Articles By All
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley suffered an elbow injury during the first half of Saturday’s game against Texas. Hundley’s injury was to his non-throwing elbow and his prognosis is uncertain.
Hundley was replaced by backup Jerry Neuheisel and returned to the locker room during the second quarter for more treatment. According to the broadcast team at FOX, Hundley was having trouble gripping a football and struggled with snaps on the sidelines.
Prior to his injury, Hundley completed all four of his passes for 48 yards and added nine yards on the ground.
UCLA’s offensive line has been a major concern this year, but a long-term injury to Hundley would be devastating for the Bruins. Coming into Saturday night’s game, Neuheisel completed 11 of 13 passes for 124 yards.
After injuring his elbow on a scramble, UCLA QB Brett Hundley was pushed down by Jim Mora to cause an injury timeout. http://t.co/CNEFvBDVbG— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) September 14, 2014
Hundley is headed for locker room #UCLAvsTEX— Ted Miller (@TedMillerRK) September 14, 2014
The ramifications of a South Carolina-Georgia game remain as unpredictable as ever. At least we know the SEC East matchup can still deliver the goods.
South Carolina defeated Georgia 38-35 to keep the Gamecocks in the SEC East race following the Week 1 blowout against Texas A&M.
What does the win mean? The winner of this game doesn’t necessarily win the East, more often than not in recent years, the opposite has been true. And in the new Playoff era, we don’t know yet if this is a game that pushes South Carolina in the conversation or pulls Georgia out of the running.
For sure, though, South Carolina couldn’t afford to fall to 0-2 in the league. The SEC East as a result, literally and figuratively, is separated by the slimmest of margins.
Read and React: South Carolina 38, Georgia 35
The SEC East is as wild as ever
One picture tells it all. As South Carolina ran a quarterback sneak at midfield. One chain link kept South Carolina’s possession and clinched the game. Preseason favorites Georgia and South Carolina now have one league loss apiece while defending division champion Missouri still looms.
UNREAL pic.twitter.com/rmdwaF5PMb— The SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo) September 14, 2014
If you gave up on South Carolina, you shouldn’t have
Texas A&M gouged South Carolina’s defense in the opener, and the Gamecocks needed a long drive in the fourth quarter to put East Carolina away last week. South Carolina looked more like the team we expected against Georgia. No, the defense wasn’t great as Georgia amassed 406 total yards and 6.8 yards per play. But the Gamecocks had an answer for everything Georgia brought on defense. Dylan Thompson flourished early in the passing game, completing 21-of-30 attempts for 271 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. As the rain started to fall, South Carolina rode its offensive line as Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis combined for 159 yards on 31 carries.
Georgia’s coaches staff are going to hear about this one
Georgia has the top running back in the country and perhaps the deepest group of backs, but Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo may have been too cute in using Todd Gurley as a decoy. Fullback runs paid of in a scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Other gambles didn’t. Most egregious was a first-and-goal after a turnover. The call for a pass play resulted in an intentional grounding penalty. A missed field goal meant Georgia went from four yards to a lead in the final five minutes to South Carolina preserving a three-point edge. It's worth worth noting all of Georgia's top three tailbacks averaged at least 6.6 yards per carry.
Kicking is not fun
Maybe kickers deserve more credit. After all, no reasonable person would sign up for this. Georgia’s Marshall Morgan made an SEC record 20 consecutive field goals, including his first two attempts. Morgan missed a 44-yarder in the second quarter and then a 28-yard attempt that would have tied the game on Georgia’s final possession. He may escape scorn because of questionable play calling, but this is an unenviable position nonetheless.
Virginia Tech scored a surprise win over Ohio State in Week 2, but the Hokies fell victim an upset-minded East Carolina team in Week 3.
The Pirates won 28-21, but there were a few highlight plays for Virginia Tech, including receiver Isaiah Ford’s touchdown catch in the second half. Ford's catch was reviewed but the touchdown was upheld.
Check out Ford's nifty one-handed grab:
Whether it’s by air or via the ground, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is one of the nation’s best. And on Saturday against Wyoming, Mariota made a highlight reel play by taking a rushing touchdown for a score.
Mariota didn’t find an open option on his passing reads and chose to take off on the ground. The junior needed some help to score, choosing to take to the air to reach the endzone.
Check out Mariota’s touchdown run:
Atlanta and Cincinnati, two teams riding the high of improbable Week 1 victories, will meet up in Paul Brown Stadium Sunday afternoon on CBS, and the winner will take an important early step toward playoff contention. The Bengals won a division game in a venue — Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium — where quarterback Andy Dalton had never won as a starter, while the Falcons shocked NFC South rivals (and popular Super Bowl picks) Drew Brees and the Saints with an offensive explosion in the Georgia Dome.
Atlanta Falcons at Cincinnati Bengals
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Cincinnati -5
Three Things to Watch
|Atlanta 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs NO||W 37 - 34||Recap|
|9/14||@ CIN||L 10 - 24||Recap|
|9/18||vs TB||8:25 pm||Buy Tickets|
|9/28||@ MIN||4:25 pm||Buy Tickets|
1. Will Matty Ice Stay Red-Hot?
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is merely coming off the best performance of his career in Atlanta's 37–34 overtime win over New Orleans. Ryan completed 31-of-43 passes for a franchise-record 448 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. But it was some unexpected scrambling that really frustrated a helpless Saints defense that was able to sack the statuesque Ryan only once. Rushing for 15 yards on three carries, Ryan also extended a number of plays with some deft movement in the pocket, including sidestepping the rush on a 39-yard pass to Roddy White that led to an important field goal right before halftime. "He's played a lot of games, made a lot of plays for us," coach Mike Smith said after the game. "But I was really impressed with his ability to extend some plays by moving around in the pocket. And he was very, very accurate. When you have (568 yards) of total offense and 448 through the air, your quarterback is playing well." Now, the question becomes: Can he do it away from the comfort of the Georgia Dome?
2. A.J. Green: The AFC's Best Wideout
As long as Megatron keeps slicing through defenses for Detroit, the title of Best Wideout in the NFL is taken, but Green is staking a strong claim for Best of the Rest. Coming off a season stat line of 98-1,426-11, Green resumed his abuse of hapless defensive backs, burning the Ravens for six catches for 131 yards and a decisive 77-yard touchdown in Cincy's 23–16 win in Baltimore. Quarterback Andy Dalton's comfort level with his prime target is only growing; against the Ravens, Dalton was 6-of-8 for 131 yards and a touchdown when targeting Green. In only three-plus seasons, Green has 12 touchdown catches of 30 yards or longer, and that ability to produce the big play assures that Dalton will continue to look his way. Against a Falcons defense that surrendered 333 passing yards in Week 1, Green could run wild.
|Cincinnati 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ BAL||W 23 - 16||Recap|
|9/14||vs ATL||W 24 - 10||Recap|
|9/21||vs TEN||1:00 pm||Buy Tickets|
|10/5||@ NE||8:30 pm||Buy Tickets|
3. Protecting the Jungle
Paul Brown Stadium is suddenly one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. The Bengals have won nine straight regular-season games at home, and the Jungle will present a challenging setting for Atlanta's attempt to chalk up its first two-game winning streak since 2012. The Bengals' propensity for protecting their home turf is an important component of this new golden era for a team that is gunning for its fourth consecutive winning season, which would be a first in the history of a downtrodden franchise. If Cincinnati is to take the next step and win a playoff game, the Bengals need to play that postseason game at home, and protecting home turf during the regular season — especially against ostensibly weaker teams — is critical to reaching that goal. Of course, given the Bengals' surprising home playoff loss to San Diego last season, there are no guarantees.
Both defenses will be under the gun on Sunday. The Bengals allowed 423 yards to the Ravens and needed the cooperation of Joe Flacco & Co. via some well-timed mistakes to come out of Baltimore with a win. The Falcons needed every one of their 568 total yards against the Saints, because the defense was busy surrendering 472 yards and a number of big plays. The Bengals seem to have the edge in physicality, and given the Falcons' 1–7 road record in 2013, home should be very sweet indeed for Cincy on Sunday.
Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Atlanta 21
Minnesota Vikings’ All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson will not play Sunday against New England following an indictment from a Texas grand jury. Peterson has been indicted by a Montgomery County, Texas, grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. A warrant has been issued for his arrest and he has been deactivated by the team, meaning he will not play in Sunday’s game.
While the legal process runs its course, the question becomes, what’s a Peterson owner to do? The No. 1 overall pick in this year’s drafts according to many fantasy experts and analysts, Peterson is widely considered the top running back in the NFL. Now those who drafted Peterson won’t have his services on Sunday, if not longer depending on how this situation turns out.
With that in mind here are some potential replacement options for those Peterson owners who may be scrambling.
Matt Asiata, Minnesota Vikings
When the starter goes down due to injury, it’s only natural to turn to the backup. That could be the wisest course of action here too, as the expectation has to be that Asiata will carry the load in Peterson’s absence. At the end of last season with Peterson and then-backup Toby Gerhart both sidelined, Asiata rushed for 115 yards on 14 carries against Detroit. Hopefully Peterson owners went ahead and used a late-round pick on Asiata, his handcuff, but if not now would be a good time to consider adding him. Rookie Jerick McKinnon can’t be overlooked either, but for now it appears that Asiata will get the first opportunity to try and fill Peterson’s huge shoes.
Terrance West, Cleveland Browns
West, a rookie, is expected to get the bulk of the carries while starter Ben Tate is sidelined by a sprained knee. The Browns’ third-round pick, West was quite impressive in his first game action, rushing for 100 yards on 16 carries against Pittsburgh. Fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell (2 TDs last week) will get some touches too, but West is ahead of him in the pecking order for now. If West is still out there, go get him.
Shonn Greene, Tennessee Titans
Rookie Bishop Sankey got all the attention, but for the time being, it looks like Greene will get the carries. Greene led the team with 71 yards rushing on 15 carries in the win over Kansas City, while Sankey actually got fewer carries (6) than “new” running back Dexter McCluster (9). Greene is a former 1,000-yard rusher so he’s been productive before and if Ken Whisenhunt continues to give him a starter’s workload he could provide reliable production. Especially this week against a Dallas defense that gave up 127 yards rushing against San Francisco in Week 1.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
It’s just one game, but the fact the Saints ran the ball 28 times (versus 42 pass attempts) in Week 1 is a good sign. In Ingram’s case, it’s worth pointing out that he got as many carries (13) as Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson combined. If New Orleans stays committed to the run and Ingram continues to be effective around the goal line (2 three-yard TD runs), he may be worth taking a chance on this week, and perhaps longer.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
DeAngelo Williams is questionable for Sunday’s game against Detroit with a thigh injury, which could present a golden opportunity for Jonathan Stewart. A talented, but injury-prone back, Stewart picked up 20 yards on nine carries last week while Williams led the way with 72 yards on 14 totes. If Williams can’t go, those carries presumably would go to Stewart, which would increase his fantasy potential. Another factor that could go in Stewart’s favor is that even though Cam Newton will start after missing the opener with bruised ribs, chances are he will not run as often as he usually does as the team will more than likely be careful with its franchise signal-caller. Stewart has always been more potential than promise, but this could be a good week to take a chance and see what happens.
Adrian Peterson was handed a tasty matchup, which was why he was the easy choice for the top spot in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Week 2 Running Back Rankings. However, Peterson was deactivated by Minnesota on Friday night after it was announced he had been indicted by a Texas grand jury and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Peterson owners need to go a different direction as unheralded Matt Asiata (No. 27) will likely see the bulk of the carries against New England.
Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.
