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There are 11 Big 5 teams left in college football that have yet to lose a conference game and none of them reside in the Pac-12.
The talk in the preseason was that the Pac-12 could be the league that was deep enough to challenge the SEC for national conference supremacy. It certainly doesn’t appear that like that talk was accurate, as the SEC is head and shoulders above the rest of the nation.
But that doesn’t mean that the Pac-12 isn’t the most entertaining league in the nation.
The quarterback play has been as good as advertised with four of the top eight Big 5 quarterbacks in the nation in terms of total offense playing in the Pac-12. And this list doesn't include Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Sean Mannion or Cody Kessler.
The quality of coaching is shining in places like Tucson, Seattle, Berkeley and Salt Lake City as every road trip in this league has become extremely difficult no matter the situation.
And what other league can boast three successful Hail Marys — two of which came on the final play of the game?
Oregon’s win over UCLA has given the Ducks the top spot in the Pac-12 power rankings and likely the best shot at making the College Football Playoff moving forward. But the real story out West is the quality of depth this league can offer. Neither division is even close to being decided, as the North and South each boast four one-loss teams with seven weeks left to play.
2014 Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
Very few (me) picked Arizona higher than fourth in the Pac-12 South entering the season (I had them at No. 2), so the job Rich Rodriguez has done in Tucson getting his Wildcats to a Top 10 ranking (for one week) has been nothing short of shocking (to some). Despite the loss to USC, Arizona is still right in the mix for the Pac-12 South championship with games looming against UCLA, Arizona State and Utah in the division. The win over Oregon might be the best win for any team in the nation to date.
Newcomer of the Year: Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona
The redshirt freshman has been brilliant in his first six games as a college quarterback. Solomon is third in the nation in total offense at 382.7 yards per game and has thrown 15 touchdown passes. His play in the fourth-quarter comeback against Cal as well as the road win at Oregon would be considered brilliant for a senior much less a freshman. Solomon is a big reason why Zona is in the thick of the Pac-12 South race.
Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The stats speak for themselves. Mariota has completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 1,621 yards, 17 touchdowns and no interceptions while running for his life behind a banged-up offensive line. He has added 290 yards rushing and five touchdowns on the ground while leading the nation in passer rating at 193.72. He has been brilliant all season and already has wins over ranked opponents Michigan State and UCLA.
Defensive Player of the Year: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
A defensive player can’t do much else to get himself mentioned in the Heisman Trophy conversation than what Thompson has accomplished in the first half of the season. He is tied for the team lead with five touchdowns — four of which have come on defense — a total that would also pace UCLA, Stanford or Utah. He is top 10 in the league in tackles with 45 and has 220 return yards on his four defensive touchdowns. He has 2.0 tackles for a loss, one sack and two forced fumbles as well.
Midseason Disappointment: Washington State
UCLA’s offensive line might also qualify for this award, but with losses to Nevada, Rutgers and Cal, Mike Leach’s squad is likely to miss a bowl game. After positive growth last season and a clearly improved Conn0r Halliday, a 2-5 start to the season for the Cougars is a major disappointment. Especially, for a team many believed would be playing in the postseason.
Midseason Surprise: Cal
Arizona would qualify as well, especially, if the Cats go on to win the South. But right now, the most pleasant surprise in the Pac-12 has to be the Cal Golden Bears. This team is one play away from being 3-1 in the league after losing 14 consecutive Pac-12 contests entering this fall. There are a lot of tough games left on the schedule but to be two wins from a bowl game just halfway through the schedule is a huge tip of the cap to Sonny Dykes.
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Three Things to Watch in Second Half
1. Oregon's offensive line
With Jake Fisher back against UCLA, the Ducks' offensive line looked as good as it has since the beginning of the season. Oregon has two huge games looming with Stanford and Washington — two of the best defensive fronts in the nation — and this group will have to be excellent to win those games. If this group stabilizes, Oregon could win the Pac-12 and land in the Playoffs while giving Marcus Mariota a great shot at the Heisman. If not, the Ducks could finish with three losses and another Alamo Bowl bid.
2. South Division upstarts
Arizona, Utah and Arizona State were not supposed to be in the race in the South but all three already have key wins over conference contenders. USC and UCLA still might be the best teams and have the inside track on playing at Levi’s Stadium but the rest of this division is extremely competitive. The Utes, Wildcats and Sun Devils all feel like they belong in the conversation and with wins over UCLA, Oregon and USC respectively, it appears they might be right about that.
3. Connor Halliday's assault on the record book
Halliday already owns the NCAA single-game record for attempts (89) and yards (734) but is charging toward the NCAA single-season passing record as well. With a host of other records on the line, the one bright spot in Pullman this season could be the nation’s leading passer and his chase for more history. Let’s face it, no one makes losing more entertaining than Halliday and the Cougs.
Top Five Games in Second Half
1. Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 1)
It's been the biggest game in the Pac-12 for the last half decade and it appears this matchup will fill the bill as far as the rest of the slate goes. A trip to the Pac-12 title game and/or College Football Playoff could be on the line. Stanford has dominated this series of late and its defense should be extremely difficult to move the ball against based on Oregon's offensive line woes.
2. USC at UCLA (Nov. 22)
The Pac-12 South title could be on the line when these two cross-town rivals and historic brands meet on the second to last weekend of the regular season. A win for either team could knock the loser out of the South Division race.
3. Stanford at UCLA (Nov. 28)
The Bruins' front line will be tested once again against one of the nastiest defensive fronts in the nation. UCLA might already be out of the race by the final weekend but if not, this game could decide the South Division champion.
4. Washington at Oregon (Oct. 18)
This game got a lot more interesting when the Huskies and Ducks won impressive road games in Week 7 over Cal and UCLA respectively. With a loss to Stanford, Washington's North Division title hopes hang in the balance against Oregon in Eugene.
5. UCLA at Washington (Nov. 8)
Most of the big games left for UCLA will come at home with the exception of this road trip north to Seattle. Both teams should still by eyeing a spot in the Pac-12 title game when they meet in Husky Stadium. And two of the best uniforms will be on the same field at the same time.
Next up: Arizona State at Arizona, Washington at Arizona, Arizona at UCLA, Notre Dame at USC, Oregon at Utah, Oregon at Oregon State
Projecting the Final 2014 Pac-12 Standings
|North||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|South||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
Hosts Braden Gall and David Fox recap all of Week 7's action in college football. The state of Mississippi once again dominated, Oregon made a huge statement in the Pac-12 and the wide open and wacky Big 12 highlight this week's conversation. The fellas also give you their playoff teams as well.
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 13:
• J-Lo put on an ab show after a workout. Reminder: The woman is 45.
• Aaron Rodgers pulled the old Dan Marino fake spike against the Dolphins. If anybody should have seen it coming, it's Miami.
• In an otherwise stellar day, Jay Cutler hit a ref in the nuggets with a left-handed pass.
• The play of the day yesterday, and the play of the season so far: Tony Romo to Terrance Williams.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The NBA preseason isn’t quite halfway over. There’s been more than enough time, however, for fate to exercise its cruel hand on the bodies of the league’s superstars. On the eve of Media Day, Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo broke a bone in his left hand. He’ll miss the first month of a season many see as a tryout for trade suitors — Rondo’s got one year left on his contract with Boston, and many don’t see him lasting the year there.
Weeks later, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal — one of the most blooming young talents in the game — fractured his left wrist. He’s expected to miss two months, a serious hit to one of the most exciting teams in the East.
But the latest NBA casualty is by far its most devastating. Reigning MVP Kevin Durant has sustained a “Jones fracture, a broken bone at the base of the small toe,” as reported by ESPN’s Royce Young. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s scoring sensation might not play again until early 2015. Durant and his team are still deciding whether to undergo surgery, but that’s the way things are leaning.
“It's a stress injury, it happened over time,” said Thunder general manager Sam Presti, per Young, at a press conference Sunday. Presti delivered a tone of optimism about Durant’s malady. “Coming into this season having not played USA Basketball, reflecting on that decision now, I think clearly, probably helped him a great deal, just the amount of stress he was able to avoid at that point in time.”
It was at a Team USA exhibition game in August, of course, that the league lost yet another of its biggest heroes — Indiana Pacers forward Paul George, whose horrific, tragically sudden leg injury was the most telling incident of all. You never know when an icon’s star will flash — it could be any instant — from super bright to off.
— John Wilmes
Washington’s Pac-12 North title hopes took a hit after the 20-13 loss to Stanford on Sept. 27, but there’s renewed optimism about Chris Petersen’s team after a 31-7 win over California.
The 31-7 victory over the Golden Bears could be Washington’s best all-around performance from 2014. Sure, California is still progressing under second-year coach Sonny Dykes and finished 1-11 last year, but the Huskies were an underdog entering Saturday’s matchup.
