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The first weekend of action was mostly positive for Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. Mostly.
Washington might have been the most impressive team in the nation after a huge performance against regional rival Boise State. Utah, behind developing quarterback Travis Wilson, clinched an important in-state rivalry win over Utah State. Mark Helfrich and Mike MacIntyre debuted with solid wins. And even in losses, Washington State and Cal appeared to be improved teams from a year ago.
However, Oregon State completely dropped the ball in a head-scratching loss to Eastern Washington at home. The good news for the Beavers and the Pac-12 is that the only game it will lose in Week 2 is a conference game with itself (Wazzu at USC).
UCLA and Washington will get to rest this weekend while fans at Stanford and Arizona State finally get their season started.
Pac-12 Week 2 Game Power Rankings
1. Washington State (+15) at USC (10:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
In a not-so-marquee weekend out West, the first Pac-12 conference game of the 2013 season takes center stage. As usual, quarterback play will be key as Connor Halliday must be given time to throw for Washington State while someone in a USC uniform needs to complete forward passes. USC’s defense looks much improved and will keep the score down so Lane Kiffin should only need the smallest amount of offense to win the Trojans’ ninth in a row over Wazzu.
2. Oregon (-23.5) at Virginia (3:30 p.m., ABC)
Virginia used some inclement weather to pull an unexpected upset over BYU last week at home. Facing Marcus Mariota and the Ducks' offense is battling literally a bird of a different feather and the Cavs might need more than a monsoon to hang with Oregon. Helfrich and company rolled-up 772 yards of offense and is leading the nation at 10.9 yards per play after one week. And despite winning the game, the Wahoos mustered just 223 yards of offense on a pathetic 3.0 yards per play (116th nationally). Keep an eye on star freshman Thomas Tyner, who will make his NCAA debut after missing last week with an injury.
3. San Jose State (+26.5) at Stanford (10 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
The Cardinal begin their Pac-12 title defense by hosting David Fales and the Spartans after sitting on the sidelines last weekend. Fales is a highly touted passing prospect and was solid but uninspiring in his season debut last weekend (16-of-32, 225 yards, 2 TD). He should be handled by what could be the best non-SEC defense in the nation while Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan could make the statement that he is actually the best signal-caller in this game.
4. Hawaii (+26.5) at Oregon State (8 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
No team in this league needs a win more in Week 2 than Mike Riley’s Beavers. The defensive performance from Oregon State last week against an FCS foe was utterly bizarre as OSU ranked last among BCS conference teams with 625 yards allowed in Week 1. That unit has to improve against a struggling Hawaii offense that mustered just 3.2 yards per play against USC. Quarterback Sean Mannion was a bright spot for a Beavers offense that has plenty of playmakers (See Brandin Cooks). Oregon State should be able to quickly turn its season around in Corvallis this Saturday.
5. Arizona (-10) at UNLV (10:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
One team won 35-0 and the other allowed 51 points to Minnesota in Week 1, so why does Vegas think this game will be so close? Well, UNLV actually out-gained the Gophers 419 yards to 320 last week and Arizona’s complete team effort came against Northern Arizona. Look for Rich Rodriguez to welcome back star tailback Ka’Deem Carey in a big way by feeding him (and backup Daniel Jenkins) the ball in an effort to take pressure of his quarterbacks. The Wildcats should win easily but should be on upset alert.
6. Sacramento State (+37) at Arizona State (Thurs., 10 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
Taylor Kelly and Chaz Sutton make their 2013 premiere against a vastly overmatched opponent. Arizona State has a difficult schedule with marquee non-conference games looming large on the horizon, so an easy win should come as a welcome treat for the team picked by Athlon Sports to win the Pac-12 South. Look for complete and utter domination from the Sun Devils.
7. Central Arkansas (+14.5) at Colorado (8 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
Central Arkansas won last week 58-7 over… the University of the Incarnate Word? (It’s in San Antonio, in case you were wondering.) But that strong showing has the Sugar Bears as just a two-touchdown underdog to the Buffaloes. MacIntrye became just the second Colorado coach since the 1930s to win his first game and should be poised for a 2-0 start — which would already top CU’s 2012 win total.
8. Weber State (+23) at Utah (2 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
New co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson had an immediate impact on Travis Wilson and the Utah offense. This unit scored on two long drives in the waning moments of a huge win over Utah State and Wilson appears to be poised for a big season in Salt Lake City. Kyle Whittingham needs to get his team back to the postseason and any win is a good one for the Utes — even a gimme over the Wildcats of Weber State.
9. Portland State (+27.5) at Cal (5 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
Sure, the Bears allowed 508 yards of offense and 44 points in the Week 1 loss to Northwestern. But there was plenty to like about Sonny Dykes' debut in Berkeley, namely quarterback Jared Goff. This team has plenty of playmakers but needed a quarterback to make the offense move and Goff delivered in a big way. Portland State should pose little threat and Dykes should get his first win at Cal.
Pac-12 Week 2 Pivotal Players:
1. Washington State’s offensive line
It’s just one week but the USC Trojans are leading the nation in sacks after registering 7.0 against Hawaii last week. So the spotlight is on the Wazzu offensive line this weekend. The Cougars played well on the road against a very talented Auburn defensive line last week by rushing for 120 yards on 5.2 yards per carry. Protecting Connor Halliday and moving the chains on the ground might be Mike Leach’s only chance at a victory in the Cougars' ’13 Pac-12 debut.
2. Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, QB, USC
On the flip side, USC has to get better quarterback play to be considered a contender in the Pac-12. Neither Kessler (10-of-19) nor Wittek (5-of-10) were very efficient last week against Hawaii and neither topped 100 yards passing. Until one of these two highly touted signal-callers separates himself on the field, the Trojans won’t be anything but a fringe Top 25 team.
3. Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
The Stanford safety is one of the nation’s best players and he will get an interesting test in the Cardinal’s season debut. David Fales is one of the more talented signal-callers in the nation after a monster 2012 campaign and solid ’13 opener (225 yards, 2 TD). The chess match between Reynolds and Fales should be fun to watch this weekend.
4. Oregon’s backfield
Yes, Marcus Mariota is important. Duh. So is De’Anthony Thomas. But after Virginia played much better than anticipated in an upset win over BYU, there is more of a spotlight on this unit than expected. Byron Marshall topped 100 yards last week and uber-recruit Thomas Tyner will make his Oregon debut. The Cavaliers allowed 144 yards to Cougars tailback Jamaal Williams and 42 yards and a score to quarterback Taysom Hill. The Ducks' backfield will likely show the nation that the Cavs' win last week was a bit of a fluke.
5. Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
The star running back was suspended last week for the easy win over Northern Arizona. Daniel Jenkins filled the void adequately with 139 yards on 12 carries but should take a backseat this weekend to Carey. On the road, the powers that be in Las Vegas seem to think the Arizona-UNLV game will be closer than the experts are predicting. This, and a fluid quarterback situation, puts pressure on Carey to perform at the highest level in his first game of the season.
Pac-12 Week 2 Predictions:
|Game||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|Washington St (+15) at USC||USC, 31-21||USC, 27-13||USC, 34-17||USC, 35-28|
|Oregon (-23.5) at Virginia||Oregon, 45-17||Oregon, 28-6||Oregon, 41-20||Oregon, 49-14|
|San Jose St (+26.5) at Stanford||Stanford, 51-13||Stanford, 31-14||Stanford, 38-17||Stanford, 35-17|
|Hawaii (+26.5) at Oregon St||Oregon St, 45-20||Oregon St, 33-14||Oregon St, 38-13||Oregon St, 35-10|
|Arizona (-10) at UNLV||Arizona, 38-17||Arizona, 41-17||Arizona, 41-20||Arizona, 35-21|
|Sacramento St (+37) at Arizona St||Arizona St, 52-3||Arizona St, 44-6||Arizona St, 48-14||Arizona St, 42-10|
|Central Ark. (+14.5) at Colorado||Colorado, 31-10||Colorado, 41-20||Colorado, 45-20||Colorado, 28-14|
|Weber St (+23) at Utah||Utah, 34-10||Utah, 31-13||Utah, 48-13||Utah, 31-14|
|Portland St (+27.5) at Cal||Cal, 44-17||Cal, 41-20||Cal, 50-17||Cal, 49-17|
The first week of the season revealed that the bottom of the Big 12 has more work ahead of it that perhaps we thought. Kansas State and Iowa State lost to FCS teams. West Virginia looked pedestrian against William & Mary.
And even if the final scores for the top teams in the Big 12 looked impressive Saturday, teams like Texas and Oklahoma aren’t without their questions.
Texas’ offense stalled early against New Mexico State before being unstoppable in the second half. The Longhorns’ second-week opponent may not allow Mack Brown’s team to find its footing.
Oklahoma’s defense was stifling against Louisiana-Monroe, and Trevor Knight showed he’d bring a new element of athleticism to the Sooners quarterback position. Now, OU faces West Virginia in an early conference game.
Those are the marquee games in Week 2 for the Big 12, but there are a handful of storylines worth watching elsewhere.
Other Week 2 Previews and Predictions
ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
Week 2 Big 12 Game Power Rankings
*All times Eastern, All games Saturday
1. Texas (-7) at BYU (7 p.m., ESPN2/Longhorn Network)
Which Texas offense will we see in Provo? The Longhorns fell behind New Mexico State 7-0, turing the ball over three times in the first five possessions. The Longhorns then went on a hot streak with touchdown passes of 54, 66 and 74 yards and touchdown runs of 24 and 55 yards. The game that started as an offensive disaster ended with a school-record 715 yards. The breakout player was running back Daje Johnson, who could be a big-play threat after averaging 14.3 yards on nine touches from scrimmage. The focus this week, though, will be on David Ash. The quarterback threw two picks against New Mexico State and will face a tough BYU pass rush.
2. West Virginia (+27) at Oklahoma (7 p.m., Fox)
Trevor Knight will be worth watching after few outside of the OU coverage area saw the redshirt freshman dual-threat quarterback against ULM last week. The redshirt freshman wasn’t crisp in the passing game (11 of 28, 86 yards, 3 TD, INT), but he showed a running ability (103 yards, 7.9 yards per carry) the OU quarterback position hasn’t had since a pre-knee surgery Jason White. A key question is how much OU can believe in its defense a dominant performance in the opener. ULM didn’t have a run longer than six yards. West Virginia's offense may be more formidable with Charles Sims, who rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries against William & Mary. West Virginia racked up 778 yards on Oklahoma last season, albeit with drastically different personnel for the Mountaineers.
3. UL-Lafayette (+10) at Kansas State (6:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
The Wildcats will be looking for any answers in the run game after rushing for 41 yards on 23 carries against North Dakota State in the opener. North Dakota State is a stout defensive team on the FCS level, but the Wildcats need better production. Kansas State faced five third downs of 10 yards or more in the loss to the Bison. The UL-Lafayette defense, which returned only three starters, looked vulnerable against the run after allowing 292 rushing yards to Arkansas in the opener.
4. Buffalo (+27) at Baylor (3:30 p.m., Fox Sports regional)
Perhaps not much intrigue here, but it may be interesting to see what Baylor does to the same team that just faced Ohio State. The Buckeyes last week defeated Buffalo 40-20, aided by a defensive touchdown. Bulls linebacker Khalil Mack’s reputation will precede him after recording 2.5 sacks and a pick six against the Buckeyes. “If I had to compare him to somebody, if I watched two or three plays, I would say Von Miller,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “That's who he reminds me of. He's explosive, he's dynamic, he's quick, he's long, he's vicious, and he's a multi-position guy.”
5. Stephen F. Austin (+38) at Texas Tech (7 p.m., Fox Sports regional)
Texas Tech faces another offense that can throw the ball around in Stephen F. Austin. Despite finishing 5-6 last season, the Lumberjacks were among the leaders in the division in passing. The Red Raiders allowed SMU to complete 41-of-62 passes for 388 yards Friday in the opener. A question we may have to wait another game to learn the answer to: Was walk-on freshman Baker Mayfield’s 413 passing yards and four touchdowns against SMU a fluke, or will he give Kliff Kingsbury a decision to make when Michael Brewer returns?
6. Oklahoma State (-26.5) at UTSA (noon, Fox Sports 1)
Mike Gundy may have a quarterback dilemma on his hands after handing the reins to J.W. Walsh against Mississippi State. Gundy benched Clint Chelf after two possessions against the Bulldogs, going with Walsh and his running ability. Not that Gundy needs any advice, but he could ask the coach on the opposing sideline: Larry Coker was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State when Gundy was the Cowboys’ quarterback.
7. South Dakota (-23.5) at Kansas (7 p.m., local TV only)
In theory, this should be Kansas’ best bet to end an 11-game losing streak with a 1-10 FCS team coming to town. The Jayhawks have an influx of junior college transfers Charlie Weis hopes revives the program. Kansas starts with South Dakota and then faces Rice and rebuilding Louisiana Tech. If KU can't compete in those games...
