Articles By Rich Mcvey
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.
When the doors opened to training camp in late July, everyone was filled with such promise. There was hope renewed. There were storylines in unexpected places. Everyone had their eyes set on a big season. Everyone had the Super Bowl in their sights.
Typically as NFL players age, their skills diminish and their battered bodies fail, leading many to retire or find another line of work before they hit 30. But a few are able to stand the test of time and excel in a league full of 20-somethings. Here are the 10 best old-timers in the NFL.
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 August 13, 2012.
1. Nationals — Will they or won’t they shut down Stephen Strasburg?
2. Reds — Continuing to cruise without Joey Votto.
3. Yankees — Rangers and Red Sox visit the Bronx this week.
4. Rangers — Josh Hamilton heating up again with 12 RBIs in last nine games.
5. Braves — Lost just one series since the break.
6. Pirates — Easiest team to run on.
7. Dodgers — Fewest home runs in the majors, four less than the Giants.
8. Giants — Tim Lincecum-Stephen Strasburg matchup on Wednesday.
9. Rays — Majors’ best save percentage.
10. White Sox — Chris Sale in Cy Young discussion.
11. A’s — Pinch-hitters batting .300, AL average is .209.
12. Cardinals — Bullpen not getting any better.
13. Orioles — Used 10 starting pitchers this season.
14. Angels — Quickly losing ground in wild card race.
15. Tigers — Lost four of seven vs. Yankees and Rangers; Twins, O’s on deck.
16. Diamondbacks — Crept back into the race, but can’t get over the hump.
17. Red Sox — Rocking offense, woeful pitching.
18. Mariners — Starting pitching has been terrific, but still worst OBP in majors.
19. Blue Jays — Lost 11 of 14 with tough stretch ahead.
20. Mets — Visit two first-place teams (Cin. and Wash.) this week.
21. Marlins — Most stolen bases in majors.
22. Phillies — Trying to hold it together while playing out the string.
23. Twins — Swept by Rays, but just 3.5 games back of Cleveland.
24. Indians — Nine-game West Coast trip could be trouble.
25. Brewers — Bullpen saddled with 28 losses.
26. Padres — Tossed three shutouts in last six games.
27. Royals — Three regulars batting .294 or better.
28. Rockies — Carlos Gonzalez on pace for another 100 runs and RBIs.
29. Cubs — Won just one of 12, but Houston comes to town now.
30. Astros — No team strikes out more often than the Astros.
AL Player of the Week
Josh Hamilton, Texas—With Hamilton back on track, the Rangers are winning at a better clip than they were over the previous six weeks. After suffering through a terrible slump in July, Hamilton is now working on a 10-game hitting streak. Last week, he batted .455 with three home runs and nine RBIs. He scored seven runs and showed much more patience at the plate, which produced a .538 OBP. With his bat warming up, Texas won four of six and now owns the best record in the American League.
AL Pitcher of the Week
Chris Sale, Chicago—The White Sox continue to defy the odds and maintain a slim lead over the Tigers in the AL Central. Sale tossed eight strong innings vs. Kansas City on nine days rest. The White Sox have been giving the young lefthander some extra rest when possible. For the week, he totaled 14.2 innings and did not walk a batter while striking out 18. He won both starts, defeating the Royals and A’s.
NL Player of the Week
Buster Posey, San Francisco—For the second week in a row, Posey had a tremendous stretch for the improving Giants. The All-Star backstop followed up on his previous Player of the Week honor with a .421 batting average and .571 OBP. Posey slammed three homers and knocked in seven runs.
NL Pitcher of the Week
Jake Westbrook, St. Louis—With just a little more than a month until his 35th birthday, Westbrook is quietly having the best year of his career — certainly his best since his All-Star season in 2004. The righthander has won his last five starts, and last week defeated the Giants and Phillies. In 13.2 innings, he allowed 11 hits and two walks. He struck out just seven, but recorded 18 groundball outs in the win over Philadelphia.
LSU dismissed Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu on Friday for a violation of team policy.
Mathieu was LSU’s best defensive playmaker.
Starting with the 2010 bowl win over Texas A&M, Mathieu went on a remarkable seven-game stretch into 2011 in which he forced six fumbles, recovered four fumbles (returning two for touchdowns) and intercepted two passes. This was against teams like Oregon, West Virginia, Florida and Mississippi State. On a team with offensive deficiencies, his ball hawking and game-changing ability was invaluable.
Mathieu was a special teams demon.
