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Charlotte, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is in fair condition at a Charlotte hospital after being involved in a two-car accident on Tuesday afternoon.
The Panthers later announced that Newton suffered two transverse process fractures in his lower back during the crash but no other internal injuries. The 2011 No. 1 overall pick will remain at Carolinas Medical Center overnight for further observation.
According to the Charlotte Observer, the accident occurred at about 12:50 p.m. ET near Bank of America Stadium. The paper said one of the vehicles involved in the accident overturned.
A picture from the Observer's Twitter page showed Newton conscious and smiling while being examined by medical personnel.
Newton's status for Sunday's contest against Tampa Bay is uncertain. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo missed one game earlier this season after sustaining a similar injury to his back against Washington on Oct. 27.
Cincinnati, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The season is officially over for Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, as the club placed him on injured reserve Tuesday.
The 24-year-old has been sidelined since undergoing knee surgery on Oct. 29 to have loose cartilage removed, after suffering an injury during a game against the Baltimore Ravens three days prior.
At the time, head coach Marvin Lewis said Burfict was likely to return for a Nov. 16 game against New Orleans, but that did not come to pass.
Burfict, who signed a new four-year contract this summer after leading the team in tackles each of his first two seasons, missed two games earlier this year because of concussions and also hurt his neck in a game against Indianapolis one week prior to his knee issue.
The Arizona State product ends 2014 with 29 tackles in five appearances.
In a corresponding roster move, Cincy activated quarterback A.J. McCarron from the reserve/non-football injury list. The Alabama product and rookie suffered a shoulder injury prior to the start of training camp which precluded his return to the field until now. He had been practicing with the club since it was granted a roster exception on Nov. 18.
McCarron threw for 3,063 yards and 28 touchdowns against seven interceptions during his senior season for the Crimson Tide.
Nashville, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - The Tennessee Titans signed veteran offensive lineman Jamon Meredith and placed cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday.
Wreh-Wilson suffered a dislocated shoulder in Tennessee's 36-7 loss to the Giants on Sunday. The 25-year-old compiled 57 tackles, 10 passes defensed and an interception over 11 starts this season.
Meredith, 28, played in four games for Indianapolis this season after appearing in 30 games (20 starts) with Tampa Bay over the previous two seasons.
The six-year veteran has played in 51 games with the Bills, Giants, Steelers, Buccaneers and Colts.
The SEC’s trophy case is already full of championships during the BCS era, but the conference is set to once again welcome a handful of national award winners to its collection of previous talent. Alabama receiver Amari Cooper was one of the best players in the nation this year and is a lock for All-America honors after catching 115 passes. But Cooper isn’t the only Crimson Tide player likely to win awards, as coordinator Lane Kiffin was one of the top candidates for the Broyles Award that went to Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, and safety Landon Collins should be a first-team All-American.
Missouri is another one of the big winners in the award selections by Athlon Sports, as defensive end Shane Ray earns defensive player of the year honors. Ray and fellow end Markus Golden were both selected to the Athlon Sports first-team All-SEC squad.
Outside of the two division champs, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen checks in as coach of the year, while South Carolina receiver Pharoh Cooper is the league’s top breakout player.
SEC 2014 Season Awards
Coach of the Year: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Mullen elevated Mississippi State into the SEC and national title mix this season, guiding the program to a 10-2 mark with a second-place finish in the brutal West Division. The Bulldogs ranked No. 1 in the first college football playoff rankings and ranked inside of the top four until a loss to Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. Mullen’s 10-2 mark was the best of his tenure in Starkville, and the Bulldogs are set to make their first appearance in the Orange Bowl since 1940 this season.
Offensive Player of the Year: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Cooper was easily the best player in the SEC this season. The junior thrived under the watch of coordinator Lane Kiffin by catching 115 passes for 1,656 yards and 14 scores. Cooper averaged 14.4 yards per catch and nearly nine receptions per game (8.8.). The junior delivered in Alabama’s biggest games in 2014, including a huge performance (13 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns) in the Iron Bowl win over Auburn and a 12-catch afternoon against Missouri in the SEC Championship.
Defensive Player of the Year: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
Strong consideration for Alabama safety Landon Collins and Missouri defensive end Markus Golden are needed here, but Ray gets the edge as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. The junior led all SEC defenders with 12.5 sacks, including two in a critical road win at South Carolina in late September. Ray also led all SEC defenders with 21 tackles for a loss, recorded 61 tackles and forced two fumbles.
Newcomer of the Year: D’haquille Williams, WR, Auburn
A knee injury slowed Williams in November, but he finished the season with 45 catches for 730 yards and five scores. The junior college transfer recorded four 100-yard performances and caught two scores against Mississippi State. Williams teamed with Sammie Coates to give Auburn one of the nation’s most-talented duos at receiver in 2014.
Freshman of the Year: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
It’s a tossup between Garrett, Georgia running back Nick Chubb and Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson. A slight edge goes to Garrett here, as it’s not easy being an impact defender as a true freshman in the SEC. Garrett was a bright spot for Texas A&M’s defense in 2014, recording 50 tackles (12.5 tackles for a loss), one pass breakup and 11 sacks in 11 games. Expect Garrett to be one of the leading candidates for All-America honors at defensive end in 2015.
Coordinator of the Year: Lane Kiffin, Offensive Coordinator, Alabama
Kiffin inherited plenty of talent, but the former USC coach was instrumental in the emergence of receiver Amari Cooper and the development of quarterback Blake Sims. Cooper was one of the nation’s top talents at receiver coming into 2014, but his numbers as a sophomore dipped after a promising freshman campaign. Under Kiffin’s watch, Cooper emerged as a Heisman finalist by catching 115 passes for 1,656 yards and 14 scores. Sims went into the preseason as a question mark, yet finished as a second-team All-SEC quarterback. Alabama averaged 6.4 yards per play and 34.2 points per contest in SEC games this season. The Crimson Tide also scored at least 40 points in each of their final three contests.
Breakout Player of the Year: Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina
Cooper caught only three passes for 54 yards last season, but big things were expected from the sophomore in 2014. And there’s no doubt Cooper delivered. The North Carolina native led all South Carolina receivers with 60 catches for 966 yards and eight scores. Cooper also rushed for 198 yards and two touchdowns and recorded 78 punt return yards on 14 attempts. Cooper is expected to be one of the SEC’s top receivers and all-purpose threats returning for 2015.
SEC 2014 All-Conference Team
|First-Team Offense||Second-Team Offense|
|QB Dak Prescott|
|QB Blake Sims|
|RB Cameron Artis-Payne|
|RB Josh Robinson|
|RB Nick Chubb|
|RB T.J. Yeldon|
|WR Amari Cooper|
|WR Laquon Treadwell|
|WR Pharoh Cooper|
|WR Bud Sasser|
|TE Evan Engram|
|TE Hunter Henry|
|C Reese Dismukes|
|C David Andrews|
|OG Arie Kouandjio|
|OG Vadal Alexander|
|OG A.J. Cann|
|OG Ben Beckwith|
|OT La'El Collins|
|OT Cam Robinson|
|OT Laremy Tunsil|
|OT Mitch Morse|
|AP Marcus Murphy|
|AP Speedy Noil|
|First-Team Defense||Second-Team Defense|
|DE Shane Ray|
|DE Dante Fowler|
|DE Markus Golden|
|DE Preston Smith|
|DE Myles Garrett|
|DE Derek Barnett|
|DT A'Shawn Robinson|
|DT Robert Nkemdiche|
|DL/LB Bud Dupree|
|LB Antonio Morrison|
|LB Benardrick McKinney|
|LB Trey DePriest|
|LB Martrell Spaight|
|LB Amarlo Herrera|
|CB Senquez Golson|
|CB Damian Swann|
|CB Vernon Hargreaves III|
|CB Jonathan Jones|
|S Landon Collins|
|S Braylon Webb|
|S Cody Prewitt|
|S Ronald Martin|
|First-Team Specialists||Second-Team Specialists|
|K Austin MacGinnis|
|K Elliott Fry|
|P JK Scott|
|P Jamie Keehn|
|KR Marcus Murphy|
|KR Darrius Sims|
|PR Quan Bray|
|PR Andre Debose|
By a handful of measures, the Big Ten had a successful season. The league produced a College Football Playoff team, a Heisman finalist, one of the top defensive players in the country and one of the nation’s biggest surprise teams.
The conference just took an interesting path to reach the finished product.
Writing off the league in Week 2 couldn’t have been more foolhardy, but at the time, the hopes for the Big Ten were dim.
By then, the power programs all lost non-conference games — Ohio State to Virginia Tech, Michigan to Notre Dame, Michigan State to Oregon and Wisconsin to LSU. Some teams recovered (Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State). Some did not (Michigan). Minnesota lost early to TCU, too, but the Horned Frogs turned out to be better than we anticipated. So did the Gophers.
