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This is a pairing we never thought we would see, Lil' Wayne and Jeff Goldblum.
The odd couple helps Apartments.com in a "Jeffersons"-themed commercial that just blends everything perfectly. It almost makes you want to go apartment shopping, although it won't be as glamorous as the ad makes it seem.
Bret Bielema is always going to speak his mind.
The Arkansas head coach just took a jab at a couple programs during National Signing Day by saying Florida is like the "new Ole Miss". The way the teams are recruiting is just a shock to Bielema and he has no problem expressing it.
Ole Miss did shock some in the past thanks to the heavy recruiting hand of Hugh Freeze, and of course the rumors are swirling. Bielema went on to say he didn't know how the Rebels were getting all these recruits.
Ole Miss currently has the No. 5 class for 2016, while Florida sits at No. 9. Bielema's crew? No. 24.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has never hidden his passionate and intense feelings about the importance of recruiting. Junior Days, Friday Night Lights, summer football camps, and recruiting weekends are all relentlessly used by Meyer, with the continual focus upon doing whatever is possible to bring the best talent to Columbus.
While Meyer may have described his 2016 recruiting class as lacking drama; it certainly is not lacking in talent per recruiting analysts' estimates. Below are five quick thoughts on the players who will be donning the scarlet and gray, beginning with the 2016 college football season.
1. Ohio Remained The Focus
Out of 25 players signed, 10 are from the Buckeye State. Ohio State was able to sign most of the top players in the state, losing a few to other top programs around the country. The most notable defection is Cleveland Benedictine WR Justin Layne, who chose to sign with Michigan State. The point? If Meyer and his staff truly want a player from Ohio, chances are strong that the Buckeyes will be able to land him.
2. Gold Is Where You Find It
Ohio State concentrated upon Ohio, but was certainly willing to expand its geographic footprint to land top talent from around the country. Top players from Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and North Carolina were all willing to leave the familiarity of home, and local programs, to sign with the Buckeyes.
3. Urban Meyer Can Close
Most of Ohio State's recruiting class was secured prior to National Signing Day, with seven of the recruits already enrolled on campus as of January. Ohio State was able to land two top players early Wednesday, showing that Meyer truly believes nothing is final until the player has signed on the dotted line of his Letter of Intent.
4. Several Position Groups Were Replenished
With so many underclassmen declaring for the NFL draft, as well as many seniors exhausting their eligibility, many position groups were definite needs for the Buckeyes. Ohio State has lost TE Nick Vannett, but was able to sign three highly touted prospects at the position. Ohio State has lost three starting offensive linemen in Taylor Decker, Chase Farris, and Jacoby Boren, but were able to sign a crop of five players to replenish the depth chart.
5. Defensive Tackle Will Be A Focus For 2017
While able to restock several position groups, defensive tackle seems to be the one position group where Ohio State was not able to land many players, signing only one with this class. It would seem likely that defensive tackle will be the priority position for Meyer and his coaching staff heading into the 2017 recruiting cycle.
— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Minnich also writes and podcasts for menofthescarletandgray.com, a site dedicated to Ohio sports with a special emphasis on the Buckeyes. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.
Wrestling legend Ric Flair was on hand to give a speech to the Wolverine-faithful, and what's a speech without a dig at their biggest rivals?
"I can't stand Ohio State," Flair said. "I got no time for Michigan State."
Since there's no more Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, Flair flipped his commitment to Jim Harbaugh and Michigan.
Super Bowl 50 is going to put the Broncos against the Panthers. That's the Carolina Panthers for those who don't know.
A news station goofed by putting the Florida Panthers logo up there while talking about the big game. The Florida hockey team seemed to handle the limelight just fine as they took to Twitter to respond.
Welp, this is news to us. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/m8WDqEBQGe— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) February 3, 2016
Michigan is never one to shy away from the spotlight.
Many stars from alum Tom Brady to Yankees legend Derek Jeter showed up for the Wolverines' National Signing Day. It's looking like a mini-ESPYs in Ann Arbor. What's National Signing Day without Ric Flair as well?
Great knows great.— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) February 3, 2016
Ric Flair: "I'm a big fan."
Tom Brady: "I'm a big of yours!" pic.twitter.com/E2VMt4HZES
Michigan definitely isn't holding anything back this year.
Need to whip up something quick and easy for your next tailgating event or game-day party? This recipe is the perfect pick: With just three ingredients — okay, four, if you spring for semisweet chocolate chips, like we did — it’s unbelievably easy to make.
The Reese's chocolate peanut butter spread makes these brownies taste like a fudgy-centered-yet-cakey-edged Reese’s Cup. There’s peanut butter flavor, but it doesn’t overpower the chocolatey, gooey essence that makes a brownie a brownie.
3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Brownies
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 22 mins
Total time: 27 mins
1 jar Reese's Chocolate Peanut Butter Spread (or Jif's version)
½ cup flour
(Optional) Mix-In: 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. As it heats, mix the chocolate peanut butter spread, flour and eggs in a bowl, stirring just enough to combine and get rid of any big flour lumps. (Any more than that, and the cakier the brownies will get.)
2. Lightly grease the bottom of an 8"x8" or 9"x9" pan — a round cake tin works too — and pour the batter in. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the edges of the brownies start to pull away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out mostly clean.
Fuel up the RV and cash in those frequent flier miles, it is time to start checking off “bucket list” destinations. These are some of the best places to go and sights to see in 2016, spanning the calendar and the country. Ready… set… go!
Daytona 500 – Daytona International Speedway; Daytona Beach, Fla. (Feb. 21)
NASCAR’s first points race of the season is also its most prestigious. This year the Speedway will show off its new $400 million makeover. The venue now holds 101,500 fans over three concourses and has three times as many concession stands (and twice as many bathrooms) as before.
NHL Stadium Series – Red Wings at Avalanche; Coors Field; Denver (Feb. 27)
Tap the Rockies to watch what has become a new NHL tradition—the outdoor game. A 53-foot long, 96,500-pound mobile refrigeration unit keeps the 20,000 gallons of water on ice in the temporary rink.
MLB Spring Training – Yankees at Red Sox – JetBlue Park; Fort Myers, Fla. (March 15)
Even though the game doesn’t count in the regular season standings, the heated rivalry that makes this matchup compelling is on full display in the preseason. Plus, JetBlue Park has a Green Monster with seats inside.
March Madness opening weekend – Bellagio Hotel and Casino; Las Vegas, Nev. (March 17–20)
Let’s be honest: One of the most compelling reasons to watch the NCAA tournament is to bet on it. Make the viewing experience more interesting this year by anchoring yourself in the Bellagio’s Sports Book room that boasts 38 TVs and a river of libations. “The wagering action is fast and furious for four consecutive days,” says Jay Rood, VP of Race & Sports for MGM Resorts International.
WWE WrestleMania 32 – AT&T Stadium; Arlington, Texas (April 3)
The House That Jerry Built welcomes the world’s top professional wrestlers for a rumblefest. As with WWE itself, there is a lot of speculation about who will be there. One swirling rumor is a return of Stone Cold Steve Austin, who has hinted he might come out of retirement for this one.
Boston Marathon – Boston, Mass. (April 18)
In a city steeped in history, the Boston Marathon has been a tradition since 1897. The race has meandered along the same 26.2-mile point-to-point course, ending in the city center. Qualifying standards ensure only the swift get into the event. “The qualifying standards have become intertwined with the race itself,” says Race Director Dave McGillivray. “They help give Boston its true identity.”
