Articles By Braden Gall
The phrase “SEC Speed” instantly conjures images of glory, victory and pride for one region in the country and thoughts of depression, agony and exasperation for every other part of the nation. But after claiming their seventh national championship in a row, the SEC has a right to claim the best programs, players and coaches.
But why is that?
Yes, the SEC fanbases, power boosters and administrations are more dedicated and committed to winning — from top (Alabama) to bottom (Kentucky) — than any other conference in America. It also means they will do whatever it takes to win, at times, pushing more envelopes than anywhere else as well.
Simply put, the Southeast cares more about college football than any other region of the country. However, it helps that most of the country’s best high school athletes hail from one area of the nation as well.
Over the last five seasons, the Athlon Consensus 100 has compiled the most accurate and truest representation of the best high school football players in the nation. It averages out each of the expert online scouting services — Rivals, Scout, 247 Sports and ESPN to name a few — in an effort to create a composite ranking that is the best on the web.
With the exception of the first year (2008) of the AC100 in which Athlon Sports only ranked 100 prospects, Athlon Sports has ranked over 200 players per year by combining this variety of expert rankings. With that in mind, I have counted, dissected and analyzed where all 900 of those prospects have come from and have learned the following:
The Big 3 Dominates
As expected, Texas, Florida and California are the biggest and most powerful states for high school talent. It has always been this way and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. Of the 900 counted players, more than a third (379) came from just those three states with Florida topping all states in the rankings with 153 Top 200 players. The Sunshine State might produce the rawest talent, but Texas high school football is easily the most important. The state is more committed to big-time prep football (See "Varsity Blues" or "Friday Night Lights") than anywhere else in the nation and the athletes are better prepared for college ball at the highest level. California trails both Texas and Florida in both categories.
The Peach State Has Emerged
This also is no secret, but the state of Georgia has elevated itself as the clear-cut No. 4 in the rankings. With 67 elite prospects over the last five years, The Peach State is well ahead of other solid states (Ohio, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Virginia) in terms of total numbers of top prospects. It is no wonder why so many SEC and ACC programs make a living within the state of Georgia.
The Southeast Rules the Roost
Outside of Texas and California, the Southeastern region dominates the state rankings. The traditional Southeastern states claim three of the top six, four of the top 8, five of the top 10 and seven of the top 14 nationally in terms of talent production. If you consider the new footprint states of the SEC, Texas and Missouri, the SEC now has a major program in nine of the top 20 states for talent in the nation. Only Arkansas (ranked No. 26) and Kentucky (ranked No. 29) are SEC states not ranked in the top 20 over the last five cycles.
The Big Ten Is Smarter Than We Think
Many thought adding Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten was an odd move for all parties. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Maryland/D.C. and New Jersey were Nos. 15 and 16 in terms of talent production over the last five seasons and both have historically been underrated in terms of delivering elite athletes. Those two recruiting territories would rank No. 5 and No. 6 respectively in the Big Ten footprint behind Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois in terms of prospects, and ahead of current Big Ten states Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska. For the record, 16 prospects hail from Maryland and two come from D.C. but for all intents and purposes, these two are considered one.
West Virginia, Idaho and Hawaii were the only three states that claimed just a single top 200 prospect over the last five years. Ten others were completely shutout. Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming produced not a single top 200 player over the last five seasons. Quick, name the biggest, most successful FBS program in any of those states? Bueller? Bueller?
Here is the statistical breakdown of exactly where the best high school football players have come from over the last five years:
* - Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming produced no Top 200 prospects in the last five years.
Where do starting quarterbacks come from? What makes them great? How are they constructed?
All important questions college coaches must ask themselves when trying to evaluate the most important position on the field. A truly great field general can make or break a head coach’s career, so accurately evaluating high school prospects become one of the most valuable skills any college coach can master. Finding the hidden gem is virtually impossible in the modern age of Internet recruiting web sites and third-party film companies, but that doesn’t mean some still don’t slip through the cracks. Just ask every other school in Texas if they offered Johnny Manziel a scholarship? Because they didn’t — only Texas A&M, Oregon and Tulsa offered Manziel a chance at quarterback.
To understand better where elite signal callers come from and how they become starters at the highest level, Athlon Sports has analyzed the 68 power conference starters as well as BYU and Notre Dame. Common sense discretion was used to determine which quarterback should be deemed the “starter.” For example, Kain Colter gets the nod over Trevor Siemian at Northwestern, Clint Chelf is the starter at Oklahoma State, Travis Wilson gets the nod at Utah and Brendon Kay counted as the guy at Cincinnati.
Here is what Athlon learned:
Begin Your Search Out of State
Interestingly enough, only 24 of the 70 major-conference quarterbacks played college football in the same state they played high school football. The Big Ten (six) leads the nation with half of its league signing in-state passers. However, these names were not elite recruits as Joel Stave (Wisconsin) and Matt McGloin (Pennsylvania) were walk-ons, Philip Nelson had one offer (Minnesota) and James Vanderberg (Iowa) was a two-star. The SEC and Big 12 were second with five in-state signal callers each, however, seven of those 10 hail from Texas or Florida — where there are more prospects than anywhere else.
The ACC and Big East feature three in-state quarterbacks each while the Pac-12 has just one (Matt Barkley) who played college football in the same state as his high school career. Yes, most of the Pac-12 uses California for talent, including six starting quarterbacks, but the best ones in the league — Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Taylor Kelly, Kevin Hogan — come from Hawaii, Arizona, Idaho and Virginia respectively.
Finally, of next year's Heisman Trophy front-runners, almost all are out-of-state talents with the exception of Manziel and Ohio State's Braxton Miller. Aaron Murray, Tajh Boyd, Teddy Bridgewater, Taylor Martinez, Mariota and Hundley all crossed state lines to play in college.
The Commonwealth of Virginia
Looking for a sneaky place to find an elite passer? Look no further than Virginia. Plenty of elite talent sign big-time football scholarships from Virginia each recruiting cycle, but in 2012, half of the ACC — the better half — had a starting quarterback from The Mother of States. Tajh Boyd, EJ Manuel, Mike Glennon, Bryn Renner, Logan Thomas and Phillip Sims all played high school football in Virginia. Add Chris Coyer at Temple and Hogan at Stanford and the case could be made that The Commonwealth is the most underrated state for quarterback talent in the nation. This is likely why Bill O'Brien and Penn State wanted Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy signal caller Christian Hackenberg so badly.
South Beach, Baby
Four power conference quarterbacks hail from South Florida, and these are four of the best in the country. Bridgewater, Geno Smith, Denard Robinson and Stephen Morris all played prep ball in the talent-rich waters of Dade and Broward counties. Robinson and Smith are two of the most prolific players in their school’s history and Bridgewater is poised to make a Heisman run for Louisville. Morris led his team to the division championship and also returns with a conference crown in his sights. Strangely enough, however, the Hurricanes have actually been better off when it builds the rest of its roster around local talent but goes long distances to find a quarterback. Gino Torretta and Ken Dorsey were from California, Jim Kelly was from Pittsburgh and Vinny Testaverde was from Brooklyn. Jacory Harris, a Miami product, never lived up to the lofty expectations. Apparently, the locally bred Morris is facing an uphill battle as a senior.
S-E-C. S-E-C. S-E-C.
With 14 teams, the SEC is the biggest league in the nation. It also has seven straight national titles and is the best league in the nation. So it should come as no surprise that 31 of the 70 power conference quarterbacks hail from states in the SEC footprint, including both quarterbacks who played in the BCS National Championship game. Twelve of the 14 starting SEC signal callers are from the region — Tyler Bray and Jordan Rodgers are from California — and 19 other major conference programs feature a prospect from an SEC state. Certainly, Florida and Texas provide much of the talent, but so too does Georgia, Missouri and Alabama. It's not rocket science: The Southeast has more athletes than anywhere else in the country.
Quarterback Revolving Door
No other position is more transient than the quarterback. Once a big-time recruit realizes he isn’t going to get starting time, he will be the first to look elsewhere. There is only one football after all. Ten of the 70 quarterbacks began their careers at a different program. Phillip Sims was at Alabama before landing at Virginia. Robert Marve signed with Miami before heading north to Purdue. Zach Maynard (Buffalo to Cal), Chandler Whitmer (Illinois to UConn) and Jordan Webb (Kansas to Colorado) also transferred. Bo Wallace, Cameron Coffman, Riley Nelson and Jordan Rodgers were all junior college transfers before excelling at Ole Miss, Indiana, BYU and Vanderbilt respectively. The lesson? Don't be afraid to look at your direct competition to find a starter.
Don't Be Afraid of the Small School
There are elite high school programs all over the country that send dozens of prospects to the FBS ranks each year. The 70 different quarterbacks in this study played at 68 different high schools. Small programs in Idaho, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Minnesota all sent a staring quarterback to a major conference. However, two high school programs featured a pair of signal callers. Powerhouse West Coast program Corona (Calif.) Centennial sent Taylor Martinez to Nebraska and Matt Scott to Arizona while famed Tampa (Fla.) Plant delivered Murray to Georgia and Marve to Purdue (by way of Miami). Otherwise, it appears there are no limitations as to where a coach will look to find talent under center.
State-by-state ranking of the 70 power conference starting quarterbacks:
|1.||California||10||Chase Rettig, Taylor Martinez, Matt Barkley, Sean Mannion, Keith Price, Matt Scott, Jeff Tuel, Travis Wilson, Tyler Bray, Jordan Rodgers|
|2.||Florida||9||Stephen Morris, Sam Richardson, Geno Smith, Teddy Bridgewater, BJ Daniels, Robert Marve, Denard Robinson, Jeff Driskel, Aaron Murray|
|3.||Virginia||8||Tajh Boyd, Mike Glennon, EJ Manuel, Bryn Renner, Phillip Sims, Logan Thomas, Chris Coyer, Kevin Hogan|
|4.||Texas||8||Tanner Price, David Ash, Trevone Boykin, Michael Cummings, Seth Doege, Nick Florence, James Franklin, Johnny Manziel|
|5.||Pennsylvania||4||CJ Brown, Ryan Nassib, Tino Sunseri, Matt McGloin|
|6t.||Georgia||3||Chandler Whitmer, Zach Mettenberger, Connor Shaw|
|6t.||Alabama||3||Tevin Washington, AJ McCarron, Jalen Whitlow|
|6t.||Missouri||3||Cameron Coffman, Nathan Scheelhaase, Jordan Webb|
|9t.||Colorado||2||Collin Klein, Kain Colter|
|9t.||Arizona||2||Sean Renfree, Brett Hundley|
|9t.||Arkansas||2||Tyler Wilson, Kiehl Frazier|
|9t.||Michigan||2||Andrew Maxwell, Brendon Kay|
|13t.||New Jersey||1||Gary Nova|
|13t.||New Mexico||1||Landry Jones|
|13t.||N. Carolina||1||Zach Maynard|
|13t.||S. Carolina||1||Everett Golson|
ESPN catches a lot of heat for a lot of things — forced apologies, inconsistent treatment of talent, controlling the sports broadcasting market and, of course, its coverage of Tim Tebow. But much like the SEC is the best football conference because it has won seven straight national titles, there’s a reason ESPN has become the goliath that it is today.
They were the first and best in the business to do what they do. And it all started on Sept. 6, 1979 with the original run of their signature nightly sportscast that kept fans informed about what was happening in sports. This well before the eruption of the Internet, blog-o-sphere, social media or niche television networks.
For kids born in the early '80s (like myself), SportsCenter was as big a part of childhood as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Fans could follow teams, stories and personalities from all over the nation in one place. But what took SportsCenter from also-ran cable network newscast to broadcasting behemoth was the creative, funny and unique personalities that delivered the sports news. To quote one truly epic newscaster, “I don’t know how to put this, but, I’m kind of a big deal.”
With that in mind, from the viewer's perspective, here are the Top 20 SportsCenter anchors of all-time:
1. Dan Patrick (1989-2006)
Not many jobs in any broadcasting field last for nearly 20 years and Patrick was the one of the best. Signature phrases "en fuego"(which actually started as "el fuego") and "The Whiff" helped grow the idea that SportsCenter was as much entertainment as it was news. He is also credited with the advent of the phrase “This is SportsCenter” which has been used in cross-promotion and advertising for nearly two decades. Not many sportscasters have 16 motion pictures and two national radio shows on their resume. Patrick has set the bar in the sports broadcasting industry.
2. Bob Ley (1979-present)
The classy stalwart has been with the network since its inception in 1979, making him one of (if not the) longest tenured ESPN employees in the building. Over the course of his prestigious career, Ley has claimed eight sports Emmys (Sports Journalism) and three Cable ACE awards (Sports Information Series) and has been the long-time host of the acclaimed investigative program Outside the Lines. He is credited with breaking the story of Pete Rose being banned from baseball.
3. Kenny Mayne (1994-present)
Few television personalities have ever had a dryer sense of humor than Mayne. The Washington native and junior college quarterback debuted on SportSmash in 1994 before moving over to the big network and developing into one of the funnier broadcasters in sports. His extensive and creative home runs calls in particular have withstood the test of time. He then developed “The Mayne Event” for NFL Sunday mornings and is still currently involved with his own feature “Wider World of Sports” as well as horse racing.
4. Keith Olbermann (1992-1997)
After a decade with CNN, Olbermann joined ESPN’s SportsCenter in 1992 quickly becoming a marquee personality. By 1995, he had won the Cable ACE award for Best Sportscaster. After things had soured internally at ESPN, and with an eye always toward the political spectrum, Olbermann left SportsCenter for MSNBC in 1997. He also worked for Fox Sports Net and NBC Nightly News. The cult-hit sitcom Sports Night, written by Aaron Sorkin, is based on Olbermann’s time spent with Patrick on the set of SportsCenter. Despite his bizarre and eccentric personality, ESPN likely isn’t what it is today without the impact of the combination of Patrick and Olbermann.
5. Greg Gumbel (1979-1988)
There is little Mr. Gumbel has yet to accomplish in his illustrious broadcasting career. He has done play-by-play for the NCAA Tournament, NBA, MLB, Winter Olympics, college baseball and NFL. He has hosted shows about every sport on NBC and CBS as well as ABC. But it all started back in 1979 when he started his career at ESPN. He was a reporter, anchor and play-by-play man at a time when many doubted the future of SportsCenter. Gumbel’s no-nonsense approach has made him a model and iconic broadcaster who influenced generations of rising journalists and TV personalities.
6. Scott Van Pelt (2001-present)
The signature bald head of Van Pelt has become a staple of the ESPN television and radio broadcasts. He began working at the Golf Channel and has continued his work as one of the top host/analysts at all the major tournaments each season. Much like Patrick, Mayne and Olbermann, SVP’s comedic talents on SportsCenter helped him land an ESPN Radio gig as well as a variety of video game jobs (EA Sports).
7. Linda Cohn (1992-present)
In 1987, Cohn made her first big mark in the business by becoming the first full-time national female sports anchor in U.S. radio history. She has withstood the test of time, hosting SportsCenter for over 20 years. Along the way, she was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and given the Women’s Sports Journalism Award. She also authored her own biography and has paved the way for women everywhere to break into the sports broadcasting business — or, as she puts it, “The Boys’ Club.”
8. Rece Davis (1995-present)
Laurece “Rece” Davis graduated from Alabama in 1968 and worked his way to ESPN2 by 1995. The consummate professional, Davis can play both host and analyst roles as well as anyone in the business. His work on College Football Live, Gameday Final and College Gameday make him one of the best in the business. He is always gracious with his time and is one of the few who genuinely loves the sports he covers.
9. Robin Roberts (1990-2004)
The smooth-talking Roberts has been a staple of national television for over two decades. With quality catch-phrases and her up-tempo personality, Roberts developed into one of the best SportsCenter anchors of all-time. She won three Emmys for her work at ESPN and was given the Mel Greenberg Media Award in 2001. It eventually landed her on ABC’s signature morning program Good Morning America. Her very public bout (and victory) with cancer is just one reason millions have grown to love the Mississippi native.
10. Chris Berman (1979-present)
When he was good, few have ever been as entertaining and likable as Berman. Signature catch phrases and nicknames made him one of the preeminent SportsCenter anchors during the time of biggest growth for ESPN. His work on NFL Primetime and the Home Run Derby makes him one of the most distinctive personalities in ESPN history. However, his longevity might be his biggest weakness as 30 years in the business has left his shtick a bit stale. At his best (the '90s), he was one of the greats. And at his worst (the '00s), he can be nails on a chalkboard.
11. Brian Kenny (1997-2011)
A baseball and boxing junkie, Kenny won an Emmy at ESPN and was named the network’s Volunteer of the Year in 2007. He also was named SI’s Media Personality of the Year in 2004 and Boxing Broadcaster of the Year in 2005.
12. John Anderson (1999-present)
Hailing from one of the most prestigious journalism departments in the nation at Missouri, Anderson has been one of the best new generation anchors at ESPN. He won the Oklahoma Sportscaster of the Year in 2012 and has crossed over into mainstream as the co-host of ABC's Wipeout.
13. Craig Kilborn (1993-1996)
Many give credit to Kilborn, Patrick and Olbermann for bringing comedy to the SportsCenter set. He went on to host The Daily Show on Comedy Central and The Late, Late Show on CBS. He also famously appeared in Old School.
14. John Buccigross (1996-present)
The hockey aficionado has won Emmys for his work on SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight as well as NHL Tonight. He has written for the Web site (as well as a book) and hosted for ESPN for nearly 20 years.
15. Dave Revsine (1999-2007)
An even-keel broadcaster is as professional as they come. A Northwestern grad, Revsine hosted a variety of shows for ESPN and did play-by-play. In 2007, he left ESPN to become the lead studio host for the Big Ten Network when the channel launched.
16. Charley Steiner (1987-2001)
The jolly, bearded anchor always seemed to have a good time on the air and always seemed to be involved in the funnier SC moments (Carl Lewis?). He eventually worked his way onto ESPN’s national baseball radio broadcasts as well before moving on to the Yankees' radio team in 2002.
17. Steve Levy (1993-present)
A quality and likable broadcaster, Levy has been around the SportsCenter desk for two decades. His famous “bulging disk” slip-up is one of the all-time great moments in ESPN history. He also earned the nickname “Mr. Overtime” for his work as a hockey broadcaster.
18. Neil Everett (2000-present)
The West Coaster worked at Hawaii Pacific University for 15 years before getting back into broadcasting. His signature deep, gravelly voice and Island vocabulary makes him one of the better “new” anchors.
19. Rich Eisen (1996-2003)
The affable NFL Network lead host began his broadcasting career at KRCR-TV in Redding, Calif. He landed at ESPN in 1996 and built a name for himself with baseball impersonations and quality reporting. His podcast (The Rich Eisen Podcast) is one of the most listened to on the Web (over 7 mill. downloads).
20. Kevin Frazier (2002-2004)
His time was brief at ESPN, but “K-Fray” has long been one of the business’ most respected personalities. He is now the host of The Insider as well as college football coverage on FX and Fox.
Best of the Rest:
Steve Berthiaume (2000-2006, 2007-2012)
Trey Wingo (1997-present)
Lindsay Czarniak (2011-present)
Mike Tirico (1991-1997)
Tim Brando (1986-1994)
Suzy Kolber (1993-1996, 1999-present)
Bill Pidto (1993-2008)
Hannah Storm (2008-present)
Chris Fowler (1989-1993)
Sage Steele (2007-present)
It is never too early to start looking ahead to next season. Especially now that Alabama is college football’s 2012 National Champion. This season featured huge showdowns between the ACC and SEC at the end of the year, Notre Dame battling with the Big Ten or Pac-12 all season long and a host of other important non-conference showdowns. Each and every year, a variety of intersectional matchups mold the national championship landscape or add a chapter to long and storied rivalries.
Athlon Sports starts marking up the 2013 calendar with key non-conference games to watch:
1. Georgia at Clemson (Aug. 31)
The Dawgs are a preseason Top 10 team now that Aaron Murray returns, but the defense will be replacing upwards of 10 starters. They will have to face a Tajh Boyd-Chad Morris offense that is one of the best in the nation. The Tigers will likely be the pick in the ACC and could also be a top 10 team, making the home game against the SEC power essentially a national title elimination game.
2. Oklahoma at Notre Dame (Sept. 28)
The Sooners could be the pick in the Big 12 but will need to break in a bunch of new pieces on both sides of the ball. Notre Dame will once again be a national title contender with an elite defensive line and improved offense. With revenge, historic brands and elite talent all involved in this showdown, it could easily be another national title elimination game.
3. UCLA at Nebraska (Sept. 14)
This was an epic showdown early in 2012 when the Bruins defeated the Huskers 36-30 in Week 2 of the season. It was Brett Hundley’s coming out party as the savior at quarterback for UCLA. The pressure might now be on Jim Mora’s team as the potential preseason favorite in the Pac-12 South. Nebraska could be the pick in the Big Ten's Legends Division as this early season game will feature both losers in their respective conference championship games from this fall.
4. Clemson at South Carolina (Nov. 30)
The big three SEC-ACC showdowns each year carry in-state bragging rights and historic implications. But in 2012, Florida-Florida State was the only one carrying national title importance. The best of the bunch next fall, however, could be the Palmetto State battle. Both could be picked to win their respective divisions and both could be unbeaten heading into one of the most intense rivalries in the nation.
