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Thanks to a one-point win on the road at Kent State last Thursday night, the Buffalo Bulls are on the brink of bowl eligibility one season removed from a 5-6 campaign in 2014. Much of the credit for the turnaround can be attributed to their new head coach Lance Leipold, who brought his winning ways from Div. III Wisconsin-Whitewater and instilled a new culture in Western New York.
The Bulls welcome in a Northern Illinois team that has won four straight, including last week's upset win over Toledo. Unfortunately for the Huskies, they lost starting quarterback Drew Hare for the rest of the season due to an Achilles injury in that game. As a result, freshman Ryan Graham will make the first start of his collegiate career on the road during a Buffalo Blackout.
Northern Illinois at Buffalo
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Wednesday)
Spread: Northern Illinois -6
Three Things to Watch
1. Ryan Graham's poise
Graham didn't have time for nerves to kick in last week on the road in Toledo. The starter went down and the freshman was thrown into the fire, leading a fourth-quarter rally over a ranked and previously unbeaten team. This time around, he's had a whole week to prepare as the starter. That can be a good thing, but it's also a chance for anxiety and doubt to creep in, especially in a hostile environment. How Graham handles his first start early will be key.
2. Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata vs. the Northern Illinois secondary
The Bulls like to toss the ball around and struggle to run it. Licata will be passing against a Northern Illinois defense that is tied for sixth nationally in interceptions with 14. If he doesn't have success early, an already fairly one-dimensional Buffalo offense is going to be pretty easy to shut down. Ideally, Licata wants to be able to get into a shootout with a freshman quarterback in front of a raucous home crowd.
3. Can Buffalo get a consistent pass rush?
The Bulls have 21 sacks as a team on the year -- good, not great. Leipold is going to need to dial up some exotic blitz packages to confuse Graham and get extra pressure on the young gun all night. Toledo was not able to do the same a week ago and it cost them, as Graham has little trouble finding receivers downfield and eluding defenders on designed runs. If the Bulls can't get to and keep Graham in the pocket, it could be a long night for Buffalo.
The crowd will be rocking about as much as a MAC crowd can rock. Look for Northern Illinois to come out and run the ball early to settle down its young signal-caller. Once the Huskies have accomplished that, you'll see them open the playbook and put the game in the hands (and feet) of Ryan Graham and a talented corps of skill players. When Buffalo has the ball, I have a tough time seeing them move it consistently against an ever-improving Husky defense. The end result will be a hard-fought road win for Northern Illinois.
Prediction: Northern Illinois 31, Buffalo 13
Aside from the Dion Lewis injury there were no earth-shattering fantasy performances in Week 9 from waiver wire players. There are still some targets you can pursue as flyers, but this week it looks as if we are talking bench stash players, or desperation moves.
Good luck this week everyone. If you are having issues with who to drop, or hold from your fantasy teams, be sure to check out my latest series called Patience or Panic where I analyze players who are under-performing and whether you need to cut bait or hold.
I will be here to guide you each and every week with some players who are owned less than 40 percent in ESPN.com leagues and could have an impact on your squad for this particular week or the rest of the season.
1. James White, RB, New England Patriots (1.7 percent owned in ESPN.com leagues)
Dion Lewis was as awesome and as unexpected as they come but unfortunately he is out for the season after tearing his ACL in Week 9. Lewis had stability and had been one of the first consistently used running backs in a Patriots offense in a very long time.
The debate is who will take those receptions going forward. White or Brandon Bolden? I take the White side as he has many of the same qualities as Lewis did. It is New England and no one should feel comfortable with any of the three backs there going forward.
2. Shaun Draughn, RB, San Francisco 49ers (3.4 percent owned)
Draughn is not a spectacular back by any means but he may be the only option on the wire in many cases. Carlos Hyde’s stress fracture in his foot will likely keep him sidelined for a while, and in Week 9 Draughn handled the workload and was serviceable with 9.6 points.
The catch is the 49ers have a bye this week, so if you need someone for Week 10 you need to look elsewhere.
3. Dorial Green-Beckham (9.1 percent owned)
Green-Beckham’s workload has steadily increased and it is becoming obvious he is one of the best weapons in the Titans’ offense going forward. He had five catches for 77 yards in Week 9 and his targets are steadily increasing. He could be worth a flyer for a bench spot going forward.
DST Streamer(s) of the Week
I am a part of the streaming DST movement. I don’t typically waste a draft pick, unless I need to, in my drafts and instead cut someone and add a DST. Clearly the top defenses will be owned and not available, but streaming is always an option when it comes to DSTs. So each week I will be providing a DST that is owned in less than 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues and can be useful.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns (37.6 percent owned in ESPN.com leagues)
The Browns haven’t been the kings of ball control, and with Johnny Manziel at the helm the Steelers’ defense could be in for a nice game as a DST streamer in Week 10. They have managed to produce seven- and eight-point performances over the last two weeks.
— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.
While Week 9 wasn't quite as injury filled as Week 8, it still was tough for fantasy owners. Ben Roethlisberger went down (again), although he did put in almost a full game for his owners before leaving. Dion Lewis tore his ACL and is done for the season, adding to the list of running backs that are down and out.
The waiver wire won't be as active as it was following Week 8, but with four teams on bye in Week 10, fantasy owners are going to need to put together a roster that likely looks quite different than it did in Week 1. Let's look at some questions coming out of Week 9.
Who's next up at pass-catching running back for New England?
Other than LeGarrette Blount, is there a New England running back to own? Blount has been the between-the-tackles back and Dion Lewis has been used in the passing game. However, Blount has put together five solid games out of seven that he's played this season (and two clunkers — Week 2, his first game back and Week 7 vs. the New York Jets). When he's had at least 13 carries, he's had at least 74 yards, which is good enough for solid RB2 numbers. He has five touchdowns on the year, but only two receptions. With Tom Brady throwing the ball at least 30 times a game (except for one week), New England is a passing team.
James White is the likely fill-in for Lewis, although he hasn't shown that he can be a solid fill-in for fantasy owners. He was a healthy scratch for Week 9, but he did play when Brandon Bolden was out in Week 7 (three receptions for 26 yards). Bolden took over a bit in Week 9, with three receptions for 27 yards and a touchdown. But the reality is: this is the Patriots backfield. Besides Blount, neither White nor Bolden is worth rostering unless you are truly desperate. The Pats won't tip their hand at which back will get the carries, and it will just be frustrating for fantasy owners.
Is Dorial Green-Beckham going to have fantasy value?
All season, fantasy owners have been waiting for the Dorial Green-Beckham breakout game. The closest thing we saw to that was Week 9. With Kendall Wright injured, DGB finally got an opportunity to play and he looked good. He ended the day with five receptions for 77 yards, although he did have 10 targets.
It's unclear what his role will once Wright returns, but until he is back, consider DGB a WR3 with upside. Sure, he had three of games with zero receptions, but he also has two touchdowns on the year. Before Week 9, he had seven receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns. It's not impressive by any means, but the Titans ought to see what they have in the rookie. They've gone back and forth by saying that he needs to get more involved to he needs to learn more of the playbook, but it appears with the changes in the coaching staff, that DGB will be a part of the Titans’ passing game moving forward.
With so many injuries and unknowns, DGB is worth a wavier add this week and a start if Wright is out again in Week 10. The Titans play Carolina in Week 10, which is a tough matchup, but Marcus Mariota has to throw it to someone other than tight end Delanie Walker.
Is Derek Carr a borderline QB1?
Don't look now, but Carr is 10th in total fantasy points among quarterbacks through nine weeks. Sure, some of that is because of injuries and bye weeks, but he's had double-digit fantasy points in every game he's played since Week 1 (where he got injured). Oakland's offense has been scoffed at in previous years in terms of fantasy, but between Carr and Amari Cooper, there is fantasy value to be found here.
In the past three games, Carr has thrown at least three touchdowns for at least 289 yards in each with a total of just one interception. He faces the Vikings next week, and is a clear QB1. He's had at least one touchdown in every game except Week 1, and he's even made Michael Crabtree fantasy relevant again. After Minnesota, the Raiders play the Lions, Titans and Chiefs before facing Denver in Week 14. It's a pretty good schedule until the beginning of the fantasy playoffs (Week 15 and 16 is Green Bay and San Diego). If he is still available in your league (still is in about a third of leagues), pick him up.
Other burning questions:
Can Antonio Brown (17 rec., 284 yds.) owners REALLY complain about the lack of a TD in Week 9?
Will Karlos Williams score a touchdown in every game he plays?
Is either Denver running back going to have fantasy value this year?
When can you start Shane Vereen?
Is Andy Dalton really that good?
Is Lamar Miller really that good?
How is Cam Newton being so successful (and can you imagine if Kelvin Benjamin was there)?
Is Eddie Lacy going to be passed on the depth chart by James Starks?
How happy are Todd Gurley owners?
Do you want to own any Washington running back?
Will Eric Decker continue to score a touchdown a game in Week 10?
Is Allen Robinson matchup-proof?
Why can't Mike Evans catch the ball?
I thought T.Y. Hilton was hurt and not likely to play?
How are fantasy owners that held on to Dez Bryant feeling now?
Do you ever feel good about starting Jay Cutler?
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.
Aphonso Thomas (Van, Texas) committed to Mike Riley’s Nebraska football program so early that it still had that new car smell. Whether the talented running back will actually be part of the Cornhuskers’ 2016 class is still up in the air.
The Big Red flipped former Kansas State commitment Tre Bryant this past week. Bryant is listed as the No. 7 running back overall by 247Sports, while the 247Sports Composite Index has him ranked as No. 41 overall. Regardless, he’s one of Missouri’s best athletes.
Nebraska also hosted current Michigan commit Kingston Davis for its whirlwind victory over Michigan State. Davis is a beast of a back already (6-1, 225). Surely he had to like what he saw as the Huskers used a similarly built Imani Cross to get the job done against the Spartans.
Long story short: it appears that the Huskers are attempting to woo other running backs. Whether or not Thomas is okay with this has yet to be made official, but it’s safe to say that the Big Red’s doing everything it can to make sure that should he decommit, they have other options (enter Bryant).
Bryant and Davis appear to be the only backs that Nebraska has been putting the most work into getting into the fold right now.
The good news is that they look to bring in a very large class, so there will be room for Thomas if he wants to stick around, but communication between the two sides seems infrequent as of late.
What an interesting week we just witnessed in the NFL and fantasy! Who had the Falcons losing to the 49ers and who had Devonta Freeman only getting 12 yards on 12 carries? Thank goodness he caught a touchdown!
And what about the Titans beating the Saints? Who had Marcus Mariota coming back from an MCL injury to throw four touchdown passes? Man, the Saints’ defense is terrible!