Washington’s offense struggled mightily against Stanford, averaging just 2.6 yards per play and finishing with just 98 passing yards. California’s defense isn’t one of the best in the Pac-12, but the Huskies showed signs of life on Saturday. The 5.7 yards per play (just 67 plays) mark against the Golden Bears is the third-highest total of the season. That may seem like a small feat, but the highest totals came against Eastern Washington and Illinois.
Quarterback Cyler Miles benefited from the bye week and responded with his best effort of the season. Again, California’s defense isn’t one of the best in the Pac-12 and was dealing with injuries to a couple of key players, but Miles threw for a season-high 273 yards and added three scores. The sophomore also recorded a solid 12.4 yards per completion mark and did not throw an interception for the fifth consecutive game.
The offensive line gave up four sacks in the loss to Stanford but allowed Miles to be sacked just twice on 29 pass attempts. And the line’s solid play translated to the rushing attack as running backs Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington each averaged 4.4 yards per carry.
Washington’s offense is far from a finished product, but the performance against California is a good sign before a key stretch on the 2014 schedule. And a timely one.
The Huskies are still in the mix for the North Division title but need a win over Oregon this Saturday to stake their claim in the race.
After Saturday’s game against the Ducks, Washington hosts Arizona State, followed by a road date against Colorado, a home matchup against UCLA and then game at Arizona.
There are simply no breaks in the Pac-12 schedule, and a two-loss team likely wins the conference title.
Washington’s defense is already one of the best in the conference. Did its offense turn a corner in Saturday’s win over California? Perhaps. But a better gauge of where the Huskies stand in Petersen’s first year is coming next Saturday with a trip to Eugene. California was a positive step. Now, let's see if Washington's offense takes a big step forward against the Ducks.
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of measuring performance and marking milestones in the NFL. With that in mind, Athlon Sports rounded up the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 6 of the NFL season.
Houston defensive end J.J. Watt recorded his third touchdown of the season with a 45-yard fumble return for a score in the Texans' Week 6 loss to Indianapolis. Watt became the first player in 53 years with interception, fumble recovery, and receiving touchdowns in a single season. He joined Bill Stacy (1961), Jay Arnold (1938), and George Halas (1927) in that rare company. Watt also became the first defensive lineman to score three TDs in a season since William "The Refrigerator" Perry did so for Chicago in 1985. Perry had two rushing TDs and one TD reception. Perry never scored again after that rookie season.
With his two catches in Week 6, Dallas tight end Jason Witten became the second-youngest player in NFL history to reach 900 career receptions. Witten, who achieved the feat at 32 years, 159 days old, is only behind Houston receiver Andre Johnson, who did so at 32 years, 143 days.
Dallas running back DeMarco Murray is tied with one of football's greatest. With his 115 yards in Seattle, Murray joined Jim Brown (1958) as the only two players in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of their team's first six games to start a season.
Indianapolis won its ninth straight Thursday night game with a 33-28 win at Houston. Of those nine consecutive wins, eight of them have come on the road for the Colts.
Denver tight end Julius Thomas added two more touchdowns in Week 6 to a season total that is now at nine. That ties him with Detroit's Calvin Johnson (2011) as the most of any player in NFL history through their team's first five games of the season.
New England's Tom Brady threw for 361 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-22 win over Buffalo, and now has 11 career games with 350+ yards and 4+ touchdowns. That moved him past Dan Marino for third-most games like that in NFL history.
Baltimore's Joe Flacco became the fastest player to throw five touchdown passes in a game (since at least the 1970 AFL-NFL merger) when he did so in just 16 minutes, three seconds against Tampa Bay. The fastest to five had been Ben Roethlisberger, doing it in 28:09 in 2007 against Baltimore. Flacco finished with the five scores, no interceptions, and 306 yards. Flacco also became the first player since 1986 with four touchdown passes in the first quarter, and the first player since 2009 with five touchdown passes in a half. Minnesota's Tommy Kramer had four first-quarter TD passes against Green Bay in a Sept. 28, 1986 game, and Tom Brady threw five first-half TDs in an Oct. 18, 2009 game against Tennessee.
Atlanta backup running back Antone Smith is the first NFL player with six scrimmage touchdowns of 35+ yards in the first 25 touches of his career since the merger. He had a 41-yard scoring pass from Matt Ryan in the Falcons' 27-13 loss to the visiting Chicago Bears in Week 6. It was one of his six touches from scrimmage for the game.
The 74 combined points from Carolina and Cincinnati in their 37-37, double-overtime tie are the most ever in an NFL overtime game that ended in a tie. The game marks the most combined points in a tie game since the Boston Patriots tied the Oakland Raiders, 43-43, on Oct. 16, 1964, which occurred before the advent of NFL overtime rules in 1974.
San Diego's Philip Rivers achieved a passer rating of at least 120 for the fifth consecutive game in a 31-28 win at Oakland, allowing him to pass Johnny Unitas and Kurt Warner for the longest such streak in league history (minimum of 15 pass attempts in each game).
Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, playing in his 100th game, threw the 203rd touchdown of his career. The 203 are the second most of any player in their first 100 games, trailing only Miami's Dan Marino, who threw for 217 in his first 100. Rodgers' 25,616 passing yards ranks him fourth all time amongst player in their first 100 games.
The Chicago Bears became the first NFL franchise to reach 750 wins with their 27-13 victory over Atlanta. The organization is now 750-555-42 all time.
Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld suffered a separated shoulder in Saturday’s loss to Iowa, clouding the bowl hopes of a program that hoped to breakthrough in coach Kevin Wilson’s fourth season.
It’s uncertain how long Sudfeld will be sidelined, but his absence will be felt if he cannot play on Saturday against Michigan State.
Following the Hoosiers’ matchup against the Spartans, there’s a bye before finishing the year on a challenging five-game stretch.
Sudfeld was expected to be one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks in 2014, but the junior has only one game of more than 252 passing yards. A transition at receiver has slowed the development of Indiana’s offense, which averaged 38.4 points per game. After six games, the Hoosiers are down to a 32.3 mark in 2014.
Perhaps Sudfeld will only miss a game or two, but any absence by the junior quarterback is a setback to Indiana’s bowl hopes.
Backup Chris Covington switched from linebacker to quarterback in the fall and completed only 3 of 12 passes for 31 yards and two interceptions in the 45-29 loss to the Hawkeyes.
Running back Tevin Coleman is one of the nation’s best, but the junior doesn’t have much help in the passing department if Sudfeld is sidelined.
At 3-3 and still searching for their first Big Ten win of 2014, the Hoosiers need Sudfeld back in the lineup as soon as possible. Covington has good athleticism, but he’s developing as a passer. Having a quarterback make his first career start against Michigan State’s defense is a nightmare scenario for Wilson.
The schedule simply isn’t going to get any easier for Indiana. If Sudfeld returns by November, games against Penn State, Rutgers and Purdue are winnable, giving hope that Wilson can provide a breakthrough season in 2014. But in addition to Sudfeld's health, Indiana needs more from its defense, which has allowed 30 or more points in three games this year.
If Sudfeld is sidelined for an extended period of time, Indiana will be outside of the bowl picture once again. Wilson shouldn't be on the hot seat, but he could be facing a make-or-break year in 2015 if the Hoosiers finish 4-8 or 5-7 this year.
No. 5 Kansas won its 10th consecutive Big Ten title and managed to stay in the top 10 for most of the season despite the toughest schedule in the country. Yet the year felt incomplete with an injury to Joel Embiid and an early exit from the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks lose two of the top three picks in the NBA draft but reload with another standout recruiting class joining a group of veterans to challenge for another Final Four.
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Last year’s Kansas basketball team won 25 games, captured a 10th straight Big 12 title and had two of the first three players selected in the NBA Draft. Still, to most Jayhawks fans, 2013-14 will be remembered as a disappointment.
“We had a good season — but not a great one,” coach Bill Self says. “To have a great season you have to perform well in March, and that’s something we weren’t able to accomplish.”
Indeed, even with three McDonald’s All-Americans in the starting lineup and a partisan crowd in the stands, No. 2 seed Kansas wasn’t able to get past No. 10 Stanford in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis. Kansas — which lost 10 games for the first time since 1999-2000, will now have to regroup without standouts Andrew Wiggins (the No. 1 overall pick) and Joel Embiid (No. 3).
Self hardly seems discouraged. “I don’t think we’ll take a step back at all,” says the coach. “If anything, I think we have a chance to be better.”
No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-10, 14-4 Big 12
Postseason: NCAA round of 32
Consecutive NCAAs: 25
Coach: Bill Self (325-69 at Kansas, 151-31 Big 12)
Big 12 Projection: First
Postseason Projection: NCAA Elite Eight
The hoopla surrounding Embiid last season caused Perry Ellis to go unnoticed at times, but that didn’t stop the former McDonald’s All-American from ranking second on the team in points (13.5 ppg) and rebounds (6.7 rpg). Ellis, whose strength on offense is his versatility, was one of the most impressive players at the LeBron James Skills Academy in July and should contend for Big 12 Player of the Year honors. His biggest challenge will be on defense, where his lackluster play has been a sore spot with Self.
