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Our hosts duke it out over a two-team and four-team playoff. Is it possible the BCS wasn’t all bad if it worked perfectly in a year like this?
We can’t ignore the chatter around the Texas job, whether it’s vacant yet or not. Should Nick Saban really consider leaving Alabama to coach the Longhorns?
And then finally, we get into some takeaways from the season. Our hosts go through each major conference and finish the sentence ... “2013 was the year that ...”
The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.
Please send any comments, questions and podcast topics to @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615 on Twitter or email [email protected].
Boise State’s coaching search has ended with a familiar name taking over for Chris Petersen. After one season at Arkansas State, Bryan Harsin has been hired by Boise State as its next head coach.
Harsin went 7-5 in his only season with the Red Wolves. However, he is a native of Boise and played as a quarterback with the Broncos from 1995-99.
Harsin also served on Boise State’s staff from 2001-10.
With Harsin’s departure, Arkansas State will have its fifth coach in five years in 2014.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 11.
• Shameless ratings grab, but we'll take it: Danica Patrick dressed like a Vegas showgirl for some country music awards show.
• Saban-to-Texas rumor-mongers will absolutely love this GIF. I have to admit, I enjoyed it, too.
• According to Paul Finebaum, who tends to know things, Nick Saban has had an unsigned contract extension sitting on his desk for six days. Hmmm.
• So Bill Cowher enjoyed himself at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Can you blame him?
• The New England Patriots are in the midst of one of the best title-free runs in NFL history. So they got that going for them.
• The 6 Types of People Who Go to Sports Bars. See if you can spot yourself. I guess I'm the Really Old Guy at this point in my life.
• Pope Francis is Time's Person of the Year, edging Miley Cyrus. We live in weird times.
• Sally Jenkins blames Dan Snyder for the raging dumpster fire that the Redskins have become. I can get on board with that.
• The best buzzer-beater I've seen in a while comes to us from the high school ranks.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The Big 12 didn’t really play out as we expected it back in August. We tabbed four teams as being in close contention for the conference title (we got three of them right) but had none of them in the top 15. In other words, we didn't think the Big 12 would produce a national title contender.
Baylor, though, swooped in and surprised us all.
The dark horse candidate with a no-name quarterback to start the season became the Big 12’s last hope for a team in the national championship race and one of the most exciting teams of the season.
Baylor quickly became the on-field story of the Big 12. Bolstered by a weak early season schedule, the Bears started the season on pace to shatter a number of national records. The season turned, though, on Baylor’s loss on the road to Oklahoma State on Nov. 23 when the Cowboys re-announced themselves as conference contenders to set up a final week of the season with three teams still in contention for the Fiesta Bowl.
Baylor won out to complete perhaps the best regular season in its history.
The top off-field story, though, promises to send reverberations throughout the sport. The prospect of Texas coach Mack Brown’s retirement became apparent as the season progressed, from losses to BYU and Ole Miss in September, to the retirement of longtime athletic director DeLoss Dodds, to the report Tuesday that Brown’s resignation was imminent.
There may not be another coaching change in the Big 12 this season, but a change at Texas will create a domino effect throughout the coaching ranks and will surely be the top storyline for the remainder of December and perhaps into January.
Big 12 2013 Season Awards
Coach of the Year: Art Briles, Baylor
So Baylor didn’t break every offensive record in the NCAA and Big 12 record books. So Baylor didn’t finish undefeated as seemed to be a possibility in mid-November. This is still a Baylor team that went 11-1, won the Big 12 with one loss in a season when it seemed two losses wouldn’t be too many for the Big 12 champion. Baylor came back from injuries to Lache Seastrunk, Glasco Martin, Teven Reese and Spencer Drango to beat Texas on the last day of the season to seal the outright title. Briles led Baylor to its first 11-win season, potentially its first top-10 finish since 1951 and first conference title since 1980.
Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Petty told Athlon in the preseason Briles “still hasn’t given me the keys to the car.” It didn’t take long for Bryce Petty to look more like Richard Petty in that regard. Petty finished second in the nation in passing efficiency and yards per pass attempt to Jameis Winston. Petty is the only quarterback since at least 2007 with 30 touchdown passes and two interceptions.
Defensive Player of the Year: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Gilbert became the key player on another ball-hawking defense at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys cornerback finished the season with six interceptions, including two in a key win at Texas. Oklahoma State was second in the Big 12 and ninth nationally in pass efficiency defense.
Newcomer of the Year: Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
Here’s a scary thought: What if Sims hadn’t transferred from Houston and become eligible immediately? Sims was one of the few consistent spots on offense in a 4-8 season. The senior delivered as a multi-threat back with 1,095 rushing yards, 401 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.
Biggest Disappointment of 2013: The 2012 imports
TCU and West Virginia had rocky first seasons in the Big 12, but the bottom fell out in 2013. Neither could withstand player injuries and departures to compete for bowl berths. TCU might be the bigger disappointment as the Horned Frogs had hoped to compete for the conference title, but the offense was dismal when Casey Pachall was injured. West Virginia, though, finished the season with losses to the other dregs of the league in Kansas and Iowa State. Dana Holgorsen enters 2014 on the hot seat.
Biggest Surprise of 2013: Texas’ Greg Robinson-led comeback
Texas ranked 119th in run defense at the end of September after embarrassing losses to Ole Miss and BYU cost one-time rising star Manny Diaz his job. The Longhorns plucked former coordinator and Syracuse coach Greg Robinson from his couch in a move that was widely lampooned. Robinson simplified the defense, though, and put Texas in a position to contend for the conference title on the last day of the season. Texas finished fourth in the Big 12 in run defense in conference games and led the league in sacks.
Athlon’s 2013 All-Big 12 Team
|First Team Offense||Second Team Offense|
|QB Bryce Petty, Baylor|
RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
RB Charles Sims, West Virginia
WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor
WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
G Cyril Richardson, Baylor
G Parker Graham, Oklahoma State
T Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech
T Spencer Drango, Baylor
AP B.J. Catalon, TCU
|QB Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State|
RB Malcolm Brown, Texas
RB Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State
WR Tevin Reese, Baylor
WR Eric Ward, Texas Tech
TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
C B.J. Finney, Kansas State
G Trey Hopkins, Texas
G Quinton Spain, West Virginia
T Donald Hopkins, Texas
T Cornelius Lucas, Kansas State
AP Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
|First Team Defense||Second Team Defense|
|DE Ryan Mueller, Kansas State|
DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
DT Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State
DT Will Clarke, West Virginia
LB Jeremiah George, Iowa State
LB Caleb Lavey, Oklahoma State
LB Eddie Lackey, Baylor
CB Jason Verrett, TCU
CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
S Gabe Lynn, Oklahoma
S Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
|DE Cedric Reed, Texas|
DE Charles Tapper, Oklahoma
DT Travis Britz, Kansas State
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas
LB Shaun Lewis, Oklahoma State
LB Paul Dawson, TCU
LB Bryce Hager, Baylor
CB Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
CB K.J. Morton, Baylor
S Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
S Sam Carter, TCU
|First Team Special Teams||Second Team Special Teams|
|K Anthony Fera, Texas|
P Nick O’Toole, West Virginia
KR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
PR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma
|K Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma|
P Trevor Pardula, Kansas
KR B.J. Catalon, TCU
PR Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State
Overall, 2013 was a pretty good year for the ACC. Florida State went 13-0 and is set to play Auburn for the national championship. Clemson went 10-2 – its only losses to Florida State and South Carolina – and the Tigers will play in their second BCS game in three years.
There was a drop in the final rankings from Florida State and Clemson, but Duke finished 10-3 and claimed its first Coastal Division title. Behind the Blue Devils in the Coastal were Virginia Tech (8-4), Miami (9-3) and Georgia Tech (7-5).
Florida State and Clemson clearly dominated the Atlantic Division, but Syracuse, Boston College and Maryland all finished with at least a .500 record.
The ACC expanded to 14 teams with the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and the conference has 11 teams set to play in a bowl game this year.
The bowl season is still to come, but Athlon Sports wraps up the 2013 regular season with a few awards and all-conference honors.
ACC 2013 Season Awards
Coach of the Year: David Cutcliffe, Duke
Between Cutcliffe, Boston College’s Steve Addazio and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, the ACC has a good crop of candidates for coach of the year. Despite the seasons by Fisher and Addazio, it’s hard to pick against Cutcliffe for this award. Cutcliffe guided Duke to its first ACC Coastal title and the program’s first season of double-digit victories. To illustrate how far along Cutcliffe has improved Duke as a program, from 2000-07 the Blue Devils won just 13 games. Under Cutcliffe’s direction (2008-13), the Blue Devils have won 31 contests, including 16 in the last two seasons. And this isn’t a one-year wonder: Duke has enough returning talent to be in the Coastal Division mix again in 2014.
Offensive Player of the Year: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Boston College running back Andre Williams and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd deserve consideration here, but Winston is the clear frontrunner for this award. The redshirt freshman quickly went from a talented, inexperienced quarterback in September to arguably the best in the nation by December. In the season opener against Pittsburgh, Winston threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns and only got better with each snap. Against Clemson, he threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns and completed 21 of 29 passes for 325 yards and one score against Miami. Winston completed at least 60 percent of his passes in 10 out of 12 games against BCS competition and threw at least one touchdown pass in every contest.
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald dominated the line of scrimmage and opposing offensive lines during his four years in Pittsburgh, but he was at his best during his senior year. Donald recorded 54 tackles – no easy feat for a defensive tackle – 10 sacks and 26.5 tackles for a loss. He also recorded 16 quarterback hurries, forced four fumbles and blocked one kick. Donald finished his career in the Steel City with 64 tackles for a loss and 28.5 sacks. He was picked as a finalist for the Bednarik, Outland, Lombardi and Nagurski Awards, and was the ACC media’s pick as ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Newcomer of the Year: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
As we mentioned under the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Winston is already one of – if not the best – quarterback in the nation. The redshirt freshman finished the regular season with 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns, while rushing for 193 yards and four scores. Winston completed 67.9 percent of his throws, averaged 293.8 passing yards per game and led the nation with a 190.1 passer rating. The Alabama native set FBS freshmen records with 38 touchdown passes and 3,820 passing yards.
Biggest Disappointments of 2013: Virginia and NC State
No one was necessarily expecting big things from either NC State or Virginia this year, but a combined 0-16 mark in conference play is a big disappointment. The Wolfpack was picked to finish third in the Atlantic Division by the ACC media in July, while the Cavaliers were pegged sixth in the Coastal. Neither team was particularly competitive in ACC games, as NC State’s closest conference loss was by eight points to North Carolina, while only one of Virginia’s defeats were by less than 10 points. Despite the disappointing 2013 season, there is hope for both programs. The Cavaliers have a solid recruiting class on the way, and the Wolfpack will gain the services of transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett for 2014.