Now let’s see who the Week 9 fantasy studs and duds were.
Cam Newton, CAR (vs. GB) – 34.58 fantasy points
Newton barely beat out Aaron Rodgers this week (by 0.5 fantasy points to be exact). Anyone who had Newton in the MVP conversation this late in the NFL season would have been called crazy back in the preseason after he lost is No. 1 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the year. The Panthers are undefeated at 8-0 and it’s all because of Newton. He’s easily a top-5 QB in fantasy moving forward.
DeAngelo Williams, PIT (vs. OAK) – 36.5 FP
There were some huge fantasy numbers put up this week and nobody was more pleasantly surprising than Williams. It’s not as if the Raiders are a bad defense, they actually have one of the better run-stopping units in the league, but that didn’t matter last week. Anyone who blew their entire FAAB budget on Williams is surely pleased with the initial return on their investment. Then again, 170 yards rushing and two touchdowns will do that for you.
Lamar Miller, MIA (at BUF) – 26.1 FP
Another pleasant surprise was Miller this week against the Buffalo Bills. Miller was basically the entire Dolphins’ offense and while he only ran for 44 yards, he did score two rushing touchdowns and added seven catches for 97 yards to boot, which is fantasy gold if you had him in a PPR league this week. The Dolphins still might be a mess offensively, but it looks like week in and week out, you are going to be able to trust Miller to put up RB1 numbers.
Antonio Brown, PIT (vs. OAK) – 28.6 FP
You just knew that Brown was going to have a big game this week against the Raiders. Big Ben was back and as close to 100 percent as he could be and you knew that the Steelers were going to air it out against the Raiders’ weak secondary. You probably didn’t expect 17 catches for 284 yards, along with 22 yards on the ground. How heart breaking is it for Brown owners to see that Big Ben is out again for the next few weeks, this time with a foot sprain. Can Brown keep it up with Landry Jones under center?
Cole Beasley, DAL (vs. PHI) – 23.2 FP
Just kidding. No one started Beasley this week unless you’re in a league with 14 or more teams. He’s only 4 percent owned on Yahoo!.
Michael Crabtree, OAK (at PIT) – 22.8 FP
It was a slugfest on Sunday in Pittsburgh between the Steelers and the Raiders and it looks as if the Raiders have really found themselves a cornerstone quarterback in Derek Carr. Crabtree must be thanking his lucky stars that he ended up with Carr as his QB after signing with the Raiders as a free agent on just a one-year deal. Crabtree is on pace to have his best year ever, thanks to another strong showing – 7 rec., 108 yards, 2 TDs. He’s a must-start WR2 for the rest of the season.
Delaine Walker, TEN (vs. NO) – 23.5 FP
Walker beats out Tyler Eifert by 0.2 fantasy points. Eifert scored an outstanding three touchdowns on Thursday night, but he only caught five passes for 53 yards. Walker on the other hand had seven catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns. It’s really like splitting hairs here. Of course if you had either of these stud tight ends this week you’re extremely happy because if your tight end can score over 20 fantasy points the odds of you winning is pretty good. Unless of course you went up against DeAngelo Williams and/or Antonio Brown this week.
Ryan Tannehill, MIA (at BUF) – 11.56 FP
It wasn’t a terrible week for starting quarterbacks, as only Nick Foles scored fewer fantasy points than Tannehill and no one started Nick Foles. It’s not as if Tannehill was terrible on Sunday in Buffalo. He did throw for 309 yards and no interceptions, which is saying something for Tannehill. But he didn’t toss any touchdown passes and he lost a fumble. Tannehill will continue to be Mr. Inconsistent for the rest of the season.
C.J. Spiller, NO (vs. TEN) - 1 FP
You would have figured that since Khiry Robinson was not playing and the fact that the Saints keep saying that they want to get Spiller more involved in the offense that he would have had more than two carries for eight yards and one catch for two yards. He just wasn’t a factor in the game plan at all, and that’s with the Saints trying to score to win the game in the entire second half. Beware of Spiller for the rest of the season.
Doug Martin, TB (vs. NYG) – 2.3 FP
Would the real Doug Martin please stand up? Is he the back who ran for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns in Weeks 5, 7 and 8? Or is he more like the player he’s been the last two years, where he struggled mightily to produce anything fantasy-relevant like he did this week when he got 11 carries for 31 yards and was benched because of a lost fumble. Look for a 50/50 split between him and Charles Sims moving forward.
DeSean Jackson, WAS (vs. NE) – 1.5 FP
Anyone who gambled and started Jackson this week in his first game back since suffering a hamstring injury in Week 1, sure got burned. It was conventional wisdom thinking that Jackson should contribute seeing that the odds of Jackson putting up some decent fantasy points in garbage time was pretty good. But Kirk Cousins and the whole Redskins’ offense were terrible against the Patriots. It will be interesting to see what happens with this offense in the coming weeks.
Demaryius Thomas, DEN (at IND) - 5 FP
There were a lot of big-name wide receivers that put up bad fantasy numbers this week, including the likes of A.J. Green, Stefon Diggs and Travis Benjamin. But Thomas takes the cake because in a game where the Broncos had to play catch up and Peyton Manning threw for nearly 300 yards, he was targeted only seven times, catching five of them for 50 yards. For a first-round or early second-round fantasy draft choice, you are expecting more than that.
Jordan Cameron, MIA (at BUF) – 0.6 FP
On a week where six teams were on a bye lots of people had no choice but to start Cameron, and they went to sleep sobbing in their pillows because of it. Cameron was a complete afterthought in a game where Ryan Tannehill threw for more than 300 yards. Cameron was targeted just once, making the catch for six yards. Cameron has been a complete bust this season and if he’s the only tight end you have on your roster, time to go shopping this week.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.
Athlon has teamed up with college fantasy veterans CollegeFootballGeek.com to help you dominate in 2015! Over the course of the season, CFG will be providing insight into their weekly value plays, as well as helping you identify the top waiver wire candidates to bolster your lineups.
Whether you play daily or season-long college fantasy football, CollegeFootballGeek.com (@CFFGeek) prepares you to win with the best advice, tools and customer service in the industry — they've been doing it since 2008. Click here to learn how you can subscribe to CFG for FREE.
Below, you will find AthlonSports.com contributor and CFG writer Mike Bainbridge's five best waiver wire pickups for Week 11. To see the full in-depth article of over 40-plus players, make sure to check out CollegeFootballGeek.com.
Ryan Graham (QB, Northern Illinois)
Chandler Harnish, Jordan Lynch, Drew Hare. NIU is a quarterback fantasy factory as proven by those past names, and now Graham has a chance to have his name added to the list. Hare, the current starting quarterback, suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon last week in the win over Toledo and is now done for the season. The numbers were not overwhelming, but the poise Graham displayed was impressive in his first extended collegiate action. The redshirt freshman led two scoring fourth-quarter drives to secure a comeback victory over then-No. 20 Toledo and knock the Rockets from the ranks of the remaining unbeaten teams in college football. Graham finished 9-of-12 for 132 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 41 yards.
Brandon Silvers (QB, Troy)
Silvers had a rough start to the 2015 season but had much to do with the strength of Troy’s non-conference schedule that included road trips to Wisconsin, Mississippi State and NC State. Through six games, the Trojans were averaging just 17 points per game. The last three games you ask? How about 48 ppg? Silvers has played some of his best football the past three weeks with 10 touchdown passes, including four in the 51-14 win over Louisiana-Monroe. Want another reason why Silvers is a must-add to your roster? Troy’s final three opponents rank 54th, 108th and 91st respectively in scoring defense.
Gerald Holmes (RB, Michigan State)
Sophomore running back Holmes rushed for a career-best 117 yards on 22 carries in the Spartans’ 39-38 loss to Nebraska. Injuries have hurt the Spartans of late at the position with both Madre London and L.J. Scott ailing the past month, though Holmes certainly put his name in the hat to be the starter going forward with how he ran on Saturday. On Sunday, head coach Mark Dantonio cautioned those anointing him the starter, stating that there is no clear-cut guy atop the depth chart, but most believe Holmes will get the nod next week against Maryland even if London and Scott are at full strength.
Jovon Robinson (RB, Auburn)
This is the Jovon Robinson that we were expecting to see all year long! The former No. 1 junior college recruit in the country is finally healthy and becoming the lead back that many believed he would be since he committed to the Tigers this offseason. Robinson rushed for 159 yards on 27 carries in the victory over Texas A&M, 14 more attempts than a healthy Peyton Barber. Head coach Gus Malzahn said after the game that the plan was to split the workload, but rode the hot hand in Robinson who had more than 100 yards in the first half alone. We look for Robinson to be the “hot hand” for Auburn the rest of the season.
Dominique Reed (WR, Arkansas)
Who would have thought at the start of the season that Arkansas would have not one, but two fantasy-relevant wide receivers in 2015 and none of which are Keon Hatcher? After making minimal impact the first month of the year, Reed, the junior college transfer, has been the big-play wideout in the Arkansas offense, accounting for at least one touchdown each of the last five weeks. This past week against Ole Miss was his breakout performance with 107 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Trust me when I say Reed will still be available in most leagues despite the recent success – I just picked him up in my league this week.
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and current writer for CollegeFootballGeek.com. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.
After a week in which five previously unbeaten teams lost, the season is getting more clarity and yet championships and playoff spots are as hotly contested as they've been all year. This is a season of crazy outcomes and heated competition on and off the field.
The Athlon Sports College Football Experts Club presented by Nexium & Advil gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.
Here are this week’s top picks from Athlon Sports senior writer David Fox:
College Football Podcast: Week 10 Recap
Michigan at Indiana
Michigan is among the nation’s best defensive teams because of a physical approach and plenty of talent, but the Wolverines also haven’t faced a ton of fully functioning offenses, particularly an effective spread offense. BYU and Michigan State are the only top-50 offenses Michigan has faced this season. Indiana ranks 30th, but the Hoosiers have played stretches this year without quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard. If anything this might give UM a barometer of how it will fare against Ohio State. Indiana is winless in the Big Ten, but the Hoosiers have proven they can play with anyone for three quarters. Unfortunately for Indiana, those fourth quarters have been problematic — to put it lightly.
Fox’s pick: Michigan 38–24
Arkansas at LSU
The loss to Alabama was humbling for all around for LSU. Fournette had his worst game of the season. Brandon Harris threw his first interception of the year and completed only 6-of-19 passes. The defense also gave up a season-high 250 rushing yards. Arkansas is playing with the most confidence it has had all season. The Razorbacks are getting hot at the end of the season just as they did last season when the Hogs shut out LSU and Ole Miss in back-to-back weeks in November. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has suddenly fallen in love with the passing game, mainly because he has a quarterback who can do some damage. Brandon Allen has completed 52-of-76 passes for 975 yards with nine touchdowns and an interception in his last two SEC games, wins over Auburn and Ole Miss. Will Allen put up similar numbers against LSU on the road? Probably not, but it will be interesting to see Arkansas try.