If seasons are judged by playoff appearances and Heisman contenders, the Big Ten recovered from that week. J.T. Barrett emerged as a star, and Ohio State never lost again. Melvin Gordon was largely absent from the second half against LSU, but he went on to set the national single-game rushing record (for a week) and then broke the Big Ten rushing record held by Ron Dayne.
League newcomers Maryland and Rutgers will finish the season in bowl games. So will Illinois, which saved the job of coach Tim Beckman. So will Penn State, which saw its bowl ban lifted.
But power programs in this league finished where they started the season — looking for answers. Michigan is out of a bowl and still looking for a coach. Nebraska is in a bowl but has one eye on the Mike Riley era.
2014 Season Awards and All-Conference Teams:
2014 Big Ten Season Awards
Coach of the Year: Jerry Kill, Minnesota
Minnesota’s trophy case is more full than it’s been in years as the Gophers won both the Little Brown Jug (Michigan) and Floyd of Rosedale (Iowa) in the same season for the first time since 1967. The Gophers, picked by Athlon to finish fifth in the West, came within one game on the last day of the season of playing in the Big Ten championship game. With an 8-4 finish, Kill has led Minnesota to back-to-back eight-win seasons for the first time in more than a decade.
Offensive Player of the Year: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
This can go to no one else. It’s hard to think what Wisconsin would be without Gordon. The junior put himself into Wisconsin running back lore — not an easy task given the tradition — by rushing for a then-FBS record 408 yards against Nebraska and breaking Ron Dayne’s Big Ten rushing record. Gordon’s 2,336 rushing yards is the fourth-highest total in FBS history.
Defensive Player of the Year: Joey Bosa, Ohio State
Bosa built upon a standout freshman season to become the most disruptive defensive player in the Big Ten. The 6-foot-5, 278-pound defensive end from St. Thomas Aquinas finished in the top five nationally with 13.5 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss. His four forced fumbles this season contributed to 30 Ohio State points.
Newcomer of the Year: Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Minnesota
Boddy-Calhoun is a junior college transfer and a player making a return from injury. The wait was worth it as the Gophers cornerback finished the season with four interceptions and eight pass breakups.
Freshman of the Year: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Unless you’re a die-hard Ohio State fan, you probably didn’t know much, if anything, about J.T. Barrett before Aug. 20. That’s when Braxton Miller was lost for the season and Barrett went from unknown to the quarterback of a College Football Playoff contender. The redshirt freshman struggled in his second career start, a home loss to 6-6 Virginia Tech, but led the Buckeyes to an unblemished Big Ten season. His 45 total touchdowns was an Ohio State record and more than Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston during their redshirt freshman seasons.
Coordinator of the Year: Tom Herman, Ohio State
Ohio State entered the season with one sure bet on offense, and that cornerstone, Braxton Miller, never started a game. The 39-year-old coordinator prepped J.T. Barrett to take an unexpected starting role for the season, set the stage for a 1,400-yard season from running back Ezekiel Elliott and then won a Big Ten championship game with another backup quarterback in Cardale Jones. Simply put, Ohio State isn’t in they playoff if the Buckeyes quarterbacks aren’t in position or prepared to flourish on short notice.
Breakout Player of the Year: Tevin Coleman, Indiana
Coleman had a heck of a time overcoming not only Melvin Gordon in publicity or a 1-7 season by Indiana in the Big Ten. Becoming only the third 2,000-yard running back since 2008 was enough to put him on the fringe of the Heisman hunt. At one point, Coleman had rushed for a touchdown in 15 consecutive games dating back to the 2013 opener against Indiana State. Coleman finished with 2,036 yards, more than double his total from a year earlier.
Big Ten 2014 All-Conference Team
|First Team||Second Team|
QB J.T. Barrett
QB Connor Cook
RB Melvin Gordon
RB Ameer Abdullah
RB Tevin Coleman
RB David Cobb
WR Tony Lippett
WR Devin Smith
WR Leonte Carroo
WR Mike Dudek
TE Maxx Williams
TE Josiah Price
OT Brandon Scherff
OT Jack Conklin
OT Rob Havenstein
OT Taylor Decker
OG Kyle Costigan
OG Pat Elflein
OG Zac Epping
OG Travis Jackson
C Jack Allen
C Dan Voltz
DE Joey Bosa
DE Randy Gregory
DE Shilique Calhoun
DE Andre Monroe
DT Anthony Zettel
DT Carl Davis
DT Michael Bennett
DT Maliek Collins
LB Mike Hull
LB Derek Landisch
LB Vince Biegel
LB Taiwan Jones
LB Jake Ryan
LB Damien Wilson
CB William Likely
CB Doran Grant
CB Trae Waynes
CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun
S Kurtis Drummond
S Nate Gerry
S Michael Caputo
S Frankie Williams
K Brad Craddock
K Sam Ficken
P Peter Mortell
P Cameron Johnston
KR Jalen Myrick
KR R.J. Shelton
PR De'Mornay Pierson-El
PR Jalin Marshall
Certainly, Big 12 fans feel jilted by the inaugural College Football Playoff Committee.
Both TCU and Baylor were worthy candidates for the national championship tournament. But being left out of the bracket and the subsequent finger pointing has taken away from what was a remarkable season in the Big 12.
The 2014 season was one filled with remarkable comebacks, record-setting performances, historic storylines and a lot of purple.
Big 12 2014 Season Awards
Coach of the Year: Gary Patterson, TCU
In just three short seasons, Patterson took his program from the Mountain West to the top of the Big 12 ladder. After losing close game after close game and finishing 4-8 a year ago with no quarterback play, Patterson reinvented himself on offense by hiring two new coordinators. With a wide receiver playing quarterback and his best defensive player lost for the year in the summer months, all Patterson did was win a share of the Big 12 title. The Frogs were picked sixth in the Big 12.
Offensive Player of the Year: Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
What else can be said about Boykin’s remarkable season? He led the Big 12 with 3,714 yards passing, 30 passing touchdowns and was top 10 nationally in both categories. He also led the Big 12 and finished third nationally in total offense per game at 363.0 yards per game. Of the 11 players with at least 30 touchdown passes, Boykin was one of five with fewer than 10 interceptions. For good measure, he was 10th in the Big 12 in rushing and sixth in rushing touchdowns. This was a no-brainer.
Defensive Player of the Year: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
Brown was downright unstoppable this season for what turned out to be a bowl team in Austin. He anchored a unit that led the league in total defense and passing defense. The massive nose guard is a likely first-team All-American and finished his fine season with 62 total tackles, 12.5 for loss and 6.5 sacks to go with two forced fumbles. He was the most dominant defensive player in the league this year.
Newcomer of the Year: Tyreek Hill, AP, Oklahoma State
Hill was the No. 3-rated junior college prospect in the nation according to 247Sports and proved he was worth the lofty expectations. He finished second in the Big 12 with 150.9 all-purpose yards per game and made the biggest play of the Pokes season by tying The Bedlam Series with less than a minute away with his unforgettable punt return. Hill finished with 534 yards rushing on 102 attempts, 281 yards receiving on 31 catches and scored on three different returns (2 kick, 1 punt).
Freshman of the Year: Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
The burly true freshman carried his way into the NCAA record books this fall. Perine led the Big 12 with 240 carries, 1,579 yards and 21 touchdowns. He posted three 200-yard games and set the NCAA single-game rushing record with 427 against Kansas. He was never the unquestioned starter but was asked to carry the load when Oklahoma dealt with injuries. The Texas native rose to the occasion and finished eighth nationally in rushing and was one of seven players to rush for at least 20 TDs.
Coordinator of the Year: Doug Meacham, TCU
He lost out on the Frank Broyles Award given to the nation’s top coordinator (Ohio State’s Tom Herman) but that shouldn’t diminish the work Meacham did in Fort Worth. The Broyles finalist, along with co-coordinator Sonny Cumbie, took an offense that ranked 106th in total offense (344.8) and 88th in scoring offense (25.1 ppg) and turned it into one of the most prolific units in the nation. TCU averaged 542.2 yards and 46.8 points per game, ranking fourth and second nationally, respectively.
Breakout Player of the Year: Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Boykin pretty much deserves every award possible. He’s the offensive player of the year, he’s the most improved player of the year and is clearly the breakout player of the year. Entering the summer, Boykin was a long shot to start at quarterback and was more likely to be a first-team All-Big 12 wide receiver than Heisman Trophy signal-caller. It was a remarkable year for the TCU QB.
