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|West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen|
West Virginia’s backyard no longer includes rival Pittsburgh, but rather a vast expanse of the Central Time Zone.
When West Virginia plays Baylor as its first Big 12 opponent of the season Saturday, the conference change might be the third- or fourth-most exciting thing happening in Morgantown in 2012.
The Mountaineers’ transition from the Big East to Big 12 coincides with one of the most interesting seasons in school history. This year features a Heisman-contending senior quarterback, the best receiving corps East of Los Angeles, and a coach who runs one of the most dynamic offenses in the country.
“This is kind of our year,” former West Virginia coach Don Nehlen said in a phone interview last week.
Although the move to a stable Big 12 from the crumbling and less nationally competitive Big East adds energy to the program, the conference change also brings its share of questions for West Virginia this season and beyond.
For the time being, the question is Baylor, a 3-0 team that still ranks in the top five in scoring and passing without Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III.
After defeating Marshall, James Madison and Maryland, West Virginia will face its toughest opponent of the season Saturday. Combined with a top-10 ranking and all the fanfare around the Big 12, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen expects the intensity to be turned up a notch.
“I thought the energy and excitement level of last week (against Maryland) was very average, not only from a player standpoint, but from a coaches standpoint and a from an atmosphere standpoint,” Holgorsen said. “That’s something I expect to be totally different this week.”
Different is a key word in West Virginia’s first season in a new conference, both in what’s different and what is not.
All of West Virginia’s players will see new faces on the other side of the ball. No one was on the roster the last time the Mountaineers faced a Big 12 team in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma. West Virginia hasn’t even played in a stadium belonging to a current Big 12 team since 1982.
On the other hand, West Virginia at least fits in the Big 12 in terms of scheme and coaching staff. West Virginia’s no-huddle, pass-oriented spread offense was one-of-a-kind in the Big East last season, but it’s one of a handful in the Big 12.
That’s not a surprise, though. West Virginia imported its coach from Big 12 country. Holgorsen spent nine seasons in the Big 12 as an assistant at Texas Tech from 2000-07 and offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State in 2010.
|Former West Virginia coach Don Nehlen|
On Holgorsen’ staff, defensive coordinator Joe DeForest and running backs coach Robert Gillespie were assistants in Stillwater. Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh was on Mike Leach’s staff at Texas Tech with Holgorsen. And quarterback coach Jake Spavital was a graduate assistant with the Oklahoma State as well.
Altogether, the West Virginia staff has a combined 29 seasons of Big 12 coaching experience in the Big 12 since 2000. That experience shouldn’t be overlooked in a league where the top teams -- Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, for example -- have enjoyed coaching continuity.
“It certainly can’t hurt,” Holgorsen said. “We know (Baylor) very well. There’s a lot of guys on our staff that’s coached against them or coached with them. All that stuff can’t hurt. With that said, they’ll know about the schemes we do on all three sides of the ball.”
Coaching familiarity might ease the transition, but getting used to the road trips will be a different story.
Nehlen, who coached West Virginia when the program joined the Big East in 1991. Road trips to Miami, Nehlen said, were often difficult, not just because of the distance but also the heat and humidity.
In the Big 12, most of the road trips will be longer than the trip from Morgantown to Coral Gables. West Virginia’s closes conference opponent is Iowa State, 870 miles away. Six Big 12 opponent are 1,200 miles away.
Most taxing this season could be back-to-back road trips to Texas on Oct. 6 and Texas Tech on Oct. 13.
“After the game, you get on plane and go all the way back to Morgantown and turn around Friday and go back again,” said Nehlen, who won 149 games as West Virginia’s coach from 1980-2000. “That has a tendency to wear on you.”
Being this geographically isolated from the rest of the conference could have other drawbacks.
West Virginia’s traditional recruiting footprint has been in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland and more recently Florida. With Pittsburgh off the schedule at least temporarily, West Virginia’s series with Maryland and East Carolina will fill the void of road or neutral site games within the Mountaineers’ recruiting territory.
Moreover, recruiting the rich talent base in Texas may be a tough sell for similar reasons, even with the staff’s Big 12 connections. A recruit’s family from Dallas or Houston, for example, would have quick drives to most of the Big 12 schools other than West Virginia.
|WVU vs. the Big 12|
|OVERALL||9-4||*denotes bowl game|
“I’d say that’s one of the disadvantages,” Nehlen said. “In the Big East, if you’re recruiting a kid from Ohio or Pennsylvania, we’d play Pitt and Syracuse and Rutgers and Cincinnati and their family could drive to those games.”
Never mind the fans. A quick road trip between former Big East rivals Virginia Tech and West Virginia has been gone for several years. And for the time being, the Backyard Brawl is on hold, too.
“That makes me sad,” Nehlen said. “Of all the things with expansion, that’s the one thing that’s hurt college football. When I grew up, there were a few football games that I couldn’t wait to see. One was Nebraska-Oklahoma, and now that’s gone. West Virginia is 70 miles from Pitt’s campus, our players know their players, vice versa. (The end of the series is) crime in my opinion.”
But as has been demonstrated through conference expansion, the traditional rivalries aren’t at the forefront of the mind’s of decision-makers.
It’s the ability to compete for national championships and big bowl games.
And the lucrative television contracts. If West Virginia fans and families of players can’t drive to a road game, at least there’s little worry the game will be on television or online.
That first Big 12 road trip is still a week away, but for now the crowd in Morgantown will get their first look at the Big 12 -- up close.
“There will be a lot of eyes on us, but we’ve had that situation before,” Holgorsen said. “We have a lot of experienced kids. We’ve got a program that’s used to winning and used to being in the national spotlight, so I don’t think it will take away from any of our preparation.”
By David Fox
|Visit the online store for North Carolina and other editions of the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual.|
The first practices of college basketball season begin in mid-October, and Athlon Sports 2012-13 preview annuals are starting to arrive on newsstands all over the country.
To prepare for the start of college basketball season, we will preview one team each weekday, counting down to the first official day of basketball practice on Oct. 15, or for some teams on Oct. 12.
We continue our countdown with a preview of No. 14 North Caroilna.
Through the course of the offseason, North Carolina had more on its mind than building or rebuilding, national championships and NITs. In the end, coach Roy Williams received some good news when a tumor removed from his right kidney in September was found to be non-cancerous. Further tests need to be done, but the Tar Heels coach may feel a little more at ease.
When Williams receives a clean bill of health, he’ll get back to the task of working with his new-look basketball team. A year after losing four of the top six vote-getters for the All-ACC team, the Tar Heels head into 2012-13 short on proven talent. It’s an unusual — although not unprecedented — scenario for one of the nation’s most consistently successful programs.
Gone are stalwarts Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, who were selected in the first 17 picks of the NBA Draft. The Tar Heels faced a similar situation after their 2005 NCAA championship, when they produced four of the first 14 NBA draft picks, and finished the next season ranked in the top 10.
The rebuilding effort after North Carolina’s NCAA title in 2009 didn’t go so well, with the Tar Heels landing in the NIT after losing three first-round selections. That failure is fresh in the minds of guards Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald, the lone remaining members of the last North Carolina team to miss the NCAA Tournament.
“I feel like we’re going to be an underdog just a little bit,” Strickland says. “I think we have something to prove.”
The Tar Heels will face the challenge with an inexperienced roster. Only three players on the entire team — Strickland, swingman Reggie Bullock and forward James Michael McAdoo — have started a game at North Carolina. Strickland has 59 of those 80 starts.
“You only get experience by experiencing it,” Williams says. “I’m sure Mark Twain probably said that at one time.”
The Tar Heels must replace their three leading scorers from each of the last two years in Barnes, Henson and Zeller. Much of the burden will fall on McAdoo, who has first-round potential himself. McAdoo blossomed late during his freshman year after a tentative start, showing promise that could make him a consistent double-double threat in 2012-13.
“James Michael really played well the last 10 games of the season,” Williams says. “If you take his number off and do some things to hide who it was and watch him those last 10 games, there’s nobody in the world who would say it’s the same kid.”
McAdoo will get help up front from freshmen Joel James and Brice Johnson. James is a big, bulky post player with physicality, while Johnson has the lean, athletic frame associated with North Carolina’s fast-paced style. The Tar Heels are hoping for development from Desmond Hubert, who is limited offensively but can contribute rebounding and shot blocking.
The Tar Heels have experience on the perimeter, but they face two key questions. Can they adequately replace Marshall, who set an ACC record with 351 assists a year ago, at the point? And can McDonald and Strickland regain their form after ACL surgeries sidelined them last season?
Strickland, a defensive stopper who has served as North Carolina’s starting shooting guard the last two years, will get more time at point guard than in the past. He could open the season as the starter at the point, but the job figures to go to freshman Marcus Paige eventually. Paige is left-handed and wears No. 5 — just like Marshall — but he has more of a scoring mentality than his predecessor.
The Tar Heels are loaded with shooters on the wing, but they need those shot-takers to become shot-makers. Bullock, McDonald and P.J. Hairston love to hoist 3-pointers; as a group, 60 percent of their career field goal attempts have come from 3-point range. Freshman J.P. Tokoto, a superior athlete who is working on adding range to his jumper, also will be in the mix on the wing.
The ACC isn’t as strong at the top — or from top to bottom — as it used to be. So this North Carolina team, even with the talent it lost, can contend for the conference championship. A trip to the Final Four, where no player on the current roster has been before, seems less likely.
But if the Tar Heels get strong play at point guard, improve their outside shooting and avoid the serious injuries that have short-circuited recent seasons, they’ll find themselves in the mix just as the 2005-06 North Carolina team did. If they come up short in those areas, they could produce a result closer to what the 2009-10 team did.
“Everybody is thinking that we won’t be as talented and we won’t be able to accomplish the same goals that we accomplished last season,” Strickland says. “I think that just gives everybody more motivation to do even better.”
Through the first four weeks of the season, it seems clear Louisville and Rutgers are the top two teams in the Big East. The Cardinals were picked by many to win the league in the preseason, but have opinions changed after watching Rutgers this year?
Louisville or Rutgers: Which team is the best in the Big East?
Coach Dick MacPherson, former head coach of the Syracuse Orange, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
Rutgers is a big surprise. They had their coach leave for the NFL and brought in a new coaching staff there this year. They are playing really well and had a big win at Arkansas this past weekend. This is the best looking Rutgers team in a long time. That being said, I would still pick Louisville to be the team to win the Big East. I have the Cardinals ranked No. 16 in our Legends Poll. I really like Coach Strong and the staff he has put together. They have a young kid at quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, who is playing outstanding football for them. They are the most complete football team in the Big East.
Mark Ennis, Manager of Big East Coast Bias (@Mengus22)
It's funny that this has even become a question after a month of the season, but it has, and for good reason. Louisville looked sharp in blowing out rival Kentucky, Missouri State, and in the first half against North Carolina. After that, six quarters of pretty unenthusiastic football (though they keep winning). Rutgers looked thoroughly bored in its opener at Tulane and home against Howard before going on the road to beat South Florida and Arkansas. At this point I still think Louisville is the better team because it has had its fair share of at least halves of football where it looked absolutely dominant. Louisville owned Kentucky from the opening kickoff and the 32-14 score could've been much worse had they not taken Teddy Bridgewater out midway through the third quarter. And yes, the team that nearly blew a 36-7 second half lead is still the team that also ran up a 36-7 halftime lead as well. Rutgers, is closing the gap, but, like some of Louisville's early wins, we still don't know how meaningful Rutgers' wins over USF and Arkansas are considering Arkansas already lost to Louisiana-Monroe and South Florida followed its loss to Rutgers up by losing at Ball State. Rutgers is improving weekly, Louisville is inconsistent, but has shown more of its upside through four games and for that reason is still the best team in the Big East.
David Fox (@DavidFox615):
Rutgers had two major questions coming into the season, at least for its on-the-field personnel: quarterback play and its offensive line. After four games, the Scarlet Knights have proven those two positions are no longer glaring weakness. Gary Nova has been a third-down whiz and he’s proven he can win on the road. Sophomore Kaleb Johnson has locked down the left tackle spot, and sophomore Betim Bujari has secured the problematic center spot. That’s led to four 100-yard games for Jawan Jamison and only two sacks allowed in four games. Even without Greg Schiano, the defense remains solid. I’m a little suspicious of Louisville as well. Teddy Bridgewater is the best offensive player in the league, but I’m concerned about the Cardinals’ defense. It’s been un-Charlie Strong like in the last two games. Ranking 91st in pass efficiency defense? Four sacks all season? That’s might be tough to overcome for a Big East title.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
I have been talking up the Scarlet Knights all summer long as the top Big East contender to Louisville. Rutgers had the best defense in the league last year and has shown vast improvement at quarterback and on offense as a whole. A balanced offense offense, stellar group of talented freshman (possibly the best in school history) and an easy early schedule makes the Knights a dangerous team. This squad could easily begin the season 9-0 before a nasty final three games will determine the Big East's BCS bowl bid: at Cincinnati, at Pitt and Louisville at home. It appears the league will crown a champ when the Cardinals visit Piscataway on the final Thursday night of the season. It this is how the league plays out, I will take the Knights to win on November 29 and clinch the program's first BCS bowl appearance.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven):
The biggest question mark surrounding Rutgers going into this year was how well it would handle the coaching transition from Greg Schiano to Kyle Flood. So far, the results have been positive, as the Scarlet Knights are 4-0 and have solid road victories against South Florida and Arkansas. Considering the upcoming schedule, it’s not crazy to think Rutgers could be 9-0 going into a Nov. 17 road date at Cincinnati. Despite how well the Scarlet Knights have performed, I have to stick with my preseason favorite: Louisville. The Cardinals had a sluggish performance against FIU in Week 4 but have the Big East’s best quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater), and the defense is capable of playing much better than it has performed so far this year. Louisville’s schedule is just as favorable as Rutgers, so it’s not crazy to think both teams could be unbeaten for their Nov. 29 meeting.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch):
Tough call. Right now, I’d still give the slight edge to Louisville. Rutgers, the only team in the nation with three road wins, is more battle-tested, but that doesn’t mean the Scarlet Knights are the better team. Through the first two-plus games of the season, Louisville looked like a top-10 team. The Cards, at that time, had convincing wins over Kentucky and Missouri State and led North Carolina 36–7 at the half. Since, however, the Cards haven’t been the same team. They almost blew that 29-point halftime lead vs. UNC and struggled to beat a disappointing FIU team this past Saturday night. Teddy Bridgewater, who was nearly flawless through three games, was not as sharp vs. FIU, completing 19-of-36 for 194 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Cards need him to be the best quarterback in the Big East. Rutgers was surprisingly offensive in its big win at Arkansas last weekend, with Gary Nova leading the way with nearly 400 yards passing and five touchdowns. If Nova continues to play well, Rutgers will remain in the Big East race all season long. And the Big East race might not be decided until Nov. 29, when Louisville visits Rutgers in the season-finale. We might need to wait until that Thursday night to answer this question.
For now, I'll take Louisville mainly because of the emergence of Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The sophomore signal caller has to be considered the early frontrunner for Big East Offensive Player of the Year as he's entered himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion in some circles. Bridgewater has been efficient (23rd in the nation in passing efficiency) and productive (43rd in total offense) in leading the Cardinals to a 4-0 start and Top 20 national ranking. Both teams have been impressive on defense so far, but I give Louisville the edge over Rutgers on offense because of Bridgewater. The good news is, the Cardinals and Scarlet Knights will get the chance to size one another up on the field. The bad news is that everyone has to wait until the final game of the regular season as that's when Louisville makes the trip to Piscataway, N.J., for a game that could likely decide both the Big East conference race and a BCS bid.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):
I’ll stick with preseason favorite Louisville for now, although Rutgers has the more impressive September resume with wins at USF and Arkansas. We knew that Khaseem Greene and the Scarlet Knights would play solid defense, but new coach Kyle Flood has also found an answer at quarterback in Gary Nova. The sophomore signal caller had a stellar 397-yard, five-touchdown performance versus the Razorbacks last week, and his play combined with runner Jawan Jamison (four 100-yard games) has Rutgers fans thinking about a league title. Meanwhile, Louisville is also undefeated but has looked sluggish in doing it. I’ll give the Cards a pass on almost blowing a 36-7 halftime lead against North Carolina, but the close decision at FIU last week was too close for Cardinal comfort. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and a solid backfield tandem should give the UL offense enough punch, but Charlie Strong and staff must repair a talented but inconsistent defense to win the conference. The Cardinals have too much talent on the defensive unit to be giving up so many yards and third-down conversions. I see Louisville getting by Southern Miss this week, and then getting the defense repaired during the bye before league play begins. The good news for the Big East is that it has two ranked schools that could both win double-digit games this season.
Related College Football Content
The Big Ten has two non-conference games remaining on the schedule: Marshall will visit Purdue this weekend, and Indiana will visit Navy on Oct. 20. Otherwise, Big Ten may breathe a sigh of relief with conference play beginning this weekend.