His 62-yard punt return for a touchdown with 5:48 left in the first half against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game put LSU on the scoreboard and overshadowed a first half of inept offense. His 92-yard highlight reel touchdown against Arkansas a week earlier also made up for a slow start for the LSU offense, tying the game at 14 late in the first half and opening the floodgates to a 41-17 win. His 15.6 yards per punt return ranked fourth nationally.
LSU has two games to prep its pass defense.
The Tigers won’t face Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson until the last week of the regular season and won’t see Georgia’s Aaron Murray unless it's a rematch in Atlanta. That said, LSU will see an elite quarterback in the second week of the season. Washington’s Keith Price passed for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns last season and was second only to Andrew Luck in the Pac-12 last season in pass efficiency.
Reasons LSU shouldn’t panic.
Mathieu wasn’t the most indispensable player on the defense.
According to Athlon’s own estimations, Mathieu was the 19th-ranked player in the SEC, the seventh-ranked player for LSU and the fifth-ranked player on the LSU defense. Mathiue’s playmaking aside, safety Eric Reid and corner Tharold Simon could make cases to be more sound defensive backs. Mathieu was a Heisman finalist largely on his performance in LSU’s biggest games. In a five-game stretch from Oct. 15-Nov. 19, Mathieu was more or less a non-factor. He contributed no turnovers during that span, which included his suspension against Auburn.
Teams gambled with Mathieu ... and won.
Alabama’s A.J. McCarron challenged Mathieu’s side of the field in the BCS championship game with great success. McCarron passed for 234 yards against the Tigers to lead Alabama to a national title in the rematch. If there was a blueprint to beat the LSU defense, McCarron and Alabama may have exposed it.
With Zach Mettenberger, the margin for error might be smaller.
The spotlight was on Mathieu’s game-changing ability last season because LSU needed it so desperately with Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee at quarterback. Zach Mettenberger could stabilize the LSU offense, which already has a standout offensive line and and impressive group of running backs. In short, LSU may not have many games like it did against Georgia, in which Mathieu’s punt return for a touchdown bailed out a first-down free first half.
Recently we put together a post on the 25 Twitter Accounts Every Summer Olympics Fan Should Follow. Unfortunately, we missed perhaps the greatest Olympic tweeter yet—Samuel L. Jackson. The actor goes full-on in his curse-filled reaction to the US winning gold, shady judges, and "drunk girl dismounts" in the gymnastics competition. Here are our 20 favorite tweets from our favorite foul-mouthed, Olympics-loving actor.
A Twins fan in Kansas City proudly displays his back hair, which is shaved with Joe Mauer's name and number. Awesome? Stupid? Awesomely stupid? We'll let you decide.
Former Nebraska quarterback David Humm may be a footnote to most college football fans, but to Big Red Nation, Humm takes his place alongside Mike Rozier, Tommie Frazier and the other latter-day legends of Cornhusker football. A three-year starter from 1972-74, Humm bridged the eras of Nebraska's two greatest coaches, quarterbacking Bob Devaney's last Husker team and Tom Osborne's first. For Humm's three seasons under center, the Huskers went 27–7–2, including three bowl wins.
Following a 10-year NFL career, Humm's life took a difficult turn with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, eventually costing the mobile Husker great the use of his legs. But his Husker family hadn't forgotten him, and his story prompted the creation of one of college sports' unique outreach programs, one that proves that Nebraska's college athletes have earned a permanent place in the hearts of Cornhusker State residents.
David Max, the founder of the popular HuskerMax Nebraska fansite, learned of Humm's predicament and felt called to do something about it. The result: the Husker Greats Foundation, created by Max and former Husker linebacker and prominent booster Jerry Murtaugh. Modeled after Mike Ditka's Gridiron Greats, which seeks to care for former NFL players in financial need due to circumstances beyond their control, the Husker Greats Foundation recognizes that an athlete's connection to the state doesn't end after three or four years on the playing field or the court, particularly when that athlete needs help.
The expressed mission of the Husker Greats Foundation is to provide medical and emergency assistance to former athletes who lettered in sports while attending a university or college in the state of Nebraska. Humm was among the first recipients of the Foundation's support in the form of assistance in covering his home-care costs.
Despite its close ties to the University of Nebraska, including its name, Husker Greats does not limit its support to UN-Lincoln alumni. Rather, it is available to any letter-winner from any university or college in the state.
The Foundation, which has the full support of Osborne and the University, is structured so that payments will be made directly to medical professionals providing services to qualifying recipients. Supporters' tax-deductible donations will relieve the financial burden on the former student-athletes, allowing them to focus on their recovery.