8. Southeastern Louisiana (+44) at TCU (noon, Fox Sports regional)
TCU will regroup after its loss to LSU with one of the keys being improved play at the receiver position, no matter who is at quarterback. The Horned Frogs dropped a handful of passes in the loss as the passing game combined to complete 15-of-28 passes. Casey Pachall will remain the starter, but Trevone Boykin will be a change-of-pace QB.
Off: Iowa State
Big 12 Week 2 Pivotal Players
Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
The return of Jordan Hicks was supposed to be the big boost the Texas run defense needed this season. The BYU matchup will be a chance to prove that. Running back Jamaal Williams and quarterback Taysom Hill combined for 186 yards on 44 carries in the opener against Virginia. They’re both 200 pounds or heavier and tough to bring down, perhaps a problem for a Texas D that struggled with missed tackles last season.
Texas’ pass protection
BYU had seven tackles for a loss in the Virginia defeat to open the season, but the Cougars didn’t have a sack. The Longhorns’ line struggled in big games last season, and this game will put the five up front in the spotlight. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy is one of the nation’s top pass rushers after recording 13 sacks last season, and sophomore end Bronson Kaufusi is a load at 6-7, 282 pounds.
Isaiah Bruce and Brandon Golson, OLBs, West Virginia
The linebackers will be key in containing Oklahoma’s new mobile quarterback Trevor Knight, who topped 100 rushing yards in the opener last week against ULM. Bruce was the star of last season’s lackluster defense, and West Virginia is looking for him to be the face of the D. Golson is a junior college transfer the Mountaineers signed to improve their problematic outside linebacker position.
Jake Heaps, QB, Kansas
Charlie Weis hopes the second of his two high-profile quarterback transfers pans out. Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist didn't even finish his lone season at KU as the starter, and now here comes Heaps from BYU. Heaps lost his starting job with the Cougars and is looking to reinvent himself in Lawrence. Heaps is also one of the last quarterbacks standing in a 2010 QB class filled with busts.
Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
With 11 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns against Wofford, Seastrunk has topped the 100-yard mark in five consecutive games, all Baylor wins. A remarkable part of this streak: Seastrunk has not hit 20 carries in any game during this streak. Another 100-yard game is possible against Buffalo, but the matchup against Mack will be an interesting one to watch.
Big 12 Week 2 Predictions
|Game||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Oklahoma St (-26.5) at UTSA||OSU 35-3||OSU 38-10||OSU 48-17||OSU 51-14|
|SE Louisiana (+44) at TCU||TCU 38-10||TCU 38-7||TCU 50-13||TCU 40-13|
|Buffalo (+27) at Baylor||Baylor 42-10||Baylor 41-17||Baylor 48-20||Baylor 41-20|
|ULL (+10) at Kansas St||KState 21-14||KState 24-10||KState 31-24||KState 28-14|
|West Va. (+27) at Oklahoma||OU 41-17||OU 37-17||OU 41-27||OU 33-10|
|Texas (-7) at BYU||BYU 24-14||Texas 31-10||Texas 31-20||Texas 24-7|
|SFA (+38) at Texas Tech||Tech 35-14||Tech 45-14||Tech 55-10||Tech 51-17|
|S. Dakota (-23.5) at Kansas||KU 28-10||KU 31-17||KU 45-7||KU 17-10|
South Carolina’s trip to Georgia highlights the Week 2 slate in the SEC. Also, Florida heads to South Florida to play at Miami, and Tennessee hosts Western Kentucky in an intriguing battle of first-year head coaches. In addition, two SEC coaches will be facing their former schools — Auburn’s Gus Malzahn plays host to Arkansas State, and Missouri’s Gary Pinkel takes on Toledo.
1. South Carolina (+3) at Georgia (4:30 ET, ESPN)
Georgia received some bad (though not unexpected) news on Sunday when standout wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell was diagnosed with a torn ACL. Mitchell, who played both ways last season, was expected to be a difference-maker on a great Georgia offense. The Bulldogs, however, still have plenty of talent — they averaged 7.8 yards per play in the loss to Clemson, which was higher than their 7.1 yards that led the nation in 2012. Don’t worry: This team will still score plenty of points. South Carolina was efficient in its weather-delayed 27–10 win over North Carolina. The Gamecocks showed some big-play ability — Connor Shaw hit Shaq Roland for 65 yards on USC’s first possession — and were productive on the ground. They will need to be balanced on offense against a Georgia defense that played relatively well in Week 1 against an elite Clemson offense.
2. Florida (-3) at Miami (12 ET, ESPN)
Miami plays host to the Gators for the first time since 2003, when Larry Coker and Ron Zook were roaming the sidelines for their respective schools. Florida was terrific on defense in its 24–6 win over Toledo in Week 1. The Gators limited a very good (and very experienced) offense to 205 total yards and allowed the Rockets to convert only 1-of-13 on third down. Florida was underwhelming on offense, but it was clear the staff chose to keep things pretty basic. Jeff Driskel completed 17-of-22 passes but only threw for 153 yards and did not have a completion longer than 26 yards. Miami had no trouble with Florida Atlantic in its opener, rolling to a 34–6 win over the Owls. Duke Johnson rushed for 186 yards on 19 carries to lead a balanced attack.
3. Western Kentucky (+13.5) at Tennessee (12:21 ET, SEC Network)
There was nothing fluky about Western Kentucky’s 35–26 win against Kentucky. The Hilltoppers, who rolled up 216 yards rushing and 271 yards passing, were the better team. Now, however, the challenge becomes greater for Bobby Petrino’s club. Tennessee is rebuilding but is still far more talented than Kentucky — on both sides of the ball. The Vols feature an NFL-caliber offensive line and have some nice parts on what should be an improved defense. Expect to see heavy doses of tailbacks Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane, who combined for 179 yards on 22 carries against an overmatched Austin Peay team. Western Kentucky struggled to slow Kentucky’s rushing attack, especially in the first half (174 yards on 18 attempts). Tennessee will take advantage of this mismatch and run for 250-plus yards.
4. Arkansas State (+13) at Auburn (7:30 ET, Fox Sports Net)
It’s possible that Auburn’s Week 2 opponent (Arkansas State) has more talent than its Week 1 opponent (Washington State). The Red Wolves are solid at quarterback with Adam Kennedy, a transfer from Utah State, and outstanding at tailback with David Oku, a former Tennessee Vol. The wild card on offense could be Fredi Knighten, who ran for 101 yards (one of four Red Wolves to top the 100-yard mark) and two touchdowns on three carries against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Knighten is listed as a quarterback but has been used primarily as a tailback. He could see some Wildcat looks this week. Auburn opened the Gus Malzahn era with a 31–24 win over Washington State. Nick Marshall did some good things in his debut at quarterback, but he only averaged 3.0 yards per carry and 5.2 yards per passing attempt. Those numbers will have to improve.
5. Toledo (+17) at Missouri (3:30 ET, ESPNU)
Missouri struggled in the first quarter but dominated Murray State the rest of the way en route to a 58–14 win. It’s dangerous to read too much into a game against an FCS opponent, but Gary Pinkel had to be pleased that his offense had over 300 yards rushing and passing. Despite struggling last week at Florida (against an elite defense), the Toledo offense figures to put some pressure on the Missouri defense. The Tigers ranked near the bottom of the SEC in most defensive categories last season, and it will not be a good sign if they give up a bunch of points to Toledo — a team that failed to score a touchdown against Florida.
6. Miami (Ohio) (+17) at Kentucky (12, Fox Sports Net)
The Mark Stoops era was going about as well as possible — until the games started. Kentucky was humbled by in-state rival Western Kentucky in Nashville on Saturday afternoon. The Cats’ defense had no answer for Western Kentucky’s balanced attack, allowing 215 yards rushing and 271 yards passing. UK went with Jalen Whitlow at quarterback, but he was pulled after throwing for only 78 yards on 15 attempts. Maxwell Smith, his replacement, was named the starter for Week 2. There was one bright spot: UK rushed for 216 yards on 32 carries, led by 98 yards on 14 attempts from tailback Raymond Sanders.
7. UAB (+34.5) at LSU (7 ET, ESPNU)
LSU was one of the most impressive teams, both in the SEC and nationally, in Week 1. The Tigers looked more dynamic on offense, and the new-look defense limited TCU to 259 total yards. Picked by many (including Athlon Sports) to finish third in the SEC West, LSU has the look of a team that can compete for the national title. UAB, on the other hand, lost in overtime to Troy in Week 1. This will not go well for the Blazers.
8. Sam Houston State (+48) at Texas A&M (7 ET, PPV)
Ordinarily this game would have been indistinguishable from the other SEC vs. FCS showdowns (see below), but the fact that Johnny Manziel is involved adds some intrigue to this game. Also, Sam Houston State is a pretty good team. The Bearkats played for the 2012 FCS national title and opened the ’13 season with a 74–0 win over Houston Baptist.
Note: Due to the poor quality of the opponents, it was impossible to rank the final four games on the SEC schedule, so they all tied as the ninth-most compelling game in the league this week.
T-9. Samford (+32) at Arkansas (7 ET, PPV)
It didn’t get much attention nationally, but Arkansas was quite impressive in its 34–14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Brandon Allen was efficient throwing the ball (15-of-22 for 230 yards with three TDs and no picks) and two running backs (Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins) rushed for at least 130 yards. This was a very good win over a solid team. The test in Week 2 will not be as great — though Samford did beat Georgia State in Week 1.
T-9. Alcorn State (+43) at Mississippi State (3:30 ET, CSS)
Mississippi State needs to build some confidence after struggling through a 21–3 loss to Oklahoma State in Houston. The Bulldogs managed only 333 yards of offense and failed to score a touchdown for the first time since losing to LSU 19–6 in September 2011. Alcorn State beat Edward Waters 63–12 last week.
T-9. Austin Peay (+46.5) at Vanderbilt (7:30 ET, CSS)
Vanderbilt needs a get-well game after the agonizing last-minute loss to Ole Miss last Thursday night. Austin Peay, which trailed Tennessee 42–0 at the half last week, should provide plenty of comfort. The Governors will be at a huge talent disadvantage at every spot on the field.
T-9. SE Missouri State (+49) at Ole Miss (7 ET, PPV)
Hugh Freeze will remind his team that eight FCS teams beat FBS teams in Week 1. What he probably won’t tell the Rebels is that SE Missouri State lost to SE Louisiana 45–7 last week. This will not be difficult for Ole Miss.
Week 2 SEC Pivotal Players
Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Not much hasn’t gone well for Aaron Murray in his time at Georgia. He’s been a four-year starter, won a bunch of games and played in the SEC Championship Game twice. But Murray — fair or not — has a label as a quarterback who can’t win the big game. And despite playing well last week at Clemson (20-of-29 for 323 yards, 1 INT), Murray failed to lead his team to victory. With South Carolina coming to town this weekend, the fifth-year senior will be under considerable pressure to play well — and, of course, win the game.
South Carolina’s linebackers
Georgia puts pressure on every part of a defense, but South Carolina’s inexperienced linebacker corps will be under intense scrutiny this week. This group will have to deal with Georgia’s elite tailback tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and handle the play-action game that can be so difficult to slow down. Also, the Bulldogs feature two outstanding pass-catching tight ends, Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome.
Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Easley was a key figure on a Florida defensive line that consistently had its way with the Toledo offensive front. The Rockets managed only 205 yards of offense and did not score a touchdown. The challenge will be greater this week for Easley and the Florida defense. Miami boasts an outstanding offensive line and one of the top running backs in the nation, Duke Johnson. If Easley plays well, the Gators’ defense will be productive.
The Vols’ struggles in the secondary last season are well-documented. This week, this unit will be tested for the first time this season. Western Kentucky isn’t loaded with top-flight talent, but the Hilltoppers are good enough to move the ball up and down the field — just ask Kentucky — and are as well-coached on offense as any team in the nation. Two true freshman cornerbacks — Cameron Sutton and Malik Foreman — will see significant time.
Maxwell Smith, QB, Kentucky
Smith, who threw for 280 yards in the opener against Louisville last season, seems to be a better fit for Neal Brown’s “Air Raid” offense, but the UK staff went with Jalen Whitlow in Week 1 because of his ability to make plays with his feet. Smith gets the start this week and will have an opportunity to secure the top job with a solid performance. Miami gave up 591 yards of offense, including 287 through the air, in a 52–14 loss to Marshall last week.
SEC Week 2 Predictions
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Florida at Miami|
|Florida 27-21||Florida 24-20||Florida 24-20|
|Miami (OH) at Kentucky|
|Kentucky 31-13||Kentucky 38-17||Kentucky 33-17|
WKU at Tennessee
|UT 28-24||UT 30-27||UT 30-27||UT 31-21|
Toledo at Missouri
|Mizzou 31-20||Mizzou 38-31||Mizzou 28-20|
Alcorn at Miss St.
|Miss. St. 35-7||Miss. St. 44-10||Miss. St. 38-0||Miss. State 41-10|
South Carolina at Georgia
|Carolina 27-21||Georgia 27-24||Georgia 31-21|
UAB at LSU
|LSU 41-10||LSU 45-13||LSU 41-0|
Sam Houston at Texas A&M
|A&M 51-21||A&M 58-27||A&M 55-10|
Samford at Arkansas
|Arkansas 41-20||Arkansas 41-7||Arkansas 31-0|
SEMO at Ole Miss
|Ole Miss 49-7||Ole Miss 42-13||Ole Miss 52-7||Ole Miss 44-7|
Austin Peay at Vanderbilt
|Vanderbilt 51-10||Vanderbilt 45-3||Vanderbilt 51-7|
Arkansas St. at Auburn
|Auburn 31-14||Auburn 34-27||Arkansas St. 27-21|
Northwestern and Indiana have interesting tests this weekend. Illinois is facing an uphill battle against Cincinnati. But, for the most part, the Big Ten should be business as usual in Week 2.
