Southern California’s Sam Darnold headlines USA TODAY Sports’ preseason All-America teams

Sam Darnold of Southern California and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville headline USA TODAY Sports’ preseason All-America teams, while individual teams such as the Trojans, Florida State, Alabama, Penn State and Ohio State flexed their muscle on the who’s-who list of college football’s top players heading into the 2017 season.No position required as much discussion as the quarterbacks. Though Darnold and Jackson are deserving of preseason recognition, a long and impressive list of experienced starters was left off: Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Washington’s Jake Browning, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and UCLA’s Josh Rosen, for example.USC had three players earn recognition, with Darnold and linebacker Cameron Smith landing first-team honors. They are joined by two Penn State offensive skill players, running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Mike Gesicki. A pair of Florida State defensive backs also earned first-team accolades in safety Derwin James and cornerback Tarvarus McFadden. CONFERENCE PREVIEWSPOWER FIVE: ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | IndependentsGROUP OF FIVE: AAC | Conference USA | MAC | Mountain West | Sun BeltOverall, 10 teams placed multiple players on our All-America squads: Alabama, USC, Clemson, Washington, Florida State, LSU, Ohio State, Iowa, Louisville and Penn State.The teams include five players from Group of Five conferences. Middle Tennessee State wide receiver Richie James and Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver were first-team picks, and SMU wide receiver Courtland Sutton, Massachusetts tight end Adam Brenneman and UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin received second-team honors. FIRST TEAM OFFENSEQB: Sam Darnold, USCRB: Saquon Barkley, Penn StateRB: Derrius Guice, LSUWR: James Washington, Oklahoma StateWR: Richie James, Middle Tennessee StateTE: Mike Gesicki, Penn StateOT: Mitch Hyatt, ClemsonOG: Cody O’Connell, Continue Reading

USA TODAY Sports’ 2017 NFL predictions: Despite Week 1 loss, Patriots will win Super Bowl

It didn't take the New England Patriots long to dash predictions of a possible 19-0 season after their stunning loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL's regular-season opener. Still, everyone on USA TODAY Sports' NFL staff is picking them to win the AFC East ... and return to the Super Bowl ... and win it a sixth time. Our experts also made their predictions for individual awards like MVP and rookies of the year.So without further ado ... PHOTOS: Best of NFL's Week 1  Continue Reading

USA TODAY Sports’ 2016 All-America college football teams

Heisman Trophy finalists Lamar Jackson, Jabrill Peppers and Dede Westbrook headline USA TODAY Sports’ first-team college football All-America selections, while another Heisman finalist, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, was picked as the second-team quarterback.The first-team offense also includes Texas running back D’Onta Foreman, Florida State running back Dalvin Cook and two linemen from the Big Ten Conference in Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk and Ohio State’s Pat Elflein.On defense, the first team features Peppers, Houston’s phenomenal freshman tackle Ed Oliver and a pair of Alabama stars in defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and linebacker Reuben Foster.Twelve teams have multiple players earn first- or second-team All-America honors. Alabama led all teams with five selections, four off its top-ranked defense, followed by Ohio State with four picks and Clemson with three.The SEC led all Football Bowl Subdivision leagues with 11 total selections, followed by the Big Ten with 10, the ACC and Pac-12 with eight apiece, and the Big 12 with six. Players from the Group of Five conferences accounted for seven selections. USA TODAY SPORTS COLLEGE FOOTBALL ALL-AMERICANS Continue Reading

USA TODAY Sports freshman of the year: UCLA’s Lonzo Ball

LOS ANGELES — A traditional basketball court is, obviously, a flat, level surface. But there’s really only one way to describe how Lonzo Ball runs on it: Downhill.“That’s Lonzo’s biggest asset,” UCLA teammate Bryce Alford said. “When he’s going downhill at 100 miles per hour, that’s when he’s best and that’s when we’re best.”Said Bruins coach Steve Alford: “He plays downhill, at a pace nobody else in the country can play at. He's 6-6, he's long, but I swear he can dribble it while he's in the air. He can definitely pass while he's in the air. He has the incredible ability of, he can go end line to end line probably faster than anybody off the dribble — and he can definitely go faster via the pass, which is even a better skill as a point guard. He advances the ball either by dribble or pass faster than any point guard in the country.”That’s probably the best place to start with Ball, because his speed helps determine the pace of any game he’s involved in — and just how many easy buckets UCLA can get in transition, an area of its game the team takes a great deal of pride in. Perhaps it’s a layup, or even a spot-up three. Or if that’s not an option, Ball knows when to slow down and find open looks for teammates in more of a traditional half-court offense. MORE HOOPS:“In my mind, he’s one of the great players I’ve coached against. I think he’s the best, or one of the best, players in college basketball today. … Nobody impacts the game more than Ball,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller, whose team went 1-1 against the Bruins during conference play. “The thing about Lonzo Ball is he’s kind of that old-school point guard where he doesn’t need to score to dominate the game.“There are plays that he makes in the game that you can coach 100 games, and you might not see a play like that. Continue Reading

Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman is USA TODAY Sports’ Minor League Player of the Year

The very same day the Houston Astros chose infielder Alex Bregman No. 2 overall in the 2015 draft, they promoted shortstop Carlos Correa – the top pick three years earlier – to the majors to stay.So Bregman wasn’t going to remain at shortstop, his position in college at LSU. He also wasn’t going to play regularly at second base, where some scouts envision him eventually winding up, because that spot is taken by former batting champion and current MVP candidate Jose Altuve.And while third base seems like a natural fit, and indeed Bregman has shined defensively at his new home since being called up July 25, the Astros did grant a team-high $47.5 million contract this summer to Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel, who was supposed to be ticketed for the hot corner.All of which has created considerable consternation in Houston regarding the Astros’ plans for their top prospect. The worried parties, however, don’t include Bregman, who has taken to third base as if he’d learned it from Brooks Robinson.“I’ve been loving it. I’ve had a lot of fun with it,’’ said Bregman, 22. “We shift so much anyway that half the time I’m playing at shortstop still when I’m playing third base. That helped make the transition smoother, but honestly, it doesn’t matter to me where I play.’’That’s the kind of attitude that convinced the Astros they couldn’t pass up on Bregman, who has rewarded their trust with a quick ascent to the majors while earning USA TODAY Sports’ Minor League Player of the Year honors.He follows in a recent pattern set by current major league stars Kris Bryant (the 2014 winner) and Xander Bogaerts (2013), who preceded left-hander Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays, the 2015 winner.Like Bregman, Bogaerts is a natural shortstop who first made his mark helping the Boston Red Sox claim the 2013 World Series as a rookie third baseman, before eventually Continue Reading

USA TODAY Sports’ Week 9 NFL picks

By the end of this weekend, every NFL team will be at least halfway through its schedule. The playoff picture is slowly coming into focus, and several games seem sure to have a significant impact going forward. The Atlanta Falcons, in their first divisional matchup of the year, visit the Carolina Panthers as both teams try to keep pace with the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.The Denver Broncos are hoping a quarterback change gives them a shot against the Philadelphia  Eagles and their league-best 7-1 record.The matchup of the week seems to be in JerryWorld, where the old Dallas Texans, now the Kansas City Chiefs, play the Dallas Cowboys.(NOTE: USA TODAY Sports' NFL staffers adjusted their scoring predictions for the Colts-Texans game after Deshaun Watson's injury Thursday afternoon, though everyone on our panel is still picking Houston to win. However they all changed their lock of the week from the Texans to the Seahawks.)  PHOTOS: NFL power rankings heading into Week 9  Continue Reading

USA TODAY Poll: Americans say Trump is wrong on NFL protests

WASHINGTON — Most Americans say the protests by NFL players during the National Anthem are appropriate, a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, and they say, by overwhelming margins, that President Trump's heated criticism of them are not.Two-thirds in the poll of registered voters, by 68%-27%, say Trump's call for NFL owners to fire the players and fans to boycott their games is inappropriate. That includes a third of Republicans as well as nine of 10 Democrats.By 51%-42%, those surveyed say the players' protests are appropriate."They certainly have the right to express whatever they want," says Ryan Doyle, 19, a college student and Democratic-leaning independent from Manhattan Beach, Calif., who was among those surveyed. "It doesn't call for violence; it doesn't call for pain; it doesn't call for any dramatic act."He adds: "Free speech is an innately American thing."But Jim Littlejohn, 73, a retiree who lives in the Phoenix suburb of San Tan Valley, says the president has "done the right thing.""My attitude towards the NFL is if you cannot respect the flag or the vets or whatever your animosity is, then stay in the locker room," he said in a follow-up interview.The survey, taken Wednesday through Sunday by landline and cell phone, shows how much attention the silent protest has commanded in recent weeks. Just 8% of those surveyed didn't have an opinion about the players' protests. Even fewer, 5%, were undecided about Trump's criticism of them.The poll of 1,000 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.On Sunday, NFL players across the nation took a knee or linking arms during the National Anthem to demonstrate against Trump's comment that team owners should fire any "son of a bitch" who "disrespects our flag." Some fans booed them. Read more: Protests muted week after NFL responds to Trump criticism Trump tweets it's 'very important' NFL players stand for anthem Continue Reading

