Articles By Braden Gall

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The BCS is wrapping up its 14th season of action and Athlon has dissected the numbers and reviewed the tapes of all six BCS conferences in order to rank the best each league has had to offer. Which Oklahoma team was the best of the decade? Which Florida team was the toughest to stop? How do you rank the Florida State teams of the late 90s? Which Miami team was the best? How about those loaded USC teams? Alabama vs. Auburn?

The debates will most assuredly rage on for decades, but here is Athlon's two cents. Here are the Top 10 Big 12 teams of the BCS Era (1998-present, not including this season’s teams):

"First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks
* - team played in the Big 12 Championship game

10. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 2001 (11-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Frank Solich
Championships: Big 12 North (shared)
Key Stats: No. 1 in nation in rushing offense (314.7 ypg), no. 7 in scoring offense (37.4 ppg), no. 6 in scoring defense (15.8 ppg), no. 8 in total defense (287.2 ypg) and no. 9 in pass defense (170.3 ypg), Eric Crouch no. 10 in nation in scoring (19 TDs, 9.7 ppg)
Award Winners: Eric Crouch (Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Davey O’Brien Award, Heisman Trophy, Walter Camp Award), Frank Solich (Big 12 oach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (3): Toniu Fonoti (2nd, 2002), Chris Kelsay (2nd, 2003), Barrett Ruud (2nd, 2005)

Quarterback Eric Crouch, who would be awarded the Heisman Trophy at season’s end, had Nebraska’s option-oriented offense humming from the start as this Cornhuskers team breezed through its first 11 games. Following Nebraska’s 20-10 victory over No. 2 Oklahoma in Lincoln on Oct. 27, Nebraska found itself ranked No. 2 in the country and on the verge of a spot in the Big 12 Championship game. Then on Nov. 23 the Cornhuskers got blindsided by Colorado 62-36 in Boulder, which put the Buffaloes in the Big 12 title game instead of Nebraska. Colorado would go on to defeat Texas 39-37 for the Big 12 title, but it was Nebraska who was selected for the Rose Bowl and national championship game, and not Colorado, because of the Cornhuskers’ strength of schedule. Who the opponent was would matter little to No. 1 Miami, as the Hurricanes jumped out a 34-0 lead in the first half and cruised to a 37-14 victory over Nebraska.

9. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 1999 (12-1, 7-1*)
Head Coach: Frank Solich
Championships: Big 12 North, Big 12, Fiesta Bowl
Key Stats: No. 3 in nation in scoring defense (12.5 ppg), no. 4 in total defense (252.3 ypg), no. 2 in passing defense (175.2 ypg), no. 6 in rushing defense (77.1 ypg), no. 4 in rushing offense (265.9 ypg),
Award Winners: Eric Crouch (Big 12 Co-Offensive Player of the Year, Fiesta Bowl MVP), Frank Solich (Big 12 Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (4): Mike Brown (2nd, 2000), Toniu Fonoti (2nd, 2002), Dominic Raiola (2nd, 2001), Kyle Vanden Bosch (2nd, 2001)

Nebraska’s Blackshirts were in fine form to start the 1999 season as the Cornhuskers’ defense gave up 14 or fewer points the first six games. Texas put 24 on the board against them in Austin as the No. 18 Longhorns upset the third-ranked Cornhuskers on Oct. 23. Nebraska would rebound from that loss to win its next four by a combined score of 135-62, setting up a rematch against No. 12 Texas in the Big 12 Championship. This time the Cornhuskers won 22-6 and then ended the season with a 31-21 victory over No. 6 Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl.

8. Texas Longhorns, 2008 (12-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Mack Brown
Championships: Fiesta Bowl
Key Stats: No. 5 in nation in scoring offense (42.4 ppg), no. 2 in passing efficiency, no. 3 in rushing defense (83.5 ypg), no. 1 in sacks (3.6 pg), Colt McCoy no. 5 in total offense (340 ypg), no. 3 in passing efficiency, Brian Orakpo no. 6 in sacks
Award Winners: Colt McCoy (Archie Griffin Award, Big 12 Offensive MVP, Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP, Walter Camp Award), Roy Miller (Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP), Brian Orakpo (Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (5): Earl Thomas (1st, 2010), Lamarr Houston (2nd, 2010), Brian Orakpo (1st, 2009), Sergio Kindle (2nd, 2010), Aaron Williams (2nd, 2011)

This Texas team was firing on all cylinders out of the gate. Led by quarterback Colt McCoy, who would end up finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Sam Bradford, his counterpart from Oklahoma, the Longhorns scored 38 or more points in their first seven games. Included in this streak was a 45-35 win over No. 1 Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry that not only put Texas atop the polls, but also in the driver’s seat for a spot in the Big 12 Championship and potentially, the national championship. However, Texas Tech would have something to say about that as the Red Raiders knocked off the Longhorns 39-33 in Lubbock just three weeks after the Oklahoma game. That resulted in a three-way tie atop the Big 12 South. Oklahoma got to play in the Big 12 Championship by virtue of a higher BCS ranking, while Texas was left out and had to settle for a spot in the Fiesta Bowl. While the Fiesta Bowl may not have been the postseason spot it had initially hoped for, Texas didn’t let that get in the way of its performance on the field, defeating No. 10 Ohio State 24-21 and setting the stage for its national title run the following season.

7. Texas Longhorns, 2004 (11-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Mack Brown
Championships: Rose Bowl
Key Stats: No. 2 in nation in rushing offense (299.2 ypg), no. 7 in total offense (464.4 ypg), Cedric Benson no. 4 in nation in rushing (152.8 ypg), no. 7 in all-purpose yards (167.8 ypg) and scoring (20 TDs, 10.0 ppg)
Award Winners: Cedric Benson (Doak Walker Award), Derrick Johnson (Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Butkus Award, Nagurski Trophy), Vince Young (Rose Bowl Offensive MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (9): Cedric Benson (1st, 2005), Michael Griffin (1st, 2007), Michael Huff (1st, 2006), Derrick Johnson (1st, 2005), Aaron Ross (1st, 2007), Vince Young (1st, 2006), Justin Blalock (2nd, 2007), Tim Crowder (2nd, 2007), Cedric Griffin (2nd, 2006),

Led by All-American running back Cedric Benson and young quarterback Vince Young, this Texas team dominated the ground game, rushing for almost 300 yards per game. Texas’ lone loss of the season was a big one, as the Longhorns fell to No. 2 Oklahoma 12-0 in the Red River Rivalry, which kept Texas out of the Big 12 title game. Texas still received a spot in a BCS bowl as they were sent to the Rose Bowl to face No. 12 Michigan. Down by 10 at the start of the fourth quarter, Young scored twice and then led his team down the field to set up the game-winning field goal as time expired in the Longhorns’ 38-37 victory over the Wolverines. For the game, Young rushed for 192 yards and was responsible for all five (four rushing, one passing) of Texas’ touchdowns, earning what would be the first of his consecutive Rose Bowl Offensive MVP awards.

6. Oklahoma Sooners, 2003 (12-2, 8-0*)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
Championships: Big 12 South
Key Stats: No. 3 in the nation in scoring offense (42.9 ppg), no. 5 in scoring defense (15.3 ppg), no. 3 in total defense (259.6 ypg), no. 2 in pass defense (146.4 ypg)
Award Winners: Tommie Harris (Lombardi Award), Teddy Lehman (Bednarik Award, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Butkus Award), Derrick Strait (Thorpe Award), Bob Stoops (Big 12 Coach of the Year, Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year, Walter Camp National Coach of the Year, Woody Hayes National Coach of the Year), Jason White (AP Player of the Year, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Davey O’Brien Award, Heisman Trophy)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (8): Jammal Brown (1st, 2005), Mark Clayton (1st, 2005), Tommie Harris (1st, 2004), Davin Joseph (1st, 2006), Mark Bradley (2nd, 2005), Dan Cody (2nd, 2005), Teddy Lehman (2nd, 2004), Brodney Pool (2nd, 2005)

Outside of a seven-point win against Alabama on the road, this Oklahoma team, which featured seven All-Americans and 11 first team All Big 12 members, was not challenged in its first 12 games of the season, winning by an average of more than 35 points per game. The offense, led by Heisman Trophy winner Jason White, scored 34 or more points in all but two games, including seven games with 52 or more points. The defense headlined by defensive lineman Tommie Harris, linebacker Teddy Lehman and defensive back Derrick Strait held every opponent to 28 points or less and gave up three or less three times. The Sooners’ train almost completely went off of the tracks after getting pummeled by No. 10 Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship 35-7. Even though the Sooners dropped to No. 3 in both of the human polls, they kept their No. 1 BCS ranking putting them in the Sugar Bowl against No. 2 LSU. For the second straight game, however, Oklahoma’s offense could not get on track as White had one of the worst games of his career. LSU’s defense held White to just 102 yards passing and picked him off twice, returning one of them for a touchdown as the Tigers defeated the Sooners 21-14 and won the national title, or at least according to the coaches’ poll.

5. Texas Longhorns, 2009 (13-1, 8-0*)
Head Coach: Mack Brown
Championships: Big 12 South, Big 12
Key Stats: No. 3 in the nation in scoring offense (39.3 ppg), no. 3 in total defense (251.9 ypg) and rushing defense (72.4 ypg), tied for second in sacks (3.1 pg),
Award Winners: Mack Brown (Big 12 Coach of the Year), Colt McCoy (Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Davey O’Brien Award, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Manning Award, Maxwell Award, Sporting News College Athlete of the Year, Walter Camp Award)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (4): Earl Thomas (1st, 2010), Lamarr Houston (2nd, 2010), Sergio Kindle (2nd, 2010), Aaron Williams (2nd, 2011)

This Texas team started the season ranked No. 2 and finished it there as the Longhorns rolled through the regular season and Big 12 undefeated. The offense, led by quarterback Colt McCoy and wide receiver Jordan Shipley, put plenty of points on the board, while the defense, led by defensive lineman Lamarr Houston, linebacker Sergio Kindle and defensive back Earl Thomas, kept the opposing team out of the end zone. Texas’ championship dreams were almost dashed by Ndamukong Suh and Nebraska as the Cornhuskers put up a fight in the Big 12 Championship game. The Longhorns escaped, 13-12, thanks to a last-second field goal and went on to face No.1 Alabama in the BCS title game. Unfortunately, for the Longhorns, McCoy went down early with an injury, forcing them to play with an inexperienced quarterback. That and the Crimson Tide’s punishing running game were too much to overcome as Texas fell to Alabama 37-21.

2009 Schedule:

Sept. 5: Texas 59, Louisiana-Monroe 20 (Austin, TX)
Sept. 12: Texas 41, Wyoming 10 (Laramie, WY)
Sept. 19: Texas 34, Texas Tech 24 (Austin, TX)
Sept. 26: Texas 64, UTEP 7 (Austin, TX)
Oct. 10: Texas 38, Colorado 14 (Austin, TX)
Oct. 17: Texas 16, (#20) Oklahoma 13 (Dallas, TX)
Oct. 24: Texas 41, Missouri 7 (Columbia, MO)
Oct. 31: Texas 41, (#14) Oklahoma State 14 (Stillwater, OK)
Nov. 7: Texas 35, UCF 3 (Austin, TX)
Nov. 14: Texas 47, Baylor 14 (Waco, TX)
Nov. 21: Texas 51, Kansas 20 (Austin, TX)
Nov. 26: Texas 49, Texas A&M 39 (College Station, TX)
Dec. 5: Texas 13, (#22) Nebraska 12 (Big 12 Championship – Arlington, TX)
Jan. 7: (#1) Alabama 37, Texas 21 (BCS National Championship)

4. Oklahoma Sooners, 2008 (12-2, 7-1*)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
Championships: Big 12 South (shared), Big 12
Key Stats: NCAA record 716 points scored, no. 3 in nation in both total offense (349.4 ypg) and passing offense (349.4 ypg), no. 1 in passing efficiency, no. 1 in turnover margin (+1.64), Sam Bradford no. 1 in passing efficiency and no. 4 in total offense (340.5 ypg), Bradford also set school single-season records for yards (4,720), touchdown passes (50) and passing efficiency, DeMarco Murray no. 8 in all-purpose yards (167 ypg)
Award Winners: Sam Bradford (AP Player of the Year, Sammy Baugh Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Heisman Trophy), Bob Stoops (Big 12 Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (5): Sam Bradford (1st, 2010), Jermaine Gresham (1st, 2010), Phil Loadholt (1st, 2009), Gerald McCoy (1st, 2010), Trent Williams (1st, 2010)

The highest-scoring team in NCAA history, this Oklahoma team scored no less than 35 points prior to the BCS National Championship game against Florida. Quarterback Sam Bradford rewrote the Oklahoma record books on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy. Oklahoma fell to No. 5 Texas, 45-35, in the Red River Rivalry, and ended up tied for first in the Big 12 South with the Longhorns and Texas Tech at 7-1. The Sooners ended up representing the Big 12 South in the Big 12 Championship thanks to a higher BCS ranking over the Longhorns and Red Raiders. After destroying Missouri in the Big 12 Championship, the No. 1 Sooners faced off against No. 2 Florida in the BCS title game. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who finished third to Bradford in the Heisman voting, threw two touchdown passes and the Gators’ defense held the potent Sooners offense to just two touchdowns to deny Oklahoma its eighth national title, defeating the Sooners 24-14.

2008 Schedule:

Aug. 30: Oklahoma 57, Chattanooga 2 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 6: Oklahoma 52, Cincinnati 26 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 13: Oklahoma 55, Washington 14 (Seattle, WA)
Sept. 27: Oklahoma 35, (#24) TCU 14 (Norman, OK)
Oct. 4: Oklahoma 49, Baylor 17 (Waco, TX)
Oct. 11: (#5) Texas 45, Oklahoma 35 (Dallas, TX)
Oct. 18: Oklahoma 45, (#16) Kansas 31 (Norman, OK)
Oct. 25: Oklahoma 58, Kansas State 35 (Manhattan, KS)
Nov. 1: Oklahoma 62, Nebraska 28 (Norman, OK)
Nov. 8: Oklahoma 66, Texas A&M 28 (College Station, TX)
Nov. 22: Oklahoma 65, (#2) Texas Tech 21 (Norman, OK)
Nov. 29: Oklahoma 61, (#12) Oklahoma State 41 (Stillwater, OK)
Dec. 6: Oklahoma 62, (#20) Missouri 21 (Big 12 Championship – Kansas City, MO)
Jan. 8: (#2) Florida 24, Oklahoma 14 (BCS National Championship)

3. Oklahoma Sooners, 2004 (12-1, 8-0*)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
Championships: Big 12 South, Big 12
Key Stats: No. 8 in nation in total offense (462.1 ypg), no. 6 in rushing defense (94.6 ypg), Adrian Peterson no. 6 in nation in rushing (148.1 ypg) and no. 15 in all-purpose yards (149 ypg) as a freshman
Award Winners: Jammal Brown (Outland Trophy), Jason White (Davey O’Brien Award, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Maxwell Award)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (7): Jammal Brown (1st, 2005), Mark Clayton (1st, 2005), Davin Joseph (1st, 2006), Adrian Peterson (1st, 2007), Mark Bradley (2nd, 2005), Dan Cody (2nd, 2005), Brodney Pool (2nd, 2005)

This Oklahoma team lived up to its preseason ranking of No. 2, rolling through the regular season undefeated. The Sooners were led on offense by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jason White, freshman running back Adrian Peterson and an offensive line headlined by Outland winner Jammal Brown. All told, the Sooners’ roster featured five All-Americans and 10 All Big 12 selections. Oklahoma matched up with No. 1 USC in the Orange Bowl in a game that featured two Heisman Trophy winners in White and Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart, and two of the best running backs in the nation in Peterson and USC’s Reggie Bush. Unfortunately for the Sooners, the match up on paper didn’t play out on the field, as the Trojans dominated from start to finish, easily beating Oklahoma 55-19. Six years after the game, in June 2010, USC was forced to vacate two wins from its 2004 season, including the Orange Bowl game, after the NCAA ruled that it had used an ineligible player (Bush) among other violations.

2004 Schedule:

Sept. 4: Oklahoma 40, Bowling Green 24 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 11: Oklahoma 63, Houston 13 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 18: Oklahoma 31, Oregon 7 (Norman, OK)
Oct. 2: Oklahoma 28, Texas Tech 13 (Norman, OK)
Oct. 9: Oklahoma 12, (#5) Texas 0 (Dallas, TX)
Oct. 16: Oklahoma 31, Kansas State 21 (Manhattan, KS)
Oct. 23: Oklahoma 41, Kansas 10 (Norman, OK)
Oct. 30: Oklahoma 38, (#20) Oklahoma State 35 (Stillwater, OK)
Nov. 6: Oklahoma 42, (#22) Texas A&M 35 (College Station, TX)
Nov. 13: Oklahoma 30, Nebraska 3 (Norman, OK)
Nov. 20: Oklahoma 35, Baylor 0 (Waco, TX)
Dec. 4: Oklahoma 42, Colorado 3 (Big 12 Championship – Kansas City, MO)
Jan. 4: (#1) USC 55, Oklahoma 19 (Orange Bowl, National Championship)

2. 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)

1. 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)

Athlon Sports Ranks the Best Teams in Every BCS League:

The Top 10 Big East Teams of the BCS Era

The Top 10 ACC Teams of the BCS Era

The Top 10 Big Ten Teams of the BCS Era
The Top 10 Pac-12 Teams of the BSC Era
The Top 10 Big 12 Teams of the BCS Era
The Top 10 SEC Teams of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports ranked the best Big 12 teams of the BCS era.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/best-big-ten-teams-bcs-era
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-by Braden Gall (follow at @AthlonBraden)

The BCS is wrapping up its 14th season of action and Athlon has dissected the numbers and reviewed the tapes of all six BCS conferences in order to rank the best each league has had to offer. Which Oklahoma team was the best of the decade? Which Florida team was the toughest to stop? How do you rank the Florida State teams of the late 90s? Which Miami team was the best? How about those loaded USC teams? Alabama vs. Auburn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1998 Schedule:

Sept. 5: Wisconsin 26, San Diego State 14 (San Diego, CA)
Sept. 12: Wisconsin 45, Ohio 0 (Madison, WI)
Sept. 19: Wisconsin 52, UNLV 7 (Madison, WI)
Sept. 26: Wisconsin 38, Northwestern 7 (Madison, WI)
Oct. 3: Wisconsin 24, Indiana 20 (Bloomington, IN)
Oct. 10: Wisconsin 31, Purdue 24 (Madison, WI)
Oct. 17: Wisconsin 37, Illinois 3 (Champaign, IL)
Oct. 24: Wisconsin 31, Iowa 0 (Iowa City, IA)
Nov. 7: Wisconsin 26, Minnesota 7 (Madison, WI)
Nov. 14: (#15) Michigan 27, Wisconsin 10 (Ann Arbor, MI)
Nov. 21: Wisconsin 24, (#14) Penn State 3 (Madison, WI)
Jan. 1: Wisconsin 38, (#6) UCLA 31 (Rose Bowl)

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

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

1998 Schedule:

Sept. 5: Ohio State 34, (#11) West Virginia 17 (Morgantown, WV)
Sept. 12: Ohio State 49, Toledo 0 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 19: Ohio State 35, (#21) Missouri 14 (Columbus, OH)
Oct. 3: Ohio State 28, (#7) Penn State 9 (Columbus, OH)
Oct. 10: Ohio State 41, Illinois 0 (Champaign, IL)
Oct. 17: Ohio State 45, Minnesota 15 (Columbus, OH)
Oct. 24: Ohio State 36, Northwestern 10 (Evanston, IL)
Oct. 31: Ohio State 38, Indiana 7 (Bloomington, IN)
Nov. 7: Michigan State 28, Ohio State 24 (Columbus, OH)
Nov. 14: Ohio State 46, Iowa 14 (Iowa City, IA)
Nov. 21: Ohio State 31, (#11) Michigan 16 (Columbus, OH)
Jan. 1: Ohio State 24, (#8) Texas A&M 14 (Sugar Bowl)

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

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

2005 Schedule:

Sept. 3: Penn State 23, South Florida 13 (State College, PA)
Sept. 10: Penn State 42, Cincinnati 24 (State College, PA)
Sept. 17: Penn State 40, Central Michigan 3 (State College, PA)
Sept. 24: Penn State 34, Northwestern 29 (Evanston, IL)
Oct. 1: Penn State 44, (#19) Minnesota 14 (State College, PA)
Oct. 8: Penn State 17, (#6) Ohio State 10 (State College, PA)
Oct. 15: Michigan 27, Penn State 25 (Ann Arbor, MI)
Oct. 22: Penn State 63, Illinois 10 (Champaign, IL)
Oct. 29: Penn State 33, Purdue 15 (State College, PA)
Nov. 5: Penn State 35, (#14) Wisconsin 14 (State College, PA)
Nov. 19: Penn State 31, Michigan State 22 (East Lansing, MI)
Jan. 3: Penn State 31, (#22) Florida State 23 (Orange Bowl)

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

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

2006 Schedule:

Sept. 2: Ohio State 35, Northern Illinois 12 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 9: Ohio State 24, (#2) Texas 7 (Austin, TX)
Sept. 16: Ohio State 37, Cincinnati 7 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 23: Ohio State 28, Penn State 6 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 30: Ohio State 38, (#13) Iowa 17 (Iowa City, IA)
Oct. 7: Ohio State 35, Bowling Green 7 (Columbus, OH)
Oct. 14: Ohio State 38, Michigan State 7 (East Lansing, MI)
Oct. 21: Ohio State 44, Indiana 3 (Columbus, OH)
Oct. 28: Ohio State 44, Minnesota 0 (Columbus, OH)
Nov. 4: Ohio State 17, Illinois 10 (Champaign, IL)
Nov. 11: Ohio State 54, Northwestern 10 (Evanston, IL)
Nov. 18: Ohio State 42, (#2) Michigan 39 (Columbus, OH)
Jan. 8: (#2) Florida 41, Ohio State 14 (BCS NCG)

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

The team that never gave up began the season ranked No. 13 in the nation and 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)

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

Athlon Sports Ranks the Best Teams in Every BCS League:

The Top 10 Big East Teams of the BCS Era

The Top 10 ACC Teams of the BCS Era

The Top 10 Big Ten Teams of the BCS Era
The Top 10 Pac-12 Teams of the BSC Era
The Top 10 Big 12 Teams of the BCS Era
The Top 10 SEC Teams of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports ranked the best Big Ten teams of the BCS era.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/kevin-sumlin-grading-texas-am-hire-1
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

It appears that Texas A&M has found itself a new head coach with the announcement that Houston's Kevin Sumlin will be taking the reigns of the Aggies next season. Sumlin replaces Mike Sherman, who served as the Texas A&M head coach for last four years, compiling a 25-25 record.

