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Nebraska guard Spencer Long is expected to miss the remainder of the season due to a knee injury suffered in Saturday’s win over Purdue.
Long was one of the best linemen in the Big Ten and was a preseason All-American selection by Athlon Sports.
The senior had 33 career starts prior to Saturday’s injury.
Junior Mike Moudy is listed as Long’s backup at right guard, but with a bye week, Nebraska may evaluate the entire line and shuffle this group before playing at Minnesota on Oct. 26.
Spencer Long will have surgery Thursday. "It looks like he'll be out for the year," Bo Pelini said on Big Ten teleconference. #Huskers— Steven M. Sipple (@HuskerExtraSip) October 15, 2013
Oregon and Nebraska haven't met since 1986. That will soon change. Oregon will travel to Lincoln for a game on Sept. 16, 2016, with Nebraska visiting Eugene for the first time on Sept. 9, 2017.
Huskers to visit Ducks in 2016 and host them in 2017. Great move.— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) October 14, 2013
The athletic departments will exchange $1 million payouts to the visiting team in each year of this series. This is a big win for playoff-era scheduling, as the agreement should pave the way for other big programs to seek top competition.
On Sunday, Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday halfback Todd Gurley is "real close" to returning from a sprained left ankle.
Richt: Todd Gurley 'real close' to returning http://t.co/DmCnQhtLrb— CollegeFootballTalk (@CFTalk) October 14, 2013
This appears to be the case as Gurley, who sat out Monday's practice session, made his long-awaited return to the practice field on Tuesday.
It's official — Todd Gurley is back at practice for the Bulldogs, http://t.co/GCCdVSPLFo— Red and Black (@redandblack) October 15, 2013
Gurley has missed two straight games with a high ankle sprain as the Bulldogs dropped eight spots in the top 25 in his absence. The sophomore hasn't played since the September 28 game against LSU, in which the injury occured. Gurley's return is even more important with the season-ending injury to backup running back Keith Marshall.
American League Championship Series – Game 3
Boston at Detroit
3:07 ET Fox
John Lackey (10-13, 3.52) vs. Justin Verlander (13-12, 3.46)
Just when the Tigers thought they had a firm grip on this series as they were about to take a commanding 2-0 lead back home to Detroit for three games, a typical Red Sox game at Fenway Park broke out. Typical for the 2000s, anyway. Detroit’s pitchers were toying with Boston batters and had a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth inning. But a double here, a walk there, a pitching change here, a pitching change there, a ground ball single here and a Big Papi grand slam there suddenly turned a dreary old ballpark into a vibrant baseball palace again. So onto Detroit we go with the series knotted at one game apiece.
Keys for Detroit
Forget about Sunday night. Justin Verlander must continue the dominance that the staff has shown over the Red Sox and the success that the righthander has enjoyed this postseason. As good as Verlander has been, the Tigers must be able to close out games when their starting pitching dominates. The Detroit bullpen has been the elephant in the room all season, and has once again become a problem for manager Jim Leyland. Last season, he turned to Phil Coke to close out games. He may resort to the lefty again. Of course, getting the series to Detroit is key in that Boston magic is less likely to happen outside of Fenway.
Keys for Boston
The Red Sox must get their offense going. They have yet to record a hit in the first through fifth innings. Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury and No. 2 hitter Shane Victorino must jump-start this offense. Dustin Pedroia, hitting in front of David Ortiz, is a key to forcing the Tigers to pitch to Boston’s big slugger. If the Tigers are allowed to pitch around Ortiz, it could be another long night for the Boston bats. Starter John Lackey must be up to the task, expecting little run support. Manager John Farrell will be quick to go to the bullpen, but the Red Sox can’t afford to tax the pen too much and leave nothing for Games 4 and 5.
Tigers to Watch
As Leyland searches for answers in the bullpen, Joaquin Benoit may not have many opportunities left. Lefthanders Drew Smyly and Coke will likely get chances in high-leverage situations. Lackey may be able to keep Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter at bay, but expect the righthander to have trouble negotiating the Miguel Cabrera-Prince Fielder-Victor Martinez-Jhonny Peralta gauntlet.
Red Sox to Watch
Big Papi will be the center of attention for the Sox. He is the one hitter the Tigers can’t allow to beat them. Obviously, a key will be getting outs in front him. The big designated hitter has had success against Verlander and he truly loves to hit in the postseason.
Red Sox batters have struck out 32 times in 59 at-bats in the first two games… Ortiz with four RBIs is the only player for either team with more than one…The Tigers were 7-10 in Verlander’s 17 home starts this season; 0-8 when scoring four runs or less…Ortiz has 10 hits, including six for extra bases, in his 27 at-bats off of Verlander… Pedroia is 1-for-18 with a walk against Verlander…The former AL MVP has held Ellsbury to a .269 OBP…The Red Sox were 14-15 in Lackey’s 29 starts this season, but only 5-11 in 16 starts away from Fenway…The projected starting nine for the Tigers carries a .298 aggregate batting average against Lackey.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Oct. 15.
• It's Tuesday, the start of that dreadful two-day no-man's land with no football. Here's a cheerleader gallery from college football's Week 7 to make the wait a little more bearable.
• The highlights of last night's baseball game: a Yasiel Puig triple that started with a home run pose; and a fan dressed as a bear dancing on the visiting dugout. For their part, the Cardinals were not amused by Puig's antics, nor those of his teammates.
• From Yasiel and the Dancing Bear to Torii and the Cop: Here's the inside story of the sports photo of the year.
• The Tigers could win the World Series while playing terrible defense. I've always contended that defense in baseball is overrated, so I guess I'm rooting for the Tigers to prove me right.
• Yesterday was big for bear news. You probably saw the video of the bear playing tetherball. It gets even better when you learn the bear's backstory.
• The Week 6 edition of Sorry Your Team Lost. I like this line: "The Titans are like that stupid Imagine Dragons song. No one I know actually likes them and neither of them are entertaining, but for some reason you can't get away from them or stop hearing about them."
• A bird attack temporarily derailed the signing of Manu Ginobili's new contract. Bird must've been a Hawks fan, amirite?
• I'm glad somebody noticed this: Young Rob Ryan was a dead ringer for Kenny Powers.
• Another day, another Les Miles video. In this one, our hero wishes us a Happy Columbus Day, as only Les Miles can.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Injuries are taking a toll on the contenders in the SEC East, and Florida suffered another setback this week, as running back Matt Jones was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
Jones missed time in the preseason due to an illness and had 339 yards and two scores on 79 attempts through five games.
However, Jones was Florida’s go-to back, with Mack Brown contributing as a capable No. 2 option.
With Jones sidelined, Brown will return to the No. 1 role, with true freshman Kelvin Taylor expected to see his playing time increase.
Injuries are really starting to have an impact on teams’ depth charts, as rookies and other unproven players are getting their chances to shine. Can any of these help your fantasy team in Week 7 or beyond?
The players listed in Athlon’s weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding onto all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may want to keep an eye on. So without further ado, here are some players worth grabbing.
Teams on bye in Week 7: New Orleans, Oakland
Week 6 Recap: Nick Foles threw for 296 yards and three scores and added one on the ground to lead the Eagles to a win in Tampa Bay. Foles’ performance certainly gave head coach Chip Kelly something to think about with Michael Vick recovering from a hamstring injury and NFC East rival Dallas on tap this Sunday. Brandon Weeden (right) returned to the starting role for Cleveland and finished with 292 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the Browns’ home loss to Detroit. Jacksonville’s Chad Henne posted 303 yards passing against Denver, but tossed two picks and had no touchdowns in the loss. Blaine Gabbert will miss a second straight game because of his hamstring injury, so Henne will start this Sunday against San Diego.
Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Is it time to invest in Glennon? The rookie turned in a respectable effort against Philadelphia, throwing for 273 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. The Eagles were a good matchup for him, but that may be the case again this week. The Buccaneers go to Atlanta, and while the Falcons are coming off of their bye, they have lost a lot of key personnel to injuries and their defense has certainly had its issues. In their last game, the Falcons allowed another rookie, Geno Smith, to complete 16 of 20 passes for three scores and no picks. Glennon has less experience than Smith, but what he does have that Smith doesn’t is legitimate weapons in wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams as well as running back Doug Martin to help him. This just may be the week to give Glennon a try, especially in 2-QB leagues.
Week 6 Recap: Andre Ellington led the Cardinals with 12 touches and produced 92 yards and a touchdown with them in the loss to the 49ers. If this keeps up, the rookie could develop into a reliable RB2/RB3 option. Fellow first-year back Zac Stacy may have locked up the starting gig for the Rams the rest of the season after posting 79 yards rushing on 18 carries (4.4 ypc) against a pretty solid Texans defense. This week’s matchup with Carolina will be another good measuring stick for the fifth-round pick. Donald Brown had 34 total yards on five touches on Monday night against the Chargers.
Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants
Jacobs has been mentioned in this space before, but any running back that rushes for 100 yards in a game merits a little more coverage. Jacobs gashed the Bears on Thursday night for 106 yards and two touchdowns, as the Giants nearly got into the win column. What’s more important for Jacobs’ fantasy value moving forward is that David Wilson’s season could be over because of a neck injury, leaving the veteran as the team’s primary ball-carrier. Andre Brown could have something to say about this, as he’s eligible to return from his broken leg in Week 10. With the Giants on bye in Week 9 that means Jacobs should get the majority of the carries against Minnesota next Monday night and Philadelphia in Week 8, not the worst matchups for fantasy RBs.
Chris Ogbonnaya, Cleveland Browns
Wide receiver Travis Benjamin led the Browns with 45 yards rushing on Sunday, picking up all of those in one carry. What was more interesting, however, was the number of touches Ogbonnaya got. Willis McGahee doubled him in carries (10 to 5), but Ogbonnaya saw a team-high 12 targets, converting seven of them for 61 yards and a touchdown. Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron are still the top weapons in the Browns’ passing game, but Brandon Weeden appears to throwing to his running backs quite a bit too. This is more for deeper leagues, but if Ogbonnaya continues to see double-digit targets and get his chances to run the ball (24 yards on 5 att. Sunday), he could be a flex option, especially with 16 teams lined up to go on bye from Weeks 8-10.
Joseph Randle, Dallas Cowboys
DeMarco Murray had 29 yards rushing and a touchdown along with 21 yards receiving against Washington before exiting with a knee injury in the second quarter. He was scheduled to undergo a MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the damage, but the early diagnosis was a sprained LCL and it's highly likely Murray will miss at least one game. Murray has had trouble staying healthy throughout his career, which is why the Cowboys selected Randle in the fifth round. Randle wasn’t even on the field until Week 4 and after not getting any touches in his first two games, he carried the ball 11 times for 17 yards and a score and caught two passes in the win over the Redskins. If Murray is out, the Cowboys will need to increase Randle’s role in the offense, especially with Lance Dunbar dealing with a hamstring injury.
Week 6 Recap: Justin Blackmon (right) led all wide receivers this week with 14 catches and 190 yards against Denver. Denarius Moore caught his fourth touchdown of the season and is now a top-20 fantasy wide receiver. Keenan Allen posted his second straight 100-yard game with nine catches for 107 and a touchdown in San Diego's win over Indianapolis Monday night. Terrance Williams went back to being the Cowboys’ No. 3 wideout with the return of Miles Austin (hamstring), but the rookie still made the most of his chances, as he caught a 15-yard touchdown pass in the win over the Redskins.
Jarrett Boykin, Green Bay Packers
The Packers beat the Ravens on Sunday, but also lost wide receivers Randall Cobb (knee) and James Jones (shin) to injuries. Their early exits forced Boykin into action and Aaron Rodgers didn’t shy away from throwing to the second-year wideout. Boykin got six targets from Rodgers and while he only hauled in one of them, it did cover 43 yards. On Monday head coach Mike McCarthy said that there's a chance Jones will be able to play on Sunday, but Cobb could be out up to eight weeks due to a fractured fibula. One way or the other, Boykin should see more playing time, and the opportunity is there for Boykin to put up decent numbers.
Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons were on bye in Week 6, yet it still feels like the team lost. A disheartening home defeat to the Jets in their last game left them at 1-4, but that wasn’t even the worst of the news to come. Julio Jones is done for the season after sustaining a foot injury against the Jets that will require surgery and Roddy White may have added a hamstring injury to the high-ankle sprain that has severely hampered him this season. With these injuries, the Falcons need Douglas to step up, as he will move into the starting lineup. He could end up being the team’s No. 1 wide receiver if White misses any games. Douglas is third on the team in targets with 27, which should only go up from here.
Kris Durham, Detroit Lions
Nate Burleson will miss a few more weeks because of a broken arm and Calvin Johnson has been hobbled by a knee injury the past two weeks. The Lions were hoping that Ryan Broyles would emerge, but instead it’s been Durham. Last week with Johnson sidelined, Durham led the way with eight targets. On Sunday, with Johnson back but clearly not at 100 percent, Durham got 13 targets and led the team with eight receptions for 83 yards. Broyles just isn’t getting the job done right now (5 rec., 61 yds. in four games), which means Durham is the Lions’ No. 2 option behind Megatron, which is not a bad place to be if you are a wide receiver.
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald played through a left hamstring injury on Sunday and led the Cardinals with six catches for 117 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, the All-Pro reportedly injured his other hamstring, which could put his availability for Thursday’s game against Seattle in doubt. Floyd is the team’s No. 2 option, but he has been somewhat forgotten in fantasy circles because of his mediocre production. Even though he has recorded at least three catches in every game, Floyd has 345 yards receiving and finally caught his first touchdown pass on Sunday. If Fitzgerald can’t go this week, Floyd moves up to No. 1 and could see double-digit targets, although the matchup with the Seahawks isn’t that appealing. Still, Fitzgerald’s health is something to monitor in the weeks ahead and Floyd is probably someone worth adding to your watch list.
Week 6 Recap: Sean McGrath didn’t catch any of his three targets against Oakland, as Alex Smith completed just 14 of 31 passes for 128 yards.
Joseph Fauria, Detroit Lions
It doesn’t get any more efficient, not to mention productive, than this. Fauria caught three passes against Cleveland on Sunday and all three were for touchdowns. Overall, the UCLA product and undrafted free agent has five touchdowns and seven total catches on the season. It’s hard to trust someone who has not caught a single pass in half of his games, but it’s pretty clear that Matthew Stafford likes throwing to the rookie in the red zone.