Hillary Clinton lands at No. 1 on USA TODAY books list; Katy Tur is No. 7

Here’s a look at what’s new on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list…Vote-getters: Two buzzy political books are hot sellers this week, including What Happened, which returns former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton to the top of USA TODAY's list. Clinton’s new memoir, released Sept. 12 by Simon & Schuster, makes its debut at No. 1. It’s her second No. 1 USA TODAY best seller: Living History, in which she reflected on her eight years as first lady, also landed at No. 1, in 2003.Also a hit this week: Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History (Dey St.) by NBC and MSNBC correspondent Katy Tur, which lands at No. 7. Tur’s memoir was released the same day as What Happened. (The full list will be published on Thursday.)Both books share a theme: the 2016 presidential election and Donald Trump. And both authors have been making promotional media rounds, including TV appearances.In an interview with USA TODAY’s Susan Page, Clinton said she is convinced associates of Trump helped Russia meddle in the election. “There's no doubt in my mind that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin wanted me to lose and wanted Trump to win,” Clinton said.Reaction to Clinton’s memoir seems to be divided along predictable party lines (does she or doesn't she take responsibility for her loss?), but the former candidate says she’s finally speaking her mind without holding back.Simon & Schuster reports that 167,000 hardcover copies of What Happened were sold the first week, and that the memoir sold more than 300,000 across all formats (print, audio, digital). The publisher says it has gone back to press three times for more than 800,000 copies in print.Tur, who covered Trump’s presidential campaign from the day he announced his candidacy, offers a colorful, sometimes frightening account of her encounters with both Trump and his Continue Reading

USA TODAY roundtable to explore Trump’s first 100 days, and the years to follow

WASHINGTON — There's no question President Trump has had a bumpy start in the White House, but does that signal turmoil for the rest of his tenure?Presidential experts and veterans of the past White House staffs will consider Trump's first 100 days in office and put it in historic context in a USA TODAY roundtable on Monday, April 24. They'll discuss how successes and stumbles during their first few months in office affected other modern presidents down the road.The forum, which starts at 10:30 a.m., will be livestreamed on USA TODAY's Facebook page, and the video will be posted on USA TODAY's digital platforms.Participating will be:The discussion, part of USA TODAY's Capital Download newsmaker series, will be moderated by Washington Bureau chief Susan Page. Continue Reading

USA TODAY roundtable: Advice for Trump? Take a deep breath

USA TODAY's Capital Download convened a roundtable of White House veterans and scholars Monday to assess President Trump's first 100 days — a milestone he reaches Saturday — and to put his successes and setbacks in perspective.Below are excerpts from that conversation, moderated by Washington Bureau chief Susan Page. Participants were Sara Fagen, former White House political director for President George W. Bush; Ronald Klain, former chief of staff for vice presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden; Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service; and Nicole Hemmer, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia's Miller Center. Comments have been edited for length and clarity. See the full discussion on USA TODAY's Facebook page. What grade would you give President Trump’s first 100 days? Stier: I would give him an incomplete. He doesn’t have his team in place. He’s not ready for a grade.Fagen: I’d give him a B-minus ... in the context of what the market’s been doing and in the context of getting in my view a very highly qualified Supreme Court justice on the court.Klain: When you’re president, incomplete, that’s not the way the job works. I’d say a D. ... There were no significant legislative achievements, no real movement on the agenda he promised voters in the campaign.Hemmer: I’m going to go more for the D-plus, C-minus range.Fagen: What historians and economists are going to look at as they grade this is what is the economy doing and did he get his achievements in place, and it’s not going to matter if it’s 100 days or 200 days or 300 days. If he gets them done, his grade is going to go up. If he doesn’t, he’s going to live in history as a C-level, D-level president.Stier: I think 100 days do matter. 200 days do matter. The clock runs real fast. You don’t have the luxury of time and you don’t know what’s Continue Reading