Articles By Braden Gall

All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fiesta Bowl
Path: /college-football/greatest-fiesta-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 Fiesta Bowl Performances of the BCS Era:

5. Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State, 2006
The Buckeyes won the Fiesta Bowl for the third time in four years thanks in large part to Smith’s exploits at quarterback. The junior completed 19-of-28 passes for a career-high 342 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 66 yards on 13 carries. Two Ohio State receivers, Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn Jr., topped the 100-yard receiving mark.

4. Alex Smith, QB, Utah, 2005
Running Urban Meyer’s spread option offense to near perfection, Smith led Utah to a 35–7 win over Pittsburgh that completed a perfect 12–0 season. The future No. 1 pick of the San Francisco 49ers completed 29-of-37 passes for 328 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions and added 68 yards on the ground. The Utes were the first team from a non-BCS conference to earn a spot in a BCS bowl.

3. Joey Harrington, QB, Oregon, 2002
Oregon was ranked No. 2 in the nation in both major polls but got squeezed out of the BCS National Championship Game in favor of Nebraska. Harrington and the Ducks’ offense took their frustrations out on Colorado, ranked No. 3 in both polls, in a surprisingly lopsided 38–16 win. Harrington completed 38-of-42 passes for 350 yards and four touchdowns, including a 79-yard strike to Samie Parker that tied the record for longest pass reception in Fiesta Bowl history.

2. Pat White, QB, West Virginia, 2008
A true dual-threat quarterback, White abused the Oklahoma defense with 150 yards rushing on 25 carries and 176 yards passing as the Mountaineers rolled up 525 total yards en route to a 48–28 win over the Big 12 champs. West Virginia was coached by Bill Stewart, who stepped in for Rich Rodriguez, who bolted for the top job at Michigan after the regular season.

1. Jared Zabransky, QB, Boise State, 2007
In what will always be remembered as one of the most exciting bowl games in history, Zabransky and the upstart Broncos stunned heavily favored Oklahoma, 43–42 in overtime, after converting a Statue of Liberty play into a two-point conversion on their first possession of the extra session. Zabransky finished the game with 262 yards passing and three touchdowns.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports ranks the best Fiesta Bowl performances of the BCS Era.</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/arik-armstead-recruiting-update
Body:

-by Braden Gall (follow at @AthlonBraden)

The recruitment of the nation’s No. 4 prospect, two-way star lineman Arik Armstead, has been anything but smooth.

The 6-foot-7, 280-pound stud from Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove committed to the USC Trojans in June of 2010. His older brother, Armond Armstead, is currently a senior defensive end for the Trojans. However, after experiencing chest pains last spring, Armond was hospitalized briefly and held out of workouts. After many negative tests for every condition possible, Armond was redshirted and not cleared to play by USC.

Subsequently, Arik, the Athlon Consensus 100 No. 1 offensive tackle prospect in the nation, decommitted from USC shortly thereafter in October.

The Trojans are reportedly still in the mix, but time is running out for Lane Kiffin. Armstead has technically graduated (he has enough credits to enroll in college) and is set to enroll in the coming weeks. The elite prospect is also a star hoopster and will likely be playing on the hardcourt as the well as the gridiron in college. This aspect of his recruitment will also weigh heavily in his decision as he is seeking a quality basketball program.

Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, for example, has used head basketball coach Mike Brey to help recruit the stud lineman and claims that the youngster could be operating on a college roster as soon as he gets to campus. With the loss of Tim Abromaitis for the year to injury, Brey could certainly use another big body.

Armstead visited the Notre Dame Fighting Irish officially on October 21, the Alabama Crimson Tide on November 4 and the Oregon Ducks on November 18. He was on the Berkeley campus last weekend, letting Jeff Tedford and company court him. His final visit could come as early as this weekend at Auburn. It would be his fifth and final visit.

He claims that he has not eliminated anyone yet — leaving upwards of two dozen schools vying for his services. However, proximity and official visits are the two biggest indicators in recruiting. This would give Cal and Oregon the edge, obviously, over Notre Dame and the Yellowhammer programs. He will get all of his official visits out of the way so that he can spend the holiday break mulling it over before making his final decision. As an early enrollee and potential basketball star, fans won’t have to wait too much longer to see the big Pleasant Grove prospect in action.