Timothy Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Who is Wright? He’s an undrafted rookie from Rutgers (where head coach Greg Schiano came from) and, more importantly, he’s been one of Mike Glennon’s (see above) favorite targets. In Glennon’s two starts, Wright has 12 catches for 132 yards receiving. It’s early, but 12 catches in a two-week span from a tight end is something worth keeping an eye on.
Week 6 Recap: Indianapolis held San Diego to just one touchdown and 19 points total on Monday night, but had no turnovers and sacked Philip Rivers twice. Next up for the Colts is a visit from Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
St. Louis Rams
Can the Rams be trusted again? The defense was at its nastiest on Sunday in a dominating 38-13 victory in Houston. The Rams had five sacks and forced four turnovers, turning their two interceptions into scores. The rushing defense is still a bit of an issue (153 yards vs. Texans), but Rams have 48 fantasy points in their last two games and are back among the top-10 fantasy DSTs on the season.
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.
Certainly, no one expected the Jacksonville Jaguars to be any good in 2013, so their 0-6 record isn't very startling. But four combined wins and 18 combined losses for Houston, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and the Giants? No one saw that coming. This is what makes the NFL so unpredictable... and popular.
With that in mind, here are the most important, interesting, historic and bizarre statistics from Week 6 of the NFL:
1934: Last time two teams in the same division started 6-0
Since the expansion of the NFL playoff structure in 1990, 27 of the 29 teams — or 93.1-percent — to start 6-0 in the NFL have made the playoffs. While the Saints went down in historic fashion to the Patriots, the Broncos and Chiefs stayed unbeaten with wins over Jacksonville and Oakland. It marks just the second time since the divisional structure was implemented in 1933 that two teams in the same division started 6-0. In 1934, the Lions and Bears both started 10-0.
1:13: Time left when the Patriots got the ball
Drew Brees led an impressive 10-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that ended with 3:29 left on the clock to take a one-point lead over the Patriots. After two wasted possessions by the Pats, the Saints kicked a field goal to take a four-point lead. Tom Brady finally got the ball back with 1:13 left on the clock on his own 30-yard line. Brady worked deftly down the field on his own 8-play, 70-yard drive that culminated in a brilliant game-winning 17-yard touchdown pass to rookie Kenbrell Thompkins with just five ticks left on the clock. The scoring strike was Brady’s 342nd of his career, tying him with Fran Tarkenton for fourth all-time in NFL history.
24-0: Lions outscored the Browns in the second half
The Lions had seven possessions in the first half against the Browns on Sunday. Five of them ended in punts — three of which were three-and-out — one was a Matthew Stafford kneel down and one was a 58-yard touchdown drive. The Browns had six possessions and scored three times to take a commanding 17-7 halftime lead. Stafford and the Lions made some serious halftime adjustments and went on to outscore the Browns 24-0 in the second half. It was Stafford’s 13th game with at least three touchdown passes, setting a Lions team record (Bobby Layne, 12). Rookie tight end Joseph Fauria was the first player since 2005 to finish a game with three receptions and three touchdown catches.
98: Longest INT returned for a TD by a LB in NFL history
The Houston Texans are amidst one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. And St. Louis rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree put a stamp on the Rams' 38-13 win by returning a T.J. Yates pass 98 yards for a touchdown. It ties Tampa Bay’s Shelton Quarles for the longest INT return for a TD by a linebacker in NFL history (Oct. 7, 2001). It was the longest such return ever by a rookie linebacker, and Houston has now thrown a pick-six in five consecutive games. The Texans are 2-4 this year and are 3-7 in their last 10 regular season games.
24.1: Chiefs' NFL-leading third-down defense
Kansas City is unbeaten because of its defense. The Chiefs lead the NFL with a +12 turnover margin, rank fifth in the league at 306.3 yards allowed per game and are allowing an NFL-best 10.8 points per game. More importantly, no team in the NFL gets off of the field better than KC. It has allowed just 20-of-83 third-down conversions on defense through six games, leading the league with a sterling 24.1 percent rate.
0: Steelers total takeaways entering Week 6
Pittsburgh was winless and takeaway-less entering a huge Week 6 contest with the Jets. The Steelers were the only team in the league that had yet to force a turnover. Ryan Clark and Lawrence Timmons each intercepted New York rookie quarterback Geno Smith in the Steelers' first win of the season. Longtime defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is now 16-2 against rookie quarterbacks after forcing Smith into an ugly quarterback rating of 48.8.
143.3: Cam Newton's career-high passer rating
Cam Newton played arguably his best game as an NFL passer in the convincing 35-10 road win over the Vikings. He completed 20-of-26 passes (76.9 percent) for 242 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a career-high 143.4 QB rating. It was only the fifth time he has thrown for three scores in a game and fifth time he had completed better than 70 percent of is passes in his 37-game career. Newton also added 30 yards rushing and a TD on the ground.
3.1: Yards per carry for Chris Johnson
There are only five players in the NFL who have gotten more rushing attempts than Tennessee’s Chris Johnson (106). However, the Titans back has no room to run and therefore has been incredibly ineffective. He is averaging a career-worst 3.1 yards per carry and hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown all season. He rushed 12 times for 33 yards (2.8 ypc) in the loss against Seattle this weekend. Through six games in 2013, Johnson has posted the fifth-worst (17 yards against Kansas City), eighth-worst (21 yards against NY Jets) and 15th-worst (33 yards against Seattle) rushing totals of his 85-game career.
23: Turnovers by the Giants
Houston and Arizona have both turned the ball over 15 times in 2013 and are tied for second-to-last in giveaways this season. They’ve lost a combined seven games, but pale in comparison to what the Giants have done in the giveaway category. After three more interceptions from Eli Manning, the Giants dropped to 0-6 after the loss to Chicago on Thursday night. The 23 turnovers lead the league by a wide margin and Manning’s 15 interceptions are as many as he threw in all of 2012. The G-Men are on pace for 61 turnovers this season, which would be two shy of the current NFL record of 63 held by the 1978 San Francisco 49ers.
The ACC has been a little off the national radar for most of this season, but at least for one weekend (Oct. 19), the spotlight will be on this conference. Clemson-Florida State is a huge top-five showdown and should be one of the best games of the second half of the 2013 season.
The winner of Saturday’s showdown in Death Valley should win the Atlantic Division, while Virginia Tech-Miami on Nov. 9 should decide the Coastal. The Hokies have quietly won six in a row after losing to Alabama in the season opener, while the Hurricanes are off to a 5-0 start.
The top four teams in the ACC are clear, but there’s a host of programs vying to working their way into the next tier. Maryland is clearly improved after a 4-8 record last season, while Pittsburgh is 3-2 in its first year in the ACC.
Syracuse, Boston College, Wake Forest and NC State are all 3-3, with Georgia Tech, Duke and North Carolina also in bowl contention. The Yellow Jackets started 3-0 but have lost three straight games.
The ACC has a drop in overall strength after the top four teams, but this league seems to be a little deeper than it has been in recent years.
ACC 2013 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Randy Edsall, Maryland
This award could go to a couple of different coaches, but we’ll give the nod to Edsall at the midpoint of 2013. After winning just six games through his first two years, Maryland is off to a 5-1 start. The Terrapins haven’t faced the nation’s most challenging slate, but Edsall’s team has clearly made progress after a dismal 2-10 campaign in 2011. Injuries have started to take a toll on Maryland’s defense, and quarterback C.J. Brown missed last week’s game against Virginia with a concussion. However, even with a few pieces missing on defense, the Terrapins should make a run at an 8-4 final record. Boston College's Steve Addazio is another name to consider here.
Newcomer of the Year: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
After five games, it’s clear Winston is already one of the best quarterbacks in college football. The redshirt freshman opened his career with an impressive performance at Pittsburgh, completing 25 of 27 throws for 356 yards and four touchdowns. Since then, Winston’s play hasn’t slipped any, as he has only two picks this year and has completed at least 60 percent of his passes in four out of Florida State’s five games. Winston ranks fourth nationally in yards per play (9.9) and second in passing efficiency (213.9).
Offensive Player of the Year: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
It’s a close call between Boyd and Winston for this honor, but let’s give the nod to the senior. Boyd has Clemson positioned for its second ACC title in three years, throwing for 1,783 yards, 15 scores and only two interceptions. The senior is completing 66.5 percent of his throws and averages 9.6 yards per attempt, which ranks ninth nationally. Boyd also has 187 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground. In Clemson’s win over Georgia, Boyd threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns and didn’t throw a pick on 30 attempts. Outside of throwing for 169 yards in a blowout win over South Carolina State, Boyd has topped at least 270 yards in every game this year.
Defensive Player of the Year: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Beasley has grabbed the headlines in the ACC, but let’s not forget about Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Virginia Tech defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins. Through six games, Beasley has 23 tackles (12 for a loss) and nine sacks. The junior also has five pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one defensive touchdown. Beasley’s nine sacks rank first nationally, and his 12 tackles for a loss rank third. And the junior’s play so far this year is a big reason why Clemson ranks fourth in the ACC in total defense (5.1 yards per play).
Midseason Disappointment: North Carolina
The Tar Heels have faced a difficult schedule (South Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech), but this isn’t the same team that finished in a three-way tie atop the Coastal Division. Both sides of the ball have been problematic for coach Larry Fedora. The offense, which was expected to be one of the best in the ACC, is ranked ninth in the conference in total yards per game. Replacing three starters on the offensive line and running back Giovani Bernard has been a challenge, as the Tar Heels rank last in the ACC in rushing offense. The defense has allowed at least 20 points in every game this season, and opponents are averaging 5.6 yards per play against this unit. An easier schedule in the second half will allow North Carolina to make up some ground on the rest of the Coastal. However, the Tar Heels – as some predicted in the preseason – won’t challenge for the division title in 2013.
Midseason Surprise: Boston College
Don’t let the 3-3 record fool you: Boston College is a much-improved team. New coach Steve Addazio has brought back a brand of tough football to Chestnut Hill, and the Eagles have leaned on a veteran core of players, which features running back Andre Williams, receiver Alex Amidon and quarterback Chase Rettig. Boston College’s wins – Army, Villanova and Wake Forest – aren’t particularly overwhelming. However, the Eagles lost to a talented USC team and were defeated by 14 points to Florida State and 10 to Clemson – clearly the top-two teams in the ACC. With winnable games against New Mexico State, North Carolina, NC State, Maryland and Syracuse remaining, Boston College should make a bowl in 2013.
Three Things to Watch in the Second Half
Atlantic and Coastal Division title races
The Atlantic Division could be decided on Saturday in Death Valley, as Clemson hosts Florida State in a battle of two top-five teams. The Coastal Division picture may take a while to clear, at least until Miami and Virginia Tech meet on Nov. 9. Will any of these four teams suffer an upset loss? Or will the top four teams in the ACC at the midpoint finish that way in December? For a conference that has struggled to earn respect at times, the race to win both divisions should be among the top storylines to watch in the national landscape.
The ACC vs. SEC
In terms of the overall ACC title picture, this storyline means nothing. However, the ACC wants national respect and games against the SEC are a perfect opportunity to make a statement. So far, ACC teams are 2-2 against the SEC this year. And four games remain between these two conferences: Florida State-Florida, Wake Forest-Vanderbilt, Clemson-South Carolina and Georgia-Georgia Tech. Can the ACC earn a split in these games? If Florida State beats Florida and Clemson beats South Carolina, it would be a huge boost for the perception of the ACC.
How many bowl teams?
The ACC has eight bowl tie-ins and could have more eligible teams than available spots. Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Virginia Tech and Miami are locks for the postseason, while Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech should be in good shape. But how many other teams will get to six wins? Syracuse, Boston College, Wake Forest and NC State all have three wins, and Duke needs two to return to the postseason. Even though North Carolina is 1-4, don’t count out the Tar Heels reaching six wins. And here’s the other wildcard: Can the ACC get two teams into the BCS?
Bonus: Brandon Mitchell’s return for NC State
The Wolfpack started 3-1 but has lost back-to-back games against Wake Forest and Syracuse. A big problem for NC State has been the offense, which is averaging just 12.3 points a game in conference play. Quarterback Brandon Mitchell suffered a foot injury in the season opener and has not played in the last five games. The senior is the best fit for NC State’s spread offense and would be an upgrade over Pete Thomas. It’s not too late for the Wolfpack to make a run at bowl eligibility, and Mitchell’s return should be a boost for this offense.
Top Five Games in the Second Half
Florida State at Clemson (Oct. 19)
Jameis Winston vs. Tajh Boyd. Two top-five teams. National spotlight. This game has it all. Virginia Tech and Miami are solid teams, but the winner of this game should win the conference title and will stay alive in the national title conversation. Clemson has won the last five against Florida State in Death Valley.
Miami at Florida State (Nov. 2)
Bragging rights in the Sunshine State are always on the line when these two teams face off. This game is crucial for both in recruiting, and for Miami to show the gap with Florida State is closing. The Seminoles have won four out of the last five in this series, including a 33-20 win at Miami last year. This matchup is important for the Hurricanes, but maybe not as key as the next one…
Virginia Tech at Miami (Nov. 9)
If Florida State-Clemson on Oct. 19 is the defacto ACC Atlantic championship game, this game is the defacto Coastal Division title matchup. This contest features one of the league’s best offenses (Miami), against perhaps the best defense in the nation (Virginia Tech). The Hokies have won five out of the last seven in this series, but the Hurricanes won 30-12 last year.
Clemson at South Carolina (Nov. 30)
This space is usually reserved just for conference games, but it’s hard to ignore how important this matchup is for the ACC. If Clemson beats Florida State, the Tigers should be unbeaten going into this game, and a win over South Carolina would be a huge resume boost for the Tigers in the national title picture. The Gamecocks have dominated this series in recent years, winning four in a row, all by 10 points or more.
Florida State at Florida (Nov. 30)
As we mentioned above, this space is normally reserved for conference games, but Florida-Florida State could have national title implications. The winner of the Clemson-Florida State game should be unbeaten heading into Nov. 30, and a victory over SEC rival Florida wouldn’t hurt the Seminoles’ case for a BCS title bid. The Gators have won seven out of the last nine in this series.