Under Sherman, Texas A&M's identity was one in which a lot of points were scored, little defense was played, and very few close games were won. In Sherman's four years, the Aggies averaged 32.2 points per game offensively, but A&M also gave up 30.4 points per game on the defensive side of the ball. To make matters worse, Sherman was 2-7 in games decided by four points or less.

With the firing of Sherman, the Aggie brass indicated that the numbers above simply weren't good enough. The powers that be decided they needed to hire a coach who could reverse some of Coach Sherman's trends. So what did they do? They went and hired a guy whose teams averaged 42.82 points per game offensively and gave up a whopping 29.06 points per game over the past four years. Sound familiar (for what it's worth, Sumlin was 4-4 in games decided by four points or less at Houston)?

According to our proprietary CBTN Best Head Coaching Job Ranking, Texas A&M is the 23rd best job in the nation (out of 120). The fact that Texas A&M is located in the talent rich state of Texas combined Texas A&M's great fan base, resources, and facilities makes it one of the better jobs in all of college football. Below is our By The Numbers analysis of the hiring:

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Kevin Sumlin - Hiring Summary


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Positives
  • As an offensive coordinator at Texas A&M in 2002 and Oklahoma in 2006 and 2007, Sumlin's offenses scored 30 or more points 57.50% of the time and 40 or more points 32.50% of the time. As a head coach, Sumlin's offensive numbers have only improved. In his four years at Houston, Sumlin's offenses have averaged 30 or more points 80.77% of the time, 40 or more points 59.62% of the time, and 50 or or points 28.85% of the time.
     
  • During his tenure at Houston, Sumlin won 68.48% of his overall games, 70.59% of his conference games, and won 10 or more games in two of his four seasons as head coach. In 2011, Sumlin led Houston to its first 12-win season in history.
     
  • Sumlin spent five years of his coaching career at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops, one of the best coaches in all of college football.
Negatives
  • Of the 16 games Sumlin coached at Houston with equal or inferior talent, he only won eight times (50.00%).
     
  • Sumlin's defenses at Houston gave up 30 or more points 48.08% of the time and 40 or points more 21.15% of the time. Additionally, Sumlin's defense ranked 90th or lower in scoring defense in three of his four years as a head coach.
     
  • Coach Sumlin is 11-13 against teams finishing the season with an over .500 record.
     
  • 68.57% of Coach Sumlin's wins have come against teams finishing the season with more losses than wins.
Unknowns
  • In Sumlin's first two years at Houston, he had the deadly combination of Dana Holgorsen calling with plays and Case Keenum executing those plays. In 2010, Dana Holgorsen was calling plays for Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State and Case Keenum was having surgery on his knee. Houston finished the 2010 season with a 5-7 record. To be fair, Sumlin did play the season with his first and second string quarterbacks sidelined with injuries, so we can't be too hard on him. In 2011, Keenum, who began college in 2006, was back in the huddle at quarterback. We are not trying to take anything away from Kevin Sumlin's offenses, but it would have been nice to see him coach another season without Case Keenum.
     
  • Who will Sumlin hire as his defensive coordinator and will Kliff Kingsbury and/or Jason Phillips make the move to College Station?
     
  • At Houston, Coach Sumlin entered the playing field with superior talent (an average recruiting class rank 10+ spots greater than his opponent) in two out of every three games. This number is going to drastically drop at Texas A&M given the school's move to the most talented conference in college football. How will Coach Sumlin handle playing a much larger percent of his games with equal or inferior talent?
     
  • The average CBTN Star rating for active defensive coordinators in Conference USA is one star. The average CBTN Star rating for active defensive coordinators in the SEC is four. Sumlin had the best talent in Conference USA and was going up against some of the lower rated defensive coordinators in all of college football. How is he going to adjust to having mid-level talent and going up against some of the best defensive minds in the nation?
CBTN Conclusion

In 2012, Texas A&M will join the Southeastern Conference, the CBTN number one rated conference in college football. Specifically, the Aggies will be joining the SEC West, which includes Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State. To say the very least, football life is about to get much harder for A&M (three of these teams have won National Championships since 2001). It is this move to the SEC that makes this a curious hire by the numbers.

There are certainly exceptions to the rule (see Bobby Petrino), but the SEC has traditionally been a conference where running the ball and stopping the run has been the key to success. In his four years at Houston, Sumlin's defenses got torched for an average of 195.6 yards per game on the ground. This fact makes it very, very important for Sumlin to go out and hire a top-notch defensive coordinator. Names like Mike Stoops and Jon Tenuta immediately come to mind. We can't overstate the importance of who he hires for defensive coordinator given his teams' defensive history against the run. Couple this with the fact that over the last two seasons Houston's offense only averaged 154.24 yards per game rushing could make for some uncomfortable Saturdays for Sumlin vs. SEC West opponents.

When we look at Kevin Sumlin, we like a lot of what we see. He has a nice resume and has shown a serious propensity to score points. However, as was stated in the introduction to this analysis, Texas A&M is one of the better jobs in college football and is about to enter the best side of the best conference in college football. At Houston, Sumlin coached a large percentage (66.67%) of his games with superior talent and faced some of the lower rated defensive coordinators in all of college football. Both of these things are about to drastically change.

Have you ever bought a company's stock based on a positive news story? What about after a company posts a nice set of quarterly earnings? If so, you have fallen prey to the What You See Is All There Is fallacy of the mind. Kevin Sumlin may be a rising star in college football, but the key word in that phrase is "rising". When we put together our list of recommended coaches for the Aggies, we did so with the thought process of recommending proven head coaches (we recommended six of these) and extremely accomplished defensive coordinators (we recommended two of these).

In our estimation, the Aggies have taken a risk that they simply didn't need to take with Coach Sumlin.


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Hire Grade

#444444;">C+

Teaser:
<p> A statistical look at Texas A&amp;M's hiring of Kevin Sumlin.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/jim-mora-jr-grading-ucla-hire
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

Instead of listing the names rumored to have been contacted by UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, it might be easier to list the names not rumored to have been contacted by Guerrero. After much ado and some very wild speculation, UCLA has named former NFL defensive coordinator and head coach Jim Mora, Jr. as the Bruins next head football coach.

Mora will replace outgoing UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel. For our take on Neuheisel, please click here.

Jim Mora, Jr. is known mostly for being the son of Jim Mora, Sr. Even if you think you don't know who Jim Mora, Sr. is, we can bet that you do. "Playoffs!? Playoffs!? Don't talk about playoffs.....I just hope we can win another game." As was discussed in our firing analysis of Rick Neuheisel, we believe UCLA is a very solid job that should be attractive to some of the best and brightest in college football. 

Based on our proprietary CBTN Best Head Coaching Jobs Ranking, UCLA is the 38th best job in college football. The school is located in one of the most attractive cities in the world and in one of the most talented football states in the country. Additionally, UCLA plays in a major conference and has a brand name that reaches coast-to-coast. In interviews after he was fired, Coach Neuheisel complained about UCLA's facilities and lack of commitment to football. He would certainly be in a position to know much better than us the state of UCLA's facilities and depth of the administration's commitment to winning.

However, when we consider that Rick Neuheisel played 92% of his games with superior or equal talent** at UCLA and won just 42% of his overall games, it's difficult for us to have much sympathy for Coach Neuheisel and his complaints about facilities. The last time we checked, facilities didn't cause coaches to come up with poor game plans. So, the Bruins have turned to Jim Mora, Jr. to save their seemingly sinking ship. Is he the right man for the job? Below is our By The Numbers analysis of the hiring:

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Jim Mora, Jr. - Hiring Summary


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Positives
  • Jim Mora, Jr. is not Rick Neuheisel.
     
  • See bullet point number one.
     
  • We would want to point to Mora's 25 years of NFL experience, five of which he spent as a defensive coordinator and four he spent as a head coach, but after re-reading a piece we did on "NFL-Guys" and success at the college level, we simply cannot.
     
  • If Pete Carroll did it, why can't Jim Mora, Jr.?
Negatives
  • See article on "NFL-Guys" above.
     
  • Mora only has one year of experience in college football and that was as a Graduate Assistant in 1984 for the Washington Huskies.
     
  • Mora was 32-34 in his four years as a head coach in the NFL.
     
  • Mora has been fired from head coaching jobs the same number of times he has had winning seasons as a head coach.
Unknowns
  • Everything.
CBTN Conclusion

Someone really needs to make a copy of Chapter 3 of Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink and send it to Mr. Guerrero. The chapter is titled The Warren Harding Error and it details how when making decisions, especially when it comes to hiring, firing, or electing people, we often focus on everything but what really matters.

Here is how a journalist described Warren Harding, who was elected with over 60% of the popular vote and is now considered to be one of the worst presidents in U.S. history: "Harding was worth looking at. He was at the time about 35 years old. His head, features, shoulders and torso had a size that attracted attention… an effect which in any male at any place would justify more than the term handsome – in later years, when he came to be known beyond his local world, the word “Roman” was occasionally used in descriptions of him… His suppleness, combined with his bigness of frame, and his large, wide-set rather glowing eyes, heavy black hair, and markedly bronze complexion gave him some of the handsomeness of an Indian. His courtesy… suggested genuine friendliness toward all mankind. His voice was noticeably resonant, masculine, warm… His manner as he bestowed a tip suggested generous good-nature, a wish to give pleasure, based on physical well-being and sincere kindliness of heart."

What do you notice about the above description? You should notice that it has nothing to do with being in any way qualified to be President of the United States of America. Here is what UCLA Dan Guerrero had to say when introducing Jim Mora, Jr. as the Bruins' next head coach: "He has been a head coach at the game's highest level and has clearly demonstrated to me that he is hungry and eager to return to the sidelines."

What do you notice about the above? You should notice that Dan Guerrero doesn't read coachesbythenumbers.com. If he did, he would have read our article on NFL Guys and noticed that coaches reared as NFL coaches have extremely limited success at the college level. Of the top 50 active head coaches in our system since 2001 with a minimum of three years experience as a head coach, only three could be said to have significant NFL experience (Bo Pelini, Pat Hill, and Dennis Erickson), and two of these coaches were just recently fired.

Also, how in the world does being "hungry and eager to return to the sidelines" qualify anyone to be a head coach? Here's a good rule of thumb for AD's to live by: if a coach is more eager for your job than you are to hire him for it, move on to the next candidate. When we give out hiring grades, we are not trying to guarantee a new head coach's future success or failure; we are trying to grade the thought process behind the hire and see if the coach makes sense for the job By The Numbers.

We are sure we are going to hear Pete Carroll's name mentioned a whole lot between now and next season as the "blueprint" for Mora to be successful at UCLA. First and foremost, when you hear this please don't forget that Pete Carroll was reared in the college football world, spending eleven seasons (1973-1983) as a college assistant, including stints at Iowa State, Ohio State, and Arkansas. Secondly, hope and luck aren't ingredients for making consistently successful decisions. As we have talked about a lot on this site, when you are playing Blackjack and you hit on 18 and happen to draw a three, you didn't make a good decision (unless you can count cards like Rain Man); you were simply lucky.

Eventually, making bad decisions (like hitting on 18) will cost you. UCLA committed the Warren Harding Error when they hired Rick Neuheisel, and now they have gone and done it again. Maybe Einstein was right when he said "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results." In the end, the hiring of Jim Mora Jr. is by no means a complete failure. NFL coaches have a proven track record of excelling in mediocrity at the college level. However, we believe that UCLA has the capability to be a lot more.


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Hire Grade

#444444;">D

** Talent level is determined by the program’s average recruiting rank (per Scout.com) over the 4 year span leading up to the year the game was played. Equivalent talent is defined as having an average recruiting rank difference within 10 ranking spots of an opponent. Superior talent is the situation where the average recruiting rank is great than 10 ranking spots of an opponent. Inferior talent is the situation where the average recruiting rank is less than 10 rankings spots of an opponent.


Teaser:
<p> A statistical breakdown of UCLA's decision to hire Jim Mora, Jr.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/best-acc-teams-bcs-era
Body:

-by Braden Gall (follow at @AthlonBraden)

The BCS is wrapping up its 14th season of action and Athlon has dissected the numbers and reviewed the tapes of all six BCS conferences in order to rank the best each league has had to offer. Which Oklahoma team was the best of the decade? Which Florida team was the toughest to stop? How do you rank the Florida State teams of the late 90s? Which Miami team was the best? How about those loaded USC teams? Alabama vs. Auburn?

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

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

10. Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 2006 (11-3, 7-2*)
Head Coach: Jim Grobe
Championships: ACC
Key Stats: Won a school record 11 games. Wake Forest beat Georgia Tech 9-6 in the ACC title game — the lowest winning total in any college championship game ever.
Award Winners: Jim Grobe (ACC Coach of the Year), Riley Skinner (ACC Rookie of the Year)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Aaron Curry (1st, 2009), Alphonso Smith (2nd, 2009)

9. 2001 Maryland Terrapins, 2001 (10-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Ralph Freidgen
Championships: ACC
Key Stats: Led the ACC in scoring offense (35.5 ppg) and scoring defense (19.1 ppg). Led ACC in total offense (439.7 ypg) and rushing defense (90.6 ypg). Was the first ACC team to win outright conference title other than Florida State since 1991.
Award Winners: Ralph Friedgen (Home Depot National Coach of the Year, ACC COY), EJ Henderson (ACC Player of the Year, Def. POY), Bruce Perry (ACC Off. Player of the Year)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: EJ Henderson (2nd, 2003), Madieu Williams (2nd, 2004)

8. Virginia Tech Hokies, 2007 (11-3, 8-1*)
Head Coach: Frank Beamer
Championships: ACC
Key Stats: Finished No. 3 nationally in scoring defense (16.1 ppg) and No. 4 in total defense (296.9). Both led the ACC.
Award Winners: N/A
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Duane Brown (1st, 2008), Eddie Royal (2nd, 2008), Brandon Flowers (2nd, 2008), Jason Worilds (2nd, 2010)

7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 2009 (11-3, 8-1*)
Head Coach: Paul Johnson
Championships: ACC
Key Stats: Led the ACC in rushing, total offense and scoring. No. 2 nationally in rushing at 295.4 yards per game. Went 2-0 against Clemson.
Award Winners: Derrick Morgan (ACC Def. Player of the Year), Paul Johnson (ACC Coach of the Year)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Derrick Morgan (1st, 2010), Demaryius Thomas (1st, 2010)

6. Florida State Seminoles, 2003 (10-3, 7-1)
Head Coach: Bobby Bowden
Championships: ACC Co-Champs
Key Stats: No. 10 nationally in scoring defense (16.7 ppg), Went 0-2 against Miami.
Award Winners: Darnell Dockett (ACC Def. Player of the Year)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Michael Boulware (2nd, 2004), Greg Jones (2nd, 2004), Alex Barron (1st, 2005), Travis Johnson (1st, 2005), Braynt McFadden (2nd, 2005), Ernie Sims (1st, 2006), Antonio Cromartie (1st, 2006), Kamerion Wimbley (1st, 2006), Brodrick Bunkley (1st, 2006)

5. Virginia Tech Hokies, 2010 (11-3, 9-0*)
Head Coach: Frank Beamer
Championships: ACC
Key Stats: Taylor set single-season school passing TD record (24) and all-time career passing yards school record (7,017 yards), Jayron Hosley led the nation in INT (0.69 pg), Tech led the nation in turnover margin (+1.36).
Award Winners: Tyrod Taylor (ACC Player of the Year, Off. POY, ACCCG MVP)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Ryan Williams (2nd, 2011)

Virginia Tech lost in heartbreaking fashion to Boise State on a final minute touchdown in Week 1, and clearly the hangover effect was out in full force the next weekend against James Madison. However, the Hokies never lost again in the regular season and became the first undefeated ACC team since 2000 Florida State. This team featured the program's all-time leading passer and receiver (Jarrett Boykin, 180 rec.) with a three-headed backfield of Ryan Williams, David Wilson and Darren Evans. Taylor led the ACC in passing efficiency as the Hokies led the league in scoring (35.5 ppg).

2010 Schedule:

Sept. 6: (#5) Boise State 33, Virginia Tech 30 (Landover, MD)
Sept. 11: James Madison 21, Virginia Tech 16 (Blacksburg, VA)
Sept. 18: Virginia Tech 49, East Carolina 27 (Blacksburg, VA)
Sept. 25: Virginia Tech 19, Boston College 0 (Chestnutt Hill, MA)
Oct. 2: Virginia Tech 41, (#23) NC State 30 (Raleigh, NC)
Oct. 9: Virginia Tech 45, Central Michigan 21 (Blacksburg, VA)
Oct. 16: Virginia Tech 52, Wake Forest 21 (Blacksburg, VA)
Oct. 23: Virginia Tech 44, Duke 7 (Blacksburg, VA)
Nov. 4: Virginia Tech 28, Georgia Tech 21 (Blacksburg, VA)
Nov. 13: Virginia Tech 26, North Carolina 10 (Chapel Hill, NC)
Nov. 20: Virginia Tech 31, (#21) Miami 17 (Miami Gardens, FL)
Nov. 27: Virginia Tech 37, Virginia 7 (Blacksburg, VA)
Dec. 4: Virginia Tech 44,  (#20) Florida State 33 (ACCCG, Charlotte, NC)
Jan. 3: (#5) Stanford 40, Virginia Tech 12 (Orange Bowl)

4. Florida State Seminoles, 1998 (11-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Bobby Bowden
Championships: ACC Co-Champs
Key Stats: Beat five ranked teams
Award Winners: N/A
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Tony Bryant (2nd, 1999), Larry Smith (2nd, 1999), Peter Warrick (1st, 2000), Corey Simon (1st, 2000), Sebastian Janikowski (1st, 2000), Jamal Reynolds (1st, 2001), Derrick Gibson (1st, 2001), Tommy Polley (2nd, 2001)

The first year of the BCS began with a Florida State win over a ranked Texas A&M team before the Noles got shocked by NC State 24-7 in Week 2. The Noles then rattled off 10 straight wins, including victories over ranked USC, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Florida teams, to clinch a trip to the first-ever BCS title game. The Noles actually were co-champs with Georgia Tech, but won the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Tennessee Vols claimed the first BCS National Championship by way of a 23-16 Fiesta Bowl win over Florida State.

