Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-wins-recruiting-national-championship
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

It didn’t take long for the dust to start settling on what has turned out to be one of the most entertaining National Signing Days in history.

At 8:15 a.m. ET, Nick Saban landed his first big unknown when Lynchburg (Va.) Brookville defensive tackle Korren Kirven (No. 198 nationally) signed his paperwork for the Crimson Tide.

And the Tide just kept on rolling to the 2012 recruiting national championship.

Alabama entered NSD ’12 with a virtual stranglehold on the mythical recruiting national title. It was going to take some minor miracles in Austin, Gainesville, Columbus or Tallahassee to knock Saban’s bunch off that top slot in the rankings.

But Athlon Consensus 100 safety Landon Collins from Geismar (La.) Dutchtown stuck with his initial (and bizarre) pledge to the Tide, essentially sealing the recruiting national championship for Alabama.

With eight early enrollees, Bama already had a huge head start on NSD as AC100 names like T.J. Yeldon and Ryan Anderson have already been to a few freshman English classes. But after finishing with a nation-leading 10 AC100 signees and second-best 16 nationally rated recruits, there is little doubt that this Crimson haul is the best in the nation.

It starts with the linebackers. This five-man group is the best in the country bar none and couldn’t come at a better time after losing stars Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw as well as starter Jerrell Harris. Madison (Ala.) Bob Jones tackler Reggie Ragland is the No. 2 linebacker in the nation and is the No. 44 overall player in the AC100. Ragland proved at the Under Armour event that his size-speed combination is one of the best in the nation. Anderson is the No. 8-rated linebacker, and Dillon Lee checks in as the No. 9-rated LB in the nation. All three are top-100 prospects.

Add to it Taylor Hayes (No. 15 linebacker, No. 143 nationally) and Denzell Devall (No. 20 linebacker, No. 158 nationally) and Saban should have plenty to work with in the middle of his defense. Anderson and Devall, at 6-3, 250, and 6-2, 240, respectively, will fit perfectly in his 3-4 scheme that features a variety of hybrid end/backer combo players.

The secondary, which loses Dre Kirkpatrick, DeQuan Menzie and Mark Barron, is also well represented with five potential athletes landing in the defensive backfield. Collins, Panama City (Fla.) Arnold star Eddie Williams and Atlanta (Ga.) St. Pius X corner Geno Smith are three of the top seven defensive back prospects in the nation. Both Collins and Williams rank in the top-21 nationally and could grow into one of the most imposing safety tandems in the country. Collins is listed at 6-2, 210 while Williams checks in at 6-4, 205. That is serious strength at the backend of Saban’s defense. Smith is the No. 3-rated coverman in the nation.

The big news on NSD for Saban, however, came along the defensive line. He got the day started with the 6-4, 275-pound Kirven and followed that up almost immediately with McDonough (Ga.) Henry County nose guard Dalvin Tomlinson. Packaged with a trio of three-star defensive tackles, Alabama has added incredible depth to the middle of its defensive line.

The only blemish on the day for the Crimson Tide was the loss of Atlanta (Ga.) Washington tailback Justin Taylor to Kentucky. Yet, with Dee Hart returning from injury and Yeldon already enrolled — to go with incoming Powder Springs (Ga.) Hillgrove speedster Kenyan Drake — the Alabama running game should be in great hands for years to come.

A pair of Sunshine State AC100 wide receivers, Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast’s Chris Black and Miami (Fla.) Northwestern’s Amari Cooper, should help replenish a receiving corps that saw Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks depart due to graduation. Do-everything top-100 athlete Cyrus Jones could also contribute in a big way on the offense as well.

In all, Alabama signed at least one player ranked in the top five nationally at his position at five different spots on the field: LB, RB, DB, ATH, WR. It signed three of the top seven defensive backs nationally, three of the top nine linebackers and two of the top five wide receivers.

The Yellowhammer State has always provided the Tide with loads of talent, and generally speaking, it’s arguably the most territorial state in the nation. Saban signed seven in-state players in this class. Florida (3) and Louisiana (2) also provided some elite talents as well. However, the Peach State was the biggest surprise for Alabama during this cycle. The Tide signed eight players from the state of Georgia, including two AC100 prospects.

In short, this is an extraordinarily talented, deep and balanced collection of players heading to the Capstone. Saban won a recruiting national title back in 2008 and finished third nationally in 2009, and those two classes laid the foundation for his third BCS national championship. Of the 22 starters in the BCS title game win over LSU, 15 signed in either 2008 or 2009.

So while Will Muschamp, Les Miles, Mark Richt, Gene Chizik and Bobby Petrino sat in nervous anticipation for names like Dorial Green-Beckham, Eddie Goldman, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Tracy Howard, Torshiro Davis, Avery Young and Dante Fowler to sign their letters of intent with other programs, Saban coolly sat back and collected another stellar 26 signees.

Needless to say, Alabama football isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Athlon Consensus 100 Signees (in order of national rank):

12. Eddie Williams (Panama City, Fla.): No. 2 DB
21. Landon Collins (Geismar, La.): No. 4 DB
32. T.J. Yeldon (Daphne, Ala.): No. 4 RB
42. Chris Black (Jacksonville, Fla.): No. 3 WR
44. Reggie Ragland (Madison, Ala.): No. 2 LB
48. Cyrus Jones (Baltimore, Md.): No. 4 ATH
58. Amari Cooper (Miami, Fla.): No. 5 WR
61. Geno Smith (Atlanta, Ga.): No. 7 DB
84. Ryan Anderson (Daphne, Ala.): No. 8 LB
94. Dillon Lee (Buford, Ga.): No. 9 LB

Other Nationally Rated Recruits:

130. Kenyan Drake, RB (Powder Springs, Ga.)
135. Brandon Greene, OL (Ellenwood, Ga.)
143. Tyler Hayes, LB (Thomasville, Ala.)
158. Denzel Devall, LB (Bastrop, La.)
198. Korren Kirven, DT (Lynchburg, Va.)
251. Dalvin Tomlinson, DT (McDonough, Ga.)
 

Teaser:
<p> Alabama Crimson Tide Wins Recruiting National Championship</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 16:52
Path: /college-football/recruiting-trail-dominated-urban-meyer-ohio-state
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

It helps to have two coaching staffs.

While Luke Fickell's Ohio State staff prepared for the bowl match-up with Florida, new head coach Urban Meyer and his staff plowed through the recruiting trail in true General Sherman fashion.

This story began on November 27 rather than National Signing Day. In reality, Meyer had a rather quiet Signing Day, landing only the one big name (Kyle Dodson). But he had a monstrous two months leading up to Wednesday for the Buckeyes. Meyer stepped onto campus in Columbus and wreaked havoc almost instantly by pilfering powerful Midwestern classes for elite level talent.

Meyer landed 11 of his 25 total signees after taking over late in November including a number of former Penn State commitments, one Michigan State verbal, a former Wisconsin commitment and a Notre Dame pledge. He flipped Athlon Consensus 100 talents Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Glenbard West defensive tackle Tommy Schutt (No. 67) and Canton (Ohio) McKinley defensive end Se’Von Pittman (No. 86) from PSU and MSU respectively. He also pulled nationally-rated defensive back Armani Reeves from Penn State and landed the No. 3 player in the nation in Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt defensive end Noah Spence. Spence is the No. 1 defensive end in the nation and was considered a Penn State lock before Meyer took over at Ohio State.

Finally, Meyer stole a pair of offensive lineman in Vandalia (Ohio) Butler’s Taylor Decker and Cleveland (Ohio) Cleveland Heights’ Kyle Dodson. Decker had previously been committed to the Irish and Dodson has been set to go to Madison, Wisc.

With elite Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft defensive end Adolphus Washington (No. 27) on board as well, Meyer boasts four AC100 defensive lineman. It is one of, if not the, best defensive line class in the nation. He has clearly brought his SEC theories on rushing the passer to the Big Ten.

The last piece to the masterful Meyer puzzle will fall into place on Friday, February 10 when Olney (Md.) Good Counsel athlete Stefon Diggs makes his decision. Florida has long been the leader for the No. 5 player in the nation, but Ohio State made a late push for the do-everything talent. Meyer can simply pop in the tape of Percy Harvin and show Diggs exactly how he would be used in Columbus. Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chapparell play-maker Davonte Neal is a player with a similar skill set to that of Diggs and is also waiting until past NSD to make his call. Those are the only two names left on the Scarlet and Gray's board for the class of 2012.

Meyer has put together the best class in the Big Ten and a top five group nationally.  However, should they land Diggs next week, the Buckeyes could finish as high as No. 2.

And he did it in less than three months. Vintage Meyer.
 

Teaser:
<p> Since taking over in Columbus, Meyer's impact on Buckeye recruiting has been astounding.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 14:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Missouri Tigers, News
Path: /college-football/dorial-green-beckham-signs-missouri-tigers
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

One of the best-kept recruiting secrets in years came from Athlon’s No. 1 player in the nation, Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.

The top name in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 took only three visits — to Texas, Arkansas and Missouri — and kept his recruitment incredibly quiet and impossibly impenetrable. After his visit to Fayetteville, Hogs fans felt great about their chances to land the superstar wideout. Yet, Gary Pinkel and the Tigers got the last opportunity to impress DGB when he visited the beautiful Columbia campus just before Signing Day.

And Pinkel capitalized.

Eventually, the star treatment from the in-state school proved to be too much, and Green-Beckham signed with Missouri in front of a circus of cameras and reporters at his high school on Wednesday morning.

His resume makes him a once-in-a-lifetime prospect for the ShowMe State. The Calvin Johnson clone caught 119 passes for 2,233 yards — the fourth-highest total in history — and 24 touchdowns as a senior. In the process, his astounding 6,353 career receiving yards broke Shreveport (La.) Evangel Christian Abram Booty’s national record of 5,867 yards. His 300 career receptions rank fourth all-time, and his 75 career touchdowns rank third all-time in American high school football history.

The impact of landing the nation’s top prospect is immeasurable for the Missouri Tigers.

As Pinkel leads his squad into the shark-infested, murky waters of the SEC, Green-Beckham could prove to be a program-changing recruit — not just on the field, but off of it as well. DGB's immense talent will obviously play in that high-flying Mizzou offense, but, much in the way Kevin Jones' signing impacted the Virginia Tech Hokies brand image back in the class of 2000, the recruiting clout gained off the field from the DGB signing should elevate the Tigers’ cachet on the recruiting trail. Especially considering they are now competing with the likes of Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina within their own division every year.

Rising star quarterback James Franklin will feel the immediate impact of signing Green-Beckham the most as he now has an elite target who is only a freshman. Once the Tigers integrate former elite recruit Darius White, who is transferring in from Texas, Mizzou's passing attack in 2013 could downright impossible to stop.

Only time will tell, but February 1, 2012, could go down in the Mizzou annals as one of the most influential days in Tigers football history.

Teaser:
<p> Dorial Green-Beckham Signs With Missouri Tigers</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 10:44
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/green-beckham-diggs-top-list-uncommitted-prospects
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

One glance at the Athlon Consensus 100 will prove that it should be an electric ride through National Signing Day 2012. In total, 18 players ranked in the AC100 are left uncommitted and a few massive names could pull the old flip-flop. Teams like Auburn, Florida, Florida State, USC and Ohio State could all experience major gains — or major heartbreak — once those faxes start rolling in tomorrow at 7 a.m. ET.

Related: National Signing Day Craziest Stories
Related: Team Rankings Heading Into Signing Day


Here are the Top Players left on the board (in order of AC100 ranking):

1. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR (6-6, 220)
Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest
Announcement: NSD at 10:15 a.m. ET

The nation's top prospect, who conjures images of Calvin Johnson, took three official visits to Texas, Missouri and Arkansas. Rumors were that his visit to Arkansas gave the Hogs a clear advantage. That is, until he visited Mizzou last weekend. The M-I-Z-D-G-B chants rang through the rafters of Mizzou Arena during the weekend's hoops contest in Columbia. It appears that DGB wants to stay closer to home and reports have been the Tigers and Hogs will be his final two choices. Gary Pinkel has the luxury of holding the final visit, offers an in-state campus (Arkansas is actually a few miles closer to home) and now carries that all important "SEC" patch on their shoulder pads. Prediction: Missouri

5. Stefon Diggs, ATH (6-0, 185)
Olney (Md.) Good Counsel
Announcement: Friday, Feb. 10

Diggs will not sign on Wednesday so don't hold your breath. He has a scheduled visit to Maryland coming in the near future and is slated to announce two Fridays from today. The Florida Gators have long been the favorite but Ohio State has made a late push for the do-everything dynamo. Urban Meyer has promised to use the talented Diggs much like he did Percy Harvin. Randy Edsall and Mike Locklsey will make a strong push for the local product during the visit but it appears to be a rematch of the 2006 BCS title game for Diggs. Prediction: Florida

9. Eddie Goldman, DT (6-4, 305)
Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate
Announcement: NSD 10:05 a.m. ET

The star defensive tackle has taken four visits thus far to Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and Miami. It has appeared to be a two-team race between the Crimson Tide and Seminoles but Auburn has made a strong push. The Seminoles are still the top team to beat for his services as almost all experts are in agreement that Goldman will pick FSU on NSD. Auburn's class has to be consider a slight disappointment, so you can bet Gene Chizik's staff is working the phones hard for Mr. Goldman. Prediction: Florida State

18. Tracy Howard, DB (5-11, 175)
Hollywood (Fla.) Miramar
Announcement: NSD 9:35 a.m. ET

Howard has long been considered a heavy Florida Gator lean and the smart money is still on Will Muschamp. However, the Miami Hurricanes have come out of nowhere and made a huge push. Alabama, Florida State, West Virginia and USC might still be in the mix, but it appears to be a Gators-Canes battle. Howard played well in the U.S. Army Bowl and figures to be an instant impact coverman. The Hurricanes, possibly his original team of choice, appears to have made a huge run at the talented DB. Prediction: Miami

20. Josh Harvey-Clemons, LB (6-4, 205)
Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes
Announcement: NSD 9:15 a.m. ET

This rangy linebacker (potential defensive end) has Florida, Georgia, Louisville and Florida State as his finalists with the Gators and Dawgs leading the charge for his services. He has visited Florida, Georgia and Florida State and has long been thought of as a heavy Georgia lean. All of the experts have lined-up behind Athens as the landing spot for this versatile front-seven defender. Prediction: Georgia

22. Andrus Peat, OL (6-6, 295)
Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol
Announcement: NSD 1:35 p.m. ET

The big blocker was excellent in the Under Armour game and has proven his stock is warranted. His older brother, Todd, and cousin Avery Moss either play at or will play at Nebraska. So heading for a NSD announcement, the Huksers have the edge over his other three finalists. Peat has visited his four finalists — Nebraska, USC, Florida State and Stanford — and has them all technically listed even. That said, Bo Pelini has to be considered the clear leader. Prediction: Nebraska

25. Kyle Murphy, OL (6-6, 270)
San Clemente (Calif.)
Announcement: N/A

Murphy is down to four: Stanford, USC, Florida and Oregon. He visited those four programs over the last few months and has not set a time for his announcement. At this point, Stanford and USC look to be his true finalists with David Shaw and the Cardinal looking like the team to beat for his services. Most would be shocked if he landed at Florida or Oregon. Prediction: Stanford

26. Nelson Agholor, ATH (6-0, 180)
Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep
Announcement: NSD 12:05 p.m. ET

Agholor is a young player who is wise and mature beyond his years and it shows on the field. He is dynamic and will be an immediate impact player on the next level – be it at running back, wide receiver or special teams. Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and USC are his finalists with the Gators and Trojans leading the way. He was considered a strong Gators lean, but USC has made a huge final push and may be the team to beat. This is one of the more intriguing recruitments in the nation — and could be one of the most important. Prediction: USC

29. Thomas Johnson, WR (6-0, 180)
Dallas (Texas) Skyline
Announcement: NSD 12:20 p.m. ET

Johnson decommitted from the Texas Longhorns the day after playing in the Under Armour game (strangely, with a big number of future teammates). After nearly one full calendar year as a Texas verbal, Johnson now looks to be picking between Cal, Oregon, Texas A&M and TCU. He visited all of his finalists except Cal and looks like all signs are pointing to him staying in the Lone Star State. The lure of the SEC will be too strong for Johnson. Prediction: Texas A&M

34. Ronald Darby, DB (5-11, 175)
Oxon Hill (Md.) Potomac
Announcement: NSD 2:30 p.m. ET

The longtime Notre Dame commitment reopened his recruitment and has Arizona, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Notre Dame listed as his finalists. Of those final choices, Darby visited Clemson, Maryland, Florida State and Auburn. Look for Auburn and Florida State to battle it out for this talented speedster's athletic ability. Prediction: Florida State

53. Avery Young, OL (6-5, 275)
Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Palm Beach
Announcement: NSD at 2:00 p.m. ET

Young has trimmed his list to four: Auburn, Georgia, Florida and Miami. His mother is from Georgia and he will be announcing on TV in Atlanta on Signing Day. With Georgia and Auburn listed as his final two choices, his announcement time and location could this be a positive omen for Mark Richt and the Dawgs? Prediction: Georgia

56. Davonte Neal, ATH (5-9, 175)
Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral
Announcement: N/A

Neal can play anywhere on the field and could still play anywhere in the nation. His list of finalists includes Arizona, Arkansas, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Ohio State. He has visited all five and has told everyone that he will not be deciding until, for whatever reason, after National Signing Day. This one appears to be wide open but the home state program might be the team to beat. Prediction: Arizona

63. Aziz Shittu, DT (6-3, 275)
Atwater (Calif.) Buhach
Announcement: NSD at 5 p.m. ET

If there is an interesting recruit who could pull something very interesting out of the hat on NSD, it might be the intriuging Shittu. Stanford, Cal, USC and UCLA are his finalists, but appears all but locked into a Palo Alto scholarship. Prediction: Stanford

68. Leonard Williams, DE (6-5, 255)
Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland
Announcement: NSD, TBD

Florida, USC, Auburn and Florida State will be the four teams holding their breath for Mr. Williams come NSD. He has visited all four but USC and Florida look like the two teams to beat. Lane Kiffin is all but assured of pulling at least one or two upsets and landing Williams could be considered one of them (Agholor would be the other). Where Kyle Murphy ends up could impact Williams decision. Prediction: USC

82. Kwon Alexander, LB (6-2, 210)
Oxford (Ala.) High
Announcement: NSD 11:05 a.m. ET

Alexander is down to three schools and the BCS Championship game could have played a large role in helping him to decide. The talented tackler has visited Auburn and LSU thus far but has interestingly enough not visited Alabama. He is currently rehabbing from a knee injury he suffered back in October and Auburn never backed down — and has new DC and strong recruiter Brian VanGorder working hard to land him. Prediction: Auburn

88. Jordan Diamond, OL (6-6, 290)
Chicago (Ill.) Simeon
Announcement: Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. ET

Diamond has tripped to all of his five finalists: Arkansas, Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin. He has decided to postpone his decision to just beyond National Signing Day and will make his final call on Friday at 8 p.m. The Badgers got the all-important final visit and may be in the lead after losing a few offensive line prospects of late. Prediction: Michigan

95. Joel Caleb, ATH (6-2, 205)
Midlothian (Va.) Clover Hill
Announcement: NSD at 8:30 a.m. ET

Caleb has officially listed three programs as his finalists. Ohio State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia are his programs of choice, but the Hokies have long been rumored as the team to beat. The talented athlete missed some of this season with a torn meniscus and has been rehabbing hard in order to be ready for 2012. Prediction: Virginia Tech

Teaser:
<p> Who are the best players left on the board and where will they land on National Signing Day?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/can-national-signing-day-save-auburns-class
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The Auburn Tigers won the 2011 BCS National Championship. But you wouldn't be able to tell it from looking at the team recruiting rankings.

Rivals.com and Scout.com has the Tigers ranked No. 20 in the nation and 247Sports has Auburn ranked 21st in the nation. That is nothing to sneeze at and provides enough talent to any roster to compete for conference championships.

Yet, those rankings put the Tigers in the bottom third of the SEC. Eighth to be exact.

Certainly, having to replace two coordinators for the first time in years hasn't helped Gene Chizik maintain his astounding recruiting momentum from recent years. But with Scot Loeffler and Brian VanGorder, he has put together a fantastic new staff and could close the 2012 class with a flourish on National Signing Day.

Will Auburn land most of the names listed below? Probably not. But the Tigers need to pull a couple of upsets in order salvage a top-20 class — and keep up with that other in-state SEC school that currently owns the recruiting trail.

Here are the Athlon Consensus 100 targets Auburn has left on its board:

5. Stefon Diggs, ATH (6-0, 185)
Olney (Md.) Good Counsel
Announcement: Friday, Feb. 10

Diggs will not sign on Wednesday so don't hold your breath. He has a scheduled visit to Maryland coming in the near future and is slated to announce two Fridays from today on the 10th. The Florida Gators have long been the favorite but Ohio State has made a late push for the do-everything dynamo. Urban Meyer has promised to use the talented Diggs much like he did Percy Harvin. Randy Edsall and Mike Locklsey will make a strong push for the local product during the visit but it appears to be a rematch of the 2006 BCS title game for Diggs. Auburn is a heavy long-shot in the race for Diggs, but his inability to make up his mind only helps the upset cause. Prediction: Florida

9. Eddie Goldman, DT (6-4, 305)
Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate
Announcement: NSD 10:05 a.m. ET

The star defensive tackle has taken four visits thus far to Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and Miami. It has appeared to be a two-team race between the Crimson Tide and Seminoles but Auburn has made a strong push. The Seminoles are still the top team to beat for his services as almost all experts are in agreement that Goldman will pick FSU on NSD. Auburn's class has to be consider a slight disappointment, so you can bet Gene Chizik's staff is working the phones hard for Mr. Goldman. Prediction: Florida State

34. Ronald Darby, DB (5-11, 175)
Oxon Hill (Md.) Potomac
Announcement: NSD 2:30 p.m. ET

The longtime Notre Dame commitment reopened his recruitment and has Arizona, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Notre Dame listed as his finalists. Of those final choices, Darby visited Clemson, Maryland, Florida State and Auburn. Look for Auburn and Florida State to battle it out for this talented speedster's athletic ability. Prediction: Florida State

53. Avery Young, OL (6-5, 275)
Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Palm Beach
Announcement: NSD at 2:00 p.m. ET

Young has trimmed his list to four: Auburn, Georgia, Florida and Miami. His mother is from Georgia and he will be announcing on TV in Atlanta on Signing Day. With Georgia and Auburn listed as his final two choices, his announcement time and location could this be a positive omen for Mark Richt and the Dawgs? Or will the new coordinator and sheer desire of the Auburn staff win out? Prediction: Auburn

68. Leonard Williams, DE (6-5, 255)
Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland
Announcement: NSD, TBD

Florida, USC, Auburn and Florida State will be the four teams holding their breath for Mr. Williams come NSD. He has visited all four but USC and Florida look like the two teams to beat. Lane Kiffin is all but assured of pulling at least one or two upsets and landing Williams could be considered one of them (Agholor would be the other). Where Kyle Murphy ends up could impact Williams decision. Prediction: USC

82. Kwon Alexander, LB (6-2, 210)
Oxford (Ala.) High
Announcement: NSD 11:05 a.m. ET

Alexander is down to three schools and the BCS Championship game could have played a large role in helping him to decide. The talented tackler has visited Auburn and LSU thus far but has interestingly enough not visited Alabama. He is currently rehabbing from a knee injury he suffered back in October and Auburn never backed down — and has new DC and strong recruiter Brian VanGorder working hard to land him. Prediction: Auburn

88. Jordan Diamond, OL (6-6, 290)
Chicago (Ill.) Simeon
Announcement: Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. ET

Diamond has tripped to all of his five finalists: Arkansas, Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin. He has decided to postpone his decision to just beyond National Signing Day and will make his final call on Friday at 8 p.m. The Badgers got the all-important final visit and may be in the lead after losing a few offensive line prospects of late. Prediction: Michigan

Other Nationally Rated Names to Watch:

Alex Kozan, OL (6-4, 295)
Castle Rock (Colo.) Valor Christian
Finalists: Auburn, Iowa, Michigan

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (6-4, 205)
Hutchinson (Kan.) C.C.
Finalists: Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee

Ricardo Louis, WR (6-2, 190)
Miami Beach (Fla.) High
Finalists: Auburn, Florida State

Teaser:
<p> Auburn's 2012 class has been a disappointment, but can National Signing Day save the day?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 16:11
Path: /college-football/recruiting-florida-gators-ready-huge-national-signing-day
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The Florida Gators need some good news these days.

