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This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 20:
• Happy 26th birthday to Victoria's Secret model Candice Swanepoel. Celebrate by reliving her year in Instagram photos.
• Peyton Manning made history last night. He did not make "H18TORY." Can we stop using numbers as letters now? Plea5e?
• Celebrities took to Twitter to celebrate Peyton's accomplisment, although Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes broke out the ring-check in congratulating "Eli's brother."
• You've seen it by now, but yesterday, the Rams pulled off possibly the greatest fake-out in NFL history.
• Things got heated in the locker room after the Bears' disheartening loss to Miami. Not shockingly, Brandon Marshall was the one doing much of the yelling.
• Had the little keep-away game with Peyton's record-setting TD ball been spontaneous, it would have been cute. It wasn't spontaneous, though.
• This will put a dent in the J.J. Watt for MVP campaign: His play doesn't have much to do with whether the Texans win or lose.
• The World Series starts tomorrow. Here's a position by position breakdown.
• So did Notre Dame get screwed the other night? No, not really.
• The pressure of a bad start is getting to Saints coach Sean Payton.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Another year, another bowl trip for the Duke Blue Devils. This has become the norm in college football, and who knows when it will end. With a 20-13 victory over Virginia this past weekend, Duke improved its season record to 6-1 to become eligible for postseason play for a third straight season.
Whatever head coach David Cutcliffe is doing, it seems to be working. Perhaps this should not have been so unexpected though. Duke came into this season with eight returning starters on offense and six on defense. That included three returning starters on the offensive line, Anthony Boone back at quarterback after showing some promise in 2013 and one of the top wide receiver sin the ACC, Jamison Crowder. The defense had some reworking to do up front on the defensive line, but three starting players at the safety position and linebacker David Helton provide senior leadership in the middle of the field.
Injuries were supposed to take a toll on Duke, but that has not affected them to this point. All-ACC linebacker Kelby Brown was lost for the season with a torn ACL before the season started. Duke also lost returning starting tight end Braxton Deaver for the season with a torn ACL. Duke was also without the services of five other players against Virginia, a supposed hit to the depth of the roster.
Before the season started the general consensus seemed to be Duke would once again be in the middle of a crowded ACC Coastal race, but the question was would there be enough breaks to fall their way to make a return trip to the ACC Championship Game again this season after getting everything to fall into place in 2013. Rather than let outside forces determine what the fate of Duke football is, the Blue Devils are taking manners into their own hands.
For Duke, it begins with the turnover margin. At this point in the season Duke leads the AC in turnover margin with a +8. No ACC team has fewer turnovers lost than Duke, with two lost fumbles and three interceptions. Duke’s 13 forced turnovers is around the middle of the pack among ACC schools, but when the offense is doing a good job holding onto the football, those extra turnovers come in handy. Take Saturday for example.
Virginia ran two plays before fumbling away to Duke. Miles Gooch’s fumble at the Virginia 33-yard line was soon cashed in for seven points by Duke’s offense. Virginia still went on to find ways to move the football on Duke, with 465 yards including 325 through the air. Virginia also owned the edge in time of possession, but Duke won the turnover battle and took advantage of the lone turnover by scoring a touchdown on the free possession. As it turned out, it may have been the difference in the game with Duke winning by seven.
Duke gets a week off to prepare for a road trip to Pittsburgh, with the Panthers off to a solid start in ACC play this season. Duke is the only bowl-eligible team in the ACC Coastal at the moment, but is stuck in a crowded division tie at 2-1 thanks to a loss to Miami. Duke is currently tied with Virginia and Pittsburgh for the division lead, but one win at Pittsburgh can change the entire outlook. Duke won 10 games last season, and they look as capable as ever to actually be able to improve on that this season. Duke’s supposed ceiling may not rival the height of the Sistine Chapel, but it may have been a bit higher than most would have expected. Most of us not wearing a Duke football jersey, at least.
By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
Texas A&M’s 59-0 loss to Alabama on Saturday was easily the worst of Kevin Sumlin’s three seasons in College Station. The Aggies had little margin for error coming into Tuscaloosa and were simply dominated in every facet of the matchup with the Crimson Tide.
The numbers and box score are not something most Texas A&M fans want to revisit this week – on both sides of the ball.
In Saturday’s loss, quarterback Kenny Hill turned in his third straight subpar outing. The sophomore has seven interceptions over his last three games and threw for just 138 yards against Alabama. The Crimson Tide’s defense had a lot to do with the lack of offensive production, but in the last two meetings against Nick Saban’s defense, Texas A&M scored 71 points.
Hill isn’t solely to blame for all of the offensive issues. The rushing attack has just 85 yards on 59 attempts over the last two weeks. That’s a paltry 1.4 yards per carry.
Getting more production on the ground would help to alleviate some of the pressure on Hill’s shoulders, but the sophomore needs better protection from a touted offensive line (15 sacks), and a receiving corps dealing with inconsistent performances and drops.
While the offense shares blame for managing only two drives of more than 21 yards and punting on its first six possessions, Texas A&M’s defense is once again a major concern.
The Aggies were dominated by an Alabama offense that scored just 14 points in the win over Arkansas last Saturday and scored 17 on Oct. 4 against Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide scored on their first eight possessions and averaged 7.5 yards per play on 80 snaps.
Alabama’s domination on the stat sheet was showcased on the ground (298 yards, 6.6 yards per carry) and through the air (304 yards, four touchdowns).
It’s hard to find positives for Texas A&M’s defense after Saturday’s game, especially when you consider the Crimson Tide’s first punt came almost midway through the third quarter.
After five SEC games, the Aggies are giving up 6.9 yards per play. That’s a small increase from the 6.7 mark last year. Also, conference opponents are scoring 39.6 points per game in 2014. Last season, Texas A&M allowed 37.9 per contest.
Improvement on defense has been somewhat noticeable in the trenches, as true freshman Myles Garrett leads a pass rush that has generated 22 sacks (one more than all of 2013) through eight games. Additionally, it’s hard to expect this unit to be a shutdown group with the quick-strike offense in place.
After picking up the pieces from Saturday’s loss to Alabama, Texas A&M’s overall record stands at 5-3 and 2-3 in the SEC. An upcoming bye week is critical to fixing some of the areas that have plagued this team through the first half of 2014. After the open date, the Aggies host ULM and end the season with a road trip to Auburn, followed by home games against Missouri and LSU.
Considering the upcoming schedule is favorable, Texas A&M still has a legitimate shot to finish 8-4 and hit .500 in SEC play. But this post-Alabama moment is arguably one of the biggest in Sumlin’s three-year stint in College Station.
Transitioning to the SEC wasn’t supposed to be easy. The Aggies exceeded initial expectations due to emergence of quarterback Johnny Manziel, and now have to continue to recruit and develop elite talent to compete with Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the SEC West. 2014 wasn't supposed to be Texas A&M's year to contend. Most expected that would be 2015 or 2016.
After going 11-2 in Sumlin’s debut (2012), Texas A&M is poised to see a reduction in its win total for the second consecutive year.
By all sources, recruiting is going well. Momentum within the state of Texas has shifted College Station – for now. There’s plenty of young talent – Garrett, safety Armani Watts, receiver Speedy Noil and linebacker Shaan Washington – waiting to develop.
That’s the good news.
The bad news? To some degree, Texas A&M is a team in transition. The Aggies are trying to recruit at a higher level to compete in the rugged SEC West and are having success. But with the attempts to upgrade the roster come moments like there was on Saturday. Right now, Alabama is simply on a different level than Texas A&M. In order for the Aggies to go higher, recruiting, player development and coaching all have to improve.
With a plethora of young players getting snaps on both sides of the ball, there should be noticeable improvement next year. The key word in that sentence: Should.
But what changes will Sumlin make over the next few weeks? Will he give true freshman Kyle Allen an extended look under center? Will defensive coordinator Mark Snyder still have a job in College Station next year? Why has the offense regressed despite returning one of the nation’s top offensive lines and receiving corps?
Beating South Carolina in the opener changed some of the 2014 expectations for Sumlin’s team. But after eight games, it's clear there are question marks that must be answered – and potentially some difficult coaching staff decisions this offseason.
Texas A&M ran into a buzzsaw known as Alabama on Saturday, and the Aggies were simply no match in 2014. But in 2015? A more-experienced roster and improved depth on defense should help Sumlin’s team take another shot at the top teams in the SEC West.
Again, the key word: Should. The talent and pieces are there to improve.
The rest of the SEC will be watching Sumlin and this team’s development over the last four games. Winning the West title isn’t going to be easy in the current climate of the division. After three consecutive losses, it’s fair to say Texas A&M’s is reeling just a bit headed into the bye week.
