Articles By Braden Gall

All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC South, Indianapolis Colts, NFL
Path: /nfl/indianapolis-colts-2012-nfl-team-preview
Body:

Athlon Sports is counting down its 2012 NFL preseason Power Rankings with in-depth team previews, schedule analysis and more as the start of the NFL season draws near.

The Indianapolis Colts check in at No. 29.

It’s as if the Mayflower vans returned to Indianapolis. The Colts’ cornerstones, who once made this franchise a perennial Super Bowl contender, have relocated. There hasn’t been this much movement since that 1984 arrival from Baltimore. Almost overnight, after a 2–14 collapse, owner Jim Irsay’s intuition told him to part with Peyton Manning, the NFL’s only four-time MVP, who underwent four neck/spine surgeries in 21 months. Vice chairman Bill Polian, a six-time NFL Executive of the Year, was replaced by 40-year-old general manager Ryan Grigson, who had an eye for spotting talent in Philadelphia. Uninspiring head coach Jim Caldwell was supplanted by fiery Baltimore defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.

The Colts begin anew with No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck and so many roster spots to fill around the promising Stanford quarterback. Fans be advised — everything can’t be fixed overnight.

Offense

Coordinator Bruce Arians favors a two-tight end scheme, and the Colts added two of the best in the 2012 draft in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Fleener was Luck’s go-to guy in college because he’s 6'6" and fast. Allen will be physical in shedding coverage. That’s key, because an offensive line no longer anchored by center Jeff Saturday has been patched together and will need time. Luck will want to take advantage of as many three-step drops as possible.

When looking at Luck, think Manning with mobility. He learned from Manning, who had a young Luck at his passing camp as a student and counselor. He prepares like Manning, too. Before the draft, the rookie spent three weeks studying NFL film with former Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore, an old-school guy who gushed about the young passer.

Pagano has insisted from Day 1 that he wants to run. Delone Carter is a second-year bruiser who emerged as a starter but lost the job because of fumbles. Donald Brown can bounce it outside with his speed but has never lived up to being a first-round pick. Rookie Vick Ballard could be a quicker Carter. In theory, sure, the idea is to take pressure off Luck so he ­doesn’t have to throw 40 times per game, which would expose him to aggressive pass rushes.

The Colts came up a few million dollars short of overpaying to re-sign wide receiver Pierre Garcon. They instead brought back Reggie Wayne, who offered to fly to California to work out with Luck while the quarterback completed his college degree. Slot receiver Austin Collie is effective, one year removed from a spate of concussions. After that, it’s iffy. Former St. Louis second-round pick Donnie Avery assures he can still burn, but he didn’t show it with Tennessee last year. Rookie receiver/returner T.Y. Hilton is so fast, the Colts moved up into the third round to draft him. But he’s also small, and it’s always uncertain how little guys will hold up.

Related: Top Indianapolis Colts Twitter Accounts to Follow

Defense

Pagano repeatedly utters the term “hybrid” to describe this gradual transformation to a 3-4 scheme. So sometimes the Colts will show the familiar 4-3 with Pro Bowl pass-rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis as ends. Then they shift to a 3-4 with the bookends becoming outside linebackers. Mathis was re-signed because he was born to fly around like this. Freeney’s adjustment is wait-and-see. The Colts reportedly tried to trade him; he’ll count $19 million against the cap in the final year of his contract, and moving him would save $14 million. The Colts’ all-time leading sack man stayed because he still gets after the quarterback. If he doesn’t succeed as an outside linebacker, he will become a situational pass-rusher or they could shift him back to end, admittedly a different role in a 3-4. They need more than the 19 tackles he made last season.

Pagano added familiar faces from Baltimore in end Cory Redding, safety Tom Zbikowski and tackle Brandon McKinney. Redding gets decent pocket pressure and is responsible against the run. Zbikowski lost his job with the Ravens and is anxious for a second chance. The hunch is that rookie nose tackle Josh Chapman (316 pounds) will eventually beat out McKinney. Chapman is incredibly strong and is an ideal plugger.

This secondary is worrisome. Cornerback Jerraud Powers is excellent, when he’s not hurt. He’s missed 10 games in two seasons and is entering a contract year. The other corners are Kevin Thomas, Brandon King, Chris Rucker and Terrence Johnson — all relatively young and unproven. Thomas had the job in minicamp, but stay tuned. The fact that the Colts were frustrated by just missing on a couple of cornerbacks in the draft reinforces that they feel a need to upgrade the position. Perhaps steady safety Antoine Bethea can help the corners, while Zbikowski, who boxes to stay in shape, will thrive as a run-stopper.

Inside linebacker Pat Angerer is a tackling machine; his 148 ranked fourth in the league. But even an obvious plus is an indication of how this defense is in the evolutionary stages. At 235 pounds, he’s more ideal for the outside, but the Colts don’t have guys who fit the bigger, stronger inside linebacker profile.

Specialists

Adam Vinatieri showed he was worth the new contract he signed before the 2011 season as he hit on 23-of-27 field goals, including 52- and 53-yarders. Punter/kickoff specialist Pat McAfee has excellent hang time and boomed 41 touchbacks in 63 kickoffs. The Colts haven’t had a great returner in ages. They hope Hilton is that answer. Irsay made it clear to his new regime the need to fix “ridiculous” special teams, be that covering kicks or returning them, something that had become “a broken record.”

Final Analysis: 3rd in the AFC South

Opponents enjoyed a 103.9 passer rating last season, so a Colts optimist will suggest that it can’t get much worse. Don’t be so sure. While the Colts could show progress in this new hybrid defense, not getting to the quarterback enough will expose an already shaky secondary. If this defensive transition implodes, take heart, fans. The release of big contracts for the likes of tight end Dallas Clark, middle linebacker Gary Brackett and even a $10 million hit this season for Manning means roughly $40 million in dead cap money this year, but it sets up the Colts as big spenders in free agency in 2013. Compensatory picks will help provide another big draft class. The Colts can address their defensive needs.

A weak schedule with the likes of Cleveland, Miami and Buffalo at home suggests that outscoring some foes is doable. Luck has enough talented targets, and the play-calling should protect him while the line and run game shake out. The team’s 99.6 yards rushing per game ranked 26th, but the Colts trailed most of the time. They managed 4.2 yards per carry, which would be enough to help Luck. Manning went 3–13 as a rookie with proven stars like wide receiver Marvin Harrison and running back Marshall Faulk. Luck will find a way to win a few, then the Colts will tinker again and take the next step toward building a playoff contender in 2013.

Related: 2012 Indianapolis Colts Schedule Analysis

Outside The Huddle

Not Ready For Primetime
Once a night-game favorite, the Colts have 15 kickoffs at 1 p.m. The only deviation is an 8:20 p.m. Nov. 8 visit to Jacksonville on NFL Network. The Colts had four primetime games in 2011 — a fifth at rival New England was flexed to the afternoon. Talk about a dose of reality. By the way, Peyton Manning’s new team, Denver, has five primetime games.

Build The Monster
New head coach Chuck Pagano set the agenda for offseason conditioning by issuing blue T-shirts to players with the slogan, “Build The Monster.” Fans bought in, too, immediately asking when the shirts would be marketed for purchase.

First-round QBs
Andrew Luck is the seventh quarterback the Colts have selected in the first round of the draft. He joins George Shaw (1955), Bert Jones (1973), Art Schlichter (1982), John Elway (1983), Jeff George (1990) and Peyton Manning (1998).

Don’t Say the ‘R’ Word
Players made it clear in minicamp that they do not accept the term “rebuilding” to describe the team’s sweeping changes. “If you want to think we’re rebuilding, whatever, think it,” Angerer says. “We’ll fight your ass. Let’s go.”

Irsay Still Loves Twitter
Colts owner Jim Irsay isn’t shy with 164,000-plus Twitter followers. Amid speculation that pass-rusher Dwight Freeney was on the trading block, Irsay tweeted, “The only people hoping for trade with Free#93 are the ones that have to play against us…he’s MAYHEM with plenty of gas left in the tank!” When Peter King of Sports Illustrated criticized the Colts for using their first four picks on offensive players, Irsay tweeted, “Hey Peter King, we had NO defense, unlike now, in 1998, n B Polian took 4 Offensive picks n looking back at ur comments then, u said Great Draft!”

Not tackling Twitter
One of the few players who insists he won’t waste his time on Twitter is linebacker Pat Angerer. “I don’t care what I do,” he says. “I don’t think anybody else would care what I’m doing today.”

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: St. Louis Rams
No. 30: Minnesota Vikings
No. 29: Indianapolis Colts
No. 28: Wed., July 25

Order your 2012 Indianapolis Colts Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

Related: Top Indianapolis Colts Top Twitter Accounts To Follow 
Related: 2012 Indianapolis Colts Schedule Analysis

Teaser:
<p> Indianapolis Colts 2012 NFL Team Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - 05:41
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC South, Indianapolis Colts, NFL
Path: /nfl/indianapolis-colts-top-twitter-accounts-follow
Body:

Keeping up with your favorite team can be an all-consuming task. We’re here to help indulge that need to follow all aspects of the NFL on Twitter.

For all 32 teams, we’re picking the best Twitter accounts for each franchise. They run the gamut from players, coaches, executives, traditional media, bloggers or simply accounts that keep us informed and entertained.

Whether you’re a Twitter neophyte or simply trying to spice up your feed for football season, we’re here to help. And it all starts with the Indianapolis Colts official twitter account:

@NFLColts (Followers: 87,223)

Note: Followers as of date of publication, July 24, 2012

Top Colts To Follow:

  Name Pos. Twitter Followers
1. Pat McAfee P @PatMcAfeeShow 61,041
2. Dwight Freeney DE @DwightFreeney 50,286
3. Robert Mathis DE @RobertMathis98 42,501
4. Tom Zbikowski S @TommyZbikowski 33,770
5. Jerraud Powers CB @JPowers25 21,613
6. Antoine Bethea S @Tweez41 21,373
7. Donnie Avery WR @DonnieAvery 16,994
8. Drew Stanton QB @DrewStanton 15,164
9. Anthony Castonzo OL @AnthonyCastonzo 11,421
10. Coby Fleener TE @CobyFleener 11,013
11. A.Q. Shipley OL @aqshipley 7,149
12. Cory Redding DE @Redding93 7,142
13. Brandon McKinney DT @BMcKinney96 7,059
14. Dwayne Allen TE @DAllen83 5,953
15. Deji Karim RB @KingKarim35 4,239
16. Kevin Thomas CB @Datboiquito 4,231
17. Chandler Harnish QB @CHarnish8 3,496
18. Joe Lefeged S @JLefeged35 2,634
19. Jarred Fayson WR @JFayson 1,587
20. Jake Kirkpatrick OL @JKirk76 1,543
21. Mike Tepper OL @MikeTepper79 1,454
22. LaVon Brazill WR @BrazillLaVon 856

I find it amazing how well the kickers and punters do in the twitter-sphere. Especially, ones who get arrested for swiming drunkingly down the Broad Ripple canal with little to no attire. Boom Stick is right.