One of the best jobs in America — and the best job East of the Mississippi — has featured four different coordinators in four seasons in Gainesville and eleven losses in two seasons. And shockingly, it is the lack of play-makers on that side of the ball that is so startling absent from the Gators' roster.

That could all change on Wednesday, however, as National Signing Day could be a huge day for second-year head coach Will Muschamp and new offensive coordinator Brent Pease. There are eight Athlon Consensus 100 targets left on the Gators board and two of them in particular could add some offensive spark to an otherwise dormant offense. Landing all eight is highly unlikely and virtually impossible, but if three or four of the names listed below pick Florida, Muschamp could actually push Alabama and Texas for the No. 1 class in the nation. Right now, the class currently sits at No. 3 in the Athlon Sports team rankings.

Here are the names Florida is waiting for:

5. Stefon Diggs, ATH (6-0, 185)
Olney (Md.) Good Counsel
Announcement: Friday, Feb. 10

Diggs will not sign on Wednesday so don't hold your breath. He has a scheduled visit to Maryland coming in the near future and is slated to announce two Fridays from today. The Florida Gators have long been the favorite but Ohio State has made a late push for the do-everything dynamo. Urban Meyer has promised to use the talented Diggs much like he did Percy Harvin. Randy Edsall and Mike Locksley will make a strong push for the local product during the visit but it appears to be a rematch of the 2006 BCS title game for Diggs. Prediction: Florida

18. Tracy Howard, DB (5-11, 175)
Hollywood (Fla.) Miramar
Announcement: NSD 9:35 a.m. ET

Howard has long been considered a heavy Florida Gator lean and the smart money is still on Will Muschamp. However, the Miami Hurricanes have come out of nowhere and made a huge push. Alabama, Florida State, West Virginia and USC might still be in the mix, but it appears to be a Gators-Canes battle. Howard played well in the U.S. Army Bowl and figures to be an instant impact coverman. Prediction: Florida

20. Josh Harvey-Clemons, LB (6-4, 205)
Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes
Announcement: NSD 9:15 a.m. ET

This rangy linebacker (potential defensive end) has Florida, Georgia, Louisville and Florida State as his finalists with the Gators and Dawgs leading the charge for his services. He has visited Florida, Georgia and Florida State and has long been thought of as a heavy Georgia lean. All of the experts have lined-up behind Athens as the landing spot for this versatile front-seven defender. Prediction: Georgia

25. Kyle Murphy, OL (6-6, 270)
San Clemente (Calif.)
Announcement: N/A

Murphy is down to four: Stanford, USC, Florida and Oregon. He visited those four programs over the last few months and has not set a time for his announcement. At this point, Stanford and USC look to be his true finalists with David Shaw and the Cardinal looking like the team to beat for his services. Most would be shocked if he landed at Florida or Oregon. Prediction: Stanford

26. Nelson Agholor, ATH (6-0, 180)
Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep
Announcement: NSD 12:05 p.m. ET

Agholor is a young player who is wise and mature beyond his years and it shows on the field. He is dynamic and will be an immediate impact player on the next level – be it at running back, wide receiver or special teams. Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and USC are his finalists with the Gators and Trojans leading the way. He was considered a strong Gators lean, but USC has made a huge final push and may be the team to beat. This is one of the more intriguing recruitments in the nation — and could be one of the most important. Prediction: USC

53. Avery Young, OL (6-5, 275)
Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Palm Beach
Announcement: NSD at 2:00 p.m. ET

Young has trimmed his list to four: Auburn, Georgia, Florida and Miami. His mother is from Georgia and he will be announcing on TV in Atlanta on Signing Day. With Georgia and Auburn listed as his final two choices, his announcement time and location could this be a positive omen for Mark Richt and the Dawgs? Prediction: Georgia

68. Leonard Williams, DE (6-5, 255)
Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland
Announcement: NSD, TBD

Florida, USC, Auburn and Florida State will be the four teams holding their breath for Mr. Williams come NSD. He has visited all four but USC and Florida look like the two teams to beat. Lane Kiffin is all but assured of pulling at least one or two upsets and landing Williams could be considered one of them (Agholor would be the other). Where Kyle Murphy ends up could impact Williams decision. Prediction: Florida

Teaser:
<p> National Signing Day 2012 could be a huge day for Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 15:06
Path: /college-football/recruiting-signing-days-craziest-stories
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Children are complicated, fickle, naive creatures who seldom have any perspective on the trappings of adult life. Few 16-year old kids in this country are clued in to the rise of democracy in the Middle East, the emerging debt issues in Europe or the far-reaching effects of upcoming elections in South America. Hell, most of them have never even done their own taxes.

It’s why uniform colors, shoes, weather, license plates and even a coin flip have been used to select a university in the recent past. And I don’t expect National Signing Day 2012 to be much different.

The 2012 cycle has already provided one of the most bizarre recruiting stories I have ever witnessed. Geismar (La.) Dutchtown safety Landon Collins, the No. 21-rated player in the Athlon Consensus 100, announced on national television for the University of Alabama much to the chagrin of his mother, April Justin. Justin, just moments after her son committed to the Tide, was not only visibly upset but openly cheered for “her” LSU Tigers:

"I feel like LSU is a better place for him to be," Justin said at the time. "LSU Tigers, number one. Go Tigers.”

Collins’ girlfriend, Victoria Lowery, is reportedly going to Alabama and wants her significant other to come with her. Apparently, Justin and Lowery got into an altercation just before the announcement about who should be on set when Collins made the big decision. Well, Collins is still committed to Alabama and Lowery was on camera standing just behind her man at the Under Armour game.

Lowery 2, Mom 0.

But Mama isn’t going down without a fight as she has recently accused Nick Saban and Alabama of a recruiting violation. She claims Lowery has been offered a job in the football office by Saban – and obvious NCAA violation. Alabama has denied the accusation as it would be virtually impossible to cover-up such a blatant disobedience.

Les Miles and the Tigers are still recruiting Collins hard and nothing is certain with this saga until the ink is actually dry on Wednesday.

Collins is just one of many interesting, bewildering and sometimes hilarious recruiting decisions. My personal favorite came from Florida State signee Fred Rouse. On our national radio show on Sirius, he was asked, where are you going to college? And Mr. Rouse responded with “You know, a lot of people want me to go here or there. But I had to think, you know, what Fred wanna do? And Fred want to go to Florida State.” I think I have replayed that clip a thousand times since. The first-person, verbally illiterate announcement was absolutely hilarious. Unfortunately for everyone involved, his career wasn’t nearly as entertaining on the football field as it was on radio airwaves.

Rouse and Collins are just two of many memorable tales from the trail…

Related: 2012 Team Recruiting Rankings Heading Into Signing Day

The Imaginary Scholarship

As bizarre as the Collins’ girlfriend-mother feud is, nothing compares to Kevin Hart’s story. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman at Fernely (Nev.) High wanted so badly to play college football that he wrote his own fairytale ending complete with press conference. On February 1, 2008, Hart held a historic announcement at his high school in which he picked Cal over Oregon. “Coach Tedford and I talked a lot, and the fact that the head coach did most of the recruiting of me kind gave me that real personal experience,” Hart said at the announcement.

There was only one problem. Jeff Tedford had never spoken too, visited or contacted Mr. Hart. Neither had Oregon, Washington or Oklahoma State, his other finalists, for that matter. Eventually, Hart admitted the entire recruitment was fictitious and apologized to all parties involved.

The Forged Signature

April Justin isn’t the first parent to disapprove of their son’s educational choices. Just last year, Reserve (La.) East St. John defensive back Floyd Raven had decided that Texas A&M was the right school for him. There was only one issue, however, his letter of intent had already been sent to Ole Miss. The Rebels admissions department couldn’t read the signature and asked for a second copy. Raven’s mother wanted him to go to Ole Miss so badly, that she had forged the signature and sent it to Oxford without her son’s knowledge. Eventually, Floyd learned of his mother’s “betrayal” and sent the appropriately signed paperwork to Texas A&M.

The Coin Flip

It takes thousands of hours of labor and thousands of dollars to recruit athletes at the highest level. But in 2009, Atco (N.J.) Winsow Township linebacker Ka’Lial Glaud trimmed the entire process to a few cents. After taking five school-funded official visits, Glaud had narrowed his list to West Virginia and Rutgers. But the linebacker was still so torn he couldn’t make up his mind. So naturally, he decided to let chance decide his fate as he literally flipped a coin between the two programs. Heads he goes to WVU, tails he goes to Rutgers. He has posted 47 total tackles in three seasons for the Scarlet Knights.

The Five-Minute Flip-Flop

Flip-flops happen in recruiting all the time – especially, as national signing day draws near. The recruiting picture gets clearer for all parties involved, while schools get desperate to fill needs with late scholarship offers. The nation’s No. 2 player in 2011, however, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, made heads spin in record time last year. Kouandjio, whose older brother was/is a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, announced on ESPN that he would be attending Auburn. Yet, five minutes after the bright TV lights had gone out, the younger Kouandjio, recanted his pledge to Auburn. He never sent in his letter of intent to the Tigers and three days later it was revealed he had officially signed with Alabama via twitter. Longtime commitments are snaked away at the last minute every season, but never has a kid committed on national television only to decide to sign with someone else five minutes later. The venom of the Yellowhammer rivalry only added to the drama of the Kouandjio signing.

The Announcement Props

I am not one who enjoys recruiting announcements. They are filled with superfluous rhetoric from coaches, analysts and handlers. They go on too long and rarely does a recruit offer any pertinent news or information other than his college of choice. Every now and then, however, if done with style, an announcement can be fun – or infuriating. Georgia’s Isaiah Crowell made fans coo when he pulled out an actual Bulldog puppy last year to signify his decision to play for Mark Richt in Athens. Andre Smith sent the Crimson Tiders into hysterics when he pulled out the houndstooth hat at his announcement for Alabama.

But Antonio Logan-El’s live announcement back in 2006 was met with a slightly harsher response. The Forestville (Md.) High offensive lineman had been committed to Maryland for the better part of a year. While dressed in Maryland red in front of a Terps crowd at the ESPN Sportszone in Maryland — including head coach Ralph Friedgen’s wife — Logan-El first pulled out a Florida hat before tossing it to the ground. He then pulled out a Tennessee hat. That, too, was tossed aside before picking up the Terps black and red headgear. After a few nice words, Logan-El threw his Maryland hat to the ground and held up a picture of Joe Paterno and announced he would be heading to Penn State. The decision was met with screams of “traitor” and violence nearly resulted. Logan-El, much to the pleasure of Terps fans, washed out at Penn State after only one redshirt year.

At least he actually made a decision, however, as the worst recruiting press conference in history has to belong to Greg Little. The peculiar wide receiver held a press conference in October of his senior year to announce what school he would be attending. Fans waited with anticipation while Little huddled with his family and coaches for a long period of time. He emerged from the mini-summit to announce that he had narrowed his list to Notre Dame and North Carolina. It’s the only news conference I can remember where a recruit officially announced that there was nothing to announce.

The Slimy Mentor

The most recent trend for elite recruits, for some reason unbeknownst to me, is to wait until after National Signing Day to make a decision. Terrelle Pryor, Orson Charles, Latwan Anderson, Vidal Hazelton, Seantrel Henderson, Kouandjio and last year’s top prospect Jadeveon Clowney all signed their LOIs well past signing day. But Wichita (Kan.) East running back Bryce Brown, and his handler/mentor/coach/agent/leech Brian Butler, set a new low for recruiting sludge.

Brown, whose older brother Arthur was enrolled at Miami, had been committed to the Hurricanes from the early stages. He did not sign on NSD and instead took a couple of extra visits to Tennessee and LSU after Signing Day. While Brown watched the calendar flip to March without a decision, Butler, who was a convicted felon and fledgling rapper, set up a website in order to charge $9.99 per month for recruiting updates on his protégé.

Threats from Butler about Brown potentially skipping college for the Canadian Football League only further exemplified how ridiculous the handler’s influence was over Brown. Meanwhile, Miami (and others) stopped recruiting the troubled tailback until halfway through March, when Brown got “a sign from god” to sign with Tennessee. Arthur left Miami for Kansas State (where he will be a standout senior in 2012) shortly thereafter. Bryce lasted one year in Knoxville before transferring back to Kansas State as well. He played in two games this season, got three carries and comically declared for the 2012 NFL.

Obviously, most of the names who waited until beyond signing day to sign have had major trouble getting their careers started on the next level (with the potenial exception of Clowney).

So there does appear to be a fairly simple and obvious lesson to be learned here: Sign the stinking papers and get to work because nothing is guaranteed on the next level.

Who knows what National Signing Day 2012 will bring. Will Shaq Thompson switch from Cal to Washington? Will Andrus Peat see a Nebraska license plate on the road in Tempe, Ariz., and therefore pick the Huskers much like his older brother did last winter? Which woman has more influence on Landon Collins? And how long will peacock playmaker Stefon Diggs wait to sign his papers?

Love or hate the press conferences and high-profile visibility of high school students, National Signing Day has become appointment viewing for all college football fans.
 

Teaser:
<p> National Signing Day has always provided plenty of bizarre, hilarious and eye-opening stories.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 07:04
Path: /college-football/2012-team-recruiting-rankings-signing-day-targets
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

National Signing Day is upon us!

Tomorrow coaches, parents, fans and media members alike will be starring at fax machines (yes, they still use those) in anticipation of building a championship roster.

You can’t win football games without good players – and having better athletes than the next guy normally helps with the winning process. The Alabama Crimson Tide won the 2008 recruiting national championship and it turned into an actual national championship four years later. Additionally, the 2009 Alabama class was ranked No. 3 in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Of the Crimson Tide’s starting 22 in the BCS national championship destruction of LSU, 15 signed in either the 2008 or 2009 classes. It's safe to say recruiting is the lifeblood of the college football machine.

Certainly, the evaluation, development and scouting process plays a bigger role in eventual wins and losses. And yes, the star-ranking system is an imperfect science. But as the years go by, the evaluation process becomes more accurate and more predictable. So the current recruiting rankings, e.g.. the Athlon Consensus 100 where all the internet rankings are averaged together, are as perfect a system as we have ever had.

Who will land the top collection of players in the 2012 haul? There will be fireworks a plenty come NSD, but here is how the team rankings stand with less than 24 hour until players can sign (7:00 AM ET, Feb. 1).

Note: A national recruit is a prospect who is ranked in the top 150 by one of the six recruiting services. Athlon’s “national” recruits are roughly the top 300.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (27 commitments)
AC100: 10, National Recruits: 14
National Targets: Dorial Green-Beckham (No. 1), Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Tracy Howard (No. 18), Kwon Alexander (No. 82), Korren Kirven, Dalvin Tomlinson, Ricardo Louis

Green-Beckham is the nation’s top player but it appears that race might be over with Missouri holding a slight edge over Arkansas. Tracy Howard looks like he will be selecting the Florida Gators. Nick Saban could still miss on all six national recruits left on the board and still land the top class in the nation. Alabama leads the nation by a wide margin with 10 AC100 verbal pledges at this point. Holding onto star safety prospect Landon Collins might be his top focus during the final hours of this recruiting cycle. It appears that, barring a small miracle, that Alabama will earn its second recruiting national championship in five years under Saban.

2. Texas Longhorns (26)
AC100: 6, National Recruits: 16
National Targets: Dorial Green-Beckham

Mack Brown had most of his work done nearly a year ago when they entered March of 2011 with 12 commitments already. Roughly a year later, Brown has an outside chance to push for the top slot. He landed two national recruits, defensive back Daje Johnson and linebacker Dalton Santos, to push their total to a nation-leading 16 national recruits. With DGB the only big fish left on the block, Horns’ fans should actually have one of the more stable NSD.

3. Florida Gators (21)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 12
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Darius Hamilton (No. 14), Tracy Howard (No. 18), Josh Harvey-Clemons (No. 20), Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Avery Young (No. 53), Leonard Williams (No. 68)

No team may have a better finish to the 2012 class than Will Mushcamp. With six player ranked in the top-26 nationally still listing Florida as a finalists, Gators fans should have plenty of excitement to look forward to on Wednesday. Diggs, Hamilton, Howard and Williams look to be Florida leans with Agholor likely choosing between USC and the Gators. With Harvey-Clemons leaning towards Georgia and Young likely picking between Auburn and Georgia, landing all of the coveted names above is virtually impossible. However, if Muschamp can land three of four AC100 targets, Florida could push Alabama and Texas for the top slot.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (24)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 11
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Davonte Neal (No. 56), Jordan Diamond (No. 88), Joel Caleb (No. 95), Kyle Dodson

Few coaches have ever impacted a recruiting class in such short order as Urban Meyer has in Columbus this winter. He has landed eight prospects – a number of whom were former Penn State, Notre Dame or Michigan State verbals – since being presented as the head coach and this weekend stole Armani Reeves from Penn State. He is making a serious late push for the No. 1 athlete in the nation in Stefon Diggs and has a chance to land three other AC100 recruits as well. Should Meyer pull Diggs, Neal, Diamond and Caleb, the Buckeyes might have an outside chance to push for the top slot.

5. Michigan Wolverines (23)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 10
National Targets: Jordan Diamond (No. 88), Alex Kozan

Brady Hoke has done an excellent job in his first full year on the job in Ann Arbor. Landing Diamond or Kozan would merely be icing on the cake. The Maize and Blue are basically set heading into National Signing Day and won’t be waiting to hear from too many big names. Certainly, Hoke was to keep Diamond away from fellow Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Wisconsin, but signing the big offensive lineman might give Michigan the top class in the conference.

6. Florida State Seminoles (16)
AC100: 6, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Tracy Howard (No. 18), Andrus Peat (No. 22), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Ronald Darby (No. 34), Leonard Williams (No. 68), Colin Blake, Ricardo Louis

One thing is certain about NSD 2012, one team from the state of Florida is going to make big waves. Be it the Gators or the Seminoles, a Sunshine State program will push Alabama for the top slot in the nation. The Noles rank second in the nation with six AC100 commitments and Jimbo Fisher seems to be in a shape for the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and fellow elite level prospect Ronald Darby. If Fisher can pull an upset or two on NSD, the Noles could easily push into the top five, but possibly the top two.

7. Miami Hurricanes (32)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 8
National Targets: Tracy Howard (No. 18), Avery Yong (No. 53), Leonard Williams (No. 68)

With only two AC100 commits, Miami lands in the top-10 based on the depth of a potential 32-man class. And in the face of the issues surrounding the Nevin Shaprio scandal, Al Golden has done a fantastic job attracting talent. With one of the largest classes in the nation already intact, Canes fans shouldn’t expect too much movement on Wednesday despite still being mentioned by four AC100 recruits as a finalists. It would be an upset if Miami landed any of the AC100 targets left on the board.

8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Ronald Darby (No. 34), Davonte Neal (No. 56), Ken Ekanem

Brian Kelly won his biggest recruiting battle two weeks ago when the nation’s No. 2 quarterback, Gunner Kiel, enrolled in class in South Bend. With another stellar group of defensive lineman coming to Notre Dame, Kelly’s haul should once again be one of the nation’s best. If Kelly can pull an upset or two with Agholor, former commit Darby and Neal, this group has a chance to land in the top five.

9. Oklahoma Sooners (20)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Dorial Green-Beckham (No. 1), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Brandon Beaver, Colin Blake, Will Latu

There is still plenty of work to be done for Bob Stoops but it appears that landing the country’s top player is an unlikely proposition. And the Sooners also look like a long shot for Agholor and Banner as well. That said, the Crimson and Cream always does something exciting on signing day and that could include names like Beaver or Latu. Regardless of what happens on NSD, this Oklahoma haul will likely land it he top-10 nationally.

10. Georgia Bulldogs (16)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Josh Harvey-Clemons (No. 20), Avery Young (No. 53), JaQuay Williams (No. 99), Cordarrelle Patterson

This isn’t one of the bigger classes in the SEC, but it has some serious star power. With two of the top 16 prospects in the nation heading to Athens, the quality of this class is elite and likely underrated nationally. With Harvey-Clemons looking like a UGA lock, Mark Richt would claim four of the top-31 players in the nation. Young will be picking between Auburn and Georgia with the Dawgs a slight favorite in that race. Should Richt land both, the Bulldogs could finish No. 2 in the nation with 7 AC100 signees and would lock the Dawgs into the Athlon top-10.

11. Clemson Tigers (20)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Ronald Darby (No. 34)

12. South Carolina Gamecocks (24)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 5
National Targets: None

13. Texas A&M Aggies (22)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Thomas Johnson (No. 29)

14. USC Trojans (13)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Tracy Howard (No. 18), Andrus Peat (No. 22), Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Zach Banner (No. 50), Aziz Shittu (No. 63), Kyle Dodson

15. LSU Tigers (20)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Kwon Alxander (No. 82), Cordarrelle Patterson

16. UCLA Bruins (25)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 4
National Targets: Aziz Shittu (No. 63), Brandon Beaver, Deaysean Rippy, Bryce Treggs, Javon Williams

17. Cal Golden Bears (18)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Shaq Thompson (No. 6), Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Thomas Johnson (No. 29), Aziz Shittu (No. 63), Kenny Lawler, Raymond Ford

18. Stanford Cardinal (16)
AC100: 4, National Recruits: 5
National Targets: Andrus Peat (No. 22), Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Aziz Shittu (No. 63)

19. Auburn Tigers (15)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Ronald Darby (No. 34), Avery Young (No. 53), Leonard Williams (No. 68), Jordan Diamond (No. 88), Kwon Alexander (No. 82), JaQuay Williams (No. 99), Alex Kozan, Cordarrelle Patterson, Ricardo Louis

20. Oregon Ducks (19)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 6
National Targets: Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Thomas Johnson (No. 29), Jaydon Mickens

21. Tennessee Volunteers (20)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 6
National Targets: Richie Brown, Quinshad Davis, Korren Kirven, Cordarrelle Patterson

22. Texas Tech Red Raiders (25)
AC100: 0, National Recruits: 5
National Targets: None

23. Virginia Cavaliers (26)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 4
National Targets: None

24. Virginia Tech Hokies (27)
AC100: 0, National Recruits: 4
National Targets: Joel Caleb (No. 95), Ken Ekanam, Korren Kirven

25. Mississippi State Bulldogs (25)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 2
National Targets: Richie Brown, Alonzo Moore
 

Teaser:
<p> Who has the top class heading into Signing Day and which teams will close hard?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/texas-alabama-compete-recruiting-title
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

National Signing Day 2012 is two days away.

As usual, the flip-flopping fireworks should provide plenty of entertainment for recruitniks and college football fans alike. But while fans bases all across the fruited plain await the vital decisions from Athlon Consensus 100 recruits like Dorial Green-Beckham, Stefon Diggs, Arik Armstead and Eddie Goldman, fans in Austin and Tuscaloosa have their sights set on a slightly bigger prize.

Barring some unforeseen prospect Armageddon, the 2012 Athlon Sports National Recruiting Championship will be given to either the Crimson Tide or the Longhorns.