Kentucky Derby 142 – Churchill Downs; Louisville, Ky. (May 7)
Depending on your style, you can customize race day to suit your tastes. Those looking for debauchery and madness should make their way straight to the infield, while those who prefer something more refined should head for the grandstands. In either location, you can suck down a mint julep while rooting for “your” horse to win.
100th Indianapolis 500 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Indianapolis, Ind. (May 29)
The Indy 500 is Woodstock for car fanatics with 200 mph laps, nightly concerts and plenty of tent camping on the grounds. The event has recently added an exclusive kind of camping on the track infield. “Glamping (glamorous camping) has become extremely popular,” notes Doug Boles, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. So come for the private tents and stay for the race.
Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders – CenturyLink Field; Seattle, Wash. (Summer, TBD)
Trek to the Pacific Northwest to take in this heated rivalry that is the closest thing the U.S. has to a European-style football atmosphere. “Portland and Seattle have a 40 year history of battling it out on the pitch,” says Portland Timbers Army fan club board member Garrett Dittfurth. “From the fans to the players to the cities there just isn't a lot of love lost there.”
Fly fishing – Yellowstone River; Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota (early–late July)
Fishing the Yellowstone River gives the angler the opportunity to wade in one of the last and longest remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 states, alongside elk, bison and sometimes bear. “We are fishing in the world's first national park for wild, native Yellowstone Cutthroat trout,” says Teton Floats guide Joe Morin. “It doesn't get much better.”
Summer Olympics (Games of the XXXI Olympiad) – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Aug. 5–21)
The Olympics remain well, the Olympics, of the sporting world. For two weeks, the entire planet pauses to tune into this spectacular event. Sure, coveted tickets are hard to find and room rates are high, but those who make the trip can take solace in the fact that they can finally wear that red, white and blue cape they’ve been dying to show off.
Bonneville Speed Week – Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah (Aug. 13–19)
Gearheads make an annual pilgrimage to the Utah desert to blast across the scorched Earth in muscle cars they’ve built themselves. It’s modern day drag racing with drivers pushing speeds of 400 mph on the eight-mile point-point course. “Everything about Bonneville is totally different from any other kind of racing around the world,” says driver Danny Thompson who did 419 mph in 2014. “You’re going two football fields a second.”
National Park Service Centennial – Yosemite (Calif.), Grand Canyon (Ariz.), Glacier (Mont.), Rocky Mountain (Colo.), Mammoth Cave (Ky.), Olympic (Wash.), Grand Teton (Wy.), etc. (Aug. 25, 100th anniversary)
The U.S. National Park Service celebrate its 100 birthday this year, so there is no better time to tromp around the some 84 million acres of outdoor space. “The national parks are great because they are truly democratic and are owned by all of us,” says Andrew White, spokesperson for Grand Teton. “More than anything, they teach us about ourselves, our past, and our future.”
Hike the Appalachian Trail – Springer Mountain, Ga., to Mount Katahdin, Maine (Spring/Summer/Fall)
This long walk in the woods—all 2,200 miles of it—winds through 14 states stretching from Georgia to Maine. The hazards are many—black bears, stinging mosquitoes and paralyzing blisters—but the payoff is to finish something only roughly 15,500 people have done since the full trail opened in 1937.
Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech (CFB) – Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tenn. (Sept. 10)
Billed as the “Battle as Bristol,” this matchup hopes to set the record for the highest football game fan attendance ever, with 150,000 fans. The field will be located in the middle of the track infield and the stadium seating will be split in half evenly between the two teams’ supporters.
Ryder Cup – Hazeltine National GC; Chaska, Minn. (Sept. 30–Oct. 2)
Over the last 50 years, Hazeltine has hosted every premier championship offered by the USGA and PGA of America. The Europeans teams have won the last three Ryder Cups in a row, so the Americans are due for a win in the high-stakes biennial international golf tournament.
B.A.S.E. Jumping on Bridge Day – New River Gorge, W. Va. (Oct. 15)
Since 1980, B.A.S.E. jumping has been part of the state’s largest annual event. Nearly 100,000 spectators watch more than 400 jumpers leap off the 876-feet high New River Gorge Bridge in 30-second intervals. The landing patch is tight. “New jumpers will typically land in the water,” says volunteer coordinator Mark Kissner. “We have an old saying: ‘You dry faster than you heal.’ ”
By Matt McCue
National Signing Day is officially out of control.
Four-star safety Deontay Anderson made his commitment to Ole Miss known by jumping out of a plane. Yes, you read that right, Hugh Freeze's newest guy went skydiving to make his announcement.
Deciding in front of a table of hats is played out.
For the first time since 1985, the Super Bowl returns to the San Francisco Bay Area as Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium will serve as the host site for Super Bowl 50. This will be the first Super Bowl for Levi's Stadium, which opened in July 2014.
The 15-1 Carolina Panthers, fresh off of their 49-15 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game will tangle with the 12-4 Denver Broncos, who defeated the New England Patriots 20-18 to capture the AFC title.
The following are 10 stats you need to know for Sunday’s Super Bowl 50:
8: Super Bowl appearances for Denver
With Super Bowl 50, Denver will make its eighth appearance in the big game, tying the franchise with Dallas, New England and Pittsburgh. But Broncos’ fans have bittersweet memories about reaching the Promised Land. Since 1978, Denver has gone 2-5 in the Super Bowl, with its most-recent appearance resulting in a 43-8 loss to Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos haven’t won a Super Bowl since Super Bowl XXXIII, a 34-19 victory over Atlanta. That win gave Denver back-to-back championships, as it defeated the Green Bay Packers 31-24 just one year earlier in Super Bowl XXXII.
1: Where Carolina ranks offensively and Denver ranks defensively
Denver’s defense imposed its will against New England's offensive line in the AFC Championship Game as the Broncos hit Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady 17 times, to go along with four sacks. Denver’s defense this season led the league in yards allowed per game with 283.1. In its two postseason games, Carolina was a permanent fixture in its opponents’ end zone as the Panthers posted 31 points against Seattle and 49 against Arizona. Carolina's regular-season average of 31.3 points per game led the NFL. Super Bowl 50's matchup between the top-scoring offense and stingiest defense is similar to what took place two years go. In Super Bowl XLVIII Denver’s No. 1, record-setting offense was rendered ineffective by the Seattle’s No. 1-ranked defense as the Seahawks went on to win 43-8.
18: Times the Carolina Panthers have rushed for 100 yards this season
The Panthers parted ways with all-time leading rusher DeAngelo Williams in February 2015. The move freed up $2 million in cap space, but also left Carolina with a large void in its running game. The decision hasn’t impeded Carolina’s progress in the slightest as the Panthers have eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in each of its 18 games (including playoffs) this season. Jonathan Stewart leads all Carolina rushers with 1,178 yards (8 touchdowns), Cam Newton’s 686 yards (12 TDs) on the ground rank second and Mike Tolbert checks in at third with 277 rushing yards and a score.
1: Number of teams to score 30 points on the Denver Broncos this year
Denver’s defense is among the NFL’s best when it comes to shutting down opposing offenses. This season, the Broncos’ defense yielded 30 points on just one occasion – Pittsburgh scored 34 points in Denver’s Dec. 20 Week 15 road loss to the Steelers. Carolina posted eight 30-point efforts in the regular season, and has scored 31 and 49 points in its two postseason games.