5. Notre Dame at Stanford (Nov. 30)
Stanford has big holes to fill along its defensive front and on the offense, but has to still be considered one of the frontrunners in the Pac-12. The Irish will once again be a top 10 team, and this time, must travel to Palo Alto to deal with a team that will likely never forget how the 2012 version ended.
6. Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Aug. 31, Atlanta)
With Logan Thomas coming back and some tweaks on the coaching staff, the Hokies almost have be better on offense in 2012. Defensively, Bud Foster’s team will always be good, but to compete with the Tide in the Kickoff Classic, Thomas will have to be the difference maker. Otherwise, Bama will make yet another statement in its season opener en route to yet another title run.
7. Notre Dame at Michigan (Sept. 7)
Brady Hoke and Brian Kelly have completely overhauled their historic programs in short order. Both are still improving and both have title hopes (National and Big Ten, respectively). This is one of the most historic battles each season and generally is one of the best games of the year.
8. TCU vs. LSU (Aug. 31, Arlington)
Gary Patterson did one of his better coaching jobs with some impressive wins without his starting quarterback in year one in a new league. The defensive line will be nasty for the Horned Frogs and they will be playing very close to home. This is what should give them a chance against the mighty Bayou Bengals. LSU is losing nearly a dozen elite players early to the NFL Draft and will be very young along the offensive line and on defense.
9. USC at Notre Dame (Oct. 19)
The Trojans have some holes to fill at quarterback and defensive coordinator, but they also have loads of young talent and yet another elite recruiting class stepping onto campus. The Irish are a preseason top 10 team and anytime these two college football bluebloods get together, fireworks tend to fly.
10. Florida State at Florida (Nov. 30)
Much like South Carolina-Clemson, this one could carry national import at season’s end once again. Both programs have big holes to fill on defense while the Noles must replace EJ Manuel at quarterback. If the Gators' offense can develop in the offseason, they will be right in the heart of the SEC East race.
11. Florida at Miami (Sept. 7)
This will be a big prove-it game for the rising Hurricanes. Al Golden has done an excellent job with a roster that started 10 freshmen and technically won the division in 2012. Miami could validate its growth and put itself on the national scene with an early home win of the mighty in-state rivals.
12. Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State (Aug. 31, Houston)
The Bulldogs and Cowboys are both achieving at unprecedented levels and both could be sneaky good once again in 2013. The Pokes could actually be the preseason pick to win the Big 12 and will have a chance to prove it against an always solid Dan Mullen-coached team — in a fertile recruiting territory for both.
13. Boise State at Washington (Aug. 31)
This was a great bowl game in Las Vegas to end the season. Now, these two West Coast powers will do battle right out of the gate in 2013. The Huskies' defense should continue to improve while the offense has the pieces to excel. And Chris Peterson will always have the Broncos ready to go early in the year.
14. Wisconsin at Arizona State (Sept. 14)
This was a great game in Madison a few years ago and should again be a stellar non-conference tilt next year. Todd Graham has loads of weapons returning on offense and should be the favorite to win this intriguing intersectional game.
15. Notre Dame vs. Arizona State (Oct. 5, Arlington)
This should be a great test for the Irish defensive line and the Taylor Kelly-led Sun Devils offense. The strengths of both teams will go head-to-head and a win for ASU would validate them as a serious South Division contender.
16. North Carolina at South Carolina (Aug. 31)
Yet another SEC-ACC battle — but this one will have interstate bragging rights on the line. The two programs are the State-U’s in their respective Carolina, but the North version will have to play over their heads to compete with the potential SEC East frontrunner.
17. Texas at BYU (Sept. 7)
Both defenses have a chance to be the strength of their respective teams — if Texas’ athletes can finally play up to their potential. And anytime a team has to visit Provo, it must be worried about escaping with a victory.
18. Michigan State at Notre Dame (Sept. 21)
The Spartans will once again be excellent on defense and one has to believe the offense will be more two-dimensional in 2013. The Irish are what they are and have been crushing the Spartans of late.
19. Rutgers at Fresno State (Aug. 29)
The Knights will feature yet another solid defensive unit and they will have their work cut out for them in a long, cross-country trip to face an elite offense. Derek Carr has only a few national spotlight moments and this will be one of them.
20. Georgia at Georgia Tech (Nov. 30)
Tech finally got Paul Johnson a bowl win and, ideally, that will catapult the team into the offseason. The Dawgs are a big-time national title contender. Finally, it is still arguably the best named rivalry in the nation: “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.”
21. BYU at Wisconsin (Nov. 9)
Defense will rule the day in a rare late-season non-conference game for a Big Ten power.
22. Oregon at Nevada (Sept. 7)
Sans legend Chris Ault, Nevada will host one of its most high-profile opponents in Reno history.
23. Penn State at Syracuse (Aug. 31, East Rutherford)
Cuse has a new coach but has been much better of late. PSU needs to start things right.
24. Tennessee at Oregon (Sept. 14)
This won’t be a close game, but two major powers get together in Eugene early in the year.
25. Arkansas at Rutgers (Sept. 21)
Revenge factor is heavy for the Hogs, but the Knights have a national spotlight game here.
26. West Virginia at Maryland (Sept. 21, Baltimore)
The Terps are improving and WVU is replacing a ton of offensive weapons.
27. Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky (Aug. 31, Nashville)
Bobby Petrino vs. the SEC. Need I say more?
28. Western Kentucky at Tennessee (Sept. 7)
Bobby Petrino vs. an SEC team that should have hired him. Need I say more?
29. Ole Miss at Texas (Sept. 7)
Was a high-scoring showdown in Oxford in 2012, could be even better in 2013.
30. Ohio State at Cal (Sept. 14)
Tricky road game for national title contender against new coaching staff in Berkeley.
Best of the Rest:
Utah at BYU (Sept. 21)
Washington State at Auburn (Aug. 31)
Iowa at Iowa State (Sept. 14)
Northwestern at Cal (Aug. 31)
Iowa at Iowa State (Sept. 14)
Washington vs. Illinois (Sept. 14, Chicago)
Notre Dame at Purdue (Sept. 14)
Louisville at Kentucky (Sept. 14)
Northwestern at Cal (Aug. 31)
Nevada at UCLA (Aug. 31)
Syracuse at Northwestern (Sept. 7)
Nevada at Florida State (Sept. 21)
Miami at USF (Sept. 28)
Georgia Tech at BYU (Oct. 12)
Notre Dame at Pitt (Nov. 9)
Purdue at Cincinnati (Aug. 31)
Johnny Manziel set the college football world on fire this year and it led to the first redshirt freshman winning the award. Johnny Heisman confirmed his amazing season by putting on a record-setting show in the Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma. But is the redshirt sophomore-to-be the front-runner to win Heisman considering only once in 77 years has someone won the stiff-armed trophy a second time. And that was in 1975 (Archie Griffin).
That said, two second-year players (Manziel, Tim Tebow) and a third-year sophomore (Mark Ingram) have won the award in the last six years. Additionally, three defensive players have found themselves in New York as finalists since 2009 and linebacker Manti Te’o nearly won the award this fall. It appears the antiquated tendencies of the Heisman voting populous are beginning to fade.
And it means a defensive end could be crowned as the best player in the game next fall:
The Heisman Finalists:
Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Few players posted numbers comparable to Johnny Heisman, but Boyd was one of them. He led the ACC in passing efficiency (165.59) and total offense (339.2 ypg) and was fifth and seventh in each category nationally. He scored 46 total touchdowns (36 pass, 10 rush) and has a host of elite weapons returning. More importantly, this team should be the preseason favorite in the ACC with Boyd under center and Chad Morris calling the plays.
Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Carey was the most underrated player in the nation this fall. He led the nation in rushing (148.4 ypg, 1,929 yards), set the Arizona single-season rushing record and the Pac-12 single-game rushing record (366 yards). He scored 24 times and helped turn the Wildcats from a four-win team in 2011 to an eight-win zone read monster this fall. And he did all of this as a sophomore. With spread guru Rich Rodriguez calling the shots, the tough-nosed workhorse has a chance to post huge numbers once again in 2013. Although Carey's on-field performance merits inclusion, the running back is facing domestic violence accusations.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
There is little doubt that Clowney is the most physically gifted player in the nation. He is a near lock as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. And because he plays a stat-heavy position on defense, he has a great chance at landing in New York. The monster defensive end finished third in the nation in sacks (1.08 pg) and second nationally in tackles for loss (1.96 pg). He enters his third year with 21.0 sacks, eight forced fumbles and 35.5 tackles for loss. Winning the SEC East might be a must if Clowney wants to become just the second true defensive player to ever win the award.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
What else is there to say about Manziel? His numbers speak for themselves and his Cotton Bowl performance will go down in Aggie lore as one of the greatest postseason performances by a Heisman winner of all time. But Tim Tebow couldn’t repeat. Neither could Mark Ingram, Matt Leinart or Sam Bradford. All were elite talents like Manziel, but the odds of repeating are 1-in-77.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Manziel gets most of the love as a redshirt freshman, but Mariota wasn’t far behind. He rarely played in any second halves and led the nation in road passing efficiency. Overall, he led the Pac-12 in passer rating and scored 37 total touchdowns. As the leader of arguably the nation’s top offense, the supremely gifted 6-foot-4, 200-pounder should be destined for at least one trip to NYC in his career.
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
The Buckeyes' quarterback was easily the biggest finalist snub this season, finishing fifth in the voting. As the leader of an unbeaten Ohio State squad, Miller single-handedly carried the Bucknuts to victory week after week. He was fourth in the Big Ten in rushing (105.9 ypg), second in passing efficiency and second in total offense. His electric play-making ability, raw toughness and perfect fit in Urban Meyer’s spread scheme make him a virtual lock as a Heisman contender next season.
The Top Challengers:
De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
An elite big-play machine, Thomas’ biggest weakness is actually one of his biggest strengths. The Oregon scheme lends itself to huge numbers but it also distributes the football. Simply put, he needs more than 137 touches on offense to get to New York.
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
With a proven commodity at quarterback coming back, Lee would be in the “Finalists” category. But with Matt Barkley — and counterpart Robert Woods who drew plenty of defensive attention — leaving for the NFL, Lee’s numbers will almost assuredly go down.
Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
The Dawgs' signal caller will make a push to rewrite the Georgia and SEC record books with another big year in Athens. He led the nation in passing efficiency and has 77 total touchdowns in the last two seasons. He needs to finish a season in Atlanta with a win, however.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The hot name du jour is the Cards' signal caller after his electric performance against Florida’s nasty defense in the Sugar Bowl. The numbers have to get bigger and better and Louisville likely needs to run the table for the junior-to-be to land in NYC.
Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska
Few players make the eye-popping plays in the backfield like Martinez. He showed marked improvement in efficiency and decision making this fall, leading the Big Ten in total offense and passer rating. A pair of potential showdowns with Braxton Miller will likely determine T-Magic’s Heisman fate.
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
The Bruins finally found a quarterback. The redshirt sophomore-to-be threw for three 300-yard efforts in his first four career games. He led his team to the Pac-12 title game and scored 38 total touchdowns. The show will be all his in Westwood now that Johnathan Franklin is gone.
TJ Yeldon, RB, Alabama
Looking for another true sophomore to win the award? Look no further than the extremely gifted Yeldon. He rushed for 1,000 yards and 10 scores as a backup this year and Nick Saban’s offense is a proven Heisman commodity for running backs.
AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
A big part of why Yeldon will be successful will be the return of McCarron. The O-Line will be rebuilt (to some extent), but the talent at the skill positions could be better than Saban has ever had at the Capstone. The biggest issue is his system will never allow for big numbers from the quarterback.
Duke Johnson, RB, Miami
The De’Anthony Thomas of the East Coast, Johnson led the ACC in kickoff returns and was third in all-purpose running as just a freshman. As the season went on, Al Golden trusted Johnson more on offense and he topped 100 yards three times in his last four games. Look for big things from the sophomore speedster.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The offensive system will allow Carr to air it out all season long. He has 7,648 yards and 63 touchdowns against only 16 interceptions over his last two seasons. An unbeaten record and BCS bowl bid would be key for the Bulldogs' starter.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
When it comes to raw upside and physical talent, Watkins is second to none nationally. But staying healthy and focused has been an issue for the electric play-maker, causing him to miss four games in his first two years. Consistency will be the name of the game for the junior-to-be.
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
It will be tough for Gurley to top his freshman numbers in the brutal SEC. He led the league in rushing by a running back and scored 17 times. Only Trent Richardson has ever scored 20 rushing TDs in SEC history as a running back and Murray will be throwing plenty of touchdowns. The UGA vote will likely be split between two (maybe three) elite players.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Many people, myself included, were massively disappointed by the 260-pound quarterback. He rallied the Hokies late and the offense should be improved in 2013, but Thomas needs to show growth as a passer (18 TD, 16 INT) to get to New York.
Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois
For Lynch to get to Manhattan next December, he would have to improve on what could be considered the best single-season in MAC history. A BCS bowl bid, nearly 2,000 yards rushing, over 3,000 yards passing, 44 total touchdowns and just six interceptions will be tough to reproduce.
The Long Shots:
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
Huskers love to run it and the explosive back will be top complementary piece to Martinez.
Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma
He will score plenty of touchdowns, but can he complete passes consistently?
Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
Percy Harvin-esque player will be used all over the field on improved Terps team.
Jeff Driskel, QB, Florida
Must improve consistency and needs help on offense, but is only a junior and has loads of upside.
Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame
Showed marked growth over the season and Irish could once again be a top 5 team.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
James White will factor in as well, but Gordon is best bet to be Badgers' new workhorse.
Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
Sneaky-good athlete in an excellent offense with host of electric supporting athletes.
Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern
Big-play star as a runner, receiver and return man for what could be best offense in school history.
Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
Third-year starter at tailback could be leading candidate from Big 12 in elite offense.
Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
Coach Sark has proven he loves tailbacks, but Keith Price has to improve to help the offense.
The Best of the Rest:
Antonio Andrews, RB, WKU
Michael Brewer, QB, Texas Tech
Kolton Browning, QB, UL Monroe
Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern
Kenneth Dixon, RB, La Tech
Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford
Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Keith Price, QB, Washington
Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina
Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
Austin Seferian-Jenkin, TE, Washington
Rushel Shell, RB, Pitt
Tyler Tettleton, QB, Ohio
Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss
The Defensive Names to Watch:
Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Is a terror off of the edge and will push for nation's lead in sacks.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Big-play machine has All-American type talent and upside on a national title contender.
Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
Elite recruit produced All-Big 12 season as just a freshman. The sky is the limit.
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Legacy talent needs to stay healthy all year to prove how dominant he can be.
C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Elite leader is one of few major defensive stars who elected to return to college.
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Redshirt junior to be is already a star and could be nation's top returning coverman.
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Will lose a lot of talent around him, but no one hits harder and bigger than Shazier.
Will Sutton, DL, Arizona State
Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year back on a team that could push for a division title.
Shaq Thompson, S, Washington
Elite playmaker who should blossom into an All-American as just a sophomore.
Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame
Supremely gifted athlete could pass Louis Nix as top Irish defender next fall.
Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
Sturdy, dependable star returns for final season in Provo.
Athlon Sports keeps college and pro football fans up to date with daily NFL Draft Underclassman announcements and declarations. Here is the latest list of players who have announced their intentions to enter the draft or return to school and some who have yet to decide.
Analysis: Draft Deadline Winners and Losers
Last updated: Wed., Jan. 16
Will enter the 2013 NFL Draft:
|Luke Joeckel||OL||Texas A&M||6-6||310||Top 10|
|Jarvis Jones||OLB||Georgia||6-3||241||Top 10|
|Damontre Moore||DE/OLB||Texas A&M||6-4||250||Top 10|
|Keenan Allen||WR||Cal||6-3||210||Top 10|
|Bjoern Werner||DE||Florida St||6-4||256||Top 10|
|Johnanthan Hankins||DT||Ohio St||6-3||320||Top 10|
|Dee Milliner||DB||Alabama||6-1||199||Top 10|
|Sheldon Richardson||DT||Missouri||6-3||295||1st Round|
|Sam Montgomery||DE||LSU||6-5||260||1st Round|
|Barkevious Mingo||DE/OLB||LSU||6-4||240||1st Round|
|Tony Jefferson||S||Oklahoma||5-11||210||1st Round|
|Alec Ogletree||ILB||Georgia||6-3||230||1st Round|
|Matt Elam||S||Florida||5-10||205||1st Round|
|Giovani Bernard||RB||North Carolina||5-10||205||1st Round|
|Xavier Rhodes||CB||Florida St||6-1||215||1st Round|
|Robert Woods||WR||USC||6-0||190||1st Round|
|Tyler Bray||QB||Tennessee||6-5||215||Round 1-2|
|Marcus Lattimore||RB||South Carolina||6-1||220||Round 1-2|
|Corey Lemonier||DE/OLB||Auburn||6-4||255||Round 1-2|
|Sharrif Floyd||DT||Florida||6-3||303||Round 1-2|
|Justin Hunter||WR||Tennessee||6-4||205||Round 1-2|
|Cordarrelle Patterson||WR||Tennessee||6-3||210||Round 1-2|
|D.J. Fluker||OL||Alabama||6-6||330||Round 1-2|
|Tharold Simon||CB||LSU||6-3||193||Round 1-2|
|Eric Reid||S||LSU||6-2||2-2||Round 1-2|
|Zach Ertz||TE||Stanford||6-6||250||Round 1-2|
|Bennie Logan||DT||LSU||6-3||295||Round 1-2|
|Tyler Eifert||TE||Notre Dame||6-6||251||Round 1-2|
|Kevin Minter||LB||LSU||6-1||245||Round 2|
|Jelani Jenkins||LB||Florida||6-0||235||Round 2|
|William Gholston||DE||Michigan St||6-7||280||Round 2|
|Jordan Reed||TE||Florida||6-3||245||Round 2|
|David Amerson||CB||NC State||6-3||210||Round 2|
|Da'Rick Rogers||WR||Tennessee Tech||6-3||205||Round 2|
|Stedman Bailey||WR||West Virginia||5-10||195||Round 2|
|Akeem Spence||DT||Illinois||6-1||305||Round 2|
|Logan Ryan||CB||Rutgers||6-0||190||Round 2|
|Nickell Robey||DB||USC||5-8||165||Round 2|
|DeAndre Hopkins||WR||Clemson||6-1||200||Round 2|
|Kenny Stills||WR||Oklahoma||6-1||190||Round 2-3|
|Spencer Ware||RB||LSU||5-11||225||Round 2-3|
|Le'Veon Bell||RB||Michigan St||6-2||240||Round 2-3|
|Travis Frederick||OL||Wisconsin||6-4||340||Round 2-3|
|Alvin Bailey||OG||Arkansas||6-5||315||Round 2-3|
|Justin Pugh||OL||Syracuse||6-6||290||Round 2-3|
|Joseph Randle||RB||Oklahoma St||6-1||200||Round 2-3|
|Eddie Lacy||RB||Alabama||6-0||200||Round 2-3|
|Kwame Geathers||DL||Georgia||6-6||355||Round 2-3|
|Chris Faulk||OL||LSU||6-6||323||Round 2-3|
|Brandon Jenkins||DE||Florida St||6-3||260||Round 3|
|Menelik Watson||OL||Florida St||6-6||320||Round 3|
|Dion Sims||TE||Michigan St||6-5||285||Round 3|
|Levine Toilolo||TE||Stanford||6-7||265||Round 3-4|
|Terrence Brown||S||Stanford||6-1||180||Round 3-4|
|Cierre Wood||RB||Notre Dame||6-0||215||Round 3-4|
|Gavin Escobar||TE||San Diego St||6-5||255||Round 4|
|Jawan Jamison||RB||Rutgers||5-8||200||Round 4|
|Darrington Sentimore||DE||Tennessee||6-2||285||Round 4|
|Steve Williams||CB||Cal||5-10||185||Round 4|
|Michael Ford||RB||LSU||5-10||220||Round 4-5|
|Brad Wing||P||LSU||6-2||180||Round 4-5|
|David Bakhtiari||OL||Colorado||6-4||295||Round 4-5|
|Stansly Maponga||DE||TCU||6-2||265||Round 4-5|
|Joe Kruger||DE||Utah||6-6||275||Round 5-6|
|Josh Boyce||WR||TCU||6-0||203||Round 5-6|
|Brandon Kaufman||WR||Eastern Wash.||6-5||215||Round 6|
|Stefphon Jefferson||RB||Nevada||5-11||210||Round 6|
|Mike Edwards||CB||Hawaii||5-10||190||Round 6|
|Tyrann Mathieu||CB||ex-LSU||5-8||185||Round 6|
|Knile Davis||RB||Arkansas||6-0||225||Round 6|
|Trabis Ward||RB||Tennessee St||5-10||200||Round 6-7|
|Greg Reid||CB||Valdosta St||5-8||185||Round 7|
|Kyle Padron||QB||Eastern Wash.||6-4||225||Round 7|
|Marquess Wilson||WR||Washington St||6-4||185||Round 7|
|Brandon Moore||DL||Texas||6-5||320||Round 7|
|Darrington Sentimore||DL||Tennessee||6-2||288||Round 7|
Returning to College in 2013:
|Jeremiah Attaochu||LB||Georgia Tech|
|Derek Carr||QB||Fresno St|
|Darqueze Dennard||CB||Michigan St|
|Victor Hampton||CB||South Carolina|
|LaMarcus Joyner||DB||Florida St|
|Zach Martin||OL||Notre Dame|
|Jake Matthews||OL||Texas A&M|
|Louis Nix||DT||Notre Dame|
|Bryn Renner||QB||North Carolina|
|Bradley Robey||CB||Ohio State|
|Will Sutton||DL||Arizona St|
|Logan Thomas||QB||Virginia Tech|
|Kyle Van Noy||DE/OLB||BYU|
The BCS just finished its 15th season of action, and has for the most part, been a major improvement on the previous bowl system. How do each of the 15 official champions stack-up against each other? Who has the most talent? Who had the best resume? Who played the toughest schedule? And who performed the best on the biggest stage?