Big 12 2014 All-Conference Team
|First-Team Offense||Second-Team Offense|
|QB Trevone Boykin|
|QB Bryce Petty|
|RB Samaje Perine|
|RB DeAndre Washington|
|RB Shock Linwood|
|RB Aaron Green|
|WR Tyler Lockett|
WR Sterling Shepard
|WR Kevin White|
|WR Corey Coleman|
|TE E.J. Bibbs|
|TE Jimmay Mudine|
|C B.J. Finney|
|C Joey Hunt|
|OL Spencer Drango|
|OL Cody Whitehair|
|OL Daryl Williams|
|OL Quinton Spain|
|OL Le'Raven Clark|
|OL Tayo Fabuluje|
|OL Mike Glowinski|
|OL Tyrus Thompson|
|AP Tyreek Hill|
|AP Aaron Wimberly|
|First-Team Defense||Second-Team Defense|
|DL Malcom Brown|
|DL Andrew Billings|
|DL Shawn Oakman|
|DL Ryan Mueller|
|DL Chucky Hunter|
|DL Cedric Reed|
|DL Emmanuel Ogbah|
|DL Jordan Phillips|
|LB Paul Dawson|
|LB Eric Striker|
|LB Ben Heeney|
|LB Bryce Hager|
|LB Pete Robertson|
|LB Jonathan Truman|
|CB Zack Sanchez|
|CB Quandre Diggs|
|CB Sam Carter|
|CB Nigel Tribune|
|S Chris Hackett|
|S Karl Joseph|
|S Orion Stewart|
|S Jordan Sterns|
|First-Team Specialists||Second-Team Specialists|
|K Josh Lambert|
|K Jaden Oberkrom|
|P Trevor Pardula|
|P Spencer Roth|
|KR Alex Ross|
|KR Mario Alford|
|PR Tyler Lockett|
|PR Tyreek Hill|
The Pac-12 entered the season with eyes on knocking off the SEC as the best league in college football.
While that may not happen until Oregon knocks off both Florida State and Alabama in the College Football Playoff, the Pac-12 has clearly separated itself as the best league outside of the SEC and has set itself up to be on par with the SEC if the Ducks can win two more games.
Star power at quarterback, a deep collection of head coaches and renewed financial support across the league makes the Pac-12 one of the best two conferences in the nation.
As far as conference awards and all-conference teams, there were very few difficult decisions.
Pac-12 2014 Season Awards
Coach of the Year: Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
The Wildcats were picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12 South by Athlon Sports, as well as the preseason media throng. In fact, three different teams got first place votes in the South and Arizona wasn’t one of them. The Wildcats won 10 games, including matchups at Oregon, at Utah and over Arizona State at home in the division clincher. As Pac-12 South champs, Rich Rodriguez is the obvious choice for Coach of the Year and should get plenty of votes nationally.
Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
What more can be said about the star quarterback from Oregon? Marcus Mariota was simply brilliant in 2014, accounting for 53 total touchdowns and just two interceptions. His 4,452 yards of total offense topped the nation as well. He is the frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy for a reason.
Defensive Player of the Year: Scooby Wright III, LB, Arizona
What more can be said about the star linebacker from Arizona? Wright III is one of the most disruptive players in the nation in leading his team to the Pac-12 title game. He finished second in the nation in tackles (153), first in tackles for loss (27.0), third in sacks (14.0) and first in forced fumbles (6). The Cats linebacker has already won the Nagurski Award as the nation’s best defensive player.
Listen to the College Football Playoff Committee podcast:
Newcomer of the Year: Devontae Booker, RB, Utah
According to 247Sports.com, Booker was the No. 103-ranked junior college prospect entering the college ranks in 2014. He was a three-star recruit who turned into a first-team performer in just one season in Salt Lake City. He led the Pac-12 with 266 attempts and finished second with 1,350 yards. He carried his team to victory over UCLA, Oregon State, USC and Stanford.
Freshman of the Year: Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona
The redshirt freshman quarterback led all freshmen nationally in passing yards (3,458) and finished behind only Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett in touchdown passes (27) and total offense (3,717) among freshmen. He also led his team to an unexpected berth in the Pac-12 title game. He is a perfect fit for RichRod’s offense and has a huge future ahead of him in Tucson.
Coordinator of the Year: Scott Frost, Oregon
Many believe Mark Helfrich or Mariota deserve the credit for Oregon’s massive offensive output this fall. While both will get their share of kudos (rightly so), Scott Frost has been recognized by the Frank Broyles Award as one of the five best coordinators in the country. The Ducks were No. 3 in total offense (546.2), No. 2 in yards per play (7.35) and No. 3 in scoring offense (46.3).
Breakout Player of the Year: Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
He led the Pac-12 in rushing touchdowns (16) and was fourth in the league in rushing (1,299). What made Freeman so important to Oregon, however, was his emergence following the loss to Arizona. All six 100-yard games came after the loss as did 11 of his 16 rushing touchdowns. His emergence allowed Mark Helfrich to move Byron Marshall to receiver and it helped protect Mariota in the second half of the season. The elite recruit from California totally lived up to his prep hype.
Pac-12 2014 All-Conference Team
|First-Team Offense||Second-Team Offense|
|QB Marcus Mariota|
|QB Brett Hundley|
|RB Javorius Allen|
|RB Devontae Booker|
|RB Royce Freeman|
|RB Paul Perkins|
|WR Nelson Agholor|
|WR Nelson Spruce|
|WR Jaelen Strong|
|WR Vince Mayle|
|TE Pharaoh Brown|
|TE Austin Hooper|
|OL Hroniss Grasu|
|OL Jake Brendel|
|OL Andrus Peat|
|OL Kyle Murphy|
|OL Jake Fisher|
|OL Nick Kelly|
|OL Max Tuerk|
|OL Steven Gurrola|
|OL Jamil Douglas|
|OL Jeremiah Poutasi|
|AP D.J. Foster|
|AP Adoree Jackson|
|Second-Team Offense||Second-Team Defense|
|DL Leonard Williams|
|DL Henry Anderson|
|DL Nate Orchard|
|DL DeForest Buckner|
|DL Danny Shelton|
|DL Owamagbe Odigihizuwa|
|DL/LB Hau'oli Kikaha|
|DL Dylan Wynn|
|LB Shaq Thompson|
|LB A.J. Tarpley|
|LB Eric Kendricks|
|LB Myles Jack|
|LB Scooby Wright III|
|LB Jared Norris|
|CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu|
|CB Steven Nelson|
|CB Ishmael Adams|
|CB Troy Hill|
|S Su'a Cravens|
|S Damarious Randall|
|S Jordan Richards|
|S Erick Dargan|
|First-Team Specialists||Second-Team Specialists|
|K Andy Phillips|
|K Zane Gonzalez|
|P Tom Hackett|
|P Drew Riggleman|
|KR Ty Montgomery|
|KR Trevor Davis|
|PR Kaelin Clay|
|PR Nelson Agholor|
Florida State didn’t dominate its conference opponents in the fashion it did last season, but the Seminoles were still the best team in the league and feature nine first-team selections on Athlon’s All-ACC team for 2014.
Quarterback Jameis Winston tossed 17 interceptions but is still the conference’s most talented option under center. Winston earns first-team All-ACC honors at quarterback, with offensive teammates in receiver Rashad Greene (first), running back Dalvin Cook (second), tackle/center Cameron Erving (first) headlining the rest of the offensive selections.
Outside of Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Miami and Pittsburgh were the big winners in Athlon’s postseason awards. Pittsburgh running back James Conner earns offensive player of the year honors, while Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley is the Athlon ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
ACC 2014 Season Awards
Coach of the Year: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
It’s a close call between Johnson and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher for the ACC Coach of the Year award. Johnson gets a slight edge over Fisher, as Georgia Tech improved its win total by three games, beat rival Georgia and claimed the Coastal Division title. The Yellow Jackets also earned a spot in the Orange Bowl and recorded their first double-digit win total since 2009. Johnson’s track record at Georgia Tech doesn’t factor into the 2014 coach of the year honor, but it’s notable the Yellow Jackets have finished at least .500 or above in ACC play in each of the last seven seasons.
Offensive Player of the Year: James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh
Conner was the workhorse for coach Paul Chryst’s offense this season and overcame a late-season hip injury to lead Pittsburgh back to a bowl. The sophomore finished the year with 1,675 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns. Conner averaged a healthy 6.1 yards per carry on 277 attempts and recorded three games of at least 200 rushing yards. The Pennsylvania native ranked first among running backs in the ACC in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns. Conner's 24 rushing scores tied for third nationally.