A great Husker memory-maker, Trev Alberts captures what it means to be a Cornhusker for life in his foreword to Athlon's book, "Game Day Nebraska Football": “The first time I learned what it meant to be a Husker was running into Memorial Stadium as a redshirt freshman. It was daunting as 80,000 dressed in red stood in an almost reverential way and saluted their Huskers. I couldn’t feel the turf. My knees were weak. I understood this wasn’t our team. This wasn’t even Coach Osborne’s team. This was Nebraska’s team!”
And Nebraska takes care of its own — even long after the cheers have died down.
Visit the organization's website — Huskergreatsfoundation.org — for more information or to make a donation to this worthy cause.
Each week Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players in the American and National Leagues and recaps the most outstanding pitching performances. Here are last week's —July 1-July 8 — standouts.
NL Player of the Week
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
Having played in relative anonymity over the past few years in Pittsburgh, fans all over are becoming familiar with the distinctive dreadlocks of the best Pirate. Last week, McCutchen batted .517 with a 1.479 OPS. He led the majors with 11 runs and hit three homers with nine RBIs. The centerfielder’s work for the week included three three-hit games and one four-hit game, raising his season average from .346 to a league-best .362.
NL Pitcher of the Week
James McDonald, Pittsburgh
The Pirates are surging in the National League, taking over the lead in the Central division, and McDonald is a big reason for the Bucs’ recent hot streak. He tossed 14 innings last week in wins over Houston and San Francisco, giving up just eight hits and five walks. The Pirates have won eight of his last 10 starts, and the righthander gave up just one run in each of the two losses.
AL Player of the Week
Kevin Youkilis, Chicago
The former fan favorite in Boston has been a catalyst for the White Sox offense over the past two weeks. Last week, Youk batted .478 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. He hit safely and drove in runs in each of his six games last week, with both streaks currently at seven games.
AL Pitcher of the Week
Jered Weaver, Los Angeles
Weaver is the hottest pitcher in the American League right now and makes a case to be the All-Star Game starter. He won both his starts last week and didn’t allow a run over 15 innings in wins over Cleveland and Baltimore. Since his return June 20 from a muscle strain, he has won all four starts and given up just one run over 27.2 innings. He is 10-1 with a 1.96 ERA for the season.
Well, here's something you almost never see. It happened during Saturday night's game between Cleveland and Tampa Bay. Indians manager Manny Acta came out of the dugout to complain to the first-base ump after he called Jose Lopez out, despite the first baseman bobbling the ball. Instead of being tossed out of the game, the ump consulted the other umps and reversed the call. Yes, our minds our officially blown. See for yourself.
This week several media sources reported that former South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia injured himself while giving a peace sign. Turns out, it was just a joke, and Garcia's career as a fourth-string CFL quarterback is still on track. But, of course, that doesn’t mean that players don’t hurt themselves doing random, seemingly mundane things. Here’s a list of our favorite ways players have been injured. Most are true, but a few seem a bit suspect. We’ll let you decide.
Wild animal attacks. While Nolan Ryan was playing for the Astros in 1985, a coyote bit him on the hand and forced him to miss a start; no word on whether any Acme products were involved. Former Norwegian soccer star Svein Grondalen was absent from an international match in the late-1970s because an angry moose ran into him while he was jogging. We suspect the moose was a fan of Brazil and vuvuzelas.
Eating. The Homer Simpson Award for injuries sustained while eating donuts goes to former National League MVP Kevin Mitchell, who chipped a tooth on a frozen donut in 1990 (dude, that's what microwaves are for). He had to have a root canal and ended up on the DL. Montreal Expo infielder Bret Barberie got chili pepper juice in his eye and missed a game. Hockey player Dustin Penner of the Los Angeles Kings takes the (pan)cake, though, wrenching his back earlier this year while leaning over to eat a stack of flapjacks. His back spasm caused him to miss one game.
Sneezing. Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa got back spasms from sneezing in 2004 and was never the same player again (he even turned white after he retired). Pitcher Mat Latos tried to learn from Sosa's example on the dangers of the sneeze, attempting to suppress the one he felt coming in July 2010. Latos strained muscles in his left side and wound up on the DL anyway.
Vomiting. Most of us feel better after we throw up, but not baseball’s Kevin Mitchell (yes, the same Mitchell from the earlier item) and Josh Outman. Both strained rib muscles while puking and had to be placed on the DL. Mitchell’s injury occurred in 1992, while Outman’s happened in April.