Athlon Sports has ranked the 15 BCS National Champions — and there is a decided regional bias to the list. Just not at the very top. That distinction belongs to the Big East, Big 12 and Pac-12.
"First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks
1. Miami Hurricanes, 2001 (12-0, 7-0)
Head Coach: Larry Coker
Key Stats: No. 3 in nation in scoring offense (42.7 ppg), no. 1 in scoring defense (9.8 ppg); average margin of victory 33.2 points per game
Award Winners: Larry Coker (Paul “Bear” Bryant Award), Ken Dorsey (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Maxwell Award, Rose Bowl co-MVP), Andre Johnson (Rose Bowl co-MVP), Bryant McKinnie (Outland Trophy), Ed Reed (co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (17): Phillip Buchanon (1st, 2002), Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), William Joseph (1st, 2003), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Bryant McKinnie (1st, 2002), Ed Reed (1st, 2002), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005), Mike Rumph (1st, 2002), Jeremy Shockey (1st, 2002), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Clinton Portis (2nd, 2002)
Simply put, this team was loaded and is viewed by many as one of the best ever in college football history. With a roster featuring six first-team All-Americans and 13 first-team All-Big East selections, not to mention 32 future NFL draft picks, these Hurricanes dominated on both sides of the ball and steamrolled their competition from start to finish. They started things off by going to Happy Valley and dominating Penn State 33-7, which tied the record for the Nittany Lions’ worst home loss under Joe Paterno. Later on, the ‘Canes defeated No. 14 Syracuse and No. 12 Washington in consecutive weeks at the Orange Bowl with a combined score of 124-7, which set the NCAA record for largest margin of victory over consecutive ranked opponents. They capped things off by dismantling the No. 4 Nebraska Cornhuskers 37-14 in the Rose Bowl, in a game where they held a 34-0 lead in the first half.
Sept. 1: Miami (Fla.) 33, Penn State 7 (State College, PA)
Sept. 8: Miami (Fla.) 61, Rutgers 0 (Miami, FL)
Sept. 27: Miami (Fla.) 43, Pittsburgh 21 (Pittsburgh, PA)
Oct. 6: Miami (Fla.) 38, Troy 7 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 13: Miami (Fla.) 49, (#14) Florida State 27 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 25: Miami (Fla.) 45, West Virginia 3 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 3: Miami (Fla.) 38, Temple 0 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 10: Miami (Fla.) 18, Boston College 7 (Chestnut Hill, MA)
Nov. 17: Miami (Fla.) 59, (#14) Syracuse 0 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 24: Miami (Fla.) 65, (#12) Washington 7 (Miami, FL)
Dec. 1: Miami (Fla.) 26, (#14) Virginia Tech 24 (Blacksburg, VA)
Jan. 3: Miami (Fla.) 37, (#4) Nebraska 14 (Rose Bowl)
2. USC Trojans, 2004 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
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.
Aug. 28: USC 24, Virginia Tech 13 (Landover, MD)
Sept. 11: USC 49, Colorado State 0 (Los Angeles, CA)
Sept. 18: USC 42, BYU 10 (Provo, UT)
Sept. 25: USC 31, Stanford 28 (Palo Alto, CA)
Oct: 9: USC 23, (#7) Cal 17 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 16: USC 45, (#15) Arizona State 7 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 23: USC 38, Washington 0 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 30: USC 42, Washington State 12 (Pullman, WA)
Nov. 6: USC 28, Oregon State 20 (Corvallis, OR)
Nov. 13: USC 49, Arizona 9 (Los Angeles, CA)
Nov. 27: USC 41, Notre Dame 10 (Los Angeles, CA)
Dec. 4: USC 29, UCLA 24 (Pasadena, CA)
Jan. 4: USC 55, Oklahoma 19 (Miami Gardens, FL, Orange Bowl, BCS NCG)
3. Texas Longhorns, 2005 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Mack Brown
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.
Sept. 3: Texas 60, Louisiana-Lafayette 3 (Austin, TX)
Sept. 10: Texas 25, (#4) Ohio State 22 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 17: Texas 51, Rice 10 (Austin, TX)
Oct. 1: Texas 51, Missouri 20 (Columbia, MO)
Oct. 8: Texas 45, Oklahoma 12 (Dallas, TX)
Oct. 15: Texas 42, (#24) Colorado 17 (Austin, TX)
Oct. 22: Texas 52, (#10) Texas Tech 17 (Austin, TX)
Oct. 29: Texas 47, Oklahoma State 28 (Stillwater, OK)
Nov. 5: Texas 62, Baylor 0 (Waco, TX)
Nov. 12: Texas 66, Kansas 14 (Austin, TX)
Nov. 25: Texas 40, Texas A&M 29 (College Station, TX)
Dec. 3: Texas 70, Colorado 3 (Big 12 Championship — Houston, TX)
Jan. 4: Texas 41, (#1) USC 38 (Rose Bowl, National Championship)
4. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2009 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
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.
Sept. 5: Alabama 34, Virginia Tech 24 (Atlanta, GA)
Sept. 12: Alabama 40, FIU 14 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 19: Alabama 53, North Texas 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 26: Alabama 35, Arkansas 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 3: Alabama 38, Kentucky 20 (Lexington, KY)
Oct. 10: Alabama 22, Ole Miss 3 (Oxford, MS)
Oct. 17: Alabama 20, South Carolina 6 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 24: Alabama 12, Tennessee 10 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 7: Alabama 24, LSU 15 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 14: Alabama 31, Mississippi State 3 (Starkville, MS)
Nov. 21: Alabama 45, Tennessee-Chattanooga 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 27: Alabama 26, Auburn 21 (Auburn, AL)
Dec. 5: Alabama 32, Florida 13 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 7: Alabama 37, Texas 21 (Pasadena, CA, BCS NCG)
5. Oklahoma Sooners, 2000 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
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.
Sept. 2: Oklahoma 55, UTEP 14 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 9: Oklahoma 45, Arkansas State 7 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 23: Oklahoma 42, Rice 17 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 30: Oklahoma 34, Kansas 16 (Norman, OK)
Oct. 7: Oklahoma 63, (#11) Texas 14 (Dallas, TX)
Oct. 14: Oklahoma 41, (#2) Kansas State 31 (Manhattan, KS)
Oct. 28: Oklahoma 31, (#3) Nebraska 14 (Norman, OK)
Nov. 4: Oklahoma 56, Baylor 7 (Waco, TX)
Nov. 11: Oklahoma 35, (#23) Texas A&M 31 (College Station, TX)
Nov. 18: Oklahoma 27, Texas Tech 13 (Norman, OK)
Nov. 25: Oklahoma 12, Oklahoma State 7 (Stillwater, OK)
Dec. 2: Oklahoma 27, (#8) Kansas State 24 (Big 12 Championship – Kansas City, MO)
Jan. 3: Oklahoma 13, (#3) Florida State 2 (Orange Bowl, National Championship)
6. Tennessee Volunteers, 1998 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Phillip Fulmer
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.
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)
7. Florida Gators, 2008 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
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).
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, (#4) LSU 21 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 25: Florida 63, Kentucky 5 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 1: Florida 49, (#8) Georgia 10 (Jacksonville, FL)
Nov. 8: Florida 42, Vanderbilt 14 (Nashville, TN)
Nov. 15: Florida 56, (#24) South Carolina 6 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 22: Florida 70, Citadel 19 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 29: Florida 45, (#23) Florida State 15 (Tallahassee, FL)
Dec. 6: Florida 31, (#1) Alabama 20 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 8: Florida 24, (#2) Oklahoma 14 (Miami Gardens, FL, BCS NCG)
8. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2011 (12-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Key Stats: Set a BCS era record with 8.2 points allowed per game, led the nation in total defense (183.6 ypg), rushing defense (72.2 ypg) and passing defense (111.5 ypg). Held LSU to zero points, five first downs and 92 yards of offense in the BCS title game.
Award Winners: Trent Richardson (Doak Walker Award, SEC Off. Player of the Year), Barrett Jones (Outland Trophy, Wuerffel Trophy)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Trent Richardson (1st, 2012), Mark Barron (1st, 2012) Dre Kirkpatrick (1st, 2012), Dont'a Hightower (1st, 2012), Courtney Upshaw (2nd, 2012)
As Athlon Sports' preseason pick as the National Champion, Alabama rolled through its schedule — which included easy victories over three ranked opponents — until the "Game of the Century" on November 5 against LSU. The Tide outplayed the Tigers on offense and defense in that game, but was destroyed on special teams and it cost Saban a perfect season. After crushing rival Auburn, the Tide headed to New Orleans for a rematch with LSU. In a performance that would make the Bear weep openly, the Tide held Jordan Jefferson and the Bayou Bengals to five first downs, 92 yards of offense and no points. Alabama led the nation in every major defensive team NCAA statistic and it showed in the title game. This Crimson Tide team is the only BCS National Champion who failed to win its conference championship and the offense did not possess the same level of explosive talent on offense (and it lost a game) to be ranked ahead of the 2009 Alabama title squad.
Sept. 3: Alabama 48, Kent State 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 10: Alabama 27, (#23) Penn State 11 (Happy Valley, PA)
Sept. 17: Alabama 41, North Texas 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 24: Alabama 38, (#14) Arkansas 14 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 1: Alabama 38, (#12) Florida 10 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 8: Alabama 34, Vanderbilt 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 15: Alabama 52, Ole Miss 7 (Oxford, MS)
Oct. 22: Alabama 37, Tennessee 6 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 5: (#1) LSU 9, Alabama 6 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 12: Alabama 24, Mississippi State 7 (Starkville, MS)
Nov. 19: Alabama 45, Georgia Southern 21 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 26: Alabama 42, Auburn 14 (Auburn, AL)
Jan. 9: Alabama 21, (#1) LSU 0 (New Orleans, LA, BCS NCG)
9. Florida State Seminoles, 1999 (12-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Bobby Bowden
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.
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)
10. LSU Tigers, 2003 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
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.
Aug. 30: LSU 49, UL Monroe 7 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 6: LSU 59, Arizona 13 (Tucson, AZ)
Sept. 13: LSU 35, Western Illinois 7 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 20: LSU 17, (#7) Georgia 10 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 27: LSU 41, Mississippi State 6 (Starkville, MS)
Oct. 11: Florida 19, LSU 7 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Oct. 18: LSU 33, South Carolina 7 (Columbia, SC)
Oct. 25: LSU 31, (#17) Auburn 7 (Baton Rouge, LA
Nov. 1: LSU 49, Louisiana Tech 10 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Nov. 15: LSU 27, Alabama 3 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 22: LSU 17, (#15) Ole Miss 14 (Oxford, MS)
Nov. 28: LSU 55, Arkansas 24 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Dec. 6: LSU 34, (#5) Georgia 13 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 4: LSU 21, (#3) Oklahoma 14 (New Orleans, LA, Sugar Bowl)
11. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2012 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Key Stats: Led the nation in rushing and total defense for the second straight year and was second nationally in scoring defense, AJ McCarron was second nationally in passing efficiency,
Award Winners: Barrett Jones (Rimington)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: N/A
The 2012 Crimson Tide championship team isn't as strong defensively as the unit that dominated the college football landscape the year before, but defending a title is almost always more difficult than winning the first one. AJ McCarron had spotlight moments all season long, including 264 yards and four touchdowns against Notre Dame in the title game. Had McCarron not thrown the goal-line interception against Texas A&M, this team would have easily landed in the top 10. This team rolled up 529 yards of offense in one of the more impressive title game performances in the 15-year history of the BCS. And did it against one of the best defenses in the nation.
Sept. 1: Alabama 41, (#8) Michigan 14 (Arlington, TX)
Sept. 8: Alabama 35, Western Kentucky 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 15: Alabama 52, Arkansas 0 (Fayetteville, AR)
Sept. 22: Alabama 40, FAU 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 29: Alabama 33, Ole Miss 14 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 13: Alabama 42, Missouri 10 (Columbia, MO)
Oct. 20: Alabama 44, Tennessee 13 (Knoxville, TN)
Oct. 27: Alabama 38, (#13) Mississippi State 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 3: Alabama 21, LSU 17 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Nov. 10: (#15) Texas A&M 29, Alabama 24 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 17: Alabama 49, Western Carolina 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 24: Alabama 49, Auburn 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Dec. 1: Alabama 32, (#3) Georgia 28 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 7: Alabama 42, (#1) Notre Dame 14 (Miami Gardens, FL, BCS NCG)
12. Auburn Tigers, 2010 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Gene Chizik
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).
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)
13. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2002 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
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.
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)
14. Florida Gators, 2006 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
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.
Sept. 2: Florida 34, Southern Miss 7 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 9: Florida 42, Central Florida 0 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 16: Florida 21, (#13) Tennessee 20 (Knoxville, TN)
Sept. 23: Florida 26, Kentucky 7 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 30: Florida 28, Alabama 13 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 7: Florida 23, (#9) LSU 10 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 14: (#11) Auburn 27, Florida 17 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 28: Florida 21, (#25) Georgia 14 (Jacksonville, FL)
Nov. 4: Florida 25, Vanderbilt 19 (Nashville, TN)
Nov. 11: Florida 17, South Carolina 16 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 18: Florida 62, Western Carolina 0 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 25: Florida 21, Florida State 14 (Tallahassee, FL)
Dec. 2: Florida 38, (#8) Arkansas 28 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 8: Florida 41, (#1) Ohio State 14 (Glendale, AZ)
15. LSU Tigers, 2007 (12-2, 6-2)
Head Coach: Les Miles
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.
Aug. 30: LSU 45, Mississippi State 0 (Starkville, MS)
Sept. 8: LSU 48, (#9) Virginia Tech 7 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 15: LSU 44, MTSU 0 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 22: LSU 28, (#14) South Carolina 16 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 29: LSU 34, Tulane 9 (New Orleans, LA)
Oct. 6: LSU 28, (#7) Florida 24 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Oct. 13: (#18) Kentucky 43, LSU 37 (3 OT) (Lexington, KY)
Oct. 20: LSU 30, (#19) Auburn 24 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Nov. 3: LSU 41, (#18) Alabama 34 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 10: LSU 58, Louisiana Tech 10 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Nov. 17: LSU 41, Ole Miss 24 (Oxford, MS)
Nov. 23: Arkansas 50, LSU 48 (3 OT) (Baton Rouge, LA)
Dec. 1: LSU 21, (#15) Tennessee 14 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 7: LSU 38, (#1) Ohio State 24 (New Orleans, LA, BCS NCG)
It only takes one penalty, one missed assignment or one yard for one loss to end a national championship. The 20 teams listed below came up just short of playing in the national championship game for one reason or another. Sometimes, off the field issues can impact whether or not a team plays in the BCS title game (see Ohio State this year). And in one historic case, a team did everything in its power to earn a trip to the big game only to be let down by a system without a true playoff.
Which is right where the list of the 20 best teams not to play for a BCS National Championship begins...
Editor's Note: USC in 2003 is not eligible since they techincally won a share of the National Championship.
1. Auburn Tigers, 2004 (13-0, 8-0)
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.
2. 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.
3. Florida Gators, 2009 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: SEC East, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: Tim Tebow led the nation in passing efficiency (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 then 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.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2012 (12-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: Big Ten Leaders
Key Stats: Led the Big Ten in scoring at 37.2 points per game, Braxton Miller was second in total offense and fifth in rushing in the Big Ten. Carlos Hyde led the league in scoring at 10.2 points per game.
Award Winners: Braxton Miller (Big Ten Off. Player of the Year), John Simon (Big Ten Def. Player of the Year)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: N/A
In Urban Meyer's first season, the Buckeyes were left to wonder what if after a perfect season. One year after going 6-7 and losing in the Gator Bowl to a mediocre Florida team, the Buckeyes, led by super star Heisman candidate Braxton Miller, won every game they played including road wins over Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State and home victories over Michigan and Nebraska. Was this team an elite OSU roster that would have been able to compete against either Notre Dame or Alabama? Odds are no, however, the current BCS system is set-up to put No. 1 and No. 2 into the BCS title game and if Ohio State had been eligible, there is little doubt it would have faced the Fighting Irish in Miami instead of the Crimson Tide.
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys, 2011 (12-1, 8-1)
Head Coach: Mike Gundy
Championships: Big 12, Fiesta Bowl
Key Stats: Brandon Weeden set single-season Cowboys yards and TD passing records, Finished second in the nation in passing (387.2 ypg) and scoring offense (48.7 ppg), Joseph Randle was fourth in the nation in scoring (12.0 ppg), Justin Blackmon was third in the nation in receptions (9.3/game)
Award Winners: Justin Blackmon (Biletnikoff Award, Fiesta Bowl MVP), Grant Garner (Big 12 Off. Lineman of the Year), Quinn Sharp (Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year),
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Justin Blackmon (1st, 2012), Brandon Weeden (1st, 2012)
The Cowboys never experienced a season like it did in 2011 behind the leadership of quarterback Brandon Weeden. The star quarterback broke his own single-season school records for passing yards (4,727) and touchdowns (37) en route to the program's first Big 12 Championship. The remarkable Fiesta Bowl win over Stanford was the first Pokes first BCS bowl win in its first BCS bowl appearance. Blackmon set all types of records with an 8-catch, 186-yard, 3-TD performance in the Fiesta Bowl. A loss to Iowa State late in the year was the only thing that kept Mike Gundy from taking his alma mater to the promised land.
6. Miami Hurricanes, 2000 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Butch Davis
Championships: Big East, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: No. 2 in nation in scoring offense (42.6 ppg) and no. 5 in scoring defense (15.5 ppg) through regular season
Award Winners: Ken Dorsey (Sugar Bowl MVP), Dan Morgan (Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Bednarik Award, Butkus Award, Nagurski Award), Santana Moss (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (20): Phillip Buchanon (1st, 2002), Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), Damione Lewis (1st, 2001), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Bryant McKinnie (1st, 2002), Dan Morgan (1st, 2001), Santana Moss (1st, 2001), Ed Reed (1st, 2002), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005), Mike Rumph (1st, 2002), Jeremy Shockey (1st, 2002), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Reggie Wayne (1st, 2001), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Clinton Portis (2nd, 2002)
This is the team that laid the groundwork for the 2001 national championship as the roster featured five All-Americans, 12 first-team All Big East selections and 20 future first- or second-round NFL draft picks. Despite beating then No. 1-ranked Florida State earlier in the season and being ranked higher in the polls, the Hurricanes were prevented a chance to vie for the national championship. Instead, they went to the Sugar Bowl and took their frustrations out on another in-state rival, defeating Florida 37-20 and finishing the season ranked No. 2. That victory also was the last for Butch Davis as a collegiate coach, as he left Miami to become the head coach of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.
7. 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 finish 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.
8. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2008 (12-2, 8-0)
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.
9. 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 Minnesota 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.
10. 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 sophomore 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.
11. Oregon Ducks, 2012 (12-1, 8-1)
Head Coach: Chip Kelly
Championships: Fiesta Bowl
Key Stats: Led the Pac-12 in rushing, scoring and total offense as well as turnover margin and passing efficiency. Freshman QB Marcus Mariota led the nation in passing efficiency on the road and led the Pac-12 in passing efficiency overall.
Award Winners: Marcus Mariota (Pac-12 Freshman of the Year)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: N/A
The Ducks boasted the nation's best offense in 2013, averaging over 323 yards rushing per game in the regular season and scoring over 50 points per game — both leading the offense-heavy Pac-12. Marcus Mariota, De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner form one of the most talented and productive backfields ever assembled during the BCS era and featured the last two Pac-12 Freshman of the Year (Thomas and Mariota). Easy wins over bowl teams Washington, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State, USC and eventually Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl were extremely impressive. An overtime loss to Rose Bowl Champion Stanford was the only blemish on the nearly perfect resume and it cost Chip Kelly his second shot at a BCS national championship.
12. 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 the aforementioned loaded Miami Hurricanes 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' Boilermakers 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. Georgia Bulldogs, 2002 (13-1, 7-1)
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.