Biggest Surprises of 2013: Duke and Boston College
We normally award just one team here, but it’s hard to ignore the accomplishments of Duke and Boston College in 2013. We highlighted the Blue Devils under David Cutcliffe’s coach of the year selection, and 2013 will be recorded as one of the best seasons in Duke football history. Boston College won only two games last year but finished 7-5 this season behind first-year coach Steve Addazio. The Eagles leaned on a veteran core of players to return to the postseason, including senior running back Andre Williams (2,102 yards) and quarterback Chase Rettig (17 TDs, 6 INTs). Both of these programs have experienced their share of struggles in recent years, but it’s clear Duke and Boston College are pointed in the right direction going into 2014.
Athlon's 2013 All-ACC Team
|First-Team Offense||Second-Team Offense|
|QB Jameis Winston, Florida State||QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson|
|RB Duke Johnson, Miami||RB Devonta Freeman, Florida State|
|RB Andre Williams, Boston College||RB Kevin Parks, Virginia|
|WR Rashad Greene, Florida State||WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State|
|WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson||WR Allen Hurns, Miami|
|TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina||TE Nick O'Leary, Florida State|
|C Bryan Stork, Florida State||C Macky MacPherson, Syracuse|
|G Tre Jackson, Florida State||G Brandon Linder, Miami|
|G Shaquille Mason, Georgia Tech||G Laken Tomlinson, Duke|
|T Cameron Erving, FSU||T Matt Patchan, Boston College|
|T James Hurst, North Carolina||T Brandon Thomas, Clemson|
|AP Jamison Crowder, Duke||AP Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh|
|First-Team Defense||Second-Team Defense|
|DE Vic Beasley, Clemson||DE Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech|
|DE Kareem Martin, North Carolina||DE Kasim Edebali, Boston College|
|DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh||DT Derrick Hopkins, Virginia Tech|
|DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State||DT Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest|
|LB Christian Jones, Florida State||LB Kelby Brown, Duke|
|LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College||LB Denzel Perryman, Miami|
|LB Telvin Smith, Florida State||LB Jack Tyler, Virginia Tech|
|CB Ross Cockrell, Duke||CB Bashaud Breeland, Clemson|
|CB Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State||CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech|
|S Jeremy Cash, Duke||S Tre Boston, North Carolina|
|S Anthony Harris, Virginia||S Terrence Brooks, Florida State|
|First-Team Specialists||Second-Team Specialists|
|K Roberto Aguayo, Florida State||K Nate Freese, Boston College|
|P Pat O'Donnell, Miami||P Tommy Hibbard, North Carolina|
|KR DeVon Edwards, Duke||KR Stacy Coley, Miami|
|PR Ryan Switzer, North Carolina||PR Jamison Crowder, Duke|
The 2013 regular season is in the books and the Michigan State Spartans are the champs.
The improbable run to the Rose Bowl for Mark Dantonio is the main headline for what turned out to be a very memorable campaign in the Big Ten, but it’s not the only one.
The league welcomed two new coaches to the fray with Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen and Purdue’s Darrell Hazell achieving wildly different outcomes. Kirk Ferentz saved his job and returned Iowa to relative prominence with wins over rivals Nebraska and Michigan. Minnesota inspired the nation by winning eight games despite Jerry Kill’s health issues. Bill O’Brien posted his second consecutive winning season in the face of crippling NCAA sanctions with a true freshman quarterback.
Then there were the Buckeyes. Urban Meyer began his Big Ten career a perfect 24-0, including a win in one of the greatest Michigan-Ohio State games ever played. But, much to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s chagrin, Meyer’s Buckeyes couldn’t finish the season as Big Ten champs and therefore cost the league a berth in the BCS National Championship Game.
And next year, the league will have a totally new look as both Maryland and Rutgers join and new divisional lineups take shape.
Big Ten 2013 Season Awards
Coach of the Year: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Michigan State did the unexpected by running the Big Ten table for the first time since 1966, capping their magical season by stunning the Buckeyes 33-24 in the third annual Big Ten Championship Game. Dantonio has returned the Spartans to the promised land — i.e., the Rose Bowl — for the first since 1987 when Lorenzo White and Nick Saban roamed the sidelines. He is fifth all-time in Michigan State history with 51 wins and could be as high as third all-time by next season. He has the highest winning percentage of any coach in East Lansing since Biggie Munn’s remarkable 84.6 percent benchmark set back in 1953. Michigan State had three 10-win seasons prior to his arrival and Dantonio has had three in the last four seasons. After being picked fourth in the Legends Division by most, Dantonio is clearly the Coach of the Year in the Big Ten.
Offensive Player of the Year: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
A (very good) case can be made for either Connor Cook or Jeremy Langford from Michigan State. Or even Penn State’s Allen Robinson. But the most dynamic player in the league this fall was Ohio State’s Miller. He finished seventh in the league with 1,033 yards rushing — fourth nationally among quarterbacks — and scored 10 rushing touchdowns. He led the league in passing efficiency (157.94) with 1,860 yards, 22 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Miller had been unbeaten as a starter until the conference championship game loss to the Spartans.
Defensive Player of the Year: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Wisconsin’s Chris Borland is a truly great player who epitomizes all that Badgers football represents. And while he is a deserving challenger to Shazier, only one player in the Big Ten led the league in tackles (135), tackles for a loss (23.5) and forced fumbles (4) while leading his team to 24 straight wins. Shazier also finished fifth in the league in sacks (7.0). He was fifth nationally in tackles and second nationally in tackles for a loss on a team that won its division and didn’t lose a regular season game. Few players make as many big plays or big hits as Ohio State’s talented linebacker.
Newcomer of the Year: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
It cannot be understated how good Hackenberg was in just his first season in college football. He finished third nationally among freshman quarterbacks to only Jameis Winston (38) and John O’Korn (26) in passing touchdowns (20). Hackenberg also was third nationally among freshmen in yards (2,955) and was fourth nationally in passing efficiency (133.99). He finished five yards out of second in the Big Ten in passing (Devin Gardner, 2,960) after setting every major Penn State freshman passing record. He led his team to furious comeback wins against Michigan and Illinois and performed like a seasoned vet (339 yards, 4 TDs) in the regular-season finale road upset of Wisconsin. This was a total slam dunk.
Biggest Disappointment of 2013: Michigan
Picked by most to win the Legends Division and possibly press Ohio State for Big Ten supremacy, Michigan finished eighth in the Big Ten power rankings. The offense looked downright atrocious for most of the season as Michigan won two games against teams with winning records (Notre Dame, Minnesota). Otherwise, the Wolverines fell flat on their faces against good teams, losing in ugly fashion to Michigan State, Nebraska, Iowa and Penn State. Brady Hoke’s bunch did save its best showing for last in what turned out to be a historic meeting with rival Ohio State, but that didn’t salvage what has to be considered the most disappointing season in the Big Ten this fall.
Biggest Surprise of 2013: Iowa
Ohio State did exactly what it was supposed to by going 12-0. Gary Andersen had a fabulous first season in Madison. Indiana showed improvement. Michigan State overachieved and is in the Rose Bowl for the first time since ’87. And Minnesota was a heart-warming story. But Iowa and Kirk Ferentz — with the help of an extraordinary trio of linebackers — did the most with the least of any team in the league. Picked by most to finish last in the Legends Division (4-8 by Athlon Sports), the Hawkeyes eventually finished fourth in the overall final B1G power rankings. Wins over rivals Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern gives Ferentz new life in Iowa City after a 4-8 showing last season.
Athlon's 2013 All-Big Ten Team
|First-Team Offense||Second-Team Offense|
|QB Braxton Miller, Ohio St||QB Connor Cook, Michigan St|
|RB Jeremy Langford, Michigan St||RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin|
|RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio St||RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska|
|WR Allen Robinson, Penn St||WR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin|
|WR Jeremy Gallon, Michigan||WR Cody Latimer, Indiana|
|TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa||TE Devin Funchess, Michigan|
|C Corey Linsley, Ohio St||C Cole Pensick, Nebraska|
|G John Urschel, Penn St||G Andrew Norwell, Ohio St|
|G Ryan Groy, Wisconsin||G Blake Treadwell, Michigan St|
|T Jack Mewhort, Ohio St||T Brandon Scherff, Iowa|
|T Taylor Lewan, Michigan||T Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin|
|AP James White, Wisconsin||AP Josh Ferguson, Illinois|
|First-Team Defense||Second-Team Defense|
|DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan St||DE Frank Clark, Michigan|
|DE Randy Gregory, Nebraska||DE Noah Spence, Ohio St|
|DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota||DT Carl Davis, Iowa|
|DT DaQuan Jones, Penn St||DT Michael Bennett, Ohio St|
|LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio St||LB James Morris, Iowa|
|LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin||LB Denicos Allen, Michigan St|
|LB Max Bullough, Michigan St||LB Anthony Hitchens, Iowa|
|CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan St||CB Blake Countess, Michigan|
|CB Bradley Roby, Ohio St||CB Ciante Evans, Nebraska|
|S Isaiah Lewis, Michigan St||S Brock Vereen, Minnesota|
|S Kurtis Drummond, Michigan St||S C.J. Barnett, Ohio St|
|First-Team Specialists||Second-Team Specialists|
|K Jeff Budzien, Northwestern||K Mitch Ewald, Indiana|
|P Mike Sadler, Michigan St||P Cody Webster, Purdue|
|KR Akeem Hunt, Purdue||KR Kenny Bell, Nebraska|
|PR Kevonte Martin-Manley, Iowa||PR V'Angelo Bentley, Illinois|
The 2013 season will be an extremely memorable one for Pac-12 fans. New coaches Sonny Dykes and Mark Helfrich had very different debuts out West. The Pac-12 North turned out to be one of, if not the, best divisions in college football and first place was handled like a hot potato for the better part of a month. A group of second-year coaches lit up the night sky in the Pac-12 South each weekend. And the coach of the most powerful football program west of Austin, Texas, was fired after just one month of action.
The ousting of Lane Kiffin stole the headlines early in the season but fans in Los Angeles were given new life when the affable Ed Orgeron rallied the troops and circled the wagons in Heritage Hall. Then gaudy numbers took center stage in October as names like Sean Mannion, Marcus Mariota, Brandin Cooks, Marion Grice and Ka’Deem Carey all seemed to be leading the nation in something important.
Finally, the month of November rolled around and the division championships took center stage. Stanford and Oregon ran the zone read to perfection, handing off first place in the Pac-12 North three times in three weeks. Eventually, Oregon’s loss to Arizona in the desert awarded the crown to David Shaw and the Cardinal for the second consecutive season.
Speaking of the desert, while USC and UCLA got the national attention for most of the year, Arizona State quietly went about its business and posted the best record in the conference. But even getting to host the Pac-12 Championship Game couldn’t help Todd Graham break the Sun Devils' two decades-long Rose Bowl drought in Tempe.
But he did win Athlon Sports' Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors.
Pac-12 2013 Season Awards
Coach of the Year: Todd Graham, Arizona State
Arizona State winning the Pac-12 South didn’t come as a big surprise to Athlon Sports — we picked ASU to win the division back in the summer. But to post the best record in the league at 8-1? To host the conference championship game? And to win 10 games? No, all of that came as a bit of a surprise. Arizona State was one win away from its first Rose Bowl since 1996 and won 10 games in a season for just the third time since 1986. Arizona State led the league in turnover margin, sacks and fewest penalties while finishing second in scoring to only Oregon at 41.0 points per game. Todd Graham is one of 10 finalists for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year nationally.