Can Sumlin and his staff evaluate both sides of the ball and find answers before the next game?
Momentum isn’t easy to define. But after three consecutive losses, Texas A&M’s momentum in the SEC West seems to be up in the air heading into a critical bye week.
Two teams that missed the playoffs last season aiming to get on the right side of .500 will finish off Week 7 in the NFL when the Houston Texans take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” The Texans (3-3) are hoping to put an end to their two-game losing streak while the Steelers (3-3) are looking to bounce back at Heinz Field after a somewhat surprising 31-10 divisional setback to Cleveland last week.
After going 2-14 last season, results that netted Houston both a new head coach (Bill O’Brien) and the No. 1 pick in the draft (Jadeveon Clowney), the Texans got off to a 2-0 start, but have lost to the Cowboys in overtime and at home to the Colts in their last two games. Pittsburgh has gone 8-8 in each of the last two seasons, missing the playoffs both times, and has started this season by alternating wins and losses. Both teams are looking up in their respective divisions, but a win tonight would allow the victor to keep pace with the current leader.
Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Pittsburgh -3.5
Three Things to Watch
|Houston 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs WAS||W 17 - 6||Recap|
|9/14||@ OAK||W 30 - 14||Recap|
|9/21||@ NYG||L 17 - 30||Recap|
|9/28||vs BUF||W 23 - 17||Recap|
|10/5||@ DAL||L 17 - 20||Recap|
|10/9||vs IND||L 28 - 33||Recap|
|10/20||@ PIT||L 23 - 30||Recap|
|10/26||@ TEN||W 30 - 16||Recap|
1. J.J. Watt, 2014 NFL MVP?
With apologies to early MVP contenders like DeMarco Murray (league’s leading rusher by a wide margin), Andrew Luck (1,987 yards passing, 19 total TDs), and Philip Rivers (117.6 passer rating, 15:2 TD:INT ratio for 5-1 Chargers), there’s a guy on the other side of the ball who’s putting together an impressive award-worthy season of his own. Six games into the season, not only is J.J. Watt well on his way to taking home his second Defensive Player of the Year award (2012), he also is on the short list of MVP candidates. Houston’s All-Pro defensive end has four sacks and a league-leading 20 quarterback hits, but he’s much more than just a pass-rushing specialist, as evidenced by his six pass breakups (tied with Baltimore DT Haloti Ngata for most by a DL), two fumble recoveries, an interception and a blocked extra point on special teams. Watt also has three touchdowns – one on an 80-yard interception return, another on a 45-yard fumble return and the last coming on a one-yard catch when he lined up as a tight end. So not only has Watt scored more touchdowns thus far than the likes of Calvin Johnson, Frank Gore and many others, he also has as many receiving touchdowns as Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald and teammate Andre Johnson. Watt is making the six-year, $100 million contract extension he signed in September look like a bargain. And if Pittsburgh’s offensive line, which has already given up 17 sacks, and Ben Roethlisberger (3 INTs, 2 lost fumbles) aren’t careful, they may inadvertently end up endorsing Watt’s MVP candidacy tonight.
|Pittsburgh 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs CLE||W 30 - 27||Recap|
|9/11||@ BAL||L 6 - 26||Recap|
|9/21||@ CAR||W 37 - 19||Recap|
|9/28||vs TB||L 24 - 27||Recap|
|10/5||@ JAC||W 17 - 9||Recap|
|10/12||@ CLE||L 10 - 31||Recap|
|10/20||vs HOU||W 30 - 23||Recap|
|10/26||vs IND||W 51 - 34||Recap|
2. A More Balanced Pittsburgh Offense?
Entering Week 7, the Steelers rank sixth in the NFL in total offense (396.5 ypg). Their ground game is fifth (137.3 ypg), while the aerial attack checks in at No. 11 (259.2 ypg). Mike Tomlin’s offense is in good hands with Ben Roethlisberger orchestrating things and Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown leading the way, but this unit needs to figure out how to get more production from others, especially in the passing game. Bell is second in the league in rushing (542 yards) and Brown is second in receiving (629) and they also are their team’s leading pass-catchers (Brown 41 receptions, Bell 28). Combined, this duo has been responsible for 60 percent of the team’s total offense and nearly half (6) of the offensive touchdowns (13). Tight end Heath Miller has been a reliable and productive target for Roethlisberger for years and wide receiver Markus Wheaton was expected to emerge following an injury-plagued rookie season, but both have had minimal impacts thus far. They have combined for 50 catches and just one score. This is one of the reasons why despite all of the yards gained, the Steelers are just 23rd in the league in scoring offense (20.7 ppg). Others need to step up on offense or else Bell and Brown’s Pro Bowl-caliber efforts could wind up going to waste. And the same could be said for the Steelers’ postseason hopes too.
3. Houston, We’ve Had a Problem… Passing the Football
The Texans are a top 10 team when it comes to running the football (128.5 ypg), but languish in the bottom five in passing offense (208.5). This is why Bill O’Brien’s squad is middle of the pack or worse in both total (337.0 ypg, 19th in NFL) and scoring (22.0 ppg, tied for 21st) offense and is seeking to put an end to its two-game losing streak. Despite missing some time because of a hamstring injury, Arian Foster is third in the league in rushing (513 yards) and has five touchdowns, which is already more than all of last season (two TDs in eight games). Ryan Fitzpatrick on the other hand, hasn’t been near as productive in his first season as Houston’s starting quarterback. Fitzpatrick is averaging 211 yards passing per game with as many touchdowns as interceptions (six each). He’s ranked 12th in completion rate (65.0), but only 24th among starters in passer rating (86.1). All-Pro Andre Johnson and 2013 first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins have combined for just four touchdown catches and only 11 plays of 20 or more yards. And after Foster’s 16 receptions, the only other Texan with at least 10 is tight end Garrett Graham. Houston’s offense has been effective on the ground, but that could change if the passing game continues to sputter. It’s very hard to win in the NFL with a one-dimensional offense, unless that one dimension is throwing the football. And even then you need a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback to get the job done. Care to guess how many Pro Bowls Fitzpatrick has been invited to?
J.J. Watt is a grown man and one of the few players in the NFL who is capable of winning a game by himself. Pittsburgh doesn’t have a defensive playmaker close to Watt’s level, but the Steelers are a more talented, well-rounded team. As talented as Watt is, even he can’t do enough as a tight end to make up for Houston’s inefficiencies on offense. Another heavy dose of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will be enough to counter a big night from Arian Foster on the ground and Watt’s unrelenting and imposing presence on defense. Pittsburgh sticks to the script it has written thus far by following up last week’s disheartening loss with a satisfying win in front of the home crowd.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Houston 20
It was an eventful weekend for Los Angeles Clippers MVP candidate Blake Griffin. Friday, he was on the wrong end of a hard foul committed by Utah Jazz forward Trevor Booker, with whom Griffin has a colorful history. Booker hit Griffin with a little extra mustard as he went to the rim, and Blake wasn’t happy about it:
These two previously engaged in extra-physical rasslin' when Booker was with the Washington Wizards, trying to deny Griffin his space in the lane. Booker quickly collected fouls in the game, later saying that Griffin was the beneficiary of “superstar treatment” from the refs.
After Friday’s game, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said that Griffin receives more cheap shots than anyone in the league. Griffin himself, according to Orange County Register, said he would “probably” retaliate for one of these brash fouls eventually.
Then, on Saturday, Griffin reminded us just how majestic he can be in the open court:
Note Denver Nuggets big man Timofey Mozgov, trailing the play, reticent to step into Blake’s path. It’s the preseason, yes, but this lapse is also a reminder that Mozgov was one of Griffin’s original, most indelible posterization victims. That sensational tomahawk, delivered during his rookie season, was the play that announced Griffin as a new, rising superstar to many fans of the league. It’s not hard to see why Booker would want to avoid wearing Blake’s dunce hat and becoming Griffin’s latest clickable YouTube patsy.
Love him or hate him, Griffin has become one of the more integral figures in the league. He’s a magnet for viral attention with his thunderous, artistic style, which is no ruse; pretty and awesome as Griffin looks on the court, he’s also just flat effective. Blake has a strong overall game now, and he’s one of the best ballers in the world. Lesser players like Booker are always going to swat away at the kind of basketball unicorn the Clippers’ superstar is — let’s just hope that nothing happens to deprive us of Griffin’s glitz.