Although he is listed as an offensive tackle, Armstead is just as likely to end up on defense. Very simply put, he is a huge prospect. He has incredible length and is a rangy athlete for a player who will line up in the trenches. And he has the power to match, as he simply overpowers blockers when on defense. He has solid “get-off” that translates well to both sides of the ball and shows quality agility/quickness for a player of his size. He has prototype size and athleticism for both positions. He can dominate the line of scrimmage no matter what side of the ball he is on.

Refining his technique and fundamentals will be huge for Armstead. Things like hand placement, pad level and footwork will all improve rapidly once he settles on a position. Even the experts are torn on whether he projects to the O-line or the D-line. In fact, 247Sports.com has him listed as both the nation’s No. 1 offensive tackle and the nation’s No. 1 defensive end. Three of the ranking services have declared Armstead the top prospect in the nation, while Rivals.com clearly thinks the "least" of him at No. 29 overall.

How Armstead ranks:

ESPN: No. 15 overall, No. 2 offensive tackle
Rivals: No. 29 overall, No. 4 strongside defensive end
Scout: No. 1 overall, No. 1 offensive tackle
247Sports: No. 1 overall, No. 1 offensive tackle, No. 1 defensive end
O-D: No. 1 overall, No. 1 offensive tackle
NCSA: No. 3 overall, No. 1 defensive end

Teaser:
<p> Arik Armstead: Recruiting Update</p>
Post date: Friday, December 16, 2011 - 12:18
Path: /college-football/best-pac-12-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 Pac-12 teams of the BCS Era (1998-present):

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


10b. UCLA Bruins, 1998 (10-2, 8-0)
Head Coach: Bob Toledo
Championships: Pac-10
Key Stats: Cade McNown set a school record for passing yards in a game (513), season (3,470) and career (10,708). His 68 career touchdown passes are also a school record.
Award Winners: Kris Farris (Outland), Cade McNown (Johnny Unitas, Pac-10 Co-Off. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Cade McNown (1st, 1999), Freddie Mitchell (1st, 2001), Robert Thomas (1st, 2002), DeShaun Foster (2nd, 2002)

Never ranked lower than sixth in the polls (Week 1 and final), the Bruins started the year 10-0 with eyes on the first-ever BCS title game. Record-setting passer Cade McNown worked past three ranked opponents before the final game of the regular season in the Orange Bowl with Miami. With 50 seconds left, Edgerrin James scored his third touchdown to give the Hurricanes a crazy 49-45 upset of the No. 3 Bruins. James ran 39 times for 299 yards. UCLA went on to allow 246 yards and four touchdowns to Ron Dayne in their 38-31 loss to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl defeat was disappointing, but the Miami upset removed UCLA from a Fiesta Bowl date with unbeaten Tennessee for the National Championship.

10. Oregon Ducks, 2001 (11-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Mike Bellotti
Championships: Pac-10, Fiesta Bowl
Key Stats: Joey Harrington finished his career 25-3 as a starter; was Oregon's first 11-win season in history,
Award Winners: Joey Harrington (Pac-10 Off. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Joey Harrington (1st, 2002), Maurice Morris (2nd, 2002), Igor Olshansky (2nd, 2004)

Heisman Trophy finalist Joey Harrington (4th) led the Ducks to an outright Pac-10 championship. The piano-playing signal caller threw for 2,415 yards and 23 touchdowns en route to a Fiesta Bowl berth (the Rose Bowl was reserved for the 2001 NCG). The Ducks fell out of the top 10 only once — following a narrow 49-42 defeat to Stanford — and barely missed an opportunity to play in the national championship game. The Ducks beat four ranked opponents, including a 38-16 destruction of No. 3-ranked Colorado in Tempe, Ariz.