Mack Brown, who recently was given a contract extension through 2020, and the Texas Longhorns have set a new benchmark for early commitments. Twelve of Brown’s current 26-man class committed before March of 2011, and he has had to hold onto his future stars for nearly a full year. With the exception of AC100 wideout Thomas Johnson, the coaching staff in Austin has kept the core of the 2012 class completely intact. It is a testament to the power of the Burnt Orange brand in the state of Texas.

Texas is currently leading the nation with 16 “national” commitments (a player who is ranked in the top 150 by at least one service) and is second in the country with six AC100 verbals. The Horns boast two of the top-10 players in the nation in tailback Jonathan Gray and defensive tackle Malcom Brown. It marks the second year in a row that Brown has signed the nation’s No. 1 running back (Malcolm Brown, 2011). This is a balanced and versatile class with four stellar “athletes,” a group headlined by AC100 newcomer Kendall Sanders. Senator Brown, as usual, has added elite depth to virtually every position on his roster.

That said, Signing Day shouldn’t bring too much movement for the Longhorns’ class with the exception of one very big name, although Burnt Orange fans picked up some good news this weekend with commitments from four-star Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson defensive back Daje Johnson and three-star Van (Texas) three-star Dalton Santos. Green-Beckham is the No. 1 player in the nation, and five teams will be holding their breath on Wednesday when the Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wideout signs his name. Texas, Arkansas and Missouri are the only schools that received an official visit, giving Texas a great shot to pull the upset. If Brown wants to claim the No. 1 class in the nation, landing DGB will be imperative.

That is because Nick Saban’s bunch is the team to beat.

Not only can the Tide show off their flashy new BCS Crystal Ball, but the mythical recruiting title will only ensure Alabama’s continued success into the near future. The Tide's 2008 — which was Athlon’s No. 1-ranked group — and 2009 classes both landed in the top three nationally and were the reason Alabama claimed the 2011 BCS National Championship. Fifteen of the Crimson Tide’s 22 BCS game starters signed in either 2008 or 2009. And the 2012 haul could be a phenomenal foundation for yet another title run in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama currently leads the nation with 10 AC100 commitments, is second behind Texas with 14 national verbal pledges and is ranked No. 1 in the team rankings by all four major recruiting services heading into NSD. While Bama lacks a top-10 recruit like the Horns’ Gray-Brown duo, Saban can point to a much longer list of potential NSD targets than Texas. Green-Beckham has Bama in his final five, but Alabama is considered a long shot. However, landing the country’s top defensive tackle, Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate’s Eddie Goldman, would likely sew up the recruiting national title for the Tide.

Fellow AC100 prospects Tracy Howard and Kwon Alexander could also land at Alabama. It appears, however, that Howard, the No. 18-rated player in the nation, will choose between Florida and LSU. The Gators are the team to beat with the Hollywood (Fla.) Miramar prospect. Alxander, from Oxford (Ala.), is ranked as the No. 82 player in the AC100 and will pick between Alabama, Auburn and LSU.

Saban has other names in mind that would likely wrap up the 2012 NSD championship as well. Nationally ranked Korren Kriven and Dalvin Tomlinson would also be enough to crown this Alabama haul as the best in the nation. Sitting at 10 AC100 commitments, the Tide does have a chance, albeit a long one, to potentially set or tie the all-time record for AC100 signees in one class. Should Saban pull the clean sweep — meaning Green-Beckham, Goldman, Howard and Alexander — he would set a new record with 14 AC100 signees. Urban Meyer and the Gators signed a record 13 such recruits in 2010.

Speaking of the Gators, and barring unprecedented miracle work from Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Will Muschamp is really the only coach who can challenge Brown or Saban for national recruiting supremacy this week. There are 22 AC100 prospects left uncommitted as of today, and Florida is listed as a finalist for at least seven of them. Top-10 athlete Stefon Diggs, along with Howard, linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons, offensive tackle Kyle Murphy, speedy play-maker Nelson Agholor, big blocker Avery Young and defensive end Leonard Williams could all pick the Gators.

While it’s extremely unlikely that the Gators pull all seven AC100 names, Muschamp is assured to land at least a couple and will likely be one of the bigger stories on NSD. Diggs, Howard and Agholor are all ranked in the top 26 nationally, and all three appear to be headed to Gainesville. Should those three names pop for Florida, the Gators would claim five of the top-26 prospects in the nation (D.J. Humphries, Jonathan Bullard). The Gators are the only team in the nation as hot as the aforementioned Buckeyes on the recruiting trail. (Hmm, what do those two schools have in common?)

That said, the Gators are a long-shot to compete for the recruiting crown. In fact, it would be an upset if anyone other than Alabama claims the trophy. Even if the Tide misses out on Green-Beckham, Goldman and Alexander, it could still claim the national recruiting title by simply clinging to its current 27-man group. It would likely take Saban losing a recruit or two (looking at you Landon Collins) while Texas lands DGB to push the Horns to the top slot. And the odds of Saban not pulling off at least one upset is slim-to-none.

All signs point to Alabama claiming its second recruiting national title of the Saban era.

Teaser:
<p> Texas and Alabama enter Signing Day as the top two classes in the nation.</p>
Post date: Monday, January 30, 2012 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/recruiting-war-stories-trail
Body:

The competition for the signatures of unproven 18-year-olds often includes more twists and turns than a spy novel. Here, insiders present a few slices of life out on the recruiting trail.

Athlon Consensus 100: 2012's Top 100 Prospects

From Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on twitter), Athlon Sports:

Back in the late 1990s, I was covering Vanderbilt, and the staff was really after Jimmy Williams, a running back (at the time) from Baton Rouge. He final five schools were Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Northwestern and Vanderbilt. This was the type of kid Vanderbilt never gets. About a week before Signing Day he committed to Northwestern. Perry Fewell, the current defensive coordinator of the Giants, was the defensive backs coach at Vanderbilt, and he was recruiting Williams. Perry was absolutely crushed. Well, the Sunday before Signing Day, I got a call from someone who told me to get in touch with Jimmy Williams. So I called Jimmy, and he told me that he had just committed to Vanderbilt. He was a very religious kid. The night before he prayed about his decision and went to bed as a Northwestern commitment but woke up and decided to go to Vanderbilt. He said ‘the man upstairs’ directed him to Vanderbilt. He played running back as a true freshman and Vanderbilt before switching to cornerback. He played six years in the NFL as corner and kick returner.”

Chris Level (@ChrisLevel), RedRaiderSports.com:

I had a running back a few years ago — who ended up signing with a school on the west coast — text message me on the Saturday night of his official visit, ‘Yo man, where are the girls at?’ ... not sure if he had me mixed up with someone else or why he thought I'd know but we found it amusing.

Barry Every, Rivals.com:

When I worked at Georgia we had this top OL prospect with offers from all over the country coming in for a visit. His dad drove him down and dropped him off. After 48 hours the dad had not come back to pick him up. The coaches called (the father) and said it was a violation for him to be on campus for more than 48 hours. The compliance office stepped in and made the kid sit on the curb outside the football building (Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall) and said we could have no contact with him. Who knows when his dad came back to get him. But he ended up signing with NC State and later was drafted in the NFL.

J.C. Shurburtt (@JCShurburtt), 247Sports.com:

One evening during the 2011 recruiting cycle, I received a well-written e-mail from a James Wilder Jr. claiming he had committed to Florida. Wilder Jr., of course, was the highly regarded running back/linebacker from H.B. Plant High in Tampa who everybody in the country wanted and we had heard the Gators, then coached by Urban Meyer, were in good shape for his services. So naturally, without thinking, I sent out a Tweet ‘Just got an e-mail from James Wilder saying he has committed to Florida.’ The thing went viral in a matter of minutes as other writers ‘re-tweeted’ the blurb.

I quickly thought after sending it that it may be a hoax. I wasn’t particularly close to Wilder during the process and though it’s common for prospects to send out mass e-mails and texts to media members when they make a decision, something didn’t feel right about this one. Come to find out, it was a hoax. Some clown had created a fake Facebook page, e-mail address, etc., for Wilder and wanted to take the media for a little ride. Unfortunately, I was the victim. Several newspapers picked up on the story and I had a little egg on my face for a while, but it’s something I will never forget. It also goes to show you that even with the coverage of college football recruiting- which hit its prime during the advancement of technology and the Internet- that it is indeed a brave new world we live in with regards to social media and the flow of information.

Tom Kakert (@HawkeyeReport), HawkeyeReport.com:

There was a kid named Ka’Lial Glaud from New Jersey who had interesting idea about how to decide which college program he would chose, flipping a coin. That's right, flipping a coin. Iowa was in the final three and finished third, very late deciding to eliminate them. With little time to decide, Glaud decided between Rutgers and West Virginia by flipping a coin on Signing Day. Heads means West Virginia, tails and he is headed to Rutgers. He ended up with the Scarlet Knights.

Scott Kennedy, Scout.com/FoxSports:

One of my favorite misnomers in this business is the perception that college coaches spend hours upon hours poring over high school game film, doing exhaustive research on players. There was one player who from Florida who had all the offers anyone could imagine, but anyone I knew who had seen him in person said the kid couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie. So, I’m at a college prospect camp and one of the coaches is justifiably excited about the players who have shown up to his camp, and as he’s going over the list with me, he mentions the player with all of the offers, and I said ‘Coach, what do you like about him, I’ve heard some mixed reviews.’ He proudly answered, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what, Miami brought him right into their office and offered him.’ Gee, thanks for the scouting report.

Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer), CBSSports.com:

I heard from a coach about a juco safety that had received several Pac-10 offers, so I decided to give him a call and do a story on him. Called him and talked with him for maybe 30 minutes and had a great conversation with him about several schools he was interested in. I hang up and write up the story that was going to run the next morning. A few hours later I got a text from one of our regional recruiting guys telling me the kid had committed to Utah this morning — before our conversation. I talked with the kid for 30 minutes about five schools, and he didn't once bring up the fact that he had already committed. I even asked when he was planning on committing and he said not for several months. Needless to say, the story never ran.

Barton Simmons (@BartonSimmons), 247Sports.com:

A few years ago I was keeping close tabs on one wide receiver recruit that was trying to decide between a west coast program with a wide open offense and his hometown school in the southeast. I was texting with this prospect into the night and past midnight and he was completely torn up about the decision. He wanted more than anything to head out west but his family wanted him to stay home. When he went to bed that night, he had decided that he would head to the west coast. The next morning he signed with the hometown school. The lesson from my perspective is that any time a prospect is having a hard time with a decision, the smart bet is on Mom and the local program. As a side note, that prospect has yet to see significant playing time or make any kind of any impact.

Tom Lemming, CBS Sports:

In the 1980s, there was a really good ball player in Illinois, being nationally recruited. Back then, head coaches were the ones going out and signing the top players. They had to be there at 8 o’clock in the morning (on Signing Day). Everybody was coming after this kid, so at 8 o’clock there were several head coaches waiting by the front door ready to sign this player. The door opens at 8 a.m. promptly and out walks a very famous Big Eight head coach who had spent the night on the kid’s couch, outsmarting all the other coaches. He signed him before any of the other schools had a shot to get him.

Scott Kennedy, Scout.com/FoxSports:

A few years ago there was a player I didn’t particularly think much of. I asked a well respected offensive line coach what he thought of him. ‘Nah, I didn’t like him. I mean we offered him because everyone else had, but we weren’t going to take him.’ I asked the coach if they really offered him. He said ‘Does he think we have?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said ‘That’s what we want him to think.’

Barton Simmons (@BartonSimmons), 247Sports.com:

Just this year one of the more bizarre recruiting situations played out that I’ve seen since doing this. Floyd Raven was an unknown prospect heading into the summer before his senior year. He blew up at Ole Miss’ summer camp and eventually committed to Ole Miss. However leading up to signing day, he showed a lot of uncertainty. He decommitted from Ole Miss, committed to Texas A&M, decommitted again only to re-commit to Ole Miss.

Heading into National Signing Day it was assumed that he would sign with Ole Miss without any kind of issues. The Letter of Intent did arrive in Oxford that day but as Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt informed the media later that day, Raven’s signature wasn’t his own but his mother’s. She had forged his signature and so Ole Miss didn’t accept the LOI and asked for another one. Raven instead signed an LOI and sent it to Texas A&M. Added to the situation is the fact that Ole Miss was in desperate need of cornerbacks and assumed that two great ones were coming in with Raven and 4-star Jermaine Whitehead. Not only did Raven shock the Ole Miss staff ,but Auburn was able to make a Signing Day steal with Whitehead as well, issuing a major hit in an area of need for the Ole Miss class.

Related: Athlon Consensus 100: 2012's Top 100 Prospects
 

Teaser:
<p> Recruiting is complicated and Athlon has collected some of the best tales from the trail.</p>
Post date: Monday, January 30, 2012 - 07:10
Path: /college-football/texas-extends-mack-brown-means-absolutely-nothing
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Texas’ Board of Regents met yesterday to extend head football coach Mack Brown’s contract to 2020. The move was an effort to quell rumors of Brown’s potential exit from the 40 Acres — be it by retirement, resignation or firing.

There is only one problem: Longhorns’ athletic director DeLoss Dodds is dead wrong.

Dodds seems to think that the negative recruiting against the Longhorns will cease and desist once Brown extends his $5.2 million annual contract an additional four years. He seems to believe that if Brown is signed through 2020 — instead of merely 2016 — that the head coach won’t consider retiring over the next nine years. Or perhaps that if Texas goes 13-12 over the next two seasons (again) that the “endowment conglomerate” won’t be pressuring the AD to get fresh blood on the sidelines.

This is because coaching contract extensions are not worth the paper they are printed upon.

Cincinnati’s Butch Jones also got his deal sweetened this week, and it’s a great day for Bearcats fans to celebrate the recent success of their second-year head coach. It's a time for Cincy fans to be proud of their program and be excited about the future. But the fact remains: A little extra coin and a few extra years on the deal won’t keep Jones from taking a better job.

And there are a lot of better jobs than Cincinnati.

Does Dodds honestly believe that big, bad Bob Stoops will stop saying mean things about little ol’ Texas on the recruiting trail now that Brown is signed through 2020? Does he really believe that Tommy Tuberville, Mike Gundy or Art Briles, out of the kindness of their hearts, won’t negatively recruit Big Brother any longer?

Does Brown himself, in the interest of fair play, stop telling recruits that Bill Snyder is really old? Especially considering Texas has lost four straight games to Kansas State?

Does new language in new contracts make it more costly to fire a coach — or more costly for a coach to bail for a better gig? Slightly. Can giving Jones or Brown more cash make them a little happier and therefore more likely to stick around? Possibly. But the power brokers at any major university can sneeze enough money to pay a coach’s buyout if they have soured on the current field general.

Really, what is a $4 million buyout to T. Boone Pickens if he no longer wants Gundy on the sidelines of…T. Boone Pickens Stadium?

Tuberville is a perfect example. Following the 2007 season, the current Texas Tech coach was given an extension by Auburn for seven seasons (through 2014). He was 42-9 in the previous four seasons and had six straight seasons of at least eight wins. Tubes went 5-7 in 2008 and was fired barely one year into his seven-year contract. It doesn’t end there, however, as the Red Raiders gave Tuberville an extension through 2015 last week.

After the first losing season in Lubbock since 1992, Tuberville enters 2012 securely on the coaching hot seat.

Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer received a massive seven-year, $21 million extension in the summer of 2008. The Vols had played in the 2007 SEC Championship game, getting handled by eventual BCS champ LSU. Tennessee started 3-7 in 2008, including a loss to Wyoming, and AD Mike Hamilton announced that Fulmer would be stepping down at the end of the season. Fulmer made it through nine games of a seven-year contract before being fired.

Tommy Bowden at Clemson finished 2007 with a 9-4 record and had never experienced a losing season with the Tigers in nine years. He was given a seven-year extension following the season. "Tommy Bowden has made us a consistent winner," said Clemson Athletic Director Dr. Terry Don Phillips. "He has built a firm foundation for this program in all aspects.”

Bowden didn’t make it to the seventh game of the 2008 season before getting fired. Did Phillips believe anything he said the eight months before?

Ron Zook took his Illinois squad to the Rose Bowl in 2007 and was given a new deal through 2013. One month prior to the start of the 2009 seasons, the Illini felt so strongly about The Zooker that they tacked on another year, pushing his deal to 2014. He went 16-21 over the next three years and was fired three years before the end of his contract.

Sylvester Croom won nine total games in his three years at Mississippi State but finally broke through in 2008 with eight wins and a bowl appearance. He was given an extension through 2011, but after going 4-8 in 2009, was fired by the Bulldogs.

And then there is Notre Dame. Charlie Weis went 19-6 in his first two seasons with two trips to BCS Bowls (both bad losses). The Irish decisions makers inked Weis to a hefty 10-year contract that was slated to run through 2015. He too went 16-21 over the next three years and was fired by Notre Dame following the 2009 season — with seven years left on the deal.

But the tomfoolery goes both ways in this head coach-university contract relationship.

On July 13, 2006, Bobby Petrino signed a 10-year, $25.6 million extension with Louisville. On January 7, 2007, Petrino announced, six months into his 10-year deal with the Cardinals, that he was leaving to take the Atlanta Falcons job. He signed a five-year, $24 million deal with Atlanta. On December 11, 2007, he left the Falcons and signed a five-year contract with the Arkansas Razorbacks at $2.85 million annually.

Petrino signed 20 years' worth of contracts for a total $63.85 million with three different organizations over an 18-month period of time.

In 2006, Alabama was looking for a coach and offered West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez a six-year, $12 million contract. He flirted with the Tide before milking a one-year extension from the Mountaineers. His contract ran through the 2014 season, but two seasons later (2007), RichRod was headed north to Ann Arbor despite a $4 million buyout.

In June of 2009, Brian Kelly signed a contract extension with Cincinnati through 2013. He was given a nice raise to nearly $1.5 million — quite a commitment for Cincinnati. Six months later, Kelly was introduced as the new head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

There are literally hundreds of examples of coaches accepting more lucrative, more prestigious jobs on the heels of signing an extension with their current employer. And there are just as many instances of programs locking down coaches to long-term deals just months before handing that same coach a pink slip.

Negative recruiting cannot be stopped. It will continue to be a seedy, unfortunate but necessary aspect to the recruiting trail until the end of time, regardless of how many years are on your coach’s contract. Coaches will continue to be fired, some rightly so, well before the culmination of their contracts. And field generals will continue to retire or pursue greener pastures without honoring current agreements forever.

So fans in Austin and Cincinnati get a day in the sun to celebrate their football programs and the men responsible for achieving success. It is absolutely a time to be proud and thump chests.

But don’t forget that these contracts mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of college football. And college football is about as fickle as a 17-year old five-star.

Teaser:
<p> Coaching contract extensions are basically worthless in the modern college football arena.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 27, 2012 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/recruiting-top-15-two-star-recruits
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Recruiting rankings are an inexact science, and even the experts will admit that. It is virtually impossible to measure heart, work ethic, mental focus and self-awareness in 17- and 18-year-old kids. Especially, in the face of the most important decision they will ever make.

As National Signing Day looms next Wednesday, Athlon Sports finalized its Athlon Consensus 100 for the Class of 2012 this week. It is the fifth annual conglomerate recruiting top 100 for Athlon, and even as the truest, most accurate recruiting ranking, there are still plenty of names that fall through the cracks.

The "modern recruiting era," aka the internet recruiting service era, dates back just more than a decade of time. There have been countless contributors who have blossomed into All-Americans despite being much-lesser known commodities than the likes of Matt Barkley.

Here are the best two-star prospects of the modern recruiting era (signing class):

1. Case Keenum, QB, Houston
Abilene (Texas) Wylie (2006)

The NCAA’s all-time record-holder for passing yards (19,217), total offense (20,114), 300-yard games (38), 4,000-yard seasons (3), completions (1,546), passing touchdowns (155) and touchdown responsibility (178) had a single offer coming out of high school. After Keenum had won the state title as a junior at Wylie, Art Briles was the only head coach to offer the slender passer a chance to play FBS football. Over 20,000 yards later, Keenum has not only reinvigorated Cougars football but has also helped elevate his program to the Big East Conference.

2. Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State
Rialto (Calif.) Eisenhower (2004)

The big offensive tackle was passed over by local schools USC and UCLA, but Dan Hawkins at Boise State saw something he loved right away. Clady redshirted in his first season in Idaho but started every game for the next three seasons. He was a major part of the 2006 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma before landing on several All-America teams in 2007. After his redshirt junior season, Clady left for the NFL and was selected with the 12th overall pick by the Denver Broncos. He has blossomed into one of the NFL’s top left tackles.

3. B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Washington Township (N.J.) Westwood (2004)

The big nose guard had three offers coming out of high school: Boston College, Rutgers and Wisconsin. While the offer sheet was certainly more prestigious than the average two-star prospect’s, it took until October of his final prep season to land the BC scholarship (Rivals.com). During his final season at Chestnut Hill, Raji helped lead a unit that ranked No. 1 in the ACC in rushing defense, total defense and pass efficiency defense. The big nose guard was taken with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and played a major role in the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl Championship in 2010.

4. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Pewaukee (Wisc.) High (2007)

Originally committed to Minnesota and signed with Central Michigan, Watt needed two schools and multiple positions to finally land with the Houston Texans. Watt played tight end upon entering college before transferring and walking-on at Wisconsin, where he earned a scholarship with his work ethic and intensity. His switch to the defensive line paid off in droves as he racked up 106 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks in two seasons. He was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and became the first rookie defensive lineman in NFL history to record a sack and an interception for a touchdown in a playoff game. Watt started all 16 games as a rookie, led Houston in tackles for a loss (13) and helped the Texans to their first postseason berth in franchise history.

5. Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho
Anaheim (Calif.) Western (2005)

Hailing from American Samoa originally, Iupati moved to Southern California and excelled as a defensive tackle at Western High School. He was shown interest from other larger programs — Colorado, Oregon State, Arizona — but due to insufficient academic performance, Iupati was not eligibile to receive a scholarship. So the family of this powerful blocker took out a loan to pay for tuition, room and board at Idaho. Under Robb Akey and behind the leadership of Iupati, Idaho went to only its second bowl in school history in 2009 when the Vandals defeated Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl. Iupati was selected with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the 49ers and was a huge part of the NFC Championship run by San Francisco in 2011.

6. Eric Weddle, SS, Utah
Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Alta Loma (2003)

The California native’s offer sheet included New Mexico State, Wyoming, UNLV and Utah back in 2003. It didn’t take long to realize that the Utes had found a great player in Weddle, as the versatile defensive back started the last nine games as a freshman, garning freshman All-America honors. He was a standout strong safety and return man his second year in Salt Lake City. He was named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 and claimed Emerald Bowl MVP honors. In 2006, he claimed his second straight MWC Defensive POY award. He started 45 of his 48 career games (21 at corner, 18 at safety and six at nickelback) while finishing with 277 tackles, 10 sacks and an MWC-record 18 interceptions. He also ran the ball 52 times for 259 yards and six touchdowns on offense, completed 2-of-6 passes, punted twice and was a holder on field goals. The do-everything athlete was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the 62nd (second round) pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

7. Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU
Sugar Land (Texas) Austin (2006)

TCU, Iowa State and North Texas were the offers Hughes had to choose from coming out of high school. Gary Patterson knew he had a special player as Hughes was one of only four freshman to see the field in 2006. As a senior in 2009, Hughes led the Mountain West with 11.5 sacks and helped lead a defense that ranked No. 1 in the nation in total yards allowed (239.7 ypg). He was a two-time All-America selection and finished with 142 career tackles, 40.5 tackles for a loss and 28.5 sacks. The Frogs went 42-10 during Hughes’ time, and the defensive end was selected in the first round by the Colts in the 2010 NFL Draft.