That is, of course, except in Ann Arbor. Notre Dame and Michigan are two of the most historic and tradition-rich programs in the nation and a minor verbal sparring match between the two blue-collar, rough-around-the-edges coaches has only added to the hype of this game.
With College Gameday in town, all eyes nationally should fall upon The Big House Saturday night.
Big Ten Week 2 Game Power Rankings:
1. Notre Dame (+3.5) at Michigan (8 p.m., ESPN)
Whether Brian Kelly believes this is a “historic, traditional” rivalry game or not, fans of both should settle in for one of weekend’s best matchups. Michigan has won three of the last four and five of the last seven but Notre Dame won 13-6 a year ago in the lowest scoring meeting since 1909. Kelly and Brady Hoke have split their two meetings with the home team taking both while the Wolverines are currently riding a 15-game home winning streak overall. Both quarterbacks will take center stage as Tommy Rees is coming off the best showing of his career and Devin Gardner dropped a 59-spot on Central Michigan last week. Look for the Irish’s defensive line to be a potential game-changer. If Louis Nix and company can keep Gardner in the pocket, the Irish have a chance to pull the road upset in what could be the final meeting in years between two of the three winningest programs in NCAA history.
2. Syracuse (+12) at Northwestern (6 p.m., BTN)
Kain Colter is still being listed as “day-to-day” and it has forced Syracuse to prepare as such. Don’t be shocked, however, if Pat Fitzgerald plays it safe with his dynamic playmaker because he has an excellent “backup” plan in Trevor Siemian. Siemian didn’t play his best game last week — 276 yards, TD, 2 INT — but led his team to a victory on the road against an improved Cal squad. Some help from star tailback Venric Mark (11 att., 29 yards) would be nice because the Wildcats can’t count on two defensive touchdowns every Saturday to win games.
3. Navy (+12.5) at Indiana (6 p.m., BTN)
The Hoosiers should have revenge on the mind when the Midshipmen come to town this weekend. This was an epic 31-30 road loss for Kevin Wilson’s squad last season in a game that featured a combined 430 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on the ground. The two combined for just 340 yards, one TD and two INTs through the air. Expect the Big Ten’s top passing offense to be more effective now with Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld back on the field. Coming off a record-setting performance in Week 1, Wilson is looking for his second consecutive 2-0 start at Indiana.
4. Cincinnati (-8) at Illinois (Noon, ESPN2)
The Bearcats are looking to go 2-0 against the Big Ten Leaders Division after thoroughly dismantling Purdue last week. The Illini, on the other hand, needed a last-minute, goal-line stand to sneak past FCS foe Southern Illinois. Cincinnati brings tremendous balance into the game on offense after topping 200 yards on the ground and through the air last week while Illinois was anything but balanced. Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 416 yards but the ground game added just 49 yards on 30 attempts. If Tim Beckman wants to pull the upset at home, his offense will need to be more balanced.
5. San Diego State (+28) at Ohio State (3:30 p.m., ABC)
Buffalo hung around longer than expected against the Buckeyes last week and, although OSU was shorthanded due to suspensions, Urban Meyer likely had a field day with the game tape. The struggles for Ohio State, however, pale in comparison to the way the Aztecs got their season started last week. Eastern Illinois crushed San Diego State 40-19 behind 533 yards of offense on the road. The four-touchdown spread says it all.
6. South Florida (+23.5) at Michigan State (Noon, ESPNU)
The Spartans were bad on offense last week, be it Andrew Maxwell or Connor Cook running the offense, as it scored just one touchdown and mustered just 297 yards. That said, South Florida was worse. McNeese State set NCAA records for points scored and margin of victory by an FCS team over an FBS opponent (53-21). Sparty wins big — and take the under.
7. Southern Miss (+28.5) at Nebraska (6 p.m., BTN)
After allowing 602 yards and 35 first downs to Wyoming last weekend, the Black Shirts desperately need to get back on track. And despite a shocking loss to Texas State in Week 1, Southern Miss could provide an interesting test. The Cornhuskers offense is a proven commodity but USM quarterback Allan Bridgeford, who threw for 377 yards last week, could push Big Red’s defense. Was Brett Smith simply that good? Or are there much bigger issues in Lincoln than originally expected?
8. Minnesota (-16) at New Mexico State (8 p.m.)
The only team in the league playing on the road this weekend will be the Golden Gophers. New Mexico State gave Texas a first-half scare last weekend before allowing a billion yards to David Ash and the Longhorns over the final 32 minutes. Jerry Kill can’t expect three non-offensive touchdowns each week and his backfield is depleted, so all eyes turn once again to sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson.
9. Eastern Michigan (+23.5) at Penn State (Noon, BTN)
Christian Hackenberg is always worth the price of admission, so this one is worth checking out. Otherwise, Ron English and the Eagles are vastly over-matched and should pose little threat to the Nittany Lions beginning the year 2-0. Especially since Allen Robinson should play from the opening kickoff this week.
10. Missouri State (+24.5) at Iowa (Noon, BTN)
Kirk Ferentz has to be happy to see a Missouri Valley team on the schedule in Week 2. His tenuous coaching tenure took a major blow last week against Northern Illinois and fans can expect the Hawkeyes to roll up a big number in their second game. Jake Rudock will look to build on his adequate Week 1 performance.
11. Indiana State (+17) at Purdue (Noon, BTN)
Darrell Hazell could not have debuted in any uglier fashion than the 42-7 drubbing he took at the hands of Cincinnati last week. The Sycamores allowed Indiana to break all types of records on offense last week. Hazell’s team needs to eliminate mistakes and play efficient football in what could be their only win in the first two months of the season.
12. Tennessee Tech (+44.5) at Wisconsin (Noon, BTN)
Three different Badgers topped 100 yards rushing and Joel Stave returned to the starting lineup last week in the 45-point win over UMass. And the point spread was 44.5 last weekend too. A second-straight 45-0 win for Gary Andersen sounds about right.
Big Ten Week 2 Pivotal Players:
1. Taylor Lewan, OL, Michigan
Lewan and his cohorts along the Michigan offensive line must protect The Big House to win Saturday night. And that means protecting star quarterback Devin Gardner and his running backs from one of the saltiest defensive lines in the nation. Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt are future NFL Draft picks and should play better this weekend than they did in their season debut against Temple. Who wins the line of scrimmage battle when the Wolverines have the ball will likely determine who wins this monumental showdown.
2. Trevor Siemian, QB, Northwestern
Northwestern wasn’t at its best — or healthiest — last week against Cal but still managed an impressive road win. Should Kain Colter not play against Syracuse, the offensive onus will fall to Siemian to lead the Wildcats in their home debut. He is a different player than Colter and shouldn’t try to make the same type of plays, so there is added pressure on his supporting cast as well. A litany of talented skill players, especially Venric Mark, need to step up and allow Siemian the opportunity to distribute the football efficiently.
3. Indiana’s front seven
The Middies from the Naval Academy are an absolute nightmare to prepare for and scheme against. Stopping a triple option offense begins and ends with assignment football, gap control and discipline. This is what the Indiana front seven will have to deal with this weekend. Navy ran for 257 yards and two scores on 57 attempts last year in the 31-30 home win over the Hoosiers.
4. Nebraska's secondary
Wyoming’s Brett Smith torched this unit last weekend to the tune of 383 yards and four touchdowns on 29 completions. Southern Miss' Allan Bridgeford, albeit in a loss, posted similar numbers a week ago. The Huskers have to improve in the secondary against the pass if they expect to compete with teams like UCLA, Michigan, Northwestern and potentially Ohio State this fall.
5. Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young, RB, Illinois
The Illini were completely one-sided in their win over Southern Illinois last weekend and it falls to these two ball-carriers to fix that problem. Illinois ran the ball 30 times for 49 yards with Ferguson (nine att.) and Young (eight att.) getting the majority of the work. If these two (and the O-line) aren’t more productive, it will be a long day against Cincy.
Big Ten Week 2 Prediction Grid:
|Game||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|Notre Dame (+3.5) at Michigan||Michigan, 20-17||Michigan, 24-20||Michigan, 24-20||Michigan, 28-17|
|Syracuse (+12) at Northwestern||N'Western, 34-20||N'Western, 33-24||N'Western, 34-20||N'Western, 35-14|
|Navy (+12.5) at Indiana||Indiana, 38-20||Indiana, 38-24||Indiana, 38-31||Indiana, 42-24|
|Cincinnati (-8) at Illinois||Cincy, 38-20||Cincy, 20-10||Cincy, 34-20||Cincy, 35-17|
|San Diego St (+28) at Ohio St||Ohio St, 49-14||Ohio St, 41-10||Ohio St, 40-17||Ohio St, 38-14|
|USF (+23.5) at Michigan St||Mich. St, 21-13||Mich. St, 31-14||Mich. St, 31-13||Mich. St, 17-10|
|So. Miss (+28.5) at Nebraska||Nebraska, 42-21||Nebraska, 38-8||Nebraska, 45-14||Nebraska, 49-14|
|Minnesota (-16) at NMSU||Minn., 41-21||Minn., 33-17||Minn., 38-17||Minn., 24-14|
|E. Michigan (+23.5) at Penn St||Penn St, 31-3||Penn St, 28-6||Penn St, 45-14||Penn St, 28-7|
|Missouri St (+24.5) at Iowa||Iowa, 30-10||Iowa, 27-10||Iowa, 41-7||Iowa, 21-7|
|Indiana St (+17) at Purdue||Purdue, 24-7||Purdue, 34-10||Purdue, 38-13||Purdue, 28-17|
|Tenn. Tech (+44.5) at Wisconsin||Wisc., 51-7||Wisc., 47-0||Wisc., 55-3||Wisc., 52-3|
The Primanti Bros. sandwiches may taste a little better this morning in the Steel City.
The long wait to see a winning team in Pittsburgh is over after the Pirates ended a record-long streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons by XXXXXX. That’s 82 wins for the first time since ’93, the first season after the Pirates were dismantled.
The two decades of rebuilding have been chronicled in the pages of Athlon Sports, and believe it or not, we’re may be as tired of writing about the perpetually rebuilding Pirates as the Pittsburgh fans are of watching them.
“Two or three more years” always seemed to be the mantra for the Pirates through mangers, general managers and players from Al Martin, Jeff King, Kevin Young, Jason Kendall, Bran Giles, Jack Wilson and on and on.
Here’s a look back at each season during the losing streak from the pages of Athlon’s preview annuals. All the unfulfilled optimism. All the predictions that, yes, in the end this season in Pittsburgh will be just like the last.
Some predictions were right on. Some where unintentionally humorous. Some were way off.
But, hey, now Pirates fans can take a minute to laugh at the last 20 years.
What Athlon said: How can a franchise that has lost Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Doug Drabek to free agency, and traded John Smiley and Jose Lind within a calendar year expect to win any time in the near future? “You can’t win every year,” manager Jim Leyland admits.
Projection: Sixth in NL East
Finished: 75-87 (fifth in NL East)
What Athlon said: Through three team presidents and four general managers, Jim Leyland has endured, becoming the fourth-winningest manager in the franchise’s 107-year history. If he has his way he’ll pad those numbers before he’s through. Then he’ll leave the business the way he came in — as a Pirate.
Projection: Last in the NL Central
Finished: 53-61 (third in NL Central)
What Athlon said: On one hand, the Pirates are moving forward. Under guise of new ownership, they are restocking their farm system. On the other hand, the Pirates don’t have any real meat to their organization.
Projection: None, due to the strike
Finished: 58-86 (last in NL Central)
What Athlon said: Jeff King will be an important player for the Pirates, probably through the rest of this decade. Then he’ll move full-time to a 2,200-acre cattle ranch he’s leasing in rugged southwestern Montana, not far from his boyhood home in Colorado Springs. Perhaps then, Jeff King will be truly happy.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 73-89 (last)
What Athlon said: Al Martin will probably be a Pirate into the next century if the team’s goal of becoming competitive again in 1999 proves achievable. He’s willing to endure the probable woes of the next two seasons and provide vocal support for management’s rebuilding plan.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 79-83 (second)
What Athlon said: The Pirates will enter spring training thinking they can contend again. however, an overachieving team usually slips a bit the next season. Pirate management will continue to focus on 1999 and 2000 as the years the team will become a solid contender.
Projection: Third in NL Central
Finished: 69-93 (last)
What Athlon said: This is the third year of the Pirates’ self-proclaimed five-year plan to build a championship-caliber team, and they need to start showing progress.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 78-83 (third)
What Athlon said: The pitching staff is high on potential, if not results, and the club has built a stable of young talent. The move to a new park could usher in a successful era in Pittsburgh. Whether or not manager Gene Lamont’s around to see it or not.