Playing video games. NBA star Lionel Simmons missed several games of the 1991 season from tendonitis suffered while playing his Nintendo GameBoy. Detroit pitcher Joel Zumaya may have been a Guitar Hero, which cost him a chance to be a baseball hero in the 2006 ALCS. He missed three games due to injuries to his elbow and forearm due to aggressive strumming on his PlayStation 2. Apparently he was attempting to play Buckethead on advanced.
Chopping wood – in the locker room. When the Jacksonville Jaguars started 0-3 in 2003, coach Jack Del Rio put an axe and a stump of wood in the locker room and implored his team to “keep chopping wood.” It turns out that his players were still better at football than lumberjacking. Punter Chris Hanson took aim at the stump, but whacked his non-kicking foot instead and missed the rest of the season. Del Rio finally got the axe himself, a few years too late for Hanson.
Participating in the coin toss. Call this one the Anton Chigurh Award for career-ending coin toss. Offensive tackle Turk Edwards’ career was good enough to make the Hall of Fame, but it might have been better if he hadn’t been the Washington Redskins’ captain in 1940. Edwards called the coin toss and shook hands with Giants’ captain Mel Hein, but when he turned toward the sideline, his cleat caught in the turf and his knee buckled. He never played again.
Yelling at teammates. Words hurt, especially when you scream them with such force that you dislocate your jaw, as Manchester United goalie Alex Stepney did in 1975. If you're a python swallowing a deer, a dislocated jaw is an advantage. Otherwise, not so much.
Sleeping. All sorts of potential dangers await the slumbering athlete. Former baseball player Glenallen Hill, an arachnophobe, had a nightmare in 1990 involving spiders and consequently tumbled down the stars and slammed into a glass table. He sustained multiple cuts and required a stay on the disabled list. Thank God he steered clear of the bed pillows, or it might have been worse: former MLB pitcher Terry Mulholland scratched his eye on a loose feather in 2005, and Detroit catcher Brandon Inge went on the DL a few years later (2008) when he pulled an oblique while adjusting a pillow. Former Tigers pitcher Denny McLain once awoke from his slumber with two dislocated toes in 1967. Then, there’s "sleeping." Milan AC midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng earlier this year had a muscular lesion on his left thigh. His model girlfriend attributed it to “too much sex.”
Ironing shirts. This possible injury is shrouded in mystery. As legend has it, former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz burned himself back in 1990 while ironing his shirt. But that’s not the weird part. The story goes that Smoltz was wearing the shirt when he decided to iron it and not surprisingly burnt himself. Smoltz, of course, denies that it ever happened. And he’s probably telling the truth. Probably.
Purdue basketball players have put out a new video showing that they're keeping their skills sharp during the off season. Players Dru Anthrop and D.J. Byrd are joined by former player and now student assistant coach Ryne Smith at Mackey Arena, where they're showing off their best trick shots. The shots range from far-off bombs behind the basket to one hoppers from the stands.
Each week Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players in the American and National Leagues and recaps the most outstanding pitching performances. Here are last week's — June 25-July 1 — standouts.
AL Player of the Week
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
The first baseman-turned-third baseman did his best work in bunches last week. He had three games with three or more hits, including 3-for-4, 4-for-5 and 3-for-3 games. He batted .462 and tied for the AL lead with six RBIs. Cabrera scored five times.
AL Pitcher of the Week
Phil Hughes, New York
With both CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte injured, the Yankees were desperate for quality starting pitching. Hughes responded in a big way, tossing eight shutout innings against the Indians, and followed that with eight strong innings vs. the White Sox, allowing just a couple of runs. He totaled 12 strikeouts in his 16 innings of work for the week.
NL Player of the Week
Ryan Zimmerman, Washington
Mired in a season-long funk, Zimmerman emerged with the best week in the National League. He hit .364 with a 1.158 OPS. He enjoyed four multi-hit games and three multi-RBI games. Zimmerman, who plays exceptional defense, had seven extra-base hits and reached base in every game via a hit or walk.
NL Pitcher of the Week
Mat Latos, Cincinnati
Latos entered the week with a 5.20 ERA, tossed a pair of complete games last week, allowing just one run in each contest. He set down the Brewers on four hits, including a solo homer, then won at San Francisco, 2-1, by giving up just two hits. His weekly ledger reads: 2-0, 1.00 ERA, 0.44 WHIP, 18 IP, 6 hits, 2 walks and 20 Ks.
Who needs a glove? During last night's game between San Diego and Houston, a young fan made an awesome foul ball grab using his tub of popcorn. It was a sweet catch. Check out his excitement in the video below.