16. West Virginia Mountaineers, 2007 (11-2, 5-2)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
Championships: Big East co-champions, Fiesta Bowl
Key Stats: No. 3 in rushing offense (297.2 ypg), no. 7 in total defense (301.7 ypg)
Award Winners: Pat White (Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP), Reed Williams (Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (1): Pat White (2nd, 2009)
Ranked No. 3 in the preseason, the Mountaineers went into the final game of the regular season, the 100th Backyard Brawl against Pittsburgh, as the top-ranked team in the Coaches Poll. The unranked Panthers got the best of their bitter rival, 13-9, dashing the Mountaineers’ title hopes in the process. To make matters worse, head coach Rick Rodriguez left to become Michigan’s head coach as the team prepared for its Fiesta Bowl showdown with No. 3 Oklahoma. The team would rally behind interim head coach Bill Stewart as the Mountaineers stunned the nation by dominating the Sooners 48-28. Pat White led the way with 326 total yards of offense and the Mountaineers ran roughshod over the Sooners, gaining 349 yards on the ground alone.
17. TCU Horned Frogs, 2010 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Gary Patterson
Championships: Mountain West, Rose Bowl
Key Stats: Led the nation in scoring and total defense, Andy Dalton was fifth nationally in passing efficiency,
Award Winners: Andy Dalton (MWC Off. Player of the Year, Rose Bowl Off. MVP), Tank Carder (MWC Def. Player of the Year, Rose Bowl Def. MVP), Jeremy Kerley (MWC Special Teams Player of the Year)
"First Day NFL Draft Picks: Andy Dalton (2nd, 2011)
The best season in program history culminated with a Rose Bowl Championship over the Wisconsin Badgers in Pasadena. Some of the program's most historic players were stars on this roster as this team rewrote the Horned Frogs record books. Dalton was the only elite pick in the NFL Draft but five players were selected in the 2012 Draft and two more went in the 2012 Draft.
18. Stanford Cardinal, 2011 (11-2, 8-1)
Head Coach: David Shaw
Key Stats: Led the Pac-12 and was third nationally in rushing defense, Andrew Luck led the Pac-12 in passing efficiency
Award Winners: Andrew Luck (Pac-12 Off. Player of the Year), David Shaw (Pac-12 Coach of the Year)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Andrew Luck (1st, 2012), David DeCastro (1st, 2012), Coby Fleener (2nd, 2011), Jonathan Martin (2011)
It is extremely difficult to separate the last three Cardinal teams and decide which one was the best. All three played in BCS bowls with two wins in the Orange Bowl (2010) and Rose Bowl (2012). The 2011 team lost to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl and it didn't win the Pac-12 crown, however, it was likely the most talented and complete roster of the group. The foursome that was drafted in the first two rounds are as talented a group as any school ever has watched depart in one offseason. Add to the entire collection of defensive stars that made the 2012 team so talented and Cardinal fans will likely look back on their 2011 team as the best of the BCS era.
19. Boise State Broncos, 2009 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Chris Peterson
Championships: WAC, Fiesta Bowl
Key Stats: Led the nation in scoring at 42.2 points per game and fewest sacks allowed, Kellen Moore was second nationally in passing efficiency, Led the WAC in 10 of the 17 tracked NCAA team stats,
Award Winners: Chris Peterson (National and WAC Coach of the Year), Kellen Moore (WAC Off. Player of the Year), Kyle Efaw (Fiesta Bowl Off. MVP), Brandyn Thompson (Fiesta Bowl Def. MVP)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Kyle Wilson (1st, 2010), Titus Young (2nd, 2011), Austin Pettis (3rd, 2011), Doug Martin (1st, 2012), Shea McClellin (1st, 2012)
One could argue for weeks about which Boise State was the best: 2006, 2009, 2010 or 2011? Each can make a unique case as the best in Boise history, but the combination of unbeaten record, Fiesta Bowl championship and overall talent on the roster gives the slight edge to the '09 group. This team featured all the NFL talent of the 2011 group (Doug Martin, Shea McClellin, etc) and one of two perfect records.
20. Utah Utes, 2008 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham
Championships: Mountain West, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: Led the MWC in scoring offense and turnover margin, Ranked in the Top 12 nationally in scoring, rushing and total defense
Award Winners: Kyle Whittingham (National and MWC Coach of the Year), Brian Johnson (MWC Off. Player of the Year, Sugar Bowl MVP), Louie Sakoda (MWC Special Teams Player of the Year)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Paul Kruger (2nd, 2009), Sean Smith (2nd, 2009), Koa Misi (2nd, 2010), Zane Beadles (2nd, 2010),
The 2004 team led by Urban Meyer and Alex Smith would have something to say about this, but wins over Oregon State, Michigan in the Big House and Alabama in the Sugar Bowl gives this team the slight edge. A perfect record, a conference crown and a transcendent talent makes this Utah team one for the ages, and in a perfect playoff system, would have had the right to prove it on a national championship level.
Best of the Rest:
21. Wisconsin Badgers, 2011
22. Tennessee Volunteers, 2001
23. West Virginia Mountaineers, 2005
24. Utah Utes, 2004
25. Stanford Cardinal, 2012
26. Oregon Ducks, 2011
27. Boise State Broncos, 2011
28. Virginia Tech Hokies, 2004
29. Wisconsin Badgers, 1999
30. Michigan Wolverines, 2006
NFL football is the greatest reality TV program of all time. The Giants and Colts made sure of that back in 1958. Each NFL fall weekend is a completely new and original experience for every player, fan and coach alike. New stories, new personalities, new winners and new losers. And new statistics.
Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics from NFL's Wild Card Weekend:
10: NFL playoff record players who caught an Aaron Rodgers pass
The MVP candidate threw for 274 yards and a touchdown in his first home playoff win Saturday night. He distributed the ball beautifully to the healthiest receiving corps he has had all season. Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb and James Jones were all on the field together for the first time since the first month of the season. All four star wideouts, three different tight ends and three running backs caught passes from No. 12 in the easy win for Green Bay. The defense, which was also at full strength for the first time in two months, welcomed back Charles Woodson in style. The unit held Adrian Peterson to just 99 yards after yielding 409 yards rushing to All Day in the first two meetings of the year. It was just the second time A.D. was held below 100 yards in the last 11 games. This team heads west for an old-school NFC showdown between its long-time rival in San Francisco.
1: Career playoff wins by QBs in Atlanta-Seahawks divisional showdown
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks will face Matt Ryan and the Falcons in the NFC Divisional Round next weekend, and the rookie from Wisconsin will be the only starting quarterback in the game with a playoff win under his belt. Ryan entered Wild Card weekend as one of only two NFC playoff quarterbacks with a career postseason start (Rodgers). Three new faces, including Minnesota's Joe Webb and Washington's Robert Griffin III, made their playoff debut this weekend and Wilson walked away as the only winner of the trio. Meanwhile, Ryan will be making his fourth career postseason start and he has yet to experience victory. He posted career and franchise highs in nearly every meaningful passing category this season to go with home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. An 0-4 start would begin to raise serious questions about the developing star. Seattle, meanwhile, has now won six straight games and won a road playoff game for the first time since 1983 (0-7).
425: Arian Foster's postseason rushing yards in three career games
If the New England Patriots want to repeat their dominating performance against the Texans from Week 14, they will have to stop Houston's tailback. Foster has played in three career playoff games in the last two seasons and has been electric in each one, rushing for at least 132 in all three games. He has carried the ball 83 times in that span for a 5.1 per attempt clip and has scored at least one touchdown in all three games. He has added 16 catches for 85 yards in the air as well. In the blue-collar win over Cincinnati (for the second straight season), Foster touched the ball 40 times for 174 yards and a touchdown to power his team to victory.
13: Tackles by Ray Lewis in the win over Indianapolis
One of the great careers of all-time will continue for at least one more weekend. Ray Lewis was lost for the remainder of the regular season in Week 6 to a serious left arm injury. The Ravens were 5-1 in the first six weeks before finishing the season 5-5 without their defensive leader. He returned to the field this weekend and played just as big a role on the field as he did in the locker room, finishing with 13 total tackles, one tackle for loss and a pass deflected. The Baltimore defense, which had been reeling the last month of the season, held the Colts' offense scoreless on three trips into the red zone, forced two key turnovers and didn't allow a touchdown all game long. Lewis and Company now head to the Rocky Mountains to battle long-time AFC rival Peyton Manning.
5: Seasons in a row that Joe Flacco has won a playoff game
Should Tom Brady defeat the Texans next weekend, he will tie Joe Flacco as the only two quarterbacks with postseason wins in each of the last two seasons. In fact, Flacco is the only QB in the Super Bowl era with a playoff win in each of his first five seasons. He is 6-4 in 10 career postseason games as the starter, including 4-0 in Wild Card matchups. Eight of his 10 playoff games have come on the road, where he he has led his team to a 4-4 mark. In addition, all four losses also were to teams that would go on to play in the Super Bowl, with two of the defeats coming in the AFC Championship Game (Pittsburgh in '09 and New England last season). A win in Denver this Saturday against Peyton Manning and the No. 1 seed Broncos seems like a tall order, considering No. 18 has won eight straight over the Ravens and the Baltimore defense has major question marks. Still, Flacco doesn't get enough credit for what he has accomplished in his first five years in the league. Although 10-year veteran Anquan Boldin provided plenty of support on Sunday, posting a Baltimore postseason-record 145 yards receiving and the game-sealing touchdown in the big win.
For the 13th year in a row, some the best and brightest future stars of the college football gridiron came together in San Antonio for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Each year dozens of elite prospects go head-to-head all week in practice trying to showcase their talents for former NFL coaches, the fans, their fellow recruits and college coaches. The East Team (black) defeated the West Team (yellow) 15-8 on the back of a few big plays from its offense and special teams. So after a week of practice and 60 minutes of play, who are the winners and losers from San Antonio?
U.S. Army Bowl Winners:
On the heels of a tremendous performance by his team in the Sugar Bowl, Charlie Strong once again was a big winner in San Antonio. For the second straight year, the Cards got a commitment from an elite prospect on national TV. Local star and game MVP James Quick gave Strong and The 'Ville a third major live announcement in the last two U.S. Army Bowl games. Then Quick, from famed Trinity High School, went out and scored the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a deep pass down the middle of the field. Many believed Quick was headed to Ohio State, so the small upset makes Louisville one of the hottest brands in the nation.
Ohio State Buckeyes
All week long, Plano (Texas) Prestonwood linebacker Mike Mitchell dominated the headlines. He was all over the field recording tackles from sideline-to-sideline and making believers of every scout in attendance. Then he made Buckeyes fans ecstatic by announcing he would be headed to Columbus to play his football. He picked Ohio State over Texas A&M and Oregon, and fans in The Lone Star State could consider this payback for Jordan Hicks leaving The Buckeye State.
Big Running Backs
The Under Armour running backs are talented but underperformed mightily in Tampa-St. Pete this week. But the two stars of the East backfield — 6-foot-3, 240-pound Derrick Henry and the 6-foot, 220-pound Derrick Green — showed that even in a defensive focused-environment, the running game can be effective. Henry, from Yulee (Fla.) High, will be enrolled in class at Alabama this week and rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Green, from Richmond (Va.) Hermitage, lists Michigan, Florida State, Miami, USC, Tennessee and Auburn as his finalists, and he rushed for 49 yards on six yards per carry. Both were extremely impressive.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Brian Kelly didn't land any big commitments this week in San Antonio, but the future of his roster was on full display. Seven U.S. Army All-Americans are heading to South Bend and a few of them impressed on Saturday. Namely, the Athlon Consensus 100's No. 4-rated player in the nation Jaylon Smith. The electric linebacker was all over the field posting four tackles and a blocked kick. Corey Robinson, the son of NBA legend David Robinson, Torii Hunter Jr., the son of MLB great, and lineman Steve Elmer joined Smith on the West Team. Running back Greg Bryant, linebacker Doug Randolph and offensive lineman John Montelus highlighted ND's commitments on the East Team. This came one day after the Irish got a huge commitment from Max Redfield in the Under Armour event.
Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline quarterback Max Browne is making a push to be the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2013 and his late-game touchdown pass nearly gave his West Team a come-from-behind victory. Browne was just one of nine future USC Trojans playing for the West and one of 13 total USC verbal pledges in San Antonio. On the East roster, Jalen Ramsey was one of the week's stars in practice and offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers was arguably the top blocker on the field.
The 2013 edition of the high school all-star event set an new attendance record with 40,199 fans in the Alamodome. Of course, many of them are the great men and women who serve in our nation's Army. Not only do the troops get a fun day watching the nation's best compete on national TV, but the prep recruits get a chance to interact with and learn from our country's real heroes. It's a win-win for everyone involved.
U.S. Army Bowl Losers:
Alabama Crimson Tide
It is hard to consider Nick Saban a real loser here, as his future star back (running or jack?) Derrick Henry put his 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame on full display. However, the Tide missed out on big-time elite rush end Al-Quadin Muhammad. The elite pass rusher from famed Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep picked Miami over Bama, Notre Dame and Rutgers. Additionally, Upland (Calif.) High defensive end Josh Mathis picked Washington over Bama, UCLA and USC.
Similarly to Alabama, fans shouldn't go passing out their bleeding hearts to the Ducks, but Oregon missed out on two elite prospects as well. Star linebacker Mike Mitchell was one of the best players all week in practice and the Plano (Texas) Prestonwood tackler picked Ohio State over Oregon and Texas A&M. The MVP of the game, wide receiver James Quick from famed Trinity High School in Louisville, picked the Cardinals over Oregon and Ohio State.
The West was able to block two short field goal attempts to help preserve the win. Notre Dame future star Jaylon Smith and future Texas Longhorn Antwuan Davis each blocked a kick while East return specialist Tiquan Mizell (Virginia) made the biggest special teams play of day. His long, late-game return set-up the game-winning score following a Max Browne touchdown pass and totally changed the momentum of the game.
The Under Armour All-American Game features some the best and brightest future stars of the college football gridiron. Each year dozens of elite prospects go head-to-head all week in practice trying to showcase their talents for former NFL coaches, the fans, their fellow recruits and college coaches. The Black Team — named Team Highlight — defeated the White Team — named Team Nitro — 16-3 in a defensive "showdown." So after a week of tough practice and 60 minutes of brutal football, who were the winners and losers in St. Pete?
Under Armour Winners:
Penn State Nittany Lions
Not only did head coach Bill O'Brien announce that he will be returning to Penn State, the best quarterback in the event now appears locked into his verbal commitment to the Nittany Lions. Athlon Consensus 100 quarterback Christian Hackenberg wrapped-up his high school career as the winning quarterback after starting for the Black Team. The elite signal caller from Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia is considered by some to be the best QB prospect in the nation. He is all of 6-foot-4 and should easily grow into a 230-pound frame and he was regarded by many as the best quarterback in the event. He was poised and smooth all week in a defense dominated atmosphere and has PSU fans elated about the future.
The Tigers picked-up a verbal commitment during the game from nose tackle Ebenezer Ogundeko. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound interior lineman hails from Brooklyn, N.Y., and picked the Tigers over Syracuse and Florida. But not only did the Tigers land one big name in the game. Linebacker Ben Boulware from Anderson (S.C.) T.L. Hanna was one of the stars of the show playing physical football all week long. Drawing Zach Thomas comparisons due to build and skillset, the Clemson commit gave Tigers faithful a glimpse of what he can do on the next level.
Star defensive end Kendell Beckwith from Jackson (La.) East Feliciana announced at the game that he would be headed to LSU over Alabama. This commitment came on the heels of a big verbal pledge from massive Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Nova South defensive tackle Maquedius Bain earlier in the week. Bain checks in at 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds and the duo gave Les Miles an excellent week of action in Tampa Bay.
It is virtually impossible for offensive lines to play effective football in an all-star game setting like the Under Armour Game. So it should come as no shock that the defensive lines won the day. Big-time names like Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's top prospect, Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and DeMarcus Walker helped the defensive lines control the line of scrimmage with ease. The game featured 227 total yards of offense on 111 offensive plays.
Ole Miss Rebels
Speaking of Nkemdiche, many left The Trop with the vibe that the Grayson High School prospect will likely pick Ole Miss over LSU when he ultimately signs his letter of intent. His older brother, Denzel, is currently on the roster finishing his freshman year in Oxford and Huge Freeze has his Rebels surging on the recruiting trail. Look for Ole Miss to close the cycle with a flurry and possibly be the surprise team of the 2013 recruiting class.
A man among boys, the 6-foot-1, 250-pound linebacker from Auburn (Ala.) High showed the nation why he is the No. 1 linebacker in the nation. He is a physical presence on the inside and has elite upside on the next level. He claimed the co-MVP honors with Florida Gators cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Foster has been committed to both Alabama and Auburn but is not committed to anyone at the moment. Washington, Florida State and Georgia are also in the final mix for the talented tackler.
Related: The Athlon Consensus 100
Under Armour Losers:
The Running Game
The two teams combined for 25 yards rushing on 38 total carries on Friday night. That is downright pathetic. However, it had much more to do with the offensive lines than the talent at tailback. Alvin Kamara showed excellent burst and quickness and no one is concerned about the future potential of NFL legacy Kelvin Taylor. However, something needs to be done about allowing these talented players to showcase their talents more effectively. Give the offense two weeks to prepare? Force nickelback situations on every play? I don't know what the answer is, but I know I want to see more from the game's best ball-carriers.
Other than Hackenberg, the talent on the field at quarterback appeared to be less than stellar. Cooper Bateman (Alabama) had a few solid plays but also turned the ball over. Kevin Olsen (Miami) won the starting job in practice but was average in the game. Certainly, the style of play lends itself to tough-sledding for all signal callers, but this stat line is fairly pathetic for 60 minutes of play between two all-star rosters: 22-of-73, 202 yards, 4 INTs.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Elite safety Tony Connor didn't announce as possibly expected and end Kendell Beckwith picked LSU over the Tide. Bleeding recruiting hearts shouldn't go rushing to comfort Nick Saban, who boasts one of the best classes in the nation. But missing out on both of these two players amide rumors that current verbal pledge DeMarcus Walker might be leaning towards Florida is a small disappointment.
Seriously? Team Highlight and Team Nitro? I love recruiting and following elite prospects as they commit, decommit, take visits and eventually blossom into the stars of tomorrow. But it sounds like they allowed 17-year olds to name the two rosters in Tampa-St. Pete. Weaksauce.
The nation’s best prospects are competing in two major cities this weekend. San Antonio hosts the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and Tampa-St. Petersburg welcomes the Under Armour All-American Game.
The Under Armour game will take place Friday at 5 p.m. Eastern at Tropicana Field, while the Army Bowl will be played in the Alamodome at 1 p.m. Eastern on Saturday.
These two games offer a unique glimpse into the future of college football for fans and scouts alike. Fans get to see their future stars in action while scouts get to evaluate the nation’s best going head-to-head in both practice and the game. The majority of the Athlon Consensus 100 will be on full display this weekend under the bright lights and national TV audience.
And, of course, who could forget the live announcements. (See Landon Collins 2012)
Editor's Note: Rankings will be updated for the final time following both events this weekend.
Top Rated Prospects to Watch:
Laremy Tunsil, OL (AC100 No. 3)
The massive Lake City (Fla.) Columbia offensive tackle is currently the top lineman in the nation and will have a chance to prove himself against elite level defensive lineman — at both guard and tackle — on Saturday. The 6-foot-6, 295-pound Tunsil will visit his three finalists during the next month — Alabama, Florida State and Georgia — and likely will be one of the most watched players in the Alamodome this weekend.
Jaylon Smith, LB (AC100 No. 4)
With Reuben Foster competing in the Under Armour event and slipping slightly in the recruiting rankings lately, Smith could finish the cycle as the nation’s No. 1 linebacker with a good showing in San Antonio. The speedy 6-3, 215-pound tackler should be all over the field this week in Texas, and Notre Dame fans will be plenty attentive as Smith has been tabbed as a potential replacement for Manti Te’o.
Max Browne, QB (AC100 No. 6)
There is a chance Browne, the nation’s No. 1 quarterback from Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline, could finish the year as the No. 1 overall prospect in the nation regardless of position. The 6-5, 210-pound pro-style passer is the best pure pocket quarterback in this class, and the gap widened after a standout showing in US Army practice this week. Look for big things from the future USC Trojan on Saturday.
Su’a Cravens, DB (AC100 No. 8)
The Murrieta (Calif.) Vista prospect is in a battle with Under Armour All-American Vernon Hargreaves III and fellow US Army participant Kendall Fuller to finish as the No. 1 defensive back in the nation. Cravens is a monster at 6-2 and 210 pounds and has a chance to show why he is the nation’s best against two rosters stacked with secondary talent.
Kendall Fuller, DB (AC100 No. 11)
The defensive backs have been the story in San Antonio and Fuller has been a big reason why. The Olney (Md.) Good Counsel prospect is committed to Virginia Tech and has played well all week against a host of elite pass-catchers. The fluid coverman could leapfrog both Cravens and Hargreaves III with a great showing in the US Army Bowl.
