuts

I cautioned about many potential 2012 debuts coming soon and it looks like two big ones will happen this week. Anthony Rizzo is slated to join the Cubs for his Northside debut on Tuesday against the Mets while Trevor Bauer is scheduled to start Thursday in his major league debut against the Braves. He is a two-start pitcher next week. Both are must-adds at this point. They are both worth the risk. Still no word on Wil Myers as the Royals are apparently shopping some pieces to make room for the MiLB slugger.

The Greek God of Walks

I am not going to lie. Kevin Youkilis is one of my favorite players of this generation. He can play just about any position on the diamond effectively and is a middle of the order on-base machine. Yet, he has dealt with a multitide of injuries over the past few seasons and it has significantly dropped his fantasy value. So after a four-game hitting streak that raised his average from .212 to .233, he has been shipped to the White Sox. He will never be the 91-29-115-3 (.312/.958) roto montster of 2008, but he has plenty of talent. And in that order, his bat should play for the rest of the year. His .875 career OPS over 3,352 at-bats will come around at some point — and can likely be had for very cheap at the moment.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Johnny Cueto CIN 23.0 3 24 0.78 0.74
2. R.A. Dickey NYM 24.0 2 28 1.88 0.50
3. Jason Hammel BAL 17.0 2 18 0.00 0.47
4. Wade Miley ARI 22.2 2 23 1.19 0.75
5. Justin Masterson* CLE 16.0 2 18 0.00 0.63
6. Matt Cain SF 21.0 2 25 1.71 0.71
7. Justin Verlander DET 24.0 3 18 1.88 0.83
8. Ervin Santana* LAA 17.0 1 15 1.06 0.35
9. Michael Fiers* SEA 15.1 1 14 0.59 0.78
10. Ivan Nova* NYY 20.1 2 17 1.33 1.08
11. Clayton Richard* SD 21.1 3 15 1.69 1.17
12. Jose Quintana* CHW 21.1 1 14 0.42 0.98
13. Madison Bumgarner SF 21.2 2 22 2.49 1.02
14. Yu Darvish TEX 16.0 2 19 2.25 1.06
15. Stephen Strasburg WAS 13.0 2 18 2.77 1.00
16. Jake Westbrook* STL 15.0 2 6 1.80 0.73
17. Zach Greinke MIL 24.0 1 18 1.88 0.96
18. Max Scherzer DET 20.0 1 27 2.70 1.05
19. James McDonald PIT 15.0 1 10 0.69 0.77
20. Jarrod Parker* OAK 13.0 1 10 0.69 0.77

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Top 5 Spot Starts for the Week (Tues. - Sun.):

1. Vance Worley, PHI: Pittsburgh (Tues.)
Has been sterling in last three starts (3 ER, 20.0 IP) and faces worst offense in MLB.

2. Jarrod Parker, OAK: at Seattle (Wed.)
Has this line over the last 30 days: 32.0 IP, 2 W, 24 K, 1.97 ERA, 1.09 WHIP.

3. Trevor Bauer, ARI: at Atlanta (Thur.)
His upside is totally worth a shot in his first-ever major league start.

4. Andy Pettitte, NYY: Cleveland (Wed.)
Finally got hit around a bit this weekend, but has been near Pettitte of old. In AP I trust.

5. A.J. Burnett, PI: at Philadelphia (Thurs.)
Take away May 2 disaster at St. Louis (12 ER on 12 H in 2 2/3 IP) and Burnett is 8-1 with a 1.87 ERA in 11 starts, nine of those being quality starts.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Craig Kimbrel ATL 11.0 0 8 19 0 0.00 0.18
2. Tyler Clippard WAS 11.1 0 10 13 0 0.00 0.53
3. Tom Wilhelmsen* SEA 12.2 2 5 16 0 0.00 0.63
4. Joel Hanrahan PIT 11.1 2 8 14 0 1.59 0.88
5. Ernesto Frieri LAA 13.1 0 8 19 3 0.00 0.90
6. Brayan Villarreal* DET 16.2 3 0 26 1 1.62 0.84
7. Jonathan Broxton KC 12.0 1 10 11 0 0.75 1.33
8. Rafael Soriano NYY 11.0 0 11 9 0 0.82 1.18
9. Jim Johnson BAL 12.0 1 6 6 0 1.50 0.50
10. Kenley Jansen LAD 10.2 1 6 16 0 2.53 0.94
11. Joe Nathan TEX 12.0 0 6 14 0 1.50 0.83
12. Heath Bell MIA 9.2 0 7 16 1 0.93 1.14
13. Chris Perez CLE 9.0 0 7 9 0 2.00 0.78
14. Ronald Belisario* LAD 14.2 3 0 8 3 1.84 0.89
15. J.J. Putz ARI 9.0 1 4 10 0 2.00 0.78
16. Rex Brothers* COL 10.2 1 0 17 2 0.84 0.66
17. Huston Street SD 7.1 1 6 9 0 2.45 1.09
18. Joaquin Benoit* DET 13.2 1 0 16 7 0.66 0.88
19. Sean Marshall* CIN 12.2 0 1 14 4 0.71 0.63
20. Alex Burnett* MIN 11.1 1 0 4 3 0.00 0.44

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: June 25</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 11:06
All taxonomy terms: AFC, Miami Dolphins, NFL
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-qbs-marino-nfl-horror-story
Body:

On January 2, 2000 Dan Marino played his final game in a Miami Dolphins uniform. In the 12 seasons since, the Dolphins’ tale of quarterback woes is a cautionary horror narrative that keeps many an NFL GM awake at night.

Miami has started 16 different players at quarterback since Marino stepped away from football. It has finished in the top ten in scoring one time since (2001) and no higher than 12th in total offense. Only two seasons since, 2001 and 2008, have the Dolphins started the same player for all 16 games. The organization has played in one playoff game since 2001.

Here are the 16 quarterbacks who have started a game for the Miami Dolphins since the retirement of Dan Marino following the 2000 season:

Jay Fiedler (2000-04)
The Darmouth grad gave the Phins an extremely false sense of security with a relatively solid stint in Miami immediately following Marino’s depature. Fiedler started 59 games in his five-year Miami career, including all 16 games in 2001 — the best offensive season since Marino for the Fish. He was 36-23 as the starter and averaged 178.1 yards per game with 66 TD and 63 INT.

Damon Huard (1998-2000)
Huard filled in for Fiedler in Week 12 of the 2000 season after he had previously stared five games during Marino’s 1999 farewell tour. He won his only post-Marino start after throwing for 183 yards and his only TD of the year. The Washington alum went on to start 21 more games over a five-year span for the Patriots and Cheifs before retiring in 2008.

Ray Lucas (2001-02)
The Rutgers Scarlet Knight started only six games for the Dolphins, all in 2002 spot duty for Fiedler. He went 2-4 as the starter, completed only 57.5 percent of his passes for 149.3 yards per game and threw only four touchdowns (against six INTs). Lucas never played football again following that season.

Brian Griese (2003)
As the Jay Fiedler experiment continued to fall off the tracks for various reasons, Griese became the third quarterback to get a start in place of the Ivy League grad. All five career games Griese played for Miami came in place of Fiedler in ’03. He went 3-2 as the starter with five touchdowns, six interceptions and 162.6 yards per game.

AJ Feeley (2004)
The Oregon quarterback, like Griese the year before, played only one year in Miami and got eight starts in place of Fiedler. He lost his first two starts in Week 2 and 3 before returning to the line-up from Weeks 10-15. Feeley was 3-5 as the leader of the Fish, completing only 53.7 percent of his passes with 15 interceptions for his Dolphins’ career.