13: Age differecen between Peyton Manning and Cam Newton
Much of the narrative surrounding Super Bowl 50 has revolved around Manning’s future in the NFL as many suspect that this could possibly be the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer’s final act. Manning will be the oldest quarterback to start in a Super Bowl. At 26, Manning’s counterpart Newton, however, is just getting started. The 13-year age difference between the two will be the largest of any two quarterbacks to play in a Super Bowl. To better put it perspective, Newton was just eight years old when the Indianapolis Colts selected Manning with the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.
7: Consecutive games in the Bay Area Peyton Manning has won
As a rookie, Peyton Manning made his first Bay Area-area start on Oct. 18, 1998 vs. San Francisco. The then-Indianapolis Colts’ starting quarterback dueled 49ers' great Steve Young and threw for 231 yards and three touchdowns in a losing effort. Since then, Manning has rattled off seven consecutive wins on the road in San Francisco and Oakland. Manning’s last appearance in the 49ers’ home was a memorable one — he led the Broncos in 2014 to a 42-17 win behind 318 passing yards and four touchdowns in a game where he became the NFL’s career passing touchdown leader with 510.
19: Touchdowns Cam Newton has tossed this year against the blitz
Cam Newton’s 10 rushing touchdowns during the regular season led all NFL quarterbacks. But his play when facing the blitz this season offers a bit more insight into just how truly remarkable of a season he’s strung together. Newton currently carries a stellar 118.2 QB rating, connecting on 61.1 percent of his passes and throwing for 19 touchdowns against two interceptions when facing the blitz this year.
0: Number of rushing touchdowns Denver has yielded to opposing quarterbacks
Denver this year has faced off against some of the game’s top rushing threats at quarterback in dual-threat stars Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith. But the Broncos have yet to yield a rushing touchdown to an opposing signal-caller. This statistic will face its strongest test come Sunday, however, as Cam Newton has 12 scores on the ground over 18 games. This intriguing matchup is sure to be one of the game’s biggest storylines as Denver would love nothing more than to keep Newton out of the end zone when he has the ball in his hands.
12: Number of Pro Bowlers between the two teams
Carolina’s eight Pro Bowl selections set a franchise record as Cam Newton, Thomas Davis, Josh Norman, Luke Kuechly, Ryan Kalil, Mike Tolbert, Greg Olsen and Kawann Short received invitations to the NFL all-star game. For the Broncos, defenders DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. all were invited to Hawaii. Of course all 12 had to replaced since their seasons aren't quite over yet.
2: Number of Super Bowl appearances by music titan Beyoncé
OK, this stat doesn’t have anything to do with game itself, but music sensation Beyoncé will make her second Super Bowl appearance when she joins band Coldplay at halftime in Santa Clara, a feat that can’t be said for any other female recording artist.
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A Washington, D.C.-based sports writer, Hayes is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and he also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.
Things are looking good for Georgia on National Signing Day.
Five-star recruit Mecole Hardman faked everyone out and picked Georgia with the help of some decoy cakes. Notice that none of them are Georgia.
5 of the cakes are up. Can't get Hardman to confirm what he plans to do. Cut one? Eat it with his hands? Intrigue. pic.twitter.com/Mq0zg87tlA— Jake Reuse (@ReuseRecruiting) February 3, 2016
When Hardman came from behind the banner, he was dressed in Dawgs gear.
Pretty fun scene, and he probably just shortened Kirby Smart's lifespan by a couple years with that fakeout.
Recruiting is the lifeblood of a college football program. If you struggle to build a solid recruiting class one year, you could easily pay for it over the next three to four years, if not more. On the flip side, if you manage to knock a recruiting class out of the park, your chances for success in the coming years can take a nice spike. And just think what you can do with two or three outstanding recruiting classes. If you doubt the importance of that, take a look at what Alabama has done under Nick Saban.
Those who suggest recruiting is overrated should take note to see the classes Saban has put together since taking over the job in Tuscaloosa. Saban routinely has Alabama being crowned recruiting national champions, as if actual on-field championships were not enough. How do some of Saban’s top classes stack up against the rest of the field? Pretty darn well, actually.
In an attempt to update a previous ranking of recruiting classes, we have refined the list to include only the top 10 classes from 2005-15. Here is how things turned out.
Note: Team ranks referenced for that year come from 247 Sports Composite
1. Alabama, 2008
Rank: 3rd (33 signees)
Key Players: Mark Barron, Julio Jones, Terrence Cody, Marcell Dareus, Dont'a Hightower, Mark Ingram, Barrett Jones, Courtney Upshaw, Damion Square, Michael Williams, Robert Lester, Brad Smelley
Every dynasty must begin somewhere. For Alabama, it started with the Class of 2008, Nick Saban’s first class with a full recruiting cycle to work his magic. It not only set the tone, but also laid the groundwork for the success to come for the Crimson Tide. Many players in this class became key ingredients in Alabama’s 2009 BCS title run and later in 2011 and even 2012. Besides All-Americans like Mark Barron, Don’t’a Hightower, Barrett Jones and Courtney Upshaw, this class also included Mark Ingram, Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy winner.
2. Florida, 2006
Rank: 2nd (24 signees)
Key Players: Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes, Maurice Hurt, Riley Cooper, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon James, Marcus Gilbert, Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders, Dustin Doe, AJ Jones, Carl Johnson
Florida’s Class of 2006 would become the core of a national championship run under Urban Meyer, and it is easy to see why. Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and stars in the making in Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes brought a new level of athleticism and energy to the Gators program. With this class leading the charge, Florida would win two BCS national titles.
3. Alabama, 2009
Rank: 2nd (28 signees)
Key Players: AJ McCarron, Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, James Carpenter, Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker, Eddie Lacy, Quinton Dial, Nico Johnson, Ed Stinson, Anthony Steen, Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood, Tana Patrick
Alabama’s Class of 2008 was just the first piece of the championship puzzle. Saban’s work needed to be followed up the following year by continuing to add quality depth to the roster. He got it in 2009 with the likes of Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Chance Warmack, Eddie Lacy, Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood and AJ McCarron, who would become the starting quarterback following Greg McElroy’s run in Tuscaloosa. Six players went on to become first-round draft picks in the NFL and this crop of players helped push Alabama from very good to great en route to a pair of BCS national titles.
4. Oklahoma, 2006
Rank: 8th (28 signees)
Key Players: Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Jermaine Gresham, Trent Williams, DeMarco Murray, Jeremy Beal, Quinton Carter, Chris Brown, Dominique Franks, Mossis Madu, Tim Johnson, Brandon Caleb, Malcolm Williams, Chase Beeler
Getting quarterback Sam Bradford and running back DeMarco Murray in the same recruiting class alone is enough to make this Sooners class special, but that was just the beginning. Bradford would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and Murray would later become one of the top running backs in the NFL, but do not overlook the other parts of this class, such as defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, tight end Jermaine Gresham and offensive tackle Trent Williams. All three went in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, as did Bradford. This core helped take Oklahoma to the BCS national title game in 2008, where it was topped by Florida.
5. Ohio State, 2013
Rank: 2nd (26 signees)
Key Players: Joey Bosa, Vonn Bell, Jalin Marshall, Eli Apple, Ezekiel Elliott, Dontre Wilson, J.T. Barrett, Darron Lee
In time, perhaps this particular recruiting class will be worthy of more consideration to move up in the top five. After all, Urban Meyer’s masterful work in rebuilding Ohio State certainly paid off with this class that would become the main core of the Buckeyes’ College Football Playoff championship run. Joey Bosa was among the best defensive ends in the game. Ezekiel Elliott became one of the top rushers in the country and J.T. Barrett stepped in and saved the 2014 season following the preseason loss of Braxton Miller. Throw in contributions from players like Vonn Bell, Eli Apple and Darron Lee and you have the makings of a championship defense.