Ricky Seals-Jean, ATH (AC100 No. 12)
The massive athlete has loads of upside at a variety of positions but has been catching passes all week in Texas. The Sealy (Texas) High prospect checked in at 6-5 and 220 pounds and is showing little effects of a severe knee injury he suffered early in September. The star excelled running the ball and playing quarterback and defense, so his overall athletic ability is tough to miss. Texas A&M is getting a good one in Seals-Jean.
Jalen Ramsey, DB (AC100 No. 25)
The Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy prospect is committed to USC and has added to the depth in the defensive backfield in San Antonio. A high school cornerback, he has wide shoulders and the frame to grow into a safety should he move to that position in college. Keep an eye on a savvy youngster as who is rarely out of position.
Video: See Athlon Sports sit down with AC100 prospect Jalen Ramsey
Derrick Green, RB (AC100 No. 45)
The burly running back from Richmond (Va.) Hermitage wants to carry the ball full-time in college and is using this week to prove those intentions. The 6-0, 220-pounder has provided excellence in all he has done on the field, playing physically in the trenches as well as showing off big-play explosiveness. He holds upwards of 50 scholarship offers and has taken three official visits (Auburn, Michigan, Tennessee). Oregon, Ole Miss, Miami and Florida State are in the mix as well.
Mike Mitchell, LB (AC100 No. 62)
The star linebacker from Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian has been a monster all week in practice. The 6-3, 220-pounder has played sideline-to-sideline football and has been strong against both the pass and run. He rarely misses a tackle and has excellent read-and-react skills. Mitchell could end up being the best player on the field this weekend. Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas A&M are his finalists, and the talented linebacker is slated to announce during the game.
Sleepers To Watch:
Tre’Davious White, DB (AC100 No. 99)
It is tough to be a sleeper as a top 100 player, but since the defensive backfields are so loaded with talent in San Antonio, White should have had a tougher time standing out. However, he has been all over the field using electric speed and big-play ability on both defense and special teams. Expect a big game from the future LSU Tiger from Shreveport, La.
Frank Herron, DE (unranked)
One of the surprises of the week has been the play of the defensive end prospect from Memphis Central. Scouts have been impressed with his growth during the last year, and he should continue to get bigger as heads to LSU. He has improved his form and technique throughout his prep career, and his development should be obvious come gametime.
DeSean Smith, TE (unranked)
Les Miles has to be ecstatic with the prospects he has in the Alamodome this weekend. Smith is another future Bayou Bengal who hails from Lake Charles (La.) Barbe. His football IQ has been on full display all week, and his ball skills are advanced for his age.
Mike Mitchell, LB (AC100 No. 62) Plano, Texas
Choices: Texas A&M, Oregon, Ohio State, Oklahoma
James Quick, WR (AC100 No. 69) Louisville, Ky.
Choices: Louisville, Ohio State, Oregon
Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE (No. 101) Ramsey, N.J.
Choices: Alabama, Notre Dame, Miami
Demarcus Robinson, WR (No. 113) Fort Valley, Ga
Choices: Clemson, Florida
Tyler Boyd, WR (No. 146) Clairton, Pa.
Choices: Pitt, West Virginia, Michigan State
Joe Mathis, DE (No. 201) Upland, Calif.
Choices: Alabama, USC, UCLA, Washington
Reeve Koehler, OL (unranked) Honolulu
Choices: Tennessee, Kansas, Arkansas, Cal
Tony Stevens, WR (unranked) Orlando
Choices: Texas A&M, Florida State, Ohio State
The 2012 NFL MVP race was a four-horse dead heat to the finish. All four candidates are deserving and worthy of being named the most valuable player in the league. And all four are going to be historic players who likely will land in Canton.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are elder statesmen who have nothing left to prove on the football field. They are two of the greatest to ever play the game and both produced championship seasons for their teams. Aaron Rodgers is the reigning MVP and somehow willed his team to a division title with a beaten and bruised supporting cast. And Adrian "All-Day" Peterson produced one of the game's most remarkable single-season performances... ever.
Below is the case for each candidate and how my ballot will look, but first a statistical breakdown of the three elite quarterbacks:
|Name||W/L||Yards||Rank||TD||Rank||%||Rank||QB Rat||Rank||INT||Comp.||Att.||Rush Yd||TD|
And a look at the Minnesota Vikings' running back:
Tom Brady, QB, New England
Brady threw more passes, completed more passes and threw for more yards than both Manning and Rodgers en route to his NFL-record 10th divisional championship. His 4,827 yards is the second-best mark of his career — better than the perfect 16-0 season of 2007. His 34 touchdowns were the fourth-highest total in his career and the Pats earned a first-round bye. His eight interceptions were tied for the second fewest in his career. He beat Peyton Manning head-to-head this season, finished 3-3 against playoff teams and had one fourth-quarter comeback. Finally, Brady and the Pats had easily the best running game behind Stevan Ridley of the three quarterbacks. Also consider, mastermind Bill Belichick was still pulling all the strings on the sideline and both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez missed time this fall.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver
The future Hall of Famer returned from missing an entire season with four neck surgeries and didn't miss a single beat. He had a higher completion percentage than both Rodgers and Brady, while also winning more games than both, including an AFC West crown. He also led his MVP brethren with three fourth-quarter comebacks. His 4,659 yards and 37 scoring strikes were both the second-best totals in his career. That said, Manning's supporting cast was likely the best of the three quarterbacks as his defense ranked No. 2 in the NFL in yards allowed and No. 4 in points allowed. His offensive line is likely the best of the three as well. He was 2-3 against playoff teams this fall.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay
From a statistical standpoint, Rodgers was better than both Brady and Manning. He was the most efficient passer in the NFL and accounted for more touchdowns (41) than his peers — and he did so on dramatically fewer passing attempts. His team was also the most affected by injury as stars Desmond Bishop, Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews missed most of the season while Cedric Benson, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson missed significant time on offense. All three of the Packers' most-recent first-round picks ended up on IR this fall (Nick Perry, Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod). He had two fourth-quarter comebacks and his running game was easily the worst of the trio, as no player on the team rushed for more than 500 yards. The Packers ranked 20th in rushing offense and 26th in rushing touchdowns. New England ranked 7th in rushing and led the league in rushing TDs while Denver was 16th in the NFL in rushing and 15th in rushing TDs. He was 2-4 against playoff teams, but everyone knows the Seattle loss doesn't really count and he was 2-0 against the 10-6 Chicago Bears.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota
All-Day was unbelievable in 2012. Less than one calendar year removed from major reconstructive knee surgery, Peterson was nine yards shy of breaking the all-time single-season rushing record. He played on easily the worst team of the four MVP candidates but literally carried a 3-13 team to a 10-win season and a playoff berth. He rushed for at least 100 yards in nine of the last 10 games and topped 150 yards in seven times over that span as well. He capped his remarkable season with a career-high 34 carries — including the game-winning, playoff-clinching 27-yard run — and 199 yards against Green Bay in the regular-season finale. His supporting cast is easily the weakest of the bunch as quarterback Christian Ponder was 25th in the NFL in passing yards (2,935), 23rd in passing touchdowns (18) and 21st in QB rating (81.2). No receiver on the team ranked in the top 60 in yards or the top 40 in receptions. This team was supposed to be one of the worst in the NFL this year according to preseason polls and, because of A.D., is visiting Lambeau Field for its first postseason game since 2009.
My 2012 MVP Ballot:
1. Adrian Peterson: The most talented runner on the planet carried a bad team to the postseason.
2. Aaron Rodgers: Did more with less than anyone in the league — and won the division.
3. Peyton Manning: One of his best years on a complete team after injury. Unlucky year to do it.
4. Tom Brady: Clearly the fourth option of the bunch, but no less impressive.
The merits of recruiting rankings are debated in every sports bar and around every water cooler in the nation. Athlon continues its look back at recruiting rankings by comparing the starting line-ups in the BCS National Championship Game as recruits.
2012 Alabama's Starting Offenses as Recruits
A.J. McCarron, QB (2009) AC100
Alabama landed one of the nation’s top signal-callers when it inked McCarron back in 2009, and it showed in his SEC leading 66.7% completion rate in his first year under center. The lanky passer was the No. 8-rated QB prospect in the nation and was the No. 97 overall player in the '09 Athlon Consensus 100. Bad chest tattoo aside, Bama landed a good one when it beat out Miami, Ole Miss and Oklahoma for the Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul’s passer.
Eddie Lacy, RB (2009) AC100
The burly runner from Geismar (La.) Dutchtown was the No. 5-rated player in The Pelican State. Lacy was the No. 93-rated overall player in the AC100 and was the No. 11-rated running back behind names like Trent Richardson, Cierre Wood, Lamar Miller and Christine Michael. He picked Alabama over Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Mississippi State. Interestingly enough, LSU didn’t offer the in-state prospect. He was a four-star prospect by Rivals.com.
Christian Jones, WR (2011) National Recruit
A safety prospect from Adamsville (Ala.) Minor High School, Jones was a four-star prospect by rivals. He was the No. 18-rated safety in the nation and the No. 8-rated player in the state — a year in which Auburn signed four of the top six players in the state. Jones picked Bama over other elite offers like Auburn, Florida, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Texas A&M and UCLA.
Kevin Norwood, WR (2009) National Recruit
The D’Iberville (Miss.) High prospect had four offers coming out of high school. Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss were Norwood’s finalists. Rivals ranked the wideout a four-star player as the No. 147-rated player in the nation regardless of position. He was listed as the No. 5 player in The Magnolia State and the No. 22 wide receiver in the nation.
Amari Cooper, WR (2012) AC100
The big-play four-star freshman was an elite recruit who every school wanted. Alabama beat-out Miami, Florida, Florida State, West Virginia and dozens more for the Miami (Fla.) Northwestern prospect. Cooper was the No. 10-rated player in the state, the No. 8-rated wide receiver in the nation and was the No. 58-rated overall prospect in the nation (AC100). He isn’t the Freshman of the Year, but no first-year player will impact the national title more than this young pass-catcher. That includes T.J. Yeldon.
Chance Warmack, OG (2009)
This big blocker from Atlanta (Ga.) Westlake picked Alabama over Auburn, South Carolina and Rutgers. Warmack was ranked as the No. 29 player in the state of Georgia and the No. 20 offensive guard in the nation by Rivals.com. He was a three-star recruit.
Barrett Jones, C (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.
D.J. Fluker, OT (2009) AC100
This monster of a recruit actually moved from Biloxi, Miss., to Foley, Ala., for his final season of prep play. And everybody wanted him. He was the No. 2-rated offensive lineman in the nation and was ranked No. 19 overall in the 2009 AC100. He was the No. 10-rated player to enter the SEC and was second only to Dre Kirkpatrick in the Bama recruiting rankings. Fluker, who was committed to Alabama for over a year, was listed as big as 6-foot-7 as a recruit and upwards of 350 pounds by Rivals.com (he was listed officially at a modest 6-foot-5, 340 as an incoming freshman). He was a five-star talent.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OL (2011) AC100
The massive sophomore trailed only South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney in the 2011 Athlon Consensus 100 rankings. He was the No. 2-rated player in the nation and obviously was the No. 1-rated offensive lineman in the nation. The Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha followed his older brother from Maryland (as the No. 1 player in the state) South to Tuscaloosa. The younger Kouandjio actually announced on National Signing Day that he was headed to Auburn only to sign papers with Alabama later that day.
Anthony Steen, OL (2009)
The guard from Clarksdale (Miss.) Lee Academy was a three-star prospect back in 2009. He was the No. 26-rated offensive guard in the nation and the No. 16-rated player in the state. Even Nick Saban’s three-star signees are highly-touted as Steen also had offers from Florida State, Miami and Southern Miss.
Michael Williams, TE (2008) National Recruit
Williams was an all-state talent and the 2A Lineman of the Year from Reform (Ala.) Pickens County. Williams was a highly touted prospect who picked Alabama over Clemson and Georgia Tech — he just wasn’t a tight end. Williams was evaluated as the No. 17 defensive end in the nation by Scout and the No. 4 weakside defensive end in the nation by Rivals after 24 sacks over his final two prep seasons. His blocking and pass-catching skills proved to be too much, however, as he will start at tight end in the national championship game.
Honorable Mention: T.J. Yeldon, RB (2012) AC100
The future superstar (if he's not already) is more of a co-starter than a back-up. The Daphne (Ala.) High prospect was an AC100 talent who ranked as the No. 32 overall prospect in the nation by Athlon Sports. He was the No. 3-rated player in the state (behind Jameis Winston and Chris Casher) and the No. 4-rated running back in the nation (behind Johnathan Gray, Keith Marshall and Trey Williams). Any coach in the nation would have taken Yeldon as Rivals gave him the rare fifth star.
Star ranking breakdown of Alabama's starting line-up (by Rivals.com, not counting Yeldon):
|Star Ranking||No. of Players|
2012 Alabama's Starting Defense as Recruits
Jesse Williams, DE (2011) JUCO
Williams came a long way to get to the Capstone and the BCS National Championship game. Originally from Cavendish Road High School in Brisbane, Australia, Williams enrolled at Western Arizona Community College in Yuma, Arizona in 2009. After two seasons as a JUCO, Williams signed with Alabama in the spring of 2011 as the No. 2-rated junior college prospect in the nation and a four-star player. The 6-foot-4, 330-pounder obviously made a big impact in only one year on campus.
Damion Square, DL (2008)
One of the unsung heroes of the Alabama team is one of the elder statesman. A 2008 three-star prospect from Houston (Texas) Yates, Square was the No. 55-rated player in the state of Texas and was the No. 37-rated defensive tackle in the nation by Rivals. He signed with the Crimson Tide over offers from Michigan, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Tennessee.
Ed Stinson, DL (2009) National Recruit
Rivals rated the Homestead (Fla.) South Dade prospect as a four-star weakside defensive end. He was ranked the No. 48 player in The Sunshine State and the No. 15-best weakside defensive end in the nation. He had offers from Auburn, Florida State, LSU and Miami along with the Crimson Tide.
C.J. Mosley, LB (2010) National Recruit
Much like Joeckel, Mosley just missed landing in the AC100 as a linebacker from Theodore (Ala.) High. He was the No. 113-rated overall prospect in the nation. Mosley finished as the No. 9-rated linebacker in the nation and the No. 3-rated player in the state of Alabama. Every program in the Southeast as well as a few from the Big 12 (Oklahoma) and the West Coast (Stanford) wanted to ink the star tackler.
Trey DePriest, LB (2011) AC100
The only player ranked ahead of the Springfield (Ohio) High prospect in the state was Ohio State star quarterback Braxton Miller. The linebacker was the No. 32-rated overall player in the Athlon Consensus 100 and was the No. 6-rated linebacker in the nation by Athlon Sports. Rivals gave him four-stars and DePriest had his pick of any school in the nation. Alabama defeated elite programs from coast-to-coast (Ohio State, LSU, Stanford, Florida, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech to name a few) to land the steady player.
Nico Johnson, LB (2009) AC100
A five-star prospect by Rivals, the Andalusia (Ala.) High outside linebacker was highly coveted by every Southeastern power. LSU, Auburn and Alabama were his eventual finalists and he ended the ’09 recruiting cycle as the No. 21-rated player in the nation by the AC100. He trailed only Dre Kirkpatrick and D.J. Fluker inside The Yellowhammer State rankings and was the No. 5-rated linebacker in the nation behind only Manti Te’o, Vontaze Burfict, Jelani Jenkins and Dorian Bell.
Adrian Hubbard, LB (2010) National Recruit
The Norcross (Ga.) High prospect barely missed landing in the AC100 as the No. 145-rated player in the country in the Class of 2010. Athlon Sports ranked him the No. 12-best linebacker prospect in the nation behind names like Jordan Hicks, Alec Ogletree, Corey Nelson, CJ Mosley and Christian Jones. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound prospect picked the Tide over Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia and South Carolina (among others). He was a four-star recruit by Rivals.
Dee Milliner, CB (2010) AC100
Only two players were ranked ahead of Mosley in the state of Alabama in 2010 and Milliner was one of them. The Millbrook (Ala.) Stanhope Elmore cornerback was the No. 1-rated player in the state and the No. 3-rated defensive back in the nation. He finished as the No. 15-rated overall prospect in the nation by Athlon Sports. His offers sheet included every major program from the Southeast.
Deion Belue, CB (2012) JUCO
Originally from Tuscumbia (Ala.) Deshler, Belue committed to Alabama over Auburn, Southern Miss and UAB back in 2010. The three-star instead landed in junior college at Booneville (Miss.) Northeast Mississippi C.C. Two years later, Belue finally got to Tuscaloosa after signing with Alabama for the second time as a three-star prospect (Rivals).
Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S (2011) AC100
Few players were more highly-touted in the deep Alabama class of 2011 than Clinton-Dix. In a group that included DePreist, Xzavier Dickson and more, only Kouandjio ranked higher than the Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips product. He was the No. 10-rated player in the nation by the Athlon Consensus 100 and was given the prestigious fifth star by Rivals. Athlon ranked him the No. 1 player in the state of Florida and the No. 1 defensive back in the nation. USC, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, South Carolina and Notre Dame are just a few programs Saban beat for the signature of HaSean “Ha-Ha” Clinton-Dix.
Robert Lester, S (2008) National Recruit
The Foley (Ala.) native was ranked as the No. 23 safety in the nation by Rivals back in 2008. His two finalists were Oklahoma and Alabama. The four-star prospect was ranked as the No. 15 player in the state of Alabama and has 10 interceptions over the last two seasons.
Athlon Consensus 100: The Top 100 Recruits in the Nation
The 2012 All-America Team as Recruits
The 2012 All-Big 12 Team as Recruits
The 2012 All-Pac-12 Team as Recruits
The 2012 All-ACC Team as Recruits
The 2012 All-Big Ten Team as Recruits
The 2012 All-SEC Team as Recruits
The 2012 All-Big East Team as Recruits
The nation’s best prospects are competing in two major cities this weekend. San Antonio hosts the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and Tampa-St. Pete welcomes the Under Armour All-American Game.
The Under Armour game will take place Friday, Jan. 4 at 5 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field, while the Army Bowl will be played in the Alamodome at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday Jan. 5.
These two games offer a unique glimpse into the future of college football for fans and scouts alike. Fans get to see their future stars in action, while scouts get to evaluate the nation’s best going head-to-head in both practice and the game. The majority of the Athlon Consensus 100 will be on full display this weekend under the bright lights and national TV audience.
And, of course, who could forget the live announcements. (See Landon Collins 2012)
Editor's Note: Rankings will be updated for the final time following both events this weekend.
Follow @UnderArmourGame on twitter for updates and information.
Top Rated Prospects to Watch:
Robert Nkemdiche, DE (AC100 No. 1)
The Loganville (Ga.) Grayson prospect has had a roller coaster recruitment. He originally committed to Clemson before recently decommitting and announced this week that LSU and Ole Miss (where is older brother plays) are his two finalists. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound prospect is the unanimous No. 1 overall player by all four recruiting services and he should be on full display at The Trop.
Reuben Foster, ILB (AC100 No. 2)
Much like Nkemdiche, Foster has had a tumultuous recruitment process. He first committed to Alabama before his highly-publicized switch to in-state Auburn. And he got a Tigers tattoo to prove his dedication. That was short-lived as well after Foster decommited from yet another Yellowhammer Program. His five finalists are now Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Washington. The 6-foot-1, 250-pound tackler is a monster on the field and despite a small drop in the expert’s ranking of late, the Auburn (Ala.) High product should still standout on Friday night.
Vernon Hargeaves III, CB (AC100 No. 5)
The future Florida Gators star is the No. 1 defensive back in the nation and should have plenty of chances to shine against elite pass catchers all week long. He should also have plenty of family and friends in attendance as he hails from Tampa (Fla.) Wharton High School.
Montravius Adams, DT (AC100 No. 7)
The massive 6-foot-4, 310-pound defensive lineman is dealing with a sore ankle but is hard to miss out there on the field. The Vienna (Ga.) Dooly County star could push Nkemdiche for top billing in the nation should he show well in Tampa this weekend. He will waste little time over the next month taking four official visits over the next four weekends to Florida, Clemson, Alabama and Georgia in that order.
Matthew Thomas, OLB (AC100 No. 10)
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound tackler has a chance to finish the recruiting cycle as the No. 1 linebacker in the nation. He led Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington to a 4A state title Much like Adams, Thomas has a busy month ahead of him, as he has four official visits over a four-week span have been set. He will head to Alabama on Jan. 11 before visiting USC, Florida State and Georgia leading up to NSD. Local program Miami should also get a visit from the local star.
Carl Lawson, DE (AC100 No. 16)
The electric pass-rusher is slowly moving up the recruiting rankings and could easily finish in the top five following this week’s activities. The Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton prospect is a 6-foot-2, 250-pound dynamo off the edge who Auburn fans have to be excited to watch this weekend.
Kelvin Taylor, RB (AC100 No. 21)
The son of NFL great and former Florida Gators running back Fred Taylor has been a prep star in the state of Florida since he played high school ball as a middle schooler. He has only gotten bigger, stronger and better as the years have gone on. The Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Day product is committed to his father’s alma mater and is looking to begin his own legacy beginning this weekend. He is listed at the perfect running back size of 5-foot-10 and 218 pounds.