8. Jordan Todman, RB, UConn
Dartmouth (Mass.) High (2008)

With offers from only UConn, Purdue and Northeastern, Todman quickly overachieved in Storrs, Conn. As a freshman, Todman rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown in his first career game. As a sophomore, his first season as the starter, he rushed for 1,188 yards and 14 touchdowns. In Todman’s final season as a Husky he finished second in the nation in rushing at 141.3 yards per game. His 1,695 yards led the Big East and he scored another 14 times as a junior. He skipped his final season in college to test the NFL waters and landed with the San Diego Chargers in the sixth round of the 2011 Draft.

9. Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
Jasper (Texas) High (2006)

Coming out of high school, Weatherspoon was listed at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. He is now a star 6-foot-2, 244-pound outside linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons. His offer sheet included Missouri, Houston, Iowa State, TCU and Tulane. He claimed Special Teamer of the Year honors as a freshman for the Tigers and in only two full seasons as a starter, Westherspoon registered 266 total tackles, nine sacks, four interceptions and 33.5 tackles for a loss. He was a part of the winningest two-year span in Mizzou history (2006-2007) and was drafted by the Falcons with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

10. Owen Marecic, LB/FB, Stanford
Portland (Ore.) Jesuit (2007)

The Marecic family moved all over the country — from New Jersey to Boston to Los Angeles to Oregon — before Owen was recruited by Yale, Army and Stanford. Only the Cardinal and Portland State officially offered the two-way star. In his junior season, Marecic was the lead blocker for the Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart. He was also used in short yardage situations on defense as an inside linebacker. Jim Harbaugh then made him a true two-way star as a senior as Marecic was the only FBS player to start on both offense and defense. In a game against Notre Dame, he scored two touchdowns and intercepted a pass in a 26-second span. Marecic was a fourth-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2011 NFL Draft.

11. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy (2007)

Castonzo was the first true freshman to start along the offensive line at BC since 1998, blocked for Matt Ryan and claimed freshman All-America honors in 2007. Became a two-time All-ACC performer and was the 22nd overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Colts.

12. Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
Fayetteville (N.C.) E.E. Smith (2004)

A freshman All-American, Curry eventually earned the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker. He was drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.

13. Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville
Huntsville (Ala.) Lee (2003)

How many 15-year-olds decide to play football at Louisville instead of Harvard? But a year later Okoye, at 16 years old, became the youngest player in the NCAA. He finished his college career with 55 tackles and eight sacks as a senior. The All-Big East and All-America selection was the youngest senior in the nation (19) before being selected by the Texans with the 10th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

14. Alex Mack, OC, Cal
Santa Barbara (Calif.) San Marcos (2004)

Mack made 39 consecutive starts for the Golden Bears and was a Rimington Trophy finalist for the nation’s top center. He is now a Pro Bowl center for the Cleveland Browns after getting drafted with the 21st overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

15. Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas
Richardson (Texas) Berkner (2004)

Offered by Arizona, Kansas, Baylor, Tulsa and Kansas State. Talib’s risky play paid off in college as his highlight reel play at corner earned him the Jack Tatum Trophy and the Orange Bowl MVP in his final season. He was a consensus All-American and the 20th overall pick by the Tampa Bay Bucs in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Other Top Two-Stars To Consider:

Danario Alexander, WR, Missouri (2006) Martin (Texas) High
Dennis Pitta, TE, BYU (2003) Moorpark (Calif.) High
Tank Carder, LB, TCU (2007) Sweeney (Texas) High
Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State (2005) Piscataway (N.J.) High
Mardy Gilyard, RS, Cincinnati (2005) Palm Coast (Fla.) Flagler Palm Coast
 

Teaser:
<p> Who are the best two-star recruits in the modern recruiting era?</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 07:40
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/recruiting-2008-top-100-busts
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Recruiting rankings are inexact science and even the experts will admit that. It is virtually impossible to measure heart, work ethic, mental focus and self-awareness in 17- and 18-year old kids. Especially, in the face of the most important decision they will ever make.

As National Signing Day looms next Wednesday, Athlon Sports finalized its Athlon Consensus 100 for the Class of 2012 yesterday. It is the fifth annual conglomerate recruiting top 100 for Athlon and even as the truest, most accurate recruiting ranking, there are still plenty of massive busts.

And the debut of the list back in 2008 featured plenty wastes of talent – particularly at the running back and wide receiver position. And don’t ask Dan Hawkins about his 2008 Buffaloes haul, either.

Here are the biggest busts from the 2008 AC100:

1. Lynn Katoa, LB, AC100 No. 76
Salt Lake City, UT (Colorado)

Katoa got his college career off to a “rocky” start when the Buffaloes linebacker was placed on probation after an off-campus fight in 2008 in which he hit a man in the head with a rock. He violated the terms of his sentence by skipping his substance-abuse monitoring and was sent to jail’s work-release program the following March. He was forced to transfer to an Arizona junior college after Colorado cut him due to academic ineligibility. And four months after his sentencing in the original fight, the troubled linebacker was arrested a second time on third-degree assault outside a Boulder bar. He was held on $2,500 bond at Boulder County Jail. Then in January of 2011, Katoa became one of Boulder's most wanted after being wanted for two counts of second degree assault, two counts of third degree assault, criminal mischief and one count of false reporting to authorities.

2. Boubacar Cissoko, CB, AC100 No. 52
Detroit, MI (Michigan)

The former Wolverine cornerback is currently in prison for committing three thefts and an attempted robbery. To top it off, Cissoko was accused of assaulting three Washtenaw Country jail employees while awaiting sentencing back in July of 2010. He admitted to stealing money from two food deliverymen in Ann Arbor and grabbing money from a cab driver in Ypsilanti in March of 2010. He was also accused of attempted robbery with a pellet gun in Ann Arbor in April of 2010. He was dismissed from Michigan in October of 2009 for violating unspecified team rules twice in 2009.

3. DeVoe Torrence, ATH, AC100 No. 57
Massillon, OH (Akron)

Torrence had been committed to Ohio State before rape charges were brought against the star recruit by Stark Country. The one-day trial ended in a clearing of his arrest due to insufficient evidence as a number of Massillon players were under investigation for sexual misconduct with minors. The sixth-grade girl in question changed her testimony during the trial. Torrence signed with Akron and rushed for 146 yards as a freshman before Rob Ianello announced he would not be returning to the team in March of 2010.

4. Aldarius Johnson, WR, AC100 No. 30
Miami, FL (Miami)

As part of the state champion “Northwestern 8” to sign with Miami (which didn't include future Nebraska star LaVonte David), Johnson entered college as part of the best wideout class in history. He was ranked as the No. 6 receiver in the nation — behind names like Julio Jones, AJ Green, Floyd and Baldwin. Johnson caught 31 passes for 332 yards and three scores as a freshman, but saw all three statistics decline four straight years until being suspended for his final season due to Nevin Shapiro allegations. Johnson has declared for the NFL Draft in 2012.

5. Darryl Stonum, WR, AC100 No. 46
Sugar Land, TX (Michigan)

After 76 career receptions, 1,008 career yards and Michigan’s single-season kick return record of 1,001 yards (2009), Stonum was dismissed from the Wolverines on January 18, 2011. He violated his probation by driving on a suspended license, stemming from multiple arrests. In September of 2008, Stonum was first arrested for operating a vehicle while visibile in impaired. He violated that probation, landing him in jail for three days during the summer of 2010. Then in May of 2011, Stonum received his second DUI while at Michigan and was suspended for the entire 2011 season. His third incident forced Brady Hoke to dismiss the talented but troubled wideout.

6. Kavario Middleton, TE, AC100 No. 44
Lakewood, WA (Washington)

Less than three weeks before the start of camp in 2010, Middleton was dismissed from the Huskies for violating team rules. Drug, attitude and effort issues have all been cited as reasons why Washington had to cut ties with Middleton. After a promising sophomore season in 2009, Middleton completely failed to realize his obvious physical potential. He attempted to enroll at Nebraska but could not meet requirements and landed at Montana. He could be a late-round draft pick this spring.

7. Josh Jarboe, WR, AC100 No. 63
Decatur, GA (Oklahoma)

The gun-toating, troubled wideout won’t be a bust for Gus Malzahn at Arkansas State after a 54-catch, 730-yard, 2-TD junior season in Jonesboro. It just took him three schools to get to the Red Wolves after signing with Oklahoma initially. He was charged with two felonies, including having a weapon on school property, and dropped from the Sooners. He landed at Troy for two seasons before Larry Blakeney had to kick the sophomore off the team. He enrolled at Northeast Community College before signing with Arkansas State in 2011.

8. Darrell Scott, RB, AC100 No. 3
Oxnard, CA (Colorado)

Scott was originally from Tallahassee and lived in Texas before landing at Moorpark High School in California. Apparently, his parents shopped him to private high schools after a 3,194-yard junior season. He landed at St. Bonaventure where he became the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation. He signed with Colorado and complained during his first two seasons about lack of touches. He announced he would be transferring to UCLA, however, the Bruins didn’t want the tailback and Scott landed at USF. He did have his best season in 2011 with 814 yards and five touchdowns. But for a kid who played at multiple high schools and multiple colleges before leaving early for the NFL, the No. 1 RB in the nation has to be considered a bust — especially in Boulder.

9. Jameel Owens, WR, AC100 No. 45
Muskogee, OK (Oklahoma)

After catching four passes as a true freshman for Oklahoma, Owens redshirted in 2009 and transferred mid-semester to Tulsa. He caught 18 passes for 246 yards and six touchdowns in 2010 before taking a leave of absence from the team in the spring of 2011. Head coach Bill Blankenship announced in April that Owens would not be returning to the team in 2011. Owens was the No. 9-rated wideout in the nation in a class that might be considered the best WR class in history.

10. Jermie Calhoun, RB, AC100 No. 8
Van, TX (Oklahoma)

In four full years in Norman, Okla., the nation’s No. 2 running back played in 14 of the possible 40 games. He didn’t see the field one time in 2011 and prompted a transfer to Angelo State early in the year. Calhoun touched the ball 11 times in 2010 before tearing his ACL. He has scored one career touchdown and posted career highs of 18 carries and 94 yards back in 2009 against Texas A&M. It is the only game Calhoun has received more than nine touches and more than 45 yards from scrimmage.

11. Justin Johnson, RB, AC100 No. 89
Gilmer, TX (Oklahoma)

After one year in Norman, Okla., Johnson transferred to Abilene Christian for the 2009 seasons. He played in seven games for ACU, carrying 31 times for 103 yards. He transferred and sat out the 2010 season at his second school in Abilene, Texas: McMurry University. He rushed for 771 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011.

12. Blake Ayles, TE, AC100 No. 11
Orange, CA (USC)

The SoCal product was the nation’s No. 1 tight end recruit back in 2008 and never lived up to the hype while at USC. In three years at Southern Caolifornia, Ayles caught 14 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown before transferring to Miami. He was slated to compete for a starting role in 2011 before a second concussion likely ended his college career. He did not play a single snap in 2011. Hey, at least he isn’t in jail.

13. Deion Walker, WR, AC100 No. 67
Christchurch, VA (Notre Dame)

The highly-touted pass catcher simply never was good enough to contribute for the Irish. Walker has played in seven career games in four years and has caught one career pass for 15 yards. Certainly, the Irish have had elite talents at wide receiver, but one career reception defines the term bust.

14. Brandon Barnes, ATH, AC100 No. 98
Bunn, NC (NC State)

The talented do-everything prep athlete has played in five games in his four-year Wolfpack career (one redshirt year). He has totaled 31 touches for 131 yards from scrimmage and will enter his senior year third on the depth chart behind James Washington and Tony Creecy.

15. Brenden Beal, LB, AC100 No. 71
Bethlehem, PA (Florida)

Beal redshirted his freshman year at Florida after suffering an ACL injury and did not see the field in 2009. He sat out 2010 after transferring to Minnesota but missed the entire 2011 campaign with a knee injury. Fans can call it bad luck or misfortune, but from a recruiting perspective, Beal has been a bust.

16. Will Hill, S, AC100 No. 5
West Orange, NJ (Florida)

Hill played on a national championship team and actually made 48 tackles back in 2008 as a freshman. So he isn’t really a total bust. However, his charming personality, mixed with the fact that he was the No. 1 safety prospect in the nation, lands Hill on this list. He finished with four career interceptions, posted 143 total career tackles and left Florida early to enter the NFL Draft after three years. He was not selected in the 2011 Draft and signed with the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League. Hill may not belong on a the same list as prison inmates, but his intriguing twitter feed alone deserves a mention. Note: the EDSBS article includes graphic information.

17. Aundre Dean, RB, AC100 No. 54
Katy, TX (UCLA)

The No. 6-rated running back in the nation played in six games for UCLA as a freshman before transferring back to the Lone State State and TCU. Dean earned TCU Offensive Scout Team MVP honors in 2009 and has played the last two seasons for the Horned Frogs. However, Dean has managed only 353 yards on 63 carries over the last two seasons in Ft. Worth. He has played in 20 of the possible 26 games, but got a touch in only 13 of those 20 games. With Ed Wesley, Waymon James and Matthew Tucker returning, Dean should be limited once again in 2012.

18. Dayne Crist, QB, AC100 No. 20
Sherman Oaks, CA (Notre Dame)

The California product has never been able to stay healthy. After showing solid promise to start the 2010 season (2,033 yards in eight games), Crist suffered his second ACL tear and has never been the same since. He has graduated and will compete for the starting job at Kansas under former head coach Charlie Weis next fall. He was the No. 2 quaterback in the nation in 2008, trailing only Terrelle Pryor in the QB rankings. He has the chance to change his legacy in 2012, but has never come close to fulfilling his lofty recruiting status.

19. Lamaar Thomas, ATH, AC100 No. 68
Fort Washington, MD (Ohio State)

One of the fastest players on the Buckeyes roster, Thomas proved he was capable of contributing in his first two seasons with a 20.9 kickoff return average on 18 attempts in 2009. However, "Flash" failed to grasp the wide receiver position and eventually transferred to New Mexico. He sat out 2010 and played in four games in 2011, catching nine passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns to go with 10 rushes for 50 yards.

20. Terrelle Pryor, QB, AC100 No. 1
Jeannette, PA (Ohio State)

It's hard to label a kid with his numbers, wins and production a bust, but TP2 threw away a chance to play for a national title as a senior for a little extra ink. He, and his teammates', actions led to Ohio State vacating the entire 2010 seasons (wins and dollars) and forced head coach Jim Tressel to retire. However, Pryor's decisions have led to Urban Meyer landing in Columbus, so maybe Buckeyes fans need to thank TP2 for affiliating with federally investigated drug dealers.

Teaser:
<p> Who were the biggest busts of the 2008 Athlon Consensus 100?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/recruiting-rankings-2012-athlon-consensus-100-finalized
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 is finalized.

Like it is every recruiting cycle, the final revamping of Athlon’s top-100 is always the most volatile. The national, regional and state all-star games allow scouts to see the best compete against equivalent talent, sometimes for the first time in their careers. Thus, it creates rapid risers and late fallers in the recruiting rankings.

All six major recruiting services have totally reworked and finalized their rankings for the class of 2012, and the AC100 reflects that. As National Signing Day 2012 inches closer, the ink is now dry on the 2012 recruiting rankings permanently. There are plenty of new faces in the AC100, but the name atop the rankings remains the same.

Dorial Green-Beckham Still No. 1

Green-Beckham, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound receiver, debuted atop the AC100 back in the summer and never fell off the top spot. In fact, he widened the gap as the nation’s best player by adding two additional first place votes. Offense-Defense and Scout.com named the Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wide receiver as the No. 1 prospect in the nation, while Rivals.com and NCSA left DGB atop their lists. He finished as the No. 2 player in the nation by 247Sports.com and No. 3 in the nation by ESPN.

Green-Beckham is planning on a National Signing Day announcement and took his second official visit last weekend to Arkansas. He has visited Texas officially, but Missouri, Oklahoma and the Razorbacks appear to hold a slight edge over Texas and Alabama. The star wideout claimed co-MVP honors in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl two weeks ago after scoring on a USAAA bowl-record 79-yard touchdown reception.

There was plenty of movement around DGB, however, as three names dropped out of the top 10. Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol blocker Andrus Peat dropped from No. 5 to No. 23. Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles lineman John Theus, who is committed to Georgia, fell from No. 8 to No. 13. And Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook running back Keith Marshall, formerly the top running back in the nation, dropped from No. 6 to No. 16. Marshall is also headed to Georgia. Hueytown (Ala.) quarterback Jameis Winston also fell from No. 10 to No. 15.

The biggest jump into the top 10 came from Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek blocker D.J. Humphries, who went from No. 17 to No. 3. The future Florida Gator is now the nation’s No. 1 offensive lineman. A pair of defensive tackles, Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate’s Eddie Goldman (previously No. 13) and Brenham’s (Texas) Malcom Brown (previously No. 24) , both finished 2012 as top-10 players.

Olney (Md.) Good Councel athlete Stefon Diggs, who recently visited Florida, made a big jump from No. 11 to No. 5. Diggs has stated he will wait until after NSD to sign but proved in San Antonio that he is one of the nation’s most dynamic football forces.

Biggest Risers and New Faces

There are 16 new faces in the Athlon Consensus 100 – by the far the biggest number of new names ever to leap into the top 100. In fact, Daphne (Ala.) linebacker Ryan Anderson was completely unranked — meaning not one of the six recruiting services had ranked Anderson in the top-150 nationally — for the entire recruitment process until today when he lands in the AC100 at No. 84. Future Washington quarterback Cyler Miles made a huge jump after a co-MVP showing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He is now the nation’s No. 4-rated quarterback. A pair of tailbacks, Tarboro (N.C.) runner Todd Gurley and Stone Mountain (Ga.) tailback Mike Davis, both used all-star showings to vault themselves into the AC100 as well. Gurley is headed to Georgia and Davis is committed to South Carolina.

Here is the list of the biggest risers in the final AC100 (* - new to the AC100):

Name Pos. Hometown +/- Rank Prev. Verbal
Ryan Anderson* LB Daphne, AL N/A #84 UR Alabama
Todd Gurley* RB Tarboro, NC +148 #83 #231 Georgia
Mike Davis* RB Stone Mountain, GA +88 #54 #142 South Carolina
Amari Cooper* WR Miami, FL +75 #58 #133 Alabama
Cyler Miles* QB Denver, CO +73 #91 #164 Washington
Kendall Sanders* ATH Athens, TX +73 #87 #160 Texas
Leonard Williams* DE Daytona Beach, FL +66 #68 #134 --
Kevon Seymour* DB Pasadena, CA +65 #96 #161 USC
Ondre Pipkins* DT Kansas City, MO +61 #60 #121 Michigan
JaQuay Williams* WR Tyrone, GA +46 #99 #146 Auburn
Ukeme Eligwe* LB Stone Mountain, GA +44 #72 #116 Florida State
Alex Carter* DB Asburn, VA +44 #76 #120 Stanford
Deontay Greenberry WR Fresno, CA +40 #52 #92 Notre Dame
Jonathan Bullard DT Shelby, NC +40 #11 #51 Florida
Brian Poole* DB Bradenton, FL +40 #71 #111 Florida
Isaac Seumalo OL Corvallis, OR +38 #39 #77 Oregon State
Zach Kline QB Danville, CA +34 #40 #74 Cal
T.J. Yeldon RB Daphne, AL +29 #32 #61 Alabama
Sterling Shepard* WR Oklahoma City, OK +23 #100 #123 Oklahoma
Trey Williams RB Spring, TX +22 #19 #41 Texas A&M
Curtis Riser* OL DeSoto, TX +22 #79 #101 Texas
Zach Banner OL Lakewood, WA +21 #50 #71 --
Josh Harvey-Clemons ATH Valdosta, GA +20 #20 #40 --
D.J. Foster* ATH Scottsdale, AZ +15 #97 #112 --

Biggest Fallers and Dropouts

If there were a record 16 new faces in the AC100, that unfortunately means that 16 old names had to drop off the list. The quarterback position took a big hit in the finalized rankings as Texas A&M’s Matt Davis, Auburn’s Zeke Pike and Texas’ Connor Brewer each fell outside of the top 100. The highest player to fall out of the rankings, however, was Rochester (N.Y.) Aquinas Institute defensive tackle Jarron Jones. The future Fighting Irish defender had some difficulty at the All-American events once he was facing the nation’s best. New York prep football leaves much to be desired, and his adjustment period likely caused him to drop from the AC100. Yuri Wright, formerly of Don Bosco Prep, plummeted for other reasons, as his lewd and inappropriate twitter timeline ended with his discharge from the program.

Here is the list of the biggest fallers in the final AC100 (* - dropped out of the AC100):

Name Pos. Hometown +/- Rank Prev. Verbal
Avery Johnson* WR Pompao Beach, FL -99 #166 #67 LSU
Jelani Hamilton* DE Ft. Lauderdale, FL -74 #154 #84 Miami
Matt Davis* QB Houston, TX -73 #161 #88 Texas A&M
Zeke Pike* QB Edgewood, KY -71 #153 #82 Auburn
Connor Brewer* QB Scottsdale, AZ -70 #134 #64 Texas
Jarron Jones* DT Rochester, NY -69 #101 #32 Notre Dame
Dominique Wheeler* WR Crockett, TX -69 #127 #58 Texas Tech
Anthony Alford* QB Petal, MS -49 #119 #70 Southern Miss
Yuri Wright DB Ramsey, NJ -49 #70 #21 --
Kwon Alexander LB Oxford, AL -44 #82 #38 --
Barry Sanders, Jr. RB Oklahoma City, OK -35 #80 #45 Stanford
Ricardo Louis* WR Miami Beach, FL -34 #121 #87 Florida St
Quay Evans DT Morton, MS -34 #93 #59 Mississippi St
Devonte Fields* DE Arlington, TX -27 #122 #95 TCU
Noor Davis LB Leesburg, FL -27 #49 #22 Stanford
Jordan Payton* WR Westlake Village, CA -25 #124 #99 Cal
Dan Voltz* OL Barrington, IL -24 #114 #90 Wisconsin
Sheldon Day* DT Indianapolis, IN -20 #116 #94 Notre Dame
Cayleb Jones WR Austin, TX -20 #59 #39 Texas
LaDarrell McNeil* DB Dallas, TX -16 #112 #96 Tennessee
Tyriq McCord* DE Tampa, FL -10 #107 #97 Miami
Evan Boehm* OL Lee's Summit, MO -3 #103 #100 Missouri

Teaser:
<p> There was plenty of movement in the final 2012 Athlon Consensus 100. Who were the risers and fallers?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/joe-paternos-career-numbers
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Joe Paterno’s legacy will cause mixed emotions and create division amongst sports fans and non-sports fans alike across the country from now until the end of time. He impacted thousands of lives in the most positive and meaningful ways possible. But he also was in charge when the worst scandal in college football history hit his university.

Either way, the facts don’t lie about how successful he was as the head coach at Penn State University. He is arguably the greatest college football to ever live and the stats back it up:

December 21, 1926: Joe Paterno was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Angelo and Florence Paterno.

1944: Joe Paterno played his final season at Brooklyn Prep High School. He lost one game his senior season – the season finale against the Vince Lombardi coached St. Cecilia’s squad.

1950: Graduated from Brown University as the star quarterback — and an English major. He accepted a position on Rip Engle's Brown coaching staff. Shortly thereafter, Engle took the Penn State head coaching job and was allowed to bring one assistant. He selected a young and completely inexperience Paterno to take with him to Happy Valley.

1962: Married Suzanne Pohland, Penn State Class of 1962.

1966: Is hired as the head coach of Penn State University.

1969: Hires Jerry Sandusky as Penn State’s defensive line coach.

1970: Multiple sources indicate had the Green Bay Packers offered the head coach/General Managing job to Joe Paterno, that he would have accepted the position after only five years of leading Penn State.