Fox’s pick: LSU 28–24
Memphis at Houston
Memphis’ loss to Navy exposed what we’ve known for a few weeks: The Tigers were only going to go as far as their defense would carry them. Navy was the perfect team to exploit Memphis’ weakness, rushing for 374 yards and controlling the clock with the option. Three turnovers by Memphis didn’t help. Houston’s offense could be even more effective against the Tigers. The Cougars and Baylor are the only teams in the country that rank in the top 10 in both rushing and passing offense — and Houston has played a more challenging schedule relative to its talent level. This is an entertaining game that should end in Houston’s favor.
Fox’s pick: Houston 56–42
Utah at Arizona
In a game that flew under the radar because of its time slot and teams involved, Utah put up an impressive performance by scoring 34 points on an above-average Washington defense on the road. The Utes got back to what they do best, forcing turnovers and playing solid defense. Arizona has few answers this season. The Wildcats pressed USC last week, but Arizona’s defense can’t get off the field, and the quarterback situation has been uncertain for most of the season.
Fox’s pick: Utah 35–21
Clemson at Syracuse
The only risk for Clemson is that spending two weeks at No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings, clinching the ACC Atlantic and beating their chief competition before the postseason results in some kind of emotional letdown. Syracuse has lost six in a row and ranks 13th in the ACC in total offense and 14th defense.
Fox’s pick: Clemson 42–10
Kentucky at Vanderbilt
The Wildcats’ season has come unraveled. Kentucky has lost four in a row, the last three by an average of 27 points. If the Wildcats are going to rebound and get to six wins, the next two weeks (Vanderbilt and Charlotte) are their best chance to do it. The Wildcats expect running back Stanley “Boom” Williams to return, but they’re also mulling a quarterback change after Patrick Towles had one of the worst starts of his career against Georgia last week. Despite a 3–6 record, Vanderbilt has one of the SEC’s better defenses, and head coach/defensive coordinator Derek Mason has been able to devise schemes to keep opposing quarterbacks off balance.
Fox’s pick: Vanderbilt 14-10
Oklahoma at Baylor
Buying into Oklahoma is a tricky proposition. The Sooners have a way of showing well for a few weeks and then collapsing soon after — look no further than the loss to Texas earlier this season. Despite our better judgment, we’re back on the Sooners’ bandwagon. The Sooners have been dominant on both sides of the ball, albeit against Kansas State, Texas Tech, Kansas and Iowa State. Here’s what’s to like about OU right now: A balanced offense that can play in a shootout behind quarterback Baker Mayfield or slow the pace of the game with Samaje Perine in the run game. Jarrett Stidham looks like he’ll be fine as Baylor’s quarterback of the future, but he’ll be asked to take on the Sooners in a game with Playoff implications in only his second start.
Fox’s pick: Oklahoma 41-38
Oregon at Stanford
The marquee game in the Pac-12 the last few years won’t have the same luster it’s had in the past. Oregon’s three losses are to blame, but the Ducks are getting better. This is clearly a different team with a healthy Vernon Adams at quarterback. The Ducks put up 777 yards against Cal last week and 501 two weeks ago against Arizona State in overtime. This game will be more competitive than many will expect, but Stanford had Oregon’s number when both were at their best in 2012-13.
Fox’s pick: Stanford 41–28
Pittsburgh at Duke
These teams were once in front of the pack for the ACC Coastal, but both have lost two in a row. Duke has lost in more spectacular fashion, first on the wild kickoff return against Miami and then in a rout against rival (and current Coastal leader) North Carolina. Pitt lost to Carolina and Notre Dame, making this a de facto elimination game in the Coastal. Neither team is particularly great. Trust the team with more overall balance and may be less susceptible to an emotional hangover.
Fox’s pick: Pittsburgh 28–21
Miami at North Carolina
The Tar Heels are rolling now, mainly behind the play of Marquise Williams. He’s accounted for seven touchdowns in the Heels’ pair of wins over their chief competition for the ACC Coastal, Pitt and Duke. The defense has been the turnaround story of the year. Brad Kaaya has returned for Miami, but even with their star quarterback, the Hurricanes limped to a home win over Virginia. A let down might be a concern for the Heels, but this is also the last home game of the season for UNC.
Fox’s pick: North Carolina 38–24
Georgia at Auburn
The question heading into the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” is which team will be able to extend its momentum. Georgia ditched the Fauton Bauta experiment at quarterback and installed a plan in which Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey shared QB duties and running backs Sony Michel and wide receiver Terry Godwin took direct snaps. The result was 5.5 yards per play and 390 yards of total offense in a 27–3 win over Kentucky. At the same time, Auburn had its best rushing day of the season with 311 yards behind the emergence of Jovon Robinson, but the Tigers quarterback position will be in question. Starter-turned-backup Jeremy Johnson stepped in to completed 13-of-17 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown in place of an injured Sean White.
Fox’s pick: Auburn 28–21
Oklahoma State at Iowa State
Oklahoma State has a few more believers after the Cowboys intercepted TCU’s Trevone Boykin four times in the Pokes’ breakout game. What will Oklahoma State do with their newfound attention? The Cowboys have one last road game before Oklahoma and Baylor and it’s against the same team and coach who ruined their national championship hopes in 2011. The Cowboys played close games with lesser competition earlier this year, so they’d be advised to leave no doubts in Ames.
Fox’s pick: Oklahoma State 42–20
NC State at Florida State
Jacoby Brissett may have unfinished business after playing the best game of his career in a loss to Florida State last season. The Seminoles won’t be caught off guard this time around, but they will be facing a rare bit of adversity for the first time in several years. The Seminoles lost earlier this year to Georgia Tech, but they haven’t had to play many seasons under Jimbo Fisher where their major goals — the national title and ACC championship — are out of reach.
Fox’s pick: Florida State 38-31
Washington State at UCLA
UCLA remains one of college football’s great mystery teams: Look like title contender one week, a dud the next. Meanwhile, we know what Wazzu is: an Air Raid team with questionable defense. That’s not enough to win every game, but it will win many. UCLA has faced a similar scheme an flourished in a 40-24 win over Cal on Oct. 22. UCLA has every reason to win this game, but we simply have a hunch. Washington State has won three of four, the only loss by two to Stanford.
Fox’s pick: Washington State 49–42
Florida at South Carolina
Florida is coming off a dismal offensive performance against Vanderbilt in a 9–7 win. South Carolina has been more competitive under interim coach Shawn Elliott, beating Vanderbilt and playing one-score games at Texas A&M and at Tennessee. That said, facing the South Carolina defense has been a nice confidence booster for SEC offenses. The Gamecocks are allowing a league-worst 454.6 yards per game in conference play. If there’s any upset potential it’s because Florida’s offense picks up where it left off against Vanderbilt and the absence of defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard — Florida’s top player in the front seven — allows quarterback Perry Orth and running back Brandon Wilds to pick up yards on the ground.
Fox’s pick: Florida 21–10
Maryland at Michigan State
The Spartans shouldn’t have too much trouble with a Maryland team that has lost six in a row and whose only victories are over Richmond and USF. If anything, this game could be a confidence builder for the Michigan State secondary that has been burned for 628 yards and five touchdowns the last two weeks. Maryland has thrown 25 interceptions in nine games this season, five more than any other team and 10 more than any other Power 5 team. The Terrapins thrown an interception every 11 passes — an astounding rate for a major team.
Fox’s pick: Michigan State 31–13
Alabama at Mississippi State
Alabama’s 25–20 win last year was the closest game the last six meetings, but Alabama led 19–0 at one point and intercepted Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott three times. Prescott has been far more secure with the football during his senior season, throwing only one interception to 18 touchdown passes. Prescott has proven he is the top quarterback in the SEC, but the Bulldogs don’t have much else. Prescott leads MSU with 418 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground; no one else on the roster has more than 220 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Alabama is coming off arguably the best defensive performance of any team this season, considering the opponent. Heisman frontrunner Leonard Fournette managed only 1.6 yards per carry against the Crimson Tide. Prescott presents a different challenge, but with the exception of the Ole Miss game, Alabama’s defense has been arguably the best in the country.
Fox’s pick: Alabama 31–14
Wake Forest at Notre Dame
Wake Forest has a decent defense, but the Demon Deacons’ offense is dismal. This is a team whose high point was beating Boston College 3-0 because the Eagles were even more inept on the goal line. Notre Dame will have to try hard to lose this one.
Fox’s pick: Notre Dame 38–10
Minnesota at Iowa
Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard is battling through bumps and bruises, but he’s about to get some help. Leading rusher Jordan Canzeri is on track to return this week from a ankle injury, joining a running back corps that returned LeShun Daniels Jr. two weeks ago. The run game that was down to a third-stringer could be healthy for the stretch run. Minnesota has lost three in a row and four of the last five games, but included in that mix are games against three ranked teams (Northwestern, Michigan and Ohio State) and one close call with the Wolverines. Minnesota has put more on the arm of quarterback Mitch Leidner in recent games, and it’s easy to see why: Three of Minnesota’s last five opponents have held the Gophers to fewer than 100 yards rushing. Leidner is averaging 299.7 passing yards per game in the last three with mixed results.
Fox’s pick: Iowa 35–21
Last week: 16-4
Season to date: 151-22
With only three weeks left in the regular season, Tuesday night’s matchup between Toledo and Central Michigan should play a key role in shaping the final MAC West standings. Four teams have a shot at winning the West Division, with Toledo, Northern Illinois and Central Michigan each having one loss in conference play. Western Michigan is unbeaten in league action. Considering the Rockets and Chippewas already have one loss within the MAC, Tuesday night’s matchup could be an elimination game to stay alive for a trip to Detroit in early December.
Toledo is coming off its first loss of the season after a 32-27 defeat at the hands of Northern Illinois. While the loss knocked the Rockets out of the top 25 rankings, coach Matt Campbell’s team has compiled a solid resume. Toledo scored two huge non-conference wins, defeating Arkansas in Little Rock and Iowa State in the Glass Bowl in September. Additionally, the Rockets defeated the favorite (Arkansas State) to win the Sun Belt title. Central Michigan is off to a 5-4 start under new coach John Bonamego. The Chippewas enter Tuesday night’s matchup with wins in four out of their last five games. Additionally, Bonamego’s team played well in losses against Oklahoma State (24-13), Syracuse (30-27) and Michigan State (30-10).