ACC 2013 Second-Half Predictions
(Logos are of projected winner for each game)
|Florida State||at Maryland||at UVA||Ga. Tech||Citadel||at So. Carolina||Final Record|
2. Florida State
|at Clemson||NC State||Miami||at Wake||Syracuse||Idaho||at Florida||Final Record|
|at Wake||Clemson||Syracuse||at Va. Tech||BC||at NC State||Final Record|
4. Boston College
|at UNC||Va. Tech||at NMSU||NC State||at Maryland||at Syracuse||Final Record|
5. NC State
|at FSU||UNC||at Duke||at BC||ECU||Maryland||Final Record|
|at Ga. Tech||Wake||at MD||at FSU||Pittsburgh||BC||Final Record|
7. Wake Forest
|MD||at Miami||at Syracuse||FSU||Duke||at Vandy||Final Record|
|at UNC||Wake||at FSU||Va. Tech||at Duke||UVA||at Pitt||Final Record|
2. Virginia Tech
|Duke||at BC||at Miami||MD||at UVA||Final Record|
3. Georgia Tech
|Syracuse||at UVA||Pittsburgh||at Clemson||Alabama A&M||UGA||Final Record|
|ODU||at Navy||at Ga. Tech||ND||UNC||at Syracuse||Miami||Final Record|
5. North Carolina
|Miami||BC||at NC State||UVA||at Pitt||ODU||Duke||Final Record|
|at UVA||at VT||NC State||Miami||at Wake||at UNC||Final Record|
|Duke||Ga. Tech||Clemson||at UNC||at Miami||Va. Tech||Final Record|
Outside of Missouri and Auburn already having surpassed their win totals from a year ago and starting 6-0 and 5-1 — we all expected that, right? — the SEC has played out as expected through the midway point. Johnny Manziel has been Johnny Manziel. Alabama has been Alabama. And Jadeveon Clowney, who had 25 tackles and 6.5 sacks through six games last season, has two sacks and 13 tackles. There are plenty of interesting matchups left in the SEC East to see who will face SEC West favorite Alabama.
Midseason Awards and Second-Half Picks: ACC | Big 12 |Big Ten | Pac-12
SEC 2013 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Who saw this coming? History perhaps. In Pinkel’s 13 years at the helm of Mizzou, the program had not posted back-to-back losing seasons since his first two years. Six wins and no defeats later, that streak looks safe. The Tigers are second in the SEC in scoring (45.7 PPG), sixth in scoring defense (23.0 PPG) and third in total offense (515.7 YPG). They will be without QB James Franklin (shoulder) the remainder of the season, but should be able to make some noise with four of the six remaining games at home.
Newcomer of the Year: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
The USA Today First-Team All-American and Under Armour All-America Game MVP has not disappointed. Hargreaves III is tied for the conference lead in interceptions (3) and passes defended (8). He has helped a Gator defense that is the third in the nation and tops in the SEC in both total defense (235.3 YPG) and passing yards allowed (152), third in the SEC in interceptions (8) and second in the league in points allowed per game (13).
Offensive Player of the Year: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The first-half suspension in the season opener has been the only sophomore slump for Manziel. He is tops in the SEC in passing (305.8 YPG) and total offense (377), second in total offensive touchdowns (19) and passing efficiency (184.1) and 10th in rushing (71.2 YPG). Oh, and he’s helped lead the Aggies to a 5-1 record — accounting for 562 yards and five scores in a 49-42 loss to Alabama — with four straight home games on the horizon before closing out at LSU and Missouri.
Defensive Player of the Year: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
The Athlon Sports’ All-SEC First-Team player is seventh in the conference in tackles per game (8) and quarterbacks a Crimson Tide defense that has limited their last four opponents to 16 points, including a 14-quarter streak without a touchdown. He has helped anchor a defense that — outside of allowing a school-record 628 yards against Texas A&M — has surrendered 208.2 yards and 5.2 points per game on average to the other five opponents.
Midseason Disappointment: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
A preseason Athlon All-SEC First-team receiver, Cooper has just 12 catches for 164 yards and no scores. It is a far cry from the record-setting freshman season of a year ago when he went 59-1,000-11. Cooper had his best game of the season last week (3-64-0 in a blowout of Kentucky), but foot and toe injuries seemed to have derailed his second season with the Crimson Tide.
Midseason Surprise: Missouri
From being picked sixth in the SEC East to being 6-0 at the midpoint of the season, including a road-win at No. 7 Georgia last week, Missouri has already put together a great sophomore SEC campaign. The Tigers are scoring 45.7 points per game, including an average of 46 in their first two SEC games. Four home games with trips to Kentucky and Ole Miss left make for a friendly schedule. Losing QB James Franklin for the remainder of the regular season (shoulder) makes it a lot more difficult.
Three Things to Watch in the Second Half
Missouri without James Franklin
His shoulder injury suffered against Georgia leaves Mizzou without the SEC’s third-most productive offensive player (311.2 YPG), its fourth-leading passer (262.8) and its sixth-most efficient quarterback (156.2) with 1,577 yards on 67.7 percent passing and just three interceptions. With an often-injured Franklin last season, the Tigers won five games. Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, who split reps evenly with Franklin in the spring, will step in. But the trend of the Mizzou offense not turning the ball over and the defense creating turnovers must remain.
SEC East title picture
Well, Missouri defeating Georgia and losing Franklin in the process sure makes it interesting at the top. South Carolina has already lost to Georgia and travels to Missouri Oct. 26. That game and the Nov. 2 Georgia-Florida game will really begin to unfold the story. It will kick off the Gators' three-game gauntlet of games — versus Georgia, at LSU and Missouri. Georgia also still has to travel to Auburn on Nov. 16. Mizzou is the wildcard, sans Franklin, but does play four of its last six at home.
Can Alabama run the table?
With four home games left — three where they will be heavy favorites — and a road trip to Auburn for an Iron Bowl — which they have won five of the last six meetings — there’s no reason to think 11 wins won’t happen. Getting to No. 12 means defeating LSU in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9.
Top Five Games in the Second Half
Florida at Missouri (Oct. 19)
The Tigers already went on the road and put a dent in Georgia’s SEC East plans, and now they return home to try and do the same to Florida. Whether Maty Mauk can lead this high-scoring offense past the high-powered Gator defense is the question.
Florida vs. Georgia (Nov. 2, Jacksonville, FL)
The World’s Largest Cocktail Party will go a long way in deciding the SEC East race. The loser, already having a loss in league play, will likely be out of the race. Both teams will arrive in Jacksonville off of a bye week.
LSU at Alabama (Nov. 9)
Only three of the last nine meetings have been decided by one score, including three overtime games. LSU leads 5-4 during that time. Outside of the Iron Bowl, this should be the only hurdle for Alabama to clear and secure the SEC West title. Already with a loss to Georgia, it’s a must-win for LSU, and then Texas A&M is next.
Florida at South Carolina (Nov. 16)
So, if the Gators survive a trip to Missouri and Jacksonville, and the Gamecocks get out of Fayetteville, Knoxville and Columbia intact, then welcome to the SEC East championship game.
Texas A&M at LSU (Nov. 23)
LSU halted Texas A&M’s run through the schedule — if only briefly — last season in College Station. Johnny Manziel and the Aggies arrived on a five-game winning streak, having averaged 53 points per game during that streak. LSU left with a 24-19 win — the fewest points A&M has scored in the last 12 games.
SEC Second-Half Predictions
(Logos are of projected winner for each game)
1. South Carolina
|at TN||at Mizzou||Miss. State||Florida||Coastal Carolina||Clemson||Final Record|
|at Mizzou||Georgia||Vanderbilt||at SC||Ga. Southern||FSU||Final Record|
|at Vanderbilt||Florida||App. State||at Auburn||Kentucky||at Ga. Tech||Final Record|
|Florida||South Carolina||Tennessee||at UK||at Ole Miss||TAMU||Final Record|
|South Carolina||at Alabama||at Mizzou||Auburn||Vanderbilt||at UK||Final Record|
|Georgia||at TAMU||at Florida||Kentucky||at TN||Wake Forest||Final Record|
|at Miss. State||Alabama State||Missouri||at Vanderbilt||at UGA||Tennessee||Final Record|
|Arkansas||TN||LSU||at Miss. State||Chattanooga||at Auburn||Final Record|
|at Ole Miss||Furman||at Alabama||TAMU||Arkansas||Final Record|
3. Texas A&M
|Auburn||Vandy||UTEP||Miss. State||at LSU||at Mizzou||Final Record|
|at TAMU||FAU||at Arkansas||at TN||Georgia||Alabama||Final Record|
5. Ole Miss
|LSU||Idaho||Arkansas||Troy||Mizzou||at Miss. State||Final Record|
|at Alabama||Auburn||at Ole Miss||Miss. State||at LSU||Final Record|
7. Mississippi State
|Kentucky||at SC||at TAMU||Alabama||Arkansas||Ole Miss||Final Record|
At the midpoint of the Pac-12 season, it has been Oregon and whichever team wants to try and lineup for second place. No team has scored more, allowed less and is better in turnover margin. That said, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion is the nation’s leading passer (418.5 YPG), teammates Brandin Cooks (157.3 YPG) and Steven Nelson (5) lead the nation in receiving and interceptions, Washington’s Bishop Sankey is the nation’s best rusher (149.8 YPG), Arizona State’s Marion Grice leads the nation in scoring (90), Colorado’s Chidera Uzo-Diribe is tops in the nation in forced fumbles (4), and Utah walk-on Andy Phillips has the nation’s most field goals — a perfect 11-for-11.
Midseason Awards and Second-Half Predictions: ACC | Big 12 |Big Ten | SEC
Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Kyle Whittingham, Utah
After a five-win season and no bowl for Utah for the first time in nine years, Whittingham felt a little pressure going into 2013. Clearly, Whittingham has Utah back on track, guiding the Utes to a 4-2 mark with wins over No. 5 Stanford — the highest-ranked team ever defeated in Utah’s home stadium — and in-state rival BYU to go along with an OT loss to now-5-1 Oregon State and a seven-point loss to then-No. 11 UCLA. Utah has played five of its first six at home, and will close with four of its final six on the road against teams currently a combined 8-10 in league play. The eight wins come from Arizona State, Oregon and Washington State — all teams Utah will face away from Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Newcomer of the Year: Addison Gillam, LB, Colorado
Gillam drew rave reviews throughout the preseason, and the true freshman has backed up that play through the first half of 2013. He leads the Pac-12 in tackles per game (10.6), is fifth in tackles for a loss per game (1.3) and is tied for 14th in sacks (2). Gillam, who did not start playing football until his junior year in high school, was only offered one FBS scholarship — by then-San Jose State and now-Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre — and he is well on pace to set the school record for tackles by a freshman (85).
Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Turnover-free ball leads to good things, and Mariota is capitalizing on all of his touches. He’s carried 41 times for 426 yards and thrown 165 times for 1,724 yards. He has accounted for 25 touchdowns on those 206 touches, and averages a score every 8.24 touches. The Pac-12’s most efficient passer (184.1), is second in the league in TD passes (17) and total offense (358.3 YPG), sixth in passing yards per game (287.3), eighth in rushing (71 YPG) and 10th in scoring (8 PPG).
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Barr has been everywhere on the field for the Bruins and a defense ranked second in the Pac-12 in scoring (18.2 PPG) and fourth in yards allowed (344.8 YPG). The senior is tops in the Pac-12 in tackles for a loss with 10 for 60 yards and fumbles recovered (2), and is second in sacks (4) and fumbles forced (3).
Midseason Disappointment: USC
Projected by Athlon to finish outside the top 25, the Trojans are having no trouble with that. Problem is: they were projected to finish 26th, and have the players to win the Pac-12 South. It comes as no surprise, though as Lane Kiffin was the No. 1 coach on the hot seat in the preseason. And five games into the 2013 campaign, Kiffin was fired. Let go with a 3-2 record, the Trojans were 0-2 in league play and were thumped 62-41 at Arizona State. Interim coach Ed Orgeron seems to have ignited this team, but it may be too late to get back into the Pac-12 South title picture.
Midseason Surprise: Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
Remember when there was that preseason question of whether it would be Mannion or Cody Vaz to start for the Beavers? Um, neither do we. After preseason uncertainty at quarterback in Corvallis, six games into the 2013 season and Mannion leads the nation in passing touchdowns (25), yards (2,511), points responsible for (154) and is 11th in passing efficiency (166). The junior has just three interceptions while leading the nation in attempts (289) and is second in completions (194).
Three Things to Watch in the Second Half
USC under interim coach Ed Orgeron
Orgeron’s first game in place of a fired Lane Kiffin started with the Trojans’ best scoring output of the season and their first Pac-12 win (38-31 against Arizona). USC still has road games at Notre Dame and Oregon State and home games against a resurgent Utah, and top-15 teams Stanford and UCLA. The offense has posted 79 points in the last two games, but a normally stellar defense has given up 93. There’s a lot to fix in L.A., and a schedule that will not allow for much error.
Pac-12 South title race
It is potentially a three-horse race with plenty of obstacles in the way for UCLA, Arizona State and Utah. UCLA already has a win over Utah, but still faces Arizona State on Nov. 23. The Bruins’ two toughest remaining games are not even against the South, but are games that will set the tone for the remainder of the regular season. They travel to Stanford and Oregon the next two weeks before closing with three of five at home against five teams that are a combined 4-10 in Pac-12 play so far. The Sun Devils’ trip to Pasadena will be the last of their three road games over the next six weeks, which also includes trips to Washington State and Utah in back-to-back games. The path is likely the bumpiest for Utah, which plays four of its last six on the road. The Utes' must-win home game to close the season is Arizona State on Nov. 9. So Nov. 9 and 23 will be the weeks to watch to see who claims the South.
Can Oregon finish unbeaten?
Why not? The Ducks play four of their last six at home, and travel to Stanford on 12 days rest. No Pac-12 team is scoring more points on offense (56.8), allowing less points on defense (13.8) and has a better turnover margin (plus-11) than Oregon. The six teams left on the schedule have a combined turnover margin of plus-10, and only Arizona and UCLA are giving up less than 20 points per game on defense.
Top Five Games in the Second Half
UCLA at Stanford (Oct. 19)
Utah put a scare into UCLA two weeks ago, and then upset Stanford last week. Now UCLA and Stanford meet in Palo Alto for the second straight year — both trying to keep their Pac-12 division title hopes alive. Last season’s Pac-12 championship saw Stanford score the final 10 points to post a 27-24 win over the Bruins.
UCLA at Oregon (Oct. 26)
Oregon will arrive at this game off of a home date vs. Washington State; UCLA will be playing its second straight road game after traveling to take on a Stanford team seething from an upset loss at Utah. It will be the biggest defensive test the Ducks have faced when they take on a Bruins team currently surrendering 18.2 PPG — second to Oregon’s 13.8.