The non-conference performance by the great Midwestern football league has been nightmarish so far and the case could be made this is the worst edition of Big Ten football during the BCS era.
Big Ten vs. the big boys
The Big Ten went 0-3 against Notre Dame as the Irish steamrolled through conference and divisional contenders Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue by a combined score of 53-26. This includes nine total points allowed to the pair of Big Ten title hopefuls from the state of Michigan. To add insult to injury, the Irish opted out of its rivalry game with Michigan beginning in 2014. It is the end of an era as Notre Dame begins its football agreement with the ACC, with the series with Michigan as an apparent casualty.
Against other BCS automatic-qualifying conferences, the resume is just as bad. The league went 6-9 against AQ programs (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12, SEC and Notre Dame) with a 1-3 mark against Rose Bowl rival Pac-12. The best win of the bunch is Ohio State’s home victory over 1-3 Cal. And that one went down to the wire.
The Big Ten’s non-conference BCS wins include Temple, Boston College, Vanderbilt and Syracuse twice. Those six AQ wins for the Big Ten have come against teams with a combined record of 6-16.
Additionally, the league lost three home games to the MAC — Ohio over Penn State, Central Michigan over Iowa, Ball State over Indiana — and Illinois got crushed at home by Louisiana Tech.
Yes, the mighty SEC only has four AQ wins in 2012, however, those victories came over Michigan, Washington, Arizona State and NC State. The Big 12 is 5-1 against AQ leagues with wins over Iowa, Miami, Maryland, Virginia and Ole Miss. Even the Big East has marquee AQ wins over Arkansas (Rutgers), Virginia Tech (Pitt), Maryland (UConn), North Carolina and Kentucky (Louisville).
In short, the Big Ten has failed miserably against the nation’s top competition.
Big Ten in the Associated Press rankings
No. 14 Ohio State, No. 20 Michigan State and No. 22 Nebraska are the only ranked Big Ten teams after four weeks of play. If Boise State, which will join the Big East next year, counts as a Big East team, only the ACC’s two (Florida State and Clemson) are worse than the Big Ten’s trio. And the Seminoles are poised to make a run at a national championship with their No. 4 ranking. With Ohio State facing a postseason ban (and thus ineligible for the coaches' poll and BCS rankings), technically only two eligible top 25 teams reside in the Big Ten.
By comparison, the SEC has four of the top six, five of the top 11 and six overall in the AP top 25. The Big 12 claims five of the top 16 and six overall, which does not include defending conference champion Oklahoma State. The Pac-12 has three of the top 13 and four teams overall with UCLA and Arizona falling out of the poll last weekend.
Michigan State’s season-opening 17-13 home win over Boise State is the league’s best win to date — and its only win over an AP top 25 team.
Already eliminated from the national title hunt?
Only four weeks into the season, the Big Ten appears to be eliminated from the national championship race. Ohio State, Minnesota and Northwestern are the only teams left unbeaten as conference contenders Nebraska, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin have a combined five losses already.
The Buckeyes could finish 12-0 and it wouldn’t matter as far as the BCS is concerned. And with all due respect to great coaching jobs by Pat Fitzgerald and Jerry Kill thus far, the Gophers or Wildcats going undefeated appears to be a long shot. Northwestern at Minnesota on Oct. 13 for a trip to Miami Gardens? Not likely.
Could Nebraska or Michigan State work their ways back into national title contention with unblemished Big Ten conference records? Possibly. But to jump one-loss teams like USC, the loser of Alabama-LSU or any conference champ from the Big 12 appears virtually impossible. The winner of the Louisville-Rutgers season finale may be higher in the polls than a one-loss Big Ten champ. And Notre Dame already has proven it might be the best team in Big Ten country already.
On the Heisman front, Montee Ball and Denard Robinson have been unofficially eliminated from contention as well. Ball lost his first fumble of the season this weekend and has been a shell of his 2011 self. Robinson has two terrible performances in losses to national contenders, including a five-turnover loss to Notre Dame in what was his worst game as a starter last weekend.
The numbers rarely lie
Last year, the Big Ten’s potent rushing attacks featured three of the top-15 ground games nationally. This year, only one Big Ten team (Nebraska) is ranked in the top 23. In 2011, three of the top 19 individual rushers hailed from the Big Ten. In 2012, only one running back, Le’Veon Bell, is ranked in the top 25 in rushing.
Last year, Wisconsin led the league in scoring (No. 6 nationally) and Michigan State was No. 3. Both averaged more than 31 points per game, and the duo matched-up in the Big Ten title game. Both could show up in Indianapolis again this fall, but the game could be a considerably lower scoring game. Both are ranked outside of the top 100 in scoring. Additionally, Iowa and Penn State are ranked 97th or worse in scoring offense as well.
Nebraska and Indiana are the only two teams ranked in the top 25 nationally in total offense while only the Hoosiers claim a passing attack ranked in the top 45 nationally. Penn State wideout Allen Robinson is the only receiver in the Big Ten ranked in the top 60 nationally in receiving yards per game.
Defensively, six Big Ten teams finished in the top 20 nationally in total defense last season. This year, only three Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 25 (Michigan State, Purdue and Minnesota) with only the Spartans, at No. 6, residing in the top 15 nationally. Last fall, seven of the top 18 pass defenses played football in the Big Ten. This year, only two of the top 20 passing defenses are from the Big Ten.
History isn’t on the Big Ten’s side
The Big Ten won its first four BCS bowl appearances from 1998 to 1999 and then claimed the national championship in 2002. However, since that win, the big bowl games have been a blood bath for the Big Ten.
The league is 7-11 in BCS bowls since the league’s last national title in 2002 with a 1-7 mark in the Rose Bowl and 0-2 record in the BCS National Championship Game. Two of those seven wins have since been vacated — Penn State in 2006 and Ohio State in 2010 — and the Buckeyes are the only Big Ten team with a winning record in BCS bowl games all-time (6-3).
Can the Big Ten work its way back into national relevance with a stellar conference slate? Of course. But with two major powers ineligible to complete for bowl games or conference titles and traditionally strong programs like Wisconsin and Michigan State having major quarterback issues, the Big Ten could be facing its worst year of play since the advent of the BCS.
Bring on the playoff.
- by Braden Gall
Each week, the Athlon editors vote on the most prestigious award in all of college football. A nine-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports voted this week for their top Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the result will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every week of the regular season.
Voting: Each first-place vote receives 10 points. A second-place vote receives nine points. So on and so forth with a 10th-place vote receiving one point.
At the quarter pole of the 2012 season, the haves and have-nots are beginning to separate themselves. Last week, 22 different players received Heisman votes from Athlon Sports. Following Week 4, only 18 got votes this time around. Unofficially, Denard Robinson and Montee Ball are out of the running. Quarterbacks Tyler Wilson, Tajh Boyd and Landry Jones likely joined them this weekend as well.
Meanwhile, Collin Klein and EJ Manuel won the two biggest games of the weekend and are leading their respective teams into national contention. Defensive dynamos Jarvis Jones and Manti Te'o are leading two of the nation's best units with big plays and leadership. Electric playmakers Braxton Miller and De'Anthony Thomas are wowing fans at every step.
And Geno Smith continues to torch defenses.
1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (eight first-place votes)
Season Stats: 96-118, 1,072 yards, 12 TD, 0 INT, 16 att., 67 yards, TD
Just another day in the life of a Dana Holgorsen quarterback. Smith was 30-of-43 for 338 yards — his fourth straight 300-yard effort — and three touchdowns in the win over Maryland. He has yet to turn the ball over and is No. 2 nationally in total offense (379.7 ypg) and passer efficiency (191.23). Things will start to get interesting this weekend as Big 12 play opens up for the first time in Mountaineer history. Next game: Baylor
|1.||Geno Smith||QB||W. Virginia||89/90||8||1||-||-||-||9/9|
|3.||Braxton Miller||QB||Ohio St||62/90||-||2||2||2||1||9/9|
|4.||Collin Klein||QB||Kansas St||51/90||-||2||-||1||2||8/9|
|5.||EJ Manuel||QB||Florida St||49/90||-||-||2||2||1||9/9|
|6.||Manti Te'o||LB||Notre Dame||29/90||-||-||2||-||-||6/9|
|9.||Marcus Lattimore||RB||S. Carolina||21/90||-||-||1||-||-||4/9|
|13.||Le'Veon Bell||RB||Michigan St||11/90||-||-||-||1||-||2/9|
|17.||Kolton Browning||QB||UL Monroe||5/90||-||-||-||-||-||1/9|
2. De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon
Season Stats: 25 att., 276 yards, 4 TD, 13 rec., 165 yards, 3 TD, 8 PR, 131 PR yards
Thomas was given a career-high 12 rushing attempts this weekend to go with a pair of receptions. And for the most part, DAT was kept under wraps with 59 total yards from scrimmage and (gasp!) no trips to paydirt. That said, Thomas still might have made the biggest play of the game. It was 13-0 halfway through the third quarter when his 38-yard punt return into Arizona territory set up the first score of the second half three plays later. His big play signaled the beginning of the end for the Wildcats. Next Game: at Washington State
3. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Season Stats: 60-98, 754 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT, 67 att., 441 yards, 7 TD
The story is getting awfully familiar. Ohio State struggles in the first half, turns to its star quarterback to carry the team to victory and No. 5 delivers in a big way in the second half to keep the Buckeyes undefeated. Miller, behind clutch passes and gritty runs, scored his sixth and seventh rushing touchdowns while not turning the ball over in the closer-than-expected win against UAB. The OSU quarterback is No. 2 in the Big Ten in rushing (110.3 ypg), No. 2 in total offense (298.8 ypg), and he is leading the league in scoring (11.5 ppg). Next Game: at Michigan State
4. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Season Stats: 56-80, 758 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT, 63 att., 289 yards, 5 TD
He didn't stuff the stat sheet with gaudy passing or rushing numbers — he finished with 149 yards passing and one overall touchdown — but his team pulled-off the biggest win of the Week 4 slate in Norman, Okla., over the Sooners on Saturday night. Klein didn't turn the ball over and rushed 17 times for 79 yards while his offense executed to perfection in the first home loss to a ranked opponent for Bob Stoops. CK7 is a truly great young person that does things the right way. Now, his team is in the driver's seat for a Big 12 title. Next Game: Bye Week
5. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
Season Stats: 69-94, 905 yards, 8 TD, 1 INT, 24 att., 188 yards, TD
Manuel's come-from-behind win over Clemson was on par with Kansas State as the biggest win of the weekend and it has dropped the Seminoles signal caller right into the middle of the Heisman race. Manuel posted career highs in passing (380) and rushing yards (102) and led Florida State to 28 straight points as the game moved into the fourth quarter. Overcoming multiple double-digit deficits in the second half? Check. Beating the reigning ACC champs in an Atlantic Division de facto title game? Check. Posting the single best statistical performance of your career in the process? Check. Next Game: at South Florida
6. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Season Stats: 17 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, INT, 3 FF, 2 PBU
The Notre Dame tackler should be the leader for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. The Irish allowed 26 total points and went 3-0 against the B1G on the back of 30 tackles, two INTs and a fumble recovery in those three games by their senior stalwart. Next Game: Bye Week
7. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Season Stats: 88-143, 1,005 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT, 11 att., minus-61 yards
For the second week in a row, it wasn't a vintage performance by Barkley. He threw for 192 yards and two scores in the win over Cal, but also threw two interceptions. So after posting one multi-interception performance in 14 games, the USC quarterback now has had back-to-back such games. Next game: at Utah
8. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
Season Stats: 67 att., 338 yards, 3 TD, 10 rec., 89 yards, TD
Stanford was on bye but Taylor maintains a presence in the top 10 in the continuing afterglow of the Cardinal's huge win over USC. He has another national primetime slot this week in a key Pac-12 North showdown on Thursday night against the Huskies. Next Game: at Washington
9. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Season Stats: 48 att., 235 yards, 4 TD, 6 rec., 33 yards
The most underrated Heisman contender (third on my ballot) posted 145 yards from scrimmage and two more touchdowns in the easy win over Mizzou. He had 28 touches, including seven receptions, and has scored four times in two SEC East wins. Next game: at Kentucky
10. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
Season Stats: 24 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, INT, 3 FF, 2 PBU
Few players had as big of an impact in last week's games than the junior linebacker from Georgia. After sitting out last weekend against FAU, Jones posted seven total tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and a sack in the destruction of SEC East rival Vanderbilt. Next Game: Tennessee
11. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Season Stats: 69-104, 1,092 yards, 10 TD, 2 INT, 19 att., 1 yards, 3 TD
Next Game: Tennessee
12. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Season Stats: 51-81, 819 yards, 10 TD, 0 INT, 15 att., minus-39 yards
Next Game: Ole Miss
13. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
Season Stats: 117 att., 610 yards, 5 TD, 12 rec., 67 yards
Next Game: Ohio State
14. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
Season Stats: 78 att., 586 yards, 3 TD, 9 rec., 132 yards, TD
Next Game: at Colorado
15. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Season Stats: 29 rec., 391 yards, 3 TD, 6 KR, 200 kickoff return yards, TD
Next Game: at Utah
by Braden Gall
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Three and Out: Week 4 Recap
ACC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big East Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Pac-12 East Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
An interesting trend is starting to develop each Saturday during the college football season. The schedule has been stacked with quality late games, while the slate of matchups early in the day is rather ordinary. And this isn't going unnoticed, as college football fans are beginning to complain a little louder each week.
Are Late Kickoffs Ruining College Football?
David Fox (@DavidFox615):
A college football Saturday should overload us. But the experience is at its best with a slow and consistent overload from noon Eastern to midnight or later. The Saturday viewing experience should be more like a Crock Pot than a microwave. That’s not what we got last week. Every nationally important game was crammed into the time slot from 7 p.m. Eastern and 10:30 p.m.: Florida State-Clemson, LSU-Auburn, Kansas State-Oklahoma, and Cal-USC, not to mention the upset watch games of Rutgers-Arkansas and Akron-Tennessee. We’re not at a breaking point yet -- I believe last week’s late night-heavy schedule was the extreme -- but more weeks like that will damage the sport. Watching college football is at its best when it almost mirrors the first day of the NCAA Tournament. A day that has top games all day from beginning to end, but with enough space to allow a Louisiana-Monroe or other upset bid to take center stage for a few minutes. The networks, especially now that Fox is in the mix, all want a piece of the late-night pie. But if we have more weekends like we did last week, it’s going to hurt the sport as a whole. If all the games kickoff after 7 p.m., why should fans without a rooting interest bother to watch noon and 3:30 kickoffs? At least the SEC generally keeps its top game in the afternoon -- something for the other leagues to consider.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
It is unfortunate that the three biggest games of Week 4 all took place at the same time last weekend. Kansas State, Notre Dame, and Florida State likely stretched the viewing audience rather thin, but that feels more coincidental and unlucky than worrisome long-term trend. Otherwise, call me crazy, but I love having one or two late night Pac-12 showdowns to check out on Saturday night. And in the case of this past weekend, we were, again, more unlucky than anything as Arizona State hammered Utah while Oregon shutout Arizona. My biggest issue with scheduling? November 3 when Alabama-LSU and Oregon-USC will take place at exactly the same time. Boo on you greedy TV executives.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven):
The late kickoffs have been my biggest complaint about the college football season. It’s ridiculous there are so few games on during the early slots and 20-30 games on at night. Trying to watch Notre Dame-Michigan, Florida State-Clemson, Georgia-Vanderbilt, LSU-Auburn and Kansas State-Oklahoma at one time is simply impossible. I don’t understand the logic behind the scheduling of so many night games, but I hope it changes next year. With every conference having a big television contract, having top-notch primetime games are great exposure. However, I think conferences/teams/television networks are scheduling too many games at night and turning the college football Saturday’s into a four-hour block in the evening.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch):
I wouldn’t say the abundance of late games is ruining college football, but it sure makes it difficult to watch all of the best games on any given Saturday. I don’t care how many TVs you have set up in your living room or Man Cave, it’s difficult to really pay close attention to more than two games at a time. This past Saturday night, there were simply too many good games on at the same time. It would have been much better had a couple of them — maybe Rutgers at Arkansas and Kansas State at Oklahoma — been played during the 3:30 EST window. I really hope this is something that is addressed next year.