Toledo owns a 22-18-3 series edge over Central Michigan. The Rockets have won five in a row against the Chippewas.
Toledo at Central Michigan
Kickoff: Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Toledo -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Toledo’s Rushing Attack
Toledo recorded 291 rushing yards and two scores in last week’s loss against Northern Illinois. Kareem Hunt appears to be over an early-season injury, gashing the Huskies for 140 yards and two touchdowns. While Hunt could be the MAC’s best overall running back, he has plenty of help in the form of Terry Swanson (7.5 ypc), Damion Jones-Moore and Marc Remy. Central Michigan’s rush defense ranks fourth in the MAC by limiting opponents to 135.1 yards per game. However, the Chippewas struggled to stop Western Michigan (215 yards) and Northern Illinois (211) earlier this season. The Rockets have rushed for at least 238 yards in each of their last five games. Can Central Michigan find a way to slow down the Toledo rushing attack?
2. Central Michigan QB Cooper Rush
Overall pass defense numbers isn’t the best indicator of how well a team’s secondary is performing. With that in mind, let’s note Toledo ranks 10th in the MAC in pass defense but is second in pass efficiency defense. A deeper look at those totals shows some signs of concern for coach Matt Campbell. The Rockets have allowed six passing scores in the last two games and gave up 17.3 yards per completion in last week’s loss to Northern Illinois. Additionally, Toledo’s pass defense numbers are skewed. The Rockets faced Ball State, Kent State and Eastern Michigan – all ranked ninth or worse in the MAC in passing offense. This unit will be challenged once again on Tuesday night, as Central Michigan’s passing attack averages 296.2 yards per game behind quarterback Cooper Rush. The junior is completing 69 percent of his passes, has only eight interceptions on 335 attempts and has passed for 300 yards in three out of his last four games. Rush likes to spread the ball to a deep group of skill players, with Jesse Kroll (43 catches) as the top option. However, expect to see Anthony Rice (41 catches), Mark Chapman, Corey Willis and tight end Ben McCord targeted frequently on Tuesday night. The Chippewas rank last in the MAC in rushing offense, so it’s up to Rush and the passing attack to keep the chains moving against Toledo.
3. Protecting the Passer
The previous sections highlighted the importance of Toledo running back Kareem Hunt and Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush, but neither player will have any success on Tuesday night if the offensive line struggles to win the battle at the point of attack. The Chippewas have allowed 20 sacks (eighth in the MAC), while the Rockets have allowed only two sacks this season – both against Northern Illinois. Toledo quarterback Phillip Ely has tossed five picks over the last two games, and if the Chippewas can get pressure, the secondary will have opportunities to create turnovers. However, generating a pass rush has been an issue for Central Michigan. Through nine games, the Chippewas have recorded only 10 sacks. By comparison, Toledo has 19 in eight contests. After allowing two sacks last week, can the Rockets tighten their pass protection on Tuesday night? Keep an eye on how well the offensive lines perform in this key conference matchup.
As mentioned above, it’s fair to count this contest as an elimination game in the MAC West standings. There are plenty of scenarios still in play, but the loser of this matchup is going to have a tough time finishing No. 1 in the West Division. Plenty of fireworks should be expected in Mount Pleasant. The winning team in this series has recorded at least 38 points in each of the last six matchups. Toledo didn’t take care of the small things in last week’s game. The small errors led to the Rockets’ first loss of the season. How will they rebound on the road? The guess here is Campbell’s team gets back on track. Central Michigan keeps this one close well into the fourth quarter, but the Rockets have better balance on offense and a slight edge on defense. Toledo wins and keeps its MAC West title hopes alive.
Prediction: Toledo 34, Central Michigan 27
It's hard rooting for the away team during a football game. It's even harder when the star quarterback for the home team has a problem with your sign.
During warm-ups of Packers-Panthers game, Cam Newton spotted a fan's sign with the map of North Carolina on and it read, "North Carolina Cheesehead." Apparently Newton wasn't a fan so he took it down.
Here's the banner Cam Newton ripped down before the game pic.twitter.com/j4P8dEqz5c— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) November 9, 2015
Mike Dobs, a resident of North Carolina, reportedly paid $500 to have the sign made. The Panthers organization talked with the family, hoping to reach some sort of solution, but the family filed a complaint with the police over the missing sign. Here's Newton with the sign in question before the game.
It'll be hard to get the police in the city of an undefeated team to go after the starting quarterback, but Dobs is passionate about the sign.
Dobs' son-in-law David Sessoms called Newton "evil" and "ghetto," and posted this to his Facebook page.
Due to the public reaction, especially because they live in North Carolina, Sessoms said he had to block two so-called friends and isn't answering any messages on social media.
After beginning the 2015 season 5-1, the Ohio Bobcats have now dropped three consecutive games. They currently sit at 5-4 (2-3 MAC), needing one more win to become bowl eligible.
Kent State (3-6, 2-3 MAC) comes into this Tuesday night tilt with a two-game losing streak of its own. The Golden Flashes' season has been a disappointing one so far, losing both close games and blowouts while recording wins over only MAC bottom-feeders and one FCS school. They too would like to get bowl eligible to salvage their season, but will need to win out in order to do so.
Kent State at Ohio
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Tuesday)
Spread: Ohio -7
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Kent State move the ball?
The Golden Flashes have had a difficult time scoring pointing and gaining yards all season, whether through the air or on the ground. Their best bet will be to set the tempo early on the road with a consistent run game. The issue will be finding the one guy who will step up and be the bell cow. Trayion Durham had slightly more success than Raekwon James in the close loss to Buffalo. One of them needs to step up and grind out the tough yards early to keep Ohio off the field.
2. Can Derrius Vick take charge?
He took care of the football against Bowling Green, but Ohio needs its leader to make plays in order to win this game. Vick is going to need to open things up and force some throws to put points on the board. Ohio's best chance is to get an early lead, as Kent State does not have the firepower to play from behind and win a shootout. Vick is listed as questionable on the injury report with an ankle injury. If for some reason, he's unable to go, J.D. Sprague would get the start.
3. Bobcats WR Sebastian Smith
Smith had 10 catches in a losing effort against Bowling Green and has been Vick's primary target all season. His 6-foot-3 frame is going to be an asset when Ohio gets in the red zone against a fairly weak Kent State secondary. Smith has decent hands and deceptive speed, which could translate into landing on an NFL roster in a couple of years.
When push comes to shove, Kent State is just a bad offensive team. The Golden Flashes are not going to be able to stay on the field long enough for their defense to gather themselves and put up a fight against Vick, Smith and a stable of capable Ohio running backs. Look for the Bobcats to get their sixth win of the season and keep their bowl hopes alive on Tuesday night.
Prediction: Ohio 27, Kent State 3
Missouri president Tim Wolfe has resigned amid racial allegations around campus.
The latest push was made by the Tigers football players who said they would not play unless Wolfe resigned. Once the coaches and staff, including head coach Gary Pinkel, backed the players there was really no choice. There have been a series of racial events happening to students on the campus and based on Wolfe's lack of action against them, many students felt it best if he would step down.
Understand other pressures on Wolfe, but hard to believe this happens without football players (and coach) leveraging change. #Mizzou— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) November 9, 2015
Missouri is set to play BYU on Nov. 14.
No. 1 in the country has a nice ring to it and Clemson wants to keep hearing that sweet sound all the way through the evening of Jan. 11. Step one is to win the ACC and make the College Football Playoff, and head coach Dabo Swinney and the Tigers inched closer to that goal on Saturday by clinching the Atlantic Division with a 23-13 win over Florida State.
With Syracuse, Wake Forest, and South Carolina remaining on the schedule, there don’t appear to be many dangerous landmines in front of the Tigers before the ACC Championship Game, though the match up with the Gamecocks is always a heated affair. The quality of those opponents will hurt Clemson’s strength of schedule, but whether or not they are No. 1 going into the Playoff is irrelevant. If the Tigers win out, they will be part of the four-team party on New Year’s Eve.
Here are five thoughts on Clemson’s win over the Seminoles.
1. The Atmosphere Again
At many stadiums, there is not as much electricity in the building during afternoon games. Many talk about how difficult it is to play at that other Death Valley – the one in Baton Rouge – at night but it is a bit easier during the day. That was not the case at Clemson on Saturday. The crowd was loud right from jump street. The crowd really became a factor in the third quarter when Florida State had a delay of game penalty and a false start on successive plays. On the day, FSU had three delay of game penalties and the noise was a factor. Florida State, like Notre Dame before them, is used to playing in hostile territory. But neither was ready for Clemson.
2. Holding Dalvin Cook to 194 Yards
It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Florida State’s Heisman contender had a huge day on the stat sheet with those 194 yards on 21 carries. But a look inside the numbers is very revealing. Cook had 111 yards on his first two carries and 125 at the end of the first quarter. He only had 40 yards in the second half and 28 of those came on two carries. Seven times Cook was stopped for no gain or lost yardage and 48 percent of his carries went for two yards or less. The Tigers were especially tough on Cook on...
3. Third (and Fourth) Downs
Clemson was 7-of-17 on third-down conversions while Florida State was just 2-of-12. That only tells part of the story. The timing of the Clemson conversions and stops were the difference in the game. Down 10-6 early in the third quarter, Clemson faced a 3rd-and-2 on the Florida State 38-yard line. The Tigers ran a little slip screen that Deon Cain took to the house. On the ensuing FSU drive, the Noles had a 3rd-and-1 at the Clemson 24. The Tigers stuffed Cook and the Seminoles settled for a tying field goal. In the fourth quarter, up 16-13 Clemson stopped Cook on 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 to end a Florida State drive. Less than four minutes later Clemson had scored and the game was over. Championship teams win the third-down battle.
4. B.J. Goodson
When analysts talk about the Clemson defense, they usually start with Shaq Lawson, Ben Boulwar, and Mackensie Alexander. And honestly, those are good places to start. But the senior from Lamar, S.C. has been a solid contributor for a long time and is tied with Boulware for the team lead in tackles. Saturday may have been the best game of his career. Goodson led the team with nine tackles, had two sacks and another 1.5 tackles for lost yardage, and his recovery of a fumble caused by Boulware ended any Florida State hope. On a team with a number of big-time defenders, Goodson is someone that should not be overlooked.
5. Getting the Florida State Monkey Off Their Backs
The Tigers have been one of the most consistent teams over the past few years. They have taken care of business so well that the word that all Tigers hate has been put to rest. The thorn in their side, though, has been Florida State. The Seminoles had won the last three meetings and four of the last six. Last year’s game was especially painful because Clemson believed they were the better team but gave the game to FSU... and they were probably right. All of that’s behind them now. With so much on the line, Clemson came through and vanquished its ACC archrival.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.