Oregon at Stanford (Nov. 7)
Oregon starts its mini-gauntlet a week after UCLA’s. Following the home game against the Bruins, the Ducks travel to face a Stanford team trying to stay in the hunt for the Pac-12 North title. Both teams will be on 12 days rest as this is a Thursday game, and should make for another exciting contest after Stanford’s 17-14 OT win in Eugene a season ago.
Arizona State at UCLA (Nov. 23)
This will likely be the Pac-12 South title game after UCLA and Arizona State have tough road tests before meeting in Pasadena. Currently holding a one-game lead over the Sun Devils, if the Bruins can arrive at this one healthy, and perhaps having collected one road upset en route to this meeting, the South will be theirs for the taking.
UCLA at USC (Nov. 30)
If UCLA were to make it through games at Stanford and Oregon it is likely the Pac-12 South title will have been clinched when the Bruins arrive in L.A. Since chances of that happening are slim, the Trojans would love no more than to play spoiler against their rival long after their season was already spoiled.
Pac-12 Second-Half Predictions
(Logos are of projected winner for each game)
|Wazzu||UCLA||at Stanford||Utah||at Arizona||Oregon State||Final Record|
|UCLA||at Ore. State||Oregon||at USC||California||ND||Final Record|
|at Ariz. State||California||Colorado||at UCLA||at Ore. State||Wazzu||Final Record|
4. Oregon State
|at California||Stanford||USC||at Ariz. State||Washington||at Oregon||Final Record|
5. Washington State
|at Oregon||Arizona State||at Arizona||Utah||at Washington||Final Record|
|Ore. State||at Washington||Arizona||USC||at Colorado||at Stanford||Final Record|
|at Stanford||at Oregon||Colorado||at Arizona||UW||Ariz. State||at USC||Final Record|
2. Arizona State
|at Wash. State||at Utah||Ore. State||at UCLA||Arizona||Final Record|
|at ND||Utah||at Ore. State||at California||Stanford||at Colorado||UCLA||Final Record|
|Utah||at Colorado||at California||UCLA||Wazzu||Oregon||at Ariz. State||Final Record|
|at Arizona||at USC||Ariz. State||at Oregon||at Wazzu||Colorado||Final Record|
|C. Southern||Arizona||at UCLA||at UW||California||USC||at Utah||Final Record|
College football’s coach carousel didn’t spin into motion as some may have expected in Week 7.
Texas was a heavy underdog to Oklahoma in the annual Red River Rivalry, but the Longhorns stunned the Sooners. Coach Mack Brown is still on the hot seat, and the victory against Oklahoma probably doesn’t change anything in the overall picture for Texas. However, the Longhorns aren’t finished in the Big 12 title landscape, and the win over the Sooners has Brown’s team in position to push Baylor for the top spot.
Eastern Michigan is arguably the nation’s most difficult job. However, the Eagles have backtracked since going 6-6 in 2011, winning just three games in their last 18 contests. English faces long odds to return for 2014.
Other coaches moving up the hot seat watch include Kansas’ Charlie Weis and Virginia’s Mike London.
Each week, we will take a look at the hot seat/pressure on a program for all 125 coaches. Some new coaches will rank high due to poor performances but aren't in any danger of losing their job.
And another important note when reading our coach on the hot seat rankings: Outside of the top 10-15 coaches, it’s all about the pressure on a program. While some coaches – like Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz – aren’t in any danger of being fired. However, both coaches need to continue to show the program is headed in the right direction.
Ranking All 125 CFB Coaches on Hot Seat/Pressure on Program to Win in 2013
|1||Ron English||1-5||EMU is 3-15 in last 18 games.|
|2||Charlie Weis||2-3||KU likely to go winless in Big 12 play.|
|3||Mack Brown||4-2||Win over OU doesn't change much.|
|4||Mike London||2-4||Has vote of confidence…|
|5||Norm Chow||0-6||UH lost by 10 points or less in last 3 games.|
|6||Ron Turner||1-5||Lost to UAB by three on Saturday.|
|7||Bo Pelini||5-1||Huskers in control of Legends Division?|
|8||Charley Molnar||1-5||Minutemen break into win column.|
|9||Dan Enos||3-4||Solid road victory at Ohio for the Chips.|
|10||Matt Rhule||0-6||Army may be only chance at a win this year.|
|11||P.J. Fleck||0-7||WMU outscored 80-20 in last two games.|
|13||Dana Holgorsen||3-3||Bye week came at good time for WVU.|
|14||Bobby Hauck||4-2||Hauck has Rebels moving in right direction.|
|15||Doc Holliday||4-2||Herd the frontrunner in C-USA East?|
|18||Todd Monken||0-5||No guaranteed win on schedule for USM.|
|19||Dan Mullen||3-3||Tough job, but fanbase getting restless.|
|20||Kirk Ferentz||4-2||Hawkeyes can still make run at bowl.|
|21||Rich Ellerson||3-4||Already surpassed win total from 2012.|
|22||Jeff Quinn||4-2||Bulls have won four in a row.|
|25||Sean Kugler||1-5||Miners on road in five of last six games.|
|27||Rick Stockstill||3-4||Blue Raiders have lost three in a row.|
|28||Terry Bowden||1-6||Zips gave NIU all it could handle.|
|30||Randy Edsall||5-1||Terps one win away from bowl eligibility.|
|33||Rocky Long||3-3||Aztecs back on track.|
|34||Tony Levine||5-0||Soft schedule, but Cougars 5-0.|
|38||Troy Calhoun||1-6||AFA off to worst start since 1993.|
|41||Larry Fedora||1-4||Can UNC get back on track?|
|46||Dan McCarney||3-3||Mean Green should be in mix for winning record.|
|52||Paul Johnson||3-3||Yellow Jackets have lost three in a row.|
|55||Scott Shafer||3-3||Syracuse coming off first ACC win.|
|70||Gary Pinkel||6-0||Mizzou firmly in SEC East title discussion.|
|73||Curtis Johnson||5-2||Green Wave one step closer to bowl.|
|79||Rod Carey||6-0||Huskies back in BCS bowl contention.|
|81||Kyle Whittingham||4-3||Win over Stanford is Utah's biggest in the Pac-12.|
|85||Mark Helfrich||6-0||Ducks on path to play for national title.|
|90||Frank Beamer||6-1||Hokies quietly riding six-game win streka.|
|95||Steve Addazio||3-3||BC clearly improved under Addazio.|
|101||James Franklin||3-3||Will the Commodores go bowling?|
|120||Art Briles||5-0||Baylor should be the favorite in the Big 12.|
|NR||Ed Orgeron||1-0||Trojans showing signs of life under Orgeron.|
|NR||T.J. Weist||0-1||Lost debut to USF.|
|NR||Mike Bath||0-1||Lost to UMass in first game.|
Related College Football Content
Stats to Know From Week 7
ACC Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
The talk all summer long about the Big Ten was Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State. At the midway point, it’s already obvious that the Buckeyes are the best team in the league and are the only true national contender in the Big Ten. And despite two losses, it’s also clear that Gary Andersen was the right guy for the job in Madison.
What else have we learned, however? Embattled coaches across the league are still very much dealing with pressure situations to get to the postseason and need to win critical games in the second half to ensure future employment. Meanwhile, and more importantly, the Legends Division is completely wide open. Four teams have a legitimate chance to face Ohio State in the championship game — and none of them have played each other yet.
2013 Big Ten Midseason Awards and Second-Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Almost by default, Meyer has to be the pick here. Bill O’Brien has a few nice wins, Gary Andersen has done an excellent job in his first season, Bo Pelini is winning without Taylor Martinez, and Mark Dantonio appears to have rejuvenated his offense. But Meyer’s team is clearly the best in the league and is the only unbeaten squad left in the Big Ten. Let’s face it, until Meyer losses a game at Ohio State, he is the Coach of the Year. He’s 18-0 thus far.
Offensive Player of the Year: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
With Braxton Miller and Taylor Martinez dealing with injuries, Gordon appears to be the clear-cut frontrunner for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He is leading the Big Ten in rushing and is third nationally at 145.0 yards per game. He is tied for the Big Ten lead with eight rushing touchdowns and is fourth nationally among running backs with an absurd 9.7 yards per carry average. Wisconsin might be the second-best team in the league and will continue to ride what might be the most talented running back to play in Madison.
Defensive Player of the Year: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier (47 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 2 FF) will battle with Borland for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors but no one has meant more to his team than the Badgers' linebacker. Borland is third in the league with 9.3 tackles per game, has 3.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and even completed a pass on a fake punt for 23 yards. Borland, who is tied for the NCAA’s all-time lead in fumbles forced, is the reason the Badgers defense is leading the league in points allowed (13.2 ppg) and is fifth nationally in total defense (267.3 ypg).
Newcomer of the Year: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
The five-star all-everything recruit has quickly lived up to his lofty recruiting status as one of the most-touted signal callers to ever sign with the Big Ten. He has three 300-yard games in his first six career starts and is leading the Big Ten in passing with 278.7 yards per game. He is also asked to do more for his offense than any other quarterback, as he leads the league in completions (132) and attempts (226).
Midseason Disappointment: Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
Gardner is leading the Big Ten in total offense per game (285.8 ypg) and his team is 5-1. But most have to agree that his play has been a big disappointment thus far. He has thrown four more interceptions (10) than anyone else in the league and is leading the Big Ten in fumbles lost (3). Gardner has made big plays but has also made too many mistakes. With huge games looming in the Legends Division as well as Ohio State, he has plenty of time to turn his early season slump around.
Midseason Surprise: Michigan State’s offense
At first it looked like the Spartans would have yet another ugly season on offense. While 374.7 yards per game may not look like much at this point, Michigan State is looking much more like a balanced team than expected - one that could win the Legends Division. The Spartans are averaging over 30 points per game, and quarterback Connor Cook has elevated his play in the Big Ten. The Spartans just posted more yards (474) and points (40) in a win over Indiana than it had in a Big Ten game since 2010 (yards) and 2011 (points). With the No. 1 defense in the nation, all Cook has to do on offense is be respectable and Sparty could find itself in the title game again.
Three Things to Watch in the Second Half
Ohio State’s Quest for 25-0
After a 12-0 perfect season in Urban Meyer’s probated first year, the Buckeyes have yet to lose in 2013. And with two big hurdles already cleared in the form of Wisconsin and Northwestern, there is little left on the Buckeyes schedule. Penn State at home on Oct. 26 and a much anticipated road trip to Ann Arbor in the season finale appear to be the only two potential stumbling blocks. Should Ohio State finish the regular season unbeaten, it would be a Big Ten Championship Game win away from a perfect 25-0 start to Meyer’s Buckeyes career. It might also mean a fourth BCS National Championship game bid in 11 years. USC in 2004-05 was the last team to go unbeaten in back-to-back regular seasons.
Legends Division Round Robin
Ohio State has all but locked up the Leaders Division and one half of the Big Ten Championship Game. But to suggest that the Legends Division is anything by wide open would be foolish. Michigan (1-1), Michigan State (2-0), Nebraska (2-0) and Northwestern (0-2) have yet to play each other and all four will face the other three in the coming weeks. Nebraska might be in the best situation, as both Northwestern and Michigan State come to Lincoln, and the Huskers avoid Wisconsin and Ohio State altogether. Northwestern gets both Michigan and Michigan State at home but has three road games left with Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois and sits two games back already. The Wolverines still have three nasty road trips, as well as home games with the Huskers and Buckeyes. The Spartans also avoid Wisconsin and Ohio State but must visit Nebraska, Northwestern and Illinois. This should be a fun second half.
Indiana (3-3) has been to one bowl game (2007) since 1993. Illinois (3-2) has been to just two bowls since 2007. Iowa (4-2) hasn’t missed the postseason in back-to-back seasons since 1999-00. And Minnesota (4-2) is without its head coach for the indefinite future. All four could make it to a bowl game but all four will have to pull upsets to do so. Kevin Wilson, Tim Beckman and Kirk Ferentz are all sitting on warm coaching seats and all three desperately need to get to the postseason or post a winning record. The Hoosiers might be the best of the trio but will have to win games against the Gophers and Illini at home to have a chance.
Games to Watch
Ohio State at Michigan (Nov. 30)
It’s the best rivalry in college football and more could be on the line in this year’s edition than ever before. A trip to the Big Ten Championship game for Michigan could be hanging in the balance in the season finale. But for Ohio State that will likely already have clinched the Leaders Division, a second straight perfect season and potential trip to the BCS National Championship game will be at stake.
Nebraska at Michigan (Nov. 9)
These two have met just twice in the regular season since the 1960s, and the home team has won both contests. As conference foes, Michigan won two years ago in Ann Arbor in convincing fashion, while the Huskers handled the Wolverines with ease in Lincoln last fall. There is a very real chance Nebraska is 4-0 in Big Ten play when they head North to battle Michigan the second weekend in November.
Michigan at Michigan State (Nov. 2)
An in-state rivalry once dominated by the Maize and Blue has recently swung in the favor of the Spartans. Mark Dantonio won four straight in the matchup before Brady Hoke broke through with a hard-fought 12-10 win last year in Ann Arbor. This is a must-win game for both teams if either wants to keep pace and top Nebraska in the Leaders Division.
Michigan State at Nebraska (Nov. 16)
These two teams combined for 551 yards rushing in a thrilling come-from-behind win for Nebraska in East Lansing last season. Should both teams survive the above tests with Michigan (and Northwestern, in Nebraska’s case) to get to this point, it would likely feature two unbeaten teams in Big Ten play — in which case, the division crown will be at stake.
Northwestern at Nebraska (Nov. 2)
The Wildcats get both Michigan and Michigan State at home in the month of November. But before facing either, the Wildcats will have to visit Nebraska to start the month. A loss would give Northwestern a minimum of three conference losses and no chance at a division crown. This was an epic 29-28 thriller in Evanston last year, and Huskers fans certainly haven’t forgotten about what happened the last time Pat Fitzgerald’s bunch came to Lincoln — the Cats scored 21 second-half points to win.