Offensive Player of the Year: Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
This is a remarkably talented offensive conference so there are a number of deserving candidates for Offensive Player of the Year but none played bigger and more consistently in brighter moments than Stanford’s Gaffney. No one in the Pac-12 scored more rushing touchdowns than the Cardinal ball-carrier (20), as Gaffney scored at least once in 12 of 13 games. He scored five times in two wins over the “best” team in the league, Arizona State, and set the single-game attempts record with 45 carries against Oregon in the biggest game of the year. His 307 carries were third nationally, his 1,626 yards are sixth nationally and he helped carry his team to a second consecutive Rose Bowl berth by rushing for 133 yards and three touchdowns on the road in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Defensive Player of the Year: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
The Cardinal defense has more than one MVP with outside linebacker Trent Murphy and safety Ed Reynolds also certainly worthy of consideration. But Skov is the heart and soul of a unit that might be the most physical in the nation. The Stanford middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense and leading tackler on the Pac-12’s top defense. He collected 100 total tackles, 10.0 for a loss, and 4.5 sacks but, like Gaffney, played his best in the biggest moments. Skov had 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks in a three-point win over Washington. He forced two fumbles and posted nine tackles in a fabulous showing against Oregon. He leapt over the ASU line of scrimmage in true LaVarr Arrington fashion on a critical Pac-12 title-clinching goal-line stand in the title game. When it comes to toughness, leadership and production, few nationally can match the two-time conference champion’s resume.
Newcomer of the Year: Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA
While Player of the Year honors were difficult to narrow down, the Newcomer of the Year award is a pretty simple debate. Myles Jack is the only correct answer. In a bizarre maneuver by the Pac-12, Jack was awarded both the Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year honors. He posted 70 tackles (third among all Pac-12 freshmen), 5.0 for a loss, a forced fumble and an interception as a starting linebacker on defense. The two-way star, however, also added 267 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on an impressive 7.2 yards per carry on offense as a running back. He only played offense for four games but played a huge role in wins over Arizona, Washington and USC late in the year. The Paul Hornung Award finalist is the clear-cut newcomer of the year out West.
Biggest Disappointment of 2013 (team): Oregon
Normally, a 10-win season and No. 10-postseason ranking in the AP Poll would be things programs would call successful. Especially, a team with a first-year head coach. But the Ducks were preseason No. 3 in the nation and picked by almost all to win the Pac-12 championship this summer. Instead, Oregon will be playing in the Alamo Bowl. Oregon was in control of its own Pac-12 North destiny not once but twice and lost both times in ugly fashion to Stanford and subsequently Arizona. It handed the division crown to Stanford after laying an egg in the desert late in November and needed a touchdown with less than 30 seconds to play against Oregon State to salvage the 10-win season. It was a solid year for Oregon but not the one most anticipated and in a league in which almost every team overachieved, the Ducks get the nod as biggest disappointment.
Biggest Disappointment (individual): Lane Kiffin, USC
While Oregon gets the nod as the most disappointing team, the most disappointing aspect of the ’13 Pac-12 season has to be Lane Kiffin. The Trojans were loaded with talent but clearly had no desire to play for the embattled head coach. So after a wildly disappointing first month, Pat Haden didn’t even give Kiffin a chance to return to his office, firing the young head coach at Los Angeles International Airport before the team buses could even depart for campus following a lackluster showing in a 62-41 loss at Arizona State. What makes Kiffin even more disappointing is that his old team fought valiantly under interim head coach Ed Orgeron and has a chance to finish the season with 10 wins.
Biggest Surprise of 2013: Washington State
The Pac-12 preseason predictions were pretty accurate across the board in 2013. Did Oregon State and Cal lose a few extra games this fall? Sure. Did Arizona State surprise by winning a few extra this season? Certainly. But the job Mike Leach did at Washington State to take a 3-9 squad to a bowl game this fall after being picked to finish last in the conference has to be considered a minor upset. This team hasn’t had a winning record or been to a bowl game since 2003 and both of those could be checked off the list this month in just Leach’s second season. The Cougars improved on offense from 359.5 to 423.2 yards per game and pulled multiple road upsets over quality opponents like USC and Arizona. Leach won as many league games (4) in 2013 as Wazzu had won in the previous four seasons combined (4).
Athlon's 2013 All-Pac-12 Team
|First-Team Offense||Second-Team Offense|
|QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon||QB Taylor Kelly, Arizona St|
|RB Tyler Gaffney, Stanford||RB Bishop Sankey, Washington|
|RB Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona||RB Marion Grice, Arizona St|
|WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon St||WR Ty Montgomery, Stanford|
|WR Paul Richardson, Colorado||WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona St|
|TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Wash.||TE Chris Coyle, Arizona St|
|C Hroniss Grasu, Oregon||C Isaac Seumalo, Oregon St|
|G David Yankey, Stanford||G Jamil Douglas, Arizona St|
|G Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA||G Marcus Martin, USC|
|T Evan Finkenberg, Arizona St||T Cameron Fleming, Stanford|
|T Andrus Peat, Stanford||T Tyler Johnstone, Oregon|
|AP Myles Jack, UCLA||AP De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon|
|First-Team Defense||Second-Team Defense|
|DE Leonard Williams, USC||DE Scott Crichton, Oregon St|
|DE Trevor Reilly, Utah||DE Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington|
|DT Will Sutton, Arizona St||DT Taylor Hart, Oregon|
|DT Tenny Palepoi, Utah||DT Devon Coleman, Arizona St|
|LB Anthony Barr, UCLA||LB Devon Kennard, USC|
|LB Shayne Skov, Stanford||LB Chris Young, Arizona St|
|LB Trent Murphy, Stanford||LB Carl Bradford, Arizona St|
|CB Robert Nelson, Arizona St||CB Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon St|
|CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon||CB Marcus Peters, Washington|
|S Ed Reynolds, Stanford||S Alden Darby, Arizona St|
|S Deone Bucannon, Washington St||S Dion Bailey, USC|
|First-Team Specialists||Second-Team Specialists|
|K Zane Gonzalez, Arizona St||K Vincenzo D'Amato, Cal|
|P Tom Hackett, Utah||P Travis Coons, Washington|
|KR Ty Montgomery, Stanford||KR Victor Bolden, Oregon St|
|PR Nelson Agholor, USC||PR Bralon Addison, Oregon|
Each week of the college football season, Athlon Sports will poll some of the nation's best college football people from every region of the country. Each voter offers up a top five and each first-place vote is worth five points. A second-place vote is worth four points, so on and so forth. With 13 voters, a perfect ballot — i.e., 13 first-place votes — would give a player 65 total points.
One of the more exciting Heisman Trophy seasons has come to an end with a boring finish. Saturday night's announcement for Florida State's Jameis Winston is merely a formality. But with six invitees and other quality names not in New York, the race for No. 2 is one of the more exciting fans have seen in recent memory. Here is what Athlon's panel thinks:
Final 2013 Heisman Voting Results:
|1.||(1)||Jameis Winston||QB||Florida St||60||12||-||-||-||-|
|3.||(5)||Johnny Manziel||QB||Texas A&M||23||-||4||2||-||1|
|5.||(2)||Jordan Lynch||QB||N. Illinois||16||1||1||-||3||1|
|7.||(6)||Andre Williams||RB||Boston College||11||-||1||-||2||3|
|10t.||(14)||Derek Carr||QB||Fresno St||3||-||-||-||1||1|
|13.||(14)||Jadeveon Clowney||DE||S. Carolina||2||-||-||-||1||-|
|14.||(3)||Braxton Miller||QB||Ohio St||1||-||-||-||-||1|
Crown Winston. There is little intrigue surrounding Saturday night’s Heisman presentation. The 2013 Heisman winner will be Jameis Winston. He has no holes in his football resume — huge numbers, a perfect record, a chance at a championship, elite NFL talent and a persona people gravitate to. He led the nation in passing efficiency (190.06) and yards per attempt (10.9) while setting an NCAA freshman touchdown record with 38 scoring strikes (the old record belonged to Sam Bradford, 36). His offense crushed 13 opponents by an average of 42.3 points per game en route to a second-straight ACC crown and berth in the BCS title game. It could be one of the biggest Heisman blowouts in history.
Who is No. 2? Tre Mason finished No. 2 in our ballots after a huge final two months. Only two backs scored more rushing touchdowns than Mason’s 22, and no one came up bigger in marquee games. He rushed for 178 yards and a touchdown and carried Auburn to victory at Texas A&M. He carried 27 times for 115 yards and touchdown against Georgia and 29 times for 164 yards and a touchdown against Alabama. Mason saved his best for last, and it’s why he might finish second to Winston. He set SEC title games for carries (46), yards (304) and touchdowns (four) in the SEC championship game to clinch a BCS titele game bid.
Carr vs. Lynch. Jordan Lynch benefited greatly from increased TV exposure and name recognition entering the season. Carr may be a more worthy candidate, though Lynch ranked higher in our voting. Carr led the nation in total offense at 415.3 yards per game — nearly 65 more yards per game than Lynch (350.5). Carr accounted for 50 TD (48 pass, 2 rush) versus Lynch’s 45 (23 pass, 22 rush) in one less game than Lynch. The biggest argument, however, for Carr was his performance in the MWC title game. He threw for 404 yards and three scores as he led his team to a conference championship while Lynch struggled in a stunning loss to Bowling Green in the MAC title game.
Bryce Petty Snub. The biggest snub from being invited to New York is Baylor’s Bryce Petty. He has huge numbers — 3,844 yards, 30 touchdowns, two interceptions, 192 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns — and did something that has never happened for Baylor. He won the school's first Big 12 championship, clinching the school’s first BCS bowl bid and won 11 games for the first time in program history. Other players had more than one bad game and still got invited to NYC (Williams, Manziel) while Petty’s 359 yards and two touchdowns against Oklahoma State was enough for him to be omitted.
The Voting Panel:
|Tom Dienhart||Big Ten Network||BigTenNetwork.com||Jameis Winston|
|Bryan Fischer||Pac-12 Network||Pac-12.com||Jameis Winston|
|David Fox||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Jameis Winston|
|Braden Gall||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Jameis Winston|
|Steven Godfrey||SB Nation||SBNation.com||Jameis Winston|
|Chris Huston||Heisman Pundit||HeismanPundit.com||Jordan Lynch|
|Steven Lassan||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Jameis Winston|
|Chris Level||Red Raider Sports||RedRaiderSports.com||Jameis Winston|
|Mitch Light||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Jameis Winston|
|Billy Liucci||TexAgs||TexAgs.com||Jameis Winston|
|Dan Rubenstein||SB Nation/Solid Verbal||SolidVerbal.com||Jameis Winston|
|Josh Ward||Mr. SEC/WNML||MrSEC.com||Jameis Winston|
|Jim Young||ACC Sports Journal||ACCSports.com||Jameis Winston|
The 2013 season was one of the most unpredictable we have seen in the SEC in quite some time. The two teams that met in the league title game — Auburn and Missouri — combined to record a 2–14 record in conference play last season. Florida, which went 11–2 last season, lost its last seven games and finished with the program’s first losing record since 1979. And Texas A&M, a preseason top-five team in many polls, only managed to win four SEC games in what figures to be Johnny Manziel’s last season in College Station.