Defensive Player of the Year: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
It’s always tough to gauge statistics for defensive linemen since their impact goes beyond the box score. In Beasley’s case, it’s evident the senior is one of nation’s top ends by the film and on the stat sheet. The senior finished with only 29 tackles but recorded 18.5 for a loss and 11 sacks. Beasley also forced two fumbles and returned one recovered turnover for a 16-yard touchdown against NC State. The senior is considered one of the top defensive prospects for the 2015 NFL Draft.
Newcomer of the Year: Tyler Murphy, QB, Boston College
Murphy came to Boston College after four seasons at Florida and was immediately inserted as the starting quarterback in time for spring practice. Despite having just one offseason to get acclimated with his teammates and the program, Murphy was a driving force behind the Eagles’ 7-5 record. The senior finished third in the ACC with 1,074 rushing yards and recorded 10 touchdowns on 169 carries. Murphy also passed for 1,526 yards and 11 scores. The senior’s rushing ability was a valuable asset for coach Steve Addazio and nearly led Boston College to upset wins over Clemson and Florida State this year.
Freshman of the Year: Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
Florida State’s Dalvin Cook made a strong run at this award late in the year, but Kaaya gets the nod as Athlon’s ACC Freshman of the Year. The true freshman completed 202 of 345 passes for 2,962 yards and 25 touchdown passes. Kaaya led the ACC in quarterback rating (148.2) and averaged 14.6 yards per completion.
Coordinator of the Year: Todd Grantham, Defensive Coordinator, Louisville
Despite returning only four starters and changing schemes, Louisville’s defense ranked second in the ACC in fewest yards allowed per play (4.6) and held opponents to just 19.3 points in league play. The Cardinals generated 27 sacks in ACC games and finished second in the conference with 28 takeaways. Grantham’s defense also ranked first in the ACC against the run, while safety Gerod Holliman emerged as one of the top defensive breakout players in the conference by recording 14 interceptions and 37 tackles in 2014.
Breakout Player of the Year: Gerod Holliman, S, Louisville
Holliman had a breakout year under the watch of coordinator Todd Grantham. The junior recorded 37 tackles (three for a loss), one sack and led the nation with 14 interceptions in 12 games. On those 14 interceptions, Holliman recorded 245 return yards and returned one for a score against FIU. The junior also recorded one fumble for a loss and defeated 17 passes. Holliman is a first-team Athlon Sports All-ACC selection for 2014.
ACC 2014 All-Conference Team
|First-Team Offense||Second-Team Offense|
|QB Jameis Winston|
|QB Marquise Williams|
|RB James Conner|
|RB Dalvin Cook|
|RB Duke Johnson|
|RB Zach Laskey|
|WR Tyler Boyd|
|WR DeVante Parker|
|WR Rashad Greene|
|WR Artavis Scott|
|TE Nick O'Leary|
|TE Clive Walford|
|C Andy Gallik|
|C Shane McDermott|
|OG Tre Jackson|
|OG Shaquille Mason|
|OG Laken Tomlinson|
|OG Josue Matias|
OT T.J. Clemmings
|OT Jamon Brown|
|OT/C Cameron Erving|
|OT Ereck Flowers|
|AP Jamison Crowder|
|AP Shadrach Thornton (RB)|
|First-Team Defense||Second-Team Defense|
|DE Mario Edwards Jr.|
|DE Dadi Nicolas|
|DE Vic Beasley|
|DE Ken Ekanem|
|DT Eddie Goldman|
|DT Corey Marshall|
|DT Grady Jarrett|
|DT Adam Gotsis|
|LB Denzel Perryman|
|LB Lorenzo Mauldin|
|LB Stephone Anthony|
|LB Henry Coley|
LB David Helton
|LB Max Valles|
|CB Kendall Fuller|
|CB Kevin Johnson|
|CB P.J. Williams|
|CB D.J. White|
|S Jalen Ramsey|
|S Jeremy Cash|
|S Gerod Holliman|
|S Quin Blanding|
|First-Team Specialists||Second-Team Specialists|
|K Roberto Aguayo|
|K Ian Frye|
|P Will Baumann|
|P Alex Kinal|
|KR Darius Jennings|
|KR DeVon Edwards|
|PR Jamison Crowder|
|PR Tyler Boyd|
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 10:
• Charlotte McKinney will be appearing in "Joe Dirt 2." In other news, they're actually making "Joe Dirt 2."
• ESPN asked a group of toddlers for their opinions on college football. They're stepping on Skip Bayless' turf there.
• Geno Smith thinks he's shown flashes of being a Pro Bowler. Geno is not very self aware.
• Bad news for the growing legion of FSU haters: The Noles just snagged the nation's best recruit.
• The latest on Cam Newton's injury due to a scary crash. If I were a snarky internet commenter, I'd point out that another Cam Newton drive ended in a turnover.
• I'm on Gronk overload, but if you're not, here are some photos of him with kittens.
• Jason Kidd gives written tests on game days. Sounds fun to play for.
• Robin Lopez has a beef with the Pistons mascot.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
1. Golden State Warriors (18-2)
The Warriors have been too much to handle for anyone in the league. Their endless array of 3-point shooting, led by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, has advanced into the realm of unguardable under new coach Steve Kerr, and their defense is consistently one of the league’s five most efficient, too.
2. Houston Rockets (16-4)
The Rockets’ record is almost as impressive as how they’ve gotten it. Largely without three starters in Terrence Jones, Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley, they’ve ridden a shockingly effective defense (featuring the much-improved James Harden) to the most head-turning streak of the young season.
3. Toronto Raptors (16-5)
The Raptors are often cited as less dangerous than they appear because they play in the soft Eastern Conference. But if we’re not respecting their record, then what sort of sense remains in the world? Plus, they’ve got notable wins against the Wizards, Grizzlies, Cavaliers and Suns.
4. Memphis Grizzlies (16-4)
Marc Gasol has gone from great to extra-great this season, and the Grizzlies are better than they’ve ever been. A consummate postseason spoiler, this Memphis squad is facing its best championship odds in franchise history.
5. San Antonio Spurs (15-5)
The Spurs are the Spurs. If they’re not higher on this list by season’s end, you can color me surprised.
6. Portland Trail Blazers (16-4)
Despite the skepticism of many — who thought the Blazers’ 2013-14 surge to be the stuff of one-hit wonders — Portland just keeps winning. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Wesley Matthews is having the season of a lifetime.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (12-7)
Winners of seven straight, the Cavaliers are slowly turning into the blistering battleship of superstar talent that everyone feared this summer. Expect them to keep climbing these rankings.
8. Los Angeles Clippers (15-5)
Blake Griffin showed the world his improved shooting touch — including one extremely lucky bounce — in his team’s exhilarating overtime victory against the Suns. The more versatile Griffin becomes, the closer his team gets to title-contending status.
9. Washington Wizards (14-6)
If John Wall isn’t in your top-five point guard category, he should be. The Wizards’ improvement is about a lot of things, but none of them are more important than Wall’s continued superstar strides.
10. Atlanta Hawks (14-6)
Unbeknownst to almost everyone, Atlanta has built an offense that should be the delight of basketball nerds everywhere. Their deep array of 3-point shooting and selfless, quick passing around the perimeter has been positively Spurs-ian.
11. Dallas Mavericks (16-6)
Even without great play from newcomer Chandler Parsons, the Mavericks have stepped up considerably in 2014-15. If they weren’t in one of the best conferences in league history, we’d have them higher.
12. Chicago Bulls (12-8)
The Bulls are one of the league’s greatest enigmas. Their question marks exceed well beyond Derrick Rose, too — there are mysterious injuries up and down this roster, including a worrisome issue with Joakim Noah’s knee.
13. Phoenix Suns (12-10)
The Suns, like the Mavericks, are guilty of a crime they never agreed to commit: playing out west. Their thrilling speed and athleticism will be a treat to watch regardless of where they end up in the standings, though.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder (7-13)
The Thunder stand out as an anomaly here — they haven’t much of anything this season. But with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook back, it’s only a matter of time before everyone starts sweating about OKC.
15. Sacramento Kings (11-10)
DeMarcus Cousins is out indefinitely with viral meningitis. Until he gets right, the Kings will have a hard time treading water.
16. Milwaukee Bucks (11-11)
The exciting young Bucks are a great watch with their endless row of long-armed defenders and springy athletes. Maybe coach Jason Kidd can make them a true contender, once he gets them off their training wheels.
17. New Orleans Pelicans (9-10)
Anthony Davis is the best player in the NBA this season, and that’s the only thing saving the Pelicans from the basement. This is a mismatched, oblong roster with serious basketball problems.
18. Miami Heat (9-11)
Dwyane Wade’s health has continued to be a serious problem for Miami — who could still turn into a contender yet again in the East, if their franchise player could simply stay on the floor next to a still-magnificent Chris Bosh.
