Articles By Rich Mcvey
March Madness is now upon us. It's that time of year when everyone—even the guy in the cubicle next to you who still plays Dungeons & Dragons—starts caring about college basketball. Most of the excitement comes from NCAA Tournament bracket games, where anyone can fill out a March Madness bracket in hopes winning cash, prizes and bragging rights among friends and co-workers. Of course, the majority of people have no clue which teams to pick.
Following in the trick shot video footsteps of his teammate Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M all-time leading receiver Ryan Swope showcases his skills. Swope's amazing talent, you guessed it, is making incredible grabs, whether it's snagging eggs dropped off a building or catching five footballs back to back without dropping the previous ones. The video is part of an effort to get Swope on the cover of the next EA Sports' NCAA Football. Will it work? We'll see.
The NFL Scouting Combine is underway in Indianapolis, where athletes of all shapes and sizes come to impress. Some are more impressive than others, but one thing that always holds true: we love watching the pudgy linemen run the 40. And what could possibly make it better? Apparently adding the theme music from "Chariots of Fire".
Source: SB NATION
Jimmie Johnson and his wife, Chandra, recreated Bob Dylan’s Freewheelin' iconic album cover for ESPN The Magazine's first edition of "The Music Issue." The issue features top sports standouts recreating album covers of their favorite artists. "The Music Issue" hits newsstands today.
Check out more of ESPN's Music Issue.
Credit: ESPN The Magazine
What is the record for most foul balls hit in a single at-bat?
The Internet is about to blow up over Manti Te'o's fake dead girlfriend. In fact, even famous people are commenting and joking about the mind-blowing revelation that the Notre Dame star never really had a girlfriend who died. (You can check out the entire story on Deadspin.)
Here are our 10 favorites Tweets...so far.
"Office" actor RAINN WILSON
I wonder if my dead grandmother ever actually existed?— RainnWilson (@rainnwilson) January 17, 2013
Model/actress Brooklyn Decker (and husband Andy Roddick)
.@andyroddick Surprise!!!! HOAX!! I don't exist.— Brooklyn Decker (@BrooklynDecker) January 17, 2013
Wide Reciever Donte' Stallworth
I better stop talking about my (imaginary) girlfriend on twitter before y'all start hating on our relationship as well.— Donte' Stallworth (@DonteStallworth) January 17, 2013
Comedian Seth Meyers
These Te'o jokes are all very funny but let's all try and remember that a person who never existed is dead.— Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers21) January 16, 2013
Comedian Michael Ian Black
Dear Te'o, please honor me by playing football instead of going to my funeral and never visiting me during my cancer treatment. Love, Lennay— Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack) January 17, 2013
Comedian Rob Delaney
Kinda creepy to have an imaginary dead girlfriend. Anyway, I’m off to dinner with my wife, Brittany Murphy.— rob delaney (@robdelaney) January 17, 2013
"Family Guy" writer Julius Sharpe
I'm glad Manti Te'o's fake dead girlfriend isn't around to see this.— Julius Sharpe (@juliussharpe) January 17, 2013
Sports reporter Michael Smith
Here's the bottom line, guys: If you're going to create a girlfriend there's only one real way to do it. twitter.com/michaelsmith/s…— Michael Smith (@michaelsmith) January 17, 2013
Sports writer Jay Busbee
What if Te'o's girlfriend was a Looper? You ever think of that, huh?— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) January 16, 2013
Singer Josh Groban
"Te'o's girlfriend did not exist"....well, we've all be there right fellas? Right? Hmm?— josh groban (@joshgroban) January 17, 2013
The folks at Bad Lip Reading have turned their attention to the NFL. Check out this hilarious video of bad lip readers interpreting what NFL players aren't really saying.
Self-proclaimed Star Wars nerd and knuckleball pitching sensation R.A. Dickey tweeted out a picture of his favorite Christmas present yesterday. The picture (as seen below) included the tweet: "Maybe my favorite gift all year. Thank you Lucas Film."