6. Florida State, 2011
Rank: 2nd (29 signees)
Key Players: Kelvin Benjamin, Nick O'Leary, Timmy Jernigan, Terrance Smith, Tank Carradine, Rashad Greene, Karlos Williams, Bobby Hart, Devonta Freeman, Josue Matias, Tre Jackson, Nile Lawrence-Stample, Nick Waisome
The Class of 2011 was the first under a full recruiting cycle for head coach Jimbo Fisher, and it was a grand one. It was this group of recruits that lay the brickwork for Florida State’s three straight ACC titles, a BCS title run in 2013 and help lead the Seminoles into the Playoff the following season. Before the world knew much about Jameis Winston, Fisher added key players such as Kelvin Benjamin, a first-round draft pick in 2014, one of the nation’s top tight ends in Nick O’Leary, and offensive weapons like Karlos Williams and Devonta Freeman.
7. Alabama, 2010
Rank: 5th (25 signees)
Key Players: C.J. Mosley, Dee Milliner, Blake Sims, Brandon Ivory, Jalston Fowler, Arie Kouandjio, Chad Lindsay, Austin Shepherd, DeAndrew White, Adrian Hubbard, Brian Vogler, Nick Perry, Jarrick Williams, Deion Belue
Alabama just does not stop recruiting big talent, as was demonstrated in 2010. With the '08 and '09 classes establishing the foundation for Alabama’s dynasty, the '10 crop assured Alabama would not be dropping off very far anytime soon. This group packed the likes of C.J. Mosley and Dee Milliner, who became top defensive players for Alabama on a 2012 BCS title run. This class may not have achieved quite the same level of success in terms of championships, but it made sure Alabama was still a team few would want to play.
8. LSU, 2009
Rank: 1st (25 signees)
Key Players: Michael Brockers, Morris Claiborne, Kevin Minter, Rueben Randle, Chris Faulk, Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, Chris Davenport, Bennie Logan, Michael Ford, Craig Loston, Josh Downs, Stavion Lowe, Lamin Barrow, Russell Shepard
When LSU ran the table and advanced to the BCS National Championship Game in 2011, it was this class that led the way. Morris Claiborne, Michael Brockers and Barkevious Mingo would go on to be first-round NFL Draft picks. This class may not have achieved national title success (See Alabama, 2008, '09, '10) but Les Miles proved he was more than capable of landing a top-ranked class. He might do so again in 2016 too.
9. Oregon, 2008
Rank: 23rd (24 signees)
Key Players: LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, Darron Thomas, Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso, John Boyett, Nick Cody, Hamani Stevens, LeGarrette Blount, Josh Kaddu, DeWitt Stuckey, Jeremiah Masoli
Oregon’s final recruiting class under Mike Bellotti set the tone for Chip Kelly in the coming years. The highlight of the class is running back LaMichael James, but this class included two starting quarterbacks, Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas. It also added to that signature Oregon offensive style with Kenjon Barner and the physical LeGarrette Blount. Defensive end Dion Jordan would go on to become the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft as well.
10. Michigan State, 2010
Rank: 21st (22 signees)
Key Players: Max Bullough, William Gholston, Kurtis Drummond, Darqueze Dennard, Le'Veon Bell, Jeremy Langford, Marcus Rush, Isaiah Lewis, Nick Hill, Keith Mumphrey, Tony Lippett
When it came to the 2010 classes left for consideration, the final spot was down to Michigan State and Auburn. Auburn’s class was ranked higher at the time, and perhaps deservingly so with the addition of the truly special Cam Newton leading the way, but Mark Dantonio’s Class of 2010 was a special signature class as well. This group of Spartans would go on to help be a part of the most successful run in school history with a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl victory, and some of the class remained for a second Big Ten championship and a memorable Cotton Bowl victory over Baylor as well.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com, TheComeback.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
Super Bowl legends are frozen in time.
Rarely do we remember what NFL icons looked like before they played the game. High school photos are few and far between, but when they surface, we're all grateful. Check out Emmitt Smith, Deion Sanders, Larry Allen and others thanks to Classmates.
After the Cleveland Browns hired Hue Jackson to be their next head coach, it felt like it was only a matter of time before the team decided to cut ties with their former first-round pick, quarterback Johnny Manziel. Now after Manziel's latest run-in with the law, team Executive Vice President Sashi Brown might have given everyone a clue into how much longer Manziel will be on the team’s roster.
“We’ve been clear about expectations for our players on and off the field," Brown said in a statement released earlier Tuesday. "Johnny’s continual involvement in incidents that run counter to those expectations undermines the hard work of his teammates and the reputation of our organization. His status with our team will be addressed when permitted by league rules. We will have no further comment at this time.”
In other words, the Browns are likely to release Manziel once the league year begins on March 9. Cleveland can’t release Manziel the day after the Super Bowl because the team does not have the $4.6 million in cap space to do so. The salary cap will increase at the beginning of the new league year on March 9 and Manziel will likely be released soon after.
There’s a lot of speculation on where the former Heisman Trophy winner could land once he is released. Here are five possible landing spots:
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are clearly in need of a quarterback and they could decide to take a look at Manziel. Head coach Jeff Fisher reportedly considered taking Manziel in the 2014 NFL Draft with its second first-round pick (No. 13 overall) before deciding to select defensive tackle Aaron Donald from Pittsburgh instead.
The Rams finished dead last in the NFL in passing offense in 2015. The team used three different quarterbacks this past season with Nick Foles, Case Keenum and Sean Mannion combining for just 11 touchdown passes against just as many interceptions.
The Rams could decide to use a first- or second-round pick on a quarterback, but maybe the team feels like bringing on Manziel as a low-risk, high-reward option would be better. Either way, the team will need to upgrade its quarterback position to prevent opposing defenses from stacking seven or eight men in the box to stop running back Todd Gurley.
Reportedly, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was interested in taking Manziel in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft but he was talked out of it. Would anyone be surprised if Jones decided to sign Manziel when he becomes available?
Brining Manziel in would make sense because he would immediately become the team’s backup quarterback to Tony Romo. That would give Manziel time to develop and a chance to learn how to become a professional under Romo’s tutelage.
Also, with Romo having a number of injuries in his mid-30s, Manziel could start a couple of games a season if the Cowboys needed him to. He would certainly be an upgrade from Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore, who both played under center for the Cowboys last season as Romo broke his collarbone on two different occasions.
San Francisco 49ers
While the 49ers didn’t seem like a fit for Manziel during the 2015 season, he certainly does now with their newest head coach Chip Kelly.
While the 49ers owe Colin Kaepernick $9.9 million base salary in 2016, the team could decide to release him and take the $7.3 million cap hit in dead money while clearing another $7.37 million from the books.
Even if the 49ers kept Kaepernick, the team could decide to bring in another quarterback other than Blaine Gabbert to provide some competition.
With Manziel’s playing style and athleticism, he appears to be a good fit for Kelly’s offensive system.
Despite not having stability at the quarterback position, the Texans still found a way to get into the postseason by winning the AFC South. While Houston could opt to take a quarterback in the upcoming draft, another possibility could be to take a chance on Manziel.