Projection: Fourth in NL Central
Finished: 69-93 (fifth)
What Athlon said: The Pirates may have to finish above .500 in their first season at PNC Park or GM Cam Bonifay could be gone.
Projection: Fourth in NL Central
Finished: 62-100 (last)
What Athlon said: There’s too much for new GM Dave Littlefield to do, and too little money to make much of a dent this year.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 72-89 (fourth)
What Athlon said: After his team on in Chicago to ensure a 10-win improvement over ’01, manager Lloyd McClendon shared some champagne with the troops, telling them he appreciated their hard work. McClendon vows there won’t be any champagne until it’s for real. That bubbly likely will be chilling for at least two more summers.
Projection: Fifth in NL Central
Finished: 75-87 (fourth)
What Athlon said: The left field job is Jason Bay’s for years to come — until the Pirates can’t afford to pay him.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 72-89 (fifth)
What Athlon said: During the winter, the Pirates completed a two-year project — they traded Jason Kendall and his (for them) onerous contract. During this season, they’ll try to finish a 12-year project — having a winning season. That doesn’t appear likely, again, but the Pirates just might be about to turn the corner.
Projection: Fifth in NL Central
Finished: 67-95 (last)
What Athlon said: With a solid rotation and performance turnarounds by Kip Wells and Oliver Perez, a smooth transition to closer by Mike Gonzalez and more offense, the Pirates could make a run at 81 wins this season.
Projection: Fifth in NL Central
Finished: 67-95 (fifth)
What Athlon said: Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm and Tom Gorzelanny have made a combined 134 major league starts. However, because they’re all homegrown products, they formed a strong bond last season and seem determined to be part of what they feel is an uptick in the team’s fortunes.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 68-64 (last)
What Athlon said: The Pirates still have that big old elephant in their clubhouse — 15 consecutive losing seasons, one season short of the major league record for futility established by the woeful Philadelphia Phillies from 1933-48. Despite all the newness, the 2008 Pirates probably will match their cross-commonwealth brethren’s unwanted record.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 67-95 (last)
What Athlon said: The starters bore much of the blame for the team’s 95-loss season. ... Ian Snell, Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny, Matt Morris and and assorted others had much to do with that.
Projection: Last in NL Central
Finished: 62-99 (last)
What Athlon said: Andrew McCutchen has already established himself as one of the Pirates’ cornerstones with his outstanding speed, developing power, tremendous range in center field and leadership qualities. He quickly made fans forget about the popular Nate McLouth.
Projection: Last in the NL Central
Finished: 57-105 (last)
What Athlon said: While the team should be better this season, an kind of real turnaround won’t begin to take place until 2012 at the earliest.
Projection: Last in the NL Central
Finished: 72-90 (fourth)
What Athlon said: There is no denying that the Pirates are moving int eh right direction, as their major league roster are much more talented than when GM Neal Huntington took over in 2007. Manager Clint Hurdle also seems to be the man to take the franchise places. However, it would be premature to think the Pirates can contend this season. They still have too many holes and not enough depth. Yet if things break right, the first winning season since 1992 is a possibility.
Projection: Fourth in the NL Central
Finished: 79-83 (fourth)
What Athlon said: Making a run at the postseason might be a stretch — even in the era of the second wild card — but a winning record appears to be a realistic goal in Pittsburgh.
Projection: Third in the NL Central
It’s been a long time since the Pittsburgh Pirates had a winning season. A well-documented long time. My daughter is a junior in college, and the Pirates have not had a season with a winning record in her lifetime.
But, last night, the Pirates won their 82nd game of the season, ensuring themselves of a winning year in 2013.
A few notable events have happened in baseball since the Bucs were winners back in 1992. Here are a few:
The Florida Marlins, now the Miami Marlins, and the Colorado Rockies came into being. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks came into being.
The Marlins won two World Series. The Diamondbacks won a World Series. The Boston Red Sox won two World Series. Even the White Sox won a World Series. In fact, 11 different franchises have won the World Series.
Joe Torre was hired by George Steinbrenner to manage the New York Yankees. Tony La Russa was hired as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Montreal Expos abandoned Canada and moved to Washington to become the Nationals. Postseason baseball was played in our nation’s capital, but not in Pittsburgh.
American League and National League teams began playing each other in the regular season — and the games actually count. Central Divisions were created in both leagues. Wild card teams were introduced.
A new generation of superstars has been introduced to fans since the Pirates were last winners. Chipper Jones made his major league debut. Mariano Rivera made his major league debut. Derek Jeter made his major league debut. Alex Rodriguez made his major league debut.
Cal Ripken was still 396 games away from breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak of 2,130 the last time the Bucs were winners.
And 10 players — Jeter, Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Ichiro Suzuki, Jones, Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Garret Anderson and Todd Helton — all amassed at least 2,500 hits during that time. Ichiro collected 3,983 in Japan and the U.S. during that time.
Former Pirate Barry Bonds hit 586 home runs and has been retired long enough to be on the Hall of Fame ballot. Alex Rodriguez topped that with 651 clouts. A third player, Jim Thome, also hit more than 600 homers. And another three players — Sammy Sosa, Ramirez and Ken Griffey — hit more than 500 home runs.
The single-season 70-home run barrier was broken twice. The single-season 60-home run barrier was broken six times.
There have been 45 no-hitters in the big leagues, including gems by Chris Bosio, Jose Jimenez and Bud Smith, since the Pirates celebrated a winning season, none by Pittsburgh pitchers. The Bucs have been no-hit once during that time.
Greg Maddux, Andy Pettitte and Randy Johnson each won 250 or more games since the Pirates were a .500 team. Mike Mussina missed by two. The only two pitchers with more than 600 saves — Rivera and Trevor Hoffman — did all their closing work since then.
And Sabermetrics were introduced to baseball fans.
There have been more World Series cancellations than Pirates’ winning seasons in the last 20 years. Heck, there has been more cancelled hockey seasons.
A few things have happened in other sports as well.
In the NFL, the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans came into existence. The Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans. The Rams moved to St. Louis from Los Angeles, but not before winning nine games over two seasons as the Los Angeles Rams.
A total of 12 franchises won a Super Bowl. Peyton Manning made his debut — for the University of Tennessee.
Michael Jordan won four NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls. Yep, it’s been a while since the Pirates won as many as 82 games.
LeBron James made his debut — for Saint Vincent-Saint Mary High School in Akron. Chris Webber was drafted No. 1 overall by Orlando and immediately traded to Golden State. Isaiah Rider made his NBA debut. Jason Kidd and Grant Hill were drafted.
Boston has celebrated seven championships among the four major North American sports. And in Pittsburgh, the Steelers won two Super Bowls and the Penguins captured a Stanley Cup.
In college athletics, Chris Webber called timeout. Tommie Frazier led Nebraska to back-to-back national titles. And let’s not forget that Corliss Williamson, Tony Delk and Miles Simon each won the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Award.
Rick Pitino won national championships at both Kentucky and Louisville and dismantled the Boston Celtics in between. Both Tubby Smith and Lon Kruger took four different schools to the NCAA Tournament.
The BCS was invented. The BCS was disposed. And two college football national championships were shared.
Nine non-SEC teams have won undisputed national championships in college football during the Pirates’ Losing Era.
Mack Brown was hired at Texas. Nick Saban was introduced at Michigan State, and the University of Pittsburgh has hired eight head football coaches. Pete Carroll coached the New York Jets.
Penn State gave up its long-standing independent status and joined the Big Ten. Texas A&M won two Southwest Conference championships. Nebraska won three Big Eight Conference championships.
And, oh, by the way, ESPN.com was launched as ESPNet.SportsZone.com and ESPN2 hit the airwaves.
And here’s a little perspective outside the world of sports:
The United Kingdom handed over Hong Kong to China. Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa. And Monica Lewinsky became a White House intern. O.J. Simpson became a criminal.
The Dow Jones topped 5000. GM launched its Saturn Division (“A New Kind of Car Company”). And MP3 players were introduced.
Y2K freaked many people out, needlessly. And the Euro was adopted by the European Union.
“Schindler’s List,” “Forrest Gump” and “Braveheart” debuted on the big screen while “Beavis and Butthead” debuted on MTV.
Bill Clinton was elected President. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was adopted by the military. Sony’s PlayStation was developed. Taylor Swift celebrated her fourth birthday.
And Bryce Harper was born.
All these memories were created since Atlanta’s Sid Bream scored on a base hit by Francisco Cabrera to end the Pirates’ 1992 season, their last with a winning record.
Brand equity. Brand awareness. Brand image. These are all economic terms that overlap, exist in a nebulous world and don’t directly impact the bean-counters. But as the media world has grown over the last half century, so has the understanding and belief in things like advertising, marketing and, of course, branding. Business executives figured out early on that separating oneself, especially in a saturated marketplace, could be the difference between success and failure.
And so things like tag lines — “I’m loving it” or “We pick you up” — and brand logos are born. Volvo being known for having safe cars or Chick-Fil-A known for it’s Sunday beliefs have been interwoven into the fabric of those corporate cultures.
But a company’s logo is still the most recognizable, most direct way to separate yourself from your competitors. The NFL is no different. And since Athlon Sports has been producing the best looking magazine on newsstands for the better part of five decades, we feel qualified to analyze all 32 NFL team logos for 2013.
And I turned our graphic design guru and Art Director Matt Taliaferro loose on the current roster of NFL logos and here is what he came up with:
|1.||Dallas||What other franchise, company or corporate entity in general has gotten more mileage out of a simple star? If it ain't broke (and if it's immediately identifiable) ...|
|2.||Green Bay||Quite frankly, I don't care whether the universities of Georgia or Grambling or the NFL's Titletown bunch was the first to it (so save me your history lesson), the classic oblong "G" is timeless regardless of team.|
|3.||Kansas City||The brilliance of this logo lies in how it combines the arrowhead with a rather unique, yet vinatage, font (as logos go, anyway). These "old school" logos fit well with the proud, "old school" fanbases.|
|4.||Indianapolis||The most successful NFL brands are represented by a singular, unmistakably unambiguous logo. The horseshoe personifies that.|
|5.||San Francisco||San Fran's old "circle logo" needed some refreshing, and when that came to pass a few years ago it was handled with as much elegance as I can imagine. Yeah, I just used the word "elegance" in relation to a football team.|
|6.||Chicago||Ever notice the Cincinnati Reds have basically the same logo? The differing color schemes help mask that truth. Hey, go with what works.|
|7.||New Orleans||The fleur-de-lis encapsulates what the city of New Orleans — and the franchise name "Saints" — is all about. An otherwise simple design that marries a team to a region is typically a winner.|
|8.||NY Giants||Bold, block lettering portrays the idea of "giant" without getting literal. I'm a sucker for their unis, too.|
|9.||Houston||Is there another logo that incorporates the feel of a fanchise's locale better than Houston's? And with such direct simplicity? The steer, the star, just the right amount of "mod." Answer: I don't think so.|
|10.||Oakland||The marriage of logo and fanbase is no stronger anywhere in the NFL as it is in Oakland ... and in the end that's the most important thing, right?|
|11.||Pittsburgh||An historic logo whose significance lies as much in the industrial world as the sporting realm. That in itself makes up for the rather bland imagery.|
|12.||Detroit||Detroit's lion was redesigned by using just the right amount of contemporary touch. No overdoing things here. Well done.|
|13.||NY Jets||When the Jets '80s-fied" their logo the look lasted about as long as those of the parachute pants that the designer wore at the time. A case study in why not to jump on the trendy bandwagon when branding is involved.|
|14.||Atlanta||An aggressive logo whose subtle use of angles and simple, aerodynamic curves fit well with the "Falcons" moniker. A sure favorite of the avant-garde amonst us.|
|15.||Denver||Remember prior to the '97 season when Denver changed uniforms and logos? Then it was radical, now it's common. This logo beats the hell out of the alternate "bucking bronco" mark. Don't bother Googling it; I gotcha.|
|16.||San Diego||Subtle color changes aside, the Chargers have enjoyed a successful 50-plus year run with a lightning bolt. Ironically, there's nothing "flashy" about it, yet in the overall theme, it has worked quite well.|
|17.||New England||"Flying Elvis" quips aside, New England's logo design encapsulates the Minuteman/Revolutionary/Patriot theme in a smart, tidy way.|
|18.||Washington||Love the feathers. If (when?) this franchise makes a complete overhaul, keeping those around in some form would be wise.|
|19.||Seattle||Seattle sports are doing a nice job of unifying their themes. Its NFL franchise has done a solid job of going radical with a new look, while not indulging in some of the gaudiness that has come to define sports in the Great Northwest (looking at you, UO).|
|20.||Miami||It was time, Miami. This logo tweak has been handled with class ... the Marlins could take a lesson. As could a couple of the NFL franchises on this list.|
|21.||Buffalo||I mean, how are you gonna make a buffalo look cool? They've done a lot with a little. And it tramples the old "standing bison" look.|
|22.||St. Louis||We're wading into "over-Illustrator'd" logo territory, now. I love the color scheme (St. Louis calls it "Millenium Blue" and "New Century Gold"); the mark could use ... something, but I can't put my pen tool on it.|
|23.||Arizona||A more fearsome cardinal has helped Arizona's mark. Still, it's a bit underwhelming.|
|24.||Tampa Bay||It's a nice little package that the Bucs have put together here. And certainly more marketable than "Buccanneer Bruce."|
|25.||Cincinnati||A stylized "B" with tiger stripes. Could be better, could be worse. Much like the on-field product.|
|26.||Minnesota||The simple horns on Minnesota's helmet work better than He-Man over there. Braided hair in a football logo seldom works (that's why no one else does it).|
|27.||Tennessee||"The Flaming Thumbtack" has elements that work: the three stars that are reflected on the state flag and the Greek theme, tying in Nashville's billing as the "Athens of the South." A quirky logo that far outdistances the team's ghastly uniforms.|
|28.||Cleveland||Technically, Cleveland's logo is the helmet, making placing a logo on the helmet impossible. Talk about minimalistic.|
|29.||Miami||A somewhat cartoonish representation of a bald eagle, this works in a late-90s sort of way. That, however, was 15 years ago.|
|30.||Carolina||Carolina is another relatively new franchise that seems to have struggled to find its identity. That is reflected in the logo, which just received a slight adjustment to solidify it's Arena League-esque quality.|
|31.||Jacksonville||I'm not going anywhere near the atrocious gold-to-black helmet gradient, so as to the logo: Yes, it looks like a jaguar. With a blue tongue. Now please move along quickly.|
|32.||Baltimore||Baltimore has seriously struggled in the logo department since |
To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s 9-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned drivers strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.