There is, without a doubt, one NFL owner who stands above all the rest when it comes to twitter. And that, of course, is the Colts' Jim Irsay. His random torts, rants and general goofiness is well worth the follow: @JimIrsay

The No. 1 overall pick and savior of the Colts franchise hasn't joined the twitter-lution just yet. However, you can follow his head (@AndrewLucksHead) and his MVP campaign (@Luck4MVP).

The Colts Beat:

Phillip B. Wilson, Indianapolis Star sportswriter: @pwilson24 (9,833 followers)

Mike Chappell, Colts beat writer for Indianapolis Star: @mchappell51 (4,745)

Tom James, Colts beat writer for Terre Haute Tribune-Star: @TribStarTJames (1,147)

Reggie Hayes, Columnist for The News-Sentinel who covers the Colts: @reggiehayes1 (691)

Nate Dunlevy, AFC South Correspondent for Bleacher Report: @natedunlevy (3,534) 

Colts Blog Roll:

While Phillip Wilson covers the team for the great Indy Star, the blog to bookmark is ColtsInsider.com

Every NFL team has a "buzztap" twitter following and the Colts version is, of course: @coltsbuzztap (20,731)

The SB Nation blog to visit each day is StampedeBlue.com and can be followed @StampedeBlue. Brad Wells is the head blogger for the site and twitter handle.

Others to be sure to follow are @ColtsFanClub (13,749), @ColtsGab, ColtsAuthority.com and @MyColts (4,119)

The ESPN AFC South blog is run by Paul Kuharsky and you can follow him @ESPN_AFCSouth

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: St. Louis Rams
No. 30: Minnesota Vikings
No. 29: Indianapolis Colts
No. 28: Wed., July 25

Order your 2012 Indianapolis Colts Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

Related: Top Indianapolis Colts Top Twitter Accounts To Follow 
Related: 2012 Indianapolis Colts Schedule Analysis

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Indianapolis Colts Top Twitter Accounts To Follow</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - 05:40
All taxonomy terms: Minnesota Vikings, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/minnesota-vikings-2012-nfl-team-preview
Body:

Athlon Sports is counting down its 2012 NFL preseason Power Rankings with in-depth team previews, schedule analysis and more as the start of the NFL season draws near.

The Minnesota Vikings check in at No. 30.

Immersed in one of the darkest times in franchise history, the Vikings are looking for even the slightest optimism to energize the fan base. This reclamation project could take awhile. Save a few moving parts, this is still the same team that has one divisional win since 2010. But the Vikings have done enough through free agency and the draft to improve from last season’s 3–13 collapse. After more than a dozen free agent signings and 10 draft picks, depth should bolster positions of need such as cornerback, wide receiver and offensive line.

It’s not every player’s fault the Vikings fell apart last season. Some of the game’s brightest wear purple on Sundays. But let’s be honest: The Vikings entered the offseason with far more questions than answers.

That’s just fine with the three monsters in the NFC North that have made a recent habit of devouring the Vikings. 

Offense

Whether Adrian Peterson recovers from his torn anterior cruciate ligament in time for Week 1 or Week 8, the Vikings can’t wait for the game’s best rusher to play savior. The league’s 28th-ranked passing offense must catch up with the rest of the league — and it has a fighting chance to do just that.

Hopes hinge on quarterback Christian Ponder, who throws well on the move and converts key third downs but has struggled with decision-making late in games. It’s all about timing with Ponder — when to have confidence in his strong arm and when to be conservative.

Ponder should have more to work with this year. As should do-it-all receiver Percy Harvin, who is best suited for the slot but will be used all over the field once again.

Receiver Jerome Simpson’s elite athleticism makes him worth the risk of a one-year deal despite his three-game suspension to start the 2012 season. Simpson’s arrival allows veteran Michael Jenkins, a reliable possession receiver who sometimes struggles to beat man coverage, to slide into the third receiver spot.

The Vikings have invested in tight end help, hoping the John Carlson-Kyle Rudolph combination channels the Gronk-Hernandez show in New England. Carlson is good against zone coverage and is more quick than fast, but he won’t blow by anybody. Rudolph’s ridiculous hands and pass-catching radius offset his lack of speed. Don’t be surprised if he becomes the team’s best red zone option.

When it comes to instant improvement, look no further than the offensive line. First-round left tackle Matt Kalil has the agility and technique to be an elite pass-protector and allows Charlie Johnson, who’s tough but limited at tackle because of short arms, to slide to left guard. Couple the new left side with center John Sullivan (who improved his strength to handle nose tackles) and right tackle Phil Loadholt (a solid run-blocker who struggles with speed-rushers but is motivated entering a contract year), and the offensive line should keep Ponder upright more often than it was able to last season.

The Vikings are counting on Toby Gerhart, who thrives off carries in bulk and can wear teams down with a bowling-ball mentality. But if Peterson misses extended time, the Vikings will miss terribly his ability to take over games. Expect Peterson’s pass-catching role to increase upon his return. 

Related: Top Minnesota Vikings Twitter Accounts to Follow

Defense

Not even four Jared Allens up front could have masked Minnesota’s historically bad secondary a year ago, when opposing quarterbacks enjoyed a 107.6 passer rating.

Defensive coordinator Alan Williams should have more help, but the Vikings are choosing to count on third-year cornerback Chris Cook, who twice found legal trouble in 2011. Corners who are 6'2" with natural ability to cover on an island are hard not to play. Reliability is Cook’s issue. Veteran Antoine Winfield turned 35 in June but is still one of the team’s better tacklers and, when healthy, wreaks havoc in the slot. 

The Vikings are counting on two rookies — safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Josh Robinson — to help revamp the secondary. The speedy Robinson has adequate coverage ability but must prove he’s polished. Smith is polished but must prove he has adequate coverage ability. Second-year safety Mistral Raymond wasn’t ready last season but should compete for a spot this year. 

The strength of the defense remains up front, where Allen, tackle Kevin Williams and end Brian Robison return to a unit that tied for the league lead with 50 sacks. Despite getting overpowered at times, Robison is an emerging end with above-average quickness. Williams has played through injury the last two seasons and can still dominate games at times. He’ll need help from Letroy Guion, who’s expected to start at nose tackle despite four uneven seasons. Coaches believe his move from three-technique tackle to nose will best utilize his 6'4", 303-pound frame to gobble up rushing lanes. 

Questions persist at linebacker, where Jasper Brinkley, the replacement for E.J. Henderson, has limited experience and is coming off hip surgery. Brinkley is an aggressive hitter and solid against the run, but can he consistently cover tight ends? 
Chad Greenway is solid in coverage, but despite being a sure tackler and team leader, he was quiet in the big-play department a year ago. Maybe a better secondary can help clean up the backfield mess that left linebackers vulnerable. 

Erin Henderson can play in nickel or base packages and has major upside. In the past, he’s been prone to leave his gap in search of a home run play. 

Specialists

Kicker Ryan Longwell was released, opening the door for sixth-round pick Blair Walsh, who has a tremendous leg but was inconsistent in his final season at Georgia.

Harvin is the Vikings’ best kick return option, but he’s too valuable on offense. Third-string running back Jordan Todman or fourth-round receiver Jarius Wright could help matters. Robinson returned punts in college and might compete with last year’s return man, Marcus Sherels. 

Final Analysis: 4th in the NFC North

The Vikings are rebuilding at the worst possible time, with all three NFC North rivals capable of double-digit-win seasons. But things can’t get much worse than in 2011, when an 0–4 start despite dominating teams in first halves deflated the entire season, and injuries plagued several positions. After losing nine games by seven points or less, this team seems due for a few breaks. If the Vikings stay healthy and produce a top-15 offense, six wins are a starting point. The running game is still stout, the defensive line is still among the league’s top 10, and a veteran-laden locker room is tired of losing. But two of the biggest concerns from a year ago — sub-par play at receiver and in the secondary — are still relatively uncertain. It’s hard to win that way, unless a few young players surprise.

Related: 2012 Minnesota Vikings Schedule Analysis

Outside The Huddle

Family Affair
First-round left tackle Matt Kalil has been groomed for success. His dad, Frank, played one season with the Buffalo Bills and four years in the now-defunct USFL. His mother, Cheryl, was Miss California in 1981. Brother Ryan is a Pro Bowl center for the Panthers. The spotlight should be no problem for the Vikings’ new tackle.

Call of Duty
Coach Leslie Frazier got a call from well-respected Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome around the time the Vikings were wrapping up a 3–13 season. Newsome’s message? Trust the process, keep working and things will turn. Frazier, entering his second full year, believes the Vikings have great potential.

Just Short
The Vikings were one of eight NFL teams without a 1,000-yard rusher or receiver in 2011. Injuries limited Adrian Peterson to 970 yards, well short of his 1,446-yard yearly average through his first four seasons. Percy Harvin led all Vikings receivers with 967 yards. 

Building Chemistry
Quarterback Christian Ponder has wasted little time getting to know his veteran teammates since joining the team in 2011. He’s been hunting with linebacker Chad Greenway and center John Sullivan in Greenway’s hometown of Mount Vernon, S.D. He’s cooked barbecue with tight end John Carlson. And he’s golfed with several teammates. 
Top this Speaking of Allen, don’t expect last year’s sack leader with 22 — a half-sack shy of Michael Strahan’s single-season NFL record — to predict a sack total for 2012. Allen believes if he’s trying to get sacks, he won’t get sacks. Beating left tackles with technique and relentless play is Allen’s primary concern on the field. The rest takes care of itself.

Window Closed
After four straight years ranking in the top two in rushing defense (2006-09), the Vikings fell to ninth in 2010 and 11th last year. Minnesota’s going on its third nose tackle in as many years and will have difficulty cracking the top five again. 

Teammates for Life
The Vikings’ pair of fourth-round receivers, Arkansas’ Jarius Wright and Greg Childs, have known each other since the third grade growing up in Warren, Ark. “They are reminding me, ‘Coach, we’ve always been winners. Everywhere we went,’” Frazier says. “I said, ‘Hallelujah!’ We’ll take that.” 

Aisle-Seat RB
While recovering from his torn ACL this offseason, running back Adrian Peterson spent lots of time in airplanes because of his choice to rehab in two places: at Minnesota’s practice facility and his offseason home in Houston. “I stick to the plan wherever I am,” said Peterson during the offseason. “In both places, I’m being pushed hard and I’m pushing myself hard. So, I think it’s working out well.”

Rock Bottom
Want to improve in 2011? Try improving this stat line: NFC North quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler combined to complete 72.3 percent of their passes for 1,457 yards, 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Vikings last season. 

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: St. Louis Rams
No. 30: Minnesota Vikings
No. 29: Tues., July 24

Order your 2012 Minnesota Vikings Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

Related: Top Minnesota Vikings Top Twitter Accounts To Follow 
Related: 2012 Minnesota Vikings Schedule Analysis

Teaser:
<p> Minnesota Vikings 2012 NFL Team Preview</p>
Post date: Monday, July 23, 2012 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: Minnesota Vikings, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/minnesota-vikings-top-twitter-accounts-follow
Body:

Keeping up with your favorite team can be an all-consuming task. We’re here to help indulge that need to follow all aspects of the NFL on Twitter.