Sage Rosenfels (2002-05)
In his third season as a Dolphin, the Iowa State Cyclone finally got to start a game when he entered the line-up for the final game of 2004. He completed 42.1 percent of his passes (16 of 38) with three interceptions and one touchdown in the loss. He then started one more game in 2005 (Week 10) when he threw for 14 yards and two picks in the shutout loss to Cleveland. He never started another game and ended his Fish career 0-2 as the starter.

Gus Frerotte (2005)
The real starter in ’05 was Frerotte. And he was mildly effective. He was 9-6 as the starter and nearly topped 3,000 yards (2,996) with more touchdowns (18) than interceptions (13). Numbers that aren’t amazing, but look Hall of Fame-esque when placed next to the other starters from South Beach.

Joey Harrington (2006)
Another year and another starting quarterback experiment. Harrington started 11 games in 2006, winning five while throwing for over 200 yards per game. He also threw 15 interceptions and 12 touchdowns and was an Atlanta Falcon the next year.

Daunte Culpepper (2006)
The Former Viking played his first game with a new team when he started four games for the Dolphins in 2006. He was 1-3 as a starter and tossed just two touchdowns as a Dolphin. The former first-rounder played for four teams in four years from 2005-08. Don't forget, the brass in Miami decided it was a good decision to go with Culpepper instead of Drew Brees.

Cleo Lemon (2006-07)
The Arkansas State grad played four years in the NFL on three different teams. He started eight career games, all for the Dolphins, and won only one time in his entire career. He threw for 168.1 yards per game, completed 56.0 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Trent Green (2007)
Green also only played one season for the Dolphins and failed to win any of his five career starts in Miami. He threw only five touchdowns and seven picks over that span while averaging nearly 200 yards per game.

John Beck (2007)
The second-round pick played one year for the team that drafted him. Beck was 0-4 as the starter in Miami and threw only one career touchdown pass as a Dolphin. He averaged 111.8 yards per game and has never won a game as a starter in the NFL.

Chad Pennington (2008-10)
The soft-tossing Marshall grad likely had the most successful season of any quarterback in a Fish uni since Marino retired. He started every game of the 2008 season, winning 11 and earning Comeback Player of the Year honors. He led the NFL in completion percentage (67.4 percent) and posted a nice 3,653-19-7 stat line en route to a co-AFC East title and playoff berth. However, he started only four more games over the next two years (1-3) before retiring in 2010.

Chad Henne (2008-11)
The strong-armed Michigan grad came to Miami in the second-round of the 2008 draft. He got into the starting line-up in year two and actually posted a winning record at 7-6. Yet, despite statistical improvement in year three, Henne lost more than he won (6-8). He was 0-4 as the starter in year four and has bolted for Jacksonville.

Tyler Thigpen (2010)
The Coastal Carolina product started and lost one game in his Dolphins one-year career. He threw for 187 yards, one interception and lost in a shutout at the hands of the Bears.

Matt Moore (2011)
The Oregon State Beaver was relatively effective last year on a team with a lame duck coach and terrible roster. He actually won six of his 12 starts, threw more touchdowns (16) than interceptions (9) and appears poised to start the 2012 campaign atop the depth charts. At least, for now, until Ryan Tannehill becomes the 17th quarterback to start a game for Miami since Marino.

The Fish aren’t the only NFL franchise that suffered after the retirement of a truly great signal caller. The Bills haven’t been the same since Jim Kelly. The 49ers are the poster children for how to adapt to loss — Joe Montana to Steve Young — and how not to adapt to loss — Young to everyone since then. Those two franchises have combined for six winning seasons in 28 combined years of competition since Kelly (1996) and Young (1999) stepped away.

But hope springs eternal on South Beach as the Dolphins enter their 13th season without No. 13 — and are doing so with their first first-round quarterback since taking Marino in the 1983 NFL Draft. Yes, Ryan Tannehill has the unenviable task of being the first quarterback taken in the first round by Miami since Mr. Isotoners himself joined the club.

While I have my doubts about Tannehill’s ability to succeed at the NFL level, the beauty of the NFL lies in its balance. Teams can go from worst to first and vice versa in a matter of months and new head coach Joe Philbin brings one of the most powerful offensive systems in the NFL to the franchise.

Only time will tell if Tannehill is the next Dan Marino.

Or the next Cleo Lemon.

- By Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related: Miami Dolphins 2012 Schedule Analysis

Teaser:
<p> Miami Dolphins QBs Since Marino: An NFL Horror Story</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-football-2012-all-conference-team-recruit
Body:

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at all-conference teams from across the nation. But where did all these tremendous all-league performers come from and how did they get where they are today? Some showed up on campus as five-star uber-recruits and others defied all odds as walk-ons. Athlon analyzes how the 2012 preseason All-Pac-12 team ranked as recruits.

Related: Athlon Sports 2012 preseason All-Pac-12 Teams

AC100: Athlon Consensus 100 prospect

All-Pac-12 Preseason First-Team Offense:

Matt Barkley, QB, USC (2009) AC100
The Golden Boy from Newport Beach (Calif.) Mater Dei has absolutely lived-up to his top billing as the nation's No. 1 prospect by Athlon Sports. He sat atop the AC100 for the entire 2009 cycle and has dominated college football ever since enrolling at USC.

Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon (2008)
The Riverside (Calif.) Notre Dame prospect was ranked as the No. 38 running back in the nation and the No. 86-rated player in the state of California by Rivals. He was a three-star recruit.

John White, RB, Utah (2011) JUCO
Was listed as a three-star junior college prospect in last year's class. He was completely unranked in the JUCO rankings by Rivals.com.

Keenan Allen, WR, Cal (2010) AC100
The Greensboro (N.C.) Northern Guilford prospect trailed only Tony Jefferson as the nation's top 'athlete' recuit. He was No. 26 in the top 100 and was the No. 2 player it the Tar Heel State (Robert Crisp) by Athlon Sports.

Robert Woods, WR, USC (2010) AC100
The Carson (Calif.) Junipero Serra was named the Athlon Sports High School Player of the Year when he was a senior. He finished as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation and trailed only Ronald Powell and Seantrel Henderson nationally as he finished No. 3 overall by Athlon Sports.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (2011) AC100
The record-setting freshman from Fox Island (Wash.) Gig Harbor proved his status as the No. 3 tight end prospect in the nation to be accurate. He was the No. 33 overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Khaled Holmes, C, USC (2008)
The big blocker from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei was the No. 3 offensive guard, was rated No. 104 overall and the No. 14 player in The Golden State by Rivals.

David Bakhtiari, OL, Colorado (2009)
The San Mateo (Calif.) Junipero Serra was teammates with Robert Woods (and other stellar wideouts) but got very little recruiting hype. He was a two-star unrated prospect by Rivals.

John Fullington, OL, Washington State (2010)
The Belfair (Wash.) North Mason product was the No. 70 offensive tackle prospect in the nation and the No. 16-rated player in The Evergreen State by Rivals.

Kevin Graf, OL, USC (2009) AC100
A top 100 talent from Agoura, Calif., Graf was the No. 9-rated offensive lineman and the No. 51-rated overall prospect in the class of 2009 by Athlon Sports.

David Yankey, OL, Stanford (2010)
The massive Cardinal hails from Roswell (Ga.) Centennial and was only the No. 53-rated player in The Peach State back in 2010. He was the No. 47-rated offensive tackle by Rivals.