SEC 2013 Awards
Coach of the Year: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers authored an unlikely worst-to-first script, taking a program that went 0–8 in the SEC last year to the BCS National Championship game. Auburn made an incredible improvement on offense, increasing its per-game average by more than 200 yards per game — from 305.0 in 2012 to 505.3 in ’13. On the strength of 545 yards rushing against Missouri in the SEC title game, Auburn now leads the nation in rushing with 335.7 yards per game. If that holds up, the Tigers will be the first non-triple option team to win the rushing title since Nevada — led by Colin Kaepernick — did so in 2009.
Offensive Player of the Year: Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Mason surged past Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews in this category after rushing for 304 yards and four touchdowns on 46 carries in Auburn’s 59–42 win over Missouri last Saturday. Mason led the league with 1,621 yards and was at his best against the best competition and in the biggest games. He had 132 yards at LSU, 178 in a season-changing win at Texas A&M, 164 against Alabama and 304 against Missouri. Against SEC competition (eight regular-season games and the title game), Mason averaged 143.2 yards — the best in the league by almost 20 yards per game — and rushed for 17 touchdowns.
Defensive Player of the Year: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Mosley, a consensus first-team All-American in 2012, shined in his final season at Alabama. The Theodore, Ala., native leads the Crimson Tide in tackles with 88 (37 more than any other player on the team), tackles for a loss with nine and quarterback hurries with eight. Nick Saban offered this praise for his star linebacker after he executed a successful fake punt in Alabama’s win over LSU: “I trust C.J. to do anything — watch my kids, take care of my house. So a (punt) fake is not much. C.J. is just so conscientious about everything he does that you know he's going to execute and do it exactly like you told him to do it. He did a good job.”
Newcomer of the Year: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
Hargreaves III emerged as a bright spot in a dismal season in Gainesville. The true freshman from Tampa, a 5-star recruit, recorded 38 tackles and led the Gators with three interceptions and 11 pass break-ups. Hargreaves III will be a sure-fire first-team preseason All-American in 2014.
Biggest Disappointment of 2013: Florida
Coming off an 11–2 season that featured wins over Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State, the Gators were expected to challenge for the SEC East title. Didn’t happen. Florida stubbed its toe in a Week 2 loss at Miami and then imploded in the latter half of the season, losing its final seven games to finish 5–7 overall and 3–5 in the SEC. The low point of the season came on Nov. 23 when Georgia Southern, an FCS school that went 4–4 in the Southern Conference, topped the Gators 26–20 in Gainesville. Yes, this team suffered more than its share of injuries, but there is no excuse for Florida to struggle so much.
Biggest Surprise of 2013: Auburn
Missouri would also be a solid choice, but it’s hard to pick against Auburn, which made the well-documented climb from winless in the SEC to league champion — and possibly national champion. Gus Malzahn is worthy of all the praise he is receiving of late; he did a masterful job in 2013.
Athlon's 2013 All-SEC Team
|First-Team Offense||Second-Team Offense|
QB AJ McCarron, Alabama
QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
RB Tre Mason, Auburn
RB Mike Davis, South Carolina
RB T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
RB Jeremy Hill, LSU
WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
WR Jarvis Landry, LSU
TE Arthur Lynch, Georgia
TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas
T Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
T Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
T Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
T Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
C Reese Dismukes, Auburn
C Travis Swanson, Arkansas
G Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
G Chad Slade, Auburn
G Anthony Steen, Alabama
G Trai Turner, LSU
|First-Team Defense||Second-Team Defense|
DE Dee Ford, Auburn
DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
DE Michael Sam, Missouri
DE Chris Smith, Arkansas
DT Anthony Johnson, LSU
DT Ego Ferguson, LSU
DT Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
DT Donte Rumph, Kentucky
LB A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
LB Lamin Barrow, LSU
LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
LB Avery Williamson, Kentucky
LB Ramik Wilson, Georgia
LB Andrew Wilson, Missouri
CB E.J. Gaines, Missouri
CB Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
CB Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
S Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss
S Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt
S Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State
|First-Team Specialists||Second-Team Specialists|
K Marshall Morgan, Georgia
K Zach Hocker, Arkansas
P Cody Mandell, Alabama
P Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
KR Christion Jones, Alabama
KR Solomon Patton, Florida
PR Chris Davis, Auburn
PR Christion Jones, Alabama
The American Athletic Conference so far is performing like a league born from a diverse group of programs with different resources and expectations.
Not that we’d expect anything else, since this is a league smashed together among programs with different resources and expectations.
On one end, there’s Louisville, Connecticut and Memphis who are continuing on what all three programs did last season.
The defending national champion Cardinals get the benefit of the doubt given the returning cast, but they’ve played only one major opponent and lost to North Carolina. Now that Connecticut has a chance to play for the NCAA Tournament, the Huskies are relishing in the opportunity, despite obvious limitations. And Memphis has flipped the narrative after earning redemption from a blowout road loss to Oklahoma State with a win over the same Cowboys in Orlando.
On the other end is a team like SMU still striving to prove it belongs among the upper echelon of the league with Louisville, Connecticut, Memphis and Cincinnati. To do that, SMU may have to prove what it’s not and that means separating itself from Rutgers, UCF, USF and Houston.
Early Season Report Card: American Athletic Conference
Bubble watch: Cincinnati, SMU
Best win: Memphis 73, Okla. State 68
Worst loss: FAU 75, UCF 64
Power rankings so far
Important non-conference games remaining
Cincinnati at Xavier (Dec. 14)
Florida at Memphis (Dec. 17)
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (Dec. 17)
Stanford at Connecticut (Dec. 18)
Connecticut at Washington (Dec. 22)
Louisville at Kentucky (Dec. 28)
The AAC’s leading scorers Russ Smith and Sean Kilpatrick deserve mention, but Napier has been the clear do-it-all player for the Huskies. Drawing comparisons to Kemba Walker, Napier has been huge in the Huskies’ top wins with 26 points against Florida, 27 against Indiana, 20 against Boston College and 18 against Maryland. The only question is if he’ll need to keep up this torrid pace (15.3 points, seven rebounds and 5.9 assists per game) for UConn to remain an AAC contender. And then there was this shot.
Top freshman: Austin Nichols, Memphis
Nichols has stepped in to give Memphis the inside presence the Tigers need in their guard-heavy lineup. The 6-8, 212-pound forward has averaged 5.9 rebounds per game including a 19-point and eight-rebound performance against LSU in the Old Spice Classic.
Top newcomer: Chris Jones, Louisville
Taking over for Peyton Siva is no easy task, but Jones has assumed the point guard role successfully with the Cardinals. He’s second to Russ Smith in scoring (14.9 ppg) and has played relentless defense. One of the more interesting games of the season will be when the junior college transfer Jones returns to his hometown of Memphis to face the Tigers and to play in the AAC Tournament.
Surprise player: Justin Jackson, Cincinnati
Justin Jackson had been a steady contributor on the defensive end as shot blocker, but he didn’t have a developed offensive game. That has changed in his senior season. Before this year, he’d never averaged more than 5.1 points per game in a season. He’s up to 10.6 points while averaging 3.3 blocks.
Early season flop: Louisville’s loss to North Carolina
Let’s forget that North Carolina has been wildly inconsistent this season and just count Louisville’s 93-84 loss to the Tar Heels as a loss to a solid team on a neutral court. Even then, how do you account for the dismal performance of Louisville’s supporting cast, a group that came up huge in the Cardinals’ title run last season. Montrezl Harrell was 2 of 5 (but with 10 rebounds). Luke Hancock was 1 of 8. Wayne Blackshear was invisible, missing his only shot in 17 minutes. Louisville still has a game at Kentucky on Dec. 28, but of the top 10 or so preseason teams, we know the least about Louisville. After North Carolina, Lousiville has faced only two other top-100 opponents on KenPom (Southern Miss and Louisiana-Lafayette).
Lingering concerns: Connecticut’s inside presence
Napier, a 6-1 guard, leads UConn in rebounding at seven per game. The next best player, forward DeAndre Daniels, averages 4.7. The Huskies have managed to start 9-0 despite ranking 240th in defensive rebounding percentage and 182nd in offensive rebounding percentage. That can’t hold up over the course of the season.
Best NCAA resume: Connecticut
No one is comparing the 2013-14 Huskies to the 2010-11 team that won the title, but a hot start has been a big part of both. Defeating Florida on a buzzer beater at home is nice, defeating Indiana on a neutral court is just as good. Maryland and Boston College might not be NCAA teams, but the Huskies beat both on neutral courts as well.
A quick look at every game on the NFL schedule for Week 15, along with the consensus picks of Athlon Sports’ editors.