9. Stanford Cardinal, 2010 (12-1, 8-1)
Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh
Championships: Orange Bowl
Key Stats: Scored school-record 524 points, 12 wins is the most in school history, finished No. 2 in the nation in sacks allowed (6.0) and No. 3 nationally in passing efficiency (168.38)
Award Winners: Andrew Luck (Pac-10 Off. Player of the Year), Owen Marecic (Paul Hornung)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: N/A

Heisman Trophy runner-up Andrew Luck, in only his sophomore season, and cult-of-personality head coach Jim Harbaugh led Stanford to arguably its best season in school history. The Cardinal scored more points and won more games than any team in their history, and their 40-12 demolition of Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl provided the program with its first-ever BCS Bowl win. However, a 52-31 road loss to eventual national champion runner-up Oregon cost Luck a chance to face Auburn in the BCS title game. The Cardinal finished No. 5 in the final polls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2008 Schedule:

Aug. 30: USC 52, Virginia 7 (Charlottesville, VA)
Sept. 13: USC 35, (#5) Ohio State 3 (Los Angeles, CA)
Sept. 25: Oregon State 27, USC 21 (Corvallis, OR)
Oct. 4: USC 44, (#23) Oregon 10 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 11: USC 28, Arizona State 0 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 18: USC 69, Washington State 0 (Pullman, WA)
Oct. 25: USC 17, Arizona 10 (Tucson, AZ)
Nov. 1: USC 56, Washington 0 (Los Angeles, CA)
Nov. 8: USC 17, (#21) Cal 3 (Los Angeles, CA)
Nov. 15: USC 45, Stanford 23 (Palo Alto, CA)
Nov. 29: USC 38, Notre Dame 3 (Los Angeles, CA)
Dec. 6: USC 28, UCLA 7 (Pasadena, CA)
Jan. 1: USC 38, (#5) Penn State 24 (Pasadena, CA, Rose Bowl)

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

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

2010 Schedule:

Sept. 4: Oregon 72, New Mexico 0 (Eugene, OR)
Sept. 11: Oregon 48, Tennessee 13 (Knoxville, TN)
Sept. 18: Oregon 69, Portland State 0 (Eugene, OR)
Sept. 25: Oregon 42, Arizona State 31 (Tempe, AZ)
Oct. 2: Oregon 52, (#9) Stanford 31 (Eugene, OR)
Oct. 9: Oregon 43, Washington State 23 (Pullman, WA)
Oct. 21: Oregon 60, UCLA 13 (Eugene, OR)
Oct. 30: Oregon 53, (#24) USC 32 (Los Angeles, CA)
Nov. 6: Oregon 53, Washington 16 (Eugene, OR)
Nov. 13: Oregon 15, Cal 13 (Berkeley, CA)
Nov. 26: Oregon 48, (#21) Arizona 29 (Eugene, OR)
Dec. 4: Oregon 37, Oregon State 20 (Corvallis, OR)
Jan. 10: (#1) Auburn 22, Oregon 19 (Glendale, AZ, BCS NCG)

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

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

2003 Schedule:

Aug. 30: USC 23, (#6) Auburn 0 (Auburn, AL)
Sept. 6: USC 35, BYU 18 (Los Angeles, CA)
Sept. 13: USC 61, Hawaii 32 (Los Angeles, CA)
Sept. 27: Cal 34, USC 31 (3OT, Berkeley, CA)
Oct. 4: USC 37, Arizona State 17 (Tempe, AZ)
Oct. 11: USC 44, Stanford 21 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 18: USC 45, Notre Dame 14 (South Bend, IN)
Oct. 25: USC 43, Washington 23 (Seattle, WA)
Nov. 1: USC 43, (#6) Washington State 16 (Los Angeles, CA)
Nov. 15: USC 45, Arizona 0 (Tucson, AZ)
Nov. 22: USC 47, UCLA 22 (Los Angeles, CA)
Dec. 6: USC 52, Oregon State 28 (Los Angeles, CA)
Jan. 1: USC 28, (#4) Michigan 14 (Pasadena, CA, Rose Bowl)