For all 32 teams, we’re picking the best Twitter accounts for each franchise. They run the gamut from players, coaches, executives, traditional media, bloggers or simply accounts that keep us informed and entertained.

Whether you’re a Twitter neophyte or simply trying to spice up your feed for football season, we’re here to help. And it all starts with the Minnesota Vikings official twitter account:

@VikingsFootball (Followers: 128,009)

Note: Followers as of date of publication, July 22, 2012

Top Vikings To Follow:

  Name Pos. Twitter Followers
1. Adrian Peterson RB @AdrianPeterson 269,168
2. Jared Allen DE @JaredAllen69 180,004
3. Kyle Rudolph TE @KyleRudolph82 176,262
4. Christian Ponder QB @CPonder7 89,623
5. Jamarca Sanford S @Sanford33 77,482
6. Percy Harvin WR @Percy_Harvin 75,581
7. Chris Kluwe P @ChrisWarcraft 46,730
8. Joe Webb QB @JoeWebb_14 18,855
9. Brian Robison DE @Brain_Robison 16,585
10. Jerome Simpson WR @Rome081 14,119
11. Erin Henderson LB @50ErinHenderson 13,341
12. Jasper Brinkley LB @JasperHitman54 11,273
13. Geoff Schwartz OL @GeoffSchwartz76 10.383
14. Chris Cook CB @Monsta_20 7,156
15. Chris Carr CB @TriplCarr 6,399
16. Jordan Todman RB @JordanTodman 5,433
17. Brandon Burton CB @BrandonBurton36 4,481
18. Chris DeGeare OL @ChrisDeGeare 2,991
19. Jerome Felton FB @JFelton45 2,190
20. Everson Griffen DE @EGriff97 1,639
21. Mickey Shuler TE @Mickey_Shuler 1,252

It's awesome that the punter for the Vikings is not only the No. 7-most followed player, but that his handle involved his love of Warcraft. 

The Vikings Beat:

Dan Wiederer is the Vikings beat writer for the Star Tribune: @StribDW

Jeremy Folwer and the rest of the Pioneer Press staff who covers the Vikings can be followed @VikingsNow

Vikings Blog Roll: 

TheVikingAge.com is the self-proclaimed "most flavorful Minnesota Vikings blog" on the web: @TheVikingAge

TheVikingShip.net can be followed @TheVikingShip

Visit www.dailynorseman.com for "the internet's best site dedicated to the Minnesota Vikings." Follow the SB Nation Vikings site @DailyNorseman

Want to run your mouth about the Purple People Eaters? Try @VikingsGab

How about @VikingsFanClub: An independent twitter account by the fans, for the fans.

Also be sure to check out @PurplePride, @VikingsUpdate and @VikingsBuzzTap

The ESPN NFC North blog is run by Kevin Seifert and you can follow him @ESPN_NFCNorth

Related: 2012 Minnesota Vikings Season Preview
Related: 2012 Minnesota Vikings Schedule Analysis

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Minnesota Vikings Top Twitter Accounts To Follow</p>
Post date: Monday, July 23, 2012 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: Big Board, Fantasy, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-fantasy-football-rankings-tight-ends
Body:

The 2012 NFL Fantasy Season is officially here. Mock drafts abound. Rookie round-ups are complete. Bye week cheat sheets are everywhere. The creative juices are flowing with hysterical team names. Positional rankings are popping up everywhere. And the ever-important Athlon Sports 2012 Big Board, the most accurate consensus top 150 list of fantasy footballers on the web, continues to take shape.

New to our Big Board is NFL.com's initial NFL fantasy rankings as we have expanded from seven lists to eight. We also added a "Previous" column to indicate the previous ranking. Athlon, with special help from FantasyRundown.com, will continue to broaden and deepen its trademark consensus Big Board and positional rankings all summer long.

CBS: CBSSports.com (Updated: 7/13/12)
PFF: ProFootballFocus.com (Updated: 6/26/12)
ESPN: ESPN (Updated 6/20/12)
FFT: FFToolbox.com (Updated 7/15/12)
Y!: Yahoo! Sports (Updated 6/23/12)
NFL: NFL.com (2012 Debut)
FOX: FoxSports.com (Updated 5/31/12)
AS: Athlon Sports (Updated 7/1/12)

Updated: 9:30 a.m. CT, July 20, 2012

Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Tight Ends

Rank Previous Top 150 Rank Player: Team CBS PFF ESPN FFT Y! NFL FOX AS
1. 1 19 Rob Gronkowski NE 26 44 14 13 14 14 17 25
2. 2 23 Jimmy Graham NO 28 38 22 20 20 21 20 29
3. 3 55 Antonio Gates SD 42 54 56 68 49 53 62 63
4. 5 65 Jason Witten DAL 48 58 69 72 63 72 51 80
5. 4 66 Aaron Hernandez NE 39 66 93 61 55 70 68 70
6. 6 68 Vernon Davis SF 56 76 61 65 60 77 66 79
7. 7 71 Jermichael Finley GB 64 72 87 59 57 74 69 83
8. 8 87 Fred Davis WAS 83 106 108 71 66 102 78 106
9. 10 94 Tony Gonzalez ATL 85 84 105 83 103 103 92 112
10. 9 96 Brandon Pettigrew DET 98 98 115 81 98 116 74 92
11. 12 107 Jacob Tamme DEN 121 91 132 86 102 112 96 -
12. 11 115 Brent Celek PHI 74 114 140 89 114 - 123 126
13. 13 116 Jermaine Gresham CIN 71 124 - 87 110 - 108 138
14. 16 124 Owen Daniels HOU 124 139 134 103 118 - 129 125
15. 14 125 Jared Cook TEN 134 135 123 93 126 - 141 124
16. 15 126 Dustin Keller NYJ - 133 - 88 128 125 120 134
17. 17 139 Coby Fleener IND 123 131 - 124 132 136 - -
18. 18 Kellen Winslow SEA - - - 133 - - 125 -
19. 19 Greg Olsen CAR - 137 - 135 - - 150 142
20. 20 Martellus Bennett NYG - 143 - 142 - - - 150
21. 23 Kyle Rudolph MIN - 137 - - - - - -
22. 22 Ed Dickson BAL - 146 - 144 - - - -
23. 21 Scott Chandler BUF - - - 140 - - - -
24. 24 Anthony Fasano MIA - 150 - 146 - - - -
25. 25 Marcedes Lewis JAC - 148 - 149 - - - -
26. 26 Heath Miller PIT - 147 - - - - - -

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Fantasy Content:

Athlon Sports Big Board: Top 150
2012 NFL Fantasy Football Athlon's Top 250
2012 Fantasy Football Mock Draft I
2012 Bye Week Cheat Sheet
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: QBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: RBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: WRs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: TEs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: DLs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: LBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: DBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: IDP Top 75

Related: Order your Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Preview Magazine Here

You can preorder your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.
Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends</p>
Post date: Friday, July 20, 2012 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC West, St. Louis Rams, NFL
Path: /nfl/st-louis-rams-2012-nfl-team-preview
Body:

Athlon Sports is counting down its 2012 NFL preseason Power Rankings with in-depth team previews, schedule analysis and more as the start of the NFL season draws near.

The St. Louis Rams check in at No. 31.

Like a sequel to a bad movie, The Rebuilding III is now playing in St. Louis. The Rams are on their third head coach in the past six years and have had their roster gutted once again. The Rams can only hope things go better under Jeff Fisher than they did under predecessors Steve Spagnuolo (10–38) and Scott Linehan (11–25). Spagnuolo and Linehan were newbies — they had never been head coaches at any level prior to St. Louis. Not so, obviously, with Fisher. Prior to taking the 2011 season off, he had been head coach of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise for 16 full seasons.

Because of his experience and past success — including a Super Bowl XXXIV loss 13 seasons ago against the team he now coaches — Fisher doesn’t sweat the small stuff. He exudes confidence and toughness. Those characteristics have been in short supply lately around Rams Park, where Fisher and GM Les Snead are working toward the franchise’s first winning record since 2003.

Offense

The road to respectability starts on offense, where the Rams were the league’s lowest-scoring team in two of the past three seasons. Quarterback Sam Bradford took a step back during an injury-plagued 2011 after earning Offensive Rookie of the Year laurels a year earlier. Bradford enters 2012 with his third scheme and his third offensive coordinator (Brian Schottenheimer) in as many NFL seasons. There are some similarities between the Schottenheimer playbook and the West Coast scheme Bradford ran as a rookie under Pat Shurmur, so the transition may not be too daunting this time around.

Any hopes for a more productive offense rest simply in better pass protection and more playmakers. The only major addition on the offensive line is at center, where former Green Bay Pro Bowler Scott Wells will add savvy and toughness. Otherwise, the Rams need third-year left tackle Rodger Saffold to revert to his rookie form, and right tackle Jason Smith to stay healthy and be sounder in his technique.

It’s largely up to the draft class of 2012 if the Rams are to show any improvement at the skill positions. Second-round wide receiver Brian Quick provides a large target and the ability to make big plays both with his size and his route-running. Fourth-rounder Chris Givens, with his 4.3 speed, provides an element the Rams haven’t had in a while — someone who can get over the top and stretch defenses. When healthy, Danny Amendola is an effective slot receiver who excels at the third down catch. If Steve Smith returns to anything resembling his Pro Bowl form of 2009 as a New York Giant, the Rams could have a credible pass-catching unit.

Fisher obviously likes to run the football, and the tandem of three-time Pro Bowler Steven Jackson and second-round draft pick Isaiah Pead will get plenty of work. Jackson, who rushed for 1,145 yards last season, remains an intriguing blend of speed and power at 236 pounds; Pead provides a shifty change of pace, weighing in at 193. 

Related: Top St. Louis Rams Twitter Accounts to Follow

Defense

Mainstays Chris Long at end and James Laurinaitis at middle linebacker are the only returning starters in the front seven. After splitting time with James Hall a year ago at the other end position, 2011 first-round pick Robert Quinn gets his first crack at being an every-down player. Quinn has good pass-rush skills but must prove he can hold up against the run play-in and play-out. Fisher has a couple of brutes at D-tackle in Dolphins free agent pickup Kendall Langford and No. 14 overall draft pick Michael Brockers. The defensive line is loaded with potential, but Brockers and Quinn are raw and must develop quickly.

Laurinaitis remains an underrated force in the middle, active against the run and very good in coverage. Jo-Lonn Dunbar, a free agent pickup from New Orleans, brings physicality and good speed to one of the outside linebacker spots. And it looks like veteran Mario Haggan will man the other outside position. The team signed several promising rookie free agents who will have a chance to make the team. This position may not totally shake out until the end of the preseason.