Chargers (6-7) at Broncos (11-2)
Historically, Peyton Manning has had tough times against the Bolts — snapping a 13-game winning streak in 2005, throwing six INTs in ’07 and four INTs with a pair of pick-sixes in ’10. But Manning didn’t have any problems in Week 10 this year, passing for 330 yards, four TDs and zero INTs during a 28–20 win at San Diego. The Broncos were a quick-strike offense that day, with scoring drives lasting 57 seconds, 1:25, 2:27 and 3:26, respectively. Broncos by 10
Redskins (3-10) at Falcons (3-10)
One year ago, Washington and Atlanta hosted playoff games. How quickly a team can get caught in the undertow of NFL parity and flipped from first to worst in its division standings. Falcons by 3
49ers (9-4) at Buccaneers (4-9)
There are no moral victories in the NFL. A loss is a loss is a loss, obviously. But San Fran’s four defeats are at Seattle, Indianapolis, Carolina and at New Orleans — a quartet of teams with a combined 38–14 record this season. 49ers by 8
Seahawks (11-2) at Giants (5-8)
Much has been made of Russell Wilson’s 14–0 career record at home in Seattle. Fewer Hawks fans are eager to bring up Wilson’s 5–5 mark (including playoffs) in the Eastern Time Zone. Seahawks by 9
Eagles (8-5) at Vikings (3-9-1)
The good news is it appears Adrian Peterson will not need surgery on his mid-foot sprain, which is not of the dreaded Lisfranc variety according to recent MRI results. The bad news is A.D. is in a walking boot and unlikely to play in Week 15, backup Toby Gerhart has a hamstring issue and third-string back Matt Asiata has three career carries for nine yards in 2012. Eagles by 7
Patriots (10-3) at Dolphins (7-6)
New England beat Miami, 27–17, in Week 8. But the win was Tom Brady’s worst statistical game of the season, with season lows in completions (13), attempts (22) and passing yards (116). Brady’s 116 yards were his fewest since 2009. Patriots by 2
Bills (4-9) at Jaguars (4-9)
J-Ville has won four of its last five since coming back from London, where the Jags fell to 0–8 after a rock-bottom 32-point loss to the 49ers. Jaguars by 1
Texans (2-11) at Colts (8-5)
Indianapolis overcame a 21–3 halftime deficit to pull off a 27–24 win at Houston in Week 9. In three career games against the AFC South rival Texans, Luck has seven TDs and zero INTs. Colts by 6
Bears (7-6) at Browns (4-9)
Marc Trestman backs Jay Cutler as Chicago’s top QB, despite Josh McCown’s recent success. That’s nothing. Cleveland has had four guys throw TDs this season, including a punter. Browns by 1
Chiefs (10-3) at Raiders (4-9)
K.C. destroyed Oakland, 24–7, in Week 6, with the Chiefs D notching 10 sacks and three INTs. Chiefs by 8
Jets (6-7) at Panthers (9-4)
The Cats’ top-ranked scoring defense (14.5 ppg) had not allowed more than two TDs in a single game until the Saints scored three times in one quarter during last week’s 31–13 loss — which was only the second time all season Carolina allowed 24 or more points. Meanwhile, the Jets have scored 14 or fewer points in seven games, including four games in single digits. Panthers by 11
Packers (6-6-1) at Cowboys (7-6)
Obviously, the status of Aaron Rodgers is the giant cheese block in the room. But since even the doctor in charge isn’t sure of what to do about Title Town’s most valuable collarbone, let’s talk about Tony Romo’s 13–20 career record in December and January, instead. This rematch of the 1967 “Ice Bowl” will be awfully cold for the losing team in this must-win showdown. Cowboys by 8
Cardinals (8-5) at Titans (5-8)
Bruce Arians beat Tennessee twice last season as the Colts interim coach, with a 19–13 win in Music City and a 27–23 victory at Indy. Cardinals by 1
Saints (10-3) at Rams (5-8)
New Orleans has marched to a 7–0 record at home and a 3–3 mark on the road. But St. Louis plays in a dome, where N’Awlins is 8–1. Saints by 5
Bengals (9-4) at Steelers (5-8)
Andy Dalton has been unstoppable at home — with 14 TDs, five INTs and a perfect 6–0 record that includes victories over Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger. On the road, however, Dalton has been vulnerable — with 11 TDs, nine INTs and a 3–4 record that includes losses to Brian Hoyer, Jay Cutler and Ryan Tannehill. Bengals by 1
Ravens (7-6) at Lions (7-6)
Tampa-born, Dallas-raised and Georgia-educated Matthew Stafford is happy to be in a heated dome after last week’s blizzard in Baltimore. Lions by 1
Last week: 14–2 // Season: 137–70–1
Not so long ago, Robert Griffin III and Mike Shanahan were taking the Washington Redskins to the playoffs and the biggest Scandal in D.C. was an ABC prime time drama starring Kerry Washington.
Times have changed in the nation’s capital. Some are calling for an emergency midterm election — i.e. the Redskins’ first midseason coaching change since Norv Turner was fired by owner Daniel Snyder after 13 games in 2000. To be fair, Turner had been hired by the late, great Jack Kent Cooke in 1994 and was never Snyder’s “guy.”
No, Snyder’s list of head coaching hires reads Marty Schottenheimer (2001), Steve Spurrier (2002-03), Joe Gibbs’ second term (2004-07, following his Hall of Fame stint from 1981-92), Jim Zorn (2008-09) and, drum roll please, Shanahan (2010-who knows?).
Following a humiliating 45–10 blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14 — Washington’s 10th loss this season — Shanahan’s status is in doubt. Then again, so is the status of RG3, whom Shanahan claims may be benched for the final three games of the season as a health precaution.
“We had 24 sacks in the last five games. That’s a lot,” Shanahan said. “I want to make sure he’s healthy. I think that’s the most important thing going into the offseason, that he has his first full offseason of being healthy. And if something did happen to him, I think it would set out franchise back.”
Griffin III famously suffered a devastating knee injury on Jan. 6 earlier this year and many have speculated that the 23-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner has still not returned to 100 percent.
The numbers back that assertion. As a rookie, RG3 had 27 total TDs and seven turnovers while leading the Skins to a 10–6 record. This year, he has 16 total TDs and 16 turnovers with a miserable 3–10 record, including the team’s current five-game losing streak.
Stats and losses are only part of the problem in Washington, where the cozy friendship between RG3 and his owner, Snyder, is under the microscope. Shanahan allegedly feels his power has been usurped by his young signal-caller and his relationship with Snyder may have been damaged beyond repair.
Normally, a team in such bad shape can at least look forward to the upcoming NFL Draft. Washington, however, traded away its 2014 first-round pick to the St. Louis Rams as part of the bounty to acquire RG3 in 2012.
“There’s always a lot of noise when you’re 3–10,” Shanahan said. “I understand that, and every organization has it. There’s going to be a lot more noise over the next few weeks.”
Ranking all 32 NFL teams, with the two-loss Broncos back on top and the two-win Texans cellar-dwelling.
1. Broncos (11-2) Matt Prater makes NFL-record 64-yard field goal.
2. Seahawks (11-2) Richard Sherman blames loss on bad calls by refs.
3. Saints (10-3) Drew Brees fastest to 50,000 yards (183 games).
4. 49ers (9-4) Frank Gore 51-yard run seals win over Seattle.
5. Patriots (10-3) Rob Gronkowski out for season with torn ACL, MCL.
6. Bengals (9-4) Improve to perfect 6–0 mark at Paul Brown Stadium.
7. Chiefs (10-3) Andy Reid celebrates Sporting KC’s MLS Cup win.
8. Panthers (9-4) “We got a little full of ourselves,” says Ron Rivera.
9. Eagles (8-5) Nick Foles finally throws first INT in win over Lions.
10. Cardinals (8-5) Tyrann Mathieu out for season with torn ACL, LCL.
11. Colts (8-5) Lose at Cincy, but wrap up AFC South title anyway.
12. Bears (7-6) Mike Ditka’s No. 89 retired at halftime vs. Cowboys.
13. Lions (7-6) Reggie Bush injures calf after pregame fall in snow.
14. Cowboys (7-6) Jerry Jones thinks defense should “take more risk.”
15. Packers (6-6-1) Plus-one on scoreboard with minus-one wind chill.
16. Ravens (7-6) Win game with five lead changes in last two minutes.
17. Dolphins (7-6) Notch first victory on road at Pittsburgh in 23 years.
18. Jets (6-7) Avoid first four-game losing streak under Rex Ryan.
19. Chargers (6-7) Philip Rivers celebrates 32nd birthday with victory.
20. Titans (5-8) Job status “not a concern” for coach Mike Munchak.
21. Giants (5-8) San Diego fans heckle former draft pick Eli Manning.
22. Steelers (5-8) Antonio Brown steps out of bounds on last-ditch TD.
23. Rams (5-8) Remember, Rams own Redskins’ first-round pick.
24. Buccaneers (4-9) Have won four of last five after 0–8 start to season.
25. Browns (4-9) Allow two Tom Brady TDs in final 61 seconds of loss.
26. Raiders (4-9) Have lost 13 straight games in Eastern Time Zone.
27. Jaguars (4-9) Third straight win is first at home since Nov. 2012.
28. Bills (4-9) Extend NFL-worst 14-season postseason drought.
29. Falcons (3-10) OC Dirk Koetter interviews for Boise State vacancy.
30. Vikings (3-9-1) Adrian Peterson carted off field, awaits more tests.
31. Redskins (3-10) Mike Shanahan on hot seat, debates benching RG3.
32. Texans (2-11) Gary Kubiak fired after 61–64 record in eight years.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles
Shady was a one-man Iditarod during a 34–20 come-from-behind win over the Lions, slicing and dicing his way through eight inches of snow en route to 29 carries for 217 yards and two TDs. Philadelphia continued its quest to go from worst to first in the NFC East by scoring all 34 points in the second half — including 28 fourth-quarter points — in blizzard-like conditions at Lincoln Financial Field. McCoy led the way with 148 fourth-quarter yards on his way to breaking Steve Van Buren’s single-game team rushing record (205) set in 1949.
Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos
The four-time MVP gave the cold shoulder to those critics who claimed Manning was a lesser passer in cold weather — completing 39-of-59 passes for 397 yards, four TDs and zero INTs during a 51–28 win over the Titans. “Whoever wrote that narrative can shove that one where the sun don’t shine,” Manning told Denver’s KOA-AM during a postgame interview. “I felt pretty good out there today.” Playing in low-teen temperatures that felt like single-digit weather, Manning set a Broncos team record with 39 completions, as well as four scores to four different pass-catchers (Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker).
Marques Colston, WR, Saints
Sure, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees topped the 50,000-yard mark for his career during a 31–13 statement win over NFC South rival Carolina on Sunday night. But it was the resurgence of Brees’ go-to wideout, Colston, that has Saints fans ready to party like Fat Tuesday came early this year. Colston — who has accounted for 8,115 of Brees’ 50,026 yards — added nine catches for 125 yards and two trips to the end zone. The breakout effort was Colston’s second 100-yard game this year and his first multi-TD contest since Week 17 last season (also against Carolina).
John Abraham, LB, Cardinals
The 14th-year veteran pass rusher took down St. Louis’ Kellen Clemens for three sacks — one of which resulted in a safety — along with a forced fumble during a 30–10 victory over the Rams. Abraham also bull-rushed his way to ninth on the all-time sacks list with 133.0, passing Lawrence Taylor and Leslie O’Neal, both of whom had 132.5 career sacks. Abraham is five sacks shy of overtaking John Randle and Richard Dent’s 137.5 career sacks for seventh place on the all-time list.
The regular college football season has come to an end and that can only mean one thing: you're going to be invited to join your buddy's College Bowl Pick'em league. Of course, who has time to come up with a clever or witty team name to impress your bowl-picking counterparts? Well, we've got you covered. Check out these 50 funny (we use the term loosely) college team-related names for your bowl-picking pleasure.
The Glory Bowl
Clowney Question, Bro
I Shaved My Bowls for This?
Look at My Big Bowls
50 Shades of Johnathan Gray
(Rashad) Greene With Envy
I Hit You Like a Wrecking Bowl
(Tyler) Lockett Up
(Yawin) Smallwood Needs Lovin' Too
Jackson Turner Overdrive
Chubb Small World After All
Too Many Brandin Cooks in the Kitchen
The League's Ameer (Abdullah) Player
In A Major Quandre (Diggs)
To the Max Bullough
Calvin and the Chipmunks
Ring My Blake Bell
The Mighty Casey Pachall Strikes Out
Kiss My David Ash
Eric Ward of the State
Tevin Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
2 Much Johnson For You
Lache Key Kid
Jeckle & Carlos Hyde
My Posse's on (Terrance) Broadway
Vad Case of Loving You
Keeping Up with The Butch Joneses
(Matt) Rhule Girls, One Cup
Johnny Come Lately
Everett Golson's Tutors
Hotty Toddy Hotties
Colonel Reb Is Smiling
USC Sweater Puppies
Neon Nike Ducks
Kingsbury Skinny Jeans
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 10.