Illinois went public with what it found in its internal investigation into former coach Tim Beckman's firing.
In the document, which you can read in full here, there are allegations of Beckman encouraging players to minimize reports of injuries so they could continue playing. It is a total disregard for the players' safety and could have ended up making the situations worse.
Here are Illinois investigators' findings on Tim Beckman's alleged physical altercations: pic.twitter.com/fch2tw13PZ— Brian Hamilton (@BrianHamiltonSI) November 9, 2015
Along with these allegations, we learn that Beckman doesn't believe in "hamstring injuries" and would routinely call his players names when they were being treated by the training staff. Names like "soft" and even worse were Beckman's way of getting the player back on the field as soon as possible.
As a result of the reports, Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas has also been fired.
"I understand the chancellor's viewpoint that my continued presence may create an ongoing distraction for our students, coaches, and staff, and I accept the situation," Thomas said in a statement. "It has been my privilege to be part of this storied program and this great university. I will always cherish my time at this institution and in this community."
Someone better figure out where to hide the Sprint Cup championship trophy. The second year of NASCAR’s new Chase continues to be characterized by its own type of Ponzi scheme: first-degree theft.
Left and right, the last three weeks have been littered with people stealing lines on a racing resume from somebody else. Talladega? New green-white-checkered finish rules collided with a bizarre finish to steal a victory out of the hands of Dale Earnhardt Jr. A chance at the title was taken along with it, the same opportunity Kevin Harvick earned when he stole a Chase ticket into the next round by causing a caution courtesy of a hard-right turn into Trevor Bayne.
Next there was Martinsville, which saw Matt Kenseth stealing Joey Logano’s shot at the championship by taking a shot straight into his left-side door. A two-race suspension and a day’s worth of shenanigans ensued (none of which appear to be calming down anytime soon). Their little squabble caused Jeff Gordon to steal victory from the jaws of defeat, rescuing an otherwise winless season and earning himself a bid at a fifth championship during a year where racking up even five top-5 finishes has been a struggle.
They say these trends come in threes, which is why it’s no surprise Texas followed suit. Sunday’s race was a one-man affair, Brad Keselowski dominating to the tune of 312 out of 334 laps led. But a late debris caution bunched up the field, breathing new life into rivals and giving Jimmie Johnson a fighting chance at a sweep. Both drivers put on an exceptional show, dashing all over the racetrack before Johnson shocked the crowd, stuck his Chevy out in front and led the final six laps of a race he stole right under Keselowski’s nose.
It’s only fitting Johnson finished this three-race chapter off, the No. 48 team winning races in unconventional ways. The six-time champ has led the fewest laps of any season in his 14-year career, is on track for his worst points finish and second straight outside the top 10. Yet somehow, looking at the stats sheet he has five victories, one short of the series lead (Logano) and has done so on the strength of late-race surges.
Take Kansas in the spring. Johnson took a back seat to Harvick until pit strategy late snuck him out front. Ditto for Dover, a place where Johnson was surprisingly behind the curve in May until a final restart shot him by Harvick. Atlanta? Yet a third duel where Johnson outlasted Harvick and Kenseth over the final portion of the race. Only at Texas this spring was J.J. dominant throughout, leading a race-high 128 laps (a total blown away by Keselowski Sunday).
Then again, Johnson might say his bid for this year’s title was stolen by a $5 part breaking at Dover. The resulting rear end repair left him 41st, knocked out of the Chase after just the first round and left to ponder what might have been. Sunday gave him a chance to commit the crime and not be the victim.
By the way, who was the first person to greet Johnson in Victory Lane? Teammate Gordon, who some might say had his own title bid stolen by Keselowski back in 2014.
Perhaps karma does come back around after all. Let’s just hope, especially with the aggression we’ve seen these past few weeks no one winds up arrested by Homestead.
Through the gears we go….
FIRST GEAR: As the Keselowski Crumbles
Texas was Keselowski’s race to lose, a place among the final four at Homestead ready and waiting for him. Instead, the Chaser fell short, handling the runner-up result with dignity but facing the reality of another failed title attempt. Barring a miracle at Phoenix, a track where neither he nor teammate Joey Logano has won, Team Penske will be shut out of the final four at Homestead a second straight year.
“I can certainly feel for Brad,” said rival Kyle Busch. “That’s heartbreaking. To be that fast, to lead that many laps, to get beat that late in the game like that, I know the pain.”
“Clearly, Brad had a lot on the line,” added Johnson. “Thankful he ran as hard and as clean as he did.”
Keselowski, optimistic after the race, has nothing to be ashamed of; the past two seasons he and Logano have combined for 18 victories. But the big prize has continued to elude them, their impressive effort as a two-car team falling short since Logano came on board in 2013. Keselowski’s title in 2012 continues to be the only Cup title owner Roger Penske has won despite 88 victories since rejoining the sport full-time in 1991.
SECOND GEAR: Harvick’s Make-or-Break Moment Ahead
What hasn’t happened to Kevin Harvick during this Chase? A broken shifter combined with two flat tires to make life difficult Sunday for the reigning champ. Lesser drivers would have wrecked; lesser teams would have been unable to stick together through several slow stops on pit road. Yet despite a day of mayhem, once again the reigning champ found himself inside the top 3 at race’s end (third). It’s the 18th podium effort for Harvick this season and one that now has him on the precipice of a second final four appearance.
“I guess those are character-building moments,” he said. “But we’ve managed to survive and advance and that’s what we’ve got to do next week.”
“Survive and advance” is right as next week will be a test in the face of NASCAR CEO Brian France’s push to discipline Kenseth. After that intentional Martinsville wreck we head to Phoenix, a track where Harvick dominates and is the heavy favorite to win once again. However, much of the NASCAR garage remains incensed over the Talladega affair and several drivers want to prevent Harvick from being title-eligible come Homestead.
Will someone step outside the lines and dump the No. 4 car if it’s in contention to win? That’s probably the only obstacle standing in Harvick’s way of more success in the desert and a shot at defending his title.
THIRD GEAR: Three Unexpected Faces Round Out Chase Race
Keselowski’s loss left the Chase well-defined. Both he and Logano need to win Phoenix to advance, as does Kurt Busch, who didn’t even race there in the spring (he was under suspension). None of that trio is likely to do so which leaves four drivers fighting for three spots (Jeff Gordon is already in after clinching his spot at Martinsville).
The group besides Harvick is a rather unlikely list of candidates. You have Carl Edwards, virtually invisible with his new team until winning Charlotte in May. No one would have expected after his struggles the first half of the season the No. 19 team would ever make it this far. Then there’s Martin Truex Jr., driving for single-car Furniture Row Racing, who’s put together a Cinderella season. It’s the first time the No. 78 team has been in title contention this late; it’s just the third time ever Truex has made his way inside the Chase. Both of them looked better off divorcing after a miserable 2014 season but what’s transpired instead is a miraculous turnaround.
The biggest surprise, though is Kyle Busch, who didn’t even step into a Cup car for a points race this season until May. A devastating leg injury sidelined him at Daytona and could have sidetracked his title bid until NASCAR green-lighted an exception to their “start every race” rule to qualify. A frantic four wins in five races ensured, clawing Busch into title eligibility and he’s ridden this wave high enough to change his ugly Chase past. Once one of the most temperamental drivers, Busch has put himself in final four contention despite being winless throughout the postseason. Could 30 years old be the year of maturity, one where the new dad finally gets over the hump?
FOURTH GEAR: Suspension Looms Over Texas
Yes, Texas had its moments, tire problems early affecting several drivers and a fantastic ending between Johnson and Keselowski. Still, the spectre of the Kenseth incident the week before overshadowed Sunday’s proceedings. Signs of “#FreeMatt” could be found all over the grandstands and there was an outpouring of support for replacement rookie Erik Jones, an impressive talent who put together a respectable 12th-place finish in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota.
But it was Kenseth stealing the show, saying early in the weekend he had “no regrets” and “absolutely would not” change the way he races. Then, there was Sunday’s gem of a Tweet after Johnson and Keselowski battled cleanly for the win, a situation where the No. 2 car could have taken out the No. 48 to earn its spot in Homestead.
It was a nicely couched shot at both rival Logano, whose wreck caused the suspension, and NASCAR CEO Brian France. One might say it was a 140-character “quintessential” performance…
Boy, has Kyle Larson suffered through a sophomore slump-type of year. The second-year Cup driver was running top 5 Sunday before a flat tire ruined his race. The day before? He was leading the XFINITY Series event before a similar problem led to him wrecking out. The much-hyped “future of the sport” now will spend the last two races battling to simply finish the year 20th in points... Some nice runs were had by non-Chasers like Austin Dillon (11th) and Brian Scott (14th). Both drive Richard Childress Racing chassis as that organization looks to build momentum for 2016... Danica Patrick had a solid weekend, qualifying 11th and running a clean, quiet race. Her 16th-place result one week after getting fined for contact with David Gilliland marked the best result for the No. 10 team since early August... Gordon received two Shetland ponies from Texas Motor Speedway, perhaps the most bizarre gift yet in his 2015 retirement tour.
(Photos by ASP Inc.)
Talk about a turn of events. First a loud portion of Nebraska football fans didn’t see the Huskers winning another game and ending the season with a horrifying 2-10 record. But now the Big Red finds itself fresh off toppling then-No. 7 Michigan State and tainting its perfect 8-0 record.
Not only did Mike Riley’s Huskers take down a top-10 team, they also snapped one of the longest winning streaks in the country and dealt the Spartans their first Big Ten road loss since 2012.
The atmosphere was electric, fans that left early have been rightfully shamed and suddenly Nebraska finds itself sitting at 4-6 with a chance to head to a bowl game and end the season on a winning note.
However to do that, Riley’s going to have to take Tommy Armstrong, Jordan Westerkamp, Maliek Collins and this band of mentally weary Cornhuskers through a tough stretch.
Rutgers shouldn’t be viewed as an easy win. Even if the Big Red have more quality depth, coming off of a major victory sets them up for a trap game nestled in New Jersey.
Should Nebraska slip out of Piscataway winners, it’s possible that an undefeated, top-10 Iowa squad comes into Lincoln with College Football Playoff hopes. The Hawkeyes will be doing so after Nebraska finally sees its only bye week after playing 11 straight games.
If Riley’s squad wins such a contest, he’ll have tied the number of top-10 teams his predecessor Bo Pelini conquered during his seven-year tenure.
More importantly, Nebraska will get invaluable practices that come with any bowl game. Should the Huskers rattle off a three-game winning streak, fans may flock to the East Coast if the Big Red wind up playing in Yankee Stadium for this year’s Pinstripe Bowl.