2014 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs
|1||LeSean McCoy||PHI||at IND (Mon.)||No TDs, but 27 total touches.|
|2||Jamaal Charles||KC||at DEN||Expect to see him double his 11 touches.|
|3||Marshawn Lynch||SEA||at SD||Beastly (110, 2) in opener against Packers.|
|4||Arian Foster||HOU||at OAK||51 of his 103 yards rushing came after contact.|
|5||Matt Forte||CHI||at SF||Can 49ers' D bottle up Forte?|
|6||Montee Ball||DEN||vs. KC||Scored a TD, but held in check by Colts.|
|7||Le'Veon Bell||PIT||at BAL (Thurs.)||Put up 197 total yards, TD vs. Browns.|
|8||Giovani Bernard||CIN||vs. ATL||Should see about 20 touches per game.|
|9||DeMarco Murray||DAL||at TEN||Put up 118 yards rushing on 49ers last week.|
|10||Alfred Morris||WAS||vs. JAC||Gained 91 yards on the ground on just 14 att.|
|11||Eddie Lacy||GB||vs. NYJ||Concussion concerns already?|
|12||Frank Gore||SF||vs. CHI||Bears' run D still lacks bite.|
|13||Shane Vereen||NE||at MIN||Scored rushing TD, but did little else.|
|14||Chris Johnson||NYJ||at GB||Caught a TD pass in his Jets' debut.|
|15||Toby Gerhart||JAC||at WAS||Redskins gave up 115 yards rushing, but just 3.0 ypc.|
|16||Zac Stacy||STL||at TB||Tough sledding (43 yards rushing) vs. MIN.|
|17||C.J. Spiller||BUF||vs. MIA||Caught a TD, got 18 total touches vs. Bears.|
|18||Andre Ellington||ARI||at NYG||Played, but foot injury a factor vs. SD.|
|19||Rashad Jennings||NYG||vs. ARI||Finished with 96 total yards, TD in Giants' debut.|
|20||Knowshon Moreno||MIA||at BUF||Huge (134 yds., TD) debut for Dolphins.|
|21||Doug Martin||TB||vs. STL||16 yards on 10 touches is not going to cut it.|
|22||Ryan Mathews||SD||vs. SEA|
|23||Joique Bell||DET||at CAR||Needed late TD to salvage his output.|
|24||Reggie Bush||DET||at CAR||More effective as receiver than rusher vs. NYG.|
|25||Terrance West||CLE||vs. NO||Gets start w/ Tate (sprained knee) out.|
|26||Shonn Greene||TEN||vs. DAL||Led Titans in yards (71) and carries (15).|
|27||Matt Asiata||MIN||vs. NE||Surprise starter following Peterson's deactivation.|
|28||Darren Sproles||PHI||at IND (Mon.)||Impact came on ground w/ 49-yard TD.|
|29||Fred Jackson||BUF||vs. MIA||Big 38-yard run set up game-winning FG in OT.|
|30||Steven Jackson||ATL||at CIN|
|31||Chris Ivory||NYJ||at GB||71-yard TD run upstages CJ's Jets debut.|
|32||Justin Forsett||BAL||vs. PIT (Thurs.)||Took over (70 yds., TD) when Pierce faltered.|
|33||Pierre Thomas||NO||at CLE||Saints backfield could be a true timeshare.|
|34||Mark Ingram||NO||at CLE||Only 60 yards, but 2 TDs.|
|35||Lamar Miller||MIA||at BUF||Fewer touches following Moreno's big debut?|
|36||DeAngelo Williams||CAR||vs. DET||Averaged 5.1 ypc (14 att.) vs. Bucs.|
|37||Trent Richardson||IND||vs. PHI (Mon.)||More of same (6 att., 20 yds.) from T-Rich.|
|38||Maurice Jones-Drew||OAK||vs. HOU||Jets held him to 11 yards on 9 carries.|
|39||Bernard Pierce||BAL||vs. PIT (Thurs.)||Can he seize starting job?|
|40||Jeremy Hill||CIN||vs. ATL||Got just 4 carries last week.|
|41||Stevan Ridley||NE||at MIN||Practically non-existent (28 total yds.) vs. MIA.|
|42||Carlos Hyde||SF||vs. CHI||Made his presence felt (50 yds., TD) vs. DAL.|
|43||Isaiah Crowell||CLE||vs. NO||No. 2 behind West w/ Tate out. 2 TDs last week.|
|44||Danny Woodhead||SD||vs. SEA|
|45||Khiry Robinson||NO||at CLE||Took one goal-line look away from Ingram.|
|46||Ahmad Bradshaw||IND||vs. PHI (Mon.)||More effective (85 total yards) than T-Rich.|
|47||Bishop Sankey||TEN||vs. DAL||Not big part (6 att., 25 yds.) of Week 1 game plan.|
|48||James Starks||GB||vs. NYJ||Next in line if Stacy's concussion issues persist.|
Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points
Need more fantasy help? Visit www.FantasyRundown.com.
Each week, Geoffrey Miller's "Five Things to Watch" will help you catch up on the biggest stories on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' upcoming race weekend. This week, the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup kicks off — complete with a
hokey shiny new format. Also, Matt Kenseth looks for a Chi-town repeat, Jimmie Johnson begins his quest for a seventh title in earnest and some movement in the Tony Stewart-Kevin Ward Jr. investigation highlight the storylines heading into the MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
No going back from NASCAR’s new Pandora’s Box
This was the case 10 seasons ago when NASCAR implemented the first edition of what we now call the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and it’s true again Sunday. With the start of the first-ever elimination-style championship system occurring with Sunday’s green flag at Chicagoland Speedway, NASCAR has taken a path it can’t walk back.
A sport that existed and grew for more than 50 years with a championship determination based on how well a driver raced both in February and October has now transitioned to an entirely unlikely but still plausible scenario of winning nine of the final 10 races not being enough to win the sport’s crowning jewel.
It’s not without precedent across the sports world, of course. We’ve watched as undefeated teams have gone down in just one contest several times in recent years — think Wichita State in the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament or the New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl — but that unreal possibility of a driver winning every race except the last one, and thus losing the championship, has never existed in motorsports.
More ironic about it all may be that the one problem that the Chase and its numerous iterations since set out to solve still isn’t fixed: NASCAR can still have a champion who hasn’t won a race all year. The new Chase will let winners advance, sure, but the semifinal round of races allows the chance that one driver can make it to Homestead without a win.
But beyond these what-if intricacies, NASCAR has also completely ruined any chance that the sport’s champion can ever be considered in context with title winners of its past. Comparing Johnson’s six titles with those of Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty was already a reach, but now, with a one-race, winner-take-all finale such comparisons are completely delusional.
NASCAR has started a new era. Only time will tell how it goes.
Kenseth looking to start Chase buoyed by Chicago repeat
Matt Kenseth won seven times in 2013 and finished runner-up in the point standings to Jimmie Johnson during his first full season with Joe Gibbs Racing. It was a commanding performance, and one that left him as a strong pick to take the title this year.
That’s still a possibility for Kenseth, but in a manner few expected because he’s yet to score a win in 2014. Does his No. 20 have actually still have a chance for the title?
“I feel like we’ve been getting closer,” Kenseth says. “We’ve been running in the top 5 a lot. The finishes don’t show it because we’ve been caught up in so many accidents.”
One of those accidents was self-inflicted last week at Richmond when Kenseth lost control and struck the Turn 1 wall. But Kenseth could very well make up for it in a big way this weekend by repeating his 2013 win at Chicago.
Kenseth has top-10 finishes at every race contested on 1.5-mile tracks this season and finishes of fourth or better in the last three. At Atlanta two weeks ago, Kenseth narrowly lost to Kasey Kahne on a late restart. He also posted the fifth fastest speed in opening practice in Joliet on Friday.
That has to bode well for Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson has to remain Chase favorite
Winning five straight championships — and later a sixth, of course — has to count for something. For Jimmie Johnson on the eve of the Chase starting anew, it counts as making him a prohibitive championship favorite even after a decidedly un-Jimmie regular season.
Johnson wrapped the 26-race prequel to this championship fight as the fifth-best driver in terms of scoring points, 112 behind teammate Jeff Gordon. When the Chicagoland Speedway race starts, it will have been 103 days since the No. 48 was in victory lane. Still, we can’t count him out.
Johnson endured a disastrous summer stretch with a five-race span that included four finishes 28th, 39th, 42nd and 42nd. Three of those races ended in a crash.
But the ship seemed to list more favorably just before the Chase as Johnson reeled off four straight top-10 finishes. It was a return to consistency that became Johnson’s hallmark during his record-setting championship run.
Johnson has two wins already this season at tracks to come in the Chase and top-10 finishes at three others. And you’ve got to think Texas (Johnson suffered damage from an early incident in the spring race and finished 25th) and New Hampshire (he blew consecutive tires before a crash knocked him out of the event) will go much better on the second go-round.
No, 2014 hasn’t allowed Johnson to treat the Sprint Cup Series as his personal playground. But we’ve all seen this story before, and we’ve seen how it has often ended with Johnson taking pictures with trophies in Homestead. Can you really argue that it won’t happen again?
Resolution to Stewart case coming soon
Just over a month since Kevin Ward Jr. was killed in the crash with Tony Stewart at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York, the county sheriff has completed the incident’s investigation. Now, Stewart’s future hangs in the balance of the Ontario County, N.Y., district attorney’s office.
The county D.A. will determine if charges are to be filed in the case — a process expected to be complete late next week, according to a statement.
“The entire thorough investigation, including a forensic video enhancement recently received from the New York State Police Laboratory in Albany, has been submitted to the Office of the Ontario County District Attorney for review,” said a statement released Thursday by the sheriff’s office.
It was unclear if the enhanced video was the one widely shown in the days following the incident, or if the sheriff’s office was referring to a second video it had confirmed receipt of in the initial days after the investigation.
The next seven days are going to be a tedious time for Stewart, his business holdings and NASCAR. Criminal charges in the case would be disastrous to each of those entities — Stewart for obvious reasons, potential fallout for his companies and NASCAR, for its unequivocal backing of Stewart in the process by letting him race and brazenly approving him for a championship waiver should he have won in the final two regular season races of his return.
Stewart didn’t win of course and won’t be racing for the title — saving NASCAR from the embarrassment of one its “nations” not being able to participate in any of this week’s Chase-promoting hoopla. But the damage may become more than embarrassing next week once we know the decision of the district attorney.
Will you take the “The Field” for the Chase?
Sixteen drivers are eligible for this new format of NASCAR’s Chase. But if you’re in Las Vegas, only 14 drivers are routinely available for placing futures bets on who will actually win the Sprint Cup title.
Not on most lists? The Double A’s: AJ Allmendinger and Aric Almirola. They instead have been lumped in the ubiquitous category of “Field.”
As of Friday morning, only Bovada was providing direct odds for all of the Chase entrants. Others, like Sportsbook.ag, were listing the 14 drivers individually and the Allmendinger/Almirola combination in “Field” at +25,000 — meaning a $10 bet would pay $2,500.
Comparatively, Jeff Gordon is Sportsbook’s favorite at +350.
“I understand it, it’s part of it. I relish being an underdog team,” Allmendinger says. “Tad and Jodi (Geschickter, partial owners of JTG-Daugherty Racing) started this team in a barn in ’94 so they’ve always been an underdog.”
Allmendinger is bringing a stronger horse to battle than you might expect, however. Richard Childress Racing, the JTG-D alliance partner, built Allmendinger a new car for Sunday’s race. In a sense, Allmendinger becomes the second RCR car in the Chase, joining Ryan Newman.
We’ll see how that pans out.
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
Arkansas and Texas Tech aren’t ranked in this week’s latest top 25 poll, but the matchup between the Razorbacks and Red Raiders is certainly one of the most intriguing games of Week 3. This contest features an interesting contrast in styles, as Texas Tech will attempt to win this one through the air, while Arkansas plans to use its ground attack to control the clock and dominate the line of scrimmage. Will the Red Raiders’ high-octane style win out? Or will the Razorbacks successfully take the air out of the football and earn a key non-conference victory in Bret Bielema’s second year?