• I love actress Emmy Rossum of "Shameless," and you should, too. After you read this, you will.
• The "Sorry Your Team Lost" NFL Week 14 roundup. At least we won't have Gary Kubiak to kick around anymore.
• No wonder the Bears' Josh McCown is putting up huge numbers. He's throwing to Alshon Jeffery. The guy Lane Kiffin said would be pumping gas if he went to South Carolina.
• Not all the entertainment is on the field or the court. Here are 25 fans in the process of getting their minds blown, their worlds rocked and their hopes destroyed.
• Sorry, fellas: Alex Morgan is off the market.
• A quick rundown of this year's bowl swag. We can't pay 'em, but we can give 'em a Playstation 4.
• Tis the season for humiliation, disgrace and regret: 9 things not to do at your office Christmas party.
• To celebrate Dick Vitale's 35 years at ESPN, his colleagues at the worldwide leader did their best imitations.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
College football’s most prestigious award will be handed out on Saturday night, and six players will head to New York for the ceremony: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Northern Illinois’ quarterback Jordan Lynch, Boston College running back Andre Williams, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Auburn running back Tre Mason.
Winston is considered a heavy favorite to win on Saturday night, and the redshirt freshman is expected to become the third Florida State player to claim the Heisman Trophy.
Mason has made a strong case late in the season, while Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch totaled 45 touchdowns in 13 games this year.
Williams leads the nation by averaging 175.2 rushing yards per game.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is the defending Heisman winner, and Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron threw just 13 interceptions over his three seasons as the Crimson Tide’s starter.
Heisman finalists: Jameis Winston - FSU Jordan Lynch - NIU Johnny Manziel - TAMU Tre Mason - AUB A.J. McCarron - ALA Andre Williams - BC— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 9, 2013
Wake Forest moved quickly in replacing Jim Grobe, choosing Bowling Green’s Dave Clawson to be its next head coach.
Grobe tied the school record with 77 victories during his Wake Forest tenure, which included an 11-3 record with an ACC Championship in 2006.
Clawson is a good hire for Wake Forest, as he has a 90-80 career record in three head coaching stops. Clawson went 29-29 in five years at Fordham, 29-20 in four years at Richmond and 32-31 in five seasons at Bowling Green.
Wake Forest isn’t an easy job, but Clawson already has experience winning at difficult programs, and his rebuilding effort at Bowling Green should serve him well in Winston-Salem.
The Pac-12 is a conference on the rise, and the league was strengthened during this year’s coaching carousel. Washington hired Chris Petersen away from Boise State to replace Steve Sarkisian, who left to take over at USC.
Boise State had success in the years prior to Petersen taking over, but the California native guided the program to new heights, including two BCS bowl victories. Petersen’s final record at Boise State was 92-12.
Sarkisian didn’t inherit much to work with when he arrived in Washington in 2009. The Huskies made a five-game improvement in the win column in his first season and won at least seven games in each of the next four years.
With more resources and an expected top-notch coaching staff at his disposal at USC, Sarkisian is expected to return the Trojans to national championship contention.
Both programs seem to have found a good fit. Is Sarkisian or Petersen the better hire this offseason?
Washington or USC: Which Program Made the Better Coach Hire?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Steve Sarkisian is a good fit at USC, but Washington made the better hire. Boise State’s Chris Petersen is arguably one of the nation’s top 15-20 coaches and guided the Broncos to a 92-12 record. Boise State also went 5-2 in bowl games under his watch and finished six times in the final Associated Press poll from 2006-12. Winning in a BCS league on a week-to-week basis is certainly going to be a bigger challenge than in the Mountain West, and Petersen has to prove he can win outside of Boise State, unlike previous coaches (Dan Hawkins and Dirk Koetter) that left for Pac-12 jobs. However, Petersen is regarded as one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the nation and will have more resources at his disposal in Washington. Sarkisian will win a lot of games at USC, but I think the Huskies upgraded when they hired Petersen away from Boise State.
I think both schools made solid hires, but I believe Washington hit the proverbial "home run" in luring Petersen away from Boise State. Don't get me wrong, I have no issues whatsoever with USC picking Steve Sarkisian as Lane Kiffin's replacement, but I have been anxious to see what Petersen could do at a "major" program for several years. This is a guy who up until this season had won at least 10 games every season with the Broncos. Included in his eight-year run was five conference titles and two BCS bowl victories. Now Petersen, a California native who played at UC Davis, gets to stay "home" in the Pacific Northwest and apply his winning formula at Washington, a school with significantly more resources and national brand recognition than Boise State, even with the Broncos' recent run of success.
USC is one of the top coaching jobs in college football, but instead of going for the "home run," athletic director Pat Haden decided to tap into the Trojans' most recent glory days by hiring Sarkisian, a former assistant coach under Pete Carroll. This actually put Washington AD Scott Woodward in the tougher position of filling his vacancy, and give him credit for finally saying the right things to convince Petersen to leave Boise. Of the course the biggest question regarding the Huskies' new head man is will the winning follow him from the famed "Smurf Turf" to Seattle? Only time will tell, but Washington fans have no reason to not be excited about the future of their football program.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Let’s start by saying both will do well. I’d argue both Washington and USC upgraded their coaching situations. Go ahead and point to the the last two Boise State coaches who flamed out at major jobs, both at current Pac-12 schools. Dirk Koetter took over a program that had stagnated at Arizona State and still had nice seasons. Dan Hawkins took over a mess of a program at Colorado. Petersen, though, has a program ready to return to national prominence. That’s partly due to the facilities upgrades and the work Sarkisian did when he took over a program in disarray. Skeptics wonder if Petersen will be able to recruit at the level Washington needs to in order to beat Oregon and Stanford. I have enough faith in Petersen as an administrator to augment his abilities with his staff. After all, this is a guy who needed to replace Justin Wilcox, Bryan Harsin, Brent Pease and others over the years. He’ll do fine at Washington.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Can I wait until I see the entire make up of coaching staffs to make that decision? On the surface, Chris Petersen feels like the better hire. However, if Steve Sarkisian can lure Justin Wilcox, Tosh Lupoi and Peter Sirmon to join him in Los Angeles, than I would switch my vote. Petersen is more of a proven commodity who has obviously won at a higher level. But he has struggled the last two seasons (relatively speaking) as the Broncos stepped up in competition by joining the Mountain West. And his 2013 campaign was the worst of his head coaching tenure at Boise. Coach Sark knows the USC landscape and understands what the expectation levels will be at Heritage Hall. Both teams made quality hires given their circumstances, but for now, Washington has done something that many have failed to do in luring Petersen away from Boise State. Trojans fans likely think they "under hired" while Huskies believe they actually upgraded.
Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.
Some fall on the sabermetric side of things, while others like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.
With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 14 of the NFL season:
90: NFL record for total TDs scored on a single day
The previous single-day NFL record for total touchdowns scored was 87 from Week 17 last year on Dec. 30, 2012. With five total touchdowns, Carolina and New Orleans pushed Sunday’s total to a new NFL-record 90 touchdowns. It was the single-highest scoring day in NFL history and it came when snowy, inclement weather played a huge role in multiple games. All told, Week 14 produced 104 touchdowns, making it the first week in NFL history to feature 100 trips to the end zone. Not surprisingly, Week 14 also broke the record for most points scored in a single week with 859.
6: Most fourth-quarter lead changes in NFL history
The defending Super Bowl champs played one of the most entertaining fourth quarters in NFL history against the Vikings on Sunday. There were six lead changes in the final period, setting a new NFL record for most lead changes in the fourth quarter. What’s more impressive is that the two teams combined for five total touchdowns over the final 2:05 of the game. Joe Flacco got the last laugh by leading his Ravens on a five-play, 80-yard drive in just 41 seconds, which culminated with him connecting with Marlon Brown for the game winner with four seconds left. The win pushes Baltimore to 7-6 on the season and in a tie with Miami for the final AFC Wild Card spot.
217: LeSean McCoy's Eagles single-game rushing record
In nasty (but entertaining) weather in Philadelphia, LeSean McCoy set a franchise record with 217 yards rushing. The Eagles scored four fourth-quarter touchdowns, including two long McCoy scoring runs of 40 and 57 yards, to pull away from Detroit in a critical NFC showdown between division leaders. McCoy became just the third Eagles player to rush for 200 yards in a game, breaking Steve Van Buren’s 64-year-old single-game rushing record (205) set back in 1949. Duce Staley is the only other Eagle to top 200 yards (201 in 2000). Phily (8-5) has won five straight and is leading the NFC East after a 4-12 record a year ago.
7: Total fumbles by the Lions
The Eagles clearly handled the heaping piles of snow at The Link on Sunday. The Lions mustered just 288 yards of offense and 11 first downs in the key loss to the Eagles. They also fumbled seven times, losing three of them. Matthew Stafford fumbled five times (one lost) and Joique Bell lost both of his fumbles. The Eagles allowed zero sacks, didn’t lose a fumble and threw just one interception — Nick Foles' first pick of the 2013 season. Additionally, Calvin Johnson passed Herman Moore as the Lions' all-time leading receiver with 9,184 yards. Megatron already owns the Detroit franchise record for receiving touchdowns (66) and is 57 receptions away from passing Moore (670) for that mark. Johnson has played 41 fewer career games than Moore.
1: NFL teams to have four players with at least 10 TDs
Peyton Manning had no issues with the cold weather as the Broncos topped the Titans 51-28. He continued his record-setting season by throwing for 397 yards and four touchdowns in the playoff-clinching win for Denver. The Broncos became the first team in NFL history to boast four players with at least 10 touchdowns on the same team. Knowshon Moreno (12), Demaryius Thomas (11), Julius Thomas (11) and Wes Welker (10) all scored a touchdown on Sunday and all have double-digit scores in 2013. Eric Decker needs two more touchdowns to become the fifth player on the Broncos to reach at least 10 this season. Denver was one of two AFC teams to clinch a postseason berth on Sunday as the Colts, despite losing, clinched the AFC South because of Tennessee's loss to the Broncos.
64: Matt Prater's NFL-record longest field goal
In the same game, Matt Prater kicked the longest field goal in NFL history when he connected from 64 yards out. It broke the previous NFL record of 63 — a number many could match but none had surpassed until Prater. Tom Dempsey (1970), Sebastian Janikowski (2011), David Akers (2012) and Jason Elam (1998) were all tied with a 63-yard make. Elam’s, Janikowski’s and Prater’s record-setter came at altitude in the city of Denver.
3: Straight wins for the Patriots after trailing by at least 10 points in the second half
The Pats trailed the Browns 19-3 with less than minute to go in the third quarter. The offense lost Rob Gronkowski and the defense allowed 391 yards passing to Jason Campbell. But New England still has Tom Brady. The Pats quarterback engineered four scoring drives in the final 16 minutes of action to outscore the Browns 24-7 over that span, including two touchdown passes in the final 1:01 of play. It marks the first time since the 1993 Eagles that a team has overcome a double-digit deficit in the second half to win three straight games in a row. New England trailed by 10 to Houston, 24 to Denver and 16 to Cleveland in the second half but somehow won all three.