The late kickoffs are certainly ruining the amount of sleep I get on Saturday nights, but I don't think they are ruining college football. Let's face it college football has followed the path that the four major sports have in that the schedule is littered with prime-time match ups. Even more so than any of the professional sports, however, the west coast is full of teams whose home games, when played at night, are really only "late" if you live in the Eastern or Central time zones. That said, although I haven't checked the ratings, my guess is NBC's primetime game between Michigan and Notre Dame this past Saturday, which was played in South Bend, Ind., did fairly well, and it didn't kickoff until 8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. CT. In the end, the key factor here is the product itself. Just as it is with sporting events like the MLB playoffs, Monday Night Football, the NBA Finals or the Stanley Cup, as long as it's something worth watching, people will tune in, no matter how late it gets started.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):
Primetime kickoffs are quite fun for many fans, but the television networks and conferences do need to make an effort to spread quality games throughout the day. I believe last week’s “overloaded with great matchups” night schedule was a little bit of an aberration and not a huge problem. Thankfully for college football, it’s good to have a product where there are “too many good options.” The powerful SEC usually has its best game in the 3:30pm EST slot, and big-brand schools like Notre Dame and Michigan have not traditionally played many night games like they did the last two seasons. As conference TV contracts get larger, there may be a desire to press too many games up against each other on the primetime schedule. However over time, it would be good to see the networks stagger start times a little more so that the best games are not directly competing.
Related College Football Content
In the world of fantasy football, some team owners are relentless in their search for information that will give them a competitive edge over their competition. Others just simply rely on projections from so-called experts, who try to convince everyone they have devised a computer program that accurately projects player stats by using a scientific formula so complicated that it makes the Drake equation seem elementary. Eventually, those computer-driven computations prove no more accurate than an old-fashioned gut feeling. However, in a quest to find a formula for fantasy success, one should just ask the question, “What are the odds?”
Quite simply, Vegas odds could give you all of the necessary insight to make smart roster decisions on a week-to-week basis. In this weekly article, theCFFsite considers the point spreads and totals(over/under) in order to give our readers a unique perspective into some of the week’s most interesting fantasy matchups.
Best Fantasy Matchups (Games with the most fantasy potential)
Baylor at West Virginia
Line: West Virginia – 12.5(O/U-79.5)
Projected score based on point spread: West Virginia 46-34
Baylor (QB-Nick Florence, WR-Terrence Williams, Tevin Reese, K-Aaron Jones)
West Virginia (QB-Geno Smith, WRs-Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, K-Tyler Bitancurt)
Baylor (RB-Glasco Martin, WR-Lanear Sampson)
West Virginia (RBs-Shawne Alston, Andrew Buie)
theCFFsite projects: West Virginia 38-28
Houston at Rice
Line: Houston -5 (O/U-74)
Houston (QB-David Piland, RB-Charles Sims, WRs-Dewayne Peace, Daniel Spencer)
Rice (QB-Taylor McHargue-inj, K-Chris Boswell)
Houston (K-Matt Hogan)
Rice (RB-Turner Petersen, WR-Jordan Taylor)
theCFFsite projects: Houston 41-30
Fresno St at Tulsa
Line: Tulsa -5.5(O/U-69.5)
Projected score based on point spread: Tulsa 38-32
Fresno St (QB-Derek Carr, RB-Robbie Rouse, WRs-Davante Adams, Isaiah Burse)
Tulsa (QB-Cody Green, WR-Keyarris Garrett)
Fresno St (K-Quentin Breshears)
Tulsa (RBs-Trey Watts, JaTerian Douglas)
theCFFsite projects: Fresno St 35-34
Oregon at Washington St
Line: Oregon -28.5(O/U-70.5)
Projected score based on point spread: Oregon 50-21
Washington St (QB-Connor Halliday, WRs-Marquess Wilson, Gabe Marks)
Oregon (QB-Marcus Mariota, RBs-Kenjon Barner, DeAnthony Thomas)
Washington St (WR-Isaiah Myers, K-Andrew Furney)
Oregon (TE-Colt Lyerla)
theCFFsite projects: Oregon 56-14
Marshall at Purdue
Line: Purdue -15.5(O/U-64.5)
Projected score based on point spread: Purdue 40-25
Marshall (QB-Rakeem Cato, WRs-Aaron Dobson, Tommy Shuler)
Purdue (QB-Caleb TerBush, RB-Akeem Shavers, RB-Antavian Edison)
Marshall (RB-Kevin Grooms, K-Justin Haig)
Purdue (RB-Akeem Hunt, WR-OJ Ross)
theCFFsite projects: Marshall 31-28
Texas at Oklahoma St
Line: Texas -2.5(O/U-66)
Projected score based on point spread: Texas 34-32
Texas (RB-Malcolm Brown, WR-Mike Davis)
Oklahoma St (QB-JW Walsh, RB-Joseph Randle, WRs-Tracy Moore, Josh Cooper, TE-Blake Jackson, K-Quinn Sharp)
Texas (QB-David Ash, WR-Jaxon Shipley)
Oklahoma St (RB-Jeremy Smith)
theCFFsite projects: Oklahoma St 24-20
One-Sided Matchups(Using the odds to find a dominating ‘D’)
Ole Miss at Alabama
Line: Alabama -31(O/U-54.5)
Projected score based on point spread: Alabama 43-12
Stay away from:
Ole Miss (QB-Bo Wallace, RB-Jeff Scott)
theCFFsite projects: Alabama 49-14
Boise St at New Mexico
Line: Boise St -26.5(O/U-51.5)
Projected score based on point spread: Boise St 39-12
Stay away from:
New Mexico (All players)
theCFFsite projects: Boise St 38-7
Hawaii at BYU
Line: BYU -27.5(O/U-50.5)
Projected score based on point spread: BYU 39-11
Stay away from:
Hawaii (QB-Sean Schroeder)
theCFFsite projects: BYU 31-7
Buffalo at Connecticut
Line: Connecticut -17.5(O/U-42.5)
Projected score based on point spread: Connecticut 30-12
Stay away from:
Buffalo (RB-Branden Oliver)
theCFFsite projects: Connecticut 28-7
South Carolina at Kentucky
Line: South Carolina -21(O/U-47.5)
Projected score based on point spread: South Carolina 35-13
Stay away from:
Kentucky (WR-La’Rod King)
theCFFsite projects: South Carolina 30-6
Must Watch Games (The games with the biggest headlines)
Ohio St at Michigan St
Line: Michigan St -3(O/U-43.5)
Projected score based on point spread: Michigan St 23-20
Outlook: Even though the Buckeyes are not eligible to win the conference and play in a bowl game, they may be the best team in the Big Ten. However, Braxton Miller’s game-winning drive will come up as the Spartans’ defense will save the day in East Lansing.
theCFFsite projects: Michigan St 21-17
Tennessee at Georgia
Line: Georgia -13.5(O/U-61.5)
Projected score based on point spread: Georgia 38-24
Outlook: Two teams headed in opposite directions, the Bulldogs will eventually impose their will and pull away late with their ground attack.
theCFFsite projects: Georgia 34-21
Oregon St at Arizona
Line: Arizona -3(O/U-56.5)
Projected score based on point spread: Arizona 30-27
Outlook: The Wildcats are looking to rebound after an abysmal loss in Eugene last week, but the Beavers’ defense looks as if they are in mid-season form.
theCFFsite projects: Oregon St 31-24
Wisconsin at Nebraska
Line: Nebraska -13.5(O/U-50.5)
Projected score based on point spread: Nebraska 32-19
Outlook: Week Five’s slate of games must be weak when we feature two Big Ten games on our ‘Must Watch’ list, but it should be interesting to watch Rex Burkhead and Montee Ball in the same game.
theCFFsite projects: Nebraska 31-14
theCFFsite in Must Watch games:
2012 Season: Straight Up (7-4) ATS: (6-5)
2011 Season: Straight Up (40-9) ATS: (35-14)
By Joe DiSalvo, thecffsite.com
Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)
The NFL’s replacement referees hit a new low on Monday night, as the Seattle Seahawks were awarded a controversial 14–12 victory over the Green Bay Packers — despite a game-deciding final play that had even the on-field officials ruling in a split-decision.
On 4th-and-10 from the Packers’ 24-yard-line with eight seconds left in a 12–7 game, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw a Hail Mary into the crowded end zone. From there, all bets were off — or, if Vegas’ numbers are accurate, all wagers were impacted to the tune of $150 million.
Seattle’s Golden Tate pushed off Green Bay’s Sam Shields, leapt into the air and tangled for the ball with Green Bay’s M.D. Jennings — who appeared to have possession on his way to the turf.
“It was pinned to my chest the whole time we were on the pile,” said Jennings. “I feel like I had the ball.”
Meanwhile, the 5'10", 202-pound Tate fought for the ball in the scrum.
“I was just trying to get possession of the ball,” said Tate. “The guy who was fighting me was strong. So I was trying to hold on to it until our guys pulled him off of me.
“I don’t know if they called touchdown, interception or incomplete. I didn’t know what was going on. I couldn’t hear anything. I just tried to keep fighting for the ball.”
One official signaled touchback, indicating that Jennings had possession. The other ref ran in to overrule with the signal of touchdown, giving Tate the game-winning score with no time remaining.
After replay review, the call on the field was confirmed — causing pandemonium at CenturyLink Field in Seattle and sending shockwaves throughout the NFL’s fanbase across the country. There was so much commotion, the NFL issued an official statement in support of the call.
“When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown. …
“Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood. The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review.
“The result of the game is final.”
Obviously, the Seahawks agreed.
“From what I understood from the officials, it was a simultaneous catch. Tie goes to the runner. Good call,” said Seattle coach Pete Carroll.
But the stunned Packers could not have disagreed more.
“It was awful,” said Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “It was awful. That’s all I’m going to say about it.”
1. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson, Chad Kanus and the boys have methodically clicked off consecutive second-place finishes to begin the Chase. Next up is Dover, where the 48 dominated in June. Last week: 2
2. Brad Keselowski
Much of the talk since Sunday’s New Hampshire event has centered on Denny Hamlin being Johnson’s biggest threat. Oh, how quickly we forget about Keselowski’s big win in Chicago. Last week: 1
3. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin has certainly earned a spot among the elite on this list. However, mistakes like running out of fuel in Chicago and the tire pressure issue during qualifying in Loudon raise red flags. Last week: 3
4. Clint Bowyer
Hasn’t shown the pop of the preceding three, but neither has anyone else. That said, Bowyer is rolling along with consecutive runs of first, 10th and fourth. Last week: 5
5. Kasey Kahne
Kahne has come out firing in the Chase with a pair of top-5 runs. Unfortunately for the 5 team, it hasn’t shown the speed to keep up with the team housed in the same complex. Last week: 6
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior, who has enjoyed a top-5 ranking in the standings all season, suddenly finds himself stuck in seventh since the Chase reset — and 26 points in the hole to Johnson. Last week: 4
7. Jeff Gordon
Gordon’s last five races: Third, second, second, stuck throttle, third. The problem? That stuck throttle resulted in a 35th-place bomb and has the team wondering what could have been. Last week: 8
8. Tony Stewart
Stewart’s average finish in the four races preceding Richmond: 25.0. Since: 5.6. Funny how since the Chase came into play, he’s abandoned the summer for the fall. Last week: 7
9. Kevin Harvick
Harvick’s finishing position has improved from 12.3 to 9.5 since Gil Martin was brought back as the crew chief. That’s nice, but at this rate it’s not going to win a championship. Last week: 11
10. Matt Kenseth
A noticable drop in performance within the Ford camp finds Kenseth — who spent the majority of the regular season in the top 3 in the standings — reeling near the bottom of the Chase. Last week: 10
11. Martin Truex Jr.
Will have to do better than ninth- and 17th-place runs if he’s to keep the dream alive. Last week: 9
12. Ryan Newman
In hindsight, wrecks at Atlanta and Bristol may be what’s keeping the 39 team from contending. Last week: 13
13. Greg Biffle
See: Kenseth, Matt. Last week: 12
14. Kyle Busch
After leading 48 laps in Loudon the engine went sour. That was almost too easy to predict. Last week: 14
15. Paul Menard
Nothing flashy here, as Menard chugs along averaging a 14.9-place finish throughout the season. Last week: NR
Just off the lead pack: Carl Edwards, Sam Hornish Jr., Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Brian Vickers
by Matt Taliaferro
Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants to be more forceful with his Hendrick Motorsports team at times but he worries about upsetting his crew.
Earnhardt knows he must do something after two pedestrian finishes in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup have him seventh in the standings, 26 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson heading into this weekend’s race at Dover.
The time is now for Earnhardt to exert his leadership.
“I'm afraid to come across as a bit of a prick,” Earnhardt said Tuesday about not taking charge as often with his team, particularly when things aren’t going as well. “I don't want to piss somebody off or step on anybody's toes. There's times in the car that I want to step up and go, ‘Hey man, this is really a problem, this is something we really need to fix.’”
Earnhardt used to be more expressive in the car when there was a problem but he often became frustrated and didn’t convey the proper information to help the crew chief fix the car. It’s something car owner Rick Hendrick talked to him about often.
Now that Earnhardt is calmer on the radio, he might need to have a bit more fire in his voice at certain times when he’s talking with crew chief Steve Letarte or wanting to convey a message to his team.
“That is something that me and Steve have yet to learn with each other is when someone needs to pick it up, how do you relay that to that person or if he needs to tell me I need to take something more seriously.
“That's something we have to be careful about. I don't want to piss him off, he doesn't want to piss me off. If I feel like there's something that's really important, that ‘Hey man, this car doesn’t have any forward bite,’ and I really feel that's a problem and we're running out of time and I get really nervous that practice is flying away and I'll miss the opportunity to fix something. And that's something we didn't do a very good job of this past weekend.’’
After finishing eighth at Chicagoland Speedway to open the Chase, Earnhardt placed 13th last weekend at New Hampshire. He was never in contention and had it not been for a two-tire stop late, when many others took four tires, he might not have finished as high.
Earnhardt’s problems last weekend, though, go beyond the race. They go back to practice on Friday. The team typically starts out in race trim for the first part of the opening practice of the weekend and switches over in the final 30 minutes to qualifying trim and makes two qualifying runs.
Because Earnhardt’s car wasn’t fast, the team spent more time in the race setup and when they switched to qualifying setup, they had only enough time to make one mock qualifying run in practice instead of two.
“That whole practice was a cluster and was not a good way of beginning the weekend,” Earnhardt said.
“I felt like we stubbed our toe trying to practice the way we did. That bled into Saturday. That (first practice) sets the tone and when I got out of the car Saturday and after we thought about it and thought about the car and ideas to change, and even after we came up with the plan, I really didn't feel we were in a good position. It was inevitable to me that the car was not going to be where we needed.”
It wasn’t. While a slow pit stop cost Earnhardt positions early in the race, he remained stuck just inside the top 20 for much of the race and never challenged for a top-10 spot.
“It wasn't one particular person's fault to orchestrate this perfect practice session but us as a group we stumbled and tripped all the way through that,” Earnhardt said. “Sometimes that'll happen. It was a bit frustrating.”
Earnhardt knows that even with eight races left in the Chase, he needs much stronger finishes to have a chance at the title.
“It ain't coming to us,” Earnhardt said. “I'm not going to sit here and paint it like it's roses when it's not. I know the situation and understand the reality of our position. We're 26 points behind. But again, (there’s) a lot of racing left. We have to work hard and go into Dover and try to start the weekend with good practices and utilize every minute that they give us to helping ourselves. We've got to try to do a better job there. If we can do that, I can go into Sunday confident we can give ourselves a shot.”
by Dustin Long
Follow Dustin on Twitter: @DustinLong
I don’t blame the replacement referees. I don’t blame the angry coaches who are getting fined by the day. I don’t blame the fans. And I don’t blame the actual NFL refs who are holding out for fair market compensation.
I blame Roger Goodell and the owners entirely for an NFL product that is bordering on unwatchable. As the old cliché goes, heavy is the head that wears the crown.
The Ravens-Patriots game Sunday evening should have been a tale of two AFC contenders and their star quarterbacks battling in a playoff atmosphere. It should have been about 900 yards of offense and six lead changes in a game steeped in postseason implications.
It should have been about Torrey Smith.
But instead, the replacement refs stole the spotlight with 24 combined penalties, 218 penalty yards and Bill Belichick’s illegal contact with an official following the loss.
Things only got worse Monday evening in Seattle as 24 more yellow flags for 245 more penalty yards stole the show once again.
Green Bay and Seattle battled in front of a frenzied crowd in a game that could carry heavy NFC playoff importance. And instead of a hard-fought road win for the Packers, Mike McCarthy watched as the refs inexplicably snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
There were many questionable calls that had Jon Gruden ready to jump out of the booth in the fourth quarter. How about a phantom pass interference call on 1st and 25 or a roughing the passer call that overturns a game-clinching turnover? But the game’s final play, a Hail Mary heave to the corner of the end zone, featured not only one but two horrendous calls.
In fact, the enduring image of Referee Lockout Gate will be two officials staring directly at each other standing two yards from the play signaling two totally different outcomes simultaneously. And it cost Green Bay the win.
Don't be angry at the replacement refs. They are simply doing the best they can. They are not prepared or qualified to take on this type of responsibility. They get no respect from coaches or players and have lost control of the game. And, on more than one occasion, I have seen with my own eyes coaches intentionally try to trick a replacement ref into making the wrong call (looking at you Mike Shanahan).
The inmates are running the asylum and enough is enough.