Big Ten 2013 Second-Half Predictions
(Logos are of projected winner for each game)
1. Ohio State
|Iowa||Penn State||at Purdue||at Illinois||Indiana||at Michigan||Final Record|
|at Illinois||at Iowa||BYU||Indiana||at Minnesota||PSU||Final Record|
3. Penn State
|at Ohio State||Illinois||at Minnesota||Purdue||Nebraska||at Wisconsin||Final Record|
|at Michigan||Minnesota||Illinois||at Wisconsin||at OSU||Purdue||Final Record|
|Wisconsin||Mich. State||at PSU||at Indiana||OSU||at Purdue||NW||Final Record|
|at Mich. State||OSU||Iowa||at Penn State||Illinois||at Indiana||Final Record|
|at Minnesota||NW||at Michigan||Mich. State||at PSU||Iowa||Final Record|
2. Michigan State
|Purdue||at Illinois||Michigan||at Nebraska||at NW||Minnesota||Final Record|
|Indiana||at Mich. State||Nebraska||at NW||at Iowa||OSU||Final Record|
|Minnesota||at Iowa||at Nebraska||Michigan||Mich. State||at Illinois||Final Record|
|at OSU||NW||Wisconsin||at Purdue||Michigan||at Nebraska||Final Record|
|at NW||Nebraska||at Indiana||PSU||Wisconsin||at Mich. State||Final Record|
The Big 12 entered the midpoint for 2013 the same way it ended 2012 — without a top 10 team. The last time a Big 12 team was in the top 10 was Dec. 2 when Kansas State was seventh in the Big 12 poll.
Oklahoma had its chance to move into the top 10, starting last week at No. 12 before a surprising loss to Texas.
In many ways, the Big 12 season is playing out the way Athlon Sports envisioned the race in the preseason — four or five imperfect teams bunched up near the top. Two conference losses may be enough to win a bid to the Fiesta Bowl.
But there’s also the unexpected: Baylor so far has the Big 12’s most complete team. Yes, the offense is on record-breaking pace, but the defense has been among the league’s best. A light schedule with only one road game, though, is enough reason to keep the Baylor national championship bandwagon empty at this point.
Beyond Baylor, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury has delivered on the optimism surrounding his homecoming to Lubbock by leading the Red Raiders to a 6-0 start. And even mighty Texas can be a success story as a 3-0 start in the league looked unattainable in the first three weeks of the season.
Midseason Awards and Second-Half Predictions: ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
2013 Big 12 Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Art Briles, Baylor
The Bears won’t keep up the 70 points per game pace they had earlier this season, but Briles has Baylor in position for its first conference title since 1980. Hard to believe that Baylor has just become more productive after losing Robert Griffin III and then the school’s single-season passing leader in the last two seasons. Briles is the nation’s top offensive coach, but the Bears have a strong team in the trenches and the 12th-ranked defense in yards per play.
Newcomer of the Year: Texas Tech quarterbacks
Kliff Kingsbury has a knack for coaching freshman quarterbacks. After working with Johnny Manziel last season, Kingsbury needed to rookie quarterbacks to step in for an injured Michael Brewer. As a duo, redshirt freshman walk on Baker Mayfield and true freshman Davis Webb are second in the nation in passing at 2,453 yards.
Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor
With Baylor’s run game bottled up in the Bears’ toughest game of the season, Petty rose to the occasion by leading Baylor to two fourth quarter scoring drives against Kansas State. Petty has attempted only four passes in the red zone this season (4 for 4), but the entire field is Petty’s red zone. He has seven touchdown passes from inside his own 40 yard line.
Defensive Player of the Year: Jason Verrett, TCU
Verrett doesn’t have a ton of eye-popping statistics, but he’s the top lockdown cornerback in the Big 12. In the loss to Texas Tech, Verrett kept Red Raiders receiver Eric Ward from catching a pass. Verrett has 2.5 tackles for a loss and 10 pass break ups this season.
Midseason Disappointment: Oklahoma State’s run game
The Cowboys caught Mississippi State off guard in the opener by replacing starting quarterback Clint Chelf with J.W. Walsh and running out of the diamond formation. Otherwise, the Cowboys have been unimpressive in the run game, averaging 3.2 yards per carry since then. Oklahoma State’s 144.8 rushing yards per game would be its lowest average since 2001.
Midseason Surprise: Greg Robinson
Robinson wasn’t on anyone’s radar back in early September. The former Syracuse coach and Michigan defensive coordinator was breaking down film for Mack Brown. But then BYU rushed for 550 yards against the Longhorns. Texas replaced one-time defensive hotshot Manny Diaz with a retread who had struggled everywhere he’d been since he left Texas the first time. Robinson’s defense though held Oklahoma to 263 yards last week. The Longhorns have held Big 12 opponents to 3.7 yards per carry in the 3-0 start in the league.
Three things to watch in the second half:
Baylor’s championship bid
Baylor is 33 years removed from its last conference championship in the Southwest Conference. With Texas’ defensive woes and Oklahoma’s lackluster offense, this would seem to be the perfect season to take advantage. That, and Baylor’s offense is really, really good. The meat of Baylor’s schedule isn’t until November when the Bears face Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas in succession in November.
Is Texas for real?
The Longhorns sure looked the part of a Big 12 title contender in dismantling Oklahoma on Saturday, but Texas fans have to wonder if the Mr. Hyde from the BYU and Ole Miss games will return down the stretch. Daje Johnson hasn’t lost a step since returning from injury, and Case McCoy is growing into his role as starting quarterback. The next question is if this is indeed Mack Brown’s final question if he’ll leave Texas with a Big 12 championship trophy. The Longhorns have already ended futility against the Sooners and Kansas State.
Oklahoma’s quarterback situation
Blake Bell was dreadful against Texas, completing 12 of 26 passes for 133 yards with two interceptions. Bell lost the starting quarterback job in the preseason, and it’s a legitimate question if he could lose it again. Texas proved that by ganging up on the run game Bell couldn’t win with the passing game.
Top five games in the second half
Oct. 26 Texas Tech at Oklahoma
The Red Raiders have built their undefeated start against opponents that have gone a combined 6-11, including the bottom two teams in the Big 12 (Iowa State and Kansas). Even against a wounded OU team, Texas Tech could prove its legitimacy in the Big 12 race in Norman.
Nov. 7 Oklahoma at Baylor
The shine on this Thursday night game has dulled a bit after Oklahoma lost to Texas. The Sooners may need to win this game to get back into the Big 12 race.
Nov. 23 Baylor at Oklahoma State
In Baylor’s first road trip, the Bears played a tight game for the first time this season. This game against the preseason Big 12 favorites will be the toughest road test this year.
Dec. 7 Texas at Baylor
What will the Bears have left for their final game after going through the gauntlet in November? This could be a de facto Big 12 championship game...
Dec. 7 Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
...Or the Bedlam Game could decide the conference. The Cowboys were the preseason favorite and OU looked the part of a Big 12 frontrunner just a week ago. There’s plenty of time for this to become the key game again in the Big 12 race.
Big 12 2013 Second-Half Predictions
(Logos are of projected winner for each game)
|ISU||at Kansas||OU||TTU||at OK State||at TCU||Texas||Final Record|
|at TCU||Kansas||at WVU||OK State||TTU||at Baylor||Final Record|
3. Oklahoma State
|TCU||at ISU||at TTU||Kansas||at TX||Baylor||OU||Final Record|
|at Kansas||TTU||at Baylor||ISU||at K-State||at OK State||Final Record|
5. Texas Tech
|at WVU||at OU||OK State||K-State||Baylor||at TX||Final Record|
6. Kansas State
|WVU||ISU||at TTU||TCU||OU||at Kansas||Final Record|
|at OK State||TX||WVU||at ISU||at K-State||Baylor||Final Record|
8. West Virginia
|TTU||at K-State||at TCU||Texas||at Kansas||Iowa State||Final Record|
9. Iowa State
|at Baylor||OSU||at K-State||TCU||at OU||Kansas||at WVU||Final Record|
|Oklahoma||Baylor||at Texas||at OSU||WVU||at ISU||K-State||Final Record|
With seven weeks in the books, college football’s bowl picture is starting to clear. Stanford’s loss to Utah was a huge setback to the Cardinal’s national title hopes, while Oregon took a step forward with its win against Washington.
Alabama still looks like the team to beat in the SEC, while Ohio State should be a heavy favorite to win the Big Ten. Baylor takes over as the No. 1 team in the Big 12 with Oklahoma’s loss to Texas.
The bowl season doesn’t start until December, but it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like. Even at the midpoint of the 2013 season, it's still hard to make long-term projections about teams, especially with nearly two months of conference games still remaining.
The post-Week 7 bowl projections are a mixture between preseason projections, how things would look if the season ended today, and a small dose of the results so far this year. Expect more changes over the next few weeks, especially as we see how teams perform in conference games.
A few teams barely missed the projections this week, including West Virginia, Washington State, Duke and NC State from BCS conferences. And Texas State, Buffalo, Tulsa, North Texas and Arkansas State from the non-BCS ranks.
As the season progresses, it will be easier to project which teams will get to the six-win mark or finish below.
College Football's Post-Week 7 Bowl Projections for 2013
|New Mexico||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Utah vs. SJSU|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 21||MAC vs. MWC||Ball State vs. Wyoming|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Oreg. State vs. Boise State|
|New Orleans||Dec. 21||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||UL Lafayette vs. Tulane|
|Beef 'O' Brady's||Dec. 23||American vs. CUSA||Ohio* vs. MTSU|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||MWC vs. CUSA||Nevada vs. Arizona*|
|Little Caesars Pizza||Dec. 26||MAC vs. Big Ten||No. Illinois vs. Indiana|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 26||Army vs. MWC||Notre Dame* vs. SDSU|
|Military||Dec. 27||CUSA vs. ACC||ECU vs. B. College|
|Texas||Dec. 27||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||TCU vs. N'Western|
|Kraft Fight Hunger||Dec. 27||BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. USC|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 28||American vs. Big 12||Cincinnati vs. K-State|
|Belk||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Rutgers vs. Pittsburgh|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||UCF vs. Virginia Tech|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Texas vs. Nebraska|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||MWC vs. Navy||Utah State vs. Navy|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Ga. Tech vs. Missouri|
|Alamo||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Texas Tech vs. UCLA|
|Holiday||Dec. 30||Pac-12 vs. Big 12||Washington vs. Okla. State|
|AdvoCare V100||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||UNC vs. Tennessee|
|Sun||Dec. 31||Pac-12 vs. ACC||Ariz. State vs. Maryland|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||SEC vs. CUSA||Ole Miss vs. Marshall|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||SEC vs. ACC||Miami vs. Georgia|
|Gator||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Auburn vs. Michigan|
|Heart of Dallas||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. CUSA||Rice vs. Iowa|
|Outback||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Mich. State vs. Florida|
|Capital One||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Wisconsin vs. Texas A&M|
|Rose||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Ohio State vs. Stanford|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Fresno State vs. Baylor|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||So. Carolina vs. FSU|
|Cotton||Jan. 3||SEC vs. Big 12||LSU vs. Oklahoma|
|Orange||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Clemson vs. Louisville|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 4||SEC vs. American||Vanderbilt vs. Houston|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 5||MAC vs. Sun Belt||BGSU vs. WKU|
|National Title||Jan. 6||BCS vs. BCS||Alabama vs. Oregon|
* Indicates conference is not expected to fill its alloted bowl slots, leaving an at-large spot available.
Related College Football Content
Stats to Know From Week 7
ACC Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
This preview and more on Missouri and the SEC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
Missouri Facts & Figures
Last season: 23-11 (11-7 SEC)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Frank Haith (53-13 at Missouri)
SEC projection: Fifth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
But heading into his third year with the Tigers, Haith finally seems to be assembling a group of players he’ll be able to count on for more than one season.
“I like what we’ve done in terms of putting together a roster,” Haith says. “Earnest Ross, Jabari Brown and Tony Criswell, those guys have worked their tails off and gotten better, which gives us a great foundation to work with going into the season.”
It’s the addition of Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson and a top-20 recruiting class headlined by freshmen Johnathan Williams III and Wes Clark and junior college All-American Keanau Post that has Haith most excited about the future in Columbia.
A couple of those newcomers will have to be ready to make an impact if Missouri is going to make up for the loss of starters Phil Pressey, Alex Oriakhi, Laurence Bowers and Keion Bell and take a run at a sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth.
Criswell, a 6’9” senior forward, is the only returning frontcourt player who was a regular part of Missouri’s rotation last season. The junior college transfer, who began his college career at UAB, averaged 5.2 points and 4.8 rebounds as the Tigers’ top reserve. He brings enough versatility to play either position along the front line, so Haith might prefer to bring him off the bench again. To do so, he’ll have to identify viable starters.
The 6’11” Post will likely be one — at center — if he can improve his conditioning. He averaged 12.3 points and 8.3 rebounds last season at Southwestern Illinois College. “He runs the floor well, has good hands,” Brown says. “He’s more athletic than I knew, good post moves.”
Missouri could look to either Williams or sophomore Stefan Jankovic to start at power forward.
The 6’9” Williams, who was the Tigers’ highest-ranked recruit, brings great skill and versatility but must add strength after weighing in at 208 pounds when he arrived in Columbia.
Jankovic has already had a season to bulk up his 6’11” frame, which should help him make the move to the frontcourt after playing mostly on the perimeter — when he played at all — as a freshman. He’s comfortable shooting from long range or slashing to the basket and could present matchup problems for opponents.
Missouri forwards benefited from Pressey’s playmaking skills the past two years. Though he struggled with decision-making last season, he still averaged 11.9 points and an SEC-leading 7.1 assists. One of the biggest question marks facing the Tigers is how to replace him.
Clarkson, who averaged 16.5 points and 2.5 assists as a sophomore with the Golden Hurricane, is a leading candidate.
“There is nothing he can’t do,” Haith says.
Missouri would still prefer to play Clarkson off the ball, but whether it can likely depends on the readiness of Clark, a top-75 recruit, to contribute. He arrives with a reputation as a hard-nosed guard who led his team to a state championship last season in Michigan.
The Tigers’ most proven weapons already reside on the wing with Brown and Ross. Brown, who began his college career at Oregon, averaged 13.7 points while shooting 36.6 percent from 3-point range after becoming eligible last December.
Ross, a senior who started his career at Auburn, gives the Tigers an excellent rebounder (5.0 rpg) who also averaged 10.3 points while shooting 42.3 percent from three in conference play.
Freshman Shane Rector, a late addition who originally committed to Rutgers, could provide additional ball-handling off the bench.
Missouri’s coaches are already looking at Jordan Clarkson as a team leader. He’s expected to be one of the Tigers’ top scorers whether he’s playing on the wing or running the point. His primary position could be determined by the readiness of Wesley Clark, a hard-nosed point guard. Missouri is counting on Keanau Post to provide a low-post scoring threat and protection in front of the rim. Johnathan Williams III, a multi-talented forward, might have the brightest future of any newcomer but has to get stronger to realize his potential. Torren Jones has the size and athleticism needed to play under the basket in the SEC but remains raw. Shane Rector was signed late to give the Tigers a needed third ball-handler.