Brian Hoyer will still be under contract in 2016, but backups Brandon Weeden and T.J. Yates are both set to become free agents. Manziel did play up the road in College Station when he was at Texas A&M, so signing him could prove beneficial off the field too.
With Sam Bradford set to hit free agency, new head coach Doug Pederson could be looking for a new quarterback to lead the team’s future. The team could draft one and bring in a veteran to compete with Mark Sanchez until the young quarterback is ready, so why not Manziel?
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
Billie Jean King, 72, has never backed down, whether she was beating Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” or winning Grand Slam tournaments — of which she took 39 titles (12 singles, 16 women’s doubles, 11 mixed doubles). These days, the International Tennis Hall of Famer has teamed with Janssen Pharmaceuticals (myafibrisk.com) to champion awareness for atrial fibrillation (AFib), a type of irregular heartbeat battled by King and 33.5 million people worldwide. We caught up with the former World No. 1 to talk stroke prevention and, of course, tennis.
How did you discover your AFib?
It happened after I played tennis one day. I was in New York and I got out of the taxi and I got really, really dizzy, like I was going to faint. I almost blacked out and I caught myself by putting my hand on a car. Then, all of a sudden, I was okay. But my heart was pounding and it felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. I went upstairs and started looking for a cardiologist, and lied down because I was scared.
I went to a doctor and he had me hold my breath when they did the EKG and my heart started to go into AFib again, which is an irregular heartbeat. So I had to start worrying about it. I’ve had an ablation (procedure to keep heartbeat in a normal rhythm) since, but I still take my blood thinner once a day and I feel great.
What are some steps people can take to minimize risk?
Go to myafibrisk.com and it has eight questions. It’s bing, boom, bam, fast — very easy peasy. And it will help you calculate your stroke risk and that’s what we want because we don’t want somebody that has AFib having a stroke. It’s very important that we get the word out.
You were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, what does that mean to you?
It means a lot to be recognized. It’s good news, bad news. Social justice. (President Barack Obama) mentioned the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community, which was nice because no president’s ever mentioned the word “gay” in their life, and he was the first. That meant a lot to me.
Also I was the first woman athlete, which is good news, bad news because I was thinking there were so many great women before me that should have gotten it, like Althea Gibson. She was the first person of color to win a major, she’s like our Jackie Robinson. No one has appreciated her enough.
I was very touched and very blessed, and my mom was still alive so she got to see it so that was fantastic. She was so happy to meet the President and Michelle (Obama). They’re so kind and warm and they always hug everybody, and they look you in the eye and they actually are very present. So that was nice and my mom enjoyed it. So that was great. It was a very touching moment.
Looking back, what were some unique opportunities tennis provided you?
Being able to travel globally as a tennis player, I realized what an advantage I had over other athletes who only stayed in the United States most of their lives. I met the Queen of England, I’ve talked to the best people in the world in everything, whether it’s music, art, other sports. I saw Richard Gere the other day. Elton John, he wrote a song for me called Philadelphia Freedom.
What are some of the innovations World Team Tennis, the league you co-founded, has introduced to the sport?
We’re the innovators, the think tank for the sport. We’re the ones that push the sport. If you hear music, we started music. If you see branded courts, we started branded courts. We’re the first ones. We’ve also put the names on the back of the shirts, which they still don’t do in tournament tennis so I hope they will.
We’re the first ones to let people keep the ball like a foul ball in baseball. We’re the first ones to hit balls into the stands during matches and after the matches. We’ve been doing it since 1975! We’re the ones that just keep pushing and pushing to be more. We have a shot clock, we’re at 25 seconds on the court. They haven’t done that in tournament tennis I guarantee you they’re going to start doing that.
We also were the first ones to use that challenge, we’re the first ones competitively to do that. Well we do that one year, they do it the next year. We just keep pushing and pushing and pushing for the sport.
Do you think Serena could win a modern “Battle of the Sexes” like you did against Bobby Riggs in 1973?
They can play but it won’t have the same cachet because it will be the third one. I played Bobby and when I played Bobby the time in history was very different. It was much more significant. And Martina played Jimmy Connors.
Is there a reason American men’s tennis has taken a step back or do you think it’s just cyclical?
Yeah. I think we need a critical mass of kids playing and we don’t have it. And we need to get the best athletes. We need to get the really great male athletes, like Pete Sampras. There’s a guy who could play any sport and would’ve been great.
Are there any young women’s players that you have your eye on who might be ready to break out?
I’m gonna have to go with Madison Keys right now. I don’t know, you have to give them time because you don’t know if they really want it, if they’re gonna stay injury free. You know it’s something to say at 18 but boy winning gets tough when you’ve got that daily grind of getting up in the morning no matter how you feel.
You gotta eat right, you gotta do all the right things, you gotta be motivated and you’ve gotta be willing to change technique if you need to. You’ve gotta be willing to do so many things to be the best. And it’s a commitment every single moment of every single day, there’s not a lot of gray area. And some kids can sustain that, and some kids can’t.
The kids that are talented physically are the ones that everybody gets excited about, but you have to look for the kids who are talented physically but they have that inner hunger and fire in their bellies to want to make a difference in their careers. I mean really be the best they can be.
What makes greatness is when you have your head, heart and gut in unison and integrated, totally integrated. Head, heart, and gut. When one of those is missing or two of those is missing, it’s not happening. You gotta have all three areas, physically, mentally, emotionally. That’s what makes a great jock, a great athlete. They’re rare.
One thing you have to love about Patriots fans is they are a pretty confident bunch.
Google Trends compiled data on how much people from each NFL city searched for flights to San Francisco around the time the Super Bowl would be played. Broncos fans were the most confident in their team, having the highest per capita search volume throughout the season. After them who else would it be but Patriots' fans? Man people in the New England area began searching for flights before it was set in stone. Hey, there's nothing wrong with believing in your team.
On the flip side of things, Charlotte came in sixth. Despite the team's amazing season, fans weren't that eager to pony up the funds for a flight out west.
Sometimes attending a Super Bowl party can be just as entertaining.
Football fans are different in every part of the world.
Thanks to Wallet Hub, we now know just how different they are. It's no surprise that Green Bay is the best when it comes to football cities. The Packers-faithful accept outsiders as one of their own, as long as they aren't Bears fans. Other places that stick out among the best are the usual suspects of Clemson, Pittsburgh, and Tuscaloosa. Check out the rest here.
Wallet Hub also provided a pretty cool Super Bowl 50 infographic to get fans ready for the big game.
We are less than a week away from Super Bowl 50, the final game of the NFL season, which pits the Carolina Panthers and their No. 1 offense against the Denver Broncos’ No. 1 defense (and some guy named Peyton Manning). I spent a lot of the week off trying to envision how I think this game will go. Everyone and their mother are touting the Panthers and the line movement has shown this as it started around 4 and is now 6.5. Before we get to my selection on the game, I'm going to talk about the factors that went into my decision.
The Broncos may be the quietest 14-4 team in the NFL as you didn't hear one word in the national media about them this past week. The oddest part about that is they feature a legendary quarterback in Peyton Manning who may or may not be playing in his final NFL contest. Denver is coming off an awesome win over the Patriots where the Broncos’ defense hit Tom Brady more than he was hit all season. The unit allowed 283.1 yards per game, which was first in the league by almost 10 yards over Seattle. Alex Smith is really the only true mobile quarterback that Denver faced and he had nine rushes for 48 yards in two games. Aaron Rodgers managed two rushes for 31 yards in Green Bay's 29-10 loss at Denver back on Nov 1. Cam Newton represents a completely different challenge though. He'll put a lot of stress on a solid linebacker corps led by Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. are part of a secondary that should be able to win one-on-one battles with Carolina's mediocre WRs.