As promising as Ellis has looked, incoming freshman Cliff Alexander could be even better. A consensus top-3 recruit, Alexander is a 6-9, 240-pound bruiser who should give the Jayhawks an imposing presence in the paint.
The battle for playing time should be fierce among Kansas’ other post players. Junior Jamari Traylor averaged 4.1 rebounds in just 16 minutes off the bench last year. His experience, energy and hustle make him a favorite to be in the rotation. Landen Lucas played sparingly as a redshirt freshman but was one of the most improved players by the end of the season. Self is also high on former Arkansas center Hunter Mickelson, a shot-blocker who sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules.
For the third straight year, Kansas enters the season unproven at the most important position on the court. Naadir Tharpe, who started all but four games at the point a year ago, left the team during the offseason. Even if Tharpe had stayed, he likely would’ve been replaced by Frank Mason, Conner Frankamp (both sophomores) or incoming freshman Devonte’ Graham.
Mason averaged 16 minutes per game as a freshman, and Self loves his fearlessness and toughness. But he can be erratic at times. Frankamp is an outstanding 3-point shooter who may be better suited for shooting guard. Graham, a former Appalachian State signee who got out of his letter of intent last spring, could end up being one of the steals of the 2014 recruiting class. Don’t be surprised if he starts as a freshman.
The Jayhawks are absolutely loaded at shooting guard and small forward with sophomores Frankamp, Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene and freshmen Kelly Oubre and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. Selden entered last season as a projected NBA Lottery pick, but he struggled to stand out alongside Wiggins and Embiid and never really asserted himself offensively. This year should be different.
The 6-7 Oubre is a consensus top-10 recruit who picked the Jayhawks over schools such as Florida, Kentucky and Louisville. The lefthander can light it up from long range but also loves to attack the basket. Greene, who has an NBA body and skill set, is hoping to see his playing time increase after averaging just 6.6 minutes as a freshman.
The best player of all, though, could end up being Mykhailuk, a Ukraine native whom one NBA scout tabbed as the best foreign-born player since Ricky Rubio.
Kansas should win its 11th straight Big 12 title, but the Jayhawks’ hopes of a lengthy NCAA Tournament run will depend largely on their point guard, whoever that may be. It will also be vital for Alexander and Oubre — both likely one-and-doners — to live up to lofty expectations.
Cliff Alexander could be one of the most physical players in the league despite being a freshman. Kelly Oubre is an NBA prospect who is a threat from the perimeter and the paint. Devonte’ Graham has been impressive during offseason workouts and could start at point guard. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk turned 17 in June but could be one of the league’s best players if he adapts physically. He could be a top-10 pick in two years. Hunter Mickelson is a shot-blocker who transferred from Arkansas.
Texas coach Charlie Strong won’t celebrate a moral victory, but the first-year coach has to be encouraged with the play of quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. In the 31-26 defeat to Oklahoma, Swoopes delivered arguably his best performance of 2014.
Swoopes completed 27 of 44 throws for 334 yards and two scores. The sophomore’s 61.4 completion percentage is his best mark in Big 12 play from 2014, and he added a season-high of 50 yards on the ground.
Both of Swoopes’ touchdowns came after Oklahoma went up 31-13, but the sophomore had an all-around solid effort against a good Oklahoma defense.
The Sooners’ defense allowed 33 points to West Virginia and 37 to TCU, but that’s life in the Big 12. High-scoring games are the norm, and life as a defensive coordinator or player isn't easy. Oklahoma’s defensive front was projected to be one of the best in the nation this year, and its secondary is headlined by potential All-American Zack Sanchez.
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Swoopes’ performance and growth under center is a huge positive for Strong’s rebuilding effort. Coordinator Shawn Watson was a key player in the development of Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville, and the veteran assistant is working to mold the offense into Swoopes' strengths. And the mobility of Swoopes will help with a struggling offensive line, while the young quarterback seems to be developing a rapport with receivers John Harris and Jaxon Shipley.
Texas is 2-4 at the midway point of 2014 and needs four wins to get bowl eligible. That’s not going to be easy, as the Longhorns could be underdogs West Virginia, Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas State.
But with a defense holding opponents to 21.2 points a game and just 4.3 yards per play, any development on offense will give Texas a shot at reaching 6-6 or 7-5 in Strong’s debut.
Just recording six or seven victories certainly isn’t the standard or acceptable at Texas, but Strong needs to build momentum in the win column and off-the-field for recruiting.
Swoopes is far from a finished product, but provided Texas can surround its young quarterback with more help in the trenches and at receiver, the sophomore can help Strong get the program back in the mix for Big 12 titles. And if nothing else, Swoopes' development over the next six (or seven with a bowl) will give Texas momentum heading into 2015.
Now might be a decent time to start buying low on Minnesota in the Big Ten West Division. The balance of power in the Big Ten still appears to be in the top-heavy east, but the West can quickly become Minnesota’s to lose the way this season has been going.
Minnesota could be about to get a harsh dose of reality in the second half of the season. Before it does though, Minnesota has two games it should be able to win against Purdue and at Illinois. After that, it may be up to the momentum to carry them the rest of the way, because the back-end of the schedule could be steep.
Minnesota’s final four games are at home against Iowa and Ohio State and on the road at Nebraska and Wisconsin. The game with Iowa could determine first-place in the Big Ten West. Ohio State may be the best team in the Big Ten after all. Road trips to Nebraska and Wisconsin could have the division riding on the outcomes, and both the Huskers and Badgers figure to be favorites in that equation. But who can count Minnesota out?
Jerry Kill has been through a little bit of everything as a head coach, and he has battled back time and time again during his time at Minnesota. Seizures have become a public story for Kill, but each time he seems to come back more motivated to prove nothing will keep him down. That message has been a rally cry for the Gophers as well, because every time it looks as though Minnesota is getting knocked down, this team finds a way to respond.
Though the level of competition has not been too intimidating, outside of a road trip to TCU, you can see that mentality playing out this season. Against Middle Tennessee early in the year, Minnesota jumped out to a 28-0 lead. The Blue Raiders made things interesting in the second half, but the team found a way to hold on. It was a bit of an eye-opener for Minnesota and should have told this team that finishing strong is just as important as starting strong.
Last season Minnesota ended the season on a three-game losing streak, including a loss to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl, another game the Gophers failed to drive the final nail in the coffin.
This season has shown Minnesota can start strong. Now all that remains to be seen is how the Gophers finish.
- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
Michigan State may still be the best team in the Big Ten, but their struggles to close out games should be alarming for Spartans fans.
Painful memories of what could have been against Oregon are still fresh. Michigan State held a 27-18 lead at Oregon early in the season, and looked to be in full control of the Ducks. Then Oregon proceeded to score 28 unanswered points, sending the Spartans back to East Lansing with no parting gifts. A few weeks later Michigan State was once again in complete control of Nebraska, only to see the Huskers manage to put together a rally in the fourth quarter with 19 unanswered points. Fortunately for Michigan State, the damage to Nebraska had already been done and the Nebraska rally ran out of time.
This weekend Michigan State was a heavy favorite on the road against Purdue, but the Boilermakers gave Michigan State quite the fight. Rather than wait until the fourth quarter, Purdue came out swinging from start to finish. This game did not play out the way it did against Nebraska or Oregon, but it opens up a bit of a concern for the defending Big Ten champions moving forward.
How worried should Michigan State be after being outscored 50-45 over the last five quarters of play?
Michigan State has a decent enough track record in recent seasons to suggest the ship will eventually get back on the right course. Last season Michigan State allowed a high of 28 points in a game (twice, to Indiana and Nebraska) and already this season they have done so twice with some interesting offenses still to play. Maybe this year’s defense is not as automatic as its 2013 defense was, but Michigan State is still managing to play from ahead on a regular basis. And when the defense is put to the test to come up with a stop, more often than not Michigan State is finding a way to shut the door on opposing offenses.
"When you look at our football games, we're playing well enough to get up by 21 points and that's the first thing you have to be able to do," Dantonio said in his postgame comments following the win at Purdue Saturday. "When they come back, we somehow find a way at the end. I think that it makes us a stronger football team."
On Saturday it was Darien Harris coming to the rescue. With Purdue looking to tie things up with just about 90 seconds remaining to play, Harris picked off a pass deep in Purdue’s end of the field and returned it for a touchdown. In a sense, it was a 14-point swing and it was just the kind of big play the defense needed.