— John Wilmes
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of measuring performance and marking milestones in the NFL. With that in mind, Athlon Sports rounded up the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 7 of the NFL season.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning moved to the top of the list in all-time touchdown passes as he threw for four touchdowns and 318 yards in a 42-17 win against San Francisco. His second TD toss moved him past Brett Favre's 508 for No. 1 all time. Favre surpassed Dan Mario's mark of 432 passing TDs in his 245th game while Manning surpassed Favre's 508 in his 246th game.
Peyton Manning's four passing touchdowns in the win over San Francisco gave him 11 games with at least four TD passes since the start of last season. No other quarterback has five such games during that span.
He's been in this stats article every week for his 100-yard rushing performances, and now he owns the top spot alone. Dallas running back DeMarco Murray's 128 yards on the ground in a 31-21 win against the Giants made him the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of his team's first seven games to start a season. He surpassed Jim Brown's six from 1958.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson became the first player in NFL history with 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in a game when he threw for 313 and ran for 106 in a 28-26 loss at St. Louis.
Buffalo rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins finished the Bills' 17-16 win against visiting Minnesota with nine catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. He became the second rookie with at least 100 receiving yards and a game-winning TD with one second or less remaining in the fourth quarter since Tennessee's Kenny Britt did so against visiting Arizona in 2009.
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who completed 25 of 32 passes (78.1 percent) for 277 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, and 48 rushing yards in a 27-14 win at Chicago, became the third player in NFL history with at least 275 passing yards, a completion percentage of 78+ percent and 45+ rushing yards in a single game. He joined Ken Anderson (Nov. 3, 1974) and Jeff Garcia (Dec. 14, 2003) in accomplishing the feat.
Aaron Rodgers joined Tom Brady as the only two quarterbacks in NFL history to have passed for at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions in four straight games when he threw for three in a 38-17 win against Carolina. Rodgers became the only player in league history with at least 18 touchdown passes and one or zero interceptions through his team's first seven games to begin a season.
Indianapolis running back Ahamad Bradshaw caught his sixth touchdown pass of the season, making him the first running back with six touchdown catches in his team's first seven games of the season since San Diego's Gary Anderson in 1986.
Detroit coming back from a 14-point deficit to defeat New Orleans 24-23 marked the 10th time this season a team has come back from 14 down to win. That ties the second-most such comebacks since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, and we're just in Week 7.
Cincinnati punted on 11 of its 14 drives in a 27-0 loss at Indianapolis. The Bengals opened the game with eight straight three-and-out drives and finished with 10 such possessions. They only finished two drives on the Colts' side of the field all day.
With Kansas City's 23-20 win at San Diego, head coach Andy Reid improved his record coming off a bye week to 14-2. The 14 wins are the most victories of any NFL coach in games following a bye week.
Indianapolis receiver Reggie Wayne pulled in four catches for 15 yards in the team's 27-0 win over Cincinnati and it made him the ninth player in league history with 14,000 career receiving yards.
@Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
Art Briles has brought Baylor to new territory for most of his tenure. On Saturday, he’ll be in another place he’s rarely been.
He’ll field questions asking what’s wrong with the Baylor offense.
The Bears’ College Football Playoff hopes were derailed Saturday with a 41-27 loss at West Virginia in a game in which Baylor did something that has been rare in recent years. The Bears struggled to move the ball.
Baylor averaged only four yards per play against West Virginia on Saturday, the Bears’ lowest average since a loss to Texas in 2009. The quarterback for Baylor that day was Nick Florence.
The stakes then, of course, were much lower. Baylor entered Saturday as a legitimate playoff contender and the de facto Big 12 favorite.
The Bears’ schedule had been lacking, but they remained one of the six undefeated teams still standing. Bryce Petty entered the week back in the Heisman race after a comeback effort against TCU a week earlier.
Against West Virginia, Baylor’s offense was as pedestrian as it has been since Robert Griffin arrived on campus.
Penalties didn’t help. Baylor was flagged 18 times for 215 yards. Only five of those calls came against the offense, including two offensive pass interference calls. West Virginia was flagged 14 times.
Penalties derailed the offense, but not nearly as much as West Virginia’s 3-3-5 scheme.
Petty completed only 16-of-36 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. A year ago, the raw numbers would have been halftime statistics for the Bears.
Petty completed nine of his passes to Antwan Goodley and five to Corey Coleman. In a deep receiver group, those were the only players with multiple catches.
And at a critical juncture in the second half, K.D. Cannon dropped a key deep pass play in West Virginia territory.
Baylor’s run game was even more ineffective. The Bears rushed for 95 yards on 42 carries and didn’t break a run of longer than 10 yards until the fourth quarter.
Most troubling, this may be part of a trend.
Petty is two weeks removed from a 7-of-22 performance against Texas and a week removed from a two-interception day against TCU. Petty threw three interceptions all of last season.
The Bears have time to assess the damage with an off week and then a home date with Kansas. Baylor’s next major test will be Nov. 8 at Oklahoma.
If Baylor remains a Big 12 and playoff contender, the Bears will have two weeks to figure it out.
On its face, perhaps Kansas State’s 31-30 win at Oklahoma doesn’t put the Wildcats in anyone’s playoff picks next week.
The Wildcats remain a one-loss squad, and its win over the Sooners included a certain amount of good fortune.
Kansas State won in part because Sooners kicker Michael Hunnicut looked nothing like an All-America-type kicker from short range. A missed 19-yard field goal and a blocked extra point were major gifts in a game decided by one point.
At the same time, though, Kansas State can’t be ignored in the Big 12 or perhaps the playoff race after a win in Norman only weeks after a close call with Auburn.
Give Kansas State an inch, and the Wildcats will swipe a victory.
The Wildcats were outgained by 148 yards, but Bill Snyder quickly dismissed such numbers.
“Those numbers are not significant,” Snyder told the media. “Turnovers, those are significant. In all reality, that is the difference in the ball game. ... The right numbers can tell you something, but not yardage.”
This was a vintage effort by a Snyder team, reminiscent of the 2012 team that won the Big 12 title and flirted with the BCS title game.
Yardage differential doesn’t matter. A perceived edge in talent doesn’t matter.
Leaving the door just slightly ajar against Kansas State, though, is treacherous.
Auburn tried earlier in the year. The Tigers won a sloppy 20-14 game on Sept. 18. Auburn averaged only 2.8 yards per carry and had a handful of dropped passes that day, but Kansas State had more miscues with three turnovers to cost the Wildcats a landmark win.
On Saturday, Kansas State played the kind of opportunistic game that has been the foundation of Snyder’s best teams. The Wildcats didn’t turn the ball over and committed only two penalties for 20 yards.
Quarterback Jake Waters went 15-of-23 for 225 yards with two touchdowns, and his 51-yard run was the longest of the game. Meanwhile, Oklahoma threw an interception on an ill-advised out route near its own end zone for a pick six. A wide receiver pass in the third quarter ended a drive with an interception in the end zone.
As for the road ahead, Kansas State now has a signature win this season. Even if it came against an Oklahoma team that already lost to TCU, the Wildcats showed they have the ability to contend in the Big 12.
If they can win in Norman, Kansas State can win at TCU, West Virginia and Baylor. Even with one loss, Kansas State should will have plenty of opportunities to continue a climb into the playoff race.
Despite the return of coach Bobby Petrino, Louisville’s offense wasn’t incredibly prolific in the first half of the season. While the Cardinals weren’t meeting lofty preseason expectations for the offense, it’s easy to understand why this unit was averaging only 5.0 yards per play and ranked eighth in the ACC in scoring offense. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is taking snaps for the Minnesota Vikings, and the offensive line struggled mightily through the first half of the year.
But in Saturday’s win over NC State, Louisville’s offense got a spark from the return of receiver DeVante Parker.
The senior was regarded as one of the top receivers in the ACC this preseason but was sidelined by a foot injury through the first seven weeks.
Parker made his debut against the Wolfpack and caught nine passes for 132 yards (14.7 ypc), which places the senior fifth on the team after eight games in receptions (nine).
With Parker back in the lineup, Louisville averaged 5.4 yards per play, which was its highest total in an ACC contest this year.
The Cardinals also scored 30 points – one off their top mark of 2014 in ACC games (31).
Quarterback Will Gardner also responded with one of his better performances of 2014, completing 21 of 36 passes for 203 yards and two scores. Gardner’s 203 passing yards ranked just three yards behind his season best mark of 206 (Miami).
A struggling NC State defense certainly has something to do with Louisville’s offensive improvement, but it’s a notable improvement for a team that is still a work in progress in Petrino’s first year.
Now, the Cardinals have a bye before taking on Florida State on Thursday, Oct. 30.