The secondary, particularly at cornerback, could be one of the most improved units on the team. Former Titan Cortland Finnegan — an All-Pro in 2008 — brings the attitude and aggressiveness that Fisher looks for in his corners. Draft picks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson fit that mold as well but must show that their college off-the-field issues are behind them. With Bradley Fletcher, who has 22 starts in three NFL seasons, coming off knee surgery, and raw but talented Jerome Murphy in the mix, the Rams have the potential for solid depth.

Because of the indefinite suspension of Gregg Williams for his role in the New Orleans bounty scandal, the Rams won’t have a defensive coordinator this year. Assistant head coach Dave McGinnis is expected to handle the bulk of those duties, with help from Fisher.

Specialists

As if there weren’t enough question marks on the depth chart, the Rams plan to enter 2012 with a rookie punter and kicker. For several seasons, the Rams had one of the league’s better punter-kicker tandems in Donnie Jones and Josh Brown. Both veterans had sub-par 2011 seasons. In salary cap-related moves, Jones was allowed to leave in free agency and Brown was cut. Enter sixth-round draft pick Greg Zuerlein at kicker and undrafted rookie John Hekker at punter. Zuerlein had a phenomenal senior season at Missouri Western, making 21 consecutive field goals, including nine of 50 yards-plus. But it’s a big jump from Division II to the NFL. Handling the pressure will be a big part of the transition for Zuerlein and Hekker, who averaged 44 yards per kick last season at Oregon State. Two more rookies, Pead and Jenkins, may end up handling the return chores.

Final Analysis: 4th in the NFC West

In a division where San Francisco appears loaded for a Super Bowl run, and Seattle and Arizona are making steady improvements, the Rams won’t be overnight sensations. They have gone from one of the league’s oldest teams to one of its youngest since Fisher took over. Fisher, GM Snead, and executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff are building for the long haul. They know a quick fix is impossible, and there will be growing pains along the way with this young and largely unproven roster. 

Because of the talent gap, they took chances on several draft picks with top-tier talent but shaky pasts. So there’s a boom-or-bust quality to the draft class that makes it difficult to handicap. The absence of Williams on defense won’t help the progression on that side of the ball. 

Make no mistake — there will be a different culture under Fisher at Rams Park. His teams tend to play physical, inspired football. He accepts nothing less. Even so, Fisher’s track record of squeezing everything possible out of a roster will be put to the test this season.

Related: 2012 St. Louis Rams Schedule Analysis

Outside The Huddle

No Mountain High Enough
It will be an uphill battle to reach respectability for coach Jeff Fisher and the Rams in his first season in St. Louis. Then again, he’s used to these sorts of challenges. During the spring of 2011, Fisher climbed Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro (elevation: 19,341 feet) as part of an NFL effort to raise awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Fathers and Sons
Coaching Rams football is truly a family affair. Fisher’s son Brandon is assistant secondary coach for the team. The son of offensive line coach Paul Boudreau Sr. — Paul Boudreau Jr. — is assistant special teams coach. Linebackers coach Blake Williams is the son of suspended defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer (father Marty) and special teams coach John Fassel (father Jim) are the sons of former NFL head coaches. 

My Offseason Adventure
A true renaissance man, running back Steven Jackson swam in shark cages off the coast of Africa and attended World Cup games in past offseasons. He once toured New Zealand just prior to a devastating earthquake. This offseason, he roamed South America and attended a Hollywood boot camp for aspiring filmmakers.

V-i-c-t-o-r-y
Members of the Rams’ draft class showed some talent way back in elementary school, though not on the field. Seventh-round linebacker Aaron Brown of Hawaii won a spelling bee in the third grade. Wide receiver Chris Givens of Wake Forest went one grade better: He won a spelling bee in the fourth grade.

London Calling
The Rams play their first game overseas — regular season or preseason — since the franchise relocated to St. Louis in 1995 when the team crosses the Atlantic to meet New England on Oct. 28 in London’s Wembley Stadium. Team owner Stan Kroenke already knows his way around Great Britain — he owns the Arsenal soccer club of the English Premier League.

Happy Birthday Rams
From Crazylegs Hirsch to the Fearsome Foursome to the Greatest Show on Turf, this marks the 75th football season for the Rams, a colorful and storied franchise that has called Cleveland, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and St. Louis home since that first kickoff in 1937. Among its many distinctions, the Rams were the first team in the NFL to have helmet logos. They were designed by one of the team’s players, halfback Fred Gehrke, in 1948.

How The Mighty Have Fallen
During their improbable run to the Super Bowl XXXIV championship during the 1999 season, the Rams’ quick-strike offense had 50 touchdown passes during the regular season and playoffs. In 2011, the Rams had nine TD passes for the entire season.

Mr. Consistent
Even with the team’s struggles in the win-loss column, Jackson has been as steady as it gets in the backfield. The ninth-year running back will be seeking his eighth straight 1,000-yard rushing season. Only five players in NFL history have had more than seven 1,000-yard seasons in a row.

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: St. Louis Rams
No. 30: Mon., July 23

Order your 2012 St. Louis Rams Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

Related: Top St. Louis Rams Top Twitter Accounts To Follow 
Related: 2012 St. Louis Rams Schedule Analysis

Teaser:
<p> St. Louis Rams 2012 NFL Team Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, July 20, 2012 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC West, St. Louis Rams, NFL
Path: /nfl/st-louis-rams-top-twitter-accounts-follow
Body:

Keeping up with your favorite team can be an all-consuming task. We’re here to help indulge that need to follow all aspects of the NFL on Twitter.

For all 32 teams, we’re picking the best Twitter accounts for each franchise. They run the gamut from players, coaches, executives, traditional media, bloggers or simply accounts that keep us informed and entertained.

Whether you’re a Twitter neophyte or simply trying to spice up your feed for football season, we’re here to help. And it all starts with the St. Louis Rams official twitter account:

@STLouisRams (Followers: 67,763)

There is a fine art to commanding a powerful twitter audience and some players can do it better than others. You don’t have to be a star player to be a twi-xpert. But here are some of the most followed Ram players for 2012 (PS, apparently much like Sam Bradford, you have a lot of receiving options to choose from...):

Note: Followers as of date of publication, July 20, 2012

Top Rams To Follow:

  Name Pos. Twitter Followers
1. Steven Jackson RB @SJ39 155,086
2. Steve Smith WR @SteveSmithWR 82,229
3. James Laurinaitis LB @JrLaurinaitis 39,135
4. Cortland Finnegan CB @CortFinnegan 19,309
5. Danario Alexander WR @D_Alexander84 18,128
6. Jerome Murphy CB @Aagent23 13,787
7. Kendall Langford DT @KendallLangford 12,375
8. Trevor Laws DT @TrevorLaws 11,943
9. Isaiah Pead RB @IPead 10,141
10. Austin Pettis WR @Austin_Pettis 8,695
11. Jo-Lonn Dunbar LB @JoLonnDunbar 8,074
12. Brandon Gibson WR @BGibson04 5,127
13. Quintin Mikell S @QMikell27 5,020
14. Greg Salas WR @GregSalas1 4,433
15. Robert Quinn DT @RQuinn94 4,244
16. Chris Givens WR @CG1three 4,000
17. Trumaine Johnson CB @TruJohnson2 3,823
18. Bradley Fletcher CB @BFletch32 3,654
19. Craig Dahl S @CraigDahl43 3,286
20. Brian Quick WR @Workaholic_BQ 3,193
21. Rodger Saffold OL @Rodger_Saffold 3,040
22. Quinn Okinnaka OL @MooseNation69 2,391

Moose Nation is a particular favorite as he is a self-proclaimed "THUG." Or Totally Humble Under God. An interesting and positive twist. Additionally, Pro-Football-Reference.com lists star defensive end Chris Long as owning @CL9One, but a quick visit to the page indicates that it is no longer active.

The Rams Beat:

Jim Thomas, Rams beat writer for St. Louis Post-Dispatch: @jthom1 (7,966)

Bernie Miklasz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist: @miklasz (39,058)

Ron Clements, CBS Sports Rams Reporter: @ron_clements (1,527)

Howard Balzer, Sirius XM NFL Radio: @hbalzer721 (7,601)

Tony Softli, Rams Sideline Reporter for Rams Flagship Station 101 ESPN: @softlistl (6,811)

Brian Stull, Co-Host of The Stully and Rammer Show on 101 ESPN: @stullystl (5,527)

STLToday is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and this is their official Rams landing page.

Rams Blog Roll: 

The SB Nation Rams' affiliate is TurfShowTimes.com and you can follow them @TurfShowTimes.

Every team has a "buzztap" account that keeps fans up to date with content from all web sources. Follow the Rams edition @RamsBuzzTap.

ESPN's NFC West blog is run by Mark Sando. You can follow him @ESPN_NFCWest.

Other Rams blogs to follow include RamsGab.com (@RamsGab), the Rams' edition of ProFootballZap (@STLRamsZap) and RamsHerd.com (@RamsHerd).

Related: 2012 St. Louis Rams Season Preview
Related: 2012 St. Louis Rams Schedule Analysis

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> St. Louis Rams Top Twitter Accounts To Follow</p>
Post date: Friday, July 20, 2012 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC South, Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL
Path: /nfl/jacksonville-jaguars-2012-nfl-team-preview
Body:

Athlon Sports is counting down its 2012 NFL preseason Power Rankings with in-depth team previews, schedule analysis and more as the start of the NFL season draws near.

The Jacksonville Jaguars check in at No. 32.

Change came swiftly and decisively to Jacksonville in the past six months with a new owner (Shad Khan), a new head coach (Mike Mularkey) and what the Jaguars are hoping is a re-energized team that will look to improve last year’s 5–11 record and emerge as a playoff contender. The energy around the facility is different this year. Players can feel it on and off the field. Khan is improving the team’s facilities, from the practice field to the locker room to the weight room.

Above all, though, there’s a very clear understanding that winning is the only thing that will change the organization.

Offense

When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the Jaguars’ selection of Justin Blackmon with the fifth pick in the draft, fans erupted into a thunderous cheer at the team-sponsored draft party in Jacksonville. For the first time in years, the team’s first-round pick was met with virtually unanimous approval. In selecting Blackmon, a gifted 6'1", 215-pound wide receiver who caught 232 passes in his final two seasons at Oklahoma State, the Jaguars have given second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert some much-needed help.

The new offensive staff spent much of the offseason analyzing Gabbert, who struggled as a rookie. He completed barely over 50 percent of his passes and threw 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Coaches noticed errors in his footwork and saw a pocket presence that needed improvement. They believe that he will take a major step forward after having the benefit of a full offseason to work with his teammates and coaches.

If he doesn’t progress, the Jaguars are better prepared this year than they were in 2011. This year’s backup, Chad Henne, has extensive starting experience with the Miami Dolphins. Henne, a former second-round pick who spent four seasons with the Dolphins, missed most of the 2011 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. His ailment was first called a separated shoulder, but the injury was more severe than originally thought. He’s healthy now and refreshed by his relocation from Miami to Jacksonville.