Maybe my favorite gift all year. Thank you Lucas Film. twitter.com/RADickey43/sta…— R.A. Dickey (@RADickey43) December 26, 2012
Has any major league baseball player ever come back to the team he started with three times?
During a live broadcast outside AT&T Park in San Francisco, FOX40 anchor Paul Robins got torpedoed by a bird. Robins was a good sport about it, even as his co-anchor Bethany Crouch laughed hysterically while where a ridiculous Panda hat. As Robins said, "One of my goals in life is to make it on YouTube and I think I just did." That's right Paul, dreams really do come true.
The 2012 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers begins tonight. Here's a look at the dates, times and TV schedule for the 108th World Series between the American League Champions and the National League Champions. FOX Sports will again provide national coverage of the Fall Classic. ESPN Radio will provide complete coverage of all World Series games. MLB International, MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive World Series coverage.
When the news hit that Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was lost for the rest of the season with a torn triceps muscle, it hit hard – as hard as any hit Lewis has delivered during his remarkable 17-year NFL career. It wasn’t just potentially catastrophic news for the Ravens. It felt more like the end of an era.
That’s because for most of the last 17 seasons, Lewis has been the NFL’s dominant defensive presence. He may not have always been the best defensive player – though the 13-time Pro Bowler was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year three times – but he was always in the conversation. He was the player offensive coordinators and opposing coordinators seemed to worry about more than, and sometimes all their game-planning didn’t help.
Lewis, for all his years, was a 6-1, 250-pound, tightly wound bundle of energy and power with a unique ability to explode through anything. He was fiery, intense and seemingly limitless in his ability hit fearlessly at high speed. He defined an era of Ravens football, including the 2000 team that was one of the best defensive teams in NFL history.
Lewis, in many ways, redefined the word ‘Bad’.
He may still continue his NFL career, even though he’s 37 with more mileage on his body than most, and maybe he’ll even be close to the same incredible force. But sometime on the horizon, either soon or sooner, he’ll be forever ceding the title of Baddest Man in the NFL.
What defender will follow him and claim that title? Who are the defensive players that keep quarterbacks up at night most? Finding the next Ray Lewis may be an impossible task, but here are five ‘bad’ defenders you might want to watch …
49ers LB Patrick Willis – The 49ers appear to be the latest holders of the title of “NFL’s best defense” and Willis has emerged as their leader. He may not be as scary as Lewis was in his prime, but that has more to do with aura than ability. Willis has incredible side-to-side speed, seemingly covering the whole field for what likely is the NFL’s quickest linebacking corps. Already a five-time Pro Bowler, he doesn’t talk and act as wildly as Lewis often did. He’s not as big a hitter. And with the 49ers not needing to turn him loose in the pass rush, he’s not racking up high numbers of sacks. But he quietly has become the player on that defense that offensive coordinators try to avoid.
Packers LB Clay Matthews – The eight sacks he has through six games this season re-established Matthews as one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers, if not the premier pass rushing linebacker. He has the “bad” reputation, thanks to his 23 ½ sacks during his first two seasons, and he looks the part with his long blond hair and wild-looking eyes. His explosion to the pass rusher, though, is what makes him dangerous. As a stalker, standing behind the line of scrimmage, he can come at the quarterback from anywhere and once he gets going he’s coming quick. Defensive ends have become the pass rushing stars over the last decade, but Matthews could be the start of a rush-linebacker revival.
Broncos LB Von Miller – If Patrick Willis is the closest thing to Ray Lewis in the league right now, Miller might be the closest thing to Lawrence Taylor. No, he’s not in that class yet, but with 11 ½ sacks last season and six already this season he’s demonstrated a remarkable quickness and explosion through offensive lines. When he comes at quarterbacks, he comes fast and when he’s on it feels like his pass rush is relentless. He’s “only” 6-3, 237, but size doesn’t matter as much as speed does in this new era of explosive passing attacks. Miller has what it takes to disrupt passing games, either by rushing forward or dropping back.