De'Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon (2011) AC100
Football's version of the Black Mamba signed with Oregon from Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw High. Thomas was the nation's No. 1 'athlete' prospect and the No. 5-rated player in the entire nation. 

All-Pac-12 Preseason First-Team Defense:

Wes Horton, DL, USC (2008)
The top 100 prospect from Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame was the No. 3-rated strongside defensive end in the nation by Rivals. He was also listed as the No. 40-rated prospect nationally and the No. 6 player in the state of California.

Dion Jordan, DL, Oregon (2008)
Coming to Eugene from Chandler, Ariz., Jordan was a four-star recruit who ranked as the No. 15 overall tight end prospect in the nation and the No. 7-rated player in the state by Rivals.

Travis Long, DL, Washington State (2009)
A lower-rated prospect, Long came to Pullman as the No. 13-rated player in the state of Washington (Gonzaga Prep) by Rivals. He was a three-star recruit.

Star Lotulelei, DL, Utah (2007)
Originally, the Bingham, Utah prospect signed with BYU but didn't qualify. He was a three-star recruit who ranked as the No. 3 player in the state of Utah. He went to Snow College before heading to Utah.

Dion Bailey, LB, USC (2010) AC100
Bailey was a top 100 6-foot-1, 195-pound safety prospect from Lakewood, Calif. He was the No. 12-rated defensive back and the No. 96 overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Michael Clay, LB, Oregon (2009)
A bit undersized — he was listed at 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds as a recruit — Clay came to Oregon from San Jose (Calif.) Bellarmine Prep as a three-star. Rivals rated him the No. 43 outside linebacker and the No. 61 player in the state.

Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford (2008)
From Marietta (Ga.) Walton, Thomas was a three-star outside linebacker prospect by Rivals who ranked as the No. 26-best player in the state and the No. 27-best player at his position.

Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State (2009)
From Astoria, Ore., Poyer was underrecruited by nearly everyone. He was an unranked two-star prospect by Rivals.com who got one D-1 offer: Oregon State.

Nickell Robey, CB, USC (2010)
The cornerback from Frostproof, Fla., was the No. 34-rated defensive back in the nation and the No. 226-rated player overall by Athlon Sports.

T.J. McDonald, S, USC (2009) AC100
The NFL legacy from Fresno (Calif.) Edison was the No. 9-rated defensive back in the nation and the No. 76-rated overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports.

John Boyett, S, Oregon (2008)
Coming from Napa (Calif.) High, Boyett was a middle of the pack prospect with a three-star ranking. He was the No. 91-rated player in California and the No. 64-rated safety in the nation by Rivals.com.

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Team Previews

North South
California Arizona
Oregon Arizona State
Oregon State Colorado
Stanford UCLA
Washington USC
Washington State Utah

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Football: 2012 All-Conference Team As Recruits</p>
Post date: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-2012-heisman-contenders
Body:

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

Notre Dame's Top 5 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Manti Te’o, LB
The star middle linebacker turned down the NFL and could actually build upon his already solid resume. He is searching for his third straight 100-tackle season and has 28.5 career tackles for a loss. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award and the Lott Trophy a year ago and is looking for even more in 2012. Expect an outstanding defensive front to make life easier for the talented tackler.

2. Cierre Wood, RB
The Irish running back rolled-up 1,102 yards rushing a year ago — the most by a South Bend tailback in over half-a-decade (1,267, Darius Walker). Without great quarterback play, Wood will easily the be the focal point of the offense, which could work both for and against the talented tailback. Jonas Gray has moved on, giving Wood the bulk of the touches, but defenses will be able to key on him should Brian Kelly not get improved quarterback play.

3. Tyler Eifert, TE
Fans could make the case that Eifert is the best tight end in the nation. Like Te’o, Eifert also turned down the NFL to return to Notre Dame. With Michael Floyd moving on to Sundays, Eifert is easily the top target in the Kelly passing attack and could improve on his 63-803-5 stat line from 2011. Tight ends also tend to be targeted more by young, inexperienced and “less-effective” quarterbacks as safety valves. And this one is the first-team preseason All-American for 2012.

4. Stephon Tuitt, DE
The 2011 defensive line class for Kelly was simply ridiculous and Tuitt is a huge part of it. He has a massive frame, huge upside and as much physical talent as any Irish defensive lineman in years. By the end of 2011, as only a freshman, Tuitt was transforming into the dominate player fans were expecting to see. The sky is the limit for this monster of prospect.

5. Theo Riddick, WR
Injuries and position uncertainty have caused Riddick’s career to take some unexpected turns. But his raw play-making ability and versatility should finally allow Riddick to achieve his breakout campaign in 2012. He isn’t the same player as Floyd but can be used in more ways by Kelly. Fans should expect to see No. 7 touching the ball in a variety of unique and entertaining ways this fall.

Other Names to Watch:

Zach Martin, OL
Louis Nix III, DL
TJ Jones, WR
Braxton Cave, C
Everett Gholson, QB

2012 Notre Dame Preview Content:

•  Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2012 Team Preview
•  Notre Dame Fighting Irish Greatest Players Since 1967
•  Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2012 Team Predictions
•  The Greatest Moments in Notre Dame Football History
•  Notre Dame Cheerleader Gallery
•  Will Brian Kelly Lead Notre Dame to a BCS Bowl?
•  Jokes About Notre Dame Rivals

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame 2012 Heisman Contenders</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 10:03
Path: /college-football/big-east-2012-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be
Body:

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

The Big East's Top 10 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (SO)
The true freshman built his confidence week upon week and now enters his second year as the top Heisman contender in the league. He trailed only Geno Smith in completion percentage last year (64.5%) and posted the Big East’s No. 2 passer efficiency (132.44) mark. Most importantly, he has added bulk and strength to his frame after playing his best ball down the stretch. He posted a career high 274 yards in the bowl loss and chucked five touchdowns in the final two games.

2. Ray Graham, RB, Pitt (SR)
This talented tailback was on a tear when four plays into the primetime showdown with UConn, his season ended with a torn ACL. He had posted 939 yards rushing and nine scores in the first seven games of the year prior to the injury. If fully healthy, Graham could easily be the Big East’s top Heisman candidate now that offensive genius Paul Chryst is calling plays in the ‘Burgh.

3. B.J. Daniels, QB, USF (SR)
Daniels’ raw explosiveness and athleticism have always been obvious, but he has yet to put his whole game together for a full season. However, he came close in 2011 with his best year to date: 2,604 yards, 13 TD, 7 INT, 601 yards rushing, 6 TD. The Bulls must improve on their 1-6 league record (which they should) for Daniels to have a chance at the stiff-armed trophy of Ed Smith.

4. Lyle McCombs, RB, UConn (SO)
Under Randy Edsall the Huskies churned out highly productive runners so McCombs would have done the current Maryland head coach proud in Year 1. The redshirt freshman posted six 100-yard efforts in his first season and finished second in the league in rushing. Three starters and a stud tight end are back to pave the way for the studly sophomore.

5. Matt Brown, RB, Temple (SR)
As a back-up to Bernard Pierce, Brown still finished eighth in the MAC in rushing with 916 yards. He has shown to be a tremendous second option in three seasons with the Owls, but now gets the spotlight to himself in Steve Addazio's system. Defenses will be tougher in the Big East, but Brown should be plenty capable.

6. Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers (SR)
Greene should be the front-runner to claim Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors…again. He led the league in tackles with 141 stops and is the heart and soul of what should be the league’s best unit…again. Fans should expect big things from Ray Graham’s brother. A broken leg sustained in the bowl game a year ago seems like a distant afterthought.