5-2: The seven-man Green Bay Packers' Board of Trustees votes to hire Missouri head coach Dan Devine over second choice Joe Paterno.

2: National Championships under Joe Paterno. In 1982, Penn State defeated Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and in 1986 Penn State defeated Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

5: Undefeated Seasons under Joe Paterno. He didn’t lose a game in 1968, 1969, 1973, 1986 and 1994. Only one of those seasons earned him a National Championship.

46: Years as head coach at Penn State University by Joe Paterno.

409: The most wins all-time by any D-1 head football coach. His final coaching record was 409-136-3.

24: The most bowl wins all-time by an D-1 head football coach. His final bowl record 24-12-1.

23: It took Joe Paterno 23 seasons to finally experience his first losing season in Happy Valley.

40: The number of winning seasons Paterno had as a head coach at Penn State. Also the initial number of counts of aggravated child sexual assault levied against Jerry Sandusky.

35: Number of Top 25 postseason rankings in 46 seasons of coaching. Also, the number of 8+ win seasons for JoePa.

21: The number of double-digit win seasons for Penn State in 46 years of coaching.

15: Number of 11-win seasons as the head coach at Penn State for Paterno.

5: Number of children with wife Sue, which eventually led to 17 grandchildren.

5: Number of major bowls Joe Paterno won. Sugar, Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Cotton.

5: Number of AFCA National Coach of the Year Awards for Joe Paterno.

5: Maxwell Trophy winners coached by JoePa: Rich Lucas (1959), Glenn Ressler (1964), John Cappelletti (1973), Chuck Fusina (1978), Larry Johnson (2002)

4: Chuck Bednarik winners coached by JoePa: Lavar Arrington (1999), Paul Posluszny (2005, 2006), Dan Connor (2007)

3: Big Ten titles won while at Penn State (PSU joined the Big Ten in 1993).

1: Heisman Trophy winner John Cappaletti, who led the 1973 Nittany Lions to an unblemished record while rushing 1,522 yards and 17 touchdowns. Also, the same number of flavors of ice cream named after Joe Paterno on campus (Peachy Paterno).

8: Number of College Football Hall of Famers coached by Joe Paterno at Penn State: Mike Reid, Ted Kwalick, Jack Ham, Dennis Onkotz, John Cappelletti, Keith Dorney, Lydell Mitchell, Curt Warner

250: Over 250 NFL players played under Joe Paterno at Penn State.

$3.5 million: Dollars Joe Paterno and wife Sue donated to the brand new Paterno Library on Penn State’s campus in 1998. He and his wife gave more than $4 million total to Penn State over his the course of his career.

9: Days between being fired by the Penn State Board of Trustees via phone and when he announces that he has a “treatable” form of lung cancer.

44: Days between being fired by Penn State on November 9 and passing away at 9:25 AM on January 22.

4: Number of weeks Bear Bryant lived after retiring as the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
 

Teaser:
<p> Joe Paterno's Penn State Career By The Numbers</p>
Post date: Monday, January 23, 2012 - 08:32
Path: /college-football/very-early-2012-big-ten-predictions
Body:

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

Very Early 2012 Big Ten Predictions

Leaders Division

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

Key Returnees: QB Braxton Miller, RB Jordan Hall, RB Jamaal Berry, RB Carlos Hyde, WR Corey Brown, TE Jake Stoneburner, OL Jack Mewhort, OL Andrew Norwell, DT John Simon, DL Jonathan Hankins, LB Storm Klein, LB Ryan Shazier, DB Christian Bryant, DB Bradley Roby, DB C.J. Barnett, K Drew Basil

Key Losses: RB Boom Herron, WR DeVier Posey,  OL J.B. Shugarts, OL Michael Brewster, OL Mike Adams, LB Andrew Sweat, DB Tyler Moeller

The Ohio State Buckeyes should not only be the class of the Leaders Division but might finish with the best overall record in the conference in 2012. Unfortunately for Scarlet and Gray faithful — and new head coach and immediate cult hero Urban Meyer — tOSU cannot play for the Big Ten Championship or in a bowl game. But that does not mean that the Bucks won't ruin a few seasons along the way.

The non-conference slate is highlighted by a visit from Cal, and Ohio State will have to visit Michigan State and host Nebraska in a tough cross-over schedule. With Michigan visiting the Horseshoe in the finale, OSU has the chance to knock off what should be the other three top teams in the league.

With the entire defense returning largely intact and Braxton Miller looking to take another big step in his already stellar development, Meyer has the makings of a championship squad in 2013. And with the way he is burning down the recruiting trail in Columbus right now, things are only getting better on the Banks of the Olentangy's.

2. Wisconsin Badgers

Key Returnees: RB Montee Ball, WR Jared Abbrederis, TE Jacob Pedersen, OL Ricky Wagner, OL Travis Frederick, DL Beau Allen, LB Chris Borland, LB Mike Taylor, DB Shelton Johnson

Key Losses: QB Russell Wilson, WR Nick Toon, OT Josh Oglesby, OG Kevin Zeitler, OC Peter Konz, FB Bradie Ewing, CB Antonio Fenelus, S Aaron Henry, K Philip Welch, P Brad Nortman,

The Badgers were two passes away from a magical season in Madison. But it wasn't to be and they lost their second straight Rose Bowl. What's worse, is losing the star quarterback-receiver duo and three-fifths of a stellar offensive line heading into 2012. Rebuilding the offense will be no easy task, however, Montee Ball, James White, Jacob Pedersen and Jared Abbrederis offer whoever the new quarterback is plenty of offensive weaponery. Replacing offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who is the head coach at Pitt now, however, might be the biggest issue facing this team.

The non-conference schedule is easy as usual with the possible exception of a trip to Corvallis, Ore., to face the Beavers. Facing Nebraska in Lincoln and hosting Michigan State won't be easy tests in cross-divisional play either. They also will get Ohio State at home in the penultimate contest of the season.

This team has a chance, by default, to land in its second straight Big Ten title game, but will have to do so with its defense. A solid front seven, led by the Big Ten's top two returning tacklers Chris Borland (143 tackles, the Original Honey Badger) and Mike Taylor (150 tackles), will be the strength of this entire team. If Bret Bilema can fill major holes on his coaching staff — Matt Canada was hired as the new OC — then UW has a chance to reach the title game once again.

3. Penn State Nittany Lions

Key Returnees: RB Silas Redd, WR Justin Brown, WR Devon Smith, DL Jordan Hill, DL Sean Stanley, LB Glenn Carson, LB Gerald Hodges, K/P Anthony Fera

Key Losses: WR Derek Moye, WR Chaz Powell, OL Johnnie Troutman, OL Quinn Barham, DL Jack Crawford, DL Devon Still, DL Chima Okoli, LB Nathan Stupar, DB Drew Astorino, DB D'Anton Lynn

Where should we begin? First, Joe Paterno will not be roaming the sidelines at Beaver Stadium for the first time since 1950. And Bill O'Brien cannot devote his full attention to recruiting until the Patriots finish up their little romp through the NFL playoffs. But at least this football team can move forward and will do so in true Nittany Lion fashion: By running the football on offense and playing stout defense.

The biggest issue facing this team is still at quarterback, but all three may be in jeopardy of missing time in 2012. Robert Bolden could transfer out, Matt McGloin was involved in a locker room fight and Paul Jones has academic issues. If this position can be solidfied under new offensive guru O'Brien, and the holes along the defensive line can be filled, this team could push the Badgers for a bid in the title game.

While reaching the Big Ten title game certainly isn't out of the question, 2012 will more than likely be a year of transition and struggles. Recruiting has obviously taken a big hit amidst the worst scandal in college football history. The schedule includes a trip to a feisty Virginia squad and crossover opponents Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern. And the holes at QB and along the D-Line make it tough to pick Penn State over Wisconsin — even with the Badgers visiting Happy Valley in the season finale.

4. Illinois Fighting Illini

Key Returnees: QB Nathan Scheelhaase, RB Donovonn Young, WR Spencer Harris, WR Ryan Lankford, OL Graham Pocic, DL Akeem Spence, DL Michael Buchanan, DL Glenn Foster, DL Justin Staples, LB Jonathan Brown, LB Houston Bates, DB Justin Green, DB Terry Hawthorne, DB Steve Hull, DB Supo Sanni, P Justin DuVernois

Key Losses: WR A.J. Jenkins, OT Jeff Allen, OL Jack Cornell, RB Jason Ford, DE Whitney Mercilus, LB Ian Thomas, S Trulon Henry, K Derek Dimke

There was a lot of positive momentum for Illinois in 2011. And six weeks into the season, the unbeaten Fighting Illini had apparently proven that the preseason hype was warranted. However, Ron Zook's squad lost six straight games to finish the season and former Toledo head coach Tim Beckman is now the head coach in Champaign-Urbana.

Beckman has some nice pieces to work with on offense despite the loss of Jason Ford and A.J. Jenkins. Nathan Scheelhaase needs to get back to 2010 form and the offensive line needs to fill holes left by Jeff Allen and Jack Cornell. But Beckman's Rockets posted big numbers in the MAC and Scheelhaase has all of the tools needed to be successful.

Losing the NCAA sack leader (Mercilus) will hurt, but the defense is young, talented and deep at nearly every position. Look for this unit to lead the team early against a brutal first half of the season. Illinois will play at Arizona State, Louisiana Tech, Penn State, at Wisconsin and at Michigan before the bye week in Week 8.

5. Purdue Boilermakers

Key Returnees: QB Caleb TerBush, RB Akeem Shavers, RB Ralph Bolden, WR Antavian Edison, WR O.J. Ross, WR, Gary Bush, WR Raheem Mostert, OL Jesse Schmitt, OL Rick Schmieg, DL Kawann Short, DL Bruce Gaston, DL Ryan Russell, LB Dwayne Beckford, LB Will Lucas, CB Ricardo Allen, DB Josh Johnson, DB Max Charlot, P Cody Webster

Key Losses: OL Ken Plue, OL Dennis Kelly, OL Nick Mondek, OL Kevin Ballinger, DL Adam Brockman, DL Gerald Gooden, LB Chris Carlino, DB Joe Holland, DB Albert Evans, DB Logan Link, K Caron Wiggs

There will be a weird vibe eminating from West Lafayette this off-season. Purdue won its first bowl game since 2007 but most fans are treading water on Danny Hope's future as the head coach. He returns Caleb TurBush at quarterback and a collection of talented offensive skill names. If the reworked offensive line can hold up, this offense as a chance to be better than it has been in years.

On defense, Ricardo Allen returns to lead a secondary that has experience but ranked 10th in the Big Ten in pass defense. The front four also needs to show improvement as they ranked 9th in the Big Ten in rushing defense and 77th nationally in getting to the opposing quarterbacks. However, the top three sack masters return to the roster and three of the top four tacklers return as well. This unit needs to show improvement across the board if it expects to sneak into the Leaders Division race that appears to be wide open at this stage.

6. Indiana Hoosiers

Key Returnees: QB Tre Roberson, RB Stephen Houston, WR Kofi Hughes, LB Mark Murphy, DB Lawrence Barnett, DB Greg Heban, KR Shane Wynn, K Mitch Ewald, P Adam Pines

Key Losses: WR Damarlo Belcher, LB Jeff Thomas, LB Leon Beckum

No one named Kiel will be under center as Kevin Wilson missed out on Gunner and has watched Dusty transfer. However, Tre Roberson added a spark to the Hoosiers offense in the second half of 2011. He rushed for 72.8 yards per game over the last five contests and took one of the worst rushing offenses in the league (118.8 ypg) to a team rolling up over 160 yards per game. With Stephen Houston back at tailback, expect Wilson to lean on his running game all season long.

On defense, two of the top four tacklers are gone as the linebacking corp will need to be reworked. The secondary returns plenty of talent but the bottom line, the worst rushing, total, scoring and pass efficiency defense needs to improve in all facets if the Hoosiers are going to return to the postseason since 2007 — its only bowl trip since 1993.

Legends Division

1. Michigan Wolverines

Key Returnees: QB Denard Robinson, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, WR Jeremy Gallon, OL Taylor Lewan, DL Craig Roh, LB Kenny Demens, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Jake Ryan, DB Thomas Gordon, S Jordan Kovacs, DB J.T. Floyd, K Brendan Gibbons

Key Losses: WR Junior Hemingway, OC David Molk, DT Mike Martin, DL Ryan Van Bergen, CB Troy Woolfolk,

All signs are go in Ann Arbor in 2012. This team will likely be the preseason favorite to win the conference as Brady Hoke returns the most electric and atheltic quarterback in the nation in Denard Robinson. And he will have plenty to work with as emerging star Fitzgerald Toussaint also returns to carry the load. The offensive line and receiving corps should be plenty capable of leading this team to a Big Ten title.

The only issues will come along the defensive line, where the Wolverines must replace three starters including all-everything Mike Martin. With the back-seven returning largely intact and still relatively young, Greg Mattison's defense should maintain status quo in 2012.

If all things fall into place, the Maize and Blue should be thinking not only Big Ten title but National Championship heading into next fall. However, those dreams could be shattered right out of the gate as Week 1 features a huge test against the defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. If they somehow get past Bama, a trip to Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State still loom with home tests against rivals Michigan State and Iowa sprinkled in. Make no mistake, however, Shoelace has this team thinking South Beach.

2. Michigan State Spartans

Key Returnees: RB Le'Veon Bell, RB Larry Caper, OL Chris McDonald, DE Williams Gholston, DL Marcus Rush, LB Max Bullough, LB Chris Norman, LB Denicos Allen, DB Isaiah Lewis, DB Darqueze Dennard, DB Johnny Adams, K Dan Conroy, P Mike Sadler

Key Losses: QB Kirk Cousins, RB Edwin Baker, WR B.J. Cunningham, WR Keshawn Martin, OL Joel Foreman, DT Jerel Worthy, DL Kevin Pickelman, S Trenton Robinson

The biggest question heading into 2011 for Michigan State was its offensive line. There will be no such problem for the Spartans heading into 2012 as the front line on offense should be the strength of the team. This time, however, it has to find a replacement for the school's all-time touchdown king and unquestioned leader in quarterback Kirk Cousins as well as the school's all-time leading receiver B.J. Cunningham. With a talented backfield and strong front line, it should be easier for Mark Dantonio to break in a new quarterback.

On defense, losing Jerel Worthy hurts but William Gholston and a stacked group of front seven defenders give this team a chance to contend for the third year in a row. The defense, as is the case under most Dantonio teams, will be stellar, but will be tested early.  The season opener features Boise State and Week 3 provides a visit from Notre Dame. While neither are expected to be elite squads, the non-conference slate will clearly set the tone for Sparty in 2012.

Michigan State also gets no favors in its cross-over schedule. It has to face Ohio State at home and travels to Madison to take on Bucky.

3. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Key Returnees: QB Taylor Martinez, RB Rex Burkhead, WR Kenny Bell, TE Ben Cotton, OL Spencer Long, DL Cameron Meredith, DL Baker Steinkuhler, LB Will Compton,  DB Daimion Stafford, K/P Brett Maher,

Key Losses: OL Marcel Jones, OL Mike Caputo, OL Marcel Jones, DE Jared Crick, LB LaVonte David, CB Alfonzo Dennard, DB Austin Cassidy

Once again the Nebraska Cornhuskers' upside will hang on quarterback Taylor Martinez's shoulders. With superstar tailback Rex Burkhead back to take the pressure off Martinez, the third-year starter's ability to develop into an efficient passer will determine if Nebraska loses four games for the fourth straight year under Bo Pelini or if the Big Red can challenge the state of Michigan for Big Ten supremacy.

The defense loses its three biggest stars from each level of the unit but will return with plenty of depth and a new face calling the plays. Longtime Pelini understudy John Papuchis will be charged with improving a run defense that ranked eighth in the Big Ten a year ago. If the front seven can return to its 2009 form, Nebraska could contend for a conference title.

Magnifying all of the question marks for the Huskers is a brutal cross-over schedule that includes a visit from Wisconsin and a trip to Ohio State in the first two conference games of the year. Later, Penn State will visit Lincoln, meaning NU will face the top three teams in the Leaders once again in 2012.

4. Iowa Hawkeyes

Key Returnees: QB James Vanderberg, WR Keenan Davis, WR Kevonte Martin-Manley, TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, OL James Ferentz, LB James Morris, LB Christian Kirksey, DB Tanner Allen, DB Micah Hyde, K Mike Meyer

Key Losses: WR Marvin McNutt, RB Marcus Coker, OL Riley Reiff, OL Markus Zusevics, DL Mike Daniels, DL Broderick Binns LB, Tyler Nielsen, CB Shaun Prater

In a league loaded with elite level dual-threat quarterbacks, James Vandenberg is easily the top returning pure passer in the Big Ten. Keenan Davis, Kevonte Martin-Manley and C.J. Fiedorowicz will have to replace the loss of record-setting wideout Marvin McNutt and troubled tailback Marcus Coker. Even with those losses, this offense has a chance to be solid if the offensive line can develop. The Hawkeyes struggled mightily to run the football or protect the quarterback in 2011, so improvement in this area will be imperative for head coach Kirk and starting center James Ferentz.

On the defensive side of the ball, Ferentz has no trouble developing linebackers and this should be the strength of the unit again. Filling holes along the defensive line in the a league that features more power rushing attacks than any other league will be key. The Hawkeyes will also have a new defensive coordinator, as veteran Norm Parker decided to retire following the 2011 season.

The rivalry game against Iowa State is always tight and has the added motivation of revenge in 2012. The cross-over schedule gives reason for optimism, however, as Iowa misses both Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Hawks face Purdue, Indiana and Penn State from the Leaders.

5. Northwestern Wildcats

Key Returnees: QB Kain Colter, RB Treyvon Green, WR Demetrius Fields, OL Brian Mulroe, LB Damien Proby, LB David Nwabuisi, DB Ibraheim Campbell, K Jeff Budzien, P Brandon Williams

Key Losses: QB Dan Persa, WR Jeremy Ebert, TE Drake Dunsmore, OL Al Netter, DE Vince Browne, DB Jordan Mabin, DB Brian Peters

The Dan Persa era is officially over and the Kain Colter era has officially begun — at least, under center. Colter, who has excelled as a receiver will be given the reins to one of the more quarterback-friendly offenses in the nation. Not having Jeremy Ebert or Drake Dunsmore to throw to will be an issue Pat Fitzgerald will need to address in spring ball, but the offense should once again over achieve in 2012.

As a former linebacker, Coach Fitz always seems to find quality talent to play his former position and Damien Proby, David Nwabuisi and Ibraheim Campbell have as much potential as any group on the league. Filling a few holes in the secondary will be important.

The non-conference schedule offers some intriuging tests as the Wildcats will face three BCS conference teams in Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College. But missing Wisconsin and Ohio State in cross-over play helps as Northwestern gets Indiana, Illinois and Penn State from the Leaders.

6. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Key Returnees: QB MarQueis Gray, RB Donnell Kirkwood, DL D.L. Wilhite, DL Ra'Shede Hageman, LB Mike Rallis, LB Keanon Cooper, DB Brock Vereen, DB Kyle Henderson

Key Losses: RB Duane Bennett, WR Da'Jon McKnight, WR Brandon Green, TE Eric Lair, OL Chris Bunders, LB Gary Tinsley, S Kim Royston, DB Christyn Lewis

After years of longing for his superb physical talent to bubble to the surface — and changing positions — quarterback MarQueis Gray is poised for a huge season. He rushed for 966 yards and six scores and capped his junior season with back-to-back 160+ yards games — including a second Big Ten win over Illinois. Jerry Kill needs to fill some holes on the offense but has his leader at quarterback and appears to have put his stamp on the program by the way his team competed at the end of 2011.

Defensively, this team will return plenty of experience throughout the defense as three of the top four sack masters and four of the top six tacklers return to action. If this group can build on its stellar defensive finale against Illinois, in which it allowed a season-low 78 yards passing and seven total points, the Gophers might be able the pull the upset. It also posted its best defensive conference performance against the run as Illinois rushed 32 times for 82 yards.

2012 Big Ten Championship Game: Michigan vs. Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Badgers return to the Big Ten title game, but do so by default. Ohio State will finish with the best record in the Leaders but the nod will go to a slightly better than average UW team. Michigan, meanwhile, will ride its senior quarterback to the big game and handle the overmatched Badgers with relative ease.

Related 2012 Content:

Very Early Big East 2012 Preseason Predictions
Very Early Big 12 2012 Preseason Predictions

2012 Heisman Trophy Candidates

Very Early Preseason 2012 College Football Top 25

Athlon Roundtable: Who are the BCS National Title Contenders in 2012?

What To Expect from the Crimson Tide in 2012?

What To Expect from the LSU Tigers in 2012?

2012 SEC Schedule Analysis

Three Teams on the Rise in 2012

Three Teams Sliding Back in 2012

Top Non-Conference Games to Watch in 2012

Teaser:
<p> Athlon releases its very early predictions for the Big Ten Conference for 2012.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-bcs-national-champions
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter) and Mark Ross

The BCS just finished its 14th season of action, and has for the most part, been a major improvement on the previous bowl system. How do each of the 14 official champions stack-up against each other? Who has the most talent? Who had the best resume? Who played the toughest schedule? And who performed the best on the biggest stage?

Athlon Sports has ranked the 14 BCS National Champions — and there is a decided Sun Belt feel to the list. Just not at the very top. That distinction belongs to the Big East, Big 12 and Pac-12.

1. Miami Hurricanes, 2001 (12-0, 7-0)
Head Coach: Larry Coker
Championships: Big East, Rose Bowl, National
Key Stats: No. 3 in nation in scoring offense (42.7 ppg), no. 1 in scoring defense (9.8 ppg); average margin of victory 33.2 points per game
Award Winners: Larry Coker (Paul “Bear” Bryant Award), Ken Dorsey (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Maxwell Award, Rose Bowl co-MVP), Andre Johnson (Rose Bowl co-MVP), Bryant McKinnie (Outland Trophy), Ed Reed (co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (17): Phillip Buchanon (1st, 2002), Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), William Joseph (1st, 2003), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Bryant McKinnie (1st, 2002), Ed Reed (1st, 2002), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005), Mike Rumph (1st, 2002), Jeremy Shockey (1st, 2002), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Clinton Portis (2nd, 2002)

Simply put, this team was loaded and is viewed by many as one of the best ever in college football history. With a roster featuring six first-team All-Americans and 13 first-team All-Big East selections, not to mention 32 future NFL draft picks, these Hurricanes dominated on both sides of the ball and steamrolled their competition from start to finish. They started things off by going to Happy Valley and dominating Penn State 33-7, which tied the record for the Nittany Lions’ worst home loss under Joe Paterno. Later on, the ‘Canes defeated No. 14 Syracuse and No. 12 Washington in consecutive weeks at the Orange Bowl with a combined score of 124-7, which set the NCAA record for largest margin of victory over consecutive ranked opponents. They capped things off by dismantling the No. 4 Nebraska Cornhuskers 37-14 in the Rose Bowl, in a game where they held a 34-0 lead in the first half.