Christian Hackenberg, QB (AC100 No. 22)
Some have the Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy ranked as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the nation. Where he finishes in the ranking remains to be seen, but Penn State fans will be eagerly eyeing the big 6-foot-4, 210-pound signal caller this weekend. He has publicly expressed his concern about Bill O’Brien potentially leaving for the NFL so this is nervous time for Nittany Lions fans.
Sleepers To Watch:
Cooper Bateman, QB (AC100 No. 59)
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound quarterback hails from Salt Lake City (Utah) Cottonwood. Anyone ranked in the AC100 can’t really be considered a sleeper, but the future Alabama star has already had a great week of practice and could move up the rankings. Certainly, Crimson Tide fans will be tuning in to see how their future signal caller stacks up against the best the nation has to offer.
Chris Jones, DE (unranked)
The massive 6-foot-7, 260-pound defensive end has made a big name for himself this week with stellar work in practice. The Houston (Miss.) High product is committed to Dan Mullen and the Mississippi State Bulldogs and fans in Starkville should be ecstatic with the way he should perform on Friday night.
Grant Hill, OL (AC100 No. 93)
The massive blocker from Huntsville (Ala.) High School has also had a great week of practice, locking down some of the nation’s top defensive linemen. The 6-foot-6, 300-pound offensive tackle prospect is currently committed to Alabama.
Leon McQuay III, DB (AC100 No. 31, Armwood, FL)
Choices: USC, Florida State, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Michigan
Trey Johnson, LB (unranked, Lawrenceville, GA)
Choices: Ohio State, Penn State, Florida, Tennessee
Priest Willis, DB (AC100 No. 36, Tempe, AZ)
Choices: LSU, Florida State, Virginia, Nebraska, Arizona State
Another stellar NFL season is in the books. And unlike any year in the past, rookie quarterbacks, single-season records, franchise records and all-time greats produced at unprecedented levels. The NFL record books were completely rewritten this fall and Athlon Sports has compiled all the important numbers the fans need to know about 2012:
10: Combined wins in 2011 for Colts, Vikings and Redskins
Minnesota (3-13), Washington (5-11) and Indianapolis (2-14) won a total of 10 games a year ago and all three picked in the top four of the 2012 NFL Draft. Those picks netted Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Matt Kalil. This year, those three teams combined for 31 wins and all three made the playoffs. Additionally, Seattle was 7-9 last year before inserting a rookie QB of their own to win 11 games this year.
1: Times the top two teams in the draft made the playoffs
Certainly trades could skew this number if a great team acquires a high pick years in advance, however, never in NFL history have the top two teams selecting in the NFL Draft go on to make the playoffs that same season. That is, before the Colts and Redskins did so this fall with Luck and Griffin III. Seven times has a team made the playoffs after picking first overall and only the Colts have done so with a rookie starter under center.
2,097: Adrian Peterson's No. 2 all-time rushing total
All-Day Peterson became just the seventh player to rush for 2,000 yards as he fell just nine yards shy of the all-time NFL record set nearly 30 years ago by Eric Dickerson (2,105). He also tied Earl Campbell's NFL record with seven games of at least 150 yards rushing this season.
1,964 and 727: Single-season receiving and pass attempts records by Lions
Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s all-time single-season NFL receiving record by catching a league-leading 122 passes for 1,964 yards this fall. He also set the NFL record with eight straight 100-yard games and tied Michael Irvin’s all-time record with 11 100-yard games this season. Matthew Stafford became the first player in NFL history to attempt at least 700 passes in a season. breaking Drew Bledsoe’s (691) record with 727 attempts this year. However, Detroit lost its final eight games of the year to finish a disappointing 4-12 after what appeared to be a breakthrough 10-win season and playoff appearance last year.
4,374: Andrew Luck's rookie record for passing yards
Few players have played as well as Luck did in their first year in the league. After Cam Newton set the single-season rookie passing record with 4,051 yards last season, Luck set the bar even higher with 4,374 yards this fall. His 23 passing touchdowns trails only Peyton Manning (26) and Russell Wilson (26) for the top spot among rookies and he also rushed for five touchdowns and 255 yards as well. Luck is the first QB taken No. 1 overall in the NFL draft to start a postseason game in his rookie year. Wideout T.Y. Hilton (1 att.) was the only other player on the team to attempt a pass this season.
13: Carolina Panthers lost the first 13 coin tosses of the year
The Panthers started the season 3-9 on the field but 0-for-13 on coin tosses (including one overtime flip). The laws of probability makes this accomplishment possibly the most unlikely in this pretty impressive year of stats. The odds of losing 13 straight coin flips is 1-in-8,192. The Panthers won their first coin toss before the kickoff of their 13th game.
100.0: Russell Wilson's franchise-record single-season QB rating
Matt Hasselbeck posted the “best” or most-efficient season by a Seattle quarterback with a 98.2 QB rating in 2005. Russell Wilson broke that mark in just his first season in the NFL by posting an elite 100.0 QB rating this season, which was good for fourth in the league. He also tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record for passing touchdowns with 26. Manning, however, threw 28 interceptions in 1998 while Wilson threw just 10 picks. In fact, his 100.0 rating would have been an NFL rookie record as well if not for…
102.4: Robert Griffin III's NFL-record rookie QB rating
He didn’t set passing yards records like Luck or touchdown records like Wilson but Griffin III posted the most efficient rookie season in NFL history with a 102.4 QB rating. The mark was the 39th-best overall season by a quarterback in history and at 22 years old, RG3 is the youngest player to ever have a season rated 100.0 or better. Despite not playing one game, Griffin’s line is unreal: 3,200 yards, 20 TD, 5 INT, 65.6-precent completions, the NFL rookie record for rushing yards by a QB with 815 yards and seven rushing TDs.
4: Career playoff wins by six starting NFC playoff QBs
The six starting quarterbacks in the NFC have nine career starts and four total wins — all four by Aaron Rodgers. The Packers' signal caller has six of the nine career postseason starts with Atlanta’s Matt Ryan claiming the other three (0-3). By comparison, the starting six quarterbacks in the AFC have 52 combined postseason starts and 30 career playoff victories.
5: Teams to have made the playoffs after starting 3-6
The Washington Redskins became the just fifth team in history to start the year 3-6 and still make the playoffs. The Skins won seven straight after their slow start to capture the NFC East title. Jacksonville (1996), Detroit (1995), New England (1994) and Cincinnati (1970) are the only other teams in NFL history to have started the season with six losses in their first nine games and then gone on to make the playoffs.
0: Teams that have won a wild-card playoff rematch after the losing the year before
This one needs some explaining. Cincinnati and Houston will play for the second straight season in the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs. Three times have teams met in the wild-card round in consecutive seasons and all three times the loser of the first meeting went on to lose the second meeting. This is bad news for the Bengals, who lost 31-10 last year to the Texans.
6: First- or second-year QBs in the playoffs this year
Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder and Colin Kaepernick are in their second seasons in the NFL and all three have led their teams to the postseason. Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson are rookies and have led their teams to the postseason. A lot has been made of this rookie class as no postseason tournament has seen this many rookies, but the second-year guys need to be given just as much credit. The last two quarterback classes have been special — as Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Brandon Weeden, Nick Foles and Ryan Tannehill all look like starters next season as well.
8: Consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons by Steven Jackson
One of the most underrated players in the last decade reached 1,000 yards for the eighth consecutive year with 1,042 yards on 257 carries. Jackson has carried the ball at least 237 times in each of the last eight years and has done so on a team that hasn’t had one winning record over that span. The best team he ever played on was the 8-8 2006 squad. Jackson tied LaDanian Tomlinson and Thurman Thomas with eight straight seasons and only Emmitt Smith (11), Barry Sanders (10) and Curtis Martin (10) have longer such streaks.
0-11: Texans' record all-time in Indianapolis
Houston has now played 11 games in the Midwestern city and has lost every time. The latest one coming in the regular-season finale this fall, however, might be the most costly. The Texans dropped from the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs to the No. 3 seed and a first-round rematch from last year with the Cincinnati Bengals. After starting the year 11-1, Houston enters the postseason having lost three of its last four games — all to playoff teams (New England, Minnesota, Indianapolis).
17-1: Atlanta’s record when Matt Ryan throws at least 3 TDs
When Matt Ryan throws at least three touchdowns the Falcons win. Seven of those games took place this season as Ryan set career highs in completions (422), attempts (615), yards (4,719, breaking his own franchise record), touchdowns (32) and QB rating (99.1). Ironically, his lone loss with at least three scoring strikes came this season in a loss to New Orleans in which he posted his only career 400-yard passing game (411).
12 and 72: Peyton Manning's NFL records for 4,000-yard seasons and 300-yard games
109 times has a quarterback passed for at least 4,000 yards in a single-season and Manning claims 12 of those. He posted his second-best yardage total this fall with 4,659 yards and was just 41 yards shy of his personal best. This after four neck surgeries and sitting out the entire 2011 season. Drew Brees is second all-time with seven seasons of at least 4,000 yards passing. Additionally, Manning moved into second place behind Brett Favre in touchdown passes (436), completions (5,082) and wins (154).
10: NFL-record division titles for Tom Brady
Brady and the Patriots won the AFC East with relative ease this season with a 12-4 mark and a first round bye in the playoffs. In his 13th NFL season, Brady became the first player in NFL history to win 10 division championships. He passed Joe Montana’s previous record of nine division titles. Peyton Manning also won his ninth, tying Montana for second all-time.
33.5: NFL-record sacks in Aldon Smith’s first two seasons
After an excellent 14.0 quarterback sacks in his rookie year, Smith made a run at the single-season NFL record (Michael Strahan, 22.5) with 19.5 QB takedowns this season. The former first-round pick has blossomed into one of the most dynamic pass-rushers in history and his 33.5 sacks are an NFL record for sacks in the first two seasons of a career. Reggie White posted 30.0 sacks in his first two seasons in 1985 and '86.
54: Drew Brees' streak of consecutive games with a TD pass
Brees passed Johnny Unitas’ half-a-century old record for consecutive games with a TD pass (47) and then some in 2012. Atlanta snapped his streak in Week 12 at 54 straight games with at least one TD. Tom Brady, who sits at 48 consecutive games, also passed Unitas and could pass Brees in the Patriots' seventh game of the 2013 season.
110: Jason Witten's single-season NFL record for catches by a tight end
The Cowboys came up just short of making the playoffs this season but it wasn’t Witten’s fault. He surpassed Tony Gonzalez’ single-season record (102) set back in 2004 with 110 catches for Dallas.
18: NFL record for 10-catch games by Andre Johnson and Wes Welker
Both Wes Welker and Andre Johnson finished this season with 18 career games with at least 10 catches. Both players passed Jerry Rice’s all-time NFL record with 17 such performances.
45-51: Ken Whisenhunt win-loss record as head coach at Arizona
The Cardinals began the year 4-0 and were one of the early season surprises in 2012. Then Arizona lost 11 of its last 12 games. Six games under .500 isn’t going to get Whisenhunt to Canton anytime soon, but his 45 wins are the most by any head coach in Cardinals history. He also led this team to its lone Super Bowl appearance and came up one Santonio Holmes big toe away from winning the Lombardi Trophy. So is he the best coach in Cardinals' franchise history?
7: Coaches fired on Black Monday 2012
Whisenhunt, Lovie Smith (81-63), Andy Reid (130-93-1), Norv Turner (56-40), Chan Gailey (16-32), Pat Shurmur (9-23) and Romeo Crennel (4-15) were all fired on the 2012 edition of Black Monday. Three of those seven took their respective teams to the Super Bowl (Whisenhunt, Smith, Reid) and two of the grouo (Turner and Reid) have more than 100 wins in their careers.
9-of-14: Years Andy Reid led the Eagles to the postseason
It was time for Reid and the Eagles to part ways. Both are likely going to be better off and the former Philadelphia coach shouldn’t have to wait long before he gets another shot on the sidelines again. He posted eight seasons of at least 10 wins and averaged 9.3 wins per season over a 14-year career in the City of (not-so) Brotherly Love. The most important number, however, are his nine postseason trips. He was 10-9 in the playoffs and led his team to the Super Bowl in 2004. The bad in Philly won’t outweigh the good, so Reid will be back coaching in short order.
135: Eli Manning's longest active consecutive starts streak
Since Week 10 of his rookie season in 2004, Eli Manning hasn’t missed a start in 135 chances. His older brother, Peyton, watched his streak of 208 end last year when he missed the entire 2011 season. Eli, who just finished his ninth NFL season, would need to play more than 10 additional seasons (10 seasons and 2 weeks) without missing a start to reach Brett Favre’s all-time record of 297 straight starts.
There were plenty of other milestones and records that were set this year, including:
- Frank Gore passed Joe Perry as the 49ers' all-time leading rusher (8,839).
- Gore also passed Joe Perry as the 49ers' all-time rushing TD leader (51).
- Eli Manning passed Phil Simms as the Giants' all-time passing TD leader (211).
- Alfred Morris passed Clinton Portis as Redskins' single-season rushing leader (1,613).
- Marques Colston passed Joe Horn on the Saints' all-time TD receptions list (58).
- Jason Witten passed Michael Irvin as the Cowboys' all-time leading receiver (806).
- Josh Freeman passed Vinny Testaverde as Bucs' all-time passing TD leader (78).
- Ed Reed passed Rod Woodson for the most INT return yards in NFL history (1,541).
- Randy Moss passed Tim Brown and Isaac Bruce for 3rd all-time in receiving yards (15,292).
- Blair Walsh set the NFL record for 50-plus-yard field goals made in a season (10).
- Chris Johnson added to his own NFL record for rushing TDs of at least 80 yards (6).
The merits of recruiting rankings are debated in every sports bar and around every water cooler in the nation. Athlon continues its look back at recruiting rankings by comparing the starting line-ups in the BCS National Championship Game as recruits.
2012 Notre Dame's Starting Offenses as Recruits
Everett Golson, QB (2011)
This deep South prospect was no ordinary three-star recruit. The Myrtle Beach (S.C.) High prospect had offers to play at Florida, Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State, Michigan, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia Tech among many others. Rivals rated him as the No. 13 player in the state and the No. 16-rated dual-threat quarterback in the nation.
Theo Riddick, RB (2009) National Recruit
The runner-turned-receiver-turned-runner was highly coveted coming out of Manville (N.J.) Immaculata. Athlon Sports ranked him the No. 185-overall player in the nation and the No. 24-rated running back in America. Rivals gave him four stars as he picked the Irish over offers from Penn State, West Virginia, Rutgers, Pitt, Maryland and Virginia. Riddick took the place of former start Cierre Wood — who was ranked as the No. 2 running back recruit in the nation back in 2009.
T.J. Jones, WR (2010) National Recruit
The Gainesville (Ga.) High native just missed landing in the Athlon Consensus 100 in 2010. He was the No. 116-rated overall prospect in the nation and was the No. 19-rated wide receiver nationally. The Peach State prospect held scholarships from Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio State, Stanford, UCLA and Cal to go with Notre Dame. He was a four-star recruit according to Rivals.
DeVaris Daniels, WR (2011) National Recruit
Just like Jones, Daniels barely missed landing in the AC100 as he was rated the No. 105 overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports. The Vernon Hills (Ill.) High wide receiver was the No. 16-rated player at his position nationally and Rivals gave him a four-star ranking. Major college powers from all over the nation offered the talented Midwestern prospect: Oklahoma, Oregon, Arkansas, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Michigan State and Wisconsin to name a few.
John Goodman, WR (2008)
Both Goodman and receiver Robby Toma were three-star prospects coming out of high school. Goodman hails from Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Dwenger and was rated as the No. 3 player in the state and No. 51 player at his position by Rivals. He picked the Irish over Michigan, Iowa, Kentucky, Indiana and Purdue.
Tyler Eifert, TE (2009)
A high school teammate of Goodman’s at Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Dwenger, Eifert was also a three-star pass catcher by Rivals one year later. Eifert was the No. 24-rated tight end in the nation and was the No. 10-rated player in the state by the online scouting service. He picked Notre Dame over Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Minnesota, Purdue, Cincinnati, Indiana and Wake Forest.
Christian Lombard, OL (2010) National Recruit
A big-time recruit from Palatine (Ill.) Fremd, Lombard was ranked in the Top 150 nationally (No. 146). The four-star prospect was the No. 20-rated offensive lineman in the nation by Athlon Sports and he picked Notre Dame over other big-time offers from Michigan, Nebraska, Stanford, North Carolina and Wisconsin (among many others).
Zack Martin, OL (2009) National Recruit
Michigan, Stanford, UCLA, Illinois, Virginia and Northwestern also offered Martin a chance to play college football. The four-star recruit from Indianapolis (Ind.) Bishop Chatard was the No. 26-rated offensive lineman in the nation and the No. 214-rated overall player in the country by Athlon Sports. Rivals listed Martin as the No. 2-rated player in the state behind only Montez Robinson.
Chris Watt, OL (2009) AC100
This top-100 prospect was the No. 8-rated offensive lineman in the nation back in 2009, trailing names like DJ Fluker, Xavier Nixon, Mason Walters and Marcus Hall. Athlon Sports ranked him the No. 49 overall player in the country. He was a four-star prospect from Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Glenbard West who picked Notre Dame over Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Virginia, Northwestern, Illinois and Boston College.
Mike Golic Jr., OL (2008)
From West Hartford (Conn.) Northwest Catholic, Golic Jr., was headed to one campus and one campus only. The Notre Dame legacy — and son of famous ESPN personality Mike Golic Sr. — was a three-star recruit by Rivals who was ranked as the No. 8 center in the country. He was the No. 4-rated player in the state
Braxston Cave, OL (2008) National Recruit
Michigan, Notre Dame and Indiana offered the Mishawaka (Ind.) Penn prospect in 2008. He was the No. 4-rated center in the nation and the No. 2-rated player in the state by Rivals.com. He was given four-star status and ranked as the No. 192-rated overall recruit in the nation.
Star ranking breakdown of Notre Dame's starting line-up (by Rivals.com):
|Star Ranking||No. of Players|
2012 Notre Dame's Starting Defense as Recruits
Kapron Lewis-Moore, DL (2008) National Recruit
The star defensive end signed with the Irish from Weatherford (Texas) High and was ranked as a coveted four-star prospect by Rivals. He was the No. 13-rated strongside defensive end in the nation and was the No. 33-rated player in The Lone Star State. He held offers from Texas, Michigan, Louisville, Texas A&M, Wisconsin, Colorado and Kansas.
Louis Nix, DL (2010) National Recruit
The big fella from Jacksonville (Fla.) Raines barely missed landing in the Athlon Consensus 100 as the No. 102-rated player in the nation regardless of position. He was the no. 9-rated defensive tackle in a loaded year for the position and was a four-star recruit by Rivals. He had offers from Florida, Florida State, Clemson, Miami, Ole Miss and both North and South Carolina.
Stephon Tuitt, DL (2011) AC100
Athlon Sports ranked the Monroe (Ga.) Area High School prospect as the No. 44 overall player in the nation. He was the No. 4-rated player in the state behind Isaiah Crowell, Ray Drew and Jay Rome and was the No. 8-rated defensive lineman. Every school in the nation wanted the massive D-Lineman as he held seven SEC offers (Florida, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, Auburn, Vanderbilt) to go with Clemson, UCLA, North Carolina, Louisville and Notre Dame scholarships.
Prince Shembo, DL (2010) National Recruit
Hailing from Charlotte (N.C.) Ardrey Kell, Shembo signed with Notre Dame after Virginia Tech, Tennessee, North Carolina and West Virginia among others. He was a four-star prospect by Rivals and was the No. 7-rated inside linebacker in the nation. He was the No. 238-rated overall player in the nation and the No. 7-rated player in the state.
Manti Te’o, LB (2009) AC100
The Irish middle linebacker from Laie (Hawaii) Punahou is no stranger to the spotlight. He was the No. 1-rated linebacker in the nation and No. 3 overall player in the country, trailing only Matt Barkley (USC) and Russell Shepard (LSU) in Athlon Sports' 2009 recruiting rankings. Obviously, the No. 1 player in the state, Te’o held offers from every college program in the nation and was able to write his own ticket.
Dan Fox, LB (2009) National Recruit
The outside linebacker from Rocky River (Ohio) St. Ignatius was a four-star prospect by Rivals.com. He was the No. 13-rated outside backer in the nation and was the No. 15-rated player in the state of Ohio. He held offers from Stanford, Michigan State, Iowa, Pitt, Virginia and Boston College as well as Notre Dame.
Danny Spond, LB (2010) National Recruit
The Littleton (Colo.) Columbine prospect was listed as a four-star “athlete” by Rivals. He was the No. 2-rated player in the state and the No. 27-rated player at his position nationally. Colorado, Stanford, TCU, Duke, Colorado offered and Arkansas had interest as well.
Kei'Varae Russell, CB (2012) National Recruit
An early contributor, Russell signed with Notre Dame out of Everett (Wash.) Mariner last February. He had an offer from every school in the Pac-12 except USC as well as Vanderbilt, Purdue and Boise State. Athlon Sports ranked him as the No. 18-rated running back prospect in the nation and he was the No. 167-rated overall player in the nation. Rivals gave him four stars.