Texans DE J.J. Watt – There may not be a defensive lineman anywhere in the league that quarterbacks want to see less right now than the lengthy Watt who is turning pass deflections at the line of scrimmage into an art form. He’s 6-5, 295, but he looks like a 7-footer at the line, especially when he stretches his massive arms upward. He also seems to have a knack for where the pass is going, too. And oh, by the way, he’s become impossible to block. The athletic lineman already has 9 ½ sacks through six games to go with his eight deflections. And to think, he’s only in his second NFL season.
Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul – He is not off to the best start, but there’s no doubt he’s the most dangerous component of the Giants’ still-dangerous pass rush. It’s not just the fact that he can get to the quarterback, sometimes seemingly with ease (16 ½ sacks last season), it’s the many ways he can get there. He can bull-rush bigger tackles one on one and he’s too quick with moves for most of them to handle him alone. He’s also ridiculously athletic, enabling him to shed blockers and play the run or to leap and bat passes. The most frightening part? He’s in his third NFL season, but he’s still only 23 years old, and since he barely had a high school and college career he’s still really just beginning to learn the game. If the arrow continues to point up for “JPP”, his ceiling could turn out to be unnaturally high.
—By RALPH VACCHIANO
Each week Athlon Sports ranks the Top 25 college football teams in the nation. Alabama and Oregon remain No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, with Notre Dame moving into the no. 3 slot. The biggest movers this week include the Texas Tech Red Raiders, up 27 spots, to No. 14; and Wisconsin coming in at No. 25 after shooting up 15 spots.
To see our rankings for all 124 teams, visit Athlon's 124.
ATHLON SPORTS' TOP 25 COLLEGE FOOTBALL POLL
|#1||Alabama Crimson Tide|
|#3||Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|#5||Kansas State Wildcats|
|#6||Ohio State Buckeyes|
|#9||South Carolina Gamecocks|
|#12||Florida State Seminoles|
|#14||Texas Tech Red Raiders|
|#15||West Virginia Mountaineers|
|#16||Oregon State Beavers|
|#18||Rutgers Scarlet Knights|
|#20||Mississippi State Bulldogs|
|#23||Texas A&M Aggies|
|#24||Arizona State Sun Devils|
Each week Athlon Sports ranks the Top 25 college football teams in the nation. Alabama and Oregon remain No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, with the South Carolina Gamecocks shooting up four spots to the No. 3 slot. West Virginia, who toppled Texas on Saturday, moves into the No. 6 spot. The week's biggest sliders include Georgia (down 7 spots to No. 10) and Florida State (down 9 spots to No. 13.)
Teams falling out of the Top 25 include Washington, Nebraska and UCLA.
ATHLON SPORTS TOP 25 COLLEGE FOOTBALL POLL
|#1||Alabama Crimson Tide|
|#3||South Carolina Gamecocks|
|#4||Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|#6||West Virginia Mountaineers|
|#7||Kansas State Wildcats|
|#9||Ohio State Buckeyes|
|#13||Florida State Seminoles|
|#16||Oregon State Beavers|
|#18||Rutgers Scarlet Knights|
|#21||Louisiana Tech Bulldogs|
|#22||Mississippi State Bulldogs|
|#24||Texas A&M Aggies|
|#25||Arizona State Sun Devils|
To see our rankings for all 124 teams, visit Athlon's 124.
South Carolina, West Virginia and Florida moved into the top 5 of the rankings this week as the Legends Poll saw its first big shake-up of the season.
Florida State, LSU and Georgia all suffered defeats, which opened the door for a new look in the top 5.
Third-ranked South Carolina moved up four spots after its dominant 35-7 performance against Georgia, the former No. 5 team.
West Virginia jumped to No. 4 after a 41-38 victory at Texas and No. 5 Florida was the biggest mover in the top 5, jumping six spots in the rankings.
“I thought Florida was really impressive,” former Auburn coach Pat Dye said — he voted Florida No. 4. “They had a week off to prepare for LSU and put it together in the second half. But I don’t think anyone expected South Carolina to dominate Georgia like they did. That was something.”