2001 Schedule:

Sept. 1: Miami (Fla.) 33, Penn State 7 (State College, PA)
Sept. 8: Miami (Fla.) 61, Rutgers 0 (Miami, FL)
Sept. 27: Miami (Fla.) 43, Pittsburgh 21 (Pittsburgh, PA)
Oct. 6: Miami (Fla.) 38, Troy 7 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 13: Miami (Fla.) 49, (#14) Florida State 27 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 25: Miami (Fla.) 45, West Virginia 3 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 3: Miami (Fla.) 38, Temple 0 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 10: Miami (Fla.) 18, Boston College 7 (Chestnut Hill, MA)
Nov. 17: Miami (Fla.) 59, (#14) Syracuse 0 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 24: Miami (Fla.) 65, (#12) Washington 7 (Miami, FL)
Dec. 1: Miami (Fla.) 26, (#14) Virginia Tech 24 (Blacksburg, VA)
Jan. 3: Miami (Fla.) 37, (#4) Nebraska 14 (Rose Bowl)

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

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

2004 Schedule:

Aug. 28: USC 24, Virginia Tech 13 (Landover, MD)
Sept. 11: USC 49, Colorado State 0 (Los Angeles, CA)
Sept. 18: USC 42, BYU 10 (Provo, UT)
Sept. 25: USC 31, Stanford 28 (Palo Alto, CA)
Oct: 9: USC 23, (#7) Cal 17 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 16: USC 45, (#15) Arizona State 7 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 23: USC 38, Washington 0 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 30: USC 42, Washington State 12 (Pullman, WA)
Nov. 6: USC 28, Oregon State 20 (Corvallis, OR)
Nov. 13: USC 49, Arizona 9 (Los Angeles, CA)
Nov. 27: USC 41, Notre Dame 10 (Los Angeles, CA)
Dec. 4: USC 29, UCLA 24 (Pasadena, CA)
Jan. 4: USC 55, Oklahoma 19 (Miami Gardens, FL, Orange Bowl, BCS NCG)

3. Texas Longhorns, 2005 (13-0, 8-0*)
Head Coach: Mack Brown
Championships: Big 12 South, Big 12, Rose Bowl, National
Key Stats: School record 50.2 points per game, school single-season record for total yards (6,657), touchdowns (55), total yards per game (512.1) and yards per rushing attempt (5.9), Vince Young no. 6 in total offense (314.3 ypg) and no. 3 in passing efficiency
Award Winners: Mack Brown (Paul “Bear” Bryant Award, Big 12 Coach of the Year), Michael Huff (Jim Thorpe Award, Rose Bowl Defensive MVP), Vince Young (Big 12 Male Athlete of the Year, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Davey O’Brien Award, Manning Award, Maxwell Award, Rose Bowl Offensive MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (9): Michael Griffin (1st, 2007), Michael Huff (1st, 2006), Brian Orakpo (1st, 2009), Aaron Ross (1st, 2007), Vince Young (1st, 2006), Justin Blalock (2nd, 2007), Tim Crowder (2nd, 2007), Cedric Griffin (2nd, 2006), Limas Sweed (2nd, 2008)

Texas entered the season ranked No. 2 behind defending national champion USC, and that’s where the two found themselves when they met in the Rose Bowl in January 2006. To get to Pasadena, Texas steamrolled the competition, averaging more than 50 points a game and scoring 60 or more four times. In the second week of the season, Texas became the first non-conference opponent in 15 years to defeat Ohio State at home, and followed that win up about a month later by dominating Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. The Longhorns destroyed Colorado 70-3 in the Big 12 Championship to set up the showdown with No. 1 USC. The Rose Bowl title tilt lived up to every bit of its billing as Vince Young put on the most impressive performance in BCS National Championship history, accounting for 84 percent of Texas’ total offense (467 out of 556) yards, and scored the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds left to capture the Longhorns’ fourth national championship in thrilling fashion. Young was one of four consensus All-Americans on this Longhorns team, which also produced a total of 24 NFL Draft picks.

2005 Schedule:

Sept. 3: Texas 60, Louisiana-Lafayette 3 (Austin, TX)
Sept. 10: Texas 25, (#4) Ohio State 22 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 17: Texas 51, Rice 10 (Austin, TX)
Oct. 1: Texas 51, Missouri 20 (Columbia, MO)
Oct. 8: Texas 45, Oklahoma 12 (Dallas, TX)
Oct. 15: Texas 42, (#24) Colorado 17 (Austin, TX)
Oct. 22: Texas 52, (#10) Texas Tech 17 (Austin, TX)
Oct. 29: Texas 47, Oklahoma State 28 (Stillwater, OK)
Nov. 5: Texas 62, Baylor 0 (Waco, TX)
Nov. 12: Texas 66, Kansas 14 (Austin, TX)
Nov. 25: Texas 40, Texas A&M 29 (College Station, TX)
Dec. 3: Texas 70, Colorado 3 (Big 12 Championship — Houston, TX)
Jan. 4: Texas 41, (#1) USC 38 (Rose Bowl, National Championship)

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

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

Florida and Alabama split against each other over the 2008-2009 seasons. Both had a Heisman Trophy winner and both went on to claim the national title. However, the Crimson Tide get a small edge because they finished the season undefeated — something Tim Tebow never did in his four-year college career. Since these two specific teams will obviously never have the chance to face each other, fans are left to argue about which team would win if pitted against each other on a neutral field with all the marbles on the line.

Now, that might actually be something worth Tebow-ing for.

2009 Schedule:

Sept. 5: Alabama 34, Virginia Tech 24 (Atlanta, GA)
Sept. 12: Alabama 40, FIU 14 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 19: Alabama 53, North Texas 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 26: Alabama 35, Arkansas 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 3: Alabama 38, Kentucky 20 (Lexington, KY)
Oct. 10: Alabama 22, Ole Miss 3 (Oxford, MS)
Oct. 17: Alabama 20, South Carolina 6 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 24: Alabama 12, Tennessee 10 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 7: Alabama 24, LSU 15 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 14: Alabama 31, Mississippi State 3 (Starkville, MS)
Nov. 21: Alabama 45, Tennessee-Chattanooga 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 27: Alabama 26, Auburn 21 (Auburn, AL)
Dec. 5: Alabama 32, Florida 13 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 7: Alabama 37, Texas 21 (Pasadena, CA, BCS NCG)

5. Oklahoma Sooners, 2000 (13-0, 8-0*)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
Championships: Big 12 South, Big 12, Orange Bowl, National
Key Stats: No. 7 in nation in both scoring offense (39 ppg) and scoring defense (16 ppg), no. 8 in total defense (278.9 ypg), no. 9 in pass defense (170.5 ypg) and no. 2 in pass efficiency defense, Josh Heupel no. 6 in nation in total offense (294.7 ypg)
Award Winners: Josh Heupel (AP Player of the Year, Big 12 Player of the Year, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Walter Camp Award), Bob Stoops (AP National Coach of the Year, Big 12 Coach of the Year, Eddie Robinson/FWAA Coach of the Year, Paul “Bear” Bryant Award, Walter Camp National Coach of the Year, Woody Hayes National Coach of the Year), J.T. Thatcher (Mosi Tatupu Award — national Special Teams Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (3): Roy Williams (1st, 2002), Andre Woolfolk (1st, 2003), Teddy Lehman (2nd, 2004)

This Sooners team entered the season ranked No. 19 in the country, but fueled by an impressive three-game stretch in October, it ended the season ranked considerably higher. Behind quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up Josh Heupel and a stingy defense, the Sooners started October by destroying No. 11 Texas in the Red River Rivalry and then out-scored No. 2 Kansas State on the road and two weeks later dominated No. 3 Nebraska at home to vault to the top of the rankings. The Sooners would defeat Kansas State a second time in the Big 12 Championship to set up a showdown with No. 3 Florida State (No. 2 in the BCS standings) in the Orange Bowl. Even though they were playing in their home state, the Seminoles’ potent offense, led by quarterback and Heisman winner Chris Weinke, was held in check and scoreless by the Sooners defense in the lowest scoring Orange Bowl in 30 years. Fittingly enough, linebacker Torrance Marshall, who had six tackles and an interception (which ranks as the no. 4 Greatest BCS National Championship Performance), took home MVP honors as Oklahoma defeated Florida State 13-2 to capture its seventh national championship and first since 1985.

2000 Schedule:

Sept. 2: Oklahoma 55, UTEP 14 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 9: Oklahoma 45, Arkansas State 7 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 23: Oklahoma 42, Rice 17 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 30: Oklahoma 34, Kansas 16 (Norman, OK)
Oct. 7: Oklahoma 63, (#11) Texas 14 (Dallas, TX)
Oct. 14: Oklahoma 41, (#2) Kansas State 31 (Manhattan, KS)
Oct. 28: Oklahoma 31, (#3) Nebraska 14 (Norman, OK)
Nov. 4: Oklahoma 56, Baylor 7 (Waco, TX)
Nov. 11: Oklahoma 35, (#23) Texas A&M 31 (College Station, TX)
Nov. 18: Oklahoma 27, Texas Tech 13 (Norman, OK)
Nov. 25: Oklahoma 12, Oklahoma State 7 (Stillwater, OK)
Dec. 2: Oklahoma 27, (#8) Kansas State 24 (Big 12 Championship – Kansas City, MO)
Jan. 3: Oklahoma 13, (#3) Florida State 2 (Orange Bowl, National Championship)

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

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

2008 Schedule:

Aug. 30: Florida 56, Hawaii 10 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 6: Florida 26, Miami 3 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 20: Florida 30, Tennessee 6 (Knoxville, TN)
Sept. 27: Ole Miss 31, Florida 30 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 4: Florida 38, Arkansas 7 (Fayetteville, AR)
Oct. 11: Florida 51, LSU 21 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 25: Florida 63, Kentucky 5 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 1: Florida 49, Georgia 10 (Jacksonville, FL)
Nov. 8: Florida 42, Vanderbilt 14 (Nashville, TN)
Nov. 15: Florida 56, South Carolina 6 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 22: Florida 70, Citadel 19 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 29: Florida 45, Florida State 15 (Tallahassee, FL)
Dec. 6: Florida 31, Alabama 20 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 8: Florida 24, Oklahoma 14 (Miami Gardens, FL, BCS NCG)

7. Florida State Seminoles, 1999 (12-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Bobby Bowden
Championships: ACC, Sugar Bowl, National
Key Stats: Janikowski led NCAA in FGM/Game (23 FGM), Led the ACC in passing 302.9 ypg and fourth in the nation in scoring at 37.5 ppg. Led the ACC in total defense (302.6 ypg).
Award Winners: Sebastian Janikowski (Lou Groza), Peter Warrick (Sugar Bowl MVP)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Peter Warrick (1st, 2000), Corey Simon (1st, 2000), Sebastian Janikowski (1st, 2000), Jamal Reynolds (1st, 2001), Derrick Gibson (1st, 2001), Tommy Polley (2nd, 2001), Anquan Boldin (2nd, 2003)

The best team of the BCS era in the ACC claimed nine first-team All-ACC performers (AP) and six second-team selections. Florida State became the first team in history to go wire-to-wire as No. 1 team in all three polls after beating five ranked opponents. It was the second-highest scoring Noles team of the BCS era and No. 7 highest-scoring team in FSU history. Chris Weinke and Peter Warrick outlasted Michael Vick and the Hokies in the memorable 1999 championship game. Warrick, after surviving some off-the-field incidents, claimed MVP honors after catching six passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns and returning a punt for a score. His 220 all-purpose yards are fourth all-time in a title game and his 20 points (3 TDs, 2-pt) are a BCS title game record. (It was the No. 11 BCS title game performance.) The win gave Bobby Bowden his second national championship.

1999 Schedule:

Aug. 28: Florida State 41, Louisiana Tech 7 (Tallahassee, FL)
Sept. 11: Florida State 41, (#10) Georiga Tech 35 (Tallahassee, FL)
Sept. 18: Florida State 42, (#20) NC State 11 (Tallahassee, FL)
Sept. 25: Florida State 42, North Carolina 10 (Chapel Hill, NC)
Oct. 2: Florida State 51, Duke 23 (Jacksonville, FL)
Oct. 9: Florida State 31, (#19) Miami 21 (Tallahasse, FL)
Oct. 16: Florida State 33, Wake Forest 10 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 23: Florida State 17, Clemson 10 (Clemson, SC)
Oct. 30: Florida State 35, Virginia 10 (Charlottesville, VA)
Nov. 13: Florida State 49, Maryland 10 (Tallahassee, FL)
Nov. 20: Florida State 30, (#4) Florida 20 (Gainesville, FL)
Jan. 4: Florida State 46, (#2) Virginia Tech 29 (Sugar Bowl)

"First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks
* - team played in the ACC Championship game


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

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

1998 Schedule:

Sept. 5: Tennessee 34, (#17) Syracuse 33 (Syracuse, NY)
Sept. 19: Tennessee 20, (#2) Florida 17 (Knoxville, TN)
Sept. 26: Tennessee 42, Houston 7 (Knoxville, TN)
Oct. 3: Tennessee 17, Auburn 9 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 10: Tennessee 22, (#7) Georgia 3 (Athens, GA)
Oct. 24: Tennessee 35, Alabama 18 (Knoxville, TN)
Oct. 31: Tennessee 49, South Carolina 14 (Columbia, SC)
Nov. 7: Tennessee 37, UAB 13 (Knoxville, TN)
Nov. 14: Tennessee 28, (#10) Arkansas 24 (Knoxville, TN)
Nov. 21: Tennessee 59, Kentucky 21 (Knoxville, TN)
Nov. 28: Tennessee 41, Vanderbilt 0 (Nashville, TN)
Dec. 5: Tennessee 24, (#23) Mississippi State 14 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 4: Tennessee 23, (#2) Florida State 16 (Tempe, AZ, Fiesta Bowl)

9. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2011 (12-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: National Championship
Key Stats: Set a BCS era record with 8.2 points allowed per game, led the nation in total defense (183.6 ypg), rushing defense (72.2 ypg) and passing defense (111.5 ypg). Held LSU to zero points, five first downs and 92 yards of offense in the BCS title game.
Award Winners:
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: N/A (Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Courtney Upshaw, Dont'a Hightower and William Vlachos could all be on this list come April.)

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

2011 Schedule:

Sept. 3: Alabama 48, Kent State 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 10: Alabama 27, (#23) Penn State 11 (Happy Valley, PA)
Sept. 17: Alabama 41, North Texas 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 24: Alabama 38, (#14) Arkansas 14 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 1: Alabama 38, (#12) Florida 10 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 8: Alabama 34, Vanderbilt 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 15: Alabama 52, Ole Miss 7 (Oxford, MS)
Oct. 22: Alabama 37, Tennessee 6 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 5: (#1) LSU 9, Alabama 6 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 12: Alabama 24, Mississippi State 7 (Starkville, MS)
Nov. 19: Alabama 45, Georgia Southern 21 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 26: Alabama 42, Auburn 14 (Auburn, AL)
Jan. 9: Alabama 21, (#1) LSU 0 (New Orleans, LA, BCS NCG)

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

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

2003 Schedule:

Aug. 30: LSU 49, UL Monroe 7 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 6: LSU 59, Arizona 13 (Tucson, AZ)
Sept. 13: LSU 35, Western Illinois 7 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 20: LSU 17, (#7) Georgia 10 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 27: LSU 41, Mississippi State 6 (Starkville, MS)
Oct. 11: Florida 19, LSU 7 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Oct. 18: LSU 33, South Carolina 7 (Columbia, SC)
Oct. 25: LSU 31, (#17) Auburn 7 (Baton Rouge, LA
Nov. 1: LSU 49, Louisiana Tech 10 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Nov. 15: LSU 27, Alabama 3 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 22: LSU 17, (#15) Ole Miss 14 (Oxford, MS)
Nov. 28: LSU 55, Arkansas 24 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Dec. 6: LSU 34, (#5) Georgia 13 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 4: LSU 21, (#3) Oklahoma 14 (New Orleans, LA, Sugar Bowl)

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

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

2010 Schedule:

Sept. 4: Auburn 52, Arkansas State 26 (Auburn, AL)
Sept. 9: Auburn 17, Mississippi State 14 (Starkville, MS)
Sept. 18: Auburn 27, Clemson 24 (Auburn, AL)
Sept. 25: Auburn 35, (#12) South Carolina 27 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 2: Auburn 52, UL Monroe 3 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 9: Auburn 37, Kentucky 34 (Lexington, KY)
Oct. 16: Auburn 65, (#12) Arkansas 43 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 23: Auburn 24, (#6) LSU 17 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 30: Auburn 51, Ole Miss 31 (Oxford, MS)
Nov. 6: Auburn 62, Tennessee-Chattanooga 24 (Auburn, AL)
Nov. 13: Auburn 28, (#9) Alabama 27 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Dec. 4: Auburn 56, (#18) South Carolina 17 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 10: Auburn 22, (#2) Oregon 19 (Glendale, AZ, BCS NCG)

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

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

2002 Schedule:

Aug. 24: Ohio State 45, Texas Tech 21 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 7: Ohio State 51, Kent State 17 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 14: Ohio State 25, (#10) Washington State 7 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 21: Ohio State 23, Cincinnati 19 (Cincinnati, OH)
Sept. 28: Ohio State 45, Indiana 17 (Columbus, OH)
Oct. 5: Ohio State 27, Northwestern 16 (Evanston, IL)
Oct. 12: Ohio State 50, San Jose State 7 (Columbus, OH)
Oct. 19: Ohio State 19, Wisconsin 14 (Madison, WI)
Oct. 26: Ohio State 13, (#17) Penn State 7 (Columbus, OH)
Nov. 2: Ohio State 34, (#19) Minnesota 3 (Columbus, OH)
Nov. 9: Ohio State 10, Purdue 6 (West Lafayette, IN)
Nov. 16: Ohio State 23, Illinois 16 (Champaign, IL)
Nov. 23: Ohio State 14, (#12) Michigan 9 (Columbus, OH)
Jan. 3: Ohio State 31, (#1) Miami 24 (Fiesta Bowl, BCS NCG)

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

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

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

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

"First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks
* - team won a conference championship game

Teaser:
<p> The BCS just finished its 14th season. How do the 14 champions stack-up against each other?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 05:50
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Washington Huskies
Path: /college-football/tosh-lupoi-gives-washington-sarkisian-dream-coaching-staff
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

What a difference a weekend can make.

The Oregon Ducks entered the weekend as the clear-cut No. 1 team in the Pac-12 North and a likely preseason top five team nationally for 2012. The Washington Huskies still had holes to fill on the coaching staff and in the ’12 recruiting class.

Three days later, Steve Sarkisian’s bunch might be the pick in the Pac-12 North in 2012.

Ducks’ quarterback Darron Thomas made a peculiar decision to leave early for the NFL after back-to-back 30-touchdown seasons in Eugene. Certainly, he has been incredibly productive, but he does not have the skill-set required to play under center at the next level and will likely fall deep into draft weekend. He had a chance to be the top star on a beautiful — in all senses of the word — campus next fall and would have entered the season pointing to a November 3 meeting in Los Angeles with USC as 2012’s “Game of the Century.”

On Monday, however, Coach Sark sent shockwaves rippling down the West Coast when he hired former Cal defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi. The young, talented rising star joins a completely reworked defensive coaching staff that also includes former Boise State and Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and former Vols linebacker coach and star recruiter Peter Sirmon.

Lupoi, who was the 2010 National Recruiter of the Year (Rivals.com), will take over as the defensive line coach and defensive run game coordinator at Washington. It sounds like a lateral move, so why did Lupoi jump ship for a Pac-12 rival after 12 years in Berkeley? Especially considering that the up-and-comer was the youngest full-time coach in Cal history, was selling the hottest name brand on the recruiting trail and helped coach the No. 1 defense in the Pac-12 in 2011?

Did I mention he did all of this for his alma mater?

The newly minted 29-year-old Washington Husky was an All-Academic defensive lineman for Cal from 2000-2005 after winning a prep national title at famed De La Salle High School in California. He coached a defense that led the league in total defense, first downs allowed and passing yards per game. He had developed first-round talents Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan, making the Golden Bears only the second team in league history to place a defensive lineman into back-to-back first rounds. He is the complete package.

The two-fold answer is rather simple. First, Wilcox has been a mentor to Lupoi and likely played a huge role in pulling him to Seattle. Second, Sarkisian backed up the Brinks truck. Lupoi made $164,000 in 2011 and could make upwards of $500,000 in 2012. Sarkisian and the Huskies spent roughly $2.1 million on their coaching staff last year and will be well above that number this year, according to @BCondotta.

The program has recognized an opportunity and clearly appears dedicated to building a top-10 program.

“Coach Lupoi is a terrific young coach and a dynamic recruiter,” Sarkisian said. “He will have an immediate impact with our team both on the field and in recruiting.”

With Wilcox and Sirmon, who developed a reputation as an incredible recruiter while at Tennessee in his own right, Lupoi gives Sarkisian arguably the most talented defensive coaching staff in the league. All three are proven commodities on the sidelines and will undoubtedly improve a defense that ranked 11th in the league in total yards allowed and scoring defense. They certainly can’t get any worse than the last time U of W took the field, when the Huskies allowed 777 total yards of offense — 482 on the ground — to Baylor in the 67-56 Alamo Bowl loss.

More importantly, however, the new staff will bring an energy and passion to a Washington recruiting trail that has been largely dormant since the early '90s. With just over two weeks until National Signing Day, fans of all parties involved should have a recruiting fireworks show of monumental proportions in the Pacific Northwest.

The No. 1 defensive back in the nation, Sacramento (Calif.) Grant Union’s Shaq Thompson, recently committed to Cal at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. During his time in San Antonio, the Athlon Consensus 100 prospect proved that his lofty status as the top safety in the America was well-deserved. Thompson was very close with Lupoi as well as Wilcox — who recruited Thompson’s older brother Syd’Quan Thompson to Cal.

He is now “50-50 between Cal and Washington,” according to @TaraFOXSports. The Huskies and Bears were his two finalists, and Lupoi was given most of the credit for landing the star defensive back. I fully expect him to be suiting up in Husky Stadium over the next few years.

Arik Armstead, a two-sport star from Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove, is the nation's No. 4 overall player and Cal might have been eliminated from his list now that Lupoi is gone according to @sb_joedavidson. "Tosh was a big reason I'd go to Cal," Armstead said. "I've got more to think about." His announcement could come as early as tomorrow and it appears Notre Dame, Auburn and Cal are his finalists.

Lupoi also gets credit for landing star wideout Keenan Allen two years ago as well as the nation’s No. 2 defensive tackle in 2012, Monrovia’s (Calif.) Ellis McCarthy. McCarthy, a soft verbal to Cal, now appears destined to land in Los Angeles. Needless to say, there will be plenty of movement between now and Feb. 1.

Fellow AC100 tackle Aziz Shittu, from Atwater (Calif) Buhach, had the following to say on Twitter in response to the news. It should pretty much sum up how Cal fans feel today:

“WOWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!! The Game Just Changed,” and eight minutes later, “I want to cryyyyyy.” Shittu had narrowed his list to Cal, USC, UCLA and Stanford.

That should tell you all you need to know about the impact Lupoi will have in Seattle.

Teaser:
<p> Tosh Lupoi Gives Washington, Sarkisian Dream Coaching Staff</p>
Post date: Monday, January 16, 2012 - 08:58
Path: /college-football/college-football-2011-coaching-awards
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

2011 is officially in the books. It was another amazing season of college football. As we enter the postseason, with already 25 new coaches set to take the reigns in 2012, let's look back over 2011 hand out our coaching awards for who we think, by the numbers, outperformed their coaching peers:

Coach of the Year - Nick Saban

With a decisive 21-0 victory over Les Miles' LSU Tigers in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, Nick Saban secured his third National Title and his place as one of the great head coaches in modern football history. For the 2011 season, Coach Saban was our highest rated CBTN Head Coach. When it comes to the numbers, there aren't many areas where Coach Saban's team didn't excel. His team averaged almost 35 points per game and gave up an astonishingly low 8.15 points per game. Coach Saban's team also had the highest positive spread between converting on 3rd Downs on offense and forcing 4th Downs on defense. However, the most impressive statistic was the fact that that all 12 of Bama's victories in 2011 were by 14 or more points. This stat is even more impressive when you consider that Alabama played the 15th toughest schedule in the country. Nick Saban is a true master of his craft and we salute him with the CBTN Head Coach of the Year Award.