It’s time for Roger Goodell and the NFL owners to step up to the plate and end this nonsense. In a recent Forbes valuation, 20 of the 32 NFL franchises are worth more than $1 billion. The Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams were tied for last in the NFL with $231 million in revenue while the Cowboys led the way with $500 million. The NFL’s current TV contract is a combined $20.4 billion per the deal that run out in 2013.
The NFL isn’t big business, it’s huge business. And clearly, the real NFL refs were not given enough respect for the job they do each and every Sunday. The importance of quality officiating has been dramatically undervalued and its compensation needs to catch up with the rest of football’s wealthy moneymakers.
These NFL fat cats could reach into last night’s suit and use pocket change to close the $50 million gap that supposedly exists at the negotiating table.
What will it take? A severe injury to a marquee player? Another botched call at the end of a game that costs a team a postseason berth? Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for coaches? Better yet, how about the fans simply just stop watching the garbage product the NFL is putting on the field.
So come on Roger, get it done.
-by Braden Gall
Monday night's Green Bay-Seattle game featured one of the most controversial endings in sports history. However, the finish of the Packers-Seahawks game isn't the only moment in sports history that featured a questionable call. Here are 15 (and a few extra) moments that officials changed the course of the game.
15 Worst Officiating Moments in Sports History
2012: Green Bay vs. Seattle: Golden Tate’s Hail Mary "Catch"
Replacement officials made plenty of glaring errors through the first three weeks of the 2012 NFL season but none bigger than the one that occurred between the Seattle-Green Bay matchup on Monday night. With the Seahawks trailing 12-7 with seconds remaining, quarterback Russell Wilson heaved a pass to the corner of the endzone, which appeared to be intercepted by Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings. However, the officials ruled Seattle receiver Golden Tate wrestled away control and award the catch to the Seahawks. Making matters worse for Green Bay, Tate clearly pushed off on a defensive back, which allowed him to get into position for the catch.
1972 Russia vs. United States Olympic Basketball Gold Medal Game
The United States Olympic basketball team entered the 1972 Games in Munich having never suffered a loss in the history of the Games, and it looked as if their streak would continue with a 50-49 win over the Soviets in the gold medal game. The officials had other ideas. In perhaps the most controversial sports ending ever, the Soviets got three attempts to score. After two questionable clock resettings, a length-of the floor pass was thrown to Alexander Belov, who made a layup at the buzzer for what remains in the record books a 51-50 win — even if the members of the U.S. team refuse to acknowledge it.
Tuck Rule – Oakland vs. New England in 2001 AFC Divisional Playoffs
It’s not unusual for the rules to be changed, tweaked or adjusted from season to season, depending upon the circumstances. For the most part, the changes go largely unnoticed unless something happens to bring them into the spotlight. That was certainly the case in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoffs as the entire world was introduced to what would become known simply as the “Tuck Rule.” Playing in a driving snowstorm at home, New England trailed Oakland 13-10 in the fourth quarter with less than two minutes remaining. Still out of field goal range, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady dropped back to pass and dropped the football after being hit. The Raiders recovered and seemingly put an end to the Patriots’ hopes. However, upon further review, referee Walt Coleman reversed the call on the field of a fumble, according to the “Tuck Rule,” which was introduced in 1999. Coleman explained on national TV that Brady had started to throw a forward pass and then lost possession of the ball as he was trying to bring it back, tuck it, into his body. The overturned call made it an incomplete pass and Brady was able to put Adam Vinatieri into position to make a game-tying 45-yard field goal with 27 seconds left on the clock. The Patriots would go on to win in overtime and eventually capture the first of their three Super Bowl titles during the 2000s.
1999 Pittsburgh vs. Detroit: Thanksgiving Day Coin Toss
Normally, the refs’ eyesight is called into question, but on Thanksgiving Day 1999, an official’s hearing was the issue. As the Steelers-Lions game headed into overtime, Luckett conducted the coin toss. Steelers captain Jerome Bettis called “tails,” but somehow Luckett heard “heads,” awarding possession to the Lions, who took advantage and won the game. The blunder caused the league to change its coin toss procedure — too little, too late for the Steelers.
Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga’s Near-Perfect Game
Detroit starter Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game on June 2, 2010 in Comerica Park against Cleveland when the Indians Jason Donald stepped up to the plate. Donald hit an easy grounder to Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera who flipped the ball to Galaragga covering first, only to watch helplessly as first base umpire Jim Joyce incorrectly ruled Donald safe. Galaragga would retire the next batter for the one-hit shutout, but in the minds of the Tigers team and fans in attendance, the damage had already been done. After the game, Joyce willingly and profusely admitted his mistake and took it upon himself to personally apologize to Galaragga. Both men deserve credit for how each of them handled the situation, as they will be forever linked because of it.
Jerry Meals’ Bad Call at Home Ends 19-inning marathon between Braves and Pirates
No one wants to see any baseball game end on a bad call at home, let alone one that lasted 19 innings, but that’s what happened in Atlanta on July 26, 2011. Actually, the game didn’t officially end until July 27 as the Braves and Pirates started on Tuesday night and played into the early hours of Wednesday morning to settle this one. And in the end, the only reason it ended in the bottom of the 19th was because home plate umpire Jerry Meals egregiously called Julio Lugo safe at home although Pirates catcher Michael McKenry clearly applied the tag before Lugo’s foot crossed the plate. What exactly Meals saw only he can answer, but all you need to do is listen to the contrasting calls by the teams’ respective broadcasts and realize that there’s little doubt he missed this one.
The Fifth Down Game – 1990 – Colorado at Missouri
The Buffaloes claimed a share of the 1990 national championship with Georgia Tech, but the season was overshadowed by a controversial finish against Missouri. Colorado was awarded a fifth down late in the game, which allowed it to score the game-winning touchdown. Quarterback Charles Johnson spiked the ball on first down, while running back Eric Bieniemy was stopped at the one-yard line on second down. On third down, Bieniemy was stopped at the goal-line, which forced Johnson to spike the ball on “fourth down”. However, Johnson’s spike on first down apparently went unnoticed, as the Buffaloes scored on a touchdown run on "fifth down" to seal the victory. The Buffaloes went on to finish the year with an 11-1 record and a 10-9 victory over Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl.
Mike Renfro Ruled out of Bounds in 1979 AFC Championship Game
The Pittsburgh Steelers were the NFL’s team of the 1970s winning four Super Bowls in a span of six seasons (1974-79). The team they defeated to get to the last two during this run was the Houston Oilers. While the Oilers put up little resistance in the 1978 AFC Championship Game, losing 34-5, it’s the one that took place the following season that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Oilers fans. Leading 17-10 in the third quarter, Houston wide receiver Mike Renfro appeared to put the Oilers in a position to tie the game, when he made an incredible catch in the back corner of the end zone. Television replays confirmed the catch, but the officials, who did not have the benefit of instant replay back then, ruled it an incompletion. The Oilers had to settle for a field goal and the Steelers would go on to a 27-13 victory.
Kent Hrbek’s “Hard Tag” on Ron Gant in 1991 World Series
Who says baseball is not a contact sport? In Game 2 of the 1991 World Series Minnesota first baseman Kent Hrbek and Atlanta outfielder Ron Gant were involved in a play that not only would have made a wreslter proud, but turned out to a be a pivotal play when all was said and done. Trailing by one run in the top of the third, Gant singled to left off of Twins starter Kevin Tapani to seemingly put runners on first and third with two outs and David Justice on deck. The throw from the outfield rolled away from the fielder briefly, however, resulting in Gant taking a fairly wide turn around first. After retrieving the ball, Tapani threw to Hrbek at first in hopes of catching Gant off base. Even though Gant made it safely back to the bag before Hrbek could apply the tag; the burly first baseman lifted Gant off of the first all the while keeping his glove on Gant. Umpire Drew Coble called Gant out, ending the Braves’ threat, and the Twins would go on to win Game 2 by one run, 3-2, and the World Series in seven. Tapani made the out possible by throwing back to first, with Hrbek receiving two points for a textbook takedown.
1998 – Seahawks vs. Jets – Vinny Testaverde’s "touchdown"
Although the Seahawks benefitted from a blown call on Monday night, they were the victim of poor officiating in 1998. In an early December matchup in New York, Seattle lost 32-31 on a phantom touchdown run by Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde. With no instant reply, the Seahawks were unable to challenge the call, even though it was clear Testaverde never crossed the goal-line.
1986 World Cup: Argentina vs. England
The 1986 World Cup Finals between Argentina and England was one of the most incredible soccer matches in the history of the sport, due in no small part to Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal. Maradona punched the ball with his left hand past the English keeper and into the goal during Argentina’s 2-1 win, and referee Ali Bin Nasser failed to see the infraction. Afterward, Maradona famously commented that his goal came “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God,” and the phrase entered the sports lexicon.
Cardinals-Royals: 1985 World Series
The Cardinals were three outs away from winning the 1985 World Series, when umpire Don Denkinger infamously intervened. The Cardinals led the Royals three games to two and took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning of Game 6. The inning's leadoff batter, Jorge Orta, sent a chopper to first baseman Jack Clark, who tossed the ball to pitcher Todd Worrell at first base, clearly beating Orta by a half-step. Clearly, that is, to everyone but Denkinger, who called Orta safe, leading to a two-run rally. The Royals went on to win Game 7 over the deflated Cards 11-0.
2006 Oregon vs. Oklahoma: Onside Kick Error
The Sooners suffered a huge blow to their national title hopes in 2006, as bad officiating cost Oklahoma a win in Eugene. The Sooners led 33-20 with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but Oregon scored on a 16-yard touchdown run by Dennis Dixon with just over a minute to go. The Ducks recovered the onside kick, but replay clearly showed the kick hit one of their players before going 10 yards. Although instant replay was used, Oregon kept the ball, and Dennis Dixon hit Brian Paysinger for a 23-yard touchdown pass to win the game. The officials from the Oklahoma-Oregon matchup were suspended one game due to the missed calls late in the fourth quarter.
1979 Rose Bowl – USC vs. Michigan: Charles White’s "touchdown"
The 1979 Rose Bowl matchup was a much-anticipated game between two top-five teams. USC entered the 1979 Rose Bowl at 11-1, while Michigan was 10-1. In the second quarter, Charles White appeared to score, which would give USC a 14-3 lead. However, a closer look revealed White fumbled before he reached the endzone and was incorrectly ruled a touchdown by the officiating crew. Considering the final score was 17-10, the “touchdown” proved to be the difference and propelled USC to a finish of No. 1 in the UPI poll.
Dallas vs. Buffalo Stanley Cup: Goal or No Goal?
Brett Hull of the Dallas Stars scored the Stanley Cup series-clinching goal in triple overtime of game six against the Buffalo Sabres. Too bad it was apparently illegal, even if the officials allowed it to stand. When Hull scored, his foot was in the crease, but the puck was not — a no-no, even though the NHL tried a semantics tap-dance around the issue by claiming they had issued a memo allowing goals when the scorer had control of the puck prior to his skate entering the crease. The Sabres' reply? "No goal," which became the franchise rallying cry.
2005 – Florida vs. Vanderbilt – Earl Bennett’s “celebration penalty”
Winning at Florida is never easy for any team in the SEC, but Vanderbilt’s last win in Gainesville occurred in 1945. The Commodores were on the verge of an upset victory in 2005, as Jay Cutler hit receiver Earl Bennett on a six-yard touchdown pass with less than one minute to go to bring Vanderbilt within one point. The Commodores were prepared to go for two, however, the officials flagged Bennett for excessive celebration, which forced the Commodores to kick the extra point and play for overtime. Bennett’s penalty is one of the most egregious celebration flags in recent memory and prevented Vanderbilt from a two-point conversion that could have won and allowed the Commodores to get bowl eligible.
Chuck Knoblauch’s Phantom Tag in 1999 ALCS
The Red Sox were trailing the Yankees by one when they batted in the bottom of the eighth in Game 4 of the 1999 ALCS. With one out, Jose Offerman singled off of Andy Pettitte to seemingly start a rally. It was quickly snuffed out, however, when John Valentin grounded into an inning-ending double play, one that was made possible by Knoblauch’s now-infamous “Phantom Tag” of Offerman at second, with an assist from second base umpire Tim Tschida. The Yankees would go on to score six more runs in the top of the ninth to put the game away and then put the Red Sox away in with a series-clinching win the next night in Fenway Park. The hated Yankees would break the hearts or Red Sox nation yet again in the 2003 ALCS, this time in seven games, before exacting some revenge the next year in a season that would finally put an end to the “Curse of the Bambino” after 86 years.
It finally happened. Much of the early-season NFL conversation has centered around the lacking performance of its replacement officials, and they finally cost a team a victory. Most NFL observers and pundits believe that the end of the Seattle Seahawks-Green Bay Packers clash on Monday Night Football set a new low for the league and commissioner Roger Goodell in 2012. The Seahawks ended the night with a 14-12 victory after the refs botched the call on a ‘Hail Mary’ pass from Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson to Golden Tate on the final play. Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings intercepted the ball, but then two different officials had conflicting calls on who had possession. After a botched review, Tate and the Seahawks were awarded a controversial touchdown.
The critical mistake was the latest and most egregious of many blown calls by the replacement referees this season, and the Packers-Seahawks controversy set off a massive reaction on Twitter and other social platforms centered on the desire from fans and players to see the NFL end the labor dispute immediately with the regular league officials. Everyone from Packers players to celebrities to media and fans were incensed at the incompetence of the replacement crew, and the league’s credibility is definitely being ruined by missed calls like the one on Monday night.
The Seahawks fortunate victory sends them to 2-1 on the season, and Seattle heads to St. Louis next Sunday. The Packers were dropped to an alarming 1-2 on the year, making their upcoming battle with the 0-3 Saints a must-win for both teams. Unfortunately for NFL fans, the talk around the league after the Monday night debacle is not about the football on the field. Instead, most of the current NFL dialogue is focused on the league’s stubbornness and its damaged product as a result of more mistakes by replacement officials.
--By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Week 4 of the 2012 college football season is in the books and plenty of coaches saw the temperature on their seat increase by a few degrees. Thanks to a lackluster showing at Florida, Kentucky's Joker Phillips holds down the No. 1 spot once again. With a surprising loss to Central Michigan, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz makes a big jump in the rankings. While UNLV's Bobby Hauck, Colorado's Jon Embree and Central Michigan's Dan Enos fall after important victories in Week 4.
College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat: Post-Week 4 Rankings
1. Joker Phillips, Kentucky
Last Week’s Rank: 1
Record at Kentucky: 12-17 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 1-3
Considering Florida is one of college football’s top 10-15 teams, there is no shame in losing in Gainesville. However, it’s a problem when a team looks disorganized and looks as bad as Kentucky played on Saturday. With quarterback Maxwell Smith sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Wildcats managed only 60 passing yards and tossed three interceptions. Kentucky’s offense was shut out for the first time since 2006 in SEC play, and the defense had no answer for Florida’s ground or passing attack. As each game passes, it becomes less and less likely Phillips will back in Lexington in 2012.
2. Frank Spaziani, Boston College
Last Week’s Rank: 2
Record at Boston College: 21-21 (4th season)
2012 Record: 1-2
The Eagles had an off date in Week 4 and return to action this Saturday against Clemson. Boston College’s schedule isn’t going to get any easier, especially with road dates against Army, Florida State and Georgia Tech coming up after this week’s matchup against the Tigers. Spaziani needs to get this team into a bowl to save his job. Considering the upcoming schedule, that’s no sure thing.
3. Robb Akey, Idaho
Last Week’s Rank: 5
Record at Idaho: 19-47 (6th season)
2012 Record: 0-4
With victories by Dan Enos, Bobby Hauck and Jon Embree, Akey moves up to the No. 3 spot in the hot seat rankings. In fairness to Akey, the Vandals have played better in the last two games against non-BCS competition, including taking Wyoming to overtime in Week 4. Idaho has another tough road game at North Carolina this Saturday, before returning home for a winnable game against New Mexico State.
4. David Bailiff, Rice
Last Week’s Rank: 8
Record at Rice: 24-41 (6th season)
2012 Record: 1-3
An early season victory over Kansas was supposed to give Rice some momentum going into Conference USA play. However, the Owls have lost back-to-back games, including their C-USA opener against Marshall. Although the defense continues to be an issue, Rice is averaging 34.3 points a contest, and quarterback Taylor McHargue ranks 13th nationally in total offense per game. While the Owls would prefer to have a 4-0 record, they have been competitive in every game so far this year. Rice takes on rival Houston this Saturday, which is another opportunity for Bailiff to show the program is headed in the right direction.
5. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Last Week’s Rank: 15
Record at Iowa: 98-68 (14th season)
2012 Record: 2-2
There were plenty of grumblings about Ferentz among the Iowa fanbase before Saturday’s 32-31 defeat to Central Michigan. After losing to the Chippewas in Week 4, it’s fair to wonder if the program is in a slide and if Ferentz can pull out a winning season. Despite the return of quarterback James Vandenberg, Iowa ranks 91st nationally in passing offense and is averaging a pedestrian 20.5 points a game. The Hawkeyes are 3-5 in their last eight games, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier with matchups against Minnesota, Michigan State, Penn State and Northwestern. Ferentz has been a solid coach during his time in Iowa State, but it’s time to wonder whether the program has gone too stale.
6. Jeff Tedford, California
Last Week’s Rank: 10
Record at California: 80-51 (11th season)
2012 Record: 1-3
Considering California has played one of the best non-BCS teams (Nevada) and two top 10-15 teams in Ohio State and USC, a 1-3 record isn’t a complete shock. However, the Golden Bears have not looked good at times and struggled to beat FCS opponent Southern Utah in Week 2. Since posting a 17-9 record from 2008-09, California is just 13-16 and has a tough back-to-back homestand against Arizona State and UCLA the next two weeks. Tedford is the winningest coach in school history. Will that be enough to buy him another year if the Golden Bears miss out on the postseason?
7. Rick Stockstill, MTSU
Last Week’s Rank: 7
Record at MTSU: 37-41 (7th season)
2012 Record: 2-1
The Blue Raiders had an off date in Week 4 and return to action at Georgia Tech this Saturday. MTSU’s loss to McNeese State in the season opener was a huge disappointment, but the team has rebounded to win back-to-back games. The Blue Raiders are overmatched against the Yellow Jackets but saving Stockstill’s job will likely rest on how well this team performs in Sun Belt play.
8. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo
Last Week’s Rank: 16
Record at Buffalo: 6-21 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 1-2
Quinn had a primetime opportunity in Week 4 to showcase this program is on the right track, but the Bulls were easily handled 23-7 by Kent State. Running back Branden Oliver was sidelined in the second half due to a leg injury, and Buffalo’s offense finished with just 265 yards against the Golden Flashes. The Bulls are just 3-10 in their last 13 games, which includes victories over a bad Akron team last season and Morgan State in Week 2 this year. With games coming up against Connecticut, Ohio, Northern Illinois, Pittsburgh and Toledo, Buffalo could be 1-7 heading into the final month of the season.
9. Doug Marrone, Syracuse
Last Week’s Rank: 14
Record at Syracuse: 18-23 (4th season)
2012 Record: 1-3
Although Syracuse is 1-3, its schedule hasn’t been the easiest in college football, as evidenced by an 11-1 record by its BCS opponents. However, Saturday’s loss to Minnesota was discouraging for Marrone and the fanbase, especially after watching the team commit 10 penalties, and the offense give away four turnovers. The Orange has not beat a BCS opponent since a surprising 49-23 victory over West Virginia on Oct. 21, 2011. Considering Marrone is a Syracuse alum, he may have a little more job security than most coaches with an 18-23 record. However, the reality is the Orange have two losing seasons under Marrone and are on their way to No. 3.
10. Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Last Week’s Rank: 12
Record at Tennessee: 14-15 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 3-1
Despite improving to 3-1, Dooley climbs a few spots in the hot seat watch. The Volunteers trailed Akron – one of the worst FBS teams last season – 23-20 late in the second quarter. Although Tennessee earned the victory, it was an uninspiring performance and there were plenty of empty seats in Neyland Stadium at kickoff. The Volunteers begin a tough stretch of SEC play this Saturday at Georgia, followed up by a road date at Mississippi State on Oct. 13. Dooley has Tennessee positioned to return to a bowl game but a 6-6 finish would raise plenty of doubts on whether or not he should return for 2013.
11. Tony Levine, Houston
Last Week’s Rank: 9
Record at Houston: 1-3 (1st full season)
2012 Record: 0-3
Considering how the first three weeks of the season played out for Houston, the bye week came at a good time for Levine. The Cougars have two losses by at least 17 points and rank 118th nationally in total defense. The offense ranks sixth nationally with 346.7 passing yards per game but has 10 turnovers through three games. Levine’s first season has been a disappointment, and he could use a win over inter-city rival Rice this Saturday.
12. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Last Week’s Rank: 11
Record at Maryland: 4-12 (2nd season)
2012 Record: 2-2
As the hot seat watch has indicated throughout this year, there has been noticeable improvement for Edsall’s team through the first four games. The Terrapins played well against West Virginia, losing by only 10 points, while freshman quarterback Perry Hills threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns. Despite the fact Maryland has already matched its win total from last year, its record is still 2-2 and the schedule won’t get any easier the rest of the way. A bowl game seems out of reach, but the Terrapins should be able to finish with four wins.
13. Bobby Hauck, UNLV
Last Week’s Rank: 6
Record at UNLV: 5-24 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 1-3
A week after giving Washington State all it could handle, the Rebels cracked the win column with a 38-35 victory over Air Force. The upset over the Falcons was UNLV’s first win since Oct. 29, 2011. Oddly enough, the Rebels have won all five games under Hauck at home, with their last road victory coming on Oct. 24, 2009. Hauck has a dismal record, but all three of the Rebels’ losses this season have been by eight points or less.
14. Dan Enos, Central Michigan
Last Week’s Rank: 4
Record at Central Michigan: 8-19 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 2-1
Could Saturday’s win over Iowa be enough to save Enos’ job? The Chippewas pulled off a huge upset in Iowa City, beating the Hawkeyes 32-31 and giving Enos his best win in his three-year tenure. While Central Michigan has to be riding high after the upset, it needs to quickly refocus with key MAC games against Northern Illinois and Toledo upcoming. Enos has the Chippewas positioned to make a run at a winning season after a 2-1 start but another losing record could spell the end of his tenure at Central Michigan.
15. Jon Embree, Colorado
Last Week’s Rank: 3
Record at Colorado: 4-13 (2nd season)
2012 Record: 1-3
Even though Embree climbed to No. 3 in the hot seat rankings last week, he had enough job security to survive another season. And Saturday’s win over Colorado certainly gives Embree and the coaching staff enough of a boost to show the program is making some (albeit small) progress. The Buffaloes were big underdogs against Washington State but scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to claim a 35-34 victory. Oddly enough, three of Embree’s four career wins in Boulder have come in the Pac-12, including two on the road. Colorado still has a long way to go to be competitive every week in the conference, but Saturday’s win should give this team some confidence going into Week 5 against UCLA.
16. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State
Last Week’s Rank: 17
Record at New Mexico State: 10-32 (4th season)
2012 Record: 1-3
The Aggies had their three-game winning streak against rival New Mexico snapped on Saturday, losing 27-14 in Las Cruces. Walker has one of college football’s most difficult jobs, so it’s hard to expect 7-5 or 8-4 seasons. Progress has been slow under Walker’s tenure, but the Aggies won four games last season and seem to be on the right track heading into 2012. Considering New Mexico State’s uncertain conference affiliation, it’s hard to see Walker getting fired, unless this team completely bombs in the second half of 2012.
17. Gene Chizik, Auburn
Last Week’s Rank: 13
Record at Auburn: 31-13 (4th season)
2012 Record: 1-3
Despite the loss to LSU, Auburn showed some signs of life in Week 4. The defense limited LSU to 182 yards on the ground and never allowed Zach Mettenberger to get comfortable in the pocket. While the offense continued to struggle, Auburn’s defense showed it can keep this team in plenty of games this year. The Tigers have a bye week this Saturday and continue SEC play with a home game against Arkansas on Oct. 6.
18. Skip Holtz, South Florida
Last Week’s Rank: Not ranked
Record at South Florida: 15-14 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 2-2
Barring a complete collapse, Holtz is probably in no real danger of losing his job. However, South Florida was expected to be one of the frontrunners for the Big East title in 2012 and is off to a disappointing 2-2 start. The Bulls have a road loss at Ball State, a 10-point defeat to Rutgers and a narrow one-point win over Nevada. After losing seven out of its final eight games last year, combined with the slow start in 2012, the pressure is beginning to build on Holtz in South Florida.
19. Bill Cubit, Western Michigan
Last Week’s Rank: 19
Record at Western Michigan: 49-41 (8th season)
2012 Record: 2-2
After falling just short of beating their first two BCS opponents of 2012 (Illinois and Minnesota), the Broncos picked up a 30-24 victory over Connecticut in Week 4. Quarterback Alex Carder suffered a hand injury but still finished with 237 yards and one touchdown. The defense delivered late, as Desmond Bozeman returned a fumble 53 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Western Michigan was expected to be the frontrunner for the MAC West title in 2012. So far, the Broncos have done nothing to lower those expectations.
20. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech
Last Week’s Rank: 19
Record at Texas Tech: 16-12 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 3-0
The Red Raiders are off to a solid 3-0 start and had an off date in Week 4 to prepare for their Big 12 opener against Iowa State. Texas Tech is riding a five-game losing streak in Big 12 games entering Saturday’s date against the Cyclones, with its last conference victory coming against Oklahoma on Oct. 22. After a dismal showing on defense last year, the Red Raiders’ coaching staff has to be pleased to be ranked No. 1 in the nation after four weeks. However, the real test for this unit begins on Saturday in Ames.
John L. Smith, Arkansas
Record at Arkansas: 1-3
2012 Record: 1-3
As we mention each week in the hot seat watch, Smith is essentially on a one-year contract, so he was never expected to return for 2013. However, he is worthy of a mention in this space, especially as Arkansas is off to a disappointing 1-3 start. Of course, not having quarterback Tyler Wilson for the second half against UL Monroe and for any snaps against Alabama hurts, but the Razorbacks were expected to challenge for the SEC title.
by Steven Lassan
(published Sept. 25, 2012)
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SEC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
College Football Week 4 Recap
Injuries can have as much of an impact to a fantasy roster, if not more so, than to an NFL team’s roster. As it applies to the former, several key offensive players went down this week, including C.J. Spiller, Reggie Bush, Matthew Stafford, Willis McGahee, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Laurent Robinson and Jared Cook.
Couple all of the injuries with the fact that bye weeks start in Week 4 (Indianapolis and Pittsburgh are both off) and it looks to be another busy week on the waiver wire. Here are some names worth considering if you are in search of an injury replacement, bye-week fill in or just looking to make a change.
Last week I mentioned Andy Dalton in this space mainly because of his upcoming schedule. Dalton was coming off of a 300-yard, three-touchdown game against Cleveland headed into his Week 3 match up with Washington. All he did against the Redskins was another 300-yard, three-score game and next up for the current No. 7 fantasy scorer at his position are dates with Jacksonville, Miami and another shot at the Browns.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills
Believe it or not, but Fitzpatrick is No. 5 among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring right now, even though he’s only thrown for 581 yards (28th in the NFL). How has he done it you ask? He’s tied with Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan with eight touchdown passes and he’s thrown just three interceptions so far. Fitzpatrick will have his work cut out for him next week against New England, but he does have a track record of getting off to strong starts. He has 17 touchdown passes compared to six interceptions in September games over the past two seasons.
Shaun Hill, Detroit Lions
The Lions have yet to provide any official information, but the early word is that Matthew Stafford could be dealing with a hamstring injury. The Lions are off in Week 5, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they would sit Stafford this week and let Hill get the start against Minnesota to maximize Stafford’s recovery time. Considering Hill (10-13, 172 yards, 2 TD) led the late fourth-quarter comeback that sent the game against the Titans into overtime, he may not be a bad option for your fantasy team either.
Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
And speaking of those Titans, Locker had a career day (413 yards of total offense, 2 TD) in leading his team to the exciting and much-needed win over the Lions. Locker’s two scores came on passes of 61 yards or longer and he connected with eight different receivers on the day. He clearly showed why the team took him in the first round of last year’s draft, but he also faces a daunting task with a trip to Houston on tap this week.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Ponder has been mentioned here before, but after orchestrating Minnesota’s improbable victory over San Francisco, he deserves another endorsement. Ponder was flawless (no turnovers) against a 49ers defense that had allowed 22 or fewer points in their wins over both Green Bay and Detroit prior to giving up 24 to the Vikings. Ponder was responsible for all three Viking touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush) against the 49ers and has yet to throw an interception this season. Combine Ponder’s continual improvement with a fairly appealing schedule (at DET, TEN, at WAS, ARI, TB being the next five) and at the very least, I think he’s more than worthy of consideration as a potential bye-week fill in.
What can (Andre) Brown do for you? Potentially quite a lot if his 113-yard, two-touchdown coming out party against Carolina on Thursday is any indication. Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) has been cleared to return to practice, but nothing’s been said regarding his availability for this week’s game in Philadelphia. Even when Bradshaw returns, there’s no reason to think that Brown won’t have some sort of role in the Giants’ offense. If anything, he’s a must-have handcuff for Bradshaw owners, that is if he’s still available in your league.
In Detroit, it looks like Mikel is the (Le)shoure thing when it comes to the Lions’ backfield. The Lions’ second-round pick from the 2011 NFL Draft finally made his long-awaited NFL debut against Tennessee and promptly picked up his first career 100-yard game and scored a touchdown. Considering Kevin Smith didn’t get any carries, it appears that for the time being, Leshoure will get the lion’s share of carries.
Tashard Choice, Buffalo Bills
First it was Fred Jackson and this week it was C.J. Spiller as the latest Buffalo running back felled by injury. Although it’s pretty certain Spiller will miss this week’s game against New England, the good news is his shoulder issue doesn’t appear to be serious. Jackson also is recovering quicker than originally expected from the knee injury he suffered in Week 1, but whether he will be able to play this Sunday or not remains to be seen. That leaves Choice with an opportunity to be the Bills’ lead back. He has started four games in his career and had 91 yards rushing on 20 carries after replacing Spiller in the Bills’ win over Cleveland.
Shaun Draughn, Kansas City Chiefs
Yes Jamaal Charles went off on Sunday in New Orleans, rushing for 233 yards, but some of this can be attributed to the fact that Peyton Hillis limped off with an ankle injury in the third quarter. Charles will continue to get his carries, and probably the vast majority of them moving forward, but as long as Hillis is sidelined or limited by his ankle, Draughn will assume the backup role. As it is, the second-year pro out of North Carolina has out-produced Hillis to this point with 107 yards rushing (5.9 ypc), six receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets
While there may not be a quarterback controversy at the moment for the Jets, there could be one brewing at running back. Powell is faring better than current starter Shonn Greene on a per-carry basis (4.0 to 2.8 ypc) as Greene has struggled to start the season. In Sunday’s win in Miami, Powell out-gained Greene 45 yards to 40, and did so with nine fewer carries (10 compared to 19). Don’t be surprised to see number of the carries start to even out more moving forward, especially if Greene continues to get bottled up.
Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins
Last week it was Lamar Miller who got the mention here, but that was mainly due to the uncertainty surrounding Thomas’ status as he was recovering from a concussion. Well not only did Thomas play against the Jets, he ended up leading the team in rushing (19 carries, 69 yards) after Reggie Bush left due to a knee injury. Bush didn’t suffer any structural damage to his knee, which is good, but don’t be surprised if he still misses a few weeks. In that case it looks like Thomas will be in position to get the bulk of the carries as he received 10 more attempts than Miller against the Jets. For now anyways, it appears the Dolphins prefer the veteran over the rookie.
Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals
Out in the desert, Williams has gotten more carries and more yards thus far than Beanie Wells. While Williams has been more productive, the more important thing is he’s been more durable as Wells can’t seem to shake his injury-prone nature. First it was his recovery from offseason knee surgery, but now it appears that Wells suffered a possible turf toe injury this past Sunday against Philadelphia. It may just be a matter of time before Wells is backing up Williams even when he's healthy.
For the second straight week Cincinnati's Andrew Hawkins scored on a pass play that covered more than 50 yards, as he hauled in a 59-yard touchdown strike to help put the Redskins away. Nate Burleson also made his presence felt in Tennessee as he tied Calvin Johnson in both targets (12) and receptions (10) in Detroit's overtime loss to the Titans. Johnson did much more damage yardage-wise (164 to 69), but Burleson matched his All-Pro teammate on the scoreboard with a touchdown grab, making it a very productive day for the lesser known Lion wideout.
Ramses Barden, New York Giants
Don’t look now, but the Giants may have found their third wide receiver. No one knew what to expect from the G-Men’s passing attack headed into last Thursday’s game at Carolina with Hakeem Nicks sidelined due to a foot injury. Enter Barden who stole the show by catching nine passes for 138 yards, both game highs. Nicks is expected to be back for this week’s game in Philadelphia, but that doesn’t mean Barden’s going away. Remember, last season Victor Cruz started the season as the Giants’ No. 3 wide receiver. He finished it as the No. 4 player overall at his position.
Jacoby Jones, Baltimore Ravens
Torrey Smith is the more known deep threat for the Ravens, but don’t forget about Jones. He and Joe Flacco have connected on seven of nine total targets thus far and Jones is averaging nearly 22 yards per reception. Sunday night against New England he caught three passes for 86 yards (28.7 ypc) and also drew a key pass-interference penalty on a third-down play that set up the game-winning field goal. If the Ravens continue to throw the ball down the field like they have been, Jones could see his opportunities and production continue to increase.
Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets
Santonio Holmes has twice as many targets as the next Jets wide receiver, but Kerley and rookie Stephen Hill are averaging more yards per catch and have caught two touchdown passes apiece. Hill suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday’s game in Miami, so Kerley could be in line for even more chances starting this week. Kerley is averaging more than 23 yards on his eight catches thus far and has appeared to develop some chemistry with Mark Sanchez, especially when it comes to going deep. Half of Kerley’s receptions have gone for 20 or more yards.
Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars
Shorts has certainly done the most with what few opportunities he’s gotten. He leads the Jaguars in both yards (185) and touchdown catches (2) even though he’s fourth on the team with five receptions. Shorts is averaging a mind-blowing 30.8 yards per catch and his 80-yard touchdown grab with less than a minute left against the Colts turned out to be the game winner. Now with Laurent Robinson, the leader on the Jaguars in targets and receptions, having to go through the mandatory concussion tests before he’s cleared to play this week, Shorts could be in line for even more playing time.
Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans
I’m surprised that Washington, who had more than 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns last season, needs to be mentioned here, but he’s currently owned is less than 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues. That said, Washington is averaging nearly 27 yards per reception this season and he had a 71-yard touchdown catch against Detroit. Although Jake Locker has been spreading the ball out to his various targets, there’s no reason to think Washington, provided he stays healthy, won’t get his fair share of opportunities.
Martellus Bennett continued his impressive start with six more catches for 73 yards and another touchdown against Carolina, while Heath Miller didn’t let a rib cartilage issue keep him off of the field and from catching two touchdowns of his own in Oakland. Bennett and Miller are currently the third and fourth top fantasy scorers at tight end, higher than the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Jermichael Finely, and a host of others.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
I really don’t know why Rudolph, who’s currently seventh among tight ends in fantasy scoring, is owned in less than half of the Yahoo! leagues. He is Christian Ponder’s second-favorite target behind Percy Harvin and he’s already caught three touchdowns, which is second only to the aforementioned Miller and Vernon Davis among tight ends. He’s averaging better than 10 yards per reception and has caught nearly 75 percent of the targets (13 of 18) thrown his way. What else are you looking for in a tight end?
Craig Stevens, Tennessee Titans
This is purely based on the fact that Tennessee starter Jared Cook left Sunday’s game with a shoulder issue. It doesn’t appear to be serious, but if for some reason Cook is sidelined for this week’s contest in Houston, Stevens would be the guy. He caught five passes for 63 yards against Detroit and for the season is averaging more yards per reception (16.3 to 14.9) than Cook. He’s worth consideration in deeper leagues or for Cook owners who are looking for some insurance.
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point per 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.
— By Mark Ross, published on Sept. 25, 2012
College football's bowl season is still a few months away, but it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like. With only three weeks of results in the books, it's hard to make long-term projections about teams, especially with several teams still playing overmatched non-conference games.
With little data to work with, the post-Week 4 bowl projections are a mixture between preseason projections, how things would look if the season ended today, and a small dose of the results so far this year. Expect more changes over the next few weeks, especially as we see how teams perform in conference games.
2012-2013 Post-Week 4 College Football Bowl Projections
|New Mexico||Dec. 15||MWC vs. Pac-12||Arizona State vs. San Diego State|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 15||MAC vs. WAC||Utah State vs. N. Illinois|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 20||BYU vs. MWC||BYU vs. Nevada|
|Beef 'O'Brady's||Dec. 21||Big East vs. C-USA||East Carolina vs. South Florida|
|New Orleans||Dec. 22||Sun Belt vs. C-USA||UL Lafayette vs. Marshall|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 22||MWC vs. Pac-12||Oregon State vs. Boise State|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||C-USA vs. MWC||Fresno State vs. SMU|
|Little Caesars||Dec. 26||Big Ten vs. MAC||Minnesota vs. Toledo|
|Military||Dec. 27||ACC vs. Army||Vanderbilt* vs. Virginia|
|Belk||Dec. 27||ACC vs. Big East||Georgia Tech vs. Cincinnati|
|Holiday||Dec. 27||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||UCLA vs. TCU|
|Independence||Dec. 28||ACC vs. SEC||Wake Forest vs. Arkansas|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||ACC vs. Big East||Clemson vs. Rutgers|
|Meineke Car Care||Dec. 28||Big Ten vs. Big 12||Baylor vs. Purdue|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 29||C-USA vs. MWC||Houston vs. Wyoming|
|Kraft Fight Hunger||Dec. 29||Pac-12 vs. Navy||Navy vs. Washington|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 29||Big East vs. Big 12||Texas Tech vs. Pittsburgh|
|Alamo||Dec. 29||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Stanford vs. Oklahoma|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Dec. 29||Big Ten vs. Big 12||Oklahoma State vs. N'Western|
|Music City||Dec. 31||SEC vs. ACC||Miami (Fla.) vs. Auburn|
|Sun||Dec. 31||ACC vs. Pac-12||Arizona vs. NC State|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||SEC vs. C-USA||Texas A&M vs. Tulsa|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||Virginia Tech vs. Miss. State|
|TicketCity||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. C-USA||Illinois vs. UTEP|
|TaxSlayer.com Gator||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Tennessee vs. Wisconsin|
|Capital One||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Georgia vs. Michigan|
|Outback||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Michigan State vs. Florida|
|Cotton||Jan. 4||Big 12 vs. SEC||West Virginia vs. So. Carolina|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 5||SEC vs. Big East||Missouri vs. South Florida|
|GoDaddy.com||Jan. 6||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Arkansas State vs. Ohio|
|Rose||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Nebraska vs. USC|
|Orange||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Florida State vs. Louisville|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||LSU vs. Kansas State|
|Fiesta||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Texas vs. Notre Dame|
|National Title||Jan. 7||BCS vs. BCS||Oregon vs. Alabama|
* Indicates an at-large team due to a conference unable to fill bowl slots according to Athlon's projections.
by Steven Lassan
(published Sept. 25, 2012)
Related College Football Content
College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat: Post-Week 4 Ranks
ACC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big East Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
College Football Week 4 Recap
|Visit the online store for San Diego State and other editions of the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual.|
The first practices of college basketball season begin in mid-October, and Athlon Sports 2012-13 preview annuals are starting to arrive on newsstands all over the country.
To prepare for the start of college basketball season, we will preview one team each weekday, counting down to the first official day of basketball practice on Oct. 15, or for some teams on Oct. 12.
We continue our countdown with a preview of No. 15 San Diego State.
San Diego State has arrived on the national stage and has the potential to notch its second 30-win campaign in three seasons.
The Aztecs return four starters from a 26–8 squad, including Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin. The addition of three transfers, including athletic wing Dwayne Polee II (St. John’s) and forward JJ O’Brien (Utah), and the arrival of highly regarded freshman forward Winston Shepard, have heightened expectations.
Coach Steve Fisher’s team appears to be a lock for its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, and reaching the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years is a strong possibility. The Kawhi Leonard-led team that went 34–3 two seasons ago moved the Aztecs into the upper stratosphere of West Coast programs. Last year’s team proved that SDSU was not simply a one-hit wonder.
Winning big this season is important to the Aztecs as they move into murky waters in the future. The basketball program leaves the Mountain West after the season for the Big West, a move necessitated by the football program’s migration to the Big East. The Big West will rate as a significant drop in status for a program currently clicking on all cylinders.
Shepard arrives as one of the top-rated recruits ever to sign with San Diego State. Ranked in the top 25 nationally by Scout and Rivals, Shepard will be given the chance to make the same type of impact Leonard did two seasons ago. There is, however, reason for concern: Shepard was arrested in late June for marijuana possession. The matter will be settled well before the season begins but certainly rates as an inauspicious start.
Polee II started 27 games as a freshman at St. John’s two years ago and transferred back to his Southern California roots due to the health of his mother. Polee’s athleticism has the Aztecs excited about mismatch opportunities when he is teamed on the floor with Franklin and Shepard.
O’Brien started 21 games for Utah as a freshman and bolsters a thin interior. Forward James Johnson will be eligible in December after transferring from Virginia. His 6-9, 238-pound frame is a welcome addition, as San Diego State lacked a presence like his last season.
Freshman forward Skylar Spencer doesn’t need to be rushed into action but can help right away, if needed, as a rebounder and shot-blocker. Freshman wing Matt Shrigley is a promising player who has the ability to develop into a double-digit scorer.
Franklin heads one of the nation’s top backcourts after being one of the country’s most improved players a season ago. The athletic 6-5 Franklin averaged 17.4 points and 7.9 rebounds as a sophomore and displayed a knack for making big shots. He occasionally makes careless mistakes, but the Aztecs don’t want to rein in his aggressiveness.
Senior Chase Tapley ranks 20th on San Diego State’s all-time scoring list with 1,079 career points and is the only player in school history to play in three consecutive NCAA Tournaments. He averaged 15.8 points last year and notched a team-best 60 steals.
Junior point guard Xavier Thames also averaged in double figures (10.1 ppg) while expertly running the offense. Thames’ assists average (4.1 apg) figures to rise with the Aztecs having improved in the frontcourt.
Senior James Rahon is a solid 3-point marksman when he is on his game. Rahon, who averaged 8.9 points, shot just 32 percent from 3-point range while hampered by a foot injury. He underwent surgery in June and hopes to regain the form that saw him make 43.4 percent of his 3-point attempts in 2010-11.
Junior guard LaBradford Franklin provides depth but was turnover-prone (47 in 398 minutes) last season.
The Aztecs open their season against Syracuse on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum on Nov. 9 and hope to be playing a similar marquee opponent on a big-time stage deep in the NCAA Tournament.
San Diego State has all the necessary ingredients to make a lengthy postseason run. The Aztecs are Tournament tested with three straight appearances and have one of the most talented teams in program history.
Mountain West foes UNLV, New Mexico and Colorado State will ensure that the Aztecs are battle-tested during the conference slate, and the nonconference schedule includes a rare game against UCLA (in the Wooden Classic) as well as the opener vs. Syracuse.
Just reaching the NCAA Tournament is no longer good enough at San Diego State, which is a true testament to the job Fisher has done in building the program to an elite level.
Four weeks into the season, we are looking for consistency or the ability of a player to take advantage of an opportunity. The former is the reason why Brandon Carter and Allen Robinson land on this week’s list, while Tony Gregory capitalized on his first career start in Blacksburg.
Waiver Wire: Post-Week 4 Pickups
Dominique Blackman, QB-Idaho
Blackman has attempted at least 36 passes in each of his three starts and the Vandals have two decent matchups in the next three weeks, as they host New Mexico State on October 6 and travel to Texas State October 13.
Tony Gregory, RB-Virginia Tech
Gregory could end up being a one-week wonder, but the potential to be the Hokies’ main back makes him an intriguing mid-season addition.
James Sims, RB-Kansas
We wondered how Sims would be utilized when he returned from suspension. Rushing for 91 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries against TCU answered that question.
Adam Muema, RB-San Diego St
Muema has landed on our Emergency Starters list a couple of times and has been productive when the matchups were favorable. After a road trip to Fresno State this week, Muema and the Aztecs return home to host Hawaii and Colorado State.
Donnell Kirkwood, RB-Minnesota
Kirkwood made our Emergency Starters list last week and after two straight games with 20-plus carries, he should add some depth to your backfield rotation.
Chris Thompson, RB-Florida St
The Seminoles have had the luxury of using many backs this season, but we found out Saturday night against Clemson that Thompson will get a heavy workload when the game is on the line.
Brandon Carter, WR-TCU
After catching five passes for 128 yards and a touchdown Saturday against Kansas, Carter may be a better fantasy option than fellow receivers Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson as the Horned Frogs head into conference play.
Brandin Cooks, WR-Oregon St
In two games, Cooks has caught 12 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He and Markus Wheaton form what may be the second-best receiving duo in the PAC-12 behind Robert Woods and Marqise Lee of USC.
Allen Robinson, WR-Penn St
Shame on us for leaving Robinson off this list the past couple of weeks, but he is the best thing the Nittany Lions have on offense and should produce in the defensively-challenged Big Ten.
Last Week’s Waiver Wire Suggestions
Kolton Browning, QB-UL-Monroe (272 pass yards, 2TD, 49 rush yards, TD vs Baylor—28 points)
Rakeem Cato, QB-Marshall (259 pass yards, 2TD at Rice—18 points)
Terrence Owens, QB-Toledo (290 pass yards, 3TD, rush TD vs Coastal Carolina—29 points)
Jawan Jamison, RB-Rutgers (118 rush yards, 23 receiving yards, TD at Arkansas—21 points)
Dreyon Chance, RB-Western Michigan (66 rush yards, TD vs Connecticut—12 points)
Antonio Andrews, RB-Western Kentucky (136 rush yards, 74 receiving yards, 2TD vs USM—35 points)
Jordan Hall, RB-Ohio St (105 rush yards, 21 receiving yards vs UAB—14 points)
Tevin King, RB-LA Tech (37 rush yards, 2TD at Illinois—16 points)
Andre Davis, WR-South Florida (21 receiving yards, TD at Ball St—10 points)
Devin Smith, WR-Ohio St (4 receptions for 39 yards vs UAB—7 points—16 points)
Marquelo Suel, WR-Akron (12 receptions for 92 yards at Tennessee—21 points)
Mike Evans, WR-Texas A&M (5 receptions for 41 yards vs SC St—9 points)
Chris Coyle, TE-Arizona St (5 receptions for 62 yards vs Utah—11 points)
by Joe DiSalvo, thecffsite.com
Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)
It appeared Denny Hamlin had a good idea that he would win the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Or at least run well. Maybe.
Actually, it’s hard to know exactly what he was thinking leading up to the second race of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.
After dropping from a top-10 finish to 16th with an empty fuel tank the previous week at Chicagoland Speedway, Hamlin tweeted, “This is 1 week of 10. We will win next week.”
Most took it as a prediction; a called-shot of sorts. And why not? Since his Sprint Cup Series debut in 2005, Hamlin has shown a flare for NASCAR’s flat tracks, registering 10 of his 22 career wins on the minimally-banked facilities in Loudon, N.H., Martinsville, Va., Phoenix, Az. and Pocono, Penn.
At the least it was a bold statement, even from a driver touted as a title favorite . However, Hamlin clarified his social-media sentiment on Friday, when he again took to Twitter, saying, “Not really sure what all the buzz in the media is about my tweet last week. I didn’t guarantee, didn’t promise, just made a statement.”
The theme persisted in his media availability later in the day, when he stated that, “I’ve had confidence before and I said at Pocono and different race tracks (that), ‘I expect to win’ — and it’s no different. Given our history here, given how we ran the first practice and hopefully how we run tomorrow, I’ll expect to win.”
Regardless of what it was, Hamlin backed it up on Sunday. Starting 32nd due to incorrect air pressure in his tires during qualifying, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver sliced through the field after the green flag waved.
By lap 30 he had entered the top 15, and 64 laps later took the point, passing teammate Kyle Busch.
From there, the route was on, as Hamlin led 193 of the final 206 laps to earn his series-best fifth victory of the season. In the process, he vaulted to within seven points of championship leader Jimmie Johnson.
“Once we got to about lap 50 and started working our way to sixth, seventh position, I knew that we had the winning car,” Hamlin said.
To find anyone else in the field that thought different would be a tall order. Second- and third-place finishers Johnson and Jeff Gordon could only shake there heads in retrospect.
“No,” was Gordon’s definitive response when asked if anyone had anything for Hamlin’s Toyota. “I don’t think that thing bobbled all day.”
“Never slipped,” Johnson concurred.
The only reason for concern on Hamlin’s part — and hope on Johnson’s — came when NASCAR threw a yellow flag for debris with 26 laps remaining. Hamlin, who enjoyed a nearly six-second lead at the time, could only show his disgust over the team’s in-car radio.
“Really, I don’t understand why they do this,” he complained after his spotter informed him that a caution had been thrown for “phantom debris.”
Hamlin got the jump on the lap 278 restart, though, and quickly pulled away for the 2.67-second win.
“I had a little bit of hope for just, you know, a quarter of a lap there,” Johnson said of possibly wresting the lead from Hamlin on the final restart. “And then it was like, ‘Uh-oh, don’t lose second.’ And then pulled away from Jeff and got going from there.”
And with victory claimed and burnouts complete, Hamlin threw one final “called-shot” innuendo into play — furthering the “did he or didn’t he” question — striking a Babe Ruth, circa 1932, home run pose after completing victory burnouts on the frontstretch.
by Matt Taliaferro
Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
Phil Pressey has heard the skeptics question his size his entire life, but finally he’s proven he can play — and excel — in big-time college basketball. There’s a reason why Missouri was so effective a year ago, and Pressey was the key.