But last season’s passing offense, which produced 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, was as much about the Jaguars receivers as it was about their quarterback. Jacksonville took a very public stance about needing to upgrade that group, and their 2012 receiving corps will look completely different. Last year’s No. 1 receiver, Mike Thomas, likely will serve as the slot receiver this season. Free agent acquisition Laurent Robinson, who caught 54 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns in his only season with the Cowboys, will be the team’s top target, at least at the start. Blackmon will in time be the Jaguars’ No. 1 receiver, but the team will allow him to adjust to the NFL.

Maurice Jones-Drew, coming off his third straight season with at least 1,300 yards, will once again receive the majority of the carries. Jones-Drew’s 1,606 yards last season were the best single-season total in franchise history, and his average of 4.7 yards per carry was his best since his rookie season.

The changes in the coaching staff are expected to energize the offense as much as the new personnel. The Jaguars hired the formerly retired Jerry Sullivan, a widely respected receivers coach whom Larry Fitzgerald tried to lure to Arizona. Greg Olson will be the quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach. Bob Bratkowski is the offensive coordinator. They’ll all work under the direction of the offensive-minded Mularkey. The only holdover from last year’s offensive staff is line coach Andy Heck.

Related: Top Jacksonville Jaguars Twitter Accounts to Follow

Defense

The Jaguars’ defense underwent a dramatic change from 2010 to ’11. Its task in 2012 is to sustain the excellence it showed last season.

Mularkey retained defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and gave him the title of assistant head coach. Most of Tucker’s staff returned as well, with the exception of defensive backs coaches Thom Kaumeyer and Cory Undlin.

The linebacking group returns intact, with starters Paul Posluszny, Daryl Smith and Clint Session back for their second season together. Session, however, missed seven games last season with a concussion that landed him on IR. He has been cleared to return after seeing a specialist at the University of Pittsburgh. Backup Russell Allen signed a three-year deal, and the Jaguars added linebacker Brandon Marshall out of Nevada in the fifth round of the draft.

The defensive backs are a bit of a question mark. Both starting safeties, Dawan Landry and Dwight Lowery, return, as does right corner Derek Cox. The Jaguars released nickel back Drew Coleman after only one season with the team. Coleman had a strong 2011 season but became the odd man out when the Jaguars signed Aaron Ross, a starter on the Super Bowl champion Giants. Ross will compete with Rashean Mathis, who is coming off a torn ACL, for the start at left corner. The loser of the competition will be the nickel back.

The Jaguars entered the draft looking to bolster their defensive line, with a specific need of adding a pass-rusher to help out starting end Jeremy Mincey. They added end Andre Branch in the second round and tackle Jeris Pendleton in the seventh. Another question mark is defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. He had eye surgery in early April and is expected to miss all of the offseason.

Specialists

A third-round pick became the subject of ridicule league-wide when the Jaguars took punter Bryan Anger. The jokes don’t bother Anger; he and his brother even shared a laugh over a story in The Onion that mocked the pick. Anger’s leg looked strong during the team’s rookie minicamp, but it’s still a stretch to use a pick that early on a punter.

The Jaguars franchised kicker Josh Scobee after he made 23-of-25 field goals last season, but Scobee did not sign the franchise tender and wants a long-term deal.

The return game wasn’t overly productive in 2011. Thomas will handle punts again after averaging 4.6 yards with a long of 28 yards. DuJuan Harris is the primary kickoff return specialist. He averaged 22.0 yards last season.

#f00">Final Analysis: 4th in the AFC South

The Jaguars season hinges on Gabbert’s development. He has more weapons this season, and he has 14 games of experience as a starter. It’s not quite make-or-break, but there will be pressure on the second-year pro to produce.

Even if Gabbert does take a step forward, the Jags will have a tough time returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The defense is solid and the offense figures to be better, but the Jags look like a team with a ceiling of about eight wins.

Related: 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule Analysis

Outside The Huddle

Jags Navy
New owner Shad Khan’s 223-foot yacht docked on the St. John’s river in downtown Jacksonville for several weeks after he bought the Jaguars. Khan and his family stayed on the yacht, rather than in a hotel. According to its website — yes the yacht has its own site — it has a crew of 17, including three stewardesses, a chef, a sous chef and a masseuse/beauty therapist. The yacht is for sale at an asking price of 85 million euro, or available for rent at $600,000 per week plus expenses.

Going for the Gold
Cornerback Aaron Ross, acquired in the offseason from the Giants, has been given permission by the Jags to miss some of training camp to attend the London Olympics, where his wife, Sanya Richards-Ross, is the favorite to win the 400 meters. Ross was not able to watch her run in the Beijing games in 2008.

Brain Trust
The Jaguars’ staff includes five current or former offensive coordinators: Running backs coach Sylvester Croom, receivers coach Jerry Sullivan, quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach Greg Olson, offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and head coach Mike Mularkey, who came to Jacksonville after a stint as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator.

Turning a Corner
The Jaguars made a dramatic improvement in forcing turnovers last season, improving from 31st in the league to seventh in fumble recoveries and 23rd to 13th in interceptions.

MoJo Rising
Maurice Jones-Drew was the Jags’ first ever NFL rushing champion. Before he earned the distinction with 1,606 yards last season, the team hadn’t had a player finish in the top three in rushing.

MASH Unit
The Jaguars had an NFL-leading 25 players on injured reserve at the end of the season. They placed 31 players on the list, but six were released or given injury settlements.

Handy Comparison
Blaine Gabbert’s passer rating of 65.4 was the lowest among the four first-round rookie quarterbacks who played last season — Carolina’s Cam Newton, Minnesota’s Christian Ponder and Tennessee’s Jake Locker, who only played in five games. Both rookie first-round quarterbacks to play in 2010 — Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford — had higher passer ratings than Gabbert in his rookie year. In 2009, all three rookie first-round quarterbacks — Mark Sanchez, Matt Stafford and Josh Freeman — had lower quarterback ratings than Gabbert did last season.

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: Fri., July 20

Order your 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here
Related: Top Jacksonville Jaguars Twitter Accounts to Follow
Related: 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule Analysis

Teaser:
<p> Jacksonville Jaguars 2012 NFL Team Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/jacksonville-jaguars-top-twitter-accounts-follow
Body:

Keeping up with your favorite team can be an all-consuming task. We’re here to help indulge that need to follow all aspects of the NFL on Twitter.

For all 32 teams, we’re picking the best Twitter accounts for each franchise. They run the gamut from players, coaches, executives, traditional media, bloggers or simply accounts that keep us informed and entertained.

Whether you’re a Twitter neophyte or simply trying to spice up your feed for football season, we’re here to help. And it all starts with the Jacksonville Jaguars official twitter account:

@JaguarsInsider (Followers: 48,350)

There is a fine art to commanding a powerful twitter audience and some players can do it better than others. You don’t have to be a star player to be a twi-xpert. But here are some of the most followed Jaguar players for 2012:

Note: Followers as of date of publication, July 19, 2012

Top Jaguars To Follow:

1. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB: @Jones_Drew32 (273,927)
2. Laurent Robinson, WR: @LaurentRobinson (102,962)
3. Justin Blackmon, WR: @JustBlack81 (48,000)
4. Blaine Gabbert, QB: @BlaineGabbert (42,984)
5. Marcedes Lewis, TE: @MarcedesLewis89 (23,469)
6. Josh Scobee, K: @JoshScobee10 (16,170)
7. Rashad Jennings, RB: @RashadJennings (10,737)
8. Cecil Shorts III, WR: @CecilShortsIII (6,878)
9. Courtney Greene, S: @MrGreene36 (6,419)
10. Zach Miller, TE: @Zmiller86 (6,341)
11. Andre Branch, DE: @BranchNout90 (5,506)
12. Uche Nwaneri, OG: @Chukwu77 (4,921)
13. Terrance Knighton, DT: @YouGotRoasted96 (4,407)
14. Eugene Monroe, OT: @TheSeventyFifth (4,221)
15. Jeremy Mincey, DE: @MrMince94 (4,206)
16. Will Rackley, OC: @WillRackley (3,940)
17. Dawan Landry, S: @DLan504 (3,758)
18. DuJuan Harris, RB: @Ol_Sly_Foxx (2,297)


And rookie punter Bryan Anger doesn’t have a twitter account but he does have an official fan page, @AngerNation. It’s the “first official fan page of the next jaguars great.”

Jaguars Writers:

Tania Ganguli covers the Jaguars beat for the Florida Times-Union and should be your top follow: @taniaganguli (10,381)

Vito Stellino, Florida Times-Union sportswriter: @vitostellino (4,537)

Gene Frenette, Florida Times-Union sportswriter: @GeneFrenette (2,638)

Jaguars Blog Roll: 

BigCatCountry.com: SB Nation has an excellent collection of fan-run and fan-generated websites. The Jags edition can followed @BigCatCountry (2,395).

Blogger @Bloguin_Shane runs the twitter account for TheJaggernaut.com.

FanSided's Jacksonville site, BlakcandTeal.com, can be followed @BlackAndTeal (238)

Be sure to check out Jaguars360.comJaguarsGab.com, which can be followed @JaguarsGab (451), and Jaguars101.com.

ESPN's AFC South blog is run by Paul Khuharsky. You can follow him @ESPN_AFCSouth.

Other Jaguars twitter accounts:

Jags owners Shahid Khan has toyed with the idea of joining twitter but has yet to take the plunge. His son, Tony Khan, has had no such problems adapting to social media. Follow him @TonyKhan (3,720).

Every team in the NFL has a 'buzztap' twitter account that updates fans on web content and more. Follow the Jags editions @JaguarsBuzzTap (9,099).

Also follow @JaguarsCom (2,550), @Jaguars_NFL_ (2,584), @JaguarsMovement (2,235) and @JaguarsFanSvcs (1,179).

Just don’t add @JaguarUSA, unless you love car porn – aka gloriously high-resoltion photos of some of the most beautiful motor vehicles made today.

Related: 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Season Preview
Related: 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule Analysis

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Jacksonville Jaguars Top Twitter Accounts To Follow</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Big Board, Fantasy, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-fantasy-football-rankings-wide-receivers
Body:

The 2012 NFL Fantasy Season is officially here. Mock drafts abound. Rookie round-ups are complete. Bye week cheat sheets are everywhere. The creative juices are flowing with hysterical team names. Positional rankings are popping up everywhere. And the ever-important Athlon Sports 2012 Big Board, the most accurate consensus top 150 list of fantasy footballers on the web, continues to take shape.

New to our Big Board is NFL.com's initial NFL fantasy rankings as we have expanded from seven lists to eight. We also added a "Previous" column to indicate the previous ranking. Athlon, with special help from FantasyRundown.com, will continue to broaden and deepen its trademark consensus Big Board and positional rankings all summer long.