7. Justin Pugh, OL, Syracuse (SR)
An All-Big East first-team selection a year ago, Pugh enters this season as a preseason Athlon Sports All-American and the top blocker in the conference. He paved the way for one of only three 1,000-yard Big East runners a year ago and will now be responsible for protecting senior quarterback Ryan Nassib.

8. Hakeem Smith, S, Louisville (JR)
One of the nation’s top safety prospects, the junior is poised for a huge season after leading the Cards in tackles last year (6.5/game). If the Cardinals are going to win 10 games and earn a Big East championship, it will be on the shoulders of the talented Smith.

9. Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse (SR)
In his third year in the system, Nassib could be poised for his best year. He increased his touchdown passes, yardage totals and completion percentage from 2010 to 2011. With Pugh watching his back, one of the few pro-style passers in the league should continue to develop.

10. Munchie Legaux, QB, Cincinnati (JR)
Has loads of upside with a tremendous throwing arm and athletic ability. He also is the leader in the clubhouse in terms of game experience for the Bearcats. The leash will be short with Legaux, but should things fall into place, he has the upside to win games and post big numbers.

Other Names to Watch:

Devin Street, WR, Pitt (JR)
Keystone product could explode after a very productive 53-754-2 stat line a year ago.

Demetris Murray, RB, USF (SR)
Will take over for Darrell Scott but will also lose time to Lindsey Lamar.

Tino Sunseri, QB, Pitt (SR)
Struggled mightily last year with Todd Graham. Should be that much better with Chryst.

DeDe Lattimore, LB, USF (JR)
Finished 6th in tackles and played behind enemy lines all year: 7.0 sacks, 13.0 TFL.

Alec Lemon, WR, Syracuse (SR)
Leading returning receiver should build on 68-834-6 stat line.

Rushel Shell, RB, Pitt (FR)
Elite level talent who will complement Graham perfectly for Chryst.

Jawan Jamison, RB, Rutgers (SO)
Will split time with talented sophomore Huggins but will build on 897-yard 2011 season.

Savon Huggins, RB, Rutgers (SO)
Way too talented to be kept off the field. Is slated to split carries with Jamison.

Dominique Brown, RB, Louisville (JR)
Needs to break off bigger chunks but has chance to be feature back for top team.

Jarred Holley, S, Pitt (SR)
Does a bit of everything (67 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) and is the leader of Panthers’ D.
 

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports Big East Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Big East Team Previews

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut South Florida
Louisville Syracuse
Pittsburgh Temple

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Big East 2012 Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2012-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be
Body:

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

The Big 12's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (SR)
The list of accolades for the Mountaineers' starting quarterback is already long and distinguished, yet he might be ready to add the most important award in college sports. He led the Big East in passer efficiency and total offense a year ago — finishing eighth nationally at 334.8 yards per game. His 4,385 passing yards were a school record and he might possess the strongest throwing arm in the nation. With a deep and talented skill corps, and play calling from offensive wizard Dana Holgorsen, Smith has a great shot at landing in New York come December.

2. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (SR)
There are plenty of question marks surrounding Jones the quarterback — like major statistical regression and a horrible road record. But the Sooner quarterback has as good a shot as any in the league to be Big Apple bound at year’s end. He is surrounded by the most talent of any team in the league and should be the leader of the Big 12 champions. Should Jones correct his road woes and produce another big statistical year, he very easily could land on Heisman ballots, and perhaps, in the national title game.

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State (SR)
Klein won’t be able to sneak up on any defenses this time around after rolling up a sick 1,141 yards rushing and an NCAA-record 27 rushing touchdowns (by a QB). He added another 13 scoring strikes with 1,918 yards through the air while leading the Wildcats to the Cotton Bowl. What he lacks in pure passing ability he makes up for with grit and toughness. However, he may need to use his arm more in 2012 as coordinators are now prepared for his talented dual-threat skills.

4. Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State (JR)
He may not be built like a true three-down workhorse, but he certainly plays like it. Randle brings speed, power and pass-catching skills to one of the most explosive offenses in the country. With a new quarterback and rebuilt offensive line, it will difficult to top his 1,216 yards, 26 touchdowns or 43 receptions from last year. But if he can come close, Randle could earn his way to Manhattan.

5. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (SR)
Austin is one of the most dynamic and explosive play-makers in all of the nation. He set a school record with 101 receptions last year and led the nation in all-purpose yards (198.0 per game). In addition to his 101 catches (and 1,186 yards), the inside slot man rushed for 182 yards and a score to go with 938 kick return yards and 268 punt return yards. He finished with 11 total touchdowns and could be poised for a C.J. Spiller-type of season in Morgantown.

6. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas (SR)
This local product could be the top defensive end drafted come next April should things fall right for the Horns' defense in 2012. Okafor finished last season with 50 total tackles, 7.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss as a junior. On what should easily be the top defensive unit in the Big 12, Okafor will be a huge part of any sort of Burnt Orange championship push.

7. Casey Pachall, QB, TCU (JR)
In his first season as the starter and only a sophomore, Pachall would have finished second in the league to only Robert Griffin III in passer efficiency (had he been in the Big 12). He had an outstanding 25:7 TD:INT rate and led his team to a conference championship in a “rebuilding” year. Sledding will be much tougher in the Big 12, but Pachall quickly proved he can be a big time quarterback.

8. Trey Millard, AP, Oklahoma (JR)
The physical fullback is one of the most valuable players on the Sooners' roster. He’s known more for lead blocking than getting touches (169 yards rushing, 127 receiving yards and three total touchdowns), so his 61-yard TD run versus Kansas State was a true highlight. Millard also led OU with 14 special-teams tackles and was voted first-team All-Big 12 by the league’s coaches for his all-around play. He may never be appreciated nationally the way he deserves and could be the best all-around football player on the Sooners roster.

9. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia (JR)
Alongside teammate Austin, Bailey was also a first-team selection in 2011 and he is coming off of a school-record 1,279-yard campaign as a sophomore. He has played alongside his quarterback since his prep days in Miramar, Fla., and should be on the verge of national prominence this fall — if Austin and Ivan McCartney don’t take too many targets from him.

10. Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma (JR)
As the nation’s No. 1 "athlete" recruit two years ago, Jefferson has quietly turned into one of the most promising young defensive backs in the nation. He has played somewhat out of position (down more in the box) but it has allowed him to develop into a big hitter and sound tackler. He has the speed and athleticism to stabilize the backend of the maligned Sooner secondary from a year ago. With Mike Stoops and Tim Kish now coaching him up, Jefferson could be in for stardom this fall.

11. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas (JR)
Okafor may be one year ahead on the development curve, but the upside for this NFL legacy is sky-high. Jeffcoat is the No. 2 returning sack artist in the league with 8.0 sacks and will look to build on his team lead in the category.

12. Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma (JR)
This talented junior to be has all the tools needed to be an NFL receiver and is playing in one of the most quarterback-friendly schemes in the nation. He should only build on his 61-catch, 849-yard, 8-TD 2011 season now as the No. 1 target.

13. Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech (SR)
Has any player ever thrown for a quieter 400 completions, 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns like Doege (and it’s Day-Gee) did last fall? Technically, it was 32 touchdowns and 398 completions, but either way, Tech has a good one under center. Now, it just needs to win games (and any semblance of a defense would help).

14. Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas (SO)
The top running back prospect in the nation did as much to prove his mettle in year one as possible. He carried 172 times for 742 yards and five scores and should only get better — but will have to hold off a talented depth chart that is breathing down his neck.

15. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State (SR)
It took him a few years and multiple zip codes but Brown has realized his All-American potential. The talented tackler should once again be the heart and soul of the KSU defense. A unit that must show improvement across the board if it wants to compete for a league title.

16. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor (SR)
Williams is a future NFL star but without Griffin III throwing the ball and Kendall Wright distracting safeties, things will be more difficult for Baylor. But make no mistake, Williams has the talent to be an elite No. 1 target for the new Bears signal caller.

17. Kenny Vacarro, S, Texas (SR)
Versatile NFL prospect can cover in man and zone schemes with ease. Posted 67 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and 6.5 tackles for loss. He is the complete package.

18. Dominique Whaley, RB, Oklahoma (SR)
Health is really the only major concern for Whaley, who was off to an incredible start last year before being lost for the season in Week 6. He had nine scores and was averaging 130 yards from scrimmage per game. He could have a huge final year.

19. Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas (SO)
This Longhorn legacy proved that in one short year that he will be a special player. All he did as a freshman was lead his team in interceptions (4) and kick return yards. He posted 48 total tackles and 13 pass break-ups.

20. Eric Stephens, RB, Texas Tech (SR)
Much like Whaley, Stephens was off to a red-hot start before a serious knee injury sidelined him in the fifth game of the year. If healthy, Stephens should return to his torrid 2011 pace which featured 565 yards and eight touchdowns in five games.

21. Cyril Richardson, OL, Baylor (JR)
There is a logjam of talented blockers fighting for first-round NFL status and the massive Richardson, at 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, is one of them. If Baylor can return to the postseason with a reworked offense, this guy could be the main reason.

22. A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State (SR)
The Big 12’s No. 2 tackler (116) from a year ago claimed Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors and should be just as stout in 2012. No doubt Klein is eyeing his third straight 100-tackle season for the Cyclones.

23. Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State (SR)
One of the most physical players in the league, Knott should also be working towards his third straight 100-tackle season in Ames. Improved defensive line play would go a long way for both Klein and Knott.

24. Stansly Maponga, DL, TCU (JR)
Defensive end Stansly Maponga is a breakout star waiting to happen. The two-year starter led the Frogs with 13.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and forced five fumbles last season.

25. Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas (FR)
Freshman Johnathan Gray helped Aledo (Texas) win three Class 4A state titles while rushing for 10,908 yards and setting the national high school record for rushing touchdowns with 205.

Other Names to Watch

Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma
Waymon James and Matthew Tucker, RB, TCU
Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
Jaxon Shipley, WR, Texas
Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports Big 12 Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Previews

Baylor Oklahoma State
Iowa State TCU
Kansas Texas
Kansas State Texas Tech
Oklahoma West Virginia

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Big 12 2012 Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2012-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be
Body:

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

The Big Ten's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (SR)
There is no player in a better Heisman situation in the Big Ten than Robinson, but because Montee Ball was so unstoppable a year ago, they are essentially 1a and 1b. Shoelace has the NCAA records, the electric, big-play, highlight-reel skills needed to enthrall voters, a better chance at a Big Ten title, has multiple national showcase games in and out of conference and plays the all-important quarterback position (11 of last 12 winners). If he can stay healthy, Robinson will have the slight edge over Wisconsin’s workhorse.

2. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (SR)
It is nearly impossible to argue with Ball’s production. But the 2012 Badgers are not going to be the same team that set school records for scoring two years in a row. Gone is uber-leader Russell Wilson, offensive genius Paul Chryst and three first-team All-Big Ten blockers. Ball will still post big numbers this fall, but a 1,700-yard, 18-TD season will pale in comparison to his 2011 output — and won’t get him back to New York.

3. Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska (SR)
Sexy Rexy Superman Burkhead is arguably the most complete football player in the nation. He has every skillset a coach can ask for in a workhorse feature back: Strength, size, toughness, durability, vision, instincts, quickness, hands and leadership. For Burkhead to make it to NYC in December, however, he will likely have to lead his team past Michigan and into the Big Ten title game. A tall order until the defense improves its overall play.

4. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State (SO)
If Heisman voters are trying to find a darkhorse from the Big Ten, they need to look no further than Ohio State’s quarterback. Miller showed flashes of brilliance as only a true freshman on one of the worst Buckeye teams in two decades. And now he has spread guru Urban Meyer tailoring his high-powered attack to Miller’s perfectly suited dual-threat skillset. This team could have the best record in the league, but Ohio State’s offensive leader will have to overcome the program’s current sanctions on his way to the Big Apple.

5. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska (JR)
The Huskers’ quarterback is finally an upperclassmen and will have to show improved consistency and accuracy in the passing game to get into the Heisman mix. However, he has electric play-making ability and is poised for his best season yet at the helm of a program known for its dual-threat Heisman Trophy signal callers. With the Big Ten’s top receiving corps around him, Martinez has a chance to silence all of his critics in 2012. And potentially win a conference title as well.

6. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State (JR)
There are some focus and consistency concerns with Bell, but should things fall into place for the tailback, the junior could be in for a massive year in East Lansing. The Spartans will boast a potent offensive line and will have to turn to the running game in order to break in a new quarterback and receiving corps. Which is exactly how Mark Dantonio wants to win games anyway. There are few running backs with as much upside as Bell in this league.

7. John Simon, DL, Ohio State (SR)
One of the most competitive and dependable defensive lineman in the nation is also one of the strongest players in the history of the Buckeye program. Now, permanently on the edge, Simon is virtually unstoppable. Ohio State should have the top defense in the Big Ten and the burly D-lineman, while not the most talented, is the clear leader of the unit. Offensive tackles beware.

8. James Vandenberg, QB, Iowa (SR)
In a league loaded with explosive athletes under center, Vandenberg is the best pure passer. In fact, he is one of the only true pocket passers in the entire conference. He has a solid duo to throw to in Keenan Davis and C.J. Fiedorowicz, but could be hurting for offensive support otherwise. Replacing record-setting wideout Marvin McNutt without the help of a traditionally potent Iowa rushing attack (12th in Big Ten in rushing last fall and no Marcus Coker) will be tough. It is unfortunate that Vandenberg isn’t playing in a vintage Hawkeye attack, otherwise, he could be a Big Ten POY candidate.

9. Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan (JR)
The Wolverines have been looking for a Mike Hart replacement for half-a-decade and Brady Hoke might have found one in Toussaint. The junior-to-be was downright dominant down the stretch last year — rushing four times for 120 yards or more in the final six games. Certainly, this offense will miss David Molk but the O-Line still has enough beef to be very successful in 2012.

10. Silas Redd, RB, Penn State (JR)
It is unfortunate that Redd’s numbers and national awareness won’t match his overall level of talent. He is a power back who would be a top Heisman contender on most Penn State teams. This, obviously, isn’t your regular Nittany Lion squad. The Leaders Division could be wide open, however, and if PSU makes a push for the league crown it will come squarely on the wide, powerful shoulders of Silas Redd.

11. Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
The original Honey Badger is a relentless machine who is constantly around the football and wrecking havoc in the opposition’s backfield. He is a rare big-play athlete at a position that gets little to no Heisman appreciation.

12. MarQueis Gray, QB, Minnesota
At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds with extremely athletic speed and agility, Gray has the upside to post huge numbers in the Twin Cities this fall. He rushed for 327 yards and three touchdowns on 54 carries in the final two games of the year. If he can only win a few games and be a consistent passer.