After taking on the Seminoles, Louisville plays at Boston College and Notre Dame and ends the season against Kentucky.
The offense is still developing for Petrino but getting Parker for the final four games is a huge positive and should help Gardner’s performance.
With a defense holding opponents to just 3.9 yards per play, Louisville needs more from its offense to have a shot at beating Florida State and Notre Dame.
With Parker back in the lineup, the Cardinals have one of the nation’s top 10-15 receivers in the mix, giving the offense another weapon to a unit that already features running backs Michael Dyer (238 yards, 1 TD) and Brandon Radcliff (5.2 ypc).
Louisville is set to embark on arguably its toughest stretch of the season. But the Cardinals now have a No. 1 receiver to pair with improving quarterback Will Gardner. Assuming the defense continues to perform at a high level, the offensive improvement – at a critical time – will be enough for Louisville to potentially play spoiler against Florida State or Notre Dame.
West Virginia is a Big 12 title contender. That seems strange to say after the Mountaineers finished 4-8 with losses to Iowa State and Kansas last year, but Saturday’s win over Baylor showed coach Dana Holgorsen’s team will be a factor in the conference race over the second half of the season.
West Virginia played one of the nation’s toughest schedules in the first half of 2014, and the Mountaineers fell short in upset bids against Oklahoma and Alabama. But on Saturday, the Mountaineers delivered to earn a key conference victory over Baylor.
Quarterback Clint Trickett continued to make his case as one of the top quarterbacks in the Big 12 this year, throwing for 322 yards and three scores on 35 attempts against a Baylor secondary that allowed only five passing touchdowns through its first six games.
Trickett’s favorite target was receiver Kevin White, and the senior extended his streak of 100-yard receiving games to seven by catching eight passes for 132 yards. The senior had one of the weekend’s top catches by scoring on a 12-yard pass from Trickett to give West Virginia the lead for good in the fourth quarter.
While the offense deserves plenty of accolades, the performance by Mountaineers’ defense shouldn’t go overlooked.
Sure, Baylor recorded 318 yards and scored 27 points. But a closer look at the numbers suggest coordinator Tony Gibson and assistant coach Tom Bradley deserve a ton of credit for the performance on Saturday.
The Bears’ 318 total yards were the least since a 2010 matchup against TCU. And Baylor’s offense averaged only 4.0 yards per play, which is only the third time since 2010 Art Briles’ high-powered attack has averaged below five yards per play.
West Virginia unleashed FCS transfer Shaq Riddick against a banged up Baylor offensive line, and the senior responded with five tackles (four for a loss) and three sacks.
In addition to Riddick’s production, the Mountaineers constantly pressured Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty in the second half and held the Bears to just seven points over the final two quarters.
Also, only one Baylor drive in the second half lasted longer than 32 yards.
And here’s a critical note: West Virginia had to play without starting cornerbacks Daryl Worley and Terrell Chestnut for a good chunk of the game.
After seven games, West Virginia’s overall record stands at 5-2 and 3-1 in the Big 12.
It’s clear this Mountaineer team has exceeded preseason expectations, as most predicted Holgorsen’s team would struggle to make a bowl.
However, a healthy Trickett at quarterback, combined with the emergence of receiver Kevin White has helped West Virginia average 6.2 yards per play and 37.3 points per game, and the defense has made strides and timely stops under new coordinator Tony Gibson.
Since West Virginia has already played two of the preseason favorites (Baylor and Oklahoma), don’t overlook this team in a wide-open Big 12 title picture. The Mountaineers host TCU and Kansas State – arguably two of the contenders now – and still have to play Iowa State. Road trips to Texas and Oklahoma State won’t be easy, but it’s clear West Virginia will have an impact on the Big 12 title picture.
Saturday night in Gainesville, we witnessed a statistical anomaly when Missouri somehow scored 42 points despite gaining only 119 yards of offense in a 29-point win at The Swamp.
Earlier that day in Tuscaloosa, Alabama also won in convincing fashion, but the Crimson Tide scored their points in a more conventional fashion — by matriculating the ball down the field (to steal a phrase from the great Hank Stram) with stunning ease. On the heels of a sluggish performance in a one-point win at Arkansas the previous week, the Alabama offense rolled up a staggering 602 total yards in a 59–0 win over Texas A&M.
The Crimson Tide opened the game with a field goal (after a 71-yard drive) and then proceeded to score a touchdown on their next seven possessions, with all but one drive covering at least 57 yards. For the game, Alabama averaged 7.5 yards on its 80 snaps and came two rushing yards shy of accumulating 300 yards on the ground and 300 yards through the air.
Quarterback Blake Sims averaged 9.9 yards per passing attempt, and the top two running backs, T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, combined to average 8.0 yards on their 23 carries. Amari Cooper, the team’s best offensive weapon, averaged 17.5 yards on eight catches and scored two touchdowns.
The skill players were responsible for the flashy highlights, but the key — according to coach Nick Saban — was the play of the Alabama offensive line.
“We had a little gathering with the offensive line this week and said, ‘Look guys, you guys are starting to feel pressure and you’re being criticized. You’re not being the sergeant-at-arms that we need you to be in terms of how you control the line of scrimmage and how you dominate the line of scrimmage. Really, our guys aren’t going to make plays unless you do that. I believe in you, and I trust in you.’”
Alabama has now topped the 600-yard mark on three occasions this season, something that happened only three times total in the first seven years of the Nick Saban era. The Tide have also run at least 80 plays from scrimmage in three games under first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Previously, that happened only once — last year vs. Kentucky — under Saban.
Excuse the double negative, but it’s not easy not to be good at Florida.
Somehow that is what has happened in three of Will Muschamp’s four seasons as the head coach of the Gators. Florida did not have a losing record in the SEC one time from 1987 through 2010. Muschamp has managed to accomplish this difficult feat in two of his three full seasons as the boss, with a 3–5 mark in both 2011 and 2013. And through five league games in ’14, the Gators are 2–3, with the wins coming over Kentucky in triple-overtime and Tennessee by one point.
And even when Florida was “good” under Muschamp — the Gators went 11–2 overall and 7–1 in the SEC in 2012 — it was far from a satisfying season for the locals. That year, Florida ranked 12th in the SEC in total offense (334.0 ppg), lost to rival Georgia for the second straight season (for the first time since the late ‘80s) and was dominated as a heavy favorite in a Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville — a team coached by former Gator defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. Give that Florida team credit for winning close games, but there was a bit of smoke and mirrors with the ’12 Gators.
Florida fans can debate which season has been the worst. Was it last fall, when the Gators lost seven straight to end the season, including losses at home to Vanderbilt by 17 points and FCS foe Georgia Southern? Or has it been this year, when the offense has continued to be “abysmal” — that’s Muschamp’s word — despite another change at offensive coordinator? What was worse: Giving up 600-plus yards in a 42–21 loss at Alabama in September, or Saturday’s debacle in which Florida lost to Missouri at home, 42–13, despite giving up only 119 yards?
One thing isn’t up for debate: This is the most underachieving program in college football. Most fan bases believe their school should contend for national titles on a consistent basis. Most fan bases are wrong. The folks in Gainesville, however, are not.
There is no excuse for Florida football to be irrelevant on the national scene.
The losers of the past two Super Bowls will take the next step in their quest to get back to that stage when the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos face off tonight on NBC. Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers (4-2) have won three in a row while John Fox’s Broncos (4-1) have won both of their games since their Week 4 bye.
These two franchises have spilt their previous 12 regular-season meetings, but it’s the one postseason affair that will always be remembered. San Francisco destroyed Denver 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV, a title game rout that still holds the record for largest margin of victory.