1998 Schedule:

Aug. 31: Florida State 23, (#14) Texas A&M 14 (East Rutherford, NJ)
Sept. 12: NC State 24, Florida State 7 (Raleigh, NC)
Sept. 19: Florida State 62, Duke 13 (Tallahassee, FL)
Sept. 26: Florida State 30, (#18) Southern California 10 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 3: Florida State 24, Maryland 10 (College Park, MD)
Oct. 10: Florida State 26, Miami 14 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 17: Florida State 48, Clemson 0 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 24: Florida State 34, (#23) Georgia Tech 7 (Atlanta, GA)
Oct. 31: Florida State 39, North Carolina 13 (Tallahassee, FL)
Nov. 7: Florida State 45, (#12) Virginia 14 (Tallahassee, FL)
Nov. 14: Florida State 24, Wake Forest 7 (Winston-Salem, NC)
Nov. 21: Florida State 23, (#4) Florida 12 (Tallahassee, FL)
Jan. 4: (#1) Tennessee 23, Florida State 16 (Fiesta Bowl)

3. Virginia Tech Hokies, 2004 (10-3, 7-1)
Head Coach: Frank Beamer
Championships: ACC
Key Stats: No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense (12.8 ppg) and No. 4 in total defense (268 ypg)
Award Winners: Bryan Randall (ACC Player of the Year), Frank Beamer (ACC Coach of the Year)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Jimmy Williams (2nd, 2006), Darryl Tapp (2nd, 2006)

The Hokies played four top ten teams and won twice. Those two losses came against the two best teams in the nation — USC and Auburn — by a total of 14 points. Quarterback Bryan Randall took over full-time for Marcus Vick and threw for 2,264 yards while rushing for 511 with 24 total touchdowns en route to his ACC POY Award. This team sent 15 players over three years into the NFL Draft, despite none being selected in the first round.

Aug. 28: (#1) Southern California 24, Virginia Tech 13 (Landover, MD)
Sept. 11: Virginia Tech 63, Western Michigan 0 (Blacksburg, VA)
Sept. 18: Virginia Tech 41, Duke 17 (Blacksburg, VA)
Sept. 25: NC State 17, Virginia Tech 16 (Blacksburg, VA)
Oct. 2: Virginia Tech 19, (#7) West Virginia 13 (Blacksburg, VA)
Oct. 9: Virginia Tech 17, Wake Forest 10 (Winston-Salem, NC)
Oct. 16: Virginia Tech 62, Florida A&M 0 (Blacksburg, VA)
Oct. 28: Virginia Tech 34, Georgia Tech 20 (Atlanta, GA)
Nov. 6: Virginia Tech 27, North Carolina 24 (Chapel Hill, NC)
Nov. 18: Virginia Tech 55, Maryland 6 (Blacksburg, VA)
Nov. 27: Virginia Tech 24, (#16) Virginia 10 (Blacksburg, VA)
Dec. 4: Virginia Tech 16, (#9) Miami 10 (Miami, FL)
Jan. 1: (#3) Auburn 16, Virginia Tech 13 (Sugar Bowl)

2. Florida State Seminoles, 2000 (11-2, 8-0)
Head Coach: Bobby Bowden
Championships: ACC
Key Stats: Led the nation in passing (384 ypg) and total offense (549 ypg). Finished No. 2 in the nation in rushing defense (73.9 ypg) and scoring defense (10.3 ppg).
Award Winners: Chris Weinke (Heisman, Davey O'Brien, Johnny Unitas, ACC Player of the Year), Jamal Reynolds (Lombardi)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Jamal Reynolds (1st, 2001), Derrick Gibson (1st, 2001), Tommy Polley (2nd, 2001), Javon Walker (1st, 2002), Anquan Boldin (2nd, 2003), Alonzo Jackson (2nd, 2003)

After starting 5-0 — for their 17th straight win — the Noles fell to rival Miami by three points in Week 6. Florida State won six straight to land in their third straight BCS national title game. Chris Weinke won the Heisman Trophy by leading the nation in passing with 4,167 yards and finished his career as the school's all-time leading passer. This team featured three first-team All-Americans with Weinke, wideout Snoop Minnis (63 rec., 1,340 yards, 11 TD) and Lombardi winner Jamal Reynolds. Unfortunately, the third-highest scoring team in school history (511 points) was held to zero points in the BCS title game loss to Oklahoma — scoring their only two points on a safety. This defense held the opponent to less than 10 points in seven games of 13 games.

2000 Schedule:

Aug. 26: Florida State 29, BYU 3 (Jacksonville, FL)
Sept. 9: Florida State 26, Georiga Tech 21 (Atlanta, GA)
Sept. 16: Florida State 63, North Carolina 14 (Tallahassee, FL)
Sept. 23: Florida State 31, Louisville 0 (Tallahassee, FL)
Sept. 28: Florida State 59, Maryland 7 (College Park, MD)
Oct. 7: (#7) Miami 27, Florida State 24 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 14: Florida State 63, Duke 14 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 21: Florida State 37, Virginia 3 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 28: Florida State 58, (#20) NC State 14 (Raleigh, NC)
Nov. 4: Florida State 54, Clemson 7 (Tallahassee, FL)
Nov. 11: Florida State 35, Wake Forest 6 (Winston-Salem, NC)
Nov. 18: Florida State 30, (#4) Florida 7 (Tallahassee, FL)
Jan. 3: (#1) Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2 (Orange Bowl)

1. 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


Athlon Sports Ranks the Best Teams in Every BCS League:

The Top 10 Big East Teams of the BCS Era

The Top 10 ACC Teams of the BCS Era

The Top 10 Big Ten Teams of the BCS Era
The Top 10 Pac-12 Teams of the BSC Era
The Top 10 Big 12 Teams of the BCS Era
The Top 10 SEC Teams of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> Who are the best ACC teams of the BCS era?</p>
Post date: Monday, December 12, 2011 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/greatest-bcs-national-championship-performances
Body:

-by Mitch Light (follow at @AthlonMitch) and Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)

With the 14th season of BCS bowl action about to take place, Athlon reviewed the tapes of the four (now five) biggest bowl games in college football. Since 1998, teams have been fighting to land a spot in the BCS and here are the players who made the most of their opportunities.

Here are the Top BCS National Championship Performances (year is the date of the game):

Also receiving votes: Ali Highsmith, LB, LSU (2008), Percy Harvin, WR, Florida (2009), Kellen Winslow, TE, Miami (2003), Javier Arenas, CB, Alabama (2010), Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon (2011), Cam Newton, QB, Auburn (2011), James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State (2008)

15. Maurice Clarett, RB, Ohio State, 2003 (Fiesta Bowl)
The true freshman didn't gash the Hurricanes defense, but he made his touches count. No one touched the ball on either team more than Clarett (23), including two touchdowns. His 5-yard scoring run in double overtime turned out to be the game-winning score. Clarett also played a key roll on "defense" as he forced and recovered a fumble following a Sean Taylor interception in the Miami redzone. (Of course, line judge Terry Porter might also get some votes for this list as well.) The 11.5-point underdog Buckeyes finished the year 14-0.

14. Reggie Bush/LenDale White, RBs, USC, 2006 (Rose Bowl)
Bush holds the BCS title game record for all-purpose yards with 279 in the 2006 Rose Bowl loss to Texas. He carried 13 times for 82 yards and a touchdown, caught six passes for 95 yards and returned five kicks for 102 yards. White's 124 yards are the fourth-best total in title game history and his 18 points (three touchdowns) rank third all-time. Unfortunately, Vince Young played for the other team in Texas' 41-38 win over USC.

13. Matt Leinart, QB, USC, 2006 (Rose Bowl)
If it weren't for Vince Young's heroics, this game by Leinart might have gone down as the best title game passing performance. He threw for a BCS championship game record 365 yards while his 29 completions and 72.5% completion rate would have been title game records if not for Young's numbers in the same game. His touchdown pass to Dwayne Jarrett came with just under seven minutes to play and gave USC a 12-point lead — before Young took his rightful place in history.

12. Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida, 2007 (BCS National Title)
In the dominating 41-14 win over No. 1 Ohio State, Harvey was a force off the edge. He finished with four solo tackles, a BCS championship game record three sacks and a forced fumble. Harvey and company held Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith to four completions, 35 yards and no touchdowns.

11. Peter Warrick, WR, Florida State, 2000 (Sugar Bowl)
The Sugar Bowl MVP caught six passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns to go with 57 punt return yards and another touchdown. He also scored a two-point conversion for a BCS title game record 20 points. His 220 all-purpose yards are fourth all-time in a title game. His specatular catch in the endzone is still one of the most electric plays in BCS title game history.

10. Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn, 2011 (BCS National Title)
Cam Newton was the unquestioned leader for the surprising Auburn Tigers, but true freshman tailback Michael Dyer was the star of the 22–19 win over Oregon in Glendale, Ariz. Dyer rushed carried the ball 22 times for 143 yards, including 57 on the final drive that set up the Tigers’ game-winning field goal. His 143 yards and 22 attempts are third all-time in a BCS title game history.

9. Ken Dorsey, QB, Miami, 2002 (Rose Bowl)
Dorsey led an offensive explosion with 362 yards passing and three touchdowns in Miami’s 37–14 win over Nebraska at the Rose Bowl. The victory capped a perfect 12–0 season for the Hurricanes, who delivered a national title to first-year coach Larry Coker. His 362 yards are third all-time in a BCS national title game.

8. Peerless Price, WR, Tennessee, 1999 (Fiesta Bowl)
Price made the most of his four receptions, totaling 199 yards in Tennessee’s 23–16 win over Florida State in the first-ever BCS National Championship Game. Price set up one UT touchdown with a 76-yard catch and then scored the Vols’ final TD of the game on a 79-yard strike from quarterback Tee Martin in the fourth quarter. His BCS record 199 yards, combined with his 42 punt return yards, were the second highest all-purpose yardage total (242) in BCS championship game history (behind Reggie Bush's 279). His 49.8 yards per catch is still a BCS championship game record as well.

7. Andre Johnson, Miami (Fla.), 2002 (ROSE BOWL)
Johnson hooked up with quarterback Ken Dorsey seven times for 199 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Hurricanes past overmatched Nebraska, 37–14, in the first Rose Bowl that served as the BCS National Championship game. His 199 yards tied Price for the single-game BCS title game record and his 226 all-purpose yards are the third-best total in title game history.

6. Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, RBs, Alabama, 2010 (BCS National Title)
Alabama’s two-headed monster at tailback combined for 215 yards and four touchdowns on 41 carries to lead the Crimson Tide to a 37–21 win over Texas. Ingram, the Heisman Trophy winner, rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns while his understudy, Richardson, added 109 yards and two scores.

5. Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State, 2000 (SUGAR BOWL)
Weinke outdueled Virginia Tech redshirt freshman Michael Vick by passing for 329 yards and four touchdowns as the Seminoles topped the Hokies, 46–29, in the first Sugar Bowl of the new millennium. With the win Florida State completed the first perfect season of Bobby Bowden’s career as a head coach and secured the Noles’ second national championship.

4. Torrance Marshall, LB, Oklahoma, 2001 (ORANGE BOWL)
It was only fitting that a defensive player was named the MVP of the lowest-scoring Orange Bowl in 30 years. Marshall, a senior linebacker, recorded six tackles and intercepted a pass to lead Oklahoma to a 13–2 win over Florida State to secure the first national title for the Sooners since 1985.

3. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida, 2009 (BCS National Title)
Tebow capped off one of the greatest single seasons in college football history with a superb performance on the biggest stage. The junior quarterback threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns and added 109 yards rushing to lead the Gators to a 24–14 win over Oklahoma at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

2. Matt Leinart, QB, USC, 2006 (ORANGE BOWL)
The Trojans staked a claim to their second straight national title with a surprisingly easy 55–19 win over No. 2 Oklahoma. Leinart completed 18-of-35 passes for 332 yards and tossed an Orange Bowl record five touchdowns without throwing an interception. Steve Smith was on the receiving end of three of Leinart’s TDs. Leinart is still the only player in BCS history to throw five touchowns in one game.

 

1. Vince Young, Texas, 2006 (ROSE BOWL)
Young was brilliant in the final game of his career, setting a Rose Bowl record with 467 yards of total offense to lead Texas to a 41–38 victory over favored USC to claim the school’s first national title since 1970. Young completed 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards but is remembered more for his work on the ground. He carried the ball 19 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns, highlighted by a nine-yard run on 4th down to give Texas the lead with 19 seconds remaining. His 20 total points scored (three rushing touchdowns, 2-point conversion), 30 completions and 75% completion rate are both national championship game records.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports ranks the best BCS National Championship performances.</p>
Post date: Friday, December 9, 2011 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/college-football-all-american-team-recruits
Body:

by Braden Gall (follow at @AthlonBraden)

The merits of recruiting rankings are hotly debated in every sports bar and around every water cooler in the nation. But one quick look at the 2011 Athlon Sports All-America team, and it is hard to argue. Not a single member of the 24-man (minus the kicker and punter) squad was a two-star recruit. In fact, 12 of the 24 were four-star recruits, and eight were three-stars with one very late junior college signing. Ten were ranked in the Top 10 nationally at their position, 14 were ranked in the top 10 of their respective states and ten were “national recruits” — meaning they were in the Top 300 nationally regardless of position. Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Sammy Watkins are the three five-star recruits, and with Mark Barron, are the four Athlon Consensus 100 members.

Clearly, the recruiting experts are getting pretty good at their jobs.

2011 Athlon Sports All-America Offense:

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (2008)
The Class 4A state track champion in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles enrolled early at Baylor and never looked back. The Copperas Cove (Texas) product threw for 3,357 yards and 41 touchdowns to go with 2,161 yards rushing and 32 more scores as a prep football star. He was ranked by Rivals.com as the nation’s No. 4 dual-threat quarterback and the Lone Star State’s No. 42 player. He picked Baylor over offers from Nebraska, Tennessee, Houston and Kansas. Undoubtedly, the Texases and Oklahomas of the world wanted him as a wide receiver. He went 3-1 against UT and OU over the last two seasons.

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

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (2009) AC100
The Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia tailback was a known commodity well before he was toting the rock for the Crimson Tide. Richardson was the No. 20-rated player in the nation in the 2009 AC100, the No. 3-rated running back in the nation and the No. 2-rated player in the state of Florida. He ranked behind only D.J. Fluker and Dre Kirkpatrick in Alabama’s No. 3-rated recruiting class. He was Florida’s Class 5A Mr. Football after 2,090 yards and 26 touchdowns as a senior. T-Rich had his pick of any school in the nation and made a splash with his Houndstooth announcement of Alabama over Florida, Florida State and LSU. Imagine what this season would have looked like had landed in Baton Rouge?

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (2008)
Blackmon was a three-star recruit from Ardmore (Okla.) Plainview. He ranked as the No. 91 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 10 player in the state by Rivals.com. His only other offers came from Colorado, Missouri and Northern Iowa. Two Biletnikoff Awards, 244 receptions, 3,378 yards and 37 touchdowns later, and Blackmon has proven he belongs as a two-time All-American.

Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor (2008) National Recruit
The Pittsburg (Texas) native was an all-state football player (at QB), a two-time all-state baseball player and state champion in the long jump and triple jump. He was ranked as the No. 64 “athlete” in the nation and was the No. 81 overall player in the state of Texas — behind Lone Star State ATH recruits Derrick Hall, Adrian Bushell, Lamar Harris, Antoine Hicks and Kellen Theriot by Rivals. Oops. He and RG3 form one of the most successful classes in Baylor history.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson (2008) National Recruit
The Fayetteville (N.C.) Terry Sanford product was the No. 6-rated tight end in the nation by Athlon Sports in 2008. He ranked No. 160 nationally regardless of position and was the No. 5 player in the state of North Carolina. Allen helped Clemson finish with the nation’s No. 9 class and No. 2 in the ACC. He selected the Tigers over Florida State, Georgia and North Carolina.

Peter Konz, OC, Wisconsin (2008)
The No. 2 player in the state of Wisconsin in 2008 was this four-star Neenah, Wis., offensive tackle. He was ranked as the No. 30 tackle in the nation by Rivals and chose the Badgers over Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Duke. Wisconsin has led the Big Ten in scoring three years in a row.

David DeCastro, OG, Stanford (2008)
This mauler was the No. 6-rated player in the state of Washington (Bellvue High School). He was rated as the No. 11 center in the nation by Rivals and picked Stanford over Washington, Oregon State and Washington State.

Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin (2008)
Scout rated this Milwaukee (Wis.) Lutheran blocker as the No. 22 offensive guard in the nation. He was the No. 3-rated player in the state of Wisconsin and picked the Badgers over quality offers like Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue.

Barrett Jones, OT, Alabama (2008) National Recruit
This Memphis (Tenn.) Evangelical Christian stud was the No. 1 prospect in the state of Tennessee (which included Dont’a Hightower), the No. 17 offensive lineman in the nation and the No. 146-rated player nationally regardless of position. He possessed offers from nearly everyone in the southeast but visited only Alabama, Florida and North Carolina. Jones helped Nick Saban sign the nation’s No. 1 class in 2008.

Levy Adcock, OT, Oklahoma State (2007)
Originally hailing from Claremore (Okla.) Sequoyah High School, Adock led his team to the Class 3A state title as a senior. He landed at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Junior College for two years before signing late with Oklahoma State in 2009. He was highly sought after both as a prep athlete and JUCO prospect as his offer sheet indicates: He picked the Pokes over Alabama, Arkansas and Colorado.

Sammy Watkins, AP, Clemson (2011) AC100
Few players ever enter college with more hype than Watkins. He was the No. 24-rated player in the nation regardless of position, was No. 8 in the state of Florida and was the No. 4 wide receiver in the nation. The Ft. Myers (Fla.) South Ft. Myers product needed only one year to prove that the hype was warranted. Watkins, and a few late additions, gave Clemson the No. 9-rated class in the nation last cycle.

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

2011 Athlon Sports All-America Defense:

Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois (2008)
A relatively unknown, the nation’s leading sack master (14.5) hails from Akron (Ohio) Garfield High School. He was ranked as the No. 39 prospect in the state of Ohio and the No. 28 weakside defensive end in the nation by Rivals. He picked Illinois over Michigan State, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Purdue and Akron.

Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina (2007)
Out of Hamlet (N.C.) Richmond County, Ingram was the No. 10-rated player in the Tar Heel State. He was the nation’s No. 21 outside linebacker and had offers from East Carolina, South Carolina, North Carolina and NC State. The star Gamecock entered college at 6-2, 224 pounds but is now listed at 6-2, 276 pounds.

Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State (2008)
Rivals rated the Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne defensive tackle as the No. 53 player at his position in the nation and the No. 30-rated player in the state of Ohio. Worthy only had offers from Michigan State, Nebraska, Cincinnati, Marshall and Ohio.

Devon Still, DT, Penn State (2007)
There are not too many All-Americans from Wilmington (Del.) Howard, but recruitniks knew all about this one. The four-star Still ranked as the No. 10 strongside defensive end in the nation and the No. 1 player in the state. He selected Penn State over Michigan and Ohio State.

Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama (2008) National Recruit
The Eufaula, Ala., native was the No. 7-rated defensive end in the nation but only the No. 9-rated player in the state of Alabama. He was nationally recruited as the No. 111 player in the nation regardless of position and helped Alabama to the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. Upshaw, who picked Alabama over Auburn, Clemson, South Carolina and Georgia, was named the Class 5A Lineman of the Year by the ASWA.

Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College (2009)
This Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier tackler was the No. 44 outside linebacker in the nation and the No. 37 player in Ohio. He had offers from Cincinnati, Duke, Illinois, Louisville, Michigan State, Stanford and Virginia. As a safety, Kuechly posted 277 tackles in his final two seasons — that makes 809 tackles in his last five seasons of football (532 in three years at Boston College).

Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska (2008)
David was the least touted of the big names on the famous 2007 championship Miami (Fla.) Northwestern powerhouse team that included Sean Spence, Marcus Forston, Aldarius Johnson, Tommy Streeter, Brandon Washington, Ben Jones, Jacory Harris and Kendall Thompkins. They signed with Miami and because he was not nearly as highly recruited, David signed with Middle Tennessee State before deciding to enroll at Fort Scott C.C. He signed with the Huskers in the spring of 2010. He was the No. 7-rated JUCO player in the nation and No. 2 JUCO linebacker in the nation by Rivals.com. David has been the best player from that Northwestern team.

Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State (2008) National Recruit
The Wichita Falls (Texas) Rider product enrolled early for the Pokes after being rated the No. 201 player in the nation, the No. 15 safety in the country and the No. 27 player in state of Texas by Rivals.com. He picked the Cowboys over offers from Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas State.

Mark Barron, S, Alabama (2008) AC100
The nation’s No. 1 class was buoyed by the presence of the Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul safety. Barron was the No. 58-rated player in the AC100 and the No. 5 player in the state of Alabama. He was the nation’s No. 6 defensive back behind Patrick Peterson, Brandon Harris, Rahim Moore, BJ Scott and Dee Finley – three of whom are playing in the NFL. He was the nation’s No. 3 safety after being named MVP of the 2007 Class 5A Alabama state title game.