13. Travis Frederick, OL, Wisconsin (JR)
A consensus second-team All-Big Ten pick as a guard, Frederick now slides inside to fill the massive void left by Peter Konz. He will be the best player on the best line in the league.

14. Johnathan Hankins, DL, Ohio State (JR)
Arguably the top defensive line prospect in the league, Hankins is a projected top ten pick after dropping weight in the off-season. Simon might be the heart and soul, but Hankins could be the difference maker.

15. Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern (JR)
Few quarterbacks enter their first year under center with this type of stat line: 135 att., 654 yards, 9 TD rushing, 43 rec., 466 yards, 3 TD receiving and a tidy 6:1 TD:INT ratio. Wildcats quarterbacks are also incredibly productive and Colter might be the most talented in recent memory.

16. William Gholston, DL, Michigan State (JR)
Is right there with Hankins for most physically gifted prospect in the league. But Gholston has to mature on and off the field to realize his full potential as a three-down defensive monster.

17. Stephen Houston, RB, Indiana (JR)
A junior college transfer, Houston got the green light from Kevin Wilson a third of the way into 2011. He responded with 856 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns in eight games.

18. Danny O’Brien, QB, Wisconsin (JR)
He is not even close to Russell Wilson so the comparisons end with the fact they are fellow ACC graduates. But he showed some talent as a freshman and will now be in the most stable, best situation of his career.

19. Jacob Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin (JR)
Until the end of the season, Abbrederis was leading the nation in punt returns. He also rarely drops a pass, runs perfect routes and can even make some plays in the rushing game. He could easily be the top wideout in a league devoid of talent at the position.

20. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
This Boilermaker shouldn't get drafted too far behind Gholston, Hankins and Simon come April 2013. And in a league stacked with defensive line talent, Short has a chance to push for top honors.

21. Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois (JR)
Which quarterback will Illinois get this fall? Scheelhaase has been both an inconsistent passer and electric game-changer in the same season. The new coaching staff will stablize the junior-to-be in 2012.

22. Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State (SR)
Jacob Pedersen might be the most complete tight end but Stoneburner is the most talented pass-catcher of the bunch — and is named the best, too. He posted eight catches, 93 yards and four touchdowns in the first two games of last year. Look for more of that this fall as Miller develops around him.

23. Tre Roberson, QB, Indiana (SO)
Part of the reason Gunner Kiel is on a different campus in Indiana was the emergence of the speedy Roberson. Try 419 yards rushing in seven weeks as the starter. Kevin Wilson will be better prepared to utilize his developing quarterback’s skills this time around.

24. CJ Barnett, S, Ohio State (JR)
The Buckeyes defense should be the top unit in the Big Ten and Barnett is the physical and vocal leader of the secondary. He plays all over the field.

25. James White, RB, Wisconsin (JR)
Expect new coordinator Matt Canada to utilize more two-back sets than his predecessor did and it means more touches for White. He could also be used in the slot as a pass catcher as well.

Other Names to Watch:

Keenan Davis, WR, Iowa (SR)
Very talented pass-catcher needs to take final step in development.

Denicos Allen/Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State (JR)
Explosive sack artists and dependable tackling machine are both stellar.

Jacob Pedersen, TE, Wisconsin (JR)
Long line of All-American Badgers tight ends continues with Pedersen.

Johnny Adams, CB, Michigan State (SR)
Likely the best pure coverman in the Big Ten.

Ricky Wagner, OL, Wisconsin (SR)
Possibly the most Sunday talent of any blocker in the league.
 
Related: 2012 Athlon Sports Big Ten Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Team Previews

Leaders Legends
Indiana Iowa
Illinois Michigan
Ohio State Michigan State
Penn State Minnesota
Purdue Nebraska
Wisconsin Northwestern

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Big Ten 2012 Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/sec-football-2012-all-conference-team-recruits
Body:

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at all-conference teams from across the nation. But where did all these tremendous all-league performers come from and how did they get where they are today? Some showed up on campus as five-star uber-recruits and others defied all odds as walk-ons. Athlon analyzes how the 2012 preseason All-SEC team ranked as recruits.

Related: Athlon Sports 2012 preseason All-SEC Teams

AC100: Athlon Consensus 100 prospect

All-SEC Preseason First-Team Offense:

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (2009) AC100
The Tampa (Fla.) Plant product was a high school state champion and the No. 4 overall quarterback recruit in the nation. He was the No. 31-rated prospect overall in the class of 2009 by Athlon Sports.

Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (2010) AC100
There was little doubt that Lattimore was the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation. The top player in the Palmetto State from powerhouse program Duncan-Byrnes, Lattimore was the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas (2009)
The Missouri City (Texas) Fort Bend Marshall tailback was the No. 17-rated running back in the nation, the No. 166 overall prospect and the No. 18-rated player in the state of Texas by Rivals. 

Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee (2010) AC100
The talented Calhoun (Ga.) prospect was the No. 4 wide receiver prospect in the nation and the No. 21 overall recruit regardless of position by Athlon Sports. He was the No. 2 player in the Peach State.

Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas (2009)
The Texarkana (Texas) Texas High recruit was a three-star talent, the No. 63-rated wideout in the nation and the No. 64 player in the state of Texas by Rivals.com.

Chris Gragg, TE, Arkansas (2008)
Hailing from Warren (Ark.) High, Gragg was a two-star unranked recruit by Rivals.com. He was a 6-foot-3, 195-pound wide receiver recruit.

Barrett Jones, C, Alabama (2008)
The Outland Trophy winner was the No. 1 offensive center prospect in the nation as ranked by Rivals. He was their No. 60 overall prospect, a four-star talent and the top prospect in the state of Tennessee (Germantown-Evangelical Christian).

Alvin Bailey, OL, Arkansas (2009)
Bailey signed with Arkansas out of Broken Arrow (Okla.) High as a three-star offensive guard prospect. Rivals ranked him 27th nationally at his position and 13th in the state of Oklahoma.

Alex Hurst, OL, LSU (2008)
Another Volunteeer State prospect (Arlington, Tenn.), Hurst was a three-star mid-level recruit who ranked as the No. 12 player in the state and No. 59 at his position (OT) by Rivals.com.

Luke Joeckel, OL, Texas A&M (2010)
The Arlington (Texas) High just missed making the AC100 as he was the No. 106 overall recruit in the '10 class. He was the No. 13-rated offensive lineman in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Larry Warford, OL, Kentucky (2009)
A three-star recruit from Richmond (Ky.) Madison Central, Warford was the No. 4-rated player in the Bluegrass State by Rivals.com and the No. 30-rated offensive guard in the nation.

All-SEC Preseason First-Team Defense:

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (2011) AC100
Clowney was the No. 1 overall player in the entire nation in last year's class. The Rock Hill prospect topped nearly every major recruiting service rankings for much of the year.

Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn (2010) AC100
From Hialeah, Fla., Lemonier was the No. 7 overall defensive end prospect in the nation two years ago. He was the No. 38-rated player regardless of position by Athlon Sports.

Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU (2009) AC100
The Greenwood (S.C.) High defensive end was the No. 43-rated overall prospect in the nation and the No. 4-rated defensive end by Athlon Sports.

Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU (2009)
From West Monroe, La., Mingo was listed as a 6-foot-5, 209-pound outside linebacker. He was the No. 29 overall linebacker and finished as the 196th overall player in the country by Athlon Sports.

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (2009) AC100
Orginially signing with USC, the Columbus (Ga.) Carver was listed as the No. 6-rated linebacker in the nation, was the top prospect in the state of Georgia and was the 28th overall recruit in the country by Athlon Sports.