19. Denver Nuggets (9-12)
After a horrible 1-6 start, the Nuggets were left for dead. They’ve improved since then, but not enough to make any noise in their killer conference.
20. Brooklyn Nets (8-11)
The whirlpool of Nets trade rumors is spinning at faster rates daily, and the team looks dispirited enough on the court to show us that they know it. What will this squad look like at year’s end?
21. Indiana Pacers (7-14)
The Pacers could make gigantic, powerful strides by the end of the year and be beasts of the East yet again, if they get a healthy Paul George back on the wings — a rumored possibility. But until then, there’s not much to see here.
22. Orlando Magic (9-14)
The Magic are fun to watch — unless you really care about them winning. Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Co. might be fierce Eastern foes in the coming years. For now? They’re still learning.
23. Boston Celtics (7-12)
The Celtics usually lose, but they never go down easy. If this was a morale ranking and not a power ranking, we could slot them higher. But wins matter in this league, and Boston will continue not to get many until they fill their gaping hole down low.
24. Utah Jazz (5-16)
The Jazz, like the Magic, are a veritable farm system of watchable-but-unseasoned talent. Keep your eyes on them going forward; if any vacancies open up in the West, Dante Exum, Trey Burke, Enes Kanter, Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward will be eager and able to grab one.
25. Philadelphia 76ers (2-18)
The Sixers’ record is worse than anyone’s in basketball, but, hey: at least their franchise has a sense of purpose. And promising players, to boot — K.J. McDaniels and Nerlens Noel look like two rookie keepers.
26. New York Knicks (4-18)
Phil Jackson says he’s not happy with his Knicks’ “loser’s mentality,” and who can blame him? Basketball in New York has continued to be more of a comedy than a conquest in 2014-15.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-16)
The Timberwolves are very bad, but at least they have hope on their side — Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Anthony Bennett and Gorgui Dieng make for a core that a lot of teams would love to build around.
28. Charlotte Hornets (5-15)
The Hornets are, by far, the most disappointing team of the season. Acquiring Lance Stephenson seems to have brought them more problems than answers, and you shouldn’t be surprised if he’s shipped out soon.
29. Los Angeles Lakers (5-16)
All the Lakers have left is intrigue and history. An entertaining stew of personalities — with Kobe at the center — won’t win you anything, though. Here’s to hoping the lure of playing for the purple-and-gold still matters to big free agents this summer, and those after it.
30. Detroit Pistons (3-18)
There’s almost nothing good to say about the Pistons, who haven’t done anything right under new coach and team president Stan Van Gundy. Like the Hornets and Nets, they’re strong candidates to make some trades this winter.
— John Wilmes
Athlon Sports formed a Heisman Trophy committee that voted every week. Now that the season is over, who are they predicting wins the Heisman Trophy?
Each voter ranks their top five candidates, with each first-place vote getting five points and each last-place vote getting one point.
Stewart Mandel, FOX Sports
Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network
Adam Zucker, CBS Sports
Steven Godfrey, SBNation
Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated
Bryan Fischer, NFL.com
Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network
Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio
Josh Ward, MrSEC.com
Mitch Light, Athlon Sports
David Fox, Athlon Sports
Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports
Braden Gall, Athlon Sports, SiriusXM
Dropped out: None
Listen to the College Football Playoff Committee podcast:
The Top 3:
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
The Pac-12 title game wasn’t as much a must-win situation as it was a Heisman coronation. Mariota is the clear frontrunner for the 2014 Heisman Trophy and, frankly, it would be a huge upset if the Ducks didn’t win their first ever stiff-armed trophy. Mariota finished with 52 total touchdowns and just two interceptions and led the nation with 4,452 yards of total offense. Congrats to one of the good guys of college football.
Season Stats: 3,783 yds, 68.3%, 38 TDs, 2 INTs, 669 rush yds, 14 TDs
2. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
The only hope “MelGor” had to win the Heisman was to carry his team to an improbable Big Ten championship over the much more talented Buckeyes. However, Gordon was totally stuffed by Ohio State, finishing with just 76 yards on 26 carries with no touchdowns. Gordon still has an outside shot at Barry Sanders’ single-season rushing record, needing 292 in the bowl game to set the record. He needs 231 to pass Kevin Smith for second all-time.
Season Stats: 309 att., 2,336 yds, 26 TDs, 17 rec., 151 yds, 3 TDs
3. Amari Cooper, Alabama
Cooper didn’t make the big play in the SEC title game, but he did set an SEC record with 12 receptions in the championship game. He was a constant decoy that allowed others to make plenty of big plays and it gave Alabama the SEC title. Cooper also set a new single-season SEC record with 115 catches (Jordan Matthews) and is just 84 yards from breaking Josh Reed’s SEC single-season yards record (1,740).
Season Stats: 115 rec., 1,656 yds, 14 TDs
With the conference challenges and Thanksgiving tournaments and showcases behind us, most teams have assembled their non-conference resumes, for better or worse.
Thanks to the holidays and finals, the December schedule lets up for many teams around the country, but a handful of squads are facing must-win situations during the next three weeks as they build NCAA Tournament resumes.
Here are 10 teams that need big-time Ws before the calendar flips and conference games begin in January…or be forced to win their conference outright in order to make a run in March.
After the tournament selection committee snubbed SMU last season for lack of quality non-conference opponents, Larry Brown scheduled back-to-back road games against No. 9 Gonzaga and Indiana and played Arkansas at home. Rather than a weak non-conference schedule, SMU has non-conference losses. SMU lost all three contests. The pressure is on as SMU heads to Ann Arbor on the Dec. 20 to play Michigan. The Wolverines would certainly qualify as a quality win, which is more necessary as the Mustangs won’t get much help with the AAC schedule. To pile on, SMU is without big man Markus Kennedy for the rest of the semester. The Mustangs, ranked in the preseason AP top 25, have been without top point guard prospect Emmanuel Mudiay, who bypassed NCAA questions to play professionally in China.
The Tigers’ big non-conference games have come and gone, and they were disastrous. While losing to No. 11 Wichita State is nothing to fuss about, losing to Baylor by 24 and Stephen F. Austin at home are black eyes. Josh Pastner and Co. have an opportunity to improve their resume slightly with a win over Oklahoma State on the Dec. 13. But with one of the country’s worst offenses, ranking 270th in points per game (62.8), 277th in assists per game (10.8), 228th in field goal percentage (.421), and 125th in KenPom’s offensive efficiency rating, and the Tigers could be another reason that the AAC becomes a one-bid league come March.
NC State will face Tennessee, No. 22 West Virginia, Louisiana Tech and Cincinnati in a row, with three of those games being played in Raleigh. That stretch of games provides the Wolfpack ample opportunity to improve their resume and avenge a loss to Purdue in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge before taking on the depth and refined offenses of the ACC once January rolls around. Mark Gottfried must be creative to get looks for players other than junior guard Trevor Lacey, who is carrying the offensive load thus far.
The reigning national champions are reeling after a shocking 45-44 loss to Yale last weekend in Storrs. The AAC won’t be doing the Huskies any favors in terms potential quality wins in conference. UConn has two more chances for solid non-AAC wins when they play No. 2 Duke in the Meadowlands and travel to Florida. Outside of Ryan Boatright, UConn’s offense is struggling, ranking 279th in points per game (62.0), 302nd in assists per game (10.2), and 217th in field goal percentage (42.6).
K-State’s best chances for a significant non-conference victory are long gone. Two of the Wildcats early losses are to .500 teams who won’t make the tournament (Long Beach State, Tennessee), and another by 23 to an average Pitt squad. Luckily for K-State, the Big 12 is flush with adequate teams that could beat up one another in January and February, giving a tournament bid to the Wildcats in March. Wins against Texas A&M (Dec. 20) in Kansas City, and Georgia (Dec. 31) in the Octagon will lightly polish a rusty non-conference performance thus far for K-State.
Things won't get much easier for the Orange after losing two in a row to Michigan and No. 24 St. John’s when they host Louisiana Tech (Dec. 14) and travel to Philly to play old Big East rival No. 7 Villanova (Dec. 20). By the time ACC conference play starts, Jim Boeheim’s team could have five losses on its resume already. Boeheim will have to work his magic to kick start his lackluster offense that boasts just two players scoring in doubles figures. With the addition of Louisville, the new ACC will be unforgiving this season. A win against Jay Wright’s Wildcats could be just the spark the Orange need.
The 83.9 points per game Illinois is scoring thus far is deceiving. According to KenPom, Illinois has the 279th worst non-conference schedule, which stings considering they lost to the only ranked team on their schedule thus far (Miami). The Illini's biggest challenge comes tonight in Madison Square Garden when they play No. 7 Villanova, followed by two “neutral” court games in Chicago against Oregon (Dec. 13) and in Kansas City against Missouri (Dec. 20). The two games on the back end are winnable for the Illini, but if they want to go dancing in March, Illinois will have to do some damage in the Big Ten.