In addition to watching the style of play, this game is a matchup between two old Southwest Conference rivalries. Arkansas and Texas Tech have played 35 previous times, with the Razorbacks owning a 28-7 series edge.
Arkansas at Texas Tech
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday
TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2
Spread: Texas Tech -1.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Arkansas’ Rushing Attack Versus TTU's Defense
There’s a good chance this aspect is where Saturday’s game will be decided. Arkansas prefers a methodical approach on offense, averaging 30:26 per game in time of possession last year, while Texas Tech averages 23:42 through two games this year. Tempo is a huge factor in how Saturday’s matchup will be decided. The Razorbacks want to use their ground game to keep the Red Raiders’ passing offense off the field. Arkansas goes three-deep at running back, headlined by sophomore Alex Collins. Jonathan Williams and Korliss Marshall will also see significant time, but Collins (23 carries) is expected to be the workhorse. Texas Tech’s rush defense has been an issue this year, and UTEP recorded 277 yards (5.3 ypc) last week. The Red Raiders’ rush defense hopes to get a boost with the return of defensive tackle Rika Levi (367 pounds) this week. Arkansas has played only two games but is averaging 9.4 yards per carry. If the Razorbacks establish the line of scrimmage and keep Texas Tech’s offense on the sidelines, this plays significantly into Arkansas’ favor.
2. Texas Tech’s Passing Offense
As we mentioned in the section above, this game is all about tempo and controlling the pace of play. Texas Tech wants to go quick, while Arkansas plans to establish the run and own an edge in time of possession. If the Red Raiders jump out to an early lead, it’s a worst-case scenario for the Razorbacks. Texas Tech’s ability to score quick and on big plays (seven of 30 or more yards in 2014) is a tough matchup for Arkansas. Quarterback Davis Webb is off to a fast start (7 TDs, 2 INTs) and is completing 67.5 percent of his throws. He also has plenty of talent at the skill positions, starting with running back Justin Stockton and in the receiving corps with Bradley Marquez and Jakeem Grant. The biggest weakness on Arkansas’ defense is the secondary. The Razorbacks allowed 19 passing plays of 30 or more yards in 2013, but coordinator Robb Smith can counter a questionable secondary with a good pass rush.
3. Turnovers and Special Teams
With a tight game expected, keep an eye on the turnover battle and what transpires on special teams. Arkansas has an inexperienced kicker (John Henson), but punter Sam Irwin-Hill is one of the best in the SEC. The Razorbacks also have options on returns with D.J. Dean and Korliss Marshall. Texas Tech has the edge on field goals with Ryan Bustin (1 of 2 in 2014), while punter Taylor Symmank is in his first year as a starter. In the turnover department, Texas Tech is -3 through two games, while Arkansas sports an even margin (0). A mistake on special teams or a turnover could be the deciding factor on Saturday.
Think of this game like a basketball matchup. Which style and tempo will control the pace of play? Will Texas Tech’s Air Raid offense win out? Or will Arkansas’ ground-and-pound style dominate the clock and keep the Red Raiders’ offense on the sidelines? The guess here is both sides will land some punches. The Razorbacks will churn out a big day on the ground, but Texas Tech also lands big plays in the passing game against a suspect secondary. However, in the fourth quarter, Arkansas leans on running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams to melt the clock away, giving Bret Bielema a key non-conference win in his second year in Fayetteville.
Prediction: Arkansas 38, Texas Tech 34
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 12:
• Plenty of weak matchups in college football this weekend, but the cheerleader matchups are pretty good.
• There were an alarming number of purple No. 27 jerseys on display in Baltimore last night. Perhaps the news cycle is a little behind up there.
• Scary moment last night: Giancarlo Stanton got carted off in an ambulance after being beaned in the face. The beaner, Mike Fiers, offered a heartfelt apology via Twitter.
• First-pitch follies: Joakim Noah botched his first try, but got a mulligan and threw a strike.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at firstname.lastname@example.org
UCLA and Texas meet in Arlington, Texas for a neutral site matchup that is one of the marquee games on college football’s Week 3 slate. While this game is big on name value, the actual on-field matchup has lost some of its luster. Texas is 1-1, but its depth chart has changed drastically due to suspensions and injuries since spring practice. While UCLA is off to a 2-0 start, the Bruins have not impressed. After a close call against Virginia in Week 1, Jim Mora’s team won by seven points in a home date against Memphis. Both teams have plenty to prove heading into this matchup, but it’s unlikely either program will be able to answer of all its question marks with a win in Arlington.
These two teams have met six times, and the overall series is tied at three wins apiece.
UCLA vs. Texas (Arlington)
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET, Saturday
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: UCLA -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. UCLA’s OL Against Texas’ DL
The biggest weakness of UCLA’s offense meets the strength of Texas’ defense. The Bruins have allowed 21 tackles for loss and eight sacks through two games. UCLA has played two solid defenses (Memphis and Virginia), but this unit needs to show progress if the Bruins want to win the Pac-12 title. Center Jake Brendel missed the opener due to a knee injury and returned last Saturday against Memphis. With Brendel back in the mix, UCLA should improve up front over the course of the season. Texas is allowing just 3.2 yards per carry and has registered 10 sacks in two games. End Cedric Reed and tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson are all-conference candidates and present a tough matchup for the Bruins. Can UCLA’s offensive line protect quarterback Brett Hundley?
2. Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes
In Swoopes’ first career start (BYU), he completed 20 of 31 passes for 176 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for seven yards on seven attempts. While Swoopes’ numbers certainly won’t match those of Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston, there were positives for coordinator Shawn Watson to build on in Week 3. One potential problem for Swoopes is a lack of proven options at receiver. The Longhorns may not have Jaxon Shipley due to a head injury, leaving Marcus Johnson and John Harris as the team’s most experienced options. UCLA’s secondary should be one of the best in the Pac-12 this year, and the Bruins have allowed only three passing touchdowns through their first two matchups. How much will Swoopes improve in his second start? Could the sophomore make a few more plays with his legs this week?
3. Supporting Cast
With UCLA’s offensive line struggling, and Swoopes making his second start for Texas, which team’s supporting cast steps up this Saturday? Can the Bruins get consistent production from running back Paul Perkins? Or will linebacker/running back Myles Jack play a bigger role on offense this week? Will Jordan Payton or Thomas Duarte provide opportunities for big plays from Hundley? On the Texas side, the Longhorns need running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown to find running room against a Bruins’ defense allowing just 3.6 yards per carry. If Shipley sits out, will Harris or Johnson provide a consistent threat at receiver?
Expect a low-scoring game on Saturday night. With UCLA’s struggles on the line, the Longhorns should be able to create pressure on quarterback Brett Hundley. But Hundley’s ability to make plays with his legs could be a valuable asset against a solid front seven. Thanks to its defense, expect Texas to hang around in this game. However, the Bruins eventually pull away in the second half and move to 3-0 before a key Pac-12 matchup against Arizona State.
Prediction: UCLA 27, Texas 13
It’s only Week 3, but the race to win the SEC's East Division heats up on Saturday, as Georgia visits South Carolina in a key conference game. The Bulldogs impressed in their Week 1 victory over Clemson, while the Gamecocks lost 52-28 in their opener to Texas A&M. South Carolina was able to regain some of its momentum by defeating East Carolina 33-23 in Week 2, but this team still has several question marks entering this Saturday’s matchup. Georgia was off last Saturday, and the Bulldogs are 16-4 under Mark Richt after a bye week.
It’s too early to call any game an elimination contest, but the Gamecocks simply can’t afford to go 0-2 in the SEC. For Georgia, this is an opportunity to beat another top-25 team and wrestle (early) control of the East Division.
Georgia at South Carolina
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Georgia -6
Three Things to Watch
1. South Carolina’s Pass Defense
The secondary has been especially problematic for the Gamecocks in 2014. South Carolina is allowing 416 passing yards per game, and opposing quarterbacks are completing 71.7 percent of their throws. The Gamecocks’ pass defense catches a small break on Saturday, as Georgia isn’t likely to throw the ball as much as East Carolina (46) and Texas A&M (60) did in their matchups. However, the Bulldogs – even without Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley – have options at receiver. Chris Conley and Michael Bennett are expected to see the majority of targets at receiver, and tight end Jay Rome is another player to watch in the passing game. Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason is making just his second start on the road. Can the Gamecocks tighten up some of their struggles in the secondary? Or will Mason and the Bulldogs’ receivers torch the pass defense for another huge performance?
2. Todd Gurley and Georgia’s Running Backs
Considering South Carolina’s struggles against the pass, Georgia could open up the offense and allow Mason to throw more than he did in the opener (26 attempts). Even if coordinator Mike Bobo does allow Mason to approach 30-35 passes, the bread and butter of the Bulldogs’ offense remains on the ground. Running back Todd Gurley recorded 293 all-purpose yards in the opener and is a tough matchup for a Gamecocks’ defense allowing 5.0 yards per carry (150.5 ypg). Gurley is the nation’s top running back, but he isn’t the only option for Richt. Keith Marshall and freshmen Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will each see opportunities on Saturday afternoon. Georgia’s offense is more traditional (pro-style) than the spread attacks South Carolina has played so far. Will that help the struggling Gamecocks’ defense?
3. Dylan Thompson Versus Georgia’s Secondary
Coming into 2014, Georgia’s biggest concern on defense was its secondary. The coaching staff rotated several players into the lineup during offseason practices, and while this unit allowed only 203 passing yards to Clemson, the Tigers recorded three passing plays of 30 yards or more. Big plays have been South Carolina’s specialty in the passing game this year. Quarterback Dylan Thompson is averaging 14.0 yards per completion, while receiver Nick Jones (15.7) and Pharoh Cooper (12.9) are the preferred targets through the air. To protect their secondary, expect the Bulldogs to be active with their front seven. New coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will send different blitzes at Thompson, and the Bulldogs were able to sack Clemson quarterbacks five times in the opener. If Thompson has time to throw, he could find Cooper and Jones for big plays. But if Georgia’s front seven controls the pace of the game, Thompson and the passing game will be neutralized.
Despite Georgia’s impressive showing in Week 1 and South Carolina’s sluggish start to the season, this has the makings of a close game. The last two meetings in this series were decided by more than 10 points. But from 2004-08, four out of the five matchups were decided by a touchdown or less.
After struggling to stop spread offenses in the first two games, South Carolina’s defense will have its hands full once again on Saturday. Gurley recorded 132 yards and one touchdown against the Gamecocks last season and a similar effort could be in store in Week 3. But even if the Gamecocks contain Gurley, can they stop Mason and the Bulldogs’ passing offense?
A healthy Mike Davis at running back should help South Carolina’s offense, and Thompson will have chances for big plays in the passing game. Keeping Thompson upright and away from Georgia rushers is a huge task for the Gamecocks’ offensive line.
Expect a close game into the fourth quarter, but Mason, Gurley and the Bulldogs’ front seven will be enough for Georgia to win for the first time since 2008 in Columbia.
Prediction: Georgia 31, South Carolina 24
College football’s Week 3 slate is light on good matchups, but there’s some name value in the meeting between Tennessee and Oklahoma. Both programs won national championships during the BCS era, and there’s some extra appeal in this game due to Bob Stoops’ comments about the SEC last season. Even though the Oklahoma and Tennessee brands are good enough to catch television eyeballs on Saturday night, the actual matchup may leave something to be desired. The Sooners are a threat to win the national title in 2014, while the Volunteers are rebuilding in coach Butch Jones’ second year.
This will be only the third meeting between Oklahoma and Tennessee. The Volunteers defeated the Sooners in the 1939 Orange Bowl, while Oklahoma won the second meeting 26-24.