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama (2009) AC100
The Gadsden (Ala.) Gadsden City star was the No. 1 cornerback in the nation back in 2009. He was the No. 1 player in the state of Alabama. And he was the No. 10 player in the AC100. The five-star U.S. Army All-American, along with fellow AC100 stud Richardson, helped bolster an Alabama class that finished No. 3 nationally. Kirkpatrick had his choice of schools and is technically the highest-rated player on Athlon’s 2011 All-America squad.

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU (2008)
Was ranked as the No. 21 player in the state of LA and the No. 58-rated athlete in the nation by Rivals.com. Visited no other schools officially, but his short list included Nebraska, Texas A&M, Tulane, Arkansas State and Louisiana Tech. Three-star player from Shreveport (La.) Fair Park where he played QB. He passed for 1,009 yards and 14 TD while rushing for 1,023 yards and 16 TDs in 2008.

Teaser:
<p> What did the 2011 All-America team look like as high school prospects?</p>
Post date: Friday, December 9, 2011 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/nfl-fantasy-football-start-and-sit-week-14
Body:

-by Braden Gall ( @AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Week 14 Rankings

Start These Quarterbacks:

Philip Rivers, San Diego (Buffalo)
Rivers has had seven games with multiple interceptions, six games with one touchdown or less and no 300-yard games since Week 9. Yet, he is coming off his best showing of the season (22/28, 294 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT) and should be able to chuck around it around against a defense that has allowed 31.4 points per game during its current five-game losing streak.

Rex Grossman, Washington (New England)
Since taking over — for the second time — as the starter, Grossman has been serviceable. He has averaged 260 yards per game and has produced five touchdowns in four games since being inserted back into the lineup. The Pats still rank last in pass defense at 310 yards per game allowed, and Washington should need to throw plenty in this one.

Carson Palmer, Oakland (at Green Bay)
Green Bay ranks 31st in the NFL in pass defense, and while they create turnovers (23 INT), they also give up plenty of fantasy points (22 TDs). Palmer used garbage time to score big points last weekend, and with a receiving corps getting healthier by the day, he should be able to do the same again this weekend.

Bench These Quarterbacks:

Matt Ryan, Atlanta (Carolina)
The Falcons quarterback is coming off his worst performance of the season (50.6 QB rating) and shouldn’t be needed much against the Panthers' matador rushing defense — ranked 27th in the league. Ryan posted a pedestrian 163-1-0 line in the 31-17 win over Carolina earlier because the Falcons ran the ball 35 times. Expect Michael Turner to get all the points this weekend.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore (Indianapolis)
In a convincing 24-10 win over Cleveland last weekend, Flacco was needed for 10 completions, 158 yards and no touchdowns. Baltimore ran 55 times with Ray Rice and Ricky Williams for 290 yards against the 31st-ranked rush defense. The Colts are ranked 30th and have allowed more rushing touchdowns than any team in the league. Flacco won’t be needed at all.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (Houston)
The Texans' revamped defense has been nothing short of amazing in 2011. They are third in the NFL against the pass at 183.4 yards per game and have a nasty 12:17 TD:INT ratio as a team. And Dalton is showing signs of the rookie wall: three touchdowns, three interceptions over his last three with three games of less than 200 yards in his last six. His passer rating has been under 80 in three of his last four as well.

Start These Running Backs:

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo (at San Diego)
The former Clemson dynamo is finally proving to be useful. He has 39 touches in two games as the starter for 172 yards against two quality defenses (NYJ, TEN). He also scored for the first time since Week 1. He should get 12-17 carries and 3-6 receptions and around 100 yards from scrimmage in what could be a high-scoring game.

Toby Gerhart, Minnesota (at Detroit)
If All-Day doesn’t play, Gerhart is your man. The Lions have been missing a few pieces along the defensive line and have struggled against the run — and Gerhart is likely the Vikings' only hope to keep this one close. The former Heisman runner-up had his best career game last weekend: 21 carries, eight receptions and 133 yards from scrimmage.

Deep Sleepers:

Ricky Williams, Baltimore (Indianapolis)
No one has allowed more rushing scores (17) than the Colts, and Baltimore is clearly looking to run their way to a No. 1 seed. The Ravens ran 55 times for 290 yards last weekend and will get both Rice and Williams plenty of touches this weekend.

Brandon Saine, Green Bay (Oakland)
James Starks is likely to be out this weekend, and Saine brings a totally different skill set to the table than Ryan Grant. Saine is an excellent receiver and should get 8-12 touches in garbage time this weekend.

Bench These Running Backs:

Beanie Wells, Arizona (San Francisco)
Just because Patrick Willis is out of the Niners lineup, that doesn’t mean that Wells should be in yours. This is a “Next Man Up” type of team, and the top-rated rush defense will still be nasty this weekend. The 49ers still have yet to allow a rushing touchdown all season and are down to 71.8 yards allowed per game (1st in NFL).

Donald Brown, Indianapolis (at Baltimore)
It only took him three years, but the former first-round pick is finally living up to the hype. I just can’t buy into it this weekend. Baltimore is No. 2 in the league against the run at 88.8 yards per game, and the Ravens will control the clock like they did last week (55 hand-offs).

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (Houston)
The Texans have not allowed a rushing touchdown to a running back since Week 8 and have allowed only two players to top the century mark all season. Benson is what he is: He performs well when he should (Cleveland, Buffalo, Indianapolis) and struggles when he should (Pittsburgh twice, San Francisco). Houston is good.

LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay (at Jacksonville)
Against a terrible rushing defense, Blount dropped arguably the most head-scratching, gut-wrenching fantasy performance of the season on owners last weekend. His 11 total touches and 19 total yards were a massive disappointment. I don’t care who he plays, that performance was unforgivable. And the Jags aren’t all that terrible against the run: 11th at 4.1 yards per carry and 14th in yards allowed (111.6 per game).

Start These Wide Receivers:

Nate Burleson, Detroit (Minnesota)
Quick, which Lions wideout has scored the most fantasy points over the last month? It ain’t Megatron. Burleson is No. 12 in fantasy over the last four weeks with 25 catches, 278 yards and one score. And the Lions should have their way against the Vikes.

Stevie Johnson, Buffalo (at San Diego)
Without Fred Jackson to take 25 touches per game, Johnson has flourished on the fantasy gridiron. In fact, Brad Smith deserves a look this weekend as well. Ryan Fitzpatrick will need to throw to keep pace with the Chargers — who won’t be slowed by a Bills defense that has allowed over 30 points per game during the five-game losing streak.

Michael Crabtree, San Francisco (at Arizona)
Crabs is rated as the No. 16 receiver in fantasy over the last month and has had at least five receptions in five of his last seven games. He is averaging 90 yards per game over his last three and should get plenty of targets against the 25th-rated pass defense.

Damian Williams, Tennessee (New Orleans)
With Nate Washington potentially sitting on the bench, Williams figures to be the top target of Matt Hasselbeck. And the Titans will have to throw to keep up with the high-flying Saints. As the No. 26 fantasy WR over the last month, Williams is already nearing WR2 status as it is.

Lowered Expectations:

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City (at NY Jets)
Revis Island strikes again. And with Kyle Orton still dealing with dislocated digits, it looks like Tyler Palko will still be the one trying to throw the ball for Kansas City. This isn’t a good sign.

Percy Harvin, Minnesota (at Detroit)
This one carries with it a very large “IF.” If Christian Ponder does not play — and it is Joe Webb under center — then downgrade Harvin significantly. He has been crushing defenses lately with Ponder, so ignore this IF the rookie is on the field.

Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis (at Baltimore)
The Ravens have allowed just seven touchdowns to opposing receivers all season, and prior to his big Week 13 showing against the worst secondary in the NFL, Garcon had been coming up short: 9 rec., 86 yards, 0 TD in three games.

Eric Decker, Denver (Chicago)
You cannot ignore the four touchdowns in six games, but you can’t ignore the nine total receptions over the last five games. Tim Tebow isn’t throwing much, and it appears that Demaryius Thomas (and his vastly superior physical ability) has caught the eye of the quarterback when he does throw. Play at your own risk against a stingy Bears defense
 

Teaser:
<p> NFL Fantasy Football Start and Sit: Week 14</p>
Post date: Friday, December 9, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/keith-marshall-commits-georgia-pros-and-cons
Body:

-by Braden Gall (follow him at @AthlonBraden)

The nation's No. 1 running back in the Athlon Consensus 100 has committed to the Georgia Bulldogs.

Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook tailback Keith Marshall has decided to take his talents to Athens over finalists Florida, South Carolina, Clemson and Notre Dame. Mark Richt has landed the 5-foot-11, 180 pounder one year after landing the nation's No. 2 running back Isaiah Crowell — who had an excellent season as a freshman this year.

Marshall is the nation's No. 6 overall player regardless of position and recently jumped Aledo (Texas) running back Jonathan Gray as America's top ball carrier. Three of the six major recruiting services have Marshall ranked in the top ten nationally while Scout.com thinks the most of Marshall as it ranked him as the fifth best prospect in the nation.

How the experts rank him nationally:

Rivals: No. 31 (No. 1 All-Purpose RB)
Scout: No. 5 (No. 1 RB)
ESPN: No. 6, (No. 2 RB)
24/7 Sports: No. 12 (No. 1 RB)
Offense-Defense: No. 8 (No. 2 RB)
NCSA: No. 12 (No. 1 RB)

He has excellent bloodlines and an NFL pedigree as his father, Warren Marshall, was drafted and had a cup of coffee with the Denver Broncos. His father played at James Madison.

As a sophomore, Marshall rushed for 1,166 yards and 12 touchdowns to go with 238 yards receiving and two more scores in 10 games. As a junior, he rushed for 1,550 yards and 17 touchdowns. Marshall is expected to enroll early with the Bulldogs and should compliment Crowell nicely with his big play ability. Aaron Murray has to be pleased with the young talent growing around him.

Marshall is the third AC100, and second top ten prospect in the nation, for the Bulldogs. Georgia also has committed AC100 No. 8 Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles offensive lineman John Theus and AC100 No. 38 Millen (Ga.) Jenkins County defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor.

Here is Athlon's scouting report on Keith Marshall, the nation's No. 1 running back prospect:

PROS: Marshall is a slightly bigger version of former Ole Miss athlete and current Kansas City Cheif Dexter McCluster. He has exceptional burst, acceleration, top end speed and cutting ability. His ability to stop and start is among the best in the nation as he loses very little speed when changing direction. He has great vision and if he finds a crease, he will take it to the house. He can score from anywhere on the field. He uses an unbelievable jump-cut to make defenders look foolish in the open field and rarely takes the big hit squarely. He has quality receiving skills and will be an asset in the passing game.

CONS: Like McCluster, his size and power are questionable. He has a low center of gravity and isn’t afraid to run between the tackles, but he looks smaller than he is listed and questions remain if he can handle the workload of a three-down back. This may only affect him on the NFL level, however, as his speed will be game-changing on the college level.

Teaser:
<p> Keith Marshall Commits to Georgia: Pros and Cons</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 12:17
Path: /college-football/larry-fedora-grading-north-carolina-hire
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

North Carolina has named Larry Fedora its next head football coach. In July of this year, we laid out our thoughts on the situation at UNC and named a few names for who we thought might be solid replacements for Butch Davis

Larry Fedora was not on our list.

Fedora will take over a UNC program that we believe is a sleeping giant of a program. Since 2002, the Tar Heels have had an average recruiting ranking of 22.20 (only Miami and Florida State have had better talent since 2002 in the ACC) and certainly have the name recognition, local talent base, and resources to compete for ACC Championships.

However, when we refer to UNC being a sleeping giant, it's important to remember that someone has to wake them up from their sleeping state. Over the last eleven seasons, the Tar Heels have had five losing seasons, lost at least five games in each and every year, never won their side of the ACC or competed for a conference championship, and have not finished a single season ranked in the AP Top 25. Don't forget that UNC was doing (or not doing) all of this with top 25 talent. So, is Larry Fedora the right man to wake UNC from its slumber? Below is our analysis of the hire:

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Larry Fedora - Hiring Summary


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Positives
  • Fedora is no stranger to putting up impressive offensive numbers. From 2001-Present as both an offensive coordinator and head coach, Larry Fedora's teams have finished the season in the top 25 in scoring offense in seven of his eleven years on the sidline. In his four years at the helm of Southern Miss, Fedora's teams have scored 30 or more points 63.46% of the time. Among active head coaches with three years minimum experience, only eight head coaches have scored 30 or more points a higher percentage of the time.
     
  • As a head coach or coordinator since 2001, Fedora has only been involved in one losing season. Over the last two years, Fedora has won 73.08% of his overall games, 70.59% of his conference games, and a Conference USA Championship.
     
  • Fedora has coached at major programs such as Florida and Oklahoma State and is certainly familiar with what it takes to coach at the highest levels of college football.
     
  • He wears a visor with more style than Chip Kelly.
     
Negatives
  • Although Fedora has only been involved with one losing season since 2001, he has also only been involved with two teams that didn't lose at least five games.
     
  • In the five years prior to taking over the Southern Miss program, the Golden Eagles won nine games twice and 60.94% of their overall games. Even including Fedora's 11-2 2011 season, he has only won 63.46% of his games at Southern Miss. Prior to the 2011 season, most folks would have been closer to putting Larry Fedora on a hot seat than on a pedestal.
     
  • As a head coach, Larry Fedora has been involved in 23 games decided by seven points or less. Coach Fedora has won 39.13% (9) of these games.
     
  • At Southern Miss, Fedora has played 30 of his 49 games with superior talent. Of these 30 games played with superior talent, Fedora has a winning percentage of just 63.33% (19-11). For comparison, from 2004-2007, former Golden Eagles head coach Jeff Bower won 78.57% (11-3) of the games he coached with superior talent. One of the biggest issues UNC has had over the years is not winning enough of the games that they should have won. It appears they may have hired someone with this same problem.
     
  • Coach Fedora has a losing record (6-8) against teams finishing the season over .500.
     
  • Larry Fedoora lost three straight years to a UAB program that has won just 30% of its games over the last five years. In fact, 25% of UAB's win over the last three years have come against Larry Fedora.
     
  • The last time we checked, the Ron Zook coaching tree was shaking off many fruitful branches as far as head coaches go.
     
Unknowns
  • What will Larry Fedora's staff look like at UNC. In Fedora's first two years at Southern Miss, the Golden Eagles went 14-12 and averaged 31.77 points per game. In the last two years with Blake Anderson taking over as the offensive coordinator and assuming a lot of the play calling duties, the Golden Eagles went 19-7 and averaged 37.35 points per game. If we were UNC fans, we would be hoping Coach Anderson is also looking for a house in Chapel Hill.
     
CBTN Conclusion

WYSIATI is an acronym used sometimes by psychologist to refer to an error the human brain makes when making certain decisions. The acronym stands for What You See Is All There Is. The idea behind WYSIATI is simple and is very much in line with what radio host Colin Cowherd refers to as the "Prisoners of the Moment."

Far too often, we simply see what is in front of our face and conclude "that is all there is." For example, Larry Fedora's team went 11-2 this year and won their conference championship. WYSIATI and Larry Fedora should be a candidate for every major head coaching job in college football, right?

Wrong. At least for now.

As we have pointed out in this analysis, sometimes you have to look beyond what is in front of your face to see the bigger picture. Was Larry Fedora's name being thrown around last year for major (or even minor) coaching vacancies? If not, you may want to ask why? We like Larry Fedora and applaud his 2011 season. He might be the next great head coach in college football. However, it is our belief that we should let him have back-to-back good seasons before offering him jobs like North Carolina.

If you are going to talk about Fedora's great 2011 season, you also have to talk about the three years prior to 2011 when Fedora underachieved as a head coach or his losing record against over .500 teams or his 1-3 record against UAB or his underwhelming winning percentage with superior talent.

Some folks may be asking how we could not think Larry Fedora should get the head coaching at a school like UNC but that an unproven offensive coordinator like Gus Malzahn should? Our answer is simple: we like the unproven head coaching upside of Gus Malzahn better than the proven reality of Larry Fedora's head coaching career.

From our standpoint, Larry Fedora has shown that he can score points. However, he has also shown an ability to underachieve as both a coordinator and head coach and lose far too many games he has no business losing. New UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cummingham is taking the risk that what he saw in Fedora in 2011 is all there is. In the end, he may be rewarded for taking this risk. For us, the numbers simply weren't there when we looked at the bigger picture to warrant Larry Fedora landing one of the better jobs in the ACC.


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Hire Grade

#444444;">C+

Teaser:
<p> Larry Fedora: Grading the North Carolina Hire</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 11:33
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/robert-griffin-iii-win-heisman-over-andrew-luck
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Each week, the Athlon editors vote on the most prestigious award in all of college football. In Athlon Sports' final Heisman ballot of 2011, the nine-man conglomerate of college football gurus will vote for the five finalists — even if we do disagree with some of the names headed to New York.

Note: A first place vote earns a player five points. A second place votes earns four points - so on and so forth until the fifth place vote receives one point.

Three of the five finalists received at least two first-place votes, futher illustrating just how close this year's balloting could turn out. Stanford's Andrew Luck is college football's most talented player and will be selected No. 1 overall by any NFL front office lucky enough to pick first. Alabama's Trent Richardson is the nation's most talented running back for what could be considered the nation's best team. Baylor's Robert Griffin III is the nation's most valuable player and has taken the Bears to levels they have not reached in three decades. Wisconsin's Montee Ball is producing at an unprecedented level on the Big Ten championship squad. And LSU's Tyrann Mathieu made flashy plays all season long for the BCS' No. 1 team.

So without further ado, Athlon Sports' 2011 Heisman Trophy winner is...

1. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (39/45, 5 first place)
Stats: 267/369, 3,998 yards, 36 TD, 6 INT, 161 att., 644 yards, 9 TD

The Case: Griffin III is the most important, most indispensible player in all of college football. Baylor will play in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1991-1992 and has won nine games for the first time since 1986 . Griffin's 16 combined wins are the most in a two-year span for Baylor since '85-86. RG3 finished the regular season as the nation's most efficient passer at 192.31 with a chance to set the single-season NCAA efficiency mark (186.00). He was No. 2 in total offense (386.8 ypg) behind only Case Keenum. Baylor has beaten Texas twice since 1998 — both times under the leadership of Griffin III. The school's first-ever win over Oklahoma took place three weeks ago. Additionally, the first wins over TCU and Texas Tech since 1995 took place this season, and two of the program's four wins over Missouri have come under RG3 the last two years. Griffin III posted nine 300-yard passing games and threw an interception only once every 62 pass attempts. At 22.7 points per game, Griffin III led the nation in points responsible for in 2011. The Baylor quarterback landed five of the possible nine first place votes from Athlon.

2. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (36/45, 2 first place)
Stats: 261/373, 3,170 yards, 35 TD, 9 INT, 43 att., 153 yards, 2 TD

The Case: Luck is best amateur football player on the planet. The NFL scouts will be sure to confirm that when he is selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. His overall blend of size, athleticism, accuracy, football IQ and work ethic makes him the most gifted athlete in the college game today. He has won 23 of his last 25 games and finished 2011 as the nation's No. 5-rated passer (167.5). Luck's 35 touchdown passes were fourth nationally, and his 18.8 points responsible for were sixth-best nationally. And he did it with very little talent on the outside of the offense — no Stanford Cardinal ranked in the top-15 in the Pac-12 in receptions per game, and only Griff Whalen (55.3 ypg) ranked in the top 15 in receiving yards in the league.

3. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (28/45, 2 first place)
Stats: 263 att., 1,583 yards, 20 TD, 27 rec., 327 yards, 3 TD

The Case: Richardson was the offensive catalyst for what many believe could be the best team in the nation. He led the SEC in rushing yards and yards per game (131.9) — which was good for fifth nationally. His 20 rushing touchdowns mark the first time an SEC running back has ever reached 20 in a single season, and he appeared to be the best player on the field in the 9-6 overtime loss to LSU (28 touches, 169 yards from scrimmage). T-Rich had nine 100-yard games and likely would have won this award had his team beaten the Tigers on November 5 — and had the extra game to play on the final weekend.

4. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (22/45, 0 first place)
Stats: 275 att., 1,759 yards, 32 TD, 20 rec., 255 yards, 6 TD, 2/2, 57 yards, TD

The Case: The argument for Ball is very simple: He was statistically the nation's best player on the Big Ten championship team. He led the nation in scoring with 38 touchdowns (and one TD pass) and led the nation in rushing. He posted nine 100-yard games, and his 38 trips to paydirt rank No. 2 all-time for a single season behind only Barry Sanders' 39 (which is really 44, counting the bowl game). He even completed both of his pass attempts. The Badgers ball carrier scored at least three touchdowns in eight games this season and was the only running back (No. 7) ranked in the top 30 nationally in points responsible for — the other 29 were quarterbacks. In 297 touches, Ball fumbled only once — which was recovered by Wisconsin.

5. Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU (10/45, 0 first place)
Stats: 70 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2 INT, 1.5 sacks, 6 FF, 4 FR, 2 DEF TD, 26 PR, 420 yards, 2 TD

The Case: By far the biggest reach on this list, the Honey Badger's trip to New York is more a function of his high-profile position as a return man (and nickname), plus the fact that he plays for the nation's top-rated team. He scored four touchdowns without touching the ball on offense and was involved in 10 different fumbles. As a return man, he finished No. 2 in the nation in punt returns at 16.2 yards per return. He was not nearly the game-changer people believe, however, as his two punt return touchdowns came in 24- and 32-point victories while his touchdown against Kentucky was a small part of the 28-point win. He was suspended for the Auburn game (a 45-10 win) and might not be the best cornerback on his own team — which is why he was picked last of the five finalists by eight of our nine voters. He is an electric athlete who makes big plays, but it would shock the nation if he won this award.

How the voting turned out:

  Name Pos. Team Pts (of 45) 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
1. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 39 5 2 2 - -
2. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 36 2 5 2 - -
3. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 28 2 1 2 4 -
4. Montee Ball RB Wisconsin 22 - 1 3 4 1
5. Tyrann Mathieu DB LSU 10 - - - 1 8

Names who got left out:

Matt Barkley, QB, USC (10-2)
Stats: 308/446, 3,528 yards, 39 TD, 7 INT, 28 att., 14 yards, 2 TD

Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (11-2)
Stats: 206/284, 2,879 yards, 31 TD, 3 INT, 73 att., 320 yards, 5 TD, 3 rec., 56 yards, TD

Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (11-1)
Stats: 379/522, 4,328 yards, 34 TD, 12 INT, 15 att., minus-95 yards

Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (11-1)
Stats: 300/405, 3,507 yards, 41 TD, 7 INT, 19 att., minus-65 yards

LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (11-2)
Stats: 222 car., 1,646 yards, 17 TD, 17 rec., 210 yards, 1 TD, 12 PR, 135 yards, TD

Case Keenum, QB, Houston (12-1)
Stats: 383/534, 5,099 yards, 45 TD, 5 INT, 50 att., 25 yards, 3 TD

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State (10-2)
Stats: 145/251, 1,745 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT, 293 att., 1,099 yards, 26 TD

Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (10-2)
Stats: 133/237, 2,056 yards, 18 TD, 14 INT, 208 att., 1,163 yards, 16 TD

Bobby Rainey, RB,  Western Kentucky (7-5)
Stats: 369 car., 1,695 yards, 13 TD, 36 rec., 361 yards, 4 TD

Previous Voting:

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Championship Saturday

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 13

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 12

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 11

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 10

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 9
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 8

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 7

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 6

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 5

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 4

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 3

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 2

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 1

Teaser:
<p> The Athlon editors cast their final ballots for the 2011 Heisman Trophy.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/greatest-sugar-bowl-performances-bcs-era
Body:

-by Mitch Light (follow at @AthlonMitch)

With the 14th season of BCS bowl action about to take place, Athlon reviewed the tapes of the four (now five) biggest bowl games in college football. Since 1998, teams have been fighting to land a spot in the BCS and here are the players who made the most of their opportunities.

Here are the Top Sugar Bowl Performances of the BCS Era:

5. Brian Johnson, QB, Utah, 2009
In one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Sugar Bowl, Utah rolled past Alabama, 31–17, with surprising ease. Johnson, a senior quarterback, completed 27-of-41 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns as the Utes completed a season with a perfect record for the second time in five years. Utah finished 2008 with an undefeated 13-0 record.



4. Steve Slaton, RB, West Virginia, 2006
West Virginia, from the lightly regarded Big East, surprised favored Georgia with its speed as the Mountaineers outlasted the Bulldogs, 38–35, in Sugar Bowl that was moved to Atlanta in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Slaton, WVU’s diminutive tailback, led the way with 201 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 26 carries. The Mountaineers finished 11-1 after the win.



Or his second touchdown run...

3. Josh Reed, WR, LSU, 2002
Reed set Sugar Bowl records with 14 receptions and 239 yards receiving to lead LSU past Illinois, 47–34, in the highest-scoring Sugar Bowl in history. Reed also added two touchdown catches from quarterback Rohan Davey, who set a Sugar Bowl record with 444 passing yards. LSU, the SEC Champions, finished the season 10-3.

2. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida, 2010
Tebow was nearly flawless in his final game in a Florida uniform. The dual-threat quarterback completed 31-of-35 passes for 482 yards and added 51 yards rushing and another score in the Gators’ 51–24 victory over Big East champ Cincinnati. “They couldn't stop Superman,” Gators guard Carl Johnson said. “They needed some kryptonite.” After losing the SEC title game to Alabama, Florida uncorked its venegnce upon the poor Bearcats to finish the season 13-1.


1. Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State, 2000
Weinke outdueled Virginia Tech redshirt freshman Michael Vick by passing for 329 yards and four touchdowns as the Seminoles topped the Hokies, 46–29, in the first Sugar Bowl of the new millennium. With the win, Florida State completed the first perfect season of Bobby Bowden’s career as a head coach and secured the Noles’ second national championship.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports ranks the best Sugar Bowl performances of the BCS Era.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/greatest-orange-bowl-performances-bcs-era
Body:

-by Mitch Light (follow at @AthlonMitch)

With the 14th season of BCS bowl action about to take place, Athlon reviewed the tapes of the four (now five) biggest bowl games in college football. Since 1998, teams have been fighting to land a spot in the BCS and here are the players who made the most of their opportunities.

Here are the Top Orange Bowl Performances of the BCS Era:

5. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford, 2011
Quarterback Andrew Luck earned game MVP honors, but Fleener was unstoppable from his tight end position, catching six passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns as the Cardinal steamrolled Virginia Tech, 40–12. Fleener scored on plays of 41 yards, 58 yards and 38 yards as Stanford imposed its will on the Hokies in the final 20 minutes of the game.

4. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa, 2009
Clayborn was sensational for an Iowa defense that shut down Georgia Tech’s feared option attack in the Hawkeyes’ 24–14 win. Clayborn recorded 11 tackles, including two sacks, as Iowa held the Yellow Jackets to a season-low 175 yards, almost 270 below their season average.

3. Tom Brady, QB, Michigan, 2000
Michigan outdueled Alabama, 35–34 in overtime, in a matchup between two of the most storied programs in college football. Tom Brady led the Michigan attack with an Orange Bowl record 369 yards passing and added a career-best four touchdowns in his final game in Maize & Blue. The Wolverines overcame two 14-point deficits on their way to the first overtime win in school history.

2. Torrance Marshall, LB, Oklahoma, 2001
It was only fitting that a defensive player was named the MVP of the lowest-scoring Orange Bowl in 30 years. Marshall, a senior linebacker, recorded six tackles and intercepted a pass to lead Oklahoma to a 13–2 win over Florida State to secure the first national title for the Sooners since 1985.

1. Matt Leinart, QB, USC, 2005
The Trojans staked a claim to their second straight national title with a surprisingly easy 55–19 win over No. 2 Oklahoma. Leinart completed 18-of-35 passes for 332 yards and tossed an Orange Bowl record five touchdowns without throwing an interception. Steve Smith was on the receiving end of three of Leinart’s TDs.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports ranks the best Orange Bowl performances of the BCS Era.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 07:02
Path: /college-football/greatest-rose-bowl-performances-bcs-era
Body:

-by Mitch Light (follow at @AthlonMitch)

With the 14th season of BCS bowl action about to take place, Athlon reviewed the tapes of the four (now five) biggest bowl games in college football. Since 1998, teams have been fighting to land a spot in the BCS and here are the players who made the most of their opportunities.

Here are the Top Rose Bowl Performances of the BCS Era:

5. Mark Sanchez, USC, 2009
Sanchez and the USC offense dominated Penn State, jumping out to an insurmountable 31–7 lead at the half en route to a 38–24 victory. Sanchez, in his final game with the Trojans, completed 28-of-35 passes for 413 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added a six-yard touchdown run in USC’s 24-point second quarter.

4. Andre Johnson, Miami (Fla.), 2002
Johnson hooked up with quarterback Ken Dorsey seven times for 199 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Hurricanes past overmatched Nebraska, 37–14, in the first Rose Bowl that served as the BCS National Championship game.

3. Ron Dayne, Wisconsin, 1999/2000
Dayne and the Badgers played in back-to-back Rose Bowls to start the BCS and won both because of the former Heisman Trophy winner. Dayne rushed for a BCS bowl record 246 yards and four touchdowns in the 38-31 win over UCLA. Both records still stand today. A year later, Dayne rushed for 200 yards on a BCS bowl record 34 carries in the 17-9 win over Stanford. Dayne owns two of the four 200-yard BCS bowl rushing efforts in the 14-year history of the series (Steve Slaton, 204 yards, 2006 Sugar/Vince Young, 200 yards, 2006 Rose).

Here is another one from the Dayne Train:

2. Vince Young, Texas, 2005
Young burst onto the national scene with a breathtaking performance in Texas’ thrilling 38–37 win over Michigan on a perfect day at the Rose Bowl. A sophomore at the time, Young threw for 180 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 192 yards and four scores, including two in the fourth quarter as the Longhorns battled back from a 10-point deficit.

1. Vince Young, Texas, 2006
Young was brilliant in the final game of his career, setting a Rose Bowl record with 467 yards of total offense to lead Texas to a 41–38 victory over favored USC to claim the school’s first national title since 1970. Young completed 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards but is remembered more for his work on the ground. He carried the ball 19 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns, highlighted by a nine-yard run on 4th down to give Texas the lead with 19 seconds remaining.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports ranks the best Rose Bowl performances of the BCS Era.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-weird-awards
Body:

-by Braden Gall (follow on twitter @AthlonBraden)

Athlon Sports recognizes some of the best, worst, most unfortunate, bizarre and confusing teams, players and statistics of the 2011 season:

The Boy Named Sue Award: Collin Klein, Kansas State

"Son, this world is rough. And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough." Klein personifies this legendary Johnny Cash song. Kansas State hadn't won more than seven games since 2003, but behind Klein's bloody, gritty performances, the Wildcats are playing in the Cotton Bowl and have 10 wins. Klein finished third in the nation in scoring at 13.0 points per game — and just so everyone knows, passing touchdowns don't count towards scoring. His 26 rushing touchdowns are the second-highest total by a quarterback in history (Ricky Dobbs, 27). If it were not "For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye," Kansas State would have been just another 6-6 mediocre bowl team.

The 5th Down Trophy: USC Trojans

The Missouri Tigers got arguably the worst screw job in NCAA history, and it led to a national title for the Colorado Buffaloes. The Trojans lost to Stanford by one score in triple overtime and beat Oregon in Eugene, but never got a chance to prove that they were the best team in the league. This is possibly the best passing attack in the history of USC football. The Trojans led the nation in fewest sacks allowed with eight total surrendered all season. Matt Barkley's 39 passing touchdowns are a single-season school record, and Robert Woods' 111 receptions are not only a school record but a Pac-12 single-season record. The NCAA penalized the Trojans hard, but should have allowed for postseason play in 2011. The west coast's version of the rematch should have taken place over the weekend — in Los Angeles this time — and maybe the Trojans would be facing Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

The “Sacko” Master: Pitt Panthers

Named for the last-place finisher in FX’s fantastically disgusting series “The League,” where the Sacko trophy was awarded to Dr. Andre Nowzik for finishing last in his fantasy league. College football's version of The Sacko has only one home: the Pitt Panthers. Todd Graham knows how to score points but apparently doesn’t know how to keep his quarterback upright. At 4.75 sacks allowed per game, the Panthers were nearly one full sack allowed per game worse than the 119th-ranked team (Miami, Ohio at 3.92). Pitt was sacked 57 times in 12 games for a nation-worst 368 lost yards.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda Award: Oklahoma State and Wisconsin

We have a split in the voting for this one. Had Oklahoma State not turned the ball over five times in a primetime overtime road loss to 6-6 Iowa State (following the tragic plane crash), the Pokes would be playing for a national title. The Cowboys finshed the season ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring at 49.3 points per game and 386.3 yards per game in passing. They beat eight bowl teams this fall.

Wisconsin led the Big Ten in scoring for the third straight season, and Russell Wilson is poised to have the most efficient season in NCAA history (191.6) if he can play another quality game in the Rose Bowl. Montee Ball has scored 38 touchdowns and is one away from another NCAA single-season record. His 1,759 yards lead the nation. However, the records, second straight Big Ten title and Rose Bowl might not help Badger faithful forget about two last-minute scoring throws that beat UW against Michigan State and Ohio State. Without those two passes, the Badgers are likely playing in the BCS national title game.

The Choking Tiger, Hidden Dabo Trophy: Clemson Tigers

First of all, the Clemson Tigers deserve all the credit for beating Virginia Tech in what was their best perfomance in over a month. However, the Tigers started 8-0, and had they not Clemson-ed their way to a 1-3 regular-season finish, might also be playing in the national title game. The Tigers were ranked No. 1 in ACC in total offense (482.5 ypg) and scoring offense (40.7 ppg) and were No. 12 nationally in turnover margin and No. 2 in the ACC (+1.13) after eight games. In four games to end the season, Clemson committed 12 turnovers in four games (1-3), were outscored 130-74 and lost by an average of 19.7 point per game to three teams that combined for 11 losses. Getting run off the field by in-state rival South Carolina, giving the Cocks three straight wins over Clemson, certainly left a bitter taste. The Tigers finished last in the ACC against the run, eighth in total defense and ninth in scoring defense. The same Clemson team that stomped a very good Hokie team 38-10 should not have been embarrassed by NC State, Georgia Tech or South Carolina. 

The Silver Slugger: Ohio State, Arizona, Washington State

There are plenty of quality jobs open in college football this year, but I am not sure anyone at Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Arizona State, UCLA, North Carolina or Illinois could hit a home run like Ohio State, Arizona and Washington State have done. These three programs hired three head coaches who have a combined career record of 263 wins and 114 losses to go with 14 bowl wins. Mike Leach (84-43) and Rich Rodriguez (75-48) will easily recruit the speedy, talented skill players needed to fuel their high-octane spread attacks. With Chip Kelly, Lane Kiffin, Jeff Tedford and Steve Sarkisian already calling plays in the league, west coast defensive coordinators are in for plenty of sleepless nights.

Urban Meyer (104-23) and Ohio State, who ironically will be facing the Florida Gators in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, will return basically the entire defense and quarterback Braxton Miller. The Ohio State Buckeyes are the very early favorites to win the 2012 Leaders Division title. Needless to say, these three athletic departments hit massive, towering home run shots with their new head coaches.

The Little Engine That Could: Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky

The Hilltoppers started the season 0-4. It was going to be just another season in the FBS's newest team's eternal struggles. Yet, behind the running of the 5-foot-8 Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky has had its best season since it joined the FBS. The Toppers finished 7-1 in conference play with the one loss coming against Sun Belt champion Arkansas State. Rainey's 1,695 yards are No. 2 nationally behind Ball's 1,759, and he's posted his second straight 1,600-yard season. Western got snubbed in the bowl process and won't be playing in the postseason, but Willie Taggart deserves loads of credit for a 7-5 season. In two full seasons and one transitional year prior to 2011, WKU was an overall 4-32.

The Halftime Speech Award: Texas A&M Aggies

The Texas A&M Aggies had high preseason expectations and were expected to challenge the Oklahoma schools for a Big 12 title. And at halftime, TAMU was poised to win every game it played. Mike Sherman, who is no longer employed by the university, led his team to an average halftime lead of 14.6 points per game. The Aggies had at least a nine-point lead in 10 of 12 games and trailed only once all season at halftime (Oklahoma by 3). But Sherman's bunch allowed an average of 18.2 points per game after the break and were outscored 218-173 in the second half. Texas A&M lost to Oklahoma State, Missouri and Texas at home, Oklahoma and Kansas State on the road and Arkansas in Arlington. And now it appears the entire athletic department could be looking for work.

Mailed It In Medal: Mack Brown, Texas

In an effort to make drastic changes, Brown hired new coordinators Manny Diaz and Bryan Harsin. It didn't work. According to recruiting rankings, the Texas Longhorns have arguably the best collection of talent in the league. Here are the last four years of Texas' recruiting rankings:

2008: 2nd Big 12, 11th nationally
2009: 1st Big 12, 5th nationally
2010: 1st Big 12, 3rd nationally
2011: 1st Big 12, 2nd nationally

Texas is 12-12 over the last two seasons with the "best" roster in the Big 12. Last season, the Horns finished 88th in the nation in scoring, 66th in the nation in rushing, 116th in turnover margin and 58th in total offense. This year, the Horns finished 90th in turnover margin, 85th in passing offense, 88th in passer efficiency and eighth in the league in scoring. There is no lack of talent in the rest of the conference, and quarterback issues have clearly taken a toll on Burnt Orange nation. However, there is absolutely no excuse for the Longhorns to have 12 wins in two years with that roster. And the blame has to go directly to the top.

Deflated Balloon Prize: Texas Tech Red Raiders

The Texas Tech Red Raiders beat Oklahoma 41-38 on October 22 and were 5-2 on the season. Since that road win over the No. 1 Sooners, Texas Tech has lost five straight games by a combined 256-102, an average of 30.8 points per game. Tech finished 120th in the nation in rushing defense at 258.8 yards per game allowed, 115th in total defense, 117th in scoring defense and 101st in sacks. Clearly, Tommy Tuberville allowed the air to escape from the balloon following the signature win over Oklahoma.

Worst Team in the Nation: New Mexico Lobos

The NCAA officially tracks 17 major football statistics for all 120 teams in the nation. New Mexico, who finished 1-11 and fired head coach Mike Locksley, is ranked 100 or worse in 13 of those 17 stats. The Lobos finished last in the nation in scoring offense at 12 points per game and last in pass efficiency defense. They finished 119th in rushing defense at 246.9 yards per game, 119th in scoring defense at 41.7 points per game and 119th in punt returns at 1.33 yards per return. New Mexico lost by an average of 33 points per game (486-123) in their 11 losses. They were shut out three times and scored seven points or less in six games. Good luck, Bob Davie.

The Holiday Spirit Award: Akron Zips

Akron struggled under Rob Ianello. There is no doubt. So after a second straight 1-11 season and a winless league record, it is understandable that Akron athletic director Tom Wistrcill would be looking to make a move. However, he could have had some class about it. Akron informed Ianello that he would no longer be the head coach of the Zips while he was en route to his mother's funeral. His mother, Rita, passed away on a Tuesday, and the family was traveling to eastern New York for the funeral when Ianello received word that he was fired the following Saturday. There is never a good time to hand out pink slips, but it could have been in a more appropriate manner. You stay classy, Akron.

The Hand That Fed You Trophy: Air Force Falcons

The Air Force Falcons finished No. 2 in the nation in rushing at 320.3 yards per game. However, Troy Calhoun's bunch clearly didn't learn much in practice about stopping the run. The Falcons finished 113th in the nation in rushing defense at 227.8 yards allowed per game. The seven wins are the lowest total of the Calhoun era, as the Falcons surrendered 266 yards rushing to Notre Dame, 212 to Wyoming, 204 to TCU, 201 to San Diego State and 142 to Boise State — all losses.

Take the Over: Baylor Bears

Robert Griffin III could be the Heisman winner and the nation's most efficient passer (192.31), but he didn't get any help from his defense. Baylor was No. 6 in the nation in scoring at 43.5 points per game on offense. However, the 9-3 Bears were 109th in scoring defense at 35.7 points allowed per game. In their three losses (Kansas State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State), Baylor allowed 50 points per game.

Against the Spread Trophy: Houston, Stanford, Western Kentucky, Louisiana Tech

These four teams led the nation against the spread in 2011 with a 10-2 record against the mark. Central Michigan finished with the worst record against the number at 1-11 this fall.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports recognizes some of the best, worst, most unfortunate, bizarre and confusing teams, players and statistics of the 2011 season.</p>
Post date: Monday, December 5, 2011 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-championship-saturday
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

The college football season is basically over. With the possible exception of The Bedlam Series, there is very little on the line this weekend. Six of the eleven conferences have concluded play and have only a champion to crown. The national title game is basically set, despite the LSU-Georgia battle in The Dome. And my 2011 "gambling" season has come to an end. My holiday weekend got started right with a tasty 3-0 Black Friday, but I wrapped up my final weekend with a 3-4 Saturday afternoon.

I picked 133 games against the spread this season and finished 26 games up. So if you laid $100 — for entertainment purposes only, of course — on every game I picked you would have made roughly $2,600 for the season (minus the juice). But just because I cannot leave you hanging with a pseudo-week of action still taking place, I will go ahead and pick the conference championship games. Consider it an early Xmas present.