CBS: CBSSports.com (Updated: 7/13/12)
PFF: ProFootballFocus.com (Updated: 6/26/12)
ESPN: ESPN (Updated 6/20/12)
FFT: FFToolbox.com (Updated 7/15/12)
Y!: Yahoo! Sports (Updated 6/23/12)
NFL: NFL.com (2012 Debut)
FOX: FoxSports.com (Updated 5/31/12)
AS: Athlon Sports (Updated 7/1/12)

Updated: 8:30 a.m. CT, July 19, 2012

Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Wide Receivers

Rank Previous Top 150 Player: Team CBS PFF ESPN FFT Y! NFL FOX AS
1. 1 5 Calvin Johnson DET 7 6 7 4 4 8 6 5
2. 2 11 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 16 9 10 19 10 12 16 10
3. 3 13 Andre Johnson HOU 13 15 11 26 28 15 12 18
4. 4 16 Roddy White ATL 19 8 15 32 17 18 23 16
5. 5 21 Greg Jennings GB 23 14 16 36 23 20 22 24
6. 6 22 Wes Welker NE 24 28 20 25 30 17 24 23
7. 7 28 AJ Green CIN 32 31 26 27 24 26 33 26
8. 9 29 Hakeem Nicks NYG 35 12 25 28 39 33 30 27
9. 8 30 Mike Wallace PIT 31 39 19 30 29 28 29 28
10. 11 31 Julio Jones ATL 34 22 33 22 31 23 42 30
11. 10 32 Victor Cruz NYG 38 26 29 29 26 36 46 32
12. 12 35 Jordy Nelson GB 30 57 39 37 33 35 44 31
13. 13 36 Steve Smith CAR 46 43 40 41 34 24 39 40
14. 14 38 Brandon Marshall CHI 51 49 35 45 27 34 38 35
15. 16 40 Dez Bryant DAL 59 32 41 40 47 38 45 37
16. 15 41 Marques Colston NO 55 24 46 42 44 39 52 39
17. 18 44 Demaryius Thomas DEN 37 20 63 51 41 32 49 60
18. 17 48 Miles Austin DAL 53 36 48 55 36 48 55 52
19. 19 49 Percy Harvin MIN 50 46 55 48 48 37 48 56
20. 20 50 Dwayne Bowe KC 61 34 57 63 51 46 50 57
21. 21 51 Jeremy Maclin PHI 60 45 59 57 46 49 58 50
22. 22 53 Vincent Jackson TB 65 40 53 52 67 57 56 53
23. 23 56 Kenny Britt TEN 73 18 74 49 54 52 65 74
24. 24 58 Brandon Lloyd NE 68 59 47 62 56 51 59 62
25. 27 62 Antonio Brown PIT 75 6 66 77 68 84 53 67
26. 26 69 DeSean Jackson PHI 63 74 71 69 71 78 71 61
27. 28 70 Stevie Johnson BUF 72 50 60 64 64 67 127 59
28. 30 74 Torrey Smith BAL 76 65 82 76 80 76 91 72
29. 25 76 Robert Meachem SD 81 62 77 70 81 73 98 85
30. 29 77 Eric Decker DEN 80 55 68 104 74 66 85 99
31. 31 80 Pierre Garcon WAS 109 71 80 82 84 83 89 82
32. 32 84 Reggie Wayne IND 78 51 103 94 83 79 106 98
33. 33 88 Anquan Boldin BAL 90 85 94 99 99 91 84 86
34. 35 89 Denarius Moore OAK 91 78 84 106 93 86 111 84
35. 34 92 Sidney Rice SEA 87 69 98 101 86 134 83 97
36. 37 97 Lance Moore NO 93 90 91 118 109 96 94 87
37. 36 98 Santonio Holmes NYJ 102 122 89 102 87 90 81 108
38. 40 102 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK 117 82 106 113 95 99 119 105
39. 38 103 Justin Blackmon JAC 106 134 113 92 108 110 95 96
40. 42 106 Michael Crabtree SF 111 119 96 120 115 100 114 109
41. 39 108 Malcolm Floyd SD 112 103 85 112 104 114 116 146
42. 41 109 Titus Young DET 92 95 112 100 137 119 122 121
43. 44 110 Greg Little CLE 114 80 - 109 91 104 137 118
44. 43 114 Mike Williams TB 119 105 120 97 100 142 121 123
45. 46 120 Laurent Robinson JAC 135 111 118 108 131 130 93 -
46. 48 121 Nate Washington TEN 126 100 125 - 124 107 131 119
47. 47 129 Michael Floyd ARI 141 93 131 129 120 - 130 -
48. 49 130 Santana Moss WAR 104 - - - 121 115 144 111
49. 45 132 Mario Manningham SF 136 - 128 107 144 117 118 -
50. 52 135 Doug Baldwin SEA - 116 - 121 134 126 - 122
51. 51 141 Vincent Brown SD 144 - - 111 138   134 120
52. 53 145 Davone Bess MIA - 88 - - 140 - - -
53. 50 147 Reuben Randle NYG - 113 117 - - - - -
54. 57 148 Randy Moss SF 118 145 135 - - - 136 -
55. 58 149 Austin Collie IND 148 97 - 147 143 - - -
56. 62 Brian Quick STL 142 108 - - 147 150 - -
57. 54 Brandon LaFell CAR 137 132 - 127 - - - -
58. 55 Jacoby Ford OAK 139 136 - 125 - - - -
59. 56 Nate Burleson DET 133 - 133 - 139 - - -
60. 65 Jonathan Baldwin KC 149 - 144 141 - 146 - -
61. 61 Alshon Jeffery CHI - - - - 145 - 140 -
62. 63 James Jones GB - - - 139 - - - 147
63. 66 Kendall Wright TEN - 142 - 145 - - - -
64. 60 Leonard Hankerson WAS - 149 139 - - - - -
65. 64 Danny Amendola STL 145 - - - - - - 145
66. UR Chad Ochocinco MIA - 140 - - - - - -
67. UR Golden Tate SEA - 141 - - - - - -
68. UR Jason Avant PHI - 144 - - - - - -
69. 67 Jabar Gaffney NE - - - - - - 145 -
70. 71 Emmanuel Sanders PIT 147 - - - - - - -
71. 69 Deion Branch NE - - - - - - - 148

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Fantasy Content:

Athlon Sports Big Board: Top 150
2012 NFL Fantasy Football Athlon's Top 250
2012 Fantasy Football Mock Draft I
2012 Bye Week Cheat Sheet
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: QBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: RBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: WRs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: TEs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: DLs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: LBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: DBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: IDP Top 75

Related: Order your Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Preview Magazine Here

You can preorder your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.
Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: Big Board, Fantasy, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-fantasy-football-big-board
Body:

The 2012 NFL Fantasy Season is officially here. 

Mock drafts abound. Rookie round-ups are complete. Bye week cheat sheets are everywhere. The creative juices are flowing with hysterical team names. And the all-important Athlon Sports 2012 Big Board continues to grow into the best fantasy ranking on the web.

Typically a championship fantasy GM will have his own research, analysis and gut instincts reflected in his or her individually constructed Big Board. But that takes months of time, lots of practice reports and loads of web surfing. So instead of 112 Google searches per day, just let Athlon Sports handle the legwork for you.

New to this list is NFL.com's initial NFL fantasy rankings as we have expanded from seven lists to eight. We also added a "previous ranking" column to indicate the previous ranking. Athlon will continue to broaden and deepen its trademark consensus Big Board all summer long.

Special thanks to the people over at FantasyRundown.com for their support.

CBS: CBSSports.com (Updated: 7/13/12)
PFF: ProFootballFocus.com (Updated: 6/26/12)
ESPN: ESPN (Updated 6/20/12)
FFT: FFToolbox.com (Updated 7/15/12)
Y!: Yahoo! Sports (Updated 6/23/12)
NFL: NFL.com (2012 Debut)
FOX: FoxSports.com (Updated 5/31/12)
AS: Athlon Sports (Updated 7/1/12)