Tennessee at Oklahoma
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET, Saturday
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Oklahoma -20.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Tennessee’s Offensive Line
The Volunteers had to replace all five starters on the line this preseason, and through two games, it’s clear this unit is a work in progress. Tennessee has allowed four sacks on 78 pass attempts and rushers are recording 3.3 yards per carry. Those numbers won’t get it done on Saturday, as Oklahoma’s defense is one of the best in the nation. The Sooners have yet to allow a rushing touchdown and opponents are averaging just 2.4 yards per carry. Will this group give quarterback Justin Worley time to throw and open up rushing lanes for the Tennessee running backs?
2. Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight
Knight’s development as Oklahoma’s quarterback was one of the biggest question marks in 2014. Sure, Knight had a huge performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. But could he carry that into a full season? So far, so good. Knight’s competition hasn’t been elite, but the sophomore has thrown for 552 yards, three touchdowns and completed 58.8 percent of his passes. Knight has also rushed for 52 yards on nine attempts. Tennessee has talent in the secondary, headlined by sophomore cornerback Cameron Sutton. But while there is talent, the Volunteers are also very young in the defensive backfield. Considering Tennessee’s youth, Knight should build off a strong start to the season and will connect with Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal and K.J. Young for build plays on Saturday.
3. Oklahoma’s Defense
Although Tennessee is in rebuild mode, second-year coach Butch Jones has talent to work with on offense. Running backs Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane combined for 207 yards through two games, and receiver Marquez North is one of the best in the SEC. Despite the talent at the skill positions, the Volunteers’ success on Saturday will be up to quarterback Justin Worley. The senior has thrown for 520 yards and five scores in two games, but the matchup with Oklahoma is clearly the toughest of the season. The Sooners have recorded two sacks in two games and all three touchdown passes allowed came after the score was not in doubt. The defense also received good news this week with the health status of cornerback Zack Sanchez. The sophomore was injured against Tulsa but is expected to play on Saturday. The Sooners are deep, athletic and one of the best defenses in the nation. Can Tennessee counter that with quick passes to protect an inexperienced offensive line? And if the Volunteers can’t get any push on the ground, can they throw enough to stay in this game? Against a defense like Oklahoma, no rushing attack and a shaky offensive line is not a good recipe for success.
Tennessee is making strides, but Oklahoma is simply the better team. With a collection of good talent at the skill positions – running backs Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane and receiver Marquez North – the Volunteers could have some success moving the ball early in the first half. However, the Sooners’ defense eventually wrestles control of the game, and Knight turns in another huge performance to boost Oklahoma to 3-0.
Prediction: Oklahoma 41, Tennessee 17
It’s hard to call Penn State and Rutgers a true rivalry since these two teams have not played since 1995. However, there’s some renewed interest in this series, as Rutgers has joined the Big Ten, and new Penn State coach James Franklin has stated his desire to dominate the region in recruiting. And Rutgers coach Kyle Flood did his best to ignite the rivalry, calling Penn State the “team from Pennsylvania.”
While the focus for both teams is on Saturday night, Penn State and Rutgers had significant off-field announcements this week. The NCAA announced the Nittany Lions’ bowl ban has been lifted, and the program can have 85 scholarship players in 2015. For the Scarlet Knights, coach Kyle Flood signed a contract extension on Thursday, extending his deal for two more years. Flood is just 17-11 in two seasons with the Scarlet Knights, but he is guiding the program through an important transition into the Big Ten.
Penn State owns a 22-2 series edge over Rutgers, with the Scarlet Knights’ last victory coming in 1988.
Penn State at Rutgers
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Penn State - 3
Three Things to Watch
1. Quarterback Play
Penn State sophomore Christian Hackenberg could be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Hackenberg will thrive under coach James Franklin and coordinator John Donovan’s watch, and he has thrown for 773 yards and four scores in two games. The sophomore has room to improve after tossing four picks this year, but Penn State’s receiving corps is in transition with the departure of Allen Robinson. If Hackenberg’s line provides protection, he could pick apart Rutgers’ secondary. The Scarlet Knights ranked as one of the worst in the nation against the pass last year and have allowed five touchdown passes and 700 passing yards so far in 2014. On the other side, Gary Nova is off to a good start for Rutgers. Nova has benefitted from the arrival of Ralph Friedgen as coordinator, completing 67.4 percent of his passes and six touchdowns through two games. Which quarterback will play with more consistency and avoid the big mistake on Saturday night?
2. Penn State’s Offensive Line
The biggest concern for Penn State this preseason was its offensive line. And through two games, this unit still has question marks to answer. The Nittany Lions have allowed three sacks, and rushers are managing only 2.8 yards per carry. Rutgers possesses an underrated front seven, headlined by tackle Darius Hamilton and linebacker Steve Longa. And the Scarlet Knights’ front has been active with eight sacks this year. Can Penn State’s line give Hackenberg time to throw and open holes on the ground for its backs? Talent certainly isn’t an issue at running back for the Nittany Lions, but running room has been limited against Akron and UCF.
3. Penn State’s Defense Against Paul James
Quietly, Rutgers running back Paul James has rushed for 216 yards (5.1 ypc) this season. James has provided needed balance for the Scarlet Knight offense and reduced some of the pressure on quarterback Gary Nova. But while James has been one of the Big Ten’s top running backs through two weeks, he faces a Penn State defense allowing just 1.7 yards per carry. The Nittany Lions have also allowed just three touchdowns and no rusher has managed a run of more than 20 yards in 2014. Can Rutgers establish James and keep Penn State’s defense off balance? It’s not an easy assignment with the Nittany Lions’ talent in the front seven, headlined by linebacker Mike Hull and junior tackle Anthony Zettel.
Momentum is on Rutgers’ sideline. The Scarlet Knights are at home, playing their first Big Ten game, and there’s motivation to knock off Penn State to establish some momentum in recruiting as a program against one of its Northeast rivals. Rutgers’ defensive line will give the Nittany Lions problems early, but Hackenberg is the difference in the game. Expect a close one, with Penn State pulling out a three-point victory in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Penn State 27, Rutgers 24
I was feeling pretty good about my picks with about 19 minutes left in the Oregon game and about 19 seconds left in the Stanford game.
Then Marcus Mariota and Stanford’s red zone offense happened and I finished 2-3. Although, I did go 9-5 against the number in Top 25 games (see below), so I got that going for me.
It has not been a strong start for me, but I am feeling confident about rebounding in a very modest Week 3 slate.
Last Week: 2-3
UTSA (pk) at Oklahoma St
According to Covers.com, two of their five sports books are offering this game as a pick-em while the other three are listing Oklahoma State as a 13-point favorite. If you can get in on this game as a straight-up pick-em, then this becomes my lock of the week. Prediction: Oklahoma State (pk)
Listen to the Week 3 preview podcast:
Pitt (-25.5) at FIU
The Panthers have been one of the more impressive teams in the nation thus far and FIU has been the complete opposite. The Panthers are 2-0 against the number and I expect a huge day from the No. 5-ranked rushing team in the nation (355.5 ypg). Prediction: Pitt -25.5
Arkansas (+2) at Texas Tech
The Razorbacks are one of the most physical and powerful running games in the nation and Texas Tech is having issues all over the field. The Red Raiders can sling it around and will score points as well but most like the Hogs to win outright so take the points. Prediction: Arkansas +2
USC (-17) at Boston College
The Eagles allowed 302 yards rushing to Pitt last weekend so USC tailback Buck Allen (143.5 yards per game) should have a field day. And this speaks nothing of the elite passing game Cody Kessler and Coach Sarkisian have on offense as well. Prediction: USC -17
Indiana (-7) at Bowling Green
This was an upset special in the summer but now that Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson is out, the Falcons have looked like a different team. One of the Big Ten’s best offenses should be able to score at will against a BG defense that has allowed 445.0 yards passing per game in two contests. Prediction: Indiana -7
Kansas (+14.5) at Duke
The Jayhawks needed to hold off Southeast Missouri State for a narrow six-point win last week at home. Duke has scored 86 points in two games and is poised for another big offensive showing at home. The coaching differential is astounding in this one. Take the Blue Devils big. Prediction: Duke -14.5
Rice (+31.5) at Texas A&M
This pick breaks one of my rules of gambling and that is never to touch a spread of 30 or more points. But Texas A&M is just too good on offense and Rice was torched by Notre Dame in its only game (48-17). If you are okay with the big number, take the Aggies to win BIG in College Station. Prediction: Texas A&M -31.5
Top 25 Picks ATS:
|Top 25||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|Wyoming (+43) at Oregon|
|S. Miss (+48) at Alabama|
|Tennessee (+20.5) at Oklahoma|
|Georgia (-6.5) at S. Carolina|
|Rice (+31.5) at Texas A&M|
|Baylor (-35) at Buffalo|
|USC (-17) at B. College|
|ULM (+31) at LSU|
|Purdue (+28.5) at Notre Dame|
|UCLA (-8) vs. Texas|
|ULL (+27.5) at Ole Miss|
|Army (+28.5) at Stanford|
|Arizona St (-15.5) at Colorado|
|E. Carolina (+11) at Va Tech|
|UCF (+10) at Missouri|
|Louisville (-6.5) at Virginia|
|Kent St (+32) at Ohio St|
The top of the American Athletic Conference coaches brings two coaches who reached the pinnacle of the college game 26 years apart.
One is in the twilight of a 35-year career that has included titles in the NBA and college. The other is just getting started.
Oddly enough, Larry Brown and Kevin Ollie also coach at two programs that couldn’t differ more in status, though Brown is coaching the upstart while Ollie is at the established power.
Brown and Ollie aren't the name coaches to watch in the ever-changing AAC. Mick Cronin, Josh Pastern and Fran Dunphy have all led successful programs while Frank Haith and Kelvin Sampson are veteran newcomers to the league.
As usual, a handful of factors go into ranking the coaches — career accomplishments, career momentum, gameday acumen, player development, recruiting, conference records and postseason success.
Want to tell us how wrong we are? Tweet us at @AthlonSports or talk to us on Facebook.
1. Larry Brown, SMU
Record at SMU: 42-27 (.609)
NCAA Tournament: 19-6, three Final Fours, one championship
Number to note: The Mustangs missed the NCAA Tournament but went 2-0 against eventual national champion Connecticut.
Why he’s ranked here: After only two seasons, the 73-year-old Brown has done what no SMU coach has done since Doc Hayes — make the Mustangs relevant.
2. Kevin Ollie, UConn
Record at UConn: 52-18 (.743)
NCAA Tournament: 6-0, one Final Four, one championship
Number to note: Ollie won a national title only four years into coaching career — two seasons as an assistant and two seasons as a head coach.
Why he’s ranked here: The future is limitless for a 42-year-old who took over for a legendary coach (Jim Calhoun) and recovered from NCAA sanctions a year earlier to win a title.
3. Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
Record at Cincinnati: 162-107 (.602)
NCAA Tournament: 3-6
Number to note: Cincinnati has ranked in the top 25 in adjusted defense on KenPom in each of the last four seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: With 101 wins and four NCAA Tournament appearances in the last four seasons, Cronin brought Cincinnati back from hitting the reset button 10 years ago.
4. Kelvin Sampson, Houston
Record at Houston: First season
NCAA Tournament: 12-14, one Final Four
Number to note: Sampson’s teams have reached the NCAA Tournament in 14 of his last 15 seasons in college coaching at Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana.
Why he’s ranked here: He may be a risk to ignore NCAA rules, but he’s proven he can thrive in adverse situations at OU and Wazzu.
5. Fran Dunphy, Temple
Record at Temple: 167-97 (.633)
NCAA Tournament: 3-15
Number to note: Before the bottom fell out in Temple’s first season (9-22) in the AAC, the Owls averaged 24.3 overall wins and 12.3 wins in the Atlantic 10 the previous six seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: Only Temple predecessor John Chaney (516) has more wins in Philadelphia Big 5 history than Dunphy at Temple and Penn (477).