With regards to Denver's offense, you notice a clear difference in the group when the run game works. The Broncos managed just 242 yards on the ground in their four losses. Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson represent a solid balance of speed and toughness. They complement Manning well even though the veteran quarterback is basically a game manager now. Manning has shown to be more then that after time off though. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are the grade-A receivers, although Thomas has had the drops this season. Denver has allowed 39 sacks this season and that's because of Manning's lack of mobility, plus a slow start to the year. Owen Daniels had two touchdowns against the Patriots, but Carolina has been very good against tight ends.
Trying to find holes in the Carolina offense is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The Panthers have scored 30 or more points in three straight games and eight of their last nine. Newton's continued maturation has made a difference, as he's not taking off as quickly as he had in the past. He has just 15 incompletions in the two playoff wins. Jonathan Stewart finished the regular season just shy of 1,000 yards rushing. Because of Newton's ability to keep the ball on the read option, one less player in the box has their eyes on Stewart. One of my favorite people in the league is fullback Mike Tolbert because he does anything that the team needs from blocking to getting dirty yards in the middle. When you look at the WRs, Ted Ginn stands out because he's good for one or two great plays and then one or two inexplicable drops. Jerricho Cotchery and Philly Brown wouldn't start on a lot of teams, but they somehow get open. The one legitimate pass-catching threat is Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, who could prove to be an issue for a Broncos defense that has struggled against that position.
One of the storylines that I want to see play out this week is the health of Carolina's defense. Thomas Davis broke his forearm in the NFC Championship Game victory over Arizona yet he swears he's going to play (with a plate in his arm) on Super Sunday. The All-Pro linebacker is a big part of the defense, registering 105 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Even if he does suit up, who knows how effective he will be. Also we don't know how healthy Jared Allen will be. Everything coming out of Carolina is rosy on Allen, but how much of that is a smoke screen? The secondary is led by All-Pro corner Josh Norman and he takes away one half of the field. The question is can Cortland Finnegan and the rest of the CBs hold their own? They did against Arizona and their three good wideouts. I tried to find a common thread for the games where this side of the ball allowed a lot of points and there really wasn't one outside of a lack of focus. The Panthers had issues putting teams away at times because it got almost too easy for them.
It's a lot to consider when it comes to the Super Bowl. I don't think the line movement is over yet with more and more money streaming in on this one. The total is going to go up because the public will want to see points and feel that taking the under will not be conducive for them having a fun Sunday. I think we see the line move up a little bit more, but fall short of the 7-point mark. If it does get to a touchdown then Vegas is at risk of getting middled and that's the worst-case scenario for them because the sharps will come in on the other side. To me, six points is a gift and anything higher is gold. Denver is too good for the majority to be discounting this team. If somehow it moves back towards the original four, then I'd be a little more hesitant.
Selection: Denver +6 (Broncos 24-23)
2015 Record: 49-25-2
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
If you're going to talk bad about another football program, you should always check to make sure you're sending a direct message.
Nevada head coach Brian Polian was supposed to be DM'ing a recruit, who I'm assuming is thinking about Arizona State, but mistakenly sent a public tweet to all his followers instead. Not a good look.
The Sun Devils eventually got wind of the tweet, which was later deleted, and send out a tweet just to remind everyone where they stand.
ASU has the 16th-most Academic All-Americans in the nation and is ranked the No. 1 Most Innovative School in the nation. #SunDevilPride— Sun Devil Athletics (@TheSunDevils) February 2, 2016
The 2016 NASCAR season is about to crank up with the 58th running of the Daytona 500 less than three weeks away. That also means it is about time to start registering for your favorite 2016 fantasy NASCAR league. We have come up with 60 funny, crazy, weird and/or outright silly names to help you get started on your quest to fantasy NASCAR greatness. Even if you don’t win your league, you can still dominate the competition in the “name game”. Here’s our list, in no particular order of awesomeness.
Rowdy Busch Always Takes the Pole
Losing Makes My Dick Trickle
Perfectly Shaped Almirolas
Kurt Busch’s Secret Assassin Girlfriend
2 Girls, 1 Sprint Cup
Wise Johnsons Fear Rowdy Busch
The Big Keselowski
A Happy Harvick Ending
Dog the Labonte Hunter
2 Lbs. in the rear Got Her Loose
Trevor Bayned Your Lady
Michael Waltrip’s Masculine Side
Jimmies, Johnsons and Poles
Tears for Mears
The Rick Hendrick Experience
Green Eggs and Hamlin
2 Buschs 1 Johnson
A Little on the High Side
Shake ‘n Bake
Is that What Boris Said?
Blaney’s Got a Gun
Your Busch Burned My Johnson
Gibbs Me My Trophy!
Shaking the Busch, Boss
Me So Hornish!
Gettin’ Loose with Danica
Dillon A$$ Whoopin’s
Tony Stewart's Therapi$t
El Diablo and the Magic Man
A Country Boy/Gal Kahne Survive
Haas My Driving?
Earnhardt and Soul
Jeremy Mayfield’s Piss Guy
Beating Off the Biff
A Bowyer’s Life
What’s the Frequency Kenseth?
WHO'S HOUSE? STENHOUSE
Biffle’s My BFFL
Racers of the Left Arc
Victory Circle Jerks
Racecar Backwards is Racecar
Gentlemen, Start Your Devices!
Ambrose Before Hoes
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS
College football's 2013 recruiting class was so jam-packed with talent that it must’ve been easy for coaches to just throw out offers willy nilly. Despite how much of a home-run talent many of these prospects looked, as is the nature of the beast, recruiting rankings continued to prove hit or miss.
Let’s check out which members of 2013's class were more hit than miss.
Note: Rankings provided by Rivals.com
1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
No. 5 Running Back, No. 36 Nationally
A 2015 consensus All-American and Heisman Trophy winner, Henry was the engine that helped power the Alabama Crimson Tide to yet another national championship.
Who was No. 1: Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Ole Miss
2. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
No. 4 DE, No. 47 Nationally
A likely top-five selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, Ohio State’s Bosa was a terror along the defensive line. His work garnered 2014 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and 2015 consensus All-America honors.
Who was No. 2: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
3. Jaylon Smith, OLB, Notre Dame
No. 1 Outside Linebacker, No. 3 Nationally
A 2015 consensus All-American and Dick Butkus Award winner, Smith took no prisoners with 115 tackles to his name (69 solo) and racking up an additional four sacks.
Who was No. 3: Jaylon Smith, OLB, Notre Dame
4. Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State
No. 3 Cornerback, No. 10 Nationally
A versatile 2015 All-American, Ramsey was a constant irritant over the course of his collegiate career tallying 181 tackles (121 solo), 15.5 for a loss while forcing four fumbles.
Who was No. 4: Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
5. Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Ole Miss
No. 1 Defensive End, No. 1 Nationally
Nkemdiche showed solid progress throughout his career including a 2015 season that included 26 total tackles (12 solo), seven tackles for a loss and three sacks for the Rebels.
Who was No. 5: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
6. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
No. 1 Cornerback, No. 2 Nationally
A 2015 consensus All-American, Hargreaves picked off 10 passes in his Gators tenure to go along with 121 tackles (81 solo). He also led the SEC in passes defended with 13 during the 2014 season.