Offensive Coordinator of the Year - Paul Chryst

Coach Chryst was not our number one rated offensive coordinator By The Numbers. In fact, Coach Chryst was not our second rated offensive coordinator By The Numbers. Coach Chryst ended the 2011 season as our 4th rated offensive coordinator (3rd if you consider that Randy Clements and Phillip Montgomery are Co-OC's at Baylor). So, how and why are we giving our Offensive Coordinator of the Year Award to Paul Chryst? The four coaches who rated higher than Coach Chryst according to our CBTN proprietary formula all have one thing in common: they serve as offensive coordinators under head coaches who have offensive backgrounds and are highly involved in every aspect of the offense. Coach Chryst serves as the offensive coordinator under a head coach who has a defensive background and whose involvement in the offense is certainly limited, if only relatively so. When it came to the numbers for 2011, we felt as if Paul Chryst could truly call his stats his own. Speaking of numbers, let's take a look at a few for Coach Chryst (numbers in parenthesis represent national ranking)

Avg. Scor. Off. Avg. Tot. Off. 3rd Down Eff. TOs Lost Pts. Per Play Yds Per Play Rush Yds Per Game Rush TDs Per Game
44.1 ppg
(6)
469.9 ypg
(14)
54.71%
(1)
10
(1)
0.66
(1)
7.02
(5)
235.57 ypg
(11)
3.43
(2)

And what's really amazing about Wisconsin's 44.14 points per game is the fact the next closest average scoring offense in the Big 10 was Michigan at 33.31 ppg. Coach Chryst is leaving Madison to be the head coach of the Pittsburgh Panthers, and we are pleased to send him off with the 2011 CBTN Offensive Coordinator of the Year Award.

Defensive Coordinator of the Year - John Chavis

John Chavis, aka "The Chief", has been proving his mastery of defensive football for over a decade now. John Chavis ended the 2011 season as our highest rated defensive coordinator and his numbers are just plain gawdy. Here are a few stats to consider (numbers in parenthesis represent national ranking):

Avg. Scor. Def. Avg. Tot. Def. 3rd Down Eff. Turnovers Gained Pts. Per Play Yds Per Play Rush Yds Per Game % of Games Giving Up 10 or Less Pts
11.29 ppg
(2)
261.50 ypg
(2)
33.97%
(19)
30
(16)
0.18 ppp
(2)
4.08 ypp
(2)
90.07 ypg
(5)
50.00%

What really makes The Chief's numbers even more impressive is the fact that LSU played the 7th hardest schedule in all of college football (including Alabama twice). Additionally, Chavis matched wits with four of the game's most prolific and innovative offensive minds (Chip Kelly, Dana Holgorsen, Gus Malzahn, and Bobby Petrino). These four offensive masterminds averaged just 18.75 points per game against The Chief this year. Overall for 2011, these four coaches averaged 36.54 points per game. All Hail The Chief as the 2011 CBTN Defensive Coordinator of the Year.

Overachiever of the Year Award - Bill Snyder

If you have spent any time on our site, you will know that we are huge fans of Bill Snyder. When it comes to coaching, Bill Snyder has to be considered one of the greats of all time. In fact, if he had been able to pull off another upset against Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl, he would have more than likely been our Head Coach of the Year. Here is all you really need to know on this one: Over the last four years, Kansas State has had an average recruiting ranking (per Scout.com) of 80 (out of 120 teams). This season, Kansas State played the 8th toughest schedule in college football. Of their 13 games, 10 were played with inferior talent. Kansas State finished the season 10-3, with its three losses coming against two Top 5 teams and Oklahoma, who finished the season ranked 16th by the AP. Bill Snyder proved once again in 2011 that he may just be, as Barry Switzer noted, the coach of the century.

Underachiever of the Year Award - Rick Neuheisel

If you have spent any time on our site, you will also have noticed that we are not very high on Rick Neuheisel. Over the last four years, Neuheisel has had an average recruiting class ranking of 19 (out of 120). During this time, Coach Neuheisel had three top 10 recruiting classes and signed 38 players that were rated as four or five star prospects. With this in mind, let's look at a few numbers. UCLA played nine games this season with superior talent and played six teams who finished the 2011 season .500 or worse. UCLA finished the season 6-8, was 1-7 against teams finishing the year over .500, and lost six games by 14 or more points. Coach Neuheisel was rightly fired before the end of the 2011 season and it is our pleasure to close his out his reign at UCLA with the 2011 CBTN Underachiever of the Year Award.

Best New Head Coach - Hugh Freeze

Since Arkansas State joined the ranks of the big boys (FBS) in 1992, the Red Wolves had never won more than six games and had only one season in which they won more games than they lost. In his first year as head coach, Hugh Freeze led Arkansas State to a 10-3 record, an undefeated conference record, and a Sun Belt Conference Championship. The Wolves led the Sun Belt Conference in Scoring Offense and were second only to FIU in Scoring Defense. To say the very least, Coach Freeze did one heck of a coaching job in his first year with the Red Wolves. He did such a good job that Ole Miss decided to make him the next coach of the Rebels. Congratulations to Coach Freeze on a remarkable year. Good luck in Ole Miss (you will need it), and we hope the 2011 CBTN Best New Head Coach Award will make the year just a tad bit sweeter for you.

CBTN Vegas Coach of the Year - Sonny Dykes

He had a pretty solid year on the field (8-5 with a bowl loss to TCU), but he had a really great year off the field against Vegas. Overall, Sonny Dykes finished the season 11-2 ATS and was 7-0 ATS as an underdog. Vegas consistently underestimated Coach Dykes, and rewarded all bettors handsomely. Our CBTN Money Rating for Coach Dykes this year was +$880, meaning if you would have bet the standard $110 ATS on every game he coached this year, you'd be up +$880. Congratulations to Coach Dykes for winning the award that no coach (except Pete Rose) would ever care to win. The 2011 CBTN Vegas Coach of the Year Award is all yours Sonny.

Teaser:
<p> College Football 2011 Coaching Awards</p>
Post date: Monday, January 16, 2012 - 06:07
All taxonomy terms: Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, NFL
Path: /nfl/tebow-broncos-have-no-chance-beat-patriots
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 4 Denver (8-8) at No. 1 New England (13-3)
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, CBS

January 20, 2008.

That is the date of the New England Patriots' last playoff win. It’s actually a little hard to believe, frankly, and you can bet that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady know that date by heart.

And it’s just one reason why the Denver Broncos have no chance of pulling off the upset this weekend in Foxborough.

The second weekend of the NFL Playoffs is a different beast. The best four teams in the league, by record, are in action against the best that the Wild Card Weekend has to offer. Many fans point to this weekend as the best weekend in football each year, and Tim Tebow's presence this year only adds to the electricity.

The numbers in Tebow’s postseason debut against Pittsburgh are hard to ignore. He threw for 316 yards and threw for an NFL postseason single-game record 31.6 yards per completion. CBS’s overnight rating was a 31.6 for the final quarter-hour, and the Steelers' time of possession was 31:06. And last Sunday was the three-year anniversary (to the day) of his BCS National Championsip victory over Oklahoma during which he wore "John 3:16" — arguably the most well-known Bible verse in history — under his eyes. Oh, and Demaryius Thomas was born on Christmas.

You can’t make that stuff up. However, does any of that help the Broncos stop Brady and the Patriots? Cause the Orange Crush certainly couldn’t do it at home a month ago.

On December 18, New England went to Denver and dominated the Broncos 41-23. Tebow was held to seven second-half points, and Brady was magical. He completed 23-of-34 passes for 320 yards and scored three touchdowns (one rushing). Brady's emphatic spike following his touchdown run indicated just how much the game meant to him and his team. The win halted the Broncos six-game winning streak and sent Tebowmania spiraling into a three-game losing streak to finish the year.

Denver was 4-of-10 on third down, 0-2 on fourth down, completed 47.8% of its passes, possessed the ball for only 26:19 minutes and fumbled four times.

Adding to the intrigue of the rematch is how Tebow and Thomas landed in Denver. Former head coach Josh McDaniels traded up to snag the two talented prospects, and now McDaniels will be standing on the Patriots sideline once again. In a game that has no lack of storylines, McHoodie Jr.’s return to Boston feels like back page news.

At the end of the day, the Patriots are at home and are very hungry. Fans can bet that Belichick, who might be the best game-manager and preparer in NFL history, learned from Mike Tomlin's and Dick LeBeau’s mistakes a week ago. Don’t expect a lot of zero blitzes and 9-men-in-the-box formations from the Patriots. Remember, this is a team that one time lined up with one defensive lineman in the playoffs.

The NFL catches up with unique schemes, players and ideas awfully quickly. And there is a reason the Broncos are a two-touchdown underdog.

So barring a Tebowie spotting, this feels like the end of Tebowmania — at least, until next fall.

Denver By The Numbers

Scoring Offense: 19.3 ppg (25th)
Passing Offense: 152.1 ypg (31st)
Rushing Offense: 164.5 ypg (1st)
3rd Down Offense: 30.8% (30th)
Giveaways: 30 (25th)
Sacks Allowed: 42.0 (23rd)

Scoring Defense: 24.4 ppg (24th)
Passing Defense: 231.5 ypg (18th)
Rushing Defense: 126.3 ypg (22nd)
3rd Down Defense: 33.5% (6th)
Takeaways: 18 (29th)
Sacks: 41.0 (10th)

New England By The Numbers

Scoring Offense: 32.1 ppg (3rd)
Passing Offense: 317.8 ypg (2nd)
Rushing Offense: 110.3 ypg (20th)
3rd Down Offense: 45.9% (5th)
Giveaways: 17 (3rd)
Sacks Allowed: 32.0 (9th)

Scoring Defense: 21.4 (15th)
Passing Defense: 293.9 ypg (31st)
Rushing Defense: 117.1 ypg (17th)
3rd Down Defense: 43.1% (28th)
Takeaways: 34 (3rd)
Sacks: 40.0 (14th)
 

Teaser:
<p> Tebow, Broncos Have No Chance to Beat Patriots</p>
Post date: Friday, January 13, 2012 - 15:07
Path: /college-football/dooley-tennessee-hits-home-run-sal-sunseri
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

To steal a rather simple phrase from my boss, @AthlonMitch, losing coordinators in the off-season is a double-edged sword.

It is a sign of respect when other institutions from around the nation pilfer from a coaching staff. It means that the head coach has made quality hiring decisions. However, it also means said head man has to search for new blood and convince recruits that the new coaching staff has been stabilized and is still the right fit for them.

So for Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley, who has the added pressure of replacing five coaches three weeks from National Signing Day after a tumultuous 5-7 campaign, selecting the right names for the job could not be more critical.

To recap, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who was hired literally and figuratively out of the blue from Boise State, has returned to the Pacific Northwest by taking the same job at Washington under Steve Sarkisian. Linebackers coach and stud recruiter Peter Sirmon also returns to his neck of the woods — he is from Walla Walla, Wash. — by following Wilcox to Seattle. Offensive line coach Harry Heistand took a similar position at Notre Dame, and special teams coordinator and tight end coach Eric Russell reunited with new Cougars head coach Mike Leach at Washington State. Finally, wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett was not retained.

Big Orange nation has been on edge ever since the Kentucky loss, and losing coaches has only made the temperature under Dooley’s rear end escalate. Vols everywhere have been burning up message boards and talk show phones with justified uneasiness.

But Dooley has shut them up – at least, until kickoff on September 1 against NC State in the Georgia Dome.

First, he brought in running backs coach and rising recruiting star Jay Graham from South Carolina. Graham, who played running back at Tennessee, returns to his alma mater after playing an instrumental role in developing and recruiting the best running back in the nation, Marcus Lattimore. Dooley gets a solid A- for this one.

Late Thursday evening, Dooley announced the hiring of offensive line coach Sam Pittman. A college coach of some sort for the better part of 20 years, Pittman comes to Knoxville after five years as the OL coach, and eventual associate head coach, at North Carolina under Butch Davis. He brings considerable experience and was named an ESPN Top 25 recruiter in 2011. Give this one a B+.

But the most important maneuver came on Friday the 13th, no less, when he announced the Vols new defensive coordinator would be former Alabama assistant head coach and linebackers coach Sal Sunseri.

Sunseri, who won two national championships under Nick Saban, got a raise after the title game to roughly $390,000 per year. He will reportedly make somewhere between $700,000 and $800,000 per year over the three-year deal with Tennessee.

The new Tennessee defensive coordinator played linebacker at Pittsburgh (1978-1981) and has been in the coaching business ever since – mostly in the college ranks, but also with a seven-year NFL run at Carolina. He has been incredibly influential in developing talents like Courtney Upshaw, Rolando McClain, Nico Johnson and Dont’a Hightower for Bama of late. Vols’ fans can expect more of the same with youngsters like freshman linebackers A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt as well as developing sophomore line talents Jacques Smith, Daniel Hood and Corey Miller. What system he runs remains to be seen, and shifting to a 3-4 could certainly impact the roles names like Smith would play on the defense.

His coaching talent has been obvious at Alabama — Nick Saban doesn’t hire scrubs to coach his defense — but his ability to pound the recruiting trail will be felt immediately in Knoxville. Graham and Pittman are considered strong recruiters, but they pale in comparison to Sunseri’s considerable skill in luring talent to campus.

When Tennessee was competing for SEC and national titles in the late '90s and early 2000s, the roster was loaded with elite prospects from the Eastern seaboard — from the Mid-Atlantic region down through the Carolinas and into Georgia. This will now be an area of focus once again as Sunseri has a brand name that rings true up and down the coastline.

Certainly, it is easier to recruit to Alabama right now than Tennessee, but fans should expect some fireworks (aka Eddie Goldman) leading up to National Signing Day 2012. Sunseri is credited with landing Athlon Consensus 100 names like Phillip Sims (Chesapeake, Va.), Alfy Hill (Shallotte, N.C.), both Arie and Cyrus Kouandjio (Hyattsville, Md.), Trey DePriest (Springfield, Ohio), Jeoffrey Pagan (Asheville, N.C.) and Cyrus Jones (Baltimore, Md.).

Sunseri is given credit for inking six AC100 (or top 100) recruits for Alabama in the last two classes. The Tide has signed 13 total top 100 talents over that span and is leading the nation with eight AC100 verbals in 2012. By comparison, the Tennessee Vols have signed seven total AC100 recruits as a program over that span, including the recently departed DeAnthony Arnett, and have one Top-100 commitment in the '12 class.

Dooley needed the complete package at defensive coordinator. He needed to win the press conference. He needed a coach who can develop talent and motivate young athletes to play above their skill level. And he needed a coach who can burn up the recruiting trail in key states like Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

He accomplished all of the above with the A+ hiring of Sunseri.

"The chance to work with Derek Dooley, who has been around championships and knows what it takes to build an elite program, combined with the rich tradition of the University of Tennessee makes this opportunity so exciting to me," said Sunseri. "I am fired up to work with all of the young talent on the defensive side of the ball, and I can't wait to get up to Knoxville and coach them."

Does putting the right names in the right places automatically mean Dooley will win eight games in 2012 and keep his job at Tennessee? The answer is a resounding no. His evaluation as an SEC head coach is still largely incomplete. Only the 2012 season, on the field, will answer that question.

But make no mistake, he has added some serious experience and recruiting clout to his staff. And the announcements could not have come at a better time as the results of adding Sunseri, Pittman and Graham should be blatantly apparent over the next few weeks. The Vols have already received a massive verbal commitment — literally at 6-foot-5 and 360 pounds — from junior college defensive tackle Daniel McCullers just hours after the announcement.

So it starts today for Sunseri, who will lead the way when the Vols host their biggest official visit weekend of the year over the next two days.

Tennessee fans have been pouring gasoline all over themselves since the inexplicable loss to Kentucky to end the season. But Dooley has officially, if temporarily, put out the fire by landing excellent assistant coaches.

He certainly could use some positive energy and momentum heading into his crucial third season.

Teaser:
<p> Dooley, Tennessee Hit Home Run with Sal Sunseri</p>
Post date: Friday, January 13, 2012 - 12:18
Path: /college-football/2012-college-football-non-conference-match-ups-watch
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The ink is barely dry on the 2011 college football season and Athlon Sports is already fired up about 2012.

The Sears Crystal Ball parade still has plenty of K-Marts to visit before the defending champion Crimson Tide will open practice at the Capstone next summer in an effort to win three titles in four years. But fans can bet Nick Saban is already studying film of the nation's most electric quarterback, Michigan's Denard Robinson.

That is right, two of the most storied programs in history, two 2012 national title contenders and two of the cleanest uniforms of all-time will square off in Cowboys Stadium right out of the gate next fall. Alabama-Michigan is merely the appetizer to what should be yet another stellar college football season.

Here are the top non-conference games to look forward to in 2012:

Week 1 (Sept. 1):

Alabama vs. Michigan (Arlington, Texas)
This game is almost assured of being a top ten match-up and could be the biggest non-conference game of the year nationally. The Michigan backfield combo of Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint will put a totally revamped Bama defense to the test. Alabama isn’t hurting for talent but will have to fill holes throughout the back seven — particularly at linebacker. On offense, Bama has to replace holes at RB, OC, WR and TE but will be facing a reworked Michigan defensive line. This game could have national title implications and will likely come down to quarterback play. Can A.J. McCarron build on his BCS Championship Game MVP performance, or will Shoelace excel on the fast track at Jerry’s World?

Boise State at Michigan State (Aug. 31)
While South Carolina and Vanderbilt get the 2012 season kicked off in Nashville on Thursday night, fans will likely be looking to Friday night for the first marquee match of the season. Boise State, after losing nearly a dozen senior starters from both sides of the ball, will have to go into East Lansing and compete with a team that will be very strong along the line of scrimmage. Replacing Kirk Cousins and Jerel Worthy is not easy, but the Spartans are built from the inside out — just how Mark Dantonio wants it.

Auburn vs. Clemson (Atlanta, Ga.) and NC State vs. Tennessee (Atlanta, Ga.)
These are listed together because they will be played in the same building on the same day. Both sets of Tigers should be able to score but have major questions on defense. NC State returns after a strong finish to 2011 behind quarterback and leader Mike Glennon. The Vols and Derek Dooley are in a near-must-win situation right off the bat as the hot seat in Knoxville will be closely monitored in 2012.

Other Week 1 Match-ups to Watch:

Navy vs. Notre Dame (Dublin, Ire.)
Washington State at BYU
Arkansas State at Oregon
Toledo at Arizona
Southern Miss at Nebraska
Wyoming at Texas
SMU at Baylor

Week 2 (Sept. 8):

West Virginia at Florida State
This game may never happen due to scheduling conflicts and conference realignment. But if it does, it could feature two top-ten teams. Geno Smith and his large array of talented weapons will enter 2012 as a conference contender no matter which league they are in. The media and fans, Athlon Sports included, bought into the hype surrounding this Florida State squad in 2011, and it may be hard not to get excited once again. The Noles will feature one of the most dominant, speedy and physical front sevens in all of the nation. And they will have to be good to slow Smith and company. If E.J. Manuel can stay healthy, and Jimbo Fisher can find a consistent running game, Florida State could find itself in Miami come the New Year. However, if the offensive line (which loses its best two players) doesn’t improve, the Noles could be looking at another four-loss season.

Washington at LSU
The Bayou Bengals will likely begin the season as the No. 1 team in the nation — and should have a chip on their collective shoulder after their awful showing in the title game. Washington isn’t Oregon and likely won’t be able to push around the LSU front seven, but Keith Price is uber-talented and has plenty of pass catchers coming back to challenge those electric LSU DBs down the field.

Miami, Fla. at Kansas State
Bill Snyder returns his Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback (Collin Klein) and plenty of skill talent (John Hubert, Chris Harper). And the defense in Manhattan should also be stout. But Miami fans should expect improvement in Year 2 under Al Golden, and it may all start with this potential Top 25 match-up. Snyder can bet that Golden hasn’t forgotten what happened in 2011 when KSU visited South Beach.

Other Week 2 Match-ups to Watch:

Penn State at Virginia
Oklahoma State at Arizona
Illinois at Arizona State
Iowa State at Iowa
Nebraska at UCLA
Vanderbilt at Northwestern
Wisconsin at Oregon State
USC at Syracuse
Toledo at Wyoming
Utah at Utah State

Week 3 (Sept. 15):

Notre Dame at Michigan State
The Irish defensive front should be nasty in 2012, and they will get a huge strength-on-strength test against a powerful Spartan offensive line. Notre Dame pushed around MSU in the early 2011 meeting and Brian Kelly can bet on the Spartans being fired up about welcoming the Golden Domers to East Lansing next fall.

North Carolina at Louisville
Charlie Strong has the Cardinals in a position to return to a BCS bowl for the first time since 2007. A home date with the Tar Heels means very little to either team as far as conference play is concerned, but this should be a great barometer for two teams with rising expectations.

Other Week 3 Match-ups to Watch:

Virginia Tech at Pitt
Cal at Ohio State
Texas at Ole Miss
Arizona State at Missouri
BYU at Utah
Arkansas State at Nebraska
Texas A&M at SMU
Utah State at Wisconsin
UConn at Maryland

Week 4 (Sept. 22):

Michigan at Notre Dame
Arguably the best game of 2011 featured these two teams and one improbable comeback. Michigan will have already faced Alabama at this point and could be looking to maintain its national championship momentum. Either way, Robinson will be knocked around by a physical Irish front seven that hasn’t forgotten how it lost to the Maize and Blue in 2011. Can he withstand the beating (see E.J. Manuel in the Champs Sports Bowl) and lead Michigan to another key victory over one of its rivals?

Virginia at TCU
The Wahoos are looking to keep the positive trajectory of the program going in 2011 but will be faced with a brutal non-conference slate. Mike London welcomes Penn State to Charlottesville in Week 2 and will then have to travel to TCU two weeks later before facing potential WAC favorite Louisiana Tech in Week 5. Casey Pachall and a plethora of elite offensive skill players will have the Horned Frogs offense in good shape, and the defense is always strong under Gary Patterson, so the O-line is really the only question mark. Fans will know more about these two following this juicy non-con contest.

Other Week 4 Match-ups to Watch:

BYU at Boise State
Syracuse at Minnesota
Louisville at FIU
Louisiana Tech at Illinois

Week 5 (Sept. 29):

Florida State at USF
This weekend won’t feature a huge slate of non-con action, but if Florida State is unbeaten heading down to Tampa, all eyes will be on Raymond James Stadium. If BJ Daniels can become the player USF fans believed he was when he took the starting job three years ago, USF could be a tricky out for FSU. And the inter-Sunshine State rivalries are always intriguing.

Other Week 5 Match-ups to Watch:

Cincinnati at Virginia Tech
TCU at SMU
Louisiana Tech at Virginia

Week 6 (Oct. 6):

Notre Dame vs. Miami (Chicago, Ill.)
What is the old SNL line about a Hurricane vs. Ditka? “Who wins? A Hurricane or Ditka? Ditka – unless the Hurricane is named Hurricane Ditka.” Well, Kelly isn’t quite Mike Ditka, but his defense will do its best Bears impersonation in the Windy City when Miami comes to town. Both teams will be battle-tested at this point and, hopefully for Golden and Kelly, both will have settled on a quarterback by October 6.

Other Week 6 Match-ups to Watch:

Utah State at BYU (Oct. 5)
Boise State at Southern Miss.

Week 7 (Oct. 13:

Stanford at Notre Dame

Week 8 (Oct. 20):

Cincinnati at Toledo

Week 9 (Oct. 27):

Notre Dame at Oklahoma
The Sooners schedule is largely unsettled, but one of two contests set in stone is a visit from the Fighting Irish near Halloween. Notre Dame will have played an incredible schedule at this point and will be in one of two situations: As an unblemished top five team or a bruised, beaten and mangled program that likely lacks great quarterback play. College football fans should be rooting for the former rather than the latter.