The Bruins lost three players to the NBA in June and return just three players that provided any significant minutes last season. So far, that inexperience has hurt UCLA as the Bruins have lost their only two games against Power Five conference teams (Oklahoma, North Carolina). Things get tougher when No. 9 Gonzaga comes to Pauley Pavilion (Dec. 13) and when the Bruins travel to Chicago to play No. 1 Kentucky. UCLA is likely to make the Big Dance, but wins against top ranked non-conference teams could make a noticeable difference in seeding, especially since the Pac-12 will be tougher to navigate than in recent years.
It’s still too early to say the Havoc hasn’t lived up to the hype, but VCU finds itself in an interesting position. Losing to No. 7 Villanova on a neutral court and No. 6 Virginia aren’t bad losses, but losing to Old Dominion is. Going forward, the ball is in VCU’s court as they host No. 23 Northern Iowa (Dec. 13), and Belmont (Dec. 16), before traveling to Cincinnati (Dec. 20). These are all winnable games for the Rams. If VCU can’t capitalize, it could spell trouble if they don’t win the Atlantic 10 outright. How would the committee view a VCU team with no major out of conference wins, with six or more losses, and didn’t win the A-10? Probably not too favorably. It’s a long shot but still capable of coming to fruition. Shaka Smart had better have his team on point for the next couple of weeks.
The Athlon preseason No. 10 Gators were talked about as a possible challenger to Kentucky. That seems like crazy talk at this point as Florida hovers at .500. After losing to Miami, Georgetown, North Carolina and Kansas, Florida could be entering conference play without a significant non-conference win. As of now, Florida isn’t scheduled to play a ranked team until they host No. 1 Kentucky on Feb. 7. Billy Donovan’s Gators play Wake Forest (Dec. 20) in Sunrise, Fla., then travel to Tallahassee for a meeting with Florida State (Dec. 30) and then back home to host UConn (Jan. 3). None of which would be a true signature win, but the Gators may need to sweep those games to salvage the non-conference schedule.
-By Jacob Rose
Where to start? This one had it all. The Los Angeles Clippers’ breathless 121-120 overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns was the most fun game of the year, at least if the look on Clippers owner Steve Ballmer's face afterwards is any indication.
It included an outstanding performance from Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe, a former Clipper who worked closely with Chris Paul and looked like he had revenge on his mind, as he tallied his first career triple double with 27 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds, making several key plays down the stretch, including an emphatic block of Paul’s potential game-winning shot at the buzzer to send the game to an extra session.
There was this, too, from Clippers reserve Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who said it all with his face:
Blake Griffin was not about to be outdone by Davis’ gesturing or Bledsoe’s excellence, though. He led all scorers with 45 points on 14-of-24 shooting and deftly baited Suns forward P.J. Tucker (with whom Griffin has a history) into poor decisions in overtime. He also sealed the win with this incredible, unlikely buzzer beater:
The shot of the year, for the game of the year.
Clippers-Suns also proved to be yet another testament to how great the Western Conference is this year. Watching the two teams upstage each other with great offensive movement and execution, over and over again, was dizzying, and it seemed almost unfair that either team could lose the game after such incredible performances.
And Bledsoe showing up Chris Paul was the stuff of instant NBA classics. It was the consummate Padawan-meets-Jedi showdown, and now we know not to miss another instant of any of their future standoffs. A seven-game series between these teams might be too fun to survive — keep your fingers crossed.
— John Wilmes
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 9:
• Golden Tate thinks Russell Wilson stole Joseph Fauria's girlfriend Erika Anne Hammond (pictured). What is it with the Seahawks and love triangles?
• Watch a toddler flip out on the green after missing a tap-in. I can relate, kid.
• This is truly horrifying: Floyd Mayweather might have witnessed a murder-suicide over FaceTime.
• Watch Zach LaVine blow the wide-open slam.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
It takes a lot to impress the King, but the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge can do the job. Prince William and Kate Middleton traveled to Brooklyn Monday, meeting both commissioner Adam Silver and LeBron James as they took in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 110-88 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
“They brought luck to us," James said. "It was their first time watching a basketball game, so it was an honor that I would be that guy they decided they wanted to watch.”
Teammate Kevin Love said the royals’ presence took him out of his game somewhat — at least for a moment. He was at the free-throw line when the pair arrived through the Barclays Arena tunnel during the third quarter. "It was a little bit more of a distraction than people waving towels or waving whatever it is that they do," Love said. "Yes, it was big distraction. I just tried to make the second shot and it ended up being about a foot short."
Somehow, Will and Kate were a bigger story than the presence of Brooklyn’s resident power couple:
Lionel Hollins called the meeting of Jay-Z/Beyonce/Duke/Dutchess “American royalty, British royalty.”— devin kharpertian (@uuords) December 9, 2014
After the game, James and his new British friends shared some gifts:
As far as basketball is concerned, the Cavs looked good playing it — which is becoming a trend these days, after the team’s rocky 5-7 start. Behind 18 points from James, 19 from Love and surprise 26-point outing from the mercurial Dion Waiters, Cleveland ran their current winning streak up to seven games and moved into first place in the Central Division.
Despite a historically powerful Western Conference, Cleveland lately seems well on its way to being the team who could pull the Larry O’Brien championship trophy east of the Mississippi.
— John Wilmes
Ohio State slammed the door shut on the Wisconsin Badgers 59-0 to take the title in this year’s Big Ten Conference Championship. The Buckeyes were led by sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones filling in for injured starter J.T. Barrett.
OSU will play against No. 1 Alabama on New Year’s day in the Sugar Bowl as the No. 4 team in the Legends Poll.
Alabama took care of business and beat Missouri 42-17 in the SEC Conference Championship game in Atlanta. They received 12 first place votes and maintained the top spot in the Legends Poll.
Out West Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota dismantled Arizona 51-13 to win the Pac-12 Conference Championship and avenge the only loss suffered earlier this season. The Ducks held steady at No. 2.
Florida State nipped Georgia Tech 37-35 to win the ACC Conference Championship. The Seminoles were the only undefeated team this year at 13-0 and received the only other first place vote. They kept their No. 3 ranking and will play against Oregon on New Year’s Day in the other semifinal game at the Rose Bowl. The National Championship game will feature the winner of the Sugar Bowl against the winner of the Rose Bowl to be played on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas at the AT&T Stadium.
TCU, Baylor, Mississippi State and Michigan State filled out the fifth through the eighth spots in the Legends Poll Top 8.
|3||Florida State (1)||13-0||79||3|
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.
TCU and Baylor were deserving and they got left out of the College Football Playoff. That doesn’t mean the system is broken.
The season hadn’t even ended on Saturday evening before the ethos started clamoring for an eight-team playoff. Not one down of playoff football had been played — much less a bracket established — when social media exploded with screaming fans and media members alike opining for an eight-team playoff.
Just stop it.
Life isn’t fair and not everyone deserves a trophy.
The biggest concern when the four-team, bracket-style postseason format was initially announced 18 months ago was the devaluing of the regular season. Everyone was worried the playoff would ruin the excitement of the best regular season in sports.
After one of the most memorable and intense regular seasons in college football history, obviously nothing could have been further from the truth. Entering the final weekend of play, at least seven different teams still had a shot at landing in the national title playoff. Every region of the country was intensely focused on four championship games and one massive showdown in Waco, Texas. It was a perfectly dramatic ending to a perfectly dramatic season.
But you know what would devalue the regular season? Expanding the playoff to eight teams.
Getting into the College Football Playoff should be hard. It should be an extremely exclusive club with secret handshakes and passwords. Someone should feel slighted when the dust settles. After all, not everyone deserves a trophy.
Listen to the College Football Playoff Committee podcast:
Had Alabama, Oregon or Florida State lost in their championship game or season-ending rivalry games, all three likely would have still made an eight-team playoff. Where’s the fun in that?
What about No. 7 Arizona?
The Wildcats were ahead of both Michigan State and Mississippi State before losing to Oregon and dropping to No. 10. The Spartans and Bulldogs are quality teams but neither won their respective division and both were on “bye” this weekend. Does Arizona deserve to be knocked out of the playoff because it won its division and had to play an extra game?
The same type of argument could be made for Georgia Tech, Missouri and Wisconsin as well. All three finished with the same record as the MSUs, but the Spartans and Bulldogs belong in an eight-team playoff because they weren't good enough to play in a championship game?
The committee’s final rankings say as much.
What about three rounds worth of neutral-site games? How stupid does that sound?