Next up: Federated Auto Parts 500 (Richmond International Raceway)
Race: 400 laps, 300 miles (.75-mile D-shaped oval)
Spring 2013 winner: Kevin Harvick
A-List (Pick two, start one)
Denny Hamlin's ridiculous slump continued at Atlanta, and may just feel interminable for the Virginia driver. But the seemingly endless bout of frustration for Hamlin likely has its best chance to end Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. Hamlin's home track, Richmond's recent statistics show Hamlin as the most impressive driver on-track. He leads the series with a 5.9 average running position and has completed 93.1 percent of his laps in 14 starts at RIR inside the top 15. More, Hamlin has led nearly one in every four laps at Richmond since he started racing there eight seasons ago. Hamlin, due to his back injury, was absent from Richmond in the spring.
Despite working toward the end of his final season under the Richard Childress Racing banner, Kevin Harvick's been plenty good enough to be a lock for the Chase. He also figures to be good enough to contend for a win Saturday night at Richmond. Harvick grabbed hold of April's race at Richmond late in the proceedings — he led just three laps — to score his third-career win at the short track. The win was his second in four races at Richmond and all told, Harvick is second only to Denny Hamlin in terms of average running position at the track in the last nine seasons.
Also consider: Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon
B-List (Pick four, start two)
If you like Denny Hamlin at Richmond, you darn well better like Kyle Busch. Looking for his second straight win, Busch would join Jimmie Johnson and teammate Matt Kenseth in the class of five wins during NASCAR's regular season. Things haven't gone to plan in Busch's last two RIR starts — he was 16th and 24th — but you can't expect that to last. Prior to, Busch had scored seven consecutive top-10 finishes at the track with four wins.
Ryan Newman is the kind of guy who loves to needle at folks who make decisions he's not necessarily pleased with. He's also that way on the racetrack — other drivers often grow weary of his racing style — and you can bet he's wanting to pull some of those same tricks both on the Stewart-Haas Racing team that's booting him to the curb at season's end and to those who paint him as an improbability to make the Chase. Newman has a best finish of eighth in the last eight Richmond races, but he could very well be a dark horse pick for Saturday among drivers you haven't yet fully used.
Richmond earlier this season was one of the tracks where the idea of Kurt Busch pulling together a Chase-worthy season started to take shape. On that April night, Busch led 36 laps and wound up ninth. He turned that performance, of course, in a manner that drove Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth plenty mad. Still, Busch's average running position in the last 17 races is 15.1 (ninth-best in the series) at RIR. With the Chase on the line, it's a race that could either go very well for Busch or very bad. It just depends how you want to bet. Two years ago, Busch finished fifth with Penske Racing in the Richmond fall race.
Juan Pablo Montoya
Another lame duck driver, Juan Pablo Montoya might not seem like a logical pick for
Richmond. Illogical, that is, until you stop to consider how he nearly ran away with the race win back in April. Montoya was the race leader when NASCAR tossed a debris caution with fewer than 10 laps left — effectively ruining Montoya's shot at a win after leading 67 laps because his pit crew was too slow during the final stop. At a point in the season where effective B-List starters are beginning to become scarce, consider that Montoya has shown improved results in recent races. And then consider that when Montoya did make NASCAR's Chase in 2010, he scored a pair of top-10 finishes at the track. April's fourth-place finish at RIR was his first since that season.
Also consider: Mark Martin, Jeff Burton
C-List (Pick two, start one)
The newly-crowned 2014 full-time driver of the JTG-Daugherty No. 47 entry gets another chance to dazzle at Richmond thanks to the injury suffered by former series champion Bobby Labonte on a bicycle last week. Undoubtedly, the team has to be confident from Allmendinger’s last two starts in the car that resulted in 10th- (Watkins Glen) and 14th- (Atlanta) place finishes. As for the driver himself, a short track may be a great place to shine with the underfunded bunch. With Labonte, the No. 47 has finished 20th or better in three of the last five Richmond races. Meanwhile, Allmendinger has been even better by finishing eighth, seventh, 11th, 16th and 14th in his last five RIR starts.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Raise your hand if you saw this stat coming 26 races into the 2013 season: Danica Patrick has more top-10 finishes than Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Of course, that's partially unfair because Patrick's only top 10 came at Daytona in February. Still, Stenhouse doesn't yet have one. That may all start to change as the two-time defending Nationwide Series champion finally gets in to the meat of the schedule of tracks racing dates for the second time. Stenhouse was 16th his last time out at Richmond; anything better would be icing on a dessert of good C-List news.
Also consider: David Ragan, Casey Mears
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
USC opened the season with a 30-13 victory over Hawaii, but the Trojans struggled to get anything going through the air. And it appears the quarterback battle will continue into Week 2. All reports out of Los Angeles this week seem to signal Cody Kessler will get the start this Saturday, but Max Wittek is expected to play.
Kessler started at quarterback and completed 10 of 19 throws for 95 yards and one touchdown. However, he also tossed one pick.
Wittek played in relief, completing 5 of 10 throws for 77 yards. The sophomore also averaged more yards per attempt (7.7).
Although neither took a step forward in the quarterback battle, USC can win a lot of games this year without a dynamic passing attack. The defense was solid in the opener and will get better with more time to adjust to new coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s system. Also, the team can lean on a deep group of running backs to carry the offense until a quarterback emerges.
USC faces an improving Washington State team this Saturday, which should provide a good test for Kessler and Wittek as the quarterback battle continues to play out for the Trojans.
After a tough loss to Fresno State in Week 1, Rutgers returns home to play Norfolk State. The Scarlet Knights are a heavy favorite and should have no trouble erasing the bad memories from last week’s loss.
Rutgers will also break out a new helmet this week, changing from the gray chrome scheme to a white variation.
Pretty sharp look for the Scarlet Knights.
At the end of the week the calendar will flip over into September. As the leaves begin to turn orange, yellow, and red, baseball prepares to head down the final stretch before the playoffs. Recently, September baseball has been high drama.
While it appears that the Braves and the Dodgers have their divisions well in hand, other division races are tight, with several playoffs spots to be had. The most interesting race is the three-team pileup happening in the NL Central between the Pirates, Reds, and Cardinals.
The American League also provides some intrigue, as both the AL West and AL East are close. With Tampa Bay (5.5 GB) and Baltimore (7.5 GB) nipping at Boston’s heels and Oakland and Texas deadlocked atop the West, the AL playoff picture still hasn’t come into focus.
NL Central Race:
This is the most top-heavy division in baseball and, outside of the AL East, is probably the toughest division. This race includes the Reds, winners of two of the last three NL Central titles; the Cardinals, the longtime class of the division; and the Pirates, who have finished sub .500 every year since 1993. It appears safe to assume that all three teams will make the playoffs; however, things could look very different depending on how this final month unfolds. The two teams that fall short of the division will be relegated to the Wild Card Game, a one game winner-take-all situation. With each team posting over .620 winning percentages at home, home field advantage is critical. This becomes even more interesting when we consider that there are still 5 series of 16 total games to be played between the three division rivals.
By far, St. Louis has the easier remaining schedule, facing teams with a combined .490 winning percentage. On the other hand, Cincinnati (.501) and Pittsburgh (.500) both have a challenging final month. The Cardinals will play two series against the Pirates and two against the Reds, all coming between August 30 and September 8. The Pirates and Reds will have plenty of chances to knock off the Cardinals, but if St. Louis comes out of that critical stretch still in first place, then expect them to coast to the finish line.
Pitching will be critical down the stretch and these three ball clubs have three of the top five team ERA’s in baseball. The Pirates are No. 2 (3.20) ahead of the No.4 Reds (3.40) and No.5 Cardinals (3.51). Each team has a legitimate ace. The Pirates have gotten an excellent season from once washout pitchers AJ Burnett and Francisco Liriano, while seeing the young Jeff Locke develop into a reliable starter. In Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller the Cardinals have the best 1-2 punch in the National League, short of the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. All five starters in the Cincinnati rotation have an ERA under 4.00. The Cardinals and Reds are very comfortable with their 9th inning situations as Aroldis Chapman and Eward Mujica have been two of the National League’s best closers in 2013. The Pirates will be at a disadvantage at the end of games as their All-Star closer Jason Grilli has been on the DL since injuring his arm on July 22. While Grilli should be back for the last few weeks on the season, he will miss the rest of the games against St. Louis.
Over the past two years the Pirates late season struggles have been well documented. Their September record in 2011 and 2012 was a dismal 17-37. On the other hand, the Cardinals are an impressive 33-20 over that span in September, while the Reds are stuck in the middle with a 27-25 record. The Pirates look to turn this around with the aggressive acquisition of Justin Morneau to bolster the offense.
Due to their overall experience, strong play at the end of the season, and easy schedule the Cardinals are the pick to win the NL Central. The Reds and Pirates will be neck and neck to see who gets home field advantage for the Wild Card Game, but the Pirates are in the best position to take the top Wild Card spot as they have played the most consistently all year long.
Once again, the scrappy Athletics look to steal the division from the Texas Rangers. Moneyball appears to be working once again as the A’s are on pace for another 90-plus win season. While the A’s roster is filled with virtual unknowns, the Rangers are full of superstars, led by the dominant moundwork of Yu Darvish. Texas has a deep and talented pitching rotation with Darvish, Martin Perez, Derek Holland, and Alexi Orando all posting sub-4.00 ERAs. Additionally, the Texas bullpen has been nearly unhittable as they stand second in the AL in ERA (2.93), with hitters batting .234 against them. They also will lean on midseason acquisition Matt Garza. Adrian Beltre (.327, 28 HR , 82 RBI) may be the most underrated player in all of baseball. While Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus have struggled with consistency this season, they are proven players that boast a bevy of big game experience.
Oakland has remained resilient all season despite a less star-powered roster. Their offense has been extremely efficient, averaging a run scored every 7.5 at-bats and having five regulars posting over .330 OBP. However, the key for Oakland has been stellar pitching. Currently, they are third in the AL in ERA at 3.63. Oakland has relied on a number of starters; however, their ace, Bartolo Colon was activated from the DL on Aug. 29. Like Texas, the A’s also have a strong bullpen that has posted 40 saves and has held opponents to a .236 batting average. The teams will have control over their own destiny as the play each other six times in August.
After missing out on October baseball last season, Boston has been extremely proactive in adding veteran starter Jake Peavy and premium defender John McDonald talent via trade. While the Yankees have had a tremendous August, they still find themselves eight games back. Last year’s division champion Orioles are 7.5 games back as they have struggled with consistency at the closer position, while the Rays have dropped eight of their last 10 contests. The Red Sox can’t have a repeat of the 2011 meltdown because they have a division-heavy September schedule. Boston has six games against Baltimore, seven against New York, and three against Tampa Bay. John Farrell’s club, the AL’s second-best run scoring offense and fifth-best team ERA, are a confident and well-rounded group primed to take the East. The Rays are trending downward and the Orioles should be able to catch them to grab the second wildcard spot.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Sept. 4.
• Presenting the 100 hottest NFL cheerleaders, including Denver's Brittany (pictured), who clocks in at No. 99. Wow, some poor sap had to comb through a lot of photos to come up with this list. What an idiot.
• Meet Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck. According to Deadspin, he's contending for the title of Swaggiest Bro-Coach to Have Ever Swagged. Not sure what else he has to do to earn the title.
• News and views from Booger, the Snake, et al: Sporting News' player panel assesses Week 1 action and looks ahead to Week 2.