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

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

2005 Schedule:

Sept. 3: USC 63, Hawaii 17 (Honolulu, HI)
Sept. 17: USC 70, Arkansas 17 (Los Angeles, CA)
Sept. 24: USC 45, (#24) Oregon 13 (Eugene, OR)
Oct. 1: USC 38, (#15) Arizona State 28 (Tempe, AZ)
Oct. 8: USC 42, Arizona 21 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 15: USC 34, (#9) Notre Dame 31 (South Bend, IN)
Oct. 22: USC 51, Washington 24 (Seattle, WA)
Oct. 29: USC 55, Washington State 13 (Los Angeles, CA)
Nov. 5: USC 51, Stanford 21 (Los Angeles, CA)
Nov. 12: USC 35, Cal 10 (Berkeley, CA)
Nov. 26: USC 50, (#16) Fresno State 42 (Los Angeles, CA)
Dec. 3: USC 66, (#11) UCLA 19 (Los Angeles, CA)
Jan. 4: (#2) Texas 41, USC 38 (Pasadena, CA, Rose Bowl, BCS NCG)

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

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

2004 Schedule:

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

"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> Athlon Sports ranked the best Pac-12 teams of the BCS era.</p>
Post date: Friday, December 16, 2011 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL Fantasy Start or Sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/nfl-fantasy-football-start-and-sit-week-15
Body:

-by Braden Gall ( @AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Week 15 Rankings

Start These Quarterbacks:

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (at St. Louis)
Dalton’s performance hasn’t been elite of late, but the defenses he has faced are: Pittsburgh twice, Baltimore, Houston. And he fared admirably, averaging 216.7 yards per game with five touchdowns. He hasn’t throw an interception in three straight games, and the Rams haven’t been stopping any part of any offense.

Tim Tebow, Denver (New England)
Would the NFL simply cancel the season and award the Lombardi Trophy to Tim Tebow himself if he were to pull off an upset of Tom Brady and the Pats? With the Patriots' ability to score early, Tebow might be in 2-minute mode for the final three quarters, and that is great news for fantasy owners. New England is still last in passing defense at over 308 yards per game allowed, and Tebow could be in store for another big game on the ground as well.

Jake Locker, Tennessee (at Indianapolis)
The rookie was a top-five option last week in fantasy and will be facing the worst team in the NFL this weekend. The Colts allow a league-worst 29.4 points per game and have a league-worst six interceptions. Locker will get it done both with his powerful right arm and mobile lower extremities. Look for another solid outing from the youngster.

T.J. Yates, Houston (Carolina)
If you need to dig deep, look for Yates to produce again. His clutch performance in the second half last week proved he has great leadership ability — and it bumped a mediocre fantasy day into 300-yard, 2-TD range. In two starts, he has 488 yards, 3 TD and one INT — and now he faces a defense ranked 29th in scoring (27.3 ppg).

Toughest Match-ups

Cam Newton, Carolina (at Houston)
All three of this week’s “Lowered Expectations” are tough benches, but also have brutal match-ups. Houston has been nearly dominant on defense: Fifth in INT (17), third against the pass (183.5 ypg) and a nasty fourth in scoring (16.0 ppg). With homefield advantage still on the line for Houston, expect this team to rally around its ailing defensive coordinator. A 183-1-3, 32-? line sounds about right for Newton. It will all come down to the rushing touchdowns column.

Philip Rivers, San Diego (Baltimore)
The Chargers and Rivers are hot through the air (6 TD, 0 INT) over the last two — against Jacksonville and Buffalo. Rivers is still having one of his worst seasons statistically, and his offensive line has been terrible. Against a Baltimore pass rush that is leading the league in sacks (45.0), is third in scoring defense (16.5 ppg), fifth against the pass (192.3 ypg) and has allowed a league-low nine touchdown passes, Rivers' upside appears very limited.

Ben Roesthlisberger, Pittsburgh (at San Francisco)
Keep a close eye on Big Ben’s ankle. He is questionable for a game that has major playoff implications in the AFC, so it is unlikely he misses time. He is one of the toughest hombres in the league, but the Niners have been nasty on defense all season. Their 18 interceptions rank second in the league, and the ground game won’t help him at all. There is very little to like about the two-time Super Bowl champ this week.

Start These Running Backs:

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (at St. Louis)
His 21 carries for 91 yards last week against Houston is much more impressive than the 9.1 fantasy points indicate. And now he gets the worst rushing defense in the league, as the Rams allow 156.8 yards per game. They clearly had no desire to stop Marshawn Lynch on Monday night and won’t be game for the Bengals' power rushing attack either.