6. Josh Pastner, Memphis
Record at Memphis: 130-44 (.747)
NCAA Tournament: 2-4
Number to note: Pastner ended a 12-game losing streak against ranked teams last season by going 5-5 against top 25 teams after an Oklahoma State loss in November.
Why he’s ranked here: Pastner’s not John Calipari, but he’s come into his own as a head coach the last two seasons.
7. Frank Haith, Tulsa
Record at Tulsa: First season
NCAA Tournament: 1-3
Number to note: Since winning the Big 12 Tournament in 2012, Missouri under Haith lost to a No. 15 seed and a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament before missing the Big Dance altogether.
Why he’s ranked here: Haith escaped Missouri ahead of the hot seat talk to start fresh at Tulsa.
8. Ed Conroy, Tulane
Record at Tulane: 65-65 (.500)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: Progress has been incremental at a tough job: Conroy went 3-13 in Conference USA his first two years, followed by 6-10 then 8-8.
Why he’s ranked here: Conroy also supervised major improvement at The Citadel, but his Tulane program has been dinged by transfers (Josh Davis to San Diego State, Ricky Tarrant to Alabama).
9. Orlando Antigua, USF
Record at USF: First season
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: A top recruiter for Kentucky the last six seasons where no class ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the 247Sports Composite.
Why he’s ranked here: Though he’ll be associated with Kentucky and Calipari, Antigua helped Jamie Dixon establish his program at Pittsburgh with a five-year stint with the Panthers.
10. Jeff Lebo, East Carolina
Record at East Carolina: 73-61 (.545)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: Lebo brought East Carolina its first 20-win season in school history at 23-12 in 2012-13.
Why he’s ranked here: At four stops (Tennessee Tech, Chattanooga, Auburn and East Carolina), Lebo has coached 501 games without an NCAA Tournament appearance.
11. Donnie Jones, UCF
Record at UCF: 76-52 (.594)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: NCAA sanctions hit Jones with a show cause and stalled momentum for the program. UCF won 20 games in three consecutive seasons before falling to 13-18.
Why he’s ranked here: The former Florida assistant has never finished higher than fourth in the conference in his seven years at UCF and Marshall.
If Virginia Tech gets back to the ACC Championship Game, the Hokies should thank Clemson.
More specifically, the Hokies will need to thank Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris for tipping them off to his high school quarterback.
Virginia Tech went into 2014 knowing it needed a quarterback to replace the departed Logan Thomas. The Hokies were going to enter the season with a veteran backup, a sophomore who hadn’t attempted a pass and three freshmen on an inexperienced offense.
A meeting between associate head coach Shane Beamer and Morris at the Senior Bowl provided the answer.
Morris noted that his former quarterback at Austin (Texas) Lake Travis, where Morris coached two state champions in two years, had just received his release from Texas Tech.
The quarterback had run nothing but no-huddle spread since high school and never lived outside of the state of Texas, but he was a quick study, Morris said. Beamer and quarterback coach Scot Loeffler called the QB, Michael Brewer, visited him Austin and brought him to Blacksburg, Va., for an official visit.
By March, Michael Brewer signed with Virginia Tech. By September, he gave the Hokies a signature win to establish the Hokies’ ACC title credentials.
Brewer completed 23-of-36 passes for 199 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in Columbus, giving Brewer the kind of moment he’d been seeking for three years.
“The whole time I’ve been in college football I’ve been waiting for that one chance,” Brewer said. “It was one of those deals where I’ve waited for so long for one chance, I wasn’t about to let anyone take it away from me.”
Brewer signed with Texas Tech and coach Tommy Tuberville in 2011, redshirting his first season and seeing minimal playing time his second year behind veteran Seth Doege. Tuberville then left for Cincinnati, but Brewer seemed appeared ready to take the starting job under new coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Brewer, though, suffered a fractured vertebra in his lower back that derailed his season. By the time he was healthy, Baker Mayfield and then Davis Webb eventually supplanted him as Texas Tech’s quarterback. Mayfield also transferred.
With a degree in hand, though, Brewer was eligible to play immediately upon his transfer, but Texas Tech blocked him from going to his first-choice destinations of Texas or TCU.
Virginia Tech, with help from Morris, eventually stepped up — and with little time to spare for the Hokies. Six weeks after Brewer announced his transfer to Virginia Tech, Clemson dismissed quarterback Chad Kelly, freeing up a roster spot that could have been claimed by Brewer.
“The numbers weren’t there for them at the time,” Brewer said. “We joke about that, that I could have ended up there, but he’s really happy that I’m here.”
Ending up at Virginia Tech and in an offense not steeped in the spread may be a positive for Brewer as well.
Instead, Brewer joins Loeffler, who had moved from a pro-style offense at Michigan to the spread at Florida and Auburn.
“I think this is good for Michael’s development, just like when I had the opportunity to go to Florida with coach (Urban) Meyer,” Loeffler said. “It was completely different from what I did at Michigan. It was the best experience I had in coaching. It was out of my comfort zone.”
That’s not to say it’s easy.
Brewer had only June and July to prepare in the offense before training camp, during that time NCAA restrictions limited him to an hour or two of film study with coaches during the week.
In other words, not a ton of time for a quarterback to unlearn a style of offense that Brewer has run since high school.
“We use a lot of pro terminology, pro protections and pro concepts,” Loeffler said. “We asked all the questions if he can handle it, and (Chad Morris) said he can learn.”
This has been a two-way street, though, as Virginia Tech has adopted elements of the spread to use in the shotgun so the offense isn’t completely foreign.
“They did a good job of bringing it along easy for me and doing things that I’m comfortable with in the shotgun and making things similar to what I was used to do,” Brewer said. “That’s a credit to them.”
At the same time, the offense isn’t a finished product. Brewer threw the two interceptions against Ohio State, not the best sign for a team whose last starting quarterback had 39 career picks. Brewer averaged a pedestrian 5.5 yards per play, and the offense averaged 4.2 yards per snap.
The numbers weren’t overwhelming, but he did enough for the upset in Columbus.
“His escapability was really good I thought,” Meyer said. “We had him bottled up a couple of times, and he got out of there and extended drives. He’s an accurate thrower, but the best thing he did was escape pressure.”
The bright side is that Virginia Tech’s offense is full of new faces — two freshman tailbacks, a freshman starting receiver and a highly touted tight end, Ryan Malleck, who didn’t play last season due to a shoulder injury.
The presence of a veteran quarterback with experience running no-huddle spread and an Air Raid combined with the possibilities of personnel groupings could lead to an interesting season for the Virginia Tech offense, as noted by SB Nation’s Ian Boyd in a breakdown of Loeffler’s no-huddle spread attack with pro personnel.
Virginia Tech had a feeling Brewer would be ready to tackle such a task in a short period of time. The question was if he could lead and take a hit.
The Hokies learned about both against Ohio State as Brewer was knocked around several times against the Buckeyes only to get back up.
“You learned everything you needed to learn in that Ohio State game,” Loeffler said. “Those quarterbacks take a beating in that game, and he took a beating. He came back and never flinched and never put his eyes on the rush. He learned a lot.
“Any time you’ve got a good person who’s smart and tough you’ve got a chance.”
Teams and players spent the last eight months making decisions and sticking by them, feeling good about their choices and insisting they’re convinced they made the right moves.
Then, on Opening Weekend, came the temptation to tear up the entire plan and start all over again.
That’s the way it is in the NFL, where the season is short (relatively), games are important, and the overreactions fly in the wind with the ever-changing mood. One game is enough to build regrets and to burst the bubbles of optimism. Sure it’s early, but it’s never too early to look at some of the offseason moves – or non-moves – that may have completely backfired on some players and some teams:
10. The Cowboys not drafting Johnny Manziel. Jerry Jones now says he wanted Johnny Football as a way to keep the Cowboys’ relevant, and it sure looks like they’re headed for irrelevancy quickly. Their Week 1 loss at home to the 49ers showed that Tony Romo, coming off back surgery, may not be quite ready. Either that or he’s just his usual, turnover-prone mess. Either way, you want relevant? Imagine the conversation in Dallas this week after Romo’s three-interception performance if Texas’ own Manziel was on the bench.
9. The Browns signing RB Ben Tate. The Browns only gave him a two-year, $6.2 million contract, but they entrusted him with their running game as they attempted to begin what seems like a yearly rebuilding project. That’s great, because he’s always been underrated. But it was risky because he’s also always been injury prone. So is anyone surprised that he sprained his knee in Week 1 and might be out a month?
8. The Panthers releasing WR Steve Smith. He’s 35 years old and small and expensive, so it wasn’t crazy that Carolina released the best receiver it ever had. But they had to have second thoughts after seeing his seven-catch, 118-yard, one-TD debut with the Baltimore Ravens. The Panthers had 230 yards passing and 20 points total. Sure it was Derek Anderson and QB and not the injured Cam Newton, but a receiver of Smith’s caliber sure would’ve helped.
7. The Giants not spending more on their offensive line. They spent $116 million in contracts on offseason improvements, but the only moves they made on the line – which was supposedly their “No. 1 priority” this offseason - was to sign G Geoff Schwartz (now on short-term IR) and C J.D. Walton who just played his first game in two years. The result was about what you’d expect. QB Eli Manning dropped back to pass 35 times and was hit nine times and new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s attack never really got off the ground.
6. Ditto for the Chiefs and their offensive line. They let Schwartz go, along with LT Branden Albert and RG Jon Asamoah and flipped 2013 first-rounder Eric Fisher over to LT as they tried to rebuild on the fly. Great move, making things less stable for a QB like Alex Smith. Not surprisingly, the Chiefs offense completely stalled and picked up just 67 yards on the ground. The leading rusher, by the way, was Smith with 36 yards. So at least, when there’s trouble – and there’ll be a lot of it this season – he can run away.
5. WR Eric Decker leaving the Broncos for the Jets. He got a five-year, $36 million contract from the Jets with $15 million guaranteed, so he can laugh on his way to the bank. But he traded QB Peyton Manning for QB Geno Smith and switched from an offense that gained 259 passing yards on a slow night on Week 1 to one that gained 190 on what might be a great night for the Jets. But hey, at least he’s got the cash.
4. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers not drafting a QB. How much does Lovie Smith and his staff hate second-year pro Mike Glennon that they’re willing to endure the 35-year-old Josh McCown, who threw two interceptions and passed for 183 yards in their opening day loss? If it really is as much as people believe, they should’ve drafted a QB at No. 7, when at that point only Blake Bortles was off the board. They may have found a keeper at that spot in WR Mike Evans, but who’s going to throw him the ball?
3. The St. Louis Rams not drafting a QB. It’s not their fault that Sam Bradford got hurt, but it wasn’t terribly surprising after he missed half of last season. Plus, he hadn’t exactly distinguished himself in the NFL yet. But instead of moving on, the Rams simply backed him up with 34-year-old veteran Shaun Hill, who is also now hurt. Now they may be in the hands of Austin Davis, a second-year pro who was undrafted and was once a walk-on at Southern Miss. … Well, Kurt Warner once came out of nowhere too, so anything is possible.
2. The Raiders trading for QB Matt Schaub. No, it didn’t cost much and neither did he, but the move in March seemed to signal that the Raiders were serious about competing. GM Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen are on hot seats and they knew they couldn’t trust Terrelle Pryor or Matt McGloin with their jobs. Well guess what? They couldn’t trust Schaub either. They drafted rookie Derek Carr, he won the job, and wasn’t awful in a tough debut against the Jets (20 of 32, 151 yards, two TDs, no INTs). He will likely experience plenty of rookie struggles. So the Raiders are back in rebuilding mode. And if they get a new coach/GM next season, they’ll be rebuilding again.