At this stage of the game, Michigan State is as battle-tested as almost any team can be. They have experienced the pain of losing and the thrill of victory when things become tight. As far as the Big Ten is concerned, Michigan State is still the team to beat. The playoffs may be another topic of debate, but it is likely no team would want to be paired against Michigan State defense in the four-team field.
- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
Michigan picked a good week to scrap together a win, but how much will a win over Penn State calm the noise surrounding the fate of head coach Brady Hoke? The fate of Hoke may already be written, but he at least gave reason to hold off any thought of being dismissed from his job in the middle of the season.
Though it would go against the grain of how schools of the size and caliber of Michigan typically handle things, there could have been an argument to be made supporting a decision to let Hoke go now if Michigan had lost to Penn State. A bye week before heading on the road to take on in-state rival Michigan State would have been a good time to allow an interim coach plenty of time to regroup the team’s focus and implement a game plan.
After Michigan wiggled by Penn State 18-13 Saturday night in the Big House, the talks about firing Hoke should be silenced, at least for now. Still, change should still be expected, and demanded, by the denizens in Ann Arbor, because a narrow six-point victory over a team visibly decimated up front by two years of sanctions is still little to be overly proud of. This Michigan team still has questions facing them in the coming weeks.
For starters, how does this team go into and come out of the bye week with Michigan State on deck? It has to feel good for Michigan to go into the bye off a win after a stretch of humbling losses. At the same time, Michigan’s offense only managed to score one touchdown, and that came on a play that was nearly an interception. The offense should remain a significant concern heading into the Michigan State game. Penn State’s defense is pretty good. Michigan State’s is the best in the Big Ten (for three quarters, at least).
Michigan still has to win three more games to become bowl eligible. It is not going to be easy if Michigan continues to play at this level. The Wolverines play road games at Michigan State, Northwestern and Ohio State. Home games against Indiana and Maryland are mixed in as well. In most seasons you would expect to say there are easily three automatic wins in that mix for Michigan, but that is not the case right now.
Hoke continues to sell the idea Michigan can still compete for a Big Ten championship. Mathematically speaking, he is 100 percent correct. Those who have been watching this team play are right to have a contrasting opinion to Hoke’s. Michigan may very well find three wins before the season is over, but it will still take something more for Hoke to be back as head coach in Michigan. Otherwise, the 2015 season will likely be more of the same for the Wolverines.
- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
Oregon has a Heisman frontrunner in quarterback Marcus Mariota, but left tackle Jake Fisher might be the team’s most valuable player. That’s right, an offensive lineman might be the key to the Ducks’ playoff hopes and position in the national title picture over the next two months.
As an offensive lineman, Fisher doesn’t get much recognition playing a less-than-glamorous position.
However, just take a look at the stat sheet for the last three games and it’s apparent just how valuable Fisher is to Oregon.
After the offensive line allowed five sacks to Arizona last Thursday and gave up seven sacks to Washington State on Sept. 20, the Ducks did not give up a sack to UCLA on Saturday.
The result: Oregon won 42-30 and Mariota threw for 210 yards and two scores in a key rebound game for the Ducks. Oregon also averaged 6.9 yards per play - almost a full yard improvement from the 6.0 mark posted against Arizona.
Listen to the Week 7 recap podcast:
After last week’s loss to Arizona, Oregon had little margin for error. A loss to UCLA likely would have ended the Ducks’ playoff chances. And it’s not outlandish to think a poor performance from Oregon on Saturday would have ended Mariota’s Heisman hopes.
But Fisher’s return brought stability and a much-needed anchor to the offensive line.
Fisher earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors in back-to-back seasons (2012-13) and was picked by Athlon Sports to be one of the top linemen in the conference for 2014.
With Fisher back in the lineup, Oregon has more stability and a chance to develop chemistry at a critical time.
Next week, the Ducks host Washington and play Stanford on Nov. 1. The Huskies and Cardinal own two of the best front sevens in the nation, so it’s critical for Oregon to have Fisher back and operating at full strength to protect the blindside of Mariota.
Despite a setback to Arizona, the Ducks are still in the mix for a playoff spot. After an injured line limited the offense against Washington State and Arizona, the return of Fisher is a good sign for Oregon as it hopes to climb back in the playoff discussion.
There’s no doubt Mariota is one of the nation’s best players. But don’t forget about how valuable offensive linemen – especially a standout tackle like Fisher – are to a high-powered offense.
There was a buzz coming out of Starkville in the offseason. Those around the program were confident Dak Prescott was ready to make the transition from a great athlete playing quarterback to a great quarterback who is also a great athlete.
The buzz, in this case, was accurate. Prescott is enjoying a truly spectacular junior season and has emerged — at this point — as the clear frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy.
His numbers compare favorably with the last three SEC quarterbacks, all of the dual-threat variety, to win the Heisman Trophy — Tim Tebow (2007), Cam Newton (2010) and Johnny Manziel (2012).
In three games against SEC competition — and against three teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of the game — Prescott is averaging 260.7 yards passing and 101.0 yards rushing. None of the aforementioned “Big Three” averaged more than 200 and 100 against league opponents, with Manziel falling short in the rushing category (87.3 ypg), Newton in the passing (162.9 ypg) and Tebow in the rushing (73.7 ypg).
Prescott showed some vulnerability in Saturday’s epic win over Auburn, throwing two interceptions and completing only 52.9 percent of his passes. But he still threw for 246 yards, ran for 121 and — most important — led his team to a 15-point victory over the No. 1 team in the nation.
It’s still relatively early in the 2014 season and several huge tests await — especially on the road — but Prescott has proven to be the best player on what is right now the best team in the country. Not bad for a 3-star recruit from Louisiana who didn’t garner an offer from the home-state LSU Tigers until late in the recruiting process.
With Todd Gurley leading the offensive attack, Georgia had emerged as the best team in the SEC East over the first half of the season. Gurley is no longer part of the equation — at least for the foreseeable future — but there is still no doubt that Mark Richt’s team is the class of the division.
The Bulldogs were dominant on both sides of the ball en route to a statement-making 34–0 win at Missouri. The defense limited Missouri to 147 yards — the fewest allowed by Georgia in SEC play since a 2010 win against Vanderbilt — did not allow a drive that went for more than 50 yards and forced five turnovers. Offensively, the Bulldogs leaned on true freshman tailback Nick Chubb and savvy senior quarterback Hutson Mason. Chubb, the only available member of Georgia’s “Big Four” tailbacks, bullied his way to a career-high 143 yards on 38 carries. Mason’s stats, as usual, weren’t gaudy, but he completed 78.6 percent of his passes and did not commit a turnover. Late in the second quarter, he showed perfect touch when he connected with Michael Bennett on a 9-yard fade in the corner of the end zone.
“It’s all about getting comfortable and getting into a rhythm,” Mason said after the game. “I always felt that if I can get into a rhythm, then I finally feel that I am in the flow of things and from the start of the game today, I felt like I was in a rhythm, and the rest of it was just out there playing ball.”
If Mason continues to play well and the defense can replicate this type of performance, Georgia should have little difficulty winning the SEC East once again. South Carolina, the only team to defeat Georgia this season, already has three league losses, leaving Kentucky (2–1) and Florida (2–2) as the Dawgs’ biggest challengers.
The SEC West is sealing the headlines — and rightfully so — but be careful about dismissing Georgia as threat to win the SEC title and sneak into the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Control of the NFC East is on the line tonight when New York and Philadelphia get together at Lincoln Financial Field on NBC. The Giants (3-2) have won three in a row while the Eagles (4-1) are a perfect 3-0 at home. Whichever team wins tonight will, by and large, take control of the division. Even if Dallas beats Seattle to move to 5-1, the winner of this game will go to 2-0 in NFC East play. The Cowboys have yet to play a divisional game.