Bennett Jackson, CB (2010)
The Hazlet (N.J.) Raritan native was a three-star recruit with an impressive offer sheet. Michigan State, West Virginia, Iowa, Maryland, Pitt, Rutgers and others offered the Garden State prospect. Rivals rated him the No. 61-best wide receiver in the nation and the ninth-best recruit in the state.
Matthias Farley, S (2011)
Another Southeastern prospect, Farley hails from Charlotte (N.C.) Christian High School. He had offers from local programs (North Carolina, NC State, Duke) as well as teams from across the nation (UCLA, Wisconsin, Maryland, Notre Dame) and was given a three-star rating from Rivals.
Zeke Motta, S (2009) National Recruit
The undersized linebacker prospect was an elite talent coming out of Vero Beach (Fla.) High School. Athlon Sports ranked him as the No. 174-rated player in the nation and the No. 24-rated linebacker in America. Rivals thought higher of him and ranked him as the No. 54-overall player in the nation, nearly giving him a fifth star. The Irish safety could have accepted scholarships to play at Florida, Florida State, Clemson, Auburn, North Carolina, West Virginia, UCLA or Stanford.
Athlon Consensus 100: The Top 100 Recruits in the Nation
The 2012 All-America Team as Recruits
The 2012 All-Big 12 Team as Recruits
The 2012 All-Pac-12 Team as Recruits
The 2012 All-ACC Team as Recruits
The 2012 All-Big Ten Team as Recruits
The 2012 All-SEC Team as Recruits
The 2012 All-Big East Team as Recruits
There are many different ways for a locker room to implode, splinter and almost assuredly fail to accomplish much of anything. Injuries, poor leadership and handsy owners are just a few ways the delicate pursuit of a championship can be derailed. But sometimes the locker room can be infested with teammates who clearly aren't committed to winning championships. It can rub off on others, can be a distraction in the media and is obviously a terrible way to represent yourself in your community to so many who admire them. Sometimes — most times — these athletes have so much talent that they continually are given chances to succeed. It generally leaves fans wondering what if?
Our worst teammates of all-time:
Ryan Leaf, Quarterback, NFL
The torrid and tawdry tale of the San Diego Chargers first-round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft is well documented. His off-the-field drug issues as a coach alone make him one of the most tragic members of any locker room in all of sports. Yet, simply as an NFL quarterback, Leaf failed to live up to his 6-foot-5 frame. He was in yelling matches that nearly developed into physical altercations with teammates, general managers, fans during practice and one famous reporter who should have "knock(ed) it off." The list of bizarre and ignorant decision-making is shocking. He skipped the final day of the rookie symposium. He complained to the front office about a standard rookie credit card prank. He constantly blamed teammates publicly for his poor play. He missed practice with an injury to play golf. He refused to have surgery when doctors told him he should. There is a reason he won only four of his 21 career starts.
Tonya Harding, Figure Skater
Aside from never being able to get to the arena or onto the ice on time, I'm not sure it gets any worse than physically assaulting your teammate with the direct intent of ending their career. On Jan. 6, 1994, Harding conspired with ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and her bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt, to break teammate and competitor Nancy Kerrigan's right leg. They hired a man named Shane Stant to assault Kerrigan at Cobo Arena in Detroit, causing Kerrigan to withdraw from the 1994 US Championships. The attack didn't keep Kerrigan from competing in the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer where she won the Silver Medal. Harding would end up pleading guilty to conspiracy.
Barry Bonds, Outfielder, MLB
Possibly the most talented and most high profile player on this list, it seems awfully appropriate that Bonds has never won anything. The stories from teammates, fans and reporters stretch out longer than one of his bombs into the Bay. Not showing up for team photos, blaming teammates for failed drug tests, berating journalists, distracting the team and constantly distancing himself from his team. There is a report from Rob Dibble that Pirates players would offer steak dinners and cash to opposing pitchers if they would hit Bonds. He was hit 106 times in his career and, for the most part, his home run record is sneered at for a reason.
Delonte West, Guard, NBA
This one isn't too hard. Over a three-year period of time West was traded three times and eventually waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves. His career began unceremoniously when officers found a concealed handgun in his pocket and, I can't make this up, a shotgun in a guitar case on his back during a speedy stop — while on a motorcycle. In 2010, he got into a locker room fight with Von Wafer, one that witnesses say West instigated. In 2012, he wasn't allowed to attend the Mavericks trip to the White House and he reacted with an intense Twitter rant. Finally, and even I will admit, the most far-fetched tale of Mr. West are his alleged indiscretions with The Chosen One's Mom. No, I am not kidding. He never averaged more than 12.2 points per game in any season and averaged in double figures only three times in eight years in the NBA.
Bill Romanowski, Linebacker, NFL
The burly and physical tackler was a menace on the field as one of the nastiest hitters in the game and off the field as one of the worst teammates. During his playing days, he was long-linked to potential steroid use that likely led somewhat to his insane practice habits. No less than six major violent incidents with teammates dot Romanowski's resume. He shattered Marcus Williams' eye-socket, ending his career, broke Kerry Collins' jaw and attacked Tony Gonzalez. He kicked another teammate in the head, spit in another's face and was known to aim for an extra-sensitive area of the body with the football from time to time. The linebacker has since toned down his antics dramatically and has been slowly working to rebuild his image off of the field.
Manny Ramirez, Outfielder, MLB
No one makes you shake your head quite like Man-Ram. Yes, he has had physical altercations with teammates and even apparently knocked over an elderly secretary. He was an extraordinary hitter and one of the most bizarre outfielders in the history of the game. Cutting off throws, disappearing into the Monster and landing on the baseball only scratch the surface. He was also suspended for using steroids while playing for the Dodgers late in his career. But Manny is also guilty of the worst crime in all of sports: intentionally not playing hard. Manny Being Manny was great for a laugh — if you didn't play with him.
Terrell Owens, Wide Receiver, NFL
Constantly throwing teammates under the bus, Owens' selfish attitude on and off the field cost his locker room any cohesion and, at times, cost his team yards on the field. Effort was never his issue like some other prima donna wideouts in the NFL, but to blame quarterbacks and coaches for his own failures is absurd. And to infer certain things about Jeff Garcia in a negative way is unacceptable, distasteful and classless. Especially, coming from a guy as vain as T.O.
Gilbert Arenas, Guard, NBA
He has long been known to berate and verbally abuse teammates. He has also been connected with some of the more vicious rookie hazings. However, being suspended for nearly an entire season because you brought a handgun into the locker room takes the cake. Which is unacceptable, especially if you are a career 42.1 percent shooter.
Steve Smith, Wide Receiver, NFL (Carolina Panthers)
Multiple fights with multiple teammates have made Smith a constant headline in training camp. He has been sued, fined, suspended and sent to anger management training for the better part of a decade. It’s not working. He has long been one of the most talkative — and generally not using pleasantries — players in all of the NFL.
Carlos Zambrano, Starting Pitcher, MLB
He was suspended for arguing with teammate Derrek Lee. He got in a fight between innings with catcher Michael Barrett. His temper and childish behaviors were caught on film numerous times on the North Side of Chicago. Why do you think new management was willing to pay millions for him NOT to be in their clubhouse?
John Terry, Centre Back, English Premier Soccer
One of the most decorated English soccer plays of all-time, Terry won "Dad of the Year" in 2009. The voters must not have known about his bar fights, airport altercations, handicap parking tendencies and general sleaziness. He has been investigated for racial abuse and was busted for having an extramarital affair with a teammate’s significant other. Well done, sire.
Jeff Kent, Second Base, MLB
Few players have ever been as abrasive as Mr. Kent. Stories of Barry Bonds — yes, Barry Bonds — having to play the role of peacekeeper in the Giants clubhouse should tell you all you need to know about Kent. Teammates, media, coaches and fans can't stand to be around him. Neither could the people on "Survivor" apparently.
Latrell Sprewell, Guard, NBA
Few players have wasted more talent on nonsense than Sprewell. Not many players can say they have literally choked their head coach. His excuse? "It's not like he was losing air or anything." Spree's laundry list of locker room dust-ups is too long to comb through. But choking your coach and publicly wondering how he was going to feed his family on a $21 million contract is enough to make this list.
The "Worst" of the Rest:
Albert Haynesworth, Defensive Lineman, NFL
A paycheck player who refused to play certain positions and never stayed in shape following his payday.
Keyshawn Johnson, Wide Receiver, NFL
Was always wondering why the Jets were throwing the ball "to that little white guy." Hmmm...
Stephon Marbury, Guard, NBA
Constantly battling with teammates and even his GM, he single-handedly derailed the Knicks.
Allen Iverson, Guard, NBA
Game effort was never the issue. His Diva persona and attitude towards practice was.
Joe Horn, Wide Receiver, NFL
On the field antics and sleeping with a teammate's wife qualifies Horn for this list.
JaMarcus Russell, Quarterback, NFL
Lazy, out of shape and unfocused on anything that had to do with winning games.
Milton Bradley, Outfielder, MLB
Eight teams in 12 years for the short-tempered maniac. Has had multiple domestic abuse issues.
There are few programs in the history of college football that have experienced as much success as Alabama and Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are fourth all-time with 865 wins and no team in the nation can claim more Heisman trophies than the Irish's seven. The Crimson Tide are ninth all-time with 826 wins and have won two of the last three BCS National Championships. Officially, the Tide lead all FBS programs with 14 national titles and Notre Dame is tied for second with 11. 'Bama claims 24 NCAA Hall of Famers while the Irish boast 50.
Arguably, the two most powerful brands in college football history will be on the field deciding a championship on Monday, Jan. 7. Dedicated fans, legendary coaches, historic moments and most importantly, transcendent players have made these two football Goliaths what they are today.
So which program has had the better history of great athletes? To be fair, the evolution of the athlete makes it extremely difficult to compare players who passed beneath Touchdown Jesus or through the Capstone 60 years apart. Players today are bigger, faster, stronger and more prepared for elite competition than ever before. How could you ever compare Barrett Jones to Aaron Taylor to John Hannah? What about Manti Te'o, Cornelius Bennett or Jim Lynch? How about George Gipp or Trent Richardson?
It's virtually impossible, but Athlon Sports has given it the ol' college try:
Alabama's Best: Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, AJ McCarron
Notre Dame's Best: Johnny Lujack, Joe Montana, Paul Hornung
With AJ McCarron pushing for his second national championship ring, Alabama has a strong trio at the most important position on the field. The Tide also has title winners in Jay Barker, Greg McElroy and Pat Trammell. 'Bama also claims Green Bay Packers hero Bart Starr. However, Notre Dame gets the nod under center with a deep and talented history at the quarterback position. Lujack, Hornung, John Huarte and Angelo Bartelli all won Heisman trophies and many believe Montana is the best to ever play the position. Throw in Terry Hanratty, Joe Theismann, Rick Mirer, Brady Quinn and Tony Rice, and the Irish have the clear edge under center.
Edge: Notre Dame
Alabama's Best: Trent Richardson, Mark Ingram, Bobby Humphrey
Notre Dame's Best: George Gipp, Johnny Lattner, Jerome Bettis
If the game was being played 50 years ago, Notre Dame's best would likely trump 'Bama. However, the modern athlete gives the Crimson Tide the edge at running back. Richardson is one of the most physically gifted players to ever carry a football on any campus. Ingram won Alabama's lone Heisman Trophy, and old-school names like Humphrey, Johnny Musso, Shaun Alexander and Johnny Mack Brown give the Tide plenty of history of their own. The Gipper is the gold standard in South Bend for all players regardless of position, as Gipp excelled at much more than just running. Bettis is arguably the most gifted Irish runner, but is the only modern "all-time" tailback at Notre Dame. Lattner, Gipp, Elmer Layden and Emil Sitko played during a different era and even the best of the rest — Vagas Ferguson, Autry Denson, Reggie Brooks — are nearly 20 years removed from action. This position battle is extremely close but Alabama gets the slight edge based on raw athletic ability.
Alabama's Best: Don Hutson, Julio Jones, David Palmer
Notre Dame's Best: Tim Brown, Rocket Ismail, Michael Floyd
'Bama's best can hang with anyone's top three, especially considering what Hutson and Jones have gone on to do in the NFL. But the position isn't extremely deep with All-Americans. Notre Dame, however, has a deep history of elite pass catchers. Brown won the program's seventh Heisman Trophy, Ismail was virtually unstoppable in the open field, and Floyd was as productive as any wideout at any school. But Jim Seymour, Jeff Samardzija, Golden Tate, Wayne Milner and Derrick Mays, to name a few, give the Irish the nod over the Crimson Tide. Although, it would have been interesting to see what type of legacy Tyrone Prothro would have left at Alabama had he stayed healthy.
Edge: Notre Dame
Alabama's Best: Ozzie Newsome, Howard Cross, Rod Rutledge
Notre Dame's Best: Ken McAfee, Dave Casper, Kyle Rudolph
This one isn't even close despite Newsome being the best overall player at this position on either team. McAfee and Casper are two of the greatest college tight ends in history, while Rudolph's freakish athletic ability made him a special player. Toss in Jim Mutscheller, John Carlson, Tyler Eifert, Irv Smith and Mark Bavaro and the Irish can boast one of the best tight end traditions in the nation.
Edge: Notre Dame
Alabama's Best: John Hannah, Chris Samuels, Barrett Jones
Notre Dame's Best: George Connor, Bill Fischer, Aaron Taylor
Much like the tight end position, this battle isn't really close. This time, however, it's Alabama that has the distinct advantage. The fact that Dwight Stephenson, Andre Smith, Antoine Caldwell, Billy Neighbors and Chance Warmack aren't one of the best three linemen to play at a school indicates just how elite 'Bama's blocking heritage has been. Strangely enough — and relatively speaking, of course — the Irish have little history of elite offensive linemen. Mirko Jurkovic, Andy Heck and John Scully might not even stack up with even the Mike Johnsons and D.J. Flukers of the Crimson Tide world.
Alabama's Best: Leroy Cook, Marty Lyons, Terrance Cody
Notre Dame's Best: Ross Browner, Leon Hart, Justin Tuck
Surprisingly, Alabama's tradition and history along the defensive line is similar to that of Notre Dame's offensive line in that a small number of D-Liners are named amongst the program's all-time best. For example, it is likely that Jesse Williams is one of the top 10 defensive linemen in Capstone history. Lyons and Cook were truly great, and Cody was a monster. Beyond them it is hard to find comparable names. Eric Curry, John Copeland, Marcell Dareus and Mike Pitts were all great players but not Heisman Trophy-type talents. Browner was one of the game's greatest at his position, Hart is still one of just two linemen to win the Heisman Trophy, and Tuck is a physical freak. Toss in Bryant Young, Chris Zorich, Alan Page and Bob Dove, and the Irish get the nod along the defensive frontline. Walt Patulski, Frank Stams, Steve Niehaus and Louis Nix III could also be mentioned among the ND's best — and Stephon Tuitt may only need one more season to prove he belongs as well.
Edge: Notre Dame
Alabama's Best: Derrick Thomas, Cornelius Bennett, Lee Roy Jordan
Notre Dame's Best: Manti Te'o, Jim Lynch, Bob Crable
Alabama's tradition of churning out elite linebackers is downright absurd. DeMeco Ryans, C.J. Mosley, Keith McCants and Dwayne Rudd aren't even in the top 10. Woodrow Lowe, Dont'a Hightower, Rolando McClain and Courtney Upshaw aren't in the top three. Along with offensive line, this position is the strongest historically of the Crimson Tide program. Considering the history at this position, it's no wonder Nick Saban has made a killing recruiting elite tackling prospects. Te'o speaks for himself as one of the better all-around college athletes to ever the play the game. Lynch and Crable are elite in their own right as well. And Bob Golic, Jerry Groom, Michael Stonebreaker and Nick Buoniconti are good players but Notre Dame can't match the rich heritage of Alabama's linebackers.
Alabama's Best: Antonio Langham, Javier Arenas, Jeremiah Castille
Notre Dame's Best: Todd Lyght, Bobby Taylor, Luther Bradley
Langham won the Thorpe Award and led his team to a national title, while Arenas impacted the game in so many different ways. That said, Dee Milliner might be the most complete and talented corner to ever play at Alabama. Dre Kirkpatrick, Kareem Jackson and Don McNeal add quality depth to the cover corner position as well. Notre Dame has had some quality players at cornerback over the years but none are considered amongst the school's all-time greatest players.
Alabama's Best: Mark Barron, Tommy Wilcox, George Teague
Notre Dame's Best: Mike Townsend, Tom Zbikowski, Dave Duerson
There was talk around the SEC that Barron was the best player in the conference last season — in a year that had nine first-round picks from the SEC. Wilcox is widely regarded as the only other truly great Alabama safety, while others like George Teague and Rashad Johnson were big winners. However, Notre Dame's recent run at safety — Zbikowski and Harrison Smith — give the Irish a very slight edge at the backend of the defense. Dick Lynch and Dave Duerson add quality depth to a position that has been comparatively thin for both programs. Although, both programs have produced some NFL stars in the last few seasons.
Edge: Notre Dame
Notre Dame's John Carney vs. Alabama's Leigh Tiffin
Both names dominate their respective record books. Alabama has had a slightly better run of kickers overall (Phillip Doyle, Michael Proctor) than Notre Dame, but Carney went on to become one of the NFL's best for more than two decades.
Edge: Notre Dame
Alabama's Best: Bear Bryant, Nick Saban, Frank Thomas
Notre Dame's Best: Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian
This is one of the more interesting debates in a historical perspective for both teams. It's tough to argue that Bryant isn't the game's greatest general, however, nearly one third of his 323 wins (91) came during his 13-year coaching tenure prior to getting to Tuscaloosa. And the Notre Dame coaching history has been slightly deeper and more balanced as seven different men won a national title at Notre Dame, while only five did so at Alabama. How do Lou Holtz, Dan Devine and Elmer Layden compare to Wallace Wade and Gene Stallings? Brian Kelly has won titles on every level of his coaching career and has a chance to defeat Saban head-to-head and make it eight coaches to win titles for the Irish. That said, The Bear is the trump card. But this is about as dead even a position battle for these two historic programs. One could also argue that these are the two best collections of head coaches in the nation — which should come as no shock considering these are two of college football's most prestigious programs.
The Grand Daddy of Them All will feature two of the most powerful rushing attacks in the nation when Wisconsin and Stanford meet in the 99th annual Rose Bowl.
Wisconsin earned its third consecutive trip to the Pasadena after upsetting Nebraska in the Big Ten title game. The Badgers will be making their ninth (3-5) Rose Bowl appearance with a familiar face on the sidelines. After Bret Bielema left for Arkansas, athletic director Barry Alvarez announced he would coach the team in the bowl game. It will be his fourth Rose Bowl as head coach at Wisconsin.
Stanford, which is also in its third straight BCS bowl, is playing in its 14th Rose Bowl appearance — good for third all-time tying Washington and Ohio State. However, its last victory in the game came in back-to-back years in 1971 and 1972 over Ohio State and Michigan. The Cardinal are looking for just their second bowl win since 1996 and coach David Shaw is looking for his first as a head coach.
These two historic programs have played five times previously with the Badgers owning a commanding 4-0-1 record against the Cardinal. The last time these two met was the 17-9 Wisconsin win in the 2000 Rose Bowl game, in which Ron Dayne rushed for 200 yards on 34 carries.
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin (8-5) vs. Stanford (11-2)
Date and Time: Tues., Jan. 1, 5:10 p.m. ET
Location: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.)
When Wisconsin has the ball
With or without Bielema or offensive coordinator Matt Canada on the sidelines, the Wisconsin offense will be predicated around the running game. Record-setting tailback Montee Ball has scored more touchdowns than anyone in the history of the sport and will have to be at his best against the mighty Cardinal front seven. He isn’t the only weapon in the backfield for the Badgers, as UW brings one of the deepest and most talented tailback corps in the nation. James White (802 yards, 12 TD) and Melvin Gordon (570 yards, 3 TD) give Ball plenty of time to catch his breath — which he will need.
Stanford led the Pac-12 in rushing defense, sacks, tackles for loss, total defense and scoring defense. In a three game stretch, it allowed three (Cal), minus-18 (Washington State and minus-21 (Colorado) total rushing yards. The veteran Wisconsin offensive line will try to pound the equally talented and experienced Cardinal defensive front. The Badgers O-line is likely the best Stanford has faced all season, and the lawfirm of Skov, Murphy, Thomas, Stephens and Gardner is the best UW will have faced all year. One thing is certain, both sides will need hours in the ice tubs after the game is long over.
The difference for UW will be the play of its quarterback. Redshirt freshman Joel Stave had stabilized the shaky position midway through the season but was lost for the year with a broken collarbone. He is reportedly ahead of schedule and there is an outside chance he could play against Stanford. He gives this offense a second dimension that backup Curt Phillips cannot. Although, Phillips did lead a last second overtime-forcing touchdown drives against both the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions to end the season.
When Stanford has the ball
Stanford’s game plan isn’t all that different from Wisconsin’s. David Shaw also switched quarterbacks this fall, moving his own redshirt freshman into the starting lineup just past the season’s halfway mark. Kevin Hogan flourished under center and proved to be much more effective than Josh Nunes, leading the Cardinal to wins over four consecutive ranked opponents to end the year.