Final 2011 Season Record ATS: 78-52-3 (6-4 last week)

Bonus Championship Picks:

UCLA (+31.5) at Oregon (Eugene, Friday, 8 PM ET)
Poor Slick Rick. The UCLA Bruins are currently looking for a new head coach after a 50-0 loss to rival USC. Oregon beat the Bruins 60-13 the last time they visited Eugene in 2010, and this edition shouldn't be much different. My Pick: Oregon -31.5

Ohio (+3.5) vs Northern Illinois (Detroit, Friday, 7 PM ET)
The Bobcats have won five straight games and the Huskies have won seven straight, so both teams are confident entering Ford Field. Chandler Harnish leads one of the nation's most dynamic offensive attacks — ranking in the top ten nationally in rushing and total offense. Ohio ranks near the bottom of the MAC in nearly every offensive category. My Pick: Northern Illinois -3.5

Southern Miss (+13) at Houston (Saturday, 12 PM ET)
Houston boasts the best record in the nation against the spread this season at 10-2. With a cover, they would post the best mark ATS of anyone (since the other 10-2 teams are done playing). The Cougars are rolling, are at home and have a trip to the BCS on the line. My Pick: Houston -13

LSU (-14) vs Georgia (Atlanta, Saturday, 4 PM ET)
The Georgia Bulldogs have won ten straight games and are playing for their BCS bowl lives. LSU is playing for...nothing? It is believed that even with a loss to UGA, the LSU Tigers are locked into the BCS title game. I will take LSU to win, but there is no way they aren't looking ahead with nothing really to play for. My Pick: Georgia +14

Virginia Tech (-7) vs Clemson (Charlotte, Saturday, 8 PM ET)
Clemson handled the Hokies when these two got together earlier this season in Blacksburg. The Tigers have been manhandled by Georgia Tech, NC State and South Carolina since. The Hokies simply continue to be one of the nation's best second half teams and have not lost an ACC game in the state of North Carolina in 14 tries. My Pick: Virginia Tech -7

Oklahoma (+3) at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 8 PM ET)
The Cowboys have a very small outside shot at landing in the BCS national title game with a convincing win. A BCS bowl is on the line for both, but there is more at stake for little brother. The emotion of the night, the home crowd and some extra motivation give the Pokes their first win over big brother since 2002. My Pick: Oklahoma State -3

Michigan State (+9.5) vs Wisconsin (Indianapolis, Saturday, 8:15 PM ET)
The MSU-UW rivarly has been elevated in recent years as both programs have been competing for conference titles of late. And with the Michigan State Miracle earlier this season, fans can bet the Badgers will be ready. However, as a big underdog, Mark Dantonio will have his Spartans ready for battle. Wisconsin is the best team in the league and should win, but Sparty will keep it very close (if not pull the upset). My Pick: Michigan State +9.5

2011 Top Teams ATS:

Houston (10-2)
Louisiana Tech (10-2)
Stanford (10-2)
Western Kentucky (10-2)
Arkansas State (9-2)*
Kansas State (9-2)*
LSU  (9-3)
Vanderbilt (9-3)
Georgia (8-3-1)
USC (8-3-1)
Oklahoma State (8-3)*
Alabama (8-4)
UL Lafaytette (8-4)
Michigan (8-4)
Michigan State (8-4)
Rutgers (8-4)
Temple (8-4)
Western Michigan (8-4)

2011 Bottom Teams ATS:

Central Michigan (1-11)
Maryland (2-10)
Texas A&M (3-9)
Mississippi (3-9)
Colorado State (3-8)*
Florida Atlantic (3-8)*
Middle Tennessee (3-8)*
Troy (3-8)*
Syracuse (3-8)*
Akron (3-8-1)
Penn State (3-8-1)
Hawaii (3-8-1)
Colorado (4-9)
Auburn (4-8)
Florida (4-8)
SMU (4-8)
Virginia Tech (4-8)

* - one regular season game left to play

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.</p>
Post date: Friday, December 2, 2011 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/nfl-fantasy-football-start-and-sit-week-13
Body:

-by Braden Gall ( @AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Week 13 Rankings

Start These Quarterbacks:

Eli Manning, NY Giants (Green Bay)
The NFL’s second-worst pass defense has allowed six 300-yard efforts and seven multiple-touchdown games. And with the ability the Packers have to score points, Manning should have plenty of chances to chuck it around.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (Cincinnati)
The ground game should struggle again this weekend for the Steelers, and Big Ben will be the fantasy beneficiary. This offense has been built around the pass this season, and the big-play threats at wide receiver have been very productive.

Matt Moore, Miami (Oakland)
The Raiders have allowed at least two touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks in four straight games. Moore has played well since being inserted into the lineup, throwing seven touchdowns (including two 3-TD games) over his last four starts. He is coming off a season-high 288 yards and should be able to produce against the struggling Raiders pass defense.

Bench These Quarterbacks:

Matt Ryan, Atlanta (at Houston)
The Falcons passer has been one of fantasy’s top scorers over the last month and half. But against the stingy Texans, that will change. Only twice this season has a quarterback thrown for either more than one TD or 200 yards against the Texans' revamped defense. Wade Phillips is right at home managing half of a football team.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore (at Cleveland)
This one may look out of place with his track record against the Browns; however, the Ravens passer has been a fantasy lump of coal for most of the year, with one multi-TD game since Week 3. The passing game should be largely irrelevant in this one. Ray Rice should get plenty of touches against a Browns defense that hasn’t stopped the run of late.

Carson Palmer, Oakland (at Miami)
Tony Romo’s two scores aside, the Dolphins have been playing excellent football against opposing quarterbacks this month (2 TD, 6 INT in the last four games). And Palmer’s receiving corps looks to be depleted this weekend as Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford both could be out. He'll churn out some yards, but expect scoring to be at a premium.

Start These Running Backs:

Chris Johnson, Tennessee (at Buffalo)
CJ2K got his third-heaviest workload of the season last weekend and did not disappoint. Against the Bucs, Johnson had his best rushing performance of the season with 190 yards on 23 carries. The Bills are 28th in the NFL in rushing touchdowns allowed with 12 and are 21st in the league in rush defense (123.8). The Bills are also allowing 33.5 points per game during their current four-game skid and surrendered 138 yards on 6.0 per carry last week to the Jets.

LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay (Carolina)
No team has allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Panthers' 15 thus far in 2011. They rank 28th in the NFL against the run at 137.5 yards per game, and Blount is playing the best football of his season. He has two straight 100-yard games and even got involved with the passing game last week against the Titans. Expect the Bucs to turn to the burly tailback once again this week.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, New England (Indianapolis)
Just when you had given up on the Lawfirm, he does something like score two touchdowns. Only six running backs have more than his seven rushing touchdowns this season, and the Colts should not be able to slow anyone on the Pats offense. Indy ranks 31st in the league against the run at 150.6 yards per game, and no one has allowed more rushing touchdowns than their 15.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego (at Jacksonvile)
When the Chargers give One-T Mathews the ball, he produces. He had a big outing last week against an improved Broncos team (142 yards from scrimmage), and the inconsistency of the passing game makes him a much more appealing option for Norv Turner.

Bench These Running Backs:

Steven Jackson, St. Louis (at San Francisco)
The story is pretty clear at this point. The 49ers still have not allowed a rushing touchdown this season and are leading the NFL in rushing defense at 75.5 yards per game. They held Ray Rice to 59 yards on 21 carries in last week’s loss to Baltimore (9.8 TFP in Athlon’s scoring system). I told you to bench Rice last week, and I have to do the same for Jackson, who has averaged 77.5 yards and 3.6 per carry against the Niners in 13 career games (5 TDs) again this week.

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (at Pittsburgh)
The Steelers boast a top-five rush defense, and they held Benson to a 57-yard performance three weeks ago. In seven career games against Pittsburgh, the former Longhorn has averaged 45.0 yards per game, 3.4 yards per carry and has scored twice. The Curtain is fifth in the NFL with only six rushing touchdowns allowed this season, and I cannot see that trend changing this weekend.

Reshard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh (Cincinnati)
Yes, he scored twice against the Bengals defense three weeks ago, but don’t expect a repeat. He carried 16 times for 44 yards — a paltry 2.8 ypc clip — in that game. And frankly, he just isn’t getting the ball as much as expected, with only one game of more than 20 carries for the entire season (23, Week 6). And the Bengals are sixth in the NFL against the run at 92.7 yards per game.

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo (Tennessee)
The electric tailback got his first big chance at stardom last week and posted an uninspiring 70 yards from scrimmage on 22 touches against the Jets. The Titans are third in the NFL with five rushing touchdowns allowed, and this seems like a game that will be played through the air for the Bills.

Start These Wide Receivers:

Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis (New England)
The Colts should have to throw early and often. And they will get to do so against the worst pass defense in the league. And with Dan Orlovsky under center, Wayne has a chance. His 5-122-1 line last week was his best of the season. Look for more this weekend.

Eric Decker, Denver (at Minnesota)
The Vikings are just not the same without Antoine Winfield – one of the most underrated corners in NFL history. Despite the Mile High Messiah’s inability to complete the forward pass, Decker has still scored in four of five games. Get him in there.

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (Cincinnati)
The Steelers have been leaning much more on the passing game this season, and that trend should continue this weekend against a stingy rush defense. Without Leon Hall, the Bengals secondary has struggled to stop big-play wideouts, and Brown is getting tons of targets (46 in five games).

Nate Washington/Damian Williams, Tennessee (at Buffalo)
I had both Plaxico and Santonio on this list last week, and both reached paydirt against the Bills. The same could be the case for Matt Hasselbeck’s improving duo.

Lowered Expectations:

Percy Harvin, Minnesota (Denver)
The Broncos defense has done a complete 180 since the start of the season. They will be chasing Christian Ponder all game long, and Champ Bailey is back playing Champ-ionship football. Harvin and the rest of the Vikings will struggle.

Anquan Boldin, Baltimore (at Cleveland)
Joe Haden should be checking all day, and that does not bode well for the Ravens receiver. Additionally, the passing game should not be needed much in this one.

Stevie Johnson, Buffalo (Tennessee)
David Nelson gets the redzone looks, and Cortland Finnegan will be in his jersey all game long. Johnson cost his team a chance at the win last week, and one has to wonder if he is back in good graces yet — especially considering the offense’s struggles this month.

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City (at Chicago)
Kyle Orton took a lot of reps with the first team this week, and I reserve the right to upgrade the stud wideout should the Neckbeard start. But if Tyler Palko is under center, Bowe’s value is much lower against a team that will be pressuring whoever is playing quarterback. Oh, and he hasn’t scored in seven games.

Teaser:
<p> NFL Fantasy Football Start and Sit: Week 13</p>
Post date: Friday, December 2, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/dorial-green-beckham-nations-best-player
Body:

-by Braden Gall (follow him @AthlonBraden)

Athlon Sports 2012 recruiting ranking, the Athlon Consensus 100, was re-released today.

And there is no change at the top of the truest and most accurate Top 100 list in the nation. Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham remains the No. 1 player in the nation. He received two first-place votes (Rivals, NCSA), two second-place votes (Scout, 247Sports), a third (ESPN) and a fourth (Offense-Defense). While not all the experts agree he is the top player, one look at the numbers makes it is easy to see why the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder is Athlon’s No. 1 prospect once again.

Related: Recruiting Rankings Update: The Nation's Biggest Risers and Fallers

After all, Green-Beckham is the nation’s all-time leading prep wide receiver.

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 behind Booty (302), Washington’s Cody Bruns (310) and Nitro’s (W.V.) Christopher Fulmer (329). His 75 career touchdowns rank third all-time in American high school football history behind Booty (83) and Prosser’s (Wash.) Kirby Moore (95).

Almost as remarkable as his statistics has been his recruitment process.

Green-Beckham has let his father and head coach do most of his talking throughout the process and has been playing his entire recruitment extremely close to the vest. The tight-lipped star has let little slip and has instead focused on his team’s successes. He is not only a gridiron monster but also stars on the basketball court as well as the Track and Field team.

He officially visited Texas on November 18 and is scheduled to take an official visit to Oklahoma on December 16. It is widely thought that Arkansas and Missouri will also figure prominently in his decision. If he does not land in Austin, it is reported that the distance from home will be the only reason. The offenses at both Oklahoma and Arkansas have to be appealing to his skills, and the move to the SEC might give the Tigers a slight bump — as could their recent history of elite pass-catchers.

The 2010 Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year is a freakish blend of size, speed, hands, toughness and explosiveness. It is why Megatron comparisons are tossed around so liberally. With three months left in his recruitment, the only thing more exciting than a deep pass to DGB will be his announcement ceremony — which should take place sometime near (or on) National Signing Day 2012 (Feb. 1).

Until then, we are all left to ogle the No. 1 prospect's outrageous statistics:

Year Rec. Yards YPC TD
2008 37 801 21.6 13
2009 66 1,616 24.5 23
2010 78 1,703 21.8 15
2011 119 2,233 18.8 24
Total 300 6,353 21.2 75

Recruiting Rankings Update: The Nation's Biggest Risers and Fallers

Teaser:
<p> After the Athlon Consensus 100 was revamped, Green-Beckham still stands above the rest.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 13:01
Path: /college-football/recruiting-rankings-update-risers-and-fallers
Body:

-by Braden Gall (follow at @AthlonBraden)

The Athlon Consensus 100 is a recruiting ranking used to portray the truest and most accurate list of the top 100 senior football prospects in the nation. Athlon Sports uses six expert compilations to create what is the most complete Top 100 list anywhere in the scouting arena.

Since the debut of the 2012 AC100, each of the four major recruiting services has revamped the rankings. With the 2011 prep football season in the rearview mirror, talent evaluators and scouts around the nation have reconvened and re-ranked every prospect in the country.

And Athlon Sports has adjusted the AC100 accordingly:

Dorial Green-Beckham is still No. 1

The Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wide receiver was the No. 1 player when the AC100 debuted months ago, and he has maintained his stronghold atop the rankings throughout the process thus far.

In fact, not only did the top slot remain stable with Green-Beckham, but the top five is also exactly the same. Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook running back Keith Marshall moved from No. 9 to No. 6 and became the nation’s No. 1 running back in the process. He is now one slot ahead of Aledo’s Jonathan Gray. Hueytown (Ala.) quarterback Jameis Winston moved from No. 12 to No. 10, knocking Olney (Md.) Good Counsel athlete Stefon Diggs outside of the nation’s top ten. Winston, who is committed to Florida State, is still the nation’s No. 1 quarterback prospect.

The Nation’s Biggest Risers

The biggest mover in the AC100 ranks came from Miami (Fla.) Norland running back Randy “Duke” Johnson. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound dynamo went from outside of the top 100 to No. 49 in the AC100. Despite his diminutive frame, Johnson is the complete package. He plays an elite level of competition, he has led his team on a deep playoff run and he has the big-play ability to score anytime he touches the ball. His speed and explosiveness are among the nation’s best, and now as the nation’s No. 7-rated running back, he is ranked as such. The Duke is committed to Miami.

Auburn commitment TJ Yeldon jumped 29 spots from No. 90 to No. 61 after all four major recruiting services bumped him up in the rankings. The Daphne (Ala.) running back made the biggest move in the 247Sports rankings from outside the top 100 to No. 26. Rivals has always thought more highly of Yeldon than anyone else as he is now a five-star at No. 24.

Future Ohio State Buckeye Adolphus Washington leapt 24 spots in the rankings from No. 47 to No. 23. The Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft defensive end is now ranked as the No. 4 end in the country. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound D-lineman was the Class IV state defensive player of the year as a junior and has very few weaknesses. Scout appears to have nailed this evaluation from the get-go as he has been the No. 18 prospect in their ranks from the start. Rivals, ESPN and 247Sports have each moved the pass rusher into the Top 75.

This is a deep class for running backs as Marshall, Johnson and Yeldon have all risen through the ranks, but Cape Coral (Fla.) Island Coast runner Mario Pender also made a big jump from No. 55 to No. 35. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Florida State verbal made large jumps in the Scout 300 (from No. 85 to 44) and the 247Sports Top 247 (from No. 110 to 32). The compact runner has one of the best power-to-speed ratios in the entire class and is now the country’s No. 4 running back.

Two-way star Cyrus Jones jumped from No. 82 to No. 63 after Rivals and Scout pushed the Baltimore (Md.) Gilman athlete from outside the top 150 to No. 106 and No. 105, respectively. ESPN thinks the most of Jones as they have the 5-foot-10, 180-pound prospect ranked at No. 33. Alabama, Auburn and Virginia Tech appear to be the wide receiver/defensive back’s finalists.

Arlington (Texas) Martin defensive end Devonte Fields (No. 95) and Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) SM Catholic offensive tackle Max Tuerk (No. 98) are two new faces in the AC100. Fields is committed to TCU, while Tuerk is headed to USC.

The Nation’s Biggest Fallers

The biggest faller within the AC100 is Centerville (Ohio) defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo, who dropped 28 spots to No. 68 from No. 40. Interestingly enough, Scout and ESPN did not move the undersized 6-foot-3, 215-pound edge rusher at all. Yet, 247Sports and Rivals saw something they didn’t like and dropped him precipitously to No. 109 (from No. 61) and No. 148 (from No. 49), respectively. Cal, USC, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford and Northwestern are Odenigbo’s finalists.

Future Texas A&M quarterback Matt Davis was dropped in the rankings by all four major services, and it resulted in a 23-spot drop from No. 65 to No. 88 in the AC100. Rivals and Scout have always been higher on the 6-foot-2, 210-pound dual-threat gunslinger, but both moved the Houston (Texas) Klein passer down. He is now ranked outside of the Top 100 by three of the four major services.

A player who has seen his stock slowly fall all year long has been Fort Mitchell (Ky.) Dixie Heights quarterback Zeke Pike. The Auburn Tigers pledge was dropped from No. 104 to No. 145 by Rivals and from No. 98 to outside the Top 247 by 247Sports. ESPN has never had Pike ranked in its ESPNU 150, and it appears they did the best job of evaluating the 6-foot-5, 220-pound pocket passer. As a result, Pike fell 19 spots from No. 63 to No. 82 in the AC100.

Pompano Beach (Fla.) Blanche Ely star wide receiver Avery Johnson fell 17 spots from No. 50 to No. 67. The LSU Tigers’ verbal commitment has been dropped out of the top 150 by both Scout and 247Sports while Rivals downgraded him slightly. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound pass catcher is the younger brother of Patrick Peterson – who had his own interesting recruitment process.

Additionally, Boynton Beach (Fla.) lineman Jessamen Dunker fell 15 spots, Hogansville (Ga.) Callaway tight end Ricky Parks dropped 14 slots and Morton (Miss.) nose tackle Quay Evans was downgraded 13 slots. De La Salle quarterback Bart Houston (No. 95), Jim Kelly’s nephew Chad Kelly (No. 98) and Greensboro (N.C.) blocker Brock Stadnik (No. 99) all fell out of the AC100.

Teaser:
<p> The Athlon Consensus 100 has been updated. Who are the nation's biggest risers and fallers?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 13:00
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/athlon-sports-heisman-voting-championship-saturday
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Each week, the Athlon editors vote on the most prestigious award in all of college football. A nine-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports will vote for their top 10 Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the result will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every Wednesday of the regular season.

Note: A first place vote earns a player 10 points. A second place votes earns nine points - so on and so forth until the 10th place vote receives one point.

Today marks the 14th time the Athlon Sports editors have voted on the 2011 Heisman Trophy and for the first time all season, Stanford's Andrew Luck is not atop the ballot. After 13 straight weeks with Luck finishing first, Alabama's Trent Richardson has taken over the top slot in the voting. Luck received three first-place votes and four second-place votes while T-Rich landed the other six first place marks and one second.

In a year that has had more legitimate candidates than can ever be remembered, it is only appropriate that the best player in the nation can throw four touchdowns in a relatively easy win over Notre Dame and fall out of the top slot. But that is what has happened.

Baylor's Robert Griffin III is still hanging around while Wisconsin's Montee Ball and USC's Matt Barkley continue to post record-setting numbers on two-loss teams.

1. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (85/90 total points, 6/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 263 att., 1,583 yards, 20 TD, 27 rec., 327 yards, 3 TD

Richardson waited until the right time to make his move to the top of the charts. A 27-carry, 203-yard performance in the 42-14 Iron Bowl win over Auburn pushed T-Rich to the top of the Heisman heap heading into Championship Saturday. He is the most physically talented running back in the nation and the only SEC running back in history to rush for 20 touchdowns. He also is the lead offensive weapon for what many think is the best team in the nation. Will it hurt him that he won't be playing again like many of the other finalists — e.g., Montee Ball, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Case Keenum — this weekend?