Who was No. 6: Kenny Bigelow, DT, USC
7. Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State
No. 12 Running Back, No. 84 Nationally
The 2015 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Elliot was key in Ohio State winning the first-ever College Football Playoff. During the 2015 season, he led the Big Ten in rushing yardage (1,821 yards), yards from scrimmage (2,027) and points (138).
Who was No. 7: Max Browne, QB, USC
8. Su'a Cravens, S, USC
No. 12 Safety, No. 12 Nationally
Cravens was a frequent annoyance for offensive coordinators everywhere as he snagged nine interceptions over the course of his career. He also tallied 207 tackles (134 solo), 34.5 for a loss and 10.5 sacks.
Who was No. 8: Derrick Green, RB, Michigan
9. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
No. 1 Wide Receiver, No. 5 Nationally
The SEC’s leading receiver with 1,153 yards, Treadwell also snagged a conference-best 11 touchdowns this past season.
Who was No. 9: Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
10. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Not Ranked Quarterback, Not Ranked Nationally
Originally a Texas Tech Red Raider, Mayfield has thrown for more than 6,000 yards in only two years of competition. He was also named the 2015 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and placed fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Who was No. 10: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State
The Best of the Rest:
Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
No. 2 DE, No. 11 Nationally
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
No. 7 Dual-Threat Quarterback, No. 152 Nationally
Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
No. 12 Wide Receiver, No. 103 Nationally
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
No. 5 Tight End, No. 144 Nationally
Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin
No. 17 Running Back, No. 223 Nationally
Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska
No. 30 DT, Not Ranked Nationally
Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
No. 2 Cornerback, No. 9 Nationally
Jared Goff, QB, California
No. 8 Quarterback, No. 140 Nationally
Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
Not Ranked DE, Not Ranked Nationally
Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
No. 2 Quarterback, No. 24 Nationally
Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M
No. 15 DE, Not Ranked Nationally
Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State
Not Ranked WR, Not Ranked Nationally
Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
No. 44 Athlete, Not Ranked Nationally
Jalin Marshall, ATH, Ohio State
No. 1 Athlete, No. 35 Nationally
And while a great deal of the attention leading up to the game will focus on the quarterbacks, this matchup is much more than Cam Newton vs. Peyton Manning. For starters, while this is the 12th time since 1975 that the two top seeds in each conference meet in the Super Bowl, it’s somewhat rare in that it pits the league's top scoring offense (Carolina) against the stingiest defense (Denver). A similar matchup took place two seasons ago, when Seattle’s defense handled Denver’s record-setting offense in a 43-8 whitewashing in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The roles are reversed for the Broncos this time around, but Denver’s top-ranked D figures to have its hands full trying to slow down a Panthers offense powered by Newton’s dual-threat capabilities. Of course Carolina’s defense is no slouch either not with a pair of All-Pro linebackers in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis manning the middle and shutdown cornerback Josh Norman making life miserable for opposing wide receivers. Whether you prefer offense vs. defense or young vs. old to describe this matchup, Super Bowl 50 doesn’t lack for storylines. The question is will the game itself follow the script of one of these or will it write its own?
Super Bowl 50: Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Location: Levi's Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)
Spread: Carolina -6
5 Things to Watch
1. Superman vs. The Sherriff
Cam Newton enters his first Super Bowl with plenty of momentum, as he was named an All-Pro after posting the best numbers of his career in leading Carolina to a 15-1 record in the regular season. In 18 games, Newton has accounted for 50 total touchdowns (38 passing, 12 rushing) and just 14 turnovers (11 INTs, 3 fumbles). He clearly is the engine that drives the Panthers’ No. 1-ranked offense. Then there’s Peyton Manning, who has thrown more picks (17) than touchdowns (12), as injuries limited him to just 10 starts in the regular season. He clearly isn’t the quarterback he once was, but he has done what has been needed to get the Broncos back to the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons. Manning has been here before and would love to get that second ring, which also would even his Super Bowl record. This is Newton’s first Super Sunday appearance and he fully intends to make the most of it. Both quarterbacks will have to contend with defenses that ranked in the top six in the NFL in yards and points allowed. How each quarterback performs will not only go a long ways towards determining which team wins Super Bowl 50, but it also will represent the final chapter to either an incredible season or, quite possibly, a remarkable career.
2. Staying Grounded
As important as quarterback play will be in Super Bowl 50, the running games certainly can’t be overlooked. For one, running the ball is a big part of the Panthers’ offense, especially when you take Newton’s contributions into consideration. Carolina finished second in the regular season in rushing (142.6 ypg) and has picked up nearly 300 yards on the ground in its two playoff victories. Denver may not have the overall numbers that Carolina does, but the Broncos have been more effective running the ball lately, averaging 132.8 yards per game since Manning reclaimed the starting job in Week 16. Denver (third in NFL) and Carolina (fourth) both did a good job against the run in the regular season and have been even stingier in the playoffs. Panthers All-Pro linebacker Thomas Davis broke his right forearm in the NFC Championship Game, but he underwent surgery last week to insert a dozen screws and a metal plate into his arm and has sworn he will play in his first Super Bowl. It will be interesting to see how effective Davis is, but Carolina’s defense is anything but a one-man show. From a quarterback perspective, Manning needs the Broncos’ run game to make life in the pocket easier, while Newton has it as part of his arsenal. However, both offenses must find a way to pick up yards on the ground, especially against two defenses that that excel in bringing pressure.
3. What’s the Rush?
Speaking of pressure, both Carolina and Denver are able to create some without relying too heavily on the blitz. The Panthers have a fairly deep front that’s capable of making plays, while the Broncos have Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware bringing the heat from the edges. The Panthers’ pressure not only produces sacks (44 in regulars season, eight in playoffs), but it also helps create turnovers. That was never more evident than in the NFC Championship Game where Carolina forced Arizona into seven miscues, including six (4 INTs, 2 fumbles) by Carson Palmer. On the other side, pressure was a key to Denver’s AFC Championship Game win over New England, as Miller, Ware and others harassed Tom Brady (4 sacks, 23 hits, 2 INTs) all afternoon. Newton is certainly more mobile than Manning or Brady, not to mention a lot tougher to bring down, but that doesn’t mean Denver’s pressure can’t be successful in disrupting Carolina’s offensive rhythm while also potentially frustrating its dynamic quarterback. It’s no secret that the Panthers would love to get their hands early and often on Manning, who not only can’t afford to take too many big hits, he’s also much more limited in his ability to make plays when the pocket collapses. Simply put, whichever defense can do a better job of bringing the heat will likely have a better chance of dictating the course of Super Bowl 50.
4. Does Experience Matter?
Since this is Denver’s second Super Bowl trip in three seasons, it makes sense that the Broncos would have the edge in experience. Denver has 18 players who have been on a Super Bowl roster previously and 16 who have played on Super Sunday. As has already been noted this will be Manning’s fourth Super Bowl start, while head coach Gary Kubiak will be participating in his seventh. A backup to John Elway on three Bronco teams that lost in the Super Bowl, Kubiak was Denver’s offensive coordinator for its back-to-back championship teams and also has a ring from his time as the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach. His counterpart, Ron Rivera, was a reserve linebacker on the 1985 Chicago Bears that won Super Bowl XX, but otherwise this is an entirely new experience for his team. The Panthers have seven players who have previously experienced a Super Bowl and only five who have played in one. The Broncos also are no doubt motivated to redeem themselves following the embarrassment of the 43-8 beatdown courtesy of the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. Denver’s been here before, while Carolina has no familiarity with all the extra attention, obligations and distractions that come before the game itself is actually played. But the flip side of this is that the Broncos enter this game arguably with more to prove because of what happened two years ago, as well as the fact the Panthers are the favorite. Will any of this matter come kickoff? Probably not, but it’s something worth keeping an eye on.