San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Denver -6.5
Three Things to Watch
|San Francisco 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ DAL||W 28 - 17||Recap|
|9/14||vs CHI||L 20 - 28||Recap|
|9/21||@ ARI||L 14 - 23||Recap|
|9/28||vs PHI||W 26 - 21||Recap|
|10/5||vs KC||W 22 - 17||Recap|
|10/13||@ STL||W 31 - 17||Recap|
|10/19||@ DEN||L 17 - 42||Recap|
|11/2||vs STL||L 10 - 13||Recap|
1. Manning Makes More History?
After throwing three touchdown passes last week against the Jets, Peyton Manning has 506 in his career. He needs just three more to pass Brett Favre for No. 1 on the all-time list. Even though Manning is well off of his record-setting pace from last season, he’s still tied for second in the NFL in touchdown passes (15) and is third in passer rating (110.5). He’s thrown just three interceptions while completing 67 percent of his passes. Manning is averaging three touchdowns per game, so he just needs an “average” game against San Francisco to get the record. Will it come tonight? While Manning is focused more on winning than breaking records, it should be pointed out that the 49ers are just one of two teams (Browns the other) Manning has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns against in his career. In four regular-season games, Manning is 2-2 versus San Francisco with six picks compared to five touchdowns and an 81.8 passer rating. Based on his past history, it will take a career-best showing against this 49ers defense for Manning to stake his claim to yet another record.
|Denver 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs IND||W 31 - 24||Recap|
|9/14||vs KC||W 24 - 17||Recap|
|9/21||@ SEA||L 20 - 26||Recap|
|10/5||vs ARI||W 41 - 20||Recap|
|10/12||@ NYJ||W 31 - 17||Recap|
|10/19||vs SF||W 42 - 17||Recap|
|10/23||vs SD||W 35 - 21||Recap|
|11/2||@ NE||L 21 - 43||Recap|
2. San Francisco’s Spilt Personality on Offense
A signature of John Harbaugh’s teams has been an offense built around running the football. In each of his three seasons as the 49ers head coach, the team has ranked eighth or better in the NFL in rushing offense. San Francisco currently ranks seventh in that category, averaging 135.7 yards rushing per game and trails only Dallas in rushing attempts (192). The formula for the 49ers thus far has been pretty simple – run the ball 30 or more times and win. In four wins, Harbaugh’s team has averaged nearly 36 carries and 151.3 yards rushing per game. In the two losses those numbers drop to 25 and 104.5. While that seems pretty straightforward, San Francisco flipped the script on Monday night when the 49ers had more passing attempts (36) than rushing attempts (30) in the win in St. Louis. To be fair, Colin Kaepernick was more than effective throwing against the Rams’ defense, finishing with a season-high 343 yards and three touchdowns, while the team gained just 89 yards on the ground. The issue is that prior to Monday night, the 49ers had lost the two previous games in which they threw the ball more than they ran it. So as tempting as it may be to let Kaepernick throw it all over the field, the more effective strategy for San Francisco has been to establish the run and use it to wear down the opposition. However, this may be easier said than done tonight. For one, Denver’s offense is certainly capable of striking early and often, putting teams in a position where they are forced to throw to try and keep up. Secondly, the Broncos’ remade defense has been very effective against the run, checking in at No. 4 in the league at 76.8 yards per game. In fact, they are just ahead of the 49ers (79.8) in that category. So while good things tend to happen when San Francisco runs the ball, the question becomes will tonight’s opponent and/or game flow allow the 49ers to do just that?
3. Broncos Finding Balance?
Everyone knows about Peyton Manning and Denver’s potent passing attack. And even though the Broncos’ offense is not piling up the yards or points at the record-setting pace it did last season, it’s still been highly effective. Denver is averaging 389 yards (9th in the NFL) and 29.4 points per game (3rd), while wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both rank in the top 10 in the league in yards receiving and tight end Julius Thomas leads the NFL in touchdowns (nine). But everyone also remembers how Seattle manhandled the AFC champions in Super Bowl XLVIII, which made it painfully clear to Broncos general manager John Elway that he needed to beef up his defense and develop a more balanced offense. Elway spent a lot of money in free agency on the defensive side of the ball, while pinning his hopes of a more effective ground game on second-year running back Montee Ball. Even though Ball suffered a groin strain two weeks ago and wasn’t that productive when he was on the field, Elway’s master plan is starting to bear some fruit. Denver’s defense currently ranks fourth in the league in yards allowed, which is better than the offense. The Broncos are giving up less than 21 points per game and also have been very solid against the run (76.8 ypg, 4th). And while the rushing offense is well back in the pack (91.2 ypg, 26th), Denver has averaged 115 yards per game since its Week 4 bye and has done this against two pretty decent defenses (Arizona and the New York Jets). Ronnie Hillman rushed for 100 last week in his first start as Ball’s replacement and the more success he and the other backs have moving forward will only make things easier on Manning and the passing game. But again, if the defense continues to play as well as it has, the offense won’t need to carry this team by itself. In other words, the Broncos are sticking to the blueprint that Elway laid out in the offseason.
After an early rough patch, San Francisco has turned things around in large part by doing what it does best – run the football. Denver meanwhile has started to change its image, as the defense has kept up with the offense in terms of statistical success. The 49ers’ defense is still pretty good in its own right, but its depth has been tested constantly due to injuries and Aldon Smith’s nine-game suspension. Even with Peyton Manning on the verge of breaking Brett Favre’s record for career touchdown passes, the key to this game is the other side of the ball. In that respect, I think Jim Harbaugh’s defense is just too banged up and will eventually wear down in the thin air at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Manning may not break Favre’s record tonight, but he’ll still get the chance to celebrate after the game.
Prediction: Denver 27, San Francisco 20
The New York Giants hope to bounce back from one of their worst performances in years, while the Dallas Cowboys hope to continue their unexpected ascent to the top of the NFC mountain, as these two classic NFC East rivals collide this afternoon on FOX. Dallas won both of last season's meetings, with Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray rushing for 86 yards in both games — a respectable number, but one that would disappoint Murray this season as he chases history.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Dallas -6.5
Three Things to Watch
|New York (NFC) 2014 Schedule|
|9/8||@ DET||L 14 - 35||Recap|
|9/14||vs ARI||L 14 - 25||Recap|
|9/21||vs HOU||W 30 - 17||Recap|
|9/25||@ WAS||W 45 - 14||Recap|
|10/5||vs ATL||W 30 - 20||Recap|
|10/12||@ PHI||L 0 - 27||Recap|
|10/19||@ DAL||L 21 - 31||Recap|
|11/3||vs IND||L 24 - 40||Recap|
1. Romo's Roll
Don't look now, but Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has played like a Hall of Famer during this five-game winning streak. Since a three-interception performance in the opening loss to San Francisco, Romo has thrown 10 touchdowns to only two interceptions in the ensuing five games, without a passer rating below 93.5. Making Romo's life easier? A running game that relieves much of the pressure that has so often forced Romo into critical mistakes. Dallas is averaging a league-leading 33.3 rushes per game, and Romo's 191 pass attempts are the fewest of his starting career through Dallas' first six games. "We've had good running games in the past before -- probably not as many in a row — but my job is to obviously get us into good plays and get the ball to DeMarco and run the ball to the right looks," Romo said. "On third down, the running game doesn't help you as much — you've got to go out and execute it." So far, that execution has been nearly flawless.
|Dallas 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs SF||L 17 - 28||Recap|
|9/14||@ TEN||W 26 - 10||Recap|
|9/21||@ STL||W 34 - 31||Recap|
|9/28||vs NO||W 38 - 17||Recap|
|10/5||vs HOU||W 20 - 17||Recap|
|10/12||@ SEA||W 30 - 23||Recap|
|10/19||vs NYG||W 31 - 21||Recap|
|10/27||vs WAS||L 17 - 20||Recap|
2. Good Eli or Bad Eli?
Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a popular whipping boy, but it's still a bit unfair to lay all of New York's struggles at his feet. In the Giants' 27–0 loss to the Eagles, which snapped a three-game winning streak for the G-men, Manning was pummeled, getting sacked eight times and hit seven more. But it is fair to say that Manning's production is an accurate bellwether for the Giants. In the three-game winning streak that preceded the Philly loss, Manning threw eight touchdowns and only one interception, completing 70.1 percent of his passes. In the Giants' three losses this season, Manning has thrown three touchdowns and four interceptions, completing 60 percent of his throws. Now, the Giants hope that good Eli makes an appearance, even without star wideout Victor Cruz, lost for the season to a torn patellar tendon. "You just hate it happened to Victor because he loves playing this game," Manning said. "He has a great attitude, and so to see him get injured and be out for the season, I feel for him."
3. When will the mileage catch up with DeMarco Murray?
Dallas running back DeMarco Murray has been remarkable this season, leading the NFL in rushing by a wide margin with 785 yards and joining Jim Brown as the only two players to rush for 100 yards or more in each of a team's first six games of the season. But production like that has to come at a price. Murray has the fourth-most rushing attempts in NFL history through six games, having toted the rock 159 times, an average of 26.5 carries per game. Over a full 16-game season, that extrapolates to 424 carries, which would set an NFL record. It's a sad fact of life as an NFL running back that there are only so many carries a body can take. Will the Cowboys start to taper Murray's carries a bit to save him for the stretch run? Look for Joseph Randle (fresh off a shoplifting scandal) to get a few more relief carries, starting this week — especially when (and if) Murray cracks the 100-yard barrier for the seventh time. Randle can't outrun the mall cops, but he is averaging 7.1 yards per carry this season.