He’s a diminutive, pass-first point guard who didn’t get the size of his father or brother, but he’s learned how to utilize his God-given abilities. Pressey is a blur who averaged 10.3 points, led the Big 12 in assists and steals, and is ready to take a new group in Columbia and keep the Tigers among the nation’s elite.
Pressey offers his views on a variety of subjects, including the new Missouri transfers, his initial thoughts on Frank Haith and the first time he dunked.
Pressey's Missouri team checked in at No. 16 in our Countdown.
What is the toughest place you have played in your career?
Kansas. Obviously, it’s sold out every single night, and the fans are diehard and would do anything for the team to win. Last year, before the jump ball, I was trying to talk to Kimmie (English) and tell him what defense we were in and he couldn’t even hear me. The game hadn’t even started yet. It was crazy. All he could see was my mouth moving.
Who is the toughest guy you’ve ever had to guard?
Tyshawn Taylor. He always had the green light to shoot, so you never know when and where he was going to shoot it from.
What college coach, besides Frank Haith, would you want to play for?
Coach K (Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski). I think it would be a lot of fun to play for him. He’s coached the best players in the world in the Olympics and in college.
Missouri is headed from the Big 12 to the SEC this season. Are you excited or disappointed?
A little of both. My family lives in Texas, so they were able to see me play in Texas about four or five times every year. But it’ll be cool to be in a new league with new teams, defenses and coaches. It’ll be fun to go to different places. I’m really looking forward to going to Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida. Everything’s new to us, but we’ll have (Auburn transfer) Earnest Ross to give us some tips since he’s been in the league.
You guys have a ton of new faces. Four transfers are eligible this year. Most of us know Alex Oriakhi, who helped lead UConn to a national title two years ago. Who are the other guys?
Jabari Brown came from Oregon, and he’s a guy who can really shoot the ball. He’s probably the best shooter on the team. Earnest Ross (Auburn) is a combo forward who is big, strong and athletic, and Keion Bell came from Pepperdine. He can score in all types of ways and is crazy athletic. And you know all about Alex.
How much credit do you get for Alex’s transfer to Missouri?
I take a lot of it. We’ve known each other for so long, and he wanted to play with me. I know he wants to finish his career on a high note, winning and being successful, and he felt like he could do that here at Missouri. He’s already excited to be here and is shocked that we’re actually running plays for him in practice.
You lost a couple of draft picks in Kim English and Marcus Denmon, along with Ricardo Ratliffe and your brother, Matt. However, is it crazy to say this group may be more talented?
Not at all. Top to bottom, I think this team is more talented. But last year we had the work ethic, the chemistry and the basketball IQ was off the charts. We’ll see how it goes this year, but we need to establish the same kind of chemistry.
You’ve never been the most vocal guy in the world. Will that change this year with all the new players in the program?
I have no choice. I’m trying to tell guys what to do and make sure everyone is on the same page. I’m used to trying to be nice whenever I say something, but now I’m getting on guys a lot more. I’ve got to if I want to be a leader.
How many times have you watched your loss to Norfolk State in the NCAA Tournament?
I haven’t. We worked so hard all year and it was all gone so fast. We had a terrific regular season, won the Big 12 Tournament, and we went from such a high to such a low in such a short period of time. It’s crazy. I still don’t believe it. Usually I take it tough when we lose any game, but this one was obviously different. I felt like a little kid again and wanted to cry. It was hard for me because it was also my brother’s final game playing with me — and we just didn’t expect to go out like that.
The main reason you wound up at Missouri in the first place was because of former coach Mike Anderson. He and your dad are close friends. When he left for Arkansas, why did you stay in Columbia?
It was crazy when he left, but I felt it was a business move for him. He did it because it was right for his family. He was the one who brought me here, but I felt as though I could play for any coach, and I just didn’t want to leave and sit out an entire season and watch. It made it easier for me when the rest of the team decided to stay.
What did you know about Coach Haith when he was hired to replace Mike Anderson?
My high school coach grew up with him, so he told me about him and that he was a great coach for point guards. I connected with him right away, especially when he said he’d put the ball in my hands. That’s what he told me — and he’s been right so far.
What area of your game did you focus on this summer?
Being able to pull up and shoot it. I can get to the basket with my speed and my perimeter shot has improved, but I need to add that aspect of my game where I can pull up and make shots. If I can do that, I’ll be more dangerous and effective as a player.
Do you get mad when people talk about your size and question whether you are big enough to play at the next level?
It just makes me work harder. Whether it’s positive or negative, I try and use it as motivation to get in the gym and work. I’ve always had to prove people wrong who questioned whether I’d make it.
Your brother is 6-2 and your dad (former NBA player) Phil Pressey is about 6-5. Is that difficult to deal with?
It was in the past, but now I’ve come to accept it and also understand that I’m able to do some things that he isn’t because of my size. My dad told me at the end of my senior year that I need to just be who I am. I feel like now I can do anything he can do, even though he’s taller. I’m more athletic, so I try and take advantage of that.
When was the first time you were able to dunk?
I remember it well. It was in after freshman year (in high school) and I was with Ron Giplaye in the gym. I was probably around 5-7 then and I was using a girls’ ball. I used to try and dunk all the time. This time I got it and went crazy. I told everyone. My mom didn’t even believe me, so I sent her a video so she could see it.
Have you always been a pass-first point guard?
In middle school I used to shoot the ball all the time. I never passed. In seventh grade, my dad told me that I wasn’t getting my teammates involved enough. I listened to him and started passing, but back then I used to try and score 40 or 50 points.
You’ve been busy this past summer going to the Chris Paul, Deron Williams and LeBron James camps. What was the best advice you picked up along the way?
Chris Paul and I talked about leading a team and making sure everyone is where they are supposed to be. Point guards have the ball in their hands 90 percent of the time. The game starts and ends with you. We talked a lot about leadership and that’s a big part of what I have to do this season.
Who was the most impressive player you saw at the camps that surprised you?
Mike Moser of UNLV. He played really well. He rebounds, runs the floor and can shoot it and also score in the post. Tony Mitchell was also really good, but I knew all about Tony — especially because he was supposed to come to Missouri.
|Visit the online store for Missouri and other editions of the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual.|
What do you like to do when you aren’t playing or practicing?
Watch movies and play video games. I hang with my teammates a lot. My favorite movie? “He Got Game.” I love playing Call of Duty, but I don’t play as much as I used to. I felt I was the best on the team last year, but I bet Marcus Denmon would tell you the same thing.
Your biggest asset is your speed. Any idea what your 40-yard dash time is?
No. I might try and do it with the football guys, though. I want to see what I’d run in the 40. But basketball speed is different. It’s rare I actually go all out and sprint.
I’ve seen coaches yell at you over the years for throwing no-look passes and tossing the ball off the walls. Have you toned it down a bit?
Absolutely. I used to guess on passes, but now I make sure I’m on the same page as my teammates. I’ve learned to value the ball more since I got into college and now I don’t take nearly as many chances. But I still throw a behind-the-back or no-look pass at times. Just not nearly as much as I used to. Sometimes when we watch film, Coach Haith gets into me for a crazy pass, but my assist-to-turnover ratio was about 3-to-1 last year. I want to get it to 4-to-1 this season.
Who is the best point guard in the country?
Other than myself? I don’t know. I don’t know who’s going to be No. 2. That’s not up to me. I just want to be No. 1.
Who do you like to watch and who do people compare you to?
I love Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul. A lot of people compare me to T.J. Ford because of my size, but I honestly feel like I’m my own person.
Davis Love III had to have a feeling of sweet vindication watching one of his captain's picks, Brandt Snedeker, walk off with the FedExCup after winning the Tour Championship. But a more important Cup is up for grabs this week, and Snedeker could provide the difference between a U.S. win and another year of heartbreak at the hands of a driven European squad.
This much is certain: A dazzling array of talent will be on display at Medinah Sept. 28-30.
Undoubtedly, Europe considers itself the favorite, but remember this: The U.S. team can claim 23 major championships among its team members (granted, 14 of them are from one man), while Europe claims only five. But as the Euros have made clear over the last three decades, this is their true major.
Plus, the Euro side holds the edge in experience — they're bringing only one Ryder Cup rookie with them (Nicolas Colsaerts), while the U.S. side will have four Ryder Cuppers making their maiden voyages in the most tense and rancorous environment in golf.
Here, then, then are the two teams, with previous Ryder Cup appearances and all-time Cup records:
European Ryder Cup Team
Average World Ranking: 18.9
Total Majors Won: 5
Luke Donald ('04, '06, '10) 8-2-1
World Ranking: 3
The former World No. 1 has the Ryder Cup record to back up his lofty ranking. This is his major; he'll be ready to play.
Sergio Garcia ('99, '02, '04, '06, '08) 14-6-4
World Ranking: 19
Sergio's Ryder Cup record is above reproach. Will the golf gods smile on him this week?
Peter Hanson ('10) 1-2
World Ranking: 25
Hanson doesn't offer much in terms of Ryder Cup experience or reputation, but his game speaks for itself.
Martin Kaymer ('10) 2-1-1
World Ranking: 32
He hasn’t had a top-10 since April and is considered the “weak link’’ on this team. How will he be used and will he be effective?
Paul Lawrie ('99) 3-1-1
World Ranking: 28
The 1999 British Open champ has seen a career resurgence of late. He could be a surprising catalyst for the Euros.
Graeme McDowell ('08, '10) 4-2-2
World Ranking: 18
McDowell clinched the Cup for the Euros last time out with his singles win over Hunter Mahan. He'll be an anchor again.
Rory McIlroy ('10) 1-1-2
World Ranking: 1
He’s won two majors since his only Ryder Cup appearance, and now is expected to be a force on the European team.
Francesco Molinari ('10) 0-2-1
World Ranking: 31
Molinari won't have his brother as a partner this time around, but his streaky game could prove valuable in bursts this weekend.
Justin Rose ('08) 3-1
World Ranking: 5
Rose is playing well, finishing second at the Tour Championship. Surprisingly, this is only his second Ryder Cup experience.
Lee Westwood ('97, '99, '02, '04, '06, '08, '10) 16-11-6
World Ranking: 4
Westwood limps into Medinah after a somewhat disappointing season. But this is his stage. Expect solid play from the European stalwart.
Nicolas Colsaerts (Ryder Cup Rookie)
World Ranking: 35
The only rookie on the European team, Colsaerts is an amazingly long hitter who can also putt. He won the Volvo Match Play and the only question about him is how he handles his first Ryder Cup.
Ian Poulter ('04, '08, '10) 9-2
World Ranking: 26
Poulter provides the cocky edge for the European side. He'll be the guy the American crowd will love to hate.
U.S. Ryder Cup Team
Average World Ranking: 12.2
Total Majors Won: 23
Keegan Bradley (Ryder Cup Rookie)
World Ranking: 14
Bradley's personal quirks and slow play could get in the heads of his opponents. That's a good thing.
Jason Dufner (Ryder Cup Rookie)
World Ranking: 9
Many people probably aren't expecting much out of Dufner in his Ryder Cup debut. I'm not one of those people. The guy can roll with the punches.
Zach Johnson ('06, '10) 3-3-1
World Ranking: 17
His ability to roll the rock is key, as putting has typically been a sore spot on the U.S. side.
Matt Kuchar ('10) 1-1-2
World Ranking: 15
Kuchar has lurked under the radar at times, but he could prove to be a stalwart for Team Love.
Phil Mickelson ('95, '97, '99, '02, '04 '06, '08, '10) 11-17-6
World Ranking: 16
Like Woods, Mickelson is important because of his long history of playing on U.S. teams and will be looked on to serve as a mentor to young players such as Bradley and Simpson.
Webb Simpson (Ryder Cup Rookie)
World Ranking: 8
How will Simpson hold up in the pressure cooker of the Ryder Cup? If his U.S. Open performance is any indication, he'll do just fine.
Bubba Watson ('10) 1-3
World Ranking: 7
Bubba will provide the emotion that the U.S. team has sometimes lacked.
Tiger Woods ('97, '99, '02, '04, '06, '10) 13-14-2
World Ranking: 2
More than ever, Woods needs to be a force on a U.S. team that is lacking experience.
Dustin Johnson ('10) 1-3
World Ranking: 13
DJ's a bit of a wild card. He's probably the most talented guy on either team, capable of stunning brilliance but also subject to the occasional loose swing.
Jim Furyk ('97, '99, '02, '04, '06, '08, '10) 8-15-4
World Ranking: 23
Furyk has struggled at times this season — losing a lead at the U.S. Open in surprising fashion — and will feel pressure to justify DL3's faith in him.
Steve Stricker ('08, '10) 3-3-1
World Ranking: 12
Stricker provides a steady hand, a mature presence and a capable flatstick for the U.S. side.
Brandt Snedeker (Ryder Cup Rookie)
World Ranking: 10
The newly minted FedExCup champion is the world's best putter at the moment, a skill that always comes in handy in the heated match play environment of the Ryder Cup.
— by Rob Doster
Follow on Twitter @AthlonDoster
U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love has the unenviable task of trying to reverse two decades of European Ryder Cup dominance, a run that has been interrupted only a couple of times since Europe won the 1995 Cup at Oak Hill. One aspect of Love's mandate for his team as it arrives at Medinah Country Club in suburban Chicago: Have fun. The U.S. seems to play better when it's looser, as was the case when an underdog group won the Cup in 2008. Here, Love talks about his formidable challenge, his strategy for his team and more.
Q. What do you make of the depth of European golf compared to American golf?
DLIII: Well, it's the depth of international golf. There's so many good players … That's why it's so hard on tour to win these days. That's why Tiger's (Woods) dominance over the last six or eight years is so incredible, because the field is so deep that it's tough to win these days; and when you see Rory (McIlroy) run away with a tournament … it's hard to win. There's so many guys trying to beat him. So it shows the strength of international golf right now.
Both teams are deep. There's no getting around that. You pick a squad from either tour, top 10, top 20, top 30 are going to be very, very similar.
Q. Can you talk about the message you have shared with your team?
DLIII: In 1986 I sat down with (sports psychologist) Bob Rotella and Tom Kite for my first real session of my career, and the speech has been the same since 1986: "One shot at a time, get into the process, not the result."
It sounds easy, but it's hard to do. Each shot is the same level of importance. Well, we are going to preach that at The Ryder Cup, but how are we actually going to do it, that's the trick. When you walk out on the first tee and there's 30,000, 40,000 people and they are chanting, all the Bob Rotella stuff goes out the window really quick when you get really nervous, and you start thinking about winning or losing.
The secret is going to be: How do you turn that off. We watched a lot at the Olympics of athletes somehow channeling that and into their personal best time or their world record time, or 15-year-olds and 17-year-olds handling that incredible pressure and winning Gold medals. How do we translate that excitement and energy and nervousness of three days of golf into incredible feats?
And we want to get them fired up and we don't want them to be nervous. We want to get them thinking about winning, but we don't want them thinking about results on the first tee Friday morning.
Q: How much involvement have you had in the setup of Medinah?
DLIII: Kerry (Haigh, PGA of America official) has done a great job of PGA Championships and Ryder Cups over the years, so we are going to lean on letting him help us with that. But I don't know that we figured out a way to make it suit 12 different guys. Medinah is going to be long and tough, and if the weather is bad, you know, it could be really long and tough.
So I don't know what our ultimate strategy is. Although I'm not a fan of deep rough. So we won't have really, really deep rough. I think Paul's (Azinger) setup at Valhalla (at the 2008 Ryder Cup) was fun for the fans, and probably leaned towards making it fan/TV friendly, some risk and reward, rather than U.S. Open style of just hit it in the rough and chip it out. I don't think that would be fun.
I think what's very important is having a variety of holes, a variety of scores, and you don't want it to be birdie every hole; although for our side that would be nice. You want some variety and some risk and some reward, and we certainly have got the opportunity with par 3s over water and par 5s; there's a lot of tee boxes at Medinah, and now with No. 15, I've played that hole a lot over the last two years, and there's a lot of variety there.
Q: If we get lucky in the singles draw on Sunday and we get Tiger and Rory, how do you see that match going?
DLIII: I'd want to go watch that one. It would be nice to be able to rig them, rig a couple like that for Tiger and Rory … he (Tiger) would probably like that. No, it would be a great match. I'm sure they both would relish that. We have got some guys on our team that I'm sure would love to take him on, because you want to play the best. You want to play a guy that's hot, and I know Tiger or Phil (Mickelson) or any of those guys would love to try it.
We don't see it as Rory versus Tiger. It's U.S. versus Europe, and we are all going to be friends before and we are all going to be friends after, just maybe not quite as close for those three days.
Q: Do you feel any extra pressure as captain?
DLIII: There's a lot of reasons to feel a lot of pressure as a captain. It’s a lot of fun. I think (European captain) José Maria Olazabal will tell you the same thing. It's a lot of fun, it's a lot of responsibility, and it's a humbling experience.