It would’ve been easy for Riley and crew to lie down after the loss to Purdue, for public opinion to fry them over the course of an offseason. That clearly won’t be tolerated. Not by Riley, not from his staff and certainly not from his players.
If (and it’s still a big if) the Big Red goes bowling, it may not redeem losses to Illinois or the Boilermakers, but the opportunity should speak volumes regarding Riley’s ability to teach his kids about battling severe adversity.
Speaking of the loss to Purdue, following the game Riley said, “We're just going to keep coaching them. That's what we need to do. You'd be naive to know that this is not a good thing. We've got to just keep going with them. I think that's what they need the most right now, is more coaching.”
That sounds cliché, but you saw the results Saturday night. Nebraska won’t win the Big Ten this year, but this team can do something no one saw even a couple of weeks ago: go to a bowl, have a winning record and take down two highly-ranked teams in the process.
In the meantime, it’s time to focus on Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights will surely be happy to knock the Huskers back down into the depths of depression if they don’t give their all as the Big Red did against Sparty.
As it stood, Ole Miss and Michigan State both controlled their own destiny. All they had to do was win out and their regular season would end with trips in their respective conference championship games. Nothing anyone else did mattered. Additionally, if Ole Miss would have gone on to win the SEC championship, it likely would have meant that the SEC would be shut out of the College Football Playoff. A Michigan State win in the Big Ten Championship Game would have punched the Spartans' ticket to the Playoff.
Following a no-look, over-the-shoulder lateral, an untimely facemask penalty and the controversial decision that a wide receiver was forced out of bounds, the 2015 college football season now has more questions following Week 10 than it did before the weekend began.
Instead of Ole Miss controlling its own destiny in the SEC West, that luxury now belongs to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama's win over LSU was always going to keep them in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings. An Ole Miss loss, however, cleared the path for the Tide to get to the SEC Championship Game against Florida with only one loss. Should Alabama or a one-loss Florida win that game, the idea of an SEC-free Playoff would almost certainly die.
Thanks to Nebraska's upset of Michigan State, the possibility of a Big Ten-free Playoff became more of a possibility. Before Saturday, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa all controlled their own destiny via their perfect records. Now, however, Michigan State can only control whether or not they get to the Big Ten Championship Game. The Spartans will need to win out, and that would include a victory on the road over Ohio State. Should Michigan State do so, it would almost certainly play Iowa. Had both teams been undefeated, the winner would have all but punched a ticket to the College Football Playoff.
Now, Ohio State is the last unbeaten in the B1G East. The problem is, the Buckeyes still have games with Michigan State and Michigan on the schedules — neither of which is a gimme. A win over Michigan State and a loss to Michigan would send the Wolverines to Indianapolis — which could mean a battle of two quarterbacks who were both on Iowa's roster a year ago. Should Michigan win that game over Iowa, there's no way the Big Ten gets a team into the Playoff. The Big Ten's best hope would be an unbeaten Iowa winning the Big Ten title.
Before we pencil an unbeaten Iowa into the Big Ten Championship Game, remember, the Hawkeyes travel to Lincoln, Neb., on Black Friday. Before this last weekend, that looked like it would be a game between an unbeaten title contender and a team looking to get to five wins — trying to salvage its season by winning a manufactured rivalry trophy. Now, however, there is a very real possibility that Nebraska could be playing for a two-for-one deal: spoil Iowa's season while simultaneously becoming bowl eligible.
So while much of the conversation this week will center around the specific finishes of the two upsets, it's the meaning of those two outcomes that will likely be the bigger story as the 2015 season marches on.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of KnowItAllFootball.com, a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.
For the second consecutive week, Notre Dame traveled to Pennsylvania and beat a quality team. Last week the Irish battled for a 24-20 victory over Temple. This past Saturday they went to Pittsburgh and beat the Panthers 42-30 in a game that was not as close as the score would indicate.
The fifth-ranked Irish were looking for a convincing win to impress the selection committee and despite troubles in garbage time, Notre Dame did just that. With some other Playoff contenders going down, it is very possible, if not likely, that Notre Dame is one of the top four teams when the committee releases their rankings on Tuesday evening.
Here are five thoughts on the Irish following the Pittsburgh game.
1. DeShone Kizer
By now, we all know his story and the legend continues to grow. The sophomore from Toledo was 19 of 26 for 262 yards with five touchdowns and he also ran in for another score. On the year, Kizer has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,931 yards with 16 touchdowns against six interceptions. But most importantly, as the moment gets bigger, Kizer gets better. Yes, it helps having one of the best wide receivers in the country to throw to in Will Fuller. But Kizer knows when to get the ball to his star playmaker and when to look at other options. Those that say he will be a star are wrong. He already is.
2. Josh Adams
Head coach Brian Kelly said after the game that running back C.J. Prosise is day-to-day and that his shoulder injury is not serious. That is good news, but Adams proved that he is up to the challenge of being the every-down back. This 100-yard game was not like his first, which came in the rout of UMass. His 147 yards on Saturday came against a top-40 rushing defense and he gained those yards when the Irish needed it most. Adams proved in this game that he is more than capable of easing Prosise’s workload going forward.
3. Allowing Big Plays Again on Defense
Though Notre Dame’s defense gave up just three points in the first half, that field goal was set up by a big play on a jet sweep by Pitt’s Tyler Boyd. In the second half, the Irish surrendered six plays of 20-plus yards, including a 51-yard pass from Nate Peterman to Boyd. On that play, miscommunication between KeiVarae Russell and Max Redfield led to the easy Pitt touchdown. At this stage of the season, it’s hard to accept these types of breakdowns. Allowing big plays has been an issue throughout the season and is something that needs to be corrected.
4. Tyler Newsome is a Weapon
Newsome has had a nice season, averaging 43.3 yards per punt on the year. But last week was his weakest game when his punts traveled an average of just 33.8 yards. The Pittsburgh game was an exceptional bounce-back performance. Newsome averaged 51.8 yards per kick on four chances and was able to flip field position when necessary. Following Matthias Farley’s second quarter interception, the Irish went three and out and had to punt from their own 9-yard line. Down 14-3, Pittsburgh hoped for possession in plus territory in an effort to make it a one-score game at the half. But Newsome boomed a 55-yard punt that Notre Dame effectively covered. Pitt quickly had to give the ball back and it was the Irish that scored before the break to go up 21-3. Newsome’s leg has been a huge asset for the Irish this fall and was a big part of the win on Saturday.
The players won’t say it. Brian Kelly certainly won’t say it. But we know it’s true. With Wake Forest and Boston College as the next two games, Notre Dame should be 10-1 when it heads out to Palo Alto in three weeks, setting up a possible play-in game for a Playoff spot. At worst, a New Year’s Six bowl bid is in ND’s future. And at a time when Notre Dame is finalizing its 2016 recruiting class, as well as making inroads on '17 prospects, it is nice that the Irish will remain in the national conversation.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.
The last time the Bears and Chargers faced off in San Diego, was 2007 when former Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman led the visiting team to a 14-3 victory. That also was when LaDainian Tomlinson was in his prime as one of the NFL’s best running backs.
This game is a tale of two teams that have struggled to close out victories late, and have somewhat fallen along the way side just halfway through this young 2015 campaign. The Bears have lost two straight, one in overtime against Detroit, and last week in walk-off fashion at home against the Vikings.
Both teams are also dealing with serious injuries to key players, with Keenan Allen lost for the season for San Diego, and Matt Forte out for at least this game with a knee injury.
Chicago at San Diego
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET (Monday)
Spread: San Diego -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Bears Rookie RB Jeremy Langford
Langford, the Bears’ 2015 fourth-round selection from Michigan State will get the first start of his career, as he will fill in for Matt Forte, who is out for an undetermined time after injuring his knee last week against Minnesota.
Langford has just 46 yards rushing on 12 carries in spot duty so far this season, a far cry from the 706 yards from scrimmage that Forte has accumulated.
Langford has received high praise from both teammates and the coaching staff, and most recently Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. A fellow Spartan, Bell said Langford was “a mirror image of me,” and he should know since the two were teammates at Michigan State from 2010-12.
If Langford can be anything even remotely close to Bell, an All-Pro last season, he and the Bears’ offense could be in for a huge night against San Diego.
2. Chargers’ Passing Game
Quarterback Philip Rivers is without his leading wide receiver in Keenan Allen, who's been lost for the season after suffering a lacerated Kidney. Allen is just the beginning to the Chargers’ injury woes this year, as San Diego tries to avoid its first six-game losing streak since 2005.
With Allen now longer in the picture, Rivers will need to turn to his other wideouts, such as Malcom Floyd and Dontrelle Inman, who's caught 21 passes for 300 yards in two seasons.
The Bears’ secondary is one of the worst in the league, and a road game against a team desperate for a win could spell trouble for Chicago.
3. Can Bears Start a Winning Streak?
According to NFL.com, the Bears have the third-easiest remaining schedule in the league, a good sign for a young, inexperienced team that sits currently at 2-5, in a must-win situation on the road.
After losing two in a row in the last minutes, the Bears are in a prime position to start a hot streak and potentially get back into the wild card picture.
The Chargers are extremely banged up in key pistons, most notably wide receiver and offensive line, the two positions Philip Rivers needs the most help from.
Jay Cutler has looked more and more like he’ll be the team’s starter through 2016, after playing relatively impressively so far this season, mostly without wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and first-round pick Kevin White.
Chicago’s run defense isn't its weakness, but running the ball is one of San Diego’s main issues offensively. What Chicago needs to focus on is stopping the pass, which should benefit somewhat from the Chargers’ injury issues.
Prediction: Bears 28, Chargers 21
— Written by Chris Dougherty, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Dougherty also serves as a National Recruiting Analyst for 247Sports.com and has written for other sites, including FanSided.com and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @warontheweekend.
A second-generation Georgetown fan, Kevin Rieffel has been watching Hoyas basketball for his entire life even though he grew up in Philadelphia.
In the days before ESPN2 was in every house, he and his father would drive to sports bars as far away as Maryland to watch John Thompson coach against Syracuse or St. John’s. At least once a year, they’d see a game in person, either in D.C. or near their home at Villanova.
Rieffel, naturally, went to Georgetown as an undergrad, and after he finished law school in Philadelphia, he became a season ticket holder.
Now, on his first trip to a Georgetown home game this season, Rieffel will ask a favor: He wants to step onto the floor — re-sanded and re-painted for this season — and take a free throw.
“If I get one request, it’s going to be that I can take a shot on it,” Rieffel says.
Georgetown would be foolish not to grant his request, considering Rieffel, a patent attorney in Philadelphia, is the person who designed the program’s new court on his lunch breaks.