Combine the Cowboys' positive mojo, their eye-opening win at NFC kingpin Seattle and their two wins over the Giants last season, and this has the makings of another Dallas statement win. Anything's possible in a division rivalry like this one, but the Cowboys appear poised to keep the magic going.
Prediction: Dallas 31, New York 17
Behind a solid defense and a timely offense, Utah has emerged as a contender in the Pac-12 South. The Utes took a step forward in the division race with an overtime victory over Oregon State on Thursday night, improving to 2-1 in conference play with a huge showdown against USC ahead next Saturday.
Leading the way in Utah’s victory was running back Devontae Booker, who earns Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors for Week 8. The junior college transfer gained 229 of Utah’s 315 yards in the win, averaging 7.2 yards per rush on 32 attempts.
Booker scored three times on Thursday night, including twice in overtime. The junior’s 19-yard run in the second overtime gave the Utes a 29-23 victory and put coach Kyle Whittingham’s team just one win away from earning bowl eligibility.
But with Booker’s tough running and a defense holding opponents to just 21.7 points per game, Utah has its sights set on something bigger – a Pac-12 South title – than just bowl eligibility over the next few weeks.
Defensive Player of the Week: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
Missouri’s defense was simply dominant on Saturday night in the Swamp. The Tigers held the Gators to 13 points and 283 total yards, while forcing six turnovers in a 42-13 rout. Ray was the headliner for Missouri’s defense, recording six tackles (1.5 for a loss), one forced fumble and two sacks. Ray’s forced fumble resulted in a touchdown return by Markus Golden, which gave the Tigers a commanding 35-0 lead in the second half. In seven games this year, Ray has recorded 10 sacks and forced two fumbles.
Coordinator of the Week: Tony Gibson, West Virginia
Gibson and West Virginia’s defense had the right answers to stop Baylor’s high-powered offense in Saturday’s 41-27 upset victory. The Mountaineers held the Bears to just 318 yards (lowest mark for a Baylor offense since 2010), and Gibson’s defense limited Baylor to 4.0 yards per play (lowest since 2009). West Virginia also recorded four sacks and pressured quarterback Bryce Petty throughout the second half. The Mountaineers allowed only one touchdown in the final two quarters, while five of Baylor’s seven second-half drives traveled just 32 yards or less. The performance on defense was a big reason why West Virginia knocked off the Bears on Saturday.
Freshman of the Week: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Chubb is the Athlon Sports’ freshman of the week for the second week in a row. With Todd Gurley sidelined once again, Chubb handled the bulk of the workload in Georgia’s backfield and rushed for 202 yards and two scores on 30 attempts in the 45-32 win over Arkansas. In two games as the Bulldogs’ No. 1 back, Chubb has 345 yards and three scores.
Week 8 of college football’s 2014 season is officially in the books. And as expected with every Saturday, there was plenty of excitement, big plays and last-minute wins among the FBS action.
In case you missed any action, we tried to capture the big moments of Saturday in one article. The viral wrap-up features key plays, interesting quotes/comments in tweets, uniform unveilings and any major injuries.
College Football's Most Viral Moments from Week 8
At 250 pounds, Pitt running back James Conner isn't easy to bring down. Here's his 15-yard TD run. GIF: http://t.co/3XFBjvoq4P— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) October 17, 2014
Our quarterback's heads are falling off. http://t.co/8liNX6nVgl— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) October 18, 2014
Haven't seen a crowd this sparse since West Lafayette. pic.twitter.com/zIAimsdZG9— Nate Mink (@MinkNate) October 18, 2014
The USC “crowd” pic.twitter.com/WG5TKePwtK— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) October 18, 2014
This one-handed TD grab by Ohio State's Evan Spencer might be today's best. GIF: http://t.co/wphThatbB1— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) October 18, 2014
Not what you want to see, Mauldin leaving the field pic.twitter.com/cEDgx451pT— Spencer Kietzman (@SKietz680) October 18, 2014
Just to confirm, A-Rod is in Tuscaloosa. pic.twitter.com/H3f9352nCB— Matt Scalici (@MattScalici) October 18, 2014
Alright, alright, alright. pic.twitter.com/BLplw1rE5N— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) October 18, 2014
Textbook: https://t.co/CUTUSY5XPG— LostLettermen.com (@LostLettermen) October 19, 2014
Smokey looks sad in this pic: pic.twitter.com/GcGDTOnYoo— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) October 19, 2014
Kenyan Drake had Oatmeal Creme Pies in the basket of his scooter during the game today. Can we be friends? pic.twitter.com/jMwvryea25— Anna Montgomery (@annaelizabeth12) October 19, 2014
With 5:57 left in the third after two Mizzou defensive scores fans started chanting, "Fire Muschamp.'' #Gators— David Jones (@DaveJonesUFbeat) October 19, 2014
Not a face you want to see your quarterback make... https://t.co/fbeyLMokAu— LostLettermen.com (@LostLettermen) October 19, 2014
BREAKING: Police in riot gear in Morgantown, WV. People rioting after WVU win vs Baylor. Pic from twitter pic.twitter.com/jrK8MQvlCD— Dave Bondy (@WPXI_DaveBondy) October 19, 2014
Fresno St and Boise St playing for a large milk jug pic.twitter.com/Y3X6YiKBVb— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) October 18, 2014
Arizona’s offense should be close to full strength for Week 7 while Carolina is ready to welcome back one of its top running backs. Here are some QB and RB injury updates from around the NFL to help with your fantasy preparations.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals at Oakland Raiders
Probable – Foot
Yes, Ellington practiced on only a limited basis this week. Yes, he’s listed as Probable for this afternoon’s game. Yes, he should be in your starting lineup, as he’s averaging 20 touches per game and is facing a Raiders defense that’s 10th in the league in fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs. And yes, he’s a top-10 RB again this week. Any more questions?
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers (Mon.)
Probable – Groin
Foster was limited on Thursday, but he practiced fully both Friday and Saturday. The Texans are trying to limit the wear and tear on their workhorse by resting him earlier in the week. He’s listed as Probable and will be aiming for his fifth 100-yard game of the season on Monday night against the Steelers. Outside of a six-yard effort in Week 4, Foster has averaged 126.8 yards rushing in his four other games.
Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams vs. Seattle Seahawks
Probable – Ankle
Just like last week, Stacy sat out the first day of practice to rest, but was a full go the rest of the week. He’s listed as Probable and should see the bulk of the work against the Seahawks. Stacy had just 17 yards rushing in the Monday night loss to San Francisco, but still wound up with the most carries (eight) on the team. The production just hasn’t been there this season for Stacy, who has seen his stock drop from RB1 to flex territory.
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals at Oakland Raiders
Probable – Shoulder
Despite being Questionable last week, Palmer not only got the start, he also led his Cardinals to a win over Washington. The bruised nerve in Palmer’s shoulder remains an issue and continues to limit him in practice, but apparently it’s being managed enough considering he is listed as Probable. While the risk of relying on Palmer is obvious, he’s also produced an average of 23.9 fantasy points in the two games he has played. Today’s matchup against Oakland shouldn’t scare anyone away if they had thoughts of using Palmer in a 2-QB league or were looking for another option at the position.
Darrin Reaves, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, RBs, Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers
Questionable – Calf; Probable – Knee; Out – Ankle
The big takeaway from the Panthers’ injury report is that Stewart should be back after missing the past two games. He was able to practice fully and is listed as Probable. With Williams already ruled Out and Reaves Questionable, Stewart figures to be the Panthers’ top ball carrier today. However, don’t forget that Cam Newton actually paced the team in rushing (17 att.,107 yds., TD) last week while Reaves and Fozzy Whittaker combined for 42 yards on 17 carries (2.5 ypc). Stewart is somewhat appealing, but he doesn’t have the strongest track record and it appears that Ron Rivera doesn’t have any concerns about Newton’s surgically repaired ankle. I’m fine if you want to take a flyer on Stewart today, just be sure to temper your expectations.
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders vs. Arizona Cardinals
Probable – Ankle/Knee
Carr was Questionable last week yet still played and posted the best numbers (282-4-1) of his brief NFL career. He got in two full days of practice and is listed as Probable. Carr’s potential is intriguing, and the Cardinals are sixth in fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs. There’s plenty of risk if you decide to take a flyer on Carr this week, but the payoff could be worth it, especially in 2-QB leagues.