1. The Broncos letting RB Knowshon Moreno go. This won’t destroy a team that’s probably destined for the Super Bowl, but the Broncos nearly blew a big lead on Sunday night because they struggled to run the ball when they needed to protect the lead and move the clock. Montee Ball rushed 23 times for 67 yards – just 2.9 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Moreno, who had a breakout year last season, was supposed to be a product of a Denver offense that helps running backs thrive. He was supposed to come back to Earth in miserable Miami. Instead, on Opening Day, he rushed 24 times for 134 yards and a touchdown – a healthy 5.1 yards per rush.
—By Ralph Vacchiano
Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan previews all of the big action from Week 3 including Georgia-South Carolina, UCLA-Texas, an underrated Big 12 slate and plenty of conference games. The guys also give their locks of the week against the spread as well.
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 11:
• On a day for honoring America, it doesn't get much more American than the USC song girls.
• Today, 11 Links celebrates the last living 9/11 rescue dog, 15-year-old Bretagne. That's a good, good doggie.
• Take a minute today and watch this video of Pat Tillman, which was recorded on Sept. 12, 2001.
• Thirteen years ago today, a Boston College lacrosse player was one of countless heroes.
• In their inimitably profane style, Deadspin calls for Roger Goodell's ouster.
• Paul George made a fool of himself on Twitter. So much for the post-broken leg goodwill.
• Note to self: Never call Mike Tyson a convicted rapist to his face.
• Oscar Pistorius is not guilty of murder, but there's still a lesser charge pending.
• No matter your opinions of Dubya, his post-Sept. 11 World Series first pitch while wearing a flak jacket brought out the chill bumps.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at email@example.com
Baltimore and Pittsburgh, two old rivals that are seemingly in transition, are set to collide at M&T Bank Stadium for a critical AFC North matchup tonight on CBS that also will be simulcast on the NFL Network. The Ravens find themselves in virtual must-win mode after losing their home opener to division foe Cincinnati, but an important week of preparation has spiraled out of control with the nation's laser focus on the Ray Rice debacle and the team's (and head coach's) clumsy handling of the disgraced lead back. The Steelers were able to grab a division win against the Browns but showed plenty of warts in doing so. The loser had better buckle in for a week of doomsday proclamations from a frustrated fan base.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Balitmore Ravens
Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS/NFL Network
Spread: Baltimore -2.5
Three Things to Watch
|Pittsburgh 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs CLE||W 30 - 27||Recap|
|9/11||@ BAL||L 6 - 26||Recap|
|9/21||@ CAR||8:30 pm||Buy Tickets|
|9/28||vs TB||1:00 pm||Buy Tickets|
1. Will Either Defense Show Up?
These two franchises built their reputations on throwing up brick walls at opposing offenses, but those days are seemingly in the past. Neither unit cracked the top 10 in the NFL in total defense last season, and neither proved up to the task in Week 1 of 2014. Baltimore allowed Andy Dalton, a former whipping boy for the Ravens defense, the time and space to do what he wanted, failing to sack him a single time, failing to force a turnover and surrendering 301 yards on a tidy 25-of-38 passing line. Most critically, the defense suffered an unconscionable breakdown on a 77-yard Dalton-to-A.J. Green catch and run for the decisive touchdown in a 23–16 Bengals win. Meanwhile, Dick LeBeau's defense allowed 27 second-half points to the Browns, who used a no-huddle attack that kept the Steelers on their heels. Cleveland pierced the Steel Curtain for 183 yards rushing (100 by unheralded rookie Terrance West) and 6.0 yards per carry, alarming numbers for a proud run defense. This game could produce what would once have been unthinkable for this series: an offensive shootout.
|Baltimore 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs CIN||L 16 - 23||Recap|
|9/11||vs PIT||W 26 - 6||Recap|
|9/21||@ CLE||1:00 pm||Buy Tickets|
|9/28||vs CAR||1:00 pm||Buy Tickets|
2. A Tale of Two Quarterbacks
Until last season, all Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger did was win a vast majority of their starts. But dueling 8–8 seasons marred by turnovers have dented their armor a bit. Big Ben was fairly impressive against the Browns, completing 23-of-34 passes for 365 yards, but he found the end zone only once and was sacked four times after being dumped 42 times in 2013. Lacking a credible running threat, Flacco was forced to the air at an alarming rate in the Ravens' opener, throwing 62 passes (completing 35) for 345 yards, a touchdown and a critical interception that drew boos from the home crowd. Until Flacco and new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak get better acquainted, look for Big Ben to retain the upper hand in this personal rivalry.
3. Bell Cow Backs
The Steelers have to be thrilled with second-year running back Le'Veon Bell, who picked up right where he left off late last season, rushing for 109 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries (5.2 yards per carry) and adding 88 receiving yards in the win over Cleveland, the best combined yardage performance by a Pittsburgh running back since 2006. History is working against Bell — the Steelers haven't had a back exceed 100 yards against the Ravens in almost a decade — but his combination of vision, speed and toughness could reverse that trend. The Ravens had hoped that Bernard Pierce would fill Rice's shoes, but an early fumble against the Bengals opened the door for Justin Forsett, who responded with 70 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and is enough of a dual threat to earn the lion's share of the snaps. Both teams will try to get their lead backs untracked to take pressure off the quarterbacks.
Much like last week, the Ravens have to be glad to get back to the field and away from the questions about their disgraced former teammate. But on the field, they face a whole different set of questions about their ability to protect the football, force turnovers and generally live up to the standard of excellence they've set under John Harbaugh. Similarly, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin can ride his impressive record only so far in a what-have-you-done-lately league. It's premature to put either coach on the hot seat, but a loss in this one does turn up the heat. The Steelers seem to have the better running threat, which could give them an edge in this one.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 20
After two weeks, the top of the Big Ten has lost to Oregon, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and LSU. At the same time, the bottom of the league has lost to Central Michigan and Northern Illinois.
Seven teams are 2-0, but only one was in the AP preseason top 25 (Nebraska). This is a league grasping for solutions before third week of the season. Simply put, many of the coaches are at a loss.
“Keep recruiting,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “There’s no easy answer.”
The Big Ten won’t be able to repair all the damage to its Playoff hopes in one week, but it can save face. Even without a game against an Oregon, Notre Dame or LSU this week, Big Ten teams have key non-conference games that may be must-win territory just to avoid complete embarrassment.
Conference newcomer Maryland draws a West Virginia team that put pressure on Alabama in the passing game. After narrow wins over Northern Iowa and Ball State, Iowa faces its in-state rival. And Minnesota takes its stout running game to Fort Worth to face a formidable TCU defense.
At the same time, one Big Ten program has reason for optimism after Penn State learned the NCAA and Big Ten lifted postseason restrictions just in time for its league opener against Rutgers.
Week 3 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC
Week 3 Big Ten Game Power Rankings
All games Saturday. All times Eastern
1. West Virginia at Maryland
Noon, Big Ten Network
With a group of healthy playmakers, Maryland hoped its offense would be the most dynamic of the Randy Edsall era. That hasn’t happened quite yet. Edsall says quarterback C.J. Brown last is trying to be perfect and wide receiver Stefon Diggs is navigating “unfair expectations,” as Edsall says. Brown turned the ball over three times against USF last week, and Diggs is averaging just 8.6 yards per catch. Maryland probably can’t afford another six-turnover game as the Terrapins had against USF last week. West Virginia will test a veteran Maryland defense that has allowed 3.6 yards per play against overmatched competition.
Listen to the Week 3 preview podcast:
Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher
2. Penn State at Rutgers
8 p.m., Big Ten Network
Few games have become more intriguing thanks to the last two weeks — Penn State now has the possibility of a bowl game and conference championship game this season, and Rutgers proved it has a pulse with a win over Washington State in Seattle in Week 1. In a wild turn of events, Penn State may have the best Playoff profile of any team in the Big Ten with wins over UCF and Akron. The Nittany Lions, though, have yet to put together a complete game on offense, averaging 2.8 yards per carry this season. This could be an important series in the Big Ten as Penn State aims to recruit New Jersey with regularity, but the two programs haven’t faced each other since 1995. Penn State is 22-2 all time agains the Scarlet Knights.
3. Iowa State at Iowa
3:30 p.m., ESPN
After two weeks, Kirk Ferentz probably didn’t envision quarterback Jake Rudock leading his team in rushing (53 yards) and needing 93 pass attempts to beat Northern Iowa and Ball State. The Hawkeyes offense is a major concern against rival Iowa State, especially with uncertainty surrounding star offensive tackle Brandon Scherff. Asked directly if Scherff had knee surgery as reported by KCRG in Cedar Rapids, Ferentz did not offer a definitive answer. Scherff returned to play and spoke during postgame interviews. Defensive end Drew Ott, who had 13 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss against Ball State, was involved in a scooter accident but is expected to play against the 0-2 Cyclones.
4. Minnesota at TCU
4 p.m., Fox Sports 1
Who would have thought the odd Minnesota-TCU game would have storylines besides the namesake of two individual postseason awards (Bronko Nagurski of Minnesota vs. Davey O’Brien of TCU)? Minnesota coach Jerry Kill was TCU coach Gary Patterson’s best man, and Gophers defensive coaches routinely visit with the Horned Frogs during the offseason. “I didn’t want to play it.” Kill said. “No question about that and I think he had the same feeling. ... But I’m not the boss. I’m the football coach.” From an on-field standpoint, this will be an intriguing matchup of running back David Cobb (291 rushing yards in two games) against a traditionally stout TCU defense.
5. Nebraska at Fresno State
10:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network
Nebraska heads West after a close call with McNeese State in which the Cornhuskers needed a wild catch-and-run by Ameer Abdullah to seal the win. Where to start? Nebraska’s defense gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns on a pair of extended drives. The Cornhuskers need defensive end Randy Gregory to return from a knee injury to improve a pass rush that has recorded two sacks this season. Nebraska will try to get its other star player, Abdullah, more involved. Before his game-winning TD, Abdullah had accounted for 92 yards from scrimmage on 19 touches. Fresno State might not be a vintage Bulldogs squad — they’ve been outscored 111-40 in two games this season.
6. Indiana at Bowling Green
Is this a new era for the Indiana defense or the product of a weak opponent in Week 1? Probably the latter, but the Hoosiers have to be encouraged by holding Indiana State to 3.0 yards per play and recording four sacks. Indiana also attempted only 18 passes, the fewest of the Kevin Wilson era, while rushing for 455 yards. Meanwhile, preseason MAC favorite Bowling Green is playing without starting quarterback Matt Johnson, who is out for the season.
7. Illinois at Washington
4 p.m., Fox
For the third week in a row, a Big Ten team goes to the Pacific Northwest where Rutgers defeated Washington State and Michigan State lost to Oregon. The seasons for Illinois and Washington have played out in similar fashion, each with a close win over an FCS and a non-Power 5 opponent. That probably says more about Washington, a team picked third in the Pac-12 North, compared to Illinois, picked near the bottom of the Big 12. Illinois will hope for a shootout, putting in the game in the hands of Wes Lunt. The Oklahoma State transfer has passed for 741 yards and seven touchdowns while completing 67 percent of his passes. Washington’s may be happy to oblige after giving up 52 points in a win over Eastern Washington last week.
8. Kent State at Ohio State
Ohio State’s start against Kent State will be worth watching after the Buckeyes have come up empty on opening drives in the first two games of the season. Ohio State went four-and-out against Navy and three-and-out against Virginia Tech, contributing to a 28-13 combined deficit at halftime this season. “Maybe it’s the way we practice,” Meyer said. “I’m looking at everything. Maybe it’s the play calling. Maybe I’ve conservative with who we have in there right now, but we’re beyond that now.” Ohio State also expects Noah Spence back after he was suspended for three games dating back to the Orange Bowl due to a positive drug test.