1990: The last time Miami won in Pittsburgh
Two teams with a combined 12 Super Bowl appearances did battle on Sunday in snowy Pittsburgh. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill played in the snow for the first time in his entire life but he looked like a seasoned vet, throwing three touchdowns in the win. He overcame the elements — and this wild final play — to secure the victory by leading five second-half scoring drives, including the eventual game-winning touchdown with less than three minutes to play. The victory was only the third by the Fish over the Steelers since 1990 and the first in the Steel City in 23 years (Sept. 30, 1990). More importantly, the Phins are tied with Baltimore for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. Mike Wallace, in his return to Pittsburgh, caught just two passes for 19 yards against his former team.
61-64: Gary Kubiak’s record as the Texans' head coach
Dom Capers was the Texans' head coach in the first four seasons of the franchise’s existence. He never had a winning record, finishing with an 18-46 overall record. After working as an assistant for a decade with the Denver Broncos, Gary Kubiak accepted the head coaching position in Houston in 2006. In just his second year, he posted the team’s first non-losing season and by Year 6, Kubiak had won the franchise’s first division crown and delivered the team’s first postseason berth. Kubiak was 22-10 in 2011-12 before starting this season 2-11. He was fired on Friday as the head coach of the “worst” team in the NFL and finished his eight-year tenure with a sub-.500 (61-64) overall record. He had three losing seasons, three winning seasons and two 8-8 campaigns.
For the last time, the coaches’ poll and Harris poll will factor into the national championship.
The end of the BCS means the end of the coaches’ poll as a component of postseason selection and the end of the Harris Interactive top 25 altogether.
For that, college football fans should be relieved.
Whatever their intentions, both polls ended up with their share of voters who made bizarre choices for their rankings. A disregard to head-to-head records, conference favoritism and voters who may or may not have paid attention to the season infiltrated the final polls year after year.
Granted, a majority of the voters probably made an honest effort and could justify their ballots with well-thought out data and observations.
The others, though ... it's fun to point and laugh sometimes.
Here’s what we found when the ballots were released late Sunday.
Inside the coaches’ poll (link to every ballot)
• Eight coaches did not start their polls with Florida State, Auburn and Alabama in that order. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio voted his team second, ahead of Auburn and Alabama. Can you blame him? West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen also voted Michigan State second for reasons unknown.
• Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier voted Florida State and Auburn first and second but Michigan State third. Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury voted FSU and Auburn and then Baylor, a team in the same league and led by another coach from Texas Tech stock. Washington State coach Mike Leach voted Stanford third
• Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, ever the pot-stirrer, voted Ohio State at No. 12, the Buckeyes' lowest ranking. Bielema did vote his former team Wisconsin at No. 21 despite Badgers’ fans ire at his departure. Bielema also gave Louisville its highest ranking at No. 6.
• Steve Spurrier for years gave Duke the No. 25 spot on his preseason ballot as a thank you to the Blue Devils for giving him his first head coaching job. USA Today eventually told him to knock it off to protect the integrity of the poll. Now given a chance to vote for Duke for real, Spurrier gave the Blue Devils their highest rank at No. 16.
• Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer was not totally impressed with the SEC this season, ranking Missouri 14th and LSU 15th. Both were ranked behind the top three teams in the Big 12 (Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) and top two teams in the American (UCF and Louisville).
• Baylor coach Art Briles was quite the Big 12 homer, voting Baylor fourth, Oklahoma State sixth and Oklahoma seventh. That came at the expensive of No. 8 Michigan State and No. 11 Missouri.
• The coaches’ poll as a whole did not peg UCF ahead of Louisville until the final week of the season (UCF beat Louisville 38-35 on Oct 18). Arizona State coach Todd Graham didn’t get the memo, voting Louisville ninth and UCF 22nd. For the record, UCF coach George O’Leary and Louisville coach Charlie Strong both voted the Knights higher.
• Washington State coach Mike Leach was even less of a fan of the American Athletic Conference with UCF at No. 24 and Louisville at No. 25. Leach also gave Oregon its highest ranking at No. 6.
• Texas State coach Dennis Franchione had two MAC teams on his ballot, neither of which won the championship. Franchione voted Ball State 24th and Northern Illinois 25th.
• Other evidence of conference favoritism: Dantonio tacked Iowa and Minnesota at the end of his ballot, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher gave his last two votes to Miami and Virginia Tech, Marshall coach Doc Holliday made room for C-USA champion Rice at No. 24.
• Where coaches voted their own teams (final ranking in parentheses):
David Bailiff, Rice, NR (also receiving votes)
Art Briles, Baylor, No. 4 (No. 5)
Rod Carey, Northern Illinois, No. 13 (No. 23)
Dave Clawson, Bowling Green, No. 25 (also receiving votes)
David Cutcliffe, Duke, No. 20 (No. 21)
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State, No. 2 (No. 4)
Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State, No. 18 (No. 20)
Jimbo Fisher, No. 1 (No. 1)
James Franklin, Vanderbilt, No. 23 (also receiving votes)
Al Golden, Miami, No. 24 (No. 25)
Todd Graham, Arizona State, No. 14 (No. 17)
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State, No. 10 (No. 13)
Mark Helfrich, Oregon, No. 7 (No. 12)
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame, No. 25 (also receiving votes)
Jerry Kill, Minnesota, No. 25 (also receiving votes)
Urban Meyer, Ohio State, No. 5 (No. 6)
Les Miles, LSU, No. 11 (No. 14)
George O’Leary, UCF, No. 12 (No. 15)
Mark Richt, Georgia, No. 20 (No. 24)
Nick Saban, Alabama, No. 3 (No. 3)
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina, No. 7 (No. 8)
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma, No. 9 (No. 10)
Charlie Strong, Louisville, No. 12 (No. 16)
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M, No. 20 (No. 21)
Dabo Swinney, Clemson, No. 9 (No. 11)
Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati, No. 25 (also receiving votes)
Inside the Harris poll (link to every ballot)
Related: Identifying every voter in the Harris poll
• Auburn received eight first-place votes, becoming the only other team besides Florida State to be ranked No. 1. Among those who voted Auburn first were Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey and former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.
• Auburn, though, hasn’t convinced everyone in the Harris poll. Jack Ebling, a host for WVFB in Lansing, Mich., voted Alabama second, one spot ahead of Auburn, despite the Tigers’ victory on a last-second missed field goal returned for a touchdown.
• How much did Ohio State’s 34-24 loss in the Michigan State hurt the Buckeyes’ stock? Seven voters dropped Ohio State to No. 10 or lower after the Buckeyes were second in the poll before the championship game. A few of these must have taken into account the weakness of the Big Ten as five of the seven ranked Michigan State lower than the rest of the poll. Former Notre Dame player Derrick Mayes ranked Ohio State 13th and Michigan State 11th. Former Army player Bob Anderson ranked Ohio State 12th and Michigan State eighth.
• For four voters, it’s as if the Big Ten championship game never happened. The following voted Ohio State ahead of Michigan State:
Bob Grim, former Oregon State player: No. 4 Ohio State, No. 9 Michigan State
Mike McGee, former Cincinnati and USC athletic director: No. 5 Ohio State, No. 6 Michigan State
Jordan Palmer, former UTEP quarterback: No. 4 Ohio State, No. 5 Michigan State
Riley Skinner, former Wake Forest quarterback: No. 4 Ohio State, No. 6 Michigan State
• Speaking of blatant disregard for head-to-head results among teams with similar records, 19 voters kept Oklahoma State ahead of Oklahoma despite identical records and the Sooners’ 33-24 win in Stillwater. Former Texas player Denny Aldridge ranked the Cowboys a full eight spots ahead of Oklahoma (No. 8 and No. 16).
• At least former South Alabama athletic director Joe Gottfried paid attention to Bedlam: He ranked Oklahoma sixth ... and Baylor ninth. Baylor won the Big 12 in part by beating Oklahoma 41-12 on Nov. 7.
• Former UAB broadcaster Gary Sanders turned in one of the strangest ballots with Louisville as high as No. 7. But the most eye-catching ranking was UCLA at No. 12. He found room for Pac-12 South champion Arizona State at No. 25.
• Sanders was one of 36 voters to rank UCLA ahead of Arizona State. The Sun Devils beat the Bruins 38-35 in the Rose Bowl to clinch the Pac-12 South.
• One storyline of the season was Louisville remaining ahead of UCF despite the Knights’ 38-35 win on the road over the Cardinals. UCF’s win, plus an edge in the non-conference schedule that included a win at Penn State and three-point loss to South Carolina, didn’t swing the 39 voters who kept Louisville ranked ahead of UCF in the final poll. Five voters ranked Louisville at least seven spots higher than UCF: former West Virginia player John Mallory, former Cal player Craig Morton, former UAB broadcaster Gary Sanders, former Kentucky player Jeff Van Note and former Louisville player Dwayne Woodruff.
• Dwayne Woodruff’s No. 8 ranking of his alma mater Louisville aside, favoritism didn’t appear to be too rampant in the final Harris poll. One notable exception: Former Fresno State athletic director Scott Johnson voted the Bulldogs 12th. Fresno State was ranked 20th in the final poll.
• Among the more, shall we say, interesting ballots:
Former Miami and Kentucky coach Fran Curci voted Baylor fourth, Louisville, eighth, Miami 17th, Rice 19th and Arizona State 24th ... while leaving Texas A&M and Georgia unranked.
Former Stanford quarterback Todd Husak ranked Oregon eighth, Arizona State 13th, UCLA 16th and Washington 25th.
Bob Marcum, former athletic director at Kansas, South Carolina and Marshall, voted Fresno State 13th, Northern Illinois 15th and Duke 16th ... all ahead of Clemson, Oregon, LSU and Arizona State.
Former Notre Dame player Derrick Mayes ranked Missouri fourth, South Carolina fifth, Clemson sixth, Oregon eighth, Michigan State 11th, Louisville 12th and Ohio State 13th.
Jim Walden, a former coach at Iowa State and Washington State, ranked both UCF (sixth) and Louisville (eighth) in the top 10 at the expense of South Carolina and Missouri. South Carolina defeated UCF 28-25 in Orlando.
The top two teams are set. Florida State and Auburn.
The Legends Poll was the only human poll to rank Auburn ahead of Ohio State heading into championship weekend, and Auburn kept its No. 2 ranking after its 59-42 win over Missouri in the SEC Championship Game.
Ohio State suffered its first loss in two seasons against Michigan State in the Big Ten title game and fell four spots to No. 7.
Top-ranked Florida State showed no mercy against a surprise Duke team in the ACC Championship Game in a 45-7 rout. And with the win, the Seminoles clinched a spot in the final BCS Championship Game in January —their first appearance since 2000.
If there were a four-team playoff this season, the final two spots would be occupied by once-beaten Alabama and Michigan State, according to the Legends Poll voters. No. 5 Stanford would be on the outside, looking in.