Already Ruled Out:
Rashad Jennings, New York Giants – Jennings will miss a second straight game due to a sprained MCL, but the hope is he will be able to return following the Giants’ Week 8 bye. Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis will handle the workload in Jennings’ absence. Williams remains the more appealing fantasy option, even though he struggled in his first career start (17 att., 59 yds.) last week in Philadelphia. Williams should not be viewed as anything more than a RB2/flex option until he produces on the field.
Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos – Ball will miss his second straight game due to a groin strain. Ronnie Hillman was a workhorse for the Broncos last week, rushing 24 times for 100 yards against the Jets. Hillman is no worse than a RB2, as he also is capable of making plays as a receiver. Juwan Thompson (Probable, Knee) picked up 38 yards on eight carries last week and should remain somewhat active today. Thompson should be monitored, but he’s probably a target in deeper leagues only for the time being.
Donald Brown and Ryan Mathews, RBs, San Diego Chargers – Neither Brown (concussion) nor Mathews (MCL sprain) practiced this week, meaning Branden Oliver will get at least one more start. Oliver has been fantasy gold these past two weeks, rushing for a total of 215 yards and two touchdowns with eight catches for 91 yards and another score. The Chiefs’ defense figures to be a tough test for the undrafted rookie, but Oliver is still a top-10 option because of the likelihood he will see 20-30 touches.
Detroit’s and New Orleans’ backfields should be close to full strength for their Week 7 matchup while injuries have caused some shuffling in Denver and Jacksonville. Here some key backfield injuries to track before today’s games kickoff.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints at Detroit Lions
Probable – Hand
The Saints are coming off of their bye and should be back to full strength in their backfield. Ingram broke his hand back in Week 2 and has been sidelined since. He returned to practice this week and is listed as Probable. Before the injury, Ingram was off to a great start, averaging six yards per carry with three touchdowns. Ingram’s return means fewer carries for Khiry Robinson, while Pierre Thomas (right, who also is Probable even though an illness limited his practice time) will remain the primary receiving threat out of the backfield. Ingram should be a viable RB2 moving forward, although today’s matchup against Detroit won’t be easy. Thomas’ use has been inconsistent, but he did score two touchdowns in Week 5 against Tampa Bay. RB2 potential also is there for Thomas, but right now he’s no more than a flex option.
Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints
Probable – Ankle
Bush was present for parts of Wednesday and Thursday’s practices and was a full go on Friday. He is listed as Probable and it sounds like he will be back after missing last week’s game. And Bush also has some extra motivation based on today’s matchup against the team that drafted him. Joique Bell could end up with more carries, but Bush should be involved enough as a receiver, especially with Calvin Johnson not expected to play, to provide RB2/flex production.
Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns at Jacksonville Jaguars
Probable – Finger
Tate picked up two rushing touchdowns last week against Pittsburgh, as the Browns continued their strong play. He’s still listed on the injury report with a finger issue, but he was a full practice participant all week and is Probable to face the Jaguars. The Browns are making a point of running the ball, so Tate should get plenty of touches against a generous Jacksonville defense. Tate checks in as a top-10 option this week and it’s possible that backup Isaiah Crowell winds up with enough carries to merit flex consideration.
Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans at Washington Redskins
Questionable – Hand
Locker did return to practice this week, but he was limited every day. Locker is listed as Questionable, but even if he plays it looks like he won’t be 100 percent healthy. It’s also not like Locker was lighting it up when he was playing. Whether it’s Locker or Charlie Whitehurst getting the start today, there’s enough uncertainty present to push the two Titan QBs way down the board in terms of starting options for this week.
Already Ruled Out:
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Miami Dolphins – After missing three games with a dislocated elbow, Moreno returned last week only to suffer a season-ending knee injury (torn ACL). Moreno’s loss means the workload belongs solely to Lamar Miller, who is now locked in as a RB2.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redksins – RG3 took the next step in his recovery from the dislocated ankle he suffered in Week 2 by returning to practice this week. He was limited and has already been ruled out, but it may not be too long before Jay Gruden has a decision to make at QB. Kirk Cousins has had his chances, but turnovers continue to haunt him. If Cousins can’t put together a strong game against the Titans’ defense, he may make Gruden’s decision that much easier. Despite Cousins’ struggles, this matchup with Tennessee is appealing enough to keep him on the QB-2 radar.
Toby Gerhart, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars – Gerhart will miss a second straight game because of a foot injury that won’t even let him practice. Storm Johnson led the team with 10 carries last week, but he totaled just 21 yards while Denard Robinson and Jordan Todman combined for 23 yards on eight carries. With all of the Jaguars’ struggles on offense, this backfield should be monitored and not utilized until further notice.
Shonn Greene, RB, Tennessee Titans – Greene went from Doubtful on Friday to Out on Saturday, so it will be the Bishop Sankey show for a second straight game. Sankey is worthy of RB2 consideration although it should be pointed out that Washington has done a pretty good against the run. The Redskins are 24th in terms of fantasy points allowed to RBs.
Cincinnati and the New York Giants will both be without their top wide receivers in Week 7. Find out who will fill in and whether or not they should be on your fantasy radar this week.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers
Probable – Ankle
A nagging ankle issue limited Johnson early on this week, but he got in a full session on Saturday. He is listed as Probable, so Johnson is safe to start against the Steelers. Johnson does have three touchdown catches, which is good considering he has topped six targets in a game just once this season. Still, the potential for a breakout game is every present, which is why Johnson is pretty much locked in as a top-15 WR.
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts
Doubtful – Toe
The Bengals’ injury situation at wide receiver only got worse this week. First, Marvin Jones was put on injured reserve due to an ankle injury, ending his season. Green meanwhile did not practice. After initially expressing some optimism on Green’s possible availability, Marvin Lewis changed his tune and said there’s “no time table” on when the All-Pro will be able to return from this toe injury. Green may be listed as Doubtful, but there’s no doubt in my mind – Green will not play. Mohamed Sanu filled in admirably (10-120-1) last week and should be another solid play today.
Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals at Oakland Raiders
Probable – Groin
Floyd was limited in practice on Wednesday due to a groin injury, but was able to participate fully Thursday and Friday. He’s listed as Probable and even though his numbers haven’t been that impressive (16-306-1), the potential is still there, especially as long as Carson Palmer is under center. Floyd is a pretty safe WR2 with upside and he’s ranked among Athlon’s top 20 WRs this week.
Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins at Chicago Bears
Probable – Foot
A foot issue continues to limit Wallace’s practice participation, but he doesn’t appear to be in any danger of not playing. He’s listed as Probable and needs to be your lineup as a WR2 based on him being the Dolphins’ most consistent and productive (25 rec., 4 TDs) target thus far.
Already Ruled Out:
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants – Cruz tore the patellar tendon in his right knee in the Sunday night loss in Philadelphia. He underwent surgery earlier this week and is out for the rest of the season. In Cruz’ absence, Rueben Randle takes over as the Giants’ No. 1 wide receiver with rookie Odell Beckham Jr. sliding into the other starting spot. Randle is now in WR2 territory while Beckham is more of a WR3/flex option for now, but there’s plenty of upside too, especially in Beckham’s case.
Detroit figures to be without its No. 1 wide receiver in Week 7, while Carolina is hoping its top wideout will be cleared to play. Here are some key WR injuries to read up on before setting your starting lineup.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers
Questionable – Concussion
The Panthers’ first-round pick suffered a concussion last week against the Bengals. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday while going through the league-mandated concussion protocols, but was a full go on Friday. He’s listed as Questionable, and did make the trip with the team to Green Bay, which is a good sign he's at least on track to play. Benjamin has been as good as advertised in his first season, currently just outside of the top 10 in fantasy points at his position. All indications are that Benjamin will be cleared to play, and if he's out there, he needs to be in your lineup.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints
Questionable - Ankle
While the mere fact that Johnson has gone from Doubtful last week to Questionable is a good sign, I wouldn’t get my hopes up too much. He missed all of practice for the second straight week, and Jim Caldwell went as far to say “miracles have happened” when asked about Johnson’s chances to play. Johnson himself said he doesn’t intend to return until he’s confident he’s 100 percent, so it seems highly unlikely Megatron will be out there today. Reggie Bush’s expected return also takes off some of the pressure in rushing Johnson back. Once again, Golden Tate should serve as Matthew Stafford’s primary target, putting him in WR2 territory.