Week 12 (Nov. 17):

Wake Forest at Notre Dame

Week 13 (Nov. 24):

Georgia Tech at Georgia
The ACC-SEC rivalries are a fantastic capper to the college football season every year. But in 2012, the stakes could be much higher for a most of the programs involved. First, Georgia is a dark horse national title contender with an “easy” schedule, the best QB in the SEC and 10 starters returning to a much-improved defense. Tech could be playing to knock its rival out of the BCS national title game.

Florida at Florida State
The Noles could also enter the final weekend of regular season action in national title contention. The Gators have been shelled two years in a row by the rival Seminoles and would love an opportunity to knock Jimbo Fisher from the ranks of the unbeaten.

South Carolina at Clemson
One of the most underrated rivalries nationally takes place in the Palmetto State every year. South Carolina and Clemson could both have a single-digit ranking next to their names when they enter the final week of the season, only adding to the palpable hatred between these two programs. Sammy Watkins and Marcus Lattimore should be on full display in this one — as it could be Lattimore’s final regular season game as a Gamecock.

Other Week 13 Match-ups to Watch:

Notre Dame at USC
South Florida at Miami
Vanderbilt at Wake Forest

Related 2012 Content:

2012 Heisman Trophy Candidates

Very Early Preseason 2012 College Football Top 25

Athlon Roundtable: Who are the BCS National Title Contenders in 2012?

What To Expect from the Crimson Tide in 2012?

What To Expect from the LSU Tigers in 2012?

2012 SEC Schedule Analysis

Three Teams on the Rise in 2012

Three Teams Sliding Back in 2012

Top Non-Conference Games to Watch in 2012

Athlon Consensus 100: 2012's Top 100 Incoming Freshman

Teaser:
<p> 2012 College Football Non-Conference Match-ups to Watch</p>
Post date: Friday, January 13, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/2012-heisman-trophy-early-favorites
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Here at Athlon Sports it is never too early to start looking ahead to the 2012 football season. With an early Top 25 from Steven Lassan to what to expect from the defending champs and the 2012 LSU Tigers to three teams on the rise and three teams on the slide to analyzing the SEC schedules, Athlon Sports is already previewing 2012 in full force. And we haven’t even reached National Signing Day 2012 yet.

The Heisman Trophy is the most coveted award in all of sports. And should the reigning award winner Robert Griffin III decide to return to Baylor, he instantly becomes the top option on this list. However, with the defection of other favorites, LaMichael James, Chris Polk, Andrew Luck and Ronnie Hillman, the front-runners for the 2012 Heisman Trophy are beginning to become more apparent.

The 2012 Heisman Finalists:

Matt Barkley, QB, USC (SR)
2011 Stats: 3,528 yards, 39 TD, 7 INT, 69.1%, 14 rush yards, 2 TD

The nation’s No. 1-rated player in the 2009 Athlon Consensus 100 has completely lived up to his recruiting hype and is now the top candidate for the 2012 bronze statue. He set a USC single-season passing record with 39 scoring strikes in 2011, including 17 in his final four games. His team will likely start in the preseason top five, if not No. 1, and will return the deepest and most talented receiving corps in the nation. Barkley will enter his fourth year under center as the Heisman Trophy front-runner.

Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (JR)
2011 Stats: 163 att., 818 yards, 10 TD, 19 rec., 182 yards, TD

With Trent Richardson moving on to the NFL, Lattimore becomes easily the most talented running back in the country. Through six games and some change before suffering a season-ending injury, Lattimore rushed for 818 and caught 182 yards (144.3 yards from scrimmage per game) and scored 11 total times. He will be the focal point of the offense once again and will likely be a first-team All-American in the preseason. He is simply the most gifted player at his position and could post SEC-record rushing numbers if all falls correctly for the Gamecocks.

Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (SR)
2011 Stats: 2,173 yards, 20 TD, 15 INT, 55.1%, 1,176 rush yards, 16 TD

The most electric player in the nation will return to Ann Arbor with championship aspirations — and possibly not just Big Ten title hopes. He has posted back-to-back 2,000-yard passing and 1,000-yard rushing seasons for unprecedented levels of production from the quarterback position. He has 2,878 yards rushing and 30 scores on the ground over the last two seasons and 4,743 yards through the air with 38 more touchdowns. With Michigan returning largely intact and the likely favorite in the Legends Division (and a BCS Bowl win under his belt already), Shoelace looks to be the top challenger to Barkley in 2012 for the Heisman.

Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (SR)
2011 Stats: 307 att., 1,923 yards, 33 TD, 24 rec., 306 yards, 6 TD

Ball will not come close to posting the numbers he did in 2011, so he is a finalist by default as the top returning vote getter. He tied Barry Sanders' single-season TD record with 39 (to quote one of the greats, "he got more 6s than first grade"), so it a virtual certainty that his scoring numbers will drop behind a revamped offensive line (that always seems to reload) and a quarterback who will be largely unproven. Ball led the nation in rushing and touchdowns and is unlikely to do so again, but his work ethic, the system in which he plays and the fact that Wisconsin could play for a Big Ten title could put Ball back in New York in 2012.

The Runners-Up:

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (SR)
2011 Stats: 4,385 yards, 31 TD, 7 INT, 65.8%, 2 rush TD

Smith was already going to be on most Heisman preseason lists, but a 407-yard, 6-TD performance in the Orange Bowl win over Clemson only solidified him as an elite passer. He can make every throw on the field and has a plethora of talented receivers coming back. Since this team will likely be playing in the Big 12, which has had the uncanny knack for inflating quarterback numbers recently, Smith and head coach Dana Holgorsen are going to leave opposing defenses charred and crippled on most Saturdays.

Robert Woods, WR, USC (JR)
2011 Stats: 111 rec., 1,292 yards, 15 TD, 511 return yards

Woods set a Pac-12 record with 111 receptions as only a sophomore in 2011. The sky is the limit for this uber-talented dynamo who is a complete player at the wide receiver position. He will have talented names like Marquis Lee helping to spread the defense’s attention and the Heisman favorite throwing him passes for the third consecutive season.

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (JR)
2011 Stats: 3,149 yards, 35 TD, 14 INT, 59.1%, 103 rush yards, 2 TD

Murray is simply a winner, and the Bulldogs have a chance to win a lot of games in 2012. The Dawgs will be picked to win the SEC East and have a chance to push for a national title berth. Murray enters his third full year as the starter after back-to-back 3,000-yard seasons and an SEC-leading 35 scoring strikes. If he can correct some of his mistakes (14 INT) and improve his efficiency (59.1%), Murray has a serious chance to end up in New York.

Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska (SR)
2011 Stats: 284 att., 1,357 yards, 15 TD, 21 rec., 177 yards, 2 TD

There may not be a more complete, better all-around football player in the entire nation than Sexy Rexy. The leader, in every aspect of the word, for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Burkhead returns for his second full season as the No. 1. He is a true workhorse who can also line up at quarterback, catch the ball out of the backfield and block with a vengeance. The key to Burkhead’s success in 2012 will be the development of quarterback Taylor Martinez. If the passing game can stretch the defense and open up lanes for No. 22, he could be in for a huge year.

Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech (SR)
2011 Stats: 3,013 yards, 19 TD, 10 INT, 59.8%, 469 rush yards, 11 TD

In his first full season as the starter, Thomas started slowly but exploded into the player Hokies fans envisioned when they landed the star recruit. The Cam Newton clone is devastating as a runner and clearly showed development as a passer as the year went along. Thomas didn’t throw an interception in six of his last nine games. The only issue for Thomas is a reworked offensive line and no David Wilson to help carry the rushing game.

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State (SR)
2011 Stats: 1,918 yards, 13 TD, 6 INT, 57.3% 1,141 rush yards, 27 TD

Klein tied an NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (Ricky Dobbs, Navy) with 27 scores. He finished with 40 total touchdowns and only six interceptions en route to a 10-win season. The gritty, gutty signal caller for Kansas State will need to keep his team nationally relevant for him to finally start getting the credit he deserves.

Other Stiff-Armed Contenders:

Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon (SR)
2011 Stats: 2,761 yards, 33 TD, 7 INT, 62.2%, 206 rush yards, 3 TD

Does anyone realize that Darron Thomas has thrown back-to-back seasons of 30 touchdown passes? As a three-year starter for the Ducks, Thomas is in charge in 2012, and with Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas providing plenty of speedy big-play options, Thomas’ numbers could be the best of his career (which is scary). Also, the Ducks are likely a preseason top five team nationally and will be the favorite to meet up with USC in the Pac-12 title game.

Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (SR)
2011 Stats: 4,463 yards, 29 TD, 15 INT, 63.2%, 2 rush TD

Jones’ career numbers alone get him onto this list, but he clearly struggled without Ryan Broyles in what was his worst season as the starter. He returns with over 12,000 yards passing but also 41 career interceptions. Jones will have to take more of a leadership role and produce big numbers — and big wins on the road — to get to New York.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (SO)
2011 Stats: 82 rec., 1,219 yards, 12 TD, 231 rush yards, 826 KR yards, TD

The most electric freshman athlete of 2011 was most certainly Watkins (although, the next name on this list might take umbrage with that statement). The Clemson Tiger star wideout made plays in every facet of the game and is mature well beyond his sophomore classification. If Clemson can keep it together for a full season and the offensive line holes can be plugged, Watkins could find himself in the Big Apple.

Kenjon Barner (SR) and DeAnthony Thomas (SO), RB, Oregon
2011 Stats: 152 att., 939 yards, 11 TD, 17 rec., 184 yards, 3 TD
2011 Stats: 55 att., 595 yards, 7 TD, 46 rec., 605 yards, 9 TD, 983 KR yards, 2 TD

Barner will finally be the starter in the high-powered Oregon rushing attack. He has proven to be very capable of filling in for James and should have no problem producing huge numbers again in 2012. The key will be how Thomas gets worked into the offense. He made huge plays with his electric open-field ability as only a true freshman — and did so in the rushing, receiving and return game. How the touches are divvied up likely impacts which of these two names makes the Heisman push.

Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson (JR)
2011 Stats: 3,828 yards, 33 TD, 12 INT, 218 yards, 5 TD

Boyd was magical at times in 2011. Try 24 touchdown passes against only three interceptions during the 8-0 start. However, much like Clemson is apt to do, Boyd inexplicably trailed off, throwing for only nine touchdowns and nine interceptions in the final six games of the season. His talent is there and the skill talent around him is remarkable; however, a totally reworked offensive line will be the key to his upside in 2012.

Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State (SR)
2011 States: 3,588 yards, 19 TD, 16 INT, 63.9%, 588 rush yards, 10 TD

Aplin has been a wildly productive player for more than two seasons. But in his third full year as the starter, for a conference champion no less, he could explode in Paul Smith fashion (look it up). Aplin’s dual-threat ability will fit perfectly with what offensive mastermind Guz Malzahn wants to do schematically.

The Long-Shots:

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State (SO)
2011 Stats: 1,159 yards, 13 TD, 4 INT, 54.1%, 715 rush yards, 7 TD

The youngest member of this list was unleashed on the Big Ten during the second half of the season last fall. Miller rushed for 472 yards and all seven rushing touchdowns over the Buckeyes' final six games. He also threw eight of his 13 touchdowns over that span. The key for Miller will be continued development as a passer and how much the postseason ban will hurt him a la 2011 Matt Barkley. This team should have the best record in the Leaders Division but will not be allowed to play for a title.

Keith Price, QB, Washington (JR)
2011 Stats: 3,063 yards, 33 TD, 11 INT, 66.9%, 3 rush TD

In his first full season under center, Price made Husky fans quickly forget about Jake Locker. He won seven games and trailed only Andrew Luck as the Pac-12’s most efficient passer. Losing Chris Polk to the NFL will hurt, but there is a litany of talented skill players waiting to step up for Steve Sarkisian.

Keenen Allen, WR, Cal (JR)
2011 Stats: 98 rec., 1,343 yards, 6 TD

Arguably the most physically gifted receiver in the nation, Allen makes the acrobatic catch seem effortless. He has a great rapport with half-brother and quarterback Zach Maynard and will undoubtedly be the top Bears pass-catcher. Keep your eye on No. 21 at all times.

Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas (JR)
2011 Stats: Redshirted due to injury

The most welcome recruit this season in Fayetteville, Ark., will be the return of star tailback Knile Davis. After taking over as the starter about a third of the way through 2010, Davis rushed for at least 100 yards in six of his final seven games, scoring 12 times over that span. Bobby Petrino certainly likes to chuck it around on offense, but his best offenses have always been predicated on a power rushing attack. Davis brings that back to the Hogs offense in 2012.

Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas (SR)
2011 Stats: 3,638 yarsds, 24 TD, 6 INT, 63.2%, 4 rush TD

Anyone running Bobby-P’s offense likely deserves a mention on any early Heisman list. And Wilson is coming off his first full season as the starter in which he led the SEC in passing yards. He will be losing some talented options at wideout, but the receiving corps has plenty of depth and the offense will welcome back Davis. If Wilson can beat Alabama and/or LSU at home and get his team to the SEC title game, he could very easily find himself in Heisman discussions.

Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State (JR)
2011 Stats: 82 rec., 1,388 yards, 12 TD

As the top pass-catching option in a Mike Leach offense, Wilson could produce otherworldly numbers in 2012. He is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to start his career and has done so with three different quarterbacks throwing him the ball. Wazzu will have to win more games, however, in 2012 if this long shot expects to enter the Heisman fray.

Teaser:
<p> Who are the front-runners for the 2012 Heisman Trophy?</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, NFL
Path: /nfl/which-baltimore-ravens-shows-against-texans
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 3 Houston (10-6) at No. 2 Baltimore (12-4)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Ravens await the Texans on Sunday after winning six of their last seven games, including three wins over playoff teams. But whether or not they advance to the AFC Championship game largely depends on which Baltimore Ravens team shows up.

Baltimore destroyed the 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 35-7. It rushed for 170 yards and 5.5 yards per carry against the vaunted Steel Curtain. Ray Lewis and company held the Steelers to 66 yards rushing and forced seven turnovers. The tone had been set for the 2011 season, right?

However, the next weekend, Baltimore fell 26-13 to the Tennessee Titans by gaining a grand total of 229 yards. They mustered only 45 yards rushing, turned the ball over three times and couldn’t stop 36-year-old Matt Hasselbeck, who threw for 358 yards and a touchdown in the win.

Two weeks later, Baltimore embarrassed Rex Ryan and the New York Jets 34-17. The Ravens forced four turnovers and held the Jets to 150 total yards of offense. In their next game, the Ravens toppled the then-healthy (aka Matt Schaub) AFC South Champion Houston Texans 29-14 with relative ease.

However, the next weekend, Baltimore fell 12-7 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens mustered only 146 yards of offense, 34 of which came on the ground, and were out-possessed by the Jags 36:15 to 23:45. Maurice Jones-Drew rolled up 105 yards on 30 carries in the win. It was a lackluster performance from the Ravens to say the least.

In Week 9, Baltimore once again handled the Steelers in what was the best game of the season. On the road against the defending AFC Champions, Joe Flacco played brilliant football in the final frame and tossed a game-winning touchdown with eight seconds left. But once again, the Ravens followed a great victory with a mind-boggling defeat. In Week 10, Baltimore turned the ball over three times and allowed Marshawn Lynch to churn out 167 yards from scrimmage on 37 touches in the 22-17 loss to Seattle.

Are we seeing a trend yet? After winning four straight from Week 11-Week 14 (including wins over San Francisco and Cincinnati), the Ravens laid an inexplicable egg in San Diego. The Chargers gained 415 yards of offense in the 34-14 pounding of the eventual AFC North Champs. The loss could have cost the Ravens the division, and a first-round bye, had the Steelers not also lost that weekend to the Niners.

So what’s the point?

If the right Ravens team shows up on Sunday, Texans’ rookie quarterback T.J. Yates won’t fare much better than Matt Schaub did back in the Week 6 victory over Houston. Baltimore held Arian Foster to his third-worst rushing performance of the season (49 yards, 3.3 ypc). And the Ravens trio will produce big numbers like they did in the first meeting — Flacco threw for 305 yards, Ray Rice totaled 161 yards from scrimmage and Anquan Boldin caught 8 passes for 132 yards. If the right Ravens team shows up on Sunday, the Texans won’t have much of a chance to advance to the AFC title game.

If the wrong Ravens team shows up, the Texans will have a chance. Should this happen, the Texans will have to ride Foster and Ben Tate to victory. Houston will have to control the ball and protect their inexperienced signal caller from a veteran and hostile purple defense. And Wade Phillips will have to call a masterful game on defense in an effort to play a swarming, hard-hitting brand of football.

The Ravens' four losses were to far inferior competition (with the possible exception of the Chargers). However, one thing to note is that all four head-scratching defeats came on the road. The friendly confines of MT&T Bank Stadium have been anything but warm and hospitable to the visiting team. Don’t expect that to change much in The Charm City, where there is a 30% chance of snow and a projected high of 37 degrees.

More likely than not, the Ravens will be the ones playing the hard-hitting, swarming defense, as Yates is indoctrinated into road playoff football at its highest level.

Baltimore By The Numbers

Scoring Offense: 23.6 (12th)
Passing Offense: 213.9 ypg (19th)
Rushing Offense: 124.8 ypg (10th)
3rd Down Offense: 42.4% (7th)
Giveaways: 24 (16th)
Sacks Allowed: 33.0 (12th)

Scoring Defense: 16.6 ppg (3rd)
Passing Defense: 196.3 ypg (4th)
Rushing Defense: 92.6 ypg (2nd)
3rd Down Defense: 32.1% (2nd)
Takeaways: 26 (13th)
Sacks: 48.0 (3rd)

Houston By The Numbers

Scoring Offense: 23.8 (10th)
Passing Offense: 219.1 ypg (18th)
Rushing Offense: 153.0 (2nd)
3rd Down Offense: 41.5% (8th)
Giveaways: 20 (6th)
Sacks Allowed: 33.0 (12th)

Scoring Defense: 17.4 ppg (4th)
Passing Defense: 189.7 ypg (3rd)
Rushing Defense: 96.0 ypg (4th)
3rd Down Defense: 35.8% (14th)
Takeaways: 27 (12th)
Sacks: 44.0 (6th)

ALSO READ:
Are the Texans the most overlooked 3-Seed in NFL History?

 

Teaser:
<p> Which Baltimore Ravens Will Show Up Against the Texans?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 15:28
Path: /nfl/new-orleans-saints-better-not-overlook-harbaugh-49ers
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 3 New Orleans (13-3) at No. 2 San Francisco (13-3)
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET, FOX

There is no hotter team in the land than the New Orleans Saints. They are riding a league-high nine-game winning streak and dropped nearly half-a-hundred on the Detroit Lions last weekend. Since the bye (Week 11), Drew Brees and the Saints have won seven games by an average of 20 points per game with only one decided by less than two touchdowns (Tennessee, 22-17). Of those seven wins, four have come against playoff teams (including last weekend). Sean Payton's bunch has been in playoff mode for the better part of two months.

And Brees has been magical down the stretch. Since the bye week, he has averaged 373.8 yards per game and didn’t throw an interception in five of the seven games. He has thrown 26 touchdown passes over that span and completed more than 72.2% of his passes in five of his last six games.

So it is safe to say the Saints are rolling.

They lead the NFL in third-down offense (56.7%), finished second in the league in sacks allowed and fourth in giveaways. They protect Brees and they protect the football. New Orleans has scored at least 40 points in four straight games, has won six straight games over 2011 playoff teams (the only blemish coming in Week 1 against Green Bay) and possesses the all-time NFL single-season all-purpose yardage leader in Darren Sproles. Yup, that is right — Sproles’ 2,696 all-purpose yards in 2011 were an all-time NFL record. No wonder the Fighting Fleur De Lis opened as a 3-point favorite (for entertainment purposes only, of course).

So against a team that scored 40 points one time all season — in fact, the 49ers topped 30 points only three times all year — all signs point to an easy win for the Saints, right?

Not if Jim Harbaugh has something to say about it.

The Cult of Personality head coach has instantly changed the business culture in the Bay Area. And how this game is played will likely determine the winner. The San Francisco 49ers led the NFL not only in takeaways (38) but also in giveaways as well (10), so the Niners are all but assured of winning the turnover differential. Additionally, they lead the NFL in rushing defense and finished second in the league in scoring defense, allowing a miniscule 14.3 points per contest.

Harbaugh isn’t afraid of anyone, and his team plays with the same confidence. Offensively, the 49ers should be able to control the clock and pick up first downs by physically dominating the line of scrimmage. Quarterback Alex Smith hasn’t turned the ball over (5 INT, 0 fumbles lost) this season and will need to continue to protect the ball if the Niners expect to keep up with the Saints. Because his 17 touchdown passes this year are as exactly as many as Brees has had in his last four games.

Converting on third down and scoring touchdowns instead of field goals — two things the 49ers have struggled to do in 2011 — will be the only way San Francisco can pull the upset. New Orleans owns the best third-down offense in the league and finished sixth in the league in red zone touchdown percentage, reaching paydirt on 59.3% of its trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The 49ers, however, were nearly dead last in the NFL in both categories. They converted on only 29.4% of third downs (31st in the NFL) and scored touchdowns on only 40.7% of trips into the red zone (30th in the NFL). If the Niners can’t sustain drives and score 3s instead of 7s, it could be a long day for Harbaugh.

That said, the Niners also enter the postseason playing well, having won three straight games. They, too, were successful against the NFL’s best, going 3-1 against playoff teams this fall. This game is outdoors on a natural grass surface, which bodes very well for the home team as the Saints are 3-2 outdoors this year and 10-1 in a dome. And Harbaugh certainly wouldn’t mind a little soggy weather rolling in last minute either. But the style of the game is still going to be the deciding factor.

Harbaugh knows he has to keep the score down to win.

San Francisco finished 3-2 in games in which the opposition scored 20 points or more and was 10-1 in which they held the opponent to less than 20 points. There is nothing shocking about winning games when the defense stops the opponent from scoring, but two of the three losses this season came against a team that was able to reach that 20-point plateau. The 49ers are comfortable playing, and would prefer, a low-scoring, tightly contested affair.

The Saints, however, are 6-3 in games in which the opponent scored at least 20 points. They are just as comfortable out-dueling the other team’s offense as the Niners are at eking out victories on defense.

If the 49ers can maintain possession of the ball by converting on third down, score touchdowns instead of field goals, and lastly, pressure Brees with arguably the most dominant front seven in all of football, then the 49ers will win the game.

But if San Francisco is going three and out, settling for field goals and giving Brees time to throw, it will not keep up with the Saints.

The Over/Under total for the game (again, for entertainment purposes only) is currently 47.5. If the game goes under, San Francisco will win. If it goes over, New Orleans will move on to the NFC Championship Game.

New Orleans By The Numbers

Scoring Off: 34.2 ppg (2nd)
Passing Off: 334.2 ypg (1st)
Rushing Off: 132.9 ypg (6th)
3rd Down Off: 56.7% (1st)
Giveaways: 19 (4th)
Sacks Allowed: 24.0 (2nd)

Scoring Def: 21.2 ppg (13th)
Passing Def: 259.8 ypg (30th)
Rushing Def: 108.6 ypg (12th)
3rd Down Def: 33.2% (5th)
Takeaways: 16 (31st)
Sacks: 33.0 (19th)

San Francisco By The Numbers:

Scoring Off: 23.8 ppg (11th)
Passing Off: 183.1 ypg (29th)
Rushing Off: 127.8 ypg (8th)
3rd Down Off: 29.4% (31st)
Giveaways: 10 (1st)
Sacks Allowed: 44.0 (25th)

Scoring Def: 14.3 ppg (2nd)
Passing Def: 230.9 ypg (16th)
Rushing Def: 77.3 ypg (1st)
3rd Down Def: 35.2% (11th)
Takeaways: 38 (1st)
Sacks: 42.0 (7th)
 

Teaser:
<p> New Orleans Saints Can't Overlook Harbaugh, 49ers</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 12:50

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