Big 12 champ Baylor finished the regular season at No. 6 in the rankings. Followed by Ohio State, South Carolina, Missouri and Oregon.
No. 14 Oklahoma State fell eight spots with its loss to the Sooners and No. 16 Arizona State dropped three spots.
No. 23 Duke finished in the final regular season Legends Poll ever, dropping three spot after its loss to Florida State.
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.
|1||Florida State (15)||13-0||399||1|
* The Legends Poll voting process is exactly what the BCS is trying to create and Athlon will bring it to you as the de facto Selection Committee for fans to follow over the next two seasons, allowing you to see how the Selection Committee will operate from 2014 onward. You can see the entire Poll at www.legendschannel.com.
It might be golf's Silly Season, but there was nothing lighthearted about the intensity Zach Johnson brought to the final few holes of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge. Trailing tournament host Tiger Woods by four shots with eight holes to play, Johnson found some magic with his short irons and found himself tied with Tiger on the 18th tee.
Johnson's worst shot of the week — a tepid 8-iron approach shot that found the hazard — threatened to bring an anticlimactic end to a compelling weekend. Instead, Johnson holed out from the drop area for an unlikely par, forcing Woods to get up and down from a greenside bunker just to force a playoff. Here's the shot that send cheers resounding across Sherwood Country Club:
On the first extra hole, Johnson completed the stunning comeback when Tiger missed a 5-footer for par, one of a couple of costly misses for the world's No. 1 player.
To his credit, Tiger didn't play the excuse game. "Pretty impressive what he did," Woods said. "He got me."
Tiger still called 2013 a "damn good year," one that featured five wins. But it ended with one that shockingly got away.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 9.
• The 50 most popular women on the world wide web in 2013, according to Google searches. Somehow, Jennifer Lawrence is only No. 24. I weep for our country.
• Yesterday was the snowiest NFL Sunday since 1991. Looked like fun.
• More than a game of inches, NFL football is a game of a handful of critical plays.
• This year's 50 Most Influential People in Sports. Although I don't recall being influenced by anyone on this list.
• The lasting image of Championship Saturday: Sad Urban Meyer eating pizza alone in a golf cart.
• Saints punter Thomas Morstead got his money's worth out of a rare tackle opportunity with a neck-snapping facemask of Ted Ginn.
• Nick "Swaggy P" Young's attempt to overshadow Kobe's return with a highlight reel 360 clanged harmlessly off the top of the backboard. But he still made 11 Essential Links.
• A little history was made in the chilly mile-high air of Denver yesterday: Matt Prater's record 64-yard field goal.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Playoff hopes could be on the line tonight when the Dallas Cowboys take on the Chicago Bears at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Jason Garrett and the Cowboys (7-5) are looking for a third straight victory, which would tie them with the Eagles for best record in the NFC East, while Marc Trestman and the Bears (6-6) are trying to snap a two-game losing streak and draw even with the Lions in the North.
Winning their division needs to be the focus of these two teams, as the Wild Card spots are currently held by Carolina and San Francisco, both of which are 9-4. The Cowboys have a better divisional record (4-0) than the Eagles (3-2), so they would assume first place with a win. The Bears are basically in must-win mode for the rest of the season, as the Lions have a better divisional mark (4-1 vs. 3-2) and have already defeated the Bears twice.
3 Things to Watch
Dallas’ December Woes
Since Tony Romo became the starting quarterback in 2006, the Cowboys are 13-17 in December. Romo, who missed 10 games in 2010, is 11-15 in the final month of the regular season. In each of the past two seasons, the Cowboys have had a chance to secure a playoff spot with a victory in their final game, and have come up short both times. To be fair, both of these games were on the road, and one of them was actually played on Jan. 1 and not in December, but the Cowboys’ inability to finish strong has been well documented and something everyone on the team is painfully aware of. In 2011, Dallas entered December 7-4 before losing four of its final five games, including the finale against the Giants on New Year’s Day, to finish 8-8. Last season, the Cowboys actually played well to start their final month, winning their first three games to put their record at 8-6. But an overtime home loss to New Orleans followed by a loss at Washington gave the Redskins the NFC East title and left Dallas at 8-8 and out of the playoffs once again. Whatever the reason behind Dallas’ late-season struggles, Jason Garrett needs to figure out a way to help get his team over the hump in December. Once again, the division title and the playoffs are within reach and Garrett knows better than anyone else what’s likely to happen if the Cowboys miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
Can the Cowboys Stop the Pass?
Dallas entered Week 14 ranked second to last in the NFL in passing defense. The Cowboys are giving up 294.9 yards per game through the air and have yielded 22 touchdown passes. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 64.3 percent of their passes and the Cowboys have already set an NFL record by allowing four different quarterbacks (Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford) to throw for at least 400 yards. Drew Brees (392 yards) almost made it a fifth in Week 10, but the Saints did put up 49 points, 625 yards of total offense and an NFL-record 40 first downs in their victory over the Cowboys. As productive a season as Tony Romo (3140-24-7) is having, it’s too much to ask him to constantly bring the Cowboys from behind and to bail the defense out. Even though Chicago starting quarterback Jay Cutler is going to miss his fourth straight game because of an ankle injury, the Cowboys’ defense could have its hands full with backup Josh McCown. In six games this season, four of them starts, McCown has thrown for 1,461 yards, nine touchdowns and just one interception. He has posted back-to-back 350-yard efforts and has plenty of weapons to work with. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery have become one of the league’s most productive duos, combining for 148 receptions, 2,099 yards and 14 touchdowns. Tight end Martellus Bennett has 48 catches and five touchdowns, while running back Matt Forté (58 rec.) is one of the more dangerous receiving threats out of the backfield. The Cowboys’ defense will get a huge boost with the return of linebacker Sean Lee. He injured his hamstring in the Week 10 loss to the Saints and hasn’t played since. Lee leads the team with four interceptions and is second on the team in tackles. Still Lee’s return is not necessarily a cure-all for the Cowboys’ pass defense, which will surely be tested tonight by McCown and the Bears.
Can the Bears Stop the Run?
As much as Dallas has struggled to stop the pass, Chicago has had even more issues against the run recently. Over their last six games, the Bears are allowing an average of 205.2 yards rushing per game and 5.9 yards per carry. Adrian Peterson gashed them for 211 in Minnesota’s overtime win last week, while Eddie Lacy (150), Ray Rice (131), Benny Cunningham (109) and Reggie Bush (105) all have gone over 100 yards during this six-game span. Not surprisingly, the Bears are dead last in the NFL in rushing defense at 153.6 yards per contest and for once, the Cowboys may be in ideal position to take advantage of this. Dallas has gone over 100 yards rushing in each of its last two games for the first time all season. Last week, the Cowboys had 144 on the ground in their Thanksgiving Day win over the Raiders with Lance Dunbar (12 att., 82 yds.) leading the way. Dunbar suffered a season-ending knee injury late in that game, but the team still has leading rusher DeMarco Murray. Despite missing two games because of a sprained knee, Murray leads the Cowboys with 697 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Three of those scores came last week and for the season, Murray is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Murray is at his best when he gets plenty of carries, as he’s averaging 94.8 yards per game in the six where he has gotten at least 14 attempts. The Bears are giving up an NFL-worst five yards per carry, so look for Murray to get the ball early and often tonight. Dallas’ rushing defense isn’t exactly rock solid, allowing 126.7 yards per game, so there could be a lot of ground gained between the two teams. However, Chicago hasn’t been able to stop anyone from running the ball lately, and look for the Cowboys to extend the Bears’ misery in this department tonight.
Dallas Key Player: Tony Romo, QB
Even though the Cowboys will try and exploit the NFL’s worst rushing defense (see above), the buck on offense begins and ends with Romo. The highest paid and most visible player on America’s Team will continue to be criticized, no matter how well he plays, as long as the Cowboys continue to miss the playoffs. Romo entered Week 14 among the top 10 quarterbacks in the league in both passing yards (3,140) and touchdowns (24) and has thrown only seven interceptions, yet all he’s hearing about is how poorly he has played in December. While his record as the starter (11-15) in the final month of the regular season certainly leaves something to be desired, Romo should get a lot of credit for the fact that the Cowboys are in the thick of the NFC East race despite having the league’s worst defense. That said, Romo himself has acknowledged he needs to have a strong finish and there is no better place to start than tonight. Besides putting the Cowboys in first place in the NFC East, a win tonight would help Romo atone for one of the worst games of his career. In Week 4 of last season at home against Chicago, Romo threw five interceptions, two of which were returned by the Bears for touchdowns, in a 34-18 loss. That game also was on “Monday Night Football.” Romo has a chance to exact some revenge tonight, which would taste extra sweet considering this game is in December and a victory also would put the Cowboys one step closer to playing in January.
Chicago Key Players: James Anderson, Jonathan Bostic and Khaseem Greene, LBs
Dallas’ defense is set to get a big boost in the return of their best linebacker, Sean Lee, from a hamstring injury tonight. Meanwhile, Chicago will be without their top backer, Lance Briggs, for a sixth straight game. Briggs suffered a shoulder injury back on Oct. 20 and hasn’t played since. To make matters worse, D.J. Williams is on injured reserve, which is why the Bears have been forced to start two rookies (Bostic and Green) alongside the veteran Anderson. Bostic and Greene are former college stars at Florida and Rutgers, respectively, and believed to be the future foundation of the linebacking corps. As can be expected, however, they have endured their share of growing pains this season. Anderson is an eight-year veteran, but this is his first season with the Bears. So couple all of this inexperience with the rash of injuries Chicago’s defense has suffered to its defensive line, along with the absence of All-Pro cornerback Charles Tillman (IR, triceps), and it’s little surprise the Bears are last in the NFL in rushing defense and are giving up nearly 28 points per game. The heart and soul of last year’s Monsters of the Midway were linebackers Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach. Briggs is injured, Urlacher is retired and Roach is in Oakland, so it now falls to the current trio to help turn around a defense that hasn’t been able to stop anyone from running the ball if the Bears wish to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Considering this game is in December in Chicago and knowing Tony Romo and the Cowboys’ history of late-season swoons, you would think this would be easy picking for the Bears. Especially with the NFL’s worst defense coming to town against a quarterback that has thrown just one interception all season and is coming off of back-to-back 350-yard games.
However, this is not your typical Monsters of the Midway defense, as the Bears have been getting run over by everyone for more than a month. And even though the Cowboys are known more as a passing team with Romo under center, I would like to think Jason Garrett and his coaching staff are smart enough to attack what is an apparent weakness.
The pressure is always on when it comes to Jerry Jones’ team, but I Jason Garrett’s squad takes care of business on the road. The Bears are a team in a bit of transition with head Marc Trestman in his first season, Jay Cutler in the final year of his contract and on the sidelines because of an ankle injury, and a youth movement in place on defense because of several key injuries.
DeMarco Murray continues to torment the Bears’ rushing defense, with Romo applying the finishing touch and giving the Cowboys defense just enough of a cushion to escape Soldier Field with a much-needed December win and, more importantly, possession of first place in the NFC East.
Dallas 30, Chicago 27