Jon Bostic, LB, Florida (2009)
Like Joeckel, Bostic just missed the AC100 as the No. 109-rated player in the class of 2009. The Wellington (Fla.) Palm Beach Central tackler was the No. 11 linebacker in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Nico Johnson, LB, Alabama (2009) AC100
Inking with Bama from Andalusia, Ala., Johnson was the No. 5-rated linebacker in the country back in 2009. He was the No. 21 overall prospect in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State (2009)
From Maben (Miss.) East Webster, Banks was listed as a three-star athlete who finished as the No. 23-rated player in the state of Mississippi by Rivals.

Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU (2010)
Rivals listed Mathieu as the No. 5-rated player in the state of Louisiana, the No. 13-rated cornerback and the No. 191-rated overall prospect in the nation.

Eric Reid, S, LSU (2010) AC100
The Geismar (La.) Dutchtown safety was Athlon Sports' No. 9-rated defensive back and No. 80-rated overall recruit in the nation two years ago.

Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia (2008)
From Donalsonville (Ga.) Seminole County was a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, the No. 40-rated athlete and the No. 29-rated player in the state of Georgia.

Athlon's 2012 SEC Previews

East West
Florida Alabama
Georgia Arkansas
Kentucky Auburn
Missouri LSU
South Carolina Mississippi State
Tennessee Ole Miss
Vanderbilt Texas A&M

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> SEC Football: 2012 Preseason All-Conference Team As Recruits</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 05:58
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2012-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be
Body:

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

The Pac-12's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC (SR)
No one in their right mind can make the case that Matt Barkley isn’t the First-Team All-American quarterback and top Heisman contender nationally. He has the records, the stats, the Golden Boy image, the preseason No. 1 team in the nation and a plethora of talented skill players to work with. In fact, the only negative Heisman pundits can lob at Barkley is, in fact, that he is the clearcut Heisman favorite. When was the last time the obvious preseason stiff-armed favorite actually won the award?

2. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State (JR)
Who is the leading returning receiver in the Pac-12? No, it’s not a guy named Woods, Allen or Lee. It’s Wilson with his 1,388 yards. In fact, the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder has had one of the quietest two-year starts to a career in the nation (party due to his current zip code) as he has 137 catches, 2,394 yards and 18 scores in two years. And now he has Mike Leach calling plays for him — a coach who has never had a quarterback pass for less than 3,400 yards. I got two words for you: Michael Crabtree.

3. De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon (SO)
Few players can rip off huge chunks of yards like The Black Mamba, who averaged nearly 12 yards per offensive touch as a freshman. His highlight-reel explosiveness is exactly what Heisman pundits everywhere crave. He contributes to the offense in every imaginable way — 2,235 all-purpose yards, 18 total TDs — and can be completely unstoppable in the open field. Thomas averaged 10.0 touches per game last year, and with LaMichael James no longer on the roster, fans can expect lethal doses from the most poisonous running back in the nation.

4. Keith Price, QB, Washington (JR)
Steve Sarkisian has a great one in Price. In the first six games of Price’s first season as the starter, all he did was lead the nation in touchdown passes with 21 scoring strikes. He set single-season Washington passing records and should only improve in his third year in Coach Sark's system. He has plenty of talent around him and multiple marquee showdowns on the schedule. If he can stay healthy — and gets some improved offensive line play — he could easily find himself in New York come December.

5. Robert Woods, WR, USC (JR)
The uber-talent from SoCal exploded into living rooms as a sophomore in 2011. He not only broke USC receiving records, but set a Pac-12 record with 111 receptions in only 12 games. He caught at least two scores in four straight games at one point and has clearly built a rapport with No. 1 on this list. The only thing keeping this dynamic play-maker from being higher than No. 5 is lingering bone inflammation in his ankle. Following arthroscopic surgery in December, Woods still has yet to begin summer workouts.

6. Keenan Allen, WR, Cal (JR)
This east coast product (Greenboro, N.C.) has already placed himself securely in the Cal record books after only two seasons on campus after a massive 98-catch, 1,343-yard sophomore season. Wilson will have the best stats and Woods might be the most explosive, but there may not be a more physically gifted athlete in the Pac-12 than Allen. If he can reach paydirt a few more times in 2012, which is possible with improved quarterback play, this graceful gazelle might need to book a flight to Manhattan later this year.

7. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon (SR)
Barner has dealt with injury issues throughout his career in Eugene, but should he stay healthy, this senior to be has proven to be plenty capably of carrying the Ducks’ running back torch. In three career starts, Barner posted 433 yards rushing on 58 attempts and 102 yards receiving on three catches to go with eight total touchdowns. Ironically, the only thing keeping him from a potential Heisman trip to the Big Apple could be his backfield mate De’Anthony Thomas.

8. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah (SR)
The Morris Trophy winner from a year ago as the Pac-12’s top defensive lineman, Lotelelei should be in Heisman conversations across the country. Nebraska sent a defensive tackle to New York in 2009, so why can’t the Utes do the same? Utah’s Star up front could be the top DT taken in the 2013 NFL Draft as this defense ranked No. 1 in the league in scoring defense, No. 1 in turnover margin and No. 3 in rushing defense. Using him in some gimmick plays — e.g., along the offensive line or in goalline packages — would go a long way towards boosting his national profile.

9. John White, RB, Utah (SR)
In only his first season on campus, White broke the single-season Utah rushing record with 1,519 yards. What is more impressive is how he did it. The Utes had little-to-no quality quarterback play last year due to injuries and it allowed defenses to stack the box against White. All he did was carry the ball 316 times and score 15 touchdowns in the face of eight- and nine-man fronts. With just a little support from the passing game in 2012, White could post Radio City Music Hall-type numbers.

10. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State (SR)
There is a lot of projection and finger-crossing going on with Tuel this fall. He has the Tuels needed to be successful, especially for a quarterback genius like Mike Leach. But he has been consistently injured for the better part of his career. Should he stay healthy, the Cougars' offense could set school records and reach the postseason for the first time in years.

11. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford (SR)
The Cardinal's offensive onus sans Luck, Martin, Fleener and DeCastro now falls to Taylor. Things will be undoubtedly tougher without the quartet. However, David Shaw has instilled a physical mindset that begins with the rushing attack and Mr. Taylor.

12. Marqise Lee, WR, USC (SO)
A tremendously talented first-year player got the benefit of defenses focusing on Woods a year ago and it led to a 73-catch, 1,143-yard 11-TD season. Should once again be productive in explosive offense led by elite quarterback.

13. Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford (SR)
Maybe not as physically gifted as Shayne Skov, but Thomas is certainly more dependable. The outside tackle is a fierce competitor and a preseason first-team All-American. The savvy linebacker plays sideline-to-sideline — and in your backfield.

14. Isi Sofele, RB, Cal (SR)
Jeff Tedford recommitted himself to the ground game after starting the year 4-4. Sofele got 88 carries in the final four games and it resulted in 569 yards and three wins. Cal has had a long line of productive backs and this senior to be is the next.

15. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (SO)
Washington might have the best tight end in the nation. As only a freshman, ASJ landed all over the Huskies' record books. His 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame was virtually unstoppable down the stretch as he caught 19 (of his 41) passes for 209 yards and two scores over the final four games.

16. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State (SR)
There may not be a better pure coverman in the nation than this senior Beaver. He is also an electric return man and special teamer, which only adds to his Heisman clout. Should Oregon State return to the postseason it will be in large part because of Mr. Poyer.

17. Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State (SR)
Posted his best career game in the spotlight against USC last year (141 yards, 3 TD) and it led to a huge upset. With a new quarterback and new offensive scheme, Marshall should be the focal point of ASU’s offense.

18. Marcus Mariota/Bryan Bennett, QB, Oregon (FR/SO)
If one of these two talented dual-threats can lock down the starting job in Eugene, he will have a great chance to post Heisman-type numbers. The offense is too powerful and both of these quarterbacks are athletic enough to conjure images of Dennis Dixon. 

19. Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (SO)
Rich Rodriguez has been known to produce Heisman Trophy-caliber backfields. Carey is one of the most talented runners in recent Wildcats memory and proved himself plenty capable as a freshman (425 yards, 6 TD)

20. T.J. McDonald, S, USC (SR)
The preseason first-team All-American hunts heads, delivers huge blows, leads the No. 1 team in the nation and has an NFL pedigree. What’s not to like?

21. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA (SR)
It feels like Franklin has been toting the rock in Westwood forever, but 2012 will be his final, and potentially finest, season. After a 1,000-yard sophomore season, Franklin got 48 fewer carries as a junior. With an increased workload and improved offensive scheme, Franklin should return to form in 2012.

22. Michael Clay, LB, Oregon (SR)
This Ducks defense could be sneaky good and it begins with leadership from its heart and soul. The stocky Clay is lightning quick and incredibly savvy. Expect big things from the senior in 2012.

23. Curtis McNeal, RB, USC (SR)
With little depth on the roster behind him, McNeal looks like Lane Kiffin’s guy in 2012. He established himself as the year went along, finishing with four 100-yard efforts over the final six games. But can his tiny 5-foot-7 frame handle the workload?

24. Shaq Thompson, S, Washington (FR)
Not too many true freshman will show up on Athlon’s Heisman Watch List, but Thompson deserves it. He should start right away, will play all over the field and could restore defensive prominence in Seattle. He is a once-in-a-decade type of safety.

25. Matt Scott, QB, Arizona (SR)
Do dual-threat quarterbacks normally produce big numbers in RichRod’s zone read? If he can stay healthy, Scott should have little problem posting big numbers in the new option attack. I would say redshirting turned into a brilliant maneuver by the senior to be.

Other Names To Watch:

Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State (SO)
Turned the ball over too much but also posted 3,328 yards and 16 TDs as only a freshman.

Kasen Williams, WR, Washington (SO)
Tremendously gifted athlete who showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman.

John Boyett, S, Oregon (SR)
Another heady veteran on what could be best Ducks D in years.

Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA (SR)
Extremely gifted physical talent who needs quality QB play to make a real splash.

Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon (SR)
Overtly talented and versatile yet occasionally inconsistent defensive “drop end.” 

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports Pac-12 Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Team Previews

North South
California Arizona
Oregon Arizona State
Oregon State Colorado
Stanford UCLA
Washington USC
Washington State Utah

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 2012 Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2012-all-conference-team-recruits
Body:

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at all-conference teams from across the nation. But where did all these tremendous all-league performers come from and how did they get where they are today? Some showed-up on campus as five-star uber-recruits and others defied all odds as walk-ons. Athlon analyzes how the 2012 All-Big 12 team ranked as recruits.

Athlons Sports 2012 preseason All-Big 12 Teams

AC100: Athlon Consensus 100 prospect

All-Big 12 First-Team Offense

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (2009)
Eugene Smith was ranked as the the No. 14 quarterback in the nation by Athlon Sports and the No. 139 overall player in the nation from Miramar, Fla.

Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State (2010)
From Wichita (Kan.) Southeast, Randle was the No. 20 running back recruit in the nation by Athlon Sports and No. 195 nationally.

Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas (2011) AC100
Brown was the No. 1 running back recruit in the nation in last year's class. The Belton, Texas product was the top Lone State State prospect and was the No. 4 overall recruit in the nation. 

Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (2009)
The all-purpose back from Baltimore (Md.) Dunbar was listed as the No. 19-rated running back in the nation by Athlon Sports, good for No. 164 overall in the class of 2009.

Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia (2009)
From the same high school as Smith, the four-star Bailey was the No. 61-rated player in the state of Florida by Rivals.com. He was the No. 48 wide receiver in the country.

Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma (2010) AC100
The Carlsbad (Calif.) La Costa Canyon prospect was the No. 71 overall recruit in the nation and the No. 13-rated wide receiver in the country by Athlon Sports.

Ben Habern, C, Oklahoma (2008)
The Argyle (Texas) Liberty Christian blocker was a Rivals250 member and was ranked as the No. 3 offensive center recruit in the country.

Gabe Ikard, OL, Oklahoma (2009)
This three-star recruit was the No. 15-rated tight end prospect in the nation by Rivals.com. He was the 14th best player in the state of Oklahoma (Bishop McGuinness).

Cyril Richardson, OL, Baylor (2009)
The big fella from Crowley (Texas) North was a mid-level, three-star prospect who ranked as the 90th best offensive tackle recruit in the nation.

Lane Taylor, OL, Oklahoma State (2008)
Taylor came to Oklahoma state from Arlington (Texas) Martin and was a two-star recruit who didn't land on any state, national or positional rankings.

LaAdrian Waddle, OL, Texas Tech (2009)
Was a three-star recruit from Columbus, Texas and was listed as the No. 74-rated offensive guard prospect in the nation by Rivals.com.

All-Big 12 First-Team Defense

Jackson Jeffcoat, DL, Texas (2010) AC100
The NFL legacy was the No. 2 defensive end prospect in the nation, the top recruit from the state of Texas and was ranked as the No. 4 overall recruit in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Stansly Maponga, DL, TCU (2009)
Rivals ranked the Lewisville (Texas) Hebron native as the No. 20 strongside defensive end prospect in the nation. He was a three-star recruit.

Alex Okafor, DL, Texas (2009) AC100
Athlon Sports had Okafor as the No. 40 overall prospect in the nation and the No. 3 defensive end recruit in the country.

Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State (2008) AC100
From Wichita (Kan.) East, Brown was ranked by Athlon Sports as the No. 1 linebacker recruit in the country and was No. 7 overall regardless of position.

Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas (2010) AC100
The West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West tackler was the No. 1 player in the state of Ohio by Athlon Sports, the No. 16-rated prospect in the nation regardless of position and the No. 2 linebacker in the country.

A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State (2009)
Hailing from Kimberly, Wisc., Klein was the No. 6-rated player in the Badger State and was the No. 86-rated outside linebacker recruit in the nation by Rivals.

Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State (2009)
The sure-handed tackler from Waukee (Iowa) High was rated as the No. 9 player in the state of Iowa by Rivals.com. He was a two-star prospect.

Brodrick Brown, CB, Oklahoma State (2008)
From Spring (Texas) Westfield, Brown was a three-star recruit who failed to land on any state, positional or national ranking of any kind.

Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas (2011) AC100
The NFL legacy from Angleton, Texas was the No. 4-rated defensive back in the country and was the No. 38-rated player in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma (2010) AC100
The Chula Vista (Calif.) Eastlake prospect was the No. 1 "athlete" recruit in the nation by Athlon Sports. He was the No. 25 overall player in the country.

Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas (2009)
From Brownwood (Texas) Early, Vaccaro was the No. 18-rated safety in the nation and the No. 38-rated player in the state of Texas by Rivals.com.

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Previews

Baylor Oklahoma State
Iowa State TCU
Kansas Texas
Kansas State Texas Tech
Oklahoma West Virginia

Teaser:
<p> Big 12 2012 All-Conference Team As Recruits</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 06:00

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