• So how much tennis is actually played in a three-hour match? A lot, actually. Three times as much action as in a football game.
• Rick Barry has another basketball-playing son, and he shoots free throws underhanded. Best part: His name is Canyon.
• Brian Kelly had to backpedal off his statement that Notre Dame-Michigan is an overrated rivalry. But he might have been right.
• Today in people who are much richer than you: Jay Z is selling his Nets stake to Jason Kidd.
• Read all the way to the end of this email from the Nashville Predators to their season-ticket holders. Trust me, there's a payoff.
• Here's a different take. The people who should be concerned about Johnny Manziel's antics: the Alabama Crimson Tide.
• This Utah high school football player nearly got his head twisted off. But he completed the play.
• Today's video is a hilarious sportscaster fail. In his defense, Deutsche Bank is somewhat similar to d----- bag. But not that similar.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The 2013 NFL regular season kicks off Thursday with Baltimore opening defense of its title in Denver. With the countdown to Super Bowl XLVIII set to begin, what better time than now for Athlon editors to make their predictions on how this season will play out?
The Ravens may be the current holders of the Lombardi Trophy, but the consensus from our panel of five is that the Broncos will represent the AFC in the Big Apple in February. The panel also feels strongly that New England and Houston will win their respective divisions, while Cincinnati is the pick to dethrone Baltimore in the AFC North.
In the NFC, there's solidarity when it comes to the North (Green Bay) champion, with the Giants, Falcons and 49ers the preferred picks in the East, South and West, respectively. The group as a whole believes the Seahawks will make the playoffs, while the majority has the Saints in the postseason too. As far as the Super Bowl goes, all but one panelist has a team from the NFC West playing in New York in February, with three of those votes going to the 49ers. San Francisco also is the popular pick to beat Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII, although one editor cast a vote for a potential storybook ending for Peyton Manning's Hall of Fame career.
The panel's picks for the major award winners offer a little more variety, with the exception of league MVP. Our panel believes that not only will this honor go to a quarterback for the sixth time in seven seasons, but also to one that has previously won the award. The majority feel that the league's only four-time recipient will add to his record total, while the others like the 2011 winner's chances of becoming the ninth player in history to claim multiple MVP awards.
NFL 2013 Regular and Postseason Predictions
|AFC Wild Card|
|AFC Wild Card|
|NFC Wild Card|
|NFC Wild Card|
of the Year
of the Year
|Robert Griffin III|
of the Year
of the Year
|Coach of the Year||Sean Payton|
Related NFL Content:
Maybe the third baseman was rushed through the Pirates’ system, or maybe he’s been a little slow to develop, but the Pirates have been rewarded for their patience with the young slugger. The second overall pick in 2008 is tied for the NL lead in homers and is fourth in RBIs. If the Bucs can hang on and win the NL Central, Alvarez will be a key component.
The Boston righthander was 9-0 through his first 12 starts. But a neck strain and bursa sac inflammation have sidelined him since June 8. Boston’s chances increase dramatically with a healthy Buchholz in the rotation for the playoffs.
The best hitter on the planet in the middle of the lineup for the Tigers is the No. 1 factor in how far Detroit can advance this season. The Tigers need Miggy completely healthy in order to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Drama (lack of)
The only drama in the NL may be which of the three NL Central teams — the Pirates, Cardinals or Reds — will win the division and which two will be left to play in the wild-card game.
There is very little postseason experience — and even less proven success — among NL starting pitchers likely to earn starts this October. A.J. Burnett of the Pirates has the most starts (7, all with the Yankees) and a 5.87 ERA. The Braves’ starters have one start in the postseason combined. The only two starters with postseason success are Adam Wainwright of St. Louis, with four starts and four saves in the playoffs and a 2.48 ERA over 32.2 innings; and the Reds’ Mike Leake, who had a terrific start last season against the Giants.
Opponents may choose to pitch around Cabrera, leaving Fielder as the focal point of Detroit’s lineup. The big man struggled at a .173 clip in the postseason last year with only one extra-base hit. He’s been a valuable protector for Cabrera in the regular season, but how he performs in the playoffs could determine the Tigers’ fate.
The Pirates’ closer was almost perfect for the first three months of the season, but his injury has forced Pittsburgh to shuffle its bullpen. So far, there have been few problems as Mark Melancon, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson and Vin Mazzaro have taken up the slack. But the Pirates have a much better shot at winning the NL Central with their closer healthy. He’s beginning to make a few rehab appearances in the minor leagues, hopeful that he can return to Pittsburgh by mid-September.
The Braves’ offense took off when Heyward was moved to the leadoff spot, and Atlanta has been one of the hottest teams in baseball since. But Heyward was hit in the face with a pitch on Aug. 21, causing him to be out until late in the season. His healthy return will be critical for the Braves once the playoffs begin.
In one of the most significant trades at the deadline, the Tigers acquired Iglesias from the Red Sox anticipating the suspension of shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Iglesias will not provide pop to match Peralta, but his defense is terrific.
The Dodgers’ starting pitching has been terrific, and the lineup has been hitting on all cylinders. If there is an Achilles heel for Los Angeles, it would be the bullpen. Jansen closed just 78 percent of his opportunities last season, and allowed 33 percent of inherited runners to score. He’s been much better this season, however, closing 88 percent of his opportunities and allowing just 14 percent of inherited runners to cross the plate.
The most dominant pitcher in the majors this season must continue to confound hitters in the playoffs. The lefty carries a career 5.87 ERA in the postseason, and he needs to be the shutdown ace in order for the Dodgers to win a series — or more.
Throughout his career, there has been little doubt as to Liriano’s immense talent. But his inconsistency has confounded pitching coaches over the years. Right now, he’s the Pirates’ ace, but if he falters, the Pirates’ dream of postseason success could fade with him.
Myers has anchored the Rays’ lineup from the cleanup spot. Since early July, he’s batting .339, and when he drives in a run, the Rays are 17-5. When he doesn’t have an RBI, the team is 18-22 (in games he plays).
When the Rangers were at their best earlier this season, the bullpen was terrific. The closer didn’t blow his first save until May 26 after he had successfully closed 16. He now has 38 saves in 40 chances. But he’s walked 10 in his last 13 innings and is showing signs of wearing down. Texas doesn’t need a tired Nathan.
Boston’s rebound from last season’s debacle has been remarkable. And Ortiz has been right in the middle of the turnaround. He leads the team in batting average, slugging, on-base percentage, home runs and RBIs. Yeah, he’s sort of a key to the Red Sox hopes.
Puig’s energy and all-out style are fun to watch, yet can be exasperating for his manager because of careless mistakes and spotty concentration. But when he’s on his game, he is a scary figure in the batter’s box. The Dodgers need him to be on.
While the official Quality Start statistic is among the most meaningless, it is critical that teams’ starting pitching get deep into games to save bullpen arms down the stretch. As we saw two years ago in Atlanta, tired bullpens can be disasters late in the season.
Anything baseball can do to ensure that the right calls are made is welcome.
The Rangers’ best run producer (at the time of his suspension), Nelson Cruz, is currently suspended, as is shortstop Jhonny Peralta of Detroit. The Tigers reacted well and added shortstop Jose Iglesias, improving their defense. Texas has managed to improve its offensive numbers without Cruz, but the lineup is not nearly as intimidating with the right fielder missing.
I know the Twins’ elimination number is less than 20 with almost a month to play. But no team will have more say in more pennant races than the Twins. Minnesota has seven games against the A’s and the Rays visit Target Field for three. The Twins will spend the final week hosting the Tigers (3) and the Indians (4).
Since becoming the team’s full-time closer in late June, Boston’s Uehara is 3-0 with 15 saves in 17 chances with an 0.29 ERA. He has 41 Ks and has allowed just 10 hits and two walks. With the health and stability questions surrounding Boston’s rotation, it’s critical that Uehara is sharp at the back end of the bullpen.
Max Scherzer is getting most of the attention in Detroit (and rightfully so) with his 19-1 record. But the horse manager Jim Leyland will lean on in the postseason is Verlander.
He’s been there before. Twice in fact. He’s been to within a strike of winning the World Series. Twice in fact. Last season ended too soon for the Rangers’ manager, and he is determined to have his troops ready for October. Not letting the AL West title slip away like last season is the first order of business.
Boston called up its top prospect in mid-August, and he will be a key for the Red Sox. Shortstop Stephen Drew is batting under .250, and the Sox need an offensive spark from the position. Bogaerts has made three starts at shortstop and two at third. He’s hitting .316 but has just one extra-base hit.
In St. Louis, fans know him by one name. The off-the-charts defensive catcher has proven to be one of the best hitters in the NL this season. Certain to receive serious MVP consideration, Yadier Molina is the most indispensable position player in the pennant race. The Cardinals can ill-afford for him to miss a beat.
One of the best defensive second basemen in the big leagues, Zobrist has also made starts in left, right and short. He’s also hit in each of the first five spots in the batting order. He is the heart and soul of the Rays’ lineup.
One day closer to games.
Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)
College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Wednesday, September 4th
Here's a weird story: NCAA players are not allowed to have game balls until their eligibility has expired.
LSU coach Les Miles isn't saying much about the status of running back Jeremy Hill.
Matt Hayes goes around the nation in his weekly first-and-10 column.
Steven Godfrey of SB Nation spent some time with the Mississippi State coaching staff before and after the Oklahoma State loss.
What is Mississippi State's identity as a football program?
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops is already considering a few changes to his defense.
Will Devonte Fields play for TCU this weekend?
Rutgers' defensive line is dealing with a handful of issues so far.
Bucky's 5th Quarter takes a look at Wisconsin's offensive line and special teams.
Matt Brown of Sports on Earth takes a look at whether or not it's time to panic or show patience on a few teams after Week 1.
Auburn's coaching staff is planning to open up the offense a little more this week.
Alabama will spend the bye week addressing fundamental issues.
Freshman Derrick Green is now Michigan's No. 2 running back.
California coach Sonny Dykes has a solution for the fake injury concerns.
LSU running back Alfred Blue was effective, but tenative against TCU on Saturday night.
UCLA's young offensive line had a solid debut against Nevada.
Linebacker Curt Maggitt is close to returning for Tennessee.
Each week of the college football season, Athlon Sports will poll some of the nation's best college football people from every region of the country. Each voter offers up a top five and each first-place vote is worth five points. A second-place vote is worth four points, so on and so forth. With 13 voters, a perfect ballot — i.e., 13 first-place votes — would give a player 65 total points.
College football watched a whole new batch of superstars debut this weekend. Freshman all over the nation joined the party, in particular, at Florida State with Jameis Winston, Penn State with Christian Hackenberg, Oklahoma with Trevor Knight and Texas Tech with Baker Mayfield. This foursome of first-year quarterbacks combined for 1,133 yards passing and 13 touchdowns through the air while adding 132 combined yards on the ground and two more scores. And Winston has quickly found his way into the hearts and minds of Heisman voters.
That said, Week 1's biggest Heisman winner came from the week's biggest team in the week's biggest win. Clemson's Tajh Boyd is now your Athlon Sports Heisman Trophy front-runner.
Post-Week 1 Voting Results:
|2t.||(1)||Braxton Miller||QB||Ohio St||35||1||3||4||3||-|
|5.||(2)||Johnny Manziel||QB||Texas A&M||17||1||1||1||1||3|
|6.||(ur)||Jameis Winston||QB||Florida St||12||-||1||1||1||3|
|7t.||(4)||Jadeveon Clowney||DE||South Carolina||7||-||1||-||1||1|
Clowney disrespected: After being fourth in the Athlon preseason voting last week and following a workman-like 27-10 win over North Carolina, Clowney has been dropped completely off Heisman ballots by all but three voters. Clowney was visibly tired and claimed a stomach virus slowed him down last week but the Cocks still won a key game with relative ease due to the play of the defense. He was on nine of the 13 ballots last week, but after just three total tackles, is on just three ballots this week (one was mine, for the record). So one middling game has completely changed the perception of the nation’s best player?
Famous Jameis: After just one game, Florida State’s Jameis Winston has catapulted into the middle of the Heisman race by landing on six of Athlon’s 13 ballots. He was remarkable against Pitt — 25-of-27, 356 yards, 5 total TDs — and has an extremely bright future at Florida State. But, should a guy with 60 minutes of career playing time be ahead of the clear-cut best player in the nation, Jadeveon Clowney? Only time will tell.
Love him or hate him: For better or worse, Johnny Manziel crammed a whole lot of stuff into just 30 minutes of football. He had some typical “JFF” scrambles and scored three touchdowns but also was penalized for taunting and offered a signature hand gesture for one special Rice Owl. He was No. 2 in the voting last week with five first-place votes but got just one first-place vote this time around and was left off six ballots. He will post some big numbers this season but most of his candidacy will hinge on his play against Alabama and LSU.
Murray, Lee, Martinez Disappear: Aaron Murray didn’t play poorly at all but watched Clemson claim the first marquee win of the season. He moved to 1-10 against Top 15-ranked teams and was dropped completely off all 13 Heisman ballots. Marqise Lee, Kevin Hogan and Taylor Martinez all failed to get a single vote as well after being among the 11 vote-getters last week.