When Georgetown opened a contest to submit designs for its new floor, fans flooded the Hoyas’ athletic department with radical ideas — all-grey courts, stripes, an oversized bulldog logo at midcourt, a dog collar for the center court circle, and coach John Thompson III sitting on Game of Thrones’ Iron Throne (really).
The fan-submitted designs were garish in part because the contest was all in good fun and in part because fans surely were following the lead of new wild court designs that have been popping up in recent years across the country.
Oregon plays “deep in the woods” on a pattern that looks more like the view from a sleeping bag than a court for a major program. Xavier and Memphis run the floor across their respective city skylines. Notre Dame plays on an oversized shamrock. UCF and Oakland have brought the blacktop indoors. Cal State Bakersfield went blue. Manhattan has gone green.
Rieffel, though, had a feeling Georgetown wouldn’t go with an all-grey court with a silhouette of the National Mall (George Washington, which shares the District of Columbia with Georgetown, already has the latter on its home court).
Instead, Rieffel remembered a pattern from his youth watching Georgetown as the Hoyas entered the Allen Iverson era — the kente cloth pattern than ran down the sides of the jersey and shorts in the mid-’90s. Back then, Nike introduced the kente cloth, a pattern with origins in West Africa, to the Hoyas’ uniforms as a homage to Georgetown basketball’s place in the African-American community in the ’80s and ’90s.
Rieffel, who had been bouncing floor concepts off other Georgetown fans online, remembered the kente cloth. One of the designs he submitted featured a slightly larger block G at midcourt and the kente cloth pattern in the free throw lane.
Georgetown’s athletic leadership, including Thompson, was immediately attracted to Rieffel’s design.
“It’s a little throwback to those days, and that design is unique to Georgetown,” says Brian McGuire, Georgetown’s associate athletics director for facilities and operations. “I don’t think anyone else has used that look in college basketball. It’s a little bit of throwback, and it’s a little bit new. It was subtle enough and classic that it wasn’t off the deep end.”
Though Georgetown stayed with a traditional look, some basketball programs have embraced more radical approaches with their court designs. Georgetown went with history and subtlety. Some schools have gone for eyeballs.
Either way, the wave of creative court designs is another indication of just how important branding and marketing are in today’s collegiate athletics environment.
“A basketball floor is a billboard,” San Jose State athletic director Gene Bleymaier says. “It’s a mural. It’s an opportunity to have some fun and make something relevant to your university.”
Bleymaier would know. He was the athletic director who turned Boise State’s football field blue in 1986. As the AD at San Jose State 27 years later, Bleymaier had five oversized Spartan warriors painted on the San Jose State basketball court. The redesign was so radical that the Spartans’ athletics logo — the kind of logo that’s normally at center court — has been pushed from the center circle to near the sideline.
Not all the new court designs in recent years are as gaudy as San Jose State’s, but they are becoming more and more common, from the smallest of Division I basketball programs to conference tournaments all the way to the Final Four.
The court for SEC Tournament last season featured a sideline-to-sideline logo bleached into the wood. The Missouri Valley Tournament in St. Louis featured a rendition of the Gateway Arch painted across the entire floor. Even the Final Four in Indianapolis featured a two-tone look.
Connor Sports, an Illinois-based manufacturer of sports floors for colleges, pro teams and events, estimates that it works on 26 Division I floors a year, not including courts for the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments, conference tournaments or early-season events.
In the last few years, requests from colleges have gone from simple shading and logos to more ambitious designs.
“The trend is that it’s not a playing surface,” says Lauren Gillian, brand manager at Connor Sports. “It’s a work of art, and (colleges) want to incorporate that into their programming.”
As usual, the mainstreaming of an outlandish design finds its origin in Eugene, Ore.
When Oregon opened its Matthew Knight Arena in 2011, the most striking part of the facility was the floor.
Nearly the entire court was taken up by some kind of design element, chiefly a perimeter of pine trees meant to honor Oregon’s Tall Firs team that won the first NCAA championship in 1939.
The concept was ambitious enough on a blueprint. The execution — which fell into the hands of Connor Sports — was another thing. Painting a floor like Oregon’s, and the others that followed, requires giant stencils, layered paint schemes and an assurance the colors will be suitable for television.
“It was challenging in a sense that it was something you’d never seen before,” Gillian says of Oregon. “We’re talking overlays upon overlays upon overlays to get that forestry effect that they wanted.”
Before Oregon, courts on and off college campuses had some subtle design elements painted onto the floor, comparatively speaking. The Ducks, though, opened the door for schools to ask places like Praters Athletic Flooring to push the boundaries.
“Oregon hits and either people hated it or loved it,” says John Praters, president of the athletic flooring firm based in Chattanooga, Tenn. “With us, we didn’t care either way. As long as the attention is on the floor, it’s a good thing because people are saying, ‘Maybe we can do that.’ Oregon has brought more attention than any other one.”
Other designs aren’t as intricate as Oregon’s, but they are — um — eye-catching.
Eight years ago, former Cal State Bakersfield athletic director Jeff Konya was searching for a way to differentiate his program from the slew of California-based mid-majors. Bakersfield’s program dated back to 1971 and had won three Division II national titles, but the Roadrunners didn’t join Division I until the 2006-07 season.
Bakersfield went the same route as Boise State football — and then some. The entire court was painted blue, save for the free throw lane. At center court, an oversized Roadrunners logo stretched from 3-point line to 3-point line in the foreground, with the outline of the state of California in the background and a ‘B’ where Bakersfield is located. If that wasn’t enough, Bakersfield used the court for an advertiser, adding McDonald’s golden arches near the sideline. The current iteration of the court, dyed by Praters Flooring, is only slightly less busy; Bakersfield removed the outline of the state of California and changed the full-bodied Roadrunner logo to an angry-eyed Roadrunner head.
Bakersfield hasn’t won much on that court, but the look has made an impression.
“I knew we hit a home run with the look when opposing teams would start taking selfies with the court in the background and we started to get an increase in terms of camp participation,” Konya says. “People just wanted to be around the court.”
Konya moved across the country last year to accept a job as the athletic director at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. His new school’s basketball program was more established — the Grizzlies have been to the NCAA Tournament three times since 2005 — but Konya wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to market the school.
But unlike a power program like Oregon, Oakland can’t exactly pay Nike, Under Armour or an outside firm for design concepts for its floor, so the Golden Grizzlies asked the same person who had been designing game brochures, event invitations and social media graphics.
She also happened to be a graduate assistant.
Konya enlisted Sarah Merritt, a former soccer player at Division III Alma College in Michigan, to pitch designs for a new floor at the O’rena. The best three would come up for a fan vote.
Merritt came up with one design with an oversized Grizzlies head bracketed by the outline of the state of Michigan on a traditional court and another with the name Oakland and the Grizzlies head stained into a conventional court look.
The winner, though, was an all-black court with the Grizzlies logo at center court. The rec center blacktop look, Merritt says, was aimed directly at recruits.
“I was recruited, so I know how geeky we are about what we wear and what we play on,” Merritt says. “If you want to try and get recruits, you have to do something crazy and different.”
Oakland’s is a different look, but it’s not even the only blacktop-inspired court in the game. When Central Florida rebranded from the Knight logo to a stacked U-C-F, the athletic program looked to its in-house art director to take a swing at a new look for the court in 2013.
Carlos Phillips had worked on design elements around stadiums and practice fields, the athletics website and on tickets and promotional materials. No project would be as visible as the UCF basketball floor.
He studied the Brooklyn Nets’ court and floors in Europe for inspiration before coming up with a blacktop. The stained wood outside the 3-point lines, though, is more gray than black. The reason: TV cameras.
“My first drafts were painted black,” Phillips says. “It’s very shiny and it would have been very hard for TV. That was one thing we wanted to consider. That’s why we didn’t go all black, because of the reflection.”
Many schools have used their floor to convey a sense of location for their universities — both for the eyes of basketball recruits but also for prospective students.
Xavier doesn’t have the luxury of having the name of its city in its school name. That belongs to rival Cincinnati. So how does Xavier hope to educate people who wouldn’t otherwise know that the Musketeers play in the heart of a metropolitan area?
The school painted the city skyline on its basketball court.
Xavier searched for a Cincinnati skyline that was just right and stumbled upon one from a designer in Spain. The Musketeers tracked down the designer, paid for the rights to the design and turned it into a stencil for the floor at the Cintas Center.
“What it does for us, you can look at it and know Xavier University is in an urban center, a metropolitan area,” says Brian Hicks, Xavier’s associate athletic director for external relations. “That was something we felt strongly about.”
Basketball fans and recruits could be forgiven for not knowing much about Florida International University. The Panthers haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1995, and they’ve been a non-factor for the most part while playing in three different conferences.
Yet if anyone happens to watch an FIU basketball game, they should know the campus is a quick trip from the ocean.
“I said, ‘Listen, I want water. I want sand. And I want palm trees,’” FIU athletic director Pete Garcia says he told his staff in 2013. “I want those three things.”
He got all of it and more with a basketball court that looks more like a postcard than a playing surface. Miami-based FIU has run with the theme. Seating sections are named after streets on South Beach. One half of the arena is painted to look like the ocean and the horizon line. The other half looks like the hotel-laden Miami Beach backdrop.
Manhattan briefly considered the New York skyline for its new court at Draddy Gymnasium, but the Bronx-based college decided to go another direction. When the Jaspers sanded their court down this offseason, they painted the floor Kelly green from 3-point line to 3-point line.
“We wanted to own the color green,” Manhattan athletic director Noah LeFevre says. “The color is a large part of our identity. From our perspective, the more green we could involve, the better.”
And here’s the thing about new court designs — many times they’re not new courts at all.
A basketball floor has a lifespan of about 15 to 20 years, but it will usually require some kind of repair and maintenance after each season. Floor designs — including 3-point lines or conference or sponsor marks — can be sanded down and re-painted.
Many courts are portable — they are disassembled in the arena, packed up on a truck, and sent to a warehouse where they are re-assembled and sanded, painted, stained and sealed over the course of 1-3 weeks.
The total cost to refurbish a court can range from a $25,000 for basic repairs up to $80,000 for a complete repaint. The entire process can range from a week to three weeks.
Figures like that make court designs an expensive change. Northwestern, for example, abandoned its purple-stained arc at Welsh-Ryan Arena after three seasons.
When Long Beach State was down to its final year of its old court in 2012, the 49ers took their branding to another level. The school’s marketing already leveraged its status as the only Division I program with the word “beach” in its name.
Not content just to say “The Beach” in signage, Dedan Brozino, Long Beach State’s former senior associate athletic director for external relations, wanted to show it. Though he’s not a graphic designer by trade, he sketched a new design for the court at Walter Pyramid with four palm trees — two facing the crowd on each side of the court.