Updated: 3:00 PM CT, July 16, 2012

Rank Previous Player: Team Pos | CBS PFF ESPN FFTB Y! NFL FOX AS
1 1 Arian Foster HOU RB | 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1
2 2 Ray Rice BAL RB | 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 2
3 3 LeSean McCoy PHI RB | 3 4 3 3 3 4 4 3
4 4 Aaron Rodgers GB QB | 4 5 4 7 6 2 1 4
5 5 Calvin Johnson DET WR | 7 6 7 4 4 8 6 5
6 6 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC RB | 6 11 5 6 7 7 7 6
7 8 Ryan Mathews SD RB | 8 3 12 5 5 9 11 13
8 9 Drew Brees NO QB | 5 17 8 8 11 6 9 8
9 7 Chris Johnson TEN RB | 9 7 9 10 8 11 10 9
10 12 Tom Brady NE QB | 10 25 6 9 12 5 5 7
11 10 Larry Fitzgerald ARI WR | 16 9 10 19 10 12 16 10
12 14 Cam Newton CAR QB | 14 10 23 11 13 13 8 19
13 17 Andre Johnson HOU WR | 13 15 11 26 28 15 12 18
14 11 Darren McFadden OAK RB | 12 27 30 12 16 19 15 14
15 21 Matthew Stafford DET QB | 15 42 13 24 19 10 13 11
16 18 Roddy White ATL WR | 19 8 15 32 17 18 23 16
17 15 Matt Forte CHI RB | 22 33 18 15 15 16 19 12
18 13 Marshawn Lynch SEA RB | 11 37 17 17 18 27 14 15
19 16 Rob Gronkowski NE TE | 26 44 14 13 14 14 17 25
20 20 DeMarco Murray DAL RB | 18 16 21 18 22 25 18 34
21 22 Greg Jennings GB WR | 23 14 16 36 23 20 22 24
22 26 Wes Welker NE WR | 24 28 20 25 30 17 24 23
23 19 Jimmy Graham NO TE | 28 38 22 20 20 21 20 29
24 23 Trent Richardson CLE RB | 17 29 36 14 9 22 41 33
25 30 Adrian Peterson MIN RB | 27 19 28 21 21 30 36 22
26 25 Jamaal Charles KC RB | 49 23 24 16 25 29 28 17
27 24 Steven Jackson STL RB | 20 21 31 23 37 31 25 36
28 27 AJ Green CIN WR | 32 31 26 27 24 26 33 26
29 29 Hakeem Nicks NYG WR | 35 12 25 28 39 33 30 27
30 28 Mike Wallace PIT WR | 31 39 19 30 29 28 29 28
31 34 Julio Jones ATL WR | 34 22 33 22 31 23 42 30
32 33 Victor Cruz NYG WR | 38 26 29 29 26 36 46 32
33 39 Michael Vick PHI QB | 29 13 32 53 43 41 26 47
34 31 Fred Jackson BUF RB | 33 52 34 34 32 44 21 38
35 35 Jordy Nelson GB WR | 30 57 39 37 33 35 44 31
36 37 Steve Smith CAR WR | 46 43 40 41 34 24 39 40
37 32 Michael Turner ATL RB | 21 96 37 33 35 43 27 21
38 38 Brandon Marshall CHI WR | 51 49 35 45 27 34 38 35
39 36 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG RB | 25 41 44 31 45 45 40 46
40 43 Dez Bryant DAL WR | 59 32 41 40 47 38 45 37
41 41 Marques Colston NO WR | 55 24 46 42 44 39 52 39
42 47 Tony Romo DAL QB | 40 35 45 58 53 40 32 41
43 44 Darren Sproles NO RB | 41 56 43 35 40 47 47 44
44 46 Demaryius Thomas DEN WR | 37 20 63 51 41 32 49 60
45 48 Eli Manning NYG QB | 36 53 27 54 50 63 35 42
46 40 Frank Gore SF RB | 62 79 38 44 52 42 31 20
47 42 Reggie Bush MIA RB | 57 47 51 38 42 56 43 45
48 45 Miles Austin DAL WR | 53 36 48 55 36 48 55 52
49 49 Percy Harvin MIN WR | 50 46 55 48 48 37 48 56
50 50 Dwayne Bowe KC WR | 61 34 57 63 51 46 50 57
51 51 Jeremy Maclin PHI WR | 60 45 59 57 46 49 58 50
52 55 Philip Rivers SD QB | 44 61 64 75 59 50 37 43
53 52 Vincent Jackson TB WR | 65 40 53 52 67 57 56 53
54 57 Peyton Manning DEN QB | 47 48 49 78 58 59 34 73
55 56 Antonio Gates SD TE | 42 54 56 68 49 53 62 63
56 54 Kenny Britt TEN WR | 73 18 74 49 54 52 65 74
57 53 Roy Helu WAS RB | 67 87 42 39 61 61 57 48
58 58 Brandon Lloyd NE WR | 68 59 47 62 56 51 59 62
59 61 Shonn Greene NYJ RB | 66 68 58 50 70 58 63 55
60 65 Doug Martin TB RB | 54 60 83 43 38 54 88 68
61 60 Beanie Wells ARI RB | 43 94 62 46 77 55 61 58
62 70 Antonio Brown PIT WR | 75 6 66 77 68 84 53 67
63 59 BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN RB | 45 115 52 47 65 60 70 54
64 62 Willis McGahee DEN RB | 70 73 50 73 79 62 54 49
65 66 Jason Witten DAL TE | 48 58 69 72 63 72 51 80
66 63 Aaron Hernandez NE TE | 39 66 93 61 55 70 68 70
67 73 Matt Ryan ATL QB | 52 64 73 66 76 65 60 81
68 67 Vernon Davis SF TE | 56 76 61 65 60 77 66 79
69 68 DeSean Jackson PHI WR | 63 74 71 69 71 78 71 61
70 71 Stevie Johnson BUF WR | 72 50 60 64 64 67 127 59
71 69 Jermichael Finley GB TE | 64 72 87 59 57 74 69 83
72 72 Jonathan Stewart CAR RB | 88 89 54 56 69 68 82 65
73 78 Ben Roethlisberger PIT QB | 58 86 79 80 62 71 64 71
74 75 Torrey Smith BAL WR | 76 65 82 76 80 76 91 72
75 76 Isaac Redman PIT RB | 77 117 72 67 73 81 75 64
76 64 Robert Meachem SD WR | 81 62 77 70 81 73 98 85
77 74 Eric Decker DEN WR | 80 55 68 104 74 66 85 99
78 84 Jahvid Best DET RB | 101 75 70 91 85 64 77 69
79 79 Donald Brown IND RB | 97 63 95 96 82 92 80 75
80 83 Pierre Garcon WAS WR | 109 71 80 82 84 83 89 82
81 81 Mark Ingram NO RB | 113 102 78 90 92 69 87 51
82 77 DeAngelo Williams CAR RB | 100 - 67 74 78 80 72 66
83 82 James Starks GB RB | 96 81 92 60 90 85 99 88
84 86 Reggie Wayne IND WR | 78 51 103 94 83 79 106 98
85 85 CJ Spiller BUF RB | 89 83 81 79 89 88 115 78
86 94 Robert Griffin III WAS QB | 82 30 101 - 75 82 79 110
87 80 Fred Davis WAS TE | 83 106 108 71 66 102 78 106
88 87 Anquan Boldin BAL WR | 90 85 94 99 99 91 84 86
89 93 Denarius Moore OAK WR | 91 78 84 106 93 86 111 84
90 91 Peyton Hillis KC RB | 86 99 88 98 88 94 107 90
91 88 Matt Schaub HOU QB | 69 - 86 85 111 89 67 94
92 92 Sidney Rice SEA WR | 87 69 98 101 86 134 83 97
93 96 Jay Cutler CHI QB | 99 127 99 95 72 97 73 101
94 95 Tony Gonzalez ATL TE | 85 84 105 83 103 103 92 112
95 89 Michael Bush CHI RB | 95 - 76 84 97 87 86 93
96 90 Brandon Pettigrew DET TE | 98 98 115 81 98 116 74 92
97 98 Lance Moore NO WR | 93 90 91 118 109 96 94 87
98 97 Santonio Holmes NYJ WR | 102 122 89 102 87 90 81 108
99 99 Stevan Ridley NE RB | 84 123 75 - 101 75 100 76
100 101 Ben Tate HOU RB | 107 - 65 119 94 95 102 77
101 111 Josh Freeman TB QB | 128 70 104 116 116 101 97 102
102 106 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK WR | 117 82 106 113 95 99 119 105
103 102 Justin Blackmon JAC WR | 106 134 113 92 108 110 95 96
104 103 Toby Gerhart MIN RB | 94 - 90 105 117 93 117 89
105 100 LeGarrette Blount TB RB | 103 109 121 117 119 120 76 100
106 113 Michael Crabtree SF WR | 111 119 96 120 115 100 114 109
107 109 Jacob Tamme DEN TE | 121 91 132 86 102 112 96 -
108 104 Malcolm Floyd SD WR | 112 103 85 112 104 114 116 146
109 110 Titus Young DET WR | 92 95 112 100 137 119 122 121
110 117 Greg Little CLE WR | 114 80 - 109 91 104 137 118
111 108 Pierre Thomas NO RB | 105 107 119 132 107 108 105 130
112 115 David Wilson NYG RB | 127 125 97 134 105 98 139 91
113 107 Mikel LeShoure DET RB | 79 - - 115 96 106 110 116
114 114 Mike Williams TB WR | 119 105 120 97 100 142 121 123
115 105 Brent Celek PHI TE | 74 114 140 89 114 - 123 126
116 112 Jermaine Gresham CIN TE | 71 124 - 87 110 - 108 138
117 119 Andy Dalton CIN QB | 116 126 110 110 129 113 109 128
118 118 Felix Jones DAL RB | 110 112 102 - 127 121 113 114
119 130 Carson Palmer OAK QB | 108 110 126 - 122 111 126 104
120 124 Laurent Robinson JAC WR | 135 111 118 108 131 130 93 -
121 127 Nate Washington TEN WR | 126 100 125 - 124 107 131 119
122 121 Joe Flacco BAL QB | 130 101 122 - 130 133 90 127
123 140 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF QB | 143 77 137 - 135 122 103 -
124 128 Owen Daniels HOU TE | 124 139 134 103 118 - 129 125
125 120 Jared Cook TEN TE | 134 135 123 93 126 - 141 124
126 125 Dustin Keller NYJ TE | - 133   88 128 125 120 134
127 129 49ers SF DST | 150 - 109 122 146 109 - 95
128 139 Andrew Luck IND QB | - 92 138   136 105 112 -
129 123 Michael Floyd ARI WR | 141 93 131 129 120 - 130 -
130 131 Santana Moss WAR WR | 104 - - - 121 115 144 111
131 116 Daniel Thomas MIA RB | 131 - 111 - 133 143 101 129
132 122 Mario Manningham SF WR | 136 - 128 107 144 117 118 -
133 126 Ryan Williams ARI RB | 115 - - 136 112 147 128 117
134 133 Shane Vareen NE RB | 125 - - 114 123 131 138 133
135 141 Doug Baldwin SEA WR | - 116 - 121 134 126 - 122
136 137 Ronnie Hillman DEN RB | 122 104 - 131 113 - - -
137 147 Bernard Scott CIN RB | 140 121 116 - - 137 - 115
138 167 Alex Smith SF QB | - 120 107 - - 138 124 -
139 136 Coby Fleener IND TE | 123 131 - 124 132 136 - -
140 135 Texans HOU DST | - - 114 128 - - - 103
141 138 Vincent Brown SD WR | 144 - - 111 138 - 134 120
142 157 Sam Bradford STL QB | 146 - 130 - - 124 104 -
143 134 Mike Tolbert CAR RB | 129 - 127 - 142 - 132 131
144 142 Bears CHI DST | - - 124 150   118 - 132
145 144 Davone Bess MIA WR | - 88 - - 140 - - -
146 151 Ravens BAL DST | - - 129 123 - 139 - 141
147 132 Reuben Randle NYG WR | - 113 117 - - - - -
148 156 Randy Moss SF WR | 118 145 135 - - - 136 -
149 162 Austin Collie IND WR | 148 97 - 147 143 - - -
150 143 Eagles PHI DST | - - 142 130 - - - 113

The 2012 Athlon Sports Consensus Fantasy Football Big Board:

Next 10: Rashad Mendenhall, RB, PIT, Tim Hightower, RB, WAS, Pittsburgh, DST, Mike Goodson, RB, OAK, Brian Quick, WR, STL, Brandon LaFell, WR, CAR, Jacoby Ford, WR, OAK, Joseph Addai, RB, NE, Matt Flynn, QB, SEA, Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, ATL

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

Updated: 11:00 AM CT, June, 8, 2012

Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Fantasy Content:

Athlon Sports Big Board: Top 150

2012 Fantasy Football Mock Draft I

2012 Bye Week Cheat Sheet

Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: QBs

Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: RBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: WRs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: TEs

Related: Order your Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Preview Magazine Here

You can preorder your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.
Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Fantasy Football Big Board</p>
Post date: Monday, July 16, 2012 - 14:30
Path: /college-football/penn-state-football-should-not-be-given-death-penalty
Body:

The powers that be at Penn State, after more than a decade of wrong doing, have finally shed a stark and glaring light down the dark corridors of its past.

Transparency is what could have saved Penn State 10 years ago.

Former FBI director Louis Freeh held nothing back and avoided no one in his investigation of the Jerry Sandusky cover-up in State College. He performed his duties to perfection, and the result was a public slaughtering of any shred of dignity Penn State had remaining.

And rightly so.

Freeh, however, never would’ve been intertwined with the Nittany Lions had powerful men in charge of Penn State held themselves accountable in 2001. Or 1998. Or who knows how many other countless times some suspecting indecisive mind failed to step forward with information about the horrific acts of a cruel monster.

Certainly, the guilt trickles up and down the chain of command – and in different quantities for different individuals. An orderly hierarchy of responsibility is a valued and imperative aspect to our great country and, in this case, it failed miserably.

I believe that Joe Paterno knew full well what his sins were, and he paid with his life. Yes, he was aging rapidly and was battling cancer. But guilt is as heavy a human emotion as there is, and I think it killed JoePa.