Factoid: 6. The Tigers will try to make a sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time in school history. Missouri also made five straight NCAA trips between 1986-1990 and 1999-2003.
Missouri will be short on experience with a lot of unknowns to be sorted out before it can be considered a contender in what figures to be a stronger SEC this season.
But Haith has talent to work with, particularly on the wing with Clarkson, Brown and Ross, and he expects to use a deeper bench. If the Tigers can jell and show some more grit on the defensive end, they have the potential to get another NCAA invite.
This preview and more on LSU and the SEC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
LSU Facts & Figures
Last season: 19-12 (9-9 SEC)
Coach: Johnny Jones (19-12 at LSU)
SEC projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
The Tigers return five of their top six scorers, including SEC Player of the Year candidate Johnny O’Bryant. They also welcome a top-10 recruiting class, highlighted by 6-8 local product Jarell Martin.
The signing of Martin was critical to the program. His arrival has energized the local fan base and created momentum for Jones’ program on the recruiting trail. The Tigers are now viewed as a program on the rise, and the Maravich Assembly Center should be hopping for the first time in several years.
The strength of the Tigers’ lineup is inside, where O’Bryant and Martin combine to form an imposing tandem on the blocks and boards.
The 6-9 O’Bryant contemplated early entry to the NBA and can enhance his draft status with an improved junior season. He will be among the best big men in the league, along with Florida’s Patric Young, Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes and Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein.
O’Bryant ranked among the league leaders in scoring (13.6 ppg), rebounding (8.7 rpg) and shooting (48 percent). He used his superior size and strength to dominate on the blocks and isn’t shy about demanding the ball in the paint.
O’Bryant committed a team-high 3.2 turnovers per game last season primarily because of collapsing defenses. He should find more room to operate in the paint with opponents forced to guard Martin in the high-low game. Martin, who can hit the mid-range jumper, plays with a non-stop motor and will be a force on the boards at both ends.
Senior Shavon Coleman is the glue guy at small forward. A big-time athlete, he’s an exceptional rebounder for his 6-5 size and can defend three positions. He’s not a great shooter but makes his hay on drives and put-backs.
Heralded freshman small forward Jordan Mickey, a top-40 national recruit, is expected to challenge for a starting spot and add immediate offensive punch on the wing.
Undersized freshman power forward Brian Bridgewater, junior college transfer John Odo and freshman center Darcy Malone add depth. Odo, a native of Nigeria, enrolled at LSU last January and practiced with the Tigers the remainder of the season.
Andre Stringer and Anthony Hickey are the Tigers’ version of Louisville’s successful guard tandem of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. Both are pesky, undersized defenders with streaky offensive games. The 5-11 Hickey led the SEC in steals last season at the point, but has fallen in and out of Jones’ doghouse. He must become more mature and fill the leadership void created by the graduation of Charles Carmouche.
The presence of O’Bryant and Martin ensures the Tigers will face a lot of zone defenses this season. That theoretically should provide many open looks for Stringer and Hickey. They’ll need to shoot consistently from the perimeter to keep opponents honest and prevent them from focusing their defensive efforts inside. Neither is considered a sharpshooter, but both are capable of getting hot from behind the arc. Stringer ranked second (40.9 percent) and Hickey sixth (32.8) in the SEC in 3-point field-goal percentage.
Sophomore Malik Morgan and freshman Tim Quarterman are classic combo guards who are the heirs apparent to Stringer and Hickey in the backcourt. Morgan is a streaky scorer with a slashing game. Last year, he scored in double figures only three times with a high of 12 in a loss at Tennessee. With added strength, the staff believes Morgan could have a breakout season.
The wiry 6-6 Quarterman has excellent size and can play just about anywhere on the perimeter. He was a top-100 recruit who picked LSU over a host of SEC schools.
Jarell Martin, LSU’s best recruit in a decade, owns a pro body and a pro-style pick-and-pop game. Tim Quarterman should compete immediately for playing time on the wing and at point. His versatile skill set allows him to play three positions. Junior college center John Odo bolsters the interior depth and is a solid rebounder and shot-blocker. Australian big man Darcy Malone is the classic stretch power forward-center who patterns his game after Dirk Nowitzki. Brian Bridgewater is an undersized power forward who adds physicality inside.
Factoid: 62.5. LSU shot only 62.5 from the foul line last season, ranking last in the SEC and 331st in the nation. Johnny O’Bryant, who led the team with 141 attempts, shot 59.6 percent.
If anything, Jones is one year ahead of schedule in his rebuilding effort. His recruiting success has created excitement about LSU basketball for the first time in years. The Tigers’ deep, talented frontcourt is among the best in the SEC. If the Tigers’ perimeter players can provide consistent offense, LSU should return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.
As the SEC rules college football, the question remains: What happened to this league as a basketball conference?
The SEC produced at least five NCAA Tournament teams every season from 1997-2008, but the league matched that only once since then. The expanded SEC produced only three NCAA Tournament teams last season, and Ole Miss needed to win the league tournament to erase any doubt.
Just about anywhere besides Lexington and Gainesville has a basketball program that’s seen better days. Florida, a two-time national champion when the SEC was in a position of strength, has reached the NCAA regional final the last three seasons.
And despite a loss in the NIT, Kentucky fans have been optimistic for 2013-14 since it became clear last season just wasn’t working out.
Kentucky landed the top recruiting class in history with six of the top 15 players who are already being loaded up with national championship expectations.
For the sake of SEC perception, it couldn’t hurt if Kentucky delivers on those projections.
SEC Predicted order of finish
G Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
G Jordan McRae, Tennessee
F Johnny O’Bryant, LSU
F Julius Randle, Kentucky
C Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
All-SEC Second Team
G Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
G Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
G Trevor Releford, Alabama
F Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
C Patric Young, Florida
All-SEC Third Team
G Jordan Clarkson, Missouri
G Michael Frazier, Florida
G Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
F Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida
F Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee
Postseason projection: NCAA champion
Arguably the best recruiting class in history will have the Cats in the national title hunt.
2. FLORIDA (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA Elite Eight
Transfers Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech) and Damontre Harris (South Carolina) bolster the Gators’ roster.
3. TENNESSEE (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA round of 32
Vols will need a big contribution from transfer Antonio Barton and a healthy season from Jeronne Maymon.
4. LSU (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA round of 64
An influx of high-level talent will join Johnny O’Bryant on what should be one of the league’s most-improved teams.
5. MISSOURI (team preview)
Postseason projection: NCAA round of 64
Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown will key the Tigers’ perimeter attack.
Postseason projection: NIT
With one NCAA invite in four years, pressure is starting to mount on Anthony Grant.
Postseason projection: NIT
Hogs lost their two best players (B.J. Young and Marshawn Powell) but the roster still stocked with talent.
8. OLE MISS
Postseason projection: NIT
Key losses in the frontcourt will be tough to overcome — even if Marshall Henderson behaves.
9. TEXAS A&M
Postseason projection: NIT
Aggies will be balanced, but replacing Elston Turner’s scoring will be a huge issue.
10. SOUTH CAROLINA
Frank Martin continues his slow rebuild in Columbia. The Gamecocks will be painfully young in ’13-14.
Losing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was a crushing blow to the Georgia program.
Brutal offseason saw the Dores lose two starters (Kedren Johnson and Kevin Bright) and a key reserve (Sheldon Jeter).
13. MISSISSIPPI STATE
Rick Ray is recruiting the Bulldogs out of the abyss, but it will take some time.
Tony Barbee’s tenure at Auburn has not gone well. Too much roster turnover and not enough talent.
Player of the Year: Julius Randle, Kentucky
It may be tough for one player to stand above the fray in Kentucky’s unprecedented recruiting class, but Randle has the ability to do so. He’s a 6-9 power forward who’s impressive as an athlete and has drawn comparisons to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for his competitiveness.
Best Defensive Player: Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
Marshall Henderson isn’t the only SEC guard in his coach’s doghouse. Wilbekin remains “partially suspended” for a violation of team rules, but when he plays, he’s the top perimeter defender on the best defensive team in the league.
Most Underrated Player: Shavon Coleman, LSU
Coleman will round out an top-notch frontcourt for LSU. The 6-5 wing averaged 5.9 rebounds last season for the Tigers. He’s a key glue guy for a team looking to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.
Newcomer of the Year: Julius Randle, Kentucky (complete look at key newcomers in the SEC)
Andrew Wiggins was the No. 1 prospect in the country and only added to his legend by holding out until the spring to make his college on decision. Randle, though, was right there as one of the top prospects in the country.
Top coach: John Calipari, Kentucky (full SEC coach rankings)
Hot seat: Tony Barbee, Auburn (full list of hot seat coaches)
Whether we admit it or not, most of us have little superstitions, whether it be knocking on wood or saying, "God bless" when someone sneezes. But some athletes have taken it just a little farther than that. We thought that it was appropriate to find the 13 most superstitious people in sports, with their seriously strange quirks, habits and talismans, and present them here.
Men's Fitness magazine once named pitcher Turk Wendell, whose 11-year major league career (1993-2004) included stops with the Cubs, Mets, Phillies and Rockies, the most superstitious athlete of all time. Wendell wore a necklace made from teeth and bones of animals he had hunted. He would leap over the chalk lines and draw crosses in the dirt on the pitcher's mound. He insisted that his contract figures end with his jersey number of 99. Wendell would eat four pieces of licorice during games he pitched, but don't worry about his dental health — he would also brush his teeth in the dugout between innings.
Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs didn't compile a .328 career batting average and accumulate 3,010 hits by accident. The superstitious athlete ate chicken every day before a game; took batting practice at 5:17; ran sprints at 7:17; and wrote the word "Chai" (Hebrew for "life") in the dirt before his plate appearances. Speaking of his love of chicken, Boggs' Twitter account is @ChickenMan3010.
They take their curses seriously in the U.K. The Birmingham City football club labored under a gypsy curse that came about due to the stadium's location atop the site of a Romany cemetery. Football club manager Barry Fry, who led the Birmingham City team from 1993 to 1996, took the advice of a clairvoyant to break the curse: He peed in all four corners of the St. Andrew's pitch. So did it work? "Well, we started to win and I thought it had," Fry said in an interview. "Then they sacked me, so probably not."
Slugger Jason Giambi (A's, Yankees, Rockies, Indians) addressed a hitting slump with his choice of undergarments. His personal slump-buster was a fancy piece of butt floss — a gold thong. If that’s not disturbing enough, try this: Teammates would ask to borrow it when they encountered slumps of their own.
How obsessed was power-hitting outfielder Larry Walker (Expos, Rockies, Cardinals) with the number 3? He set his alarm clock for 33 minutes past the hour, took batting practice in groups of three swings and was married on November 3 at 3:33 P.M. He bought 33 tickets in section 333 of Olympic Stadium to give to under-privileged kids during his time in Montreal. On one of his contracts, he asked for $3,333,333.33. Appropriately enough, Walker's career stats include plenty of threes: His career batting average was .313, and he hit 383 career homers.
Michael Jordan's superstition inspired an NBA fashion trend. Jordan insisted on wearing his North Carolina Tar Heels shorts under his Bulls uniform, and to cover up his old college basketball trunks, he started wearing longer shorts. Naturally, the rest of the NBA followed suit.
Mercurial NBA guard Jason Terry (Hawks, Mavs, Celtics, Nets) has the habit of sleeping in the shorts of the team he is playing the next day.
Beloved Phillies legend and Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn, who played in Philadelphia from 1948 to 1959 before ending his career with the Mets, slept with a lot of old bats in his day. Literally. In order to keep track of a bat that was treating him particularly well, Ashburn would take the bat to bed with him.
Chicago Black Hawks legend Stan Mikita, who led the NHL in scoring four times during a remarkable career that spanned four different decades (1958-80), also led the league in Most Unusual Superstition: Mikita would flick a lit cigarette over his left shoulder before taking the ice for a game.
Goalie Pelle Lindbergh, who played for the Philadelphia Flyers from 1981 to 1986, would drink a Swedish beer called Pripps during each intermission, with two ice cubes — no more, no fewer.
There must be something about goalies. Patrick Roy, whose career included stints with Montreal (1984-95) and Colorado (1996-2003), is considered by many the greatest goaltender in NHL history. He might also be the strangest, since he befriended the posts. That's right — Roy would touch and talk to the net posts, thanking them if a shot went awry or clanged off of one of them. Roy would also step over the red and blue lines on the ice, and he would avoid reporters on game day.
For the Celtics of the 1960s, Bill Russell's puke became a good-luck totem. According to Sports Illustrated: "If he threw up before a big game, the Celtics were sure everything would be all right. If he didn't, then Boston's coach, Red Auerbach, would tell Russell to go back to the toilet and order him to throw up." Russ must've done an awful lot of puking, considering that he led the Celtics to 11 championships in his 13-year career.
Rafael Nadal, who has won 13 Grand Slam singles titles, is a candidate for Greatest Tennis Player of All Time. He's also the GOAT when it comes to superstitious eccentricities, which he refers to as his "routines." His assortment of quirks is a category unto itself.
• Nadal has rituals involving his water bottles. He brings two bottles to each match, with one slightly warmer than the other, and sips from both during the match. The label of both has to be facing the court.
• During his recent run to the U.S. Open crown, Nadal ate the same meal at the same restaurant every night. The New York Post reported that Nadal consumed Chilean sea bass, fried rice and noodles at a Manhattan Chinese restaurant every evening when he wasn't playing a night match.
• Before every point, Nadal makes sure that his socks are pulled up at the same height. Prior to a match, he'll spend 30 seconds or more pulling his socks up and down.
• Nadal never steps on the lines before or after any point. He also crosses the lines right foot first.
Forget the Sprint All-Star Race, the Coca-Cola 600 or Saturday’s 500-miler. NASCAR’s biggest race at Charlotte Motor Speedway happens on Monday in front of a handful of officials, mechanics and high-tech engineers. At stake: keeping the future of the sport intact after a season of less-than-scintillating competition with NASCAR’s much-ballyhooed Gen-6 chassis. It’s a test insiders say could kill off the dreaded “aero push,” enemy number one in what’s made trying to pass the leader a Mission: Impossible assignment.