9. Miami (Ohio) at Michigan
3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
Miami (Ohio) may be just the opponent Michigan needs to see for a confidence boost after a 31-0 loss to Notre Dame. The RedHawks have lost 18 in a row, the longest active losing streak in the country. Michigan’s roster is in flux. Raymon Taylor left the Notre Dame loss with injuries, so did star receiver Devin Funchess, who tried to re-enter the game for a series after a leg injury. Five-star freshman cornerback Jabrill Peppers was on the sideline in uniform but did not play. Michigan also is working tight end Jake Butt back into the lineup after a torn ACL ended his 2013 season. He should be a boost to an offense that didn’t reach the red zone against the Irish. Starting linebacker Desmond Morgan has also been sidelined.
10. Purdue at Notre Dame
7:30 p.m., NBC
Purdue coach Darell Hazell re-opened the quarterback competition after Danny Etling went 17-of-32 for 126 yards with two interceptions in a 38-17 loss to Central Michigan. Sophomore Austin Appleby could get an extended look, but it might not make a major difference against a Notre Dame team that has won eight of the last nine meetings.
Off: Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin
Week 3 Big Ten Staff Picks
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|West Va. at Maryland (-4)||WVU 35-24||Md 34-31||WVU 34-31|
|Indiana (-7) at Bowling Green||IU 35-17||IU 38-31||IU 48-24||IU 41-33|
|Kent State at Ohio State (-32)||OSU 28-10||OSU 38-17||OSU 45-7||OSU 30-10|
|Miami U at Michigan (-31)||Mich 35-7||Mich 41-10||Mich 41-13||Mich 34-10|
|Iowa State at Iowa (-10)||Iowa 21-17||Iowa 31-21||Iowa 27-17||Iowa 21-10|
|Minnesota at TCU (-15)||TCU 17-10||TCU 27-20||TCU 30-20||Minn 24-21|
Illinois at Washington (-12)
|Wash 42-28||Wash 44-24||Wash 45-31||Wash 33-27|
|Purdue at Notre Dame (-29)||ND 42-7||ND 44-13||ND 45-10||ND 34-13|
|Penn State at Rutgers (-4)||PSU 28-17||PSU 34-31||PSU 27-24||PSU 23-20|
|Nebraska at Fresno State (-11)||Neb 31-10||Neb 44-24||Neb 45-20||Neb 44-20|
There’s a huge a battle in the SEC East as Georgia, a decisive and impressive Week 1 winner over Clemson, heads to South Carolina. The Bulldogs will be looking for their first win in Columbia. Elsewhere, Arkansas makes the trip to Lubbock to play Texas Tech for the first time in over two decades; Tennessee visits Oklahoma in what figures to be a tough matchup for the young Vols; and Kentucky and Florida meet in the Swamp in an intriguing early SEC matchup.
Week 3 Previews and Predictions
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12
SEC Week 3 Game Power Rankings
1. Georgia (-6) at South Carolina
3:30 ET, CBS
They’ve only played one game, but the Georgia Bulldogs have been one of the most impressive teams in the nation thus far. Led by arguably the deepest backfield in college football and a talented front seven on defense, Georgia has the look of a team that can compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The impending trip to South Carolina doesn’t look as treacherous as it did in the preseason — thanks to the Gamecocks’ rough start to 2014 — but playing in Williams-Brice Stadium has been a nightmare in recent seasons for Mark Richt’s club. Georgia has lost two straight in Columbia, including a 35–7 debacle two years ago when the Dawgs were 5–0 and ranked No. 5 in the nation. Todd Gurley, then a freshman, was held to 39 yards on 13 carries on that night. Don’t expect that to happen again.
Listen to the Week 3 preview podcast:
2. Arkansas (+2.5) at Texas Tech
3:30 ET, ABC
These two old Southwest Conference rivals meet for the first time since 1991, Arkansas’ final season in the league before bolting for the SEC. Texas Tech is a very shaky 2–0 after alarmingly close wins over Central Arkansas (42–35) and at UTEP (30–26). The Red Raiders have struggled to stop the run, allowing an average of 53 rushing attempts (fourth-worst in the nation) and 224.5 rushing yards per game. That’s not good news with Arkansas looming. The Hogs feature a loaded backfield and a big offensive line that specializes in run-blocking. This could be a touch matchup for the Red Raiders.
3. Tennessee (+20.5) at Oklahoma
8 ET, ABC
After taking care of business against two solid mid-major programs (Utah State and Arkansas State), Tennessee begins a treacherous stretch with a trip to play Oklahoma. The Sooners are one of the most talented teams in the nation — and they have a ton of experience in key spots. Tennessee, too, has a lot of talent, but the vast majority is painfully inexperienced. The obvious problem for the Vols — in this matchup and going forward — is on the offensive line, by far the team’s weakest unit. Quarterback Justin Worley and the talented skill players will have precious little time to operate against the Sooners’ defensive front.
4. Kentucky (+18) at Florida
7:30 ET, SEC Network
The competition has been weak, but the early reports are promising for both Kentucky and Florida, the two worst offensive teams — by total yards and points scored — in the SEC last season. Kentucky has found the right quarterback to operate Neal Brown’s “Air Raid” attack in sophomore Patrick Towles. Florida has had the right quarterback, but Jeff Driskel has not been able to stay healthy. The Gators are the heavy favorite for a reason, but there is belief around the SEC that Kentucky is vastly improved in Mark Stoops’ second season. Don’t expect the Cats to win this game, but it would be a surprise if they got blown out.
5. UCF (+9.5) at Missouri
12 ET, SEC Network
This game would have more meaning had Penn State not connected on a last-second field goal to beat UCF in Week 1. Still, the Knights are a solid team that should be even better in its second game now that they have settled on a quarterback. Pete DiNovo won the job in the preseason but was ineffective against Penn State. Justin Holman came off the bench and threw for 204 yards and a TD on only 14 attempts. UCF, however, will need to get its running game going after struggling mightily in Week 1. Missouri very quietly posted a dominating 49–24 win on the road against a dangerous Toledo team. Maty Mauk, an Ohio native, threw for 325 yards and five touchdowns to lead an offense that piled up over 500 yards. I’m not sold on the Tigers defensively yet, but the offense has the weapons to thrive in 2014.
6. Mississippi State (+14.5) at South Alabama
4 ET, ESPNews
After struggling a bit with UAB last weekend, Mississippi State heads to Mobile to play South Alabama in what figures to be the biggest game in the five-plus years of Jaguar football. Joey Jones has done a tremendous job making this program relevant in such a short time. The Jags went 6–6 overall and 4–3 in the Sun Belt in 2013 and are projected to be one of the better teams in the league in ’14. They opened their season with a solid 10-point win at Kent State last weekend. Mississippi State escaped last week with a 47–34 win over UAB despite giving up 548 total yards, including 435 through the air. South Alabama has the personnel to do some damage on offense. This might not be easy for MSU.
7. Louisiana-Lafayette (+27) at Ole Miss
4 ET, SEC Network
It flew under the national radar, but one of the most surprising scores through the first two weeks of the season was Louisiana-Lafayette’s 48–20 loss at home to Louisiana Tech. The Ragin’ Cajuns must regroup in a hurry with a trip to Oxford on the horizon. Ole Miss wasn’t sharp in the first half of its win against Boise State but has been outstanding since, pulling away from Boise for a 35–13 win and dominating Vanderbilt in a 41–3 victory in Nashville. If quarterback Bo Wallace limits the turnovers, the Ole Miss offense will be one of the SEC’s best in 2014.
8. ULM (+31) at LSU
7 ET, ESPNU
ULM is 2–0 with seven-point wins over Wake Forest (possibly the worst major-conference team in the nation) and Idaho (one of the worst FBS teams in the nation). Now, the Warhawks make the short trip to Baton Rouge to face a very young but very talented LSU team. True freshman tailback Leonard Fournette stole the headlines in the preseason, but sophomore wide receiver Travin Dural has been the best player on the LSU offense through two games. Dural is averaging a staggering 48.5 yards on his six receptions and has already scored four touchdowns.
9. Rice (+31) at Texas A&M
9 ET, ESPN2
Rice has a brutal two-game stretch to open the season. The Owls lost at Notre Dame, 48–17, in Week 1 and now head to Texas A&M. The Aggies have been perhaps the most impressive offensive team in the nation in the early going. With an outstanding offensive line, a group of quality running backs and wide receivers, all that was needed was someone to emerge at quarterback. Clearly, that has happened in the form of sophomore Kenny Hill. This will not be close.
10. Southern Miss (+48) at Alabama
6 ET, ESPN2
It’s difficult to envision a scenario in which Southern Miss’ offense scores more than a touchdown in this game. The Golden Eagles were held to 283 yards and zero points by a Mississippi State defense that allowed 548 points and 34 points the ensuing week to UAB. Alabama’s cadre of elite tailbacks will post some gaudy stats in Tuscaloosa this weekend.
11. UMass (+16.5) at Vanderbilt
12 ET, ESPN3
Vanderbilt has scored a total of 10 points in two games yet is favored by 16.5 points over UMass. Seems a bit strange, but the boys in Vegas usually know what they are doing. The Commodores’ search for a quarterback continues — true freshman Wade Freebeck entered the competition this week — but Vanderbilt has found its answer at tailback. Ralph Webb has 165 yards (37 percent of the team’s offense) in two games and has emerged as a team leader as a redshirt freshman.
Week 3 SEC Predictions
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|UMass at Vanderbilt||VU, 21-17||VU, 15-11||VU, 31-20||VU, 27-14|
|UCF at Missouri||MU, 35-24||MU, 31-21||MU, 34-24||MU, 34-20|
|Arkansas at Texas Tech||UA, 42-38||UA, 30-27||UA, 38-34||UA, 34-30|
|Georgia at S. Carolina||UGa, 35-21||UGa, 31-30||UGa, 31-24||UGa, 33-22|
|Miss St. at S. Alabama||MSU, 35-14||MSU, 44-24||MSU, 38-20||MSU, 30-17|
|UL Lafayette at Ole Miss||UM, 42-24||UM, 34-14||UM, 45-20||UM, 47-17|
|So. Miss at Alabama||UA, 52-7||UA, 45-7||UA, 55-7||UA, 47-0|
|ULM at LSU||LSU 35-10||LSU, 31-7||LSU, 45-10||LSU, 41-13|
|Kentucky at Florida||UF, 28-10||UF, 30-20||UF, 31-13||UF, 28-17|
|Tennessee at Oklahoma||OU, 35-14||OU, 38-17||OU, 38-13||OU, 33-13|
|Rice at Texas A&M||A&M, 42-28||A&M, 52-17||A&M 55-17||A&M, 51-17|
Washington State and Colorado notwithstanding, the Pac-12 has had a very successful first two weeks of the season.
Oregon looks like a national title team, all of the other contenders have survived and stayed unblemished in the non-conference (UCLA, Oregon State, Washington) and the rest of the league (Arizona State, Arizona, Cal, Utah) has looked better than anticipated.
This weekend should feature much of the same as some teams look to survive key road non-conference games and contenders aim to hold serve at home against overmatched opponents.
Week 3 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC
Pac-12 Week 3 Game Power Rankings
1. UCLA (-8) vs Texas
8 p.m., FOX, Arlington
While UCLA is looking for a complete performance from both sides of the ball (in the same game), Texas is looking for answers all over the roster. The Bruins are a known commodity with a proven playmaker at quarterback and several stars on defense. Longhorns quarterback Tyrone Swoopes wasn’t terrible in his debut against BYU but Texas still has glaring questions under center — and most every other position on offense. The defense, supposed to be a strength, needs to play like it did in Week 1 (94 yds allowed) rather than how it did last weekend (41 pts). Both offensive lines are a concern and both defensive lines have future NFL players, so whichever team protects the quarterback better will leave Arlington a winner.