Roy Helu, Washington (at NY Giants)
Helu has been a top-10 back over last three weeks as he has topped the century mark and the 23 carry plateau in each game. And Giants have been about as bad as any team…ever…over the last three weeks. They have allowed 40.3 points per game in the last three weeks, and the Skins offense should be able to move the ball in what will be a high-scoring affair.

Reggie Bush, Miami (at Buffalo)
Michael isn’t the only Bush who should be in your lineup this weekend. (Sorry.) The former Saint is running with renewed vigor and has back-to-back 100-yard games to show for it. The Bills have been atrocious for the better part of two months and are allowing 130.7 yards rushing per game at a 4.7-yard clip.

Ryan Grant, Green Bay (at Kansas City)
Assuming James Starks is out again, Grant is the guy against a defense that surrenders 132.5 yards rushing per game. Grant ran with renewed energy last week in what was his best game in what seems like three seasons (10 att., 85 yards, 2 TD, 1 rec., 13 yards). The Chiefs, with a new head coach now, are coming off a disgusting performance against the Jets: 37 points allowed, 159 yards rushing allowed, three rushing TDs allowed.

Felix Jones, Dallas (at Tampa Bay)
Welcome back, King Felix! The Cowboys gave Jones the ball 22 times for 137 yards from scrimmage in the Sunday night shootout with the Giants. While no team has been as bad as New York on defense of late, Tampa Bay isn’t far behind. The Bucs are 29th in the league against the run (139.7 yards per game) and a league-leading 19 rushing touchdowns. Plug and play.

Toughest Match-Ups

Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh (at San Francisco)
The Niners are on the verge of greatness when it comes to playing the run. They still haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown (second place: five allowed), they lead the league in rushing defense (70.5 ypg) by a wide margin and are No. 1 in scoring defense at 14.0 points allowed per game. With Big Ben banged up, it's tough to see big numbers for Mendenhall.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego (Baltimore)
The Ravens are third in the NFL in rushing touchdowns allowed with six, are third in the NFL in points allowed per game at 15.5 and are No. 2 in the NFL against fantasy running backs. In a PPR league, he deserves a slight bump in value, but it is hard to see him continuing his roll on the ground this weekend.

Frank Gore, San Francisco (Pittsburgh)
Rushing yards will be tough to come by on both sides of the ball Monday night. The Steelers are allowing 15.2 points per game, good for second in the NFL. They have allowed an NFL 3rd-best six rushing touchdowns and only 97.0 yards per game. Gore hasn’t reached the 100-yard mark since Week 9, so don’t expect it to happen this weekend.

Start These Wide Receivers:

Santana Moss or Jabar Gaffney, Washington (at NY Giants)
The Giants have been awful of late and the secondary is a big part of their struggles. Moss is coming off a 3-81-1 game and has 12 receptions in his last three. Gaffney has 18 receptions for 279 yards and two scores in his last three. Without Fred Davis, these two should get the majority of the targets against the porous G-Men.

Donald Driver or James Jones, Green Bay (at Kansas City)
Jordy Nelson is a must start with Greg Jennings out; however, both Driver and Jones deserve a look this weekend as well. Driver set a season high with 75 yards last week and has at least four catches in each of the last two. Jones is more of a hit-or-miss (94, TD one week sandwiched by zero catch performances) but has more upside than Driver. Pick your poison and hope you picked correctly.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver (at New England)
Thomas is a physical specimen who has all the natural ability to be an elite receiver but has experienced nagging injuries and a steep learning curve. With 11 catches for 222 yards and three scores over his last two games, it appears that he is starting to blossom. Against the worst Patriots secondary in more than a decade, he should play well.

Lowered Expectations:

DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia (NY Jets)
Much like the way you should bench whichever running back is facing the 49ers, whoever gets locked down by Derrelle Revis is a near must-bench as well. With his antics, contract talk and Michael Vick’s struggles, it is hard to recommend D-Jax this week. He hasn’t topped 100 yards since Week 4 and has scored one time in eight games.