  Name Pos. Team Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 85 6 1 2 - - 9
2. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 80 3 4 1 - 1 9
3. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 75 - 4 4 1 - 9
4. Montee Ball RB Wisconsin 53 - - - 2 4 9
5. Matt Barkley QB USC 51 - - 1 3 2 9
6. Case Keenum QB Houston 48 - - - 3 2 9
7. Kellen Moore QB Boise State 31 - - - - - 9
8. Russell Wilson QB Wisconsin 30 - - 1 - - 8
9. Brandon Weeden QB Oklahoma St 13 - - - - - 6
10. LaMichael James RB Oregon 9 - - - - - 4
11. Denard Robinson QB Michigan 6 - - - - - 3
12. David Wilson RB Virginia Tech 5 - - - - - 3
14. Collin Klein QB Kansas St 4 - - - - - 1
15. Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma St 2 - - - - - 1
16. Bobby Rainey RB Western Kentucky 2 - - - - - 1
17. Brad Wing P LSU 1 - - - - - 1

2. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (80)
Season Stats: 261/373, 3,170 yards, 35 TD, 9 INT, 43 att., 153 yards, 2 TD

Luck finished his career at Stanford with a solid 28-14 win over Notre Dame and second straight BCS Bowl berth. He completed 20-of-30 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns. He has led his team to a 23-2 record over the last tw seasons, but his inability to beat Oregon (0-2) over the last two seasons might have cost him not only the Heisman but the National Championship as well. Strangely enough, this weekend marked the fifth game in a row in which he threw an interception.

3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (75)
Season Stats: 252/347, 3,678 yards, 34 TD, 5 INT, 149 att., 612 yards, 7 TD

Griffin III rolled right late in the second quarter and as he was going down, took a major shot to the head. He was clearly knocked stiff. RG3 still mustered 106 yards passing on 7-of-11 passing, 62 yards rushing and three total touchdowns before being knocked from the 66-42 win over Texas Tech. You can do the math on how big the numbers could have been had RG3 been able to finish the game. Back-up Nick Florence threw for 151 yards, rushed for 14 yards and scored three touchdowns of his own. Combine those numbers with Griffin's and he is likely atop the Heisman voting instead of Richardson. He needs a huge game and a win over the Texas Longhorns this weekend. That said, the dynamic passer has taken Baylor to levels of success it has not reached in decades: It has reached its highest single-season win total since 1991, and with one more win will have 16 in two years, its highest total since 1985-86. Next Game: Texas

4. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (53)
Season Stats: 248 att., 1,622 yards, 29 TD, 17 rec., 248 yards, 5 TD, 1/1, 25 yards, TD

With the Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl on the line, Ball was handed the ball 25 times, and he delivered once again. The stellar runner rushed for 156 yards and four more touchdowns in the 45-7 division-clinching win over Penn State. Ball is now second all-time in NCAA history with 34 touchdowns this year — 11 more than Richardson's 23. He is five short of the NCAA record (39) with two games to play, is leading the nation in scoring (17.0 ppg) and is second in the nation in rushing (1,622). A big performance in the Big Ten title game could get Ball a much-deserved trip to New York. Next Game: Michigan State (Indianapolis)

5. Matt Barkley, QB, USC (51)
Season Stats: 308/446, 3,528 yards, 39 TD, 7 INT, 28 att., 14 yards, 2 TD

It was a record-setting Saturday for Mr. Barkley. He completed a school-record 35 passes and tied his own record with six touchdown passes in the 50-0 win over the rival UCLA Bruins. He finished with 423 yards. His 39 scoring strikes this season broke Matt Leinart's single-season school record of 38. Barkley also helped wideout Robert Woods break the Pac-12 single-season receiving record held by Keyshawn Johnson (102 catches). Woods finished with 111 receptions for 1,292 yards.

6. Case Keenum, QB, Houston (48)
Season Stats: 342/467, 4,726 yards, 43 TD, 3 INT, 44 att., 43 yards, 3 TD

Keenum did all he could possibly do in the 2011 regular season. He shattered every major career passing record in NCAA history, and with the 48-16 win over Tulsa, finished the regular season unblemished at 12-0. A win over Southern Miss in the C-USA title game would likely earn Houston a BCS bowl bid. Keenum finished the day 33-of-46 for 457 yards and five touchdowns. He leads the NCAA in total offense at 397.4 yards per game and is the No. 3 most efficient passer at 187.34. Next Game: Southern Miss

7. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (31)
Season Stats: 272/372, 3,194 yards, 38 TD, 7 INT, 18 att., minus-57 yards

It was just another day at the office for Moore. The Broncos topped Wyoming 36-14 behind Moore's 24-of-36, 279-yard, 3-TD performance. Moore, like Keenum, passed Graham Harrell's career TD mark (134) this weekend and now has 137 career scoring strikes. A couple of missed kicks cost Moore a shot at a Heisman and National Title two years in a row. Next Game: Wyoming

8. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (30)
Season Stats: 189/231, 2,692 yards, 29 TD, 3 INT, 66 att., 325 yards, 5 TD, 1 rec., 25 yards, TD

Wilson completed 19-of-29 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns in the 45-7 Leaders Division win over Penn State. Wilson now has a touchdown pass in 36 straight games, which ties Harrell's NCAA record. He has a touchdown pass in 45 of his last 46 games and 45 of his 48 career games. He is the nation's leader in passer rating at 192.9 — which would be a single-season NCAA record (Colt Brennan, 186.0). He already owns most Wisconsin single-season passing records and could become only the fourth QB in Big Ten history to reach 30 passing touchdowns in a season. He has thrown an interception in only two games this season. Next Game: Michigan State (Indianapolis)

9. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (13)
Season Stats: 355/486, 4,111 yards, 34 TD, 12 INT, 15 att., minus-95 yards

Weeden and the Pokes had a bye week in an effort to prepare for Oklahoma and the Bedlam Series. If the Cowboys can defeat the Sooners handily and Weeden plays a great game, he could sneak back into the Heisman mix — and will have an oustide shot at the BCS national title game. Next Game: Oklahoma

10. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (9)
Season Stats: 173 car., 1,285 yards, 13 TD, 14 rec., 180 yards, 1 TD

James and the Ducks clinched what should be their third straight Pac-12 title with the 49-21 win over rival Oregon State in the Civil War. James rushed 24 times for 142 yards and scored once. His 142.7 yards per game leads the nation in per game average. With a win over UCLA in the Pac-12 title game, James and Oregon will reach a third straight BCS Bowl. Next Game: UCLA

Previous Voting:

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 13

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 12

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 11

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 10

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 9
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 8

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 7

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 6

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 5

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 4

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 3

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 2

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 1

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Heisman Voting: Championship Saturday</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-ten-9
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 13 Big Ten Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings. And two Big Ten teams came in at #1 of our Top 25 College Football Rivalries.

1. Michigan State (10-2, 7-1) – Finally, the Spartans can look ahead to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. After handling the Northwestern Wildcats 31-17 for their 10th win of the season, Michigan State sets its sights on the Big Ten's version of "The Rematch." The Spartans and Badgers were clearly the top two teams in the conference this season as the two played the best game of the season back on October 22. The Kirk Cousins' game-winning Hail Mary toss to Keith Nichol was arguably the biggest scoring strike of his school-record 62 career touchdown passes. Sparty carries the Big Ten's No. 1 rushing defense, No. 1 total defense and the league's best pass rush (No. 1 at 3.08 sacks per game) into Lucas Oil Field Saturday night against what is probably the nation's top offensive line. The winner goes to the Rose Bowl to face Oregon, while the loser could fall past Michigan and Nebraska to the Outback Bowl.

2. Wisconsin (10-2, 6-2) –  The Badgers were the most impressive team in the Big Ten conference this season, and after a  45-7 win over Penn State on Saturday, will have a chance to prove it in its rematch with Michigan State. The nation's leading passer, leading scorer and leading punt returner will enter the Oil Drum in Indy with revenge on the mind — and they could be tough to stop. Wisconsin running back Montee Ball leads the nation in scoring (17.0 ppg) and is second in the nation in rushing (1,622 yards). His 34 touchdowns trail only Barry Sanders' 39 on the all-time NCAA list and part of the reason UW lost to Michigan State in October was due to his absence (Ball missed most of the second and third quarters). The 220 yards rushing posted by the Badgers in East Lansing was the season-high allowed by the Big Ten's top rush defense. The win gave the Badgers their fifth 10-win season in seven years.

3. Michigan (10-2, 6-2) – The monkey is officially off the Maize and Blue backs. In the best rivalry game in college football, Michigan and Ohio State played one of the most exciting football games of the year. The Wolverines topped the Buckeyes 40-34 in a game that featured six lead changes and the two most athletic quarterbacks in the nation. Denard Robinson and Braxton Miller offered fans a potential glimpse of the 2012 Big Ten title game by combining for 672 yards of total offense, eight total touchdowns and only one turnover. The win for Brady Hoke likely landed Michigan an at-large BCS bowl bid and its first triumph over rival OSU in eight years. Most importantly, however, is that the Wolverines finished No. 2 in the Big Ten in rush defense (129.1 ypg) and ninth nationlly in scoring defense (17.2 ppg). It is one of the more remarkable defensive turnaronds in recent memory. The Sugar Bowl against an unbeaten Houston Cougars team appears to be the most likely holiday destination for Michigan.

4. Nebraska (9-3, 5-3) – A new rivarly was born when Nebraska toppled Iowa 20-7 in the final game of the regular season on Friday. The Huskers ran for 222 yards on 61 carries — Rex Burkhead getting a school-record 38 of those attempts and 160 of those yards — and held the ball for 37:47 minutes of possession. Meanwhile, the defense held Marcus Coker under 100 yards for only the second time in seven games. Burkhead ended his first season as the starter second in the Big Ten in rushing attempts (261) and third in yards (1,268). Nebraska finishes its first Big Ten season above .500 and will visit Florida this bowl season. It should land in either the Cap One or Outback Bowl, with the smart money on Orlando and the Cap One Bowl.

5. Penn State (9-3, 6-2) – The Nittany Lions have had a nightmarish last couple of weeks and it ended with a 45-7 thumping at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers. With a chance to win the Big Ten Leaders Division, Penn State showed just how far it has left to climb to reach the championship plateau. Penn State was outgained 450 to 233, completed just 11 of its 25 passes, went 4-15 on third and fourth down conversions, turned the ball over four times (to UW's one) and kept the football for a mere 21:43 minutes of possession. The loss drops PSU in the bowl pecking order, and with the radioactivity emanating from Happy Valley, a bowl selection commitees might be hesitant to tab the Lions. Look for the Nits to fall no lower than the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas — and for the coaching search to reach a rolling boil very shortly.

6. Ohio State (6-6, 3-5) – Did any Buckeyes fan really notice the football game in Ann Arbor this weekend? Fans are already pointing to what could be a special 2012 team as its new head coach Urban Meyer was officially presented to Scarlet and Gray nation on Monday afternoon. With Braxton Miller and a host of talented defenders returning, Ohio State is your likely preseason pick to win the Leaders Division in 2012. Miller finished the final five games of the season with 452 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground to match his developing passing game (450 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT over his last three games). The 6-6 record was the first non-winning season for OSU since 1999 and it appears the Buckeyes are headed for the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl.

7. Iowa (7-5, 4-4) – With the 20-7 loss to Nebraska last weekend, the Hawkeyes ended the 2011 campaign with three losses in five games. Despite having the league's No. 2 rusher in Marcus Coker, the Hawkeyes finished 11th in the Big Ten in rushing offense. There are plenty of bright spots, however, as Marvin McNutt led the Big Ten in receiving (105.8 yards per game) and set school receiving touchdown records for a career and season. Additionally, James Vandenberg established himself as a playmaker for 2012. The seven win season again proves the dependability, yet mediocrity, of Kirk Ferentz' tenure at Iowa. It was the sixth time in seven years in which the Hawkeyes finished the regular season between six and eight wins and between four and six losses. Iowa looks to be headed to the Insight Bowl.

8. Northwestern (6-6, 3-5) – The Wildcats were no match for the focused Spartans as they lost 31-17 in the regular season finale. But Pat Fitzgerald's team will be bowling — likely the TicketCity Bowl — for the fourth time in his six-year tenure as head coach. In fact, Fitzgerald owns four of the school's ten total postseason apperances. Look for the Big Ten's top-rated passing offense to take full advantage of whichever Big 12 defense it faces in the TicketCity Bowl.

10. Purdue (6-6, 4-4) – With the 33-25 win over Indiana, the Boilermakers became the 10th Big Ten to earn bowl eligibility in 2011. By winning the Old Oaken Bucket over its in-state rival, Purdue should be playing in the postseason for the first time since 2007. The Little Ceasrs Pizza Bowl on December 27 looks like the right fit — especially considering how unattrative Illinois looks at the moment (see below). The question still reamins: Did Danny Hope do enough to keep his job?

9. Illinois (6-6, 2-6) – One of the most epic collapes in NCAA history came to fruition when Illinois went into Minneapolis and laid one of the largest, smelliest Big Ten eggs in history. In an effort to avoid a six-game losing streak, the not-so-Fighting Illini mustered a pathetic 160 yards of total offense, convereted on 2-of-15 third downs, rushed for 2.6 yards per carry and waited until they were down 27-0 before scoring any points against Minnesota. It turns out, the 27-7 loss to the Gophers was the final straw for Illinois, who handed Ron Zook his walking papers shortly thereafter. After the 6-0 start, the Illini are still bowl eligible, but won't be very attractive to any bowl committee after the terrible showing this weekend, no head coach and a six-game losing streak.

11. Minnesota (3-9, 2-6) – Ron Zook doesn't deserve all of the credit for the atrocious showing of the Illini in the 27-7 loss to Minnesota this weekend. Jerry Kill and the Gophers get plenty of kudos for showing up with nothing to play for and controling the game from the get-go. Quarterback MarQueis Gray topped the 160 yard mark rushing for the second straight weekend and the third time this season as he carried 27 times for 167 yards and two scores to lead Minnesota. The Gophers won two of its last five games and showed marked improvement over the course of the season. Could things finally be looking up in the Twin Cities?

12. Indiana (1-11, 0-8) – Indiana lost the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket 33-25 to in-state rival Purdue. The Hoosiers are one of five teams in the nation who failed to win a conference game this season. Yet, if there is any silver lining, it is the development of the running game over the second half. Indiana averaged 118.8 yards rushing per game in the first six games. It posted an average of 203.2 yards per game on the ground over the second half. On defense, however, IU finished last in the Big Ten in rushing, passing efficiency, scoring and total defense. Kevin Wilson has his work cut out for him this offseason.

Also Read:
The 25 Greatest College Football Rivalries

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Big Ten stack up after the 13th week of action?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-gets-recruiting-bump-urban-meyer
Body:

-by Braden Gall (follow him on twitter @AthlonBraden)

Urban Meyer is a proven commodity on the sidelines. His immaculate coaching record speaks for itself.

He is 104-23 overall and 7-1 in bowl games. He was MAC Coach of the Year his first season at Bowling Green (2001). He was Mountain West Coach of the Year in both of his two seasons at Utah – to go with two MWC championships and a BCS Bowl berth. And in six years in the SEC, Meyer's players won two BCS National Championships and one Heisman Trophy.

That’s a serious resume to be handing out at every checkpoint along the Ohio State recruiting trail. Sitting in living rooms all over the Midwest and Northeast, the new Buckeyes coach will bring with him as much clout as any head coach in the nation. More importantly, the Urban Meyer name rings across the fertile Southern recruiting grounds with volume and clarity.

“This is absolutely a home run hire for Ohio State,” 247Sports.com national recruiting analyst Barton Simmons told Athlon Sports. “I can’t imagine a better fit from a recruiting standpoint than Urban Meyer. He’s got name recognition nationally and a system that athletes love to play in.”

Simmons continued: “Ohio State has landed some great players out of the state of Florida, and that pipeline will only continue to grow under Meyer. He also has Ohio ties and understands the importance of building a wall around what is arguably the fourth-most talented state in the country.”

Meyer was a force on the recruiting trail with the budget and power of the mighty Florida Gators athletic department. His full classes at Florida (2006-2010) were the envy of nearly every program in the nation and included the 2007 and 2010 recruiting national championships — aka ranked as the No. 1 class in the nation by Athlon Sports. The Gators claimed the best class in the SEC three times in five years under Meyer.

Over the five-year span, Meyer signed 120 total players, 43 Athlon Consensus 100 prospects, 92 players from southern states and 70 from the state of Florida. To top it all off, he never lost his touch in the northeast, landing 13 players from the area including names like Joe Haden, Aaron Hernandez, Dominique Easley, Jordan Reed, Jelani Jenkins and Sharrif Floyd.

Here is a quick breakdown of his five full Florida classes:

2010: 28 total signees, 13 AC100
National Rank: No. 1, SEC Rank: No. 1

2009: 16 total signees, 5 AC100
National Rank: No. 9, SEC Rank: No. 4

2008: 22 total signees, 7 AC100
National Rank: No. 8, SEC Rank: No. 3

2007: 27 total signees, 12 AC100
National Rank: No. 1, SEC Rank: No. 1

2006: 27 total signees, 6 AC100
National Rank: No. 2, SEC Rank: No. 1

Ohio State has never had a problem attracting elite level talent, and the Buckeye brand has never been a tough sell for any coach who has worked on the banks of the Olentangy. But the brand image had taken a hit recently amidst tattoo-email cover-up scandals and booster payroll smudging. Anything and everything will become fodder for opposing coaches when it comes to recruiting, so a national title-winning head coach being forced to resign was easy pickings for rival Big Ten coaching staffs.

“Schools like Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska were able to come into the Buckeye State and pull players that Ohio State coveted,” BuckeyeGrove.com’s Kevin Noon told Athlon Sports. BuckeyeGrove.com is the officially licensed Rivals.com website covering Ohio State football recruiting.

“But when landing Urban Meyer seemed like more than a possibility, players began to show more interest,” Noon went on. “Before Meyer was hired it appeared that the Buckeyes were done with their 2012 recruiting effort with only a handful of kids left on the board. Now, with the new hire, all bets are off and Ohio State could clean up by flipping a few in-state kids and moving on some out-of-state talent.”

The impact of Meyer on OSU recruiting has already been felt. Athlon Consensus 100 defensive end Adolphus Washington even mentioned Meyer specifically in his announcement speech last Tuesday. Ohio State had 16 total commitments when it officially revealed that Urban Meyer would be the next head coach in the Horseshoe. With two hard months of recruiting left, Bucks fans can bet on The Ohio State University pulling a few upsets and luring a big name or two to Columbus en route to National Signing Day 2012.

Unfortunately for the rest of the Big Ten, it’s merely a warning shot across the bow as every recruiting coordinator in the league should be bracing for Meyer’s impact in 2013.

More Urban Meyer, Ohio State content:

Urban Meyer Will Win Big
by Mitch Light


Follow Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden), Barton Simmons (@BartonSimmons) and Kevin Noon (@Kevin_Noon) on twitter

Teaser:
<p> What sort of impact will new head coach Urban Meyer have on Ohio State recruiting efforts?</p>
Post date: Monday, November 28, 2011 - 16:14
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-pac-12-8
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 13 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Oregon (10-2, 8-1) – With the dominating 49-21 win over rival Oregon State in the Civil War, the Oregon Ducks clinched the Pac-12 North. With a win over the 6-6 Bruins on Saturday, the Ducks will win their third straight conference championship and play in their third straight BCS bowl. Oregon finished No. 1 in the league in rushing (291.0 ypg), No. 1 in total offense (510.6 ypg) and No. 1 in scoring offense (45.9 ppg). The Ducks also claim the nation's leading rusher in per game average with LaMichael James' 142.7 ypg and the conference's top return man in DeAnthony Thomas (27.7 ypr). Oregon has won three straight over UCLA including a 60-13 victory in Eugene last season. In his three years as head coach, Chip Kelly is 32-6 overall and 24-3 in conference play. 

2. Stanford (11-1, 8-1) – Heisman hopeful Andrew Luck tossed four touchdown passes in what was likely a BCS bowl-clinching 28-14 win over Notre Dame. Luck, who is the Pac-12's most efficient passer (167.5), is 23-2 over his last two seasons and will see his legacy defined as much by his inability to beat Oregon as his 9,083 yards and 87 total touchdowns. Had Luck managed to beat Oregon in either of the last two seasons, Stanford would likely have played for a national championship. Stanford led the Pac-12 in rushing defense (90.3 ypg) and total defense (331.4 ypg). The 23 wins mark the most in a two-year period and represent the first back-to-back 10-win seasons in program history. A match-up with the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State winner in the Fiesta Bowl is the most likely scenario for Luck's final game at Stanford.