An easy solution to this problem is to play the first round of games at home sites. But does anyone have any faith in the powers that be making the correct decision instead of gifting playoff games (aka, money) to their buddies who run the bowls?
And, frankly, a better question to ask might be do we want our student athletes playing 17 football games in one season in the first place?
If college football wants to expand, it will happen. The money will be too big to turn down and the inclusive nature will make everyone happy.
I just don’t want college football turned into some middle school field day where everyone gets a ribbon for participating.
The annual matchup between Navy and Army is one of college football’s top – if not No. 1 – rivalry game.
On Monday, the Midshipmen unveiled an alternate uniform for Saturday’s game against the Black Knights.
These uniforms were inspired by the motto “Don’t Tread On Me” and are one of the best alternate jerseys college football has seen this year:
For a playoff system that produced a mere three games and four teams in championship contention, the first College Football Playoff left us plenty to dissect.
In the name of transparency (and publicity and TV ratings), the selection committee released a weekly top 25 starting in Week 10 and sent committee chair Jeff Long out to field questions on camera and off about the process.
Whether all this weekly information was necessary is still up for debate, but the run-up to the final selection show at least pulled back the curtain on the thought process of the committee as a whole, even if we may never know the thoughts of each of the 12 members.
What we learned from the selection committee varied from week to week, even moreso in the final week when the committee was tasked with picking one team out of the pool of three for the final spot of the playoff.
Here’s what we think the most important lessons were this season:
Listen to the College Football Playoff Committee podcast:
Recent results mattered most
We’re not ready to say definitively that the Big 12 is going to be hurt in the playoff because it doesn’t have a championship game. What we can say is that Ohio State’s 59-0 rout of a top-15 Wisconsin team on a neutral field in the last game of the season put the Buckeyes over the top. None of the teams in the playoff lost later than Oct. 4 (Alabama to Ole Miss). The top two teams left out lost on Oct. 11 (TCU to Baylor) and Oct. 18 (Baylor to West Virginia). Ohio State lost early, allowing the Buckeyes to show significant improvement after a Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech.
The committee paid attention to personnel
This was an early lesson: Oregon opened the rankings at No. 5 and never fell any lower despite a home loss to Arizona. At the time, the Wildcats didn’t look like a team that would win 10 games and win the Pac-12 South. Instead, the lesson was that the committee evaluated Oregon with a healthy offensive line down the stretch was much better than the Ducks team that faced Arizona without tackle Jake Fisher. Perhaps more telling is the performance of Ohio State and their two backup quarterbacks. The Buckeyes were allowed to show improvement from week to week under J.T. Barrett since his disastrous performance in his second career start. When Barrett went down, the committee essentially told backup Cardale Jones it would be watching his performance in the Big Ten title game in particular.
The weekly rankings were not predictive
The weekly top 25 from the selection committee that started on Oct. 28 was probably necessary for transparency’s sake and at least proved that this selection committee took its job seriously and could ably speak on each pertinent team. Yet when it came down to the the first six rankings and the final top 25 on Dec. 7, we couldn’t say it helped us predict the final playoff picture. TCU dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 in a week, and Ohio State moved into the semifinal. That’s all fine. One flaw from the BCS era was the pollsters’ devotion to previous rankings. While it’s nice to know the committee is more flexible, we’re not sure if the weekly rankings were a great use of time.
The committee is making this up as it goes along
Again, this is a new process, so perhaps this is to be expected. But the phrase “game control” entered the college football lexicon because Jeff Long uttered it on a Tuesday night. An explanation noting that teams got a leg up because of beating “previously ranked” teams got some run in the media for a time. An imperfect process gave us imperfect answers.
Undefeated doesn’t trump all
Florida State finished the season as the nation’s only undefeated team and was the only unbeaten in a power conference after Nov. 9. Yet the Seminoles never ranked No. 1 in a weekly playoff ranking. The way the Seminoles played the season with a series of second-half comebacks against ACC foes and Florida contributed to his, but this also signaled that the selection committee wouldn’t elevate a team simply because of a zero in the loss column. The idea of an undefeated major conference team spending five weeks ranked behind at least one one-loss would have been a foreign concept during the BCS era.
The rankings changed the polls
Who knows if this would have happened anyway, but the pollsters seemed to follow the lead of the playoff rankings in elevating a one-loss team ahead of the the Seminoles. Florida State was No. 2 in the AP poll for seven non-consecutive weeks this season. The first portion of that, the Seminoles were behind undefeated Mississippi State and the second behind one-loss Alabama.
The Group of 5 is in trouble
Speaking of undefeated, let’s talk about Marshall, which spent all but the last two weeks of the season undefeated. The Thundering Herd never entered the playoff rankings until Nov. 25 at No. 24. By then, Marshall already spent six weeks in the AP poll. Boise State spent only the final three weeks in the playoff top 25. That’s not a hindrance to getting to a major bowl game — a Group of 5 team only needs to be the highest ranked league champ to get to a major bowl game. But it does illustrate how much trouble a team from outside of the Power 5 is going to have getting to the playoff.
Name recognition matters
Even after Virginia Tech lost 6-3 in overtime to Wake Forest, the committee didn’t seem to view Ohio State’s 14-point home loss to the Hokies as a bad loss. Long refuted as such when asked about that result two weeks before the final ranking.
In the end, head-to-head mattered
One of the criticisms of the committee for weeks was that TCU remained ahead of Baylor despite the Bears’ 61-58 win over the Horned Frogs. Once the season ended — and the bodies of work were complete — Baylor was one spot ahead of TCU. That got neither into the playoff, but at least head-to-head was the defining factor in the final poll.
The committee has to do a better job of explaining schedule strength
All too often, the committee justified its rankings using its own top 25 as a guide — as in Team A beat two teams in the top 25 and lost to a team in the top 10. Using the rankings themselves to explain the rankings may come back to bite the selection committee.
Marcus Mariota, quarterback for the University of Oregon, has won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented annually to the nation’s top quarterback who best exemplifies character, scholastic and athletic achievement.
After 14 weeks of play, Mariota completed 229 of 334 passes for 3,470 yards (69-percent completion rate), throwing for 48 touchdowns with just two interceptions and a QB rating of 190.2. The Honolulu-native led the Pac-12 QBs in rushing yards with 636. Mariota ranks fifth in the nation in total offense, averaging 342.2 yards per game and he has been selected as the Pac-12 offensive player of the year.
“Marcus is as humble and gracious off the field as he is poised and electrifying on it,” said Andy McNamara, Assistant Athletic Director for the University of Oregon. “He is an exceptional ambassador for not just the football program, but the University of Oregon as a whole.”
Candidates for the Golden Arm Award – which has been presented at the end of each college football season since 1987 – must be college seniors or fourth-year juniors on schedule to graduate with their class. In addition to the accomplishments on the field, candidates are judged on their character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, and leadership qualities.
Mariota’s achievements will be honored Dec. 12 during the 2014 Golden Arm Award ceremony, held at The Embassy Suites Baltimore (Maryland) Inner Harbor Hotel and Grand Historic Venue. NFL Hall of Famer, former Baltimore Colt, and the great Johnny Unitas’ favorite target – Raymond Berry – will deliver the keynote remarks at this year’s event.
Past Golden Arm Award winners include: Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997); Carson Palmer (USC, 2002); Eli Manning (Ole Miss, 2003); Matt Ryan (Boston College, 2007); Colt McCoy (Texas, 2009); and Andrew Luck (Stanford, 2011).
Proceeds from the event help support the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation, Inc. The Foundation provides financial assistance to underprivileged and deserving young scholar-athletes throughout Maryland and Kentucky.
Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of football. With that in mind, Athlon Sports rounded up the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 14 of the NFL season.
Peyton Manning's 51-game streak of at least one touchdown pass came to an end against Buffalo Sunday. It was the third-longest streak in NFL history behind Drew Brees (54) and Tom Brady (52).
Pittsburgh running back Le'Veon Bell had 235 scrimmage yards (185 rushing, 50 receiving) and three total touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) in the Steelers’ 42-21 win at Cincinnati. Bell, who had at least 200 scrimmage yards in each of the past two games, joins Walter Payton (1977) as the only players in NFL history with 200+ scrimmage yards in three consecutive games.
Steelers rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant had four catches for 109 yards and one touchdown in the win over Cincinnati. Bryant, who has seven touchdown catches in seven career games, is one of four NFL players with at least seven TD receptions in his first seven career games, joining Harlon Hill (eight), Max McGee (seven), and Billy Howton (seven). Bryant is the first player to accomplish the feat since Hill and McGee in 1954. His 94-yard TD Sunday was the longest TD catch by a rookie since 1994 (Fred Barnett).