East Coast Bias: Marcus Mariota got three first-place votes this week after a stellar showing against lowly Nicholls State. But is there an East Coast bias? While Lee and Hogan disappeared from ballots, Bishop Sankey and De’Anthony Thomas also didn't get a single vote despite huge performances in Week 1. Ka'Deem Carey, who was suspended in Week 1, hasn't received a single vote in two weeks either. That said, Pac-12 quarterbacks Keith Price and Brett Hundley showed up. Price looked more like his 2011 former self in a huge win over Boise State while Hundley's stellar showing against Nevada continues to prove why he might be one of the nation’s most underrated players.
The Voting Panel (click name for twitter accounts):
|Tom Dienhart||Big Ten Network||BigTenNetwork.com||Tajh Boyd|
|Bryan Fischer||Pac-12 Network||Pac-12.com||Marcus Mariota|
|David Fox||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Tajh Boyd|
|Braden Gall||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Steven Godfrey||SB Nation||SBNation.com||Tajh Boyd|
|Chris Huston||Heisman Pundit||HeismanPundit.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Steven Lassan||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Tajh Boyd|
|Chris Level||Red Raider Sports||RedRaiderSports.com||Tajh Boyd|
|Mitch Light||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Tajh Boyd|
|Billy Liucci||TexAgs||TexAgs.com||Tajh Boyd|
|Dan Rubenstein||SB Nation/Solid Verbal||SolidVerbal.com||Johnny Manziel|
|Josh Ward||Mr. SEC/WNML||MrSEC.com||Braxton Miller|
|Jim Young||ACC Sports Journal||ACCSports.com||Tajh Boyd|
Week 1 of the 2013 college football season is in the books, and a few coaches are feeling the pressure after their opening week performance.
Connecticut’s Paul Pasqualoni takes the top spot in Athlon’s hot seat rankings after Week 1. The Huskies turned in an awful performance against Towson, losing to the FCS opponent on Thursday night. Considering Connecticut had very little margin for error to earn a winning record, losing to Towson might seal Pasqualoni’s fate.
UNLV’s Bobby Hauck topped Athlon’s preseason rankings, but he slides to the No. 2 spot after Connecticut’s awful loss.
USC had a so-so debut at Hawaii, and coach Lane Kiffin still has a quarterback question mark. Is it Max Wittek or Cody Kessler? The Trojans have a key Pac-12 game against Washington State this Saturday.
Rounding out the top five for the post-week 1 rankings is Miami (Ohio)’s Don Treadwell and Illinois’ Tim Beckman.
Ranking all 125 coaches when it comes to hot seat/pressure surrounding the program is an impossible task. Keep in mind, just because a coach ranks high on the list doesn’t mean we think he will be fired at the end of the year. Also, there’s really no separation from No. 28-100 on this list. So don’t get too caught up in the No. 55 or No. 76 ranked coach.
Ranking All 125 CFB Coaches on Hot Seat/Pressure on Program to Win in 2013
|1||Paul Pasqualoni||0-1||Moves to No. 1 after bad loss to Towson.|
|2||Bobby Hauck||0-1||Rebels are improving but need more wins.|
|3||Don Treadwell||0-1||RedHawks dominated in loss to Marshall.|
|4||Lane Kiffin||1-0||Can Kiffin find a quarterback?|
|5||Tim Beckman||1-0||A win...but too close for comfort against Southern Illinois.|
|6||Dan Enos||0-1||Chippewas simply overwhelmed against Michigan.|
|7||Ron English||1-0||A good start to the season for EMU.|
|8||Kirk Ferentz||0-1||Huge contract, so he's not going anywhere.|
|9||Tony Levine||1-0||Good test for Houston at Temple this Saturday.|
|10||Mack Brown||1-0||'Horns impressive, but better test against BYU this week.|
|11||Norm Chow||0-1||Schedule not going to get any easier for Warriors.|
|12||Jeff Quinn||0-1||Bulls will be a factor in the MAC East.|
|13||Gary Pinkel||1-0||Pinkel's old job (Toledo) visits Columbia this Saturday.|
|15||Joey Jones||0-1||Bad loss for South Alabama on Thursday night.|
|16||Carl Pelini||0-1||On fourth down, you aren't supposed to spike the ball.|
|22||Dave Christensen||0-1||Cowboys had good showing in Nebraska.|
|24||Steve Sarkisian||1-0||Washington had one of Week 1's most impressive wins.|
|25||Randy Edsall||1-0||FIU is bad - but Terrapins impressive in Week 1.|
|28||Bo Pelini||1-0||Cornhuskers still trying to find the right pieces on defense.|
|30||Dan Mullen||0-1||Mullen looking for answers on offense this week.|
|34||David Bailiff||0-1||Owls played well in loss to Texas A&M.|
|35||Kevin Wilson||1-0||Hoosiers impressive in win over Indiana State.|
|38||Kyle Flood||0-1||Rutgers-Fresno State one of the best games for Week 1.|
|40||Rocky Long||0-1||Disappointing loss for Aztecs against Eastern Illinois.|
|41||Mike Riley||0-1||Has lost two FCS games in three years.|
|50||Bobby Petrino||1-0||Can Petrino make it two in a row over the SEC this week?|
|51||Mark Helfrich||1-0||So far, so good for Helfrich.|
|52||Rod Carey||1-0||Big win for NIU against Iowa.|
|53||Dave Clawson||1-0||Impressive showing against Tulsa.|
|70||Dabo Swinney||1-0||Swinney continues to elevate the program.|
|71||Jimbo Fisher||1-0||Jameis Winston: He's the real deal.|
|77||Darrell Hazell||0-1||Boilermakers will get better.|
|78||Willie Taggart||0-1||Bad debut, but plenty of time to turn things around.|
|79||Mark Stoops||0-1||Needs to keep recruiting class together as losses pile up.|
|92||Sonny Dykes||0-1||Impressive even in losing effort.|
|94||Mike MacIntyre||1-0||MacIntyre will make a big difference this year.|
Related College Football Content
Post-Week 1 ACC Power Rankings
Post-Week 1 Big Ten Power Rankings
Post-Week 1 Big 12 Power Rankings
Post-Week 1 Pac-12 Power Rankings
Post-Week 1 SEC Power Rankings
College Football Post-Week 1 Recap
9 Amazing Stats from Week 1
National Awards for Week 1
Clemson fans may still be partying in the streets, and Georgia fans may still be sulking even into the middle of the week after a wild season opener. But there’s still a long way to go before the rare top-10 Week 1 matchup is put into its proper context.
Since the formation of the BCS in 1998, only six season openers have involved two top-10 teams as then-No. 8 Clemson’s 38-35 win over No. 5 Georgia did on Saturday.
Though the top-10 matchup in the first week is rare, a top-10 team starting 0-1 is not. At least one top-10 team has lost its opener each season since 2002. All Georgia has to do is look at the resumes of those teams to know the Bulldogs are at a crossroads.
Preseason No. 3 Oregon in 2011 lost its opener to LSU 40-27 but went on to win the Pac-12. In 2010, preseason No. 10 Virginia Tech lost its opener to Boise State 33-30, but — after a detour losing to James Madison — the Hokies went on to win the ACC.
And as for Clemson, a top-10 team that defeated another preseason top-10 team in the opener, good things may be on the way. The last two teams to accomplish that feat, Alabama in 2012 and LSU in 2011, played for national championships.
Here’s a complete list of top-10 teams that lost their openers and how they fared. Some quick observations follow below.
PRESEASON TOP-10 TEAMS THAT LOST THEIR SEASON OPENERS SINCE 1998
*denotes team that also lost its second game
|Year||Losing Team||Winning Team||Losing team's final record (bowl)|
|2013||No. 5 Georgia||No. 8 Clemson|
|2012||No. 8 Michigan||No. 2 Alabama||8-5, 6-2 Big Ten (Outback)|
|2011||No. 3 Oregon||No. 4 LSU||12-2, 8-1 Pac-12 (Rose)|
|2010||No. 10 Virginia Tech*||No. 3 Boise State||11-3, 8-0 ACC (Orange)|
|2009||No. 3 Oklahoma||No. 20 BYU||8-5, 5-3 Big 12 (Sun)|
|2008||No. 9 Clemson||No. 24 Alabama||7-6, 4-4 ACC (Gator)|
|2007||No. 5 Michigan*||Appalachian State||9-4, 6-2 Big Ten (Capitol One)|
|2006||No. 9 Cal||No. 23 Tennessee||10-3, 7-2 Pac-10 (Holiday)|
|2005||No. 7 Oklahoma||TCU||8-4, 6-2 Big 12 (Holiday)|
|No. 9 Miami||No. 14 Florida State||9-3, 6-2 ACC (Peach)|
|2004||No. 4 Florida State||No. 5 Miami||9-3, 6-2 ACC (Gator)|
|2003||No. 6 Auburn*||No. 8 USC||8-5, 5-3 SEC (Music City)|
|2002||No. 7 Colorado||Colorado State||9-5, 7-1 Big 12 (Alamo)|
|2000||No. 3 Alabama||UCLA||3-8, 3-5 SEC|
|1999||No. 4 Arizona||No. 3 Penn State||6-6, 3-5 Pac-10|
|No. 9 Ohio State||No. 12 Miami||6-6, 3-5 Big Ten|
|1998||No. 5 Michigan*||No. 22 Notre Dame||10-3, 7-1 Big Ten (Citrus)|
|No. 8 Arizona State*||No. 18 Washington||5-6, 4-4 Pac-10|
• Georgia is the SEC's first preseason top-10 team to lose its opener since 2003 Auburn when the Tigers lost to eventual AP national champion USC.
• The average record for preseason top-10 teams who lost their season openers is 9-4 overall and 6.2-1.8 in conference since 2002. All 12 of those teams made bowl games, but only two reached BCS games — 2011 Oregon and 2010 Virginia Tech.
• Top-10 teams that lost in Week 1 during the BCS era are 12-5 in their second games of the season, but none turned around to face a second top-10 team as Georgia will against No. 6 South Carolina. Three of the teams listed above faced ranked teams after their top-10 loss: 2005 Miami lost to Florida State, but turned around to beat No. 20 Clemson, 1999 Ohio State lost to Miami but defeated No. 14 TCU in Game 2, and 1998 Michigan lost to Notre Dame and defeated No. 19 Syracuse the following week.
• Of the 17 preseason top-10 teams that lost their openers, only six returned to the top-10 sometime during the season. Only one of those teams finished in the top 10: Oregon finished the 2011 season ranked fourth in the AP, only one spot lower than where the Ducks started in the preseason before losing to LSU.
• The top-five teams that lost their openers actually fared worse than teams ranked between sixth and 10th in the preseason. Top-five teams that lost in Week 1 went 57-31 (.648). Teams ranked sixth through 10th went 81-37 (.686). The top-five teams, though, are dragged down by the 2000 Alabama team that started the season No. 3 but finished 3-8. Without that outlier on their overall record, the top-five teams are 54-23 (.701).
• The best example of a second week hangover in a top-10 game situation is 2010 Virginia Tech. The 10th-ranked Hokies lost to No. 3 Boise State before losing to James Madison 21-16 the following week.
• In an ironic twist of fate, one of the more recent preseason top-10 teams to lose its opener was Clemson in 2008. The Tigers lost to No. 24 Alabama to start that season, which was the beginning of the end for Tommy Bowden. The Tigers fired Bowden midseason and replaced him with assistant Dabo Swinney, who led Clemson in its win over Georgia on Saturday.
• It’s worth noting the last time Georgia started 0-2, the Bulldogs won the SEC East. In 2011, Georgia started the season with a 35-21 loss to Boise State in Atlanta and a 45-42 loss to South Carolina at home before reeling off 10 consecutive wins.
• Now what of the top-10 teams that defeated another top-10 team in their opener? It’s happened six times with, in general, good results. Two teams preseason top-10 teams that began the season with a top-10 win ended up winning the national championship, 2012 Alabama and 2003 USC.
PRESEASON TOP-10 TEAMS DEFEATING ANOTHER TOP-10 TEAM IN WEEK 1 SINCE 1998
*denotes national championship team
|Year||Winning Team||Losing Team||Winning Team's final record (bowl)|
|2012||No. 2 Alabama*||No. 8 Michigan||13-1, 7-1 SEC (BCS Championship Game)|
|2011||No. 4 LSU||No. 3 Oregon||13-1, 8-0 SEC (BCS Championship Game)|
|2010||No. 3 Boise State||No. 10 Virginia Tech||12-1, 7-1 WAC (MAACO)|
|2004||No. 5 Miami||No. 4 Florida State||9-4, 5-3 SEC (Peach)|
|2003||No. 8 USC*||No. 6 Auburn||12-1, 7-1 Pac-10 (Rose)|
|1999||No. 3 Penn State||No. 4 Arizona||10-3, 5-3 Big Ten (Alamo)|
In episode 2 of the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast, Braden Gall and David Fox talk about the ups and downs from the first week of games, plus a quick lookahead for Week 2.