Alabama remained the unanimous top-ranked team followed by Oregon, and No. 6 Kansas State and No. 7 Notre Dame each moved up two spots.
Florida State was the highest ranked one-loss team, dropping five spots to No. 8 after being upset at North Carolina State. Fellow one-loss teams USC and LSU rounded out the top 10.
Georgia was tied for the biggest tumble in the rankings, falling nine spots to No. 14. No. 22 TCU also fell nine spots following its loss to Iowa State, which moved the Cyclones into the rankings at No. 24.
No. 23 Boise State moved back into the Legends Poll top 25 this week and was joined by unbeaten Louisiana Tech at No. 25.
Nebraska, Northwestern and UCLA fell out of the rankings.
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.
THE LEGENDS POLL TOP 25
Others Receiving Votes
Teams Dropped Out from Last Week's Poll
The Arizona Cardinals spent the summer locked in a quarterback controversy, which is usually a death knell for NFL teams. When it was over, they settled on a player who played collegiate ball at Fordham. And then he got hurt.
So, of course, they are one of only three 3-0 teams left in the NFL, right? Makes perfect sense.
It’s hard to believe anybody outside the Cardinals offices even imagined such a hot start was possible – especially since their first three games included a trip to New England and a home game against the supposedly dangerous Philadelphia Eagles. But after they hammered Philly 27-6 on Sunday, the NFL and its fans have no choice but to take notice. The Cardinals are the biggest surprise in the NFL, and they have everyone wondering if they’re for real.
We’ll all find that out soon enough, just like we’ll find out if any of the other surprises have staying power through the next 14 weeks. And there have been plenty of surprises in this wacky opening to the season. Here are the biggest five:
1. The 3-0 Arizona Cardinals After barely beating the Seattle Seahawks in their opener they shocked everyone with a win at New England and that thumping on Philly. Kevin Kolb, filling in for the injured John Skelton, has been everything the Cardinals thought he’d be when they acquired him from Philadelphia. And that’s really the key, because everyone knew he had weapons in receiver Larry Fitzgerald and a diverse rushing attack with Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells.
The real surprise? Their young defense has grown up and they play a hard-hitting, stingy style, much like the San Francisco 49ers did when they shocked everyone last season. Through three games they are ranked seventh in the NFL and are giving up a tiny 13.3 points per game.
2. Vikings QB Christian Ponder Seriously, if you were going to bet on one quarterback from last year’s rookie class to be ranked fifth in the NFL through the first three games, how many would you have guessed before you got to Ponder? His 104.9 rating has him ahead of the likes of Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.
OK, sure it’s only three games and his rating is largely on the strength of his no interceptions. But he’s still been an impressive 68 of 97 (70.1 percent) for 713 yards and four touchdowns. The Vikings are also a somewhat surprising 2-1.
3. The 0-3 New Orleans Saints Maybe because of Bounty-Gate this shouldn’t have been such a surprise, but for all the Saints lost they still had a dangerous offense and a Top 5 quarterback in Drew Brees. But Brees has been uncharacteristically inaccurate this season, completing just 54.7 percent of his passes and throwing five interceptions to go with his seven touchdowns. Add in a terrible defense and the Saints are a bigger mess than anyone could have imagined.
4. Titans RB Chris Johnson Last year was a terrible one for Chris Johnson, and he still managed to top 1,000 rushing yards and catch 57 passes. It made it look like just a blip on his radar and that he’d be primed for a bounce back year. Instead, he smacked into rock bottom, rushing 33 times for 45 yards in the first three games. That’s not a misprint, it’s actually 1.4 yards per carry. He has no touchdowns either. That makes him the biggest fantasy football bust on the planet and one of the biggest busts of any kind in the entire league. Even if someone thought Johnson was on the downslope at age 27, no one thought his decline would be this steep.