New York Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had 11 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown in the Giants’ 36-7 win at Tennessee. Beckham, who had at least 90 receiving yards in each of the previous five games, is the first rookie in NFL history to record at least 90 receiving yards in six consecutive games. Beckham has 723 receiving yards in his past six games and joined Bill Groman (1960) as the only rookies in NFL history with at least 700 receiving yards in a six-game span.
Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson had eight catches for 158 yards and a touchdown in the Lions’ 34-17 win over Tampa Bay. Johnson now has 43 career 100-yard receiving games, tied with Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt for the second-most in a player’s first eight NFL seasons. Only Randy Moss (45) has more.
Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck passed for 294 yards and two touchdowns in the Colts’ 25-24 win at Cleveland. Luck now has 12,501 career passing yards, eclipsing Peyton Manning (12,287) for the most of any NFL player in his first three seasons.
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton passed for 226 yards with three touchdowns and rushed for 83 yards with one touchdown in the Panthers’ 41-10 win at New Orleans. Newton has four career games with at least 200 passing yards, multiple touchdown passes, 80+ rushing yards and a touchdown run. His four such games are the most in NFL history. Only two other players have accomplished the feat multiple times: Michael Vick (two) and Russell Wilson (two).
Arizona defeated Kansas City 17-14 and improved to 7-0 at home. The Cardinals’ seven home wins are the most for the franchise in a single season since 1925, when the team won 11 of its 13 home games.
St. Louis defeated Washington 24-0, the team’s second consecutive shutout win (52-0 vs. Oakland). The Rams have recorded back-to-back shutout wins for the first time since 1945 (September 30 and October 7). St. Louis is the first team to post consecutive shutout victories since 2009 (Dallas, December 27 and January 3).
New York Giants receiver posted his sixth-straight game with at least 90 receiving yards in the team's win at Tennessee. No other player had an active streak above two games entering today.
New England's 23-14 victory against San Diego secured the Patriots' 12th straight 10-win season, which is the longest streak since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
Dallas running back DeMarco Murray had 41 offensive touches in the team's 41-28 win over Chicago. It was the most touches in a game since Jerome Harrison's 41 for Cleveland in 2009 (39 rushes, two kick return), and the most offensive touches since Shaun Alexander's 40 carries in 2006. Murray carried 32 times for 179 yards and caught a career-high nine balls for 49 yards.
“Strained right knee” is a mysterious term even for medical experts, and certainly so for the average, Houston Rockets-loving person. But that’s about all Dwight Howard’s franchise has revealed about his extended absence, which has now reached nine games.
When asked about the All-Star’s status, coach Kevin McHale shed at least a little light when he said D12’s return was still a long ways off. Here’s Houston Chronicle beat writer Jonathan Feigen with the word:
“While discussing Pat Beverley’s return from a strained left hamstring, Rockets coach Kevin McHale said ‘It would be nice to get everybody else back, but that won’t be happening any time soon.’
"McHale had previously said he hoped that Howard, who has been out since Nov. 19, might be ready to return in time to play on the Rockets’ road trip Wednesday and Thursday to play Golden State and Sacramento. Asked if he had a better feel for Howard’s timetable, he said again, ‘He won’t be back anytime soon.’
"‘He will not be coming back any time soon, either,’ McHale said. ‘You might as well ask me about the weather next week. I have no idea. Partly cloudy, baby.’”
The Rockets have performed admirably without Howard, going 7-2 since he’s been gone. When we consider that Beverley’s also been out of action for much of the year — and Terrence Jones, too — the Rockets’ recent run becomes almost unbelievable. They’re the No. 2 team in a historically difficult Western Conference, and they’re doing it largely without three starters.
It’s high time James Harden — once beloved, now an elite NBA heel — gets a tip of the hat, along with McHale. Those two have led a crew of forgotten, overlooked talent (including Donatas Motiejunas, Jason Terry, Trevor Ariza, Isaiah Canaan and rookie Tarik Black) into one of the best records in the league at 16-4, and they should be getting more attention for MVP and Coach of the Year considerations, respectively.
— John Wilmes
Hosts Braden Gall, David Fox and Mitch Light debate the merits of the Selection Committee. Did they get the right four teams? What hurt the Big 12 the most? Who will be crowned the national champion when the dust settles? The guys break it all down and much more on this special Playoff Committee edition of the Cover 2 Podcast.
Art Briles is one of the nation’s brightest football coaches. He’s done more with less at Baylor because of smarts and hard work.
He’s changed Baylor from a Big 12 afterthought into a two-time league champ because of astute recruiting and player development and an innovative offensive system.
That’s why Baylor missing out on the College Football Playoff can be so frustrating.
Baylor the overachiever, so adept at maximizing its potential, misused some of its most valuable resources.
In the eyes of the 2014 College Football Playoff selection committee, no resource was more important than games. All four teams in the playoff played 13. The top two teams left out had 12.
And Baylor squandered a quarter of its most valuable resource on Buffalo, SMU and Northwestern State.
In the end, Baylor was able to overtake TCU, a team the Bears defeated head-to-head in October, but not a team that played a 13th game Saturday.
Laugh at the outsized role TCU’s win over Minnesota played in the rankings, but Baylor has to believe that if the Bears defeated Minnesota 30-7 instead of TCU, Baylor would be packing its bags for New Orleans to face Alabama.
Listen to the College Football Playoff Committee podcast:
From the onset, members of the selection committee avoided talk of sending messages to football programs hoping to get into the playoff.
This is all about picking the four best teams, they say, not telling athletic directors how to go about their business.
No matter what, though, the committee would send an implicit message on selection Sunday.
The message Sunday was directed squarely at the Big 12: Teams in this league need to do something about their schedules.
“I can’t answer what’s best for the Big 12 conference,” said selection committee chair Jeff Long, who is also the athletic director at Arkansas. “That’s not for us to decide. That’s for the Big 12 to decide, what they think is in their best interests.”
With four playoff spots and five power conferences, one was bound to be left out of the national championship picture. This year, it was the only league without a conference championship game.
Is the message that conference championship games are a necessity? Should the Big 12 start scouring the American or Mountain West for its next two teams?
Long won’t tell the Big 12 what to do, but his explanation of why Ohio State is playing for a title instead of TCU or Baylor is telling.
“(The 13th game) had an effect,” Long said. “It was an additional game that we could see Ohio State prove their strength. It was significant. I can’t say that it wasn’t.”
Adding a conference championship game, either by expansion or by being granted an NCAA waiver to have a title game with 10 teams, isn’t the only answer.
By selecting Ohio State, the committee in part indicated a team doesn’t necessarily have to schedule a great Power 5 team and it doesn’t necessarily have to win under the right circumstances.
In the second week of the season, Ohio State lost at home to a Virginia Tech team that finished 3-5 in the ACC. In earlier comments, Long indicated the selection committee didn’t see such a loss as being as devastating as it seemed to be.
On selection Sunday, that was made even more clear. Ohio State had the worst loss of any team in playoff contention and still made the field. The Big Ten championship game gave Ohio State yet another opportunity to atone for that loss.
When the Big 12 elected to stand pat at 10 teams, the league had to know it was taking a risk by standing on a island as the only league without a title game.
It’s too early, though, to assume the Big 12 has to crawl to BYU or Boise State or Cincinnati or UCF or Memphis for expansion. The criteria for the basketball selection committee ebbs and flows with each season. The criteria for this specific football committee seemed to change for week to week.
What kept Baylor or TCU out of the playoff in 2014 might not be an eliminator in 2015.
A major upheaval and another round of conference realignment isn’t necessary just yet. Effort should be the first step.
Why not try scheduling BYU or Cincinnati before adding them to the conference? Facing UCF or Boise State might not be a signature non-conference win, but they won’t be the schedule deadweight of an FCS team, either.
And that doesn’t scratch the surface of more prominent programs that might be willing to play a game in Texas, neutral site or otherwise, for recruiting purposes.
Even Kansas State, a program whose trademark is easy non-conference games, found a way to get Auburn to visit Manhattan.
“This is going to be a wake-up call,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN’s Rece Davis on air Sunday. “You don’t want to get left out of the postseason because of a weakness in your non-conference schedule.”
Big 12 teams have three opportunities each season to not take the easy way out on a non-conference game.
On Sunday, it was clear those opportunities can’t be wasted.
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 8:
• True nightmare fuel: Digger Phelps dressed as a character from The Nutcracker. That's him in the photo above.
• Today's year-end list: The 50 most influential people in sports for 2014. Bad sign: TMZ's Harvey Levin made the list.
• A couple refs shared a fist bump after a Broncos touchdown. Must've had money on Denver.
• Some people see Johnny Manziel's attendance at Cavs games as a lack of dedication. People like his bosses.
• Cam Newton's Superman celebration sparked an entertaining brawl.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]