Steve Smith, Carolina (at Houston)
Smith is a tough bench, but the Panthers passing game has little upside this weekend. The Texans have been excellent against both phases of offense. And Smith has struggled of late, totaling 11 catches, 75 yards per game and no touchdowns over his last three. Look for a 5-70-0 line as his potential upside.

Michael Crabtree, San Francisco (Pittsburgh)
The former two-time Biletnikoff Award winner has become a must-start of late. Unfortunately, Monday night isn’t one of those. This game features two of the best front sevens in all of football, and both quarterbacks and running games will struggle. Look for a very low-scoring, tightly played affair. No big plays for Crabtree this weekend.
 

Teaser:
<p> NFL Fantasy Football Start and Sit: Week 15</p>
Post date: Friday, December 16, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/best-sec-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 15 SEC teams of the BCS Era (1998-present):

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


15. Georgia Bulldogs, 2005 (10-3, 7-2*)
Head Coach: Mark Richt
Championships: SEC
Key Stats: Forced four Jared Zabransky interceptions in the 48-13 season opening win, finished eighth in the nation in scoring defense (16.4 ppg), and D.J. Shockley led the SEC in passing efficiency (148.26).
Award Winners: N/A
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Tim Jennings (2nd, 2006), Mohamed Massaquoi (2nd, 2009)

The Dawgs began by destroying No. 19 Boise State and beat No. 7 Tennessee on the road before losing in the Cocktail Party to No. 18 Florida (without starting quarterback D.J. Shockley) and at home against No. 17 Auburn. Richt’s bunch, led by Shockley, rebounded with a win over No. 24 Georgia Tech and shellacked No. 3 LSU in the SEC title game 34-14. The Sugar Bowl had to be moved to Atlanta due to Hurricane Katrina, and the Dawgs ran into a Pat White-Steve Slaton buzzsaw, losing 38-35 to West Virginia.

14. LSU Tigers, 2001 (10-3, 6-3*)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: SEC, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: Josh Reed set SEC receiving records for yards in a game (293), season (1,740) and career (3,001) as well as the single-game receptions mark (19). All but his career yards mark still stand. His 145.0 yards per game led the nation.
Award Winners: Josh Reed (Fred Biletnikoff)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Josh Reed (2nd, 2002), Michael Clayton (1st, 2004), Devery Henderson (2nd, 2004), Marquise Hill (2nd, 2004)

This team may have been the third-best team in the SEC in 2001 — it lost to No. 3 Florida and No. 4 Tennessee on consecutive weeks early in the year. But the Bayou Bengals easily handled the extraordinarily talented Tennessee team in the SEC championship game 31-20. Led by the SEC’s all-time leading receiver and Biletnikoff winner Josh Reed, Nick Saban announced that the Tigers had returned to prominence with LSU’s first conference title since 1988 and a Sugar Bowl championship over Illinois.

13. Tennessee Volunteers, 2001 (11-2, 7-2*)
Head Coach: Phillip Fulmer
Championships: SEC East, Citrus Bowl
Key Stats: Finished third in the nation in rushing defense (85.3 ypg) while Travis Stephens’ 122.0 yards rushing per game led the SEC. The Vols were a 17.5-point underdog to Florida.
Award Winners: Casey Clausen (Citrus Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: John Henderson (1st, 2002), Donte Stallworth (1st, 2002), Albert Haynesworth (1st, 2002), Eddie Moore (2nd, 2003)

Ranked no lower than 11th in the polls, Tennessee — and the rest of the nation — had to deal with the tragedy of 9/11 in their own way. The rivalry game with No. 2-ranked Florida was moved from Week 3 to December 1 where the Vols were 17.5-point underdogs. With 226 yards from Travis Stephens, the Vols pulled off the massive 34-32 upset and earned a trip to Atlanta an a rematch with an LSU team Tennessee had already defeated back in September. A likely trip to the National Championship Fiesta Bowl and a date with the best Big East Team of the BCS Era was on the line for Big Orange Nation. However, backup LSU quarterback Matt Mauck ran the Tigers to victory over the heavily favored Vols. Tennessee went on to beat Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. This team sent 22 players into the NFL Draft from 2002-2004.

12. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2008 (12-2, 8-1*)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: SEC West
Key Stats: Finished No. 2 nationally against the run (74.1 ypg) and third nationally in total defense (263.5 ypg); John Parker Wilson’s 7,924 yards are an all-time Alabama record.
Award Winners: Andre Smith (Outland), Nick Saban (SEC Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Andre Smith (1st, 2009), Rolando McClain (1st, 2010), Kareem Jackson (1st, 2010), Mark Ingram (1st, 2011), James Carpenter (1st, 2011), Marcell Dareus (1st, 2011), Julio Jones (1st, 2011)

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

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

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

10. Georgia Bulldogs, 2002 (13-1, 8-1*)
Head Coach: Mark Richt
Championships: SEC, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: Finished fourth in the nation in scoring defense (15.1 ppg) and led the SEC in scoring (32.1); no Georgia team has scored more than 2002’s 450 points.
Award Winners: David Pollack (SEC Player of the Year), Mark Richt (SEC Coach of the Year), Musa Smith (Sugar Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Jonathan Sullivan (1st, 2003), George Foster (1st, 2003), Boss Bailey (2nd, 2003), Jon Stinchcomb (2nd, 2003), Ben Watson (1st, 2004), Sean Jones (2nd, 2004), David Pollack (1st, 2005), Thomas Davis (1st, 2005), Reggie Brown (2nd, 2005), Tim Jennings (2nd, 2006)

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

9. LSU Tigers, 2007 (12-2, 7-2*)
Head Coach: Les Miles
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: LSU beat seven ranked teams; the only BCS champion with two losses.
Award Winners: Glenn Dorsey (Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski, Lott, SEC Def. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Glenn Dorsey (1st, 2008), Tyson Jackson (1st, 2009)

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

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

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

7. Auburn Tigers, 2004 (13-0, 9-0*)
Head Coach: Tommy Tuberville
Championships: SEC, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: The Tigers finished the regular season No. 3 in the BCS standings, led the nation in scoring defense (11.3 ppg), led the SEC in scoring offense (32.1 ppg); Jason Campbell led the league in passing efficiency (172.89).
Award Winners: Carlos Rogers (Thorpe), Jason Campbell (SEC Off. Player of the Year), Carnell Williams (SEC Special Teamer of the Year), Tommy Tuberville (AP National, SEC Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Ronnie Brown (1st, 2005), Carnell Williams (1st, 2005), Carlos Rogers (1st, 2005), Jason Campbell (1st, 2005), Marcus McNeill (2nd, 2006), Ben Grubbs (1st, 2007)

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

6. Florida Gators, 2006 (13-1, 8-1*)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Florida held Heisman winner Troy Smith to four completions in the title game and the Buckeyes to 82 total yards.
Award Winners: Percy Harvin (SEC Freshman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Reggie Nelson (1st, 2007), Jarvis Moss (1st, 2007), Derrick Harvey (1st, 2008), Percy Harvin (1st, 2009), Tim Tebow (1st, 2010), Jermaine Cunningham (2nd, 2010), Brandon Spikes (2nd, 2010)

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

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

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

2010 Schedule:

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

4. Tennessee Volunteers, 1998 (13-0, 9-0*)
Head Coach: Phillip Fulmer
Championships: SEC, Fiesta Bowl, National Championship
Key Stats: This team put 11 players into the first or second round of the NFL Draft; Peerless Price is second all-time in BCS bowls with 242 all-purpose yards in the Fiesta Bowl, his 49.8 yards per catch is a BCS title game record.
Award Winners: Phillip Fulmer (AP National Coach of the Year), Peerless Price (Fiesta Bowl MVP), David Cutcliffe (Broyles)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Al Wilson (1st, 1999), Peerless Price (2nd, 1999), Jamal Lewis (1st, 2000), Shaun Ellis (1st, 2000), Raynoch Thompson (2nd, 2000), Chad Clifton (2nd, 2000), Dwayne Goodrich (2nd, 2000), Casey Coleman (2nd, 2000), Deon Grant (2nd, 2000), Travis Henry (2nd, 2001), John Henderson (1st, 2002)