5. The 1-2 Green Bay Packers Forget about the replacement ref fiasco at the end of their game Monday night. They should never have been so close to the Seahawks anyway. No, 1-2 is not a disaster for this team, but it’s certainly a surprise considering they were 15-1 last season. Heading into this season, dating back to Christmas 2010 and including the postseason, the Packers had been on a 21-2 tear. Now they’ve lost two of three and their high-powered offense is ranked 25th in the league? Maybe they should be 2-1, but either way they don’t look like themselves at all.
—By RALPH VACCHIANO
In our quest to know as much as possible about beautiful women (without getting arrested), we're training our eye on UFC octagon girl and all-around hot model Arianny Celeste. Below is her bio. But even better, we put together her hottest photo shoot videos. Enjoy.
ABOUT ARIANNY: Arianny Celeste was born on November 12 in Las Vegas. She booked her first modeling job when she was four months old for a car seat company. She has always been athletic excelling in cheer, dance, and gymnastics. Arianny started back into modeling at the age of 15. She attended UNLV, majoring in fitness management and nutrition. In 2006, she was casted as the new UFC octagon girl. She has appeared in magazines including Playboy, FHM, and Maxim. She currently resides in Los Angeles where she has had the opportunity to be in films and music videos. One of her main passions is music. She loves to sing and has recorded some original songs. Another passion of hers is fitness.
Arianny’s favorites: dark chocolate, sushi, fish, mango, pineapple, movies, Louis Vouitton, beaches, singing, dancing, pilates, kickboxing, muay thai, dogs, and her family.
Dislikes: cheese, sour cream, red meat, rude, judgmental, lazy, people.
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst football teams in the NFL. Here's our NFL Power Rankings following Week 2 of the season.
1. 49ers (2-0) Jim Harbaugh improving his postgame handshake.
2. Texans (2-0) Two-headed rushing attack too tough for Jaguars.
3. Falcons (2-0) Matt Ryan now has 27–4 record at Georgia Dome.
4. Packers (1-1) “Jay (Cutler) will throw us the ball,” says Woodson.
5. Steelers (1-1) Bounce back in style with blowout victory over Jets.
6. Eagles (2-0) Have two wins despite nine turnovers this season.
7. Ravens (1-1) Rookie Justin Tucker hits FGs of 56, 51 and 48 yards.
8. Broncos (1-1) Peyton Manning throws three INTs in first quarter.
9. Chargers (2-0) Retire Junior Seau’s No. 55 prior to shocking Titans.
10. Cardinals (2-0) Pull off upset of the week over heavily favored Pats.
11. Patriots (1-1) Aaron Hernandez injured; Kellen Winslow II signed.
12. Seahawks (1-1) Golden Tate block symbolic of Hawks win vs. Boys.
13. Cowboys (1-1) Felix Jones’ fumble may be his last as kick returner.
14. Giants (1-1) Tom Coughlin confronts Greg Schiano over last play.
15. Buccaneers (1-1) Knock down Giants’ Eli Manning in victory formation.
16. Lions (1-1) Megatron transformed into possession WR by 49ers.
17. Bears (1-1) Jay Cutler snaps on J’Marcus Webb in ugly defeat.
18. Panthers (1-1) Earn first win over NFC South rival Saints since 2009.
19. Jets (1-1) Pass defense struggles without All-Pro Darrelle Revis.
20. Rams (1-1) Cortland Finnegan baits Josh Morgan to draw flag.
21. Redskins (1-1) Josh Morgan loses cool, throws ball, costs Skins.
22. Bengals (1-1) Pacman Jones munches his way for 81-yard TD.
23. Bills (1-1) C.J. Spiller leads the NFL in rushing yards (292).
24. Colts (1-1) Andrew Luck, Chuck Pagano win Indy home debut.
25. Vikings (1-1) Defense can’t hold on in last-second loss to Colts.
26. Dolphins (1-1) Reggie Bush carries Ryan Tannehill to first career W.
27. Saints (0-2) Gregg Williams testimony not good for Vilma, Smith.
28. Titans (0-2) Lose ninth straight to Chargers, dating back to 1993.
29. Raiders (0-2) Silver-and-Bleak convert just 1-of-12 on third down.
30. Chiefs (0-2) Big day by Dwayne Bowe not enough to beat Bills.
31. Browns (0-2) Have lost 13 of last 16 against in-state rival Cincy.
32. Jaguars (0-2) Offense humiliated, gains franchise-low 117 yards.
During the Rutgers - South Florida game, the Scarlet Knights' holder, J.T. Tartacoff, dislocated (and probably broke) the pinky on his right hand while trying to set up the ball for a field goal attempt. Warning, it's not for the squeamish.