3. USC (10-2, 7-2) – Any team in the nation want to play the USC Trojans in a playoff game? I seriously doubt it. The Men of Troy and Matt Barkley pounded rival UCLA 50-0 in the season finale for USC. It was the Trojans' 11th win in 12 games against UCLA and gave the school their eighth 10-win season in 10 years (counting 2005). Barkley played in what could be his final game for Southern California, completing 35-of-42 passes for 423 yards and six touchdowns. Since the overtime loss to Stanford, the USC quarterback has thrown 17 touchdowns, only two interceptions and averaged 309.5 yards per game while winning all four games. The Trojans are clearly the best team in the Pac-12 South, and it is unfortunate for the players and fans that the NCAA did not lift the postseason bans.

4. Washington (7-5, 5-4) – Despite some second-half struggles, the Huskies ended the 2011 regular season on a high note with a 38-21 win over rival Washington State in the Apple Cup. Keith Price bounced back admirably with a 21-of-29, 291-yard, 3-TD performance in the win. The sophomore gunslinger battled through inconsistency and some injuries in his first year as the starter to finish with 29 touchdowns and 2,625 yards through the air. The win gave Washington its first winning regular season since 2002, and with a bowl win, the Huskies would have their first eight-win season since 2001. Washington appears to be headed for the Alamo Bowl to battle with either Kansas State or the loser of the Bedlam game. The Alamo Bowl could also select Cal, pushing Washington to the Holiday Bowl.

5. California (7-5, 4-5) – Cal may have saved Jeff Tedord's job by beating Arizona State 47-38 on Friday. The Golden Bears rushed for 247 yards and four touchdowns on 40 carries. The win assures Tedford of his ninth winning season in 10 years on the job in Berkeley. Cal led the league in pass defense and tackles for a loss this season, and breakout wide receiver Keenan Allen finished second in the conference with 89 receptions and third with 1,261 yards. With three wins in their final four games, the Bears appear to be headed to the Holiday Bowl — potentially against the Baylor Bears and Robert Griffin III.

6. Utah (7-5, 4-5) – Utah missed a golden opportunity to make a huge statement in its first season in the Pac-12. Utah kicker Coleman Petersen missed a 48-yard field goal with two seconds left in a very disappointing 17-14 home loss to the Colorado Buffaloes. It was his third miss of the game, and the loss cost Kyle Whittingham and company a Pac-12 South title — and a chance at a Rose Bowl. Losing star tailback John White IV in the third quarter didn't help, as the Utah running back finished nearly 100 yards below his season average. White carried a season-low 10 times for a season-low 28 yards. The second half of the season has proved that Utah belongs with the BCS big boys, as the Utes finished 4-1 down the stretch in league play. However, the loss to the Buffs leaves an extremly bitter taste in the Utes' mouths — and checkbooks. Instead of the Rose, Alamo or Holiday Bowl, Utah looks to be slated for a trip to El Paso and the Sun Bowl against the ACC's No. 4 team (likely Wake Forest or Virginia).

7. UCLA (6-6, 5-4) – The UCLA Bruins are the inaugural Pac-12 South Champions. The Bruins were outgained 572 to 385 yards, converted on only 3-of-15 third and fourth down conversions and lost 50-0 to USC. But an unexpected loss to Colorado by Utah, awarded the Bruins with a berth in the Pac-12 championship game. As a heavy underdog against the Ducks, the Bruins will likely finish the regular season at 6-7 and will have to apply for a bowl waiver from the NCAA leadership council. If given the waiver, the Bruins have to wait for the conference to fill its other seven bowl commitments before they likely land in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. However, head coach Rick Neuheisel won't be joining his team on any postseason trip. Neuheisel is 21-28 overall and 3-25 against teams that finished with a winning record in four years as head coach, and it appears he will be given his walking papers following this Saturday's conference title game.

8. Arizona State (6-6, 4-5) – The Sun Devils finished an up and down 2011 season by losing 47-38 to Cal at home in the season finale. The loss marked the fourth straight loss and fifth in six games after a 5-1 start for Arizona State. A trip to Sin City and the Las Vegas Bowl with a match-up against Mountain West champ TCU appears the likely postseason destination for ASU. Head coach Dennis Erickson, like many Pac-12 coaches this postseason, could be coaching for his job in the bowl game. Arizona State is 31-30 under Erickson in five seasons, featuring one winning season (2007) and no bowl wins. TCU would be a heavy favorite.

9. Washington State (4-8, 2-7) – The Cougars lost 38-21 to the rival Huskies in the 104th edition of the Apple Cup. Washington State allowed 434 yards of offense to Washington and turned the ball over twice in the second straight loss to the Pac-12 North rival. Paul Wulff is now 9-40 as the head man at Wazzu, and the last winning season in Pullman took place in 2003. The offense showed signs of improvement, finishing second in the conference in passing at 322.3 yards per game. However, expect another tumultuous off-season for the Cougars.

10. Oregon State (3-9, 3-6) – In his second stint as head coach at Oregon State, Mike Riley had two losing seasons in his first eight years. After the 49-21 loss to rival Oregon this weekend, Riley now has his third losing season and his worst record in 11 total seasons as the Beavers head coach. Quarterback Sean Mannion has offered some solace, as the freshman has provided the answer at quarterback. He threw for another 299 yards and three touchdowns in the loss this weekend. He was one yard away from his fifth 300-yard effort in nine games. The Beavers uncharacteristically finished last in the league in rushing offense (86.9 ypg) and rushing defense (196.8 ypg).

11. Arizona (4-8, 2-7) – The Wildcats got a "nice" 45-37 win against a decent UL Lafayette team. Although it doesn't count as the first win of the Rich Rodriguez era, Arizona is technically 1-0 with RichRod as acting head coach. Nick Foles extended his single-season school records for completions (387) and yards (4,334) with his fifth straight 300-yard game and 10th of the season. Foles finished as the Pac-12's leader in total offense at 352.6 yards per game. A two-game winning streak is a great way to get what should be an exciting off-season in Tucson started.

12. Colorado (3-10, 2-7) – The first season of the Jon Embree era ended with a bang. The Buffaloes snapped a 23-game road losing streak by topping the Utes 17-14 in Salt Lake City. Not only did Colorado get its second Pac-12 win of the year, but it also crushed the Utes' hopes of landing in the conference title game. Rodney Stewart played his final game in a Buffs uniform with only 12 touches for 45 yards. Stewart finished his career with 3,598 yards rushing, 25 touchdowns, 93 receptions and 969 yards receiving.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Pac-12 stack up after Week 13 of action?</p>
Post date: Monday, November 28, 2011 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-week-13-picks
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Like most of us around the college football world, the state of Oklahoma completely shocked me last week. Two of the worst defensive performances of the season cost both the Sooners and the Cowboys a potential chance at a national title - and me a chance at a third straight winning weekend. Houston and Kansas State continue to be rock solid against the spread and may continue that trend the rest of the way in 2011.

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday everyone and stuff your faces with these almost-but-not-quite locks of the week...

Season Record ATS: 72-48-3 (5-5 last week)

Week 13's Top Picks:
 
Houston (-3) at Tulsa
Tulsa won this game by three points last season, but the most productive player in NCAA history wasn't on the field. In the two previous meetings, Keenum led the Cougars to victory in Tulsa 46-45 in 2009 and 70-30 at home in 2008. The Houston quarterback threw for 926 yards and accounted for 10 touchdowns in those two games. The Cougars have won every game they have played in 2011 by an average margin of victory of nearly 32 points per - which is actually 43 points per game over the last three. Houston also leads the nation with a 9-2 record against the spread. My Pick: Houston -3

Tennessee (-7) at Kentucky
Everyone knows the stat: Tennessee has won 26 straight games over the Wildcats. The Vols have struggled on offense in SEC play, but that was without star quarterback Tyler Bray. The big-time passer threw for 189 yards and two touchdowns in his return to action last weekend. Expect even more from the future NFL Draft pick this weekend against a team that ranks 12th in the SEC in passing offense, total offense, scoring offense, passing efficiency, sacks allowed and punt returns. My Pick: Tennessee -7

Ohio State (+7) at Michigan
If Michigan cannot beat, as Brady Hoke likes to say, "Ohio" in 2011, it may never beat the Buckeyes ever again. This is arguably the worst Ohio State team we have seen in more than a decade and Michigan is playing as good of football as it has since 2006. Neither teams needs extra motivation, but Hoke knows how important this game is to the seniors on his team and the bill-paying alumni base. Look for the hungrier Wolverine team to break the seven-year losing streak. My Pick: Michigan -7

New Mexico State (+19) at Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech was won six straight games - including an easy win over an SEC team, as well as Fresno State, and a road win over Nevada. Tech leads the league in rushing defense, scoring defense, turnover margin, pass efficiency defense and tackles for a loss. New Mexico State has lost four of five games and will not be able to keep pace against that defense. Tech is also tied for the nation's lead at 9-2 against the spread this season. My Pick: Louisiana Tech -19

UCLA (+14) at USC
Certainly, UCLA has much to play for — a Pac-12 title. But the Bruins have lost four straight and and 11 out of 12 to the rival Trojans. USC is coming off a season-defining win over Oregon and would love nothing more than to knock their crosstown rival out of the Pac-12 title game. Matt Barkley is playing the best football of his career and is 2-0 against the Bruins - including a 21-point win the last time they played in the Colesium. Look for another statement win for USC over a UCLA team that has recently lost by 25 to Utah and 36 to Arizona. The Men of Troy are 7-3-1 against the spread and the Bruins at 3-8. My Pick: USC -14

Virginia Tech (-4) at Virginia
This is the biggest game in Charlottesville in years and should be relatively close. And UVa has won four straight games and is playing for an ACC title game berth. That said, the Hokies operate at a different level of athlete with Logan Thomas and David Wilson powering the offense. The Hokies have won seven straight in this series and the last two haven't been close (37-7 and 42-13). Certainly, this is a different Wahoo team, but Virginia Tech should be able to pressure the quarterback, get off the field on third down and stymie the Cavs' ground game. My Pick: Virginia Tech -4

Arkansas (+11.5) at LSU
The Hogs certainly have the formula to beat LSU: A mad scientist calling plays, the deepest receiving corp in the nation and a quarterback who can sling it. However, how can you complete passes when you are lying on your back? Wilson got hit and hit and hit again against Alabama and should expect much of the same from the deepest defensive line in the nation. Can Arkansas stop the power rushing attack of LSU? And Brad Wing will totally nuetralize one of the nation's top returnmen in Joe Adams. LSU is simply the better team across the board. The Bayou Bengals are also 8-3 against the spread this season. My Pick: LSU -11.5

Rutgers (-3) at UConn
The Knights have a lot to play for in this one. And they have had loads of success against the Huskies recently: Rutgers has won three straight and five out of six. The Knights can clinch a share of the Big East title with a win and UConn's pathetic offense should not be able to challenge a Knights' offense that is rolling behind freak wideout Mohamed Sanu and new workhorse Jawan Jamison (34 att., 200 yards 2 TD last week). The Knights have won three straight and are 8-3 against the spread while UConn is 3-7 against the number on the year. My Pick: Rutgers -3

Louisville (+3.5) at South Florida
The Cardinals also have loads to play for in the Big East. A win clinches a share of the Big East title for Louisville as well and the second half has been a totally different story for Charlie Strong. Wins over Rutgers, Syracuse, West Virginia and UConn speak for themselves. The defense is playing lights-out and the Strong has been preaching the importance of getting the program's first-ever win at USF. With Bulls' starting quarterback BJ Daniels likely not playing, take the Cards to win outright. My Pick: Louisville +3.5

Clemson (-4) at South Carolina
Sammy Wakings says he will be 100% at kickoff and that may be all that matters. The Tigers have turned the ball over entirely too much lately and South Carolina has played great defense of late. But with nothing on the line for either team in terms of conference championships, pure hatred should fuel this rivarly. Clemson should right the ship on offense with Watkins in the game and will outlast a South Carolina team that has struggled to score points. My Pick: Clemson -4

2011 Top Teams ATS:

1t. Stanford (9-2)
1t. Arkansas State (9-2)
1t. Houston (9-2)
1t. Kansas State (9-2)
1t. Louisiana Tech (9-2)
1t. Western Kentucky (9-2)
7t. LSU (8-3)
7t. Michigan (8-3)
7t. Rutgers (8-3)
7t. Oklahoma State (8-3)
7t. Vanderbilt (8-3)
12t. USC (7-3-1)
12t. Georgia (7-3-1)

2011 Bottom Teams ATS:


1. Central Michigan (1-11)
2. Maryland (2-9)
3. Florida Atlantic (2-8)
4. Colorado (3-9)
5t. Texas A&M (3-8)
5t. Ole Miss (3-8)
5t. Virginia Tech (3-8)
8t. Colorado State (3-7)
8t. Troy (3-7)
8t. UCLA (3-7)
8t. UConn (3-7)
8t. MTSU (3-7)
8t. Syracuse (3-7)
14t. Nebraska (3-7-1)
14t. Penn State (3-7-1)
14t. Akron (3-7-1)
14t. Hawaii (3-7-1)

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 24, 2011 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/nfl-fantasy-football-start-and-sit-week-12
Body:

-by Braden Gall ( @AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Week 12 Rankings

Start These Quarterbacks:

Matt Ryan, Atlanta (Minnesota)
After five straight weeks with only one touchdown in each game, Ryan rested on the bye week. Since that bye, Ryan has averaged 314 yards per game with six total touchdowns in his last three games. The Vikings are 28th in the league against the pass and have allowed a league-worst 19 passing touchdowns. Julio Jones or not, Ryan is a great play.

Vince Young, Philadelphia (New England)
Young finished with a useful 258 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in the huge win over New York last weekend. With Jeremy Maclin likely returning to the lineup, facing the worst pass defense in the NFL and probably playing from behind for the majority of the game will give Young owners at worst a Top 15 fantasy number.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (Cleveland)
He has thrown five interceptions against division rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore, but he also kept his team in both games and threw for a career-high 373 yards — without A.J. Green. The Browns have been solid against the pass, but only because nobody has had any need to throw the football. Dalton should be around that 220-2 range this weekend in a must-win situation for the Bengals.

Matt Hasselbeck/Jake Locker, Tennessee (Tampa Bay)
No matter who starts, there could be plenty of value under center for the Titans. The Bucs are ranked 29th in the NFL against the pass, and only the Chargers, Colts and Vikings have allowed more passing touchdowns than their 18 allowed. Locker sparked the offense last weekend in the second half and has obvious ability.

Bench These Quarterbacks:

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (at NY Jets)
This makes four straight weeks that we have addressed Fitz’s struggles. Here are his last three stat lines: 191-1-2 against the Jets, 146-1-3 against the Cowboys and 209-0-2 against the resurgent Dolphins. His highest passer rating was 51.9 over that span. The Jets have allowed an NFL second-best eight passing touchdowns and are sixth against the pass.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay (at Tennessee)
Please do not buy into Freeman’s 342-yard, two touchdown performance last weekend. He still sports an 11:15 TD:INT ratio and posted those numbers against the NFL’s second-worst pass defense. The Titans are stronger against the pass, and Freeman is 27th in the NFL in passer rating behind names like Kolb, Cassel, McCoy and Orton.

Alex Smith, San Francisco (at Baltimore)
This one goes without saying, but Smith and the Niners are traveling across three time zones in a short work week against maybe the best pass defense in the league. They have allowed a league-best seven passing touchdowns and are seventh against the pass at 211.3 yards per game.

***Just so you know not to play them: Colt McCoy (at Cincinnati), Blaine Gabbert (Houston), Tyler Palko (Pittsburgh), Caleb Hanie (at Oakland)***

Start These Running Backs:

Jonathan Stewart/DeAngelo Williams, Carolina (at Indianapolis)
Cries for Stewart to become an every down back are getting louder and louder. He has averaged seven yards per touch over the last two games and has become quite a factor — for the first time in his career — in the passing game. The Colts are 31st in the NFL against the rush at 145.6 yards, and both Panther backs could do something in a game that Carolina has to win.

Chris Johnson, Tennessee (Tampa Bay)
The Bucs are 26th against the run at 133.5 yards per game and have allowed 13 rushing touchdowns (only Carolina has allowed more with 14). If Jake Locker is starting, fans can expect a heavy dose of the ground game in the form of CJ2K and maybe even Javon Ringer. If Johnson cannot get on track against Tampa Bay, 2011 will officially become a wasted season for the stubborn contract holdout.

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (Cleveland)
Benson averaged 2.7 yards per carry and totaled 41 yards against the Ravens, but he made most prognosticators look foolish by reaching paydirt twice — which matched his season total. The Browns are 29th in the NFL against the run at 139.3 yards allowed per game. Look for all hands on deck for a key divisional game.

Donald Brown, Indianapolis (Carolina)
Carolina ranks 30th in the NFL against the run at 140.7 yards allowed per game and has allowed more rushing touchdowns (14) than anyone else in the league. With Joseph Addai still having major issues, Brown has gotten the majority of the looks at 17 and 18 touches respectively over the last two. Look for the Colts to run the football to keep Cam Newton off the field.

Bench These Running Backs:

Ray Rice, Baltimore (San Francisco)
If you play in a PPR format, you cannot bench Rice. But in a touchdowns and yards league, it is hard to see Rice posting more than 10 fantasy points. The Niners are the only team yet to allow a rushing touchdown and lead the NFL in rushing defense by a wide margin (73.9 yards per game allowed). Look for 20 touches, 70 total yards and an outside chance at a receiving touchdown.

Frank Gore, San Francisco (at Baltimore)
The short week and cross-country flight for a player who has been battling injuries would make me nervous if they were playing the Browns. But this is the Ravens, who lead the NFL at 3.3 yards per attempt and are fifth in the league against the run. This has defensive struggle written all over it — with or without Ray Lewis.

Toby Gerhart, Minnesota (at Atlanta)
The Falcons are No. 2 in the NFL at 85.4 yards per carry and have stifled running backs all season long. Chris Johnson rushed for 13 yards on 12 carries and caught three passes for 15 yards in last week’s dominating performance. If it weren’t for a 17-yard Matt Hasselbeck scramble, the Titans would have totaled 24 yards rushing total.

Start These Wide Receivers:

Percy Harvin, Minnesota (at Atlanta)
With Purple Jesus on the sideline, Harvin is pretty much the only playmaker the Vikings have on offense. He has caught six passes in each of the last two games and routinely gets rushing attempts from out of the backfield. He has 11 attempts for 55 yards and a touchdown over the last three weeks. With the ground game held in check and the game likely getting out of hand early, Harvin could benfit with another strong showing.

Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, NY Jets (Buffalo)
The Bills are 24th in the NFL against the pass at 250 yards allowed per game and are 23rd in passing touchdowns allowed (17). Over the last three games, they have been even worse. Buffalo surrendered 160 yards and three touchdowns to Matt Moore in last week’s blowout loss. Tony Romo threw for 270 yards and three scores in the 44-7 drubbing two weeks ago. And both Holmes (3-29-1) and Burress (5-79) had solid games in the 27-11 win over the Bills.

Nate Washington, Tennessee (Tampa Bay)
Washington was easily the more dependable of the two Titans receivers last weekend. He posted a nasty 9-115-2 line with most of damage coming once Jake Locker was inserted into the lineup. The strong-armed passer hit him for two scoring strikes in the second half, and the Titans will continue to look his way against a defense that ranks 29th against the pass.

Brandon Lloyd, St. Louis (Arizona)
He has caught a touchdown in three of four games and has become Sam Bradford's top target. Against an atrocious Cardinals defense, the only thing that will keep Lloyd from a big fantasy number is the compensation benchmark that kicks in with his 30th reception in a Rams uniform (he has 26 currently). But giving up a fifth rounder instead of a sixth sounds pretty reasonable for a player with 26 catches for 322 yards and three scores in five games.

Jerome Simpson, Cincinnati (Cleveland)
AJ Green is going to try to practice this week, but the Bengals have to play it very cautiously with their prized deep threat. Especially in a game they should have no problem winning. Simpson caught eight passes for 152 yards in his absence last week and has scored in two of the his last three games.

Vincent Brown, San Diego (Denver)
With Malcolm Floyd still on the bench with an injury and Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates drawing the Broncos' top covermen, Brown has a good chance to make a big play. His speed and down-the-field ability were extraordinary in college, and that ability showed in spades against the Raiders. Rivers has targeted him 19 times over the last three weeks and should be looking his way plenty this weekend.

Lowered Expectations:

Stevie Johnson, Buffalo (at NY Jets)
Welcome to Revis Island. No offense has stumbled more over the last month than the Bills. Enough said?

Eric Decker, Denver (at San Diego)
The former Golden Gopher wideout was held without a reception last week and has one total catch in two games. As long Tim Tebow is playing quarterback, the opportunities will just not be there for Decker.

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City (Pittsburgh)
Tyler Palko is killing Bowe owners everywhere, and the Steelers rank third in the NFL against the pass at 183.2 yards per game. He just cannot be trusted against the Steel Curtain.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Week 12 NFL Fantasy Start and Sit</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 10:29

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