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

1998 Schedule:

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

3. LSU Tigers, 2003 (13-1, 8-1*)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: SEC, Sugar Bowl, National Championship
Key Stats: Only one time did a team score more than 14 points against LSU (Arkansas, 24). Led the nation in total defense (252.0 ypg) and scoring defense (11.0 ppg), held Heisman winner Jason White to 13-of-37 passing in title game.
Award Winners: Chad Lavalais (SEC Def. Player of the Year), Nick Saban (AP National Coach of the Year), Justin Vincent (Sugar Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Michael Clayton (1st, 2004), Devery Henderson (2nd, 2004), Marquise Hill (2nd, 2004), Marcus Spears (1st, 2005), Corey Webster (2nd, 2005), Joseph Addai (1st, 2006), Andrew Whitworth (2nd, 2006), LaRon Landry (1st, 2007), Dwayne Bowe (1st, 2007), Chris Davis (1st, 2007)

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

2003 Schedule:

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

2. Florida Gators, 2008 (13-1, 8-1*)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Led the SEC in rushing (231.1 ypg), total offense (445.1 ypg), scoring (43.6 ppg), pass efficiency defense (96.76), scoring defense (12.9 ppg), punting (38.1 ypp), turnover margin (+1.57) and passing efficiency (170.6). Percy Harvin led the SEC in scoring at 10.2 ppg.
Award Winners: Tim Tebow (Maxwell, SEC Off. Player of the Year), Brandon James (SEC Special Teamer of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Percy Harvin (1st, 2009), Tim Tebow (1st, 2010), Joe Haden (1st, 2010), Maurkice Pouncey (1st, 2010), Carlos Dunlap (2nd, 2010), Jermaine Cunningham (2nd, 2010), Brandon Spikes (2nd, 2010), Mike Pouncey (1st, 2011), Marcus Gilbert (2nd, 2011)

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

2008 Schedule:

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

1. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2009 (14-0, 9-0*)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Finished second in the nation in total (244.1 ypg), rushing (78.1 ypg) and scoring defense (11.7 ppg).
Award Winners: Mark Ingram (Heisman Trophy), Rolando McClain (Butkus, SEC Def. Player of the Year), Javier Arenas (SEC Special Teamer of the Year), Nick Saban (SEC Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Rolando McClain (1st, 2010), Kareem Jackson (1st, 2010), Javier Arenas (2nd, 2010), Terrence Cody (2nd, 2010), Mark Ingram (1st, 2011), James Carpenter (1st, 2011), Marcell Dareus (1st, 2011), Julio Jones (1st, 2011)

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

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

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

2009 Schedule:

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

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

Just missing the cut: 1999 Alabama Crimson Tide, 2000 Florida Gators, 2001 Florida Gators, 2006 Arkansas Razorbacks, 2007 Florida Gators


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 SEC teams of the BCS era.</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 15, 2011 - 07:10
Path: /college-football/best-big-12-teams-bcs-era
Body:

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
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 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:

#d8ceb6; padding: 4px; border-collapse: separate; border-radius: 10px; border: 1px solid white;" valign="top">

Kevin Sumlin - Hiring Summary


#6b5e50; background-color: #6b5e50; height: 2px; width: 99%; border: 0; margin: 3px;" />
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.


#6b5e50; background-color: #6b5e50; height: 2px; width: 99%; border: 0; margin: 3px;" />

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:

#d8ceb6; padding: 4px; border-collapse: separate; border-radius: 10px; border: 1px solid white;" valign="top">

Jim Mora, Jr. - Hiring Summary


#6b5e50; background-color: #6b5e50; height: 2px; width: 99%; border: 0; margin: 3px;" />
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.


#6b5e50; background-color: #6b5e50; height: 2px; width: 99%; border: 0; margin: 3px;" />

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:

#d8ceb6; padding: 4px; border-collapse: separate; border-radius: 10px; border: 1px solid white;" valign="top">

Larry Fedora - Hiring Summary


#6b5e50; background-color: #6b5e50; height: 2px; width: 99%; border: 0; margin: 3px;" />
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.


#6b5e50; background-color: #6b5e50; height: 2px; width: 99%; border: 0; margin: 3px;" />

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

Pages