As we hit the Chase’s halfway point, where words like “debris,” “strategy” and “survival” dominate the conversation, you can understand why there’s a heightened sense of urgency. As a small consolation, this last battle at Charlotte, between reigning champ Brad Keselowski and Hendrick Motorsports’ Kasey Kahne did showcase what we used to see on a weekly basis. There was good, clean, hard competition, side-by-side for the win where both drivers were able to pass – and pass back. But that five-minute slice has come few and far between these days, with Charlotte’s ending and Fontana back in March overrun by a series of races where drivers seem to “march in place.” Single-file, settled in position becomes the dominant order of the day, a full green-flag run taking place with little more than one or two positions inside the top 10 changing hands.
For the intermediate ovals, it’s aerodynamics, tires and the Chase as the combined cause. Goodyear is working hard on its end, with a “multi-zone” tire at Atlanta and Kansas proving a step in the right direction. Now, aerodynamics is being tackled. The Chase? We’re unlikely to see any changes there until 2015, if at all.
But at least all parties involved are trying — and trying hard — with certain things within their control. Television ratings during the season’s second half that are a smidgen of what they used to be during the sport’s peak years served as a wakeup call. The fact NASCAR had to force its current television partners TNT and ESPN to keep covering the sport because they so desperately wanted to leave served as a kick in the pants. The powers that be — the ones with the cash – they know change must come.
Now, it’s up to the guys with the wind tunnels, mechanical brains and creative muscle behind the scenes to make NASCAR shine at a new level.
Back to the race at Charlotte. The engines are revved and it’s time to shift up “Through thee Gears” …
FIRST GEAR: A crucial win for Keselowski – not just for this year but next To say the reigning champ, just the second ever to miss the Chase, has been living under a black cloud would be an understatement. Did you see David Ortiz, tying the game against the Tigers Sunday night in the eighth inning? Keselowski has had that type of heartbreaker happen at least a half-dozen times this season. Victory or even a solid finish would be a few laps away only for extraordinary circumstances to take charge.
For Keselowski, Charlotte started as one of “those nights” again when he left an early pit stop with a jack attached. Stuck mid-pack, he was mired 15th, 27 seconds back of the leader as late as Lap 160. But a mid-race debris caution kept him on the lead lap, and by the time the fourth and final yellow came out with less than 30 circuits remaining, the No. 2 car had worked its way up to fifth position. At the time, Keselowski was running lap times comparable to the leaders; he just needed a lucky break to show it.
There’s that word again — luck —where intangibles finally started tilting his way.
“This is a very good team,” Keselowski said after fighting from the third row, on that final restart to eventually blow by Kahne and take control of the race. “Along the way, all season long we've had the speed. It's just been one of those years where you say, ‘How much more can they throw at you?’ And I think we ran out of things for them to throw at us tonight with the jack and still find a way to win.”
Love him or hate him, know this much about Keselowski, who has been the epicenter of controversy in 2013 dating back to a February USA Today interview in which he criticized aspects of the sport and questioned the “100% rule” just over one week ago: This driver cares about his team, his people and the long-term confidence of the program; he was adamant no changes in the face of failure were necessary. Getting a victory was very important for morale, making that edict easier to swallow within Penske Racing as they keep the core intact after such a difficult season and go with the motto of simply “shrugging it off” and starting from scratch in 2014.
“Those guys spend a lot of time away from their friends and family,” Keselowski said of his crew, understanding the importance of winning at NASCAR’s home base. “They make sacrifices to essentially make me a hero, and that's not something that's lost on me. So when they have the opportunity to come to Charlotte, bring their family and friends and kind of showcase what they do and then you combine that with success, I think it really validates to them some of those sacrifices they made, whether it's missing their kid's soccer game or whatnot, and it's something very special for them.”
SECOND GEAR: Johnson’s missed opportunityNo doubt, the No. 48 team was primed and ready to walk away from Charlotte with the points lead, halfway towards that elusive sixth title. Holding a comfy lead with the most fuel of anyone on the lead lap and one of the fastest cars on track, victory was a mere formality.
And then came that pesky debris.
It was never shown on camera. Multiple drivers claim they never saw it. One claimed he never even looked. Yet the yellow clearly changed the race’s outcome, leaving Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus to simply wonder what might have been.
But here’s the cold, ugly truth for fans of the No. 48: Johnson and Knaus still managed to beat themselves. A choice for four tires, with just 10 cars on the lead lap, found Johnson third behind Kasey Kahne and unstable on a restart. It’s not the first time the team has struggled coming up to speed; take Kansas, one week ago, where Johnson nearly spun out in front of the field multiple times in a rollercoaster run. “Closing the deal” when these calls happen is part of what makes a champion. At some point these last three years, this duo forgot how to handle the ninth inning.
Meanwhile, rival Matt Kenseth steadily worked his way forward from 20th place, landing third in a “tortoise and the hare” approach after two straight wins to start the Chase. Even if Johnson had won, the No. 20 team was ready to minimize the damage and will continue to do so each and every week. If the No. 48 team doesn’t relearn how to do the same once adversity hits, title number six is little more than a pipe dream.
THIRD GEAR: Kahne returns to relevancy
Saturday night was a boon for Hendrick Motorsports, which combined to lead 313 of the race’s 334 laps. But perhaps none of its four drivers needed time at the front more than Kahne, the team’s intermediate track specialist who hasn’t really specialized in, well, anything this Chase. It had been four races and four finishes outside the top 10 for the driver whose postseason, to this point, is better known for an awkward New Hampshire interview that left the masses thinking he was hard of hearing, had a concussion or a combination of both.
“I wish I knew how to get my car to drive like it does here at other places,” he said of Charlotte after leading a race-high 138 laps. “I don't know if it's the tire or the track itself. But we just always run pretty good. It always gives us confidence when we leave here.”
A win at one point appeared in the cards after a two-tire stop on the final caution gave the No. 5 team track position. But second, after Keselowski tracked him down, is far from shabby; there’s enough momentum here to right the ship. Expect Kahne to be a contender at Texas and Homestead the remaining 1.5-milers on the schedule despite a postseason that will ultimately be termed disappointing.
FOURTH GEAR: Hamlin’s small victory Seventeen races. That’s how long this career-defining slump has been since Denny Hamlin last appeared in the top 10 at the conclusion of a Sprint Cup race. What would happen for most drivers holding that type of top-tier ride, one where his two teammates are competing for a title? They’d be holding a pink slip come the end of November — if they hadn’t been fired already.
Of course, Hamlin has an excuse: his ailing back leading to a month of missed time and likely offseason surgery. But that’s why a run of ninth place, which would have been disappointing for teammates Kenseth or Kyle Busch, means the world to this Joe Gibbs Racing outfit. This team needs to feel like it’s on the upward swing heading into the offseason to feel confident it’ll find chemistry once again. Perhaps the real test, though, will be at a place like Martinsville — a test on Hamlin’s back but a place in which he’s had the most success of anyone not named Johnson over the last six years.
Best wishes to Brian Vickers, out the rest of the season after doctors found a blood clot in his right calf. Vickers, who’s missed time for the problem before – it actually led to surgery to repair a hole in his heart a few years back – will thankfully play it safe. He’ll be back in time for the 2014 Daytona 500; in his place, no substitute has been named beyond Talladega, where Michael Waltrip was already scheduled to run the No. 55. … Best wishes No. 2 to a number of Michael Waltrip Racing employees who were told after Charlotte that they’ll be released at the end of the season. With sponsor NAPA along with driver Martin Truex Jr. leaving the organization, MWR is cutting back to two full-time entries for 2014. So what happens to NAPA and Truex? Buzz currently centers around Furniture Row Racing in a second car or as a fourth expansion team for Richard Childress Racing. … Just 13 cars wound up on the lead lap at Charlotte in both Cup races this season. Only the Dover race last month had fewer. … Keselowski was the first non-Chaser to win since Kahne did it, driving for Team Red Bull at Phoenix in November 2011.
Follow Tom Bowles on Twitter: @NASCARBowles
National League Championship Series – Game 3
St. Louis at Los Angeles
7:07 ET TBS
Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-8, 3.00) vs. Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94)
This series could not be much closer, yet the Cardinals emerged from St. Louis with a two-game lead heading to Los Angeles. The Cardinals won a 13-inning classic, then made an unearned run off Clayton Kershaw stand up for a 1-0 win in Game 2. The 2004 Boston Red Sox proved to us that the Dodgers will indeed have a chance if they lose tonight, but this game is all but an elimination game for Los Angeles. The Dodgers will have to beat the Cardinals’ best in Adam Wainwright in order to avoid a three-games-to-none hole. Rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu will take the hill for the Dodgers.
Keys for Los Angeles
The Dodgers may need a super-human effort from Ryu in order to match Wainwright pitch for pitch. If not, the Dodgers’ lineup must produce more runs than it has to this point, and do that against the Cardinals’ ace.
Keys for St. Louis
The Cardinals still haven’t found their groove with the bats. And left-handed pitching hasn’t been kind to the Redbirds all season, even when they were hitting well. Carlos Beltran, Matt Adams and Jon Jay, in particular, struggle more against lefties than righthanders. So Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and David Freese may have to shoulder the run production tonight.
Dodgers to Watch
Ryu will certainly be watched closely by Don Mattingly. The manager can’t afford for this game to get out of hand. That means Ryu will be on a short leash. With Hanley Ramirez ailing, Andre Ethier and Adrian Gonzalez must carry the offensive load. Ethier has a good history off Wainwright.
Cardinals to Watch
Wainwright has been so good, it’s almost expected that he’ll throw a dud at some point. Or maybe he got that out of his system a few weeks ago against Cincinnati. The Cardinals are 12-5 in his 17 road starts this season, and he has failed to get through the sixth inning just once.
St. Louis is batting just .187 in the postseason…Opponents are batting .196…Los Angeles is 19-11 in Ryu’s 30 starts this season, 10-5 at home…Ethier is 10-for-33 in his career against Wainwright with three home runs and three doubles…Ramirez is batting .208 off the Cardinals’ righthander (5-for-24)…Mark Ellis is 1-for-12 (.083).
Urban Meyer is one of the best recruiters in the business. Why? Because he gets them young. We've heard of middle schoolers getting scholarships, but the second-year coach is taking things to another level as Meyer is already working on the recruiting class of 2029. Last week, Meyer received a flyer in the mail detailing the vast skillset of two-year-old Columbus resident Sullivan Busser. The 3-foot-2, 25-pound quarterback is sure to follow in the footsteps of other Urban Meyer proteges like Alex Smith, Tim Tebow and Braxton Miller.
Meyer reached out to the future five-star recruit with a letter that read:
Your parents sent us your future Buckeye recruiting information. We will look for you to make your collegiate football debut in 2029 — you will need to gain a little weight, but our strength staff will take care of that! Go Bucks!
Sincerely, Urban Meyer Head Football Coach
Alabama coach Nick Saban, never one to be outdone, is probably already scanning Tuscaloosa daycares for a two-year old prospect of his own.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Oct. 14.
• The best part of hockey (in my opinion): the ice girls. They're flirty and functional. Enjoy this NHL Ice Girls Social Media Power Ranking.
• What a weekend of sports, especially if you're from Massachusetts or St. Louis. To make yesterday's "Brady, Aim, Fire" moment even more stirring, here it is in Tecmo Bowl form, call included. If you want to see Brady taken down a notch, enjoy watching Julian Edelman ignore Tom Terrific's attempt at a high-five.
• Of course, the best part of Brady's late touchdown was the reaction from Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Ladies and gentlemen, your GIF of the Week.
• Erin Andrews got a Gatorade dousing at the Red Sox game resulting in soaked hair extensions. She described it via Twitter as "sticky."
• Some Texans fans cheered Matt Schaub's injury. Some Texans didn't like that. At all.
• Bob Costas called the "Redskins" nickname a slur. Twitter reacted, as it always does.
• Columnist Phil Mushnick took to the pages of the New York Post to rip Adrian Peterson in the immediate aftermath of his son's death. Yep, you read that right.
• It's been 10 years since Bartman became a thing, and we still don't know much about him.
• Tide's rolling, Georgia's gutted and Johnny Football still rules: Your SEC weekend roundup.
• Les Miles is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Enjoy his ruminations on the hammer and the nail.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The Indianapolis Colts will aim for a fourth straight victory tonight when they take on the San Diego Chargers at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Andrew Luck and company also will be trying for their second win on the West Coast this season, while the Chargers would like to get back to .500 with a victory at Qualcomm Stadium.
With Luck running the show, the Colts have used a consistent rushing attack and a stingy defense to jump out to a 4-1 start and first place in the AFC South. Philip Rivers has rebounded quite nicely under first-year head coach Mike McCoy, but inopportune turnovers and a susceptible defense have cost the Chargers on more than one occasion.
4 Things to Watch
Indianapolis’ West Coast Success
This season, the AFC South teams play both the AFC and NFC West divisions. What this means is that the Colts face all four of the NFL’s West Coast-based teams – Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. Tonight will be the fourth of those meetings, and Indianapolis is looking for the clean sweep. Indianapolis opened its season by beating Oakland at home, and then stunned San Francisco on the road 27-7 in Week 3. Last week, the Colts overcame a five-point, fourth-quarter deficit at home against Seattle, beating the Seahawks with 11 unanswered points to close out the game. In these three victories, the formula has been pretty simple – protect the football, capitalize on the other teams’ mistakes and stop the pass. The Colts forced a total of six takeaways in their wins over the Raiders, 49ers and Seahawks, and also returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown last week, while only committing two turnovers of their own. The defense also held these three teams to an average of 181.7 passing yards per game. San Diego enters this game with a minus-eight turnover differential, including six giveaways in its last two games alone. The Chargers are averaging more than 300 yards passing per game, but as the Colts have shown, their defense has been up to the task, no matter which time zone they are playing in.
Same Old Philip Rivers?
Last season was one Rivers would like to forget, as he finished with about as many turnovers (22 total) as touchdown passes (26), and San Diego went 7-9, costing head coach Norv Turner his job. Enter Mike McCoy and new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who together have helped resurrect Rivers’ career. Rivers already has three 400-yard passing games this season, and was among the top four quarterbacks in the four major categories – yards (1,610), touchdown passes (13), completion percentage (73.7) and passer rating (110.6) – entering Week 6. Rivers’ early success is one of the main reasons the Chargers are fifth in the NFL in total offense at 402.4 yards per game. Unfortunately, the Rivers of last season has made a few appearances during games, which is why the Chargers are just 2-3 in the standings. In the season opener, after leading Houston for much of the game, Rivers’ lone interception was returned for a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter with the Texans eventually winning on a field goal as time expired. Last week, Rivers threw three picks against the Raiders, one of them in the end zone in the fourth quarter, in the Chargers’ 27-17 loss. Rivers enters this game with a respectable 13:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and he has yet to lose a fumble. It’s important that he continues to perform more like the 2013 version rather than the 2012 model. The Colts’ defense has already forced 10 turnovers through five games, so you know they will be looking for more of the same tonight.