Chip Kelly is 1-1 against Tom Coughlin with each team winning on the other’s home field last season. The Giants won the last meeting, 15-7 in Philadelphia in Week 8 last season, as they held the Eagles to a season-low 200 yards of total offense.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Philadelphia -2.5
Three Things to Watch
|New York (NFC) 2014 Schedule|
|9/8||@ DET||L 14 - 35||Recap|
|9/14||vs ARI||L 14 - 25||Recap|
|9/21||vs HOU||W 30 - 17||Recap|
|9/25||@ WAS||W 45 - 14||Recap|
|10/5||vs ATL||W 30 - 20||Recap|
|10/12||@ PHI||L 0 - 27||Recap|
|10/19||@ DAL||L 21 - 31||Recap|
|11/3||vs IND||L 24 - 40||Recap|
1. Will We See the Real McCoy Tonight?
LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing last season with 1,607 yards on 314 carries (5.1 ypc). Not surprisingly, Philadelphia also led the league in this category (160.4 ypg). This season, the going on the ground has been considerably tougher for the Eagles. As a team, Philadelphia enters Week 6 ranked 21st in the league in rushing, averaging less than 100 yards per game (98.6) and just 3.8 yards per carry. And once again, this largely has to do with McCoy. Despite ranking second in the league with 94 carries, McCoy has gained just 273 yards on the ground in the first five games. That’s less than three yards per carry (2.9) to go along with just one run of 20 or more yards and one rushing touchdown. The Eagles are still 4-1, but the offense hasn’t been near as productive as it last season. Granted, the offensive line has been wrecked by injuries and an earlier suspension, but Chip Kelly still needs his main offensive weapon to produce. Unfortunately, that may not happen tonight, as McCoy rushed for a total of 94 yards on 35 carries (2.7 ypc) in two games against the Giants last season.
|Philadelphia 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs JAC||W 34 - 17||Recap|
|9/15||@ IND||W 30 - 27||Recap|
|9/21||vs WAS||W 37 - 34||Recap|
|9/28||@ SF||L 21 - 26||Recap|
|10/5||vs STL||W 34 - 28||Recap|
|10/12||vs NYG||W 27 - 0||Recap|
|10/26||@ ARI||L 20 - 24||Recap|
|11/2||@ HOU||W 31 - 21||Recap|
2. Giants Getting Offensive
After seven seasons as Eli Manning’s offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride retired in January. Tom Coughlin replaced Gilbride with Ben McAdoo, who had been Green Bay’s quarterbacks coach since 2012. With Manning and the rest of the offense practically starting over in a new system, some sort of learning curve was to be expected. And that was certainly the case in the season opener, when New York totaled just 197 yards in its 35-14 loss in Detroit. Even though it was just one game, the natives immediately got restless. The noise became even louder after a 25-14 loss to Arizona in the home opener the following week. Four turnovers (2 INTs, 2 fumbles) played a large role in the outcome, but the fan base was fixated on the perceived ineffectiveness of the new offense. Since that game, however, the Giants have been rolling, winners of three in a row and averaging 395 yards and 35 points per game during this span. The running game (157 ypg) has been particularly effective with Rashad Jennings leading the way. Unfortunately, Jennings sprained his MCL last week and is expected to miss a few games, so the workload now will fall to fourth-round pick Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis. Even with the Jennings injury, the more encouraging sign recently has been Manning getting more and more comfortable in the new system and with his new play-caller. After a rough start that saw Manning complete 61 percent of his passes with more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (3), he has compiled an 8:1 TD:INT ratio over the past three games while completing 70 percent of his attempts. Philadelphia may have more of an offensive reputation, but New York looks like it’s starting to figure things out on that side of the ball too. Points may not be too hard to come by tonight.
3. The Tale of the Turnover Tape
Entering Week 6, New York enjoys a considerable advantage over Philadelphia when it comes to turnover margin. The Giants are tied for 10th in the NFL with a plus-three (10 takeaways, 7 giveaways) margin, while the Eagles are 28th with a minus-four (8, 12) mark. However, a closer look reveals that while New York has done a better job of protecting the ball, Philadelphia has excelled at capitalizing on other team’s mistakes. The Eagles have already scored seven touchdowns on defense and special teams, including five in the last two games alone. By comparison, all of the Giants’ points have come on offensive touchdowns and field goals. Philadelphia’s defense has returned two fumbles and an interception for touchdowns to go along with two blocked punts, a kickoff return and punt return for scores on special teams. This type of point production is a big reason why the Eagles are 4-1 despite not getting a lot of production from LeSean McCoy and the fact that Nick Foles has as many turnovers (5 INTs, 3 lost fumbles) as touchdowns (8 passing). Ball security is always an important aspect of any game, but this matchup could be determined by which team is able to make the most of the other’s miscues.
It’s been a little bit of role reversal recently, as New York has won its last three games thanks in large part to a potent offense, while Philadelphia has relied more on an opportune and defense and special teams unit that has already accounted for seven touchdowns. As well as Dallas has played, both of these teams figure to have a say in how the NFC East plays out, as tonight’s winner will move to 2-0 in divisional play. Even though Eli Manning and the Giants are clicking on offense, I think the absence of injured running back Rashad Jennings will be just enough to get them out of sync. I’m not sure this is the game LeSean McCoy finally breaks out for the Eagles, but Nick Foles has more than enough weapons to make some noise of his own. The combination of Foles and another big play by the defense/special teams will result in Philadelphia maintaining both its hold on first place in the NFC East as well as its perfect mark at Lincoln Financial Field.
Prediction: Philadelphia 30, New York 27
Tony Romo returns to the scene of the crime, as his surprising Dallas Cowboys face the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks Sunday afternoon on FOX. Although Jan. 6, 2007, seems like another lifetime ago in NFL years, the memory of Romo fumbling the snap of a would-be go-ahead, 19-yard field goal with 1:19 left for what coulda-shoulda-woulda been Dallas’ first playoff victory since 1996 is still fresh in the minds of the Cowboys faithful. It won’t be any easier for Romo this week, as the Boys take on the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, where Seattle carries a 19–1 record (including playoffs) with Russell Wilson starting at quarterback. These two teams have combined for a 7–2 start.
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Seattle -8
Three Things to Watch
|Dallas 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs SF||L 17 - 28||Recap|
|9/14||@ TEN||W 26 - 10||Recap|
|9/21||@ STL||W 34 - 31||Recap|
|9/28||vs NO||W 38 - 17||Recap|
|10/5||vs HOU||W 20 - 17||Recap|
|10/12||@ SEA||W 30 - 23||Recap|
|10/19||vs NYG||W 31 - 21||Recap|
|10/27||vs WAS||L 17 - 20||Recap|
1. Unstoppable Force/Immovable Object
Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is on a history-making tear to start the 2014 season. Murray leads the NFL with 670 rushing yards, and his 134 yards per game average puts him on pace for a record-setting 2,144-yard season. He's the cornerstone of the NFL's second-ranked rushing attack. But he hasn't faced a run defense the caliber of Seattle's. The Legion of Boom leads the NFL in stopping the run, allowing only 62.3 yards per game, and the best that a running back has mustered against the Seahawks this season has been Montee Ball's 38 yards on 14 carries in Seattle's overtime win over Denver. The Murray-Seahawks matchup is one of the most intriguing of the first half of the season. "They are going to run the ball and we are going to do everything we can to stop it," said Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. “I love that. And I will be right there on every single play. He’s (Murray) been on a roll, so I’m trying to be the person to stop that."
|Seattle 2014 Schedule|
|9/4||vs GB||W 36 - 16||Recap|
|9/14||@ SD||L 21 - 30||Recap|
|9/21||vs DEN||W 26 - 20||Recap|
|10/6||@ WAS||W 27 - 17||Recap|
|10/12||vs DAL||L 23 - 30||Recap|
|10/19||@ STL||L 26 - 28||Recap|
|10/26||@ CAR||W 13 - 9||Recap|
|11/2||vs OAK||W 30 - 24||Recap|
2. Sherman vs. Bryant
If there's a matchup that carries more intrigue than DeMarco Murray vs. the Seattle front, it's Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant against Seattle motormouth Richard Sherman. Even with the Cowboys' commitment to the run, Bryant is on pace for a 102-catch, 13-touchdown season, and he provided the key play in Dallas' win over Houston with a remarkable 37-yard catch in overtime that set up the Cowboys' game-winning field goal. Sherman, who led the NFL with eight interceptions last season, has yet to grab one this year, but that's due as much to avoidance of his side of the field as anything. "He's a great corner, arguably the best in the league," Bryant said. "I do look forward to it, just a great battle. It's not about that. It's really about trying to get this 'W.'" But if Bryant and the Boys fail in that task, expect Sherman to have something to say about it.
3. Precision Passers
The two most accurate passers in the NFL so far this season will take CenturyLink Field on Sunday. Russell Wilson leads the league with a 70.3 completion percentage, while Tony Romo is just a tick behind at 69.2. Romo has rebounded nicely from his three-interception performance in a season-opening loss to San Francisco, throwing eight touchdowns to only two interceptions during the Cowboys' current four-game winning streak, despite battling a balky back that has plagued him all season. In the Seahawks' win over Washington, Wilson became only the second quarterback to have two regular-season games in his career with 200 or more yards passing and 100 or more yards rushing, but his running ability is merely the cherry on the sundae. Wilson has a 112.9 passer rating and an 8-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season.
Dallas is looking for its first five-game winning streak since 2007, and it would no doubt love to get it, but the Cowboys’ four-game winning streak has given them a cushion that strips this game of some of the urgency it would otherwise have. Wilson and the Seahawks defense will use the emotional edge provided by the 12th Man to hold serve at home.
Prediction: Seattle 28, Dallas 21
Baylor’s unbeaten record and place atop the Big 12 appeared to be over early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Bryce Petty threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, and TCU led 58-37 with less than 12 minutes to play. Against the Horned Frogs' defense, a comeback wasn’t going to be easy.