This tournament has gotten so big, so important, so internationally well-known that it's a lot of pressure. I heard Dave Stockton speak at the (PGA) Past Champions Dinner, and he said the best thing about being the captain in '91 was he got to watch everybody tee off and he didn't have to play.
That was a pretty good line. I don't have to hit any shots. I can just go out and watch. It is a lot of pressure. Just getting everything ready and being prepared and doing your best for these 12 players and making it a special week for them is probably the biggest challenge, the most pressure
NFL football is the greatest reality TV program of all time. The Giants and Colts made sure of that back in 1958. Each NFL fall weekend is a completely new and original experience for every player, fan and coach alike. New stories, new personalities, new winners and new losers. And new statistics.
Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics from Week 3 of NFL play:
24: Total penalties in the Baltimore-New England showdown
On a Sunday with multiple overtime games and crazy endings across the league, the Patriots and Ravens previewed the AFC playoffs in rare fashion. There were 899 combined yards of total offense, 61 combined first downs, six lead changes, a game-winning field goal and one finable illegal contact penalty. The reason Bill Belichick decided to clutch and grab a referee following the loss? An extremely questionable performance by the replacement officials leading to 10 penalties for New England, 14 for Baltimore and a combined 218 yellow flag yards. A great atmosphere between two rivals, a last-second victory and a gut-wrenching, but memorable moment for Torrey Smith should be the reason fans are talking about Sunday night's showdown around the water cooler this week. However, the replacement officials seemed to lack control, waffled on questionable calls and eventually became the top story. Enough is enough, Roger.
332.8: average passing yards from AFC North quarterbacks in Week 3
Who says those North Division are black-and-blue, defensive clouds of dust? Big Ben (384), Joe Flacco (382) and Andy Dalton (328) had the first, second and fifth-best passing days of the week in the NFL through Sunday, while all three teams scored at least 30 points. Brandon Weeden added 237 of his own yards as well to what turned out to be huge day through the air in the AFC North.
4.0: Eagles turnovers per game
This one was a lay-up. Michael Vick was beaten all to hell in the desert on Sunday and his team turned the ball over three more times in the ugly loss to the Cardinals. The Eagles' 12 giveaways leads the NFL by a wide margin and the team is lucky to be 2-1. Meanwhile, Vick is lucky to be walking after Arizona teed-off on him all afternoon, sacking him five times and allowing six total points. This offense has a lot of big-play speed, but will it last the entire 16-game slate? Not if they keep giving the football to the other team four times per game.
43: Ken Whisenhunt career wins as Arizona Cardinals head coach
With the dominant win over the Eagles on Sunday, Whisenhunt became the all-time winningest coach in Cardinals franchise history. Three games into his sixth season with the organization, he has passed the great Don Coryell (42). The Cards are 3-0 for the first time since 1974 and have marquee wins over New England, Philadelphia and Seattle. Currently, Arizona has its second-longest home winning streak in team history with seven straight wins — and is currently in position to claim a bye week and home-field advantage. It's never too early to starting looking ahead because, with that defense, the Cardinals have tremendous staying power. Oh, and Larry Fitzgerald became the youngest player to ever catch 700 passes. Including that dude named Rice.
0: Total combined turnovers and sacks for Christian Ponder
The surprise story of the day has to be the performance of the developing Vikings quarterback against arguably the league's nastiest and toughest defense. Ponder led an incredibly efficient Minnesota squad in the huge upset win over the San Francisco 49ers. Not only did he not turn the ball over or get sacked, but he converted on both redzone attempts, his only fourth down attempt, 7-of-14 third downs and the Vikes had just one team penalty. Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers couldn't beat the Niners, but Ponder did — with a career-high 89.9 QB rating. The loss now puts Atlanta and Arizona one game up in the race for the NFC bye week.
2,092: Total yards of combined offense for Ponder, Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker
The other three guys in the 2011 first-round QB class combined for 194 yards of total offense through three weeks of play last fall. All of it was Gabbert's as Locker and Ponder hadn't even taken an NFL snap at this stage of last season. Ponder (251.3 ypg) and Gabbert (163.3 ypg) have yet to throw an interception this year while Locker (282.7 ypg) provided the Titans with 413 yards of total offense in their first win of the year. There have been many doubters of this class of signal callers, some of which has to be tied directly to poor surrounding casts, but these three youngsters are beginning to acquit themselves rather well in relatively short order. Just for reference, their 2,092 yards of total offense is more than Phillip Rivers, Jay Cutler and Sam Bradford combined (2,051).
18: Seconds it took Detroit to score two touchdowns to tie the game
A three-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill to Calvin Johnson cut the Tennessee Titans lead from to seven points with 18 seconds remaining. Detroit recovered the onside kick and two plays later connected on a Hill-to-Titus Young Hail Mary from the Titans 46-yard line as time expired. After a Titans field goal in overtime, all the Lions had to do was match with three of their own to keep the game going. But on a bizarre 4th-and-1 QB sneak call on the Tennessee seven-yard line, Hill was stopped well short and the game was over. As a bonus amazing stat, the Titans became the first team in NFL history to score five touchdowns of at least 60 yards or more (AP).
230: Difference in yards rushing from Week 2 to Week 3 for Jamaal Charles
The former Texas Longhorn has played in 52 career NFL games and his three yards rushing last weekend in the loss to Buffalo was his worst career showing as a professional. Charles bounced back in a big way with his second-best rushing day of his career with 233 yards in the road win over New Orleans. His 91-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter not only sparked the victory but turned out to be the longest play in franchise history. Most importantly, Kansas City avoids an 0-3 start while putting the embattled Saints in the nearly impossible position of being winless after three games.
- by Braden Gall
Two teams looking to build on big Week 2 wins will clash tonight when the Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers at 8:30 pm EST on ESPN. After losing the season-opener at home to the 49ers, the Packers rebounded last week with a resounding defensive effort in a 23-10 victory over the division-rival Bears. Seattle also lost its opener to the surprising Arizona Cardinals, but Pete Carroll’s bunch spanked the Dallas Cowboys at CenturyLink Field last Sunday by a 27-7 mark.
When the Green Bay Packers have the ball:
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had an amazing MVP campaign last year, but he has not been able to establish quite the same passing rhythm this season. Green Bay has faced two top defenses so far, and a tough Seahawks unit will present a challenge as well. The Packers offensive line will need to do a better job of protecting Rodgers, who has been sacked eight times in two games. The good news for Green Bay is that star receiver Greg Jennings should be play after missing last week’s game against the Bears with an injured groin.
The Seahawks defense has been very solid this season, especially against the run. Seattle has only given up a total of 92 rushing yards on 36 carries, for a stingy average on 2.6 yards per run. Cedric Benson and the Packers run game has not been much of a threat in two games, so the Seahawks will look to put Rodgers in difficult down-and-distance situations. Seattle only has two sacks in two games, and that will need to improve against the Green Bay passing attack.
When the Seattle Seahawks have the ball:
The Seahawks have been fairly conservative on offense with rookie quarterback Russell Wilson getting acclimated to the NFL game. Seattle will continue to use the power running game with Marshawn Lynch, who has totaled 207 yards and two touchdowns this season. He battled back issues this week, but the sixth-year runner practiced Saturday and should be a go tonight. Wilson will need to avoid turnovers against a gambling Packers defense and play well on third down.
The Packers defense has given up an alarming 280 rushing yards this year, and improvement in that area will be a critical factor against Lynch and the Seahawks. If Green Bay can control the Seattle run game, there will be ample opportunities to force the youthful Wilson into challenging predicaments. The Packers already have 11 sacks this year, and generating that type of pressure on a rookie quarterback could lead to turnovers and big plays.
This contest should come down to the play of Rodgers and the Packers passing game. If Green Bay is effective throwing the ball on first down, Rodgers can create a successful offensive balance that will keep the raucous Seattle crowd out of the game. With Jennings back, look for the Packers to rediscover their lethal air attack.
Packers 27 Seahawks 23
---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
The top of the SEC is as strong as ever. Alabama continues to shine, but LSU, Georgia, South Carolina and even Florida are capable of winning a conference title. The SEC East is making a comeback, as well. Alabama and LSU might be the two best teams in the league, but the next best three teams reside in the East.
Post-Week 4 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Aaron Murray, Georgia — The junior quarterback was superb in Georgia’s 48–3 win over Vanderbilt, completing 18-of-24 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Murray ranks eighth nationally in passing efficiency through four games.
2. Mike Gillislee, Florida — He didn’t put up big numbers against Kentucky (56 yards on 13 carries), but Gillislee has been a huge factor in the Gators’ offensive renaissance. He ranks second in the SEC in rushing, with 100.5 yards per game.
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — The redshirt freshman had another big game for the Aggies, throwing for 174 yards and three scores while adding 78 yards and two scores on the ground in a 70–14 win over South Carolina State. He will have to prove himself against better competition to stay on this list, but Manziel is off to a great start.
Post-Week 4 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones returned to action after missing last week with an injury, and the junior outside linebacker was his usual disruptive self. He recorded seven tackles, including three for a loss (including one sack) in Georgia’s dominating win over Vanderbilt.
2. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — Clowney, a likely top-five pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, continues to be a force for the South Carolina defense. In four games, he has 7.0 tackles for a loss, including 2.0 sacks. The Gamceocks have given up 23 points in two SEC games.
3. C.J. Mosley, Alabama — The junior linebacker led Alabama with six tackles in a 40–7 win over Florida Atlantic. Through four games, he leads the Tide with 29 total tackles and has one interception.
Post-Week 4 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — The Crimson Tide have emerged as the clear No. 1 team one-quarter through the 2012 season. Right now, this looks like a team without a weakness.
2. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators are already 3–0 in the SEC with two of the wins coming on the road. The offense, a major question mark before the season, has been sharp, while the defense remains a strength.
3. Mark Richt, Georgia — The Bulldogs continue to climb up the national rankings. They are playing extremely well on both sides of the ball and are now being mentioned with the elite teams in the nation.
Post-Week 1 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 4 result: Beat Florida Atlantic 40–7
The big news in Tuscaloosa is that Alabama was scored on for the first time since the third quarter of its Week 1 win vs. Michigan. When Florida Atlantic quarterback Graham Wilbert connected with Alex Deleon on a 6-yard pass with 2:49 remaining in the game, the Crimson Tide’s streak was snapped at 12 straight scoreless quarters — a run that lasted 192 minutes and 25 seconds of game time. FAU, which lost last week at Georgia, managed only 110 total yards and had only 45 offensive snaps. Alabama had 503 yards and scored on its first seven possessions.
2. LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 4 result: Beat Auburn 12-10
LSU had won 12 straight games by at least 24 points against teams not named Alabama. The Tigers, however, struggled to beat Auburn. But a win is still a win — especially on the road in the SEC. “We were tested, and we answered the call,” LSU coach Les Miles said. The Tigers, to no one’s surprise, got it done on defense. Auburn totaled only 183 yards of offense and did not have one drive that went longer than 42 yards. LSU has allowed 14 points or less in all four games in 2012.
3. Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 4 result: Beat Vanderbilt 48-3
Georgia looks more and more like a legitimate national championship contender with each passing week. The Bulldogs were sharp on both sides of the ball in an easier-than-expected win over Vanderbilt. Georgia scored on its four possessions — with touchdown drives of 68, 88, 57 and 96 yards — to put the game out of reach in the first half. In three career games vs. Vanderbilt, Aaron Murray is 55-of-86 for 863 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception.
4. South Carolina (4-0, 2-0, SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 4 result: Beat Missouri 31-10
Steve Spurrier was kidding, we think, when he offered this critique of South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw: “Well, he got off to a slow start. He missed the first one, I think.” Shaw’s first pass did fall incomplete, but the junior quarterback connected on his next 20 attempts to finish a near flawless performance with a 95.2 completion percentage, 249 yards passing and two touchdowns without an interception. After surviving a scare at Vanderbilt in Week 1, South Carolina has won its three ensuing games by an average score of 43–9.
5. Florida (4-0, 3-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 4 result: Beat Kentucky 38-0
Florida became the first team in the nation with three conference wins — and the Gators barely had to break a sweat to do so. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel wasn’t quite as sharp as he was in the big win at Tennessee, but he was still very efficient (18-of-27 for 203 yards with one TD and one INT) for an offense that rolled up 403 yards. The Gators shined on third down, converting 12-of-17 while limiting the Kentucky offense to only 4-of-15.
6. Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 4 result: Beat South Alabama 30-10
There wasn’t much to get excited about in Mississippi State’s win over South Alabama, one of the worst teams in the FBS ranks. The Bulldogs barely outgained the Jaguars (356 to 347); quarterback Tyler Russell completed less than 50 percent of his passes; and the running game was mediocre at best, with an average of 4.2 yards per rush. But the Dogs are 4¬¬–0 for the first time since the 1999 Bulldogs, coached by Jackie Sherrill, opened the season 8–0 en route to a 10–2 record.
7. Texas A&M (2-1, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 4 result: Beat South Carolina State 70-14
The Aggies did what was expected: Beat overmatched South Carolina State with ease. Johnny Manziel once again was sharp, completing 15-of-20 passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns and adding 78 yards and two scores on the ground. Texas A&M set an SEC record in only its third game as a member of the league; the Aggies had 246 punt return yards, highlighted by a 96-yard return for a score by Dustin Harris.
8. Missouri (2-2, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 4 result: Lost to South Carolina 30-10
Missouri’s first SEC road trip didn’t go too well. The Tigers had only 255 yards on offense — their lowest total since gaining 173 in a loss to Texas in 2009 — and provided little resistance to Connor Shaw and the South Carolina passing game. Shaw completed 21-of-22 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Mizzou quarterback James Franklin threw for only 92 yards on 18 passes for an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. The Tigers head to UCF next week for a tricky road game before returning home for a key three-game homestand.
8. Tennessee (3-1, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 4 result: Beat Akron 47-26
The end result looked good: The Vols won the game by 21 points and outgained Akron 633 to 344. But this was far more difficult than coach Derek Dooley would have liked. The score was tied until midway through the third quarter, and the game was in doubt until Tyler Bray hooked up with Justin Hunter for a 10-yard touchdown strike with 9:18 remaining in the fourth. Tennessee was productive running the ball: Rajion Neal led the way with 151 yards on 22 carries, and Marlin Lane chipped in with 47 yards on nine attempts. Akron has now lost 22 straight road games.
9. Auburn (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 4 result: Lost to LSU 12-10
It was far more competitive than most expected — Auburn was an 18-point under dog — but there are no moral victories, especially at home, for a team that won a national championship as recently as 2010. In two SEC games, Auburn is averaging 199.5 total yards and has scored one offensive touchdown. Kiehl Frazier, in his first season as the starting quarterback, has completed 47-of-89 passes for 546 yards (only 136.5 per game) with two touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Tigers are 1–3 for the first time since 1998 — the season in which Terry Bowden stepped down after six games.
11. Arkansas (1-3, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 4 result: Lost to Rutgers 35-26
Arkansas, ranked in the top 15 in every preseason poll, dropped to 1–3 with a 35–26 loss to Rutgers in Fayetteville. The return of Tyler Wilson, who missed last week’s 52–0 loss to Arkansas with a concussion, wasn’t enough to spark the Razorbacks. Wilson did his part, throwing for 419 yards and two touchdowns, but the Arkansas defense gave up five touchdowns and over 500 yards of offense. The Hogs are still looking for their first win vs. an FBS opponent; their lone win was vs. Jacksonville State in Week 1.
12. Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 4 result: Lost to Georgia 48-3
Vanderbilt never recovered from a slow start and put up little fight en route to its most lopsided loss since being shut out by Tennessee 48–0 in the final game of the 2003 season. In a bit of a surprise, Jordan Rodgers got the nod at quarterback over Austyn Carta-Samuels, who started the previous week against Presbyterian. Rodgers completed 13-of-23 for 218 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Zac Stacy ran well for Vanderbilt with 83 yards on 12 carries. The Commodores have now been outscored by a combined 91–3 in their last two trips to Athens.
13. Ole Miss (3-1, 0-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 4 result: Beat Tulane 39-0
The Rebels completed the nonconference portion of their schedule with a 3-1 record after pounding Tulane 39-0 in New Orleans. Ole Miss jumped on the Green Wave early, with four touchdowns in the game’s first 13 minutes. The Ole Miss defense limited Tulane to 159 total yards one week after getting lit up by Texas for 676 yards in a 66–31 loss in Oxford. Tulane, playing without starting quarterback Ryan Griffin, averaged only 2.3 yards per play.
14. Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 4 Result: Lost to Florida 38-0
Starting quarterback Maxwell Smith was forced to watch from the sideline as Kentucky dropped to 1–3 with a lopsided loss to Florida. Entering the weekend, UK ranked 13th in the nation and first in the SEC in passing with 322 yards per game. But with Smith sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Wildcats’ offense struggled mightily. Morgan Newton, a senior who stepped in for Smith, had a nightmarish stat line: 7-of-21 for 48 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
By Mitch Light
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