Listen to the Week 3 preview podcast:
2. Nevada (+14.5) at Arizona
11 p.m., P12 Net
These two have only played once since World War II, but the 2012 New Mexico Bowl was one for the ages. The 49-48 showdown was an epic, back-and-forth affair between two great offenses and that figures to be the case once again this weekend. Arizona won a hard-fought game against UTSA in San Antonio last Saturday and has had extra time to prepare for a Wolf Pack defense that was excellent against Washington State in Week 2. Anu Solomon (358.5 ypg) and Cody Fajardo (290.5 ypg) are two of the most entertaining quarterbacks in the nation and both should deliver fireworks late night on Saturday. Look for Rich Rodriguez’ defense to get key stops in the second half, pushing his non-conference record in Tucson to a perfect 11-0.
3. USC (-17) at Boston College
8 p.m., ESPN
Anytime the Trojans play on the East Coast, it’s must-see TV. That said, the Eagles' defensive front better be ready for a heavy dose of Buck Allen and Justin Davis. Boston College allowed 302 yards rushing — 213 to James Conner — against Pittsburgh last weekend and show no signs of being able to stop USC's powerful rushing attack. Allen has been excellent on the ground, averaging 6.4 yards per carry and 143.5 yards per game in the early going. This says nothing of the elite collection of wideouts Cody Kessler has at his disposal. The late kickoff should help USC stave off any remaining jet lag from the cross-country journey.
4. Illinois (+13) at Washington
4 p.m., FOX
The Huskies defense will be without star cornerback Marcus Peters this weekend against what is developing into one of the Big Ten’s better passing attack. Neither team has looked good against inferior competition but both quarterbacks exploded last week with big numbers. Wes Lunt threw for 456 yards in a narrow win over Western Kentucky while Cyler Miles scored four times and led his team to 59 points in his season debut. The biggest difference between these two should be the play of UW’s front seven on defense. If this group is effective, Washington should win easily.
5. Arizona St (-15.5) at Colorado
10 p.m., ESPNU
The conference opener for both should be closer than the first two meetings between Todd Graham and the Buffaloes. Taylor Kelly and Graham have scored over 50 points and rolled up more than 530 yards in each of their two games against Colorado. Tailback D.J. Foster has given Kelly a tremendous counterpart, as the star tailback is averaging an absurd 10.7 yards per carry on 34 attempts (363 yds, 4 TD). Meanwhile, the Buffs haven’t looked good in either game despite adequate play from sophomore quarterback Sefo Luifau (559 yds, 5 TD, INT). Look for Luifau to target that reworked ASU secondary with talented peripheral weapons Nelson Spruce (17 rec., 249 yds, 4 TD) and Shay Fields. Mike MacIntrye has to hope to outscore Arizona State — which is much easier said than done.
6. Army (+28.5) at Stanford
5 p.m., P12 Net
The story coming out of Palo Alto last weekend wasn’t that Stanford lost, it was how they lost. In 2014, the Cardinal has made 11 trips into the red zone that have resulted in a total of three touchdowns. That has to change against Army this Saturday. The good news is the Stanford defense is picking up right where it left off by allowing just one total touchdown in 25 defensive possessions. The long trip out West for the Knights doesn’t help their chances either.
7. Wyoming (+43) at Oregon
2 p.m., P12 Net
The only thing the Cowboys can hope for here is a complete and total letdown of focus for the Ducks after their huge win over Michigan State. Wyoming is unbeaten but topped Montana by just five points and needed 10 fourth quarter points to beat Air Force by four last week. Oregon scored almost as many points in the final 19 minutes against Sparty (28) as the Cowboys have scored in two games (34). This will be ugly.
8. Portland St at Washington St
8 p.m., P12 Net
After two weeks, there are few teams in the nation more disappointing than the Cougars. The defense was atrocious in Week 1 and the offense was ineffective in Week 2. With eight (maybe nine) potential bowl teams left on the schedule, this is the last “guaranteed” win on Wazzu's schedule.
Off: Oregon State, Utah
|Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|UCLA (-8) at Texas||UCLA, 31-17||UCLA, 24-10||UCLA, 35-10||UCLA, 27-13|
|Nevada (+14.5) at Arizona||Zona, 34-20||Zona, 41-24||Zona, 41-14||Zona 41-30|
|USC (-17) at B. College||USC, 41-17||USC, 30-20||USC, 35-14||USC, 34-17|
|Illinois (+13) at Wash.||Wash., 44-24||Wash., 33-27||Wash., 42-28||Wash., 45-31|
|Ariz. St (-15.5) at Colo.||ASU, 45-21||ASU, 37-17||ASU, 42-10||ASU, 45-17|
|Army (+28.5) at Stan.||Stan., 33-7||Stan., 31-10||Stan., 28-14||Stan., 34-17|
|Wyo. (+43) at Oregon||Oregon, 51-7||Oregon, 41-7||Oregon, 56-10||Oregon, 55-7|
|Port. St at Wazzu||WSU, 34-14||WSU, 41-17||WSU, 35-7||WSU, 48-13|
Many are talking about how weak the Week 3 slate looks nationally. While there’s only one Top 25 matchup in any conference, the Big 12 only has one “bad” game this weekend.
There’s an intense in-state rivalry. There are clashes of style with the SEC. There’s a top 10 team coming to The Lone Star State. There are three bouts with the Big Ten. And there’s Baylor. Even Kansas has an intriguing game this weekend.
Week 3 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
Big 12 Week 3 Game Power Rankings
1. UCLA (-8) vs Texas
8 p.m., FOX, Arlington
While UCLA is looking for a complete performance from both sides of the ball (in the same game), Texas is looking for answers all over the roster. The Bruins are a known commodity with a proven playmaker at quarterback and several stars on defense. Longhorns quarterback Tyrone Swoopes wasn’t terrible in his debut against BYU but Texas still has glaring questions under center — and most every other position on the offense. The defense, supposed to be a strength, needs to play like it did in Week 1 (94 yds allowed) rather than how it did last weekend (41 pts). Both offensive lines are a concern and both defensive lines have future NFL players, so whichever team protects the quarterback better will leave Arlington a winner.
Listen to the Week 3 preview podcast:
2. Arkansas (+2) at Texas Tech
3:30 p.m., ABC
This is an awesome battle of tempo and style that should be exciting all the way to the wire. Arkansas will bring in one of the most powerful rushing attacks in the country at 324.0 yards per game after two weeks. Meanwhile, David Webb is sixth nationally with 730 yards passing in two games for Texas Tech. Kliff Kingsbury needs a more disciplined performance from his team as Tech’s 25 penalties rank 126th nationally and are last in the Big 12 in turnover margin (-3). If Tech doesn’t play a cleaner game and doesn’t get freshman running back Justin Stockton (12.4 ypc) the ball, the Hogs will physically dominate the trenches and leave Lubbock with a win. This is a critical test for a Red Raiders team that appears to have the same issues it did to end last season.
3. Tennessee (+20.5) at Oklahoma
8 p.m., ABC
The Volunteers have two wins but have yet to get any push up front on offense, ranking 91st in the nation in rushing. The Sooners have been excellent against the run and are playing elite defense, ranking 13th nationally in stopping the ground game. Trevor Knight obviously needs to play well against a much improved defense that has been excellent on third down (7-of-31), but the line of scrimmage figures to be the biggest factor and Oklahoma appears to have a major advantage in this department on both sides of the ball. Bob Stoops has been railing on the SEC because he knows his team should get a relatively easy win against one of the conference's lower-tier teams that still could wind up in a bowl game by season’s end. There is a reason the Vols are a three-touchdown underdog.
4. West Virginia (+3.5) at Maryland
This game has gotten dramatically more interesting after two weeks of play. The Terps, who will be wearing these uniforms, won this contest 37-0 a year ago and are coming off a hard-fought win over USF on the road. West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett has been a different player this year, throwing for 713 yards and no interceptions in two games thus far. Fans on both sides are expecting a much closer battle this time around. In order to keep it close, the Mountaineers must be focused on stopping a host of talented Maryland playmakers, including quarterback C.J. Brown (6 total TD), receiver Stefon Diggs (12 receptions) and running backs Wes Brown and Brandon Ross.
5. Iowa State (+10) at Iowa
3:30 p.m., ESPN
One of the more underrated in-state rivalries in college football began back in 1894 and has been played 61 times. Paul Rhoads is 2-3 against Kirk Ferentz but won the last trip into Iowa City in ugly fashion 9-6. Both teams have struggled in the early going this fall, as Iowa has needed late heroics to reach 2-0. Iowa State played much better football against Kansas State than it did in Week 1 but still couldn’t score in the fourth quarter. This is a classic rivalry that could go either way depending on quarterback play and third-down defense — two areas where Iowa appears to have a significant advantage. Even the campus Police Departments are getting into fray.
6. Minnesota (+14.5) at TCU
4 p.m., FS1
The Gophers are one of the few Big Ten teams that have looked solid in both outings this fall, as the running game has averaged 233.0 yards per game. Normally, the defense gets the headlines for Gary Patterson but the TCU coach is drawing attention for his QB depth chart instead. Trevone Boykin — who threw for over 300 yards in the season opener — is a co-starter with Matt Joeckel. It appears this battle is far from over and whoever plays better against a well-coached but potentially overmatched Minnesota squad this weekend could take control of the job. Stopping UM tailback David Cobb is the key for TCU on Saturday.
7. UTSA (off) at Oklahoma State
Daxx Garman played well (over 15 yards per completion) in backup duty last weekend and appears to have a better skill set for Mike Gundy’s offense than J.W. Walsh. Texas-San Antonio has played excellent defense, due in large part to a stout defensive line, against Arizona and Houston as the Roadrunners figure to be a much better test for Garman (or whomever plays QB) than Southwest Missouri State. Many are suggesting Garman should be the unquestioned starter but the fact remains he needs to prove himself against more legitimate competition before he’s handed the keys to Gundy’s Air Raid attack. UTSA is a solid step up for OSU but shouldn’t pose a threat for the Pokes in Stillwater.
8. Baylor (-34) at Buffalo
Fri., 8 p.m., ESPN
Bryce Petty’s vertebrae are the only real story in what should be a very lopsided Bears win. Petty will start after missing all of last week’s game and the offense didn’t miss a beat. Art Briles' top concern this weekend should be keeping his QB upright and returning home healthy.
9. Kansas (+15) at Duke
3:30 p.m., ESPN3
Charlie Weis and David Cutcliffe know each other quite well. The Kansas coach hired the Duke coach while at Notre Dame but the two never coached together due to health complications for Cutcliffe. This time, Cutt appears to be the boss, as his Duke team is surging after two easy wins. Stopping Anthony Boone will be a tall order for the Jayhawks on the road.
Off: Kansas State
Big 12 Predictions:
|Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|UCLA (-8) vs. Texas||UCLA, 31-17||UCLA, 24-10||UCLA, 35-10||UCLA, 27-13|
|Ark. (+2) at T. Tech||Ark., 30-27||Ark., 34-30||Ark., 42-38||Ark., 38-34|
|Tenn. (+20.5) at Okla.||Okla., 38-17||Okla., 33-13||Okla., 35-14||Okla., 38-13|
|W. Virginia (+3.5) at Mary.||Mary., 34-31||Mary., 27-24||WVU, 35-24||WVU, 34-31|
|Iowa St (+10) at Iowa||Iowa, 31-21||Iowa, 21-10||Iowa, 21-17||Iowa, 27-17|
|Minn. (+14.5) at TCU||TCU, 27-20||Minn., 24-21||TCU, 17-10||TCU 30-20|
|UTSA (off) at Okla. St||OSU, 31-17||OSU, 30-17||OSU, 35-28||OSU 38-24|
|Baylor (-34) at Buffalo||Baylor, 49-10||Baylor, 41-0||Baylor, 56-10||Baylor 52-20|
|Kansas (+15) at Duke||Duke, 43-15||Duke, 34-10||Duke, 28-10||Duke, 38-17|