However, behind Petty's right arm, Baylor rallied from a 58-37 deficit in the fourth quarter to claim a 61-58 victory over TCU to remain unbeaten and the team to beat in the Big 12.
After the interception return by TCU linebacker Marcus Mallet, the senior was sharp the rest of the way and finished with 510 yards and six scores. The 510 yards and six passing scores were both career highs for Petty, and the senior is Athlon Sports National Player of the Week.
Petty guided the Bears to scores on five of the team’s final six drives, including the game-winning field goal as time expired. None of Baylor’s last six drives lasted more than 2:51 and three spanned at least 70 yards.
Baylor finished with 782 total yards, which was the most allowed by TCU under coach Gary Patterson.
After suffering a back injury against SMU, Petty’s was thought to be on the outside of the Heisman picture. But Saturday’s performance could vault the senior back into Heisman discussion, especially if Baylor remains among the nation's best and in discussion for a spot in college football's playoff.
National Defensive Player of the Week: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Thompson led a strong defensive effort for Washington in a 31-7 victory over California. The junior led the Huskies with 11 tackles, broke up one pass and returned a fumble 100 yards for a score in the first quarter. Thompson’s score against California was his fourth defensive touchdown of 2014.
Listen to the Week 7 recap podcast:
National Coordinator of the Week: Jeremy Pruitt, Georgia
With the absence of running back Todd Gurley, there was extra pressure on Georgia’s defense on Saturday. The Bulldogs delivered with their best effort of the season in a 34-0 shutout against Missouri. The Tigers managed only 10 first downs, averaged just 3.4 yards per play, forced five turnovers and generated three sacks. Missouri’s offense had only two drives end in Georgia territory. Pruitt was brought in to elevate Georgia’s defense among the nation’s elite, and he’s clearly on the right path halfway through his first season in Athens.
National Freshman of the Week: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Chubb averaged only 3.8 yards per rush, but he stepped into a difficult spot and delivered on a big stage for Georgia. The true freshman was pushed into a starting role with Todd Gurley suspended and recorded 143 yards and one touchdown on 38 attempts in Saturday’s 34-0 win over Missouri.
Week 7 of college football’s 2014 season is officially in the books. And as expected with every Saturday, there was plenty of excitement, big plays and last-minute wins among the FBS action.
In case you missed any action, we tried to capture the big moments of Saturday in one article. The viral wrap-up features key plays, interesting quotes/comments in tweets, uniform unveilings and any major injuries.
College Football's Most Viral Moments from Week 7
Miami-Cincinnati at kickoff. pic.twitter.com/YNVKe1s1fe— Matt Porter (@mattyports) October 11, 2014
What Bret Bielema is wearing on national TV> pic.twitter.com/k7CWITX6Mk— D.C. Reeves (@_DCReeves) October 11, 2014
The new UM Hall of fame class was just introduced in front of this pic.twitter.com/alqIeP64r8— Adam Clarke (@aclarke90) October 11, 2014
I'm not sure if I have ever seen up close a more imposing looking athlete. pic.twitter.com/EsP3RCGBAH— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) October 11, 2014
Whoa. UCLA's D Coordinator handed Mora his headset after a huge argument.— Michael Bishop (@michaelbish) October 11, 2014
3rd and 10, exactly how they drew it up https://t.co/vttH61DzDb— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) October 11, 2014
Nick Saban has a police escort AND a personal umbrella holder. pic.twitter.com/jWix1c1Ine— Thomas Murphy (@TomMurphyADG) October 11, 2014
Even yogurt places in Athens are making a statement. pic.twitter.com/nsd79pGagI— Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer) October 11, 2014
Still can't get over that Mississippi State ran this while leading 21-0 in the first quarter. http://t.co/wfYugnkgz8— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) October 11, 2014
So Hollywood. pic.twitter.com/X0FbtsCg8P— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) October 11, 2014
SPORTSMANSHIP: West Point cadets slap hands with Owls players after Army falls to Rice. pic.twitter.com/vRYkplF9jc— NCAA Football (@NCAAFootball) October 11, 2014
This is how far Bielema ran on the field to try and get a TO before that Alabama TD: pic.twitter.com/rhKZ4QZEF1— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) October 12, 2014
I told you to bring the car back in one piece pic.twitter.com/SgEbnPXFsz— Brian Floyd (@BrianMFloyd) October 12, 2014
Who was offside? pic.twitter.com/ggJaUyyi7h— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) October 12, 2014
LSU QB Anthony Jennings tackled by his own offensive lineman. https://t.co/VlSPhobUey— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) October 12, 2014
Travin Dural one-handed TD catch. https://t.co/ek199xWFGW— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) October 12, 2014
SO WE CHEATIN NOW? VIDEO: Clemson sits someone behind louisville defensive huddle http://t.co/qI6w6nUq3y— G Smooth™ Durant (@KingGeorge_34) October 11, 2014
A future Hall of Fame quarterback is dealing with an ankle injury, while a rookie signal-caller is expected back for Week 6. Here are those and some other quarterback injuries you need to know about.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions
Probable – Ankle
Bridgewater was held out of last week’s game against Green Bay because of an ankle injury, but that was largely due to the fact the Vikings had a short turnaround for the Thursday night game. He was a full go at practice this week, is listed as Probable and will make his second career start today. Bridgewater was impressive in his first start (371-0-0, rushing TD) against Atlanta and he’s definitely worthy of QB2 consideration this week.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
Questionable – Ankle
After not even appearing on the injury report Wednesday or Thursday, Brady showed up on it Friday after being limited in practice due to an ankle injury. He’s officially listed as Questionable, but I think it would be a surprise if Brady didn’t play today. Especially considering Brady and the Patriots are coming off of their best game of the season, a 43-17 rout at home against previously undefeated Cincinnati in which he threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns. Even though the expectation is that Brady will play, he’s not putting up the numbers he has in seasons past, so it’s not like he’s a slam dunk to start for your fantasy team, depending on your options.
Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, QBs, Arizona Cardinals vs. Washington Redskins
Questionable – Shoulder; Questionable – Concussion
Which quarterback is going to start for the Cardinals? That seems to be the biggest question for Arizona entering its game against Washington. After missing another game last week because of the bruised nerve in his right shoulder, Palmer was able to practice and throw the ball each day this week. However, he was still limited, there were reports that the arm strength just wasn’t there and that he sought additional treatment late Friday. Stanton meanwhile passed his final concussion test on Friday, so he could be back out there. Both Palmer and Stanton are listed as Questionable, which leaves rookie Logan Thomas as the healthiest, and most inexperienced, QB on the roster. Bruce Arians has held off naming a starter, a decision that could go all the way until right before kickoff (4:25 p.m. ET). If Stanton has been cleared to play, my guess is that he would get the call because of the uncertainty surrounding Palmer’s arm. Whatever ends up happening, even with a decent matchup against the Redskins, Cardinal QBs are better off left alone or on your bench this week.
Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Questionable – Hand
Locker’s bad luck with injuries continued last week when he got off to a great start against Cleveland before leaving the game after hitting his hand on the helmet of a Browns’ player. He’s officially Questionable, but it seems highly unlikely that he will play after missing an entire week of practice. Charlie Whitehurst should get the start and he was able to make a couple of big plays against the Browns last week. The matchup with the Jaguars is certainly appealing, but even in 2-QB leagues I would only use Whitehurst if I had no other viable option.
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers
Questionable – Ankle/Knee
Carr got hurt late in the Raiders’ loss to the Dolphins in London in Week 4, but it appears that the bye came at a good time for him. After taking a week off, Carr returned to practice on a limited basis. He’s listed as Questionable, but all signs point him to being under center today. Even if he does play, Carr is not an appealing fantasy option, even in 2-QB leagues, based on the Raiders’ struggles on offense and their matchup with a very good Chargers defense.
Josh McCown, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Doubtful – Thumb
To no one’s surprise, McCown didn’t play last week because of his injured thumb. He’s yet to return to practice and is listed as Doubtful for today, which pretty much means Mike Glennon will get another start. Glennon nearly made it two wins in a row, as he helped stake the Bucs to an 11-point fourth-quarter lead in New Orleans, but it wasn’t meant to be. Still, McCown put together another respectable outing (249-2-1), keeping him in the thick of the QB2 conversation for this week.
Already Ruled Out:
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redksins – RG3 remains sidelined by the dislocated ankle he suffered in Week 2, but he has made progress in his recovery. Kirk Cousins will continue to start in Griffin’s absence and after a disastrous Week 4 effort (5 turnovers) against the Giants; he bounced back (283-2-0) in the loss to the Seahawks on Monday night. Cousins will face another tough defense today in the Cardinals, but he’s definitely on the QB-2 radar and is a borderline QB1 in deeper leagues.