5. Sound in the Kicking Game
This may be the last thing anyone is really thinking about, but as the AFC Championship Game showed, nothing should ever be taken for granted, not even an extra point. To that end, Carolina’s Graham Gano has had a fine season, finishing second in scoring to All-Pro Stephen Gostkowski. But Gostkowski’s missed PAT, his first of the season, loomed large in New England’s loss to Denver in the AFC title game. Gano missed three PATs in the regular season (out of 59 attempts) with the last coming back in Week 13. He’s been a perfect 25-for-25 since then and has missed only one of his nine field goal tries during that span. On the other side, Denver’s Brandon McManus has missed just one of his 38 PATs entering Super Bowl 50. His lone misfire came in Week 15 at Pittsburgh. McManus has a strong leg and has been successful on all seven field goal attempts in the playoffs, but he won’t be kicking at home at altitude for this game. Barring a shutout, both of these kickers will factor at some point, but exactly how much remains to be seen. But wouldn’t it be something if the outcome of Super Bowl 50 was decided by a missed extra point? Remember, it’s a longer kick this season than in years past and it’s not like something similar hasn’t happened before. Sorry Bills fans.
On paper, Super Bowl 50 is the type of matchup any football fan should be looking forward to – the top two teams from each conference going head-to-head, as well as the NFL’s No. 1 (scoring) offense vs. the No. 1 (total) defense. Throw in the Cam Newton vs. Peyton Manning dynamic, not to mention the presence of All-Pro defenders like Luke Kuechly, Von Miller, Thomas Davis and Josh Norman, and this game has a little bit of everything.
However, as we have seen in the past Super Bowls sometimes don’t go like we envisioned. That was the case two years ago when Denver got manhandled by Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos are intent on erasing that bad memory, but the Panthers have been rolling all season and have their sights set on finishing strong and in their own style. Denver has the experience, but will that matter considering Carolina is favored and has the likely league MVP leading the charge? With the expectation that this could be Manning’s final game is he due for a storybook ending or another Super Sunday disappointment?
Athlon Editors Super Bowl 50 Predictions
|Rob Doster||20-17||Peyton Manning|
|David Fox||31-27||Cam Newton|
|Braden Gall||21-17||Cam Newton|
|John Gworek||23-16||Luke Kuechly|
|Steven Lassan||24-20||Cam Newton|
|Mitch Light||23-20||Cam Newton|
|Rich McVey||27-20||Cam Newton|
|Mark Ross||24-23||C.J. Anderson|
|Jasmine Watkins||34-28||Cam Newton|
Athlon Contributors Super Bowl 50 Predictions
|Marky Billson||26-20||Cam Newton|
|Michael Bradley||23-17||Luke Kuechly|
|Mike Dussault||24-16||Luke Kuechly|
|Jason Hall||28-17||Cam Newton|
|Elton Hayes||28-21||Cam Newton|
|Michael Horvath||41-17||Luke Kuechly|
|Matt Joseph||24-23||Von Miller|
|John La Fleur||27-21||Cam Newton|
|Sarah Lewis||21-17||Cam Newton|
|Rob McVey||31-20||Kurt Coleman|
|Jake Rose||28-24||Ted Ginn Jr.|
|J.P. Scott||27-24||Von Miller|
|Antwan Staley||27-24||Peyton Manning|
|Aaron Tallent||20-17||Ronnie Hillman|
Fans always wonder what players are saying down on the field, and "Bad Lip Reading" is here to give us a small piece of mind.
The 2016 NFL season gets put to the test and it is hilarious. Everyone from Cam Newton to J.J. Watt makes appearances in the video, which is always a fan-favorite. It's fun to pretend this is what the players are actually saying.
There’s a reason Jerry Rice, 53, is nicknamed the “G.O.A.T.” (Greatest of All-Time). Not only does he own nearly every receiving record, but he is also arguably the greatest player in Super Bowl history. In four career Super Bowl appearances, Rice posted 33 catches for 589 yards (17.9 ypc) and eight TDs — with three rings (all with the 49ers), one loss (with the Raiders) and a Super Bowl MVP award. We caught up with Rice heading into the “Golden Super Bowl,” Super Bowl 50 in the Bay Area.
Growing up, what team did you cheer for to win the Super Bowl?
My team was the Dallas Cowboys with Roger Staubach, Tony Hill, Drew Pearson, fullback Robert Newhouse and Tony Dorsett. I dreamed of one day playing for the Cowboys, but I got picked by the San Francisco 49ers.
Does your Super Bowl XXIII MVP game mean more to you than the other two Super Bowl wins?
All of them had a significant part of making me the person that I am today. Super Bowl XXIII, being able to move the ball down the field on the final drive and win that game against Cincinnati. Super Bowl XXIV, being able to score three touchdowns in that game and then Super Bowl XXIX against the San Diego Chargers, being able to strike early and get the momentum going in our direction. I can’t just point to one.
You scored a record three TDs twice, against the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV and the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. What do you remember about those games?
Against Denver, I was not the primary receiver on the first one over the middle. I was the third option, but Joe (Montana) came back to me and that’s when I uncovered. What we noticed about Denver’s big safeties was that they liked to make contact, but they didn’t wrap up. So I got hit over the middle and I was able to bounce into the end zone. My second one was a circle post right before the half. My third one I took a shot over the middle that took the air out of me. My teammates ran down and picked me up and asked if I was okay. I said, “No.” The wind was completely knocked out.
You scored three more TDs against the Chargers while playing hurt. How did you play the biggest game of your life with a separated shoulder?
I had one situation where my jersey came over my pads, and I couldn’t put it back on. (Teammate) Deion Sanders had to put it back on for me. I somehow fought through the pain to raise my arms to make the catches.
Were you ever nervous before a Super Bowl?
I had nerves before every Super Bowl game. You hear players say they’re going to look at the Super Bowl like every other game. (Laughs) This one is much bigger. Before Super Bowl XXIII, I was up all night playing the first 15 plays over and over in my head. The next day I went over on the first bus, put my uniform on and decided to relax on a table in the locker room and fell asleep.
As a player you had the mantra, “Look good, feel good, play good.” Tell us about your style choices these days.
Van Heusen understands that life is a game of inches. Their new flex collar dress shirts provide that half-inch of flexibility around your neck and doesn’t compromise the look. For my style, I like to put different colors together, and I like to make a statement. I throw on a tie and a handkerchief.
Where should fans attending Super Bowl 50 go to have a good time in the Bay Area?
Crustacean is a fantastic restaurant that serves great crab legs and garlic noodles right in the city (San Francisco). Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf are a must. And have drinks at the Continental Lounge in San Jose. We’re going to host some parties there and invite people to give them an insider’s look into the Super Bowl.
Interview by Matt McCue
Photography by Al Bello
Wardrobe by Van Heusen
You used to call me on my T-Mobile cell phone. Catchy, no?
Like it or not, Drake and T-Mobile are joining forces for a "Hotline Bling"-themed Super Bowl 50 commercial and it's actually kind of funny. It takes you back to the rapper's acting days on "Degrassi" and that's never a bad memory to have.