Much like Stave or Phillips for Wisconsin, Hogan will lean heavily on his running game. Stepfan Taylor is one of the most complete backs in the nation, touching the ball 340 times for 1,712 yards from scrimmage this year. He scored in all but three games this fall and has carried the ball at least 17 times in 15 of his last 18 games. He has 10 100-yard efforts in his last 15 games.
Hogan will utilize All-America tight end Zach Ertz as his primary target in an effort to loosen-up an underrated Wisconsin defense. Led by Mike Taylor and Chris Borland at linebacker, this unit finished 13th nationally in total defense (320.9 ypg) and 19th in scoring defense at under just under 20 points per game. The Badgers defense is non-descript but plays fundamentally sound football every time out.
These two teams are near mirror images of each other. The Badgers simply lack the overall star power and talent of year’s past while Stanford has half-a-dozen quality NFL defenders. This will be a no-frills, physical slobber-knocker of a game that will be a test of wills. Whoever flinches first, which will be Wisconsin if it cannot find a second dimension in the passing game, will be the loser.
Prediction: Stanford 23, Wisconsin 14
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The 67th annual Capital One Bowl — which has gone by many names — is one of the oldest running non-BCS bowls in the country. Both Georgia, which is making its sixth appearance in the game, and Nebraska, which is making its third showing in the bowl, are familiar with the Orlando, Fla., based contest.
The Cornhuskers will be making their second consecutive trip to the Citrus Bowl after losing to South Carolina 30-13 on New Year’s Day last season. The Big Red is 24-24 in 48 total bowl games and is looking for its first bowl win since 2009 (Holiday Bowl). Head coach Bo Pelini is 3-2 in bowl games.
Mark Richt at Georgia is 7-4 all-time in bowl games with his Bulldogs and is also looking for his first postseason win since 2009. The Dawgs were outlasted in a memorable Outback Bowl loss to Michigan State last winter.
Both of these teams won their division and then lost in their respective conference championship game. Both teams have double-digit wins and both teams should be disappointed (possibly, for different reasons) for not landing in a BCS bowl. The Dawgs were five yards away from a trip to the National Championship game.
These two historic programs have met just once before in history. Tom Osborne was in his first season as the offensive coordinator when his Huskers pounded Georgia 45-6 in the 1969 Sun Bowl.
Capital One Bowl: Nebraska (10-3) vs. Georgia (11-2)
Date and Time: Tues., Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET
Location: Citrus Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)
When Nebraska has the ball
Taylor Martinez matured into one of the nation’s best quarterbacks this fall. He led the Big Ten in both passing efficiency (142.32) and total offense (280.0 ypg). He led high-profile comebacks with both his legs and arm in key situations all season long for the Big Red. Rex Burkhead is back healthy for the final game of his career and the speedy Ameer Abdullah give Pelini three outstanding options in the ground game.
All of Nebraska’s weapons will be needed if it expects to move the ball on the Dawgs' nasty defense. Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree lead a stacked linebacking corps that perfectly fits Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme. Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo are as hard-hitting and talented a safety duo as there is in the nation. Georgia's defensive line suffered a huge (literally) loss when nose tackle John Jenkins was ruled ineligible in late December. With Jenkins out, Georgia will need a big game from Kwame Geathers.
As usual with Nebraska, Martinez will have to make big play with his improvisation skills, as well as throw on time and in rhythm. This will be a huge test for the Big Ten’s top offense.
When Georgia has the ball
Just like the Big Red, Georgia has its own three-headed monster in the backfield. Aaron Murray is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and is approaching career SEC passing records. He will turn to a pair of freshman tailbacks to loosen up the defense. Todd Gurley finished second in the SEC in rushing (96.9 ypg) and scored 16 times on the ground, while Keith Marshall posted 723 yards and eight touchdowns on his own this year. With the injuries at wide receiver Georgia has dealt with, fans can bet the running game will be the focal point of Richt’s offense. Especially, considering what Wisconsin did to the Blackshirts defense in the Big Ten championship game
Nebraska entered the regular season finale with the No. 15-rated total defense in the nation by allowing just 318.3 yards per game. It was giving up 22.9 points per game. But the defense was abused to the tune of 539 yards rushing and 70 points in the biggest game of the season. Safety Daimion Stafford, end Eric Martin and middle linebacker Will Compton give Pelini experience and talent on all three levels. But if this group doesn’t play its best, the Georgia running game will dominate the game.
Nebraska was poised for its first conference championship since 1999 before the complete letdown in Indianapolis. A loss to Georgia would give every Pelini team in Lincoln exactly four losses. Richt lost in the SEC championship for the second straight season, but this one stung much worse with the clock running out inside the Alabama 10-yard line. The Dawgs are the more talented team, so if it can re-motivate itself after exerting so much energy in the loss to the Crimson Tide, it will win. If not, Nebraska has the offensive firepower to pull the upset.
Prediction: Georgia 35, Nebraska 21
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For entertainment purposes only, Athlon brings you the top college football picks against the spread. It does not condone, approve or encourage gambling on sports in any way. But if you are a fan of football — college or pro — and you don't think gambling has played a huge role in the growth and popularity of the sport, then you are simply being ignorant. And behind closed doors, the powers that be understand the impact betting has had on the game of football. So just for fun, here are some of the more intriguing lines of the 2012 bowl season.
2012 Record Against The Spread: 54-34
Note: All lines are as of date of publication
Louisville (+13.5) at Florida (Sugar Bowl) Jan. 2
Charlie Strong's personal goals against his former team can only carry this team so far before this showcase becomes an 11-1 SEC team and one that lost to UConn. As many as half of a dozen Gators could be auditioning for the pro scouts as well. The talent differential between these two is nearly as great as the Orange Bowl. Will Muschamp knows a great showing in this game springboards his offense into a critical offseason. Prediction: Florida -13.5
Alabama (-10) at Notre Dame (BCS National Championship) Jan. 7
The last three BCS National Championship games that featured point-spreads of at least seven were outright upsets. Ohio State defeated Miami as a 12.5-point underdog in 2002, Texas beat USC as a 7-point dog and Florida upset Ohio State after the Buckeyes opened as a 9.5-point favorite. I am not calling for the outright win, but Notre Dame matches-up perfectly with Alabama and has all the talent to play the Tide tight. Look for a close, low-scoring game in which AJ McCarron and Amari Cooper will have to make one big play late in the fourth to win. Prediction: Notre Dame +10
Wisconsin (+6.5) at Stanford (Rose Bowl) Jan. 1
These two teams are carbon copies of each other a few small yet significant differences. Both teams run the ball effectively with powerful offensive lines and a heavy dose of the tight end position. And both teams play solid defense against the run and force inefficient play from the quarterback. That said, the Cardinal have a huge advantage at the quarterback position (Kevin Hogan over Curt Phillips) and in the front seven. While the Badgers are fundamentally sound and have solid toughness, it has little star power and big-play potential. The Cardinal could have upwards of four or five NFL players near the line of scrimmage and it leads the nation in big plays (sacks and TFLs per game). Prediction: Stanford -6.5
Mississippi State (-2) at Northwestern (Gator Bowl) Jan. 1
Pat Fitzgerald has his best rushing attack of his seven-year tenure in Evanston. Kain Colter and Venric Mark were virtually unstoppable this season at churning out yards. He has led his alma mater to unprecedented levels of success, reaching the postseason for the fifth time — but has yet to break through with a win. Look for the Bulldogs defense that allowed 203.6 yards rushing per game over its final five. Prediction: Northwestern +2
NC State (+7) at Vanderbilt (Music City Bowl) Dec. 31
Bowl games are virtually impossible to gauge in terms of motivation and focus. But this moment seems bigger than just one game for James Franklin and the Vanderbilt Commodores. And everyone in Nashville knows it. This game in this town in Year 2 of an exciting new program on West End will be too much for a team going through a regime change and a quarterback looking to impress NFL scouts. Take the Dores to get a monumental win for its program in its home town. Prediction: Vanderbilt -7
Purdue won three straight Big Ten games to get bowl eligible for the second season in row. Despite accomplishing at least six wins in back-to-back years for the first time since 2006-2007, the Boilermakers sent their head coach, Danny Hope, packing in favor of former Kent State head man Darrell Hazell. Former wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins will act as the interim leader for the bowl trip.
While the Boilermakers are in a state of transition, Oklahoma State is extremely stable on the sidelines. Despite five losses this year, Mike Gundy has the Cowboys achieving at unprecedented levels. The Pokes are heading to their program record seventh straight bowl game (4-2) and haven’t missed the postseason since Gundy’s first season in Stillwater.
The only meeting in the history of two programs took place in the 1997 Alamo Bowl. Joe Tiller’s Purdue squad handled Bob Simmons’ Oklahoma State team 33-20 in San Antonio behind 325 yards passing from quarterback Billy Dicken.
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Oklahoma State (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6)
Date and Time: Jan. 1, at Noon ET
Location: Cotton Bowl (Dallas, Texas)
When the Oklahoma State Cowboys have the ball
Despite losing superstars at quarterback and wide receiver, the 2012 Cowboys featured their typical high-powered offense. Whether J.W. Walsh, Wes Lunt or Clint Chelf is under center, the Pokes are going to move the ball. At 44.7 points per game, Oklahoma State paced the offensive-minded Big 12 again this year. In fact, Gundy had three different players throw for at least 1,000 yards with Chelf getting the majority of the snaps in the final five games.
Tailback Joseph Randle (1,351 yards, 14 TD) is the go-to talent on offense this year and will likely get his two-dozen touches (23.8) in this game. Josh Stewart is the top target in the passing game, catching nearly 100 passes for 1,154 yards and seven scores. The Boilermakers struggled to get stops all season, finishing 11th in the Big Ten in total defense and 10th in rushing defense, so look for Gundy to put the pedal down early and often.
When the Purdue Boilermakers have the ball
The revolving door at quarterback for Oklahoma State is nothing like what Purdue has dealt with the last few seasons. Caleb TerBush was lost for the year with three games to play and Robert Marve, who missed all of 2010 as well as three games early in both 2011 and 2012, took over the reins of the offense. He struggled in wins over Iowa and Illinois but had arguably the best game of his career in the season finale, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns.
Oklahoma State didn’t finish the year on a high note defensively, as it allowed 92 points in losses to Oklahoma and Baylor. But the Cowboys entered the final two weeks ranked fifth in the Big 12 in total defense at 388.2 yards per game and fifth in scoring defense at 26.1 points per game — which is more than acceptable with their offense. So the final numbers got skewed by two of the better offenses in the nation.
That said, this team led the nation in turnovers forced a year ago (44) but is 90th this year with just 17 takeaways. Against a revolving door at quarterback, Gundy has to view this bowl game as an opportunity for his sagging defense to make plays.
Six different quarterbacks have played for these two programs this season. But one team has three quality options while the other may have none. One program has arguably the most successful coach in school history and a scheme that appears infallible on offense. Purdue has an interim head coach who handled the wide receivers this year. The Boilermakers will find it tough to keep pace with Gundy’s high-flying offense. Which is likely why the 16-point spread is one of the largest of the bowl season.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 42, Purdue 20
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With 347 Division I teams, following college basketball can be overwhelming. Let Athlon Sports start your college hoops week each Monday with a look at some of the most intriguing, most important and most interesting stats from around the sport:
47.8: Kentucky's free throw percentage against Louisville
The Wildcats used a furious 28-14 run late in the second half to cut a Louisville lead to 65-62 in the waning moments of the Bluegrass showdown. But Russ Smith (21 points, 7 rebounds), Chane Behanan (20 pts, 7 rebs) and the Cardinals held on for a intrastate win over rival Kentucky. A big reason John Calapari's team couldn't pull off the win was its performance from the free throw line: The Cats went 11-of-23 (47.8 percent) from the line and it likely cost Big Blue Nation the win. Louisville wasn't tremendous from the line either — 17-of-25 for 68 percent — but was good enough to get a bragging rights win over a ranked Kentucky team. Rick Pitino got a big piece of his national championship puzzle back as well, as center Gorgui Dieng returned from wrist surgery. He was 3-of-4 from the floor for six points to go with seven rebounds and a pair of blocks.
17: UNLV turnovers against North Carolina
Without second-leading scorer Reggie Bullock (13.1 ppg), who sat out after suffering a concussion in practice Thursday, the Tar Heels earned a signature non-conference win. And it came at just the right time as North Carolina enters ACC play against Virginia on Jan. 6. Roy Williams' team has played inefficient basketball of late, especially on the defensive end (see the second half of the East Carolina game). But against the ranked Rebels, the Tar Heels forced 17 turnovers and shot better than 50 percent from the floor to avoid their fourth loss in nine games. After poor showings against potential NCAA Tournament foes Indiana, Butler and Texas, Williams' squad will enter conference play with some much needed confidence — and its first signature win of the season.
42: Tyler Haws points scored against Virginia Tech
BYU entered the weekend with four losses, all against quality power conference teams (Florida State, Notre Dame, Iowa State and Baylor). BYU's final non-conference game against Virginia Tech gave the Cougars a chance at an NCAA resume-building win, and Haws, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, took full advantage of the situation. He scored a career-high 42 points on 14-of-25 shooting, including six of his eight 3-point attempts. Haws was also 8-of-9 from the free throw line and turned the ball over once. The 28-point rout of the Hokies (9-4) gives BYU (10-4) its best win of the season as it enters West Coast play. Hokies star Erick Green was held to 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting.
Plus-11: Turnover margin for UCLA over Missouri
Star point guard Phil Pressey set an SEC record with 19 assists in the Friday night overtime affair in Pauley Pavilion against UCLA. But in the final four minutes of regulation and overtime, Pressey was 0-of-3 from the floor and turned the ball over four times. After his 3-of-19 shooting performance in the win over Illinois last weekend, the Mizzou floor leader missed another 14 shots (8-of-22), this time in a loss. UCLA has struggled all season and coach Ben Howland desperately needed the win and it was likely the turnover margin that was the difference for his squad over the Tigers. Both teams scored 47 points in the first half and 41 in the second and both teams dished out 21 assists. Mizzou attempted 80 shots and committed 17 fouls while UCLA took 79 shots and committed 16 fouls. It was an evenly played game with one glaring exception: UCLA turned the ball over six times in 45 minutes while the Tigers gave the ball up 17 times, including Pressey's four giveaways in the final nine minutes.
20-20: Jerrelle Benimon became the first member of 20-20 club this season
Towson's 6-foot-8 junior became the first player this season to score at least 20 points and grab at least 20 rebounds in a single game. Benimon (20 points, 21 rebounds) was 8-of-16 from the floor and helped defeat Oregon State 67-66 in overtime in Corvallis. The Tigers, who were 1-31 last season, overcame a 19-point second-half deficit to give Oregon State coach Craig Robinson a crushing home defeat when junior Marcus Damas knocked down a game-winning 18-footer with eight-tenths of a second remaining on the clock. The Beavers are 27-45 in conference play overall and have lost at least 10 league games in each of Robinson's four seasons. At 9-3, another one of those Pac-12 season's would not only seal OSU's postseason fate but possibly the head coach's as well.
NFL football is the greatest reality TV program of all time. The Giants and Colts made sure of that back in 1958. Each NFL fall weekend is a completely new and original experience for every player, fan and coach alike. New stories, new personalities, new winners and new losers. And new statistics.
Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics from Week 17 of NFL play:
0-11: Texans record all-time in Indianapolis
The Colts welcomed back head coach Chuck Pagano in style with a physical 28-16 win over the Texans. Houston has now played 11 games in the Midwestern city and has lost every time. This one, however, might be the most costly, as the Texans dropped from the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs to the No. 3 seed and a first round rematch from last year with the Cincinnati Bengals. After starting the year 11-1, Houston enters the postseason having lost three of its last four games — all to playoff teams (New England, Minnesota, Indianapolis). Andrew Luck threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers in the win. He finished his rookie NFL season with a rookie record 4,374 yards, 23 passing touchdowns, 255 yards rushing (second in the AFC by a QB) and five more touchdowns on the ground. Most importantly, the Colts went from 2-14 to 11-5 in one season and will now face the Ravens in the first round of the AFC playoffs. Baltimore has lost four of its last five games and Luck is only beginning his legacy in Indy.
2,097: Adrian Peterson's No. 2 all-time rushing total
Adrian Peterson simply ran out of time. And that is okay by him and the rest of the Purple People Eaters in the Twin Cities. All-Day Peterson became just the seventh player to rush for 2,000 yards as he fell just nine yards shy of the all-time NFL record set nearly 30 years ago by Eric Dickerson (2,105). But his 199-yard performance carried the Vikings into the postseason in thrilling fashion. In the final seconds, A.D. showed why he is the best running back of this generation as he rumbled 27 yards on his career-high 34th carry of the game one year to the day after his reconstructive knee surgery to set-up the game winning and postseason clinching field goal. I don't care what took place in Green Bay, Denver or New England this season, Adrian Peterson is the Most Valuable Player in the NFL.
6: First- or second-year QBs in the playoffs this year
Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder and Colin Kaepernick are in their second seasons in the NFL and all three have led their team to the postseason. Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson — who finished with a franchise single-season QB rating record of 100.0 — are rookies and have led their teams to the postseason. A lot has been made of this rookie class as no postseason tournament has seen this many rookies, but the second-year guys need to be given just as much credit. Certainly, Ponder had All-Day running the ball for him and Kaepernick didn't even start until midway through the year, but this is already Dalton's second trip to the playoffs, and the 2011 QB class gets overlooked. The last two quarterback classes have been special — and Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Brandon Weeden, Nick Foles and Ryan Tannehill all look like starters next season as well.
1,613: Alfred Morris franchise single-season rushing record
The Redskins will make the playoffs on the back of its stellar rookie quarterbacks — yes, Kirk Cousins gets plenty of credit for helping Griffin III get Washington back to the postseason. But the star of the NFC East clinching victory over Dallas was the sixth round rookie from FAU Alfred Morris. The first-year back rushed 33 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns to not only clinch a playoff spot but also pass Clinton Portis' single-season Redskins' rushing record. Morris' 1,613 yards rank third all-time by a rookie (Dickerson owns that one too: 1,808 yards in 1983) and he continues Mike Shanahan's legacy of finding workhorse backs late in the draft. He was the 12th running back taken in the 2012 NFL Draft and was the 173rd overall pick.
5: Teams to have made the playoffs after starting 3-6
Speaking of Shanahan, the Skins lost to Carolina at home in ugly fashion in Week 9. Washington was heading into the bye week and the head coach let his feelings fly in the post-game press conference, verbally eliminating his team from postseason play. Since Shanahan's rant, Washington hasn't lost a game and improbably won the NFC East title. Jacksonville (1996), Detroit (1995), New England (1994) and Cincinnati (1970) are the only other teams in NFL history to have started the season with six losses in their first nine games and then gone on to make the playoffs. Griffin III is a transcendent talent whose leadership and maturity is quickly growing into legendary proportions in the greater D.C. area. But this was a team effort all the way and Shanahan — a two-time Super Bowl Champion — deserves a lot of credit for pulling the right strings.
12: Straight combined wins for Seattle and Washington
Two of the three hottest teams in the league will meet in Washington D.C. next weekend when the Seahawks visit the Redskins. Both have coaches who have won multiple championships (in college or the NFL). Both have rookie starting quarterbacks and big, physical running backs. And both are riding winning streaks of at least five games. Seattle has the third longest active streak at five wins in a row after its victory over the pesky Rams. The Redskins have the second-longest active streak with seven straight wins. So something has to give next weekend. And who has the longest active winning streak in the league? That would belong to the AFC's top seeded Denver Broncos as they quietly won their 11th straight game on Sunday.
727: Matthew Stafford NFL record for passing attempts in a season
In the modern era of the NFL, it's almost shocking that Matthew Stafford became the first player in NFL history to attempt at least 700 passes in a season. He flew past the previous record set by Drew Bledsoe in 1994 of 691 early in the season-ending loss to the Bears. Stafford also sits at No. 4 in the record books with his 663 attempts last season. The huge difference between last year and this for the Lions signal caller? Detroit lost its last eight games to finish 4-12 after what appeared to be a breakthrough 10-win postseason appearance last year. Calvin Johnson, the lone bright spot, finished with five catches for 72 yards to come up just shy of becoming the first player to post 2,000-yards receiving in a single year. He finished his record setting season with an league-leading 122 catches and all-time single-season record 1,964 yards.
4: Titans NFL record return touchdowns against the Jaguars
Neither the Titans of Jaguars fans have had much to cheer about this season. In a bizarre season finale, these two teams combined for eight total touchdowns, only three of which came on offense. Tennessee tied an NFL record with four return touchdowns as Zach Brown returned two interceptions for scores (79 yards, 30 yards) and Darius Reynaud returned two punts for touchdowns (69 yards, 81 yards). No team in the history of the NFL scored four straight touchdowns via the return as the Titans did and only the Seattle Seahawks in 1984 against Kansas City had scored four return touchdowns in a single game. To top it all off, the Jags also scored on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. The Titans scored 38 points with just 221 yards of total offense.