Sandusky is right where he belongs — in prison for the rest of his living days. Gary Schultz, Graham Spanier and Tim Curley will be joining him very shortly. And Penn State’s reputation will be tarnished forever. It’s a permanent right cross directly to the face of what had been one of the most respected and revered programs in all of athletics. And the resulting black eye will have costs and ramifications that we may not fully understand — or be able to quantify — for years or possibly decades. The organic punishment that will be handed down by prospective students, courtroom judges and talk show hosts could cost Penn State into the billions of dollars.

And rightly so.

The civil suits should be heavy handed. The court of public opinion will be unrelenting. And those who failed to report or act on suspicions will be forced to live with their guilt for the rest of their lives. And you can bet it will be haunting.

But should Penn State football be given the Death Penalty?

Absolutely not.

I believe that athletic competition, at its core foundation, is inherently good. I have to. It’s why I pay my mortgage writing and talking about football games and basketball tournaments. Teamwork, unity, discipline, hard work, personal responsibility, commitment and honesty are just a few things I learned growing up on a football field and baseball diamond.

And it is these very principles that must lead Penn State into the future.

Power, greed, money, fear and arrogance caused the cover-up, not the sportsmanship that my father instilled in me at a young age. The only silver lining, if there is one at all, to the worst scandal in NCAA history is the potential for change and progress that is has created.

Penn State was corrupt and it will undoubtedly and appropriately pay a heavy price for its actions. But the future offers an opportunity for the Penn State students, alumni, faculty, administrators and supporters who were, and still are, completely innocent throughout this entire process.

To Penn State, I offer this advice: Commit yourself and your institution to being proactive in the fight against child molestation. Spend money, dedicate time, be vigilant and creative in the battle raging right now in every American city against the evils of child predators.

It is this fight that is most important to me. And it’s in this bout that Penn State football can be the most useful. Not winning championships or going to bowl games or bringing ratings to ESPN on Saturday afternoons.

Penn State football was incredibly powerful for all the wrong reasons eight months ago. It now has a chance to rebuild and transform itself into something so much more than a football team and protected university cash cow.

I wrote this at the end of my article on the day Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State:

“This is about the kids – and there are no silver linings.

I cannot expect victims’ hearts to relax now that 40 counts (for now) of child sexual abuse have been levied against one sick human being. The arraignment of Gary Schultz and Tim Curley won’t repair the frayed nerve endings that have been permanently damaged. I cannot expect victims to sleep easier at night because Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier have been fired as head coach and President at Penn State.

And even when Jerry Sandusky gets what is most-assuredly coming to him in a federal penitentiary, the horrific memories of the past will not be expelled from the furthest reaches of those children’s memories.

I can only hope with every ounce of my soul that somewhere a frightened young child, panicked irresolute parent or morally weak graduate assistant will find the internal strength to learn from what has happened in State College, Pa., and vow to never let it happen again.”


It will take many years, but I believe that Penn State football, with the right people in the right places pushing in the right direction, will be a part of a new culture in Happy Valley.

One that is renowned, not reviled.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Penn State Football Should Not Be Given the Death Penalty</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 13:42
Path: /nfl/ranking-nfls-top-10-head-coaches-2012
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 32 NFL head coaches. The question becomes:

Which NFL 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. Bill Belichick, New England (2000-present), Cleveland (1991-95)
Age: 60, Regular season record: 175-97 (17 seasons), Postseason record: 17-7 (10 appearances)

Outside of Tom Coughlin, Belichick is the oldest coach on this list. But age isn't what matters here, it's results, and in that respect Belichick is cleary head and shoulders above the rest of his coaching brethren. He has the most regular-season and postseason wins, conference championships, and most importantly, three Super Bowl titles. He's been named the AP NFL Coach of the Year three times and already has secured his spot in the Hall of Fame even though his career is nowhere near finished. Fans may love to hate him, but Belichick has earned the respect of both NFL players and his coaching peers alike, just as he has earned his spot atop this list.

2. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco (2011-present)
Age: 48, Regular season record: 13-3 (1 season), Postseason record: 0-1 (1 appearance)

If Belichick is the present top dog in the NFL coaching ranks, Jim Harbaugh may be the future, which is saying something considering he has a grand total of one season under his belt. But that's what happens when you take a San Francisco team that hadn't produced a winning season since 2002 and turn into an NFC West champion and earn AP NFL Coach of the Year honors in the process. The 49ers came up short in the playoffs, but the future of the once-proud franchise that won four Super Bowl titles in the 1980s and another in 1994 looks extremely bright with Harbaugh at the helm. He's already got the coaching bloodlines (his father, Jack, has been in coaching for more than four decades and his brother, John, is Baltimore's head coach), the NFL pedigree (14-year career as QB), the leadership skills and the persona, now all he needs is the on-the-field results to establish himself as the league's next great head coach.

3. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay (2006-present)
Age: 48, Regular season record: 63-33 (6 seasons), Postseason record: 5-3 (4 appearances)

McCarthy already has what Harbaugh is chasing — a Super Bowl title — and could very well end up being the 49ers' head coach's greatest obstacle in achieving that goal. In six seasons leading the Packers, McCarthy has managed the transition from Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre to current reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, and done so with great success. Not only did the Packers win Super Bowl XLV following the 2010 season, McCarthy has his team positioned to contend for more titles in the near future. In fact, McCarthy is the same age as Harbaugh and more than a decade younger than Belichck, meaning his best years could still be ahead of him.

4. Tom Coughlin, NY Giants (2004-present), Jacksonville (1995-2002)
Age: 66, Regular season record: 142-114 (16 seasons), Postseason record: 11-7 (9 appearances)

Coughlin may be the old guy on this list, but he's showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The first head coach in the hisotry of the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise, Coughlin got his second chance with the Giants, and has made the most of it. Showing the toughness and perseverance that he instills in his teams, Coughlin teetered on the brink of unemployment several times only to come back stronger. Now with two Super Bowl titles in the past five seasons, Coughlin has every bit of the notoriety, respect and job security that accompany his accomplishments. The only real question surrounding the hard-nosed veteran coach is how much longer will he be on the sideline?

5. Sean Payton, New Orleans (2006-present)
Age: 48, Regular season record: 62-34 (6 seasons), 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.

6. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh (2007-present)
Age: 40, Regular season record: 55-25 (5 seasons), Postseason record: 5-3 (4 appearances)

Tomlin, like Belichick, McCarthy and Payton, has already reached the ultimate summit when it comes to being an NFL head coach — he's won the Super Bowl. The youngest to ever win the Lombardi Trophy at 36 years old, Tomlin is currently the second youngest head coach in the league. Dennis Allen, Oakland's first-year head coach, is six months younger than Tomlin. However, similar to Coughlin with the Giants, Tomlin hasn't let his age define nor limit him. Look no further than the fact that he's yet to have a losing season, has won 10 or more games in every season but one, and already has two AFC Championships on his resume.

7. John Harbaugh, Baltimore (2008-present)
Age: 49, Regular season record: 44-20 (4 seasons), Postseason record: 5-4 (4 appearances)

Younger brother Jim may get more of the headlines and attention for his work with the 49ers, but that shouldn’t take anything away from what the elder Harbaugh has accomplished in his first four seasons as an NFL head coach. Under the older Harbaugh brother, the Ravens haven’t won fewer than nine games in the regular season and have won at least one game in the playoffs each season. The next step for Harbaugh and his team is getting over the hump in the AFC Championship game. The Ravens are 0-2 in their conference title game, including last season’s gut-wrenching 23-20 loss to the Patriots in Foxboro.

8. Jeff Fisher, St. Louis (2012-present), Tennessee (1994-2010)
Age: 54, Overall Record: 142-120 (16 full seasons), 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.

9. Gary Kubiak, Houston (2006-present)
Age: 51, Regular season record: 47-49 (6 seasons), Postseason record: 1-1 (1 appearance)

Despite a sub-.500 record, Kubiak has earned his No. 4 ranking due to his transformation of the Texans from expansion team to Super Bowl contender. It took longer than fans, and probably owner Bob McNair, had originally envisioned, but the first fruits of Kubiak’s persistence and labor came forth last season in the form of the franchise’s first 10-win regular season, division title, postseason appearance and playoff victory. Kubiak has produced a .500 or better season in four of his six seasons at the helm of the Texans. That’s no small feat for any team, let alone an expansion team that had to start from scratch.

10. Andy Reid, Philadelphia (1999-present)
Age: 54, Regular season record: 126-81-1 (13 seasons), 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.

Best of the Rest

Mike Smith, Atlanta (2008-present)
Age: 53, Regular season record: 43-21 (4 seasons), Postseason record: 0-3 (3 appearances)

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.

Jim Schwartz, Detroit (2009-present)
Age: 46, Regular season record: 18-30 (3 seasons), 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.

Rex Ryan, New York Jets (2009-present)
Age: 49, Regular season record: 28-20 (3 seasons), Postseason record: 4-2 (2 appearances)

Some of the bloom has come off of Ryan’s rose as his Jets failed to make the playoffs last season after finishing 8-8. However, Ryan still has yet to post a losing record in his three seasons and did come a game away from the Super Bowl in each of his first two seasons. Ryan has shown he can talk a good game, but he also knows he better back it up with the results on the field, starting this season.

John Fox, Denver (2011-present), Carolina (2002-10)
Age: 57, Regular season record: 81-79 (10 seasons), Postseason record: 6-4 (4 appearances)

Fox’s record may not look that impressive, but in 10 seasons as the Panthers’ head coach he won three division titles and led the team to Super Bowl XXXVIII following the 2003 season. Fox’s overall .506 winning percentage in the regular season is also largely the result of his disastrous 2-14 campaign in 2010, his final season in Carolina. Now in Denver, Fox turned a Broncos team that went 4-12 in 2010 into an AFC West division champion in 2011, albeit one with an 8-8 record. Expectations are even higher this year for Fox and his Broncos, who will have Peyton Manning directing the offense.

Mike Munchak, Tennessee (2011-present)
Age: 52, Regular season record: 9-7 (1 season)

Munchak’s got only one year as a head coach on his resume, but he led the Titans to three more wins than the previous season and just missed a wild card berth in his rookie season. Munchak had the unenviable task of replacing mainstay Jeff Fisher, who had been the franchise’s head coach the previous 17 seasons, but now there’s no question whose team this is.

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati (2003-present)
Age: 53, Regular season record: 69-74-1 (9 seasons), Postseason record: 0-3 (3 appearances)

Lewis deserves plenty of credit for the two division titles and three playoff appearances he has led the Bengals to in his nine seasons in charge. Remember, when Lewis and the Bengals won the AFC North title in 2005 that ended a 15-year playoff drought for the franchise. However, Lewis also deserves his share of the criticism for his teams’ lack of consistency. Under Lewis the Bengals have yet to post consecutive seasons with a winning record or back-to-back playoff berths.

— by Mark Ross and Braden Gall, published on July 12, 2012

@bradengall

Related NFL Content

2012 NFL Coaches: Who is the NFC's Best Coach?
2012 NFL Coaches: Who is the AFC's Best Coach?

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> Ranking the NFL's Top 10 Head Coaches in 2012</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 06:00
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

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