Our topics in this episode:
• What was impressive about Clemson’s 38-35 win over Georgia and what would constitute of the Tigers’ patented letdowns.
• Where does Georgia go from here with South Carolina in Week 2 and why
we’re concerned about fatigue in the second week of September.
• A quick pass through the Johnny Manziel drama of the weekend: Why Braden is tired of the coverage and why David is craving more.
• Why Washington was the biggest statement win of the weekend.
• A request for really, really upset Georgia fans to contact the podcast.
• Why David changed his pick from Miami to Florida ahead of this week’s game and why Braden is feeling a little more confident about Miami, but still picking the Gators.
• In a not-so-cleverly named segment, our hosts each pick an overlooked game for Week 2 they’re going to watch.
The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com and our RSS feed. And coming soon to iTunes.
Thanks to Moon Taxi for sharing their tunes for bumper music. Their new album Mountains Beaches Cities will be available Sept. 10.
|New Mexico||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Washington vs. Air Force|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 21||MAC vs. MWC||Nevada vs. Bowling Green|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Oregon State vs. Fresno State|
|New Orleans Bowl||Dec. 21||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||Louisiana-Lafayette vs. MTSU|
|Beef 'O' Brady's||Dec. 23||American vs. CUSA||Pittsburgh* vs. Louisiana Tech|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||MWC vs. CUSA||San Jose State vs. East Carolina|
|Little Caesars Pizza||Dec. 26||MAC vs. Big Ten||Northern Illinois vs. Minnesota|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 26||Army vs. MWC||Arizona* vs. San Diego State|
|Military||Dec. 27||CUSA vs. ACC||Marshall vs. Maryland|
|Texas||Dec. 27||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||TCU vs. Indiana|
|Kraft Fight Hunger||Dec. 27||BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. USC|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 28||American vs. Big 12||Rutgers vs. West Virginia|
|Belk||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||North Carolina vs. USF|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Cincinnati vs. Miami|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Baylor vs. Northwestern|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||MWC vs. Navy||Navy vs. Utah State|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech|
|Alamo||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Stanford vs. Oklahoma|
|Holiday||Dec. 30||Pac-12 vs. Big 12||Arizona State vs. Kansas State|
|AdvoCare V100||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||NC State vs. Auburn|
|Sun||Dec. 31||Pac-12 vs. ACC||Virginia Tech vs. UCLA|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||SEC vs. CUSA||Tulsa vs. Tennessee|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||South Carolina vs. Florida State|
|Gator||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Vanderbilt vs. Michigan State|
|Heart of Dallas||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. CUSA||Rice vs. Texas Tech*|
|Capital One||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Texas A&M vs. Wisconsin|
|Outback||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Florida vs. Nebraska|
|Rose||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Oregon vs. Michigan|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Oklahoma State vs. Boise State|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Georgia vs. Louisville|
|Cotton||Jan. 3||SEC vs. Big 12||Texas vs. LSU|
|Orange||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Clemson vs. Notre Dame|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 4||SEC vs. American||Mississippi State vs. UCF|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 5||MAC vs. Sun Belt||ULM vs. Ball State|
|National Title||Jan. 6||BCS vs. BCS||Alabama vs. Ohio State|
Plenty of news from the first weekend of the season.
Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)
College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Tuesday, September 3rd
Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell is not expected to play in Week 2 due to a concussion. Here's an interesting look at the Bulldogs' offenses under coach Dan Mullen.
Saturday Down South takes a look at what happened in the SEC in Week 1.
Lost Lettermen has a look at the top 10 biggest hits in college football history. And why it's time for replacements on ESPN's College Gameday.
Receiver Kenny Bell has decided to leave Alabama.
CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman has an excellent recap of Week 1.
Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and guard Aaron Morris are dealing with injuries suffered in the Week 1 win over Vanderbilt.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has a new contract.
Oklahoma State is searching for an identity on offense.
Auburn expects have defensive end Dee Ford in a couple of weeks.
Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday wasn't impressed with Auburn's Nick Marshall.
Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Jadeveon Clowney are among the players on the watch list for the award going to the collegiate best player in South Carolina or player from the state playing at another university.
Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen may have a high ankle sprain.
Kent State running back Dri Archer plans on playing this week after suffering an ankle injury against Liberty.
“Momentum” is an overused buzzword in sports. Writers, commentators and athletes are quick to drop it into conversation, but, at best, it’s a myth created to build one’s confidence.
Momentum, as in “With that Atlanta win, Kyle Busch sure has a lot of momentum going into the Chase,” isn’t real. It’s all perception. Momentum doesn’t win NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races; good drivers and teams do. When a team is really good, they are often good at a variety of racetracks. Such is the case with Kyle Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing bunch, who everyone should anticipate being good in this weekend’s race at Richmond International Raceway. Why? Because he is, quite simply, really good at Richmond.
Brace yourselves for the momentum chatter afterwards, but independent of prior races this season, Busch will be the rabbit after which the masses are attempting to catch on Saturday night.
666 Kyle Busch has led a devilish grand total of 666 laps across the 13 Richmond races in the Gen-5 and Gen-6 eras.
That total amounts to 12.7 percent of all laps, which comes as no surprise for the driver with a serious penchant for leading laps. He leads all drivers in Production in Equal Equipment Rating (PEER) at Richmond with a 5.615 rating, having won four times with his most recent score a lark of sorts in the spring of 2012 after front-runner Carl Edwards was penalized for a restart infraction.
Lark or not, the win served as the highlight of a season in which he failed to make NASCAR’s playoffs. He has already clinched a Chase berth this season. Specifically to this weekend, it’s logical to surmise that if a driver and team can win a race at Richmond in a down year, they can assuredly take home the trophy after the ship has been righted.
Expect Busch to keep that perceived “momentum” going into the Chase. In actuality, he isn’t just a lap-to-lap trailblazer at Richmond, he’s also a more productive finisher than any other driver there. A victory would be in the cards regardless of his team’s recent run of success.
10 The only driver to score 10 top-10 finishes in the last 13 Richmond races is Kevin Harvick, the track’s most recent winner.
Harvick has been beastly at the 0.75-mile, D-shaped track. He has three total Cup victories at Richmond with two coming in the Gen-5/Gen-6 eras. With a 34th-place finish from 2009 omitted, his average finish in the 12 remaining races is 7.9 (a finish deviation of 4.9). He doesn’t need the win per se, but the track falls firmly in his wheelhouse and if his passing prowess (he holds a series-best 54.11 percent pass efficiency) remains intact, he’ll be a contender as the race draws to a conclusion.
23.6 Dating back to the fall race of 2010, Martin Truex Jr. has averaged a 23.6-place finish at Richmond.
Truex’s victory earlier this season at Sonoma might prove pivotal for his Chase-making hopes because the last five races at Richmond were tough sledding for the No. 56 team. Now with a broken wrist, through which he suffered to earn a third-place finish last Sunday night at Atlanta, the typical RIR obstacles become more difficult. His example proves why it’s prudent to win races during the 26-race regular season. Without the victory, he is three spots out of Chase contention and in need of a wild card-punching win that shouldn’t be expected to come at RIR.
-0.173 Greg Biffle’s PEER in 13 Gen-5/Gen-6 era starts at Richmond is a paltry -0.173, ranking 42nd out of 49 drivers with at least four starts.
Biffle and his No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing team, with a better cushion than Truex, are currently ninth in the point standings (and hold one win to their name) and hoping to preserve it for the purposes of making the Chase. If Biffle does his usual Biffle thing at Richmond, though, holding down the automatic Chase invite might prove problematic. In order to clinch a spot outright, he must finish better than ninth; however, he has finished ninth or better just once in the Gen-5/Gen-6 eras. His average finish over the span is 20.1, leading to such a low track-specific production rating.
6.5 The recently replaced Juan Pablo Montoya has averaged a 6.5-place finish in the four races leading up to this weekend’s tilt.
Dating back to Watkins Glen, Montoya has been a high-volume producer with a 6.000 PEER through the four-race span. The “roll” he’s on, which coincides with his job hunt, might continue at Richmond. In April’s race there, he led 67 laps and looked poised to score his first oval-track win before a late caution and pit stop relegated him to a fourth-place finish following a hectic restart. In totality, Montoya is a serviceable producer at Richmond with a 1.500 PEER across the last 13 races.
For PEER and other metrics with which you may be unfamiliar, I refer you to my glossary of terms on MotorsportsAnalytics.com.
The Pirates are over powering the Cardinals, Scherzer can’t finish, but he sure can win, the Rangers are road warriors, the Rays are road weary, the Tigers dominate the Tribe and Craig Kimbrel is good, really good. Explore these facts and more amazing MLB stats from the week of Aug. 26 to Sept. 1.
18 Home runs hit by Pittsburgh off St. Louis pitching this season
In contrast, the Cardinals have taken Pittsburgh pitchers out of the yard just three times in the 16 meetings so far this season.
0 Complete games for Max Scherzer of Detroit this season
With one more win, Scherzer could become just the third pitcher in history to win 20 games in a season without completing a start. The only two pitchers to accomplish that are Mike Mussina in 2008 and Roger Clemens in 2001, both with the Yankees.
0.93 ERA for the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo in his last three starts
Gallardo, who has struggled most of the season, has risen to the occasion recently. Those three games just happened to have been against Cincinnati (two) and Pittsburgh, two teams battling for a division title.
50-1 Milwaukee’s record when leading after eight innings
A 6-5 loss to the Angels last Saturday was the club’s first such setback when leading after eight innings. Prior to that loss, the Brewers were the only team this season perfect with a lead going into the final frame.
13-3 Texas’ road record in August
The Texas Rangers finished the month of August with 20 wins, which was just the fourth month in franchise history with as many as 20 wins. The club was especially good on the road, including sweeps over the Angels, Astros and Mariners.
1.33 Dodgers’ ERA last week
As impressive as last week was for the Dodgers’ pitching staff, the last five weeks have been even more impressive in that they have been able to sustain such a high level. Since July 26, covering 35 games, the Dodgers are 28-7 with their pitchers carrying a 1.87 ERA. Opponents are batting just .215 during that time. Think any National League team wants to face that staff in the playoffs?
2,500 Career hits for Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies
The total ranks 96th on the all-time list and is the third-most among active players behind Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro Suzuki.
0-9 Tampa Bay record outside the Eastern Time Zone in second half
The Rays just don’t travel well, especially long distances. Since the All-Star break, the Rays are 10-3 on the road when playing on Eastern Time. But they’re 0-1 in the Central Time zone, 0-2 on Mountain Time and 0-6 on the West Coast. Not good if you’re chasing a playoff spot.
18 Runs allowed by the Rockies to the Reds in three games
Giving up six runs a game is not good, but it’s not horrible. So what’s the big deal? The Rockies won two of three.
9 Years since Seattle finished ahead of the Angels
You have to go back to 2003 to find the last time the Mariners were looking down at the Angels in the AL West standings. As of Sunday, the Angels were a game and a half ahead of the Mariners.
15-4 Detroit’s record vs. the Indians
The 15 wins mark the most for the Tigers over the Indians since 1960 when the teams met 22 times. It’s also a far cry from the 12-game Cleveland sweep in 1996.
.218 Philadelphia’s batting average since the All-Star break
The Phillies own the lowest batting average in the majors in the second half, which is directly related to…
-117 Philadelphia’s run differential, worst in the National League
Over the weekend, the Phillies dropped below the Miami Marlins in run differential in the National League. The Phillies entered the All-Star break at an even 48-48, with some thought of climbing into the pennant race. Since then, the team is 14-27 with a -72 run differential.
5.1 Perfect innings for Craig Kimbrel
Last week, the Braves closer tossed 5.1 innings without allowing a hit or walk. He notched three saves and a win along the way. For the season, he has 81 strikeouts and 48 hits and walks combined. His WHIP is an impressive 0.847 to go with his 0.95 ERA.
11/10 RBIs/Runs for Shane Victorino last week
The Boston outfielder began the week with a 3-for-3, four-run, 7-RBI, two-homer performance in a big win over Baltimore. His hot hitting continued as he batted .435 for the week with 11 RBIs, 10 runs and six extra-base hits.
Senior Casey Pachall will start against Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium, Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson reiterated Sunday.
This comes after Pachall was pulled for sophomore Trevone Boykin early in the second half after throwing an interception. Boykin gave the Horned Frogs a spark, rallying TCU to within three points. His dual-threat abilities created problems for the LSU defense.
Despite indications from Saturday's game, head coach Gary Patterson says there is no quarterback controversy and Pachall will start week 2. However, expect Boykin to receive playing time this week.
UCLA fans were not pleased with the Bruins LA Nights alternate last season, but they should have no problem with the sleek all-black look the Bruins are going with on November 15 against Washington. UCLA's new adidas TECHFIT "LA Midnight" uniform is black with blue and gold shoulder stripes and player numbers.The Bruins' helmet is black with the UCLA logo in gold metallic.
FIRST LOOK: Side of UCLA's uniform for Washington on 11/15 http://t.co/dSJg2gLt9u— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) September 3, 2013
An extra bonus for those in the City of Angels are the gloves that feature the Los Angeles skyline at night!