Back in 1913, a boy named Paul Bryant was born in the small town of Fordyce, Ark., and about a decade later he picked up the nickname Bear. The football team in his native state wasn’t that great, so Bryant ended up choosing to play at Alabama, where he would later become a championship coach and legend.
For years that was the only connection between the two programs, whose first meeting didn’t come until the 1962 Sugar Bowl. That year, Alabama entered No. 1 and Arkansas was No. 9. The Crimson Tide had a great defense, but the Razorbacks had star halfback Lance Alworth. The Tide won 10-3, with that Razorback field goal being the first points scored on Alabama since October, but Alworth being held to 15 rushing yards. Bryant had enough respect for Arkansas that he said he had “nine heart attacks out there,” according to the book “Sugar Bowl Classic: A History,” by Marty Mule. But Broyles summed up the game by saying that “we were in it on the scoreboard, but never in it on the field.”
That classic didn’t ignite any desire by Bryant to keep facing the team from his native state. They wouldn’t meet again until 1980, also in the Sugar Bowl, and also with Alabama harboring national title hopes. This time the Crimson Tide were No. 2, while the Razorbacks were No. 6. Bryant was still coaching the Tide, while Lou Holtz had replaced Broyles, who had moved up to athletics director.
This one featured a bit more offense, as Alabama used its double wing offense – just installed – to jump out to a 14-3 lead. The Tide won 24-9, and won the AP national title when No. 1 Ohio State lost to Southern California.
Finally, Arkansas joined the SEC and the teams met in the regular season for the first time, on Sept. 12, 1992. The game was in Little Rock, but once again Alabama won, 38-9, on its way to yet another national championship.
Yes, a quirk of this rivalry is the first three times they met, Alabama went on to win the national championship.
As Alabama began its backslide, the rivalry became more even-matched: Arkansas beat the Tide for the first time in 1995, in Tuscaloosa, and they won in Bryant-Denny a couple more times over the next decade.
There have been some classic finishes: Twice the games have been decided in double-overtime.
Then Arkansas began a rise to national prominence under Bobby Petrino, adding more spice to the rivalry. When Alabama visited Fayetteville in 2010, it was nationally-televised and full of hype. Both were unbeaten. The Razorbacks led 20-7 late in the third quarter, but the Crimson Tide scored the game’s final 17 points, punctuated by a Mark Ingram 1-yard run with 3:18 left.
Last year, Alabama left the drama for another time, winning in a 38-14 rout – on the way to yet another national championship for the program.
There was one year that they never met and were rivals: Both teams were unbeaten after the 1964 season, but Alabama was voted the national champion by the AP and coaches poll. Back then there was no BCS, so they didn’t face each other in a bowl. Alabama lost in the Orange Bowl, and Arkansas won the Cotton Bowl, but there were no further bowls so Alabama still claimed the major national titles – but Arkansas was recognized as the national champion by the Football Writers Association of America.
The split championship led the AP to change its policy and pick its national champion after the bowl season.
Perhaps the best moniker for Tennessee-Florida would be the Sound Bite Bowl.
No other rivalry in recent SEC history has produced more quips and memorable quotes, especially between coaches. Those who have coached each of these teams have enjoyed getting under each other’s skin.
It started in the 1990s with Florida’s Steve Spurrier and Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer. The pair privately had a lot of respect for each other. But publicly, both of their programs were on the rise, and ended up dominating the SEC East Division.