Harry Douglas, Devin Hester and Julio Jones, WRs, Atlanta Falcons at Baltimore Ravens
Out – Foot; Probable – Hamstring; Probable – Ankle
Douglas’ foot injury continues to be an issue, keeping Douglas out of yet another game. Hester and Jones are both expected to play, as each practiced in full on Friday and are listed as Probable. Jones, as always is a must-start WR1 with Hester measuring up as a slightly risky WR3/flex option.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills
Probable – Hip
Patterson was a full go at practice this week and is listed as Probable, so his health seems to be the least of his issues. Instead, it’s the four catches for 23 measly yards that he’s provided over the last two games combined. Patterson has gone from a disappointment to an outright bust and fantasy owners aren’t the only ones who are frustrated with him. Mike Zimmer, Patterson’s head coach, said his talented, but maddeningly inconsistent wide receiver needs to do a better job of getting open. Patterson posted a strong second half last season and at this point that’s probably the best his owners can hope for. Until he does something meaningful on the field, I wouldn’t have Patterson in my starting lineup.
At tight end, the biggest injury-related question for Week 7 is will Jimmy Graham play or not? But Graham’s not the only prominent TE that appears on the injury report that you need to know about.
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos
Probable – Back
The good news is that after not playing in Week 5, Davis was back in there on Monday night against St. Louis. The better news is that even with a short turnaround, Davis was a full practice participant every day and is listed as Probable. Now Davis’ owners hope he gets back to the player he was in Week 1 when he caught two touchdown passes. Since then, Davis has seven catches for 77 yards in three games. That said, unless you have a better option, you’re starting Davis and hope this is the week he breaks out again.
Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints at Detroit Lions
Questionable – Shoulder
Graham injured his shoulder two weeks ago against Tampa Bay and even though the Saints were on bye last week, reports were that the Saints’ All-Pro tight end would miss up to three more weeks because of the injury. Graham may prove a lot of people wrong, as he did enough in practice on Thursday and Friday to merit a Questionable tag, leaving open the possibility of him playing today. Graham will be a game-time decision, so the 1 p.m. ET kickoff should help in that respect. Even if he does play, Graham figures to be limited, but considering who we are talking about, it’s certainly worth waiting until the last minute to see if he can give it a go or not. Besides, you’re not going to really rely on Benjamin Watson are you?
Related: 5 Tight Ends to Replace Jimmy Graham
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers
Probable – Ankle
After being listed as Questionable a week ago because of his ankle, Olsen got in full practices on both Thursday and Friday. He’s listed as Probable, so the No. 2 scoring TE in fantasy is perfectly safe to employ today.
Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns at Jacksonville Jaguars
Probable – Ankle/Shoulder
Cameron caught just three passes last week, but they went for 102 yards and a touchdown (51-yard catch), as he showed why he was one of the first TEs off of the board in fantasy drafts. Cameron’s still listed with ankle and shoulder injuries, but he was a full practice participant this week and is Probable once again. At this point, there seems to be no reason to worry about whether to plug Cameron into your lineup or not.
Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints
Doubtful - Hamstring
Ebron, the Lions’ first-round pick, suffered a hamstring injury in practice on Wednesday, which sidelined him for the rest of the week. He’s listed as Doubtful, but there’s really no reason to expect him to play today. Ebron wasn’t even among the top 30 fantasy scorers at his position prior to the injury, so it shouldn’t be that hard to find a replacement if you were using him. Brandon Pettigrew will see more playing time in Ebron’s absence, but there are probably better options available.
Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins at Chicago Bears
Probable – Knee
Clay is coming off his best game yet in terms of yardage, but it was only 35 yards, underlining the fantasy disappointment he’s been this season. His knee still seems to be bothering him since he went from full practice participation on Wednesday and Thursday to being limited on Friday. That said, he is listed as Probable, so the expectation is that he will play. The real question is though should Clay even be in your lineup as a TE2?
Already Ruled Out:
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings – Rudolph underwent surgery for a sports hernia on Sept. 23. The projected time frame for his recovery is a minimum of six weeks, which would put a potential return around mid-November. If you have room, I would keep Rudolph; just understand this will be a prolonged absence.
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars – Lewis is on the injured reserve/designated for return list because of a high ankle sprain. Unless you have an IR spot and/or are smitten with Lewis, there’s no reason to hold onto him or even stash him away.
California has significantly improved in Sonny Dykes’ second year, and the offense behind quarterback Jared Goff is one of the best in the Pac-12.
Goff and Chris Harper have developed a nice rapport over the last two years, and Harper kept California’s offense on track against UCLA by catching this ridiculous one-handed touchdown pass in the first half.
Check out Harper’s touchdown catch from Week 8:
West Virginia shook up the Big 12 standings by defeating Baylor 41-27 on Saturday. The Mountaineers knocked off the Bears thanks to the prolific combination of quarterback Clint Trickett and receiver Kevin White.
Trickett threw for 322 yards, while White caught eight passes for 132 yards and two scores.
White has topped 100 receiving yards in every game this year and is clearly one of the nation’s top receivers.
Check out the senior’s awesome one-handed grab to give West Virginia a 34-27 lead in the fourth quarter:
DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for Week 8, and the experts at CollegeFootballGeek.com have hunkered down and scoured all of the data to find the best Value Plays on the docket.
These Value Plays are comprised of players poised to out-produce their DraftKings salaries this week. These are the “diamonds in the rough” that your DFS competitors may overlook. They are the difference-makers you need in your lineup to win one of the big DFS contests!
For your convenience, we have broken the picks down by DraftKings contest game set. Best of luck this week!
(For more detailed Daily Fantasy analysis, picks, player news, player rankings, and stat breakdowns, check out CollegeFootballGeek.com. Learn how to SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE!)
VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY (EARLY ONLY) GAME SET
1) QB Garrett Krstich, SMU vs. Cincinnati ($5100)
Krstich threw for 339 yards and two scores in his last game against ECU and now he gets to face an awful Cincinnati defense that ranks 118th against the pass. He appears to be an excellent punt option this week.
1) RB Mark Weisman, Iowa vs. Maryland ($4100)
Weisman has rumbled for two touchdowns in each of the last three games and gets to face a Maryland defense that ranks 104th in the country. Look for this Hawkeye to find pay dirt again this week.
2) RB Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State vs. TCU ($4200)
Roland has scored six rushing touchdowns over the past four games and still carries a very appealing price tag. Look for Roland to make another trip across the goal line and provide huge value this week.
3) RB Nick Chubb, Georgia vs. Arkansas ($4600)
All Chubb did last week was carry the ball 38 times and accumulate 174 total yards against Missouri. Expect Chubb to see plenty of carries this week and post a solid stat line.
1) WR Darius Joseph, SMU vs. Cincinnati ($4200)
Joseph is coming off his best game of the season and will be facing a Bearcats pass defense that ranks 118th in the country. He is a PPR machine and hold excellent value on Draft Kings.
2) WR Kolby Listenbee, TCU vs. Oklahoma State ($4400)
Listenbee has gone over 100 yards receiving in the last two games and could make it three in a row against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys pass defense is ranked 101st in the country.
1) Maxx Williams, Minnesota vs. Purdue ($3200)
Williams is healthy and has been posting consistent numbers at the TE position. Look for him to exploit a porous Purdue secondary.
VALUE PLAYS: SATURDAY (LATE ONLY) GAME SET
1) QB Tyrone Swoopes, Texas vs. Iowa State ($5300)
Swoopes exploded for 384 total yards and three total scores against Oklahoma last week. He could have another big performance against Iowa State and looks to be a nice punt option.
1) RB Royce Freeman, Oregon vs. Washington ($4600)
Freeman has seized control of the Oregon backfield and is priced well this week. He could easily hit 80 yards and a score and hit value this week.
2) RB Zach Laskey, Georgia Tech vs. North Carolina ($4700)
Laskey could find plenty of open holes to run through this week against North Carolina. The Tar Heels defense is atrocious and could struggle to stop the powerful Yellow Jackets running game.
1) WR John Harris, Texas vs. Iowa State ($5200)
Harris has scored four touchdowns over his past three games and may find his way into the end zone against Iowa State. There does not appear to be a ton of value at WR in the late slate, so use Harris freely.
1) TE Pharaoh Brown, Oregon vs. Washington ($3200)
Brown had 84 yards and a score last week against UCLA and looks to have a decent upside this week. He can be very inconsistent, so be careful.
By Todd DeVries & Kevin Mount, CollegeFootballGeek.com
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Quarterback Nick Montana and the Tulane coaching staff had a massive fail in the first half of Saturday’s game against UCF.
The Green Wave were attempting to get a field goal before the end of the quarter, and with time winding down, Montana spiked the ball to give his team a chance for points. However, there's just one problem: Montana spiked the ball on fourth down, ending any hope Tulane had of getting points.
Remember FAU doing this last year against Miami?