Miami’s backfield should be back at full strength for the first time in several weeks while Detroit’s looks to be a little shorthanded for its Week 6 game. Those aren’t the only running back injuries Athlon Sports is tracking for this week’s action.
Joique Bell and Reggie Bush, RBs, Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Probable – Concussion, Questionable – Ankle
After missing last week’s game because of a concussion, Bell was a full practice participant every day this week. He’s listed as Probable and could end up being the Lions’ bell cow with Bush being Questionable. Bush injured his ankle in last week’s loss to Buffalo and wasn’t able to practice at all this week. He’s officially considered a 50/50 shot of playing and will reportedly test out the ankle in warmups, but it seems highly unlikely that Bush will be out there. With wide receiver Calvin Johnson most likely sitting this one out, Bell could be in line for a lot of touches against the Vikings. Bell should be pretty safe to use as a RB2.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Miami Dolphins vs. Green Bay Packers
Probable – Elbow
Moreno dislocated his elbow on his first carry in Week 2 and at the time was expected to miss between four and six weeks. Looks like he’ll beat that estimate, as Moreno returned to practice this week and is listed as Probable. He’s wearing a brace on the injured elbow and admitted he’s still getting used to it, but it doesn’t appear that will prevent him from returning to the field. Lamar Miller, who also appears on the injury report (Probable, Foot), picked up the slack (5.7 ypc) in Moreno’s absence and it’s not yet known how these two will split the carries. For now, it’s safest to view each as RB2/flex options until this picture becomes a little clearer.
Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots
Questionable – Ankle
Jackson sprained his right ankle in last week’s win in Detroit and was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday because of it. He missed Friday’s session entirely, but that was due to illness. He’s listed as Questionable, but the expectation is he will play. Jackson and C.J. Spiller have been sharing the backfield work, which was impacted each’s fantasy value. Should Jackson play he remains a RB2/flex option and to be honest, Spiller’s value doesn’t change that much should Jackson not suit up against the Patriots.
Shonn Greene, RB, Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Doubtful – Hamstring
Greene injured his hamstring during Wednesday’s practice and was sidelined because of it the rest of the week. He’s listed as Doubtful, but there’s no reason to expect Greene to play, not with Bishop Sankey and Dexter McCluster waiting in the wings. In fact, this may be the game Sankey owners and supporters have been waiting for, as the second-round pick may finally get the chance to showcase his skills. Even with the likelihood of more touches, Sankey should be viewed as a RB2 at best. McCluster is probably nothing more than a flex option, although he’s got the potential to be more valuable in PPR leagues.
Already Ruled Out:
Toby Gerhart, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars – Gerhart has dealt with several different injuries this season, but a lingering foot issue has finally sidelined him. Gus Bradley said that the trio of Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson and Storm Johnson will share the carries, but it’s not known yet who will start. Of the three, Johnson is probably the most intriguing because he’s a rookie, but for now it’s probably best to stay away from this crowded backfield.
A couple of top running backs will sit Week 6 out. Are there any other key fantasy ball-carriers that may not play this week?
Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers (Mon.)
Probable – Calf
Stacy left last week’s loss to Philadelphia with an apparent calf injury. He did not practice on Thursday, but was a full go on Friday and Saturday. He’s listed as Probable and should be out there on Monday night. Stacy is clearly the Rams’ No. 1 back, but Benny Cunningham has been effective when called upon. Stacy should be safe to start on Monday night, but expectations probably need to be tempered since the 49ers are fifth against the run (77.2 ypg).
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals vs. Washington Redskins
Probable – Foot
Ellington’s still limited in practice, but it’s beginning to appear this is by design rather than necessitated by his injury. For one, Ellington’s listed as Probable, meaning he’s a pretty safe bet to play. Secondly, he’s coming off a game in which he compiled 144 total yards, including an 81-yard touchdown catch. He’s ranked among the top 10 RBs this week for a reason.
Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Probable – Finger
Tate made a triumphant return from a sprained knee last week, rushing for 124 yards in the Browns’ historic comeback victory against the Titans. He’s listed on the injury report this week, but it’s for a finger issue, so clearly the knee is no longer an issue. He was a full participant in practice every day this week and is listed as Probable, so Tate will be out there today carrying the load against the Steelers. Tate’s a solid top-20 option this week. If anything, Tate’s strong return probably means fewer touches for rookies Terrance West or Isaiah Crowell or maybe even both. Even though it appears that Crowell may have passed West on the depth chart, the former is still nothing more than a risky flex option.
Darrin Reaves, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, RBs, Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears
Probable – Hip; Questionable – Knee; Out – Ankle
Another week, more injury intrigue in the Panthers’ backfield. Let’s start with the easy one – Williams is Out for a second straight week with an ankle injury. After missing last week, Stewart was able to take part in practice both Thursday and Friday, although he was still limited. The good news is after being Doubtful last week, Stewart has been upgraded to Questionable. Stewart will be a game-time decision and this one may be worth watching. Should Stewart play, it’s likely he will see the majority of the touches. There’s still plenty of risk when it comes to trusting a guy like Stewart, but there’s the potential for a decent reward too. Reaves meanwhile got the most carries last week (11 att.), but he didn’t do much with them (35 yds.). He’s dealing with a hip injury, which prevented him from practicing on Wednesday. Reaves was a full go on Thursday and Friday, however, and is listed as Probable, so he should be out there too. A risky option to begin with, Reaves’ fantasy potential is tied directly to whether Stewart plays or not. Unless you simply don’t have any other options it may be best to steer clear of all Panther RBs this week, especially against a pretty good Bengals defense.
Already Ruled Out:
Rashad Jennings, New York Giants – Jennings injured his knee last week against the Falcons. He’s been diagnosed with a sprained MCL and is likely to miss a few weeks. Fourth-round pick Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis will handle the workload in Jennings’ absence. Williams is clearly the more appealing fantasy option, as he rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a senior at Boston College and has scored a touchdown in each of his past two games. Williams was ranked as a top-10 RB this week.
Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos – Ball suffered a groin strain in last week’s win against Arizona and is expected to miss up to three weeks. Ronnie Hillman should get first crack at starter’s reps, but Juwan Thompson and C.J. Anderson both could figure into the mix and possibly supplant Hillman. For now, Hillman is an appealing RB2 option this week, especially in PPR leagues.
Donald Brown and Ryan Mathews, RBs, San Diego Chargers – Danny Woodhead is on IR (broken leg) and Mathews is still sidelined by an MCL sprain. Brown suffered a concussion last week against the Jets and hasn’t been cleared to return yet, which means it’s Branden Oliver’s show today against the Raiders. The undrafted rookie exploded for 182 total yards and two touchdowns last week and if he’s still available in your league, I highly recommend you pick Oliver up. It’s always risky to trust a rookie, but I really like Oliver’s skill set and his matchup, which is why he’s ranked as a top-15 RB this week.
The Bengals and Jets are two teams that may be without their No. 1 wide receivers for their Week 6 games. And those are just two of the injury storylines Athlon Sports is keeping an eye on at the wide receiver position today.
Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, WRs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Questionable – Groin; Questionable – Rib
Just a week ago the expectation was that Evans would miss at least two weeks, if not more, due to a groin injury he suffered in Week 4. However, Evans may be ready to prove a lot of people wrong, as he returned to practice this week, albeit on a limited basis. Evans is listed as Questionable, but Lovie Smith sounded optimistic on Friday that his first-round choice would back in there. Jackson also is listed as Questionable because of a lingering rib injury. Jackson didn’t appear on the practice field until Friday, but apparently he did enough to give himself a decent chance of playing today. Jackson has been a different receiver since Mike Glennon took over at QB and Evans was showing signs of improvement prior to his injury. Unless something changes between now and kickoff (1 p.m. ET), I would keep Jackson in my lineup. Evans is a much riskier play. If you intend to use him, I would recommend it be as a WR3/flex.
A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, WRs, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Carolina Panthers
Questionable – Toe; Out – Ankle
If there was ever any doubt as to Green’s importance to the Bengals, look no further than the fact his injury is listed as a “Great Toe” issue. That said, Green didn’t practice at all this week and he was spotted in a walking boot on Friday. Head coach Marvin Lewis is referring to Green as “day-to-day,” and he’s officially listed as Questionable, but I wouldn’t count on having the All-Pro in your lineup this week. If anything, the hope is that the rest he’s getting will allow him to miss just one week instead of multiple games. Besides Green, the Bengals already know they will be without Jones for yet another game. Jones is dealing with an ankle injury that’s kept him out of practice. He initially was listed as Questionable on Friday, but the team downgraded him to Out on Saturday. With Jones out and Green likely to join him on the sideline, Mohamed Sanu is poised to move up to No. 1 in the pecking order, which increases his fantasy potential to WR2 with upside.
Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins vs. Green Bay Packers
Probable - Foot
Anytime a player comes out of a bye still dealing with an injury, it’s not a good sign. It’s even worse when that player is still limited in practice by said injury. However, in Wallace’s case there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of concern regarding his foot issue. He’s listed as Probable and the Dolphins’ most productive wide receiver to this point (20-246-3) should be out there today. After a disappointing 2013, Wallace has re-established himself as a steady, reliable WR2.
Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets vs. Denver Broncos
Questionable – Hamstring
Decker ended up missing last week’s game because of his bothersome hamstring, but the extra rest may have done him some good. He was still limited in practice this week, but he was able to get some work in all three days. He’s listed as Questionable, but Rex Ryan said he was hopeful Decker would play. There’s also the added motivation of Decker facing his former team, for what that’s worth. Even if Decker ends up playing, just remember which uniform he will be wearing. Even though Decker is his team’s No. 1 WR, he’s still a fairly risky option given the Jets’ issues at QB.
Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and Cecil Shorts, WRs, Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
Probable – Foot; Probable –Hamstring; Probable – Hamstring
For the first time all season, the Jaguars may be at full strength at wide receiver. Lee and Shorts have both missed several games because of hamstring injuries, but both practiced in full on Thursday and Friday and are listed as Probable. Hurns also is listed as Probable, as he’s dealing with some sort of foot issue, but it doesn’t seem to be a big deal. How the targets will shake out between these three and fellow wideout Allen Robinson is anyone’s guess, as this also will Lee and Shorts’ first game with rookie Blake Bortles under center. Shorts is the Jaguars’ top WR, while Hurns has been the most productive this season. Lee probably has the most upside of any because of his skill set and he’s a rookie, while Robinson has teased of potential PPR value. Put it all together and there’s a lot more question marks than definitive answers. The best course of action if you plan on employing any of these Jaguars is to treat Shorts and Hurns as WR2s with Lee and Robinson checking in as potential flex options.
After trying to play through an ankle injury, Calvin Johnson isn’t expected to be on the field for the Lions in Week 6. Megatron isn’t the only notable fantasy wide receiver on Athlon Sports’ injury radar this week either.
Harry Douglas, Devin Hester and Julio Jones, WRs, Atlanta Falcons vs. Chicago Bears
Out – Foot; Questionable – Hamstring; Probable – Ankle
Douglas will miss another game because of a foot injury, while Hester is Questionable due to a hamstring issue. Hester missed the first two days of practice, but was back on Friday and he has said he will be out there today against his former team. Jones also seems a pretty safe bet even though he’s listed on the injury report with an ankle issue. He was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but that seems to be more a matter of playing it safe. He was full go on Friday, is listed as Probable and should be in for another big day against a depleted Bears secondary. While Jones is a must-start WR1, Hester is a slightly risky WR3/flex option.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Doubtful - Ankle
It is pretty clear that Johnson is nowhere close to 100 percent, and it looks like it’s finally reached the point where it doesn’t do any good for him to try and play through his ankle injury. Johnson missed all three days of practice for the first time this season and the Doubtful designation is just one step away from being ruled Out. A lot of the talk this week from Lions’ camp has been Johnson needs a break to let his ankle heal, so while there’s still a chance he will play today, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Besides Johnson, the Lions also are expected to be without Reggie Bush, which moves Golden Tate into WR1 territory and also increases Joique Bell’s outlook.
Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd, WRs, San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
Probable – Quad; Questionable – Calf
Allen’s been bothered by this quad injury for a few weeks now. He was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but was a full go on Friday and wound up listed as Probable on the injury report. He should be safe to start and although he wasn’t needed last week (3 rec., 25 yds.), that could change today based on the appealing matchup with the Raiders and the fact that Floyd is listed as Questionable. Floyd was limited in practice the entire week, so while it’s possible he may still end up playing, he most likely won’t be operating at 100 percent. Floyd has been the Chargers’ primary deep threat (21.6 ypc) this season, a role that Allen can fill if needed. Floyd was already a risky play to begin with, so he should probably stay on your bench. Even though he’s been somewhat of a disappointment thus far, Allen remains a safe WR2 with WR1 upside.
Percy Harvin, WR, Seattle Seahawks vs. Dallas Cowboys
Probable – Thigh
Harvin went from a full practice participant on Wednesday to sitting out Thursday to back at it on Friday. While that seems curious, his Probable designation should be all his owners need to worry about. Harvin’s production has been disappointing (19 rec., 133 yds.), but the potential is clearly there considering he’s a pretty good bet to get a carry or two each game. Don’t forget, Harvin also had three touchdowns called back by penalties in the Monday night win in Washington.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions
Probable – Hip
Patterson left last week’s loss in Green Bay with a hip injury, an issue that limited him in practice both Wednesday and Thursday. But he was a full participant on Friday and is expected to play today, hence the Probable designation. A popular breakout candidate entering this season, Patterson’s talent and upside is obvious (102 yards rushing in Week 1), but the production (15 rec., 189 yds.) just hasn’t been there to this point. Hopefully the presence of rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater will signal more touches for Patterson moving forward. WR1 potential is there, but right now he probably should be viewed as more of a WR3/flex option until his numbers increase.
Two top tight ends are Questionable for their Week 6 matchup. Find out which one has a better chance of playing and the latest information on some other key TE injuries.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers at Cincinnati Bengals
Questionable – Ankle
Olsen has gotten off to a very strong start, entering Week 6 ranked No. 4 among fantasy TEs. Unfortunately, Olsen has been hobbled in practice this week by an ankle injury. He didn’t practice at all on Wednesday or Thursday was a limited participant on Friday. He is listed as Questionable, but head coach Ron Rivera said he expects Olsen to play. For what it’s worth, teammate Jonathan Stewart also is listed as Questionable, but he’s already been declared a “game-time decision.” So there does seem to be more optimism surrounding Olsen’s potential to play. A quick courtesy check on Olsen prior to the 1 p.m. ET kickoff certainly wouldn’t hurt, but I think you will be OK keeping him in your starting lineup this week.
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams (Mon.)
Questionable – Back
Davis was made inactive prior to last week’s game because of a back injury and it’s possible that scenario could repeat itself this week. The good news is that Davis was able to practice some, but he remained limited throughout the week. He’s officially listed as Questionable, and a final decision likely won't be made until around kickoff. In Davis’ case, that won’t come until Monday night, which only adds to the dilemma his owners are facing. Considering he’s missed as much time as he’s been on the field this season, the risk may outweigh the potential reward in sticking with Davis this week.
Delaine Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Probable – Shoulder
Walker’s shoulder still isn’t 100 percent, as he remains on the injury report. But he was a full practice participant every day this week and his listed as Probable. Even though QB Jake Locker is not expected to play, Walker’s perfectly capable of continuing his top-10 TE fantasy production with Charlie Whitehurst throwing him passes.
Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Probable – Ankle/Shoulder
Cameron returned to the field last week for the first time since Week 1. While he wasn’t a huge contributor (3 rec., 33 yds.) in the Browns’ comeback win in Tennessee, the fact he made it through no worse for the wear was a good sign. And the news kept getting better, as he was a full go at practice this week. He’s still not 100 percent, but Cameron seems a pretty safe bet to play today based on his Probable designation. Brian Hoyer is settling in under center, so it only should be a matter of time before this QB-TE combo start clicking.
Jordan Reed, TEs, Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals
Questionable – Hamstring
Out of action since the season opener, Reed is as close to returning to the field as he’s been. A limited practice participant every day this week, Reed is considered Questionable, but is expected to give it a go unless his hamstring acts up during warmups. Niles Paul has filled in admirably in Reed’s absence, but there’s also no questioning Reed’s talent and abilities. Reed will most likely be a game-time decision, so it’s a matter of how much of a risk are you willing to take on a guy who has TE1 upside but is coming back after a lengthy absence and has some competition at the position?
Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins vs. Green Bay Packers
Probable – Knee
A fantasy revelation last season, Clay has been a dud (14 rec., 111 yds.) so far in 2014. He’s been bothered by a knee injury and unfortunately, the bye week didn’t seem to help him that much. For some reason, Clay went from being a full practice participant on Wednesday and Thursday to limited on Friday. He’s listed as Probable, so he should play, but one can’t help but wonder if Clay is not 100 percent healthy. It’s very hard to trust Clay as a TE1 right now and it’s getting to the point where he’s becoming more of a matchup play.
Already Ruled Out:
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings – Rudolph had surgery for a sports hernia last week. The expectation right now is that he will be out a minimum of six weeks, which would put a potential return around mid-November. If you have room, I would keep Rudolph; just understand this will be a prolonged absence.
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars – Lewis is on the injured reserve/designated for return list because of a high ankle sprain. Unless you have an IR spot and/or are smitten with Lewis, there’s no reason to hold onto him or even stash him away.