“At the time we thought it would be negatively received, and if it is, it will be a one-year and done deal and we’ll go back for the traditional look,” says Brozino, who left Long Beach State to work for the Rose Bowl Operating Company.
On the contrary, when Long Beach State bought a new court before last season, the 49ers stained the palm trees onto the new floor with all four on the side of the court facing TV cameras.
What started as an experiment for Long Beach State and other schools is now standard operating procedure for dozens of programs. If one program can turn its court into a beach and others can turn their floors into blacktops, what’s next?
Praters believes the next step is in decals, once the scourge of the NCAA Tournament and other events. Praters says his firm has been able to build decals that won’t cause players to slip.
That means colleges can mix and match for sponsors. Or they can change a center logo for special events — for example, schools could change their logo to pink for breast cancer awareness or change it to camouflage to honor the military.
For a peek further into the future, take a look at the NBA. The Cleveland Cavaliers project 3D graphics onto their floor for pregame hype and lineups, and there’s no doubt at least one college or two has started to think about adding such a feature to their own arenas.
That might be a few years down the line. An NBA-level pregame graphics show is as much a lighting and projection issue as it is a flooring issue. But once a college is ready, don’t be shocked to see a court act as a canvas.
“These questions come about very often for us,” Gillian says. “We’re always thinking about what can we do to make the court the star.”
It's weird when the Packers are out of wack, but it happens.
During the Packers-Panthers game, Cam Newton and his team got ahead early and the effect of that made its way to the Packers' sideline. A few cheese heads, including B.J. Raji and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix got into an argument and there was a bit of shoving. Give the guys a break, they probably aren't used to being beat quite like this.
There was a scary scene out of Minnesota Sunday.
During the Rams-Vikings game, Teddy Bridgewater began to scramble and ended up sliding to avoid a hit on the play. As he was going to the ground, Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner came rambling in and hit the quarterback up high.
Bridgewater eyes were visibly closed and his body motionless. He eventually sat up, opened his eyes, and was able to walk over the to the Vikings sideline.
For some reason, people just don't like Cam Newton. Maybe it's because the Panthers are on a roll right now, or maybe it's because he's always smiling.
Whatever the reason is, Julius Peppers isn't here for any of Newton's antics. After the Panthers quarterback scores a touchdown, he always gives the ball to a young fan. When Newton scored in the second quarter, Peppers wasn't too happy about it and didn't want to give him the ball back.
Of course the Panthers didn't like the actions of the Packers defenseman.
That was salty, Peppers. Sorry. That was cheesy. pic.twitter.com/HGdM36oxKi— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) November 8, 2015
Eventually Newton did get the ball and continued with his touchdown ritual.
David Fox and Braden Gall break down a huge weekend of action from Week 10.
Alabama and Clemson established themselves as elite squads while Oklahoma State flipped the Big 12 standings on its head. The Big Ten saw Michigan State fall in bizarre fashion while Ohio State and Iowa snuck by solid opponents.
Why are Stanford and Utah being undervalued by the Committee? What's to make of the SEC undercard and what does the American Athletic Conference race look like after a big upset.
Issues at Missouri are escalating quickly and in an unprecedented way. What will happen in Columbia?
The guys also offer their Heisman picks and Top 4 rankings.
Week 10 of the college football season is in the books. The weekend slate provided plenty of highlights, big plays, standout performances and surprises.
With another weekend of action in the books, it’s time to hand out the hardware to honor the best of the best from Week 10. Here’s a look at Athlon Sports’ picks for the offensive, defensive, coordinator, freshman and unsung hero from Week 10:
College Football Week 10 Awards
Offensive Player of the Week: Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
The Alabama-LSU showdown was the weekend’s most anticipated matchup, but thanks to Henry and the Crimson Tide offensive line, Saturday night’s contest in Tuscaloosa ended in a convincing 14-point win for Nick Saban’s team. Henry rushed for 210 yards and three scores on 38 carries against the Tigers, which included 78 yards on the game’s final drive to seal the win. The junior’s totals are even more impressive when you consider LSU was limiting opponents to just 93.7 rushing yards per game entering Saturday night’s matchup.
Defensive Player of the Week: Gionni Paul, LB, Utah
Paul might be the best defensive player no one in the nation is talking about. The senior turned in another dominant performance on Saturday night, recording nine tackles (two for a loss), two sacks and one interception in Utah’s 34-23 victory over Washington. Paul also returned a fumble 54 yards for a score in the second quarter. The senior should get strong consideration for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in December.
Coordinator of the Week: Glenn Spencer, Defensive Coordinator, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State’s surrendered 663 yards and 29 points to TCU, but the box score doesn’t tell the whole story about the clutch performance of Spencer’s defense. The Cowboys limited the Horned Frogs to just nine first-half points, forced four turnovers, ended two drives on fourth-down stops and broke up six passes. Every time TCU started to build momentum on offense, Oklahoma State’s defense made a play. Spencer’s aggressive gameplan worked to perfection, and the Cowboys limited the Horned Frogs to just 1.7 points per offensive possession – the stat Spencer cares the most about.
Freshman of the Week: Jarrett Stidham, QB, Baylor
Stidham earned high marks in his first start for the Bears. With Seth Russell sidelined for the remainder of 2015 with a neck injury, Baylor’s playoff hopes could hinge on how well Stidham performs. In a 31-24 win at Kansas State, Stidham completed 23 of 33 for 419 yards and three scores. He also added one rushing touchdown. Even though Thursday night was only one start, Stidham’s performance showed why Baylor’s offense won’t miss a beat the rest of the year.
Unsung Hero of the Week: Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas
Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks are known for their ground attack and massive offensive line, but on Saturday, the passing game carried the team to a 53-52 victory in overtime at Ole Miss. Allen threw for a career high 442 yards and recorded six passing scores against the Rebels in the upset road win. Additionally, Allen scored the game-winning two-point conversion on a one-yard rush in overtime. Allen is often overlooked in the conversation among best quarterbacks in the SEC. However, the senior is quietly making a strong case for all-conference honors this season.
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated, but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 10
5: Unbeatens That Lost in Week 10
Eleven teams entered November with an unbeaten record. After one week of action, that number was nearly cut in half. Five teams with a perfect record prior to Week 10 – Toledo, Michigan State, TCU, LSU and Memphis – lost on Saturday. That drops the number of unbeatens to six entering Week 11 – Houston, Ohio State, Iowa, Clemson, Oklahoma State and Baylor.
31: Rushing Yards by LSU RB Leonard Fournette Against Alabama
LSU running back Leonard Fournette entered Saturday night’s matchup averaging 193.1 rushing yards per game, 7.7 yards per carry and the clear frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy. However, Alabama’s defense won the battle in the trenches and suffocated the Tigers’ ground attack. Fournette finished with only 31 yards and one touchdown on 19 attempts. 18 of the sophomore’s yards came on one carry and the other 17 attempts never resulted in a rush longer than four yards.
29: Ohio State’s Big Ten Winning Streak Extends to 29 Games
Ohio State tied a national record for the most consecutive conference victories after a 28-14 win over Minnesota on Saturday. The Buckeyes have won 29 conference games in a row, which ties Florida State’s record (1992-95) for the longest streak in college football history. Under coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State is a perfect 29-0 in regular season matchups against Big Ten teams. Ohio State should be heavily favored against Illinois in Week 11 to break Florida State’s 29-game conference win streak.
Related: 20 Must-See Moments from Week 10
3: SEC QBs Coached by Dan Mullen With At Least 100 Career Touchdowns
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott eclipsed 100 career touchdowns in Thursday’s 31-13 win over Missouri. Prescott is the sixth SEC quarterback to reach 100 career touchdowns. Three of those signal-callers – Prescott, Tim Tebow and Chris Leak – played under Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen. Mullen tutored Tebow and Leak while he was at Florida. Georgia’s Aaron Murray, Florida’s Danny Wuerffel and Tennessee’s Peyton Manning are the other three quarterbacks to reach 100 career touchdowns.
42.7: Average YPC by Oklahoma State WR James Washington Last Two Games
The Big 12 is home to some of college football’s best receivers. Baylor’s Corey Coleman, TCU’s Josh Doctson and Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard take most of the spotlight, but Oklahoma State has a star on the rise in Washington. The sophomore has nine receptions over the last two contests (Texas Tech and TCU) and recorded 384 yards and five touchdowns in that span. Washington has averaged 42.7 yards per catch in the last two weeks, with his five scores in those games spanning an average of 64 yards.
1968: Last Time Florida Won While Scoring Single Digits
Florida’s win over Vanderbilt wasn’t pretty. However, the Gators did just enough to earn a 9-7 victory against the Commodores, clinching a trip to Atlanta and the SEC East title in coach Jim McElwain’s first season. Defense is a strength for Florida, but the offense struggled once again, recording only 258 yards and nine points in the win over the Commodores. The nine points scored by Florida in Saturday’s win represented the first time since 1968 the Gators won while scoring in the single digits.
3: Arkansas Ties School Record With Three Consecutive Games of at Least 50 Points
Arkansas wasn’t necessarily pegged as a high-scoring offense in the preseason, but coach Bret Bielema’s group tied a school record by scoring 53 points in the overtime win over Ole Miss on Saturday. The Razorbacks have scored at least 50 points in three consecutive games, tying a record set in 1916. Earning a fourth consecutive game of 50 or more points will be a challenge, as Arkansas takes on LSU in Week 11.
17: Consecutive Wins by Nebraska in Night Games at Memorial Stadium
Nebraska knocked Michigan State from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 39-38 upset on Saturday night. The ending of the game wasn’t without controversy, as receiver Brandon Reilly went out of bounds and did not appear to be forced out, yet scored on a 30-yard pass from quarterback Tommy Armstrong. The score was upheld after a review, which allowed Nebraska to earn a one-point win and earn its 17th consecutive victory in night games at Memorial Stadium.
524: North Carolina QB Marquise Williams Sets School Record for Total Yards
North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams recorded one of the top individual performances from Week 10 in a 66-31 victory over Duke. The senior set the school record for most total yards (524), passing yards (494) and yards per completion (21.48) in the win over the Blue Devils. The senior has six passing scores and zero interceptions over the last two games, which were critical matchups (at Pittsburgh and Duke) in North Carolina's bid to win the Coastal Division.
24: Consecutive Games With a Touchdown Pass by WKU QB Brandon Doughty
WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty continued his prolific 2015 season with 273 yards and four passing scores in a 35-19 win over FAU. Doughty has passed for a touchdown score in 24 consecutive games, which is tied with TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin for the longest streak in the nation. Doughty has five games of four or more passing touchdowns this season and leads the nation with a 72.7 completion percentage.