But when Florida had the advantage over Tennessee one year, Spurrier made his famous joke that “you can’t spell Citrus (bowl) without UT.” But the next year it was Florida playing in the Citrus Bowl. A Tennessee fan paid for a plane to fly overhead with a sign saying: “How was the Citrus Bowl, Spurrier?”
In the 2000s, it was Lane Kiffin vs. Urban Meyer, despite the fact Kiffin was only at Tennessee for one year. He directed several barbs at Florida and Meyer, and at one point went over the line, alleging that Meyer had “cheated” in recruiting. In fact Meyer had not, and the SEC office reprimanded Kiffin.
When Kiffin left for Southern Cal, an ESPN camera caught Meyer when the news broke. A sly grin crossed Meyer’s lips.
All of this helped fuel a rivalry that wasn’t that heated – or even played very often – prior to the 1990s.
Tennessee and Florida first met in 1916, but only played intermittently over the next 70 years. There were gaps of eight and 14 years between match-ups. It was only when the SEC expanded to 12 and formed into divisions that the Volunteers and Gators moved to playing every season.
And that coincided with each team’s rise to increased prominence. The first 10 East Division titles were won by either Florida or Tennessee.
“If you had asked Tennessee fans after expansion, they would tell you Florida (was the main rival),” former Tennessee sports information director Bud Ford said. “Based on the fact it became an early-season game. … Normally the team that won the game had a chance to win the division.”
Current Volunteer player Ja’Wuan James put it another way: “The younger fans always talk about Florida.”
Lately, it’s been the Gators with the most right to talk. They have won seven in a row, mostly due to Meyer’s six-year run in Gainesville. That included that one very sweet win over Kiffin’s team. (Although the expectation had been that Florida would trounce Tennessee and run it up, but the Volunteers hung in there and only lost 23-13 in Gainesville.)
Whether this rivalry remains fierce going into the future might be open to question. There will never be another period like the 1990s, when the two dominated the division, thanks to the presence of Georgia, and the resurgence of South Carolina – or even the addition of Missouri.
But it’s also unknown how each program will fare under their correct coaches. Derek Dooley is entering his third year at Tennessee with a 11-14 record. Florida’s Will Muschamp was 7-6 in his first year as Meyer’s replacement.
But Florida has too much of a recruiting base to be down for long. If Tennessee can turn it around, perhaps the bulletin-board material will return.
Which big free-agent receiver signing will you go with in Week 1?
Will it be Washington Redskins top receiver, Pierre Garcon? Or will you go with the receiver that had success on the West coast and hopes to keep it going in the Gulf coast in Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson?
For matchup and necessity purposes, roll with Garcon in Week 1.
It is expected that Washington will be in a shootout with host New Orleans today, and Garcon is slated to be rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III’s top target and deep threat. Garcon goes against a 30th-ranked pass defense from a year ago that allowed 24 TDs through the air.
The same can be said for Jackson in Tampa Bay. He is expected to be the top target and the deep target and go against a bad pass defense.
Carolina’s was 24th in passing yards allowed per game (246.8) and 25th in TDs allowed (28). In half-point PPR scoring, the Panthers allowed 11 receivers to have double-digit days. However, Atlanta, Detroit, Green Bay and New Orleans receivers, all top eight passing offenses a year ago, accounted for seven of the 11 double-digit outputs.
It is expected that Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble will cover Jackson. Gamble allowed 27 catches and two scores on the 60 times he was thrown at, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF ranked him as the 17th-best cornerback last season. Not too shabby for a player in a division with the Falcons and Saints.
Now the Panthers face a Tampa Bay offense that many assume will be run, run, run and more run from new coach Greg Schiano. The Buccaneers were 16th in passing yards per game last season (228.1) and 26th in TD passes (17). Meanwhile, Carolina was 24th against the run in the NFL last season (246.8 yards per game).
Jackson was the big free-agent signing for Tampa Bay in the offseason, but on a team that is run first and will take its shots when it can, I’d rather roll with the team that is likely to be in a higher-scoring affair and must throw to keep pace.
Even if the Buccaneers get gashed on the ground and have to go to the air to keep up, I’d rather not gamble on the guy facing Gamble to get me the trash points late.