Paging Mr. Richardson
Indianapolis rocked the NFL world about a month ago when the team traded for Cleveland running back Trent Richardson, sending its 2014 first-round draft pick in exchange for the third overall selection of the ’12 draft. A bold move for so early in the season, the Colts showed the league they meant business by adding a talented back to an offense that already had a franchise quarterback and legitimate pass-catchers. As it turns out, the trade became even more important when Ahmad Bradshaw suffered what turned out to be season-ending neck injury in Week 3. Bradshaw’s injury was preceded by Vick Ballard’s torn ACL sustained in practice prior to the team’s second game. Richardson’s presence and production is needed even more now with him and Donald Brown the main ball-carriers left. While Richardson has gotten the carries (51 in three games), he is only averaging three yards per attempt with his new team, and has yet to break a run of more than 16 yards. Before his injury, Bradshaw was averaging 4.5 yards per carry and Brown has gained 8.3 in limited totes (19). Regardless, the key to this team’s success moving forward is Richardson. Indianapolis has clearly committed to the running game this season. The Colts are averaging 142 yards per game on the ground and their seven rushing touchdowns were tied for first in the NFL entering Week 6. The Chargers are allowing more than 124 yards rushing per game, so perhaps tonight this will be Richardson’s coming out party as a Colt. I’m sure the team and certainly the fans, would love to finally see some more sizable returns from their recent investment.
Leading the Charge(rs) on the Ground
San Diego entered Week 6 fifth in the league in total offense, gaining more than 400 total yards per game. The main reason for this is the right arm of Rivers, who is averaging 322 yards passing per game. As a team, the Chargers are gaining less than 92 yards rushing per contest. For the second straight season, running back Ryan Mathews has not gotten the job done, as he’s averaging 3.5 yards per carry and has one total touchdown through five games. Injury-prone is one of the labels most often used to describe the 12th overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. For example, last season Mathews broke one of his collarbones on his first carry of the preseason and then after returning to action, broke the other one in the middle of the December. The injury bug struck against last week when he hurt his hamstring in practice and then played less than a quarter against the Raiders because of a concussion. Mathews has been cleared to play tonight, but he will probably split the carries fairly evenly with Danny Woodhead. The former Patriot who signed as a free agent is gaining only 3.8 yards per rushing attempt, but he’s caught 31 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns. Throwing the ball hasn’t been a problem for San Diego, but Indianapolis ranks among the top passing defenses and has seven interceptions in five games. The Chargers need to do something on the ground to keep the Colts’ defense off balance. At this point, there’s no clear-cut lead dog in the Chargers’ backfield. The team just needs someone, whether it’s Mathews or Woodhead or even veteran Ronnie Brown, to make the carries they get count for something.
Indianapolis Key Player: Robert Mathis, LB
The Colts have Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener and now Trent Richardson on offense, but it’s their defense that has been making the most noise to open this season. Entering Week 6, the defense ranked among the top five units against the pass, in points allowed and stopping the opponent on third down. Indianapolis is giving up 330.4 yards per game (tied for 11th), but only 201.4 of those have come via the pass. One of the reasons for this success has been the ability to get consistent pressure on the quarterback, as their 15 sacks and seven interceptions can attest to. Mathis leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks with at least one in each game. His career high is 11.5, which he has done twice (2005, ’08) and he seems poised to go well beyond that total this season. San Diego has relied heavily on Philip Rivers to move the ball via the pass, so if Indianapolis wants to maintain its pass defense standing, Mathis will need to lead the charge, no pun intended. The Chargers have given up just eight sacks in five games, but the pass protection could have its hands full tonight with the league leader.
San Diego Key Player: Antonio Gates, TE
Similar to Philip Rivers, Gates also has turned back the clock to start this season, as the tight end is playing his best football in several years. Now in his 11th season with the Chargers, Gates said before the season opener that this is the healthiest he has been in a number of years, and it looks like he was telling the truth. Not only is he leading the team in receptions (32) and yards (438), he’s among the top four in catches at his position and trails only Jimmy Graham in yards. Gates has two touchdowns, but even more impressive, he’s already posted seven catches of 20 or more yards. No one on the Chargers has more than four and the seven also ranked Gates among the top 10 in the NFL entering Week 6. While he may not be as young as he once was, Gates is proving again that he’s one of the toughest matchups at tight end. If Rivers plans on making some plays against a stingy Colts’ defense, the two long-time teammates will need to hook up early and often tonight.
While Denver, Kansas City and New England are getting most of the attention as the AFC’s current top teams, Indianapolis can’t and shouldn’t be overlooked. A win tonight would put the Colts at 5-1 and stake them to an early two-game lead in the AFC South. Chuck Pagano’s team has already shown it can not only hang with, but beat the likes of NFC powerhouses San Francisco and Seattle.
Andrew Luck may not be filling up the stat sheet, but he’s doing what it takes to put his team in position to win, as well as making the big throw or play when it’s needed the most. Philip Rivers has gotten off to a strong start and is the main reason the Chargers are even hanging around .500, but he has a track record of coming somewhat unglued when everything’s riding on him.
They may not be flashy, but the Colts stick to the game plan that has worked so well for them this season – run the ball consistently, limit the opponent’s passing game, win the turnover battle – and pick up their fourth victory against a West Coast-based team in the process.
Indianapolis 27, San Diego 20
Wisconsin was easily the most impressive team of the Week 7 Big Ten slate. The Badgers completely and thoroughly dominated Northwestern and may be the second-best team in the league. Contenders Michigan State and Nebraska both made quality statements by handling Indiana and Purdue with relative ease.
However, Penn State stole the show this weekend as they outlasted Michigan in four overtimes in front of 110,000 whited-out Nittany Lions fans. It wasn't the prettiest overtime affair, but it continued 2013's dramatics.
Big Ten Post-Week 7 Power Rankings:
|1.||(1)||Ohio State (6-0, 2-0): After topping Wisconsin at home and Northwestern on the road, the Buckeyes got a well deserved week off. The Bucks will get Iowa and Penn State in the Horseshoe to finish off October. Next Week: Iowa|
|2.||(3)||Nebraska (5-1, 2-0): Taylor Martinez missed another game with his lingering turf toe injury, and the Huskers had to overcome three interceptions from his replacement freshman Tommy Armstrong. But the running game was excellent again, topping 250 yards rushing for the fifth time in six games (251 against Purdue). The defense has been solid in Big Ten play as well and it held Purdue to just 217 total yards and without a point until the final minutes of action. The Huskers will rest before traveling to Minnesota in two weeks. Next Week: Bye|
|3.||(5)||Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1): The Badgers were rested and it showed as they crushed Northwestern by four touchdowns. Joel Stave tossed three touchdowns while star tailback Melvin Gordon did the heavy lifting, rushing for 172 yards on 22 carries and one long TD. The defense, however, won the day by holding the Wildcats to just 242 total yards and nary a touchdown. This was as thorough a showing as Wisconsin has had all season and there is a real shot at an at-large BCS bowl bid should UW win out. Next Week: at Illinois|
|4.||(2)||Michigan (5-1, 1-1): Devin Gardner played well but his coach didn't do him any favors in the four-overtime road loss to Penn State. The Wolverines coughed up a 10-point fourth quarter lead and scored six total points in four overtime possessions. Brady Hoke appeared to be coaching tentatively throughout the waning moments. The Wolverines have been living on the edge for the better part of a month, and it finally caught up with them in the form of special teams miscues and poor offensive execution. Next Week: Indiana|
|5.||(4)||Northwestern (4-2, 0-2): Kain Colter and Venric Mark were both banged up early, but it didn't matter as the Cats were outmatched at the point of attack by Wisconsin no matter who was in the backfield. Pat Fitzgerald's offense couldn't run the ball (25 att., 45 yards) and his defense couldn't stop it (51 carries, 286 yards). If the Wildcats want to compete for a division title — which remains possible — this unit will need to figure out a way to stop a power rushing attack. Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Iowa still loom. Next Week: Minnesota|
|6.||(6)||Michigan State (5-1, 2-0): The Spartans traded body blows with Indiana for much of the first half before Mark Dantonio's bunch pulled away thanks to the emergence of Jeremy Langford. The Michigan State running back carried 23 times for 109 yards and scored four total touchdowns on the afternoon (three rushing, on receiving). The league's best defense (MSU) held the league's best offense (IU) to 351 yards — or nearly 200 yards under their average. Sparty should be 4-0 in the Big Ten before a visit from Michigan on Nov. 2. Next Week: Purdue|
Penn State (4-2, 1-1): Christian Hackenberg threw up a pair of prayers on the game's final drive and they were answered. In fact, the football gods must have been smiling on Happy Valley as the Nittany Lions needed multiple missed field goals to hold on for a thrilling four-overtime victory over Michigan. It wasn't pretty for either team and neither team was impressive in overtime, but in the end, however, Hackenberg overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and led the game-winning scoring drive in the fourth overtime. If the freshman signal caller continues to develop, his cult following will only continue to grow in State College. Next Week: Bye
|8.||(8)||Minnesota (4-2, 0-2): The Gophers needed the off weekend after Jerry Kill took an indefinite leave of absence due to epileptic seizures that have impacted two games this season. Minnesota gets back on the field in Evanston against what should be an angry Wildcats. Next Week: at Northwestern|
|9.||(9)||Indiana (3-3, 1-1): The Hoosiers top-rated offense made a few big plays in the first half against the nation's No. 1 defense but simply couldn't match the Spartans physicality for 60 minutes. Kevin Wilson's bunch was outrushed 238-92 and the Hoosiers couldn't stop the Jeremy Langford show. Things don't get any easier for IU as it will return to the state of Michigan next weekend. Next Week: at Michigan|
|10.||(10)||Iowa (4-2, 1-1): The Hawkeyes have had two weeks to stew over the Homecoming loss to Michigan State. However, no amount of rest and preparation will help Iowa as they head to Columbus this weekend. Next Week: at Ohio State|
|11.||(11)||Illinois (3-2, 0-1): The Illini had the week off after getting handled with ease on the road against Nebraska. Tim Beckman now gets two upset chances at home and may need to win one if his team wants to go bowling. Next Week: Wisconsin|
|12.||(12)||Purdue (1-5, 0-2): Freshman quarterback Danny Etling got his first career start, but the change under center did little to impact the Boilermakers troubling season. The defense forced some turnovers but couldn't stop the Cornhuskers explosive rushing attack and didn't muster a point until 39 seconds left in the game. Things won't get any easier as Michigan State on the road and Ohio State at home are the next two up for Darrell Hazell's squad. Next Week: at Michigan State|
Big Ten Week 7 Awards and Superlatives:
Offensive Player of the Week: Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State
Melvin Gordon powered the Wisconsin rushing attack, and Christian Hackenberg led an extraordinary comeback. But Jeremy Langford single-handedly defeated the Hoosiers. The junior tailback had 58 career rushing attempts coming into the game against Indiana but turned in a career performance. Langford rushed 23 times for 109 yards, caught one pass for 11 yards and scored four total touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving). He matched Indiana's 28 points by himself.
Defensive Player of the Week: C.J. Olaniyan, DE, Penn State
The soft-spoken defensive end had a coming out party of sorts on Saturday night against Michigan. The senior was a disruptive force all night against the Wolverines, sacking Devin Gardner 2.5 times and forcing a key fumble. He also added eight total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups. Olaniyan is third in the Big Ten in sacks and tackles for loss on the season.
Team of the Week: Wisconsin
Despite the excitement in Happy Valley, the Badgers were the league's premier team in Week 7. Wisconsin dismantled Northwestern in every aspect of the game. Gary Andersen's squad was balanced on offense — throwing for 241 yards and rushing for 286 — and didn't allow a touchdown on defense. Northwestern mustered just six points, 10 first downs, 241 yards and were held to 2-of-17 on third downs. This might be the second-best and most complete team in the Big Ten.
Coordinator of the Week: Dave Aranda, Wisconsin
Northwestern came into the weekend averaging 39 points and 474 yards per game on 6.4 yards per play. Aranda's unit dominated the dynamic and explosive WIldcats offense by physically imposing its will along the line of scrimmage. The Badgers held Northwestern to 44 yards rushing on 25 carries and knocked both Venric Mark and Kain Colter out of the game (Colter returned). Wisconsin ranks fifth nationally in both total defense (267.3 ypg) and scoring defense (13.2 ppg).
Freshman of the Week: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
It took unlikely completions on the game's final drive in the game's final minute against Michigan, but Hackenberg wrote the first chapter of what could be a stellar career. He posted his third 300-yard effort in six career starts and accounted for four touchdowns in the thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Wolverines. He completed 23 of his 44 passes and leads the Big Ten in passing at 278.7 yards per game.
• Penn State has won four straight games over Michigan.
• Michigan State kept the Old Brass Spittoon by defeating Indiana for the fifth consecutive time. The Spartans haven't lost at home to the Hoosiers since 2001. MSU outscored IU 28-14 over the final 30:37 of game time.
• After 10 more flags, the Spartans are last in the Big Ten with 45 penalties and 122nd nationally with 78.8 penalty yards given up per game.
• Nebraska moved to 5-1 on the year and 5-1 when Ameer Abdullah rushes for at least 100 yards. He carried 20 times for 126 yards against Purdue and his lowest total of the season thus far was 98 yards against UCLA.
• Melvin Gordon leads the Big Ten in rushing (145.0 ypg) and is third nationally, just two yards behind Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews (147.0) and less than five behind Washington's Bishop Sankey (149.8).
• Wisconsin's Joel Stave is third in the Big Ten in passing efficiency (146.65) and fourth in passing (216.2 ypg). He set a career high with 295 yards last game against Ohio State and tied a career high this week against Northwestern with three TD passes.
• Wisconsin is the only team in the Big Ten averaging more than 220 yards rushing and passing per game in 2013.
• Venric Mark left the game against Wisconsin on Saturday for X-rays on a leg injury. Wisconsin star wideout Jared Abbrederis also left the game early with a head injury.