Give me Garcon for Week 1 and monitor Jackson’s progress in the opener. If he has success against Gamble or is targeted frequently, it will be a sign that perhaps it is not all ground and pound in Tampa.
—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week for Sept. 3, 2012.
1. Reds — Cruising to NL Central title.
2. Nationals — Can Nats hold on without Strasburg?
3. Rangers — Jurickson Profar certainly looks like the real deal.
4. Yankees — Huge week coming up at Tampa and Baltimore.
5. Giants — Went 5-1 on back-to-back road trips.
6. Braves — Bravos feel like they can run down the Nats.
7. A’s —Where did all this winning come from?
8. Rays — Next 12 games against contenders.
9. Orioles — Within one good weekend of catching the Yanks.
10. Tigers — Maybe this time they really do have control of the division.
11. White Sox — Tigers’ ace Verlander beat Sox ace Sale on Sunday.
12. Dodgers — Must gain ground against the Giants this weekend.
13. Cardinals — Offense took about a week off.
14. Pirates — Back-to-back shutouts over St. Louis looked good at the time.
15. Angels —Won 9 of 12 to climb back in race; 7 of next 10 games vs. A’s.
16. Diamondbacks — Still nine games left with San Francisco.
17. Mariners — Continue to bank on starting pitching.
18. Phillies — Committed to being a spoiler down the stretch.
19. Brewers — One of the teams that contenders don’t want to play right now.
20. Mets — Can affect wild card race vs. Cards, Braves and Nats.
21. Padres — Last seven saves by four different pitchers.
22. Royals — Finishing with a flurry could yield 76 wins, most since 2003.
23. Red Sox — Can Bobby V and Dustin Pedroia coexist?
24. Blue Jays — Last two series Jays won were against Yankees and Tigers.
25. Marlins — Ozzie Guillen will likely get a mulligan on this season.
26. Twins — Need just eight wins to avoid 100 losses.
27. Rockies — Can the Rockies get one pitcher to 10 wins?
28. Indians — Need to learn from this season and move on.
29. Cubs — Optimistic about young players, but lots of holes to fill.
30. Astros — Total house cleaning on the field and in the front office.
AL Player of the Week
Adrian Beltre, Texas—Beltre is honored here for the second week in a row as he continues to creep into the MVP discussion. The Texas third baseman had three three-hit games last week and batted .478 with a 1.563 OPS. Among his seven extra-base hits were three home runs, and he drove in seven runs. Beltre closed the week with an 8-for-14 series against Cleveland, all the while playing excellent defense at the hot corner.
AL Pitcher of the Week
Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle—You may not be familiar with Iwakuma, but he is quickly becoming one of Seattle’s top starters. Last week he was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 0.75 WHIP. After a win at Minnesota, the slender righthander tossed 7.1 shutout innings against the Angels, giving up just five hits, no walks and seven strikeouts in the 2-1 win. The Mariners have won his last five starts.
NL Player of the Week
Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh—The Pirates’ third baseman is beginning to unlock the potential that made him the second overall pick in 2008. He began last week with 10 hits in four games, including 11 total bases in a win over St. Louis on Tuesday. He batted .458 with a 1.542 OPS and led the NL with four home runs. During the week, he either scored or drove home more than a third of the Pirates’ runs.
NL Pitcher of the Week
Bud Norris, Houston—It isn’t easy getting wins these days in Houston, but that doesn’t prevent Norris from pitching well enough to earn victories. In 12.2 innings over two starts, Norris had a 0.95 ERA and 0.71 WHIP pitching against San Francisco and Cincinnati. He left the Giants game after 6.2 innings with the score tied 1-1, then tossed six shutout innings over the Reds and left with a 1-0 lead. The Astros’ bullpen lost both games.
Poor USC. Their billboard, featuring QB Matt Barkley and the phrase "We Play To Finish," was mysteriously covered over on Tuesday near the UCLA campus. To bring peace to both sides, we put together some replacement USC billboards that the UCLA fans might approve of.